the drawing room of the collinson town house on east 86th street.
‘excuse me, miss. mister palomine is here.” williams was the perfect imperturbable butler, but the faintest note of disapproval could be detected in his voice.
cosima collision, who had been staring into space, blinked and looked up. “i wonder what he wants.”
“he stated that he was not expected.”
“oh, show him in, show him in. “
“shall i bring anything, miss?”
“no, no. if he wants a drink, i will get him one myself.”
williams nodded and left.
cosima glanced at the antique clock on the mantel. it was early - not quite midnight.
the street outside was quiet. only a few cars could be heard passing by.
pete palomine entered the room, looking a little ill at ease.
“cosima - thank you for seeing me.” pete glanced around the otherwise empty drawing room. “i hope i’m not intruding.”
“make yourself at home, pete. cigarette?”
“sure, thank you.”
“there is some in that silver case there. help yourself.”
pete took a cigarette and sat down on a sofa across from cosima. “you are probably wondering why i’m here.”
“i don’t know why you are here, pete. why don’t you tell me why you are here.” cosima looked at pete with just the faintest hint of pity.
pete was not quite what he had been just a few months ago.
then he had been the darling - one of the sudden darlings of the art world. his “hypnotic proletarian“ artworks were having their day in the sun.
but then, just as suddenly, his day seemed to be over and newer faces and newer styles had pushed up and past him.
his last major exhibition - at cosima’s gallery - had not gone well, either with the critics or the buying public. there had been threats of a spot of bother - vague threats to pete of both lawsuits and bodily outrage - but nothing had come of them.
but that had not been the problem. the exhibition had just not gone well - it seemed that the “hypnotic proletarian” pieces had lost their charm, or their shock value, or whatever they had had.
there had been no recriminations on either side, but pete and cosima had not seen each other since.
“so, pete, what have you been up to? anything new?”
“you mean - in my own work?” pete laughed a little nervously.
“well - have you been?”
“um - not exactly. i’ve sort of been taking a break.”
“no harm in that. so then what brings you here?”
“i was talking to this fellow the other day.”
“oh?” cosima sighed slightly. “and what did this nameless fellow have to say?”
“he was talking about a certain paying proposition - about a certain so-called fabulous artwork.”
“pete, this doesn’t sound good, not good at all.”
pete held up his hand. “hear me out. i am not asking you to get involved. i know you are a collinson, you would never get involved in anything the least bit shady, so all i am asking is your opinion. on whether there might be anything to this guy’s story at all. i just want your opinion, as a friend.”
“all right.” cosima looked around. “how long is this story?”
“not that long. and it is actually a pretty interesting story - even if you don’t think there is much to it.”
“and it is about?”
“the pearl of armon-mu - otherwise known as the golden gumdrop.”
cosima laughed. “oh - pete!”
“so you have heard of it?”
“maybe. all these stories are the same - the same nonsense. pete, i am really disappointed in you. i tell you what - why don’t you go back to your studio and do something - anything - do clown paintings, ballerinas, red barns at sunset - imitate pollock or de kooning or anybody - do anything and i will take a look at it. i will lend you a few dollars if you need it. but forget this fabulous lost artwork nonsense.”
“but you said you would listen to the story.”
“all right , i’ll listen. maybe you would like a drink first.”
“thank you, that would be nice.”
“and what would you like?”
“um - a whiskey and soda.”
armed with his whiskey and soda, and with cosima having provided herself with a tall gin and bitters, pete began the tale of the golden gumdrop.