I didn’t get much out of Joe that afternoon in the studio. To the contrary, while extremely pleasant and friendly, there was a reserve to him that was unsettling. He asked a lot of questions about my painting process, but I think this was to throw me off, to keep me from turning the table and asking questions of him. I wanted to know, for instance, how he felt about Caroline’s extended stay in Bolivia. Did he know she was having an affair? But he gave me very little opportunity. “When do you think Caroline will be back,” I ventured.
“Oh soon, soon.”
“She’s been gone a long time.”
“Yes, but her father needs her. It’s good for them to be together.”
“Mercer needs her, too.”
Joe laughed – mirthlessly, almost a cautionary laugh. “Yes, that’s why Mercer went to La Paz to visit her. So good for him to experience other cultures.”
I remembered then that Caroline had disappeared to Bolivia just after the question of Mercer’s parentage had come up at my party last fall. She had seen the portraits of Victor, Joe and Mercer lined up next to one another and turned a horrified white. A) She hadn’t been aware that I knew Victor. B) The resemblance between Mercer and Victor was damning.
After three minutes in front of the portraits, she had fled the party with the excuse of a migraine. Joe, of course, had never seen the portraits. Unless he was faking his blindness, which seemed very unlikely.
“Have you ever heard of someone named Dr. Victor Goodlove?” I asked him now.
Joe’s voice remained steady as he said, “Can’t say I have. Who is he?”
“This amazing healer I once knew who disappeared suddenly. I did a portrait of him that got stolen right after it had been exhibited at Art Basel.”
Joe shook his head. “So sorry to hear that. A lot of these alternative doctors seem to go missing. It’s probably wise to keep a distance.”
Huh? Where had that come from? I studied his face which looked entirely bland. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean,” he said, “that it’s best to play it safe, not get in trouble with anything controversial.” He reached out and touched my face, almost – was this my imagination? – in a warning caress. “These are dangerous times we live in. And now, talking about time, shall we go back into the house? I’ve got to get Mercer home.”
There was no more conversation after that.
To be continued…
Cover photo ~ Edited, http://musingsbyken.blogspot.com/2015/09/practice-tip-random-thoughts-on-power.html