Chapter no 8

Little Fires Everywhere

Izzy’s newfound fascination with Mia proved lasting. Instead of sequestering herself in her bedroom with her violin, she would walk the mile and a half to the house on Winslow right after school, where Mia

would be hard at work. She would watch Mia, learning to frame a shot, develop film, make a print. Pearl, meanwhile, did the exact reverse, walking with Moody to his house, lounging in the sunroom with the three oldest Richardson children. Deep down she was grateful to Izzy for diverting her mother’s attention: for so many years, it had been only the two of them, and now, on the Richardsons’ big sofa, she stretched her legs out in luxurious satisfaction. At five o’clock, Izzy would hop into the passenger seat of the Rabbit and Mia would drive them both to the Richardsons’, where Izzy would perch at the end of the kitchen counter and Mia would prepare dinner, listening intently to her daughter and the others in the next room.

Only when Mia headed home—with Pearl in the passenger seat this time— would Izzy join her siblings and slump onto the couch beside them. “Someone’s got a little crush on Mia,” Lexie singsonged, and Izzy rolled her eyes and went upstairs.

But crush was, perhaps, the right term. Izzy hung on Mia’s every word, sought and trusted her opinion on everything. Along with the basics of photography, she began to absorb Mia’s aesthetics and sensibilities. When she asked Mia how she knew which images to put together, Mia shook her head. “I don’t,” she said. “This—this is how I figure out what I think.” She waved a hand at the X-Acto knife on the table, the photograph she was carefully cutting apart: a line of cars speeding across the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, beneath the watchful eyes of the two huge statues carved into the bridge’s pillars. She had meticulously excised each car, leaving only its shadow. “I don’t have a plan, I’m afraid,” she said, lifting the knife again. “But then, no one really does, no matter what they say.”

“My mother does. She thinks she has a plan for everything.”

“I’m sure that makes her feel better.” “She hates me.”

“Oh, Izzy. I’m sure that’s not true.”

“No, she does. She hates me. That’s why she picks on me and not any of the others.”

Mia had, since starting to work at the Richardsons’, noted the peculiar dynamic between Izzy and the rest of her family, especially her mother.

Truth be told, her mother was harsher on Izzy: always criticizing her behavior, always less patient with her mistakes and her shortcomings. She seemed to hold Izzy to a higher standard than her other children, to demand more from her, yet at the same time to overlook her successes in favor of her faults. Izzy, Mia noticed, tended to respond by needling her mother even more, pushing her buttons with the expertise only a child could.

“Izzy,” she said now, “I’ll tell you a secret. A lot of times, parents are not the best at seeing their children clearly. There’s so much wonderful about you.” She gave Izzy’s elbow a little squeeze and swept a handful of scraps into the garbage, and Izzy beamed. During those afternoons, when it was just the two of them, it was easy for Izzy to pretend that Mia was her mother, that the bedroom down the hallway was hers, and that when night fell she would go into it and sleep and wake in the morning. That Pearl—a mile and a half away, watching television with her own brothers and sister

—did not exist, that this life belonged to her, Izzy, and her alone. In the evenings, back at home, with jazz screeching from Moody’s room and Alanis Morissette wailing from Lexie’s and Trip’s stereo providing a thumping undercurrent of bass, Izzy would imagine herself in the house on Winslow: lying in bed reading, perhaps, or maybe writing a poem, Mia out in the living room working late into the night. There were many convoluted routes into this fantasy: she and Pearl had been accidentally switched at birth years ago; she had been taken home by her parents, who were therefore not her parents, and this was why no one in her family seemed to understand her, why she seemed so different from them all. Now, in her carefully spun dreams, she was reunited with her true mother. I knew I’d find you someday, Mia would say.

Everyone in the Richardson family noticed Izzy’s improved demeanor. “She’s almost pleasant around you,” Lexie told Mia one day. Izzy’s adoration for Mia, like everything she did, did not come by halves: there

was nothing Izzy wouldn’t do for her. And she soon found something, she was sure, that Mia really wanted.

In mid-November, Pearl and Moody, along with the rest of their modern European history class, had gone to the art museum to look at paintings.

The docent giving the class a tour was elderly and thin and looked as if all the juice had been sucked out of him through a straw via his pursed mouth. He disliked high school groups: teens didn’t listen. Teens could pay attention to nothing but the sexuality billowing off each other like steam.

