Unravelling Daimon

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A supposedly successful businessman has made a supernatural deal for success which has now failed him. His body literally begins to unravel mystically as detective Jason Midnight tracks him through to his death.

Submitted: March 05, 2012

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Submitted: March 05, 2012

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Unravelling Daimon

 

 

 

 

 

I sink practically up to my neck in a padded black armchair in the study of Raymond Deniset’s Wellington Crescent mansion. Wellington Crescent – where the garages are bigger than the entire house I rent no more than the second floor of. Only the people the rich consider rich live along this winding stretch of the most desirable river front property. I am as out of place in this building as a cigar in a perfume factory. Deniset is a former client. What could possibly have made him want to hire me again?

“It’s your fault I’m in this mess, you know,” the millionaire tells me. Not knowing what the man is talking about, I smile, but keep my eyes hard. “If it hadn’t been for you, I would never have married the girl. But you panicked me.”

“I have that effect on people.”

“Precisely why I want you here tonight.”

 

***

 

One night in a dream, Daimon Grainger descended deep into the cellars beneath his factory and discovered a passageway to a cave. Within the cave, beyond the ornamental pillars pretending to hold up the world, Daimon found a nineteen foot round carven image of the Mask of God. Growing out of either side of the Mask were two human faces – one good, one evil. Daimon chose one of those faces – then slid the mask over it.

 

***

 

“ – a man whose life, for all important purposes, is a complete and total fiction. Oh, Daimon, I’m so glad you’re finally here!” Deniset enthused. “I was just introducing Mr. Midnight to the crowd. Please. Come and take this seat by me.”

Daimon Grainger wore his outward facade like a beetle’s hard black carapace. His hair was slicked to his scalp as smooth as a skull cap. His complexion was waxy, perfectly smooth. He exhibited no evidence of facial hair, except for a thin black moustache that might just as easily have been painted on. His eyes gleamed like glassy marbles. His smile was constant – teeth blindingly white and perfectly shaped as Chicklets. He arrived late, carrying his own time with him in a manner that made other clocks inapplicable to his movements. He entered Deniset’s dining room well after the other twelve guests had been seated and started their crab bisque. He took his place at the head of the oval table on Deniset’s right hand as if he, not Raymond, owned the house. He moved and spoke with an effortless grace passionately envied by every other man in the room – except Midnight. Grainger charged the atmosphere about him with a visible aura of affluence. Yet he did not even appear to breathe.

Grainger completely ignored Deniset’s remark concerning Midnight, as well as the subject of the remark. Daimon immediately embarked on a divergent conversational course of his own which he expected everyone else to follow – urbane, intelligent, energizing to all who listened. The ambience in the room, which had been frosty blue with tension, grew warm with a reassuring glow of confidence as soon as he arrived. Grainger exuded a complete confidence in himself and what he did, a confidence the other younger men in the room yearned for desperately.

From Grainger’s first topic of conversation flowed the second; soon all the men comfortably and loudly declaimed their own perceived self-worth – but every man there kept one hopeful eye always cast in Grainger’s direction, seeking Grainger’s approval. He never looked as if he disapproved – so before long, Deniset’s dinner party was a raving success, the credit due to Grainger. Everyone except Deniset himself forgot that Midnight still sat quietly in a corner of the room, not eating, not drinking, smoking silently, watching them. Exactly as Deniset had planned.

Later, the fourteen men and Midnight retired to one of Deniset’s spacious living rooms, carrying on the final word in the arbitration of the free world’s economic and political fate. The thirteen guests and Deniset smoked and drank freely, eventually cloaking the detective behind a cloud of tobacco fog and social unsuitability. Midnight did not take part in the activity beyond the movement of his eyes.

Daimon Grainger did not speak in the same manner now as he had on his arrival. But he did something even more important in the opinion of the younger guests. He singled them out one by one and listened to them. Daimon Grainger’s opinion and Daimon Grainger’s opinion only was the final word on any subject dealing with all that truly mattered – money. And power. But money was power, so where was the distinction? And even though Daimon Grainger never actually offered his opinion, it was always tacitly assumed. Before the evening was over, the twelve young men felt themselves to be new gods. But the old god was still the man to decide when the party ended.

Daimon Grainger’s face suddenly lit up, and he began to joke again. Everyone naturally roused, beginning to rustle themselves together to leave. The signal had been given. No one noticed Midnight as he blended perfectly into this activity, stubbing out his cigarette, rising from his chair in the corner, tightening the belt of the trenchcoat he had never taken off. He walked forward unnoted from behind the screen of smoke and class distinction, moving effortlessly as a ghost through the stretching, back-patting crowd. He walked straight to Daimon Grainger, who did not notice his approach until it was too late.

Grainger suddenly found himself staring down into the eyes of the slight, dark haired figure of the detective. Where Grainger’s eyes were glass, Midnight’s were fire. Grainger’s smile was fixed and cold; Midnight’s lips twisted in a vital, knowing smirk. Grainger pulled up short, startled. Everyone froze at the unexpected sight of his discomfiture.

