The Silhouette Coffin
Long callused fingers glided over the soft curves of her blood stained body. A knowing hand trailed the graceful length of her neck until it rounded her shoulder. He allowed it to linger there before following a path that rose with the swell of her breast, tapered to a slender waist and blossomed into the gentle curve of her hip. She'd been gutted, her neck and back broken. The soft sweet resonance of her voice lost forever. He pulled her close and wept. Earnest tears flowed into her hollowed body. His love lay frigid and lifeless in the circle of his arms. He rocked her. She died by his hand, a crime of passion…but I loved her Cold irony laced with pain. I didn't mean to do it…I was angry, My Love. I didn't realize my own strength, forgive me please. I simply couldn't let you go back to him. "I would give anything to hear the sweet aria of your voice again," he whispered.
The instant the words slipped past his lips, the door flew open and burning embers from the fireplace spit and hissed in fury, and then extinguished. Shadow and silence engulfed the room. He could see nothing but sensed something. With each passing second the hairs on his neck rose, awakening a tingle which worked its way down his spine.
The nothingness grew and something moved within it.
A wintry hand clasped his shoulder and darkness crept through his body with stealth.
"Death takes pleasure in your pain, my son…but I can help you," said the icy voice.
"Who are you?" He searched the darkness for a face but there was none.
"Someone, who can answer your prayers, Luthier -- need you know more?" The dying ashes of the fire ignited in blue flame, illuminating the room with ghostly shadow. Yet, no one appeared. The voice spoke from the depths of obscurity. "Need you my help?" questioned the Darkness.
Consumed by sorrow, he felt no fear. Luthier stroked the soft contours of her face, contented enough light remained for him to see her again. "I would not be worthy of such a gift…why would you offer someone as loathsome as I redemption?"
"I've done more for those less worthy," the voice proclaimed. "How know you such a priceless beauty?" said the Darkness.
Luthier dispelled a sigh of deep regret and his tears resumed as he recounted the days of old. "She was brought to me by a man of great wealth, who claimed he had grown tired of her. He told me to do with her as I pleased. She was of no significance or use to him. I knew of her history. Many lovers shared her the past, she was passed from one man to the next without regard. She came to me mute, her hair thinning, and her body bore many scars. Battered, abused, damaged inside and out, she was a shell of what she should have been. I gather her in my arms each day and set out to right the wrongs dealt her. It took time, but with great care I nursed her back to health. Soon she regained her voice and began to sing. She had the voice of an angel. When word got out that she was well and prospering, Nicoli wanted her back. On several occasions he sent his servants to claim her. I refused to return her to the hands of that devil. He took his case to the chancellor demanding she belonged to him- and he had papers. The courts found in his favor and I was ordered to relinquish her. In my rage I destroyed her…but." His voice cracked.
"But what, my son?"
"I know my obsession with her is unnatural, but I want to hear her voice again."
"What would you be willing to exchange for her life?" the Darkness asked.
"It will be done."
* * *
Miles looked down at the pretty young red head, whose body was stripped naked. Her blood saturated the damp grass, turning summer green to ox red, a deep contrast to the milky white of her skin. The fissured wound on her leg exposed her left femur. Splayed with surgical precision a portion of the bone was missing. She had nearly been decapitated, the instrument of her demise a thin wire cord. Wait.
Miles spread his fingers wide allowing the second latex glove to snap at his wrist. Eying the metal thread closer, he realized it was not wire at all. He took a plastic bag from the breast of his coat pocket and flung it open.
"Matt, toss me your tweezers," Miles yelled to his partner.
The short and meaty a man who could double for Santa ambled up to Miles. He pinched two chunky fingers into his pocket and removed the tweezers, as his lungs wheezed under the weight of too many Tommy's burgers.
"Took you long enough, Porky. Would you lay off that high-cholesterol junk before you're the stiff instead of the one lookin' at um," Miles jested.
The thirty year veteran detective pressed his horn-rimed glasses closer to the bridge of his nose and ignored his sidekick's jab, "Whatcha find Miles?"
"Well, it will have to go to forensics, but it looks like an instrument string."
* * *
"I want to take this relationship to the next level…let's meet." Read the computer screen.
Ava responded to the instant message on her computer, "LOL… Sure… When? Were you thinking of a little detour from Venice Italy to Venice CA for lunch today?" she chided.
Yes, now if you have the time…I'm here in LA… The bold blue 12 pt book antiqua print on her screen glared back at her, the cursor patiently blinking in perfect time.
Ava stared blankly at her laptop. Although it occurred to her that one day she'd meet her on-line acquaintance of one year, she didn't think it would be today. They emailed each other almost daily and Fed Ex'ed various items over continents. Some very serious conversations about personal experiences cropped up during their pseudo relationship. Nothing was held back, they talked often, open and freely. Though half a world away, she considered him a friend and someone whom she could confide in. However, they never said anything about meeting.
Lucio Amati, an antiques dealer from Venice, Italy, bid on a number of items she auctioned on Ebay. Ava continued the family business, a small antiques shop her father started thirty years ago in Venice, California. If it weren't for the promise to her father and the honor of his legacy, she would have closed the little shop long ago. Now, most of her business was conducted over the internet, and that's how she first encountered Lucio.
The phone rang, startling her out of context.
"So Ava, I'm waiting… can ju meet me for lunch?" The voice on the line sounded like chocolate wrapped in satin. Deep and rich, it had a hint of Italian flavor to it.
Heavy cloud cover outside caused the light in the room to fade. The robust clash of thunder signaled a deluge. A dark figure in a trench coat rushed to the door, barely escaping the downpour. Tall in stature, he ducked his head while crossing the threshold to her shop. Midnight hair and olive skin were the sensuous accoutrements to a beautiful sculptured face. He looked like a depiction of Adonis straight from Southeby's. With a cell phone in one hand and bouquet of flowers in the other, he walked to the center of the room. From the moment she first saw him move towards the shop his gaze didn't waver. The directness of his eyes sent a wary tingle down her spine. He looked oddly familiar.
He spoke into his Helio. "So, what do ju say? Can ju lunch with me today?" The voice rivaled the one at her ear…
A couple of steps and the only thing between them was the eighteenth century mahogany table which served as her desk. Long genteel fingers delicately grazed the glassy surface.
"Ava?" Her name left his lips like a melody.
Realizing she hadn't spoken, Ava released the breath she held and parted her lips to answer. "Lucio?" she paused. "Lucio Amati."
His gray-blue eyes deepened a shade. "In the flesh."
Amati in Armani…Warm, funny and charming during their internet affair, it was a nice surprise to find him aesthetically pleasing as well.
A rush of marigold greeted her as Lucio thrust forward the flowers in his hand. Their vividness almost appeared surreal. She took them from him more in unconscious reaction to them being offered, than actually accepting them.
"I…I" mumbled Ava, still trying to discern what turn of events brought Lucio to her door.
"You…You, were going to…" He nodded and circled his finger in air suggestively. "I believe you were going to say, Yes…No?"
Ava stood up and put her free hand out. "I'm sorry, Lucio. I'm just so surprised to see you here-please to finally meet you in person."
One corner of Lucio' mouth curled a little higher than the other as he smiled. "He took her proffered hand and drew it to his lips. "No, Ava, the pleasure is all mine."
The kiss caused a surge of electricity which coursed through her body like wildfire and a maelstrom of images came with it. Some of the visions were glorious and sensual, while others recalled nothing but pain. They played across her mind with no rhyme or reason; a day in grassy fields with the soft soprano of a violin; the soothing caress of adoring fingertips; a gentle kiss to her breast as it swelled with song; bloodstained hands; cracked bones and a hanging corpse. Harmony became discord and happiness turned to sorrow…
He released her hand, she felt drained as if she'd toiled through a day of hard labor. The mental pictures evaporated into thin air and the evidence disappeared from her mind. Ava smoothed her brow with her trembling fingers and tried to focus. She blinked lightly and pressed a flat palm over her chest.
"Oh Ava, it's me…really. Be comfortable. I know you have some funny little story to tell me…no?" The warmth of his smile reflected in his voice. "Each day, I wait anxious for your next message."
Ava gave a carefree chuckle despite the knots coiled in her stomach. "Me too…It's different to talk in person, I'm unscripted. I had no idea you would make your debut today."
"Ah-there's the Ava I know. I almost forgot. I have something for you. I decided to deliver it in person." He pulled something from his breast pocket. "Close your eyes."
Her brow furrowed, but she couldn't resist following his command. A lithe object was dropped into the palm of her hand and she opened her eyes again. To Ava's surprise it was the fourth sound peg to her Baroque violin, its mother of pearl inlay an intricate and colorful adaptation of vining flowers. In a quest that involved searching thousands of antique stores, websites, and every bazaar between Venice and Moracco, she had never come across the lost item.
"Good Lord, Lucio where on earth did you find this?" she exclaimed.
"That my sweet angel you'll only find out once you've agreed to lunch with me. I hoped it would encourage you to play again." His soft voice urged. "Yes Lucio, I'll join you for lunch," he answered for her. "And most young ladies would at least give a cavalier gentleman a hug for such a gift …"
"Gift-Oh no, Lucio. I could never accept a gift like this. I'm sure I can hardly pay for it but I'd like to try."
"Payment, I told ju is a hug."
Lucio spread his arms wide. His alluring gray eyes were humorous and tender. How could she deny him a simple hug? She made her way around the table and glanced up at him before sliding her arms around his soft cashmere trench coat. Her head fit snugly beneath his chin. Gathered into the circle of his embrace, he hugged her to him and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. His presence was both reassuring and unsettling. The hug felt like finding something lost, gaining something coveted…coming home. The hollow sound of his breathing grew with the wind and showers outside.
You don't know how long I've waited to hold you.
Ava heard the words as if they were spoken aloud, yet she knew they were not.
The pounding showers outside ebbed to light droplets until the rain ceased.
Ava backed out of his embrace. "I'll get my things." She slipped the peg in her pocket and went to get her purse.
"Renaissance Antiques," occupied the middle position in a row of six quaint shops one mile shy of the beach. They exited the tiny store on Rose Avenue and Ava locked up. A sharp whistle sounded over the lunch hour traffic as Lucio called his livery.
Dark and sleek, the late model Lincoln town car pulled away from the curb several car lengths away and rolled up in front of them. The tinted windows on the limousine rendered the driver indistinguishable. All Ava could make out was the silhouette of his dark rimmed sunglasses. The driver side door opened and the chauffeur's head popped up into view, affording her a glance at his profile. Hollowed and pale his face looked gaunt. A large deep scar ran the length of his face. It appeared to be an old wound. Ava made an effort not to gawk at him. Lucio gave a dismissive wave of his hand and driver ducked back into obscurity again. Lucio rushed forward to open the rear door for her.
"Oh, my car's in the back I'll follow you," said Ava.
"Bella please, you are safe with me." Lucio put a hand over his chest in a gesture of sincerity. "Don't hurt my feelings. I'll care for you as if you were my own. We'll be back in a couple of hours." A broad smile tipped the corners of his mouth and she noticed his boyish dimples for the first time.
Ava made a quick assessment. Google had presented several references to "Amati Enterprises" and she looked Lucio up on Intellius.com, nothing out of the ordinary surfaced. His business became the third largest importer/exporter of rare antiquities in 2003. Ava read several articles in "Antiques" about Lucio and his family. Originating in Venice, Italy the hub of ancient commerce, Amati Enterprises thrived for centuries. The Amati name was highly respected. You've been talking to him every day for a year. How often does an elegant, well-mannered man, baring gifts show up at your front door and ask you out to lunch?...Never, she thought.
Curiosity replaced prudence. Ava took his hand and stepped into the car.
* * *
Ava slipped on the vermilion floor length gown Lucio bought her at Vera Wang's in Beverly Hills. She wasn't used to wearing such a bold color but he picked it out and begged her to wear it. During their lunch he presented her with two tickets to tonight's performance of the LA Philharmonic. Her favorite composer and piece were on the program, Maurice Ravel's "Boléro." This proposition was too enticing to pass up. When she told Lucio she'd love to go, but she owned nothing suitable to wear, he promptly escorted over to Rodeo drive for a shopping spree. Generous, attentive and courteous Ava, fell hard for his old world charm. He opened every door for her, pulled out her chairs, and offered his jacket when she trembled under a light breeze. She felt like a princess. I could get used to this.
The clock read "6:08." Hurry. She pulled her long spiraling ebony curls into a twist and let a few dangling strands frame her face. The style would accentuate the backless gown she wore. Ava rummaged through her make-up tray and found a blood red shade of lipstick to match the dress. While she traced the outline of her lips, a flash movement off to the right caught her eye. She turned her head with a jerk as the darkness crept inward from the corners of the room.
