Monster Behind The Masks

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Chapter 3


Anna, it’s Sergeant Coral. Another dead dove was found, with the same bloody symbols on it. It appears to be connected to your art gallery ordeal. And . . . well, call me back on my cell, NOT the station.”

The voicemail followed me everywhere, anchoring me to dread, drowning me in anxiety. Running errands weren’t capable of distracting me. My heart dominated my head, its thump, thump, thump accelerating my fear. I had to call Jason back sooner or later. It was unavoidable.

This can’t be happening. Both girls that robbed my art gallery and murdered my security guard nearly two years ago were sentenced to prison after the trial. Weren’t they? Perhaps I should have checked the news once in a while for updates? Rather than burying my head in the sand.

As I was gathering my emotions, a slice of inner peace gets crushed. Overall, life is good again— Pierre and I are behaving like newlyweds, I closed my shop and am back on the teaching front. From the comfort of my home, I teach children the magnificence of art. We recently flitted off to Paris. And best of all, spending time with our grandson Jared. Then this came raining on my parade.

I returned Jason’s call and caught him on the first ring.

“Sergeant Coral,” he answered with a firm and confident voice.

“Hi Jason, it’s Anna Beauvais. So . . . another dove?”

“Yup another baffling bird has come back to haunt our peaceful community. Look, I know I shouldn’t tell you these things, but because of our past dealings . . .”

Silence veered his sentence off course.

I filled my lungs. “Yes, Bianca’s fatal skateboarding accident thirteen years ago, and then the murder at my art gallery six years later. And now you want me to never forget the past—”

“You’re right, I’m sorry I called.” Sergeant Coral cleared his throat. I realized I didn’t want him to hang up, strangely enough.

“Wait! You’ve got me spooked. I wonder why you think this is connected—the dove could not possibly be found behind an art gallery I no longer own.” My mind now raced faster than my heartbeat, a tornado crashing through my consciousness. “Where was it found, by the way?”

Sergeant Coral paused as if to ponder his response. “It was found just outside the Redwood City women’s prison—the facility detaining Paige Watson . . . and where Ava Ramírez was also sentenced to go yet never made it.” He explained.

This snatched my attention. So, it is connected. Then again, what was I thinking? How many blood-soaked doves are found lying around the peaceful, palm-lined streets of California? Not too many I’d hope.

Ava . . . I learned her name is from the Latin “Avis,” meaning “bird.” Surprise!

Still, I didn’t want to believe it. These girls were only eighteen and nineteen respectively when they committed this horrific crime. “Maybe it was one of those pigeons stuffed with cocaine and cannabis. You know, those ‘drugs doves’ we hear about used by prisoners to smuggle substances in. One of the guards got spooked and shot it.”

Coral snorted amusement, picking up on my subtle joke to settle the sea of my nerves before moving on. “Anna, you know what I say stays between us, you are the only civilian I’ve ever conveyed so much detail. There’s more found at the scene of the second dove beyond bloody drops.”

The tension thickened. My chest tightened. My panic grew. “Jason, please don’t tell me one of my friends or family member’s blood was on this dove. And . . . how did it get there anyhow, with the girls in prison? What do you mean Ava never made it into prison?” Unstoppable questions flooded into my mouth, streaming from my tongue.

Images of my girls flashed before my eyes. Lithe little Bianca flying down the street on a skateboard—the skateboard she was killed on. Cassidy, all giggles with her Monet French easel. Her personality as bright and colorful as the art she created. Until her little sister’s tragedy, when she took her own life. Until . . .

I silently cursed Coral for reopening the wounds and bringing back a fresh lease of my grief.

A huge sigh echoed across the electromagnetic waves from the overworked police sergeant. “We don’t have a match on the blood yet, for all we know it could be the doves. I expect to hear from forensics soon. But . . .” Another sigh, equally as heavy.

I waited. Ruckus from a bustling police station oozed into the telephone line. Phones rang monotonously. Conversation barged into the conversation, words tangling in an indecipherable chaos. Slurps of officers taking their shots of caffeine through creamy coffees no doubt serving as a dipping sauce for sugary donuts. Types and clicks from admin slaving away at computers, playing the keyboard like a symphony pianist on speed.

“Ava Ramírez’s well-off dad raised millions with his business associates to post her bail.” Jason continued in a near whisper. My guess, he stood outside the station, possibly beside the entrance if the pandemonium was any indication. In the eleven years that I’ve known him, we’ve become friends of a sort. He’s never been the “Officer Donut” type, slumped in his car dunking sugary shit into a takeout coffee like most law enforcers.

“Ah merde! Typical . . . the wealthier defendants go free while the poor remain locked up.” My chest tensed, as I wondered how Johnny’s family felt about this. I had to ask the next question, “And what’s this about something else found with the second dove?”

“This is really why I called you, why we know it’s connected to the murder at your art gallery. There were actually three other items found: An olive branch was stuffed into the dove’s right claw, thirteen sticks in its left claw. And a Picasso painting with Exotic Exposure printed on the back leaned against the building.”

