Spot

In the beginning it was just graffiti. A few grotesque figures painted with a fine brush in red ink, around doorways. Each work had an ethereal beauty. Each work was signed Spot. There were goblins, rodents, weird forests, bacteria. There were internal organs, there were unfamiliar planets, there were galaxies. All traced out in the finest detail. Spot, somewhere on a line between Albrecht Dürer and Banksy.

These were doorways of galleries or museums, or other places of culture. And despite being caught on CCTV several times, no-one could identify Spot. Spot always wore a big hoody, so the cameras couldn’t catch the face.

But then things got more interesting. Breaking into the location, Spot would leave a work of art hanging on the wall, or on a small plinth. Items of intense beauty that deserved their place, and signed Spot. And at each break-in, the signature red ink graffiti by the doorway.

The police were asked to investigate. Not the normal sort of crime, they said. After all, this graffiti is lovely stuff, they said. And no damage has been done inside, they said. These artworks left behind are things of beauty. You could sell them for a lot of money, they said. So their investigations stayed on the back burner, while they got on with things they considered to be more important.

Quite soon, there was a movement to preserve these works of graffiti. And the places that had a Spot by the door became popular.

We heard reports that a government minister had received a message (written in red ink of course) inviting her to meet Spot at some remote location. The minister refused, fearing a trick, or an attack.

Around this time, my friend Shine came to me. Shine, the master trumpeter, with his floppy hair and his serious spectacles. The usual grin was not on his face. He was troubled.

I am obsessed with the identity of Spot, he said. I want to meet Spot, he said. I came to ask you to help me find Spot, he said. I didn’t ask why. I had the same feeling.

So we visited all the places where Spot graffiti had been drawn. We negotiated with the jobsworths in the museums and the galleries so that we could get a look at the artworks that Spot had left behind. There was an aqualung carved from amber. There was a rabbit, sitting like a wise old judge. There was a mobile made from golden hands suspended by silver threads.

We made a chart enumerating all this information, with photos, names of places, dates. We spent long evenings puzzling over what we had found. Was there a pattern to these events? Was there a code or sequence buried in there?

We charted the data on a map of London, drawing lines between the different locations, in order of date.

We studied the catalogs of artworks to see if we could match Spot’s style to some known artist. We took Spot’s handwriting to a graphologist, to see if we could get a handle on Spot’s character.

We drank coffee, we walked the streets, looking for clues. But we got no nearer to a solution.

Late one night, along a backstreet in the East End, we passed a gallery that we had visited once before the Spot affair had started. And there, on the doorframe, was a Spot graffito. It showed a lioness in midair, leaping at a wildebeest. Look, said Shine. The ink is still wet, said Shine. And he pushed at the door, which swung gently open. There were white stairs descending into the basement gallery. A gentle light flooded the place.

The gallery was a single square room. Someone had built a circular wall of concrete, which almost filled the room. The top of the wall curved gently inwards. There was just enough space to get round the sides. The wood used in shuttering the concrete had left its fingerprint on the wall. You could see knots, the grain of the wood, splinters, all in the wall. It was painted a brilliant white. If you walked far enough around the wall you found a gap wide enough for a person to squeeze through. Shine and I had called this wall The Bigloo. Because it was too big to …. you got there before me.

This Bigloo had been in the gallery the last time we visited. The inside of the Bigloo had been covered with facsimiles of line drawings by Leonardo and Michelangelo, drawn directly on the wall.

We edged round the room towards the gap in the wall. Looking in, we saw that the inside of the Bigloo had been daubed with grey slip, and the room was filled with grey leaping human figures made of clay. There were children, adults, old people. All joyously leaping to the sky. I was stunned.

There was a movement. It was Spot, running slip over the hand of one of the figures. Spot looked up then. She was wearing dungarees, grey with slip, her blonde hair cropped short, her face shining with joy. Hello, she said. Are you looking for me?

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