HUMAN/SUPER First Contact 188

“She’s a painter,” he said. “Used to be one of the best surrealists in the world, until she dropped out of the scene entirely in the early 2000s.”

“Why’d she do that?” Angela asked.

“Nobody knows exactly,” Carey replied. “She was at a show in L.A. I was there, too, on a trip with some art school classmates. She’d just unveiled a new work. It was the most incredible thing I’d ever seen, there was this level of detail and richness of color that you just… you couldn’t help but fall into it.”

He cleared his throat.

“Anyway, later that evening, she stood in front of the crowd, tossed back a glass of Chardonnay, and said, ‘I quit.’ Then she walked right out the door.”

“Just like that?” Angela asked.

“Just like that,” he said. “That was the last anybody in the art community had heard of her. She sold no more paintings, made no more public appearances, she was just… gone.”

“So you want me to… what? Find her?” Angela said. “I don’t know what Leigh told you, but I’m not a private detective.”

Casey shook his head.

“No, I already found her,” he said. “Last year, I discovered that she was living here in Victory City, so I went to see her. I told her how much her work meant to me, how I’d seen her at her last show, typical gushy stuff. Then I asked her if she’d be willing to come out of retirement for one last show at a gallery I run downtown. She said no, of course, but after a few weeks of needling, she eventually agreed to do it.”

He ran his hands back through his hair.

“The deal was that she’d produce twelve new paintings, one for each year she’d been gone,” he said. “I paid her a sizable advance and left her to her work. Fast-forward to two nights ago, she calls me and tells me she has no paintings for me so I might as well cancel the show.”

“Ouch,” Angela said. “I take it cancelling isn’t an option?”

“The show’s next week,” Carey said. “Tickets sold out the day they went on sale. I’ve already hired staff and catering, paid for insurance, everything. If I cancel the show, I’m ruined.