“He doesn’t look like a serial killer.”
“Neither did Ted Bundy.”
I looked at Detective Lilith Keid. “Despite the fact that a lot of people thought he was handsome and harmless, there was something that was off about Bundy. There was always a malevolent look in his eyes.”
“And nothing seems malevolent about this guy?”
I looked back into the interrogation room and studied the well-dressed man sitting at the table. Compared to the man, the room was cold and dark. Maybe it was his slightly sun kissed skin, but he radiated warmth like a fire on a cold winter day. He was wearing a crisp charcoal gray button up shirt that looked ten times more expensive than everything I currently owned. The shirt clung to his body, showcasing his buff arms and chest but leaving the imagination to hunger for more. His dark blonde hair was the stylish bed head look and I could see a black faceless watch on his left wrist and a silver ring on his right ring finger.
He exuded calmness.
He didn’t look like a serial killer.
And he didn’t act like a criminal.
Most criminals know that someone is watching them through the mirror and guilty parties often sneak nervous glances at it from the corner of their eyes. A few brazen souls stare directly at the mirror trying to make the observer on the other side uncomfortable, but the gentleman that sat in the interrogation room stared at the table as if he was reading an imaginary copy of the day’s newspaper.
“No. All I see is a well-dressed man that I hope would give me the time of the day but would more than likely walk right on by me to an über model girlfriend or some up and coming starlet.”
“Girlfriend like Noah’s wife?”
I nodded without tearing my eyes off the man.
Noah was my assistant, my right-hand man, and someone I considered a dear friend. He could pass for a nerd alter ego any day of the week but never his superhero alter ego. He was passionate about forensic science, books, art, and comics. He was the embodiment of nerd and geek and was proud of it. His wife was a model. She jetted off to catwalks in every fashion capital, but she and her heart were hopelessly devoted to Noah. They had met while he was covering a breaking and entering at a fashion mogul’s store. She was smitten from day one and even after three years of marriage, she still looked at him with giant red hearts in her eyes. It aggravated Keid to the point of frustration and anger. Like Noah, he was just as passionate about things and had a confident swagger that I watched melt the hearts of every young police officer that crossed his path. The difference was that Noah Grant had scored the babe and Lilith Keid had scored nothing but more work. If he ever stopped working around the clock, he would be a catch.
“What’s his story again?”
“Your boy Noah,” Keid answered, “called me last night and said on my way to work that I should pay the gallery he was at a visit.”
“Why didn’t he call me?” I asked, feeling anger seep into my bones.
Keid looked at me. “Your exact words to us before you left were, ‘under no circumstance do you interrupt my four hours of sleep for anything.’ So, he didn’t, and I didn’t.”
Anger still kept seeping into my bones. “Anything with this case is an exception to the rule.”
Rocking back on his heels, Keid sighed, “Now you tell me.”
With a sigh, I felt my anger stall. He and Noah knew that sleep evaded me just like our ritualistic serial killer. As the killer left a trail of dead bodies in my waking hours, my sleeping hours were filled with their nightmares. If I slept, the victims haunted me. I could only blame myself for the nightmares. I never wanted to desensitize myself to the horrors of work. I wanted to remain as human as possible even if it would drive me insane. I had to understand the victim as much as I had to understand the perpetrator. As I stood in the observation room, I was sure I was on the cusp of a mental breakdown. “Continue with his story.”
“Corvis Gregory,” he resumed. “Again, your fellow lab rat was at a showing last night and saw our crime scenes hanging on the wall. Noah conveniently waited until the gallery was closed to call me.”
“Seven Luminaries Galleries?”
Keid nodded. “How did you know?
“He and Hope are on the board of the gallery. It’s their couple project.”
I nodded. “It’s the one thing they do together because they both love art. He would not do anything that would threaten that project.”
Keid sighed and pushed a hand through his dark brown hair. “I’ll take that up with him later,” he said. “Anyway, I visited the gallery on my way to work and it was enough to make the hair on my neck stand. Corvis wasn’t there but I flashed my badge and got his number. I politely asked him if he’d come down to discuss his art.”
“Polite enough,” he answered.
“I want to interview him,” I demanded without looking at him.
“Absolutely not,” he replied. “Pulling the detective card on this one.”
I felt myself sigh.