Velázquez, he thought; some still lifes, maybe some Caravaggio. Definitely no nudes. He led them the long way around to the Italian wing, through the main hall with its tapestries and suits of armor in glass cases.

The students themselves, however, paid little attention to the art, as students on field trips generally do. Andy Keen poked Jessica Kleinman between the shoulder blades and pretended, each time, it wasn’t him.

Clayton Booth and David Shearn talked about football, the Raiders’ chances against St. Ignatius in the upcoming game. Jennie Levi and Tanisha McDowell studiously ignored Jason Graham and Dante Samuels, who were tallying and evaluating the naked breasts in the paintings the docent hurried them past. Moody, who loved art, was watching Pearl and wishing—not for the first time—that he were a photographer, so that he could capture the way the light from the frosted-glass gallery ceiling hit her upturned face and made it glow.

Pearl herself, though she tried to focus on the docent’s withered lecture, found her mind drifting. She stepped, sideways, into the next gallery over, a special curated exhibit on the theme of Madonna and Child. From across the room, Moody, dutifully taking notes on a Caravaggio, watched her go.

When she didn’t return after three, four, five minutes, he slid his pencil into the spiral of his notebook and followed.

It was a small room, with only a few dozen pieces on the wall, all showing the Virgin with Jesus on her lap. Some were medieval paintings in gilt frames hardly bigger than CD jewel cases; some were rough pencil sketches of Renaissance statues; some were larger-than-life oil paintings.

One was a postmodern collage of photos from celebrity gossip mags, the Virgin had the head of Julia Roberts, Jesus the head of Brad Pitt. But the piece that had transfixed Pearl was a photograph: a black-and-white print, eight by ten, of a woman on a sofa, beaming down at the newborn in her arms. It was unmistakably Mia.

“But how—” Moody began. “I don’t know.”

They stared at the photo for some time in silence. Moody, ever practical, began gathering information. The title of the piece, according to the card beside it, was Virgin and Child #1 (1982); the artist was Pauline Hawthorne. He jotted these down in his notebook beneath his abandoned Caravaggio notes. There were no curator comments, other than a note that the photo had been lent for the exhibit by the Ellsworth Gallery in Los Angeles.

Pearl, on the other hand, focused on the photograph itself. There was her mother, looking a bit younger, a bit thinner, but with the same waifish build, the same high cheekbones and pointed chin. There was the tiny mole just underneath her eye, the scar that slashed like a white thread through her left eyebrow. There were her mother’s slender arms, which looked so fragile and birdlike, as if they might snap under too great a weight, but which could carry more than any woman Pearl had ever seen. Even her hair was the same: piled in the same careless bundle right at the crown of her head.

Beauty rolled off her in waves, like heat; the very image of her in the photograph seemed to glow. She wasn’t looking at the camera; she was focused, totally and utterly absorbed, on the infant before her. On me, Pearl thought. She was sure it was her in the photo. What other baby would her mother be holding? There were no photos of herself as an infant, but she recognized herself in this child, in the bridge of the nose and the corners of the eyes, in the tight balled fists she had continued to make into toddlerhood and childhood, which in her concentration, without realizing it, she was making even now. Where had this photo come from? The gray-scale sofa on which her mother sat might be tan, or pale blue, or even canary; the window behind her looked out onto a blurred view of tall buildings. The person who’d taken it had been mere feet away, as if seated on an armchair just beside the couch. Who had it been?

“Miss Warren,” Mrs. Jacoby said behind her. “Mr. Richardson.” Pearl and Moody spun around, their faces prickling with heat. “If you are both ready to move on, the entire class is waiting for you.”

And indeed, the entire class was gathered outside, notebooks closed now, dutifully chaperoned by the docent, giggling and whispering as Moody and Pearl emerged.

On the bus ride back home, jokes began to circulate about what Moody and Pearl had been doing. Moody turned a deep crimson and slouched

down in his seat, pretending not to hear. Pearl gazed out the window, oblivious. She said nothing at all until the bus reached the oval around the school and the students began to file out. “I want to go back,” she said to Moody as they stepped off the bus.

And they did, that afternoon after school, persuading Lexie to drive them because there was no good way to get there otherwise, and letting Izzy tag along because the moment she heard Mia and photograph, she insisted on coming with them. Moody, who had done the persuading, hadn’t told Lexie what they wanted to see, and when they stepped into the gallery her mouth fell open.

