by Vincent Jarrod
“I’m looking at the sign now, Miss Prince, and you’re right. There is a problem.” Real estate agent Wanda Tyler held her cell phone with her left hand while she fumbled through the Riverfront Square file with her right. She was trying to find the name of the Sign Company responsible for the lettering above the shops and boutiques along this refurbished area of the city.
“What does the sign read, Ms. Tyler?” came an older, sophisticated, and slightly haughty voice from the other end. The voice belonged to Miss Olga Prince, a wealthy entrepreneur who moved in the city’s most elite social circles because of her connections in the international art world, where she had made most of her fortune. But Miss Prince had financial interests beyond art, including a major investment in the Riverfront Square project. Hence the emergency call to Wanda Tyler just after daybreak on this foggy Saturday morning.
Wanda Tyler’s employer, Tri-State Realty, had much to gain by cultivating a relationship with Olga Prince, and much to lose if any of their dealings was considered unsatisfactory by the exacting Miss Prince. This project was especially important to Wanda, one of the younger members of the agency, but a definite up and comer. Her personal success was as much on the line as that of the agency. Which is why her normal Saturday routine of sleeping late was put aside, and she quickly showered, dressed in her professional best, and sped through the mostly downtrodden river area of the city to arrive at one of the soon to open boutiques in Riverfront Square. Judging from the leg mannequins in the window wearing sheer hosiery, it was to be a lingerie shop specializing in ladies’ leg wear. It was to be called the Pantyhose Gallery. And that was the problem.
“I’m very sorry, Miss Prince. I assure you this problem will be corrected before the end of the day.”
“The sign, Ms. Tyler,” Miss Prince said exasperatedly, “What does the sign say?”
“Well, Miss Prince, it’s supposed to say ‘PANTYHOSE GALLERY.’ But I’m afraid the sign people added an extra ‘I’. It actually reads ‘PAINTYHOSE GALLERY.’” Wanda waited for an explosion of dissatisfaction from the other end. Olga Prince was famous for her attention to detail, and her short and violent temper with artists and subordinates who failed to meet her demands. But there was only silence.
After a few moments, Wanda considered another apology, but decided prescribing a specific course of action would be best. If only she could put her finger on the name of the sign company. She couldn’t remember if it was Tri-City Detailing, or Business Signs, Inc. She decided to bluff. “I have the name of the sign people right here, Miss Prince. I will call them immediately and get them out here.”
Wanda was surprised at the calm in Olga Prince’s voice. “That won’t be necessary, Ms. Tyler. I’ll handle that with my own people. You go inside and reassure the owner, Mr. Dimitri. Oh, you are dressed professionally I assume, even though it is Saturday morning?”
“Yes, of course, Miss Prince.”
“Excellent. Just inform Mr. Dimitri that you’re there to deal with his problem. I’ve spoken with him already this morning, and he’ll know exactly what to do.”
“Yes, of course, thank you, Miss Prin….” Wanda heard a click on the other end, and disconnected her phone as well. All things considered, it looked like she was going to come out of this potential problem looking pretty good.
The door to the Paintyhose – rather, Pantyhose Gallery was locked, as Wanda expected, since the boutique was not scheduled to open for another week or so. She tapped lightly on the door glass, and cupped her face with her hands to look inside. In just a few seconds, a short black-haired man with matching black mustache and goatee came to the door.
“I’m sorry, we are not yet open. Please come back in a couple of weeks,” the man shouted through the door, and then turned on his heels to walk away.
Wanda quickly tapped on the door again. “Mr. Dimitri!” she yelled. “Mr. Dimitri! My name is Wanda Tyler. Miss Prince sent me about your problem.” The man seemed oblivious to nearly all Wanda had to say, until she mentioned ‘Miss Prince.’ Then he quickly walked back to the door, looked Wanda up and down from head to foot, and unlocked the door motioning Wanda inside. After she entered, he took a quick look up and down the empty street, and then reentered the shop and relocked the door.
