Here's a snippet of the work in progress:
"This looks different from the other works," I said, and started, finding the woman suddenly standing close enough to whisper in my ear. You know, or stick a knife in it.
"Ah, yes," she said, not acknowledging my startlement or what had caused it. Her attention was on the mask in front of us. "An earlier work. Part of a series of eight."
"Where are the others?"
"Lost," she said, perfectly made up lips giving the ghost of a frown, "during the Cultural Revolution."
I let the silence build till it became uncomfortable, which took about three seconds. "What is it, anyway?"
"A death mask."
"I didn't know the Chinese were into death masks."
She shrugged, a minimal gesture. Like everything about her, it seemed. "Artists draw from many sources, many cultures. Insipration is where you find it."
"So who's this a mask of?"
"Nobody ever asked this Deng guy?"
"If they did, there is no record of it."
"Deng Jian Rong shot himself in the head in 1987."
That uncomfortable silence again. This place needed Muzak. "Artists. Unstable types I guess."
She smiled politely in reply and made a card appear in her hand. Holding it out to me, she said "I'm afraid we're closing up now. Do please call on us another time, Mister King."
Shit, I thought, palms suddenly sweaty. How did she know my name?