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"Goodness," Helena said, pulling a canvas forward from its place stuffed at the back of a shelf. As she touched the object, it seemed to quiver slightly in her fingers. The surface of the canvas, covered over with a thick layer of pale green enamel paint, bulged slightly towards her hand and there was a muffled sound that seemed to be coming through the paint.
Myka, who was working just a few feet down from Helena, stopped pulling a small wooden box towards herself, and turned to look over at her.
"Did you say something?" She asked, unable to help the smile that curved her lips when Helena turned to smile at her.
"I was merely surprised to come across this old thing," Helena said, pulling the painting a little further out from its shelf so that Myka could see it. "Harringay's masterpiece - that takes me back."
Myka's brows drew together - something about the name 'Harringay', as applied to a pale green canvas, rang a bell. She couldn't place it, though.
"Now, why does that sound familiar," she mused, leaving her box and joining Helena by the painting.
The muffled noises from the painting increased when Myka reached the spot where Helena was standing, and Helena rapped its surface sharply with her knuckles.
"We'll have none of that," she told it crisply. "Myka has no interest in your blandishments and you know how little I care for your promises of masterpieces. Besides," and here her eyes slid sideways and she gave Myka an impish little smirk, "I think that you'll find I have already given my soul away."
The painting gave an ill-humoured mutter, and subsided into sullen silence. Myka blushed, and gave Helena a shy look. The other woman had such a way with words, sometimes. Helena merely raised her chin a little, and attempted to exude an air of innocence.
"What's Harringay's masterpiece?" Myka asked, eyeing the painting with distrust, although it seemed now to be quiescent. "I'm sure I recognise the name but I just can't place it."
"Harringay," Helena said, "was a rather lacklustre painter who accidentally summoned a devil of some description into a painting. When the creature," and here she gave the canvas a little shake, "attempted to convince him to part with his immortal soul in exchange for the ability to paint a masterpiece, Harringay showed surprising strength of will and painted the thing over with a tin of 'Hedge Sparrow's Egg Tint' enamel paint that happened to be in his wife's boudoir. Thusly, as far as we could tell, sealing the unfortunate imp into the painting for all time." The painting gave a faint, resigned grumble.
"Aha," she said, "and now I know why I recognised the name - you wrote about it, didn't you?"
"I did indeed," Helena said, sliding the painting back into its place on the shelf. The painting seemed to stretch towards her for a moment, and then subsided. "I'm surprised that you should know that story - it was one of my more obscure works even back then."
Myka blushed again - it seemed to be a constant peril around Helena.
"Well, I did sort of go back and re-read all of your books after you turned up," she admitted. She had wanted to know the woman better, and her books seemed like a good place to start. "So, how many of the rest of your stories are true?"
"A fair number," Helena admitted. "Or they are, at any rate, drawn from truth. Harringay's tale is one that I recorded with little change, but most of the others required some form of creative license to disguise their origins."
Myka nodded - that made sense.
"Perhaps you can tell me where all of your stories came from, some time," she suggested.
"That could take a rather long time," Helena warned, and Myka lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug.
"I don't mind," she said, and turned back to her work, shooting Helena one last smile over her shoulder.
A rather long time. She liked the sound of that.
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