Conrad would not allow anything to impede his move to Boston. He had fallen in love with Robert. As the curator of the high profile gallery in New York, Conrad was in regular contact with their Boston law firm, and subsequently Robert, its representative. Travelling to and from Boston, or New York, Robert considered time consuming and, until the expiration of his contract, he was bound to stay at their Boston head office. Transferring to New York was nigh impossible, and to leave of his own volition was almost guaranteeing a hefty financial penalty.
With his heart overruling his head, Conrad gave his resignation and eventually moved in with Robert.
“What’s stopping you from opening your own gallery?” Robert asked, one evening. “The art gallery world is beckoning for a person of your talent.”
Although he was new to Boston, he quickly adapted. His knowledge, personality, and confidence soon had people of all ilk coming through his gallery’s door. And a new smile, courtesy of JM added to his charm and ego.
With Katherine’s painting lying on her desk, Lucy said, “It’s really good. I am impressed. But it’s rather eerie, wouldn’t you say?”
“That’s what I think! Although, I’m not sure if she’s expressing her feelings or it’s just an idea she had. As a psychologist, I think it’s disturbing, but knowing what she’s been through I can understand this, but only up to a point. JM said I am reading too much into it, but I’m not so sure. I agree with you. It’s very good.”
“Are you taking it to Conrad? Maybe JM should. Conrad has a thing for him, if you know what I mean.”
“I’ll take it, and JM doesn’t have a thing for Conrad, thankfully. I’m hoping he’s available. I’m a bit light on with appointments around lunchtime, and my next client isn’t due until well after. I can make it to the gallery and still be back in time for the session. I’ll ring and see if he’s available. Do you need anything while I’m out?”
“I’d like a Greek salad if you’re passing a deli. I’ll you give you the money when you return.”
“Hi, Barbara, long time no hear.”
“How did you know it was me?”
“I asked JM for your phone number when I was last at his surgery, as a speed dial to a psychologist. Fortunately, I haven’t had the need for one … but you never know!”
“He’s just peachy, a real darling, but why do I have the pleasure of your call?”
After briefly explaining her thoughts, and with his curiosity piqued, he suggested, “If you’re available now why don’t you come to the gallery? We can discuss your concerns over a cup of coffee.”
“Make yourself comfortable,” Conrad said, as he pointed to an extravagantly upholstered chair.
As she seated herself opposite, she envisaged their first introduction. In her mind’s eye, she could see JM, Robert, and Conrad sitting at the dinner table in the sumptuous penthouse. Robert and Conrad agreed the penthouse would be their final abode. Moving was tiring, and expensive.
With two half cups of Italian coffee sitting on the magnificently ornate desk, and the niceties passed, she occupied his time, and mind, with a story about a talented client.
I’ll apologise for my deception one day, but Katherine’s integrity is paramount.
Conrad pressed the intercom, then said to his receptionist, “Could you bring another two coffees, please?”
While Barbara carried on with subterfuge, he studied the painting. The receptionist delivering two coffees on a circular sterling-silver tray was the only interruption.
“I’ll need to keep it for a while. Do you think we can get together again, after I’ve looked at it in more detail?”
Pleased by his willingness to give the painting a closer examination, Barbara replied, “Yes. Ring me whenever you like.” As a sign of appreciation, she leaned forward, and because his left forearm was resting on the ornate desk in close proximity to her right hand, she touched it.
“Don’t go! I need to ask you a couple of questions, if I may?” he said, just as she rose to leave. “Does JM know you’re here?”
A chill spread throughout her body. Has he caught me out? “Yes,” she replied, as her stomach began to knot.
“Please, sit down. I think Katherine is the artist. Do you want to start over and tell me the complete and truthful story?”
She could feel her embarrassment flushing up her neck. He is the one person who can help me, and here I am lying to him. He must think I don’t respect him.
“I apologize for having lied, but I have to protect her. Because she was underage, JM and I have been able to keep her name out of the newspapers, and away from the television news. How did you know she painted it?”
