Western Mail - - WM2 | OPINION - Eleven The Golden Or­phans by Gary Ray­mond

WE smiled at each other, em­braced again, and I said, “I would re­ally like to do this again.”

In­stead of clos­ing down as I ex­pected her to, she said, “And so would I.”

I watched her walk down the al­ley and then turn a cor­ner out of sight, and it was then I re­alised I was go­ing to have to some­how find my way back to Il­lie’s with­out any idea of where it re­ally was.

As I was scratch­ing my head about this, I no­ticed the sil­hou­ette of a fa­mil­iar fig­ure down the end of the street.

It was Vik­tor, and he waved his arm at me slowly, per­haps re­luc­tantly.

“He’s been won­der­ing where you’ve been,” he said as we walked to the car.

“And what did you say?”

“I said you had wanted some fresh air so I drove you to the beach up at Cape Greco. He won’t take kindly to hear­ing you were in Napa.”

“Have you been trail­ing me all day?” I said.

“You didn’t stray far,” Vik­tor said. “You didn’t tell her any­thing about Il­lie, did you?” he said, ges­tur­ing to­ward the en­trance to the al­ley Lou had gone up with a nod of his head. “Or Evgeny and the girls?” “No, not at all,” I said.

The lie was stupid. It felt stupid as it came out of my mouth, and there was no doubt Vik­tor had recog­nised it for a lie. The drive back to Il­lie’s hap­pened in si­lence.

The sec­ond paint­ing ses­sion started out quite dif­fer­ently from the first. Il­lie again ap­peared at the door of the tower – I was read­ing in the arm­chair – and this time he was sober and dressed in that mon­eyed smart-ca­sual way.

His Pi­casso eyes were not burn­ing so brightly as they had done last time – there was some­thing of the jovial Il­lie I had come to know about him now.

“We have not seen each other in a few days,” he said. “You are good?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Vik­tor tells me he took you into town.”

I nod­ded.

> The Golden Or­phans by Gary Ray­mond is pub­lished by Parthian www.parthi­an­

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