THE MAN IN THE PAINTING


                                                               Andrew Hawcroft

When twenty-eight year old Harriet Painter, and her eight year-old son George, settle in a quiet country cottage, she hopes they are at the beginning of a fresh chapter in their lives, finally able to put the pain of recent years behind them.

A lawyer working for the esteemed legal company of Carter and Black Legal, she has at last seen the courts impose a restraining order on her former husband, Scott, after years of increasing cases of physical and mental abuse.

Succumbing to a long-held desire, she has finally bought the old stone cottage she discovered on her way to work a year ago.  It is a warm, friendly place of great character, and a fine home to enjoy new beginnings.

One day, while cleaning her new pantry, Harriet falls through the rotten floorboards to find herself in an ancient cellar, long, long hidden from human eyes.   The dark and dust-caked room contains only one item, a leather-shrouded, five-foot painting depicting a medieval knight in armour, standing before a wintry landscape.  There is no title and no artist’s signature.

Harriet is strangely taken by the painting and decides to bring it into the house, placing it above the fireplace in her living room.  It almost immediately begins to have a positive effect on the life of her and her son.  Both find strength to stand up to the respective bullies in their lives from that day on.

But when Scott, reaching the end of his own psychological tether, discovers where she lives, despite the restraining order, he embarks on a series of intimidation tactics.

Added to this, her company have demanded that she represent a member of the notorious Janey family, importers known for their criminal and violent business dealings, in a case of illegal importing.  A case nobody would take on unless they were given no choice.

 As things get worse and worse, despite her stoic nature, Harriet begins to buckle under fear and helplessness.  She has no one to turn to.

One night, unable to sleep, fragile from the burden of her life, Harriet enters the living room where the painting is kept.   She turns to see with horror that the wintry landscape of the painting is empty, and that a huge armoured figure sits before the dying fire…   

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