A painter paints into existence monsters that come alive to destroy his enemies.
|Rosie and Donny Springer were in their electric-orange Jaguar XF zooming down the newly installed bitumen road from Glen Hartwell to their two-storey home in Brooklyn. In the Victorian countryside.
They still had to pass through small town Elroy, to get from The Glen, as locals called it, to Brooklyn. Funnily enough the second of two Brooklyns in Victoria. The famous one was a posh Eastern suburb of Melbourne. The one the Springers lived in was in the countryside on the Glen Hartwell to Willamby rail line.
They roared through Elroy, not bothering to obey speed limits. When you're wealthy the law doesn't apply to you was their belief.
Suddenly Rosie looked around to her left nervously.
"What is it?, asked her husband on the right-hand side, driving the XF.
"I keep getting the feeling that we're being followed," she said.
"Rosie, you are such a worry wart," chided her husband. "Besides we're doing seventy, short of a leer jet what could follow us?"
"Leer jets were phased out in favour of SR-71s back around 1968," pointed out Rosie.
"So I'm a little outta date. I'm not up on war and war stuff."
"You should be, considering how much you make out of death every time another war breaks out, you arms dealer."
"What arms dealer?" he protested. "I have permission from the Australian Federal Government to buy and resell weapons."
"Do they know that in the current Gaza crisis, you're selling weapons to both Israel and the Palestinians?"
"No, and they don't need to know. So keep your trap shut," he said. Almost crashing the luxury car, when out of the corner of his left eye, he thought that he saw something huge following them at a distance.
Slowing the Jaguar slightly to regain control of it, he said: "Jesus, Rosie, I think you're right. There is something following us."
Then their followers started to race toward them,
"Hell, there's three of them said Rosie." Wondering how the creatures were keeping pace with the XF.
"No, four of them," Donny corrected. "Some kind of great apes by the looks of them."
"How can apes, even Gorillas, outrun a Jaguar?"
"Let's find out," said Donny. He shifted gear and took them back to seventy-kilometres-an-hour. Then eighty, then ninety.
Yet still, the creatures raced toward them across the floor of dry pine needles and red-, and blue-gum leaves.
"Not Gorillas, some kind of wolves," said Donny as the creatures approached, despite him taking the Jaguar up to an even one hundred kilometres an hour.
"Don't be ridiculous," insisted Rosie, "wolves don't grow to anything like that size."
"You'd be surprised how bloody big wolves can grow to," pointed out her husband. "In areas where they can feed on huge animals like mooses and water buffalos, they can grow big enough to make a Great Dane look like a peckinese."
"We don't have mooses in Australia. And the only water buffalo are up in the Northern Territory. Not down south in Victoria."
Yet, as the creatures approached they did look more like wolves than apes. Or something midway between wolves and great apes.
"What the Hell are they?" demanded Rosie.
"Who the Hell cares?" asked Donny. "We're onto Williamstown road now, less than twenty Kays from Brooklyn, let's just hope..."
His words were cut off as one of the wolf-apes leapt through the air, landing on top of the XL, crushing the roof down dangerously toward them, making Rosie shriek in terror.
"It's on the roof," she yelled hysterically. Then two more of the man-ape-wolves leapt onto the bonnet of the car. Their combined weight crushed the bonnet down enough to interfere with the revolutions of the engine, which suddenly sputtered, and then cut out.
"They're all up on the car!" yelled Donny.
Not quite correct, until the fourth creature leapt onto the boot of the car. It ripped off the boot door and used it to smash in the rear windscreen, making the Springers both scream in a high contralto.
Soon the other three wolf-man-apes started working together to literally rip the roof right off the electric-orange Jaguar.
"I think we're gonna die, Rosie," said Donny, making one of the few honest statements of his entire life.
"I think you're..." she began stopping as the lead creature chewed away her face and upper jaw, along with her tongue and windpipe.
"Rosie!" screamed Donny. For the first and last time in his life really cared about the fate of somebody other than himself.
Then a second creature chewed away his nose, tongue, and upper and lower jaw in one gigantic bite.
Soon the other two creatures had joined in the feast and in almost no time Donny and Rosie Springer had been devoured. Bones and all.
Sated, the four creatures jumped off the blood-soaked car and raced off toward the forest.
Then one of the creatures suddenly started to vanish into thin air. In a few seconds, it was completely gone. Then the second creature winked out of existence. Quickly followed by the third and fourth creatures, until nothing remained of the four monsters, except a single ear. Then after a few seconds, the ear vanished also.
Sitting at his desk in his studio, the Painter stared at the white canvas, which moments before had been a drawing of the Springers being eaten by four ape-man-wolf creatures which his fevered mind had created. Of course, he couldn't risk the creatures being caught or killed, which is why, after they had done his dirty work for him, he had painted them out of existence again.
"Now what shall I paint next, to kill the Thompsons?" he asked himself.
Over at Mrs. Deidre Morton's two-storey boarding house at Rochester Road in Merridale, Colin Klein, Terri Scott, Natasha Lipzing, Freddy Kingston, and Mrs. Morton herself were sitting down to one of Deidre's delicious and plentiful meals.
"How do you like Merridale, Mr. Kingston?" asked Natasha.
"Boring as heck," he said, cleaning up his language for the three ladies. "Except of course, for Deidre's wonderful repasts. And of course the excellent company at this lovely home."
"Why thank you," said Natasha, "charmed, I 'm sure."
"So why did you come to the countryside, way out here, four hundred kilometres from Melbourne?" asked Colin Klein, a tall redheaded reporter from London, currently on long service leave in Australia, researching a book on mysterious monsters and legends down under. And having surprisingly good luck at finding them in the Glen Hartwell to Willamby area.
"Well," said Freddy, barely one hundred and sixty-five centimetres, but over a hundred kilogrammes in weight, and bald as an eagle. "I retired recently. And sick of the rat race decided to try somewhere a bit sleepier. At the moment it's a bit too sleepy for me. But I'm good at adjusting, so I'm sure I'll get used to it. What about you two?"
Colin Klein told Freddy his story, and then Terri said:
"I was born and raised in the area, and am now the chief, and only officer, of the Lenoak police department."
"Do you get much crime happening out here?"
"Until Mr. Klein turned up a month or so back, I would have said no. But he seems to be a bit of a goofy magnet," Terri said. "Goofy things happen whenever he's around."
"How dare you," said Colin, "you think that because you're blonde and beautiful you can get away with anything."
"Well, can't I?" she teased.
"She's right," said Freddy. "You can forget that woman's rights rubbish. Women have always been in charge until they made the mistake of making it known to their men folk. That's when the trouble started."
"So you're an expert on women?" teased Terri.
"I should be," he said. "I've been divorced six times. If I don't understand women ... who does?"
They were still eating and chatting, when there came a knock at the front door.
Colin Klein opened the door to reveal Andrew Braidwood and Donald Esk, two other local cops.
"'Ello 'ello 'ello," said Donald Esk, a huge brown-haired man with a Beatles-style mop top cut. Doing the worst imitation of a London Bobby that anyone anywhere had ever heard."
"And 'ello 'ello 'ello, to you," said Terri. laughing.
"Was that for my benefit?" asked Colin Klein. Not all Poms say 'Ello 'ello 'ello. Just as most Aussies don't sound like Paul Hogan or Chips Rafferty."
"No, but we can, if you want us to," said Andrew Braidwood, a tall lanky man with long stringy blonde hair, doing his best 'Ow Ya goin' cobber,' impression.
"That was terrible, yet wonderful," said Terri between laughter.
"English is a language of contradictions," admitted the red-haired reporter, Colin Klein.
"Now the unfunny stuff," said Don, suddenly solemn. "I'm afraid it's happened again."
"What has?" asked Terri, no longer laughing.
"Mr. Monster-Magnet has brought another goofy murder case our way," said Andrew.
"I keep telling you," said Colin indignantly, "it's not my fault if goof stuff sometimes happens when I'm around."
"Sometimes?" said Terri, Andrew, and Don as one.
"Yes, sometimes!" insisted the reporter.
"Where has it happened?" asked Terri.
"On Williamstown Road, just outside Brooklyn," said Don. Technically it's not really your jurisdiction."
"It's more ours," said Andrew. "But we were hoping that you might help us out."
"Yes, of course," said Terri Scott, excusing herself from the table to leave with Don, Andrew, and Colin.
"You know," said Natasha Lipzing, "he is a bit of a monster-magnet, Deidre."
"I heard that!" called back Colin, making the spinster suddenly look down at her hands.
Out on Williamstown Road, they stared at the wreckage of Rosie and Donny Springers' almost new Jaguar XF. The top and boot had been ripped right off. The engine block had fallen out of the car, due to the crushed bonnet, and blood was splattered everywhere, changing it from garish electric-orange to gaudy scarlet red.
"Wow," said Terri Scott, running a hand through her long blonde hair. "Whatever did this, did it thoroughly."
"That's for sure," agreed Colin.
