Things That Are Not ...

A THIRD SEASON ROUND ROBIN STORY


Chapter 9

by T'Mara

 

A few minutes later, Diana entered Vincent's chamber. She was trying to catch her breath, since she had been running. A lot had happened today that she was eager to discuss with her friend.

“Vincent, the most unusual thing has just happened,” Diana began, then stopped when she spotted Devin. “Sorry, I did not mean to interrupt,” she mumbled embarrassed. “Maybe I'll go and say hello to Mary and Father and come back later...”

“Devin was about to leave,” Vincent stated firmly, staring at his brother. He was slightly annoyed with Devin. In his opinion, Devin had been totally out of place with his inappropriate comments about Vincent's and Diana's relationship. This was none of Devin's business; this was his own private affair, his…and maybe Diana's.

Devin grinned. So he had been right. There was something going on between his little brother and the smart, red-headed detective. Vincent apparently couldn't wait to be alone with Bennett.

He raised his hands in a defensive gesture. “No need to throw me out, bro,” he said. “I'm on my way, but,” he continued, with a suggestive side-glance at Diana, “try to remember what I just told you. Promise me that you will at least give it a thought.”

Vincent let out a low growl which was met with laughter from Devin. “You know that you can't frighten me, Vincent,” he teased. “That growl never scared me, not even when we were children.” With those words he turned, bowed his head to Diana and left, still chuckling.

Diana followed him with her eyes and frowned. “What was that all about?” she asked curiously.

Vincent shook his head. “Nothing,” he commented dryly. “Devin was just being his own, meddlesome self. But what else is new?”

Diana smiled. She did not know Devin very well, had in fact only met him briefly once or twice before, but she liked his fun-loving, carefree ways, and she knew that despite his current annoyance about the other, Vincent cared deeply for his older brother.

“You mentioned that something unusual has happened?” Vincent's question returned Diana's thoughts to the purpose of her visit.

She nodded. “Yes, there have been several new developments in our mystery regarding Mr. Gentian,” she informed Vincent. “First, I met with Ms. Aronson, and then...” Diana's voice trailed.

“Kristopher?” Vincent guessed. “You met him. He finally showed himself to you as well.”

“Yes.” Diana still was not sure what to make of her earlier encounter with the supposedly dead artist. “It was not at all what I expected,” she confessed. “I mean, he seemed pretty real. For a ghost, that is. He looked solid enough, his cheeks were colored, his clothes worn and faded, but definitely not of that ghostly-white, translucent quality that you would associate with a spirit, and he drank coffee. If I had not known that he died several years ago...”

Diana remembered something. “The only thing unusual about him was the way how he seemed to appear out of thin air and disappeared after he had finished his cup of coffee. But...” She shook her head, before continuing. “I was busy in the kitchen, making coffee, when he appeared. So it is possible that he may have entered my apartment without me noticing. He could have come from the roof. And when he left, there was this phone call. Somebody supposedly had the wrong number. Of course, if he had been planning a mysterious exit, something like that would have been the perfect diversion. It can be explained rationally, but it was spooky, nevertheless.”

Vincent nodded. “So you think that Catherine may have been right after all?” he inquired. “That Gentian faked his death and is now using all sorts of tricks to pass himself off as a ghost?”

Diana hesitated. “I am not sure,” she confessed. “Meeting him certainly was unusual in more ways than one. He most definitely is not your regular, run-of-the-mill type.” She wondered for the umpteenth time, how Kristopher could possibly know about Vincent and her if he was not dead. Unless, of course, he had been stalking them for quite a while, but why on earth would he want to do that?

“What did he tell you?” Vincent's question interrupted Diana's musings.

She blushed deeply. No, she could not tell Vincent that Gentian had admitted to playing matchmaker for them. If she did, he would most likely bring up his guard again and shut her off completely. As much as she wanted the mysterious artist's assertions that Catherine wanted Vincent to be happy and was giving them her blessings to be true, she had a feeling as if Vincent would be difficult to convince of these supposed facts.

“Ah... he asked what I thought of the portraits,” she said uneasily, “and whether or not you liked them. I think he got the impression we were not too pleased,” she added guiltily. “And since Ms. Aronson had told me....” she interrupted herself. “How stupid of me! I should have started at the beginning of the day! Because I went to see Jenny before Kristopher paid me a visit.”

“You learned something important from her as well,” Vincent stated.

Diana nodded. “There has been a second showing of Gentian art, with an Arabian nights theme, and she just was approached by Mr. Smythe with the information that enough paintings for yet another themed showing are ready. She has not had time yet to look at these, so she has no idea what the theme will be this time; but she promised to let me know when she goes there so that we can check them together. Except…” Her face lit up at the memory of little Drew. “I am not sure if this will happen anytime soon. She is now mostly working from home, so that she can care for her adopted son.” She smiled at Vincent. “Drew is barely a year older than Jacob, and...”

