Hunt for American Heiress Continues With Bizarre Manuscript Found in Cave in Altamira
By ALICE SHIFT 7:00 AM ET
A compact disc bearing a manuscript and the fingerprints of Eugenie Lund, an American heiress missing since August 19–, has been found in a cave in Altamira, Spain. Dr Erik Lund, heir to the publishing empire established by his father and Antarctic explorer, has offered a $2m reward for any information leading to the safe return of his daughter. The compact disc was found by a tourist visiting the famous Paleolithic cave paintings 200 metres into the cave, set on top of a rock. No further information regarding Lund’s disappearance has surfaced. Below is an excerpt from the manuscript found on the compact disc.
“… We had been told that our mother’s life was terminated by killer bees while vacationing in San Marcos, Mexico with Dr Vargas, near his family home. He described how the insects had gone for the insides of her ears, a deliberate technique to destabilise the victim. Mother fell off the horse, waving her hands in the air to beat them off, and hit her head on a rock. He bent down, close to our faces with a pained expression, miming the scene: mother unconscious, Vargas swatting his way through the lethal cloud of screeching insects; his eventual defeat as he was heavily bombarded in a kamikaze-esque onslaught he likened to the attack of the USS Bunker Hill during World War II.
Vargas assured us that mother was unconscious and had not suffered. The killer bee specialists told him that the perfume she was wearing (Fleurissimo, commissioned by Prince Rainier III for Grace Kelly with tuberose, Bulgarian rose, violet and Florentine iris) had incited the bees to violence. If she and Dr Vargas had been smoking cigarettes, the attack would never have happened. Killer bees abhor smoke, even from one cigarette.
Dr Vargas thought it more prudent to spring the brutal truth upon us rather than the fiction of a prolonged hospital stay in Mexico followed by eventual death. Our father was in the midst of a two year expedition to Antarctica and could not be found. Dr Vargas adopted us at age twelve, as was specified in our mother’s will in the event of her death and the inability to locate any kin. The adoption process was quick in light of the fact that it took place in Mexico. We ceased to be Lunds and became Vargases.
We moved shortly thereafter, with our Japanese Akitas Viktor and Shiloh, from southern California to the coast of Maine and its bruise-coloured squalls, milky blizzards, crystallised winter wonderlands and picturesque summers. The house in the forest reminded us of the Russian fairy tales and Tolkien epics our parents read to us at bedtime. For several weeks we were convinced we had been swooped up into Siberia, but when we eventually met the natives the fantasy was dispelled by their speaking English, albeit in a slow gaited accent with in-drawn breaths and a prolongation of vowels.
Camille and I became despondent and did not speak to anyone for nearly a year except to Dr Vargas (because not to would have been too painful to endure). This caused problems at the middle school and we were placed in the Special Education sector. Dr Vargas supplemented our education with readings from social anthropological studies as well as ancient Greek and Roman philosophy after school. Weekends were reserved for algebra, geometry, and physics as well as exams in all subjects. We had to fasten the electric dog collars around our necks before he could test us. For every wrong answer we got a shock. Before discovering the collars, he used a pencil, which left a triangle of lead dots on the back of my hand that resembles a Triad tattoo. Camille always flinched and ended up getting stabbed in the upper arm or the wrist which broke the pencil and failed to mark her. Dr Vargas sat opposite us at review time with the two remote control boxes in front of him on the kitchen table, his fingers on the dial, antenna pointed toward us, his breath stinking of rotting milk.
As a result of this period of speaking very little an acute lift in my sense of hearing as a part of a kind of ‘jungle sensibility’ appeared in me (a heightening of consciousness described in one of Vargas’ anthropology books concerning a tribal people called the Desana of the Columbian Amazon, one of the places I most wished to travel to on earth.). In the forest behind the house I could sense deer before I could see them. The same with rabbits, wolves, chipmunks etc. Then, when I was speaking with a robin, a high pitched sound came out of me and another world opened up. It was as though I had acquired the bat’s ability to echolocate. It was quite difficult to control, the pitch had to be just right. Camille developed the ability to smell water and locate underground reservoirs. We discovered this when we were visiting friends and patients of Dr Vargas at the site of their new home near the Acadian mountains, scouting for a place to drill a well.