"There's no sign of anybody, except for one of Rosie Springer's pink pumps," said Don Esk, pointing to the woman's shoe on the floor of the wrecked car.
"So," said Andrew, "whatever did it either carried off the bodies...?"
"Or ate them so thoroughly, that only that one shoe remains," Colin Klein finished for him.
"All right, let's get the coroner out here," said Terri. "Then we can call Ed Bussy's Auto Repairs in Wentworth Street to come and collect the wreck."
Half an hour later, Ed Bussy waited around with his tow truck, while Elvis Green and Jesus Costello examined the wreckage, taking blood samples.
"It certainly looks like human blood," said Elvis. He was nicknamed due to his long black sideburns and idolising the late King of Rock and Roll.
"But we'll have to test it at the lab to be sure," said Jesus (pronounced 'Hee-Zeus'), chief surgeon and head doctor at the Glen Hartwell Hospital.
Finally, Elvis looked up and said: "All right Ed, you can haul it away."
Maybelline (or Mae as she preferred to be called) and Roscoe Thompson were driving their silver-grey Bentley Bentayga EWB SUV down Williamstown Road, heading toward a book and magazine symposium two hundred kilometres away in sale.
Suddenly the thing landed a hundred metres ahead of them on the bitumen road.
As they swerved to a halt, Mae asked: "What the Hell is it?"
At first, they thought it was some loony dressed as a vampire ten days late for a Halloween party.
Then the thing reared up to its full height, over three metres, to reveal its true shape. More like a dark grey cross between a giant bat and a gargoyle.
"Oh my God, I must be seeing things," said Mae.
"I hope we're both seeing things," said Roscoe. He put the car back into gear and tried to race past the thing.
As they passed, it reached out and ripped the roof off the car, throwing it down the road in front of them. Forcing the Thompsons to swerve again, and the car to almost roll over.
"Be careful!" shrieked Mae.
"Fuck being careful," said her husband. "I just want to put as many Kays as possible between us and that thing."
"What the Hell is it?" asked Mae as the thing took to flight and started after them.
"A nightmare come to life," said Roscoe. Not aware of how close to the truth he was.
He tried to outrace the gargoyle, but it easily matched the pace of the damaged Bentley, reaching down with one taloned foot to rip the boot door right off the car.
"Our boot!" cried Mae.
"Fuck our boot," said Roscoe wisely. "It's our lives that we have to worry about."
Seemingly content to play with the Thompsons first, the gargoyle swooped down and ripped the back seat out of the two hundred thousand dollar car, throwing it back down the road toward Elroy township.
"What's it doing?" asked Mae.
Grimly, Roscoe said: "I think it's playing with its food before it eats us."
Mae started to screech in terror, inspiring the gargoyle to follow suit. Screeching loudly to terrify its living food.
Flying in front of the car, the gargoyle ripped off the front bumper bar, dropping it under the car, which juddered as it ran over the bumper. Then it reached down with both taloned feet to rip away the bonnet, exposing the engine within.
Usually, Bentley motors purred like contented cats. But after the gargoyle had ripped and clawed at the engine a few times, scratching it and ripping pieces off, it started to roar like a jumped-up jalopy.
Finally, the creature grabbed the entire engine block in its talons and threw it behind the Thompsons. Narrowly missing Mae's head with the heavy block.
As the car screeched to a halt, Mae screeched in terror. And the gargoyle screeched in delight.
Roscoe tried to run, abandoning both his car and his wife, to their fate. But the gargoyle grabbed him in its rear talons, making him shriek as it crushed his skull.
Then, while Mae watched, too terrified to run, the gargoyle proceeded to eat Roscoe from the head down.
Only once it was down to the knees did Mae finally stumble out of the wrecked Bentley and start to shamble back down Williamstown Road, heading toward Elroy.
Shrieking in excitement, the gargoyle abandoned the last of Roscoe Thompson and flew after his screaming wife.
Grabbing her by the head in its lower talons, it zoomed up high into the sky, then at two hundred feet, suddenly released her.
Poor Mae shrieked hysterically as she fell to her doom, finally smashing into the bitumen road.
Shrieking in delight, the gargoyle started to flap away. Until one of its wings suddenly disappeared and it also fell to the road.
Then piece by piece the rest of the creature vanished out of existence. Until it was gone.
Looking down at the white painted canvas, Sebastian Solo grinned in satisfaction. "So much for the Thompsons. Now what to send after that tight-arsed bitch Suzanna Quatrain?"
He thought for a moment, then said, "Yes, I've got it."