The detective card was his way of saying, I’m the homicide detective and you’re the forensic scientist. We pulled our respective cards to civilly say, I do my job and you do your job without causing a rift between us.
“Anything else on him?” I asked as I tore my stare away from the man and looked at my co-worker. “Why didn’t you bring in the big guns and make a big deal out of this and arrest him.”
“Last time I checked it wasn’t illegal for paintings that are similar to crime scenes to be hanging in a gallery. He could be our guy, or someone leaked photos of our crime scenes. If it is the latter, I can make an ass out of myself without bringing the big guns out for that.”
“You sure can,” I mocked, returning my stare to gentleman.
“And fuck you too. Just for that, forensic scientist, Maia Edwards, will definitely be staying in this very room for the interrogation.”
I flipped him the bird with a smile. “Does he have a record?”
Keid shook his head. “Not even a parking ticket. By all accounts, Corvis Gregory, is a fine upstanding citizen. Right now, the only mark against him is painting crime scenes.”
“Where are his paintings now?”
“Still hanging in the art gallery,” he answered. “Again, no crime of paintings that look like our crime scenes.”
I sighed and returned my gaze to Corvis, watching every miniscule movement of his. “Estimating his height from his current seated position and despite his current muscular exterior, I don’t know if he could have thrown Cam Hile hard enough to cause the damage that was on the underside of the walking bridge.”
“Adrenaline,” Keid suggested. “You know as well as I do that there are confirmed reports of mothers saving their child by lifting a car.”
Glancing over at him, I smiled. “So, you do listen to what Noah says when he spats what you think is useless information at you.”
“I know I’m grasping at straws here,” he replied. “I have three dead victims and he’s got artwork of seven crime scenes in a gallery. He’s either the murderer or a goddamn psychic.”
“Seven,” Keid answered.
“Seven crime scenes?”
“Didn’t you just hear me?”
“Of course, I did,” I answered. “What about the other four? New crimes? Old crimes?”
“If you stop talking, I’ll go find out,” Keid replied.
“What’s with you today? You are crankier than normal?”
Keid shrugged. “No different than any other day. Can I go now?”
“Yes,” I sighed. “Go.”
“Anything you want me to ask him?”
“If he’s not our killer, ask him if he’s single,” I answered.
Keid rolled his eyes with a sigh and left the observation room. Despite what he said, he was crankier than normal. My single comment would have normally gotten a small sigh and a comment about me doing better than what was in front of me.
Grabbing my notebook from the chair near the observation mirror, I sat down and prepared myself for the interrogation. I actually didn’t mind when Keid pulled the detective card. It allowed me an almost microscopic view of the nuances of the person in question.
If Corvis Gregory was my killer, I needed to learn everything about him.
The door of the interrogation room swung open and as Keid walked in, Corvis stood up to greet him. In all my years of being the observer, I could not recall anyone standing to greet the detective. I saw the surprise of manners register on Keid’s face. “Mr. Gregory, thank you for taking my call this morning,” he said as he closed the door behind him.
“You’re welcome,” Corvis replied with a British accent that made my knees weak. “You must be Detective Keid.”
The two men shook hands. They were firm and neither was trying to show dominance over the other.
“Please, call me Corvis.”
Keid nodded. “Corvis, please have a seat.”
He did as asked and looked up at the detective. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
If he was nervous, it did not show. He exuded the same calm I had seen prior to Keid arriving in the room.
“I’d like to talk to you about the paintings in your gallery.”
“Luminaries isn’t my gallery,” he corrected. “I’m just showcasing my art there at the moment. Which ones did you want to discuss?”
“These in particular,” Keid said and opened the folder that he had with him. He put seven photos on the table, sat down across from Corvis and put the folder to his right.
“The Death of the Seven Sisters.”
“The Death of the Seven Sisters,” he repeated. “Besides the obvious, what does that really mean?”
“Do you know anything about Greek mythology or astronomy?”
Leaning forward onto the table, Keid shook his head. “Enlighten me.”
I could not tell if it was a conscious or unconscious act, but Corvis leaned forward onto the table, mimicking Keid.
“Sure,” he replied. “First, you’ll need to know that a lot of astronomy utilizes the names of mythological characters, particularly Greek mythology. There is a Greek myth about seven sisters, the Pleiades, who were put into the night sky, and they became known as the Pleiades constellation. Some just refer to the constellation as The Seven Sisters. Seven stars. Seven sisters from the myth.”