Camille and I became pale, dark-eyed ghosts of ourselves. When the chores were finished we were allowed to read or play cards at night. We often sat on the Persian carpet of the library with a fire blazing and played Texas Hold ‘Em in preparation for the weekly sessions with Vargas. He loved to conjure up tales of the Monte Carlo Casino’s history and Beaux Arts’ magnificence, where we would someday break the bank with our Texas Hold ‘Em skills like Joseph Jagger did at the roulette tables in 1873. I don’t remember when Camille and I began to hear each other’s voices in our heads, but I know it was one of these nights, by the fire, when I asked her in my mind’s eye to raise her index finger if she heard me and sure enough, her lone, alabaster digit pointed skyward like E.T. indicating his home planet. I cried myself to sleep every night that I did not pass out from exhaustion. More often than not we slept side by side in my king-sized water bed.
In spring Camille and I collected flowers in the woods behind the 1930s house made of granite ferried from an island off the coast. After checking the rabbit snares we would go to a break in the canopy of trees where we would uproot hollow, crimson and violet spotted stalks with white, lace-like flower formations that fanned out and seemed to hover in the air. The plant’s stalks were mottled an enchanting blood red; it became immediately apparent to us both that the plant had been placed there by the Engineer for the purpose of making a potion that would turn humans into faeries. We called the blend Pan’s Elixir. Vargas didn’t believe that the Engineer existed.
We rubbed pine pitch on our hands and skinned the rabbits, there in the sun. A knife is never necessary. You can just tear their hides off. It’s like they’re wearing a snowsuit. When it rained we had to do it all indoors, usually in the shed. It was cleaner to skin and gut it outside. In the snow was best, under the ice encrusted canopies of branches with the sun coming through. The guts are easily jiggled out onto the ground once the rabbit is cut open and best left for an animal to eat. We tied the skinned, gutted rabbits around a tree branch like an effigy pole and carried them home, pink in the sun, with the flowers.
Some days, before checking the snares, we would walk through the forest to higher ground where there was an abandoned cabin under pines eighty feet tall. Curiosity and the thrill of exploration had driven us there. The scene with the cabin reminded me of Gustav Doré etchings, wreathing and humming, come to life and flickering before my eyes with the darkness and light of fairytales. Camille’s eyes, round with exhilaration and surprise, held mine before we approached through beams of sun and shadow to the front door where Camille grinned impishly, batting off the gnats, mosquitoes and other flying insects. I knocked. Then we found a crowbar in a shed and popped a window open.
We were never able to stay long because it was verboten by Vargas. He seemed to have a kind of radar that beamed out, every so often, searching for us, or perhaps it was more like a crystal ball. We tried to make ourselves invisible, wrapping ourselves with repelling static, and sometimes were able to steal a couple of hours. Through this exercise, we stumbled on what felt like a lesson in the occult, and learned that even Time was more pliable than we had read about in our physics textbooks.
The cabin became our church. We prayed for Vargas’ deliverance from sin through incarnation, suffering and death while we swept the cabin floors and lit candles. We thanked the Engineer for giving us one another. We asked for a way to escape and somewhere safe to go to.
Camille and I walked solemnly around the room, burning sage consistent with accounts of ceremonies by the Passamaquoddy tribe described in one of the social anthropological studies in the library. Inside this book was an inscription in black ink in our father’s fluid scrawl, a haiku poem he had written to our mother. Ironically, the Passamaquoddy reservation was a twenty minute drive away, but Vargas never took us there, despite our pleas. He said that the foray would only lead to disappointment, that the natives were hostile to white people on their land.
