The Illustrator

by Jack Peacock

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© Placed in public domain by author - Jack Peacock

Storycodes: M/f; M/m; bond; cuffs; gag; predicament; torture; enclosed; chair; ironmaiden; gibbet; death; nc; XX

The Right Color

No, the color wasn’t quite right. Veronica Cooper went to the color palette, looking for a darker, yellow-brown hue. It might be a medieval design, but the construction was modern pine, expertly stained to bring out the natural colors. This was the full page drawing, the one where she could justify extra time on the details. An entire page called for maximum dramatic impact while depicting a key event in the story. Thanks to computers she didn’t have to rely on a colorist to make the change.

Veronica did it all, without help, when illustrating her graphic stories. Write the script, lay out the storyboard, draw the panels, add the lettering and fill in the colors the way it appeared in her mind’s eye. The animation package she used was hideously expensive but worth every penny. Transitioning from one panel to the next took a fraction of the time compared to the old-fashioned pen and ink manual drawings. It enabled her to publish her graphic short stories as a solo commercial venture, and a profitable one at that.

One of the more significant benefits was the legal right to her characters. The lessons from the infamous courtroom battles over Superman and Spiderman ownership were a warning to any illustrator to read the fine print in contracts. When one of her characters clicked with the fan base she received her fair share for the intellectual property. And if a series went viral, when the movie studio came knocking at the door, she was the sole owner of all the rights.

The Artisan was one of those prizes. The new series was by far her biggest moneymaker, and her personal favorite. There weren’t many comics with the bad guy in the title spot. Back in the days when the CCA, the Comics Code Authority, still ruled the magazine racks, villains were always the losers, and never received top billing. Today she had no such restrictions to worry about. Other than exposed genitals or abused underage kids it was anything goes.

In the drawing on her screen the Artisan had finished yet another of his fiendish devices, an instrument of torture inspired by the Spanish Inquisition. The poor victim he’d chosen to test it on was graphically portrayed in detail splashed over the full page. Working from memory she had faithfully captured the anguish on the young man’s face: the pleading for mercy in his eyes; sweat beading on his forehead; tears running down his cheeks; the pitiful attempts to cry out stifled by the gag wedged in his mouth. The Artisan stood in the background, a shadowy figure watching while the motors tightened the cables pulling the man’s arms and legs into an increasingly excruciating spread-eagle pose. The Rack meets Drawn and Quartered, that’s how she portrayed it.

Veronica kept to the industrial craftsman theme in drawing the Artisan. He wore his trademark blue denim overalls, with a long sleeved flannel shirt and stout work boots. His hands were always shown wearing leather work gloves. Around his waist was the mysterious tool belt, a tribute to Batman’s ubiquitous Utility Belt, which seemed to have some gadget that always saved the day. He wore a baseball cap, the symbol of blue collar labor. His identity remained a secret due to the welding goggles he wore whenever he appeared in costume. The featureless front and bulging goggles gave him a bug-eyed, alien look, reminiscent of a praying mantis about to consume its prey. When out of costume she always drew him with his back to the reader, preserving his anonymity.

She added a tiny cut along one of the victim’s arms, near the shoulder. A few drops of red suggested it was starting to bleed. It wouldn’t go well for the young, nameless man. Later on in the story his remains would be discovered in a small, rural town, far from the Artisan’s workshop of horrors. It would take the police days just to identify the body; there would be no clues about the Artisan’s secret identity.

Try as he might, the Artisan’s nemesis, special agent Rockwell Rhodes of the FBI’s task force, was no closer to stopping the bloody, cross country spree. For months he’d been chasing the Artisan, determined to put an end to one of the most gruesome serial killers in the nation’s history. Forensics came up with all kinds of clues; every one of them led to a dead end. Profilers were just as bad, producing generic descriptions which fit half the population in ten states. College educated, high school dropout, white collar executive, blue collar truck driver, churchgoing family man, street corner beggar, they were all over the place. The one point they all agreed on? The Artisan showed exceptional intelligence. Rockwell didn’t need the help of profilers to deduce the obvious.

The last panel ended with Rhodes tearing up yet one more profile in disgust. Veronica added a few more lines on his forehead to exaggerate his frustration. The concept behind his character came from the old 1940’s matinee serials. The hero was invariably a square-jawed, two-fisted crime fighter who had the uncanny ability to escape from the weekly cliffhanger, be it the ticking bomb or wall of flaming oil. And like her Rockwell Rhodes, he was never quite bright enough to figure out where the secret supervillain was hiding until the last episode.