“Forgive me for being a bit rude earlier, my dear. So many people have seen the sign and the window display, and tried to come in. I knew Miss Prince would come through, but I didn’t expect someone dressed so sharply.”
Wanda was somewhat taken aback by the owner’s observation, but did not pursue it. She decided the fastest way to resolve this was to stick to business. “Mr. Dimitri, I want to apologize for the problem you’re experiencing, and I assure you I’m here to solve it.”
“I like your enthusiasm, Ms. Tyler. Please follow me to my studio.” Dimitri walked quickly toward the back of the store, and Wanda followed. The shop owner’s use of the word ‘studio’ to describe the office, or even work area, of a clothing boutique seemed rather odd. It prompted the attractive real estate agent to scan her surroundings more closely.
The boutique’s show room was elegantly furnished with several dark stained wood counters, and premium track lighting to highlight the boutique’s wares. But apparently the lighting had yet to be adjusted, because instead of shining on the nylon clad leg mannequins adorning the counters, the lighting focused on various sections of the show room walls. Some of the areas were occupied by paintings still covered with cloth. But many of the areas were still bare. Perhaps this was a marketing ploy to accent the ‘gallery’ motif chosen by the owner. But it didn’t seem very smart to light the walls, and leave the merchandise so darkly lit on the showroom floor.
And that was the other odd thing that Wanda noticed. Mr. Dimitri had said that the opening was still a couple of weeks away, so she didn’t expect to see the store’s shelves brimming with hosiery and lingerie. But other than the stockings and pantyhose being worn by the mannequins, there was no hosiery on the show floor at all. And even stranger, there didn’t appear to be any shelves, bins, or cabinets to display lingerie. Surely Dimitri didn’t expect to keep all of the merchandise behind the sales counter. By the looks of things, a misspelled sign was the least of this boutique’s worries. In fact, Wanda was even contemplating who might purchase this parcel a few months down the road when the ‘Pantyhose Gallery’ went belly up – when Mr. Dimitri’s voice rang out:
“Ms. Tyler! Time is of the essence. I have an important client coming this afternoon.”
Wanda took a deep breath, and hoped that Miss Prince could get the sign people out to the boutique on a Saturday. All she had to do was placate the impatient and demanding owner. The real estate agent headed in the direction of Dimitri’s voice, toward the back of the boutique.
The heels of Wanda’s navy pumps made a loud clicking sound as they stepped off the carpeted showroom floor onto the hardwood surface of the hallway leading to the back. The agent was surprised to see that the short hallway contained some additional paintings for the boutique walls. Mr. Dimitri had apparently spent more time acquiring artwork than he had inventory for his lingerie shop. Even though she had a very impatient shop owner waiting in the back room, Wanda paused at one of the paintings. It was sitting on a chair, leaning against the wall. Like the paintings already on the boutique walls, a dark sheet was draped over the canvas. But the covering had slid up the chair, and exposed a large section of the lower right corner. And the lovely real estate agent’s attention was drawn to the image revealed in that section.
It was a foot. A woman’s foot - small, shapely, lovely - encased in black nylon. Wanda was a bit surprised. There was no shoe, and usually a lovely foot like this one would have been painted bare instead of stockinged. The agent reached out and pulled the cover back slowly, exposing more of the shapely, nyloned leg. The female figure in the painting was in a reclining position, and as more of the cover was removed, Wanda was again surprised to see that the subject was clad in pantyhose, or perhaps tights, and not stockings and garters as she had expected. Perhaps this was fitting, for a store named the Pantyhose Gallery - but it seemed that a pose in garters and nylons was more traditionally artistic than a pose in pantyhose.
Wanda Tyler was not a collector of cheesy - or, in this case, cheesecake - art, but she had to admit that the painting was quite well done. The shape and contours of the model’s attractive form - from the tension in one raised stockinged foot, to the sensual curve of the raised nylon sheathed hip, to the shy forward tilt of the model’s head as she covered her nude breasts with pale lovely arms - were vividly captured on the canvas. Even the shading of the high cut panty portion of the hosiery was mirrored by a similar shading in the portrait’s background. Wanda was also not an art critic, but she did recognize that this artist had talent, and should move beyond sexual titillation for the sake of promoting women’s undergarments. As she stared at the painting, she noticed that the texture of the model’s legs were different than the pigmentation in the rest of the painting. Somehow the artist had managed to reproduce the fibrous pattern of nylon in the legs displayed. Wanda’s hand instinctively reached out to touch that lovely foot, and began to lightly stroke it. She gasped. It couldn’t be - but it was. This part of the canvas felt exactly like nylon . . . .
“Miss Tyler!” The real estate agent’s artistic reverie was broken by the volume and urgency of the store owner’s bark. “I appreciate your admiration of my art work, but it is my present work that beckons! If you please,” Dimitri made a sweeping gesture toward the back room, and Wanda reluctantly stepped away from the painting, and followed the owner’s direction.
The public area of the store had been slightly perplexing, and Wanda’s encounter with the painting in the hallway also raised many questions, but the scene facing her in the boutique’s storeroom was totally confusing. Instead of the display racks, sales and directional signs, and unopened boxes of merchandise that one usually found in the back room of a clothing store, the Pantyhose Gallery store room was filled with empty frames and large pieces of blank canvas.
Mr. Dimitri was putting the finishing touches on one of the frames as Wanda entered the room. As she observed the shop owner expertly assemble the ornately carved pieces of wood that would someday house a rather large painting, she couldn’t help but wonder why someone with such apparent talent in this particular craft would choose to invest his time and money in a completely different area. The real estate agent was tempted to pose such a question to her client, but decided it would be much more professional to stick to the matter at hand.
“I can’t apologize enough for our error, and I hope it hasn’t caused you any embarrassment. I assure you, it will not cause you any delay in opening your boutique.” Wanda tried to sound as sincere as possible, but was confused by Dimitri’s actions. She was relieved to see him wave his hand in a ‘no problem’ type of gesture. But then she was puzzled to see him lift the large, beautiful frame he had just constructed off the work table, and lay it in the middle of the floor.
“What ‘embarrassment’? Someone was supposed to come – they don’t show up – and you come instead. Problem solved.” The shop owner walked to an old carpet rack, and pulled off a large piece of off-white canvas. He laid the canvas on the new frame, and only a few inches hung over each of the sides. Again, Wanda was impressed by his judgment and skill, picking the right size cloth immediately. But his last statement was a little unclear.
“I appreciate your understanding attitude, but I just want to clarify that I won’t be correcting your sign. Some local sign men will be coming to make the necessary corrections.”
Dimitri was staring at the blank canvas, slowly rubbing his chin. Thinking. Planning. Wanda wondered if he had even heard her, and was about to rephrase her statement, when the unusual man quickly raised his head and turned his head toward her.
“It is time,
now, for your help,” he stated, then simply stared at her.
“Time? I’m not sure I know . . . I mean, how can I help?” Wanda started to question the man’s actions, but remembered how important it was to stay focused, stay positive, and stay helpful.
“What do you mean, ‘how can I help’?” Dimitri’s temper flared just a bit. You act as if this is the first time you’ve ever . . . wait, it is your first time, isn’t it? You are new to all of this, aren’t you?”
Wanda felt her professional demeanor and resolve begin to melt. She always tried so hard to appear informed and in control. But her one fear was that someone would guess that behind the façade of experience and competence, she was really still a novice at the real estate game. Somehow this boutique shop owner with his artistic hobby had seen through her smoke screen of positive energy and well-tailored executive pomp to see an ambitious, yet frightened, young woman wanting desperately to succeed. The flustered agent momentarily considered some ploy to regain the upper hand, but decided that would only make matters worse.
“Mr. Dimitri,” she took a deep breath, “I have tried very hard to make everything perfect, but I can understand your anger and disappointment . . .”
“Disappointment? Anger?” The shop keeper stepped close to Wanda and looked into her eyes. “My dear, this is a wonderful opportunity. Such freshness. Such inexperience. Such innocence. I am overjoyed!”
Wanda couldn’t believe her ears. Just when she thought the whole Riverfront Square project was about to slip through her fingers, she was right at the heart of everything again. “Mr. Dimitri, despite my inexperience, I will do my best to make sure your efforts are a complete success. Now, I am at your disposal. Simply tell me what to do.”
“Good.” The shop owner rubbed his hands together. “Let’s get started.” He looked down at the dark blue pumps Wanda was wearing. “First, remove your high heels.”
Wanda chuckled a moment, then realized that Dimitri was serious. “Well, all right,” she said hesitantly, then lifted her lower left leg and slid the shoe off of her stockinged foot. “May I ask why?” she inquired, as she lifted her right leg and removed the other shoe.
“Very simple,” the owner stated matter-of-factly, “I always work with stockinged feet. Shoes – especially heels – are not good for the canvas. It is so easy for them to tear holes in the fabric, and the fabric is very special.”
The real estate agent looked down at her dark tan stockinged feet, and then at the off-white canvas lying on the floor near where she stood. “You want me to step on the canvas?”
“Why, yes, of course,” Dimitri announced, as if it were the next logical step in a routine known to everyone. Wanda hesitated, gazing quizzically at the canvas, and then up at the shop owner. “Oh, that’s right. You’re new at this.” He stepped next to Wanda, took her small hand in his, and gently led her closer to the ornate frame surrounding the artistic cloth. “You see, my dear, the canvas must be held steady while I attach it to the wood. This, I cannot do, since I must focus on the proper alignment – and my feet are like cement blocks, and will surely rip the canvas to shreds.” The shop owner chuckled reassuringly, and Wanda smiled as well.
“But these,” Dimitri gestured toward Wanda’s shoeless feet. “These have not only strength, but gentleness as well. Firmness, yet beauty. Gravity, yet . . .”
“I think I get the point, Mr. Dimitri.” Wanda looked down once more at the canvas, but hesitated still. “This won’t take long, will it? I mean, I do have other appointments later today.”
Dimitri shook his head. “It will be finished before you even know it.”
Wanda nodded, and inched closer to the canvas. She couldn’t believe it, but her surprise and embarrassment had turned to discomfort, and even a little fear. There was nothing to it, she told herself, just lift your feet and step onto the canvas. You’re being silly. But silly or no, Wanda couldn’t deny the queasiness in her stomach, or the sweat on her hands and brow. Somehow, her mind believed that this simple wooden frame was a barrier – no, a threshold of sorts. And once she crossed it, she would never be the same again.
“You mentioned something about time?” Dimitri gently, but pointedly, asked.
Time. Yes, of course. She was spending way too much time completing this simple task. Dimitri was getting impatient, and Miss Prince would certainly not be pleased.
Thinking of Miss Prince gave Wanda a feeling of resolve. She took a deep breath, lifted her nylon-webbed right foot up and over the wooden frame, and placed it squarely on the canvas. She actually winced as it came down, somehow fearing that a giant shock would course through her body and she would fall lifeless to the floor. Dimitri must have been watching her face, because he laughed as she opened her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief.
“You see, not difficult at all. You’re a natural.”
Wanda laughed along with the shopkeeper, relieved that her fears were unfounded, and embarrassed that she even had such fears to begin with. She quickly lifted her left stockinged foot, and placed it on the canvas beside the other.
And that’s when she felt it.
It began as a tingle, and Wanda’s first thought was simply that the canvas was apparently much cooler than the warm, nylon sheathed soles of her lovely feet. But a temperature variation would have disappeared rather quickly as her feet warmed the canvas and the canvas cooled her feet. This tingle did not stop. It began to intensify, giving both feet the numbing feeling of being asleep. And it was beginning to spread, from her soles and toes to the tops of each foot. In moments, that initial tingling she had felt when both feet touched the canvas was in each of Wanda’s ankles.
The real estate agent opened her mouth to ask her host if there was some particular reason for her strong reaction to the canvas, when she felt an intense shock through the back of her neck that spread into her throat and down her spine, rendering her both speechless and motionless.
“I’m sorry about the sudden surprise, Ms. Tyler,” Dimitri said softly, as he adjusted the large strip of canvas he had draped on her neck. “But I have had models panic when they see the canvas neck piece. They think I’m trying to strangle them, and they try to run away, and of course they cannot leave the confines of the frame, and a few have fallen and injured themselves. Sometimes, it’s better to not know. You know?”
In her immobilized state, ‘knowing’ was about all Wanda was capable of, and even that task was limited by the uniqueness of the situation, and the increasing mental confusion caused by the spreading effect of the canvas cloth. She still had feeling about her midsection, and she soon felt her jacket being removed, and her blouse being pulled out of the waistband of her navy skirt.
“Yes, I like the fall of the white silk covering your waist. And it appears to be just the right length, with just the right cut. But let’s find out for sure, shall we?” There was a strange disconnect between the calm observations of the shop keeper, and Wanda’s inner panic. And that panic increased when Wanda heard first the chattering of scissors being tested, and then the sound of material being cut. The trapped agent then felt a tug around her waist as her skirt was pulled taut, but in a few seconds, Wanda no longer felt the skirt at all, as Dimitri pulled the rended pieces away from the young woman, and flung them aside.
“It is the perfect length!” Dimitri exclaimed. Wanda felt the shop keeper’s hands push her white silk blouse against her hips, then her behind. Occasionally, his hands would gently brush against the panty portion of her tan pantyhose, but they did not linger or explore. That wasn’t what Dimitri was about.
“This will work, and I won’t even have to remove your panties, which is always messy and never fails to ruin the natural lay of the garments. Yes, I believe you’re almost ready.”
Ready? Ready for what, Wanda wondered as she struggled to lift her feet, or wave her arms, or yell and scream. But she was frozen in place. Wanda could still see, and she thought that was fortunate, until she saw Dimitri’s hands moving toward her chest. The real estate agent’s silent screams nearly drowned out her unspoken cries for help, as the man’s hands began unbuttoning her blouse, and then reached inside to unclasp and remove her bra. As Dimitri pulled out the lacy white undergarment, he stepped back once more to inspect his captured prey. After a moment, he unbuttoned the middle button of the blouse, and dissatisfied with the result, he unfastened the next button down, then pulled the blouse a few inches apart.
“That’s what I’m looking for. A bit of cleavage, but not wanton temptation. The demureness of a peek at your beautiful breasts, without an invitation to gawk or stare. Yes,” Dimitri stepped even further back, and stared at Wanda’s half-dressed, but fully immobilized form, rubbing his chin as he observed. Yes, I think that’s perfect.” Dimitri stepped forward again, placing his hand on the piece of canvas draped around Wanda’s neck. “Now, my dear, I need you to stand perfectly still, while I raise the frame behind you.”
The shop owner unclasped a small hinge on both sides of the wooden frame, and carefully lifted the upper section of the frame until the attached canvas rested against Wanda’s back, shoulders, and head. The intense tingling that until now ended just above the waistband of Wanda’s tan pantyhose now spread throughout her upper body. Dimitri removed the canvas collar from the back of his ‘model’s’ neck. It was no longer necessary. Wanda’s half-clad, lovely form was attached to the artist’s special canvas. And Dimitri knew he had only a few moments before the ‘attachment’ became something much more permanent.
Dimitri’s strong hands reached up and grabbed hold of Wanda’s head. First, he gently tilted it downward. Wanda was now staring at her small, stockinged feet. As she saw the gauzy image of her toenails straining the tip of the nylon webbing, the young woman wondered if she could still wiggle her toes. Even though she was immobilized, and in the control of this strange, and now frightening man, Wanda began to strain to simply make her toes move – even slightly – to reassure herself that all was not lost. But as she stared and strained, and focused and fought, her attempt at reassurance was washed away by a horrifying realization.
She wasn’t staring at her feet. She was staring at a picture of her feet.
Dimitri had stepped back once more to stare at his real-estate-agent-in-progress. While he walked to and fro, Wanda continued to stare at the dark tan images at the bottom of the canvas, and tried to comprehend what was happening. They couldn’t be her feet, but they did seem to start where the rest of her legs ended, so didn’t that mean they had to be her feet. Wanda had been against the canvas for a few minutes now, and she realized the longer Dimitri kept her there, the more confused her thinking became.
Perhaps the artist had painted feet over her feet. No, that was ridiculous. Then, perhaps, her lightheadedness was causing her to have hallucinations. Yes, that had to be it! There must be some kind of drug in this canvas. Dimitri lures beautiful young women to his ‘studio,’ pretends to enlist their help in constructing his canvas, drugs and disrobes them, and then has his way with them. Of course, so far ‘his way with her’ had been to take only some of her clothes off, pose her, and walk around and stare at the pose. But, there were all kinds of freaks in the world. Dimitri’s ‘thing’ must be to pretend to be an artist, and stare at his beautiful subjects. That had to be it. Either that, Wanda thought, or somehow her hose covered feet had melded into the canvas.
Hose covered feet. Canvas. The words suddenly reminded Wanda of the painting she had seen in the hallway, and the model’s beautiful dark nyloned foot. Then she remembered the fibrous pattern of the sheer pantyhose that covered the reclining legs. Just like the pattern in the feet at the point of her current gaze. And finally, she remembered the feel of nylon on the painting when she touched the model’s stockinged foot. And that’s when Wanda knew that if she could reach down and touch the lovely feet painted at the bottom of this canvas, she would also feel nylon. And that’s when Wanda realized something else.
Dimitri put his hands back on Wanda’s head, and gently tilted it to the right, but maintaining its downward stare. Wanda was no longer staring at the painted stockinged feet, and she was glad. She was even glad that her oversight of the building’s renovation had gone without a flaw. There was no mistake in the sign. No misprint. PAINTYHOSE GALLERY was the name of Mr. Dimitri’s shop.
Moving Wanda’s limbs was becoming more of a task, so Dimitri knew he had to hurry. He quickly pulled her right and left arms toward her front, and put each hand on the last open button hole of the blouse. The shopkeeper than pulled the collar of Wanda’s blouse up on one side, and slightled tousled her hair on top and in the front.
Dimitri’s hand in her hair was the last thing that Wanda felt. The last thing Wanda thought was how nice it would be to wind up in an expensive home. One in a nice neighborhood, with plenty of amenities, good schools nearby, and a pool in the backyard. The kind of home that appreciated every year, sold quickly, and earned a rather hefty commission. And the last thing Wanda heard was the shopkeeper saying, “Absolutely lovely, my dear. Now let’s figure out what size you should be – oh, and of course, what shall we name you . . . .”
BETWIXT read the name of the painting, imprinted on a small brass plate just beneath the bottom of the frame. Lucretia Prince examined the canvas once more, beginning at the tan stockinged feet at the bottom, moving up the well-toned stockinged legs, past the loose shirttails near the top of the thighs, up the valley formed by the open blouse and slight cleavage, finally ending at the turned-down, sideward glancing face and slightly mussed blonde hair. Most of the face was hidden, but if one knew the model – as Miss Prince did – there was enough showing to register recognition. Miss Prince noted the engraved card tucked in the bottom right hand corner of the frame, noting that the work had been purchased by a Mr. T. G. Cranston of Culver Springs. Yes, that was a very exclusive area – large homes with well-manicured lawns and richly appointed interior decoration. Mr. Dimitri undoubtedly did quite well with this particular sale.
