The Money Masquerade

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Chapter 7

Sausalito, California


“It’s odd that Ava would train the dove to drop the note at my house, not yours,” Caryssa utters.

Ava Ramírez, the innocent yet emotionally disturbed daughter of the scoundrel CIA agent that murdered my art gallery security guard as well as three other people—including, by all accounts, his wife. Ava’s mother had mysteriously disappeared when she was sixteen.

Ava—the girl who is still running from her own father and his military business cronies trying to get her to be part of their worldwide kill squad to “stop extremist regimes.”

The girl I’m now trying to forget.

I water my roses and bougainvillea, glancing at the charming waterfront community of Sausalito harbor. I can never tire of the view from my home. It’s a clear day, with Alcatraz and the spires of the Golden Gate Bridge shining from my balcony. Finally, I take a deep breath and turn to Caryssa.

“Ava mentioned I was doing too much for her. She has a conscience. She always said she felt she’s imposing upon me.” I stare at each rendition of my art dragged out to my balcony. Caryssa’s eyes follow mine.

My version of Picasso’s La Paloma, “The Dove,” lay against the railing. Next to it, rolled up yet still taking up half my deck, was my nearly finished reproduction of Guernica. On the bistro table in front of Caryssa, was my painting of Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People.”

Caryssa reaches into her purse and lifts a piece of paper. Holding it high, she reads the sentence: “I stand for life against death. I stand for peace against war.” Picasso’s words hung admirably in the air, coloring the world with reason.

She stands and walks over to my Picasso dove painting, and turns it around, holding the note next to the message that Ava had inscribed on the back.

I said, “eet matches, what were you thinking?” I realized in an instant my tone was harsh.

“Your French accent comes back the most when you’re either upset or sipping wine. Geesh, you’re the one that prompted this conversation with these art backdrops! So… are you saying you think she sent the dove as a messenger and wants me to reach out to her?” Caryssa asks in a noncommittal tone.

“No, my French comes back when I travel to Paris.” I take the note from Caryssa’s hand. “I don’t know what she wants, yet I can guarantee you she’s nowhere in the States. She was passing through and is long gone.” In my dealings with the girl, I had realized she might be troubled, but not stupid. “I’m sorry I was quick with you. I’m leery of getting involved with Ava again.”

Caryssa moves side to side as if calculating something. “How far can a dove fly?”

“I’m no dove expert, but they can’t fly three thousand miles from Costa Rica—the last place we know of where she was.” I thought out loud, “homing pigeons can find their way over 600 miles to deliver messages—”

“I saw the dove in my backyard. The bird matched photos I’ve seen of exotic Eurasian collared doves, it was no pigeon. It dropped the note, with this.” Caryssa rummages through her purse and pulled out a withered stick.

I look closer. “Is that—”

“An olive branch. She had attached it to the message.” Caryssa places the branch, now with dry cracked leaves, on top of the note as if to show me how the dove dropped it. “I understand why she wouldn’t want to impose upon you again, but why me?”

“She knows you’re obsessed with stopping wars and might continue her battle cry for peace,” I offered.

Caryssa huffed in exasperation. “I’m running out of energy to continue as a goddess of peace.”

“I hope you never stop trying to create awareness that we can’t fight for peace—”

“I need to simply focus on Tyler and helping him prepare for college. Do my Yoga and live in the moment.”

The fog rolled in over the Sausalito Hills, as I pour Japanese tea from my tiny black clay teapot. “Believe me, I can only seek inner peace, with all I’ve lost.”

Caryssa looks at me with questioning eyes, the curiosity finding its way to her lips, “Why did you take in Ava and spend so much time with her after she vandalized your art pieces?”

“She reminded me of my own girls.” I sip the relaxing green tea. “I guess it was a way of healing my wounds, letting go of unnecessary guilt.”

Caryssa nods then stops with the cup midway, her blue eyes widened in the interest of something in the corner of my deck. “Is that bronze statue of a naked woman the….”

“Weapon Ava’s father—Diego Ramirez— used to kill my security guard, yes,” I finish her sentence referring to my Jean-Jacques Pradier original 19th-century Barbedienne casting used to bludgeon Johnny to death prior to stealing art from my gallery. The bronze sculpture that was the first gift my husband Pierre ever gave me, long before we were married.

