A Secret Grave 29: State Secrets

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The favor I did Helen was to lend her an extra coat I had in my car when I went to the clinic one fall day and she was shivering with cold. “Damn weather here in Austin,” she complained. “Sunny and warm in the morning and then the temperature sinks like a stone and you’re freezing your ass off.” The coat was made of sweatshirt material, black with a red felt rose I’d pinned to the collar. It was so comfortable you could sleep in it. I would have liked the coat back but the next time I went to Victor’s Helen wasn’t there, nor the time after that. When I eventually saw her again, she didn’t have the coat with her but she let me have some supplements for free and she told me Rachel Glazny, who looked nineteen, was actually thirty-four – something I’d wondered about ever since I first saw Rachel weeping in the parking lot. “State secret,” announced Helen. “I promise, your life isn’t safe if you tell anyone.” And she held out her little finger for a pinkie swear.

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Amber Novak FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN 9/22/05 The Zachary Scott Theater presents "Keepin' It Weird," a show based on real Austinites. Aralyn Hughes plays herself along with her pet pig and pig-decorated art car.

Helen

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For once I stayed true to my word and didn’t tell anyone. I also didn’t get my coat back, because by then it was obvious Helen wielded power and I wanted to be first in line to take advantage of it. So when she said, “Oh I forgot your coat, I’ll have it here for you on your next visit,”  I said, “Never mind, it’s yours.” For that one gesture of kindness, I learned Victor was plugged into the Russian government. “You mean like a spy?” I asked.

“No, nothing like that. There’s this guy, Pyotr something or other, he meets with in Dallas every few months and they exchange medical information. You know – research.”

“What sort of research?” I had a friend who wouldn’t let anyone in his house because of experiments conducted in the kitchen. I always pictured body parts in the freezer since he wasn’t flush enough to be cooking meth. I wondered what went on in Victor’s kitchen.

“Lots of experiments with herbs,” Helen informed me. “He’s got this whole book of remedies compiled over the years that’s like a bible to him. Oh, no,” she said, seeing the look on my face. “No one ever gets their hands on that puppy. It’s under lock and key. Not even I know where it is.”

I wondered if Helen with all her sneaky eavesdropping and spying knew the combination to Victor’s safe. She told me he sometimes used her as his Guinea pig and that he’d once given her a pill with a tiny camera in it that photographed her entire GI tract and that she had to retrieve from her poop twenty-four hours later. “He’s made me take stuff that turns your hair dark, I swear. And other stuff,” she giggled, “that makes your sweat smell good.”

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Helen 4

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One morning she called to tell me that my next day’s appointment with Victor was being cancelled. “Why?” I asked irritably. My back had gone out and I was in considerable pain.

“Well,” she said with whispery excitement in her voice, “the whole clinic’s being shut down. We have this very special visitor flying in from New York and she needs complete and total privacy. They may even sweep the place first.”

“Sweep?”

“As in looking for bombs and stuff.”

“What!? Who is this person?”

After the briefest of pauses in which I imagined her checking her heavily lipsticked mouth in the little mirror she kept on her desk, she whispered: “I’m not allowed to say. Only that she’s from New York. And she was… well, let’s just say ‘First So and So’ in an important house. You’ll have to figure it out from there. And if you tell anyone, you’re dead. Pinky swear.”

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ https://lauriecalzada.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pinky-swear-photo.jpg

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