Lethal Masterpiece

Alternating narrators. Rated M.

We follow Alison Havens as she enters the Cabinet of Peculiar Art: home to the most grotesque of creations, and also currently housing a psychopath. Subsequently Alison has been taken into custody a month later and Commissioner Michael Fox is trying to connect the puzzle pieces in the aftermath of her abduction, while her 4-year-old son remains missing.

A/N: I suck at summaries.

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13. Genesis, Part II

Chapter XV: Genesis, Part II

 

He stepped away from the easel after what seemed like an eternity, but then quietly continued assessing the drawing from a distance. I sighed, staying put against the far wall as I had been instructed to when he had returned to have a look at what would later become the first of many assignments issued by Mannis Rose.

 

It had turned out a little sloppy towards the end, but ultimately my sudden wisp of enthusiasm and mad dark inspiration had culminated in something that brought me immense satisfaction to behold.

 

That feeling of self-satisfaction diminished somewhat when Rose didn't show any outward signs of disapproval, as I had imagined he would, seeing what a horrible thing I had created in his absence. He didn't look exactly pleased either, about which, I guess, I had no reason to give a damn – but he had been staring at the obscene image for ages now and I was starting to grow impatient. Caleb was waiting for me. Finally Rose shifted and directed his hazel eyes at me.

 

“Why did you draw this?”

 

“Excuse me?” I asked, a little more irritably than what was probably wise.

 

“This is not what I asked you to do.”

 

He started edging towards me.

 

“Yes, I did--”

 

“Why would you draw this?”

 

“You don't like it?” I asked, feigning hurt.

 

“I didn't say that.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Answer the question, Violet.”

 

He liked it? Somehow I thought I should have sen that one coming. Of course he would.

 

“If you like it why didn't you just tell me so right away so we could get on with this already?” I demanded.

 

“I'm asking the questions here, lovebug,” he said, gradually advancing at a leisurely pace...

 

I uncrossed my arms and let them fall down to my sides, apprehensive. “You said you wanted people...”

 

“I know what I said,” Rose purred, stepping ever closer. “Now I'm asking you a very simple question: of all things, why did you dream this up?”

 

He motioned towards the easel behind him, where the drawing was still on display. Part of me had wanted to upset him, even if the man had seen and done things that were probably much worse in terms of ugliness. But I hadn't. That was the point. That was why the image of Derek Wagner lying sprawled out on his back, his face a bloody pulp, his bones protruding out of his cooked skin, was something I would always remember in most disturbing detail. I had had my motive branded into my mind forever, and drawing it had been a scary albeit easy task. Inspiration had then struck and I had tweaked my haunting memory a bit, adding a large pot around Wagner, set to a boil.

 

Sure it was disrespectful, but something wicked had reared its ugly head inside me, taking control of my hand, guiding the pencil where it wanted it to go. Driven by a desire to show Rose what he had done, immortalised on paper, and hold his gaze with contempt as he demanded to know how I had captured the image so accurately... I saw him maybe ripping the drawing apart in anger.

 

This was nothing like I had imagined, however.

 

“I didn't dream it up. Go and find Mr Wagner's corpse, I'm sure you'll see the resemblance.”

 

“Oh, but I do, Violet,” he assured me and nodded his head.

 

“Yeah? So what's the problem? I drew you a person.”

 

“It's a dead person,” he observed brightly.

 

“It's not like you to be bothered by that, now, is it?”

 

He smiled. “And you would know that, would you?”

 

The walls of the attic suddenly seemed to close in on me as Rose continued to edge closer -- and he was too close, I realised. Too close, too late. He caught me by the elbow as I jumped to the side. His other hand caught my good wrist just before the pin could make contact with his right eye. I fought to pull free, but ultimately let out an angry cry when wouldn't budge. Then I gripped the pin harder and tried to move forward instead.

 

Rose tut-tutted. “Let it go,” he said softly, as if coaxing a child, and twisted my wrist slowly around. It wasn't until it became painful that I stopped resisting my natural response, which was to uncurl my fingers. There was a thin clink at my feet as I dropped the pin the to the floor.

 

Rose smiled and kicked the pin with the side of his sole, sending the trinket scurrying across the dusty floorboards and into a corner. Not far from the old dresser where I had found it earlier, searching for something to defend myself with just in case.

 

“Did you find anything else that I ought to know about, hm?”

 

“Fuck. You.”