“Wow,” she said. “Pearl—that’s your mom.”

The four of them surveyed the photograph: Lexie from the middle of the room, as if she needed distance for a better view; Moody nearly smudging it with his nose, as if he might find the answer between the pixels, and leaning so close that he set off a warning alarm. Pearl simply stared. And Izzy stood transfixed by the image of Mia. In the photo, she was as luminous as the full moon on a clear night. Virgin and Child #1, she read on the placard, and she allowed herself to imagine for a moment that the child in Mia’s arms was her.

“That’s so crazy,” Lexie said at last. “God, that’s so crazy. What’s your mom doing in a photo in an art museum? Is she secretly famous?”

“The people in photos aren’t famous,” Moody put in. “The people who take them are.”

“Maybe she was some famous artist’s muse. Like Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Or Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol.” Lexie had taken an art history class at the museum the previous summer. She straightened up. “Well, let’s ask her,” she said. “We’ll just ask her.”

And they did as soon as they got home, trooping into the Richardson kitchen, where Mia had just finished dressing a chicken for dinner.

“Where have you all been?” she said as they came in. “I got here at five and no one was home.”

“We went to the art museum,” Pearl began, and then hesitated.

Something about this didn’t feel right to her, the same uneasy feeling you had when you set your foot on a wobbly step, just before it dipped beneath you. Moody and Izzy and Lexie clustered around her, and she saw how they must look to her mother, flushed and wide-eyed and curious.

Lexie nudged her in the back. “Ask her.”

“Ask me what?” Mia set the chicken into a casserole dish and went to the sink to wash her hands, and Pearl, with the feeling of stepping off a very high diving board, plunged ahead.

“There’s a photo of you,” she blurted out. “At the art museum. A photo of you on a couch holding a baby.”

Mia’s back was still to them, the water rushing over her hands, but all four of the children saw it: a slight stiffening of her posture, as if a string had been tightened. She did not turn around but kept on scrubbing at the gaps between her fingers.

“A photo of me, Pearl? In an art museum?” she said. “You just mean someone who looks like me.”

“It was you,” Lexie said. “It was definitely you. With that little dot under your eye and the scar on your eyebrow and everything.”

Mia touched a knuckle to her brow, as if she’d forgotten the scar existed, and a drop of warm sudsy water ran down her temple. Then she rinsed her hands and shut off the faucet.

“I suppose it could have been me,” she said. She turned around and began to dry her hands briskly on the dish towel, and to Pearl’s chagrin her mother’s face was suddenly stiff and closed in. It was disorienting, like seeing a door that had always been open suddenly shut. For a moment, Mia did not look like her mother at all. “You know, photographers are always looking for models. Lots of the art students did it.”

“But you’d remember,” Lexie insisted. “You were sitting on a couch in a nice apartment. And Pearl was on your lap. The photographer was—” She turned to Moody. “What’s her name?”

“Hawthorne. Pauline Hawthorne.”

“Pauline Hawthorne,” Lexie repeated, as if Mia might not have heard. “You must remember it.”

Mia shook the dish towel out with a quick snap of her wrist. “Lexie, I really can’t remember all the odd jobs I’ve done,” she said. “You know, when you’re hard up, you do a lot of things just to try and make ends meet. I wonder if you can imagine what that’s like.”

She turned back to the sink and hung the towel to dry, and Pearl realized she’d gone about this all wrong. She should never have asked her mother like this, in the Richardson kitchen with its granite countertops and its stainless-steel fridge and its Italian terra-cotta tiles, in front of the Richardson kids in their bright, buoyant North Face jackets, especially in

front of Lexie, who still had the keys to her Explorer dangling from one hand. If she’d waited until they were alone, back at home in the dim little kitchen in their half a house on Winslow Road, perched on their mismatched chairs at the one remaining leaf of their salvaged table, perhaps her mother would have told her. Already she saw her mistake: this was a private thing, something that should have been kept between them, and by including the Richardsons she had breached a barrier that should not have been broken. Now, looking at her mother’s set jaw and flat eyes, she knew there was no sense in asking any more questions.

