Part 3 – in the interests of deceitful scheming

After having spent more than two decades at an institution for higher learning, there is no denying that Cole Donblas has accumulated a fair sum of knowledge.

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Ironically, one of the most valuable lessons Cole has ever learned,  was not taught inside a classroom. Nonetheless, it is a life skill he has adopted as his personal creed. He has adhered strictly to it, inside both his social and occupational circles.

There is an art to not asking questions.

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Mastering this art has earned Cole a great deal of trust and respect among sims who appreciate a shortage of overt curiosity. Cole’s selective indifference is coupled with an uncanny knowledge regarding contemporary artists and their works. His skill in this area is considerable. But for reasons known only to him, he chooses downplay (if not completely conceal) this talent in most social settings.

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More times than not, attempting to identify what it is that drives Cole will lead to unresolved speculation. In this case, his aloofness can be attributed to earning money. Outside of the occasional commission to restore an old painting, or his “budding” side-business distributing herbs on campus, it would seem there is no way to account for his deep reserves of disposable income.

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Cole’s approach to gainful employment over the past decade has been somewhat unusual. Be it through skill, charm, or dumb-luck, Cole has managed to secure a retainer fee from a local antique dealer to provide professional valuation on rare items. In fairness, the title “antique dealer” may be somewhat misleading in this situation. By those same standards, classifying Cole’s work as  “employment” may also be an exaggeration.

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This is where the art of not asking questions becomes relevant. Cole’s employer might be better classified as an art trafficker; and more times than not, his items cannot be sold on the open market. For Cole, there is no moral dilemma. His role is to simply discern between the rubbish and the real works of art; and at times, to convince a seller that their valuable treasures are actually worthless trash.

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Cole completely ignores the supply chain aspect of his benefactor’s business dealings. His only concern is for protecting art from falling into the hands of rich and greedy sims who do not appreciate art itself, but rather its potential for profitability. Redistributing these fine works to those who actually deserve to own them, prevents wealthy scum from exploiting them into a form of currency. It also rescues the art from being locked away in private vaults to collect dust (and value).

From his own perspective, Cole is doing the art community a great service. It is a plausible enough explanation, containing a great measure of truth, and affording him enough respect to avoid a closer inspection of his motives. But it does not convey the entire truth, which is a somewhat more complicated affair.

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The word sentimental would be an unlikely candidate when describing Cole. There is, however, one, odd, little exception. Some years ago, Cole had discovered the existence of a very rare set of paintings originating from a lineage of prolific artists. For generations, this family had mass-produced sappy, retail-quality religiosity. But among the mass of wasted pigment, there lurked a well-kept secret.

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Once every generation (or thereabouts), as a matter of family tradition, a parent from this family would render a painting as a gift to one of their children. It was said that each one of these private, signature masterpieces were unique and giftedly inspired. Only a handful of them were ever created, and Cole has spent years working toward locating just one. As fortune would have it, he has now located several of them.

It is here that our drama begins to unfold.

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To escape notice by sims who might take issue with his activism, Cole must occasionally utilize the relative anonymity of a land-line telephone. His telephonic device of choice resides at the “antique warehouse” which serves as the  nerve-center of  his employer’s operations.

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It is perfect for placing calls that require careful discretion. Circumstances have now surfaced that require a delicate balance between audacity and paranoia. So, throwing caution to the wind, he has resolved to make a very risky phone call.  Extremely bad things would occur if it were ever traced back to his own personal wireless service. In reality, making the call from any location is probably unwise. But it is a calculated risk he is willing to take.

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The antique warehouse is about an hour’s drive outside town. It’s the kind of place where a sim could easily go into hiding. It’s also the kind of place where a sim could easily be hidden… indefinitely.  Doing his best to ward off the creepy vibes he always gets from visiting this place, Cole walks quickly to a small office and wastes no time dialing a phone number he had not used in many years.

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The speaker on the old handset produces a terrible, tinny sound, as though the apparatus had been fished from the bottom of a lake. After the line connects,  Cole wastes no time on pleasantries, and immediately states his business. He speaks calmly for several minutes before a frantic, male voice emerges from the handset’s speaker. Cole remains cool and self-assured, despite his growing uneasiness.

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After listening to his father rant, uninterrupted, for no less than two full minutes, Cole recalls why he rarely speaks to the crazy, old crackpot. Unfortunately, Cole needs to extract some very important information.

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“No, dad, they are not alive.”

“Yes, I know where they are.”

“No, I’m not going to tell you.”

“Just tell me what their names are.”

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“I already told you, they are NOT alive. I just need names.”

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Having secured the information he requires, and ignoring the desperate plea for him to come home, Cole ends the call without saying goodbye. There is no need to write anything down. Cole has an eidetic memory for this kind of information.

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Barely able to keep his anxiety in check, Cole moves quickly to a large storage cage. He produces the electric cut-off saw he had stowed in his backpack. Despite his trembling hands, he makes quick work of the lock on the cage. Once inside,  Cole nervously but carefully releases a number of canvases from their bulky frames. He neatly rolls the canvases then slips them into a rigid, waterproof tube. After carefully sealing the container, he slings the entire business over his shoulder. Fumbling with the tube, his backpack, and a mess of broken frame parts, Cole fumbles his way outside.

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Convincing himself that what he’s doing is justified, he throws the broken bits of frame as far as he can; to the top of a large salvage heap. Cole’s anxiety has peaked, but he feels no shame in accepting his panic. The dubious nature of his activities today give him every right to feel panic.

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Having completed his business, Cole finds himself running toward his motorcycle; which carries him back toward the perceived shelter of his university safe-haven.

that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. – Ephesians 4:14

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