A Secret Grave 168: At the Heart of the Mystery

 

There were too many mysteries for me. Victor had vanished from sight over a decade ago, but someone was still paying his bills. The South Austin house he rented from Betsy (and that Janet now lived in) had been maintained all these years as if he still lived and worked there. Why? There were nothing but ghosts in the place. And that shed in the back! Dank, dark, gloomy – to me it felt like the throbbing heart of the mystery. All those medicinal herbs. The misters and grow lights. Why continue with that crappy awkward shed when its contents could have been moved someplace better and more convenient? The questions went on and on. Who were the guys Janet had heard in there? What kind of secrets were in the locked desk drawers? Where was Victor who would turn sixty-two this year? Was he dead (and possibly buried beneath my studio) or would he be run over by a car like his father and grandfather before him?

And where was the Bukh, which I had to assume was the driving force behind this whole crazy story. The venerable bible that had disappeared along with Victor, and that now people would kill for.

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the-bukh

The Bukh, Photo Credit Gilbert Garcia

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I puzzled over these questions for days. The one person who might have answers, Emil, was never around. According to his wife, Alicia, he was either sequestered in the country, writing his book, or traveling on business.

She invited me to dinner at their house. I’d never been there before, a stately mansion in Enfield with large rooms, fine furniture, many paintings, and a formal atmosphere that set me on edge. I was in a simple summer dress and sandals. Alicia opened the door barefoot, in blue jean cut-offs, and a pretty blouse. Her guard dog, Leo, whom she’d bought after her adventures in Arkansas, was nowhere to be seen. “He’s away in training,” Alicia informed me. Emil was also away, attending a conference in Oslo. And their daughter, Cecily Rose, was away at camp. So we were alone in that big, brightly lit house with its open windows facing the street.

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Leo

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I felt extremely visible in front of those uncurtained windows. We ate gazpacho, salmon, and a mixed salad in the kitchen, and then we went into the living room, where Alicia closed the curtains (thank god) and we settled down on the couch. With a snifter of brandy cradled in her hands, Alicia told me about a recent trip to London and Paris with Emil. We discussed her plans to sell the Palm Beach gallery and my stolen portrait of Victor – the police still had no idea where it had gone. We discussed politics and the awful Mr. Trump. And we talked about the Bukh, an object so valuable and dangerous that people could lose their lives over it. “Does Emil know where it is?” I asked her, point blank.

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Alicia

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She looked at me with worried eyes. “He knows more than is safe,” she said.

 

To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ https://www.pinterest.com/pin/280982464224056999/

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