WOMAN OF MYSTERY

CHAPTER ONE

There hadn’t been many times in Jessica Matthews’ life that she had been left speechless, but now was definitely one of them. Realising she was standing there with her mouth hanging open, she snapped it shut and searched her mind for a pithy reply.
In the end, all she could come up with was a rather lame, “Excuse me, but what did you just say?”
Noah Glassman, his back currently turned to her, swung around to face Jessica. He was sitting, no not sitting he was slouching, in a large swivel chair. The chair was obviously old and had seen better days. The leather upholstery was cracked and faded, and one of the arms was missing.
Noah Glassman wore a crumpled shirt open at the collar with a loosely knotted tie, creased trousers and a pair of brown loafers which looked like they went out of fashion only a couple of years after Jessica had left nursery school. Adding to his general unkempt appearance, Noah’s shaggy brown hair looked badly in need of a brush and his beard a trim. At least there didn’t appear to be scraps of food sticking to his beard, that really would have been the last straw and Jessica probably would have turned and fled.
Noah cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair. “I said, Mrs Matthews, that I’m not paid by the University of Trento to hold your hand, while you indulge in some mid-life crisis of rediscovering your lost passion for art by trotting around Italy and writing up on the grand masters for some vacuous infotainment magazine in the UK.”
Once again, Jessica was left speechless. That wasn’t what he had originally said, but rather an expanded, improved, more insulting version.
“Mid-life crisis?” she said. “But, I’m thirty-two!”
Noah waved a languid hand in dismissal. “For all I care you could be ninety-two. I’m not interested.”
Jessica thought he might turn his back on her once more and face his desk, but he didn’t. He slouched in his old chair and stared up at her. Jessica was suddenly struck by the startlingly deep blue of his eyes. They were so clear and piercing that she had to look away. She fixed her attention to a spot just above his head, at the rows of art books crowding the shelves. Just like their owner they were haphazard and dishevelled. Some of them looked in danger of falling apart, their bindings were so tattered, whilst others looked big enough to kill if they dropped from the shelves and landed on someone’s head.
Or maybe knock some sense into Noah Glassman’s head.
Jessica took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts.
“May I just check that you are Noah Glassman, visiting lecturer and artist in residence, the same Noah Glassman that Professor Bianchi advised me to come and see, and who told me would be very helpful and accommodating?”
“I’m afraid Mr Glassman has stepped out of the office for the foreseeable future.” Noah grinned. “Sorry about that.”
“But wait, you’re not . .?” Jessica faltered as she realised she was being made fun of.
“I know what you’re thinking, Mrs Matthews, it must be rather a shock to find someone who doesn’t immediately jump to his feet and trip over himself to give you everything you want. But look, I’m not all bad, we’ve just got off on the wrong foot that’s all.”
Noah pulled open a drawer in his desk and took out a bottle of whisky and two glasses. He poured a generous slug into each glass and then held one out for Jessica.
“Come on, loosen up Mrs Matthews. Have a drink, it’ll remove the taste of lemon from your mouth.”
“Lemon?” Jessica said, frowning.
“Yeah, lemon,” Noah growled. “From the expression on your face you’ve obviously been sucking on one since you came in my office.”
Utterly horrified, Jessica stared at the glass of whisky held out for her. For the first time in her life not only was she speechless, but she had no idea what to do next. Should she leave, slamming the door behind her? Should she find Professor Bianchi and report Noah Glassman for his rudeness? Perhaps she should just go back home to England and forget all about the research for her article.
“I have never been so insulted in all my life,” she said finally.
“I take it that’s a no for the drink, then?” Noah replied.
He downed the whisky himself and sat the glass on the desk.
Jessica watched in appalled fascination as he then downed the second glass of whisky. He reached out for the bottle but then seemed to have second thoughts and left it where it was. He slouched back in his broken down chair and gazed up at Jessica.
“You’re still here,” he mumbled.
“Do you often drink at work?” Jessica said.
“At work, at home, I’ve even been known to go and visit a bar and have a drink there sometimes. I find it helps the days go by a little smoother.”
“You’re drunk, aren’t you?” Jessica said, struggling to understand why the kindly Professor would have sent her to this rude, arrogant man for advice on her research.
“Not quite,” Noah replied, “but I’m getting there. Why don’t you join me, Mrs Matthews, it’s been a while since I got drunk in company.”
Jessica could stand it no longer, she had to say something even though she had the distinct feeling she would regret it. “For your information, Mr Glassman, I’m not Mrs Matthews but Miss.”
Noah held up his hands as though he was surrendering. “I must apologise for my rudeness. I stand corrected.” His brow furrowed in thought. “No, that’s not right, I sit corrected.”
Was he making fun of her, or was that a genuine apology? Jessica decided to give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment. Although she had no idea why she should. Perhaps it was those piercing blue eyes. Or perhaps it was the fact that, underneath that beard and all that hair, Noah Glassman was quite obviously very handsome. She had a hunch that if he were to have a shave, he would reveal a strong jawline, and she was certain now that he was a lot younger than she had first thought. It was the beard that made him look older.
“Mrs Matthews?” Noah said, breaking into her thoughts. “Are we finished?”
Jessica was jolted back into the present, flushing slightly with embarrassment as she realised she had drifted off in thought.
“I suppose we have,” she said.
“No doubt I will see you at the exhibition tomorrow. I’m sure you will find everything you need for your project there.”
“My . . . project?” Suddenly the anger rose in Jessica’s chest. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not some little girl at school doing a project for her homework! I happen to be writing an article for a reputable UK magazine about the recently discovered work of Lorenzo Gagliardi, and I was advised to come and see you as you are the foremost expert on Gagliardi’s work. But all you have done since I stepped into your office is insult me!”
Noah looked hurt. “That’s not true.”
“Isn’t it?”
“No. I offered you a drink.”
Jessica sighed in exasperation. “Oh, you are such an infuriating man!”
Noah grinned. “Yeah, but you like it.”
“That’s what you think!” Jessica snapped, and turned on her heel to leave.
The idea had been to make a dramatic exit, maybe even slam the door behind her. But the door got caught on a bump in the floor, beneath the carpet and so she struggled to pull it open. When she finally managed to get outside, she didn’t bother to close the door and stalked off down the university corridor, her feet echoing off the wood-panelled walls.
Never before had she felt so infuriated, embarrassed and offended by someone.
And yet, at the same time, she had to admit there was something very attractive about Noah Glassman.
* * *
Noah stood up and walked over to the open door. He watched Jessica’s retreating figure disappear around a corner at the end of the corridor and then he shut the door. He had been doing this a lot more recently, shutting his door on the rest of the university, shutting out the world.
Walking back over to his desk he sat down heavily in his chair. The chair creaked beneath his weight and he thought for a moment something might break and send him crashing to the floor. But it held, and he was able to turn back to his desk and place his elbows on the top. Putting his head in his hands he let out a deep sigh.
Jessica Matthews had to be the prettiest young woman who had walked into his life in a long time. In fact, ever since . . . well, that was something he refused to dwell on. He knew he had to keep his thoughts fixed on the present, work on getting through each and every day.
Still, he couldn’t stop thinking about Jessica. Her long, wavy blond hair, slim build, casually dressed in jeans and T-shirt. She wasn’t beautiful in a magazine cover, model sort of way. No, her beauty was much more natural and simple than that.
And he couldn’t help but think now how he must have looked to her. Not exactly a work of art, was he?
Noah knew he had been rude and unpleasant with Jessica. It was the drinking that did that to him. And he had been drinking a lot more recently. Although he wouldn’t have said he was drinking too much. On the contrary, he wasn’t drinking enough. Not yet.
Noah picked up the bottle of whisky and unscrewed the cap. He was about to pour himself another generous serving when he paused, the bottle hovering over the empty glass.
A thought flashed into his mind of Jessica standing in front of him while he offered her a drink of whisky. All of a sudden he could see it from her point of view. How sad and silly he must have looked. He had thought he was being clever and witty, but no. Not when he put himself in her shoes.
Noah put the bottle down.
Maybe he was drinking too much.
He put the cap back on and then put the bottle back in the drawer.
Ran his hand through his hair and then over his beard.
And maybe he could do with a haircut and a shave.
Noah blew out his cheeks in frustration and slammed his hand on the desk top.
“What do you think you’re playing at, Noah Glassman?” he said to his empty office. “One visit from a pretty young woman and she turns your head. Pull yourself together, man.”
Noah opened the desk drawer, took out the whisky bottle, and poured himself that generous serving after all.
* * *
Jessica walked through the university corridors, past the lecture halls and out of the arts faculty. She stepped outside into the glorious sunshine and found herself a bench to sit down on. The warmth of the sun, the blue sky and the snow-capped mountains visible in the distance immediately had a calming effect upon her nerves. The city of Trento in Northern Italy was situated in a dip between the mountains, and whichever direction you looked in you could always see the snow-tipped peaks. Jessica’s landlady had said that some locals found being surrounded by mountains a little claustrophobic at times, but Jessica thought they were utterly beautiful and magnificent.
The city of Trento was also stunning, so very picturesque with its sun bleached, beautiful architecture. Jessica could almost see herself relocating here and taking advantage of the clear light and beautiful scenery to learn to paint once more.
Jessica sighed heavily. After her divorce from Harrison she had fallen into a slump of despondency and listlessness, and this trip to Italy had been her parents’ way of trying to lift her mood. They had paid for the trip, and her mother had even offered to come along for the two weeks. But Jessica had gently but firmly refused. She was grateful for the offer, but more than anything she wanted time away from her usual surroundings, and from all the familiar faces. Now that she was single again it was perhaps a good time to rethink her life, and what she wanted out of it.
How she had ever imagined her and Harrison might be suitable marriage partners, Jessica could now not fathom. Where she was artistic and passionate, he had been cool and analytical. Yes he was an amazing surgeon and clinical teacher, but his life was so very ordered and structured it sometimes drove Jessica mad. Some days (most days) she wanted to throw off the shackles of normal everyday life and do something fun and exciting and, yes, maybe even a tiny bit outrageous.
But not Harrison, her perfectly sensible husband.
She remembered that one time they were on holiday in the South of France. They had been on a secluded, golden beach enjoying the sunshine when Jessica had suggested they take off all their clothes and run down to the water where they could skinny dip. There was hardly a soul within shouting distance, but Harrison had immediately balked at the idea, and he had raised all sorts of objections.
Was nudity allowed on this beach? What if somebody saw them and called the police? Their clothes might be stolen while they were in the water. What would they do then? No, it was a silly idea.
Jessica sighed again. That was how Harrison had responded to most, if not all, of her ideas. And, although she couldn’t see it at the time, over the five years that she was married to him he had slowly but surely dampened her passionate spirit and her yearning for adventure.
If she hadn’t found out about his affair with that anaesthetist and then divorced him, she might well have wound up just as boring as he was.
Although he obviously had some passion in his life, to go out and have an affair for crying out loud!
The betrayal still stung, but Jessica knew she had been given a second chance. Now that she was free of her stifling marriage it was her chance to reconnect with her younger self, the young woman who studied Fine Art and loved to paint and draw. Who had wanted to travel the world, experience new cultures and meet new people.
The only problem was her mother, who seemed intent on pairing Jessica up with another man as soon as possible.
“After all, your biological clock is ticking,” she loved to say. “And if you wait much longer to have children, the alarm’s going to go off and then it will be too late!”
Thank you darling mother, Jessica thought.
Her mother only talked that way because she was concerned for her daughter, though. And if her mother could see her now, and knew what she was thinking about the rest of her life, she would be even more concerned. Her parents had paid for the trip with the intention that she relax and have some fun. Jessica was sure they were also secretly hoping she would meet some dishy Italian while she was here.
But Jessica had other plans. Before leaving the UK, she had been in touch with the editor at Art World magazine. She had written a number of articles in her spare time for them in the years after she graduated, only stopping once she met Harrison and they started getting serious.
She had been delighted that Malcolm Gladstone, the editor, was still there and remembered her.
“Jessica, where have you been?” he had said, his enthusiastic tones lifting Jessica’s spirits even over the phone. Malcolm was one of those people who was always upbeat and encouraging, and very, very enthusiastic about anything and everything. It was impossible to be down in the dumps in his company.
It was Malcolm who had told her about the special exhibition of Lorenzo Gagliardi’s work opening in Trento, at the Palazzo delle Albere. A series of paintings had been discovered by the early twentieth century Italian artist, all of them portraits of the same, beautiful young woman.
“And Jessica,” Malcolm had said, “this young woman in the paintings is a complete mystery, no-one has a clue who she might have been. You will be our Sherlock Holmes, Jessica. Find out the identity of the young woman and why Gagliardi was so obsessed with her towards the end of his life and you will be a sensation in the arts world. A sensation, my dear!”
Jessica smiled at the memory of the phone call.
This was her ‘holiday’ then. Write an article on the late period work of Lorenzo Gagliardi and discover the identity of the mysterious young woman in his paintings.
Not much time for romance, then.
Jessica’s mother would be horrified.

WOMAN OF MYSTERY

CHAPTER ONE

There hadn’t been many times in Jessica Matthews’ life that she had been left speechless, but now was definitely one of them. Realising she was standing there with her mouth hanging open, she snapped it shut and searched her mind for a pithy reply.
In the end, all she could come up with was a rather lame, “Excuse me, but what did you just say?”
Noah Glassman, his back currently turned to her, swung around to face Jessica. He was sitting, no not sitting he was slouching, in a large swivel chair. The chair was obviously old and had seen better days. The leather upholstery was cracked and faded, and one of the arms was missing.
Noah Glassman wore a crumpled shirt open at the collar with a loosely knotted tie, creased trousers and a pair of brown loafers which looked like they went out of fashion only a couple of years after Jessica had left nursery school. Adding to his general unkempt appearance, Noah’s shaggy brown hair looked badly in need of a brush and his beard a trim. At least there didn’t appear to be scraps of food sticking to his beard, that really would have been the last straw and Jessica probably would have turned and fled.
Noah cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair. “I said, Mrs Matthews, that I’m not paid by the University of Trento to hold your hand, while you indulge in some mid-life crisis of rediscovering your lost passion for art by trotting around Italy and writing up on the grand masters for some vacuous infotainment magazine in the UK.”
Once again, Jessica was left speechless. That wasn’t what he had originally said, but rather an expanded, improved, more insulting version.
“Mid-life crisis?” she said. “But, I’m thirty-two!”
Noah waved a languid hand in dismissal. “For all I care you could be ninety-two. I’m not interested.”
Jessica thought he might turn his back on her once more and face his desk, but he didn’t. He slouched in his old chair and stared up at her. Jessica was suddenly struck by the startlingly deep blue of his eyes. They were so clear and piercing that she had to look away. She fixed her attention to a spot just above his head, at the rows of art books crowding the shelves. Just like their owner they were haphazard and dishevelled. Some of them looked in danger of falling apart, their bindings were so tattered, whilst others looked big enough to kill if they dropped from the shelves and landed on someone’s head.
Or maybe knock some sense into Noah Glassman’s head.
Jessica took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts.
“May I just check that you are Noah Glassman, visiting lecturer and artist in residence, the same Noah Glassman that Professor Bianchi advised me to come and see, and who told me would be very helpful and accommodating?”
“I’m afraid Mr Glassman has stepped out of the office for the foreseeable future.” Noah grinned. “Sorry about that.”
“But wait, you’re not . .?” Jessica faltered as she realised she was being made fun of.
“I know what you’re thinking, Mrs Matthews, it must be rather a shock to find someone who doesn’t immediately jump to his feet and trip over himself to give you everything you want. But look, I’m not all bad, we’ve just got off on the wrong foot that’s all.”
Noah pulled open a drawer in his desk and took out a bottle of whisky and two glasses. He poured a generous slug into each glass and then held one out for Jessica.
“Come on, loosen up Mrs Matthews. Have a drink, it’ll remove the taste of lemon from your mouth.”
“Lemon?” Jessica said, frowning.
“Yeah, lemon,” Noah growled. “From the expression on your face you’ve obviously been sucking on one since you came in my office.”
Utterly horrified, Jessica stared at the glass of whisky held out for her. For the first time in her life not only was she speechless, but she had no idea what to do next. Should she leave, slamming the door behind her? Should she find Professor Bianchi and report Noah Glassman for his rudeness? Perhaps she should just go back home to England and forget all about the research for her article.
“I have never been so insulted in all my life,” she said finally.
“I take it that’s a no for the drink, then?” Noah replied.
He downed the whisky himself and sat the glass on the desk.
Jessica watched in appalled fascination as he then downed the second glass of whisky. He reached out for the bottle but then seemed to have second thoughts and left it where it was. He slouched back in his broken down chair and gazed up at Jessica.
“You’re still here,” he mumbled.
“Do you often drink at work?” Jessica said.
“At work, at home, I’ve even been known to go and visit a bar and have a drink there sometimes. I find it helps the days go by a little smoother.”
“You’re drunk, aren’t you?” Jessica said, struggling to understand why the kindly Professor would have sent her to this rude, arrogant man for advice on her research.
“Not quite,” Noah replied, “but I’m getting there. Why don’t you join me, Mrs Matthews, it’s been a while since I got drunk in company.”
