Chapter 14 Art Exhibits and Secrets

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Victoria checked her lipstick in the rear view mirror of her Hudson Hornet before getting out at the Art Museum. The art deco building stood in the middle of Volunteer Park on a hill above the city. The air was chilly and Victoria pulled her stole up over her shoulders. She was wearing a subtle deep green dress with a neckline so wide that reached all the way out to her shoulders. It was fashionably fit and Victoria was glad that she hadn't taken any chances by skipping a girdle.

She closed the triangular vent window, locked the door and dropped her keys into her clutch. They clanked against her screwdriver. She'd have to be careful about the noise, but if one is expecting to snoop around than one must be prepared to snoop. Even if it means lugging around a few tools in one's handbag.

As promised, Woodrow Kent had added her name to guest list. A cursory glance at the program informed her that the new collection contained the works of several prominent artists, Banks, Johnson, Asai, Ingersoll, and Walters; all artistic geniuses.

Seattle's Art Museum's collection was more impressive than the building that housed it, but on this particular evening, no one was likely to notice. Waiters were serving warm cider rum punch and the spicy aroma drifted through the museum. The grand chandelier above the main foyer was glowing. And in the corner, a string quartet was playing the Four Seasons. The women were in full skirts or draping silk dresses that nearly touched the floor and the men wore tuxedos or dark suites. As the musicians played, the crowd mingled around the paintings and sculptures, admiring the art and gossiping in small groups.

Although she was using her own name, and had been legitimately invited, Victoria suddenly felt like an impostor. Everyone else was here for their love of art, but she was hoping to meet a murderer. Again.

Victoria estimated there were about sixty people in all. She took a glass of cider from a passing waiter and pretended to admire a large red and orange abstract painting. She recognized the mayor and a few of the more prominent citizens. A photographer from the newspaper was on the other side of the room taking photographs for the Society & Arts section. She would have to stay away from him in case he recognized her and started asking questions. Maybe, it was just as well that Walter hadn't decided to come. She glanced around the room searching for Woodrow Kent. If she could move near him, she could possibly get an introduction to anyone else who had been at his party the night before.

Most of them were probably here tonight and one of them was almost certainly the murderer.

Victoria sipped her cider punch.

A tall, good-looking man who was also admiring the abstract painting began talking to her. Victoria knew just enough about art to good pretense, but the small talk made it difficult for her to survey the room. She finally spotted Mr. Kent on the other side of the room, near the photographer. He was standing on a dais beside a tall, middle-aged woman in burgundy gown. Everyone seemed to want to say something to her or to have their photograph taken with her. She was composed and confident; the undisputable master of the evening.

Victoria was able to break away from the fellow art-lover but not without exchanging names and hearing his expression of hope that they would see each other again. As soon as she was free, Victoria turned her attention to Woodrow Kent's companion.

"That," Victoria thought to herself, "must be in indispensable Miss Elsbeth Snupter." She was standing very close to Woodrow. Between discussions with the guests, both Elsbeth and Woodrow would make private remarks to each other. Each time, Elsbeth would lean close to Woodrow and he would smile or nod. "If Woodrow Kent doesn't realize that woman adores him he's a complete fool," Victoria thought to herself. She watched for a few minutes and concluded that Woodrow was a complete fool.

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