And then Christopher Jenks pauses.
‘When I left, the sergeant told me I could take with me a souvenir, as a thank-you for what he said was my “patriotic duty”. I did, and I still have it today – a little memento of the strangest day of my life.’
He stands, raising his eyebrows. ‘Some souvenir.’
Angela Silver is on her feet. ‘Objection. There is nothing in that article that says the memento was The Girl You Left Behind.’
‘It is an extraordinary coincidence that she mentions being allowed to remove an item from the warehouse.’
‘The article does not at any point state that the item was a painting. Let alone this particular painting.’
Angela Silver is at the bench. ‘My lord, we have examined the records from Berchtesgaden and there is no written record of this painting having come from the Collection Point storage facility. It appears on none of the lists or inventories from that time. It is therefore specious for my colleague here to make the association.’
‘It has already been documented here that during wartime there are always things that go unrecorded. We have heard expert testimony that there are works of art that were never recorded as having been stolen during wartime that have later turned out to be so.’
‘My lord, if my learned friend is stating that The Girl You Left Behind was a looted painting at Berchtesgaden, then the burden of proof still falls on the claimants to establish beyond doubt that this painting was actually there in the first place. There is no hard evidence that it formed part of that collection.’
Jenks shakes his head. ‘In his own statement David Halston said that when he bought it Louanne Baker’s daughter told him she had acquired the painting in 1945 in Germany. She could offer no provenance and he didn’t know enough about the art market to be aware that he should have demanded it.
‘It seems extraordinary that a painting that had disappeared from France during a time of German occupation, that was recorded as having been coveted by a German Kommandant, should then reappear in the home of a woman who had just returned from Germany, was on record as saying she had brought home with her a precious memento from that trip and would never go there again.’
The courtroom is silent. Along the bench, a dark-haired woman in lime green is alert, leaning forwards, her big, gnarled hands resting on the back of the bench in front of her. Liv wonders where she has seen her before. The woman shakes her head emphatically. There are lots of older people in the public benches: how many of them remember this war personally? How many lost paintings of their own?
Angela Silver addresses the judge. ‘Again, m’ lord, this is all circumstantial. There are no specific references in this article to a painting. A memento, as it is referred to here, could have been simply a soldier’s badge or a pebble. This court must make its judgment solely on evidence. In not one piece of this evidence does she specifically refer to this painting.’
Angela Silver sits.
‘Can we call Marianne Andrews?’
The woman in lime green stands heavily, makes her way to the stand and, after being sworn in, gazes around her, blinking slightly. Her grip on her handbag turns her oversized knuckles white. Liv starts when she remembers where she has seen her before: a sun-baked back-street in Barcelona, nearly a decade previously, her hair blonde instead of today’s raven black. Marianne Johnson.
‘Mrs Andrews. You are the only daughter of Louanne Baker.’
‘Ms Andrews. I am a widow. And, yes, I am.’ Liv recalls that strong American accent.
Angela Silver points to the painting. ‘Ms Andrews. Do you recognize the painting – the copy of the painting – that sits in the court before you?’
‘I certainly do. That painting sat in our drawing room my whole childhood. It’s called The Girl You Left Behind, and it’s by Édouard Lefèvre.’ She pronounces it ‘Le Fever’.
‘Ms Andrews, did your mother ever tell you about the souvenir she refers to in her article?’
‘She never said it was a painting?’
‘Did she ever mention where the painting came from?’
‘Not to me, no. But I’d just like to say there is no way Mom would have taken that painting if she’d thought it belonged to a victim of those camps. She just wasn’t like that.’
The judge leans forward. ‘Ms Andrews, we have to stay within the boundaries of what is known. We cannot ascribe motives to your mother.’
‘Well, you all seem to be.’ She huffs. ‘You didn’t know her. She believed in fair play. The souvenirs she kept were things like shrunken heads or old guns or car number-plates. Things that nobody would have cared for.’ She thinks for a minute. ‘Well, okay, the shrunken heads might have belonged to someone once, but you can bet they didn’t want them back, right?’
There is a ripple of laughter around the courtroom.
‘She was really very upset by what happened in Dachau. She could barely talk about it for years afterwards. I know she would not have taken anything if she thought it might be hurting one of those poor souls further.’
‘So you do not believe that your mother took this painting from Berchtesgaden?’
‘My mother never took a thing from anyone. She paid her way. That was how she was.’
Jenks stands. ‘This is all very well, Ms Andrews, but as you’ve said, you have no idea how your mother got this painting, do you?’
‘Like I said, I know she wasn’t a thief.’
Liv watches the judge as he scribbles in his notes. She looks at Marianne Andrews, grimacing as her mother’s reputation is destroyed in front of her. She looks at Janey Dickinson, smiling with barely concealed triumph at the Lefèvre brothers. She looks at Paul, who is leaning forward, his hands clasped over his knees, as if he is praying.
Liv turns away from the image of her painting, and feels a new weight, like a blanket, settle over her, shutting out the light.
‘Hey,’ she calls, as she lets herself in. It is half past four but there is no sign of Mo. She walks through to the kitchen and picks up the note on the kitchen table: ‘Gone to Ranic’s. Back tomorrow. Mo’.
Liv lets the note fall and releases a small sigh. She has become used to Mo pottering around the house – the sound of her footsteps, distant humming, a bath running, the smell of food warming in the oven. The house feels empty now. It hadn’t felt empty before Mo came.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com