Ava was no stranger to odd and unusual. During her years of study at the conservatory, she spent countless nights in the seven by seven foot practice rooms. Pasty laminate flooring, dismal celadon walls, one five by five inch window on a heavy lead door, each small chamber was like a tomb, but they were acoustically sound. The intonation of an instrument or the lack of it could be distinguished. Every student was encouraged to spend more than five hours in seclusion each day if they considered themselves serious about music. She hated those rooms, they were cold…deathly cold. The moment she began to play her violin she could feel it-an unearthly presence, it seemed to stalk her. She changed rooms often, but it made no difference. It followed her and listened to her music. Ava tried to shrug off the feelings which haunted her, yet they grew more intense as her years of study continued and her skills increased. Icy hands wandered over her body with erotic undertones. It scared her. However, she was more frightened to tell her mentor and private instructor, Gilles Laurant she hadn't practiced that day.
It moved again! Her skin prickled. Ava turned around to scan the room, nothing and no one… but the uneasy tingle set root in her spine and its tendrils spiraled outward to engulf her entire body in fear. Her thoughts raced ahead of her staggering heartbeats. I have to get out of here. She raced to the window and saw Lucio exit the dark car. With her pumps in one hand and an evening bag in the other Ava raced towards fate.
* * *
They traveled the rain slicked streets east, past the outline of high rise buildings in Century City to the posh manicured sidewalks of Beverly Hills, continuing into Downtown LA which only glittered under the night sky. The Disney concert hall appeared glorious at night. Its convex stainless steel peaks, juxtapose against the lapis of twilight. Soft amber illuminated the facade.
As they walked towards the entrance, a cotton-haired black man stood to the right of the doors with a tenor saxophone poised to play. Milky white eyes held a faint blue tinge where his irises should be… cataracts. Ava had seen him before and it amazed her how much music he retained by memory. He sold himself as the prelude to each evening's performance. He could get only a dime or two from the wealthy, but he remained loyal to the cause. Ava made sure to leave him more than most, she was always concerned if he got it or if the sighted vultures hanging about stole his till.
She reached down to put a twenty in his case. The blind man looked right at her when she stood up.
"Thanku, Angel." He paused. "The devil's on yo heels tonight and he can seduce you…" Those creamy opal eyes pierced her like a knife. His words facilitated the ritualistic rush of fear that drained the color from her face and settled into her bones.
"Com on' Bella," said Lucio, as he put a hand to the small of her back and escorted her into the hall.
She staggered away, but the blind man's eyes followed her. Just before she crossed the threshold she heard his soulful rendition of Billy Holiday's "God Bless the Child."
Seated and waiting for the performance to begin, they still had a few moments to spare.
"So Ava, you must tell me why you gave up playing? I'd like to now how a sixteen year old prodigy slated for Juilliard walked away?" Lucio said, as he kissed the back of her hand. He leaned forward to give her his full attention. His closeness sent her heart into flutters.
Ava bowed her head and released a sigh. It wasn't a subject she liked to talk about, but he already knew most of the story. Why not tell him the rest. "Well, I told you how I was studying under Gilles Laruant?"
Ava shifted slight before continuing. "I was young, impressionable and infatuated." Her mind wandered as she thought of how it began. "We spent countless years together as mentor and prodigy. He was a demanding and unwavering in his determination to get one of his students into Juilliard. My father fell ill with cancer during my last year of high school and my practice time lagged. Laruant dropped me as a student. I haven't picked up my violin since. My heart used to ache at the thought of what I gave up and how much I loved them both, but years of denial, brought apathy and eventually I didn't think of it anymore. Father died that summer."
Lucio wrapped her arm around his and slipped his fingers between hers intimately, "What a terrible betrayal and I'm sorry for jor loss."
Ava watched as the performers trickled onto the stage and assumed their positions. The light clapping of hands ignited into a thunderous applause as all the seats were filled and finally the very handsome young concert master Gilberto Massa took the stage. Ava eased to the edge of her seat with heady expectations.
The soft song of an obo and the gentle rat-tat-tat of the percussion section started the dance. She closed her eyes and could see the score as the notes performed a delicate ballet in her head. Each wind section alternated the winding melody as the intensity and volume grew…the flutes, the trumpet, and finally the violins chorused. The repetitious music had a rapturous feel which was both sensual and majestic.
Lucio stoked her palm and gave a gentle squeeze to her hand. The symphonic sounds remained at the edges of her awareness, while she was transported to another place and time.
