Authors: Peggy Holloway
Tags: #Mystery: Thriller - Missing Sister - New Orleans
|Peggy Holloway - Judith McCain 02 - Portrait on Wicker|
|Number II of|
|Peggy Holloway (2011)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Thriller - Missing Sister - New Orleans|
Mystery: Thriller - Missing Sister - New Orleansttt
The Sequel to Blood on White Wicker
This is a work of fiction.
Names characters, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and not to be construed as real.
Cover Design by Patti Roberts of Paradox Book cover Designs and Formatting
Copyright 2010 by Peggy Holloway
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, without written permission from the author.
CHAPTER ONE, 1994
The letter came two days after our 27
birthday. I knew something was wrong before I even opened the letter. Julia always sent an e-mail. She hated to bother with stamps.
When I opened the letter and read the salut
ation I really began to panic.
Julia knew I hated to be called Judy.
I turned the letter over and saw her signature.
It was simply signed, “
She hated to be called Julie.
She would have said love and kisses.
Before I even read the first paragraph, I knew I would be making a trip to New Orleans.
My name is Judith McCain. Julia and I are twins. We found each other when we were sixteen. Before that neither of us knew we had a twin.
I had grown up in foster homes and Julia had grown up believing she was the natural daughter of
Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, now deceased.
When Julia and I found each other, we also found our gran
dmother whom we call Mimi and our uncle Mark, who is now married to FBI agent Tracy Carr.
Julia and I had been the victims of a kidnapping that took place when we were three
had successfully brought the criminals to justice. During the investigation she met my uncle Mark who was, at the time, one of the suspects.
Mark is the son
of Hannah and my grandfather. Hannah was mine and Julia’s nanny at the time of the kidnapping and was also a suspect.
After the dust settled and everyone was punished who should be punished, Julia and I ended up living in Houston with Mimi.
Tracy moved in with Mark in the servant’s quarters after they were married.
e finished high school, Julia left to study art in Paris, and I stayed with Mimi. I went to the University of Houston where I studied Psychology.
I now have a private practice in the Montrose area of Houston.
Julia spent three years in Paris and then moved to New Orleans. She has her own art gallery on Royal Street.
Julia usually comes home on holidays and a couple of other times a year.
Sometimes the whole family, including Mark, Tracy and their son Brad, who is six, all go on vacation, together. Last year we went on a cruise for two weeks.
Julia’s letter said this:
I have finally found my Romeo. There are some problems we have to work out though. But we will be married. I know we will.
Come when you can.
There may be some trouble.
I took the letter upstairs to show Mimi. Mimi had been in bed with a bad chest cold and looked to be dozing when I peeked in.
he opened her eyes and said, “Judith? What is it? What’s the matter, honey?”
I handed her the
letter without a word and her glasses. She got her first pair last year. She read the letter and looked up at me with a question in her eyes.
“Is this it, Judith?”
I nodded and she continued, “This doesn’t even sound like Julia, the chatter box. She would never sign her name Julie or address you as Judy. Something’s terribly wrong. And who is this Romeo? Has she mentioned him before?”
“I don’t know, Mimi.
I can’t answer any of this. I’m going to New Orleans.”
After packing my bags, I walked over to talk to Tracy and Mark.
Little Brad ran up and greeted me with some of his art work.
painted it for you, Aunt Judith,” he said.
We were really cousins but he called me aunt and I liked it.
I kissed him on the cheek and thanked him. “It’s beautiful,” I said. “It looks like a rainbow over a canyon. Where is your mommy?”
Tracy came out of the kitchen w
iping her hands on a dish towel. “Hi, Judith. I was finishing up with the breakfast dishes. You look troubled, what’s wrong? Brad, go paint some more of your beautiful pictures.”
When he was gone she turned t
o me. “Sit down. Judith you look white as a sheet.”
Without a word, I showed her the letter.
She gasped, “Oh no, something is terribly wrong. I should probably go with you but I can’t leave Brad with Mimi since she’s sick. You keep me posted every day. If I don’t hear from you, I will be on the next plane out of here.”
. Arnold, the chauffer, was waiting with the limo in the driveway with the motor running.
I went straight from the airport to Julia’s apartment.
The condo she had bought in the Garden District was beautiful. All the buildings were on one floor and there were paths, and fountains winding between the buildings. The buildings were white trimmed in brown, ranch style.
Julia’s unit had two bed rooms and two baths separated by a large living room, dining room,
and kitchen area. She had a porch that reminded me of the cottage where Mimi and I stayed on the grounds of the psychiatric hospital, where Julia had been a patient.
She had insisted that I have a key to her apartment
, even though she always picked me up at the airport when I visited. I had never used the key before.
The first thing I noticed was the mess.