“You’re brave to bring all this art out here. It must be a reminder of things in the past you’d rather forget.”

A classical piano concerto plays in the background quietly filling the gap in the conversation, an Einaudi piece that always makes me feel like the Earth is listening to the music.

“At least we know that Ava and her friend didn’t kill Johnny, much less use my art as a weapon,” I respond. The crescendo of “Elegy for the Arctic,” sounds, the part where the glacier crumbles, a message to humanity to stop destroying the planet and its inhabitants.

“True, yet Ava killed her beloved pet doves which seems odd.” Caryssa says nothing further.

I pour a second cup of tea, pondering how as an artist I see the perfect symbolism. “She killed her doves, not through vengeance or hate, but a thirst for peace. A cry for her mother who mysteriously disappeared when she was sixteen, her father’s once kind soul sold to the war hawks, and as a hint; she and her girlfriend were being framed for murders they did not commit.”

Caryssa tilts her head to the side, then down doing that overthinking thing she does. “Tell me the symbolic message in blood Ava left on the doves again, please,” she insists.

I drum my fingers on my bistro table. “How many times must I repeat ziss? I’m trying to forget all ziss sheet.”

“Oh, come on, Anna, really? That’s why all this artwork is out here?” Caryssa reaches up with her arm and makes a sweeping arc across my deck. “You know Ava’s doves, your artwork—all displayed before our eyes now— being stolen… Johnny murdered by a CIA agent…” Carysa stops talking, waving her hands in the air. “It’s all connected to us nearly being killed in a mass shooting. Our nation’s militaristic madness is what Ava was trying to show with those bloody messages.”

Caryssa had a good point. My Monet French easel and painter’s palette lay to the side, waiting for me to rework my masterpieces. I was seeking art therapy to revisit the ordeal as a healing process. And confront the global crusade to nowhere.

I take a deep breath, then plunge into answering her question. “Let’s see…three bloody teardrops under the eyes meant being blinded from forever nebulous enemies. Three blood drops on the breasts symbolized the removal of our society’s heart. Ava confirmed to me she tried to convey a blind vengeance and nonstop violence.”

Caryssa drops a few thin slices of fresh ginger root into her tea. “Holy crap, I sure hope a dead dove doesn’t show up in my backyard.” She glances at the note with the olive leaves. “Wasn’t the second dove found with an olive branch?”

“Yes, she stuffed an olive branch into the right claw, thirteen sticks to represent arrows in its left claw. And my Picasso painting with the artist’s quote on the back was next to the bloody bird.”

“Now I remember. She made it resemble the U.S. Great Seal, but with the dove rather than an eagle,” Caryssa mused after sipping more tea. “Kind of brilliant, actually.”

“Yes, I think it was dazzlingly…sick. Like the war economy she mocks. If I remember right, the second dove’s neck was broken, and twisted toward the arrows. She tried to depict how the U.S. has never extended the olive branch.”

Caryssa nodded, and we remained silent for a moment watching the sailboats and ferries down the hill, the image matching that of a Mediterranean fishing village. I could not imagine living in a more beautiful, peaceful place.

“Hey, let’s go for a little walk around my neighborhood,” I suggested in an effort to blend beauty with the beast of violence, as our typical discussions have tended to do.

“That would be great, I adore Sausalito!”

As we descended the stairs winding off my balcony, I responded to Caryssa’s concern about another dead dove. “Don’t worry, I’m certain Ava is done killing doves. She’s made her point: if you kill a dove, you kill peace.”

We walked along charming, older houses and stone walls wrapped in roses. Magnificent harbor views flashed through palm trees to our left. Both of us seemed lost in the moment, simply enjoying the calming notes of lavender and fresh eucalyptus in the air.

Our steps took us through the winding hillside and paths, then we followed Princess street down the hill to art galleries, Starbucks and the bustle of shoppers browsing the quaint shops.

I clenched and unclenched my fists, mentally suppressing myself from attacking the same global war machine that killed my father. “Sadly, the hawks squawk so loud, we can’t hear when doves cry.”

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