Midnight calmly reached out to pull at something from Grainger’s shoulder. Grainger flinched, then stared in disbelief at what the detective handed him. A long, curly black thread.

“I’m good at noticing loose ends.”

Midnight sauntered away.

Deniset’s other guests erupted in outrage. Grainger recovered, holding up a hand to calm the crowd. He made a joke about the peasant’s night out. Everyone laughed. The situation was defused. The party broke up, natural and happy.

But when Daimon Grainger arrived at his car on the street, his hand shook so badly he twice dropped his keys in the snow before he successfully unlocked the driver’s side door.

 

***

 

Everyone loved to see Daimon Grainger at the Crystal Casino. The Casino had recently been built on the main floor inside what was easily Winnipeg’s most ostentatious-appearing building – the old Hotel Fort Garry. Equally elegant and glitzy, the gambling emporium had boasted Grainger as a late-night habitué since its opening. He won and lost money with such unruffled and benign calm, he made such an entrancing presence, that when he played, life only seemed worth living when in his immediate vicinity. He never noticed if he won or lost. No one ever noticed how much he lost. Seven of the young men who had been at Deniset’s dinner party the night before were also in the Casino this night. They flocked around his table like a group of awkward and unruly disciples, hanging on his every word, hobnobbing with Daimon Grainger. It was so much more exciting to be seen with Grainger in public than it had been even at Deniset’s party. There would be many arguments after he left as to which of them Grainger appeared to prefer more.

Grainger did not stay long at the Casino. He never did. Forty minutes after he arrived, he wafted away again, the crowd parting before him like the Red Sea.

Just outside the Casino he stopped to look into his wallet. The detective detached himself from the shadows beside the entrance to walk over to him. Midnight’s smirk was even more fixed and certain than it had been the night before.

“It’s getting worse,” the detective said, pulling at Grainger’s shoulder. Grainger jumped, shocked by the man’s proximity.

The sleeve of his suit detached itself from his shoulder, sliding down his arm, the seam having come entirely loose.

Midnight walked on, not looking back, into the noise and brightly lit life of the Casino.

 

***

 

Grainger spoke: “There’s no reason to believe that this would work. Of course, there’s no reason for the other scheme as well.”

“Are you all right, Mr. Grainger?” one of the five men who had been at Deniset’s party and who had met Grainger at the Casino the night before and were now lunching with him at the Executives’ Club couldn’t stop himself from asking. “Your hair seems to be – well, it’s not for me to say. But your suit – “

“It’s an old suit. A new philosophy of thrift I’m experimenting with. You men may want to give the idea some thought,” Grainger observed smoothly, standing up. Everyone laughed. A comment on a subject like that must be a joke. “Pardon me.” He excused himself, maintaining his control with a great deal of difficulty. He managed to prevent himself from appearing to rush to the bathroom. Pushing through the first door to the Men’s Room, then the second, perspiring freely, he rushed to the nearest sink. Running cold water into the black marble bowl, he dabbed at the top of his head. He stared at himself in the mirror. The men were right. No matter what he did he could not get his hair to lie flat. And the suit – !

Ugly loose black threads bristled at every seam.

He gasped aloud as he noticed Midnight’s reflection in the mirror, watching him. The detective leaned on the wall just inside the door. Midnight stared at Grainger’s eyes reflected in the glass, narrowing his gaze. This time the detective did not smile. But as he pushed himself quietly away from the wall, Midnight allowed just the hint of a grin to play across his features.

Grainger whirled to face him, enraged.

But the detective was already gone, the door to the Men’s Room thudding shut behind him.

 

***

 

Three of the men who had been at Deniset’s party, had met Grainger at the Casino, and who had lunched with him the previous day tried to get in to see Daimon at his factory office. They were coldly rebuffed by his personal secretary. “Mr. Grainger has not been into the office for a good many weeks now. We do not expect him this morning.”

The men turned away, surprised and mumbling. A moment later, Midnight, who had been sitting unnoticed in the waiting room, stubbed out his cigarette, put down the newspaper he had been reading, and also left the office.

 

***

 

The next night, Grainger met his lover, a former secretary, at the Pagoda Inn Motor Hotel, as he did every Thursday night. This institution was a far cry from the elegance of Raymond Deniset’s mansion or the Hotel Fort Garry. The Pagoda Inn was a cheap, in-out, no-questions-even-considered sort of joint at the juncture of two busy highways across town from the rich men’s home neighborhood. Grainger always had his girl check in a half hour before he showed himself, always booking the same room on the main floor. He wouldn’t have met her anywhere else. The Pagoda was a byword in Grainger’s circle for discretion regarding their indiscretions.

“Migod! What’s happened to you!” the girl exclaimed when he arrived.

Their room was almost completely dark, illuminated only by the bright street lights and the flashing neon sign outside their window. Silhouetted against this background, Grainger appeared to be a black mass of rapidly unraveling tangled and knotted threads. The girl thrust on the tiny lamp beside the bed, gasping at the sight of his face in the light.