Terri and the others were at the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital, watching as Elvis and Jesus examined the blood samples.
As one they looked up and said: "It's definitely human blood."
"And the blood groups match those of Rosie and Donny Thompson," said Jesus.
"Well, I guess it's time to examine the Stringers' place of work," suggested Terri.
Half an hour later they were at Rosie and Donny Springer's small publishing house in Tantamount Road, Brooklyn.
"Their secretary-cum-stenographer-cum-gopher Cherie Black, a thirty-year-old brunette, who looked about eighteen, gladly led them in.
"It's such a shame about the Springers. Such lovely people," lied Cherie in preference to speaking ill of the dead.
"What are these?" asked Terri looking at some prints.
"Pictures for possible use in coffee table books."
Colin and the police continued browsing through the stacks of books, papers, and prints until Terri came across some ugly-looking prints.
"Ooh," she said. "What are these supposed to be?"
"Prints of paintings by a talentless local hack, named Sebastian Solo. The Springers were toying with the idea of putting out a book of his lousy work. Then finally they saw sense and shelved the project."
"Well, I don't know much about art," said Terri. "But I know what I like ... And I definitely do not like these."
"Yeah, they're quite juvenile, aren't they," said Cherie. "He cut up pretty big about it, threatening to sue the Springers for breach of contract or some such thing. But they hadn't put anything down in writing, so he wouldn't have had a leg to stand on in court."
"Well thanks," said Terri, heading toward the door. She stopped again as her mobile phone rang. "Aha," she said, then to the others: "We got another one."
"Another killing?" asked Cherie Black.
"Yup," said Terrie: "Out on Williamstown Road again."
Half an hour or so later they were staring at the remains of Mae and Roscoe Thompsons' silver-grey Bentley Bentayga EWB SUV.
"Wow, it or they really made a mess again?" said Terri staring at the bloody car.
"This time, we've got a body," said Andrew Braidwood, leading them across to the broken remains of Maybelline Thompson.
"Sheesh," said Colin Klein, "what happened to her."
"Well," said Elvis Green, "the amount of contusions, suggests that she was dropped from a great height."
"However, the Thompsons' car being here seems to contradict that," said Donald Esk.
"Is this the only body?" asked Terri Scott.
"No, we've also got the lower legs of her husband, which seemed to have been chewed away," said Elvis, "suggesting that the culprit ate the rest of him."
"Certainly we haven't been able to find any other remains of him."
As Ed Bussy arrived with his tow truck, Terri said, "Well you blokes finish up here. Colin and I will go around to the Thompson's Local Rag. What is it called again?"
"The Lenoak Enlightenment," said Andrew Braidwood.
"The Enlightenment, seriously?" asked Terri. "Please tell me that you're joking?"
"That's in Wilson Street, right next to Mrs. Miggins's boarding house," said Colin. He had stayed there for a week or so, before moving back to Deidre Morton's boarding house in Rushcutters Road.
"Then let's go," said Terri. She threw her car keys to Colin, saying: "You'd better drive since you know the way."
At Wilson Street, they were shown into the small print room by Deanna, a purple-haired Goth girl, who looked no more than sixteen or seventeen.
Old newspapers were piled high against three of the walls.
"Come on in," said Deanna. Then, seeing Terri's badge. "Don't tell me I've broken my parole somehow?"
"No, it's about the Thompsons," said Colin.
"Nothing's happened to them, has it?"
"I'm afraid so," said Terri, going on to fill in the Goth girl about the deaths of her employers.
"Oh, my God,' she said. "Still, they always wanted to make the news, and I guess they now have."
Picking up a freshly printed newspaper from the table near the printing press, Terri read: "Awful Painter, Presents Awful Showing, Of His Awful Works."
"That's an awful lot of 'awfuls' for one awful sentence," said Colin Klein.
"Yeah, well the smuck really stinks as a painter. Although at one stage Rosie and Donny Springer were planning to put out a coffee table book of his crap. Finally, sense kicked in," said Deanna. "I mean this guy couldn't paint as well as the average retarded foetus. Not that that ever stopped Pablo Picasso, of course."
"What's his name?" asked Terri.
"The painter? Sebastian Solo," said Deanna. "Like Napoleon Solo, but nowhere near as talented."
"Maybe it's time that we paid Mr. Solo a visit," suggested Terri. Then to the Goth girl: "Have you good his address?"
"Sadly ... yes," said Deanna writing it down for them.
Suzanna Quatrain, a pretty thirty-something brunette with a K.D.Lang-do was driving her lemon yellow Ford Capri with the latest issue of the Lenoak Enlightenment next to her, with her article, "Awful Painter, Presents Awful Showing, Of His Awful Works" on the front page. She smiled and read: "Has no sense of reality! But doesn't have a clue what impressionism is either."
"Couldn't have been fairer," she said aloud. "If he's going to keep polluting the world with his hideous canvasses, he can't complain if I honestly tell people how dire they are."
She turned the corner to see a large orange blob of something sitting in the middle of the road. She tried to pull up. Too late, and drove straight through the blob, which splattered into what looked like orange jelly.
On the bonnet, roof, and boot, of the Capri, the orange goop suddenly started bubbling, burning through the paintwork, stripping it away to reveal the shiny metal below. Then continued to bubble through the ironwork till leaking, into the engine, boot, and into the front seat.
"Aah!" said Suzanna, as the acidic slime just missed her. She opened the door of the car, ducked, and then ran out onto the road to watch as the metalwork on her car completely dissolved away.
"Now how am I supposed to get into town?" she said.
Then hearing a slopping glugging noise, she looked around and saw that the splattered mess behind her had reassembled itself into something midway between Slimer from the Ghost Busters and a huge orange jelly, and was wobble-bouncing toward her.
Shrieking, she turned and started running away from the monster and her devastated Ford Capri.
Sebastian Solo was laughing in glee as Suzanna Quatrain's fate played out on his canvas. "Go get her, slime monster," he said aloud.
Then he was startled by a loud knocking on his studio door.
"Mr. Solo? Are you in there?" called out Terri Scott.
"Oh God!" cried Sebastian, dabbing a large paintbrush in white paint to paint the monster out of existence.
Suzanne Quatrain was beginning to gasp as she started to fatigue, her shoes not designed for running. Looking back, she stumbled and fell, seeing that the acidic blob was almost on top of her.
"Oh God no!" she shrieked, covering her eyes with her left arm.
Then after thirty seconds when nothing happened, she tentatively lowered her arm. To see that the creature had disappeared.
"Hello?" asked Sebastian Solo, opening the studio door.
Terri flashed her badge, then asked: "Can we come in."
"Of course," said the painter, smiling welcomingly. He went on to act suitably shocked when they told him of the gruesome murders of the Springers and the Thompsons.
"Oh my God, do you know what happened to them?"
"Not a clue," she admitted. "I believe the Springers were planning to publish a book of your ... art?"
"Yes, but then they changed their minds."
"How did you feel about that?" asked Colin.
"Devastated," he said honestly. "In the world of art there seems to be a force field of incompetency, keeping stale old hacks in, and keeping fresh new artists out. I thought I had finally broken through it, then the rug was pulled out from under my feet."
"I believe that you were planning to sue them at one stage?" asked Terri.
"Not really, I couldn't have won. But I was angry, so I said some stupid things."
Holding up that morning's newspaper, she read: "'Awful Painter, Presents Awful Showing, Of His Awful Works.' That must have really hurt."
"Well, every artist has to have a thick skin," lied Sebastian. "None of us are ever really appreciated until after our deaths. Look at the great Van Gough. He only sold one of his paintings during his lifetime. Now they sell for tens of millions of dollars each."
Back at her flat, exhausted Suzanna Quatrain, was kicking off her shoes, when she received a phone call from Deanna.
"Oh my God," said Suzanna, "first the Springers, now the Thompsons."
"What are the odds?" asked the Goth girl over the phone.
"About a million to one," said Suzanna hanging up. She started to undress to take a shower then thought again: Yes, about a million to one. Unless someone has an axe to grind.
Remembering her article on the front of that day's paper, she thought: Oh my God, it has to be him! But how!
Going across to her writing drawer she took out a notepad and a pen and wrote, "If I am dead, I, like the Springers, and the Thompsons, was killed by Sebastian Solo. Going on to include his address, then sign it, before locking it in the drawer. Then she went to take her shower.
After they left Sebastian Solo's studio, Colin Klein asked: "What do you think?"
"I think there's at least a fifty percent chance that he killed them. But I'm damned if I know how."
"I would put it at more like eighty percent," said Colin, a thirty-year veteran journalist.
"Maybe I'd better arrange to have his studio watched so that he can't leave without us knowing where he's going," said Terri.
"Good idea," said Colin as they climbed into her pale blue Lexus.
Suzanna Quatrain was enjoying the steaming heat of the shower in her flat thinking: If that little shit thinks that he can get away with killing the Springers, and the Thompsons, then trying to kill me ... he's got a-bloody-nother thing coming!
