“The Case of the Vanishing Grossmalerman, Part 1” continues …
After a long night of questionably consensual love making with a dead-eyed heavily accented spectre I was awoken by the ship’s steward.
“The master would be honored if you would join him for breakfast.”
“I’d be happy to if you wouldn’t mind undoing these handcuffs.”
“Certainly Sir” said the steward pausing only to punch me square in the nose and spraying blood everywhere.
“What the fuck was that for??!!” He looked at me in disgust, unlocked my handcuffs and walked out. My clothes, cleaned and dried were folded at the foot of the bed. I put them on and walked into the dining room where Thomas Friedly, the up and coming video artist who I had been led to believe was younger was already sitting looking scared and exhausted.
“ClitSwell #7” hung above the buffet table looking glorious and powerful. I felt stronger just looking at it. It was as though it was feeding me power. Art is amazing like that. I served myself breakfast in the “English style” only then realizing how absolutely famished I was. I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten! Between all the beatings, tazerings, and being left for dead there had been no time. I shoved the scrambled eggs in my mouth dribbling velvety morsels onto my newly cleaned suit jacket.
“So, Tom,” I said. “You wrapped up in this mess too?”
“Oh my God! I don’t know how this happened! I didn’t mean to talk! I didn’t know what I was saying. Please don’t kill me!”
“Talk? … Kill? … ” I figured he was in a much deeper mess than I was. A hunch later confirmed when Roman himself entered the room and shot Thomas twice in the head. The first shot had pretty much done the trick. The second seemed superfluous.
“I’m so sorry you had to witness that, Mr. Grossmalerman. It is business unrelated to ours I assure you.”
The room swarmed with assistants who cleaned up the body. Moments later the only trace left was the lingering metallic smell of raw brains. An artist who had only two weeks ago received a generally warm Roberta Smith review in The New York Times with only a single negative line admonishing him for being “a one-man emotional holocaust.” But now he was dead and none of that mattered any more.
Looking up at my masterwork Roman said, “I must confess Mr Grossmalerman, ‘ClitSwell #7′ certainly stirs the blood.”
We both gazed at the painting for a little while. Letting the perfectly formulated composition and striking color choices wash over us. A magnificent vagina. It really was one of my best.
You know it’s funny. You paint these things and are always vaguely disappointed with the results. You move on but every now and then you get the chance to look at them again in the perfect setting and BAM they really do blow you away and you’re like “Wow! I painted that!”
I paused for a moment. I had so many questions. The rolls looked delicious.
“One thing I don’t understand is why did you feel you had to steal the painting?”
“I didn’t steal it Jonathan, on the contrary, I paid a fortune for it. We had a celebratory dinner just last week! Had you forgotten?”
I was at a loss. Was he lying? If we had, in fact, had a celebratory dinner it would be awfully rude of me to have forgotten.
“At the Breslin you threw up in your soup,” he offered.
“Of course I remember … It was a wonderful night … ”
“Oh good … as I paid for everything it would have been most disappointing had you not remembered.”
“But why the thuggery? The uncalled for violence. I’ve been beaten every which way to Tuesday! I can’t see the need for it if you had paid for the painting.”
“Well, I’m not sure … perhaps … I suppose it’s really just a compulsion I guess.
“ A compulsion? Huh … ”
“ Yes … It’s something I am drawn to … I just can’t help it.”
“I see … ”
“It’s like you painting your large and glorious vaginas out of a visceral obsession.”
“The cracking of bones, the cries of despair … the pitiful sobs towards the end … as life drains away … it is the same for me. Yes, Mr. Grossmalerman, you and I are not so different after all.”
“Yes, thank you.”
“By this time tomorrow, I will have traded ‘ClitSwell #7′ with Robert Mugabe for 200 human beings.”
“I know, 200 human beings doesn’t seem like a lot for a masterpiece … until you have to feed them.” He stopped and laughed heartily .“And then I will be on my way to Rotterdam where I’ll trade their harvested organs for ecstasy, which in turn will be returned to the US and sold to college students. The usual ‘Chelsea Loop’ as it’s called.”
I had heard of the Chelsea Loop, the contemporary art world’s dirty little secret, but had always assumed it was an urban legend.
“I knew Mugabe had a collection but I assumed he paid with … money.”
“Unfortunately he is currently cash poor. But he has plenty of political opponents and their organs are as good as anybody’s. I’m just helping out a friend. Do you like the coffee?”
“Yes. It’s very good.”
“Very well, Mr Grossmalerman, If you will please excuse me I have meetings all day.”
Moments later I found myself back on dry land with a couple of warm breakfast rolls in my pocket. It was one of those cloudy contemplative days March is full of. Not unpleasant. It was a great day to go see some shows.