Promise Not to Tell(9)

By: Jayne Ann Krentz


“It was minimal at best,” Virginia said. “They believe she jumped off a cliff near her cabin. Her body washed ashore the following day. The island is very small. Only a couple hundred people live on it, so there is no local police presence. The authorities were called in from one of the larger islands. They determined that there was no indication that Hannah had been attacked. She hadn’t been shot or stabbed. There were no signs of a struggle.”

“Not a lot of high-end forensics available out there on those small islands in the San Juans,” Anson observed. “And water washes away a lot of evidence.”

“Believe me, I understand why the authorities went with the verdict of suicide,” Virginia said. “Everyone who knew Hannah was aware that she had some serious mental health issues. In addition, she was grieving the loss of Abigail, her only real friend. I might have bought the official conclusion myself, if she hadn’t sent me this last picture.”

Cabot examined the image again. There was a heightened intensity about him now that stirred the hair on the back of Virginia’s neck. It was not unlike the highly charged vibe she occasionally experienced around some of the artists she represented. The aura of fierce concentration that shivered in the atmosphere told her that Cabot was doing his own kind of art.

“I’ll be damned,” he said at last. “She really nailed the bastard, didn’t she?”

“I can see why it would be hard to sell pictures like this one,” Anson said.

Cabot glanced up briefly, his eyes tight at the corners. “You said this one was different from the others that Brewster painted?”

“I took a picture of the previous painting, the one I got a few months ago,” Virginia said. “You can compare the two and see for yourself.”

She opened the other picture on the screen so that Anson and Cabot could view both side by side.

“In theme and design it’s clear that the final work was intended to fit into the Visions series,” she said. “However, some of the details are different. Take a close look at the figure.”

She waited to see if they understood the significance of what they were viewing. In the hellish scene, a man dressed in black strode through a storm of flames, a devil walking through his empire.

“It’s not like looking at a police sketch,” Anson said. “There’s no real detail in the face. Hard to be sure of the age. But if you know something about the situation and the man, you can sure as hell tell it’s Zane. Amazing.”

“Hannah was a skilled artist,” Virginia said. “She could do traditional portraits. She did two of her friend, Abigail, for example. I have both of them. But when it came to the Visions series, she took a more abstract approach—probably because she was working from memories and dreams. She didn’t have any photos of Zane or his followers.”

“No one does,” Cabot said grimly. “At least, none that we’ve been able to discover. How did you end up with the portraits of Abigail Watkins?”

“Abigail left them to Hannah, but Hannah couldn’t bear to look at them after Abigail died. She insisted that I keep them. She said maybe someday someone would remember Abigail and come looking for the pictures. I doubt that will ever happen, but I promised Hannah I’d look after them. I store them in the same locker where I keep the Visions series.”

Cabot’s gaze sharpened. “Tell us about this picture of Zane.”

Virginia took a deep breath. This was it, she realized. She had to convince them that she was not the victim of an overactive imagination.

“Hannah used certain elements and details to identify her subjects. It was a form of iconography. The keys dangling from the steel chain on Zane’s belt are a typical example.”

Cabot studied the image. “They tell you the figure is Zane.”

“Without a doubt,” Virginia said.

Anson pointed to the cluster of eight small figures in the background.

“The kids in the barn,” he said. “You and Cabot and Jack and Max and the others.”

“Yes,” Virginia said. “We are almost always depicted in the same pose and in the same positions in the paintings.”

Cabot looked up. “Almost always?”

“This final picture is a little different. One of the girls is holding a book. You’ll notice that she is standing at the front of the group. That figure is me and that placement is new. In previous pictures I’m shown in a less prominent position on the canvas.”

“You’re holding that book,” Cabot said. “The one you carried out of the barn that night.”

“My mother gave it to me the morning of the day she died. It was an illustrated book filled with basic math lessons. She made it herself. Hannah illustrated it.”

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