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CHAPTER ONE

Evelyn’s first murder was an accident.

She panicked. Her first thrust missed wide to the left, biting into the earth. With the second she overcompensated and missed to the right. Then as she drew back a third time the poor creature froze, trembling with fear, staring straight at her, and Evelyn realized at the last moment that this was the wrong one, not the brazen patriarch with the malevolent eyes, but a smaller, timid, innocent creature. And then she struck. It was as though her muscles, tensed and full of adrenaline were pre-programmed to act independently of her better self, overriding her intellect and moral reservations. The third thrust crushed the poor thing’s back, and yet it didn’t die quickly. To her horror its mangled body twitched and squirmed. She thrust at it again and again, missing three times before delivering the coup de grâce. Then realizing what she’d done, she fell to her knees.

The house on Via de Los Sueños Perdidos, in whose front yard Evelyn knelt on this early spring morning, was one of those two story Mediterranean-style affairs with cream colored stucco, red tiled roof and tiny balconies of wrought iron. It was built for a minor film actor, whose star was already fading by the time the house was completed in the late 1940s. It was subsequently sold for back taxes and had been a bit of a white elephant for decades before her father bought it for her as a birthday present a month before her marriage.

“This is not a wedding present to the two of you,” he’d emphasized. “Not that I’m saying your marriage won’t last (though precious few do these days); I just want you to have something of your own, where you can work on your art without worrying about rent or mortgage payments.”

She was thirty before she appreciated that she lived in a grander home than her parents. The house, detached three-car garage, and backyard, perched on a knoll, hidden from view by a profuse tangle of scrub oak that also obscured what could have been a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. Evelyn had lobbied to have the trees topped. Howard, her husband of 25 years, preferred the privacy the wild trees afforded.

Two great bougainvilleas adorned the façade, spreading a profusion of red papery flowers up either side of the entrance and spilling a bower over the front door. From the large black and white marbled foyer, a staircase crooked its way upward, right, left, left up to the bedrooms and library on the second floor. On the right side of the foyer, between potted palms, a heavy carved oak door opened into Howard’s study. To the left, an arched doorway let into the formal dining room. Straight ahead a hallway led to a half bath, the kitchen to the left and to the right the great room with high, trestled ceilings, colorfully painted beams and a large fireplace.

French doors let out onto the backyard where a small Spanish fountain stood in the shade of an ancient oak. Beyond, a narrow strip of lawn jigged to the left, rising to the highest point of the property where four forty-foot palm trees stood sentinel at the corners of the pool. At the far end she kept a small herb garden at the foot of a purple flowering jacaranda. From the lawn the property dropped away toward the road below.

Briefcase in hand, Howard chose that moment to step out the front door. Seeing her in the flower bed on her knees, her head bent, with the morning light making a halo around the edge of her chestnut hair, he thought her the very picture of a Madonna, until she raised her shadowed face and he saw the desolation in her eyes. Then she burst into tears and covered her face with gloved hands, overcome with remorse.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” he asked.

Through stifling tears she admitted her guilt.

“That’s good, isn’t it? The little bastard’s been plaguing your garden for weeks. I thought you wanted him gone.”

“But it’s not the same one. You didn’t see the way she looked at me.”

“She? Oh, for Christ’s sake, Evy!” Howard said in a tone of exasperation. “It was just a gopher. Don’t be such a wimp!”

Her name was Evelyn, though Howard and his professional circle often called her Evy (rhymes with heavy), a nickname she’d always abhorred, though Howard insisted on introducing her that way. If you had to shorten Evelyn, which was a perfectly fine name, why not Lynn, or Eve, or Eevee? Anything but Eh-vee. To turn the tables on him, when she was annoyed she called him Howie, but he didn’t seem to mind the sobriquet.

She stood and, not wanting to show her tear streaked face, turned away. “Could you bury her for me? Please?”

He looked at her sternly and shook his head in disapproval. Then he put his briefcase down on the stoop. “Let me have it.” She handed him the shovel. He sunk the blade in the earth beside the marigolds.

