Iris Johansen – Eight Days to Live

By SMW Staff

“Nineteen. He looks younger.” She frowned. “And older. I  can’t quite put my finger on it. There’s a kind of an explosive breakability. Intriguing. What kind of a rough time?”

Jane was silent a moment, then said reluctantly, “He was close to a breakdown.”


Jane didn’t answer.

Celine’s gaze narrowed on her face. “You don’t want to talk about it. You  were willing to tell me all about MacDuff and that silly treasure but not about this beautiful boy. That’s even more intriguing.”

I don’t have the right to talk about it, Jane thought. Celine might be a good friend, but Jane was still fiercely protective of Jock. What was she going to say about him? That boy you think so beauti­ful had been chemically brainwashed and trained as an assassin by Thomas Reilly? That gentle kid was one of the good people who had been twisted and hurt? Jock, who had already killed over twenty people before that portrait had been painted? Jock, the boy who had tried to commit suicide three times before she and John MacDuff were able to break through to him and bring him back to sanity?

No, that was just between her and Jock Gavin and would re­main that way. “He’s my friend. I don’t gossip about my friends.” She added teasingly, “Which should make you happy. I could have a field day if I decided to gossip about all your affairs.”

“I wouldn’t care. It would only make me seem more fascinating. But it’s good to know that I could trust you.” She smiled. “More champagne?”

“No, I  haven’t finished this one.”

“Too bad. I’m trying to get you a little mellow.”

“So that I’ll let you sell the painting of MacDuff’s Run?”

“No, I’ll let you keep that one. And the portrait of the beauti­ful boy.” She sipped her champagne. “I was only leading into my big pitch.”

Jane gazed at her warily. “Celine?”

Celine moved to the next painting. “Now this is a painting that I feel it is my duty to take off your hands. True, it also has impact. But who would want to keep it with them all the time? It’s depressing. Even the title. Guilt. What is that supposed to mean?”

Jane stared at the man’s face in the portrait. He was bearded, his cheeks sunken, his dark eyes burning. She had painted that face years ago. It was one of her works that had been a compulsive obsession until she had finished it. And, once created, she hadn’t been able to let it go. “I have no idea. He doesn’t exist except in my imagination.”

And in those dreams that had occurred over and over until she had completed the painting.

Dreams . . .

No, she  wasn’t going to mention those dreams, not even to Celine. “Guilt seemed right at the time.”

“You don’t know him? He’s not your favorite uncle or your brother?”


“Then there’s no attachment.” She beamed at Jane. “And you can give him up to make us both rich.”

“Celine, I told you that—”

“No, no. Wait until I tempt you.” Celine pulled a card out of her evening purse. “Donald Sarnoff. Computers. San Francisco. He came to me when the show first started and made an offer on Guilt. Very nice. I regretfully refused.”


“But then he came back fifteen minutes before the show was over. He said that he had to have the painting.”

“Too bad. He can’t have it.”

“Jane, he offered seven hundred thousand dollars for it.”