“I don't think it would be wise to introduce Jacob to Jenny and her son,” Vincent interrupted her. “There would be too many questions...”

Diana looked down. “I know,” she admitted. “It's just that Jenny was Catherine's best friend, and she could probably tell Jacob a lot about his mother...”

Vincent winced. He knew that Diana was right. There was so much about Catherine that he did not know, but that her son had a right to learn about…her life before he had met her, her work, the world Above. Sooner or later he would therefore have to find a way to put Jacob in contact with his mother's friends; people like Jenny, Nancy, Joe Maxwell.

“As I was saying,” Diana ended the slightly awkward silence, “there are more paintings by our mysterious friend around; and if I can wait a few days, I might get a chance to see them before the public does. I asked Kristopher if there were any more portraits of you among them, and he said no, so I guess these do not constitute a threat of any kind, but still, I'd like to check them out, just to be on the safe side.”

Vincent chuckled. “And so you came to ask if we could go right now and have a look? I assume they are stored in the same place as last time?”

“Yes, to both questions,” Diana replied playfully.

Vincent thought about it for a moment. “We can have a look at the warehouse,” he finally announced. “But I have something to tell you as well, in fact. I want you to meet somebody, but that can wait till tomorrow morning. Elizabeth has probably turned in for the night by now anyway.”

“Elizabeth?” Diana had heard a lot about the elderly artist and had seen some of her work, but so far, she had not met her yet. After the Burch Tower incident, which had threatened her paintings, Elizabeth had moved her activity to the lower levels, which she considered to be safer from harmful interference from the world above. “What does she have to do with Gentian, other than being a painter as well?”

Vincent smiled. “You would never guess,” he stated. “But first things first. Let's have a look at Kristopher's latest works of art.”

He led Diana through a labyrinth of tunnels and subterranean passages, and about half an hour later, they emerged from a manhole only a few blocks from the warehouse where Gentian's paintings and other belongings had been stored before.

It took Vincent only a minute or two to pick the lock. They entered cautiously. It was dark inside and rather cold. The place was just as desolate as Vincent remembered from his last visit. The large hall was filled with the kind of things you might find in an attic, discarded, slightly damaged furniture, huge wooden chests, and last but not least, dust and cobwebs everywhere.

“Gentian's stuff used to be over there,” Vincent pointed out to Diana. Together they went over, and indeed found a huge number of oil paintings leaning against the wall.

Vincent turned the first one. It showed a young woman in a medieval dress. She was holding a goblet, as if passing it to someone. The color of her dress was the brightest red. Gentian's style was quite obvious, the technique clearly the same as in his other paintings, but what was the meaning of this picture?

“Is he painting medieval themes now?” Diana wondered. While she did not think the Middle Ages were particularly popular at the moment, she thought that maybe such pictures might appeal to fans of the Fantasy genre. “Let's look at the next one.”

Obediently Vincent turned the next picture. It showed a knight, holding the very same goblet to his lips as if drinking from it. His shield was painted with a coat of arms, the background of which was the same bright, vivid red as the dress of the lady in the previous picture.

Vincent gasped. He had a feeling he knew who these two represented. He quickly turned the next canvas. A dark-skinned man, his white shirt a stark contrast to his dark features, an embroidered tissue lying at his feet. The next one showed a young, blond woman, wearing an equally white nightgown, praying in front of a statue of the Holy Virgin. The next two youngsters were dressed in renaissance clothes, with the color blue dominating their outfits, then a monk and a nun in their drab, brown frocks.

“These are sets of two,” Diana stated the obvious. “There is always a painting of a man and one of a woman that somehow match. Their clothes are from the same period and there is always one color that is very prominent in both their attires.” She was about to add that their own two portraits with the emerald green items of clothing would perfectly fit into this collection, but held her tongue at the last moment.

“There is more to it than that,” Vincent whispered. From various attributes depicted in the portraits, he had guessed the identities of the couples that Kristopher had painted. He pointed to the medieval woman and her knight. “Isolde, holding out the love potion to Tristan and him drinking it. These are Othello and Desdemona, the renaissance couple are Romeo and Juliet, and here Abelard and Héloise.”

“Famous lovers,” Diana gasped, then realized, “star-crossed, tragic lovers.” She shivered as she remembered the quote from Oscar Wilde. “Things that are not and that should be.” Did she and Vincent really belong to that same category of doomed lovers as the similarity of their portraits to these sets of pictures seemed to indicate? Or...did the fact that their pictures were not with the others mean something? Was there a difference between them and these other couples? Was there maybe hope for them after all?

 

contact T'Mara - tmara(at)operamail(dot)com

 

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