My editorial assistant (and son), Matthew Sketchley, joins us again today for a conversation with Michael Stratton from Without Proof. Matthew blogs at Probably Nothing Interesting.
Matthew: We’ve got Michael Stratton here today, he’s one of the main characters in Without Proof. How are you doing, Michael?
Michael: I’m a bit frustrated today, actually. One of my friends is a journalist, and he just reopened an accident I’d like to leave in the past… and suggested to my assistant, Amy, that it could have been sabotage. Just when I’d hoped we were moving beyond this.
Matthew: That accident is the reason you have Amy as an assistant, right? Would you mind elaborating a little on your business and how it’s been affected?
Michael: Amy had just moved here to Nova Scotia to marry my best friend, Gilles. When he was killed in the plane crash, she needed a place to recover from her injuries, so I invited her to stay with me. My aunt moved in, too to help. Amy started helping with my accounts, to take her mind off her loss. I think she felt she needed to pay me back, too, although I never would have asked for it. Helping her was helping Gilles, and I’d have done whatever I could.
Anyway, Amy worked herself into a job. Now she handles the books, promotions, and even some of the framing. I’m a painter – nature scenes, mostly. Anything to do with water, although I’ll do the occasional portrait as well. I’m hopeless with numbers, so gaining Amy as an assistant has been a definite plus.
I’m based in Nova Scotia, which is a bit far from the larger markets. Two years ago, when the crash happened, I was in the process of moving my business to central Canada. When Gilles died, and Amy needed me, I scrapped those plans and came home. It might not have been the smartest thing, business-wise, but I have no regrets.
Matthew: It sounds like you and Gilles were quite close. I’ve heard a bit about him already, but could you tell me about your friendship?
Michael: For our non-French-speaking readers, here’s how to say his name: the “g” makes a zh sound like in “treasure,” and the name rhymes with “hill,” so say “zhil.”
Gilles was everything I’m not. Outgoing, adventurous, athletic, charming. From a wealthy French family. We were paired in an exchange program one summer in our teens. He came here first, and let’s just say some of the antics we got up to – at his instigation – bonded us closer than brothers. I still can’t believe he’s gone.
Matthew: I guess I should ask you this, although you’ve sort of already given an answer. What do you think about this sabotage theory?
Michael: Just because there are apparently ways to crash a plane like his without leaving clues doesn’t mean it happened. For a crime, you need motive. Everyone loved Gilles, and there’s not even a hint of evidence of sabotage. What makes me so angry about this coming up is that Amy’s finally starting to heal. We’re coming up to the second anniversary of the crash, and she doesn’t need anything to stir up her grief.
Matthew: I can understand that. You’re pretty protective of her, right?
Michael: More protective than she likes, sometimes. Amy carries a lot of hurt, from losing Gilles, the way his family treated her afterward, and from something else, something she thinks disqualifies her from a relationship with God. I’d give anything to see her whole again.
Matthew: So how does your business operate? Do you find sales tricky as an introvert, or do you let Amy handle that for you?
Michael: I run a small gallery from my home, conveniently situated for tourists, and I’m building a network of consignment sales through independent gift shops. I also take part in the major craft and gift fairs, and do exhibits in other galleries when I can get them. I let Amy handle as much of the people and paper as possible. She seems to like it. For the public venue events, people really like to meet the artist. I do my best, but schmoozing drains me.
Matthew: Yeah, people are the worst. Well, that’s all the questions I have for you today. Any parting words you want to leave us with?
Michael: Hey, people are fine… the right people, and in small numbers. But crowds? Definitely stressful. I’m getting ready for a major show in Toronto. Amy’s agreed to go with me, which will help. Here’s hoping some time away helps her forget that sabotage nonsense. Thanks for taking time to chat, Matthew.
Matthew: No problem, Michael, it’s been good talking to you. Good luck in your Toronto show.
Two years after the plane crash that killed her fiancé, Amy Silver has fallen for his best friend, artist Michael Stratton. When a local reporter claims the small aircraft may have been sabotaged, it reopens Amy’s grief.
Anonymous warnings and threats are Amy’s only proof that the tragedy was deliberate, and she has nowhere to turn. The authorities don’t believe her, God is not an option, and Michael’s protection is starting to feel like a cage.