His waxy complexion had hardened and begun to crack off in tiny flakes. His painted on moustache smeared above his lips in a repulsive smudge. His eye sockets were surrounded by black rings, drooping hideously, making the expressionless marbles of his eyes seem more artificial than ever. The eyes themselves looked as if they were about to drop out and roll across the carpet. He still smiled the same smile as ever. But his teeth were less solid – rubbery now – as if they were squeezing out of shape by the weight of his jaw.

She stared for a long moment, then threw off the blanket and reached for her clothes. “I’m getting out of here – I’ve had enough of this.”

“No! Louise, no – I swear! I swear I’ll bring you something next week, something expensive – !” He pleaded with her but could not stop her. She dressed hurriedly, rushing to the door. He tried to hold her back but could not grab hold of her. Struggling, she wrenched open the door, lurching out into the hall. He staggered after her. Breaking free, she ran from his clutching hands, around a corner and down the corridor. He heard an exclamation behind him as he watched her make the turn, but ignored it, shambling insistently after her. Just as Grainger reached the corner, one of the young men who had been at Deniset’s party, the Casino, the Club, and at his office the day before rounded the turn from the other direction. They collided. The young man felt as if the body he ran into had the consistency of a sack of wool – no weight at all and only a stringy bounce for life. The young man swore savagely at the shabby apparition, then in sudden horror recognized him.

“Mr. Grainger! I never knew! You have a girl here too? But – what – what’s wrong, sir? Is there anything I can do? Mr. –“

Garbling an angry noise deep within his throat, Grainger lurched past the stunned young man to stumble on down the hall. Two more turns brought him to the back entrance of the building. He pushed open the door, looking wildly about for the girl. He stopped, in complete and utter terror.

Standing right outside the back entrance, staring at him impassively, waited Jason Midnight. Motionless, the detective stood with his hands in the pockets of his trenchcoat, a cigarette flaring in the darkness from the corner of his mouth.

With an ugly sound of complete capitulation, Grainger sank to his knees.

Midnight ignored him. He took the cigarette from his mouth, exhaled, walked around the kneeling man and into the motor hotel.

Grainger did not move for a long while. Then he raised his head and tried to yell but could not. Staggering awkwardly to his feet, his legs bent in unnatural contortions as they failed to support his weight. Weaving wildly from side to side, he crashed into a darkened alley away from the street lights. He fell against the hard, rough brick walls on either side of the alley. Bits of the thread now unravelling faster than ever hooked onto the slightest protuberance, pulling him faster and faster apart as he ran with desperate determination to reach the dead end of the alley where the garbage cans stood. The threads pulled out of him even more rapidly as his momentum carried him irresistibly forward, the weight of his will alone driving him to the dark wall. All that bound him finally unloosened. His waxen head fell to the hard, dirt encrusted pavement of the alley, smashing into a thousand pieces, revealing the emptiness within. The marble eyes rolled free, careening noisily against the garbage cans, the only parts of Daimon Grainger to complete his journey. They spiraled to a halt, staring up at the wall above the garbage.

Slowly, the Mask of God formed there – and then the mask was removed.

The marbles melted into two glassy puddles in the rubble.

 

***

 

Rich men! They never know what they want.

“I got the goods on that guy and your wife like you asked me to,” I complain, back in Deniset’s black padded armchair. Raymond sits quietly at his desk across from me, studying the newspaper spread out across the blotter, ignoring me completely. I frown. “Show some enthusiasm, can’t you?”

“Why?” Deniset glances up, a wry expression wrinkling his brow. “Because I’m getting divorced? Again?”

I grimace. “You get what you pay for.”

Deniset sighs. “Ohh, it’s not your fault. It’s this newspaper, this story … Have you read it yet?”

“No, I’ve been too busy today tying up your case to find time to read the paper.”

“This Daimon Grainger story … Of everyone I invited here last week he was the only man I completely trusted. I even thought he’d be able to help you pick out the culprit – the young fools tell him everything.”

“What about him?”

“He’s disappeared. Taken off. Run out leaving complete insolvency behind. It’s horrible. He’s driven his company into the ground, ruining it personally, embezzling money to pay his gambling debts and to support his mistress. His wife had no idea. The mistress spilt the story. She apparently felt he was about to go off the deep end the last time she saw him and tipped off the police … To top it all off, the police found a badly decomposed body in the cellar of Grainger’s factory. It’s been there for months. They haven’t identified it yet. You think you know a man …”

“Could the corpse be the guy himself?”

“Don’t be a complete fool!” Deniset snaps angrily. “The body’s been there for months I said. Deniset was here at my party last week, how could his corpse be rotting in his cellar for months if we both just saw him last Sunday?”

“You never know. The shady deals you guys get up to. Which one was he? Last week?”

“The one you found the loose thread on.”

“That guy! I kept running into him all week. Wherever I went tailing that kid who’d been at the party and was boffing your wife, there he was. It was really weird. Gave me a bit of a chill. You should have seen him the last time.”

“So if you kept seeing him all week he can hardly be the corpse in the basement, can he? Oh well. He’s gone now. You won’t see him again. You have the photographs? From the Pagoda Inn?”

“Yeah. You got the money?”

“Of course.”

“It’s a pleasure doing business.”


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