• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 11

The Keeper

No one who stepped into the kitchen could miss the painting. It was redder than the glow from the fireplace. Shocked into silence, I held on to the cabinet. Careful, he said, mirth in his tone. The snow fell outside steadily, a door banged in the night and Poncho howled to be let in.

I felt those toes, the waiting had frozen them, their nails grubby but cut across straight. How long had he waited? The night was colder in December than it was now. A short, withered woman had sold me that red serape. She had an armload of them, their fringes covering her legs so that it appeared as if she was floating within a brightly pool. 
Why was the dog named Poncho? Another of those weird coincidences that have been following me ever since I set out looking for him. And here he was, on the wall, captured, sitting just as I had last seen him with that large hat covering up his bald head, the red serape wrapped him up snug. Those toes were sticking out, why didn’t I see them that day? My best friend, the man I depended upon to get me out of that cannibal village. He had waited for me to come out of the trench where I had stored my small camera and accessories. My story had been almost done when I had done a cardinal mistake. A mistake that had caused several lives to be lost. 

Sanchez was pouring out a tumbler of wine. He was amused to know that I was in pursuit of a native from his hometown. Had he brought me here knowing who I was? But I had told no one about my ordeal. Neither had I told anyone that the man in the painting was Poncho. The name and the man, in this blazing room, and a namesake beating upon the door — all the signs but I was too tired to think. The wine soothed me, I sunk down next to the fire and stared at the painting, through my hair falling over my face. 

Who was Sanchez? One of the cannibals? The danger seemed to recede. Sleep drugged my eyelids. Later, things would be clearer.


The Keeper

There must be a simple explanation. The morning would dawn bright and clear. It has been so long since I had seen a blue and white sky.

The man in the painting would wait forever.

Sanchez was already at his seat before the easel. He dipped a brush in black and stroked straight hair across the pale forehead of the girl, in untidy fringes. Her eyes were closed. They looked like lotus petals. Her knees held close to her chest by slender arms, she rested her chin on them. Thus she would sit till he completed his painting. Nothing would disturb her or him. He felt powerful watching the potion take hold of the pretty spy. His clan name was Death’s chronicler.