A Secret Grave 58: Stolen

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Of course I immediately went and looked Janet K. Johnson up on Facebook where I discovered there were a lot of Janet K. Johnsons. I would have queried each one of them if something else hadn’t come up just then, something extremely shocking. Alicia called me from Florida to tell me this, her voice raw and dark: the painting of Victor had gone missing. “He was crated and ready to go. He was put on the truck. I saw it with my own eyes and I have the driver’s manifest. When the driver went to take him off the truck, he was gone.”

“What do you mean gone?”

“Gone! He wasn’t there! He disappeared!” I could hear tears in her voice.

“You mean he was stolen?”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I mean.”

“But why would someone steal him?”

“I don’t know. The whole thing is so baffling.”

The painting of Victor had no established value. We’d insured him at $20,000, but to me who’d spent two months painting him, he was worth considerably more – I probably couldn’t even put a price on him because of who he was and what had happened to him in real life, the mystery he represented.

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The loss was astounding. Victor had already disappeared from view once, probably murdered, and now the portrait of him, the one everyone said showed his soul, was gone. I just couldn’t comprehend it. “What do we do?” I murmured, too dispirited and numb for tears.

“I don’t know. But I’m gonna find him. Trust me.”

Her voice had such force, such underlying fury that I believed her. If anyone could find the painting, it would be Alicia.

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The police had been called and were already investigating and no doubt there’d be a big story in the news. Frankly, as awful as it was, the theft was incredibly good PR. Nothing could ratchet up the drama of Victor’s disappearance (or my standing as a painter) better than the disappearance of his portrait. But I couldn’t rid myself of the eerie image of the crated canvas, wrapped in featureless brown paper, removed by some unknown person from a truckload of similarly wrapped, anonymous, crated canvases before it ever reached its destination, which in this case was Alicia’s gallery in Palm Beach.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ cradle, Damian Siwiaszczyk, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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