Did art reflect real life? She’d find out when the police became interested. It would be fascinating to compare the real life detective to the Rocky Rhodes parody.

All Wet

The Artisan slid the table, and its victim, into the cylinder, feet first. Steel clamps were riveted around her ankles, forcing them close together. More riveted clamps on her wrists held them behind her back. “Please, don’t do this,” she begged. The chamber was narrow, just wide enough for her to fit in it. Her shoulders touched the sides. He used the hoist to lift up the cylinder until it was upright. Once it cleared the floor he swung the cylinder over the hole in the floor and lowered it.

The Artisan didn’t respond to her pleas. He never spoke while he worked. Reaching down from the open top he slid a long lever down a groove until it rested on her hair. He took a small bubble level from his belt so that he could check to see the lever wasn’t at an angle.

She was still struggling with her bonds. He wasn’t concerned. The clamps fitted her body precisely; he didn’t make mistakes when it came to accuracy. The best escape artist in the world couldn’t pick a lock made of steel rivets pressed in by tons of hydraulic pressure.

Satisfied the sensors were in place he shut the lid on the cylinder, cutting off her cries for help. She was in the dark, literally as well as figuratively. He flipped the playback switch on the console. A voice, distorted to sound like Daffy Duck, began to explain to her the challenge presented by his creation.

“The task before you is simple. A good posture is essential for proper health. As long as you stand up straight the water remains off. If you choose to be lazy, slouch down, try to bend over, the chamber will slowly fill up. You can always stop it by returning to the proper position. If you are good, and remain motionless, the water will start to drain. But if that switch on top of your head isn’t kept level, you have no one to blame but yourself for what happens.”

He turned off the audio. Pressing a button started the timer and enabled the water pump. The timer would stop when the water level passed the sensor over her head.

Veronica switched to a wide, half page panel to capture the moment where the Artisan stood in the middle of his workshop, admiring his work. A Humane Alternative to Waterboarding, that was the title and theme of her latest graphic story. She preferred the modern term; ‘comic book’ seemed so inappropriate when there was nothing funny about the story.

To her practiced eye the panel had too much red. She selected the palette and altered the large timer display digits to a green color. She nodded in approval. It was a small change but to her sense of color balance the hues across the drawing flowed evenly from one to another.

She spun her office chair around to the radio behind her. The quiet was getting to her, time for background music. When she flipped the power switch on Patsy Cline was singing about her faded love. One of Veronica’s favorite stations was the rural farm channel. Between commodity prices, ads for crop insurance, and local news the format was classic Grand Ole Opry country/western music, a throwback to simpler times.

She moved on to the end of the story. ‘Rock’ Rhodes sat at his desk, head in his hands. His young assistant, Agent Jane Olson, burst through the door. “Boss, we have him now. That tiny scrap of food came from a fried plantain, the kind used in Cuban fast food. The cigar ash? The lab traced it to the Cienfuegos region. The Artisan slipped up. We know he has to be from Cuba.”

Agent Rhodes looked up at her. “How many Cuban sandwich shops in the area? How many stores sell Cuban cigars?”

Agent Olson looked crestfallen. “Sorry boss, we couldn’t find any Cuban sandwich stands. Cuban cigars are illegal, no stores either. We did identify twelve mercados selling plantains.”

Rhodes shook his head. “Forget it. Those clues were planted to waste our time. Anything else from the lab, Janie? And don’t call me boss.”

“That’s it, boss. Looks like we’re back to square one.”

Rhodes pounded the desk with his fist. “One lead, that’s all I need! We’ve got to stop this guy. He’s not going to outsmart me!”

Veronica added a wisp of hair over his forehead, to accentuate his exasperated expression. Janie was holding a sheaf of papers; Veronica added a few more lines to increase the size of the pile. It was supposed to represent all the work wasted on phony leads.

“In local news, a County Sheriff patrol car discovered the dismembered body of a young man next to County Road 23, just west of Littleville. The remains were scattered in a drainage ditch, spread over half a mile next to the road. The Metropolitan Homicide Squad was called in to investigate. Inspector Bill Henderson, in a brief press conference, announced the deceased had not yet been identified. Foul play is suspected.”

What an odd coincidence. The Artisan wasn’t real, and he certainly wasn’t prowling the cornfields around Littleville. She smiled; she was certain no one would make the connection on the first incident.

Veronica closed her screen. That completed the current installment. It would go off to the website crew tomorrow, after a final review in the morning. She picked up her smartphone to open her list of story ideas. What fiendish device was the Artisan planning next?

Comfy Chair Games

Whatever it was called, comfy chair was not high on the list of possibilities for an accurate description. It was built out of wooden beams, rugged enough to sustain ten times the load normally placed on the frame. The chair was upholstered, if that was the word, with layers of sheet metal. Each sheet had been run through a special extruding roller, leaving it perforated with dull spikes, looking like an old-fashioned cheese grater on steroids. The effect was similar to sitting on jagged, broken glass, and just about as comfortable.

His guest was another young man. Like the other participants he wasn’t thrilled at receiving his invitation to help but the gag muffled most of his complaints. The Artisan was generous with the leather straps, so that his visitor could best appreciate the stimulating nature of his latest creation. The tight straps forced tender skin, without the impediment of clothes, deep into the dull spikes. It wasn’t enough to break the skin, at least in most areas, but quite sufficient to irritate the nerve endings. Fighting the bonds only made it worse. It didn’t take long for his visitor to learn it was better to sit still.

The Artisan started with an updated version of the traditional Inquisitional Chair, but didn’t end there. He combined it with another favorite used to test the faithful, the hand press. The man’s hands were fixed between two wooden planks, cut with grooves to accommodate the fingers. A small electric motor, geared down to run slowly but with excruciating pressure, was mounted under each hand rest, along with a pressure transducer. The computer could decide the appropriate amount of persuasion to apply with a fine degree of accuracy.

Being a good host the Artisan had devised some entertainment for his reluctant assistant, in the form of a trivia contest. Each correct answer brought a reward. Each incorrect answer, well, it had to carry a penalty to discourage guessing. Failing to respond counted as two incorrect answers; participation was mandatory.

Questions were a simple yes or no. The player, in the chair, merely had to use his feet to press the correct button, left for true, right for false. The spring behind the button was stiff, requiring some effort to actuate it. Naturally the foot rest, and the back of the chair, all had that delightful metallic upholstery.

Each wrong answer increased the pressure on the hand press. Enough correct answers in a row and the computer would reward the player by reducing the compression. There were no rest periods. The game continued until the participant was unresponsive.

All that would be explained in the introduction before the game started, though he had left out the exact number of correct answers required to earn a reward. The Artisan never spoke directly to his subjects. There was no point to it, nor did he care to hear their opinions. Their purpose was to test his elegant design, to make sure all the intricate mechanisms worked properly.

He slid the side plates into position, blocking horizontal movement around the tester’s head. Vertical movement was still possible; that was a key part of the game. The participant watched, wild-eyed, when the Artisan brought out what he liked to think of as a focuser, really nothing more than a rod with forked prongs on each end. It was originally called the Heretic’s Fork, but this was no test of faith.

He wedged the rod between the young man’s chin and chest, lining up the retaining screw to a bar across the subject's neck. A few turns of a screwdriver and it was held in place. There were loud protests leaking out around the gag; he must be screaming. The fork ensured he kept his head tilted back; there was to be no dozing off while the evaluation was in progress.

The Artisan cleared the timer and score counters. How long would this one last? He’d check back tomorrow.

In the News

Veronica stared at the drawing. The Heretic’s Fork was a gruesome addition, almost overkill compared to the rest of the Artisan’s work. She was tempted to remove it and go back to the original drawing, except it was already in use. In some bizarre way it seemed to fit, sort of like the cherry on top of the chair’s ice cream sundae.

Who reads stuff like this? Apparently there were quite a few readers with excessively morbid curiosity, judging by the page counter on the website and the number of paid subscriptions. The statistics did not add to her faith in the inherent goodness of her fellow man.

She closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. On the radio Hank Williams was singing about the cry of a lonesome whippoorwill. It was such a sad song, recorded near the end of his life.

The news came on next. “Police report the body of a young woman was dragged from the water at the Kirby Ditko Memorial Reservoir early this morning. Eyewitnesses told the Rural News reporter the woman had heavy shackles bolted on her hands and feet, clearly visible when the body was recovered. Inspector Henderson of the Metropolitan Homicide Squad denied any connection to the previous grisly murder of a young man near Littleville. An investigation is underway.”

