A Secret Grave 69: News from the Swamp


I got two pieces of news today. The first was from Alicia who called very excitedly this morning and said, “What are you working on? You’d better put down your brush.”

I was working on a portrait of Jennifer Balkan, another painter here in town, whose thin, intense face with its raw, natural beauty has always interested me.



Jennifer, Work in Progress


I didn’t put down the brush, but added the first bluish touch of color to the tattoo on Jennifer’s chest, an area I was uncertain of since the form was hard to read.




“Why? What’s going on?” I said, squinting at the blurry edge of the tattoo.

“A body was found in one of the swamps – or maybe I should say wetlands – outside Miami.”

A chill went up my spine.

“I don’t want to get too graphic, but a lot of it had been eaten by I guess an alligator so it was hard to identify. But they’re pretty sure it belonged to that art mover guy. His name was Charlie Diaz.”

“So he was murdered?”

“It looks that way.”

At this point I did put down my brush. “Maybe he just kind of fell into the swamp,” I suggested.

“Yeah, but not by accident. Someone didn’t want him to be found. At least not alive.”

We were both silent for a moment. “And Victor’s portrait?”

“Who knows. They’re investigating.”

I wiped off my hands and sat down on the studio couch. I wasn’t sure I had the heart to go on working the rest of the day.



xxIMG_9921, Robin Wendell, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


“I’ll call you if I hear anything,” Alicia said and hung up.  I sat there staring into space.  I had a feeling of darkness closing in and counseled myself to take a few deep breaths. This Victor story was getting to be too much. But it was only a story, a series of odd circumstances and coincidences. Charlie Diaz’ body had been found floating in a swamp halfway across the country and had nothing to do with me. I should just get a grip and go back to my painting. But when I looked at my hands they were trembling too much to hold a brush.




The other piece of news came later in the day and I’ll tell you about that next time.


To be continued…


Cover photo ~ I Dreamt of Alligators…, The Mighty Tim Inconnu, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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