Jessica could stand it no longer, she had to say something even though she had the distinct feeling she would regret it. “For your information, Mr Glassman, I’m not Mrs Matthews but Miss.”
Noah held up his hands as though he was surrendering. “I must apologise for my rudeness. I stand corrected.” His brow furrowed in thought. “No, that’s not right, I sit corrected.”
Was he making fun of her, or was that a genuine apology? Jessica decided to give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment. Although she had no idea why she should. Perhaps it was those piercing blue eyes. Or perhaps it was the fact that, underneath that beard and all that hair, Noah Glassman was quite obviously very handsome. She had a hunch that if he were to have a shave, he would reveal a strong jawline, and she was certain now that he was a lot younger than she had first thought. It was the beard that made him look older.
“Mrs Matthews?” Noah said, breaking into her thoughts. “Are we finished?”
Jessica was jolted back into the present, flushing slightly with embarrassment as she realised she had drifted off in thought.
“I suppose we have,” she said.
“No doubt I will see you at the exhibition tomorrow. I’m sure you will find everything you need for your project there.”
“My . . . project?” Suddenly the anger rose in Jessica’s chest. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not some little girl at school doing a project for her homework! I happen to be writing an article for a reputable UK magazine about the recently discovered work of Lorenzo Gagliardi, and I was advised to come and see you as you are the foremost expert on Gagliardi’s work. But all you have done since I stepped into your office is insult me!”
Noah looked hurt. “That’s not true.”
“Isn’t it?”
“No. I offered you a drink.”
Jessica sighed in exasperation. “Oh, you are such an infuriating man!”
Noah grinned. “Yeah, but you like it.”
“That’s what you think!” Jessica snapped, and turned on her heel to leave.
The idea had been to make a dramatic exit, maybe even slam the door behind her. But the door got caught on a bump in the floor, beneath the carpet and so she struggled to pull it open. When she finally managed to get outside, she didn’t bother to close the door and stalked off down the university corridor, her feet echoing off the wood-panelled walls.
Never before had she felt so infuriated, embarrassed and offended by someone.
And yet, at the same time, she had to admit there was something very attractive about Noah Glassman.
* * *
Noah stood up and walked over to the open door. He watched Jessica’s retreating figure disappear around a corner at the end of the corridor and then he shut the door. He had been doing this a lot more recently, shutting his door on the rest of the university, shutting out the world.
Walking back over to his desk he sat down heavily in his chair. The chair creaked beneath his weight and he thought for a moment something might break and send him crashing to the floor. But it held, and he was able to turn back to his desk and place his elbows on the top. Putting his head in his hands he let out a deep sigh.
Jessica Matthews had to be the prettiest young woman who had walked into his life in a long time. In fact, ever since . . . well, that was something he refused to dwell on. He knew he had to keep his thoughts fixed on the present, work on getting through each and every day.
Still, he couldn’t stop thinking about Jessica. Her long, wavy blond hair, slim build, casually dressed in jeans and T-shirt. She wasn’t beautiful in a magazine cover, model sort of way. No, her beauty was much more natural and simple than that.
And he couldn’t help but think now how he must have looked to her. Not exactly a work of art, was he?
Noah knew he had been rude and unpleasant with Jessica. It was the drinking that did that to him. And he had been drinking a lot more recently. Although he wouldn’t have said he was drinking too much. On the contrary, he wasn’t drinking enough. Not yet.
Noah picked up the bottle of whisky and unscrewed the cap. He was about to pour himself another generous serving when he paused, the bottle hovering over the empty glass.
A thought flashed into his mind of Jessica standing in front of him while he offered her a drink of whisky. All of a sudden he could see it from her point of view. How sad and silly he must have looked. He had thought he was being clever and witty, but no. Not when he put himself in her shoes.
Noah put the bottle down.
Maybe he was drinking too much.
He put the cap back on and then put the bottle back in the drawer.
Ran his hand through his hair and then over his beard.
And maybe he could do with a haircut and a shave.
Noah blew out his cheeks in frustration and slammed his hand on the desk top.
“What do you think you’re playing at, Noah Glassman?” he said to his empty office. “One visit from a pretty young woman and she turns your head. Pull yourself together, man.”
Noah opened the desk drawer, took out the whisky bottle, and poured himself that generous serving after all.
