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, Antarctic explorer and heir to the publishing empire established by his late father, 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. No further information regarding Lund’s disappearance has surfaced. Below is an excerpt from the manuscript found on the compact disc.
We were told that our mother’s life was terminated by killer bees while vacationing in San Marcos, Mexico with Dr Vargas at his family home. Vargas 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. 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. He bent down close to our faces with a pained expression and shining white teeth, miming the scene – Mother inert on the ground, 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 Mother was unconscious and had not suffered. The killer bee specialists informed him that the perfume she was wearing (Fleurissimo, commissioned by Prince Rainier III for Grace Kelly composed of 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.
Our father was in the midst of an expedition to Antarctica and could not be found. Dr Vargas adopted us at age eight, 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 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 Mexico to the coast of Maine with 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 used to read to us at bedtime. For the first several weeks we wondered whether we had been swooped up into the hinterlands of Siberia but the fantasy was dispelled when Vargas took us for a drive into the Arcadian mountains where, along the way, we passed rambling farm houses, mobile homes, mongrel capes and ranches, all with American flags flying on the lawns.
The first two years we remained in hiding, confined to the house and grounds. The house was in the Queen Anne style, elaborate and irregular, made of stone and wood with towers, turrets, verandas, bays, ells, gables, dormers, and patterned shingles over the varied roofs. Vargas had reason to believe we were at risk of being kidnapped. A regimented life began. There is no behavior that cannot be learned or unlearned under the right circumstances. Vargas’ regime required a surface obedience we knew we had to maintain or else face unbearable consequences.
In spring Camille and I collected flowers to make tea with in the forest behind the house. After checking the rabbit snares we would follow a path to a break in the canopy of trees where white, lace-like flower formations out fanned out, seeming to hover in the air from a distance. The plant’s stalks were mottled an enchanting blood red and in the colour there was a message. It became immediately apparent to us both that the plant had been placed there by forest spirits to turn humans into faeries. If we could transform ourselves out of this world and into another, we would be free. We made a tea with the leaves, flowers and stalks and christened it Pan’s Elixir. To our great surprise, nothing happened. There was no discernible change in us or our environment. Then it dawned on Camille that the plant alone had little or no effect because it was meant to be used in an alchemy with other plants, rituals, or spells we had yet to find, but which would be revealed to us in time. There was also the possibility the desired result could only be attained through a cumulative effect. We had to continue to drink the elixir and follow the signs.
If we were lucky, four rabbits were caught in the snares. We rubbed pine pitch on our hands before skinning them. A knife is never necessary. You can just tear their hides off. It’s as though they’re wearing a snowsuit. In torrential downpours we gutted them in the shed. It felt cleaner to do the skinning and gutting outside. In the snow was best, on a clear day under the ice encrusted canopies 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, hollowed rabbits around tree branches straight as effigy poles and carried them home, pink in the sun.
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 first time we set eyes on it the scene reminded me of Gustav Doré’s etchings, wreathing and humming, flickering before us 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 she 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.
The cabin became our church. We prayed for Vargas’ deliverance from sin through incarnation, suffering and imminent death. We made an altar, burned sage and performed ceremonies consistent with accounts from 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 pseudo-haiku poem he had written for our mother:
A Blue Morpho butterfly,
I would kill for your love.
It was unsettling. What the deaths of beasts and butterflies had to do with love, Camille and I could never figure out. According to our maps 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 as the natives were hostile to white people on their land. We had to make do with the studies in the library.
Camille and I often smoked 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. After he had left we could still smell his spice scented aftershave and gun oil. We suspected he was the ghostly double (vardøger) in Norse mythology who precedes a living person, performing their actions in advance. We weren’t ever surprised to see the man at the door, or in the woods with his dog (a Rottweiler), or to find him inside on any one of our days there. We longed for the day we would see him in the flesh.
Camille and I sensed when it was time to leave the cabin – we got a chill up our spines and itchy palms and knew we had to move out. Vargas had a palpable psychic radar he’d acquired in India.
On those spring and summer afternoons we would go back to the white, clapboard guest cottage, our kneecaps and ankles pricked by undergrowth, over felled trees, through a meadow of forget-me-nots in the humid, fragrant wood with our rabbits on the effigy poles and handfuls of the white, lacy 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, or venturing that far off alone. We studied hunting manuals and practiced in the field until we were capable. The snares weren’t that difficult and the yield was adequate. In the autumn we killed a deer with a crossbow. Vargas wasn’t about to give us a gun. We never got used to killing them. Once the deer was felled one of us slit its throat and we would both inevitably fall into fits of sobbing over the body to the point of blacking out, coming to covered in blood and vomit. The body was cut up and stored in a freezer in the basement. Vargas ate the entire carcass and collected the heads and skins. Venison was for men, rabbit for growing girls. We kept the pelts and made jackets and boots out of them for our Barbie dolls.