After sending the story to the webmaster Veronica shot out of her chair. This was her moment. Once was a coincidence, twice was a pattern. She gathered up a copy of every back issue along with the sketches for the current story, dropped them into her dispatch case and headed for the door. The police had to know about this right away.

At the Station

Bill Henderson listened to the woman’s story with some skepticism. Life imitating art, or what passes for art in a comic book? He studied the two issues that seemed to have some correlation to his investigations. There were similarities, though they were tenuous. If there was a link between the murders this was the only evidence.

Left out of the news were the forensic clues. In the case of the drowning, the lab had found a minute quantity of pollen from hops, one of the ingredients in beer. It was a specialty crop, grown only in the northern part of the state. It was out of place on the farms around the Metropolitan area.

And in the first case a search of the drainage ditch had turned up an empty glass soda pop bottle, with a liquid residue, of the rare Grape Nehi brand. Only three stores in the state sold the nostalgia item. The lab was still trying to extract DNA.

None of the hidden information appeared in the comic books. He turned back to Veronica. “I agree, Ms. Cooper, there are some coincidental links here, but not enough for us to pursue at this point in time. As we’ve stated in the last press conference, the two incidents are being treated as separate investigations. We are not prepared to conclude this is the work of a single suspect.”

Good, they think I’m a mental case, Veronica concluded. She gathered up the magazines and slipped them back into her case. “Have it your way, Inspector. When the next body shows up, with the crushed hands, you know where to find me.” She stood up and walked out the door.

Bill tapped his fingers on the desk. Was it a serial killer? That was all he needed. There’d be TV vans parked outside the station all day, reporters pestering him, and every kook in the state ready to confess.

He turned to Sergeant Betty Lodge, his lead investigator. “What do you think, Betty? Are we dealing with a comic book killer?” She had been the first to interview that illustrator.

“Farfetched, chief, but not impossible. That’s why I wanted you to talk to her. Fact is, we’re at a dead end in both cases. Forensics has plenty to work on, but we aren’t getting anywhere with the lab results. Siegel is headed off to those stores this morning, to check on the bottle, but we both know it’s a long shot. I put Shuster on the hops farms. Ever see hops? Basically, they’re Brussel sprouts. So we have a clue, our suspect drove by one of those farms in the last week or so. Either that or we’re looking for someone who homebrews their own beer. No correlation between the location of those stores and the hops farms.”

Bill continued drumming his fingers on the desk, unconsciously working off his frustration. “According to that illustrator they’re deliberate clues left at the scene, to mislead us. If that’s true it’s working. Grape Nehi, homemade beer, seriously? We’ve got to find something concrete, and I don’t mean comic books.”

Mouthful of Fruit

I finally met the Artisan. Lois Street, investigative reporter for the largest TV station in the Metropolitan area, thought it was ironic she’d beaten Inspector Henderson to the story. Unfortunate too, as it turned out.

The Artisan shook his head. It had been too easy, luring the overeager ‘journalist’, as she liked to refer to herself on air, into his trap. Not that it was really any great triumph, he reminded himself. After all, she was only a TV reporter, hardly someone in the lofty sleuthing realm of a Miss Marple.

His latest creation, with the inquisitive Miss Street inside, was a modernized Iron Maiden. Instead of wrought iron it was fabricated of polished chrome steel, a gleaming sculpture standing as a tribute to medieval design. It was imposing in its size and weight, with the locking mechanism of a commercial safe to ensure security and discourage tampering.

Unlike the original version there were no spikes lining the interior. No, that was messy and tended to limit the time the participant was able to appreciate the artistic efforts involved. Instead he had incorporated another nifty invention, the gibbet cage, on the inside. A close fitting set of metal bands and leather straps, attached to the back of the Maiden, formed a body hugging cage that severely limited movement.

The interior narrowed at the neck, so that the captive’s head was isolated. A foot stand on the bottom was adjustable for height, to prevent choking. To make it interesting the stand was finished with some leftover cheese grater metal sheet. Standing on the equivalent of broken glass might not be the most comfortable, but the Artisan wasn’t overly concerned with that particular requirement.

The cage design was quite a challenge. A single locking bar held shut manacles around wrists and ankles, preventing escape. Once the door of the Maiden was closed a wedge in the door blocked the rod, to guarantee everything would remain in place. Miss Street was in the process of learning just how well it worked. Opening the door again, after it was locked, would prove to be quite a challenge for anyone without the combination. Certain anti-tamper devices built into the door would ensure if a skilled safecracker did force it open, or tried to cut through the walls, nothing of value would be left inside.

To make it interesting for his guest there was one more addition from the pages of history. It was right out of one of the Artisan books, one of those medieval instruments called a mouth pear. Shaped like the fruit, when closed the wooden leaves fit close together. Expanded, those leaves opened up to fill the mouth, pressing against the inside, too large to push out with the tongue. It would be extremely uncomfortable to wear. Peering through the thick, tempered glass faceplate of the Iron Maiden he could see the end of just such a pear sticking out of her mouth.

Judging by her expression Miss Lois was not thrilled at the prospect of evaluating his automated version of the pear. Unlike a traditional design this one had a small motor on the end. The pear was mounted on a plate that covered her mouth, extending under her chin. In operation it was very simple. If she held still the pear retracted the leaves. If she tried to move around, or attempted to speak, the pear expanded, little by little. When the leaves were fully deployed the results were, to be polite, messy and extremely unpleasant.

He backed up, folding his arms to savor the moment. This was his crowning achievement. Through the glass faceplate Lois Street stared at him, desperate to beg for her life but forced to silence by the knowledge such an attempt would only bring that fateful moment closer.

Veronica used two half-page panels at the end. At the top of the page the Artisan was framed in the doorway to the darkened chamber of horrors, outlined by a light in the hallway. His right arm was extended toward the light switch. In the bottom panel she started with a transparent blue-green filter to mimic the glass, zooming in on the eyes behind the faceplate. Only the eyes were visible, revealing the terrified expression of fear and despair.

Definitely her best work to date; there was no question this might qualify as her masterpiece. The colors, the backdrop, the play of light and shade, this was one she was rightfully proud to show to the world. At the least she’d receive an invitation to appear at the next convention. If it went viral? Well, there were always the movie studios.

She packaged the files and emailed them to the website manager. That was one more Artisan story in the queue for her loyal fans. Now all she had to deal with were the police and Inspector ‘Bumbling’ Bill Henderson. Judging from results so far he was every bit as inept as the ‘Rock’ Rhodes character when it came to solving the Artisan mystery.

The Red Herring

It was a natural progression for the police to focus on her as a suspect, even though all the profiles pointed to a male Artisan. Veronica knew she had to muddy the investigative waters to get them off her trail as a suspect. What better way than to present herself as one of the victims? One that survived; she had to add that qualification.

The plan was to catch the Artisan in the act implementing her latest story, about the Iron Maiden. As the illustrator for the stories she’d be the obvious substitute for the fictional Lois Street. The timing would be tricky; she didn’t want to share the fate of the Artisan’s other guests.

By now the Inspector and his crew of Keystone Kops would be in possession of her latest story. There were plenty of clues pointing to her current location, a workshop in the industrial section of the city. She’d carefully selected the spot for its limited access routes, all now covered by cameras. There’d be plenty of warning when Bumbling Bill sent in the SWAT team. At most she’d have to endure ten or fifteen minutes in that gleaming steel statue.

Her clothes were carefully piled on the floor next to the open door of the Maiden. An open notebook on the nearby console contained the combination to unlock the door and rescue her. And to complete the picture there was a hidden escape tunnel with the hatch conveniently left open, implying the Artisan fled in haste at the sound of approaching sirens.

She saw the first cars turn into the narrow streets around the building. The police were closing in, tightening the ring around the Artisan. Gingerly she stepped onto the floor stand and leaned back against the gibbet. Bending over she started on the straps across her legs, followed by her torso. On the monitor the SWAT van had stopped by the front door.

Taking a deep breath she straightened up, aligning her head in the upper compartment. She inserted her arms into the side of the gibbet until her wrists were resting on the open manacles. Taking a deep breath she knocked out the sliver of wood holding the manual locking bar open.

It slid down, locking all the restraint points. She felt the straps and the metal bands being pulled tight by the servo motors, clamping her body in an iron grip. A deeper whine of the larger motors was followed by the door slowly swinging shut.

