Melody in Red

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
an eccentric painter's wife goes missing.

Submitted: July 10, 2017

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Submitted: July 10, 2017



A loud knock came at the door. I sat up startled in my armchair; I must have dozed off, and looked at the clock: 9:16 PM. Who in the world would be calling at this hour? I stood up, rubbed my eyes, straightened my tie, and walked out the door of my study, down the hall towards the foyer. “Be right there,” I called. On my way down the hall, I passed numerous paintings that I had painted over the years. Various masterpieces that I had won awards and endless praise for, and a few not-so-well-known pieces that collectors would pay a heavy sum to get their hands on. Suffice it to say, I used to be quite the artist. But my creativity has waned in recent years, perhaps due to age, or perhaps the muse has simply left me. Certainly, I was wealthy enough for ten lifetimes, so money is not an issue. But to be cast out of the spotlight can have a certain effect on a man.

I reached the front door and peered through the curtains into the rainy dark. The flashing lights of a police cruiser were unmistakable, and two officers were standing on my doorstep, waiting patiently. The one to the left was taller than me, pale and clean-shaven. The other was shorter, but not “short”, with a dark mustache. I opened the door, and a rush of cold, damp air met my face. “My apologies, officers, I was in my study. Is there something I can help you with?”

The shorter one spoke first. “Sorry to bother you at this time of night, Mister…Irving, is it?” I nodded. “Right. My name is Officer Mendez, and this is Officer Schrute. We’re here to ask a few questions, about the disappearance of your wife.”

I felt my heart grow heavy. My wife, Melody, had been missing for nearly 2 weeks now. Considering most of her belongings were gone, I had assumed she had left me for another man in the middle of the night. Certainly not something to report to the police, but since her disappearance I have not been the same. I turned to drinking (more than usual, in any case), and most of my nights consisted of fuzzy memories and empty bottles of Scotch, rather than trying to mend my broken career or actually find my missing wife. But what was there I could do? If she no longer loved me, what was the point?
“I see,” I said with a heavy sigh. “Please come in.” I stepped out of the doorway and allowed the two officers to pass into the foyer. “If you would be so kind, please do remove your shoes. The maid will not be here until tomorrow, and I would rather not have mud in my home.” The officers exchanged glances, and reluctantly removed their boots. “Thank you. We can talk in the living room. Please follow me.” I beckoned the officers to follow, and we passed from the foyer into the hall.

“You have quite a stunning home,” Officer Schrute said. His voice was deeper than I had expected. “What is it you do?”

“I am a painter - well, ah, was a painter,” I corrected myself. “I have not finished a new piece in quite some years. You can see some of my old works on the walls.” I gestured to the paintings hanging on the walls. The officers stopped to look at a piece – Removal of Paradise; I won an award for that nearly 20 years ago.

“You have quite some talent,” Officer Mendez said as he eyed the painting up and down.

“Thank you,” I said, trying to sound sincere. “Please follow me.”

We continued down the hall into the East Wing of the mansion, until the hallway opened up to the high ceiling of the living room. The walls were adorned with various paintings, as well as animal trophies from my hunting expeditions in Africa. I heard Schrute give a long whistle. I gestured towards the chairs near the fireplace, which was currently not lit. The two officers sat down as I walked over to the mantle and grabbed a decanter of Scotch. I removed the crystal stopper and poured a glass for myself. “I’m afraid I don’t have any drinks to offer, apart from liquor,” I raised the decanter towards the officers. “Care for a glass?” The officers shook their heads in unison, as I suspected they would. “Very well,” I said as I sat down in a chair adjacent to the two policemen. I sipped from my glass of Scotch, and set it down on the table. “Now then, what is it you’d like to know? There isn’t much to tell, I’m afraid.”

Officer Mendez was the first to speak. “We are here because the parents of one Melody Irving contacted us regarding her disappearance. She has not been heard from in nearly two weeks. When was the last time you saw your wife? More importantly, why did you not contact the authorities upon her disappearance?” As he spoke, Schrute pulled out a small tablet and pencil and awaited my response.

