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 and 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 near 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 to say anything.
The touch of the man's rubber-clad hands on the soles of her foot 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, it 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 the 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 sudden image of herself coated in a skintight layer of body paint or liquid latex, glistening under hot lights. Her body could not even shudder with the force of her 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 large 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 a private investigator . . . very private. It was just that it would cause an awful lot of explaining, and that both he and his employers could do without. Hiram crossed the room and knelt in front of the new statue. He was not looking for clues - he figured the person who did this was too smart to leave much trace evidence - he was instead examining the artist's technique.
Artist, he thought, then shook his head. I've been at this job too long.
The woman was shiny, like she had been dipped in plastic. He touched one of her arms, and it too felt like hard plastic. She looks like she went through driver's license machine, he thought. Better picture, though. A perfect preservation, in fact. He had seen this before, the 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.
Though not in technique.
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. Her name had been Lillian Carson, and like Jeanette Armstrong and Melissa Kepler before her seven years ago she had attended Grammercy HS in Cincinnati. She had graduated with honors, gone on to law school, made her way into a fairly prestigious law firm, and had ended up 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. His employers enjoyed their secrecy, which was one of the reasons why they wanted Hiram 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 . . . .
The guy had to be stopped. Soon, or it would be Hiram Cross taking the blame.
I'll have to go to this Grammercy High School, he conjectured. Scope out the territory, make a better connection. I'm just wasting my time here. He pulled out a cellular and made a call to some local boys. They would be here within the hour, and Ms. Carson could 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.
A serial petrifier.
Three women made into statues in less than three weeks.
And nobody could know of it not already in the know.
Hiram absent-mindedly took a key out his coat pocket, twirled it around his finger for a moment, then reached up and inserted it into the slot in the back of his neck. He began turning it, the motion accompanied by a soft clicking sound, like the winding up of an old-fashioned clock.
"Yeah, it looks like it's going to be one of those cases," he said, and then went back to work.
. . . to be continued
Read "The Arts, Part Two"
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