* * *
Jessica walked through the university corridors, past the lecture halls and out of the arts faculty. She stepped outside into the glorious sunshine and found herself a bench to sit down on. The warmth of the sun, the blue sky and the snow-capped mountains visible in the distance immediately had a calming effect upon her nerves. The city of Trento in Northern Italy was situated in a dip between the mountains, and whichever direction you looked in you could always see the snow-tipped peaks. Jessica’s landlady had said that some locals found being surrounded by mountains a little claustrophobic at times, but Jessica thought they were utterly beautiful and magnificent.
The city of Trento was also stunning, so very picturesque with its sun bleached, beautiful architecture. Jessica could almost see herself relocating here and taking advantage of the clear light and beautiful scenery to learn to paint once more.
Jessica sighed heavily. After her divorce from Harrison she had fallen into a slump of despondency and listlessness, and this trip to Italy had been her parents’ way of trying to lift her mood. They had paid for the trip, and her mother had even offered to come along for the two weeks. But Jessica had gently but firmly refused. She was grateful for the offer, but more than anything she wanted time away from her usual surroundings, and from all the familiar faces. Now that she was single again it was perhaps a good time to rethink her life, and what she wanted out of it.
How she had ever imagined her and Harrison might be suitable marriage partners, Jessica could now not fathom. Where she was artistic and passionate, he had been cool and analytical. Yes he was an amazing surgeon and clinical teacher, but his life was so very ordered and structured it sometimes drove Jessica mad. Some days (most days) she wanted to throw off the shackles of normal everyday life and do something fun and exciting and, yes, maybe even a tiny bit outrageous.
But not Harrison, her perfectly sensible husband.
She remembered that one time they were on holiday in the South of France. They had been on a secluded, golden beach enjoying the sunshine when Jessica had suggested they take off all their clothes and run down to the water where they could skinny dip. There was hardly a soul within shouting distance, but Harrison had immediately balked at the idea, and he had raised all sorts of objections.
Was nudity allowed on this beach? What if somebody saw them and called the police? Their clothes might be stolen while they were in the water. What would they do then? No, it was a silly idea.
Jessica sighed again. That was how Harrison had responded to most, if not all, of her ideas. And, although she couldn’t see it at the time, over the five years that she was married to him he had slowly but surely dampened her passionate spirit and her yearning for adventure.
If she hadn’t found out about his affair with that anaesthetist and then divorced him, she might well have wound up just as boring as he was.
Although he obviously had some passion in his life, to go out and have an affair for crying out loud!
The betrayal still stung, but Jessica knew she had been given a second chance. Now that she was free of her stifling marriage it was her chance to reconnect with her younger self, the young woman who studied Fine Art and loved to paint and draw. Who had wanted to travel the world, experience new cultures and meet new people.
The only problem was her mother, who seemed intent on pairing Jessica up with another man as soon as possible.
“After all, your biological clock is ticking,” she loved to say. “And if you wait much longer to have children, the alarm’s going to go off and then it will be too late!”
Thank you darling mother, Jessica thought.
Her mother only talked that way because she was concerned for her daughter, though. And if her mother could see her now, and knew what she was thinking about the rest of her life, she would be even more concerned. Her parents had paid for the trip with the intention that she relax and have some fun. Jessica was sure they were also secretly hoping she would meet some dishy Italian while she was here.
But Jessica had other plans. Before leaving the UK, she had been in touch with the editor at Art World magazine. She had written a number of articles in her spare time for them in the years after she graduated, only stopping once she met Harrison and they started getting serious.
She had been delighted that Malcolm Gladstone, the editor, was still there and remembered her.
“Jessica, where have you been?” he had said, his enthusiastic tones lifting Jessica’s spirits even over the phone. Malcolm was one of those people who was always upbeat and encouraging, and very, very enthusiastic about anything and everything. It was impossible to be down in the dumps in his company.
It was Malcolm who had told her about the special exhibition of Lorenzo Gagliardi’s work opening in Trento, at the Palazzo delle Albere. A series of paintings had been discovered by the early twentieth century Italian artist, all of them portraits of the same, beautiful young woman.
“And Jessica,” Malcolm had said, “this young woman in the paintings is a complete mystery, no-one has a clue who she might have been. You will be our Sherlock Holmes, Jessica. Find out the identity of the young woman and why Gagliardi was so obsessed with her towards the end of his life and you will be a sensation in the arts world. A sensation, my dear!”
Jessica smiled at the memory of the phone call.
This was her ‘holiday’ then. Write an article on the late period work of Lorenzo Gagliardi and discover the identity of the mysterious young woman in his paintings.
Not much time for romance, then.
Jessica’s mother would be horrified.