The Painter and the Detective

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
John Pringle goes missing and a detective finds him and something else he didn't expect.

Submitted: June 09, 2012

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Submitted: June 09, 2012



The Painter and the Detectiveby Rolf Luetcke


John Pringle was the name I was handed at my desk for missing persons at the New Orleans police station.

At the time, the name meant nothing to me and I could never have guessed where the investigation would lead, that cold December morning.

That was six months ago and today I sat on my porch, overlooking the grounds of the estate I had bought recently, after my retirement from the police department.  It was an old southern estate along the coast with huge old oaks that made the place look like something out of Gone with the Wind.

I smiled as I sipped the cold whisky sour and admired the red Porsche sitting twenty yards away.

John Pringle had been missing for a week when the report had been phoned into the police department.  Most of my cases were missing teens, who where rebelling from their parents and in a few days they would be traced through their friends.  There was the occasional abduction but most of my cases were drudgery.

I stepped from my desk after a records search with a few leads and went to the old Buick sitting under a big magnolia at the back of the building.

The starter chugged away for what seemed like and eternity before the worn engine coughed to life.  The Buick had seen a lot of use and since I wasn’t out chasing down major felons, I was assigned the crappiest car in the precinct.  A blue haze followed me as I drove to Pringles listed address.

I pulled open the glove compartment and took out a package of gum and wished it were a cigarette.  I was trying to quit for the umpteenth time and I was determined, this time I would succeed.

Pringle lived in the oldest part of town and the houses grew seedier as I reached the end of the street before it ran out at a huge pile of garbage which slowly spread out into the marsh at the edge of the bay.  Only the occasional house had a number and I had to guess which one was 1302.

There was an old black woman sitting on an overturned washtub under the tree next to the house I guessed was Pringles.

“’Scuse me?  Does this house belong to a Jonathan Pringle?” I asked as I neared the woman.

“Nobody seen him in a week,” she said through a couple of brown teeth still in her lower jaw.  “I is the one called!  Johnnie always took out my trash and he ain’t done it for long time now.  I think somethin’ happened to him.  You from the cops?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am, I’m from the missing persons.  Did Mr. Pringle have any relations or friends he could be visiting?” I asked her.

“Nope, he lives alone.  He got a sister but I ain’t seen her in a year.  He don’t got no car neither an’ he never locks the house.  I caint walk to good so’s I ain’t been to see.  I hope nothin’ done happened to Johnnie!” she said and waited for me to go and look.

The house had once been someone’s dream, an old two story, with a porch along the whole front, both floors.  I noticed that most of the windows had been boarded up with old pieces of wood on the second floor and the downstairs was heavily curtained.

It looked like the property had once been well cared for but had been pretty well let go in recent times and the domestic plants were overgrown with weeds.

I walked up onto the wooden porch and the old boards creaked under my weight.

I used the old brass doorknocker and the sound was startlingly loud.  There was no answer the next two knocks and the old woman called to me “Johnnie never locks his doors!”

I waved thanks to her and tried the chipped glass knob. It turned and the door slowly creaked open.

The air inside was cool but smelled musty.

I stepped in and called out “Hell-o?  Mr. Pringle, this is detective Palmer!  Hell-o?Anyone home?”

My eyes were adjusting to the darkened interior as my words echoed through the house.

I left the door open as I got my bearings.

There were rooms off both sides of the foyer in which I stood.  Old flowery wallpaper covered the walls.  A third door in front of me stood open and there were counters of a kitchen, piled with stuff.

I walked to the kitchen and looked in.  The counters were overflowing with dirty dishes, cans, boxes and bags.  It looked like the owner hadn’t cleaned in here in months and the odor was not very pleasant.  Mold and spoiled food smells had made the whole house smell, off!

“Hell-o,” I called again, not expecting an answer.

I stepped back and opened one of the doors leading from the foyer, another creaking door and a dark room inside.

I reached around the wall and felt for the light switch and flicked it up.

I stood, amazed at the room in front of me.  There were huge paintings standing all around the room.  They were incredibly lifelike and I marveled at the detail in the artwork.

The paintings seemed to share a theme, farms and plantations in various places in the South.

There was a table in the center of the room and on it stood a group of objects I found strange.  I walked in and as I slowly circled the table, I was able to identify some of the things.

Beautiful crystals stood on metal stands and when I’d turned on the light, they seemed to toss the light between them.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen and as I stood, I could feel a strange sensation.  I turned and looked around the room and the paintings seemed to shimmer and almost seemed to move.

I figured I’d have time to check this out a bit more, later.  I was here to find the owner of the house.  I turned off the light and closed the door.

The room on the other side of the foyer was very similar to the first room, except the paintings had a different theme.  These were interior scenes of great halls and manors and in the center of the room was another table with crystals.  The light played with the crystals just like in the first room.

I turned off the light and looked in the other door leading from the foyer and it had the stairway leading upstairs.  I left the door open and walked up to the second floor.

At the top of the stairs there was a long hallway with doors off either side.  Windows at each end were the only ones I’d seen actually open and let in light to see ones way.

I went from door to door and each held more paintings and the table with the crystals.

Each room seemed to have a theme, Egyptian temples and tombs in one, great sailing ships in another and beautiful islands and beaches in a third.

I started back down the opposite side of the hallway and when I opened the first door, I saw the light was on and I quickly looked around the room but saw no one.  This room was different. There were two tables and only one painting.  The one table contained the group of crystals but the other held various brushes, jars of paint and boxes of smaller crystals.

