The intruder was not rough with her. Quite the contrary, actually. He seemed almost solicitous in a strange way, as if through this slow undressing of her he was at the same time honoring and admiring her somehow. He had begun with her stockings and garters. He had carefully picked her up and moved her over to a nearby chair. Once he had her seated and her legs outstretched before him, the man had reached beneath her skirt and, one at a time, had undone the fastenings. Then, lingeringly, he had rolled each stocking down, his fingers brushing momentarily against the creamy milk-white skin of her inner thighs. He had thoughtfully placed the silky cloth next to her best black pumps and, then, now that her legs were bare and naked, put his arms around her waist and helped her to her feet again. She could not move. She was totally helpless.
Why the woman thought the intruder could possibly be solicitous was odd. She knew it was odd even thinking it. Wrong, too, and grotesque. Yet, she did think it. The man’s manner was not hostile in any way. It was not even sexual somehow. Not predatory. He was simply doing a job, performing a task, and though he was not indifferent to her beauty, for she could see the reaction in his eyes and in his breath, it did not affect his concentration or determination. He went about her unclothing gracefully, unhurried. He had things to accomplish, and she was simply the instrument with which he worked. He undid her skirt next, unfastening it and carefully placing it off to the side. Then he unrolled her panties down, his thumbs sending a momentary jolt of electricity through her as they brushed against her sex. He lifted her, moved her cast aside undergarment away with his foot, and then put her down again. He worked in silence. The office was dimly lit. She had just been getting ready to leave when he had appeared, shining that light in her face and paralyzing her with its radiance.
His fingers undid the buttons of her blouse and, parting the cloth, reached in to cup the swelling of her breasts. His touch was firm and warm. He removed the blouse and then reached around her back to unclip her bra. Moments later she was totally bare before him, naked and exposed to his scrutiny. He did just that for a long minute, examining her and appraising.
How could this happen to me? she thought. What did I do to deserve this? But there was no answer. She could not voice her fears, and neither did he express his opinions. He was changing her life, though she had no idea yet as to the extent.
The man walked back over to the office door and picked up the black leather bag he had been carrying when she had first seen him. He crossed the room again and put it on her desk. From within he took out a pair of metal bottles, like thermos containers but more futuristic and clinical. A pair of rubber gloves came out next, and then a surgeon’s mask.
The intruder took the first bottle and began untwisting the cap. Little whisps of steam emerged once the hermetic seal was broken.
Oh my god, what’s he going to do to me? The intruder walked up to the immobilized woman, looked her up and down once more, then put his hands on her and began arranging her pose. He apparently wanted her kneeling. He folded her knees down seated her on the floor, arranging her legs beneath her. He straightened her tummy, then took her shoulders and aligned them vertically with the curve of her buttock and heel below. He turned her head slightly, then walked around her to get different perspectives of her form. She felt his hands carefully gripping her chin. He pushed inward and compared the slant of her nose above the corner of her right shoulder. He stood back again. The back of the woman’s neck formed a slanted line running parallel to the lines of her upper arm on the right. He noticed how the line of her neat thigh flowed around her waistline from a distance. It was an elegant position. He took the woman’s long brownish hair and used a small band to gather it into a ponytail.
The woman was excited, though it did not show in her features. Nothing did. She looked calm and collected. She couldn’t turn her head to follow his movements. She was fearful, anticipating what was going to happen to her next. She had thought he was going to rape her, at least at first, but now? She just didn’t know. It was all so very dreamlike, nightmarish, being unable to move, being posed like a piece of sculpture, helpless to do or say anything.
The touch of the man’s rubber-clad hands on the soles of her feet surprised her. He was spreading some kind of lotion there. It felt warm and soothing, like a heated oil maybe, or a muscle relaxant. The intruder massaged the liquid into the bottom of her feet and then worked steadily upward past her ankles, along her folded legs, and deep into her thighs. He had to break her pose a couple of times to get the lotion everywhere, but he always put her back into position afterwards. The substance felt deliciously good on her bare skin - the office had been cold - and the tingling it caused was very relaxing. She might have enjoyed the sensation more, though, had she been able to stretch her muscles to receive it, or if it had been worked into her skin with her permission and not at the whim of some nameless assailant. The woman’s emotions were mixed. The man was good with his hands, an expert even in the giving of physical pleasure, and she had to admit to the sexual power building up inside her, if however reluctantly, but to be so helpless and unmoving while he touched her was degrading.
