Things began to happen very fast. I was in my studio, totally focused on the canvas in front of me, when I received a phone call from Alicia. Since she knew better than to call me during work hours, it had to be serious. I grabbed my cell. “What’s going on?” I said, trying to ignore the uneasy feeling in my stomach.
“I need you to come over right now! Something terrible’s happened! Please hurry!” She wouldn’t say what it was. She was sobbing.
I put away my things as fast as I could and jumped in the car, still in studio clothes which meant short shorts and a paint-spattered shirt. As a precaution I brought along a dress in case I’d need to look more normal. Part of my brain must have been working.
Alicia’s face, when she opened the door, was shocking. Blotchy and swollen, the eyes almost slits from weeping. She could barely articulate. “It’s Cecily Rose,” she managed.
Cecily Rose, her eleven-year-old daughter, a girl I knew quite well because Alicia had brought her to my studio a number of times, and I’d begun to teach her to paint. (Well, not paint, but draw, which is the first step.)
Alicia propelled me into the living room. There were two other people in there: Betsy, with her phone to her ear, and a man named Felix who was Alicia’s art restorer. Between the three of them, there was a palpable feeling of doom and hysteria in the air. I still didn’t know what was going on. Betsy put down her phone and pointed at me.
“You!” she said.
“You will drive Alicia to Cecily’s camp in Hunt. Felix will stay here at the house. And I’ll run to the office to dig up what I can on these people.”
These people? What was she talking about? And what had happened to Cecily Rose?