“No, not there,” Evelyn said, sniffling. “Over there by the roses.”

He complied reluctantly. She didn’t bother to explain her reasoning, but it had not been an arbitrary request. Despite her hatred of the patriarch of gophers, the fat one with the beady eyes who periodically stood up from his hole to glare defiantly at her, she would not bury one of his children where he might inadvertently find her while tunneling. That was a scene too cruel to contemplate.

Howard came back, scooped up the dead gopher, carried it to the hole he’d dug and dropped it in. He took a shovelful of dirt and tipping it into the hole his knuckles brushed against the rose bush.

“Ow! Son-of-a-bitch!” he swore, shaking his hand.

“You want my gloves?” she asked, holding up her gloved hands.

“They wouldn’t fit,” he grumbled, shoveling more dirt into the hole.

If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit, Evelyn thought ruefully.

“Ah, crap, I got blood on my shirt!”

Annoyed, Howard went back inside to change his shirt and bandage his fingers.

Evelyn dropped her gloves on the ground and followed him up to their bedroom. “Can I help?”

“You’ve done enough already,” he scolded.

He went into the bathroom and began probing at the back of a finger with tweezers.

“I’m sorry about your fingers. Does it hurt?”

“Yes it hurts, what do you think?”

He pulled out the end of a thorn and wrapped bandaids around two fingers. Then he changed shirts and grabbed his tie. “I’m late,” he said, brushing by her.

She followed him downstairs and watched from the front walk. There was just enough room in front of the garage to turn a car around and head down the steep, narrow driveway. She waved. He didn’t look her way. She sighed, discouraged by the start to this day, and tried to put the poor gopher from her mind.

CHAPTER TWO

Turning to go inside she noticed Howard’s briefcase left behind on the front stoop. She glanced down the drive. He was already out of sight. Hoping to catch him before he’d gone too far, she hurriedly punched his number into her cell phone. His phone’s distinctive ring chimed from the briefcase.

Forty-five minutes later she pulled to the curb in front of the law offices of Hightower, Marsden and Katz on East Figueroa. The building was a white three-story stucco affair with arched windows and red-tile roof across from the City of Santa Barbara Police station and a couple of blocks from the County Superior Court. It had been a strategic location when her father, Bill Hightower, founded the firm with the expectation of capturing a walk-in clientele. Albert Katz had made a career of it, while Bill Hightower and Robert Marsden had lucked into a lucrative practice representing the burgeoning winery and vineyard businesses in nearby Santa Ynez Valley. The founding partners had all retired. Albert Katz Jr., the second generation Katz, still practiced criminal law. Howard had naturally stepped into his father-in-law’s shoes specializing in real estate law. Robert Marzden’s children had taken different paths, and his place was filled by Anthony Ball, an energetic, affable young man to whom Howard delegated the grunt work.

The receptionist, a pudgy young brunette with bright red lipstick, looked up inquiringly. “Can I help you?”

Evelyn smiled. “You must be new here.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m Evelyn Marsh.”

“Oh! He’s been on a conference call. I left a voicemail.”

“I know,” Evelyn said, holding up the briefcase.

“Would you like me to…?”

“No, I’ll wait.” She was hoping that bringing the briefcase might atone for the aggravation she’d caused him this morning.

“I’m Holly, by the way. I’m not that new, actually. I’ve been here six months now.”

“I don’t come by as often as I used to,” Evelyn explained. As they chatted Holly saw Evelyn looking over her shoulder at the large painting on the wall with a look of serene satisfaction, and a light went on in Holly’s mind. She swiveled around to peer closely at the painting. “Oh! You’re the painter. It’s beautiful.”

“It’s always been my favorite.” Like most of her work it was a still life that suggested the presence of someone who had only recently left the scene. A rocking chair on a porch overlooking the ocean; sandals carelessly kicked off; a half drunk glass of iced tea on a small table; and a book, it’s pages fluttering in the breeze, left open on the porch railing. Her father had placed it there nearly twenty years before, and in the ensuing years he’d hung her paintings in every office and corridor at the firm, in his own house, and in the homes of a good many of his friends. He’d been her biggest fan, and until recently her only patron. “It was my first really large canvas.”

