Well, I’ve always been a little manipulative – people have to be to survive, right? – but researching the truth about Victor Goodlove has turned me into a downright schemer. I was on a roll putting together Betsy’s history and wanted to keep going, so I wangled myself a seat next to her at a charity event with the help of my new friend, Mme X. This was not the best environment for conversation because of poor acoustics and loud fundraising speeches as well as nonstop introductions to all the committee members who’d spent time and money organizing the event. But it was a start.
There were eight of us at the table. I didn’t really know anyone except Betsy who knew everyone and made introductions. Both of us had come without husbands. “Malcolm hates these things,” she whispered.
So, I admitted, did my husband, George.
“But it’s great for networking and kind of nice to get dressed up once in awhile.” She had on a black chiffon cocktail dress and crimson high heels. Slanted over her curls was a nifty little fascinator hat. With a veil. I’m convinced the veil made her more forthcoming, which I understand – sometimes for fun I wear a wig and I always feel like someone else, some braver more forthright person when I do.
Since Betsy knew so many people at the event she kept waving and jumping up from the table to air kiss this person and say a quick hello to that one. But in between we managed to talk. “I love the portrait you did of me,” she said.
“Thanks,” I murmured, never good with compliments.
“I was wondering if you’d donate one to the auction at the mental health dinner next spring?”
I looked at her stupidly, as if I didn’t understand. Frankly, I hate doing those kinds of commissions. You slave over work you don’t get paid for, and you can’t turn the person down, even if their face would be hell to paint.
“You know what I mean? We’d put up one of your portraits as an example and then offer a commission as an auction item.”
I still didn’t answer. I really didn’t want to do it, not even for a good cause.
She blinked at me solemnly from behind her veil. She had beautiful soft beguiling eyes. Just at that moment the lights went down and a parade of scantily dressed young women with glow sticks and baskets for collecting donations entered the ballroom. The emcee shrieked at us to be generous as the girls began circulating among the tables with their baskets.
It was really noisy. I wanted to slap my hands over my ears. Instead I said: “What I’d really like is for you to come to dinner and tell me what you know about Victor Goodlove.”
She continued to stare at me from behind her veil. “And you’d donate a portrait?”
I secretly crossed my fingers so I wouldn’t be lying. “Sure,” I said, thinking maybe a sketch instead of something more complicated that would take months.
“Okay,” she said, her soft eyes narrowing and hardening. “Done deal.”
To be continued…
Cover photo ~ Mayor’s Autumn Charity Ball, Jon Tandy, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/