A Secret Grave 48: Mystery Game

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“Why do you want to know so much about Victor?” Betsy asked. “He disappeared long ago. Do you mind taking Clark out to your studio? He’d really like to see it.”

I said no, of course not, and out we went, followed by the dogs. The back porch light had gone dead and I used my phone as a flashlight. Clark held his stepmom’s arm and made an odd humming sound in his throat as I unlocked the studio door. I think he truly sensed there might be ghosts in there.

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night-studio

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Inside, my salt lamp gave off an orange glow. A woman I’d begun painting a few weeks before stared down from one of the walls like a wild-haired Medusa. She looked really creepy with her eyes barely in and I could feel Clark tense up beside me. The humming sound in his throat deepened. “It’s okay, honey,” Betsy said.

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jennifer-early-sketch

Jennifer Balkan, early sketch

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I turned on some more lights and Clark began to calm down. He had a lot of questions for me. What color system did I use? Did I have to keep the studio a certain temperature? How did I organize and store my paint? Did I listen to music while I worked? How many hours did I spend in there at a time? How did I decide who I wanted to paint? How much did I charge?

“Maybe Nicole would like to paint you,” Betsy suggested.

I decided to ignore her, though Clark, with his intense and excitable manner, wouldn’t be uninteresting to paint.

“A few weeks after Victor disappeared,” Betsy said, picking up a pencil and examining it closely, “we received a letter in the mail from a law firm in Toronto saying the office was to be shut down, all files, equipment, personal effects, etcetera removed. Not long after that, two men showed up to take care of everything. Since my husband, Malcolm, is a lawyer, he was the one who dealt with them.”

“Did they say what had happened to Victor?”

“Not really. The assumption was he’d decided to close the clinic and move on, just as he’d done before with previous clinics.”

“What’s that?” Clark interrupted, pointing at a dry erase board at the far end of the studio, behind my easel.

I felt my face turn red. It’s pretty obvious that I enjoy playing detective and I’d put together a chart with photos of all the people I know or am aware of who knew Victor. Arrows showed how they were connected to him and to one another. Betsy was included.

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csi-board-4

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“It’s a little mystery game I enjoy playing about someone I once knew,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t ask a million more questions.  Just then my dog Lucille, who’d followed us into the studio, started yipping in her sleep. Betsy shivered and hugged her arms around herself. “I’m cold,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ clue, John Lambert Pearson, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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