The adrenaline level in the room was heavy as mist. They all stepped back onto the front porch. Sam talked into the box on his shoulder.
Belinda babbled to Maddie. “Yes. That’s where it all started. Reedy was killed and left in the studio, then they couldn’t get all the paint off him or the superglue, and they took a profile picture and showed it to me and it freaked me out but of course by that time somebody shot at me with a real gun., and ...”
Sam’s eyes turned from one of the women to the other, then back again.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait. You lost me at superglue.”
“Oh, sorry, Sergeant Magers, this is Madrigal , my friend.”
“Snzmeme Madrigal, nice to meetcha.” Maddie held out her hand to shake, which he shook lightly.
He smiled with a question in his eyes. “Snzmeme?”
“Snzmeme is her tribal name,” Belinda said.
Maddie wore turquoise wool pants, a turtleneck shirt and a v-neck orange sweater. She had thrown back her striped serape so she could hold her purse and wave her arms around. Her brown skin and wide round face were incongruous with her Caucasian features.
“Maddie uses my studio to do her artwork. She makes figurines and Native American art.”
“Yes, I am a child of the sun,” Maddie added as her face lit up.
“She means she’s American Indian and adores the people,” Belinda said.
Maddie wrinkled her nose as she panned the room. “Reedy is dead?”
She turned to Belinda. “You could stay with me. We can talk.”
Belinda wasn’t really sure where Maddie’s house was. Mostly she resided in her 1975 Lincoln Ambassador. Yet Maddie had often been to Belinda’s house, her mother’s house, her loft since the two women had met in an art class years ago. “I’m going to my mom’s house.”
“Rachael? Are you sure you want to do that? How about Chris’s house? He’d love that.”
“I guess I could stay with Chris for a little while--just until my house is cleaned up.” Why did men always make you feel safer than women? Women are trained that way from birth.
Later that day, Chris Danner, her would-be boyfriend, sat with Belinda at his breakfast table. Belinda was all cried out. “We should just get married,” Chris said the third time since her arrival. His brown puppy eyes pled with her. And he was kind of cute with his blonde curls and scruffy little beard. He had a good job as a foreman at a big box store--with benefits. Marrying Chris was never on her bucket list. She didn’t feel the connection he felt. She didn’t love him. Well, her first marriage hadn’t worked out so well, had it, and she’d definitely loved Reedy--or thought she had. Maybe Chris would grow on her. People used to have arranged marriages. Her mother said once that those were a good idea. Maybe she’d think about it.
She ignored Chris for the millionth time and felt guilty about it. He had gone to work by time Maddie called Belinda.
“Are you having fun playing house?” .
“I don’t know, Mads, I feel like Chris is a roommate. Living with a man, you’d think I’d feel something more for him.” She ran a hand through her hair, which was still wet from her shower. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Sometimes I think....” She shook her head to clear it from that subject.
“For now, I’ll need a new canvas to replace the d-dead guy one. I don’t have time to get another canvas that size stretched, and primed.” The painting she’d contracted for was due to be shipped in three days, and the art gallery already had CD pictures of the first one. “I’ve been thinking... My dad bought one of the first paintings I ever made and hung it in his den. That canvas is a little smaller than the one at the studio, but I can paint over the picture that’s on it now. It isn’t very good anyway. He was just encouraging me when I was thirteen.” The gallery work was supposed to be new within six months. But over-painting would still be new, wouldn’t it?
“Why don’t you forget about painting for now?” Maddie said.
“I’ve already paid the entry fee. The gallery would probably accept the substitution¸ I think...I hope.”
“Especially if you don’t tell them about it.”