This was how it always started. The familiar scent of paint, wet paper, compliments and then a jarring plea for help. Micha Mason lay a wash of blue and gray paint across the top of a sheet of cold-pressed paper, moving the sable bristles in soft curves creating a storm filled sky. Cindy Lowen stood permanent as a fire hydrant, waiting for her answer. Mica frowned, apprehension rounded her shoulders, tightened her grip on the paintbrush. “Hire a real investigator,” she said as she rinsed her brush.
The woman shook her head. “Daddy has an investigator, some creature who comes and goes, or so I hear. I want you to find out why. It’s like Daddy doesn’t want me involved.” She wobbled back and forth, her plump little feet spilling from the sides of her expensive red Italian heels.
“What about your brother?”
“Not talking to him either.”
Mica shrugged and looked down at her work. “I think I’ll stay right here and you need to leave. I can’t concentrate.”
The shapes of leafless trees appeared under her rapidly moving brush in the drying blue color. They faded into the glaze of cerulean giving the illusion of being in the far distance. Then she added a touch of alizarin, and ultramarine generating a hint of mountains. She felt the coolness of the painted sky on her skin, caught a slight whiff of fallen leaves, then realized the coolness was coming from the drafty window, and the smell from rotten garbage wafting up from the alley bins five stories below. She jammed the window closed with a palette knife, and stirred a bowl of potpourri that rested on the sill.
Mica concentrated on her work, steeling herself against the burn of her friend’s worried eyes, and then her heart cracked with compassion. Resolve fell into the crevice created and she carelessly dribbled water, like falling rain, onto the painting in front of her.
“If your Dad really needs help.” Her mind reacted like a cut to turpentine as words emerged from her mouth. She slapped a hand across her lips, too late to stop the unleashed words.
“Please go. I trust you. I wouldn’t ask if Daddy wasn’t acting like a man with a mess of bad moonshine.”
Mica knew when Cindy lapsed into her mountain dialect she was worried. She looked at her artwork searching for an answer. Rivulets of water ran like tears down from the beautiful mist-shrouded mountains she’d created. She frowned, turned the ruined painting over on the table, then looked up and smiled gently at her friend. Someone was going to die.
“Maybe I better go,” she said as her mind switched from the creative right side to the analytical left