The Case of the Art Critic – A Forensix Mystery, Part 5 of 7

It nagged at me all the way to the art studio. I found the place undisturbed and mostly empty. Even the human was out for the evening. I walked around what was left of the scene; the body had evaporated and only glitter was left among the pizza boxes. I nudged a few boxes with my shoe to see if the evidence gatherers had missed anything. Nothing. A dramatic sigh from the nest above the human’s desk broke the silence. I walked over to see who was around.

Vermilion was lying in a dramatic pose on a bed of paintbrushes. She opened one eye when I approached then sat up. “Oh. It’s you. I thought the others had returned.”

“How was the opening?”

“I didn’t go,” she said as if it should have been obvious. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in their company. Critics.”

“Sounds like something your deceased friend might have said.”

Vermilion harrumphed. “Not true. He was a gentle spirit, if a bit of a nut job.”

I leaned casually against the window, watching the traffic below. “What was he drawing when he died?”

Vermilion said disgustedly, “Trees. Of all the beauty in the City, he liked trees.”

I raised an eyebrow and Notepad added this tidbit to our list of clues. “Trees? What about dryads?”

Vermilion flopped back on her bed. “Whatever. I suppose it could have been dryads. Don’t tell me you’re a nature lover.”

I chuckled. “Not much into any kind of art, actually.” I gestured vaguely at the canvases around the room. “Which of these are yours?”

I must have touched a nerve. “None of them,” she answered dramatically. “I destroyed them all after my so called nest mates insulted them as derivative. They failed to recognize my unique interpretation of the banana peel!”

“Uhm, ok.” I wasn’t sure what the insult was in that, but it seemed serious. “Do you always work here in the studio?”

“Still life work doesn’t require one to venture from the studio.”

“What about the deceased? What sort of art fey was he?”

Vermilion sat up and shrugged, briefly dropping the drama. “Thalo Green was a paintbrush pixie. He said that true art was made out in the world.” She gave a flourish and flopped back down on her bed, as if she’d fainted.

“Interesting. Thank you, Vermillion. Maybe next time you can show me one of your paintings.”

She opened one eye. “As if I’d waste the effort on someone as lowbrow as you.” She closed her eye again and I felt clearly dismissed.

I stared out the window a bit longer at a streetlamp. Then it clicked. The residue on my sleeve smelled of tree sap.

I took one more look at the crime scene and decided to look through a sketchbook lying on the ground near the upturned easel. I thumbed through the pages of gesture sketches of mailbox gremlins, streetlight bogeys, a few of the Urban Lords and Ladies, some litter fey, a handful of stock gremlins having lunch with some stock pixies, and some house brownies. Near the back, I found sketches of trees, various animals, some dryads, and a lake. Most of them looked like scribbles of color and geometric shapes twisted into strange forms, unidentifiable but for the labels beneath each one. There were no sketches of satyrs. I closed the book and put it in my pocket. Sealing the wards around the crime scene again, I left.

copyright 2014 by Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved