The Disappearance of Lowell Irving: An Investigation (Part 1)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
On August 21, 2012 the struggling artist Lowell Irving went missing. The following story consists of Detective Fred Baser's interviews with Lowell's family, friends, and acquaintances.

Submitted: September 08, 2015

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Submitted: September 08, 2015

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Part 1 of 2

 

Lowell Irving was reported missing on August 21st, 2012 at the age of thirty-two.  The following interviews were conducted between August 23rd and 26th by Detective Fred Baser.  Anyone with information pertaining to Mr. Irving was asked to contact Detective Baser so that they could be interviewed between the aforementioned dates.  The interviews have not yet been put into any particular order, only in the order of which they were given.  An expert will have to be called to arrange the interviews chronologically.  Also, since the interviews were announced to the public, anyone who felt they had valuable information was permitted to come forward.  As the reader shall learn, some of the interviewees may have been biased or may have given valueless information.  However, the United States of America is a democracy and every voice was heard.  The validness of the information given in these interviews will be determined at a later date.  All interviewees were informed that they could not be held responsible under the law for what they said.

 

Both of Lowell Irving’s parents are deceased.  He has no siblings.

 

Please note: Detective Baser’s questions will be noted in italics only when deemed necessary, and additional notes, marked by numerical superscripts, will follow each interview.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.

 

 

“My name’s Nigel Jackson.  I worked with Lowell for two years back in, uh, well, between 2006 and 2007.  We worked for Hendrikson’s Landscaping.  

“Yes, I’m still working there.  But Lowell, I knew he wouldn’t stay around long.  We were both full-time, but he wasn’t full-time up here,¹ if you know what I mean.  But yeah, other than that, he was a good worker from what I could see.  He always came to work on time; he always worked hard until clock out.  He loved to clock-out though.  About that, I’m sure.  Starting at around two, two-thirty, he’d start glancing at his watch every five minutes or so.  Never seemed to want to be there.  

“Yeah, we hung out sometimes after work.  We went for beers maybe once a week to two weeks.  We usually complained about work and talked about women, sports--the usual man talk.  When I drink, I drink a lot, but Lowell, he’d normally only drink one or two beers.  Just get a little buzz.  He opened up more than usual when he drank.  At work he didn’t talk much, but once he had some Boston Lager in him, he talked quite a lot, sometimes about Philosophy I knew nothing about.  He went on a rant once about being a prisoner to society and a slave to money.

“No, he wasn’t a racist, that’s for sure.  He hung out with me and didn’t give a damn.  Never said nothing bad.  We were good friends.  We haven’t spoken much since then though.  He’s always busy with something; always seems to be studying something or painting his pictures.  He always told me how he wanted to be an artist but how artists are a ..... oh, what did he say?  Uh ..... oh yeah, he said, ‘Artists are an endangered species,’ or something like that.  He said some weird things sometimes, but he showed me a few of his paintings and they were good.  I’m no expert in art, but they looked nice to me.  I woulda bought one, but he never wanted to sell any of them.  He always said they weren’t finished or they weren’t for sale.  He was shy about them.  Probably only showed me because he knew I didn’t know nothing about art.

“The last time I saw him was about three years ago at the bar Mickie’s.  It’s where we always used to hang out.  

“He seemed to be fine.  He was working for a construction company at the time (I forget the name), but I think he quit his job there soon after we met.  A friend told me.  

“What did he look like?  Our last night at Mickie’s?  Uh, he looked about as normal as can be.  He had grown his beard out a little more than before when he worked for Hendrikson’s.  Uh, well, I guess he looked tired.  He had big bags under his eyes.  Oh, his hair was longer than before too.  It almost went down to his shoulders in the back.”  

What did you two talk about?

“Can’t really remember.  I got wasted and couldn’t remember much in the morning.”

But you remember what he looked like that night?

“Yeah, I remember things like that.  I’m more of a learner by sight.  He hit on one of the girls that night too.  I remember that.  He couldn’t stop staring at her.  Maybe that’s why I don’t remember what he said.  I don’t think he talked much that night.”

Do you know the girl’s name?

“No, I don’t.  He never told me.

Did he leave with her?

“If he did, I don’t remember.”

Is there anything else you can add?  Something more recent?

“No.  That was the last time I saw him.”

End of interview.

 

 

 

¹ Here, with his index finger, Mr. Jackson pointed to his left temple.

