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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6. Respite

Chapter VI: Respite

 

During the evening that followed Fox was very thoughtful. Even after he left the station and arrived at his home. Telly had been understanding enough to prepare a quick meal, and had seated herself in front of him at the kitchen table while he ate. She had that look on her face, like she was expecting him to spontaneously combust right before her eyes at any minute.  

 

"Michael?" 

 

"Hm?"

 

His eyes flickered to her face. But his thoughts were many that evening, and he hardly noticed the beautiful creature in front of him. He did not really taste the dish either, just ate in silence. He thought of going straight to bed and getting back to work in the morning. The case wasn't solving itself, and he felt utterly useless sitting around at home. And with Mannis Rose still on the loose, nobody in Gravestry was safe. Fox had dealt with the guy before, through various means of communication like phones; e-mails; hidden messages; as well as face-to-face. Years back Rose succeeded in killing a total of fourteen people, before Fox finally managed to hunt him down and catch the bastard himself down in the old sewer system. But it hadn't been with ease. Fox had been shot in the leg, and was still limping just the slightest. There was no way he was ever going to stop working just because of a minor injury. He could still run if he had to.

 

"Michael, you're miles away. Talk to me, please?"

 

Telly was the first woman that Fox had ever considered his true love, and by the looks of things she would remain the only one as well. They had been married for almost seventeen years now, and still, she never ceased to surprise him. Every now and then he would see a different side her, little things, whether it be a bad or good ones, but it just made him love her even more.

 

Fox finished eating and let Telly take his plate to the sink. He attempted a smile. "I'm sorry. This case is killing me."  

 

"Thanks, that's really comforting. What was I thinking, worrying about you when you've been coming home with fucking bells on lately." Telly only ever got sarcastic when she was annoyed with him. Fox sighed and took off his glasses.  

 

"I'm fine."

 

"No, you're not," Telly said, a little heatedly, and glanced at him over her shoulder, "You've got a whole department under you, it's not fair to work yourself out like this. Let somebody else take the lead, you've got some really good people on your hands."  

 

"You know the reason why I won't do that, Telly," Fox said and leaned back in his chair. She wrinkled her freckled nose in dismay. Yes, she knew. Nobody on the force knew Mannis Rose the way Fox knew him. And things had sort of gone a little personal down in the sewer when the crazy bastard shot him in the leg. It wasn't exactly a vendetta anymore, since Fox had ultimately handcuffed the guy, even with his injured leg. Telly finished her dish washing and leaned against the counter, facing her husband.  

 

"You should worry more about the media."

 

"What do you mean?"

She shrugged. “It's all still speculation at this point, but you can't keep them in the dark for much longer. People are scared enough as it is with Maniac Mannis on the prowl, and it's just a matter of time before bad things start happening again.”  

Her face was painted with concern, but Fox could tell that she was keeping something else from him. “But, that's not all you're worried about it is it?” he asked, tilting his head to one side. Telly heaved a sigh and ran her slim fingers through her wavy, brown locks. “I'm worried about Charlie. She skipped school today.”  

 

“Oh.”  

 

Charlotte was in her room, supposedly doing her homework. Both of her parents knew better. Over the past few years, Fox had watched his daughter grow from a happy, eager girl, into a gloomy, rebellious teenager. Fox supposed he was lucky to be working most of the time, but his poor wife had to put up with Charlotte all the time since she was working from home. Not that Charlotte was spending much time at home these days. He scratched the back of his head, knowing full well what would come next.  

 

“I want you to talk to her, Michael. She listens to you.”

 

“Because I'm always at work, she does,” he pointed out, but got up anyway. He already knew his efforts to get out of this one would be futile, judging by the determined look on Telly's face. “Exactly! I can't always be the one nagging her about these things.”

 

“So basically what you're saying is that it's my turn to be the bad guy.”

 

“Please?” she said, stepping towards him. Fox smiled crookedly as she wound her arms around his neck, pulling him in. They shared a brief kiss, and then the two stared at each other, playfully. Both were waiting for the other to give in. It was Fox, of course, who ended up being the one to back down.

 

“Fine, I'll talk to her.”  

Telly beamed and kissed him again before disappearing into the living room. Fox shook his head and walked down the hall. Charlotte's door had a rather rude sign saying 'Knock or DIE!' on it, and therefore not very hard to identify. Fox never had a problem with knocking on his daughter's door, it seemed natural for a 17-year-old to want some privacy. Telly, of course, did not share this opinion...