Julia had never been a neat freak, especially when she was in a painting mood, which was most of time. But it appeared to be beyond the normal mess of Julia’s life. I couldn’t put my finger on it but then I got it. It not only looked messy, but neglected.
I opened the sliding glass door leading onto the back porch and looked out over the walkway leading to the little storage building. Each unit had one
. Julia used hers as her at-home art studio. She also painted in her studio down on Royal Street, in the rear of her art gallery.
I didn’t have a key to the out building
. I was hoping it would be unlocked. It was. It looked like it had when she had so proudly shown it to me. There were completed canvases stacked along the wall. I flipped through them. It looked like she had been painting unicorns and daisies. She had also painted several bloody wicker scenes. This was disturbing to me. I thought we were done with this part of our lives. Julia had gone through much more than I had.
I walked over to the canvas set up
on the easel by the window. It looked like she had started painting the garden outside of the window, but it had been almost completely covered with black paint. I could make out a hand resting on the edge of what looked like an arm of a white wicker chair. The hand had black hair on the back, like a man’s hand.
The paint brush, loaded with black paint, had been laid on the table.
Julia would never have left a brush with paint to dry in the bristles. She was very particular about this. I think this disturbed me more than anything else.
I had my head down
walking back to the condo, looking at the wooden walkway, when someone said, “Julia, Thank God! I’ve been so worried about you.”
I looked up and saw Jean Pierre.
I had first met him at the art gallery which Julia now owned. I had been trying to find out who I was and where I came from, when I happened to see a painting in the window of the art gallery Jean owned at the time. It was a self-portrait of Julia.
Since we are twins, I thought at first it was a portrait of me.
Jean had mistaken me for Julia at that time, like he did now.
He ran up and threw his arms around me and started crying.
I pulled back. “I’m sorry Jean,” I said. “I’m Judith.”
I looked down at his hands and noticed they looked like a woman’s
. There was no black hair on the back.
“I want you to come and look at what I found in the studio.”
“I’ve already seen it. I noticed you looking at my hands. That hand is not mind. Julia has become very secretive since she got back from Houston over the Christmas holidays. She usually confided in me, but not anymore.
“She has also become combative.
I caught her telling off a customer one day and I had to step in between them. She had started coming to the studio in the middle of the day, looking like she had hardly had any sleep or a bath.
“She was always so classy, but she let her appearance go to pot.
I overheard her several times, when she was on her cell phone, telling someone she loved them. But when I started teasing her about it she told me to mind my own business. It was as if she had turned into someone I didn’t know.”
“How long has it been since you saw her?”
“Well, she came into the gallery less and less. She told me to mind my own business when I tried to reason with her, that it was her gallery and I wasn’t her boss. Then she quit coming at all last week.”
“About the time she wrote me the letter.”
“May I see it?”
He read it quickly and handed it back to me.
He stared off into space while chewing on his bottom lip.
“This was also about the time I found that messed-up painting in there.
It looks almost like she finally completely lost it.”
He hesitated and then said, “Look, Judith, Julia confided in me a lot.
We used to be big buddies. I know all about what happened to her growing up. But I also thought she was doing so well.”
“Do you know if she’s
continued to call Dr. Anna?”
“I don’t know.
I know she talked to her at Christmas, right before leaving for Houston. But I don’t know if she called her since then.”
Dr. Anna Stevens was Julia’s Psychiatrist in the psychiat
ric center, Ocean Sands, where she was admitted when she had her breakdown. She was in there for about four months. That was ten years ago. Mimi and I thought she was doing so well. Something must have happened to trigger it all again.
I decided to stay at Julia’s condo in case she turned up.
I cleaned her whole apartment and called Mimi to tell her what was going on. It was now 10:30 p.m. I opened the refrigerator to see what there was to eat.
s a spoiled carton of milk, half a dozen eggs and sticky bacon. I began tossing everything into the garbage. There were many doggie bags from different restaurants in New Orleans. I opened them to see what she had been eating.
Some of the packages smelt so bad I almost tossed them without looking inside.
I was later glad that I had looked in all of them. One was from the Spaghetti Factory. There was what looked like a baggie under the pasta. Pulling it out, I held it under the running water in the sink. The rest I tossed into the garbage.
In the bag was a letter that read:
If you’ve found this letter, then you’re probably thinking how clever I am.
The letter I mailed was to get you here. Make yourself at home. I’ll see you soon.
There is something I need to take care of.
I’ve promised myself ever since you helped me that I would pay you back. I’ve thought enough. It’s time to act. It’s taken me a long time to set this up. I am now ready.
Would you throw out all the bad food in the frig? Thanks.
I read the letter over again and thought I kne
w what she was talking about, but didn’t know how she would take care of it.
had to involve Mr. Lessiter, one of my foster fathers. He had tried to rape me when I was sixteen. I didn’t know if he was still alive since he was old at the time he attacked me.