Lexie, for her part, was satisfied with Mia’s explanation. “Ironic, isn’t it,” she said as they left the kitchen, shrugging, and Pearl let it go without even bothering to tell her that that wasn’t what ironic meant. She was happy to let the matter drop. On the drive home, and for the rest of the evening, her mother was strangely silent, and she regretted ever bringing it up. Pearl had always been aware of money—in their circumstances, how could she not?—but she had never before contemplated what it must have been like for her mother with an infant, trying to scrape by. She wondered what else her mother had done to survive—so that they both could survive—those early years. She had never in her life gone to bed without Mia coming to kiss her good night, but that night she did, and Mia sat in the living room in a puddle of light, her face still shut, lost in thought.

The following morning, Pearl was relieved when she came into the kitchen and Mia was there, making toast as usual, and carrying on as if the previous day had not happened. But the matter of the photograph lingered in the air like a bad smell, and Pearl tucked her questions into the back corner of her mind and resolved to say nothing more about it, at least for now.

“Should I make some tea?” she asked.



Izzy, however, was determined to find answers. It was clear this photograph held some secret about Mia, and she promised herself that she would unravel it. As a freshman, she had no free periods, but she devoted several lunch periods to research in the library. She looked up Pauline Hawthorne in the card catalog and found a few books on art history. Apparently she had

been quite well known. “A pioneer of modern American photography,” one book called her. Another called her “Cindy Sherman before Cindy Sherman was Cindy Sherman.” (At this point Izzy took a brief detour to look up Cindy Sherman, and spent so long perusing her photographs she was nearly late to class.)

Pauline Hawthorne’s work, she learned, was known for its immediacy and its intimacy, for interrogating images of femininity and identity. “Pauline Hawthorne paved the way for me and other women photographers,” Cindy Sherman herself said in one profile. Izzy pored over the reproductions of her photographs: her favorite was a shot of a housewife and her daughter on a swing, the child kicking her legs so hard the chains bent in an arc, defying gravity, the woman’s arms outstretched as if to push her child away or desperate to pull her back. The photos stirred feelings she couldn’t quite frame in words, and this, she decided, must mean they were true works of art.

She combed every entry for Pauline Hawthorne she’d found in the card catalog until she had accumulated the basic facts of her life: born in 1947 in New Jersey, attended Garden State College, exhibited her first works in New York City in 1970, had her first solo show in 1972. Her photographs, Izzy learned, had been some of the most sought after in the 1970s. The encyclopedia entry had a photograph of Pauline Hawthorne herself, a slender woman with large dark eyes and silvery hair in a no-nonsense bob. She looked like someone’s math teacher.

Pauline Hawthorne, she learned, had died of brain cancer in 1982. Izzy settled herself at one of the two computers in the library, waited for the modem to connect, and typed Pauline’s name into AltaVista. She found more photographs—the Getty had one, MoMA had three; a few articles analyzing her work; an obituary from the New York Times. Nothing else.

She tried the public library, both branches, found a few more photography books and several articles on microfiche, but they added nothing new. What was the connection between Pauline Hawthorne and Mia? Perhaps Mia had simply been a model, like she said; maybe she’d just happened to sit for Pauline Hawthorne. This did not satisfy Izzy, who felt this was an improbable coincidence.

At last she turned to the only source she could think of: her mother. Her mother was a journalist, at least in name. True, her mother mostly covered small stories, but journalists found things out. They had connections, they

had ways of researching that weren’t accessible to just anyone. From early childhood, Izzy had been fiercely, stubbornly independent; she refused to ask for help with anything. Only the deep hunger to unravel this mysterious photograph could have convinced her to approach her mother.

“Mom,” she said one evening, after several days of fruitless research. “Can you help me with something?”

Mrs. Richardson listened, as usual with Izzy, with only half her attention. A pressing deadline was looming, for a story on the Nature Center’s annual plant sale.

“Izzy, this photo probably isn’t even of Pearl’s mother. It could be anyone. Someone who looks like her. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.”

“It’s not,” Izzy insisted. “Pearl knew it was her mother and I saw it, too. Would you just look into it? Call the museum or something. See what you can find out. Please.” She had never been good at wheedling—she’d always felt flattery was a form of lying—but she wanted this so badly. “I’m sure you can figure it out. You’re a reporter.”

Mrs. Richardson gave in. “All right,” she said. “I’ll see what I can find out. But it’ll have to wait until after this deadline. I have to file this story by tomorrow.

“It’ll probably be nothing, you know,” she added, as Izzy danced toward the door with barely suppressed glee.

Izzy’s words—You’re a reporter—had touched her mother’s pride like a finger pressed into an old bruise. Mrs. Richardson had wanted to be a journalist her entire life, long before the aptitude tests their guidance counselor had administered in high school. “Journalists,” she explained in a civics speech about dream careers, “chronicle our everyday lives. They reveal truths and information that the public deserves to know, and they provide a record for posterity, so that future generations can learn from our mistakes and improve upon our achievements.” For as long as she could remember, her own mother had always been busy with some committee or other, advocating for more school funding, more equity, more fairness, and bringing her young daughter along. “Change doesn’t just happen,” her mother had always said, echoing the Shaker motto. “It has to be planned.” In history class, when young Elena had learned the term noblesse oblige, she’d understood it at once. Journalism, to Mrs. Richardson, seemed such a noble calling, one where you could do good from within the system, and in her mind she envisioned a mix of Nellie Bly and Lois Lane. After working

on the school paper for four years—and working her way up to coeditor in chief by senior year—this seemed not only possible, but inevitable.

She graduated second in her class and had had her choice of colleges: a full ride at Oberlin, a partial scholarship at Denison, acceptances all over the state, from Kenyon to Kent State to Wooster. Her mother had been in favor of Oberlin, had urged her to apply in the first place, but when Elena visited the campus, she’d felt immediately out of place. The coed dorms unsettled her, all the men in their skivvies, the girls in their robes, the knowledge that at any moment a boy might saunter into her room—or worse, the bathroom. On the steps of one building, three long-haired students in dashikis sat playing slide whistles; across the green, students held up posters in silent protest: DROP ACID, NOT BOMBS. I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE PRESIDENT. BOMBING FOR PEACE IS LIKE FUCKING FOR VIRGINITY. It

felt, to Elena, like a foreign country where rules did not reach. She fought the urge to fidget, as if the campus were an itchy sweater.

So she’d headed to Denison the following fall instead, with an ambitious and illustrious future plotted out for herself. On the second day of classes she met Billy Richardson, tall and handsome in the Clark Kent vein, and by the end of the month they were going steady. Chastely they made plans for the future: after graduation, a white wedding in Cleveland, a house in Shaker, lots of children, law school for him, a cub reportership for her—a plan they followed meticulously. Soon after they married and settled into a rented duplex in Shaker, Mr. Richardson started law school and Mrs.

Richardson was offered a position as a junior reporter at the Sun Press. It was a small paper, focused on local news, and the pay was commensurately low. Still, she decided, it was a promising enough place to start. In time, perhaps, she’d be able to make the jump over to the Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s “real” newspaper—though of course she’d never want to leave Shaker, could not imagine raising a family anywhere else.

She dutifully covered all the local news conferences, city politics, the regional effects of new regulations on everything from bridges to tree planting, sharing responsibilities with the other junior reporter, Dwight, who was a year younger. It was a good workplace, allowing her to take six weeks of maternity leave after Lexie’s birth, then Trip’s, then Moody’s. By the time Izzy came around, however, Mrs. Richardson found herself still at the Sun Press—senior reporter, now, but still relegated to covering the small stories, the small news. Dwight, meanwhile, had moved to Chicago to take

a job at the Tribune. Was it because of the time she’d taken off, or the fact

—as she was starting to realize—that she had no desire to tunnel into hard stories and bitter tragedies? She would never be quite certain, but the more time passed, the less probable it seemed that she could move elsewhere, and it became a question of chickens and eggs. No one at the Plain Dealer, or anywhere else for that matter, seemed to be interested in taking on a reporter nearing forty, with four children and all the attendant obligations, who had never covered a big story, and it didn’t matter whether that was the chicken or the egg.

And so she stayed. She focused on the feel-good stories, the complimentary write-ups of progress: the new recycling initiative, the remodeling of the library, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new playground behind it. She covered the swearing-in of the new city manager (“solemn”) and the Halloween parade (“spirited”), the opening of Half Price Books at Van Aken Center (“a much-needed addition to Shaker’s commercial district”), the debate on spraying for gypsy moths (“heated, on both sides”). She reviewed the production of Grease at the Unitarian Church and Guys and Dolls at the high school: “Rollicking,” she wrote of one; “Sit Down; They’re Rocking the Boat!” she wrote of the other. She became known as reliable and for turning in clean copy, if—though no one said it out loud—routine and rather pedestrian and terribly nice. Shaker Heights was dependably safe and thus the news, such as it was, was correspondingly dull. Outside in the world, volcanoes erupted, governments rose and collapsed and bartered for hostages, rockets exploded, walls fell.

