Metamorphosis (Part 4)

 Continued from:

The driving rain that pounded the small private airstrip outside Medellin for several hours finally stopped. Enrique Cabrera had begun to despair of taking off before dawn. Not that he hadn’t been in the air in bad weather before.  It was getting into the air that worried him. With the heavy cloud cover, visibility was nil. Worse, the temperature was dropping, and it wouldn’t be long before the water on the runway began to ice. He didn’t want to take a chance skidding off and into the muddy field. Not with this cargo.

The rain had been unexpected. This part of Colombia seldom got more than a few inches a month. Cabrera almost postponed the flight until tomorrow night, which would not have made El Comandante or his customer happy. As it were, they were several hours behind schedule. Mierda. Fucking global warming, he thought.

He climbed from the nondescript rust-pocked panel van sitting on the apron near the old DC-6 cargo plane. He walked around to the front of the plane, and with a circular motion of his arm, he beckoned to Juan Muñoz, sitting in the cockpit.

Vámanos, he mouthed. Let’s go. Muñoz nodded, and in a few moments, the first of the four prop engines on the plane coughed to life, releasing a cloud of oily smoke. As each engine approached speed, it was followed by the next, until all four props were spinning at full speed and the plane was ready for take-off.

Cabrera went back to the van and spoke to its driver. Moreno would have some explaining to do when he got back to camp with the van.

“El Comandante will question your delay, Manuel. Tell him it was my decision. Only un hombre loco would attempt to take off in such rain. Sí, we will be a few hours late, but I will deliver the cargo safely. Better late than lost in the mud or the mountains. You tell him that.”

 “Sí. Ningún problema.” Manuel Moreno would tell El Comandante, for all the good that would do. He would still bear the brunt of the boss’ anger. The old man’s temper was legendary. Moreno already wore evidence of that on his scarred face.

Cabrera turned and strode to the plane’s open door. He climbed the small aluminum ladder and, once in the plane, pulled the ladder up behind him. He threw the latch and secured the door.

Before going to the cockpit, he paused to check the crate that was strapped down in the plane’s belly. There was little doubt  they would run into some weather as they climbed to flight altitude, and the last thing he needed was for the heavy crate containing the massive piece of marble to break lose.

Satisfied, he went up to the cockpit and climbed into his seat. Earphones in place, he checked for final clearance with the small tower, and took her up. 

They would be in Texas in a few hours, and more than a few more hours late. But somehow, Cabrera didn’t think the buyer would be too upset at the delay after laying eyes on the magnificent stone they carried with them



While I wait for Kate to emerge from the Ladies' Room, I find a small grouping of empty chairs tucked behind a fern in the Plaza’s lobby. Confident no one will overhear me, I take a seat and speed-dial Harry’s cell.

Without any polite preliminaries, he answers. “So, is she still the looker she was back in the day?”

Even from 2,500 miles away, I can hear the lecherous leer in Harry’s voice drifting over the airwaves and into my ear.

“Oh, yeah, she’s all that. But, I don’t know, Harry. Something’s off. She’s gotten herself into a hell of a mess.”

I tell Harry the strange story of the sculptor’s disappearance, peering through the fern every now and then toward the Ladies' Room door.

“It sounds to me like the cops have no choice but to try to make a case against Kate, but with no body, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”

Exercising his talent for stating the obvious, Harry says, “They could find a body any time, Marty. If that blood matches, she’ll be in real trouble.  What do you think? Did she do it?”

“I would like to think she couldn’t have killed anyone. But, geez, Harry, I wouldn’t swear to it. Like I said, there’s something that’s just not right here.”

I stand and walk around the fern to check the lobby.

“I’ve got an appointment with the detective who questioned Kate.” I continue. “I’ll see if I can get a sense of where they’re going with this. I’m not holding my breath, though. They have no reason to cooperate with a PI from LA. But it’s worth a try.”

“Anything I can do from here?” he offers.

Harry’s holding the fort in LA, and was in the midst of what was shaping up to be a lollapalooza of an embezzlement case when I left.

“Well if you have time, put your computer skills to work getting everything you can on Alex DuBois.  He’s the sculptor. He’s supposed to be well known. Kate told me a book had been published featuring his work.”