 

 

 

 

2.

 

 

“Name’s Bobby.”

And your last name?

“Jenkins.”

And how do you know Lowell Irving?

“I’m a bartender at Mickie’s.”¹

Lowell goes there often?

“Yeah.”

So you’re friends?

“I know him; that’s all.”

When was the last time you saw him at the bar?

“Maybe a week ago.”

Maybe?  

“It was August 15th.”

That’s nine days ago.  Let’s try to be more specific.  Was he alone or with friends?

“Alone.”

Does he usually go alone?

“No.  He always goes with friends.”

With Nigel Jackson?

“Yeah, and Johnny and Brian and some others.”

What does Lowell usually drink?

“Samuel Adams.  Boston Lager.”

How many does he usually drink?

“Usually one or two.”

But on August 15th?

“He drank a lot: ten lagers.”

Was he visibly drunk then?

“Yeah.  I had to help him outside at closing time.”

Then where did he go?

“I don’t know.  I went back inside to clean up.”

You know this isn’t an interrogation, right?  You came on your own free will.  I want you to tell me anything you think can help.

“Okay.”

Okay.²  Do you happen to know if anyone was waiting for Lowell outside?

“No.  I mean, no one was there.”

Do you think he was sober enough to find his way back home?

“I don’t know.”

Could he walk straight?

“No.  He was stumbling pretty bad.  That’s why I helped him outside.”

Was anyone else in the bar at that time?

“No.”

And you were the only bartender?

“Yeah, I was closing.”

Alright.  Describe to me everything you saw that night.  Where was Lowell sitting?  How did he look?  How did he act?  Did he talk on his cellphone?  Anything.

“I don’t know.”

What do you mean you don’t know?  Don’t bartenders notice these things?

“Well³ ..... I guess he was sitting at a table in the corner.  He wasn’t at the bar.  I asked him to sit at the bar, because the table he was at sits four people, and we were busy that night, but he refused.  He said he was a regular and he could sit where he wanted.  Pissed me off a little.”?

And.....

“I don’t know.  He was in the shadows.  Not a lot of light in that corner.  The couple times he moved under the light I saw him looking into his beer, kinda dumb-like.  I guess it looked like something was wrong with him.  He looked sad.  And he was alone, like I said.  He never came alone before, so that was strange.”

How did he ask for his drinks?

“Raised his hand.  The waitress who was working served him all night.  He didn’t leave her any tips, so she was fuming mad by the end of her shift.

“Her name’s Sabrina.  Don’t know her last name.  She’s new.

“She clocked out around one.  At that time there was only two guys at the bar and Lowell in the corner.  Lowell didn’t drink anymore after that.  I wasn’t gonna serve him.”

Why wouldn’t you serve him?

“He didn’t tip Sabrina, that’s why.  And I never liked him very much.  He always looked like he was better than everyone else.  He never smiled much.  Always looked angry or annoyed.  I don’t know.  I just never liked him.”

Even with his friends he looked angry and annoyed?

“Maybe annoyed.  I don’t know.  He just never looked happy, and if he did look happy, it looked like a fake happy.”

But you helped him out of the bar at two a.m.?

“I had to.  I wanted to go see my girlfriend.  She was waiting for me at her apartment.”

And you’re sure you don’t know where he went after he left the bar?

“Yeah, I don’t know.  I took him outside and went right back in to clean up.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“No.”

End of interview.

 

 

¹ Mr. Jenkins appeared almost disinterested; only answered questions directly and said no more.

² Detective Baser chuckled and leaned back on his chair with a grin.

³ Mr. Jenkins’ eyebrows scrunched up in thought, almost as if he was trying to push the scene out of his mind.

? Mr. Jenkins’ speech drifted off, and his eyes stared at the wall.

 

 

 

 

3.

 

 

“Hi, my name is Dr. Beth Hill.  I attended the University of Pittsburgh with Lowell Irving from 1998 to 2002.

“We met the first weekend of freshman year at a campus event and have been close friends ever since.  We also shared numerous classes throughout the four years because we both majored in Psych.  

“Yes, I received my Doctorate in Psychiatry in 2006 and have since started my own practice, Hill Psychiatry, in Monroeville, my hometown.  

“Yeah, well, other than the usual college activities, we spoke quite often about our Psych classes.  In fact, we met almost every week to discuss our courses, because we, except for maybe one semester, always shared at least one class.  

“He was a very good student, and if you will let me speak for a few minutes without interrupting me with new questions and distracting me from my line of thought, I’ll explain in detail how good of a student he was.

“Okay, thank you, Mr. Baser.  I meant no disrespect.  Alright, so, yes, he was a fine student, very bright and gifted.  I often had to ask him questions about the textbooks we were reading and about our assignments--essays, surveys, exams, etc.  I remember thinking he’d be the successful psychologist or psychiatrist, or even psychology professor; he certainly had the ability to be one or the other.  He didn’t do so well on his essays, however, because he often strayed from the topics, which was simply the way his mind functioned.  He also wasn’t a good test taker.  Some people aren’t.  These are the only reasons why I received higher scores than him; he knew the material as well as I did.  I know because we studied together.  Still, he graduated with a 3.14, I think, and it was only that low because of other courses unrelated to psychology.  You’d have to check his transcripts, but I’m sure it was something close to that.¹  In addition, he struggled a bit during the Fall Term of that year, because his parents passed away in July of 2000.

“They were in a car accident.  Uh, they were driving through a downpour on a highway somewhere in PA, don’t remember the specific location, and their car hydroplaned.  The car rolled and flipped into a ditch.  Neither of them were wearing seat belts.  They were both thrown through the windshield and received fatal wounds to their heads.

“No, that’s one of the few things he never would talk to me about.  I tried bringing the subject up again senior year, and he refused to discuss it.  Well, I always thought he was being honest with me in college, but, seeing that I was only a student of psychology at the time, I wasn’t as observant as I am now.  Now I can almost always tell when a patient of mine is holding something back or lying.  Back then though--I don’t know.  I think he may have concealed some of his true thoughts from me.  More recently though, through our correspondence via email, he really began to open up.”

Do you have his most recent emails?

“Yes, and really his most recent emails, specifically his last two, are the most revealing.  He sent me the last one two weeks ago, but, due to my busy schedule at the office, I never did reply.”

After this interview, please print off Mr. Irving’s last two emails addressed to you and give them to Rachel at the front desk.  They may be of some use.

“Yeah, sure.  No problem.”²

What important information were you, in your professional opinion, able to deduce from the emails?

“Simply put, he wasn’t happy.  I wish I could’ve seen him at my office, but he has been living in Pittsburgh (well, I guess he was living in Pittsburgh).  I tried to get him to come and talk to me free of charge, but he always seemed to have an excuse--usually something about not having a car, money, or time.  I regret not going to Pittsburgh and seeing him, or emailing him back.  I should’ve known something was wrong.  It’s my job to know, and I failed.  I failed him.”

Dr. Hill, we’re not sure if he’s been harmed in any way, so don’t judge yourself too harshly yet.  We just don’t know where he is.

“You’re right, but it doesn’t make it any easier on my conscience.  I was working ten, eleven hours for my other patients.  I was exhausted, but that’s no excuse.  He was, is, my friend.³

“But about the emails.  I reread the most recent one before I came and his words seemed sharper than usual.  What I mean is that his pain literally seemed to be pouring out from his words, and they were drawing blood.  His mind was clearly in torture.  He wrote mostly about nature and society, nature and reason.  And there’s an abundance of hatred in his words.  He feels neglected, ignored, and bullied.  Although he was a Psych major, and a talented one as I’ve mentioned, he found a passion for art early during his final year at Pitt.  On weekends, if he didn’t have too much homework or studying to do, he’d lock himself in his apartment room and paint all day Saturday and Sunday.  He painted mostly impressionist scenes focusing on the contrast between the countryside and the city, between nature and civilization.  They’re truly beautiful.  He was greatly influenced by the famous French impressionist painter...uh, Monet, I think.  But, anyway, I wouldn’t say he lost interest in psychology but that he no longer wanted to study psychology.  For a time we were planning to attend graduate school together, but he backed out to focus on his artwork.  He regretted wasting four years studying psychology, but at the same time he was optimistic he could make a living as an artist.

“No, he has never, to my knowledge, made much money as an artist.  He has worked many odd jobs over the past ten years to earn money and to “pay Big Brother” as he has so often said.  He has been painting quite furiously over the past ten years as well, but he has also been struggling with people’s opinions of his art and his own confidence as an artist.  He’s somewhat of a perfectionist.  He has a difficult time accepting things for what they are, especially his paintings.

“Yes, he did write about his art.  He wrote that he’s tired of relying on everyone else’s opinions of his art.  Just because they can’t comprehend his paintings doesn’t mean it’s not good.  He also wrote about how he wished he didn’t have to sell his paintings for money, but how, at the same time, he didn’t want to work other jobs.  He feels fixed to the middle of some vast void created by others and not himself.  He’d like to simply be an artist, because that’s what he is, that’s what he’s meant to do.  He doesn’t believe he’s meant to be a construction worker or bartender or even a psychologist or psychiatrist.  Basically he just wants to paint and to be left alone, but he has to pay bills and pay off loans, so he feels trapped by it all.  He mentioned once that he was imprisoned by a society that doesn’t know anything about him.”

Have you given him professional advice recently?

“Yes, in the last email I sent him--the one before his last.”

What was your advice?

“Oh, the usual: stay strong and fight through it.  I told him he can still be happy; I told him not to fight the things he can’t control.  It was a half-assed effort, and I’m not proud of it.  Truth is ..... well ..... I’ve been having issues of my own at home over the past few months.?

“Another truth is this: I don’t feel like I’m qualified to advise him.  Ever since college I’ve held him higher than myself.  I always used to ask him for help; I always used to ask him for his opinion.  So suddenly, when he started coming to me for advice, I felt ..... inept.  I didn’t know what I could possibly say to him that would help, and I never truly believed he was in any kind of trouble.  I thought he’d figure it all out on his own like he always did in college.”

When was the last time you saw him in person?

“Long time ago.  Perhaps five or six years ago.  I think he was working for a landscaping company at the time.

“No, he looked as well or healthy as he did in college--only a little aged, but that was natural.

“He has been unemployed for three or four months, I think.  He was bar tending, but he quit because he was working too much.  His boss wouldn’t lower his hours.”

Anything else you feel is necessary to add?

“Uh ..... no, not at the moment.  I wish I could help more, but I don’t really know what else to say.  He didn’t hint at any of his plans in the emails.”

End of interview.

 

 

 

¹ Lowell Irving’s GPA upon graduating was 3.17.

² The emails were provided, but the Detective Baser deemed them unimportant to the investigation.

³ Dr. Hill was visibly distraught here and took a few minutes to wipe her eyes and compose herself.

? Dr. Hill needed another moment to gather herself.

 

 

 

 

4.

 

 

“I’m Melissa ..... Melissa Sumers.  I was Lowell’s girlfriend up until, uh, like twenty-six days ago.  He woke up one morning and told me he didn’t love me anymore.  He said love should be unconditional and that my love was conditioned on him loving me, or some bullshit like that.¹

“We dated on and off for like six months.  One minute he would treat me nice and the next he’d treat me like an ass ..... like a jerk, sorry.

“I met him at Jimmy’s Pub.  He was a bartender there until some time late in May--maybe the twenty-eighth.  Ever since then he started treating me worse and worse.  He cared more about his paintings than me.  He ignored me all the time.  Do you know where he is?”

No, that’s why I’m conducting these interviews.  When was the last time you saw him?

“Uh, like twenty-six days ago, like I said.  He left early in the morning after a long night of ..... love.  I always knew he would, but guys have to get theirs first.  He had to do me one last time.  That’s why he’s an asshole.²

“I don’t know.  He had been acting really strange-like.  He avoided my questions, mumbled promises, and wouldn’t commit.  Like I said, his art, his paintings, always came first.  I wanted to move in with him, but he kept like dodging my wishes, always murmured something about there not being enough space in his studio apartment.  But he could’ve moved all of his canvases and painting supplies.  I mean, like, we dated for six months.  That’s long enough to move in with someone, right?”

That’s not for me to decide, miss.  Have you heard from him since you separated twenty-six days ago?

“Nope.  Just left.  Said he couldn’t be with someone who didn’t love him unconditionally.  I told him I did love him unconditionally, but he didn’t believe me.  He said all I wanted was ‘stuff’.  That’s what he called it: ‘stuff’.  What does that mean?”

Sorry, miss, but I’m not in the position to answer that question.  Did he ever say he was going to leave town?

