Part 1: At The Gallery Opening
Kris Munroe rushed out just as final bell rang at Guardian Angels High School. She arrived at the exclusive gallery just as the doors opened for the latest Henry Roberts' preview. Like others, she was intrigued by the article and photo in the paper and wanted a close-up view of the amazing statues for herself. In the main presentation hall, she saw several figures draped with cloth. After a few minutes, Roberts appeared.
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I do want to thank all of you for attending this preview of my upcoming show. Actually, I do prefer to call it a 'reception,' because, as you can see, there are some people who have just arrived and I do want you to meet them. Now it is quite possible that you have met some of them before, at one time or another, because they come from all walks of life, all marches of time. They are those members of humanity at perhaps whom you have always wished to stare at or examine or scrutinize in an attempt to experience what it's like to live their lives. Ladies and gentlemen, now you have that chance, so may I suggest: 'Here We Stand.'" Roberts motioned to his associates Fulton and Edwards, who swiftly unveiled the many statues. The crowd gasped in amazement and moved closer for a better view.
Kris, too, was surprised at how life-like the statues appeared. "Jill should have come," she thought; "This is incredible. He's a genius... the man's a genius." She was grateful for the chance to attend however, as she had intended to write a school report on Roberts’ statues. She moved slowly through the hall, examining each statue closely for several minutes from various angles before moving onto the next. She had just turned her attention to the statue of a female equestrian when someone tapped her arm. She turned to find the artist Roberts himself standing beside her.
"Enjoying yourself, Miss...?"
"Munroe... Kris Munroe. My sister Jill gave me the invitation she received from you. Yes, Mr. Roberts. It's a huge honor to meet you. Your work is so fascinating. This woman here... the details... the hair, the fingernails, the faint wrinkles.... How do you do it?" she asked.
"I'm afraid I have got to keep my methods a secret, but I do thank you for coming."
“Oh no; I was hoping to do a paper for my art class on your technique?”
Roberts looked closely at the young school girl for a moment and smiled. "I’m sorry I can’t, but I know I'll see you here again." He shook Kris's hand suavely and made his way to Fulton, who stood near the entrance, watching the crowd.
“This isn’t exactly what we had planned.” Roberts whispered. "That young woman standing in front of our marshal statue is Kris Munroe ... the younger sister of the lady we hoped to lure into our collection. Her sister Jill did not appear tonight as planned. Miss Munroe herself, however, will do just as well for the time being. She'll be our next subject. You and Jack know what to do. I'll meet you down in the workshop.”
Roberts found Kris a few minutes later, looking intently at another statue.
“I’ve decided to let you in on a few of my secrets,” he said, startling Kris.
“Oh? Really; that would be super!” she gushed with schoolgirl enthusiasm.
“My workshop is two levels below us. The main elevator doesn’t go down there, but if you take the stairs in the back by the restrooms, you’ll find it. My assistant will be waiting. I’ll meet you in a few minutes. I just need to greet one of my patrons.”
“Thank you so much Mr. Roberts, I really owe you,” Kris said as she turned and moved towards the back hallway.
Roberts noticed the attractive 18-year-old walk away. Her long blonde locks almost danced on her back. She had a dark California tan and perfect white teeth. He was happy he didn’t have to worry about finding a costume for her display, as she was still wearing her school uniform. A starched white blouse with the sleeves rolled up almost to the elbows. A red plaid pleated skirt, white nylon socks perfectly cuffed at her kneecaps, and red and white saddle shoes.
Kris easily found the door leading to the stairway, but she never made it to the steps. Once she opened the door, a strong hand placed a strange smelling white cloth over her nose and mouth; although she struggled she soon fell into a deep sleep.
Part 2: The next day’s confrontation
"Okay, what's this all about?" asked Jill Munroe levelly as she looked about Roberts' workshop at the statues that had just come to life around her. There was a fisherman, a uniformed beat cop, and two Gemini twins in togas that had suddenly turned the odds against the stealthy detective. She’d have to fight her way out.
Moreau sat in a back room and watched Jill's surprise over the video monitor. "It's about your demise, Jill Munroe; your carefully planned, eagerly anticipated demise," replied Moreau coolly, his voice carrying over an intercom.
