Chapter 15: Stirring
Gary tossed his hat on the coat rack at the office before tossing a photo clipping of the blonde over to his co-worker, Ryan Long.
“Do me a favor,” he asked. “Look this girl up for me. I need to know where she comes from and all that fun stuff.”
Ryan peered over his dark rimmed glasses to the girl’s picture. “Laura? Do you realize just how many Lauras there are in this city?”
“It’s Laurel,” Gary corrected, adding extra emphasis to the ending. “And I highly doubt there’s more than a handful of those around.”
“And may I ask what this is for?” Ryan gave his colleague a questionable gaze.
“A big story,” he answered turning toward the hall to his office.
“It’s always a big story with you Gary.”
Gary headed back to his office. He threw himself down into his seat with a heavy sigh. He had no time for idle chit chat today, but at the same time he dreaded the long road ahead.
“Woods,” bellowed his boss, William Hedge.
He was a stocky, middle aged man in his late forties with his normally black hair beginning to fade to grey. His bushy mustache and brow always made it hard for Gary to read him unless he was smiling.
“That Bryan Wilson character is having another press conference today. Turns out he’s certain the Baxter girl is done for.”
“Oh really,” Gary answered, his brow drawing up in suspicion. “How’s he so sure if there hasn’t been a body found yet? For all anybody knows she could have finally got the guts up to run away from the guy and he’s just making a big scene about it.”
The reporter had to silence himself. Where did that come from?
“That so? Got any leads yet?”
The reporter gave a heavy sigh. “Other than instinct…no.”
“Woods, now I know you’ve got the best instinct in this area, but without any hard evidence what are either of us to do?”
What was he to do? Gary tapped his pencil impatiently on his desk. His mind wandered back to Laurel, causing him to remember where she had slapped him earlier. He rubbed his cheek while his boss waited.
“There is this girl—,”
“Would this be the one Long is hunting down up front?”
“Yep. She’s been a user–at least in the past, but—”
“You think they’re connected don’t you,” William asked, his brow furrowed the way he always did when he knew Gary was up to something.
“Perhaps not directly…but its a start.”
Gary had not connected the idea before, yet for some reason it was becoming more and more logical in his mind. Now if he could just figure out what that connection was.
“Heh, good luck with that—so long as it’s not a wild goose chase that is,” his boss added starting to leave. “By the way, I need you to cover that press conference for me would ya? Can’t have all the other news junkies having a hay day over this without us.”
The steps of the courthouse were crowded as always, but even more so today with vans and media. Gary was suddenly glad he never had to carry a camera. He much preferred to stick with the newspaper. He pushed past a few picketers, hoping to get a better view.
Along with those wanting to report any and every word addressed, there were those, like him, who had their suspicions. Unlike Gary, however, these few took their opinions rather than the facts. Some were obvious fans of the missing artist; their shirts plastered with pictures of her work. One girl wore her hair cut in the same shaggy style. Just a bit obsessive, he thought. But then again…
He quickly shook the idea when he saw Bryan step out on to the concrete steps before the crowd. Instantly the cameras flashed and microphones were thrust forward in hopes of grasping at the young man’s voice. Then Gary noticed something almost twisted.
Bryan’s face showed no sign of remorse. He seemed to be thriving in all the undue attention; his eyes scanning the crowd for possible supporters of his plight. There was something wrong about and Gary found himself totally disgusted.
Bryan waited to speak however, as another man stepped out with his father carrying an easel in one hand and a covered object in the other. It was Shawn Thomas.
Gary recognized the gentleman as Gwenivere’s personal agent,curator at the city museum, and brother through her adopted family. Unlike Bryan, Shawn wore a face quiet grievous. His shoulders seemed to bear the weight of the world as he carried the easel down the steps.
“Excuse me,” a girl said startling Gary from his observations.
She pushed past him to the edge of the crowd for a closer spot. He noted her path once he had readjusted himself, quickly spotting her out from the rest. She looked so familiar—like he had seen her outside of this terrible mess. He watched her wipe tears from her reddened eyes and nod toward Shawn.
Gary watched their silent exchange of gestures and nods until the DA tapped the curator’s shoulder. They spoke a brief moment before finally turning to the crowd. Shawn finally set the covered object on the easel as Bryan began. Not getting enough fame, Gary thought. Now he brings something to show and tell…?
“It has been quite a rough few weeks,” Bryan began; his expression suddenly changing to one of pity.
Gary had to admire his acting abilities.
“Mr. Wilson are you calling off the search,” piped a reporter, reminding Gary to pull out his tape recorder.
“No,” Bryan answered in a calm tone. “The search for my fiance…and the Thomas’ beloved sister will never be over till she is found.” He directed the crowd’s attention to Shawn before continuing. “Today marks exactly one month since Gwenivere’s unfortunate disappearance. In that span of time, the Thomas’ have labored much recovering her belongings and aiding police in clues to this tragic case.”
Gary held out his recorder while his eyes carefully traced expressions from Shawn, Bryan and the girl still making gestures at the curator. He couldn’t help but see the extreme contrast between them of utter grief and pride.
Shawn waved his hand signaling the brunette to join him. She stepped out from the crowd as Shawn began to speak.
“On behalf of my sister and I,” he began as she took her place on the opposite side of the canvas. “We found this…her last piece before her disappearance.”
Bryan raised his brow, passing Shawn a questioning look as questions erupted from the other reporters.
“How did you come across this?”
“Will it be displayed at the museum with the remainder of her works?”
Shawn swallowed hard before speaking again. It was taking every once of himself to remain calm.
“Before Gwen disappeared we had a dispute. I saw what was going on in her life and we argued about it every time I saw her. That night she ran from our apartment crying, neither of us realizing things would come to what they are today.”
Shawn was struggling just to keep his hands from shaking at this point, but tried not to shove them in his pockets. The brunette gently took them in hers, finishing for him.
“As you all know her apartment the next day was a wreck, and she was gone. We managed to recover one piece that day which surprised us all.”
Gary found himself anxious to see what lay behind the veil. Bryan was obviously curious as well. Apparently he had not seen it. Shawn passed the man a look of payback before turning with the brunette to unveil the object.
Sudden silence fell over the crowd. Gary’s eyes widened upon seeing it.
A small square canvas rested on the easel, the image of a babe at the center amid a hasty abstract of color. Bryan’s expression suddenly changed to one of horror, then questioning anger as he looked up at the curator.
Once again cameras began their flurry of flashes and interrogation.
“Mr. Thomas what do you plan to do with this painting.”
“Do you think it has something to do with her disappearance?”
“What do you think she was portraying?”
“Mr. Wilson what’s your opinion? How does this make you feel?”
“We will be holding an auction for the painting at the museum. The proceeds from the sale will be put forth in a fund to aide pregnancy clinics which offer other options to expectant mothers outside abortion,” Shawn explained, a slight look of relief over taking him. “Until then it will be displayed in the museum where the auction will be held one week from today.”
The cameras flashed all the more, hoping to get a glimpse of the artist’s last portrait—that of an infant lovingly outlined in the midst of a chaotic canvas. It truly was the calm before the storm.
Copyright The Faithbook 2011