“I got it.”
“My entire series at Luminaries is based off the mythology of the night sky. These seven paintings are named after the Pleiades. I felt the title The Death of Pleiades sounded singular and since there were seven paintings and sisters, The Death of the Seven Sisters suited it better.”
I could tell he was not as fascinated in the details of Corvis’ art like I was. I wanted to know more about the myths and the why and I knew the detective on the other side wasn’t going to delve any further than he had to.
“Where did the idea of the paintings come from?”
“You dreamt of these paintings?” Keid asked.
Corvis nodded. “But I should really call them nightmares. They’re terrible. Like the ones you might have had when you were a child. When you wake shaking and covered in sweat. It’s like they’re real.”
“Real? How so?”
Sighing, Corvis picked up one of the photos in front of him and stared at it. Putting the photo back on the table, he looked at Keid. “I felt that if I could have reached out in this dream, I could have saved her. It was like she was right in front of me, but I couldn’t do anything. It was as if I was there but watching from the other side.”
When Corvis looked at the mirror, I saw the sadness and pain in his eyes.
“It’s like this very moment,” he added. “I am the person on the other side of the glass looking into this room. That’s what these dreams are like.”
Pulling the folder towards him, Keid nodded. He opened the folder and took out another photo and put it next to a photo on the table. He was slow and deliberate with his actions. Never taking his gaze from the man that sat in front of him. “This is why you were asked to come down,” he said. “Three of your paintings look a lot if not the exact same as three of my crime scenes. How would you like to explain this?”
I watched as Corvis slid two photos closer to him. One was of a crime scene and the other was a photo of his painting that matched the crime scene. His sun kissed skin gradually darkened to ash. The warmth that once projected from him turned into devastating grief and pain. I could feel the tightness rising in his chest and the tears hugging the corner of his eyes in my own body. If he was the serial killer, he was the most remorseful killer I had ever seen or felt.
“How can these be real?” he asked, pushing the photos back towards Keid with a trembling hand. “These are my nightmares. They can’t be real.”
“Who else knows about your nightmares?”
Corvis shook his head. “You.”
The artist nodded. “And if there’s somebody on the other side of that glass, they do.” He looked at the mirror and then at Keid again. “I’m a silversmith by trade. I make a decent living doing it. It allows me paint and create art. I use that to escape my thoughts and nightmares. I’ve been doing it since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I’m no Warhol or Pollock. I’m grateful for Seven Luminaries showcasing my art, but I’m just the hip artist they’re behind at the moment. No one gives a shit about my tormented soul or where my art comes from. They don’t ask and I don’t volunteer it.” Corvis sighed and pointed to a photo. “This photo of this dead girl, I’ve been dreaming about for years.”
“As long as I can remember,” Corvis confessed. “She haunts me. She still haunts me. I don’t her name. I’ve never seen her face until now. I stand in a dream and all I can tell you is that she’s running as fast as she can. In my dream, I can feel the pounding of her heart in my chest. She’s afraid of who’s chasing her. I feel her fear running through her veins. In my dream, I see her being pushed onto the ground. I feel her wrists as they snap from trying to break her fall.”
“And you paint that?”
Corvis nodded. “They’re my nightmares. They can’t be real.”
“They’re real Mr. Gregory and I need to verify your whereabouts on some dates.”
“Of course. Whatever you need.”
Keid nodded and stood. “I’ll be right back.”
I watched Corvis as Keid left the interrogation room. Emotional and spiritual pain reverberated from his soul like death bells on a rainy day. It seeped through the air like the smoky fingers of encroaching fog, and I hoped he would not be lost in that fog of agony.
“Anything?” Keid asked as he walked into the observation room.
I shook my head. “I’m going to the gallery.”
“I need to see the paintings in person.”
“You haven’t looked at the photos I took?”
“No,” I answered. “I needed to be unbiased in my observation of him. You know that’s how I work.”
Keid let out a low and irritated sigh that drove tiny needles of anger into my skin. “I give you the closest thing we have to a lead in this case and you don’t even bother to look because you want an unbiased fucking opinion?”
Turning, I faced Keid. “You do your job your way and I do my job my way. I’m not sorry I pulled the forensics card on this one.”
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