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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

V: Present

“Is there something wrong with my painting?” asked Brendon. Another might have asked “Who are you?” or “What are you doing in my studio?” and been right to do so, but Brendon’s attention zeroed in on that package, the bubble wrap an annoyance, blocking what it protected.

Could it be the garden scene, the Alice and company, complete with teapots and cookies and the recipient’s grandchildren seated between Carroll’s creations? Or possibly the cemetery that had morphed into a galactic battle cruiser, the man’s soul a stretching thing reaching beyond the solar system? It could not possibly be the starry nightscape, the one with equatorial constellations he’d spent weeks researching for a homesick immigrant.

The man’s expression did not change, his grimness potentially painted on. He had pleasant angles, the sort that made him interesting, for the shadows cut across his face rather sharply.

“My name is Orion Livesey. I work for Wendy Arpsol.”

Brendon mouthed the name, though his mind lingered on Mr. Livesey’s angles. He glanced at his open sketchbook. “I’ve never done work for a Wendy Arpsol.”

“No. You wouldn’t have. The painting was a gift of sorts.”

Now Brendon dismissed him with a wave though he’d already drawn five lines, ghosts of angles on the page. “I don’t do refunds through third parties. You’ll have to take this up directly with my client.”

“I can’t. He’s dead.”

Brendon sagged slightly. “I’m sorry to hear that, but the painting then would belong to his estate.”

“You don’t understand.” Mr. Livesey strode closer, his steps purposeful, one hand going into the pocket of his suit jacket. “The painting is dangerous. It needs to be kept somewhere it can do no more harm.”

Brendon looked between Mr. Livesey and the nondescript package. His eyebrows rose slowly as he contemplated what he might possibly say in response.

Mr. Livesey sighed, his grimness replaced with a sense of foreboding reluctance. He took in Brendon’s entire workspace with a practiced eye, his gaze never lingering on any one thing, but not missing the stale sandwich and plethora of half-finished water bottles. Then the corner of his mouth tugged like it wanted to remember how to smile.

“May I buy you some real lunch?”


Next Chapter!