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A Siege of Herons

by Christie Cochrell

About the Author: Christie Cochrell is an ardent lover of the play of light, the journeyings of time, things ephemeral and ancient. Her work has been published by Tin House and The Catamaran Literary Reader, among others. She has won the Dorothy Cappon Prize for the Essay and the Literal Latté Short Short Contest. Once a New Mexico Young Poet of the Year in Santa Fe, she now lives and writes by the ocean in Santa Cruz, California.


When he pushed opened the door of Mireille Cabrol’s studio in southwest Mallorca, Detective Tomás Vilalta sent flying a siege of purple herons—if he remembered accurately the collective nouns he had collected once for a small chapbook of ghazals his sister Cristina printed for him on her letterpress. A flight, an updraft, a rising, a skyward conflagration. But when they’d settled again, and his heart with them, they proved merely thirty-six life-sized paintings of the great birds. And there was no sign of Mireille, other than her magnificent brushstrokes.

Her daughter had reported her missing that morning, a Thursday in late April. It seemed she was missing from her studio in S’Arraco as well as from the small caseta she lived in behind her daughter’s stone farmhouse in Andratx at the dead end of a road that was no more than two ruts with grass down the middle, leading through a scattering of almond trees. The sixty-year-old artist wasn’t answering her cell phone. Her car (a dark blue Golf hatchback, with fold-down seats for all her painting gear) wasn’t in S’Arraco or Andratx, but there’d been no reports of accidents or traffic violations. No activity on her bank card.

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