Lou Pine # 2

"How in the hell did you get in here?" Her hair was tied in a long ponytail that hung like a tongue of red flame down her back. She was wearing tight blue jeans, a form-fitting black t-shirt and a pair of steel-tipped K-Mart work boots; not exactly stealth footwear. Obviously the nickname "Cat" stood for more than just her looks. That she had been so successful in sneaking up behind me was troubling. I hoped it was because I had been so engrossed in my painting, and not because I had lost that certain edge I had developed in 'Nam and later cultivated as a civilian. I had a feeling I was going to need it now more than ever, if what I thought was going to go down was going to happen.

"Your back door was open. I walked in."


Noticing my troubled look, she added, "You were studying your art work there. An elephant could have gotten up behind you. Don't worry, you haven't lost your edge." It seemed she was also a mind reader.

"What did you mean by it needing a smile?"

"It was a figure of speech," she said. She folded her arms and studied the painting, gun still firmly in hand as if it was an extension of herself. "It's too damned depressing. I think you're trying to say something positive here but the sum total is something different. You need to put a smile on it somewhere."

I stared at my work. She had something. It did need something else and maybe that something else was a smile, as she had so eloquently put it. What it would be and exactly where I would place it was something I would have to work on. The best critics are always those without fancy art degrees or class-conscious notions of what constitutes "art." Their heads are so filled with bullshit that they couldn't discern great art from steaming dog dump deposited at the base of a fire plug.

She took notice of Cicero's screed laying at my feet and picked it up. "What's this?" she asked.

"Read it, and then you tell me."

Her brow furrowed as she read. When she had finished she looked up from the paper. "Do you know this man, this Lou Pine?"

"No," replied. "I don't pay any attention to local politics, or to politicians. For the most part I find them to be dull, bloodsucking bastards. I won't acknowledge any of them by giving them the time of day."

She pointed to Tricky Dick lording it over the nuns in my masterpiece. "You gave him the time of day. Why?"

I shrugged in reply. "I don't know. I don't know why I put him in there, or why I painted him like that. But art is like that sometimes. You do something that makes sense without knowing why you did it."

"I can dig that," she said. "You want to brace this Lou Pine character, find out what he knows about Napoleon's death?"

"I don't think that would be too smart right now. I want to ask around about him, find out who or what he is."

She gestured to the paper in her hand. "It says right here who and what he is."

"That's just one man's take on the guy. I want to get a second opinion."

"From who?"

I thought about Leonard Featherstone. "A cop friend of mine."

"I wouldn't think a man like you would have any cop friends."

"I do. One." Now it was my turn to grill her.

"What about the last part of that note, where he mentions your brother and asks me what I really knew about him. Was he right about that? Was Tank something more than what he seemed?"

"Napoleon was a lot of things," she answered cryptically. "And I didn't know or understand half of them." She handed the paper back to me.

"I'll see you around," she said.

"You going to be carrying that thing the next time I see you?" I asked, gesturing to her pistol.

"Always," she answered.

"I'll be anxious to see that," she said, nodding at my painting. "When you've added the smile;"

And then she was gone.


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