 

He scowled. “Watch that mouth before I put something sharp in it,” he sneered and pulled me towards the easel with a vice-like grip on my elbow. Oh, that's precious, don't tell me I hurt his feelings? I managed to bite back my spiteful musings, deciding it wasn't worth taking another injury for. Something told me it wasn't just a threat, but more along the lines of a warning loaded with the promise of immediate consequence. It was not something I was interested in.

 

“As for this,” he said, yanking me in front of the easel and pushing my face mere inches from the drawing, his hand wrapped forcefully around the back of my neck. “It's just a copy, sweetheart. I've no use for it whatsoever.”

 

“Then be more specific--”

 

He pulled me backwards without warning, letting go of my neck and sending me tumbling down into the dust. I just barely managed not to land on my shoulder, but then my wrist yielded against the creaky wood and bent at an excruciating angle, causing white-hot pain to shoot up my entire arm. My scream was promptly punished by a kick between the ribs, and angry tears sprung to my eyes.

 

“You sick--”

 

“Careful now,” he warned icily.

 

“--Sadistic--”

 

I dodged another kick by rolling to the side.

 

“--Piece of shit!” I hissed furiously, on my back.

 

Rose loomed over me, visibly seething.

 

“The name is Allison, asshole, and I want my son back!”

 

“In that case, would you like him in pieces or shreds?” he sneered menacingly. “Is that specific enough for you?” I felt the blood drain from my face. Oh God, no.

 

“I thought so,” he said darkly when I didn't respond. He appeared somewhat calmer now, and for a moment it almost seemed like he was going to turn around and leave me be. I started to sob. Then apparently he changed his mind and aimed a kick at my head instead. Everything went white with pain before dark spots started invading my vision. My eyes darted around the now attic, searching for something to hold to, but everything seemed to be spinning. Finally I was able to concentrate on Rose's legs as he stepped over me and headed for the door. In his hand I saw my drawing, ripped from the easel.

 

Then the darkness consumed me wholly.

 

[[Lethal Masterpiece]]

 

“I can't believe you let him see these,” I moaned, pulling at my hair and looking agonizingly at the wall opposite the door. Behind me Romeo groaned irritably in response, displeased as ever at the prospect of having to engage in a two-sided conversation with me.

 

“Look, you wanted to to see the kid, right, and I fucking brought him, so fucking quit complaining already... 'Sides you're the one who put those up in the first place,” he grumbled, glancing at my drawings.

 

I turned and eyed the white plastic bags which the boy had busied himself with. A distinctive, mouth-watering aroma filled the attic as he unloaded the contents of the bags onto a wooden table recently dragged into the centre of the room. Stroking my bandaged wrist gingerly, I slowly approached the table, feeling like a nervous stray dog coming for a handout placed in the palm of a sympathetic, generous citizen.

 

Seeing as Romeo was neither I proceeded with caution.

 

After I drew my interpretation of Derek Wagner's corpse, Rose had returned with more drawing paper and the same wet, stinky cloth he had used for my other injuries. While I dabbed away at my bloody forehead Rose elaborated on my assignment, smiling pleasantly at me as if delighted that I had regained consciousness on my own so he wouldn't have to spend time rousing me.

 

“It's not that I don't like what you drew,” he said, as if that was even remotely high up on the list of things that might be upsetting me. “It's just that I expected something a little more... original.”

 

I arched an eyebrow. It wasn't like I really cared what he thought the damned thing, I had just been counting on him to get annoyed or something. But, as an artist, I couldn't help but wonder aloud: “What do you mean by original?”

 

“Don't sound so suspicious. I mean something that, for one thing, someone else didn't already do,” he explained and gave me a pointed look, as if blaming me for cheating off of someone else's homework. “Always improvise,” he continued. “No cutting corners.”

 

“Fine,” I said. “And when I get it right I can see Caleb?”

 

He shrugged. “Sure.”

 

Then his expression turned inquisitive.

 

“You sounded fairly confident just now.”

 

“Well, if that's the kind of stuff you're into, murder, it shouldn't be so hard. I can't believe I'm even saying this; but then again, you did kick me pretty hard before,” I grumbled and reluctantly lifted the cloth my head. Just hold your breath.

 

Rose didn't appear remorseful in the least at the reminder.

 

There was a long pause. Then I looked up and met his staring eyes. “When am I getting out of here?”

 

He held my gaze but didn't reply.

 

I gulped. “Am I... getting out of here?”

 

He shook his head. “Not likely, lovebug.”

 

What followed after were several days of me being locked in my new atelier, drawing one deadly scenario after the other in the dim light of the lone light bulb hanging from the slanted ceiling. I let my imagination run rampant down a dark road of improvised murder, in the hope that I would be able to provide Rose with whatever it was that he wanted from me. I still couldn't imagine what a convicted cop-killer could possibly want my drawings for. But for as long as Caleb's life was at stake, I didn't know what else to do.

 

I had asked for tape so I could hang up the drawings, to gather an overview an avoid repeating ideas or crating similar patterns. The concept remained the same: the act of murder. Rose never asked for anything different than that. He had smiled when he saw the signature. Then he had taken me downstairs to see Caleb, who was still lodged in the same room as before, but thankfully appeared alright. I made another spur of the moment attempt at escape but didn't get further than the sitting room next door before Rose caught up to me. I was then marched up the stairs with a knife digging into my side.

 

“You need to rethink your priorities, lovebug,” Rose told me after all but dragging me back upstairs. “Because if you keep pulling stunts like this, I'm afraid I'll be inclined to agree with Romeo when he says you're more trouble than you're worth. It would be in your best interest to prove him wrong, don't you think?”

 

“Please, just let him go.”

 

“Be irresponsible of me, wouldn't it?”

 

“He's just... he's just a little boy. You don't need him.”

 

He laughed and pushed me backwards, nearly knocking myself and the easel down.

 

“I know I don't,” he said.

 

“Then why?” I panted.

 

“I like him. He's clever,” he said, frowning. “Was his dad clever, too?”

 

“What's it to you?”

 

“I want to know.”

 

I steadied myself against the easel, glaring daggers at him.

 

“Pity I'm not in a sharing mood.”

 

“Not the fatherly type, was he?”

 

“That's none of your business.”

 

“Did he even stick around long enough to see his kid, or did you chase him away yourself?”

 

“None of your business!” I said sharply, looking him in the eye.

 

He grinned, shrugging. “Suit yourself. I'll leave you to it then.”

 

Rose then left the attic, and hadn't shown himself since. Romeo had shown up the next morning, dragging a mattress and sheets, and had me set up the table in the centre of the attic at gunpoint. Afterwards I quietly sorted out my sleeping quarters in a spot with less amounts of dust on the floor. Romeo had been assigned the tedious task of making sure I didn't starve, I guess, since he was now bringing me meals and escorting me to the bathroom (which fortunately was in a much better state than I had feared). There were opportunities, but I never dared try to escape since I was sure that was all the excuse Romeo needed to blow my brains out. He didn't seem to need any kind of incentive to knock me silly though. He seemed more comfortable when he didn't have to touch me though.

 

Fortunately I felt the same way.

 

Bringing Caleb to the attic must have seemed like a clever alternative. My means and opportunity to escape were greatly limited as long as I stayed locked in the attic, and I didn't complain since I was then able to be with Caleb more often and for extended periods of time. I just wish someone would have informed me of this new arrangement before he had come running into the attic just as I was adding a new drawing to the wall. They were certainly not meant for Caleb's eyes, but luckily for my nerves his interest in them diminished fairly quickly. He never liked watching me draw drafts for a painting, the only part he ever paid any attention to was when I started painting. Caleb had stayed with me for half an hour when Romeo came to take him back. I was told to keep working. He had returned after about an hour with the take out.

 

He was still rummaging through the plastic bags when I came up beside him. “Smells nice,” I commented, trying to peak into the bags. He stepped away from the table, a slice of pizza in his hand, and motioned towards the food. “Dig in. I'm gonna go get your kid.”

 

“You're eating with us?” I asked, frowning.

 

“Got a problem with that?”

 

“No, no, I just...”

 

“Don't tell me you're one of those girls who can't eat in front of other people,” he whined, obviously judging me already.

 

I snorted and grabbed a slice myself. “Okay, first off,” I said, taking a big bite out of it and chewing demonstratively. “I'm a lady, junior. Not a girl.” I'm sure I looked very lady-like as I said it. “Secondly, I'll bet you five dollars I can finish this by myself by the time you get back.” I could have sworn I saw the slightest of smiles as he went for the door. Oh, wow.

 

“Is it because I'm fat?!” I yelled after him, helping myself to another slice of pizza.

 

We all ate mostly in silence; I figured I shouldn't push my luck with Romeo. Even if the kid had a sense of humour there was a slim chance he would let something like that come between us. Caleb hardly had time for chatter, as he was enjoying his meal immensely. Very rarely had I served him junk food in the past—no matter how low on money we were.

 

“What's he up to?” I asked, once Romeo had ushered Caleb out of the attic. He stopped in the doorway and looked at me over his shoulder.