We mostly played Texas Hold ‘Em in the sage smoke at a table in the center of the room, our faces pale masks, calculating the odds on potential straight draws, flush possibilities, quads, full houses. You have to know what bet to place, what message you want to send to your opponent. Sometimes you have to play tight and then go mad dog. You have to be patient. Camille surpassed me in ability, keeping my mind lean, clear and focused. It had been two years since we had consistently outplayed and out-lucked Vargas on a regular basis, just over fifty percent of the time. We could have pulled off sixty-five but we didn’t want him to think we were that strong.
Sometimes we smoked the sage in a pipe we’d found in the cabin. One day we had a vision. There was a man. He walked around the room but he didn’t pace. Everything he did, he did with purpose; there was intelligence behind it. He spent a long time cleaning guns. He looked sad and kind. Camille and I thought that perhaps he was the man who was going to come and take us out of here. We both wondered if he was a vardøger, a ghostly double in Norse mythology who precedes a living person and can be seen performing their actions in advance. In Finnish mythology, this is called having an etiäinen or ‘a firstcomer’. We weren’t ever surprised to see him at the door, or in the woods with his dog, or to find him inside on any one of our days there. We longed for the day we would see him in the flesh.
After the time at the cabin had expired (a sickness in the stomach would overcome us) we would go back to the white, clapboard cottage on those summer days, our kneecaps and ankles pricked by undergrowth, over felled trees, through a meadow of forget-me-nots in the humid, fragrant wood with our skinned rabbit effigy poles and flowers. We didn’t bring the Akitas because the rabbits made them loco. They had to hunt for themselves. Vargas said we had to keep our hunting separate. He told us that if we didn’t eat meat our teeth would fall out and we would grow hair all over our bodies like werewolves (facts we verified in one of his medical journals). If we wanted to keep healthy we had to learn to trap and hunt. Fishing would have been ideal because there was a lake an hour’s walk through the forest but Vargas didn’t like us eating fish. We studied hunting manuals and then practiced in the field until we were capable. The snares weren’t that difficult and the yield was adequate. We usually killed a deer in the autumn with a crossbow. Vargas wasn’t about to give us a gun.
Our mother’s tragedy did nothing to dispel Dr Vargas’ love of apiculture. He kept five hives and we ran through the hum, picking up speed until we came to the cottage with a stone terrace leading to the swimming pool. We stuck our rabbit poles into the ground outside, went in through the screen door, put the flowers down and got newspaper and matches. At the back of the cottage was a pit and we made a fire to roast the rabbits. While they were cooking on the spit we boiled the flowers in a pot on the stove to make the tea. Concocting magic potions with the various floras we found was one of our favourite pastimes.
The property was hidden in the forest, off a main road about three minutes after a derelict feed store, up a dirt road on the left. After five minutes of driving a ten foot high dry stone wall emerged and dead straight ahead, a weathered, wrought iron electric gate. The wall ran along the front periphery but stopped two acres back. The road to the house was half a mile into the forest and then one found oneself skimming alongside the manicured side lawns where we would play croquet and badminton in the summer, surrounded on our islet of green by a few giant boulders, the forest encroaching all around, humming and beckoning in the dark, dappled light.
We spent our time divided between the house, school, and gymnastics practice and were not permitted to have friends over or go to anyone’s house. Dr Vargas had ‘special documents’ he didn’t want anyone to see. Camille and I had innocently invited a schoolmate home in one of our more lackadaisical moments one afternoon. Our thirteen-year old friend, accused of being a minx and an agent of the KGB, had fled the house in tears with Dr Vargas’ booming voice crushing all other sounds to naught, cursing her in Latin. We did as we were told and tightened the electric dog collars around our necks as Vargas lengthened the antenna of the remote control box and pressed the button, stopping only to adjust the shock levels until our entire faces were red and wet with tears and we begged him for mercy. The two of us stayed home from school until the electrical burns disappeared.
When we returned to our homeroom class no one spoke to us. It became a habit. We had already been pegged as curiosities of nature: identical twins with strange accents who appeared from out of nowhere, or out of the glitz and glamour of the Golden State with not even a tan to show for it. Our house could not be seen from the road which led to a lot of gossip about the size of it and accounts from people who had actually seen ‘the monstrosity’ declaring that it resembled a nouveau riche rendering of a Transylvanian castle. It was true, Dr Vargas did, to some extent, have an air of Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu about him, except that his teeth fit properly in his mouth, his fingernails were shorter and he moved with more speed and agility. Vargas chose to cover his baldness from the world with a thick, black luxuriant toupee he wore with authority. Camille thought we were the spitting images of Isabelle Adjani. (The film had imprinted within us a special kind of terror that evil would prevail, hanging over our slumbering bodies like incubi, terrorising our dreams.)
We were taunted, threatened and kicked on a regular basis by a posse of high school girls: long-legged, cherubim-cheeked, sylph-like, French kissing, tequila drinking hell-raisers (they were all bi-sexual and two of them shared the same boyfriend, Jaffy, seventeen, with the decisively masculine beauty of Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus slaying Medusa and Kurt Cobain). One of them was the vice principal’s daughter, Danielle. Dr Vargas invited her mother over for tea and explained the situation. He was met with a studied, airheaded, Marilyn Monroe breathless incredulousness. ‘Danielle? Oh, Danni would never do that. No, not my Danni. We go to church every Sunday. Don’t we Danni? She sings in the choir.’ She smiled and brushed a curling tendril of hair from Danielle’s cheek.
They didn’t even make it to the cucumber sandwiches. Dr Vargas told them they should go because it was obvious he would have to take the matter straight to the top. When they left we begged him to let it drop because we knew it would only end in more resentment and degradation.
Arms akimbo in his powder blue Yves Saint Laurent suit with sweat patches under the arms. Dr Vargas resembled a deranged and whisky-crazed Las Vegas preacher waiting for the next shotgun wedding ceremony to begin. He laughed, and as his eyes became slits he told us (his posture suggested he was also telling a room full of people) in his idiosyncratic way of speaking, without any discernible regional accent, about how Danielle – a freshman – was known as the biggest slut in the school and had spread her legs for the entire wrestling team, as well as a few of the teachers. ‘I’ll bet her mother doesn’t know about that. She’d be mortified.’
In a tame display of narrative disjunction I remember Camille replying with a segue (in that far-off voice of hers) related to her new obsession, art: ‘Altamira. Altamira, that’s where I want to go, more than anything. There are prehistoric cave paintings there. Miro was inspired by the forms on the walls and made the wings of angels, all bedecked with hundreds of tiny eyes, twinning the image with the idea that all is alive and magical. He starved himself until he hallucinated. That’s how he made the dream paintings…’ Sometimes she could go a bit like Diego Riviera, when he, aged six, in a rage during a sermon ran to the altar before the astonished worshippers and spoke words, whose sounds, he later recalled, left a burning imprint in his head: ‘Stupid people! You reek of dirt and stupidity! You talk of heaven, pointing with your fingers over your head. What heaven is there? There is only air, clouds which give rain, lightning which makes a loud sound and breaks the tree branches, and birds flying. There are no boys with wings nor ladies and gentlemen sitting on clouds. Clouds are water vapor which goes up when the heat of the sun’s rays strike the rivers and lakes. You can see this vapor from the Guanajuato Mountains. It turns to water which falls in drops so we have rain…’
‘Someday we’ll go to Altamira Camille,’ I whispered in her ear.
Dr Vargas rummaged through his pockets for pharmaceuticals. ‘Of course we’ll go to Altamira. That’s beside the point. All I want to do is protect you. You’re being threatened for the love of God. It isn’t right. What else can I do?’ He swallowed several pills with a glass of champagne.
‘Get an unmarked gun.’ Camille delivered the line deadpan, scratching the side of her nose, staring into Dr Vargas’ eyes.
In our sixteenth year, Dr Vargas’ mother passed away and we all got on a plane to Mexico for the funeral. The Akitas, Viktor and Shiloh, were left with a neighbour. They had been with us from infancy and it was the first time we had been separated from one another. We used this as an excuse, as well as missing precious gymnastic and Theremin practice, to beg Vargas to allow us to stay with the neighbours. He refused and threatened to use the collars on us.