“I’ve always liked the one in the conference room the best — the one on the beach with the towel and umbrella? I love the colors in that one.”

Evelyn thanked her and a moment later Howard came around the corner. “Holly, did my…. Oh, good.”

Evelyn smiled and handed him the briefcase.

“Thanks for being so prompt,” he said, and kissed her warmly on the cheek, all apparently forgiven. “Did you meet Holly?”

“Yes, we’ve been chatting.”

“I was just saying how much I admire your wife’s pictures.”

Howard gave Evelyn a one handed hug around the waist. “She’s had a lot of practice; it’s her hobby.”

He always appeared more ingratiating in public, she thought, than in private.

“Thanks again for bringing…”

They were interrupted by Albert Katz Jr. who mockingly greeted her with his best mafioso impression. “How you doin’, Killer?” Evelyn was momentarily startled into silence. Then he laughed, “Or should I address you as Gopher Slayer?”

Evelyn felt like she’d been slapped. “That’s not funny,” she said. She glanced at Howard with a feeling of disappointment. It was a little humiliation, but a humiliation nonetheless. Too many of his anecdotes were shared at her expense.

“I’m sorry you’re so tender-hearted,” Katz said. “Are you seeing my ex any time soon?”

“We’re having lunch, as a matter of fact.” Evelyn said.

“Just a word of caution: Don’t believe a word she says; you can’t trust her.” Katz looked knowingly from Evelyn to Howard and back.

“Keep it civil, Al,” Howard warned.

“Always, always.” Katz turned his back on them to address Holly on a business matter.

“I’ve gotta get back to work,” Howard said, pecking her cheek again. “Thanks for bringing the briefcase.”

At times she felt as though Howard were two people, one the polite and loving husband she’d known most of her life, the other continually annoyed with everything she said and did. Not knowing which she’d encounter at any given moment was trying her patience.

On the drive home Katz’s flippant salutation echoed in her mind: “How you doin’, Killer?” He’d meant it facetiously, his pale attempt at humor. Evelyn Marsh, a killer? Nothing could be more ludicrous. No one who knew her would believe it. But she had seen that poor, trembling creature frozen in fear, entirely at her mercy. In that moment she had held the power of life and death, and she had failed to stay her hand. She was the angel of death, and nothing she could do or say could bring the dead back to life. Death was irrevocable.

CHAPTER THREE

She pulled into her driveway only to find the pool service pickup truck blocking her way. She backed up and parked on the street. Walking up the steep drive, feeling a slow burn in her thighs and noting the necessity of having to take deep breaths, she resolved to get more exercise. It had hardly been necessary in her youth, but at forty-nine she was finding that she had to work harder to stay fit and firm.

She’d barely had time to fill a glass of water before Mario Beltramo knocked on the French doors. A short, leathery man in his mid-sixties, he wore shorts, sandals, a polo shirt and a Foreign Legion hat to protect his bald head

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Mrs. Marsh, but I have to give you my two weeks notice. I’m retiring. My wife had a stroke and I need to stay home and take care of her.”

“Oh my, I’m so sorry. That’s terrible, terrible news. It must be serious.”

“Yes, ma’am, it is. She’s weak on the right side and has trouble walking and talking.”

“Is she…does she have speech therapy? Will physical therapy help?”

“The doctor says she might recover a little speech, with time, but….” He shrugged in resignation.

“Well, we’ll be sorry to see you go. I can’t imagine…. You’ve been cleaning our pool since when? Since Samantha was a baby, at least.”

“Seventeen years.”

“You’ve sold the business, then?”

“No, ma’am, I’m just shuttin’ her down. That’s why I’m lettin’ you know, so you have time to get somebody else.”

“Do you have any recommendations?”