Our mother’s tragedy did nothing to dispel Dr Vargas’ love of apiculture. He kept five hives and we ran through the swarming hum, picking up speed until we came to the cottage with a stone terrace leading to the swimming pool where 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. In the winter we generally made stews. While the bodies were cooking on the spit we boiled the flowers in a pot on the stove to make Pan’s Elixir.
For those first two years we studied solely under Dr Vargas’ tutelage. He imposed upon us a system that was circumscribed, authoritarian, dogmatic and antimagical – the mortal enemy of anyone committed to a magical universe in which all is spontaneous, unpredictable, and alive. Vargas was a firm believer in classical conditioning. Before each session he would begin with: ‘The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction,’ the cue for us to fasten the electric dog collars around our necks. 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, resembling 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, lips parted – lips we were forced to kiss each night at bed time coupled with a mandatory declaration of love. If I could make it to the bathroom before the pills took me under, I would routinely wash my mouth out with soap.
After a year Camille and I began to notice an acute lift in our senses. It seemed similar to the heightening of consciousness described in one of Dr Vargas’ anthropology books concerning a tribal people called the Desana of the Columbian Amazon. We could tell Vargas’ mood from the toxins that seeped out of his skin. In the forest behind the house we anticipated wild animals before we could see them. The flora, fauna, rocks and wind began to speak to us. 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.)
When the lessons and 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, playing no limit 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 poker skills like Joseph Jagger had done at the roulette tables in 1873. It was on one of these nights Camille and I began to hear one another’s thoughts in our heads. We tried to keep the secret from Vargas but he was highly trained and wormed it out of us. He spent the days in a mild euphoria testing our new ability, compiling notes, convinced the pills and injections were working. Then, as quickly as the power had shown itself, it vanished. Dr Vargas didn’t believe us at first and went to work digging a pit in the forest where we were to spend the next two weeks, unclothed, fed on beef jerky and water. One night he dragged us – shivering and in a state of mental confusion – back into the house, half naked, clothed only in his underwear, as though the idea had suddenly come to him in sleep and he was only half awake – a grunting somnambulist.
We were matriculated in the first year of middle school under the names of Jane and Susan Vargas. Phase two in our education included a re-socialization program. It was imperative we learn how to move like ghosts among the general population. We were to acquire the skills of espionage, infiltration, and sabotage most often attributed to ninjas. Betraying our General – Dr Vargas – would result in a funeral pyre being made and one of us set on fire while he held the survivor’s eyelids open. We knew he wasn’t kidding.
Idle chit-chat was as an excellent shield against snooping interlocutors but even so, it was best kept to a minimum as it could lead to a slip of the tongue. Vargas warned us that the other children would no doubt make us suffer and said whatever didn’t kill us would make us stronger.
Under Vargas’ direction we slipped by easily unnoticed after an initial period of being pegged as snobs, held in contempt and shunned. From this vantage point we were able to carry out our missions. Occasionally school yard gossip would turn to Vargas. The general consensus held that he was a blood-sucking vampire and baby killer. 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 imprinted within us a special kind of terror that evil would prevail, hanging over our slumbering bodies like incubi, terrorizing our dreams.)
By high school the teachers and students began to notice us again. Boys stopped us in the hallways, pinned us into corners and dropped amorous notes in our lockers. We were taunted, threatened and kicked on a regular basis by a posse of the most popular girls – long-legged, cherubim-cheeked, sylph-like, French-kissing, tequila-drinking hell-raisers. They were all bi-sexual with two of them sharing the same boyfriend, Japhy, 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-like 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 ordered them to leave. 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 shot gun 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 junior – was known as the biggest slut in the school and had spread her legs for the entire wrestling team, as well as for a few of the teachers. ‘I’ll bet her mother doesn’t know about that. She’d be mortified.’
In one of her tamer displays of narrative disjunction Camille replied (in that far-off voice of hers): ‘Altamira. That’s where I want to go – more than anything – to the prehistoric caves. Miro was inspired by them. He made the wings of angels with hundreds of tiny eyes because if we look through the right eyes we can be saved. He starved himself until he hallucinated. That’s how he made the dream paintings.’
‘Someday we’ll go to Altamira, Camille. Just you and I,’ 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.
‘Put us out of our misery. Get a gun and shoot yourself in the head.’ Camille delivered the lines deadpan, scratching the side of her nose, staring into Dr Vargas’ eyes. He pretended not to hear.
In our sixteenth year, Dr Vargas’ mother passed away. We all got on a plane to Mexico for the funeral. The ride was long and dull with a stopover in Dallas. Vargas said he would soon take us from this land of pagan psychodramas and Chevrolet 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. We thought we could hear our mother’s chiming voice around the bends in the shadowed walls and felt her presence in the painful, sunlit passages of the Vargas’ family home, her last place of residence. The day of the funeral we were left behind with the maids, a few bodyguards and the gardeners and took the opportunity to explore. Finding the last room our mother had occupied and looking for traces of her had obsessed us since touching down on the Mexican tarmac. We asked one of the maids, 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 with two birds inside, their red foreheads fading to orange and yellow around the neck, wings the colour of rust and iridescent blue. 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 please 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 returned we were called to the library where we found him in a leather chair drinking bourbon. He motioned for us to sit down on a chintz sofa opposite in front of two fizzy lemonades. We listened to him as we stared into his crumpled face, searching it for any tells without giving away any of our own.
‘We’ll be going back in a matter of days, my darlings.’ He flicked a piece of imaginary lint off of his sleeve. ‘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 expiring 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.’ He poured himself another drink and rolled his tongue over his teeth. ‘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.’ Camille glared. I saw in her a bloodlust to shoot down with her lightning bolt the man who did not believe in magic.
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 ‘The Three Bs’ – Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven – 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 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 odor of Vargas’ unwashed armpits. Three bees with elongated bodies flew out of the vehicle’s door and disappeared into the pastoral woodland scene.
Viktor and Shiloh were unnerved at first by the petulant birds but eventually got used to their squawking and even let him 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.
The breeze brought in the fresh, dewy scent of lilacs from outside the screen door. ‘We were just having a tea party.’ Camille poured Elisabeth a cup of Pan Elixir. We all sat down around the table.
‘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.’
Elisabeth put her shaking tea cup onto the table and gasped, throwing her head back, clutching at her throat. A gnawing, rasping sound came out of her as she struggled to breathe, convulsed and fell off the chair. Camille ran out the screen door for help. I fell to the floor beside her. She looked like a big bruise on the carpet. Or Krishna. Or Shiva. Her mother was hysterical over her body. Vargas was calm, picked her up and carried her to the Land Rover in the drive. At the sight of Elisabeth in Vargas’ arms Osvaldo and Violetta began to shriek, beating their wings frantically against the bars of their cage, poolside. One of them called out in a voice so like mother’s it sent an iciness through me, followed by a sinking feeling and finally a sickening of the heart: ‘Hijos míos, me perdonan! Te he llevado al diablo!’ We never saw Elisabeth or her mother again.
The next day Vargas set fire to the largest patch of Pan’s Elixir flowers in the wood. We got off lightly and were banished to our rooms after a belt whipping in the shed. The flowers were poison. We were never to touch them again.
Camille’s room was above mine and we could talk to one another through the ventilation shafts. Our telepathy had returned but was unreliable and intermittent. Camille read from an encyclopedia in her room: ‘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 naturalized 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.’
It hit me that we were either dead, immune to the poison, or possibly even immortal. Before I could respond to Camille the nightly blast of air tinged with a faintly acrid, medicinal odor came through the ventilation shafts. Shortly thereafter I must have passed out on the floor. When I awoke I found myself in bed, in a nightgown without any underpants on. 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. Everything became unreal, as though I was observing my life outside from outside of my body, like watching a film.
Weeks later, from the bedroom window of the guest cottage, peering through a set of binoculars, Camille and I noticed 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 neighbourhood cat, bloated and lifeless about two hundred feet from the hives. I told Camille how I had seen three bees – possibly of the Mexican killer variety – 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. Camille and I awoke to Vargas’ screams emanating from the back of the house. We watched Vargas from the window, 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 in the shock and wonderment but she was gone. I searched the entire house, calling for her. Three days passed. Vargas’ body disappeared. 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. It struck me that there were no pictures of Camille and I together. I pulled out baby books and three tomes of photographs. It was always I or Camille – I couldn’t tell who – but alone, or with mother or father, or long lost playmates. Never together. How could that be? Had she managed to wipe herself out of this dimension completely? Had she been drinking the elixir en cachette? I decided I would go to Altamira.