 

There was no reply and Fox knocked again, a little louder. “Charlie?”  

 

Still nothing. She probably had her headphones on. Fox rolled his eyes and turned the doorknob, opening the door. Just as he had thought, his daughter was lying on her stomach on the bed, headphones covering her ears. She was reading a magazine and didn't appear to have noticed him yet. He edged across the room with a sly smile on his face, and he managed to turn up the sound on her CD-player without getting caught. A squeal of surprise and a colourful exclamation had him grinning widely as Charlotte quickly tore the headphones off and shot her father a withering look.  

 

"What the hell was that for?!"  

 

Fox shrugged and tousled her hair affectionately. "Mostly for fun," he said, and jumped out of her reach as Charlotte lashed out at him. She then stuck her tongue out at him and resumed reading. Fox waited. "What's up, dad?" she asked, a couple of seconds after.

 

“Why does anything have to be up?” he countered innocently.  

 

“Oh, please...”  

 

He smiled. “Can't a father come visit his daughter in her room without a hidden agenda?” She seemed to ponder this for a moment, then deftly turned a page in her magazine.

 

“Mum sent you, didn't she?”

 

“Yup,” he said and sat down in the computer chair. He figured it would be best to keep Charlotte sweet for as long as he could. And the best way to do that was always to be honest about your intentions. “She told me you've been skipping school again.”  

 

“Technically that's not true,” she said and threw the magazine onto the floor, “I skipped biology and went to the gym instead to sneak into P.E.” Fox frowned at her, as she sat up on the bed to look at him.  

 

She looked like her mother; chestnut hair and big, brown eyes. Her general features were also quite similar. But Charlotte wasn't nearly as tiny as her mother, who was only around 5'1. She had reached 5'7 around her fifteenth birthday, but hadn't grown much since; Fox was still a full head taller than her. She had long legs and arms, just like him, and (much to Charlotte's dismay) was also suffering from myopia. She used lenses, whereas Fox preferred glasses. Recently Charlotte had been experimenting a lot more with a her appearance than the average teenager probably should. She kept dying her hair and going on all sorts of weird diets, even though her mother continuously told her how unhealthy it was for her. And it almost seemed like every time Fox allowed himself a moment to study his daughter, she had had another part of her body pierced.  

 

Telly had freaked the other day when she found Charlotte reading the latest issue of Inked Magazine. When Charlotte had tried to use her father as a life belt, Fox had had to admit that getting a tattoo was going a bit too far. In truth, he didn't really mind his daughter taking an interested in those things – 'cause he knew it was just a harmless matter of curiosity and that Telly was just blowing the whole thing out of proportion. But it was always safer to just comply with his wife's rantings, and besides, Charlotte knew very well that Fox wouldn't keep her from doing something she really wanted.

 

Except become a criminal.  

 

Fox had explained to his daughter some years ago, that while they both knew she was eventually going to want to do things he probably wouldn't approve of, the worst thing she could possibly do to him was get herself arrested – to force him to arrest her. And so far Charlotte had never done anything that could result in this. At least as far as Fox knew, but he trusted his daughter to know how important her future was. Both for her and her family. He wouldn't know what to do if Charlotte ever...

 

“Dad? Stay with us pitiful earthlings for a little while longer, will ya?”

 

He was abruptly brought back to reality upon hearing his daughter's voice. She was staring at him, one eyebrow quirked in amusement. “Wow, you've got some heavy action going on up there, haven't you?” she asked and jumped to her feet. She came to sit on his lap, her arms around his neck and Fox patted her on the back for a bit. “Yeah, Charlie, I have. And it doesn't exactly help that I have to worry about you learning what you're supposed to be learning, too... Got it?”  

 

“But, dad...” she started to complain. Her whining came to a halt though, when she saw the look on her father's face. Instead she heaved an exaggerated sigh and began to pout. “Got it. You and mum never let me do nothing anymore...”  

 

“That's improper grammar, Charlie. We never let you do anything anymore,” Fox corrected her, and chuckled as she lightly punched his shoulder.  

 

“Right. Would that be all then, father?" she asked, adopting an upper class drawl, then changed back to her normal voice. “'Cause I will have to kick you of out of my room now. I've got this paper I need to work on...” Fox nodded with a smile on his face, and Charlotte jumped off of his lap so he could stand, too.  

 

He was about to exit the room when Charlotte spoke up behind him. “Dad?”