“Never kept much track of the competition; I was always busy enough. I’ll leave you with a little advice though: You wouldn’t have to have your pool cleaned every week, if you just cut down that jacaranda. It’s pretty, but it’s a damned nuisance.”

 

The Spindrift hotel was the same pale pink as the first-day guests who lay roasting on the beach and lounging by the pool, the ones who would look like boiled lobsters by this time tomorrow. The pool fronted the beach, for there were always those who preferred the taste of chlorine to the taste of brine and seaweed.

Evelyn saw Connie Whitfield Katz and her young assistant Brooke Bass sitting in the shade of an umbrella on the upper patio. They might have been sisters. Both augmented blondes, they wore sun hats and sunglasses, and short dresses that showed plenty of décolletage, Connie in red, Brooke in black. They enveloped Evelyn in the warmth of camaraderie and welcoming smiles.

“You remember Brooke?” Connie said.

“Of course. Who’s minding the store?”

“I closed for lunch. We don’t get much business on Tuesdays anyway. How have you been?”

“Okay. Still adjusting to being empty nested,” Evelyn said, then reconsidered. “Actually, I’m feeling rather useless.” She turned to Brooke to explain. “My son graduated from U.C.L.A. last year and works in L.A., and my daughter transferred from City College to U.C.L.A. this year, so….”

“What’s she majoring in?” Brooke asked.

“Biology. Pre-med. She wants to be an anesthesiologist.”

“At least now you have more time to paint,” Connie said.

“Well, that’s one consolation. But there’s not enough life in the house. It feels very isolating. I rarely get out. As a matter of fact, I had to deliver Howard’s briefcase this morning and it was the first time I’d been to the office since my father retired last year. By the way, I saw your ex.”

“Which one?”

“Albert, of course.”

“What does he have to say?”

“Nothing nice.”

The waiter arrived with the menus. When they ordered a bottle of Riesling, he asked for Brooke’s driver’s license. He held it a long time, looking from the license to Brooke and back. “The picture doesn’t do you justice. I wouldn’t have thought you were a day over nineteen,” he said with a wink.

Brooke smiled at the compliment as he walked away. “He’s cute.”

“You said you had something to tell me,” Evelyn said, looking to Connie. “Have you sold another of my paintings?”

Connie was the proprietor of The Whitfield Gallery on State Street. “Not this month. It’s a hard sell at that price point, if you’re not well-known. But I expect sales to pick up with the summer crowd.”

“You can always lower the price, if you think that would help. I won’t mind.”

“Are you working on anything new?” Brooke asked.

“I’m always working on something.”

“I know we haven’t sold much, but I really love your work; I think it has great potential…that is, I don’t mean to say your work is less than it could be. I mean to say that it has great commercial potential. I’m always amazed at the really good local artists who can’t make a living with their art, and I think you can.”

“Not that she has to,” Connie commented.

It might have been an innocent remark, but there was something subtly snide in her tone, Evelyn thought.

“You don’t know how blessed you are,” Connie said and, turning to Brooke, added, “She has a life most of us would die for.”

“It’s true; I admit it,” Evelyn said; “I have a very comfortable life. I think that’s probably what’s held me back; I’ve never had to sell my work. And I didn’t think I had the time to give it a go until the kids went off to college. You know I don’t work very fast. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a perfectionist, which is not always to my advantage.”

“You don’t have to work fast to be successful with your art,” Connie said, giving Brooke her cue.

Brooke rested her ample bosom on the table as she leaned forward and began speaking in an excited, conspiratorial tone.

“I thought of you last weekend when I was up in Half Moon Bay and came across this store on Main Street.”

She was interrupted by the arrival of the waiter with a bottle of wine in an ice bucket on a stand. He made a ritual of it, ceremoniously popping the cork and pouring a tiny bit into Brooke’s glass. She tasted it and smiled up at him. Then he poured a few ounces into Connie and Evelyn’s glasses. Lastly he poured an extra measure into Brooke’s glass and set it before her with a flourish. He wrapped the neck of the bottle in a cloth napkin before placing it back in the ice. “Have you decided?” he asked, trying unsuccessfully to avoid looking at Brooke’s cleavage.

When he’d left with their orders Brooke said, “I think he’s angling for a big tip.”

“I think he’s angling for more than that,” Connie said.

Brooke smiled with self-satisfaction, well aware of the effect she was having on the young man. “As I was saying,” she continued, “I came across this store. It’s not a gallery, per se, because it doesn’t represent a lot of different artists. It’s just the work of one artist, Monica Surtees, but instead of just original paintings, she also sells all different sized giclée reproductions, some framed, some unframed, some on canvas, some laminated, some limited edition signed pieces. The same artwork is on everything from mugs and calendars, to note pads and coasters, refrigerator magnets, placemats, postcards, posters — you name it. She even has a tabletop book, and a coloring book. It’s a brilliant concept. You know how much time you spend on a painting? Now, instead of being paid once for all that work, you can be paid over and over and over. For years! And everything you sell is like an advertisement for the original painting and for your work in general. Every morning when so-and-so picks up a mug with your painting on it, she’ll be reminded of you and your work.”

“It really is quite brilliant,” Connie said. “It’s the wave of the future.”

“And it wouldn’t cost much to start the business,” Brooke added.

“Don’t you need a catalogue of work?” Evelyn asked. “You only have…what? — three of my paintings? And I only have a dozen or so at home.”

“You have twenty years of work,” Connie protested.

“But it doesn’t belong to me. I gave most of them away.”

“They’re all within your reach,” Connie said. “They’re in the homes of friends and family. And you have I-don’t-know-how-many at the law office. You only need to borrow them long enough to have them scanned. Everyone would be happy to help.”

“How much do you think it would cost?”

“Not worth thinking about. You’d make back any investment in short order. What I propose is this: At The Whitfield Gallery we’ll continue to sell originals. We’ll also sell limited edition, large format, signed prints. All the peripheral items, smaller prints and accessories would be marketed at the Evelyn Marsh Gallery and Gift Shop (or whatever you want to call it). You could refer clients to us. We’d refer clients to you. We could even do cross promotions.”

“Wow,” Evelyn said, “that’s a lot to consider. You think it would work?”

“Positively.”

After they’d eaten Brooke left to reopen the gallery, while Connie and Evelyn lingered over their wine. The waiter came with the check and took Connie’s credit card with a, “Thank you, ma’am, I’ll be right back.”

Connie raised an eyebrow at his retreating back. “Ma’am?” she scoffed. “I hate that.”

“Well, he’s just a boy. I expect we’re invisible to him.”

“He’s not that young,” Connie said indignantly, “and I’m not that old.”

Evelyn restrained her tongue. She had never asked, but she thought Connie was around thirty-seven or thirty-eight. She’d become the trophy wife of Albert Katz a decade earlier, the ex-missus Katz five years later, and she still judged herself by the reaction she drew from men. Evelyn hated to acknowledge it, but she’d felt her own self-worth slip a notch or two as her youth faded. Menopause was as hard on self-esteem as on libido. She’d been told she was still a good looking woman, but now that compliment might come, verbally or implied, with the qualification, “for your age.” With each passing year it took more effort to look her best, and she would never again regain that inner glow and purity of skin that young women took for granted.

“He was practically drooling over Brooke,” Connie added resentfully.

Evelyn considered replying it comes to all of us sooner or later, but thought better of it. She’d seen the way men ogled Connie; she still had many good years ahead of her.

Evelyn sipped her wine looking down on the pool, and remembered. “You have a pool, don’t you? What pool service do you use? My guy’s retiring.”

Connie brightened at the question. “I use The Pool Boy.”

“Which one?”

“No, that’s the name of the company: The Pool Boy. And his name is Ramon.” Her eyes grew mischievous and she smiled. “He’s hot, dark and gorgeous.”

“Is he reasonable?”

“He’s hot, dark and gorgeous,” Connie repeated. “You want The Pool Boy.”

