Fifteen minutes later, Coleman had a dinner date Wednesday evening with Bain, and breakfast with Simon Wednesday morning before the Grendle’s auction. She entered the appointments in her diary and turned to her messages. Nothing important except that her friend Clancy from the New York Times wanted her to call him. Urgent.
“Clancy? What’s up?”
“A suspicious death early this morning of a guy connected to the art world. Jimmy La Grange. Do you know him?”
“What? I can’t believe it. I’ve never met him, but I’ve been trying to reach him. A print he owned sold at Killington’s this morning for half a million dollars.”
“You have to be kidding. The police say he’s a part-time art dealer, part-time model, part-time actor, maybe a small-time hooker. They sure don’t think he had any money—he lived in a run-down tenement in the West Village. They think his death was a sex-gone-bad crime—he wanted it rough, and it got too rough,” Clancy said.
Coleman was taking notes. “Tell me everything you know, then I’ll fill you in on the auction and the print.”
“Okay, but can you get me background on this guy? It might not be a story for the Times, but if it is, I’ve gotta be prepared.”
“I’ll find out what I can. Dinah probably knows him. Now, tell.”
“The police say he picked up a couple of biker types and took ’em to his apartment. A neighbor on the way home after a late night out saw two gorillas leaving La Grange’s building about one this morning. The police think La Grange was probably dead or dying by then. They’ll know more after the autopsy, but they already know he was battered to death. Did you know he was into rough stuff?”
Coleman grimaced. “Yuck. No, I never even heard of him till today. I don’t know anything about him but what I’ve told you. Who discovered the body?”
“An old lady who lived across the hall noticed his door was open, and went in to see if he was all right. She’d heard a lot of noise the night before, but didn’t see anyone. But the one witness they have is sure he’d recognize the men he saw.”
“Too bad about La Grange. Young, on the verge of getting all this money, and dying in such a terrible way,” Coleman said.
“Yeah, he got a bad deal. Of course, if it was an accident, a consensual sex death, it’s nothing to do with the Times. But if there’s an art angle, I have to look into it. What do you think?”
“There’s a big art angle. Have you heard the Heyward Bain story?” She reported what she knew about Bain, the purchase of Skating Girl, and Jimmy La Grange.
“I’d heard about Bain and the museum, but I had no idea of a connection with La Grange. I’ll talk to my police sources, see what they know. Call me if you learn anything from Dinah.”
Coleman fetched a cup of coffee from the conference room, sat back down at her desk, and pondered Jimmy La Grange’s death. The poor guy finally gets a big financial break, and is immediately killed. That couldn’t be a coincidence. But neither could it have been somebody trying to steal the money he got for Skating Girl: Killington’s wouldn’t send out the check for weeks. But what was the link between the print and Jimmy La Grange’s death, if not money?
She telephoned Dinah, but Dinah knew almost nothing about La Grange. She’d met him a few times when he’d visited the gallery, offering prints for sale, but that was the extent of their acquaintance.
“He sold prints he picked up at garage sales, places like that. He was a runner—didn’t have a gallery—carried everything he had for sale in a portfolio. I liked him. He was shy, sweet, quiet. I bet Skating Girl was supposed to be his big break,” Dinah said.
“Yes, but it may have turned out to be a curse. His selling that print for so much money almost certainly caused his death.”
“Do you know anything about his personal life?” Coleman asked.
“No, I didn’t know him that well, and I never heard any gossip about him. But I don’t think that looking-to-be-beat-up story makes sense. He told me he made more money modeling than selling prints. His face was his fortune—he was gorgeous,” Dinah said.
“Maybe he wasn’t seeking sex—maybe it was a gay bashing,” Coleman said.
“It’s awful no matter how it happened.” Dinah said.