The Stanley Brown Affair

Contributor: John Laneri

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Friends call me Rick. It's a nickname for Richard Harrison, art dealer, speculator and connoisseur of fine living.

My story began with Vickie, an attractive woman who visited my gallery one morning while I was preparing a exhibit for several local artists. At the time, I noticed her glance my way and maintain a moment of eye contact – a move that suggested we get acquainted.

The lady appeared early thirties and was stylishly dressed. I noted dark hair and a smile that seemed to project a mischievous yet confident attitude.

Intrigued, I suggested a nearby coffee shop. She accepted, and before long, we were splurging calories on two fresh mochas. For the next hour, we mostly talked art, but I did learn that she worked in sales, traveling throughout much of the country.

Over the next few days, we became regulars, so I invited her to my condo in an effort to get better acquainted.

That evening, as I was opening a bottle of wine, she arrived wearing a chic outfit punctuated by a revealing silk top.

We conversed briefly near the bar then she reached for her wine glass and started a casual sweep around my living room. I followed her, pointing to a painting that dominated the wall over my couch.

“You're looking at a Stanley Brown original that I recently acquired at an estate auction.”

“It's impressive,” she replied, “very impressive.”

We studied the painting for several minutes, enjoying its full effect, then I said, “It's by far my most favorite purchase.”

“I can understand why his landscapes are top dollar items. The colors are so vivid, ” she said, as she continued looking about, admiring my other pieces.

After a simple dinner on the balcony, we watched a colorful sunset fade into night then we opened a fresh bottle of wine, our eyes rarely leaving one another.

Soon, she began to quietly communicate her desires. Encouraged, I approached her and ran my hands across the shoulders of her silk blouse. “Your outfit is interesting. I like by the way it reveals your beauty.”

Smiling pleasantly, she pressed her body against mine, letting her warmth linger seductively. Then taking my wine glass, she refreshed it and eased onto the couch, saying, “Wine too has a pleasant way of releasing beauty.”

With that said, I downed the remains in my wine glass, set it aside and headed to the couch. Once there, I reached for her feeling in return an eager, passionate response that lasted only minutes until everything around me slowly began to turn hazy. At first, I tried to ignore the sensation, but then my head began to spin.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

I tried to reply, but suddenly, my world dropped into a confusing matrix, filled with twists and turns, distorted colors, crazy smiles – all infusing my senses at once.

The following day, I awoke on the floor and subsequently ended up in the hospital. I later learned that I had been drugged with a substance that produces marked sedation when mixed with alcohol. It's effect, the doctor indicated, was similar to a so called, date rape drug.

Naturally, I laughed that off wondering -- why me?

Later that afternoon, I had my answer when I returned home and found an empty wall in place of my Stanley Brown original along with several other items of significant value.

The police investigator, a pleasant appearing, self-assured woman, listened quietly while I related my story.

“I'll have the forensic people check for prints,” she said evenly. “But, the lady had plenty of time to clean the scene, so it's unlikely we'll learn much.”

Still confused, I asked, “Why didn't she just steal the painting during the day while I was at work?”

The investigator smiled compassionately, her manner easy and relaxed. “By inviting her to dinner, you allowed her to sidestep your alarm system. Based on the drug she administered, consider the theft a sophisticated variation of date rape. It's common with financially secure men. Expensive watches, cash, credit cards, firearms, you name it. Gone in an instant. I suspect your friend has already moved to another city to find a new target.”

To my thinking, her take on the incident seemed about as reasonable as any.

Nonetheless, something intriguing happened while I was walking her to the door. Maybe it was the softness of her features or the sincerity of her manner that drew me to her, but I immediately liked her.

In no time, we were conversing like old friends.

That night, we had dinner at a quiet restaurant. The following night we attended a showing for a new artist, and before long we were inseparable, our hearts drawn to one another in a passionate, whirlwind romance which incidentally still continues today.

For us, that chance encounter was the ember that ignited our lives, thanks in part to the loss of my Stanley Brown original.

Now, her time is spent running the gallery as well as our home while I continue to work the markets buying and selling other pieces of art.

As to my Stanley Brown, it's yet to resurface even after ten years. If it did, I would let it pass simply because I already have the finest work of art ever created and her name is Suzy – my nickname for Susan Harrison, wife, mother and love of my life.

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John's writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several professional journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.
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