I spot Kate emerging from the hallway to the restrooms and give her a wave.

“I have to go. I’ll check with you later.”

OK,” Harry says. “And, Marty? Watch yourself. You never could say ‘no’ to Kate Bell.”

“No worries, Pal,” I say before ending the call. But truth be told, I am worried. He’s right. I was always lousy at following my best instincts when it came to Kate. I was much more likely to follow my base instincts. I’m very worried.


Kate and I walk over to a little Italian restaurant on 57th and have dinner. Over our meal of the little triangle-shaped spinach ravioli in butter and sage sauce called Fazzoletto di Ricotta E Spinaci, and a glass of Chianti, we set aside the topic of Alex DuBois and talk about old times. 

After dinner, I offer to walk her home. Yeah, I’m chivalrous that way. But I’m also anxious to see the sculpture and the layout of the gallery and apartment above. We pull our coats tightly around us, and head up Madison. It’s chilly, but it’s not a long walk and we’re sheltered from the cross-town wind by the buildings along the street.

After crossing the street at the magnificent former Rhinelander mansion that now houses Ralph Lauren,  Kate leads me to a doorway  recessed in a building about halfway up the block. She unlocks the door, and to my surprise, it swings open to reveal a small inner courtyard. As I have often done in the past, I wonder how many little secret gardens hide behind the canyon walls of the city.

“Wow. This is great,” I comment as she relocks the door.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it? I love this little oasis. It’s too cold to use it now, but in the summer, it’s heavenly.” Kate walks deeper into the courtyard, following the wall of the brick building at our left.

“The door to the gallery building is back here,” she says as she shuffles keys on a ring in her hand. “I’ve had the gallery closed since… well, you know. The security gate is down covering the front of the store. This is the only way in.”

Kate unlocks a door at the back of the building, which triggers the beeping of an alarm system. She quickly punches a series of numbers into a security panel, silencing its chirpy voice.

“Come on; let’s go in through the gallery.” We move down a short hall and Kate opens an inner door, deactivates another alarm and flips a few switches on a  panel just inside the door.  The level of security doesn’t escape my notice. It wouldn’t be all that easy to break into this place.

As the lights come on, I see we are in a small kitchen.  It opens onto an office, and on the far wall of the office, swinging café doors apparently lead into the gallery itself.

Kate heads toward them. “The exhibits are in here.”

She pushes through the doors and holds them open for me. When I walk into the gallery, the statue dominating the space in front of me literally takes my breath away.

Only a few lights burn in the gallery, and all of them illuminate the sculpture. It stands at least seven feet tall, if you include the two-foot concrete base. But the base is inconsequential compared to the winged woman emerging from it. I’d recognize her anywhere. Well, all except for the wings, that is.

DuBois has somehow created an incredible contradiction in terms. The piece must be heavy as hell.  But, somehow, there is a lightness to it that defies gravity. The woman looks like she’ll take flight at any moment.

And the marble… There is no other word for it but amazing. Like the gossamer butterfly she represents, the woman’s body is awash in subtle colors that seem lit from within by a liquid golden glow.

The piece is nothing short of awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

I glance back at Kate, who is watching me closely. She smiles faintly, and in a voice that seems just a little smug, asks, “So? What do you think?”

Continued in Part 5



  1. Nothing like a smug woman to tell you something is off!

  2. I like that you weave in so many elements, even sculpting. A good story that keeps me coming back.

  3. nice...i like the way you have given us some backgroud to get us thinking than bring it relevant to the story...intriguing patti...nice descriptors around the statue as well...awesome seems a weird word for art, you know....

  4. Can't help but think about the spider inviting the fly into her parlour...

    I liked this expression
    "a lollapalooza of an embezzlement"

    little fix up:
    "behind the in the canyon walls of the city."

  5. Oh do try to get another part up, the suspense is killing me. Love the descriptiveness. I've gone a little lame with this muse. Having seen Nike in he Louvre, 'awesome' is a totally appropriate word for a fantastic sculpture.

  6. Nice. The weird issue I had with the first three parts isn't in this one. I still haven't figured out exactly what that issue is, but when I do, I'll tell you.

    And I repeat the comment I left on your other entry.

    Now to Part 5 of 2!


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.