Lily drove up to the condo visitor's parking and stood outside her car for a moment, looking up at the towers. She had never really considered them before, maybe glanced at them when she'd come to shop at the mall, but didn't think of them, not really, as a place where people actually lived. As she went in the front lobby, she saw Danny standing at the front desk, talking with the security guard.
It was nice to see him looking casual, really casual, with a t-shirt stretched over his broad shoulders and wearing shorts, showing off his long legs. His hair was messy and his face was ruddy, but he smiled when he saw her. "I timed that well," he said, picking up the paper tray of coffees and pastry box off the security desk.
She wasn't sure if they were "there," yet, but she stood up a little as she walked up to him, tilting forward on tiptoe to kiss him hello, just in case they were, and he accepted and greeted her with a quick brush of the lips. Very nice.
"Don't get too close," he warned, still smiling, "I just came in from my run."
Ah, that explained his red face. "You're fine," was all she said, as he led her to the elevator banks.
"I didn't get you a coffee, I realized I didn't know how you take it," he said, gesturing some with the paper tray.
"I'm not a big coffee drinker," she replied. "So that's all right."
"Sean Patrick has a wide variety of tea and soda upstairs," he said. "You can take your pick. Hopefully you do like Danishes."
"I do," she nodded the affirmative. "Tea would be great."
"We'll get the kettle on for you while I take a quick shower and dress," he said.
She looked down at her own jeans and t-shirt. "I'm dressed okay, right?"
"Look fantastic," he replied. "I know it's still warm during the days, but no one really swims this time of year, the water's gotten too chilly. Dad keeps talking about heating it but he never seems to get around to it. Come on in." He unlocked the door to a condo at the end of the hall and led her into an impossibly luxurious main room, with a kitchen in the front to the left, and hallways leading off in both directions. Directly in front of her was a broad, wide, open sliding glass door leading out onto a spacious balcony.
"A vampire lives here?" she asked, looking around at the decidedly Southwestern décor, the displays of arrowheads and cowboy artwork, and the rich leather upholstery with the nailhead trim.
"No direct sunlight," replied Danny, putting the tray on the kitchen countertop, similar in general design to her own apartment, but the countertops were solid polished granite, with a gold-flecked backsplash, not cheap plastic.
Elvis Presley was playing in the main living room, just ahead of them, so Danny led the way, calling, "Sean Patrick? I'm back, and Lily's here."
The huge television on the wall was showing an old Elvis concert, one Lily remembered Grandmother watching over and over again. A tall, impossibly thin man rose to his feet from where he was lounging on the massive, overstuffed leather sofa, setting aside a pile of papers and a rather large laptop computer. "Welcome," he said, turning a big, charming smile on her.
Lily felt a surge of delight rush through her as she enthusiastically took his hand. There was no doubting her senses, she could feel him through to her bones, a joy that combined the memory of watching the Kachina dances when she'd been a little girl, the first Christmas she remembered when she got to taste chocolate for the first time, or the time when grandfather first showed her how to see the auras in supposedly inanimate objects, such as trees and flowers. This was no common vampire, no white man’s "true" vampire, no "inbetweener." This was a spirit, a Nightwalker. "I'm so honored to meet you. I never dreamed I'd actually meet a Nightwalker," she said, almost gushing she was so overwhelmed.
He smiled at her, a warm, friendly smile that made his eyes crinkle at the corners. His skin was the color of a vanilla caramel, but his eyes were a deep and clear brown, with flecks of hazel in them. His hand was smooth and strong, not warm but not cold, either. "You're the third person I’ve ever met that called me that. Are you a Shaman?"
Lily's face heated. "No, I'm a woman."
The nightwalker's mouth tightened. "That shouldn’t have anything to do with it. But my great-grandfather called me a nightwalker, and then I never heard the term again until I met a Dakota Sioux fellow, up in South Dakota. Both of them were Shamans. So I just assumed." He bent his head, bringing himself closer to her, bending as supple as a willow branch, "I apologize."
"It's all right. It's not your fault," she said, studying his face. She could see what Danny had seen, the darkness that rimmed his aura, but amidst that darkness the kindest heart sparkled through, shining like a beacon in the center of his being. She turned to Danny, trying to regain control of her emotions. "You didn't tell me he was a nightwalker."
Danny was looking at her blankly, clearly not understanding. "Nightwalker?" he echoed, looking over her at his uncle, one eyebrow raised.
She heard Sean Patrick chuckle, and she made a face at Danny. "All those vampire study courses and classes in Native American studies and you never ran across the word nightwalker? How does the white man teach, anyway?"
