Things That Are Not ...


Chapter 3

by Stace Burroughs


"Gentian…I know that name."  A vague smirk dawned across Vincent's face. He felt as though he was given a puzzle, almost as a trick.  The answer was eluding him.

His eyes darted, as he folded his arms over his chest. Vincent turned his head, eyes glinting, straining to pierce the veils of memory and time. Oh, he knew that name – what was the rest of the artist's name?

Diana's brow furrowed. "Someone who's trouble? Or someone you know…a helper? Someone Below?" 

Somehow she knew none of those questions were right as soon as the words left her lips.

Vincent shook his head. "No. No danger. He's not one of us, and not a helper…"  He could feel it dancing on the very tip of his tongue.

His eyes widened as his memory pulled up an image. A thin dark-haired man with a navy Mets ball cap, twinkling eyes and twitchy energy about him. "Kristopher. Kristopher Gentian."

"Who is he then?" asked Diana as she drew her robe about her and glanced towards the door to the elevator.  She dabbed the beaded sweat from her forehead. Maybe she'd just been overdoing it lately and just needed a break from the norm. A cup of coffee would be great right now, but she turned to put the kettle on instead. Diana knew the tea would feel better on her throat.

Vincent glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "Truthfully? A restless spirit it would seem."  

"It would seem? Do tell." Diana Bennett peered at him with a tinge of disbelief. It wasn't like Vincent to be superstitious or stretch a tall tale per se. Interesting. She listened intently, as she quietly shuffled thru boxes of tea to find one they might both like.

Walking over to the coffee table, he spied Catherine's rosebush. Vincent crouched down, admiring how much stronger it had become under Diana's care. He smiled. "It all started with Catherine meeting a strange, but endearing artist fellow at a used book store. She was looking for a first edition Tennyson as a gift for me."

"Thoughtful," Diana replied.

Vincent nodded. "Gentian helped her find the book she was looking for, and when she'd turned to thank him…only moments later…he was gone." 

"Hmmn…interesting." Diana responded, curious as to what direction this was going…and how this information would be useful to her. She turned and jiggled a box of tea above her head. "Rooibos tea?"

Vincent peered across the small room at the tea box. Nodding in approval, he sank down onto the couch, comfortably crossing his leg wide at the knee. "Catherine asked the store owner about Kristopher, but Mr. Smythe denied seeing him. She came across Gentian later, and he wanted her to pose for a painting."

Diana halted her rummaging, and looked at him with a furrowed and cocked brow. "That sounds like the introduction to numerous bad scenarios."

Vincent chuckled. "To make a long story short, we found out later that Kristopher Gentian had shed this mortal coil two years before."

The night air was pierced by the hot, whistling water kettle on the stove.

Diana readjusted her loose, scarlet hair. Logic wanted to quickly dismiss this ghost story as ridiculous. "Hmmn…" She put the tea bags into large coffee mugs and poured in the hot water. If only things in life were simply so black and white. With some of the unexplainable events she had experienced over the past twenty years, she really couldn't just gloss over what Vincent had said. Intellectual curiosity was tickling the back of her brain persistently.

"Let me get this straight." Diana began, propping herself on the island countertop with her elbows. "The two of you discovered, by matter of fact and record, Kristopher Gentian was actually two years dead at the very time Cathy had met him in the bookstore."

"Yes," Vincent began, "Joe had a background check done on Kristopher because he was concerned for Catherine's safety."

Diana glanced from under her eyebrows. That was no surprise, if anyone needed someone to be acting Safety-Mouse, it was Catherine Chandler.

"Agave or raw honey?"  She asked holding up one, then the other. Vincent pursed his lips a moment, nodding to the agave in her left hand.

"He found out Kristopher Gentian had passed away just two years before and warned Catherine that this man was probably a charlatan."  His azure eyes gazed through the coffee table in thought. "Only he was mistaken."

Diana fished the spent tea bags from the mugs, depositing them into the compost bin on the counter. "Mistaken?" she asked. She added a drizzle of agave sweetener and accompanying splash of half n' half into the tea before stirring the mugs. She coughed and cleared her throat. "What made you think this guy wasn’t just using the dead man's name?" 

She brought Vincent back from the depths of his thoughts. He smiled as he wrapped his hands around the large mug of hot tea.

"I was actually startled by him; I could not sense his presence." He blinked and met Diana's gaze. "Any time I’d talked to Kristopher, or saw him I could not sense him at all. The closest sense I had of him was a chilling coldness."

Diana sat next to him, crossing a foot underneath her. "Both of you saw the ghost, the spirit of Kristopher Gentian then?"

"Yes, both independently and simultaneously," affirmed Vincent.

Diana took a hearty sip of her tea. Wow, that felt fantastic on her throat. "Why did he appear at that time? Why did he talk to Catherine?"

Vincent shrugged. "I know that he wanted her to model for a painting, but in the end, the painting was of both of us."

"Was that his only work?" The redhead's gears were turning, which meant she was feeling better. "Why he is not at rest? Maybe there's something between him and Smythe?"

"That, I don't know, Diana. Mr. Smythe identified Gentian’s body when he died, but he disavowed knowing him until Catherine pressed. She also found out Kristopher's belongings and work were stored in a warehouse." Vincent sipped the steaming mug of tea, nodding his approval.

"Maybe there's some sort of unfinished business with Smythe? Or with his own artwork perhaps?" she thought out loud.

"Jenny Aronson arranged a showing of Kristopher's work as a favor to Catherine," he continued. "I believe all his paintings sold that evening, and the proceeds were given to Mr. Smythe. That was also the evening that the painting of Catherine and me appeared."

Diana sipped her tea as she thought. "Then the question might be, why would there be a painting of me?" She asked, flicking her ginger hair over her shoulder.

"Mr. Smythe did tell Catherine that he usually appeared to attractive women in the bookstore," Vincent teasingly offered.

"Very funny. Hey buddy, this other painting is of you," Diana retorted, just short of sticking out her tongue.  Vincent smirked.

"Why hasn’t he actually shown himself to you then?" Vincent looked over his shoulder out the windows overlooking the city.

"I do have you in common with Mr. Gentian." Diana glanced at the painting of Vincent resting on the kitchen island. "If this is what's going on, maybe he needed you to put this situation into a different context, from the beginning, than I’d have drawn on my own." 


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