Last time on Ace Archer: Ace remembered his first encounter with the Gaslights, omnipotent alien beings who pitted him against his enemy Dalor Gruz in a battle to the death… his sidekick’s death!
Lara Termagant was laying upside down watching the sky.
Okay, her whole body wasn’t upside down, just her head, really. The rest of her body was spread out on her futon like a paisley-skirted quilt.
The clouds were in weird patterns today, she thought. Usually it took her intense meandering imagination to find meaningful shapes in the clouds, but today it was like God (or Goddess) had cut them out of white construction paper and tacked them on the blue bulletin board of the sky.
Lara eschewed drugs and other mind-altering substances, but that was mainly because her mind worked in a non-Euclidean intuitive jumble already. Just the way she liked it.
There, she thought. That’s the rocket ship.
It was a darker cloud than the rest, definitely a storm cloud. Lara hoped it would meet other storm clouds of a like mind and they’d come and make a nice hard thunderstorm over the bay. The large glass doors she was watching the sky through would keep rain from getting on any of her paintings in her rented floor of the old Victorian at the top of the cliff. If she really wanted to, she could walk out on her patio while it poured on her.
Unfortunately for Lara’s dreams of dancing barefoot in warm rain puddles, though, the rest of the sky was blue and white. Oh well. She’d just have to make do with watching the shadows the sun made on her floor. It was all good, Lara thought.
Lara had never heard of Ace Archer. She wasn’t one who spent a lot of time watching science fiction or reading fantasies written for teenage girls. She didn’t need to escape from the world, she just saw it through a different lens.
Fortunately that lens was critically acclaimed and made Lara an incredibly rich woman. Her last show had been at a gallery in Chicago and she had sold four hundred thousand dollars worth of paintings of furniture made out of hands.
There was a knock on the front door because Lara didn’t like doorbells. Lara somersaulted feet over head with yoga-born grace and landed on the balls of her feet. Her wavy brown hair hung in her face, but it gradually shuffled to the sides of her round face as she bounced down the stairs into the foyer.
There was a girl with a purple streak in her hair peering in one of the frosted windows to the side of the massive oak door. Lara didn’t recognize her, but she wasn’t afraid of strangers, especially ones that dyed streaks into their hair.
Lara opened the door despite still being in her yoga leotard. The girl at the door was as short as Lara was tall, which is to say there was about a foot and a half difference in their heights. With Lara’s hair, it was about a foot and three quarters.
“Hi!” Lara greeted the complete stranger.
“Hi, uh… Laura Termigant?” the girl asked. She was bundled up in a jacket that seemed far more intent on looking cool than on actually warming her in the chill Massachusetts autumn.
“Lara, not Laura,” Lara corrected genially.
“Sorry. I, um, I just wrote down what the ad people told me over the phone and it wasn’t a great connection.”
“No problem.” Lara just kept standing there, she was sure the girl would eventually get to the whole why-she-showed-up-at-a-stranger’s-door thing.
“My name is Caryn Alexander,” she finally said. “I’m a fact checker for Samaritan Publications?”
“Are you?” Lara asked since it sounded like a question.
“Yes. I am.” Caryn frowned like the conversation wasn’t going the way she intended, which Lara felt a little bad about, but since she didn’t know what way Caryn did intend the conversation to go, she couldn’t really do anything about it.
“I’m Lara,” she finally tried. “I’m an artist.”
“Yes,” Caryn said. “I know that. That’s what I want to talk to you about.”
“Isn’t this a lot to go to just to ask me to confirm facts? I mean, I do have a telephone. Um, maybe it’s not listed… but wait, didn’t you say you talked to my agent? Wait, she’s not supposed to give out my number.”
“No one gave me your number,” Caryn said. “Or your agent’s number. The twelfth or fourteenth person at Scolari Adworks I talked to gave me your name. I kind of dug up your address on my own.”
“Wow,” Lara said, actually impressed. “Like a gumshoe.”
“What?” Caryn asked.
“A detective. A shamus. Like C. Auguste Dupin.”
Caryn blinked with surprise.
“Really? You go straight to Dupin when you talk detectives?”
“Duh. He was the first.”
“I know that. I’m just surprised… well, most people just go straight to Holmes.”
“Everybody’s got to live somewhere,” Lara said, head tilted slightly. She was actually having a nice conversation with the stranger at her door.
“It’s actually kind of a long story about why I’m here,” the petite Ms. Alexander said. “Can I come in so we can talk?”
“You can come in,” Lara said, smiling her wide guileless smile. “You were good with the talking already.”
Lara stepped back into the foyer, indicating that the threshold of her home was free to cross with a wave of her bright green nail-polished hand.
Caryn looked around with a certain awe as she entered Lara Termigant’s home. What had once been a staid New England Victorian had been transformed into a polychromatic wonderland. Paintings hung all two stories high except where broken up by old glass windows or hanging flowers. What particularly surprised Caryn about it, though, was that it didn’t overload her brain with clashing colors or even appear chaotic. The arrangement of all the eclectic sized canvases was more uncontrolled than disordered.
“Wow,” she muttered. Lara smiled.
“This is just my personal art orrery,” she said. “It’s the biggest room in the house, so I needed it to try to arrange all my unplaced images.”
“I… it’s amazing,” Caryn said honestly.
“Really?” Lara asked, beaming. “Most people hate it. Of course, it makes a good litmus test when people visit. The ones I’m not going to like see this and make a run for it.”
“No, I think…” Caryn started, but then stopped short. Halfway up the curved wall on the inside of the long stairway, right under a small black and white photograph of Louis Armstrong playing trumpet that had yellow flowers growing out of the trumpet bell, was a painting of a woman, naked, diving into a swimming pool at night. The face of the woman was clearly visible and painted in a bright photo-realistic style. Caryn recognized the face from pictures of her own. It was her Granne.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.