"I give, I give," said Danny, lifting his hands in surrender. "You can teach me on the drive over. I got to get showered, if you don't mind this vampiric Lothario entertaining you while I'm out of the room."
"I am not a Lothario," Sean Patrick protested, but it was such a weak protestation that Danny only laughed as he vanished down the left-hand hallway. "Come on in and have a seat, Lily," he said, clearing a spot for her on the sofa.
"Did we interrupt your work?" she asked, sitting down.
"I'll be working on this for the rest of the week. I would have had to put it aside when we leave for Apache Junction, anyway," he replied, closing the computer and putting it on the coffee table. He reached for a remote and started to turn the television off.
"You can leave it on. I like Elvis," she said.
That brought another bright smile. "Good for you. Sometimes the youngsters don't care for my old crap."
"My grandmother loved him. I must have seen this concert a hundred times when we were living with her, when I was a little girl," said Lily, watching the bright colors of Hawaii on the screen.
He picked up an electronic cigarette from the table and turned it off, tucking it into the pocket of the plaid Western cut shirt he wore. "So what tribe?" he asked, a casual, curious tone.
"Hopi," she replied, and looked sharply at his face. "And I believe Danny said you were part Apache?"
"Yep. My grandmother was one-hundred-percent. I'm guessing you probably don't care for us."
"Well, the word 'usurper' is used sometimes," she admitted. "But it's mostly reserved for the Navajo."
"Well, Navajo and Apache are related. But my people were southern plains, Lipan Apache. Never in Arizona at all, I promise." He smiled at her, and Lily couldn't help but smile back.
She looked around at his artwork, much of which was standard cowboy art, very little of it standing out, except for one. "That looks like a real Lori Takahashi," she said, pointing at a painting of a pair of cat's eyes, peering through impossibly green leaves, an impressionistic swirl of color around the startling realism of the eyes.
"You know Lori's work?"
"She's one of my favorite western artists," said Lily, rising and going to look more closely at the painting. It was a painting, and not a print; she could see the brushstrokes, and at the bottom, the clear "L Takahashi" signature. "It IS a Lori Takahashi. One of her actual paintings! But she died so young and her body of work is so small, how did you get this?" Of course, he was rich, just look at this place, that was a ridiculous question.
But he smiled again. "I knew Lori. She painted me a few times."
"You knew her? But she died years ago…" her voice trailed off. She realized she had no idea how old the nightwalker was; he was old enough to be Danny's great-great grandfather, or some such, wasn't he?
His smile widened. "Yes, it was years ago. Probably before you were born."
"No, she died right after I was born. I read all about her when I got old enough to know the name of the painting I grew up staring at. 'The Nightwalker.' It was on my wall when I was a baby and a little girl, and we took it with us when Mama moved us down to Phoenix. It's always been on my wall."
"Come with me," he said, gesturing she should follow him. Curious, she pulled herself out of the thick leather of the sofa. He led her into an office, or library, a man's den filled with more rich leather furniture, a large desk and computer equipment, and one section of the wall opposite the desk, a wide, high, well-lit space where a large print of "The Nightwalker" hung. She looked closely at it, although she knew that the original painting was hanging in a museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. It wasn't a painting, but the print number was 1 of 1,000, dated March, 2002, and the "L Takahashi" was not only part of the print, but also there in silver marker.
"Wow. The first print of the first print run?" she asked, looking at print with almost as much awe as she might the actual painting.
"Well, honey," he said, "I'm the Nightwalker."
Lily turned her head, slowly, to look at his tall, lean figure lounging in the doorway, then back to the upright figure of the Nightwalker, standing in the tall prairie grass under the swirl of stars, deliberately meant to invoke a North American take on Van Gogh's "Starry Night."
"We were having a picnic, near the banks of the Missouri River," he went on, his eyes gone surprisingly sad as they moved from her face to the print on the wall, "She was trying to cheer me up. I'm a bit depressive, and she was a good, good friend to me. I don't remember why, but I stood up, and she made me stop. She sketched that for about twenty minutes, then cut me loose and lost herself in it. For months she painted. I went home to Los Angeles, and she painted. Then out of the blue, she calls me back to the gallery opening and the unveiling. Her greatest work." He smiled, but it was a smile as sad as the expression in his huge eyes.
"The more I read about her the more I liked her," said Lily. "I looked at pictures of all her paintings, at least, all the ones they were able to make copies of for the books. There's not a lot, but every article I ever read said she could have been the greatest painter in South Dakota history. The greatest non-Native western artist."
"I'm glad she's remembered like that. I think about her just as fun girl with auburn hair that liked to eat cheeseburgers and dance. She introduced me to Alan Thorne."
"She knew Alan Thorne, too? Wow."