It was rape, she considered. She was totally at his mercy.
It felt so good, though.
Help me, she thought for the thousandth time. Someone please help me!
The man spread the warm lotion into the woman’s back and neck. He coated his hands with liquid and passed them slowly up and down her belly and breasts, gripping the soft flesh and working the material in until her skin positively glistened with it. He was playing with her finally, teasing her. He held her breasts and squeezed them gently, rubbing his thumbs across the aureole. She could tell he was aroused even without clearly seeing him, yet he did not capitalize on his advantage in the way she knew he wanted to. He still had a job to perform apparently. He took his fingers and stroked them along her face, leaving a thick coat of the lotion there as well. Soon there was not an inch of her skin not coated with the substance.
It did not take long for the tightening sensation to begin.
As the lotion dried, it did not seem to evaporate. Instead it settled in. The woman began to feel as though a thin layer of plastic had been wrapped around her, mummifying her, and it constricted, though not painfully. If anything, in fact, the sensation was pleasurable and intensely erotic. She had a sudden image of herself coated in a skintight layer of bodypaint or liquid latex, glistening under hot lights.
Her body could not even shudder with the force of her eventual climax.
The intruder took a small eye drop container and put a few drops of liquid in the woman’s eyes. She was coming along nicely. Her skin had taken on a rubbery look at first but was now looking more and more like hard plastic. There was a faint beige tint to her hardening flesh, and it made her seem very artificial. The glistening had not gone away, either. The woman looked as if she had been lowered into a vat of semi-transparent honey and then taken out and left to dry. She glowed practically. He thought she looked permaplexed.
Which, in a sense, she had been.
He reached back inside his leather bag and took out the remaining materials. He unfolded the long white gown and took a few minutes fitting it on her. This proved difficult but not impossible. She was hardening, but it would still be hours yet before she became totally unmovable. In the meantime he was still able to carefully put her in the gossamer-like dress. He arranged the garland of flowers in her hair afterwards, then fitted the scroll and ancient quill into her closed hands. The woman felt none of it, of course. Her mind had begun to drift away on clouds of pleasure. All that was left of her was her body, and that had been rendered permanent and forever.
The man stood back and admired his work.
Sitting in the middle of the office floor was what appeared to be a plastic statue wearing a white gown, the figure of a young beautiful woman caught kneeling in contemplation. She was a writer, it seemed, and she had been captured forever in the act of artistic creation. He moved forward and tapped her forehead. It was like tapping an acrylic surface.
He nodded, satisfied, then put his things away and left.
Hiram had to pick the lock to get in, but that was no problem. He had a great deal of experience at it.
The first thing he saw when he opened the door was the woman. He knew he was too late. He closed and locked the door behind him and checked his watch. He still had about two hours before the morning shift opened the front offices.
It would not be good if he were caught inside the building with this plastic-coated figure. It would look bad. Not that he had much of a reputation anymore. He was only a private investigator . . . very private. It was just that it would require an awful lot of explaining, and that was something both he and his employers could do without.
Hiram crossed the room and knelt in front of the new statue. He wasn’t looking for clues yet; he was just examining the artist’s technique, looking for similarities.
Artist, he thought disgustedly, then shook his head. I’ve been at this too long.
The woman was shiny, like she had been dipped in plastic. He touched one of her arms, and it actually felt like hard plastic. She looks like she went through a driver’s license machine, he thought. Better picture, though. It was a perfect preservation, in fact.
He had seen this before, this technique. Guy knows his stuff, if it is a guy.
Hiram thought it would be. Not many women he could name were in the statue-making business, especially out of live people. The perp was likely a male, and judging from his past victims, probably a Caucasian male in his late twenties or early thirties. Serial criminals liked to hunt within their own ethnic group, and the three victims so far were all pretty similar in appearance.
Hiram got up and began going through the office, quickly but thoroughly. It took him only a few minutes to make the connection. He held up a high school yearbook.
The victim’s name had been Lillian Carson, and like Jeanette Armstrong and Melissa Kepler before her, seven years ago she had attended Grammercy HS here in Cincinnati. She had graduated with honors, gone on to law school, made her way into a fairly prestigious law firm, and now had ended her days a piece of permanent artwork
It was not going to be easy making her disappear. She was going to leave plenty of friends and coworkers wondering what had happened to her, but at this point it couldn’t be helped. There could be no police involvement. Hiram’s employers valued their secrecy, which was one of the reasons they wanted him to find this guy so quickly. He was dangerous to them. The risk of exposure grew every time he left one of his “statues” lying around for someone to find.
Hiram had so far managed to keep up, paying bribes, misdirecting people, but sooner or later . . . . He pulled out a cellular phone and made a call to some local boys. They would be here within the hour, and Ms. Carson would be packed and shipped out of here before anyone saw them. It wasn’t the first time he had had to do this, and not just for this case. Usually, though, his employers were more, well, discrete.
Not this guy. Three women made into statues in less than a week.
A serial petrifier.
I’ll have to go back to Grammercy High School, he conjectured. Scope out the territory, make a better connection. I’m just wasting my time here.
Hiram absent-mindedly took a key out his coatpocket and began twirling
it around his finger. The real problem, he observed, was that he
didn’t have a lot to work with. Information from his employers was
scarce. He had to fly back to company headquarters that morning and
report to one of them, but he doubted the conversation was going to go
anywhere. As usual, they told him there was a problem, they pointed
him in the right direction, but then they just let him work on it on his
own. It didn’t make sense.
Sighing, the detective reached up and inserted the key he was holding into the slot in the back of his neck. He began turning it, the motion accompanied by a soft clicking sound, like the winding of an old-fashioned clock.
“Yeah, it looks like it’s going to be one of those cases,” he said,
and then left to go to the airport.
It had been a long time since they had last spoken, but the man could still remember the last words his benefactor had said to him.
Art imposes an order on life . . . how simple a statement, yet how profound in its simplicity. The painting of a beautiful woman exaggerates certain qualities of her features while de-emphasizing others. Music deliberately excludes most sounds and concentrates on only a few notes arranged in certain patterns. Poetry brings out striking and unexpected similarities between object and form.
He shivered, though not from the cold. If he were honest with himself, the man still felt hot following last night’s business. He wanted to work again, soon.
He watched his next subject walk out of her house and had to fight down an impulse to grab her then and there. She was a short woman, barely five and a half, dressed in a long wool striped coat. She was twenty-five but looked younger. She had dark hair and sleepy sloe eyes. She would make a wonderful Thalia.
Instead, he waited. My biggest problem, he thought, is that I’m just too damned impatient.
He would follow and hope for a better opportunity.
One would surely come along. He was on a divine mission, after
There was a pained expression of Avatar’s face.
“Don’t you think we’d have already considered that, Mr. Cross?” the old man said. “That it would have been our first consideration after the first statue appeared?” He looked at Hiram as if the detective had just told him water was wet.
It didn’t bother Hiram the least bit. He was used to getting pained expressions from Old Man Avatar.
“Hey,” he said, “you gotta look at it from my point of view. G. Limited is in the business of turning people into statues . . . .”
“That is a small way of looking at things, Mr. Cross,” Avatar interrupted.
“. . . and,” Hiram went on, “now we have a mysterious somebody going around and turning his high school sweethearts into statues. What’s a person to think, Albert?” He sat back in the plush chair facing Avatar’s desk. His crumpled suit and disheveled appearance clashed sharply against the clean elegance of the executive’s office.
Avatar got up and looked out the wide window beside his desk overlooking the coast. The sea below was churning. “If it had been a purely internal matter, detective, we would have taken care of it ourselves. Our mutual employer is very good about such things, as I’m sure you would agree.” He paused, then turned around to face Hiram.
“There is no connection between the three unauthorized acquisitions and anyone employed by this company. Whether or not there is an involvement with someone in the Club is something you will have to discover for yourself. I dare say, though, that if there is such a connection, it would look very bad for you considering that you perform all background checks of prospective members.”
Hiram smiled and shook his head. “Don’t even go in that direction, Albie. I know my job. Not one of those rich deviants you cater to so much has ever set foot anywhere near Grammercy High School, nor anyone in their families or businesses.” He got up and met Avatar by the seascape. “It’s a leak. You know it, I know it, Fip knows it. So what do we do about it?”
Avatar suddenly looked down. His perfect composure slipped.
“I don’t know,” he said quietly. “I honestly don’t know.”
“Excuse me, miss. Could you look this way for a moment?”
Ellen had been on her way back to her with packages in her hands. She turned, and suddenly a bright flashing light was shining in her eyes. She winced and began to say something. Then she stopped.
She didn’t have a say in the matter.
She couldn’t move. She stood there in the mall parking lot stiff and still.
A small bundle fell from the top of the stack she held. She paid it no attention. She couldn’t. Her muscles locked, her eyes frozen, and she became a living statue.
“Thank you, Ellen,” the man holding the flashlight device said. He was a young man. His face was handsome but not threatening, unshaven perhaps, but still reasonably neat. He wore a brown trench coat. He put the Freezer away in a side pocket and casually stepped back inside his van. He turned on the engine, conscientiously looked both ways down the row of cars he was in, and carefully backed out and parked beside the immobilized woman. He slid the sidedoor open.
“Let me help you with those,” he said, and took the packages from Ellen and stacked them inside. Now she stood there with her arms outstretched holding nothing, suddenly looking for all the world like one of the store mannequins from inside the mall brought outside. The man put his hands underneath her arms and lifted her into the van.
Nobody was really paying any attention to them. Shoppers were walking back and forth to the entrances or to their cars, and anyone who would have noticed Ellen and her kidnapper would probably have just seen somebody helping his girlfriend inside his vehicle. There was no shouting, no trouble being made. It all seemed perfectly normal. Inside, the man bent Ellen’s legs and body a little and put her in the passenger seat. She still wore a mixed expression of surprise and indignation.
Beneath that exterior, her thoughts raced madly.
They left the mall and drove to the park.
He had had everything ready in advance. Once they were safely there, he gave Ellen the injection and stood back to watch the transformation.
It started along the arm he had used the pneumo-injector on. A greenish splotch rose on the surface of her skin, somewhat like a bruise forming there if it were shown on time-lapse video. The color spread down her forearm and up past her shoulder, deepening in shade as it went, glazing the flesh and rendering it smooth and porcelain fine. The billowing white gown she had been changed into hid the process as it passed over her breasts and stomach, but the dress was short enough that her legs were left completely bare. The man watched as they turned pale emerald and solidified.
The whole metamorphosis took less than a minute to complete. Ellen’s eyes, left wide open and gazing into infinity, turned milky smooth for a moment, then solid green without visible pupils. Her features, left in that charming expression of mild surprise from the parking lot, crystallized into utter perfection.
And then it was done. Where once stood a still though flesh and blood woman, now there stood a still figure of smooth, green stone, polished and gleaming in the lights of the early evening stars. The two of them were alone in the park, petrifier and petrified, and he looked upon his new creation with a complete air of satisfaction. The man went back to his van and picked up the last piece to be added to the tableau . . . a theatrical comedy mask, ivory white and smiling.
He put it in the statue’s outstretched hand.
Under his breath, a few seconds later, he murmured, “Good job,” and
then got in the van and drove off.
Jeanette Armstrong, Melissa Kepler, and Lillian Carson.
They all graduated from Grammercy High School in Cincinnati seven years ago. One was a cheerleader, another was in the band, and the third belonged to no afterschool clubs at all. There was no evidence that they knew one another. There was no connection between them. They were just three ordinary American girls, pretty but by no means remarkable in any way.
Hiram closed up the yearbook.
And yet, he thought, here we are. Three women turned into three different types of statue.
The detective got up from his desk and went over to take a look at them again. They had been moved to his office until someone higher up in the company could make a decision on what to do with them. He had flown back with them on the company jet.
Now, they stood in a row alongside one waterstained wall.
First, there was Ms. Armstrong. She had stayed in Cincinnati after high school and become a secretary. Now, she stood a figure of solid white marble, her arms clasped together in a gesture of offering while holding a vellum scroll. She had high cheekbones. Her photograph from the yearbook indicated she had been a blonde. That didn’t matter much now, though, of course, nor could one really tell anymore. As marble, she was bleached white, her former yellow locks arranged in a kind of bun, with her lithe but very solid proportions now hidden beneath a simple white gown.
Hiram had tried to read the scroll Armstrong held, but the language was unfamiliar to him. He thought she might be wearing a toga but wasn’t exactly sure. He’d had to check later, he reminded himself.
All three statues wore them. Melissa Kepler was granite gray, solid stone with veins of blue and sparkling silver here and there. She had been frozen in a sitting pose, her face bent down and caught apparently in a study of the book she held in her hands. It was a copy of Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
He examined the third and latest member of the collection next, Lillian Carson. She had been mannequinized, more or less, turned to gleaming plastic. She too held a scroll, equally unreadable, but she also had a quill pen and a garland of flowers set around her forehead. If it was a message of some kind, Hiram wasn’t getting it.
If it was so much of a problem, this “serial petrifier,” for lack of any better term, why didn’t his bosses come down on the guy with more force? With all of the resources G. Limited had at its disposal, Hiram figured he could catch the psycho within hours, if that. But no, here he was, working out of the same cheesy little office he had been in for years.
The detective sighed and stalked back to his desk and thought about the problem more.
Maybe it’s all a joke. Makes sense in a way. Logical even. I mean, who else but G. Limited has the ability to turn people into statues and such? On the other hand, leaving the statues out in plain sight was stupid, and that was something his bosses definitely were not . . . with one or two notable exceptions. That was the kind of thing that attracted attention. The choice of girls wasn’t particularly bright, either. These weren’t runaways or prostitutes or people without close friends or associates; they were all well known within their own circles, and their disappearances would be noted.
So, it’s not a joke . . . which means exactly what?
A whole new crowd of suspects, that was what.
Hiram sighed again.
He held a great deal of sympathy for the three living statues standing there. He took out his key, looked at it for a moment, then began twirling it between his fingers. He knew what it was like being transformed against one’s will.
Ah, hell, he stopped himself a few seconds later. I’m getting maudlin in my old age. It’s time to get back to work and stop feeling sorry for myself.
The trip had been a waste of time. He should get back to Cincinnati, though he wasn’t sure why. He had no clues, no leads. Until the guy struck again, if he did - and Hiram was morally sure he would - all he had to go on were the statues he had already and his own dark suspicions. It would have been enough to discourage even Sherlock Holmes.
He grabbed the yearbook. He had a plane to catch.
The morning air was crisp and still. The sun had just barely peeked over the horizon. The birds had only just begun their first songs of the day. As he walked slowly to school, J.T.’s only company were the early morning joggers, dressed as usual in their colorful jumpsuits, torturing themselves in the pursuit of healthy living. J.T. didn’t really understand them, though he saw them every morning. Why anyone would want to get up so early in the day was beyond him. He sure didn’t want to.
He had an algebra test today, and he was not looking forward to it. His eyes focused on the sidewalk in front of him, his steps measured out by rote. He still hadn’t completely woken up, nor would he probably until about 2nd period.
The joggers passed the high schooler without noticing him. Winter was coming, and soon the city would be covered in ice and snow. They would have to move their exercises indoors for the season, and so they pushed themselves hard now, knowing that the colder weather would affect the regularity of their exercises later.
J.T. crossed over from the streets and into the park. The route put on about another ten minutes to his trip, but he was really not looking forward to that test. He hadn’t done his English homework, either, and Mrs. Stockston would be on him about it, he knew.
He was so preoccupied with what he hadn’t done last night that he almost didn’t see the figure until he was walking by it.
The fifteen-year old looked up, and there she was standing by the side of the path. Cool, smooth green stone. White gossamer dress, almost transparent in the early morning light. Arms outstretched as if holding something large and bulky, with only a smiling white mask gripped in one hand instead. J.T.’s mouth fell open in shock.
It was a nude statue of a woman, beautiful beyond belief.
Well, semi-nude, J.T. saw, though the dress she wore hid nothing at all. Her head was turned slightly to the side, mouth slightly open and her eyes glazed the same color as the rest of her face. She was gorgeous, simply gorgeous. J.T. stood there in silence, not thinking, just admiring.
It was the first time the young boy had ever truly looked at art.
He could feel himself hardening in response to it.
J.T. took his gloves off and lightly grabbed onto the loose cloth surrounding the statue. He couldn’t believe what he was doing. It felt like a dream. He pulled, and the gown fell away from her, revealing all of her pale green secrets. J.T. shuddered uncontrollably.
There were no chisel marks, no manufacturing stamps, nothing. The statue was flawless, polished from her exquisitely carved hair down to her shapely molded toes. The proportions were perfect. She might well have been a real girl standing in front of him, a Playboy pictorial in green paint brought to life.
Mrs. Stockton and the algebra test were a million miles away.
The boy approached and tentatively put his hand out. He ran his fingers over the statue’s stony breast, then pulled back suddenly as if he had touched something hot.
It felt so good, so sleek and fine. His groin pounding, J.T. all at once pressed himself against the frozen figure, his hands exploring the glassy thighs, stomach, legs, and ass. Beneath the statue’s chill he sensed a mysterious warmth, a tingling sensation that felt almost . . . electrical. Waves of sensation passed through him, primitive memories of pleasure . . . of transformation . . . petrification. The teen’s release was immense, and the front of his jeans stained instantly.
Her name . . . her name had been . . . Ellen . . . ?
“Hey, you! Get away from her!”
J.T. pulled back blindly, shaken, embarrassed, for a moment not knowing who or where he was. The statue’s mask fell out of her hand. Ellen . . ? he thought.
A jogger was running up to him. J.T. looked, saw him, gazed down at his pants, and felt a cramp surging through his privates. The ran, not knowing where.
The jogger who had yelled stopped by the statue, wondering how in the hell something like this had been left in a public park. It was a fantastic work, but . . . my God, he thought. She’s nude. He stood there watching the boy run off. He had thought the kind had been molesting a real woman, at least from a distance, but now . . . . He could see why maybe the kid had been doing what he had been doing.
The statue was beautiful.
The jogger removed his gloves.
The man sat down at a table in his apartment and began checking the Freezer. He undid the lens device and checked the circuitry underneath. He didn’t even pretend to understand the physics behind the tool, but he had long ago memorized its internal configurations, just in case repairs to it were necessary. He no longer had the resources he once had available. Just one look around his place, at the dust and the cobwebs in the corner, the cracked window in the living room, was enough to remind him of that reality.
His mind wandered as he examined the connections.
Art, his patron had finally said, is simply that ultimate expression of the human mind’s desire for a re-arrangement of the universe, of a transcendental leap from the purely natural to the more desirable artificial.
Yes, he agreed. Absolutely and one hundred percent, he agreed. He reattached the Freezer’s lens and put it to the side. Next to the table by the wall was a shelf, and on this shelf he had some weeks ago lined up the precious materials he would be needing for his project. He counted them again for the thousandth time. Four had already been used - the white emmarbling solution, the stone powder, the plastic lotion, and then, just last night, the green marbleizer - and five more awaited use.
After they were gone, he would have nothing left.
