by James S. Dorr
"There is only one solid truth in all that he has written, and for that I gave him the hint out of pure compassion for his absurdity." That was what Lo said, and so much for the notion I'd had that she and Valdemar might have been lovers. But I was interested, not so much in the fact that Ernest Valdemar had been considered a promising upcoming author by some whose tastes ran toward more outré subjects, but that I had known him years before when he had been a contributor to the Times-Picayune, the newspaper I work for as a reporter.
And then Lo herself--I had only met her once before, at some charity event in the French Quarter--but it was Valdemar who had made the introductions. He and she had been at least on speaking terms then, which she did not deny, and possibly more although, as she insisted, nothing of a romantic nature. Yet, as a recent young widow, I could see that she possessed considerable charm as she still does now. In fact I remarked on it, "I met you, I think nearly ten years ago, and yet you look as youthful and beautiful as you did then."
She smiled and, I thought, nearly blushed--but not quite. Ladies of her stature don't, I suppose. However young she still might seem to be she's a pillar of New Orleans society, tracing her family to 1728 and les filles à les caissettes of local legend who had arrived in that year from France. Instead she thanked me, batting her eyes. "You know why I'm called Lo?" she asked. "Many don't, but I was named for the Nabokov heroine, Lolita, because I have always looked so young. That is, I'm told my mother retained her young looks too, so I suppose my parents assumed...."
Her words trailed off as I asked her more about what she had known of Ernest, explaining that I had known him too, and, if she was willing, if she had any idea of what might have caused his disappearance.
"He has disappeared?" she asked.