“No.  He only said he was leaving me.  I really have like no idea where he could’ve gone.  No, you know what, he probably ran away with Tina Parsons.  He was like always eyeing her at the bar.  She liked to show off her silicone breasts.  What a fake.  But I always saw that ..... jerk ..... staring down her cleavage.  She liked him too.  That’s why she was there almost every night.

“No, I don’t have any proof or evidence of this.  But he was a pervert, so like I wouldn’t be surprised.  I think he cheated on me a few times too, but he wouldn’t admit to it.  Can I sue him for this?  I’m pretty sure he cheated on me.”

No, miss, I’m sorry, but if you’re not married you can’t receive any compensation.  Do you know anything else that may help us find him?

“No, but I hope you find him, and I hope you throw him in jail.  I’m sure he committed some kind of crime.  He doesn’t care about anyone but himself.  He’s a selfish asshole.  There, I said it, and now I’ll go.”

End of interview.

 

 

 

¹ Ms. Sumers was kindly asked to watch her language.

² Again Ms. Sumers was asked to mind her language.

 

 

 

 

5.

 

 

“Hi, I’m Mark Tangles.  Lowell served me shots of Tennessee Whiskey at Jimmy’s Pub one time.

“It was maybe three months ago.  I got really wasted and ended up blacking out on a bench somewhere later that night, but it was definitely Lowell who served me at Jimmy’s.  He’s a cool guy, treated me real nice.”

So you only met him this one time?

“Yeah, but, like I said.....”

End of interview.

 

 

 

 

6.

 

 

“Hello, Mr. Baser.  How are you today?”

I’m alright.  Please state your name and your relationship with Lowell Irving.

“My name’s Richard Alvins.  I was Lowell’s pastor at Allegheny Wesleyan throughout his elementary, middle, and high school years.  I knew his parents Michael and Tammy Irving well; they rarely missed a service.

“Yes, I’m still the pastor.  In fact I’ve been spreading God’s word there for twenty-two years now.

“No, Lowell stopped attending once he started going to Pitt, even though he easily could have.  It’s only a thirty minute bus ride from campus to the church.  Michael and Tammy weren’t so happy about it.  Actually, according to them, he almost never made it home for the weekends.  They had a bit of a falling out, I believe.

“Oh, the usual between parents and their children: a difference of opinions.  Out with the old and in with the new.  What Lowell couldn’t see was that God had been here the whole time.  This is one of the old ways that’ll never pass away, not until He decides it’s time.¹

“Yes, yes, not a problem.  I just get carried away sometimes.  But what I said is helpful, I think, because it explains Lowell’s character.  I’ll expand.  At first, in his earlier years--I’d say between the ages of eight and fourteen--Lowell was very interested in Christianity.  The Sunday school teachers raved about his attention in class and his understanding of the Scriptures.  He always volunteered for the main roles in our Easter and Christmas reenactments.  Oh, and he was baptized when he was ten or eleven, and in order to be baptized, at least at my church, one must show an above average understanding of the Bible.  I had an interview of sorts with him before his baptismal and, quite frankly, he blew me away.  I don’t even think I grasped the Bible as well as he did at that age, and my father was a pastor, so, you see, I believe he had a very strong foundation beneath his feet.  He had the Lord in his heart.”

What do you think changed his attitude about church?

“That, I can’t quite apprehend; I’ve asked myself the same question many times.  Michael and Tammy thought he was hanging out with the wrong crowd, and they, uh ..... I don’t know how to say it ..... well, they wouldn’t let him leave the house very often.  He had to be home by five o’clock, in his room by eight, and so on.  I don’t think he took very well to that.  Teenagers are sensitive to such rules--as was I for a time--for good reason.  I’m not saying what Michael and Tammy did was wrong, but I think this made him rebel even more.  He lost interest in the Bible, misbehaved regularly, and often fell asleep during my sermons.  I asked them to loosen up on him a bit, give him some more freedom, but they refused.  They were worried he’d end up dead or in prison--or end up dead in prison with these barbarian sentences we give to minors in Pennsylvania.²

“Well, Jesus taught to forgive and to show mercy to others, and we do neither by sentencing minors to life imprisonment.  But, I know, I’ll stop.  Where was I?  Oh, I had faith that Lowell would find his way back to Christ eventually if he was given freedom, but Michael and Tammy didn’t want to risk it--so they smothered him.  They caught him reading Freud and Nietzsche and Darwin when he was a senior and took the books away from him.  Here I agreed with them, because I didn’t see anything positive coming from Freud, Nietzsche, and Darwin, but I’m sure he found ways to read them anyhow; teenagers are experts at concealing what they don’t want their parents to know.

“Yeah, through all of this his grades in school continued to be excellent, probably because he was never able to go out.  What else was he supposed to do in his room at eight o’clock?  This is why I suggested giving him more freedom, because to me clowning around outside with friends, maybe drinking some beer or whatever, was far less dangerous than Freud, Nietzsche, and Darwin.”

So while he was enrolled at Pitt he never attended your church?

“He attended Easter and Christmas service his freshman year I think, but I could tell he didn’t want to be there.”

Have you seen him since?

“Yes, at Michael and Tammy’s viewing and at their funeral service.  He didn’t speak to me though--seemed to avoid me.  At the viewing I tried offering my condolences, but he turned away.  I tried again the next day at the funeral with the same result.

“He looked incredibly composed both days.  He barely showed a flicker of emotion.  This worried me, because I knew he was holding everything in--all of his grief and sadness and regrets--but he wouldn’t speak to me.  Through my peripherals I caught him glaring at me during the funeral service and a shudder of fear ran through me.  I dared not peer his way.  And that was it: the last time I saw him.

“No, I have not the slightest clue as to where he may have gone.”

Do you have anything more you’d like to add?

“Only that I’m praying for him and that I hope you find he’s alright.”

End of interview.

 

 

 

¹ Pastor Alvins was kindly asked to refrain from stating his religious opinion and to focus on Lowell Irving.

² Pastor Alvins was less kindly asked not to state his political opinion.

 

 

 

 

7.

 

 

Me llamo Rodrigo Santiago.”¹

“Fine, okay.  But you must know what ‘Me llamo’ means ..... yeah?  See, so no problem.”

Please state your relationship with Lowell Irving.

“We don’t have a physical relationship; it’s more of an artistic or spiritual relationship.  I’ve only met him once; I said, ‘Hola, como esta?’ and he answered, ‘Estoy bien.  Y tu?’  That was it.  I couldn’t continue the conversation because someone, my girlfriend I think, interrupted me.”

These interviews are only for people who have or have had real relationships with Lowell Irving, so I must ask you to leave.

“No, no, no, you don’t understand; I’m an artist like him; I think like him; and I’ve seen most of his paintings.  I think I know more or at least as much about him through his paintings than anyone else can.”

But I didn’t think Lowell Irving is, or was, a successful painter.

“Artist.”

Artist.  Whatever.  So he was a successful artist?

“He has displayed maybe two or three of his paintings in art shows around Pittsburgh.  That was it.  But I’ve seen them all.

“His best friend let me see all of his work one night when Lowell wasn’t home.

“His name’s Brian.  I can’t remember his last name.  He’s a writer or poet or something.  Has he been here yet?”

No.  Did Lowell live with Brian then?

Si.  They share an apartment together.  

Do you think they are still renting the same apartment?

“I think so.  A friend told me Brian’s still there”

Do you know the address?

“No.  I don’t know any addresses.  I don’t read the street signs.  I only know how to get there from my apartment.  But ..... you should already know his address, shouldn’t you?²

You’re an artist too?

Si.  My paintings are on display in three of the art galleries in Pittsburgh, and it has also been shown in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, and New York City.”

Okay.  Then, in your professional opinion, what can you tell me about Lowell through his artwork?

“I’m not a professional; I’m an artist.  Artists are never professionals.

“Okay, okay.  Sorry.  In my opinion, Lowell has a very strong personality.  His soul is stretching, his pulse throbbing.  He’s sporadic, or is it erratic?  Maybe both.  His art appears dark on the surface--in the lines, the tone, the subject--but underneath, touching the canvas, there’s hope.  The more I studied his paintings the more nauseous and lightheaded I became.  I had to leave the room.  But then, as I was walking home through the alleys littered with trash and urine and rat feces, I started crying.  I wept for life.  That’s all I understood at the time; I wept for pain, for pleasure, for sadness, and for bliss.  A few days later I knew why: because of Lowell’s paintings.  His blood, his spirit, his pulse, was mixed in with the paint he used.  I could see it.  It glowed Lowell.  No works of art had ever affected me like that.  Not since either, and that was eight or nine months ago.

“The time I met him was before that.”

Did he seem happy to you the time you met him?

“I don’t know, but his art is very ..... non compos mentis, meaning.....”

I asked you not to speak Spanish.

“Oh, that’s Latin.  It means unstable, deranged.  I wouldn’t call his artwork crazy though, and he’s not insane, but it may be a little unbalanced.  Uh, I can explain better.  His paintings appear, to the untrained eye, to lack any type of order; colors and subjects intermix in unlikely settings.  For example, in one of his paintings there are skyscrapers both crumbling and rising in front of and behind a mountain range with snowy peaks; below the snowy peaks the mountains are metallic-colored, resembling metal, while the skyscrapers are painted with a vivid forest green.  Most people don’t appreciate such chaos.  But I think that’s what makes him a great artist: he’s baffled by life, and he’s honest about it.  Anyone who claims to understand the meaning of this Earth and the air we breathe is an ignorant fool.  Es estúpido.

I don’t need your philosophical opinion, Mr. Santiago.

Si, si.

Do you talk to Lowell’s friend Brian often?

“No.  I told you I don’t even know his last name.  I’ve only talked to him a few times.”

But he showed you his best friend’s paintings?

“Yeah, why?  We met through some mutual acquaintances, had a few beers, started talking about art, my art, Lowell’s art, and he showed me.  Not a big deal.  Lowell was out of town with his girlfriend, I think.”

Do you have any clue where Lowell may have gone?

“No.”

End of interview.

 

 

 

¹ Rodrigo was asked to speak English only.

² Rodrigo was asked not to question Detective Baser.

 

 

 

 

8.

 

 

“Hello.  My name is Jean-Paul DeVries.  I was Lowell’s French teacher for three years at Bear Chapel Area High School.  I have kept in touch with him on occasion since then.  

“Yes, we usually write each other in French, via email or letter.  

“No, I do not have any recent correspondence between the two of us.  The last letter he sent me was six months ago, and he asked to burn it when I was finished reading, so I did as he asked.  

“Yes, he has sent me a few emails as well, but they are of no importance--only inquiries about the intricacies of the French language--and all his other letters are either about me or the other Jean-Paul.”

And who’s that?

“Jean-Paul Sartre.”

Not familiar.  He hasn’t been here yet.

“And I am sure he will not come any time soon.¹  He died many years ago.”

Who was he?

“He was a French Philosopher.  One of the best.”

Don’t know him.  Did his philosophy influence Lowell?

“It depends what you mean by ‘influence’.  I would not say Lowell thinks exactly like him (Lowell thinks like no one else), but ..... eh ..... I would say Sartre has made Lowell see the world a bit differently.  But Lowell also complained about Sartre.  He found his philosophy too scientific.”

I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with his philosophy, so you’ll have to explain.

“One must have strong guts to stomach Sartre.  Essentially you are responsible for all of your actions, all of your thoughts; there are no excuses; there is no higher being than yourself.  This can be liberating for some and devastating for others.  Lowell, while he yearned to be free and to be in full control of himself and his actions, also desired a more spiritual meaning of life.  He needed some form of order in his life, and he could not find any in Sartre’s philosophy.  I believe (no, I know) there is harmony, a symmetry, to Sartre’s philosophy, but Lowell could not perceive it.  We often discussed this very subject.”

Okay.  So ..... Lowell is fluent in French?

“Yes.  He minored in French at Pitt.”

And he speaks Spanish too?

“A little, he told me.  French and Spanish are closely related.”

He seems like a smart guy.  He’s an artist, he majored in psychology, and he likes to discuss philosophy in French.

“Yes, he is a very bright young man.”

Why then do you think he disappeared?

“I would not say he ‘disappeared’.  I am sure he is still alive somewhere.  Perhaps he does not want people to know where he is.”

How do you know?

“I do not know for sure.  It is just a hunch.  But I am sure he did not kill himself as you probably believe.  He valued life too highly; he was always searching for it.”

But he left without telling anyone where he was going.  He didn’t even offer a clue.  

“Existence precedes essence.”

What?

“Sartre wrote, ‘Freedom is existence, and in it existence precedes essence.’  Essentially this means that what we do in life determines our qualities.  Perhaps Lowell is in search for his existence; perhaps he is trying to determine his essence.  He liked to discuss that quote.  It was one of his favorites.  Thus, unless he wanted his quality to be weakness, he never would have committed suicide.  He also liked the line, ‘In life, a man commits himself, draws his own portrait, and there is nothing but that portrait.’  This means that our acts define us.”

Then why run away and hide from everyone?

“Perhaps he is demonstrating that he does not need the world.  He remains a subject on Earth with or without other subjects.  One does not need objects in order to exist.  But I could be wrong.  No one should even try to understand Lowell, because no one truly understands anyone else on this Earth of ours.  It is impossible.  I also think he may be running away from the society that has run away from him.”

How has society run away from him?  Society is here to protect him.

“Society is here to protect its own interests, not his: this is what he thinks.  In society, the way we have structured it, a plumber can be only a plumber, a scientist can be only a scientist, a mechanic can be only a mechanic, but, unfortunately for Lowell, an artist cannot be only an artist--unless he is a genius, which is merely opinion, like Picasso.  But a plumber does not have to be a genius.  Thus, an artist must work other jobs in order to have a roof over his head and in order to put food in his mouth.  No one values art anymore--at least with currency.  He cannot survive on his artwork alone, but that is all he wants to do; that is his calling.  His art defines him like a plumbers work defines him.  No one tells a plumber to be an artist.”

And my work as the detective defines me?

“Precisely.  What if I told you that you cannot earn money as a detective?  What if I told you that in addition to your detective duties you had to be a bartender at a local pub?”

I wouldn’t like it one bit.

“And I would not like it much either.  Fortunately for me I am a French teacher; it is my calling; it is what I am good at.”

I see, I see.  So, you have no idea where Lowell could’ve gone?

“No.  Only he knows the answer to such a question.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“No.”

End of interview.

 

 

 

¹ Mr. DeVries hunched over in laughter.

 

 

 

 

9.

 

 

“Hi, my name’s Rachel Wilson, and I was Lowell’s boss at Jimmy’s Pub.

“No, I’m not the owner of the pub.  Jimmy is the owner of the pub, but Jimmy is rich and doesn’t actually have to bar tend, so he doesn’t really know Lowell.  I was Lowell’s manager.

“Lowell hated bar tending.  He was a terrible worker.  If a fight broke out, he would just stand there and watch in amusement while I was in the middle of the skirmish.  I got cut by glass during a fight once, had to go to the hospital and get stitches, and guess what he was doing?  He was outside smoking.  I know he heard the fight, he had to of, but he didn’t do anything.  We argued quite a lot.  I wanted to fire him many times, but I couldn’t find anyone to replace him.  And then he just didn’t show up one day and never came back.

“I’m not sure why.  We had a pretty big argument the night before about his girlfriend, but I don’t think that was why he quit.  He didn’t even like her anyway.  I heard he left her a couple months later.

“Her name was Melissa Sumers.  I didn’t like her much.  She always came in the pub and caused problems.  She started two or three fights that I know of, and with regular customers, good customers that never caused problems or bothered anyone.  She was a jealous type, that’s why.  Every time a girl even looked at Lowell she threw a hissy fit.

“I don’t know why he liked her.  Seemed like an odd fit to me.  She only liked him because he was an artist.  Not a very good artist though if he had to bar tend for money.”

You said he smoked.  Did you mean only cigarettes?

“Yeah, but I’m sure he probably smoked marijuana too.  He was the type.  Life’s a joke to him.  He treats everyone like they’re stupid, he doesn’t care at all about peoples’ opinions of him.  He’d often show up for work dressed like a bum.  We had arguments about that too.  Just overall a poor worker with a poor attitude.  I don’t know who he thought he was.  When I read that he went missing, I knew he was only doing it because he thinks he’s better than everyone else.  He always tried to show how he was better.  Like one time, when I questioned him about his dress (he was wearing a holed-up t-shirt), he mumbled something about how dress doesn’t define him.  He said he’s still better than everyone even if he wears a bum’s clothes.  I didn’t like his attitude.”

Can you prove that he smoked marijuana?

“Uh, no.”

Any other drugs?

“No.”

Do you know where he may have gone?

“No, I don’t, but I’d guess he went alone and to prove something.  I doubt he’d kill himself; he was too cocky and had too big of an ego for that.”

So, overall, he was a poor worker with a poor attitude: that’s it?

“Yeah.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t doing something illegal too.”

Like what?

“I don’t know.”

End of interview.


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