"She could have spearheaded the new Algonquin Table, my girl," said Sean Patrick. "Anyway, I'll show you something I never ever show anyone."
Lily followed him to a closet in the hall, down the opposite way from where Danny had vanished. She could hear, from that direction, the sound of the shower, faint and faraway in the muffled elegance of the condo. Sean Patrick opened the door to reveal a rather large walk-in closet with what appeared to be a hundred years of life carefully stored therein. "Do you ever throw anything away?" she asked, as he moved a few boxes.
"Now and again," he replied with a grin. "Bear in mind, I also have a condo in Vegas and an apartment in Los Angeles."
"I guess life is messy," she said.
"Yep." He took out a large rectangle that was carefully swathed in soft cloth. "This is only because
you're a fan of her work."
Lily gasped as he drew back the cloth. "Oh, my," she breathed. "So this is where it went." She took the painting from him and drew back. "May I look at it in the light?"
He was blushing, but he nodded, his eyes curious.
Lily carried the painting with some amount of reverence out into the living area and to the balcony, where the morning light was strongest. The painting was a deeply realistic rendering of Sean Patrick in the nude, lounging on a bed, with one arm cocked behind his head and one knee bent, but it was his expression that dominated the painting, and the artist had captured a face that was bemused, curious, intent, and yet relaxed all at the same time. The colors were masterful, the strokes loving, almost caressing the canvas. "Oh," said Lily again, taking in the details, "I read about this painting. It's called 'Capture a Moment.' All anyone could find was a picture of it someone took at her only showing in South Dakota before she died. All the family would say was that it was purchased by a close friend. The fellow who wrote the article went to that show, he saw it, and he said that 'The Nightwalker' might be generally considered her masterpiece, but this was her 'Mona Lisa.'" The artist had captured more than a moment, she'd somehow captured all the elusive qualities of her nightwalker and put them into this rendering of his face. It was beautiful.
"Really?" he said, and part of that expression came across his face, bemused and intrigued and this time, maybe a little guilty.
"You know, you don't have to be ashamed of your body," she said, giving him a look. "You're rather handsome."
He blushed again. The boys in this family were certainly given to blushing. Lily shook her head. "You don't know what it was like, being at that opening, people looking at this and then seeing me. They knew what I looked like naked."
"We're all naked under our clothes," replied Lily.
"You sound like Cody," he grumbled.
"Danny's mom," he said. "That reviewer, he really said that about this painting? All based on one gallery showing?"
"Yep. And people have been looking for it. Her family would never say who bought it."
"Well, they sure wouldn't let me buy 'The Nightwalker,' and I offered quite a bit for it." He took in a deep breath and came to stand next to her on the balcony, looking at the painting in her hands.
"It's not that it's a nude," Lily explained, making him take one corner so she could gesture with her free hand. "The eye is drawn by the composition to your face, mostly your eyes, so. That's 'the moment' she wanted to capture here, the story she wanted to tell. It's all in that face, the set of your mouth, the way your eyes shine in the light at that angle, the color of your skin, the way your hair falls. She made life here."
"I guess I never really looked at it." The guilty tone had returned to his voice.
Lily glanced up at him. "What?"
"She wanted me to promise it wouldn't end up 'hidden in a closet somewhere,'" he said.
Lily sucked on her cheeks. "Did you promise?"
"Actually, no, I did not. I expressly said I could NOT make that promise. But I remember her asking." He seemed to finally let out that long breath. "But you make me think."
"What are we looking at?" Danny came out, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, his hair still damp. "I see. These are the etchings my uncle shows my new girlfriend?" He said it in a light, joking manner, but it gave Lily a strange thrill of delight at the term "girlfriend."
"I was showing it to Lily, not to you," said Sean Patrick, taking the painting back and swathing the cloth around it again.
"It's a nice painting," said Danny.
"It's better than nice," replied Lily. "It's Lori Takahashi's lost master work, and this guy's kept it hidden in a closet for twenty-six years."
"I feel guilty enough about it," said Sean Patrick, carrying the painting back to the hall. "But now at least I'll think about doing something else with it. Maybe I'll send it anonymously back to South Dakota, to join 'The Nightwalker' there in her permanent display."
"I think they'd like that."
"And it's highly unlikely that anyone would know it was me there, anyway, even if I come to see it," said Sean Patrick, shrugging. "The most people would say now is 'hey, you look like him,' if I were standing right next to it."
"Which they would not if you displayed it here."
"Little kids come to this house," he said, all prim Victorian manners.
"And you should expose them to more art than just Charlie Russell and Frederic Remington."
Sean Patrick stuck his tongue out at her.