The plane ride was long and dull with a stopover in Dallas. Vargas said he would soon take us from this land of pagan psychodramas and Chevrolets to Paris, where he had lived and studied through his adolescence into his twenties, obtaining a degree in psychiatry and psychotherapy. He picked up a pink-coated bar of popcorn at one of the airport shops with disdain and told us that it was symbolic of the kind of mental decay he had been lecturing us about.
The hot sun, fragrant jasmine and relentless blue sky of San Marcos reminded us of our former southern Californian home and we could hear our mother’s chiming voice around every bend of shadowed wall and feel her in the painful, sunlit passages of the Vargas’ family home. We were left behind with the maids and the gardener the day of the funeral and took the opportunity to explore. Finding the last room our mother had occupied and looking for traces of her had obsessed us since hitting down on the Mexican tarmac. We asked the maid, Valentina, if she knew which room it was and were met with a look of incredulousness which melted into a warm, doe-eyed compassion when we turned our heads to the wall and began to cry as discreetly as possible.
She took us by the arm through cool corridors with tiled floors, and then along a second floor veranda with countless potted flowering plants. An enormous Victorian brass gilded cage sat on one of these verandas in which two birds with red foreheads fading to orange and yellow around the neck and wings of rust and iridescent blue preened one another. Valentina opened French doors to a light, airy room with high ceilings, pale blue walls, walnut furniture and a bed with white sheets embroidered with flowers.
‘She stayed here.’ On the dressing table was the fateful bottle of Fleurissimo, a silver comb and an ornate silver-plated art nouveau hairbrush with cherubs and flowers on it. A couple strands of her hair, the colour of Coca-Cola in the sun, were tangled in the boar bristles. I pulled them out and looked for somewhere to keep them safe. There was a small snuff box inside one of the drawers and I put them in with some difficulty due to their length and elasticity, jumping out of the position I’d folded them into only to be caught by whimsical breezes wanting to tear them away. We looked in the drawers and in the closet for other signs of her but found nothing. Camille took the bottle of perfume.
‘Come, niños,’ she waved her hand with a pained expression on her face. ‘Dr Vargas come back soon and he not be pleased to see you here.’ We followed Valentina out and stopped at the cage of the two birds. She leaned in, tapping on it and told us they were Cuban Red Macaws, the last of their kind, and that their names were Osvaldo and Violetta. They were eating lice off one another, oblivious to our faces peering in through the gilded bars. We made clicking sounds and called their names and they stared at us sideways with quizzical looks.
‘Dey are very intelligent birds. Dey are like children.’
When Dr Vargas came back he had several glasses of bourbon in the library as we sat on a chintz sofa opposite and sipped fizzy lemonades, staring wide-eyed at his crumpled face.
‘We’ll be going back in a matter of days my darlings. We’re taking a couple of macaws with us. Summer in that northern country is fleeting and, as I am sure you are aware, tropical birds are at risk of dying from drafts so we must take every precaution that they do not die. They would be dead in an hour if I left them with my brother. We’re going to drive back in a Winnebago. When I’m gone this will all be yours. Yes, my mother left everything to me. Not my good-for-nothing brother. I’m letting him stay here of course. And we’ll come down a few times a year, no doubt. But ideally, we shall be installed in Paris, or the Cote d’Azur within the next two years, the time to sell the house and reestablish ourselves abroad. You’ve got to be educated properly. I can’t leave my legacy to cretins. Your mother had wanted you to grow up in the wilds of Maine as she had done, but honestly, I can’t take much more of it.’
Our transcontinental voyage in the belly of the luxurious beige-carpeted, dark-wooded interior of the Winnebago spanned long weeks of ever changing terrain through the windows on either side as Dr Vargas drove furiously to Chopin, popping pills all the way while Osvaldo and Violetta flew free, defecating on practically every surface as sweating, flush-faced Camille and I quickly erased every last goopy particle with baby wipes. The air conditioning was verboten. Only one window was to be opened a crack barely large enough for an ant to pass through. A net had to be set up separating the driving cockpit and the rest of the vehicle to keep the birds from dazing themselves on the expansive windshield in an attempt to fly out as well as to keep them from ripping Vargas’ other earlobe off. One of them (it was impossible to tell one from the other unless they spoke) had alighted on his shoulder during dinner one night and proceeded to tear his earlobe off with several quick jerks of the head. There was a lot of blood and Vargas ended up going to an Emergency Room in some southern town I forget the name of to get stitches.
It became clear that Osvaldo and Violetta saw Vargas as their mortal enemy. They would perch as close to the driver’s seat as possible, hiss and repeat ‘Tito es el mal’, turn, lift their tails, and spurt feces in his direction. He appeared oblivious.
After Mexico (and the road) the granite house emerged out of the pine, birch, and hemlock forest as if from another world. It felt strange to step onto solid land. The briny sea air mixed with the scent of sun warmed forest was a delightful reprieve from the humid, stagnant insides of the Winnebago with its odour of Vargas’ unwashed armpits. Three bees with elongated bodies flew out of the vehicle’s door and disappeared into the pastoral scene.
Viktor and Shiloh were unnerved by the petulant birds but eventually got used to their squawking and even let them ride on their backs. The birds were clever and thoughtful and would lift sausages, chicken slices, and bits of hamburger from Vargas’ plate only to drop them in front of the dogs. Osvaldo and Violetta continued with their secret vendetta against Vargas, ripping his expensive Italian shirts, dropping excrement on his head and giving him ‘love bites’. He walked around with bandages on his ears and fingers, so enamored with them that he only scolded lightly, in French.
The guest house was to be turned into a kind of atrium for the macaws with special ‘man trap’ doors used in banks and in the diamond trade, to keep the cold air from infiltrating the tropical climate that was to be created to keep the birds alive. Work was to begin in several weeks so Camille and I had time to enjoy the last days of our cottage in the woods.
We were surprised when Vargas brought a dark haired girl with green eyes (who seemed to be our age) to the screen door of the guest house, opened it, and introduced her as: ‘Elisabeth – the next door neighbour’s daughter.’ He and Elisabeth’s mother were having cocktails by the pool.
‘Do you want some tea? We just made it.’ Camille handed Elisabeth a cup.
‘Do you like croquet? We could always play croquet.’
‘Or badminton. It would be lovely to go swimming but it’s too cold as of yet. Vargas just turned the heater on. Tomorrow it should be perfect.’
‘Have some more tea.’ I poured Elisabeth another and then filled Camille’s and my own. ‘Have some cookies.’
The breeze brought in the fresh, dewy scent of lilacs from outside the screen door. Elisabeth choked on her cookie, took the tea cup and tipped it onto her open lips. Liquid ran down her chin as she set it onto the saucer with both hands. She swallowed. Time suspended. Then, after a few moments, Elisabeth struggled to breathe. I got up and tapped her hard on the back with my palm. She had one hand to her throat. The other clawed at the table. I pulled her off the chair, she flailing her arms like she was drowning. Camille dropped her cup and ran out through the screen door. Elisabeth turned a violet blue. She looked like a big bruise on the carpet. Or Krishna. Or Shiva. Her mother was hysterical over her little body. Vargas was calm and picked her up and carried her to the Land Rover in the drive. At the sight of the limp body in Vargas’ arms Osvaldo and Violetta began to shriek, beating their wings frantically against the bars of their cage, poolside. Osvaldo screamed something in Spanish, sounding uncannily like Vargas, to which Violetta replied rather theatrically in a voice that chilled my blood, so similar to Mother’s: ‘Ayúdeme! No Tito! No!’ We never saw Elisabeth or her mother again.
The next day Vargas set fire to the largest patch of hemlock flowers in the wood. We were banished to our rooms after a round of the electrified collars and a belt whipping and were told never to touch those flowers again.
Camille’s room was above mine and we could talk to one another through the ventilation shafts. Our telepathy had become unreliable and intermittent. ‘They don’t want us to become faeries. They don’t want us to fly away and live a happy life with our kind in the forest. I can feel myself changing. I’m sure, just a little bit more of Pan’s Elixir and we would pass over.’
