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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
Mr. Livesey paid for lunch with a black card and a dismissive wave at Brendon’s ten. Then they walked back to Brendon’s studio, suit pants and painted-splattered jeans clashing. The shadows grew longer than normal, the cumulous clouds fat and lumpy enough to cut the heat.
Upstairs, Brendon gave Mr. Livesey a tour of his studio, murmuring shortened explanations of his display paintings as Mr. Livesey gazed on with narrowed eyes that missed nothing. Not the vase of knives on the background table in the alien ballet studio, What Pointe. Not the single opening between the glass in the Mirror of Mazes. Not the smoke-swirled backward words in the reflected ponds of Lake Country Crossing.
“I presume no one has ever been affected by these paintings.”
“Of course not.”
Mr. Livesey turned away from the last canvas and Brendon let the sheet fall back into place. “So this car painting, the one for your friend, is the only picture you know had the same effect as Erikson’s?”
“I don’t even know if it had the same effect. It probably just altered Casey’s dreams, like we thought.”
Mr. Livesey made a sound of quiet disbelief. He wandered over to the workshop side of the studio and perched himself quite comfortably on one of Brendon’s paint-splattered stools. Out of place, a man of order surrounded by chaos, Mr. Livesey still managed to seem capable of wrangling his setting. Wrangling Brendon.
“Let’s assume, for the moment, that you’re wrong and that this Casey of yours did find himself on that dark street with a fiery car bearing down on him. How do you think he survived that encounter?”
Because he was Casey. And no car could ever frighten him. “Tall assumption.”
“Humor me.” That same tone, deep and firm, brooking no dissension.
Brendon started with a shrug. “He leaped aside, he left before the car reached him, there was no car actually there, the fire couldn’t burn him because it was his car, the car misfired one to many times and stalled out—take your pick. This is a useless exercise because we’re just guessing.”
“So why don’t we call him and ask.”
For just a moment, the summer warmth permeating the studio sucked away, leaving an impenetrable void between them. Limbs gone stiff, Brendon shook his head woodenly. “I can’t.”
Unimpressed, Mr. Livesey’s tone grew darker. “Why not?”
And suddenly Brendon was stuttering like that Compass boy Casey had always made fun of unabashedly. “B-because… He’s—I—I just can’t.”
The darkness fractured and disappeared off Mr. Livesey’s face. “Your ex. He’s your ex.”
Brendon looked away, toward the windows and the puffy top of the crape myrtle outside the building.
“Did you have a relationship with David Erikson as well?”
“Ah, please don’t take offense. I merely wanted to ascertain it wasn’t your relationships that gifted this level of danger into your paintings.” His gaze cut behind Brendon to the covered canvases. “Interesting that you haven’t experienced anything. Perhaps you’re immune.”
Still struggling for air, Brendon shrugged mutely.
Mr. Livesey came to a conclusion and stood fluidly off the stool. “We’ll have to do some research then. Make a few calls, visit some of your clients to see if anyone can tell us more.”