"Oh, I hadn't realized Eddie was a friend of yours."
Denise and Minnie stared at Artemisia Gentileschi. "You know him, too?" asked Denise.
"Well, of course. He's one of my private students."
On the street outside Mary Simpson's residence
Magdeburg, capital of the United States of Europe
"Well, that didn't go so well, did it?" said Denise, almost snarling.
Minnie frowned. "We were reasonably polite. And I don't think Ms. Gentileschi was mad at us. Even though we tried to pry what she called privy information out of her for probably longer than we should have. Um. Probably a lot longer."
"That's not what I meant!" That sentence was snarled. "I can't believe that inconsiderate fucking bum is paying Artemisia Gentileschi for private painting lessons."
Teenage fury gave way, in an instant, to sixteen-and-half-year-old despair. "She's world famous, Minnie! They even got articles about her in encyclopedias that were written hundreds of years from now. It'll take him years to pay her off!"
The door to the Simpson residence opened. Hearing the sound, the two girls turned and looked up the short flight of stairs leading to the front entrance.
Artemisia Gentileschi was standing there, smiling. "It occurred to me after you charged off, young ladies, that there might be a solution to your problem."
"Rob a bank?" said Denise, perhaps a tad sarcastically.
Gentileschi chuckled. "Oh, nothing that energetic. But I always have need of models. It's especially difficult to find suitable girls, because they're either street urchins—that won't do at all—or their families insist on chaperones, and that costs still more money."
She gazed down upon them. "In your case, however, I do not think chaperones will be necessary."
"Ha!" That came from Denise.
Minnie response was more measured. "Assuming you could find any in the first place. Here in Magdeburg . . . maybe. Back in Grantville, the Babysitters Guild had Denise blacklisted by the time she was six."
"Splendid, then. I can simply deduct what I would pay you from the fee I charge young Junker. Will that suit you?"
Denise looked simultaneously ecstatic and suspicious. "Well, sure. But . . . what do we have to do? Exactly?"
"Just sit still."
Minnie shrugged. "Easy for me. I might have to hit Denise once in a while."
For her part, Denise was back to scowling. "I can't believe what I put myself through for that guy."