Veronica opened her mouth wide, accepting the pear when it was pushed in by the closing door. The door motors shut off. A moment later she felt the heavy locking lugs extend from the door into the side of the Iron Maiden. As soon as the door latched shut the pear slowly began to unfold. It was every bit as bad as she expected. I can manage it for a couple of minutes, she promised herself.

On the monitors the police were pouring into the building. They were seconds away now. As long as she held still, and didn’t make a sound, the mouth pear would remain in the minimal position. Veronica had to close her eyes to concentrate. The perforated sheet on the floor stand was tearing into her feet. Bad as it was, if she attempted to relieve the pain something far worse would unfold in her mouth.

Through the glass faceplate she saw the door fly open. The police SWAT team burst into the room, guns drawn. After clearing the room the SWAT team left. Inspector Henderson slowly walked in, strolling around the work tables until he reached Veronica inside her tiny prison.

He recognized the machinery immediately. Her drawings were a faithful representation of the real thing. Bill ran a hand over the console, stopping at the open notebook. Veronica sighed in relief. He’d discovered the combination. Any second now she’d be released from her tiny prison.

“Did you find anything, chief?” His assistant, Betty Lodge, stood in the doorway. “Shuster and Siegel found the tunnel exit, two blocks from here. It looks like the Artisan did a runner when he saw the cars. Any sign of Veronica? Want me to call in Forensics now?”

Bill shook his head. “Forget it; we’ve been set up again. She isn’t here, and I doubt she ever was. This is all staged to waste our time. Send everyone home. We’ve wasted enough time and money chasing comic book characters. This was all a publicity stunt and we fell for it. I bet Veronica’s skipped town.”

Betty gave him a puzzled look. “You sure, chief? Seems to me she was sincere in offering to help.”

Bill waved her off. “Go ahead and put out an APB on her, though I’m sure she’s long gone. Now get out of here. I don’t want any more overtime coming out of our budget.”

“Okay, chief, it’s your call. I’ll pass the word on.”

Once she left Bill came back to the front of the hulking Iron Maiden. “That’s a nice touch, Veronica, keeping to the traditional maiden’s face. I imagine that glass is bulletproof?” He rapped his knuckles on the cabinet. “Solid, very impressive.” He held up her latest issue. “The combination to open the door, it’s that the same as what you drew? 5-4-3-2-1, not obvious at all, is it?”

He looked over his shoulder at the console. “All I have to do is type it in? Everything will open up to release you? Rescued in the nick of time from the Artisan’s clutches, a classic ending. You’ll be the media darling of the moment. News cameras, daytime talk shows, maybe even a stint on a TV series. Studios will be beating down your door for the movie rights; you’ll be set for years to come.” He ran his fingers across the numeric keypad. “And it all starts as soon as I enter those numbers.”

Inside the cabinet Veronica watched with increasing unease. This wasn’t going to plan. What was he waiting for?

“Want to know where you made the mistake? It was that Heretic’s Fork. We checked the website files. The first set of files you sent in, the rough draft, didn’t have it. The update with it added in was posted hours after the body was dumped. How did the Artisan know to add it, when you hadn’t drawn it yet? It’s not exactly a commonplace tool one buys at the hardware store.”

He paced back and forth in front of Veronica. “That’s when I figured it out. The Artisan wasn’t a ‘he’ at all. You love dragging those red herrings across our investigation, don’t you? Then you come up with this scheme to trap the Artisan with the story about an Iron Maiden. Nice touch, by the way, the woman trapped inside a Maiden.”

He came close, staring into the eye slit. “There’s no way I can prove it was you. You outsmarted me in that respect. You outsmarted yourself when you assumed I would let you get away with it.” He turned away and took a few steps back to pick up the notebook.

“Hmm, not exactly the same sequence. 4-3-2-1-0, very close to your story. Not that anyone will ever know.” He tore out the page with the combination, folded it up and slipped it into his jacket pocket.

“Nothing to say? No plea for help? Let me guess, you kept the mouth pear? Well, you’ll have plenty of time to meditate on the wisdom of that particular design choice. Or not, if you can’t hold still.” He turned away and headed for the open doorway.

Veronica watched in silent horror when he flipped off the lights. For a moment he was framed in the doorway, virtually the same image she’d drawn in the story. And like the story he didn’t look back when he closed the door.


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