Careful to wait until the police Lexus was long gone, Sebastian picked up his paintbrush again and said: "Well I still have to deal with that slanderous bitch, Suzanna Quatrain. Now what should I try next?"
He considered for a minute, then said: "Aha!" and started to paint at a furious pace.
Suzanna was just stepping out of the shower when suddenly the en suite door was ripped off its hinges and hurled back into her bedroom. Shattering the bedroom window, and falling to the street outside.
"What the Hell...?" said the brunette.
Then something midway between Medusa and She-Hulk walked into the room. A huge, muscle-bound emerald green woman, with snakes for hairs and breasts that made Dolly Parton look flat-chested. Dressed only in a yellow stringkini.
Sebastian always did exaggerate women's breasts. That is one of his many weaknesses as a painter, thought Suzanna. Her last thought before She Hulk-Medusa, grabbed her and ripped her limb from limb.
Turning, the green woman started to walk back into the bedroom. Then the top half of her vanished. Soon followed by her lower half.
At his studio, Sebastian looked at the repainted white canvas and said: "Such a pity, She Hulk-Medusa was way hot! What a tumble she would have been ... assuming I could have survived the ride, of course!"
"Now who's next? Danny or Monique?" He considered for a moment then said: "Danny. I'll teach that untalented art teacher to say that I should give up painting and try a soul-destroying office job. Where my future lies, indeed!
He suddenly shouted: "At least I have a future, Danny! Yours is about to be snuffed out!"
Picking up a paint brush he dabbed it on his easel and slowly began to paint over the white painted canvas.
Startled by the en suite door, that fell from the flat upstairs, Suzanna's landlord shouted up at the broken window: "Hey, whatcha doin' up there, wrecking my building? You almost killed me with this damn door!"
When she got no reply, she ran up the stairs to Suzanna's flat and hammered on the door. After a few moments, she took out her passkey and walked into the flat. Then seeing where the door had originated from, she ran across to the en suite, looked inside, then started screaming hysterically.
Daniel (never Danny!) Prescott was teaching a group of teenage art students at Glen Hartwell High in Wentworth Street. Or as he liked to call them: "Talentless buffoons destined to spend their lives on the dole or working at McDonald's for minimum wage."
Looking across to where one of his art students, a pretty blonde girl, Becky, was smiling, clearly pleased with her work, Danial strode across and said: "No! No! No! That's awful!"
Picking up a large brush he dabbed it in black paint and zigzagged it right across her painting. making her start to cry.
"Awful," he repeated as he returned to the front of the class. Dare to paint better than I can! he thought.
"Bastard!' whispered a boy two seats behind Becky, who was besotted by the pretty blonde.
"Did you say something, Joshua?" asked Danial Prescott.
"No sir," lied Josh.
Colin Klein and Terri Scott were on their way back to the Glen Hartwell Hospital when Elvis Green rang them to tell them to meet him at Suzanna Quatrain's apartment.
Fifteen minutes later they were standing in the bedroom of the dead journalist's flat, while her landlady stayed outside. Afraid of seeing the corpse again. While Elvis Green examined the remains of Suzanna Quatrain scattered around the bathroom floor.
Coming out of the en suite at last, he said: "Well, this one wasn't eaten alive. Someone or something with immense strength literally tore her limb from limb."
"So the pattern is broken," said Colin Klein.
"Does that mean that it's unrelated to the other two sets of murders?" Terri wondered aloud.
"I doubt it," said Elvis. Picking up a paper he threw it to Terri Scott.
Terri read: "Awful Painter, Presents Awful Showing, Of His Awful Works."
Throwing down the paper, she said: "We've already read this."
"But did you check out the by-line?"
Picking up the newspaper, Colin Klein read: "By-line Suzanna Prescott."
"What!" shouted Terri, jumping to her feet. "Then she's the reporter who tore him apart."
"Maybe he decided to get even by tearing her apart ... somehow?" said Elvis Green.
Grabbing the paper, she said to Colin: "Come on let's go."
Half an hour later they were outside the house where Sebastian Solo's studio was situated. Outside the front door they found Donald Esk still on duty.
Storming across toward him, Terri demanded: "Did you leave your post at any time when we were gone?"
"Not even to have lunch?"
"I brought sandwiches and a can of Pepsi, which I ate while watching the front door."
"What about toilet breaks?"
"Haven't had a crap, and peed twice against that tree," he said pointing at a large red gum, "while watching the house. Which is why I peed on my shoes."
Looking down she said: "Oh, yeah."