“There’s no need for an apology. If I had children, I would have done the same. Mrs. Kowalski’s name was in the morning paper, and on the Internet, but I knew her name from conversations with JM. With Beacon Street and her name mentioned, I that was my conclusion. JM also told me about Katherine’s paintings. I’ve known about her for some time.”
“In my opinion she’s definitely talented, but I’m not in the art business, and I am biased. But in saying that, I’m concerned by the painting’s theme.”
“I understand, although, there could be another viewpoint. If she is putting her feelings on canvas, she is expressing herself in her own way, which I see as good thing. My main interest is the potential of the artist, which is what I will be looking for. I could give you an answer right now, but it would be in both our interests if I examine it a little more. I’ll ring you when I have something more definitive.”
Barbara returned to her practice, and although she had reconciled with Conrad, her deception with Katherine still bothered her. Feeling mentally unclean by the direction she had taken, she vowed never to travel that road again. As she lay on the same lengthy couch her clients were familiar with, she thought; it is not in my nature to be deceptive.
JM waited for her to raise the subject of Conrad’s appraisal as they ate dinner, but it went unsaid.
Barbara deliberately refrained from discussing the subject. To confess her indiscretion would have meant JM’s possible disappointment in her.
“Barbara, at our meeting two weeks ago, we both agreed the painting depicts someone who is having some disturbing moments, but because we know what she has been through it is understandable. I am delighted to say it is highly marketable, even though it was painted by one so young. I get excited the more I look at it. It has many themes running through it, so she certainly knows how to express herself. I feel privileged by having the opportunity to appraise her work. I consider her a prodigy, and I do not say that lightly. Rarely, do I use that description. You, and JM, should be proud! I’m not the only one who says so.”
“Has someone else seen it?” Barbara’s surprise was evident.
“You needn’t worry! I haven’t identified her, but the two people I showed it to were just as excited. Has she painted others?”
“Yes, but I don’t know many are finished. She could be painting five or six at one time, moving from one to another, and she doesn’t seem to stop.”
“If she has any that are finished, or what you seem to think are finished, I’d like to see them. Is that possible?”
“She only let me have this one. I told her I was hanging it in my office. Everything painted before she was hospitalized, the intruder destroyed. She’s very secretive when it comes to her paintings, so I don’t think she will allow anyone to view them, especially a stranger.”
“Again, I understand. I may be forward in asking, but why not invite me to dinner. She will get to know me, and may feel more at ease when she knows I own a gallery. She might show me one of her paintings.”
“I’ll try, but she rarely ventures from her room. Let me think about it. I can ask JM … he may have some ideas.”
“I’ll drop the painting into your office tomorrow, if that’s okay with you? But if I was allowed to keep it for a while, I’m sure I could find a buyer and new home for it.”
He knew a collector would acquire the painting, even with it unsigned. I will ask her to sign it later, to secure its provenance.
“There’s no point! It’s not for sale.”
“Okay. I’ll see you sometime tomorrow.”
“Thanks for your help. By her continuing to paint, she could be heading in the right direction mentally, and physically. I’m sure JM would love to have you come for dinner.”
“I spoke with Conrad today, and he’s optimistic about Katherine’s paintings. He thinks she has great potential.”
“You do realise Katherine is an unwitting participant?”
“I know, but I feel it could be for her betterment.”
“I hope you explain it to her, so she understands,” he said, before adding, “I like the idea of Conrad coming for dinner. I haven’t seen him since his last appointment.”
Katherine continued to paint, but she still considered them inferior when compared to those she had seen in books portraying paintings by other artists. She had set a high bar, but she thought of her shortcomings surmountable. She realised the aimed she had set for herself required time, dedication, and education. Her ambition was not to copy others, but to develop an extension of herself. Gratified was how she felt whenever she saw her emotions on display, and the finished product.
Sophia had not yet developed an appreciation for Katherine’s new way of painting, for she liked what she could see and understand, such as landscapes, and figures that represented the human form, although only those clearly defined.
Her old paintings were nothing like she’s doing now. These new ones are complex, and unusually different, Sophia thought, as she stared at the latest addition.
