I left my name and phone number with Sally, and asked her to call me if by any chance she got another painting, or if she got some information about the artist. I didn’t tell her that I was almost certain that I knew who the artist was. For now, it was going to be my secret.
There were so many of Katy’s paintings on display, and I wanted to study each and every one of them. “The Journey of Life” had been painted when she was 65 years old, and it was the last painting the gallery had received.
I was hoping that by painting The Journey of Life, it meant that Katys’ story had been told on canvas, and she was finally saying goodbye to her horrific, painful past.
I didn’t dare think the worst as to the reason the paintings had stopped. I was instead hoping that she had retired to a faraway island, and was sipping piña coladas while swinging in a hammock like the one she had painted for Miss Mabel, with someone like Wentworth Miller.
I stopped by to see Miss Mabel on my way back home and thanked her for guiding me to the gallery. It had taken a while for her to “give me a sign” but it was worth the wait. Maybe my arrogant and open declarations of disbelief in anything mystical had prevented me from being nudged.
It had been some time since I had seen Dawn. We had sort of drifted apart, although she was still begging me to let her cleanse my house. I was still declining, but on my way home, I stopped by. I couldn’t wait to tell her about my find.
I laughed out loud when she came to the door, wearing a wet towel, and brandishing the usual smile. After she excused herself to put on some clothes, she offered me what she called a nutritious, energizing, immune-boosting drink. I was polite and sipped on it while thinking it tasted like how I thought rotting seaweed must smell. It made me long for one of Miss Mabels’ Coca-Colas.
I told her that I found this gallery uptown, and I was sure some of the paintings there were by Katy. I also told her about the “cloak and dagger” way the gallery had received the paintings over the last ten years.
It both surprised and delighted me when she said without the slightest hesitation said, “I’d like to see them. Let’s go.”
We walked uptown and went into the gallery. Dawn slowly walked around looking at all the art. Her tastes, unlike mine, included the abstract, the “what the hell is this supposed to be?” and the two eyes on the same side of the face genre.
I was looking at The Journey of Life. Suddenly I heard Dawn say, “Oh my God! That’s my horse! Look. It has the same eyes. The eyes are full of fear.” Sally and I walked over, and Sally asked Dawn what she meant when she said, “That’s my horse.”
Dawn told her that she had a painting of a white stallion on the enclosure of her fireplace. Sally asked her who the artist was. I looked at Dawn with a “don’t tell” look on my face, so she told Sally that she didn’t know. “Only the date is on the painting,” she said.
Sally said, “Only the dates are on these paintings. Same artist maybe? Hmm. This is getting curiouser and curiouser.”
“Dawn’s horse” had been titled, “Escaping the Fire.” I had been so mesmerized by the “Journey,” memorizing every line, every curve and every stroke of the brush, that I hadn’t even noticed the horse painting. Sally said that a few children had been a little frightened when looking at it. I could understand why. The background was fiery red and a white stallion looked as though it was charging right toward you.
Sally said, “Almost every visitor remarks about how the horse looks like it is ready to jump out of the canvas.” She shook her head and said, “as I keep saying; whoever this artist is or was, is or was, truly, truly remarkable.”
Dawn told Sally that she would like to buy the painting. Again, Sally told her that it was not for sale, due to the fact that they didn’t know who the artist was.
I thought maybe Dawn had a valid point when she said, “well, they are here in your gallery and because they came here anonymously, that would tell me that they belong to you. The purpose of displaying most art is to sell it, yes? I mean, the other artwork is for sale. Why not these?”
Sally said, “If we sold them, who would get the money? The artist should, but we don’t know who the artist is.”
Dawn said, “give the money to charity. They were sent to you for a reason. That reason might very well be to help someone in need, and the proceeds of the paintings could do that.”
Sally told Dawn that in all good conscience, she just couldn’t sell the paintings, but perhaps in the future, if the artist hadn’t come forward, she would revisit her decision.
I wondered if I should tell Sally that we thought we knew who the artist was. It probably wouldn’t change her mind, and we certainly couldn’t prove it, so it seemed like a moot point. We decided to hold onto our secret for a little while longer.
A little more than a week after our visit to the gallery, I got a call from Dawn. She excitedly asked, “what are you doing?” I told her I was just tidying up a bit. She said, “throw on your trotters and I’ll meet you out front.”
I was caught by surprise and it took me a few seconds to get my wits about me long enough to ask, “what are trotters?” She said, “Hiking boots…tennypumps…whatever you call your most comfortable shoes. We’ve got some walking to do!”
I put on my completely worn out, but comfortable Dr. Scholl’s tennis shoes, and headed out the door. “Let’s go,” she said.
I was befuddled. “Where are we going?” I asked, “and what’s the urgency?” She said, “we’re walking uptown.” I asked why we couldn’t drive and she said, “Finding a place to park where we’re going would be like trying to find a pair of white gloves in the snow.”
After a good twenty minute walk, she stopped and said, “this is it. This is the place.”
“What place?” I asked. All I saw was what used to be a service station which had been turned into a bistro bar. Even so, it was interesting. The building still had its original integrity. Even the sign that said “Peco Service Station,” rested over the front door. The gas pumps were still standing as if they were toy soldiers, long ago abandoned for better, more sophisticated playthings, but not yet discarded.
Round metal tables and uncomfortable looking folding chairs bedecked the front and sides of the building, and raucous laughter could be heard coming from inside.
I wondered why Dawn would bring me to such a place. She looked at me and said, “are you ready for this? Come with me.” I didn’t have a clue what was going on and I waffled a little before following. Maybe she was having a stroke, or maybe she had been sniffing glue, or maybe she had eaten a pot brownie, but like an obedient child, I followed her into the bar.
We walked through the building and straight out the back door. “What the heck?” I thought. I was sure she had lost her mind, or was high from that pot brownie I imagined that she had eaten.
Behind the service station was a small building with a bright red door. She walked over to it and said, “don’t worry. I know the manager, and he said it was okay for us to look inside.”
To be continued________________________