“Hmmm, ‘Betwixt,’” questioned a voice just behind her. Bradford Whitmore, art critic (and classified ad salesman) for the local newspaper, had been invited for a sneak preview of the gallery’s holdings, prior to its opening two days hence. “What could that mean?” he asked no one in particular, planning to provide the answer himself. “Perhaps the subject is ‘betwixt’ innocence and seduction. Or ‘betwixt’ youth and womanhood. Or,” this time Bradford Whitmore raised a finger and glanced skyward. This must be the biggie. “Perhaps she represents the struggle of all modern women. Caught ‘betwixt’ the male society’s expectations of sexuality, domesticity, and reproduction, and her personal ambition of professional achievement and individual fulfillment. But it definitely leaves a question unanswered, don’t you think so, Miss Prince?”
“I agree, Mr. Whitmore,” Lucretia answered. “But I think the main question the painting poses,” she hesitated, while Whitmore hung on her every word. “is whether the model is getting dressed, or undressed.”
The simplicity floored the critic for a moment, but he wisely chose not to risk offending someone as wealthy and powerful as Lucretia Prince. Instead, he chose flattery. “Once again, Miss Prince,” he began, “your artistic radar has discovered another artistic visionary.” Whitmore strolled around the gallery, examining the paintings scattered on the walls and various easels. The paintings all depicted beautiful women – young and old – clad in some form of leg attire. From the cabled tights of ice skaters and circus performers, to the glittering pantyhose of showgirls and dancers, to the garters and stockings of strippers: Dimitri’s speciality was in full bloom in the PAINTYHOSE GALLERY.
Whitmore continued. “The artist’s work is such an amalgam of styles and themes.” Miss Prince was impressed for a moment, until she remembered that ‘amalgam’ was yesterday’s new ‘word to ponder’ in the local paper. “It is like a collision at the intersection of Gaugain’s sensuality and Rockwell’s innocent realism.” Miss Prince stifled a groan, and then smiled thinly as she imagined Mr. Whitmore being a victim of a hit and run at the intersection of Bullshit and Pretentiousness.
The art critic stopped at a large blank space on the gallery’s south wall. “Do you know, Miss Prince, whether the artist plans to use this space for a number of new portraits, or perhaps a large grouping?”
Here was her chance to ‘shovel’ her way out, so to speak. “I’m not sure. Let me go ask Mr. Dimitri.”
Miss Prince excused herself, and walked back to Dimitri’s studio. She wondered about that blank wall space as well. The artist was nowhere to be found, but surprisingly the back door that led to the alley was wide open. The tall, angular art patron stepped to the doorway, and looked out. She saw Mr. Dimitri speaking to a very attractive young lady clad all in white – tennis shoes, ankle socks, shorts, and knit shirt – except for her bright tan hosiery. The young lady stood near the driver’s door of a white van, decorated with a large brown owl with two large O’s for eyes. She couldn’t read all of the writing, but she did notice that a number of other young women were exiting the van. All were clad in the same white shoes and socks, but their shorts were orange and much shorter than the first lady. And their tops exposed bare tan midriffs and an extensive amount of cleavage. But most importantly for Mr. Dimitri and his new shop, each of the girls was wearing bright tan pantyhose.
Miss Prince walked back into the studio, and only then noticed that she was standing inside a huge wooden frame nearly the size of the entire room. And off to one side, folded over a few times, was a giant section of canvas, which Mr. Dimitri undoubtedly planned to put in the frame, quite soon. Smiling, she returned to the showroom.
“Mr. Whitmore, I think it’s time for us to go. Mr. Dimitri is going to be quite busy until opening.”
“Oh, of course. I understand completely.” He opened the front door for Miss Prince, and the two headed outside, Miss Prince checking to make sure that the front door was shut and locked. As they headed for their respective cars – Miss Prince to her champagne silver Rolls Royce, and Mr. Whitmore to his lime green Ford Escort – the critic stopped for a moment. “One more thing, Miss Prince. Did you find out the artist’s intention for the bare wall?”
Miss Prince smiled, and turned to the critic while her driver held open her back door. “Yes, Mr. Whitmore. A group portrait. Definitely a group portrait.” She laughed aloud, stepped into the spacious back seat, and planned where she would hang Mr. Dimitri’s latest work in her own home.