We drove for about 20 minutes, and she gave me directions step by step, and I followed them, but the result was that I had no idea where we were when I pulled into the driveway of what looked like a fairly large estate, and the wrought iron gate opened. I glanced over to see if Mara had a clicker, but either she had put it away, or the gate opened by some other mechanism. Other cars were already parked in front of the house, which was 3 stories and looked like it might have been pink in the daytime. The windows were all curtained, but light shone from the ones on the first floor.
We got out of the car and Dani skipped up the walk to the front door and opened it without pausing. They must be really close, I thought. I walked with Mara from the car to the house, and she stopped again to bask in the moonlight before we went inside. The leaded glass door was gorgeous. The door itself seemed to be solid wood. It was very heavy. As I got closer I noticed the design of the leaded glass seemed to be a crescent moon. Inside, there were not quite as many people as at the gallery but still a fair number.
Dani had disappeared somewhere again. This was frustrating. I wandered around and mingled with a few people. I avoided telling them what I did for a living... well, for a summer. I felt out of place and not really lawyerly anyway. Mostly I was able to talk to them about food and art and places around New Orleans. I realized I hadn't seen Mara for a while either. She suddenly appeared at close to midnight and indicated I should follow her. I was curious and vaguely uneasy as to what was going on.
She led me upstairs to a study. Dani was sitting on a chair in front of a desk, and Mara sat down behind the desk and gestured to a seat next to Dani.
Mara began, “We have a proposition for you...”
I'm not sure what kind of face I made, because she suddenly looked annoyed and clarified “a business proposition.” I was relieved, because as much as I'd like to hook up with Dani (or even date her), Mara kinda creeped me out.
Mara continued, “as you know, I am an artist. I have exhibited in galleries all over America and Europe. I'm not terribly well-known, but I prefer it that way, because it allows my art to stay truer. I make a comfortable amount... but recently someone here has been selling copies of some of my works without my permission, and they seem to be making quite a bit of money doing it.”
I thought I saw where this was going.
“You're new here. People don't know you like they know me. You can pass as a tourist... you essentially are a tourist. I want you to find the sellers and talk to them and get any information you can. Then I'll decide what to do next.”
I interrupted: “Why me? Why not you or Dani or someone else?”
Mara answered sharply, “Two reasons: as I stated, you are new here. And you were known to us.”
“News travels quickly in our circles.”
Shit. That could mean a couple of things... artists, or... please no, not that one. But since I didn't really hang out with artists otherwise (until very recently), it had to be that one.
Mara flashed a grin that I never ever want to see again. Noticeable fangs, vicious gleam in her eyes.
“Well, this leads to all sorts of other questions. If it's not rude.”
“I have all night,” she replied, seemingly satisfied, for now.