 

“None of your business.”

 

“I want to know what's going on.”

 

“Look, it doesn't matter,” he said sharply, swirling around to face me. “You're dead,” he hissed. “You're both dead. Don't you get it?” Then he grabbed the doorknob and slammed the door shut. I heard the lock click, and in a fit of frustration I turned on my heel and kicked down the easel.

 

[[Lethal Masterpiece]]

 

The house creaked in the night. Moaned the way old houses were wont to. As I lay on my mattress staring up at the ceiling, I couldn't help but wonder just how big this creaking prison of mine really was. There had been so many doors in those halls, so many rooms (and yet Rose seemed to know his way around just fine). I thought about Caleb, sleeping all alone in that strange bedroom. Then the thought that he might not be had me suddenly wide-eyed and terrified as I came to a realisation: I couldn't keep doing this, whatever it turned out to be. So I got up and started pacing through the darkness of the attic, glancing up towards the outlined window in the ceiling every now and then.

 

I had to get us out. There had to be a way. Even if I couldn't get both of us out alive, then maybe there was still a chance to save my son's life. What Romeo had said didn't ring untrue in my mind, and by the time I finally fell asleep I was convinced that he had been sharing something he knew to be the truth, unintentionally or not. No matter what I did, no matter if I complied or not, in the end Caleb and I were as good as dead. I stopped walking and looked towards the window again.

 

[[Lethal Masterpiece]]

 

Rose started coming to the attic while I was asleep. I would wake up to find a selected few of my drawings taken from the wall. One time I woke up, and I got the feeling he knew, but he never said a word. After that, I suspected it might be Romeo playing some sort of trick on me, but when I asked him about it during his next visit to the attic, he denied it with uncanny graciousness.

 

“Why would I want to steal them, they're not even that good.”

 

“Well, someone was here. I don't care what happens to the drawings, but I don't appreciate people coming in here at night. Spread the word.” He knew I was talking about Rose.

 

“Look, you've got the wrong idea: I don't take orders from you,” he sneered, dropping a plastic bag on the table.

 

“Right, I forgot, I'm in no position to give orders,” I scoffed, rolling my eyes.

 

He ignored me and stepped away from the table. “These are for you,” he said, motioning towards towards the bag.

 

“What is it?”

 

“See for yourself.”

 

I reached over with some hesitation, and pulled the bag closer. I examined the contents and blinked. “Oh.” Clothes. He brought me clothes. Decent clothes, I noted, as I held up a pair of jeans. They were one size too small, but sticking to my diet of two meals consisting of fruits and junk food a day ought to do the trick.

 

“I suppose Rose put you up to this?” I asked, emptying the contents onto the table.

 

“Yes. Along with this.”

I noticed him reach into the pocket of his sweatshirt.

 

“You have a thing for pointing guns at people, don't you?”

 

“I save it all for you, darling,” he retorted, aiming the gun at my chest. “Change your clothes, we're going downstairs.”

 

I frowned. “I'm not stripping down for you.”

 

“Yes, you are,” he said matter-of-factly.

 

When I didn't move, he cocked the gun with an exasperated sigh. “It's not like I get off on this.”

 

“Oh, ain't that the truth,” I growled under my breath, turning my back on him to carefully peel my tank top off. Didn't want to mess up my bandages; so far my shoulder hadn't caused me much trouble. As messed up as it was, I suppose I should consider myself lucky that Rose had used a scalpel to give me a clean stab without tearing the flesh. Lucky indeed, I thought bitterly.

 

It took a bit longer due to my shoulder, and I could tell Romeo was getting impatient but he didn't say anything. Just as well: I wasn't in the mood to deal with anything right now, frankly the only thing I felt like doing was to see my son. I started to pull on the new pair of jeans.“Why can't Caleb just stay up here with me?” I asked despite my oath not to make conversation.

 

“I don't know, I don't make the rules.”

 

“He's four years old, you can't just leave him alone, you know,” I said, turning around. Changing of the clothes: check.

 

“Relax, I left him with Mannis.”

 

“Is that supposed to make--”

 

And that was when the screaming started. It was faint at first, but it was definitely coming from downstairs... and definitely rising in pitch. It was a woman screaming, I realised. Then my eyes widened when I recognised a second sound, the one sound I had been dreading the moment we stepped into the Cabinet: Caleb was crying. I didn't think. Bolted for exit, hurled myself against the door and twisted the doorknob.

 

“Don't!”

 

The door flung open and the gun went off.

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