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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
Brendon skipped past the absurd and went straight to what truly mattered. “Which painting?”
Mr. Livesey smiled, but it was a faint, painted-on thing without much merit. Brendon got the impression he was meant to appreciate Livesey’s attempt rather than the result.
“I believe you titled it ‘Interstellar Hopscotch,’ though your client called it his ‘Space Walk Perspective.’”
A pause. The metal of the table digging into Brendon’s forearms. The finches in the nearby street hopping under the neat row of parked cars. A distant hum of a lawn mower from the neighborhood beyond the courthouse.
Brendon took a breath. Then another. “David Erikson. He wanted to feel what the astronauts felt.”
“And he did. Quite viscerally.”
“How did he die?”
“The cause of death, at least listed on his certificate, was asphyxiation. In reality, the air in his lungs expanded. Then burst. The comment from the officer in charge of the scene said it looked as if he’d hopped a rocket and taken a trip in orbit.”
Brendon licked dry lips. “That’s impossible. What you’re proposing is beyond impossible.”
“And yet, Mr. Erikson isn’t the only person to have succumbed to Interstellar Hopscotch. A young man, low twenties, still in school, died only a few days later. Different room in the house, same strange effect on his body. He’d been helping to begin the clean-up of the estate and taken a few pictures down. He’d been packaging and labeling them according to Mr. Erikson’s will.”
When Brendon couldn’t find any words, Mr. Livesey continued, “You don’t seem surprised. Shocked, yes. Surprised, no. You knew this was possible.” His voice had become clipped, an angry well barely disguised.
“It never occurred to me,” corrected Brendon. “But… There’d been a picture before.”
“Tell me.” And it was not a request.