CHAPTER FOUR

Howard had interned at Hightower, Marsden and Katz while studying for the bar, when Evelyn was in her junior year at U.C.S.B. They’d each been drawn to the other by virtue of the contrast they represented to their respective peers. Evelyn’s classmates were aspiring artists, impractical dreamers, iconoclasts and idealists all, who preferred partying to studying, and who excused bad behavior as “artistic temperament.” And even though she saw herself in her classmates, she knew they were unrealistic, childish and unreliable, whereas Howard was mature and pragmatic, like her father. Howard’s classmates were ambitious, directed, practical, and accepting of the status quo. And even though he saw himself in his classmates, he knew they were self-serving and boring, whereas Evelyn was a joyous free spirit, spontaneous and creative. He also appreciated her feminine form and, if he were honest with himself, he knew that marrying the boss’s daughter was a good career move.

When they married he was making a comfortable salary as an associate attorney, which left Evelyn free to pursue her art. Her paintings in the early days chronicled her daily life. Subjects included a playpen empty of all but abandoned toys; a trail of Cherrios leading down a dark hallway, past a castoff doll, to a patch of light spilling from an open door; and a boy’s bedroom strewn with all of its appurtenances, with curtains billowing before an open window.

There was never a time when she stopped painting, though after a time childcare occupied the majority of her day. Howard, of course, did very little around the house, as he was busy at work. It made sense from the standpoint of a division of labor that the burden of childrearing should fall on her shoulders. As a result, turning her art into a business had never been a priority. Besides, she had never been adept at marketing. So, in an era when a two-wage-earner family was the norm, and women were encouraged to work outside the home, she had unwittingly become a housewife like her mother. Not that she regretted it. Her children were her best creations.

She had given up on ever selling her paintings until Connie Katz had approached her, a year earlier. Having seen the treasure trove of paintings that graced the walls of the law offices and Evelyn’s own home, Connie had asked to represent her, and in the ensuing months had sold four paintings. Now Brooke had shown her how she could connect with a greater public, and the idea excited her.

She wanted to share her enthusiasm with Howard. Dinner was ready at six. At 7:45 she ate a few bites and put the rest in the refrigerator. Howard came at twenty past eight.

“I wish you’d told me you were working late again,” she said. “I would have made a later dinner.”

“I’m not hungry anyway,” he sighed. He crossed the foyer to his office and set down his briefcase.

“Are you feeling alright?” She reached up to feel his forehead.

He feinted to he left and brushed her hand away. “What are you doing?”

“You don’t have a fever?”

“No, why?”

“You look flushed. Your hair is damp. ”

“I stopped off at the gym on the way home.”

“Good for you. I should join. We could work out together.”

She followed him down the hall.

“I don’t think you’d like it,” he sighed.

“Connie says they have a Pilates class for women.”

“I wish you wouldn’t hang out with that woman.”

“She’s my agent.”

“She’s my business partner’s ex, for heaven’s sake.”

“I don’t see what that’s got to do with anything.”

“It’s awkward.”

“Here, let me take your coat.”

“Not now. Do you want a gin and tonic?”

“No, thanks. I only like gin and tonic on a hot summer’s day.”

Howard fixed himself a tall glass and proceeded to the living room, where he kicked off his shoes and flopped into an easy chair. “A client is flying into town the Saturday after next. I’ve invited him and his wife to dinner here,” he said, wiggling his toes.

“You might have asked me first.”

“This is an important client. He represents a conglomerate that’s looking into acquiring vineyards and a winery. It’s important to keep him happy.”

“He’d be happier if we took him out to a restaurant. I’m not a gourmet cook.”

“This is more personal. It’s a proven fact that people do business with people in their same social set.”

“What am I supposed to cook?”

“They’re from Texas; let’s give them something local. Dungeness crab would be nice.”

“Should I make crab enchiladas, crab cakes, or crab sandwiches?”

“I don’t care. You’re the cook. Figure it out.”