But in Shaker Heights, things were peaceful, and riots and bombs and earthquakes were quiet thumps, muffled by distance. Her house was large; her children safe and happy and well educated. This was, she told herself, the broad strokes of what she had planned out all those years ago.

Izzy’s request, however, brought something new. Something intriguing, or at very least interesting. Something perhaps worth investigating at last.



True to her word, Mrs. Richardson filed her story and turned to the mysterious photograph. On a lunch break the next day, she stopped by the museum to see it for herself. Until then, she’d been sure Izzy was just

imagining things, but she had been right: it was definitely Mia. In a Pauline Hawthorne photograph! She had heard of Pauline Hawthorne, of course.

What was the story here? Mrs. Richardson puzzled over this as she dropped a folded five into the museum’s donation box and headed out to her car, genuinely intrigued.

Her first step was to call the art gallery that had lent the photograph to the exhibit. Yes, the owner told her, they’d purchased the photograph in 1982, from a dealer in New York. It had been shortly after Pauline’s death, and there had been much excitement in the art world when this previously unknown photograph had been put up for sale. There had been a fierce auction and they’d been thrilled to walk away with it for fifty thousand— really a bargain. Yes, the photograph had been conclusively attributed to Pauline Hawthorne: the dealer had sold many of Pauline’s works over the years, and the photograph—the only print, they’d been told—had been signed by Pauline herself on the back. No, the owner of the photograph had been anonymous, but they would be happy to give Mrs. Richardson the name of the art dealer.

Mrs. Richardson took it down—an Anita Rees—and, after a quick call to New York City’s public information, obtained the phone number of the Rees Gallery in Manhattan. Anita Rees, when reached on the telephone, proved to be a true New Yorker: brisk, fast-talking, and unflappable.

“A Pauline Hawthorne? Yes, I’m sure I did. I represented Pauline Hawthorne for years.” Through the phone Mrs. Richardson heard the faint blare of a siren passing by and then receding into the distance. In her mind that was always what New York sounded like: honking, trucks, sirens. She had been to New York only once, in college, in the days when you had to hold your purse tight with both hands and didn’t dare touch anything on the subway, even the poles. It had been cemented in her memory that way.

“But this photo,” Mrs. Richardson said, “was sold after Pauline’s death.

By someone else. It was a photo of a woman holding a baby. Virgin and Child #1, it was called.”

The phone line suddenly went so quiet that Mrs. Richardson thought they’d been disconnected. But after a moment, Anita Rees spoke again. “Yes, I remember that one.”

“I’m just wondering,” said Mrs. Richardson, “if you could give me the name of the person who sold the photograph.”

Something new flared in Anita’s voice: suspicion. “Where did you say you were calling from again?”

“My name is Elena Richardson.” Mrs. Richardson hesitated for a moment. “I work as a reporter for the Sun Press, in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s related to a story I’m researching.”

“I see.” Another pause. “I’m sorry, but the original owner of that photograph wished to remain anonymous. For personal reasons. I’m not at liberty to give the seller’s name.”

Mrs. Richardson crimped the corner of her notepad in annoyance. “I understand. Well, what I’m actually interested in is the subject of the photograph. Would you happen to have any information on who she is?”

This time there was no mistaking it: definite wary silence, and when Anita Rees spoke again, it was with a touch of frost. “I’m afraid I don’t have anything I can share about that. Good luck with your story.” The line went dead with a soft click.

Mrs. Richardson set the phone down. As a journalist, she was no stranger to being hung up on, but this time irritated her more than most. Maybe there was something here, some strange mystery waiting to be unraveled. She glanced at her monitor, where a half-drafted piece—“Should Gore Run for President? Locals Weigh In”—sat waiting.

Art collectors were often reclusive, she thought. Especially where money was involved. This Anita Rees might not even know anything about the photo, other than whatever her commission was. And who had started her down this garden path anyway? Izzy. Her harebrained live wire of a daughter, the perpetual overreactor, prone to fits of furious indignation about nothing at all.

That alone, she thought, was a sign she was headed down a rabbit hole.

She turned her notebook back to the page on the vice president and began to type.

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