Monday, December 19, 2016

Rosario's Model

Rosario's Model
Mark A Davis

It was a cold evening in Frosthaven NJ, and the stars glittered in the night sky.  In the old part of town someone was banging on the door of a small art gallery.  The door opened a fraction, held back by a chain lock.  A man peered out.  "Go away!" the man exclaimed.  "We're closed!"

The person outside was an old man in a gray suit with a brown overcoat and a gray fedora.  "Mr. Rosario?" he asked.  "My name is Grandpa Anarchy.  I'm here to buy a statue...."

"Are you mad?" the man inside exclaimed.  "It's Christmas Eve!"

"Yes," said Grandpa Anarchy, "and you don't seem to be going anywhere or doing anything this evening.  You artist types are famous for staying up all hours of the night when you're in a creative mood...."

The other man went to close the door, but Grandpa had wedged his shoe in the gap.  He held up a fistful of dollar bills.  "I can pay," he said.  He shoved a fifty through the door.  "I promise I won't take up too much of your time...."

The other man sighed.  "Oh, very well," he said.  The door closed, the chain lock was undone, and the door opened wide enough to let Grandpa in.

"Yes, I am Reginald Rosario," the other said.  He was a tall and gaunt man, with a wild shock of brown hair, a jutting jaw, and intense dark eyes.  He wore a green shirt and faded bluejeans.  Grandpa shook his hand as he entered.

"Thanks for letting me in," said Grandpa.  "I'm looking for a sculpture as a Christmas gift.  Everyone said that you're the best."

The artist nodded as if to say:  Yes, of course, I am the best.  He flicked on the lights.

The front room of the gallery was not large.  It was cold, and quiet.  There was no traffic on the road outside, and if not for the hum of the overhead lights and the creak of the floorboards, the place might be as silent as a tomb.  It smelled of cigarette smoke and whiskey.  Even as Grandpa noted this, the artist lit up and blew out a long stream of smoke.

Aside from the front door, there were two doors in the back wall.

More than a half-dozen sculptures were on display.  These were large sculptures of women -- one woman per sculpture, and all dressed like a Greek goddess -- or in some cases, undressed like a Greek goddess.  These were beautiful, life-sized marble sculptures in the manner of classic works of art from the likes of Michelangelo or Praxiteles of ancient Greece.  Grandpa walked from one to the next, examining them carefully.  "I can see why people say you're the best," Grandpa said.  "These are spectacular."  After another moment he added, "Why, they're all the same woman!"

"Pardon?" the sculptor replied.

"Who is your model?" asked Grandpa.  "It's obvious you've used the same one for all of these.  What's her name?"

"I do not use a model," Rosario replied.  "I can not afford to.  I carve what I see in my head."

"Ha!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Just like me and my sidekicks -- can't afford to pay 'em.  That's why I go through so many of 'em."  He looked one of the sculptures up and down -- that of a woman drawing water from a stream -- and added, "Still, you've got a very particular mind, if that's the case, for it's clear you're imagining the same woman each time."

The artist shrugged.  He smoked his cigarette as Grandpa studied another sculpture.  "You know who these look like?" Grandpa asked.  "A woman named Felicity Pine.  She was a model in this town about ten years ago.  You've been here that long, haven't you?  Maybe you remember her."

The artist frowned.  "I said I do not use models," he stated.  "Why would I know this woman?"

"Well, you may not," said Grandpa.  "She's been gone for years.  But you've really captured her likeness -- just as she looked ten years ago.  I daresay, if you ever had met her, you wouldn't soon forget it.  They said she was the most beautiful girl you could ever lay eyes on.

"In fact, there was a story about her.  She grew up in the Millard Fillmore Orphanage for Disadvantaged Youth, same as me, and they said it was because her mother was the goddess Aphrodite herself.  They say Aphrodite had an affair with some famous and handsome actor in 1980 -- some say Kurt Russell, some say Patrick Swayze or River Phoenix, or maybe Rob Lowe -- and when the child was born, she left it on the steps of the orphanage.

"Kind of a silly story," said Grandpa, "but it demonstrates how really beautiful Felicity was.  She had a beauty that seemed unearthly, a gift from the gods.

"As I said, she worked as a model.  But in 2005 she disappeared.  She told her landlord that she was going out -- that she had a job, and wouldn't be back until morning.  But she never came back at all."

Reginald Rosario glared at Grandpa.  "I am not interested in your stories, old man," he said.  "Are you here to buy a sculpture, or not?"

"Of course, of course," Grandpa replied.  He pointed to one.  "I like this one.  I'm thinking it would look great in the rose garden out back."

"I thought you were buying a gift?" the sculptor asked.

"Right, right," said Grandpa.  "Forget my own head if it weren't secured to my shoulders.  But I like this one.  That's the one I want."

Grandpa Anarchy produced a credit card.  "Can you have it delivered tomorrow?  Money is no object," he said.

"On Christmas day?  I suspect that will be very expensive," the artist replied.  "It will take time just to package it properly...."

"I understand," Grandpa said.  While Rosario processed the payment, Grandpa opened one of the back doors and peered into the room beyond.

"Mr. Anarchy!" the artist exclaimed.  "You try my patience!  Please!  I do not allow customers into my private quarters."

