By now evening had fallen and my dogs scratched on the door to come into the studio. Alicia grabbed the little one, Vincent, and pulled him onto her lap. My other dog, Lucille, lay down beside my easel, which I had turned around so Alicia couldn’t see what was on it.
“What else did Gharith tell you?” I asked Alicia
“Show me what’s on your easel first.”
Quid pro quo. I really didn’t want to show her. It was a canvas I had just started and the drawing was a mess. “It’s in such an early phase, it’s not worth seeing.”
“That’s when I find them most interesting.”
I glanced at her face which wore a stubborn look of determination. I had the feeling that it really was quid pro quo: in exchange for telling me the darkest facts about herself she wanted to see me at my most vulnerable. So I turned the easel around. On the canvas was the beginning of a self portrait – a very shaky beginning, the lines of the face rough and distorted, the hair a mess. To my shock, she picked up her phone and took a quick picture.
“That’s not fair!” I exclaimed.
She grinned at me. “Sure it is, especially if I’m going to be your dealer.”
Dealer? Other than hints, not a single word had passed between us about a professional connection. Contracts and agreements were terms as yet to be discussed. I wasn’t even sure I wanted a dealer. What I did know was I wanted to grab her phone and smash it. Reading my thoughts, she laughed. “You artists all have such fragile egos. It’s amazing to me how you can produce the most brilliant work and still feel like you have zero talent.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. I drew in a breath and glanced at the altar where my mother’s ashes lay in a small box surrounded by beads and crystals. I released the breath and blurted: “This Richard David guy in Arkansas, what are you going to do about him?”
“Find him. Have him put in jail where he belongs. Gharith thinks he’s raped other women.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have a last name or anything real to go by.”
“The police kept a sample of his DNA. That should be sufficient.”
Looking at her with her phone clutched in one hand and the fingers of the other twisted in the fur of the dog on her lap, I realized that finding the rapist could become her life’s mission, that she could become obsessed with it like some kind of crazy bounty hunter. “So you’re going to go up to that town in bumfuck Arkansas with Gharith, or what?”
“Something like that.”
“What were the other things he told you?”
She fell silent. I heard the drip of my utility sink faucet and the strange laughing shriek of an owl in one of the trees outside. For a moment I thought she’d forgotten the question. Then she said, “It’s about Emil. But I have to know you won’t repeat any of this.”
I held up my hand and used the words of Victor’s receptionist from so long ago. “Pinky swear.”
To be continued…
Cover photo ~ https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/416Gq9227sL._SX342_.jpg