Please check your statement Sir,’ says the inspector, handing Owen a ball point pen, ‘and sign it.’
Owen notices a smudge on the page. What colour would Frank call that? Prune with a hint of aubergine? Owen considers incorporating this shade into a new painting - a self-portrait perhaps, entitled Loss of Innocence.
A discreet cough. ‘The statement Sir?’ Owen recalls why he’s incarcerated in this windowless room and reads aloud.
‘On April 5th, I attended a Private View exhibiting work by myself and celebrated artist, Frank Anstey. He’d been my art school mentor, critic and after my wife’s fatal overdose, a comfort to me and my daughter Rose. Being childless, Frank and his wife, Leonora, treated Rose as their own.
As Rose grew, her resemblance to my late wife became so marked, she inspired a series of pointillist portraits I called ‘Innocence.’ Painting Rose was therapy and a way of spending time with my daughter whose opalescent childhood bloom was fading fast. Encouraging a painterly exploration of purity, Frank suggested I exhibit my abstracts in his forthcoming exhibition. A well-known showman, Frank always shrouded his work in secrecy until the gallery doors opened.
The usual hubbub of poseurs clustered round the Cava. Noting the lack of red dots decorating my paintings, I ignored the journalist requesting my opinion of Frank’s work. His paintings were certainly vast. Stepping back to focus on a louche sprawled nude, I froze on seeing Rose’s face depicted clownish without humour. Cheeks fuscia flushed. Challenging kohl smoked eyes. Only I would recognise it was not her naked body, but that of her voluptuous mother. I smelled turps and felt a slap on my back. Frank, a grinning satyr, was casually explaining how my ‘feeble’ abstracts inspired him to capture corruption coursing between adult and adolescent.
The glass I gripped shattered. As I slashed the painting silence sauntered through the gallery. Frank laughed. ‘At last, my friend. Genuine passion. The key to genius.’
Heads turned to us like sunflowers at dawn. The journalist held his mobile aloft to capture me jabbing jagged shards towards Frank’s smug face. I envisaged it lodged in his throat. A crimson gout erupting from sagging flesh.
‘You don’t have it in you,’ Frank goaded.
A door slammed. Leonora was pushing her way through the throng. She wore a capacious white coat whose flapping folds initially concealed my sobbing daughter dragged behind her. To shield her from the ghastly canvas, I ran to Rose enveloping her in my arms. Leonora looked at me pityingly as Frank shouted, ‘Why bring her here you mad bitch’. Eleanor turned to him sneering, ‘Your pathetic friend’s drug addled wife? I couldn’t have cared less. But Rose?’ From her coat’s sleeve, she drew a knife and plunged it into Frank’s chest. A mist of blood bloomed across her snowy coat as she stabbed again. I did not attempt to stop her.’
Owen, satisfied, signs the statement.
© Beverley Byrne