 

Her tone was cautious now all of a sudden, and Fox immediately became suspicious. She was fidgeting with her long bangs, which were currently dyed black, and Fox could see her biting nervously at her lip piercing. The classic image of a teenager in distress. Fox sighed and put his hands on his hips. “What is it, Charlie?”

 

“Um, I was just wondering if... One of these days, if... Would it be okay if I had a friend over?” Fox blinked and cocked his head to one side. Why would she ask that; she brought friends home from school all the time...? Unless... Fox narrowed his eyes, and his suspicions were confirmed instantly by the look that came over his daughters face when she saw. “You're not talking about a friend here, you're talking about a boy.” Charlotte nodded her head in confirmation.

 

“As in boyfriend?”

 

“Kind of.”  

 

“What's that supposed to mean?”

 

She rubbed her temples and plopped down on the bed. “I just want to know if he can come over for dinner. He wants to meet you and mum.”

 

“Are you two going out?”

 

“Can't you just answer my fucking question?”  

 

Fox shrugged. “If you'd prefer I save the questions for the dinner table instead... I'm sure your mother would be thrilled.” Charlotte narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms with a low 'tsh'. Fox smirked, knowing he had won the argument, as insignificant as it was. “So?” he inquired.

 

“We... are... sleeping... together,” she replied, pronouncing each word slowly.  

 

But to Charlotte's complete surprise her father didn't look horrified in the least. Instead he just stood there for a moment, looked thoughtfully into space. This annoyed her for some reason. Her mother would have torn her head off and watched her choke on her own blood about now. Why did her father have to be such a cool-headed, stupid... such a stupid...? What? She couldn't think of anything nasty to call him. Ugh.  

“Are you being safe then?” he asked and folded his arms across his chest, mimicking Charlotte. She simply nodded her head, momentarily at a loss for words. No fucking way she was gonna get pregnant. Her mother would force her to become a nun for sure!

 

“Do I know him?”

 

“No... but, dad, he's cool, I swear.”

 

“Good. Then I reckon there's no problem.”  

“So can I bring him?”

 

“Sure, sure...” he said breezily, waving his hand. Fox smirked, and Charlotte stiffened visibly, sensing that there was something bad in store. “...But you are going to tell your mother yourself.”

 

“What?!” she exclaimed and jumped to her feet. Fox chuckled as he turned around and pushed open the door. “Dad, come on!” she complained, hurrying up behind him, “Don't you love me at all?!”

 

Fox had to laugh at that, and he tousled her messy hair once again. “Of course I do, Charlie. But you're my daughter, and it's my job to make sure you don't get to adulthood that easily. And besides, I'm not gonna let both you and your mum manipulate me into doing things you both ought to do yourself. I'm drawing a line here.” Fox winked at his daughter, who stuck out her tongue at him and slammed the door shut.  

 

He chuckled to himself as he went down the hallway again. Oh, how he loved those father-daughter moments. As soon as he stepped into the living room, and Telly popped up from behind the sofa and started asking how it went, somebody was calling Fox's cellphone. He raised a hand as a cue for his wife to wait with the questions, and took the device from his pocket.  

 

It was Cole Torrance, calling to report about the visit he had paid Violet's mother. “Bianca Havens was a dead end. She hasn't heard from her daughter since Christmas, two years ago! She claims that the reason they don't talk is because of the kid, but I'm not really sure what to believe. She seemed pretty uptight...” Cole himself didn't sound all that relaxed either, Fox noted absent-mindedly.  

 

“Did you ask her about the father who disappeared?” he asked and sat down beside Telly on the sofa. She had picked up the TV remote to turn down the volume while her husband was on the phone. She was mindful like that, and Fox seldom had to ask her to do these kinds of things; she just did.

 

“Yeah, she said he never contacted either of them again, ever. And from the sound of it, she didn't make much of an effort to stay in touch with him either. I don't think there's anything useful on the family history, Michael...”  

 

“Alright, well, did she tell you anything about how Violet was doing that she knew of? Any financial problems at all?”  

 

“She never asked the mother for money if that's what you're thinking. There wasn't much she could think to tell me other than the fact that her daughter's painting career was a joke. Listen, there's something important I gotta tell you though, and it's not about the mother. You know the corpse that was found after the house burned down?” “Yeah...?” Fox had a feeling this was going to get interesting really soon, and straightened a bit.  

 

“Well, we just identified him as the proprietor, Derek Wagner. Turns out he was a rather well-known collector on the internet. He was using the house as some kind of home-museum without a fee. He had an active website with a complete list of every piece of junk he'd gotten his hands on through the years; some of it originates all the way back from the eighteenth century!”  