“Ah, let me see,” I began, “It was indeed two weeks ago; the 23rd to be precise. That was the last time I saw her. Quite an uneventful evening as I recall.” I looked out the window as I spoke. The rain pattered lightly upon the glass. “Her belongings were gone the next morning, as was she. I assumed she had left me for another man. We had been having some…issues at the time. I didn’t think infidelity or eloping was something to bother the police with.”

Schrute scribbled on his notepad as Mendez went to speak again. “I see. And did any of these “issues” ever escalate to violence?”

My mouth stood agape at such a question. “What? How dare you! Of course not! I…I loved my wife. I loved her very much. I would never hurt her. We just…started to grow distant. We started talking less and less. I spent long hours alone in my study, painting, drinking, or both. It came to a point where we hardly spoke at all, or even saw each other. Then, one morning she was gone.” I expected tears to come, but none came. My gaze came back from the window to meet Mendez’. “That’s really all there is to it. I’m afraid I can’t help you beyond that.”

Schrute finished scribbling notes onto his pad, and Mendez nodded. “I see. If what you’re describing is true, it certainly sounds like she left of her own volition. Perhaps she didn’t tell her parents out of fear they would disown her for her infidelity.” He scratched his mustache. “I’m sorry for what you’re going through. If you would allow us to look around, it might help us to find her, and give you some closure.”

I sipped my Scotch. “I’m not sure what good that would do, officers. She left nothing behind. She took her things and left no note.” I paused and thought again. “But if searching the grounds would clear any suspicion you might have of me, by all means, feel free to look around. I have nothing to hide.”

Mendez nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Irving. We won’t be long. We’ll just do a basic sweep and look for any clues she might have left. Perhaps you missed something.”

I sighed and nodded. “Anything you find would be helpful. Though at this point I’ve given up any hope I had. If she wanted to come back, she would have by now.”

I finished the last of my Scotch and beckoned the officers to follow me back to the foyer. I would let them begin their search from there. On our way back to the foyer I noticed Schrute peering into a room – my studio. I must have neglected to close the door completely. “What’s in here?” he asked.

“That’s my studio,” I said, uninterested. “Do look around if you wish. I’m working on a new piece, please do not touch it, if you would be so kind. It’s still wet.”

The two officers stepped into my studio, and I followed behind. The studio was disheveled and messy – I had instructed the maid to never enter the room without express permission. The officers stepped carefully over various brushes and rolls of canvas that littered the floor. “My apologies for the mess.”

The officers walked to the center of the room where an easel stood, propping up my latest work. They eyed the painting up and down. “You painted this?” Mendez asked, sounding astonished.

“Well, it is currently unfinished, but yes,” I responded, “in memory of Melody. I’m thinking of calling it Melody in Red.” The unfinished painting depicted a beautiful young woman in a red dress, seated at a grand piano. Her auburn hair shone brilliantly in the sunlight.

“It’s beautiful,” Mendez said, sounding quite sincere. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it…” his voice trailed off and his brow furrowed as he stared at the corner of the painting, down where it was unfinished. “What kind of canvas is this? It’s quite strange. Almost like leather.” He went to touch it but I stopped his hand.

“I believe I asked you to not touch it. It is very delicate.” He looked offended that I had touched him. “The canvas isn’t actually canvas at all, it’s a rare kind of leather made only in a certain part of…” I trailed off. Why couldn’t I remember? I had just ordered it last week. “Well, the region escapes me, but I had it imported.” I turned to walk out of the studio and beckoned the officers to follow. “I’m afraid you won’t find anything in here of interest to your search. I never allowed Melody in this room. You may begin your search in the foyer, and go from there.”

The officers followed me to the foyer where we began. Once there, I turned to leave. “If you require any assistance, I will be in my study. Down the hall, last door on the left. Happy hunting.”



Several hours later there came a knock on the door of my study. I stood from my armchair, walked to the door and opened it to find the two officers standing there. The expression on Mendez’ face was difficult to read. “Sorry to bother you Mr. Irving, but would you kindly follow us?” Confused, I nodded and followed them.

They led me down to the cellar. I rarely came down here, unless I needed a fresh bottle of Scotch. It was damp, cold and dark. Cobwebs dangled loosely from the ceiling, and the dust of untold years gathered thickly on the ancient wooden shelves. The two officers led me over to a patch of floor where the wood looked much newer than the surrounding panels. I stared at the patch, perplexed. When had that gotten there? The officers looked at me for a moment, then Mendez spoke. “What happened here?

I stared at the spot for a moment, brow furrowed. Why couldn’t I remember? Surely this must have been recent. I felt the officers’ eyes on me as I continued to think, until it finally hit me. “Oh, yes, I came down here for a bottle of Scotch last week, and my foot went through a rotten board. I hired a man to fix the damned thing. Carpentry isn’t exactly my cup of tea.”

The officers looked unconvinced. “Right then. Mind if we take a look underneath?” Mendez said bluntly. I was about to decline, but I could tell by the look in Mendez’ eyes there was no saying no.

“I suppose so, but will you compensate me for a second repair job?” Mendez nodded as he gestured to Schrute, who left the room. He returned a few minutes later with a crowbar. He jammed the bar between the planks and pried upwards. There was a loud crack! as the board gave way, and soon enough Schrute had most of the boards up. Beneath the planks was loose dirt. “There, you see, nothing out of the ordinary.”

Mendez was uninterested and began to clear away the loose soil with his gloved hands, until he hit something. He pulled up a large, filthy burlap sack. The bottom was covered in dark stains, and a sudden, horrid stench filled the air. I gagged and dry-heaved at the smell. “What in the hell is that?” I asked incredulously.

“I have a feeling I already know,” Mendez said gravely. Suddenly Schrute was standing directly behind me as Mendez untied the sack and spilled its contents onto the floor.

What was unmistakably human body parts fell onto the ground with a sickening splat. Last to roll out of the bag onto the floor was a head, still clad in long auburn hair. I stared in speechless horror at the grotesque, twisted visage of what once was my wife, her face locked in an eternal scream, eyes rolled up into the back of her skull. I wanted to scream, but nothing came. As I stared in wordless shock, I felt Schrute grab me roughly by the arms and lock my wrists with the cold metal of handcuffs. Mendez, a look of disgust on his face, turned away from the pile of body parts that was once Melody, and walked over to me.

“Daniel Irving, you are under arrest for the murder of Melody Irving. You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”

His voice droned on as he read my rights to me, but I did not hear. Lost in my own mind, trying to figure out what happened, trying to figure out who could do this to my beloved wife, when suddenly it all came flooding back. All the memories I had locked away, pretended never happened, came rushing back to me. That’s right…

It was me. I did it. I wanted to create a masterpiece.

She was yelling at me, screaming, throwing things. Told me she didn’t love me anymore. I just wanted her to shut up. Why wouldn’t she shut up? I had to make her shut up. So I grabbed the heavy cast iron skillet off the stove. Smashed her over the head. She fell crumpled to the ground like a lifeless doll. A deep crimson puddle began to pool under her auburn head.

Oh, God, what had I done?

But it was too late. Too late for her…But not too late to create a masterpiece. Not too late to immortalize her on the canvas.

But not just any canvas.

So I took the kitchen knife, and began to flay the skin. Ever so carefully, I peeled her skin like one would a potato, or an apple. Then it needed to be dried, cured like leather. So I put the sheet of pale skin into the oven. Low heat. Hours later it was ready. My canvas was ready for the masterpiece. Now I needed paint.

Not just any paint.

I took a glass jar from the cupboard and emptied its contents onto the floor. I then took the kitchen knife and made a large incision into the corpse, and began collecting the blood into the jar. Such a deep red…it would be the perfect color for her dress. I mixed the blood with a red primer so it would not coagulate or brown.

Nearly finished, I just needed a brush. A special brush. I snipped a lock of hair from her auburn head and attached it with rubber cement to a wooden handle. Perfect. I was ready to create a masterpiece.

Our masterpiece. I’ll call it…Melody in Red.

“…willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?”

I regained focus as Mendez finished reading my rights. My vacant, emotionless gaze rose from the floor and met his eyes. After a long silence I spoke. “Certainly,” I said in a cool tone. “Ask away.”

“You sick bastard,” Mendez mumbled, “why’d you do it?”

There was another long pause.

“Simple,” I replied. “To create a masterpiece.”

© Copyright 2018 J.C. Woods. All rights reserved.

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