I left the house shortly after Roy’s arrival. On the way out, I spotted Victor’s old white Volvo and realized that was the car Roy had used to drive here. For a moment I pictured Victor in that car, driving with stiff attention as if his back were bothering him. His dog, Ranger, whom he took everywhere, would have been curled up in the passenger seat. Or maybe not, because of the summer heat. Maybe Victor would’ve left him home. I had to shake myself out of that fantasy. This was now. Victor had been gone a long time. Cecily Rose had just been kidnapped and Roy had driven here to talk to Emil, a secret pow wow, presumably about the Bukh and what to tell the shits who were holding the little girl hostage. I continued on my way. I couldn’t believe I was involved in such a drama, just like the movies or a horrible story on the news, with a child abducted and a deadly search for an ancient book that had traveled across the ocean in an adolescent boy’s knapsack. Over the past year I’d met so many people and heard so many stories my head was spinning. At home, I went into my studio to think about it all. I lay down on my couch and studied the dry erase board that had photos of all the suspects pinned to it with magnets.
The photos swam before my eyes… Helen Sprouse who had changed her name to Darla and pretended she didn’t know me, mysterious Caroline who had deserted her family and run off to a new life in Bolivia, her husband Joe, the brilliant blind mathematician who disappeared occasionally on unexplained business trips, his driver, Lloyd Peterson, sharpshooter and tough guy who was now my housekeeper Ramona’s boyfriend, and bitchy Betsy Shapiro, Victor’s landlady who for years had had access to his house and all its secrets. Whew, all those people connected one way or another to Victor. Janet and Roy were not on the board. Nor was Mary Hernandez, girlfriend of Victor’s weight loss patient, Josie Carter, who’d died of a heart attack while in his care. I closed my eyes for a minute and thought about my portrait of Victor that had gone missing and the man who’d stolen it, Charlie Diaz, who’d been found dead in a Florida swamp. I thought about Victor’s son, Mercer, who’d inherited his father’s healing powers and was next in line to inherit the Bukh, wherever the damn thing was. I thought of Victor himself, the man who could cure illness with the touch of his hand and who had developed a secret life-extending concoction of herbs that could keep one looking years younger than one’s actual age. Victor, who had disappeared without a trace in 2006, and who might be buried beneath my studio floor, a few feet away from where I was lying on the couch.
I must have fallen asleep then, overwhelmed by Victor and all the people connected to him. When I awoke the light had changed, and my dog Lucille was scratching at the door for me to go into the house and feed her. I glanced at my phone: six p.m. And then I saw that Janet had called and that she’d left a text. “Something terrible’s happened. Please come ASAP.” Oh shit, I thought. What now?