Camille had an encyclopedia in her room and read me part of the entry for the flowers we had been making tea with: ‘Conium maculatum. A lethally poisonous herbaceous plant of the Umb, umbelli-ferae family related to parsley. The foliage is rank and finely divided. There are white, lacy flat topped clusters of small flowers which erupt from a hollow, purple or red mottled stem. Native to the Old World, the plant has been naturalised and is common in parts of the United States. The poisonous alkaloid coniine found in it causes paralysis, convulsions, and eventual death. The plant was used as a means of execution in ancient Greece and was the method used to kill the philosopher Socrates. It is considered an invasive in twelve US states.’
The thought flickered across my mind like a white butterfly: Camille and I were immortal. It had seemed like a delicious idea before, when I had mused on the life of vampires, but the reality of it was terrifying.
‘Do you think we’re actually dead? Do you think that death could just be a mirror of life? And sometimes you don’t even know you’re dead?’
‘I’m not sure. It could be just the opposite.’ I lay my cheek on the backs of my hands, flat on the floor.
‘I think Vargas hurt Mother.’
‘You heard Osvaldo and Violetta?’
‘One night in Mexico I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to wake you up. I was feeling particularly brave and had this intuition that there must be something else of Mother’s she had left behind they hadn’t gotten rid of. I crept into Vargas’ room. He snored like a bear. There was nothing there I could see but there was a large key on the night stand and I took it for some reason. I tried it in the locked doors of the house. It fitted, after only three tries, into a keyhole whose door lead to the attic. I pulled a light cord. Then I saw a flash of red and woke up in my bed the next morning.
Why did he move us from the villa in California so quickly after Mother died? What’s happening to us? Father has no way of finding us. We can’t get out of here to find him.’
The conversation had become too dangerous for the ventilation shaft. I called to Camille but was met with a blast of air tinged with a faintly acrid, medicinal odor. I did not dare leave my room as that was forbidden after we had gone to bed. Shortly thereafter I must have passed out on the floor. When I woke I was dressed in a nightgown without any underpants on in the sheets of the waterbed. A line from Whitman was scrawled across my left arm in black felt tip marker: And your flesh shall be a great poem. I undressed and all over my body was written: Vargas.
Weeks later, from the bedroom window of the guest cottage, peering through a set of binoculars, Camille and I observed how the bees appeared to move in decidedly more aggressive than usual phalanxes around the apiary. In fact, there appeared to be a war going on with three of the hives against the other two. A few days later we found a neighborhood cat, bloated and lifeless about two hundred feet from the hives. I told Camille how I had seen three bees exit the Winnebago the day we came back. It was clear. We had to saturate Vargas’ clothes with Mother’s Fleurissimo.
After the dowsing of Vargas’ closet and bed sheets we bathed and went to bed. Nixie and I awoke to Vargas’ screams emanating from the pool area. From the window of one of the libraries we watched Vargas, poolside, sans toupee in his tight European swim trunks flailing the red, Fleurissimo saturated terrycloth robe around him in a frantic flamenco, repelling and attracting the bees which at one moment took on the shape of a bull that felled him to the tiles where he ceased to move.
I turned, expecting to see Camille’s pale shoulder and wide eyes to share the shock and wonderment but she was gone. I searched the entire house, calling for her. Vargas’ body disappeared. Three days passed. I went to the cabin but Camille wasn’t there. I left a note.
In the main house I passed a table in one of the drawing rooms where there were photographs of me as a child and of Mother and Vargas when he was young and in Paris. For the first time it struck me that there were no pictures of Camille and I together. I pulled out baby books and three other tomes of photographs. It was always I or Camille alone, or with Mother or Father, or long lost playmates. Never together. How could that be? I suspected that she had been drinking the elixir en cachette. I decided I would go to Altamira.”
 Among the other places I most coveted visiting was the Brazilian Amazon where shy, pink dolphins populate the rivers.