And so what did Janet do? She put Sabina in a sublet owned by her sister Betsy’s real estate company, in downtown Austin. I should interject here that the two sisters, Janet and Betsy, long estranged, had patched things up. For those of you who might not remember, Betsy Shapiro, Victor’s landlady before he disappeared in 2006, had run away from her family of origin many years earlier, a black girl who passed for white.
Arrived in Austin the early nineties, Betsy hid her story and became involved with the Jewish community, marrying real estate developer Malcolm Shapiro. Her younger sister, Janet, searched for her for years, finally discovering Betsy’s whereabouts when she saw a portrait I’d painted of her in Art Basel in 2016. Since the last thing Betsy wanted was to have her true identity revealed, Janet was able to blackmail her into free rent at Victor’s old house.
Now, after the murder of Janet’s lover, Roy, the house belonged to Janet, and Betsy had softened. Poor Janet, pregnant and alone. She reached out to her younger sister, offering all kinds of help as long as Janet didn’t “out” her regarding who she really was. The interim apartment where they put Sabina seemed safe and from the start she loved it, trendy, convenient, right in the thick of things. Janet visited her often. She had recommended a good divorce lawyer and obstetrician, though Sabina, always busy with her horses, didn’t seem in a hurry to follow up. She had taken a home pregnancy test and the result was positive — she figured she was almost three months pregnant, more or less the same as Janet.
For her part, Janet had a lot of questions about Sabina’s reluctance to pick up the threads of her life. “Have you been in touch with Nate?” she would ask, wanting to know if the girl had made any arrangements with her soon-to-be-ex. “I don’t want to ever talk to him again!” Sabina would explode. “How about your family in Romania?” Janet would ask. There Sabina was a little more forthcoming.