Sophia’s choice to collect some clean clothing from her apartment after dinner was an impromptu one, but the alarm’s siren suddenly shrieked the presence of an intruder.
JM hurried from the living room to the kitchen and by pressing a code into the intercom deactivated the alarm. With the blaring having ceased, he immediately went to Sophia’s assistance.
“I’m sorry. I’m trying to get into the habit of setting the alarm while we’re upstairs.”
Shock caused her to shake. With a tremoring voice, she asked, “Does that mean I have to turn it off … every time I come downstairs?”
Sophia walked into her apartment, but with darkness and unlocked doors now her enemies lights were a prerequisite before entering.
With some items in her left hand, and others hanging over the crook of her arm, she switched off the bedroom light. A foreboding caused her to come to an immediate stop in the doorway. Still in a state of unease, she realised by the living room’s light being off she could peek from behind the heavy drapes without being seen.
The shadowed figure, standing hunched forward under the leafless tree opposite their building, was tall. A vision of someone similar suddenly flash through her mind.
He’s come back! It’s not him! It can’t be! Why’s he there? Most people can’t wait to get out of this weather.
With anxiety gripping her chest and the sight of the unsettling figure still in her mind’s eye she ran from the apartment. Her faltering and clumsy ascending of the stairs was only achieved with the support of the handrail. In haste, she dropped her clothing and left the apartment’s front door wide open, with the kitchen light still aglow.
Barbara and JM suddenly looked up from where they sat the table, as she came blundering into the kitchen. Both simultaneously sprang from their chairs and hurried to her aid. Her alabaster appearance and visibly shaking body was disturbing.
“There’s someone watching us!” Her voice quavered as her tremoring hand pointed in the direction of the living room.
JM instinctively placed his right arm around her waist, to assist her to a chair.
“No!” Not wanting a seat, Sophia waved her hands and arms in frustration. “I’m telling you there’s someone watching us!” She was almost hysterical.
After what has happened, I had better appease her, JM thought, before walking into the living room.
“Barbara, bring Mrs. K in here, please.”
He was standing at the window looking out to the street when they entered. “Mrs. K? Could you come and show me where you thought the person was?”
Sophia hesitated. She did not want to be near the window. Even though the apartment was warm, fear was causing her body to chill.
“Come on,” JM said, as he held his right hand out in a gesture of guidance.
Barbara gently took hold of Sophia’s left hand and gave it a slight tug.
“No! Turn the lights off first. He might see us.” Sophia released Barbara’s hand.
Seeing her mental disarray, JM took her by the hand, and said, “There’s no-one there. Come and see for yourself.”
With Sophia and JM standing side-by-side with their backs to the drapes, Barbara turned and switched off the light.
“Everything’s fine. Turn around, and you can see for yourself,” JM uttered.
Why hasn’t he been charged for what he did to us? He’s still out there! Reluctantly, she pressed her nose against the cold windowpane and looked in the direction of where she had seen the shadowed figure. The limbs of the leafless tree, semi-illuminated by a nearby streetlight, harboured no silhouette. Sophia, like a sentry on duty, maintained her stance. Up and down, her vision scanned the street, traveling until the surrounding buildings blocked her view.
“I saw someone . . . please believe me? He was standing under the tree looking up at us.” She spoke with conviction, while her eyes continued their search.
JM placed his right arm across her shoulders before ushering her away from the window, leaving Barbara to close the drapes.
“How about I make us a pot of herbal tea?” he asked, as he sat her on the couch.
With Barbara sitting beside her, and holding one of her hands, she said, “It’s fortunate Katherine’s not here. She mustn’t know a stranger was watching us.”
I don’t need Barbara telling me that. Katherine would be an emotional wreck if she knew a stranger was hanging around. It should go without saying I wouldn’t say anything. Doesn’t she trust me?
Barbara, realising her comments could be misconstrued, said, “I was thinking aloud. What I meant to say was, that none of us should mention tonight’s episode.”
Sophia felt reassured by Barbara’s admission to her faux pas.