The workshop door slid open, and Henry Roberts stepped into the room. "Welcome to my museum," he greeted her with a wry smile.
"So, you lured me here purposely. It was all a sinister plan... the thefts, the riddles...," Jill said as the reanimated men circled her.
"All were part of an intricate choreography. You see, we knew that if we attracted the attention of the Charles Townsend Agency, you would ultimately be involved," Moreau answered her.
"Charlie warned me that there was more to this than met the eye."
"Which is why, upon his inability to solve our riddles and crimes, he sent for you. How boringly predictable," Moreau said haughtily.
"Speaking of boring, why am I here?" demanded the beautiful blonde.
Roberts stepped forward and smiled. "You are about to become my latest work of art."
Jill simply looked at him, puzzled. “What are…?”
The voice from the intercom interrupted. "Several people know that my friend here plans to open his Los Angeles exhibit tonight by unveiling for the first time a new statue of a Laker Girl cheerleader," Moreau explained. "I shall be there for the unveiling as will you, Jill, delicately and permanently frozen in place by a minute stream of electrons controlled by a miniaturized neural impulse modulator, developed by that brilliant neurophysiologist, Robert Henderson."
"Presently known to the world as Henry Roberts," said the sculptor, taking a brief bow as he took a new NIM unit for Jill from his pocket. "The device in this ring, once it is placed on your finger, will produce an electrical signal which will place you in a state of suspended animation ... forever.”
Jill could not comprehend what was happening.
“Who better to portray a Laker Girl than you Jill, still the most beautiful member the squad has ever had?” Moreau asked. “Enough small talk, though, Miss Munroe.”
The three men who had been reanimated swiftly took hold of Jill. Roberts smiled as he approached the detective with the NIM unit in his hand. Suddenly, Jill whirled about, knocking the men off balance, and quickly grabbed the ring from Roberts' hand. She held it up to the TV camera defiantly.
"After I crush this with my boot," Jill stated to the voice over the speaker, "you're going to tell me who you are and where you are."
Moreau could simply have turned the dial to '0-Anima' and added Jill to their collection of human statues at that moment. But he was very patient. A few moments more and they would have her on display, in costume and in a more appropriate pose. In his mind, timing was everything; with an ironic sense of humor, he sprang his trap.
"Wait, Jill. Perhaps you'd like to see our most recent acquisition first. Henry, please..."
Roberts smiled and gestured toward a draped object in the corner. Two of the men carried the figure to the center of the room. With a flourish, Roberts lifted the cloth. Kris Munroe stood there, completely motionless, still dressed in her school uniform.
"Kris ?" Jill gasped.
“Yes, this is your sister Kris. She attended yesterday’s preview of Henry's exhibition and graciously consented to fill in for Henry as a school girl statue. Had you attended the preview instead of her, you could have undergone the statue-ization process instead and she wouldn’t be in this little predicament now. As you can see, however, Kris makes an excellent Henry Roberts statue, don't you think? But she's unable to answer you at the moment. In fact, Kris is unable to do much of anything at all."
Jill looked incredulously at her stiffened, waxwork-like sister. Now she understood what had happened; why Kris hadn’t returned her recent phone calls. "Let her go," ordered Jill, showing her irritation for the first time.
"She was not in our original plans. But we will let her go only after the NIM unit has been placed on your finger."
"Right now," Jill demanded.
"Right now, I can push a button that will make Kris’ statue-fication permanent. She will spend the rest of eternity as a beautiful work of art. Would you like that, Jill?"
Thousands of thoughts and the image of her younger sister posed stiffly forever as part of some museum display whirled through her brain as she stared at Kris, but she couldn't think logically. Kris had her whole life in front of her and after all it was she, not Kris, that they really wanted. Also, Jill felt guilty for getting Kris in to this situation. Seconds passed. Kris looked so helpless and gullible, a persuasive effigy.
Finally, Jill offered the NIM unit back to Roberts. "You win."
"I won the day I planned this," gloated Moreau. "The rest was simply a matter of time." Roberts grinned as he took the NIM unit back from Jill's hand.
Jill was led to a partition in the back of the room, behind which was a skimpy Laker Girl uniform, the same style as she had worn when she joined the team right out of high school. She slowly undressed and put on the shiny tan pantyhose, shimmering gold and purple leotard and skirt, bulky white socks, and white tennis shoes. When she had finished changing, she was led back to Roberts in the center of the room.
Roberts nodded toward her hand. Jill held her left hand out to Roberts. He took and slid the perfectly sized ring onto her ring finger. The moment the NIM unit came into contact with Jill's skin, a three-dimensional image of her appeared on the monitor, and the computer sparked into action, calculating the precise mix of electrical signals that would turn her ‘off,’ transforming her into another Henry Roberts statue. As with all the other women, it took the computer mere seconds to record all of Jill's physical data and to devise the precise statue-ization frequencies. Almost immediately, the green light blinked on the computer console. Moreau was just about to press the "0-Anima" setting when the defeated Jill spoke.
"May I take a closer look at Kris? I'd like to see what I'll be like... what I'm going to become forever."
Moreau grinned and seemed pleased. "Of course, Jill, I don't see why not."
Jill stepped up to Kris and examined the statue closely. She looked at Kris's young, innocent face and saw the glassy eyes staring off at nothing. She gently ran her hand over Kris's arm; it was rigidly locked into position. Then she gently touched the face; it felt cold and firm, as if she were touching a plastic mannequin.
Gently she pressed her lips to Kris’ cheek, giving her one last kiss, remembering all the happy times they shared.
She realized that in just a few minutes she would be like Kris, no longer a living woman, but a motionless sculpture. As she stood there for a moment, she felt a mix of emotions: helplessness, sadness, anxiety, fear, and oddly, fascination and exhilaration. At last, Jill turned to Roberts.
"I'm ready. How would you like me to stand?"
Although they had already pre-programmed the coordinates for their ‘Laker Girl’ pose into the computer, Moreau relished the control that he and Roberts now had over the beautiful detective.
"Let's see, now, hands on your hips, I think." Jill reluctantly did as she was told and raised her hands to her hips. "Yes, that's it. Well, now, smile. Smile the smile you would like to wear through eternity, because wear it through eternity you shall." Moreau said in a sinister voice. Slowly, Jill's lips spread into a smile. "In a moment, your own conversion will be complete. You may even enjoy it, becoming a perfect and magnificent statue, Jill, preserved forever as a splendid work of art, a masterpiece. Then you won't have to worry anymore about fighting crime and dastardly villains," Roberts said in a coaxing and soothing voice as Moreau activated the computer at the zero-anima level.
There was a warbling sound from the controls as the NIM unit responded.
Jill felt a warm tingling gently grow and quickly spread outward to the rest of her body. She thought of Kris. "Once I've been turned off, once I'm one of their statues, they'll reanimate her, and she'll... wait... no. what a fool!" Jill suddenly realized her mistake. "Once I'm a statue, they'll have no reason at all to return Kris to normal." The sight of her sister statue-ized had caught her off-guard and had kept her from thinking logically or rationally, just as Roberts and Moreau had hoped.
Jill immediately tried to fight the electrical impulses of the NIM unit, struggling to block them so that she might be able to neutralize the signals. But it was too late.
Roberts and Moreau saw Jill's brief struggle against fate, but they were unconcerned. After only a few seconds, the computer was already well into finishing its task. Within her body, several of Jill's physiological functions and systems were already shutting down and going into stasis as the computer continued to transform the private eye into a motionless, inert, statue. Jill tried to remove the ring, but before she could she felt her entire body lock into position. As hard as she tried, she could no longer move.
To those watching, Jill’s beautiful face seemed to freeze into an unblinking mask.
"Henry," said Moreau triumphantly, "say 'good-bye' to one of the few people in the world who could have stood between us and everything in the world worth stealing." Roberts paused for a moment, staring proudly at his latest creation.
The immobilization process had gone perfectly, as it always did, and now Jill, too, was a stiffened, perfectly preserved, Henry Roberts 'statue'. Nearby, Kris stood posed, equally unmoving; all the more distinct when both had become as still as mannequins.
The End ?