They went around the back of the house to find Andrew Braidwood on duty and asked him the same questions, and got the same answers. Including the peeing on his shoes.
Knocking on the front door, Terri asked the landlady: "Is Mr. Solo up in his studio."
"Oh yes," said the lady. "I've heard him muttering to himself and giggling sometimes. You want me to get him for you?"
"No, no, that's all right," said Terri, puzzled.
As they climbed back into the Lexus, Colin said: "Well, if it's not him, then we're back to square one."
"But I was so sure," said Terri starting the ignition.
At Glen Hartwell High in Wentworth Street, Danial Prescott was nearly at his desk, when he heard a strange screeching from outside, followed by the screaming of children.
He walked across to the window, opened it wide and looked out. Dozens of students were running across the lawn willy-nilly screaming in terror.
"Stop that you brats!" Danial shouted down to them, getting no response at all. "I said stop..."
He stopped and looked up as he heard screeching from overhead.
Where he saw what looked like a cross between a flying green dragon from a children's storybook, and a prehistoric pterosaur zooming toward the building.
"Holy shit!" he cried, racing across to the door, not bothering to warn his pupils.
As the dragon-saur got within range it exhaled a burst of yellow flames which made the classroom windows implode, killing two students, and hospitalising six others.
Without stopping, it crashed through the windows into the classroom, then, with difficulty walked across the room and squeezed out into the corridor.
It looked left, then right, till it spotted Danial Prescott running in terror, not bothering to warn anyone else of the danger.
With a squawk that sent everyone in the corridor running in terror, the dragon-saur trotted as best it could down the green-walled corridor until it reached the outside door, which Prescott had been careful to close behind him on his way out.
Ignoring the squealing children, the creature tore away the door and looked out to see Prescott running down the iron steps, almost at the bottom.
Screeching loudly, it flapped its vast wings and soared down to grab Prescott in its rear talons. Then it soared to the top of one of the buildings where it started to eat alive the screaming art teacher.
On the ground, hundreds of children raced out into the street, or back into the school to hide. All except for two:
Blonde Becky and Joshua stood in the middle of a basketball court, holding hands, looking up at the spectacle and laughing at the sight of one monster eating another monster.
Colin and Terri, were almost at the hospital when they received a call from Suzanna Quatrain's landlady to return to the apartment.
"What is it?" asked Terri, as they entered the flat.
"I was checking through her drawers when I found this," said the old woman, handing them a single sheet of note paper.
Colin Klein read aloud: "If I am dead, I, like the Springers, and the Thompsons, was killed by Sebastian Solo. Signed Suzanna Quatrain."
Colin and Terri exchanged a glance, and then Terri said: "Okay, let's go talk to him again."
However, when they got back to the blue Lexus, they received a call about the murder of Danial Prescott.
"This time we have a couple of hundred witnesses," said Donald Esk over the phone. "It seems he was eaten alive by a cross between a fire-breathing dragon, and a pteradactylus."
"Well, that makes as much sense as anything else about this case," said Colin Klein.
"Many of them took videos with their mobile phones of it eating Prescott."
"Well, at last, we're getting somewhere ... I suppose," said Terri Scott, heading the Lexus toward the Glen Harwell High School.
"Now Monique, you lying, cheating bitch! We need something special for you, don't we?" said Sebastian. Picking up his paint brush he dabbed it in his special paint, then began to paint away on the white canvas. Break up with me, will you? He thought. Tell all of my close and intimate secrets to that bitch Suzanna Quatrain will you? You've probably been dykin' it up together, he thought, unable to believe that she would have dumped him otherwise.
Monique Masters was riding her latest one-night stand cowgirl fashion, even waving an imaginary Stetson hat around with her left hand as she bounced up and down on his manhood.
Until both Monique and her latest man started to get the feeling that they were being watched.
Reluctantly stopping, she pulled up a sheet to cover her nakedness and asked: "Is there anyone there?"
"No one here except us corpses," said a strange, masculine voice from a shadow near the bedroom window.
"Show yourself, you bastard," said Tommy Fiddler, a tall well-muscled man, reluctantly standing up, sending Monique rolling across the bed and onto the floor.
"Hey!" she cried, pulling the sheet off the bed to cover herself.
"Who the Hell are you?" demanded Tommy walking naked and fearless across the bedroom floor toward the window drapes on the left-hand side. Where the voice had originated from.
Walking across to the window, he saw a tall, thin figure in a long dark robe standing, looking toward the window.
Grabbing the figure by the left shoulder he demanded, "Who the Hell are you!" pulling the figure around to face him.
