A Secret Grave 113: A Sundown Town


I called Alicia the next morning and we made a date for the following day. As usual she came over to my studio, and the first thing she did was look at my easel – I was working on the same  portrait of my son I’d been working on the last time she was here. She studied it carefully and without comment.


Oil portrait austin

Julian, Work in Progress (Nicole Jeffords, Oil on Canvas)


“So? What do you think?” I prodded.

“I wish you’d work bigger,” she said. “He has such a great face, but how about his tattoos? You should paint those next time.”

She studied the canvas a moment longer, then came and sat down. It was a Saturday afternoon and we could hear the sound of children playing on a swing set in my neighbor’s yard next door. Trees were budding; everywhere you looked was the green frizz of leaves unfolding on branches, and the rich smells of spring combined with the studio smells of of turps, clove and oil paint made for a heady brew. Alicia leaned back on the couch and wriggled her neck and shoulders like an athlete stretching muscles before an event. She took a deep breath. “Okay, everything I tell you stays here in this studio.”

“Of course.”

“I just might have to doodle. Can I borrow a sketch pad and some pencils?”

I obliged. There was a moment of silence while Alicia opened the book and began drawing. A moment later she began talking.




“Emil got out of rehab at the end of February. I wanted him to take a few weeks and relax. I had an appointment with a curator at the Crystal Bridges museum in Arkansas and we decided to make a trip of it. Harrison, the town where Gharith told us that Richard David guy might be, is only about an hour and a half’s drive from Bentonville where the museum is. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to go there, but Emil got pushy. He said it was time for me to expunge ghosts and this was the place to start.”


map of arkansas

Google Maps (cropped)


“Well, the moment we entered the town of Harrison I got the willies. I’ve been all over the world, Nicole, but I’ve never been to a place that felt as small-minded and creepy as that. I wanted Emil to turn the car around immediately, but he refused. ‘No,’ he said. ‘We’re here and we have to see this thing through to the bitter end.’”


To be continued…


Cover photo ~ https://heymikeyatl.com/2014/03/25/3242014-sundown-town/

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