I examined the second table and saw several mortars and pestles with various crushed powders in them.  I saw that the powders were crushed from small crystals of various kinds.

Suddenly I heard a man’s voice and heard a woman’s laughter.  I turned toward the door and there was no one.  I walked to the hall, expecting to see someone coming down the hall, nothing!

Suddenly, I heard a woman’s voice behind me in the room.

Shocked, I spun around but nobody was there.

The hair on my whole body stood on end and my flesh crawled with goose bumps.

Suddenly, I saw a movement and my jaw dropped.  The movement came from the painting!

Inside the painting were two people and they were moving about.  I stood in amazement and figured there had to be some kind of projector, running a film or something.

I walked up to the painting and stood in front of it and I felt very strange sensations, as if a force was pulling me toward the painting.

The people in the image stopped talking and stared right at me.  It was eerie as if the picture knew I was there.

The man in the image suddenly got up and walked right toward me!

In an instant, the man stood inches from me and I backed up a step.

“Who the hell are you?” the man said with irritation.

“Ah, --are you John Pringle?”

“Ya!  What of it?And you haven’t answered my question!  Who are you,” he asked with greater irritation.

I gained my composure and realized I was the police and I was the one who asked the questions.  “I’m Detective David Palmer, from the New Orleans police department.  Your neighbor, Mrs. Ketchum reported you missing and—“

Suddenly I remembered that John Pringle had just walked through what seemed like a painting and I switched gears.  “Hey, how did you do that?” I asked as I pointed to the painting.

“None of your business” Pringle snapped.

“I’m afraid it is my business, and who is that woman you were talking to?”

A total change came over John Pringle, as if all the energy had gone out of the man.

I lead him to the corner, where the only chair stood, and he sat down heavily.

Over the next couple of hours the story unfolded.

Pringle had inherited from an uncle and the house was part of the estate.  He had worked in a dead end job for minimum wage, always a dreamer.

He believed in the energy and power that crystals possessed and when he came into a lot of money, he had followed his dreams.  He had painted and had collected the finest crystals.

It was by accident that he had discovered the true energy that the crystals possessed.

He was trying to use only natural pigments in his paintings and bought fine crystals and crushed them to use with his oils.

He loved the beauty of crystals and had set up a table with his favorites to give him the inspiration for his paintings.

One day, he was changing the grouping of crystals, for he’d acquired a wonderful new Tanzanite crystal of exquisite proportions.  He bought a special halogen light for its brightness and that was when things got weird.

As he painted a flower, the brush somehow seemed to take on another dimension and it actually went into the canvas and painted as if a three-dimensional canvas existed!

He knew it was something odd, when a fly flew into the painting and landed on the flower.

That was when he found out it was a combination of the crystals on the table, the halogen light and the crystals he crushed for his paints.

Somehow, the combination opened a portal into another dimension.  He had no idea how, but it had changed his life.

He lived for his painting and he’d tried it all.  He had painted landscapes and he found he could enter the world of his paintings.

Finally, he had found what he’d always dreamed of and that was where I had stumbled in.

He finally painted the one thing he had never had, a woman.  He painted his ideal woman and it had changed his life, for the first time, he was truly happy.

He was afraid I would destroy the happiness he’d found.

I left him sitting in the chair as I walked from the room and to the window at the close end of the hall.  I pried at the rusty hinges and the window creaked open and I stood in the window and looked out onto the swamp nearby.

Lots of things went through my mind as I stood in the window and suddenly a big smile came to my face and I turned and walked back in the room.

Pringle still sat in the chair, head in his hands.

I walked up to him and cleared my throat.

He lifted his head and got a puzzled look on his face as he saw my smile. 

We talked and as I told him my plan, his face became animated and his color came back.

As we finished our business, he jumped up from the chair and gave me a big hug.

I walked out the door and as I closed it, I could hear Pringle shout for joy.

That was six months ago and as I sipped my drink, I suddenly broke out in laughter.

You see, my case was solved, Pringle was not missing and in a couple of weeks, I turned in my resignation.

I sold off the few things I owned and started looking for a real place to live.

I made a deal with John.  He could have his happiness, uninterrupted, except for a few favors for me.

Pringle painted a roomful of paintings, just for me.  He had found that the objects he painted were real, as real as the world we lived in and I had him paint for me a room of wealth.  A room where the paintings were full of jewels, gold, silver, jewelry, everything one could turn into cash.

It took a little time for him to do this for me, but in return I told no one of his secret.

He was good, real good!  And the first handful of gems I had taken all the way to New York to sell and was very nervous as I took them to the jeweler but he loved them and asked me to bring him more.

It established a pipeline for me to sell the stones and I found several other people who took the jewelry and precious metals.

Before long, I had what I needed and I found the estate.

John had his love and I had my wealth.

I had no idea what John Pringle had discovered or how it worked but the detective job I’d been stuck in was going nowhere and I had wanted out.  He was my door, or painting and I had used it.

I sat back on my porch and watched the lovely sunset.

Pringle had built me a room in my new house, with paintings of just the kind I needed to sustain my new lifestyle and the crystals and lights to make it work.

As the sun touched the swimming pool with its last rays, I laughed and called for Barbara to get out of the pool and join me with a drink.  As she came up the steps from the pool I admired her lovely figure and the skimpy bikini that showed it off.  I silently thanked John Pringle for having made it possible.  I hoped he was as happy as I was.  My one suggestion to him had been to lock his doors from now on so he could enjoy his life without interruption.




Copyright Rolf Luetcke


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