Caroline, whose portrait I’d painted, really did feel like a ghost. Mercer told me she’d been in Austin several times in the last few months, but for me, who hadn’t seen her in such a long while, she seemed unreal, insubstantial. I could imagine her walking the streets of La Paz arm-in-arm with Sergio Hochmann easier than making dinner for her family in her house in Hyde Park. The wheels had already turned; in my mind, she’d moved onto another life, left the story.
Which is weird because she plays such a huge part in this particular story. To put it bluntly, if Victor’s dead (and we have no proof of that other than my conviction he’s buried beneath my studio), she may have been his killer. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but Victor disappeared right after a rather public fight with Caroline, leaving a cloud of question marks around her. A beautiful woman who moves through life enveloped in an air of mystery. In my mind, Caroline is a person who holds herself aloof, who is like a sharp knife hidden in a billowing cloak. Of course, she has reason to want to avoid me. I’m the lady who painted her son and figured out the true identity of his father. Probably she’d like to get rid of me, just like she did Victor.
(Whoops, unfair, shouldn’t jump to conclusions.) I’m just ruminating here, but Caroline’s long stay in Bolivia to take care of her father has always seemed a little too convenient. I didn’t want to question Joe about it, sitting in my kitchen on the fourth of July. He seemed so happy at the table next to Lynn, talking about ghosts and politics and the fortune their sons stood to make. But I couldn’t help myself, and before the end of the meal, I turned to him and asked in a low voice if Caroline were coming home anytime soon. “That’s a long story,” he said with an odd catch in his voice.
“Is Caroline your wife?” asked Janet, who’d been listening more closely than I realized.
“She’s been out of the country, taking care of her father,” Joe said by way of an answer. “She travels back and forth.”
“In fact, she was here last week,” he added.
“And now she’s gone back?” I asked.
“Yes, uh huh. For a little while.”
There was a sad, pained look on his face. I had a vivid image of Caroline traipsing around the house packing all her things, not only clothing but favorite belongings, like books and photos and cherished souvenirs from Mercer’s childhood. She was going away for a long time, perhaps for good, and I wondered how that would impact Mercer, who despite his business success was still at an age where he needed a mom.
To be continued…
Cover photo ~ http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/ways-free-yourself-from-dark-obsessive-thoughts/