Why did they have to abandon me? the man wondered, tears suddenly in his eyes. He had been like this for days. His emotions were a wreck.
Was it something I said, something I did? Something I didn’t do? He had no real idea, still, even after so much time had gone by.
His former masters spoke a great deal but tended to explain little.
It just wasn’t right.
The man took the fifth container down from the shelf and held it to his chest. The truth was, he suspected, they had simply lost interest in him. It happened. He had seen it happen firsthand. Their moods varied sharply. Everything was drama to them. The Dancers either treated something as the most important matter in the world, or they chose to ignore it. It was insane.
He sniffed and drew himself up straight again. But who am I to judge them? he thought. They had introduced him to the Club, shown him how to turn his most cherished fantasies into reality. They had given him a life, an occupation. They’ve given me a dream . . . and I have to show them I can still live up to that dream.
Because, maybe then, they would take him back.
The petrifier stood up with the fifth container still held tightly to his chest, holding it the way a mother might carry her child, and went into his bedroom. There, along one wall, he had pasted pictures of all his subjects, the lucky recipients of his masterpiece design. Most of the pictures he had taken from his high school yearbook, but others he had taken personally in the year he had spent planning all this.
He scanned the pictures, left to right.
He wiped a tear from his eye.
Four down, he thought. Five to go.
Hiram hated police stations.
Maybe it was because once, long ago, he had worked in one himself.
“Thank you, officer,” he said to the desk sergeant. He put the last of the paperwork inside his coat pocket, turned around, and walked out. He had been keeping track of the news, and so when a nude statue was found in a local park, it hadn’t taken him long to get there and do the research.
Fourth victim, Ellen Hewitt. He had recognized the picture from the yearbook the moment he had seen her petrified figure, though he hadn’t said anything to the cops.
No one else would make the connection, of course, between her disappearance and the green statue, but it was still a mess of situation. Ellen Hewitt, unfortunately, had once been Ellen Blaine. Hiram figured her husband would probably be interested in knowing what had happened to her. More than likely.
Thank God they had no children, the detective thought. He could still imagine what he might have said to Mike Hewitt, though, if he could.
Gee, sir, I guess the only way to tell you is to just tell you. Your wife was kidnapped by a maniac with tools beyond human definition. He turned Ellen into a marble nude.
Yes, sir. Green marble.
Would I kid you in a moment like this?
Hiram walked down the steps from the police office and climbed into his rental car. There was no way he would be allowed to do that in real life, as much as he would like to say something to poor Ellen’s husband. But in all likelihood, he would never even see Mike Hewitt, let alone get a chance to speak with him.
All he could do is lay claim to the statue, which he had just done, make some “donations” to the right people, indulge in a little hypnosis perhaps - he hated using mind tricks, they made him feel slimy - and do his best to cover up Ellen’s disappearance.
He took his key - the key - and inserted it into the slot behind his head.
He hated what he had become. He truly did. The clicking noises the gears made when he wound himself up grated on his nerves like nothing else in the world.
I’m gonna get you, you son of a bitch, Hiram thought, taking the key out and putting another inside his car’s ignition. And I’m gonna take out all my frustrations on ya.
Smiling grimly, he pulled out into the streets.
The petrifier sat in his van outside the house of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Montclair, where the former Anne Willis, as he had known her in high school, lived.
Where my future Melpomene lives, he corrected himself.
He had made sure she was alone. Her kids were off at school, and her husband wouldn’t be back from his office job until much later that afternoon. He had all day to work.
She still looks great, too, even after two children, he thought. I’m lucky. He looked down at the container he had strapped to his chest, and the hose connecting it to the nozzle-gun he wore, and was satisfied everything was set.
She’ll make a beautiful piece of art. A beautiful Melpomene.
The petrifier got out of the van, locked the door behind him, and walked up to the house. He had checked his appearance before in the mirror, and he was confident he looked harmless and safe. No one could see the hose assembly or the Freezer beneath his coat.
He rang the doorbell. A moment later the door opened.
“Hi, Anne,” the man said, and took out his first tool. “Remember