A large ornately carved canopy bed with billowing creamy white curtains stood before her, Lucio lay there naked. The sheets draped one leg and laced between his thighs shielding his more intimate parts from view. Criss-crossed arms hugged the fluffy down pillow his head rested on. A mass of wavy midnight hair contrasted the linens and a few errant curls laced his brow. Sleep softened the lines of his face. His chest broadened with each light breath he took. The shimmering drapes blew to and fro bringing him in and out her range of vision. The wind brushed her naked skin eliciting a response. Ava padded forward, unable to stop herself. She crawled across the smooth expanse of bed, pulled the sheet away and straddled his thighs. Anticipation mixed with dread and a tight knot coiled in her stomach. Lucio blinked twice before opening his eyes. Blue-gray spheres wrought with sadness and suffering implored her. His hands moved to her legs and followed a path that rose and fell with the curve of her hip, smoothed over her slender waist and rounded the swell of her breasts. The touch of his hands had an unbearable tenderness which stirred her soul. Knowing fingers moved over her graceful neck and he laced them through her dark spiraling curls. He pulled her into a kiss which hummed through her veins. Their tongues interlaced in passion's fury. They had found each other again. Poised at her entrance, his velvet shaft filled her as the music's magic grew and her lashes fluttered against his cheek. Lucio drew her into another intoxicating kiss. With each deep thrust the symphonic sounds mounted as her slender legs encased his waist, their bodies joined in an ancient rhythm. They glided as one to climax. Her world tilted on its axis…
Thunderous applause and a standing ovation ended the evening, and brought her back from the realm of fantasy. Two cappuccinos, and a twenty minute drive later, Lucio returned her safe and sound to her front door.
"Thank you for a wonderful evening, Lucio."
"Bella, the pleasure was all mine." his dimples appeared and he drew her hand to his lips.
She thought of the blind man's words, "The devil is on your heels and he will seduce you…" She broke from his trance and fumbled with her keys to let herself in. Ava felt like she couldn't close the door fast enough. Even as Lucio stood on the other side of the door, the dark had come to claim her. It had been there all the time. She just chose to ignore it, hoping it would disappear. Denying his touch was fruitless. A terrifying realization washed over her-I belong to him.
Tap - tap - tap
Ava knew she shouldn't, but she opened the door again and let the darkness in.
"You forgot something…" his eyes held her captive.
One strong arm encircled her waist and the other cradled her head as he drew her lips to his.
"What did I forget?" she asked on a breathless whisper.
"Me." Crushing her to him, he captured her mouth in rapacious
kiss which threatened to extract her very soul. Ava's world went
* * *
She could no longer sense her arms or legs and her stomach felt hollow. Ava slowly opened her eyes and realized she hung upside down from a hook. Oddly, she experienced no pain. Lightheaded and disoriented her blood red body gently swung from the ceiling, as the breeze outside the window filtered in.
Her subconscious became conscious. Gentle hands untied her from the rafters, and he cradled her in arms. She looked into the gray-blue eyes of her lover, her tormentor…Lucio.
"Good morning, my angel."
Ava tried to speak, she wanted to scream but her voice failed.
He placed her soft curves beneath his chin and held her neck with one hand as the calloused fingertips of his left hand worked over her bone-white fingerboard. Strumming left to right, G, D, A, E. He raised a bow. It settled across her strings just before the bridge. A soft vibrato filled the air. The resonance of her voice returned and she sang for him. She felt the manipulation of her body and mind at the hands of a skilled craftsman.
* * *
Several lifetimes ago she came into his care and in one night of fury he destroyed his priceless beauty. Luthier or Lucio as he is now known made a pact with the Darkness. However, transactions with the obscure are never seamless. The inanimate became animate as the devil gave Lucio's obsession a soul of her own. Over the next four hundred years Lucio lived in quest of the soul to his beloved instrument, but she was always just beyond his reach.
Finally, she returned.
The gray-blue velvet of her silhouette coffin surrounded her. "We will make love again tomorrow," said Lucio. His fascination with her was unnatural, but he loved her more than any man ever could.
The icy hand of Darkness touched his shoulder. "If you love her, you should let her go, and you will both be free."
Long callused fingers glided over the soft curves of her blood stained body. A knowing hand trailed the graceful length of her neck until it rounded her shoulder. He allowed it to linger there before following a path that rose with the swell of her breast, tapered to a slender waist and blossomed into the gentle curve of her hip. "I can't," said Luthier. He closed the lid to the violin case and the Darkness claimed her again.
This is dedicated to my violin, Bella, and every musician that provides a soul to the seemingly soulless… They do have souls btw. ;o)
Because I know some of you will ask…
Silhouette Coffin: The shape of a violin case is like a silhouette as it outlines the body of an instrument.
Amati Violins: http://www.theviolinsite.com/violin_making/amati.html