She was momentarily put off by his curt tone. Early in their marriage he’d been attentive and courteous. Even when the first blush of marital bliss had faded, there had been mutual respect. They’d both been proud of how well ordered their lives had become, how well they’d handled the transition from newlyweds to parents. Later, however, Howard had begun to feel neglected and resentful of the children, and now that they were young adults and lived apart, he seemed unsure of what purpose his marriage held. She often found he was impatient with her through no fault of her own.

“Will they be bringing wine?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I’ll have a couple of bottles set aside in case he doesn’t — maybe something from the vineyard they’re looking at. Chardonnay and Pinot.”

“Maybe we should tailor the meal to the wine then.”

“Yes, that would be good.” Howard sipped his drink. “And Evy?”

She tensed at the use of her nickname. “Hmmm?”

“I don’t want a repeat of the last fiasco. These people are from Texas. They don’t share your politics, so stick to something you know about.”

Evelyn bristled. “What? I can’t have an opinion?”

“It’s business, Evy. It’s not fun and games. These people pay our bills. It’s not good business to insult them. Just make polite conversation. You can do that.” He pointed the remote at the television, which came on in the middle of a sitcom, effectively dismissing her.

Yes, she could make polite conversation with complete strangers; she’d done it before. It was her concession to Howard for the sacrifices he made. She knew the routine. They would have drinks, then give them a house tour. Howard liked to show off her house, as he felt it proffered the mantle of “old money,” of the noblesse oblige that came with wealth and privilege, and it established his place in the pecking order. If length of stay conferred ownership, he had a right to claim it as his own, and Evelyn herself had no problem with his referring to it as “our house,” but it rankled to be told how to act and what to say in a home she owned free and clear. “I have no interest in discussing politics, but if it’s thrown in my face I won’t be silent. Besides, that last time had nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with common decency.”

“You provoked him.”

I provoked him?” she asked incredulously.

“Now, Evy, don’t be difficult; I don’t ask that much of you. My clients pay our bills. The least you can do is be pleasant on the few occasions I bring them home.”

“The man was a fascist and a racist.”

“Sometimes I think you have the emotional maturity of a three-year-old.”

His hectoring tone provoked her ire. If she’d had a drink in her hand, she thought, she might have thrown it at him at that moment. Instead she gazed at her reflection in the French doors and waited for her resentment to pass. She had planned to share her excitement about the possibility of opening a gift shop of her own work, but the argument had soured her on conversation.

She left him without another word and went upstairs to the library to make a list of all of her paintings that currently hung in her own home, in her parents’ home, in the law offices, and in the homes of friends to whom she’d given gifts over the years. It was a remarkable body of work for one who had only recently sold her first painting. Then again, the issue had never been about the quality of her work, but the complete lack of commercialization.

 


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

S.W. Clemens has Masters in English Literature. He has been a bookbinder; rum importer; stock trader; graphic artist; commercial photographer; professional wine judge; newspaper columnist, magazine editor, and publisher of Epicurean magazine. Over the course of his career his travels have taken him to 29 countries, giving him material for more than 500 articles on wine, food and travel. Writing fiction he is the author of With Artistic License, and Time Management, a novel.

Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
An avid reader from age 7, I was first inspired to write at age 13 by the works of Antoine de St. Exupéry and H. Ryder Haggard, and later by John Steinbeck. I’ve read more than 1,200 novels, and find continual inspiration from the classics of 19th century literature to our contemporary masters.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Wallace Stegner, Philip Roth, Stephen King, Ann Patchett, Helen Simonson, Diana Gabaldon, Alexander Dumas, Charles Dickens, Jo Jo Moyes, Alexander McCall Smith, Martin Walker, Susanna Kearsley, Daphne du Maurier, Jess Walter.
Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
A.
This was the first time I entirely outlined the story before I began writing. I worried that it would stifle the creative flow, but instead it enhanced it, giving me direction even as Evelyn provided a surprise most every day. I enjoyed getting to know her.

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A modern witch hunt with tragic consequences
Between Love and Fear
Will protecting her save him from himself?
The Marquez Enigma
Search for El Dorado ends in C21st Spain