The Picasso painting! Not until I cleared out my inventory to sell my art gallery business, did I notice my copy of “La Paloma” The Dove was gone. It wasn’t just the Bronze Sculpture and Delacroix they stole. “Ah double fucking shit—there’s the missing piece of my art puzzle.”

“At least this painting is not ripped to shreds like your last one. Is it worth a lot?” He inquired.

“It’s worth the oil paints, brushes, canvas, time and effort. It’s my personal attempt at playing Picasso.” I crafted a vision of my painting and was reminded of how awesome it came out, down to the soft tones of the silky feathers. People with uncritical eyes thought it was a Picasso original. If I was among the asshole con-artists that sold copies as the real deal, I’d be rolling in it.

“Anna, I wasn’t going to mention this as I’d be fired if the boss knew what I’ve told you already, but the name of your art gallery was not the only thing written on the back of your painting.” He spoke with a hushed volume, clearly wanting to avoid being overheard. I didn’t blame him if his career was on the line.

“You saw a number. I numbered all my art pieces according to where I’d showcase—”

“No, I’m not referring to any number.” He jumped in, somewhat harshly. “There was a sentence ‘I stand for life against death; I stand for peace against war.’”

“Oh, come on! They bashed Johnny’s head in and now quoting Picasso? Sticking an olive branch into the dead dove’s claw-like some biblical saint seeking peace and harmony?” Anger boiled inside me. These psycho chicks had disrupted my happy place again.

“Ava Ramírez owned two white doves. Looks like she killed the lone dove, and may have murdered another person.” Something whistled either the wind or a cell phone notification. “Did you say that was a Picasso quote on the back of your painting?” he asked.

“Yes, I recognize it from his speech during the 1949 Paris Peace conference. Picasso had painted that dove out of a thirst for peace during the Spanish Civil War, and it was used during the Conference. I know this, as it was drilled into me through history classes in Paris as a young girl.” My stomach churned. Something clawed its way through my mind. But before I could ask, Coral cut in again.

“Anna, the reason I’m pulling you into this—even though it may be turned over to Redwood City jurisdiction—is your stolen painting left at the scene. It’s physical evidence that can be linked to the perp if anyone else was murdered. Plus, I trust you will keep this all confidential. I had this case solved. Now, this.” Jason echoed frustration.

“I’d rather not be pulled into anything, but will help if I can. Which reminds me of a thought I had—Ava Ramírez, is she the one you mentioned whose father is a huge search engine executive?”

“Oh—yes, DataRodent. He now works for the CIA or NSA. Not sure which. He has been questioned in all this, but we can’t find solid evidence implicating him.”

So, he works within the shadow government controlling America. “Well, he certainly wouldn’t have been the one with the peace and love message on the dove, if he is connected to secret sniper spies.” I couldn’t help myself, the words tumbled out with no hesitation or restraint.

“We do live within a twisted political reality Anna, one never knows. But I am wondering if bail-out daddy and dove-less daughter are not working together on this.” A commotion erupted in the background. “I gotta go now Anna, no word to anyone, and let me know if you think of anything that could connect your painting to this mystery.”

“One thing, Jason!” I burst out, wanting to get my last question in before the dial tone resounded. “When do I get my pretend Picasso back?”

“We’ll be in touch after it’s no longer physical evidence. Take care, Anna.” And with that, the police sergeant hung up and left the dial tone droning into my shaken consciousness.

As I went back to packing for my upcoming trip to Mendocino with Pierre, my mind fell back to when my art gallery was broken into. Not forgetting the brutal bludgeoning of Johnny. Jason had explained that forensics believed the blood on the dove had a symbolic or cryptic meaning left by the girls, a societal message. What did he say?

“The bloody teardrops could symbolize being blinded to phantom enemies. The three blood drops on the breast could symbolize removal of the heart. Forensics’ implication was that this represented violence for profit, a blind vengeance, and lack of a social heart investing in perpetual war while robbing from their education.”

Something along those lines. If this is the case, it would be the girl that wrote the Picasso quote without a shadow of a doubt. But did she kill anyone else in the process? I remembered also that the girls claimed they never wanted to kill Johnny, but were terrified he would shoot them. They merely wanted the art to sell at their school fundraiser, giving the students programs for success.

Really? Ava’s dad can raise millions to bail her out of prison, but not for his daughter’s school?

My cell rang. Sergeant Coral. This nightmare’s never-ending. “This is Anna.”

“Anna, the forensic test came back. The blood on the second dove belonged to a prison guard.”

My heart thundered.

My mood immediately lightened as I crossed over the picturesque Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, drinking the gorgeous views. I often enjoy the hills, expanse of bay, ships and islands seen from this bridge, even more than the Golden Gate.

Soon I made my way up the hill to Caryssa’s beautiful house. More amazing views hypnotizing my emotions, calming my spirits. This thing about Ava’s dad working for either the CIA or NSA bugged me. Both part of an invisible government operating in plain sight, making millions of decisions involving peace and war outside of public view. Caryssa connected the dots between Silicon Valley, or the high-tech industry itself and these shady ops. I wanted to talk to her before she headed skiing with her lovely family.

I wonder how much of a shocker the details may be, and the negative influence this man had on his daughter.

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