 

“Sounds like a man with a lot of connections,” Fox commented. “Thanks for the info, what else?”  

 

“The Medical Examiner also found a cellphone on his person. A bit fried, but otherwise very useful to the tecs. Guess who the last phone call was?" Fox contemplated this, and was about to take a guess at Mannis Rose, thinking it would be pretty obvious since the man had killed Wagner... but then he hesitated. His department had never managed to trace any of the phone calls or e-mails they had received from Rose during his little games in the past.  

 

Fox knew that Rose was way too clever, not to mention fond of his new-found freedom to risk getting caught again. If Derek Wagner had been in the possession a phone number that could be connected to him, Rose would have destroyed the device before or after the murder. He wouldn't miss something like that. Even on purpose. Had he wanted the police to track him down, he would have just left a cocky note or something like that. So who else was there?

 

“Alison Havens,” he replied.  

 

“Right you are. Gracie just finished the autopsy. She's absolutely positive that he died a little over a month ago.”

 

Suddenly Fox was starting to get the picture. Violet had been selling her art on the internet. It was more than possible that Derek Wagner had stumbled across her paintings. Actually now that he thought about it, it all made perfect sense. “So let's assume that Wagner contacted her because he got interested in her artwork,” Cole said slowly in the other end of the line. This both served to pull Fox from his thoughts, and a way to let him know that Cole was thinking along the exact same lines as he was. Fox continued: “Then they probably arranged a meeting. And if she went to the house that very same day...” He glanced sideways at Telly. She was flipping through the pages of some magazine, but quirked an eyebrow in query when she caught him looking at her, and he averted his eyes.  

 

“...Then that's how she ended up at the house. Maybe Rose was already there. Maybe he didn't realise what Mr Wagner was doing for a living... He probably didn't even know about their meetup.” “But the man's a psychopath, why didn't he just kill her then?” Cole asked incredulously.  

 

“That's the million dollar question, Cole...” Fox muttered. His thoughts once again wandered back to his last conversation with Violet. He had asked her exactly the same question, and what was her answer? Guess he liked my artwork. Just where did that fit in in all of this?  

 

“You know, Michael... You could just ask her.”

 

“What makes you think I haven't already tried that?”  

 

“Well, then... Did you ask her nicely?”  

 

Fox blinked and adjusted his cellphone against his ear. How the hell did that even matter? “She's not a little kid, Cole, she's a grown woman,” he growled. He could hear his colleague chuckling in the other end, and he frowned. “Forgive me for being so straightforward, but you can't treat her like a sane person anymore, chief. I was there when they brought her in, remember? She's crazy. She's been through hell and back with Maniac Mannis as her very own personal guide. How would you feel in her place? Think you would be able to suddenly think rationally again? She's been imprisoned by this guy for over a month, who the hell knows just what that bastard made her go through?”

 

A pause.

 

“It's not fair to treat her like nothing happened, it'll only make things worse for her... And on top of that she lost her son. Again, I'm sorry for being so straightforward, Michael, but really, you're sort of being a jackass.”

 

The line went silent for a while.

 

Fox hesitated before answering. Maybe Cole had a point but... was he really being that unfair to Violet? Some days ago he had been sure that she had completely lost her mind, gone crazy with angst. But in the cell Violet had proven to him that she could think straight, care about others but herself (however irrationally as far as prioritising went), and capable of showing strong emotion. Dr Isaacs might be on to something, but so was Fox. No matter how it affected the case, he just couldn't get around the fact that she had witnessed something terrible that would probably break the minds of even the strongest of men. Probably she felt... alone and estranged despite her strong determination to convince Fox to help get her son back. It seemed like that one thing she could still hold on to. He could relate to that. It makes sense... kind of...

 

He heaved a sigh of resignation. “Yeah. I reckon I did ask her nicely.”

 

“Oh, then maybe she just doesn't like you that much,” Cole commented, a bit too cheerily in Fox's opinion.

 

“You better hang up soon, Detective,” he growled. He received a soft laugh at that. “Yeah, I guess I'm keeping you from more important matters. Say hi to Telly and Charlotte for me, alright?”

 

“Sure, and you say hello to Karen and tell her she can't send Telly more cabbage recipes – they're killing me.” He saw Telly smirk out of the corner of his eye. Meanwhile Cole chuckled in his ear.

 

“Will do. You take care.”

 

“You too, Cole.”  

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