"Sorry, sorry," Grandpa said, but continued to stare through the open door into the next room.  There was a bed visible, and a small desk, and bookshelf near it.  "Ah!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "A grimoire!  That's the Words of Glaukos of Malia, I believe."  Grandpa glanced up at the artist, who glared back in anger.  "There's an interesting spell in that book, you know," Grandpa said.  "Dark Dr. Dark has told me of it.  A spell of spirit binding.  Of course, there are tons of similar spells, but this one in particular is designed to trap the soul of a dead victim and place them under your power.  You need their bones -- but once you've set up the spell, the ghost must heed your beck and call, and can not escape.  Very dark magic, of course -- some of the darkest.  But imagine having a model who is always available, who never needs to be paid or even fed -- who, in fact, never ages at all.  Someone at the height of their beauty.  Sounds like the perfect model, doesn't it?"

"Just what are you accusing me of?" growled the artist.

"I'm sorry?" Grandpa replied.  "I don't think I accused you of anything.  Just something that popped into my head when I saw that book -- just the ramblings of an old man."

"Mr. Anarchy," said the artist coldly as he handed  back the credit card, "your sculpture will be delivered tomorrow if I'm at all able to manage it.  It's late, so if that concludes our business, then I suggest you leave."

"You're right," said Grandpa.  "I've overstayed my welcome.  My apologies.  I should be going."

Grandpa Anarchy lunged for the door -- not the exit, but the other door at the back of the studio.  He wrenched it open, revealing stairs leading down into a basement.  He stumbled down them.

"No, fool!" the artist exclaimed.  "What are you doing?"

"Whoops!  Wrong door!" Grandpa called out from below.  "Say, what do we have down here?"

In the basement below, on a floor of brick, a large circle and pentagram were painted.  In the center was an ashwood alter upon which rested a white skull and a small pile of bones.  At the points of the star and around the outside of the circle candles and small carven statues were set.  Along with the earthy musk of a damp cellar, the scent of incense and essential oils hung in the air.

Reginald Rosario came down the stairs with a gun in his hand.  "Well," said Grandpa, "now we're getting somewhere."

"Curse you, Grandpa Anarchy!" the artist growled.  "You should have left well enough alone!  Now you'll have to die."

"Perhaps," said Grandpa, "but I'm really bad at leaving things be.  It's one of my bad points.  I'm also bad at dying...."

Grandpa lunged at the artist.  Rosario fired two shots, which skimmed over Grandpa's head and past his ear.  Then Grandpa grasped the artist's wrist.  Despite his age, Grandpa had a grip like a vise.  The gun fired again as the two struggled, and then Grandpa punched the artist in the face with his free hand.  He twisted the artist's arm and the gun hit the brick floor.  Grandpa kicked it across the room.

"Felicity!" Rosario exclaimed.  "Kill Grandpa Anarchy!  Obey me!"

A ghost appeared -- that of a young and extremely beautiful woman.  She turned sorrowful eyes on Grandpa, but she flew across the room directly at him, arms outstretched.

Suddenly there was a second ghost blocking her.  This was a boy, perhaps twelve years old, with dark skin and curly black hair.  he was dressed all in green, with white fur trim and a green Santa-style cap.  "Don't worry, Grandpa!" the boy exclaimed.  "Let me deal with her!"

"You got a ghost," Grandpa said.  "I got a ghost.  This is my sidekick, Yule Boy.  He was a Make-A-Wish kid who joined me as my sidekick for an afternoon, and found that a single day wasn't enough.  Now he shows up every December to help me solve crime, and you know what?  He's free to come and go, to do as he pleases.  He's not bound to me except by his own desire to work with me.  He searches the city each year, looking for crimes that need to be solved.  He could sense Felicity, trapped down here in your basement.  So you can blame him for this."

Grandpa spun the artist around and slammed him against the wall, then handcuffed him.

"Reginald Rosario," he said, "I'm placing you under arrest for the murder of Felicity Pine.  You have the right to remain silent...."

"Murder?" the artist exclaimed.  "I've murdered no one!  You can't prove otherwise!"

"Oh," said Grandpa, "what we can prove is up to the forensic boys.  They'll go over this place with a fine-toothed comb.  But we have Felicity's bones in your possession, and I know how you came by them.  Yule Boy has had some long conversations with Felicity herself, and he's told me everything.  You murdered her, all right."

Grandpa kicked over some of the candles and figurines that formed the magic circle, then shoved the alter to one side.  "That should do it," he said.  He turned to look at Felicity Pine, who was no longer fighting Yule Boy.

"Thank you, Grandpa Anarchy," the woman said, and faded from view.

Yule Boy bowed to Grandpa Anarchy.  "It's been fun," the ghostly sidekick said.

"Until next year, then?"  Grandpa asked.

"I look forward to it," the ghostly boy said, and he, too, disappeared.

Half an hour later Ricardo Rosario was bundled into a police cruiser, which headed downtown.  Grandpa watched it go.  The gallery was crawling with cops.

"Good work, Grandpa," said Sargeant Shakespeare.  "As usual.  The Felicity Pine case was at the top of our list of cold cases that we were working to solve.  If there's any evidence in this building that can help prove Rosario is the murderer, we'll find it."

"Glad to hear it," Grandpa replied.  "Now I have just one problem.  How long before I can claim that sculpture I bought, and where do I find a company that can move it?  I really do think it will look good out back...."


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