"Surprise!" said the grinning skull of the skeletal warrior. Then before Tommy could respond he swung his heavy sword and cut off his head.
"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed the skeletal warrior. He dropped the cloak to reveal nothing but a skeleton with a few hanging threads of foul-smell dead flesh.
Advancing upon the bed, he raised his sword and swung it wildly chopping a tall standing lamp in two.
Shrieking, Monique raced across to the door to the corridor, not concerned that she was naked, and struggled with the door chain, which she had put on so that they wouldn't be disturbed.
She had almost got the door open when walking forward the skeletal warrior raised his fifty-kilogramme sword. He swung it with all of his might, and cut Monique in half at the waist.
Smiling a twisted skeletal smile, he used the sword to hack off the lock, swung the door open, and disappeared.
"Now that's what I call a good day's work," said Sebastian Solo, painting over the canvas for the last time.
Unaware that he was under surveillance, he picked up the canvas, now heavy with many layers of paint, and carried it outside, then down the steps to the front door and placed it in the large yellow-topped recycling rubbish bin.
"Recycle that!" he thought, wondering what would happen if a nosey recycling prol. decided to unpick the white paint.
Jessie Baker, a well-muscled redheaded police sergeant, had replaced Donald Esk on guard duty out front of the house.
Puzzled by Sebastian Solo's actions. He gave the painter ten minutes, then sneaked across to the recyclables bin and then removed the heavy, centimetre-plus thick canvas and decided to hold it for Terri Scott.
Terri and Colin were sitting down to a gargantuan tea at Mrs. Morton's that evening when Jessie knocked on the front door.
"What are you doing here?" asked Terri, "I thought you were on surveillance duty at Creepy's studio?"
"Two things," said the redheaded policeman. Firstly, there's been another murder, this time of an old girlfriend of Sebastian Solo, who it's thought helped Suzanna Quatrain to dig the dirt on him, for her somewhat less than classy article."
"God! How many more murders will there be if we can't work out how he sneaks out to kill them without being seen?" asked Terri getting up from the table.
"I suspect none," said Jessie. Handing her the canvas, he said: "I think this is how he killed them."
"By painting them to death?" asked Colin Klein, also rising from the table.
"Sounds ridiculous, I know," agreed Jessie, "but not long after the latest killing, within minutes in fact, he sneaked out of the house and dumped this in the recycling bin."
"Oh, dear," said Natasha Lipzing. "Paintings don't go in the recycling bin."
Taking the painting from him, Terri said: "I wonder if they can see the pictures painted over with an X-ray machine."
"Let's find out," suggested Colin Klein, and the three of them left to drive around to the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital.
Although Jesus Costello was off duty, the Nurse-in-Charge, Annie, whom they had had dealings with before arranged for the X-ray machine to be used on the canvas.
By the next morning, they had pictures of all six of the monsters that Sebastian Solo had painted into existence.
By ten AM they had him in the interview room at the Mitchell Street Police Station in Glen Hartwell, where they showed him the pictures of the monsters he had painted into life.
"How did you get those?" he said, stunned.
"It was a mistake to throw out the canvas," said Jessie, you should have burnt it.
"I didn't dare," said Solo: "I didn't know how the whacky chemicals in the paint would behave under heat. It might have brought them all back to life to kill me."
"Where did you get the chemicals? And where are they now?" demanded Terri.
"There's none left, I only had enough to create six monsters, and that was all I needed to wipe out those evil bastards," said Oslo. "As for where I got them: I inherited them. In the days of necromancers and alchemists, while most of the stupid sods were trying to turn lead into gold, an ancestor of mine discovered the secret of the magical paint.
"He originally had kilogrammes of it. But hundreds of years later, by the time it got down to me, there was only enough left for me to kill those evil bastards. And I'm not sorry. Every one of them deserved to die for what they did to me!"
"Does that include the children who died when dragon fire made the classroom windows implode, or who were blinded, or scarred for life?" demanded Terri.
"What was it that George W 'Maddog' Bush said after America's first retaliatory strike for 9/11 turned out to be against a maternity hospital, killing hundreds of pregnant women, or innocent babies?" mused Sebastian Solo. "Oh yes, I remember, 'Duh, they're just collateral damage'! Well, that's my answer too" Duh, they're just collateral damage!"
"Maddog Bush was an Evil Fascist dictator, right down there with Hitler on the morality stakes," pointed out Colin Klein. "It hardly does you any credit to quote that evil bastard to try to justify your own savage acts!"
© Copyright 2023 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia