Long Pig Pt. IV – The Delicate Art of Killing Time

15 Oct

Dr. Muriel Pembroke straightened her skirt and smiled, leaning back into the floral cushions of her dainty loveseat. Despite her best efforts, she appeared ill at ease. Though a portable heater buzzed merrily in the room’s corner, she could feel a chill, and try as she might she couldn’t will her shoulders out of their tension. 
“Cold, isn’t it? Do you feel cold?,” she asked. Corinne lazily shook her head.
“I hope it isn’t too distracting. Still getting that damned furnace sorted out. I do apologize.” Corinne smiled generously.
“Does it make you uncomfortable, not having control over your environment?” Corinne asked. 
Muriel tilted her head and gave the question some thought.
“I just feel as though it disappoints people. That disappoint people. If something isn’t right, I feel personally undermined somehow,” she explained. Corinne nodded.
“Even without your office, you’d still have your qualifications, no?” Corinne’s gaze bore through Muriel, unwavering. The doctor laughed curtly and airily, the corners of her eyes twitching. Corinne folded her hands.
“Is it true, perhaps, that you project a desired stability outwards onto your surroundings? Our inner selves can be chaotic. It’s natural to seek security in tangibility. In walls, ceilings…furnaces,” she laughed. Muriel smiled weakly in appreciation.
“Corinne…,” she began. 
“Yes?”
“You’re doing it again.”
“Doing what?”
Muriel sighed. She attempted an air of playfulness, but her eyes belied a soft humiliation.
“I’m your psychiatrist, Corinne. You are not mine.”
Corinne bowed her head gracefully.
“Forgive me.”
Muriel took a sip of water from a nearby glass before straightening her skirt once more.
“Is it possible, maybe, that you’re projecting, Corinne?” she asked, reaching for her compact note pad. “Do you have problems reconciling your thoughts with your environment?”
Corinne inhaled deeply, suppressing a smile.
“Do you ever get the idea that our waking life isn’t real? That our dreams are how we experience reality, and that because they are so maddeningly irrational, so messy…that our subconscious constructs something that makes a bit more sense?”
Muriel lowered her note pad, troubled.
“It’s an interesting theory.”
Corinne dismissively waved her hand.
“I just think it’s a nice idea.”
Muriel waited for her to elaborate further, the buzz of the heater filling the lull in conversation.
“In dreams we inhabit so many different bodies. I like the idea that each human consciousness is untethered, constantly crashing into the physical world, experiencing everything. That in our dreams, we create a fallacy of waking life, of one physical form in a linear, unalterable time frame. We invent the tedious to spare us from the extraordinary.”
Muriel said nothing, could think of nothing to say. Corinne shrugged.
“I just think it’s a nice idea.”

*************************************

Walker sat in his office staring blankly at his computer monitor. In an effort to appear productive he had written the surnames of all of the victims on individual post-it notes and used them to frame his screen. Initially he had attempted to doodle their corresponding animals in a misguided hope that something about their frames or sizes might stand out. However, his limited artistic skills could only afford him a rough doodle of a rabbit before he abandoned the endeavour altogether. The three victims of the most recent tableaux killing had been identified as Dylan Wren, Frank Katz, and Henry Salmon. Walker was beginning to believe there might actually be something to his animal theory. At the very least, the supposed pattern was keeping Conway off his back for the time being. 
From the information Walker had gathered of the victims, all of them seemed to be young, from affluent, middle class backgrounds, and without any fixed address. Most of them were recent university graduates; bright young men with a world to explore, and the safety net of their parents’ finances should they become lost. Walker scratched at the stubble he’d been accumulating over the past week. His sleep pattern was off, leaving him to rush out of the house most mornings without much care given to grooming. His wife assumed the killings were eating at him. Truthfully, Walker was more concerned with how long he could wing this one. He felt he’d been living his entire career on borrowed time. This could be the one that breaks my streak, he thought to himself anxiously.

He leaned back in his chair, rubbing his temples. He was in the process of establishing leads, but he kept coming up short. If the animal names indicated the killer was a hunter, he’d be inclined to consider the weapons used. Maybe he could get a trace on hunting and tackle stores. But the issues with that were manifold. Firstly, there was no apparent correlation between the locations of the bodies so far. Typically they’d been found in victim’s temporary living spaces, weeks after the first few victims had been reported missing. The crime scenes so far had been dotted across states that didn’t even border on one another. Locations ranged from urban to suburban, with no apparent connection between them. So even if he did have a match on a possible murder weapon, it would be lunacy to think he could trace the store. Furthermore, his hunter didn’t appear to use any store-bought items to speak of. All of the lab reports so far had shown that even the goddamn twine he used to string the poor bastards up had been made from the poor bastards that preceded them. Whoever he was, he was using his past kills to claim new ones. Nothing was going to waste. He wasn’t just a hunter, he was a hobbyist.

A dull ache began to pulse just above Walker’s eyeline. A knock at his door strengthened the pain.
“Yeah?” Walker grunted.
Conway opened the door but didn’t enter, his body turned from the door-frame as if about to bolt.
“Come with me,” he said. “We might have something of interest to you.”

************************************

O’Hare leaned against the store-front of Lamb’s Butchers sucking on his cigarette as if to draw patience from it. He glanced at his watch again. There was no sign stating opening hours, and he was beginning to worry that he’d have to call it a close for today. He was antsy. He had nothing on the woman so far, and Mrs. Wolfe was bearing down hard, refusing any further payments until he could provide something juicy. Despicable woman. He’d dealt with some sleazy clients before, but her kind never failed to depress him. She already wanted out of her marriage but was looking for dirt to pin on her husband so that she might weasel a better deal out of him. O’Hare saw it all the time. It never got any less ugly. She had herself convinced that he was boning the butcher. That’s a new one, at least, O’Hare thought to himself, stubbing out his cigarette underfoot. He gives her the pork, and she sells it right back. He smiled at his own joke. The clicking of feminine footsteps roused him from his thoughts. He looked up to see Corinne approaching him. She smiled warmly, tucking a stray hair behind her ear.
“Hope you haven’t been waiting long,” she said, unlocking the door.
“Not at all,” he lied. “Just been admiring the day.”
She observed the bright, cloudless sky.
“It’s a little cold,” she said, opening the door for him and allowing him to pass.
“You can see the sun but you can’t feel it. I like that,” he said.

Corinne breezed her way behind the counter, leaving O’Hare to walk about slowly, peering behind the glass displays.
“You must’ve been having quite a lunch if it kept you out so long,” he mused aloud, still looking over the meats.
“Sorry, I had an appointment I had to run out to. I tried to re-arrange the times but-,” she groaned theatrically. “Disaster.”
He met her gaze at last, studying her face. She was pretty. Good for Mr. Wolfe, if indeed he was porking her. 
“You sick?,” he asked.
“You might say,” she laughed. “Just an appointment with my psychiatrist.”
He nodded knowingly.
“Hacking up slabs of meat all day. Must do something to a girl.” He smiled. Corinne laughed easily, her dark eyes focusing in on him.
“That’s exactly it.” She tied her apron around her waist and roughly tied back what she could of her dark hair.
“So what can I help you with?”
He stroked his chin in a manner he hoped appeared thoughtful.
“I’ve been hearing a lot about the health benefits of offal,” he offered.
“Anything in particular?”
“Maybe start me off slow, get me some liver. My mother used to cook it for us when we were kids. I don’t remember it being too objectionable.”
She laughed politely and disappeared into the cold room out back. She still had some choice cuts on ice in the hopes that Harrison would come by, but it occurred to her that maybe it was a premature harvest. Perhaps the meat wasn’t worthy of Harrison. She’d feed it to O’Hare instead. She knew it was him from a distance. The man who’d been outside her house the night of the exhibition. She was certain there had been nothing for him to see. Still, he wanted something from her, and though she did not know what it was, she would offer a liver at least.

She returned to the front of the shop with the liver resting on crisp, white paper. She lay it down and began to pack it.
“Do I know you from somewhere?” she asked. “You seem very familiar.”
Her eyes honed on his, she continued to pack the meat without looking. 
“I don’t think so,” he said. He voice was steady but his face had paled slightly. “I think I’d remember you.”
He fumbled in his pockets.
“How much do I owe you?”
She placed the liver in a bag and handed it to him, keeping eye contact as she did so.
“Three-fifty.”
He placed the money on the counter while turning on his heels.
“Well maybe I’ll see you again.”
“I don’t doubt it in the slightest,” Corinne said flatly, an empty smile creeping across her lips.

******************************

Walker and Conway stood on either side of the slab as Dr. Kressler pointed towards the familiar gaping wound of the Saliera victim with her gloved hands. 
“You see right here?” she asked, pointing to a dark section of flesh amid the gore.
“What am I supposed to be looking at?” Walker asked.
“Well, it was easy to miss the first time ’round. Let’s be honest, the wound is pretty distracting-“
“Too much focus on the negative space,” Conway said absent-mindedly. Kressler chuckled to herself.
“Reading up on art theory, boss?”
“Whatever helps, Kressler,” he said. She nodded sagely and continued pointing to different areas around the wound.
“OK, well these dark spots here? They’re freezer burns. I’m not saying that our guy scooped the victim out purely just to cover them up, but it’s of interest all the same,” she explained.
Walker rubbed his eyes wearily.
“Kressler, you’re gonna have to forgive me, I haven’t been sleeping great. Why is this of interest?”
Conway stiffened but remained silent.
“Well for one thing we know for a fact that he’s killing them early on and storing the bodies. So he has some mercy.”
“This is merciful to you?” Walker asked, his gaze glued to the massive wound.
“Dr. Kressler may be a sick puppy, Walker, but don’t dismiss this,” Conway warned. “You think maybe he’s transporting the stored bodies to the crime scenes in some kind of…refrigerated vehicle? Would they be frozen in transit?”
Kressler threw her hands up.
“It’s a theory. It would certainly give us something to go on, which would be nice.”
Walker winced.
“You can sleep at home, Walker. When you’re here, you offer input,” Conway said.
“So maybe our guy isn’t just a hobbyist then?” Walker offered. “Not if we’re gonna take stock in the vehicle theory. You don’t just keep freezer trucks around. He has access through work. It’s something he uses everyday, or near enough to it. It won’t stand out, not straight away.”
Conway nodded, apparently satisfied. 
“See if you can follow it, Walker. This guy is laughing it up right now. We’ve got nothing on him. I need you to get me something, understand?” Walker nodded. Conway sighed and smiled appreciatively at Kressler. “Just get me something.”

Long Pig Pt. III – The Sacred Art of Conspiracy

23 Aug

Corinne casually flicked through the contents of her wardrobe, a veritable mausoleum of beautiful pieces she rarely had cause to wear. She did not particularly care about looking beautiful for Wolfe. She knew she was beautiful. She wanted to be well-dressed. Whether or not he thought her beautiful was of no consequence to her. These distinctions meant a lot to her. ‘La Javanaise’ played faintly through a pair of speakers as she inspected the fabric of a forgotten gown, running its folds beneath her fingertips. Deep red chiffon, the threads light and almost rough beneath her touch. She gently slid it from its hanger, before draping it across her bed. It was time to get ready.

***************************************************************************

Peter O’Hare idled in his old, brown Studebaker a few yards from the end of the drive. A paltry ham sandwich in one hand, he flicked through the contents of the information pack he had been given. He chewed slowly, barely tasting the limp, processed meat, and tried to devise a course of action. Unlike the few others that he had come across during his spell as a private detective, he hadn’t entered the field out of some misguided sense of drama and glamour. He couldn’t name one Humphrey Bogart film, and he’d never even heard of Raymond Chandler. What drew him to this line of work, rather, was the sad vindication it gave his overwhelming misanthropy. No one trusted anyone, and no one could be trusted. Once he accepted these truths, he thought perhaps that profiting from it might soften the blow. It did not. But it was a living.

Brushing the crumbs of his dinner from his lap, he decided to exit his vehicle. Parked near a neighbouring home, tucked sufficiently away from the road, he supposed the car’s presence wouldn’t attract too much attention. In any case, he knew he would be quick. Locking the door, he shook a cigarette from its pack and placed it between his narrow lips. He lit it, leaning against the car, looking up at the reddened sky. Sunsets always seem so hellish, he thought. All that gaudy, visceral colour. Like looking up at an open wound, throbbing towards a black decay. He frowned, dipping the cigarette and allowing smoke from its lit end to swirl slowly past his eyeline. He braced himself against an imagined chill, and stepped into the patchy undergrowth separating the two homes.

*************************************************************************

Corinne rarely wore make-up, but delighted in its application. There was a dishonesty about cosmetics that tickled her. The commonality of feminine masks intrigued her no end. The practice was almost frightening. She drew a brush across her cupid’s bow, rounding it into sweetheart curves in the same deep red of her gown. Her eyes were hooded with flicked liner. The result, she thought, was almost grotesque. She became to herself a weary-eyed monster with a ravenous maw, wet with victims past. She smirked. Perfect.

She sashayed into her dining room while massaging a spritz of perfume behind her neck. She paused in front of the Goya print looming over the dining table. Saturn Eating His Son. The wild-eyed deity, hungry and vengeful, fingers viciously dimpling the flesh of his decapitated young. As she observed the print, anticipating seeing the original later in the evening, O’Hare viewed her through his camera’s lens. He swiveled the focus, sharpening her fine features before snapping. As he adjusted for another photograph, she seemed to turn and look right at him. Unshaken, O’Hare continued to watch her with curiosity, ready to sprint back to the car at any moment should it be necessary. She reached behind her neck, finding a bead of perfume, and drew it towards her chest, dragging it across with her wrist. He noticed his mouth was dry and tried to clear his throat. She moved just enough for the focus to soften, and in the viewfinder became a mess of hot, mingling colours. It reminded O’Hare of the sunset. As he pulled focus, he found that she was gone. All that remained in his viewfinder was Saturn Eating His Son. He clicked regardless, and scratched the stubble on his cheek. His head light from the evening heat, he decided to return to his car.

********************************************************************

Corinne exited the taxi at the gallery steps, its granite facade gleaming under white lights. On either side of the entrance hung two large banners, both depicting extracts from The Third of May 1808. The air was heavy and humid and Corinne walked through it as though wading through blood. As she drew her ticket from her purse at the door, she felt the brush of fingertips on her arm. She turned to find Harrison Wolfe, smiling broadly in his fine suit, a glass of wine cradled between his fingers.
“You came!,” he announced cheerfully. Her eyes followed the tilting volume of the wine, praying it would splash his hand so that she could indulge in seeing the red against his flesh. She wanted him stained and welcoming her to clean him with long, deep laps of her tongue. Her eyes followed the curl of his upper lip and her tongue tingled with the desire to lick its curves. She sorely wanted the taste of him.
“Can I get you a glass?” he asked, noticing the direction of her gaze.
“Please,” she replied.
As he turned to signal a waiter, a woman in a deep, peacock blue gown stepped uncomfortably close to him. He started, then artificially relaxed his posture.  He turned once more towards Corinne, momentarily trapped between both women, a silent and helpless mediator.
“There you are,” he grinned, a little too widely. “Germaine, this is Corinne. Corinne, I believe you know of my wife, Germaine.”
“I’m sure she does,” Germaine said coldly, her eyes barely visible beneath her thick lashes and narrowed lids.
“A pleasure,” Corinne said, offering her hand. When Germaine did not offer her own, Harrison slipped a glass of wine into Corinne’s grip and prayed for a relief from the tension.
“So,” spat Germaine. “You’re Harrison’s butcher.”
“Well, not his solely,” Corinne smiled, her teeth small and bright.
“Germaine has taken up vegetarianism,” Harrison coughed. Corinne raised an eyebrow.
“Scientists have recently grown animal tissue in petri dishes,” Germaine said. “I suppose such advances could very well mean the end of your kind in the near future.”
Corinne smiled softly and bathed her lips in wine.
“Oh my kind will never die,” she said. A vein appeared in Germaine’s brow.
“Scientific break-throughs such as these could mean the preservation of our environment. With less land needed for pasture, a great deal of our rainforests will remain intact,” Germaine explained, her head tilting ever higher.
“I don’t think it will take off,” Corinne dismissed.
“Oh?,” Germaine’s eyes narrowed even further.
“Well, to begin, there will always be those who will find excuses to destroy the rainforests,” Corinne shrugged cheekily. “Some people just delight in cruelty. Others just delight in money. Both will outlive us all.”
Harrison looked as though he were seeking another subject of conversation, but remained silent. Corinne turned her gaze leisurely towards him.
“And then there are those of us who will miss the murder,” she said flatly.
Harrison barked an abrupt laugh, cut short by Germaine’s glare.
“Explain,” Germaine said.
“Corinne has a dark sense of humour, perhaps I should have warned you,” Harrison assured. Corinne ignored him.
“I have no desire to consume something grown in a lab, Mrs. Wolfe,” Corinne began, “I wish only to eat that which has lived. I need to know that it has been alive, that it has experienced the world in some way, before offering its flesh to me. It needs to have lived in order to die. It needs to die so that I might live.”
Silence. Germaine gripped her glass tighter.
“So you admit that the slaughter of animals for consumption is murder?”
Corinne shrugged again.
“You could argue the ethics ad nauseum, I’m sure. We must each make our own peace. When I die, I will have my body fed to something else, as a petty thanks for my years of consumption.”
Germaine’s face flushed red.
“That isn’t the same,” she said, her voice sharp. “You get to choose when the animals die. They’re not dying naturally like you will. You’re ending their lives prematurely. It isn’t right and it isn’t fair.”
“Well what would you suggest?,” Corinne said flatly, “That I allow a pig to determine my expiration date?”
The trio descended once more into silence. Harrison, staring at his now empty glass caught the eye of a waiter and followed him, fleeing the scene. Corinne looked directly at Germaine, daring her to break her gaze.
“Please excuse me, I think I’d like to enjoy the exhibition now,” Corinne smiled. “It was lovely meeting you.”
As she began to glide past Germaine, she felt her arm gripped tightly. Germaine shook, clinging to Corinne’s arm, the flesh whitening beneath her grip.
“How dare you disrespect me in front of my husband,” she hissed. “Don’t think for a moment  I don’t know what’s going on. I know exactly what you’ve been doing and while I can’t prove it myself, I know people who can. My advice to you? Stay far away, Miss Lamb.”
With that, she threw Corinne’s arm from her and walked briskly away, leaving Corinne still in the entryway of the gallery.

Outside, O’Hare stalled in his car.

“He’s exotic somehow.”: The Unbearable Whiteness of ‘Hannibal’

9 Jul

As is blatantly apparent from my last two posts, I’m a big fan of the Hannibal franchise. Silence of the Lambs is, and forever will be, one of the most perfect films ever made. Harris’ novels, while sometimes pulpy and increasingly ludicrous as the series advances, are endlessly enjoyable. And now, the recent NBC television series has expanded on the previous books and films, and will comprise the bulk of this post’s analysis.

There are two things that strike me quite profoundly about Lecter as a character and the recurring themes that surround him, and those are class and whiteness. This isn’t surprising, of course. Crime fiction, and especially crime fiction that corresponds and overlaps with horror, is forever preoccupied with issues of class and whiteness. In fact, I’d personally argue that the entirety of what we understand to be contemporary horror tropes involve issues of class, particularly class conflict. Consider the tried and tired trope of middle class youth reveling in the leisure of a rural holiday destination, only to be massacred by working class locals. Tucker & Dale vs Evil lampoons this beautifully. The mere fact that Tucker and Dale bear working class, “hillbilly” signifiers is enough for the holidaying teens to vilify and fear them. Having said that, I am loathe to suggest that such tropes are intent on demonizing the working class, and instead operate within the same systems of circumstance I discussed previously in relation to GLaDOS and, to a much lesser extent, Catwoman. However, that will have to be a post for another time.

What interested me the most about the Hannibal tv series was that it was touted as being terribly subversive, and upon watching it I couldn’t quite agree. On the one hand, yes, it subverts a rather problematic trope that we find reappearing ad nauseum in contemporary horror and that is the trope of the sympathetic psychopath (which, incidentally, was wonderfully touched upon in Lauren Murphy’s ‘Women in Horror’ panel at Arcade Con this past weekend, if any of you were in attendance). Increasingly horror has become about relating to the charismatic monster, with absolute disregard for their victims. This manifests in a variety of different ways; from the perverse pleasure of seeing the nubile but vacuous blonde being brutalized, to the quasi-sexual expulsions of blood and viscera during the torture porn trend. Within such a forced perspective victims are reduced to fleshy fodder, ripe only for harvesting. Whereas before we might feel compelled to relate to those being culled, we are now actively encouraged to excitably anticipate culling. One could ponder the underlying reasons for this for days. You might say it’s down to the resulting de-sensitization of violent video games. As someone who enjoys shooting rendered victims, but balks at the thought of real world violence, I cannot agree entirely.  Another theory is that of mass psychological detachment, that an era of virtual communication and absolute anonymity has fostered a darkly insular worldview. But hey, I’m an Arts graduate. I don’t actually know.
Back to business – lately there’s been a trend towards the antagonist-as-anti-hero. This isn’t unique to horror, but it is in horror where it is arguably at its most potent and problematic. In this regard, Hannibal ( from now on just take it as a given that I’m referring to the show as opposed to the film or book, unless stated otherwise) is somewhat transgressive. Though certainly beginning as a devotee of this trope, the series gradually shifts our perceptions of Lecter’s character. Without divulging spoilers, by about episode 10 it is safe to say that we can no longer romanticize Lecter as our psychotic anti-hero. I say this as someone who adores Lecter as a character (seriously, ask my friends. It’s not good.) The series reaches a point where we must accept that we cannot support the actions of this character. This struck me as being quite clever. Firstly, of course, because it was a nice deviation from the above trope of sympathetic killer. Secondly, it suggests a betrayal of the audience. In doing so, our awareness of Lecter as a monster coincides with that of the other characters’. It’s a beautiful dramatic ploy, where despite knowing about his actions throughout the subsequent 9 episodes, we’ve still been vulnerable to his charms. When the veil is finally lifted, we’re forced to introspect and examine how we empathized with him in the first place. To my mind, therefore, the show is one of the best representations of psychopathy in recent times. The show utilizes the same manipulative tactics common within a psychopath’s pathology to gain an audience’s trust and lull them with charm. Furthermore, this introspection is reminiscent of Haneke’s Funny Games, where the audience is forced to examine why they are engaging with such horrific material, and whether or not the voyeuristic pleasure they experience is ethical.

For the above, I really have to applaud the programme. However, when it comes to social representations, I’d proffer that Hannibal is not quite subversive. Granted, it handles its female characters remarkably well. This is made even more impressive by the fact that pretty much the entirety of the female cast were initially written in the books as male characters (Dr. Bloom, Freddy Lounds, to name the main ones) Usually I’m wary of male-to-female character switches as more often than not  they fail to take into account the shifts in social status and privilege which occur with a change in gendering. However, Hannibal managed to build upon the outlines of the novels’ male characters and from them create interesting, well-developed female characters that stood independent of their counterparts in the books. Which is pretty impressive, by all accounts. (Did they really have to write a romantic sub-plot between Will Graham and Bloom though?! Irksome as it was, I was just happy that it never really took precedence. )
It’s interesting to me that my biggest issues with Hannibal were its conceptualizations of race, whiteness, and class. Usually representations of women are my bread and butter, so this is a fun diversion for me. My issue is this: the show is outrageously protective of a very specific kind of whiteness. It will defend the honour of middle class, heterosexual, moral, mentally healthy whiteness with all that it’s worth. What’s worse, it will construct this portrayal of whiteness through stark negation with its supposed deviations. I’ll try to explain, as best I can…

Let’s start with class. The show actually has a pretty interesting (albeit worrying) take on class dynamics. It’s as though it tries to compensate for every shitty hand it deals the working class by similarly damning the upper classes, all the while leaving the middle class as a gleaming bastion of goodness and morality. And whiteness, of course. A cursory glance over the killers featured in the show reveals this – they’re all either working class white people, or members of the upper middle class who, for various reasons, are excluded from being classified as “white”. Hobbs sets the ball rolling on this, and his impact carries on throughout the series. Hobbs pretty much encapsulates the above outlined hillbilly monster that we get so often in horror. He has a pseudo-incestuous preoccupation with a family member (in this case his daughter, Abigail) which leads him to murder a series of victims fitting said family member’s appearance. Like most hillbilly monsters in horror, he’s basically Ed Gein. Hobbs, particularly, is full of Gein-isms; from the incestuous motivations, to the workshop, right down to the furnishing of his home with remnants of his victims. He’s pure archetype. He’s the same monstrous working class that you see time and time again. After Hobbs comes a local pharmacist, whose delusions of botany are punished. This is a key theme within the series; working class killers are frequently operating under a delusion of either intellect or morality, something seemingly only available to the middle class. The Totem Pole killer, too, turns out to be an average Joe, working class man who killed to satisfy a very base jealousy within his local community. 

Our other killers fall into the latter category of off-white/non-white upper class. Of course, Hannibal Lecter himself is chief among these. When broken down, the construction of his status is pretty hokey. He’s almost a parody of non-American, European high brow nonsense. He attends the opera, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of art, he’s a fan of, ahem, haute cuisine. The entire franchise, not just the show, seems to be at pains to distance him from contemporary, American, white culture. He’s portrayed almost like a relic of some dangerous past. In this regard, his characterization in the show reminded me a great deal of Todd Browning’s Dracula. Though everyone recognizes Dracula as an allegory for venereal disease (vampires, of course, being the fictional vessel of all contemporary social and sexual anxieties), Browning’s adaptation can also be read in terms of early 20th Century American whiteness, and fears surrounding immigration and assimilation. In this reading, Count Dracula becomes the specter of Europe, threatening to corrupt American society. Lecter, in many ways, is quite similar then to Dracula. In the novels he is revealed as being of Lithuanian nobility, which obviously grants him the same old world, hereditary status supposedly reviled by advocates of the American Dream and manifest destiny. I don’t think I need to draw parallels between Lecter’s and Dracula’s diet. And, like Dracula, the result of engagement with this monster usually leads to the corruption and eventual descent into madness of others. This threat of European Otherness is at its most blatant when Marian says of the Chesapeake Ripper (then unknown to be Lecter) “I don’t know that he’s white. He’s exotic somehow.” Which, frankly, is the most bizarre bit of criminal profiling I’ve ever heard in my life. Really. You can really tell that he doesn’t fit with your society’s conceptualization of whiteness just by looking at his crime scenes? Fucking hell.
Another killer worth mentioning here is Tobias, the series’ only killer of colour, and music aficionado. He shares the same upper class leanings as Hannibal, and is doubly damned for his race. The same can be said of Jack Crawford, who is frequently undermined and/or humiliated within the series for dabbling in the finer things while also being a person of colour. The show seemed to take particular mocking pleasure in the scenes where he unknowningly consumed human flesh at Lecter’s dining room table, which made me especially uncomfortable.

There is something of an anomaly among the show’s killers, however, and that is Gideon. Gideon stands apart from the other killers, not just by virtue of his status as a white, upper-middle class man, but by virtue of the nature of his killing. Though masquerading as the Chesapeake Ripper, Gideon was only committed for murdering his wife and family on Thanksgiving in what is suggested as being a crime of passion. After his escape, he proceeds to use his skills as a surgeon and his understanding of the real Ripper’s pattern to commit  a spree in the hopes of attracting the Ripper’s attention. This is interesting, as his initial crime is spoken about as though it was less grievous than those committed by the other killers. Furthermore, his subsequent killings would not be possible without the influence of the other non-White, non-middle class killers, suggesting that they, by proxy, are more to blame than Gideon himself.

 

I had more to write about Graham, and how his mental instability is in part caused by his duality of social desires to be morally upstanding and work within the middle class world of the FBI, and to retreat to the frugal, working class life of fixing boat motors. I may return to that. But I’ve written almost 2000 words already, which is mental. And I’m starting to get very hungry.

Long Pig Pt. II – The Lost Art of Having a Good Time

25 Jun

Dan Walker pretended to sip from his cup of coffee while forensics milled around the scene. The coffee was too hot to drink just yet, but he felt he needed to be doing something with his hands. He never felt comfortable at crime scenes. He was drawn to the FBI thanks to a youth spent watching too much trashy tv. On television, behavioural science seemed so sexy. He fancied himself an aloof, wise-cracking special agent, his mind always beyond the grasp of his beautiful female colleagues, his body offered as compensation. The FBI, in this regard, turned out to be a major disappointment. As an obvious result, Walker was abysmal at his job. By some small miracle and numerous repetitions of exams he had managed to graduate from the academy. A fluke had since landed him in the position he now found himself in. By pure guesswork he had managed to identify the culprit of a spate of killings in Long Island two years ago. For two years he had been content to ride the wave of this unexpected success. But now he was being called upon again. Walker knew his luck couldn’t last. 

Finally daring to take a genuine sip he found his coffee disappointingly lukewarm, and strode purposefully towards the center of the room where agents continued to dust the display before them for prints. Three men, all roughly late twenties to early thirties, were arranged. Two men lay back, each propped up by one arm, facing one another. Between them a third man lay flat on his back, a neat hole cut from his abdomen. One of the seated men held a long, pointed object held together with string. It seemed to resemble a large fork. The gaping wound of the lying man was filled with a faint pink grain, while remnants of grain still clung to the clean flesh on the outer edges.
An investigator snapped a photograph, the flash crashing loudly above the din. He snorted a laugh to himself.
“La Saliera…” he muttered. Walker turned to him.
“I beg your pardon?”
The photographer turned to him, still smiling, before resuming an air of professionalism.
“The formation, Sir. I was just remarking on its similarity to La Saliera.”
Walker stared at him. He had no idea what he was talking about.
“The uh, the Cellini sculpture, Sir.”
Walker blinked. Why the hell did they do this? All these investigators and agents, why did they assume he knew these weird, obscure things? There were no mandatory art history classes in the academy. How did they know all this stuff? Walker could accept that they were more cultured than he was. That was not too difficult to assume. Still, their onslaught of trivia forever astounded him.
The photographer sighed and pulled his phone from his pocket. After typing something hastily on the touch pad, he turned the phone to show Walker a Google image search result. The photo was of a gold sculpture; a man and a woman, reclining towards one another. The man held a trident in his hand. Walker studied the photograph, his eyes moving between the phone and the crime scene. He frowned in concentration.
“You think he, uh, he copied this?” he held the phone slightly aloft.
The photographer shrugged.
“In some respects.”
Walker raised an eyebrow. The photographer placed a hand on his elbow and guided him closer to the bodies. He pointed to the lying man.
“You see that guy?” he asked. Walker nodded.
“Well, you can see in the picture that there isn’t any guy lying down.”
“There’s a little one,” Walker said, squinting and pointing towards a small figure in the photo. The photographer shook his head.
“Nope that’s…uh, how can I explain. See, it’s on top of a building? It’s like… like a statue within the statue. It isn’t part of the living scene.”
Walker was completely lost but held his gaze regardless. 
“So the lying man…?” he asked.
“Right,” the photographer continued. “Y’see, the saliera isn’t just decorative, it was functional. It was used as a salt dish by the French monarchy.”
Walker was unsure if the photographer was now just fucking with him. The photographer didn’t pick up on his skepticism, however, and continued with his explanation.
“If you look closely at the photo, there’s a little dish beside the guy with the trident. That’s where the salt went.”
Sure enough, there was what appeared to be a little dish beside the man with the trident. Walker decided to hear him out. The photographer pointed towards the hole in the lying man.
“So either our killer knows his art, or has a sense of humour, or both. But anyway, this guy here is our salt dish.”
Walker frowned.
“I don’t get it. Why the salt?”
The photographer shrugged.
“Hard to say. Could be fidelity to source material. In some cultures salt is used to ward away evil spirits, so he could be trying to be funny.”
Walker decided that investigators and serial killers must have some sense of humour that existed on a plane that was not accessible to him. 
“Thank you,” he said, and swallowed a cold mouthful of coffee. 

*********************

“So, what are we looking at?” Conway asked. Damon Conway, head of behavioural science, tiredly rubbed at his temples while Walker and a pathologist looked down at the three bodies, now removed from their formation and lying still on slabs. The pathologist, predictably, was the first to speak. 
“All the victims were held in place by a kind of twine. Forensic reports show it to be woven from hair.”
“Hair?” Conway asked. “Is it the hair of the victims?”
The pathologist clicked his jaw. 
“Some is theirs, some belongs to others.”
“Others?”
“We have matches for…” he lifted a list mounted on a clipboard. “Walt Rabbitte, Will Stagg, Jeremy Lyon, and… Joseph Finch.”
Conway paused, trying to place the names.
“They were the last…”
The pathologist nodded.
“The last four killings. All match the same criteria. Same age, same build, same method. All men were found arranged as a tableaux.”
“A what?” Walker asked.
The pathologist struggled for a definition.
“Like a… an artistic scene, usually depicting stories from antiquity. His are different though. He borrows straight from the greats.”
He fetched a brown envelope and drew a photograph from it. In it a man lies slack across the lap of another man. The man lying has a crown digging into his head. The other has a veil of flesh draped over him.
“See here, last month he replicated Michelangelo’s Pieta.” the pathologist smirked. “I hate to sound like an admirer, but you’ll note how Our Lady’s shins have been splintered and dug into Christ’s back? The original Pieta bears an anatomical impossibility – the Virgin Mother’s legs were made significantly larger to hold the weight of Christ.”
He huffed a silent laugh. “Our guy knows his art.”
Conway frowned deeply.
“So what is he doing, paying tribute or mocking?”
The pathologist scratched his head. 
“If he’s mocking, it’s light-hearted. He admires the greats, but he’s not ignorant of their faults.”
Conway shook his head before turning towards Walker.
“What do you make of this?” he asked. Both pairs of eyes were on Walker, and he felt his stomach clench. His brow heated, and he clutched at imaginary straws for some kind of response.
“They’re all…” he began. “Animals.”
All three were silent.
“Animals?” Conway asked, unimpressed.
Walker nodded, not entirely sure of himself. He gestured towards the list of previous victims.
“Rabbitte, Stagg, Lyon, Finch… animals.” he offered meekly.
Conway mulled this over.
“So what are you thinking, our killer is uh… a hunter? Sees them as.. prey?”
Walker exhaled deeply and threw his hands up.
“Could be.”
Conway nodded, and became pensive before turning once more to the pathologist.
“Get an ID on these guys,” he gestured to the most recent deceased. “See if they have animal names.”
The pathologist nodded, and Walker tentatively followed Conway out.

***************************

Corinne tapped her fingers against the glass countertop, lost in her own thoughts. Her freezer at home was effectively empty. The last tableaux had used up the bulk of her supply. It was very beautiful though, she admitted. It turned out far better than she had ever imagined. She was particularly proud of the trident. It had been worth the effort of extracting the men’s ribs, sewing up the seated models, for its construction. The string was the most time consuming. Pulling each strand from their cold skin, working it into strong strands. It was necessary, though. She knew that. If she used anything bought it could be too easy to trace. Besides, necessity feeds creativity. She never would have honed her skills to such an impressive degree had she not given herself limitations. Her tools, too, had to be carved from her victims. Using her butchering utensils would be foolish. 

The bell rang, waking her from her reverie. She looked up to see Harrison Wolfe enter, shaking away drops of rain that clung to his suit jacket. She smiled.
“I guess it’s that time, Mr. Wolfe.”
He laughed.
“Well, I’ve never heard that one a million times.”
She bowed her head.
“I apologise. It was bound to happen eventually.”
He smiled kindly. She bit her bottom lip anxiously, and his look turned to concern.
“Everything alright, Corinne?”
She brightened again, and waved her hands in dismissal.
“Fine, fine. But I’m afraid I don’t have anything for you today. My usual supplier fell through this week, so I’ve been left short. I’m sorry, I w-“
“Shh-shh-shh!” he hurriedly hushed. She mimed zipping her lip and he smiled again. She allowed her eyes to fall slowly downwards. She thought about how much she wanted to know the taste of him on her tongue. Something about the darkness of his eyes made her long to feel him with her mouth. She imagined being chained to a bath where he washed, occasionally feeding her ladles of his bathwater.
“Corrine?” he asked, bending to meet her gaze. “Don’t beat yourself up about it.”
She shook herself, blushing.
“Sorry, sorry. I’m fine,” she smiled as though to prove the truth of her statement. “I’m fine.”
“Good,” he replied. He fumbled with his hands before going on,
“Anyway, I didn’t come for meat today. I came to let you know that the city gallery is launching a Goya exhibition next weekend. I remember you mentioning your fondness for him in passing before, I just wondered if you had been informed of the event.”
She was touched that he remembered her tastes.
“No, I had no idea,” she said. “I imagine tickets are hard to come by though, do you know if there’s still any vacancies for the opening?”
He contorted his face in a way that did not make her feel hopeful.
“Sadly, no. You know what exhibition openings are like around here. Those few of us starved for culture tear into them like a pack of dogs, so you can imagine that tickets cleared out quickly.”
She frowned, visibly disappointed.
“That’s a shame,” she sighed. He smiled knowingly.
“However – and this is strictly our secret – I may have pulled a string or two to have you guestlisted. With a plus one, of course. I’ll be in attendance with-“
“Your wife,” Corinne guessed. “Of course. But you shouldn’t have gone through so much trouble! My goodness! I’d hug you but I’d hate to get blood on your suit.”
For the first time in quite a while she giggled. Her response pleased him.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s rare to find someone with common interests. It’s wise to keep them close.”
She beamed. He moved to leave, but turned towards her one last time.
“Oh, by the way, it’s strictly black tie so…” he ran his gaze along her body. “Wear something nice.”
She nodded, allowing him to depart. Again, he turned, just as she was beginning to busy herself with something else.
“And Corinne!”
“Yes?” she felt herself succumb to giddiness again.
“Have a good time” he winked. With that, he was gone.

Long Pig – The Dying Art of Conversation

25 Jun

Corinne pushed the stiff metal shutter above her head, her lean arms bearing more weight than one would expect they could. With the door unlocked, she returned momentarily to the trunk of her car where she freed a large cooler from its holding. Her arms full with the cooler, she gently kicked open the door with her boot, the welcome bell ringing overhead.

Inside the butcher shop the air was chill and sweet with the scent of cleaning agents. Lamb’s Butchers had been Corinne’s pride and joy since graduating business school; a final respite from the academic path her parents had steered her toward. They didn’t approve of her business venture. To placate them, she bought a small number of slaughterhouses dotted among nearby states, and through these became a major distributor of fine meats to many well-regarded restaurants. It was a compromise. Corinne found this enterprise could run smoothly without much interference on her part, allowing her to focus her efforts on her locale. It wasn’t that she regarded her parents’ opinion of her highly. On the contrary, her efforts in pleasing them stemmed from a desire to be left alone. So long as they were content with her lifestyle, she was granted her privacy. Privacy was a great love of Corinne’s.

Gliding across the pristine white tiles of the shop, Corinne found her way behind the counter and into the back room. In the refrigerated surroundings of the room, she gently placed the cooler atop one of her sturdy, wooden tables. She paused a moment to run a finger along a chip in the wood. When she had told her peers that she planned on opening her own butchers, many had scoffed at the thought of a woman her size hacking at the immense carcasses of cows and pigs. But Corinne was aware of her own strength, and of her ability with a cleaver. She was slight, and soft, but her body did not lack physical power. Her shapely legs rose from delicate ankles to firm, powerful thighs; her slender arms, when exerted, would become taut and defined.

She opened the cooler to survey its contents. Inside, packed atop ice, was a liver, a heart, and two kidneys. These would not be placed in front of house. No, these would remain in the back until their buyer arrived. These were very special meats, for a very special customer. With a distant smile, Corinne closed the cooler again.

******************************

“Miss Gosling, I can’t in good conscience sell you this if you intend to feed it to your dog,” Corinne politely laughed.
Gosling, a thin woman with eyes shielded behind large, bug-eyed sunglasses struggled to keep a yapping Pomeranian still in her tawny arms.
“Why, will it make him sick?” she asked, flashing the creature a worried glance while it swatted at her collar with its minuscule paws. Corinne smiled warmly, but it did not reach her eyes.
“No, but this is very good venison. I hate to suggest a superiority of taste,” she explained, looking into the dog’s black little eyes. “But this is far too good for a dog.”
Gosling nodded unconvincingly.
“What would you recommend?” she asked, her head gently swiveling to scan the items on display, their crimson freshness reflected in her lenses.
“I would recommend beef and chicken in jelly,” Corinne sighed.
“Wonderful, how much do I owe you?,” Gosling asked, juggling her purse and her pooch.
Corinne waved a hand to quell her.
“I’m afraid I don’t carry it, but you’ll find it in any good tin of Pedigree, in any good convenience store.”
Gosling, still clutching her purse, dropped her hand awkwardly, her face reddening behind her glasses. Her dog nibbled on her flushed knuckles.
“Sorry to have bothered you,” she said softly, her voice exiting no louder or deeper than the dying whistle of a kettle.
“That’s quite alright,” Corinne said, with syrupy false reassurance.

As Gosling made her exit, the dog bounding above her shoulders just within her grasp, still yapping at Corinne and the meat counter, the bell rang with the entrance of another customer. Corinne’s breath caught in her throat for a fraction of a moment, though she appeared entirely calm to anyone who might have been watching. A gentle smile whispering across his fine, strong mouth, Harrison Wolfe approached the counter in broad, elegant strides. Corinne allowed her gaze to surreptitiously linger over the span of his shoulders; she gave herself permission to delight in the force of his gait. His expression still full of warmth, he laid a big hand on the counter’s polished glass top. Corinne took a moment to imagine the weight of his hand on her. The thought excited her.
“So, what wonders await today?” he asked.

Wolfe had been frequenting the shop for the past two months or so, and his custom was one of Corinne’s greatest pleasures. A tall, well-built man, perhaps fifteen years her senior, Wolfe had an easy charm and quiet confidence that caused Corinne’s head to swim with giddiness. She did not yet know a great deal about him. She knew that he was married, and that he lived in a fine, stately home of his own design. He had no children, as far as she could tell. But what set him apart from the many attractive men Corinne had encountered throughout her short life was the way in which he spoke to her. When her working day was through, Corinne would often fondly recall their first meeting. Impressed by the selection and quality of her wares, he had asked her name.
“Corinne Lamb, a pleasure,” she had said, extending a friendly hand.
“Ah, Corinne. Poetess of Italy,” he cooed, and theatrically kissed the underside of her wrist, avoiding her gloved hand. Corinne was not accustomed to customers who were familiar with de Staël. Rather, she was not accustomed to customers who were familiar with anything bar the vapid onion-skin pages of tabloid newspapers, or Dan Brown.
“You’ve read well,” she remarked, genuinely impressed. He held up his hands in defense.
“I used to lecture in 19th Century literature,” he explained. “Makes me feel like something of a cheat.”
She laughed airily.
“But you!” he exclaimed, “Am I right in taking you for a scholar?”
She shook her head, biting her bottom lip.
“No, no. I was a business student. Our required reading lists were never graced with anything quite so moving. No, I just read a lot. It helps.”
He smiled broadly, revealing his teeth. Corinne found the sight of his open mouth distractingly inviting.
“Helps with what?” he crooned. She pretended to think a moment, tossing her gaze towards her shoulder, before saying, “Oh, loneliness” with richly sweet faux-sentimentalism. He laughed curtly, but authentically, at her playfulness.

Now, he leaned against the glass countertop, the warmth of his flesh misting the surface beneath his touch.
“Hello, Mr. Wolfe,” she grinned.
“Hello, poetess.” he returned, “And, Harrison. You know to call me Harrison.”
She nodded in apology.
“Today you can choose from liver, heart, or kidneys,” she announced cheerily. He smiled thoughtfully, leaning back for a moment.
“I’ve never had heart,” he said, as though admitting a terrible secret.
“I can give you a wonderful recipe,” she assured.
He smiled in appreciation, and gently tapped his fist on the counter.
“Very well, m’lady! I shall take your heart!”
She laughed at his silliness and made her way to the back room to fetch the organ from the cooler. As she walked, she called out to him,
“I’ve been meaning to ask you, is there any reason behind your switch to offal?” She opened the cooler and held the heart in her gloved hands. “I only ask because I get so little demand for it.”
She gently placed the heart on the table and, fetching some crisp, white paper, began to wrap it.
“It’s my wife,” he called back. “Wants me on this high protein diet. I don’t know, I guess she wants me to shape up. She’s into all that fitness stuff, I suppose she wants me to deserve her.” His laugh was hollow.
Corinne secured the parcel with a length of twine.
“You look terrific,” she almost sang.
She returned to the counter and reached for a paper bag. He smiled, but his eyes seemed darker now.
“I’m not so sure it’s done much good yet.”
“Well I didn’t mean because of the diet,” she said. “You always look terrific.”
She handed him the bag, which he accepted slowly, as if he were expecting a punchline. When none came, he directed his attention towards the contents of the bag.
“It seems so small,” he said, voice heavy with muted surprise. “Is this really a beef heart?”
Corinne shook her head.
“A pig’s. I find it’s sweeter.”
He frowned and nodded in acceptance of this answer. Corinne turned towards a small box on the shelf behind her and produced a small flash card, its lines filled with neat cursive.
“Let me know what you think of the recipe,” she said, dropping the card into his bag.
Before he could answer, the beeping of a car horn disrupted them both. They turned towards the window to see a woman impatiently leaning across to the driver’s side of a Hummer, her hand angrily depressing the horn.
“My wife.” Wolfe said.
“She’s lovely,” Corinne replied.
He flashed her a look that fell somewhere between warning and longing, before softening. He turned, readying himself to leave.
“Well, I’ll be in again to see what you’ve got,” he coughed, straightening himself.
Corinne nodded. He waved briskly, and then he was gone.

**********************************

The rest of the day was slow, and filled with the vague heaviness Corinne often felt after watching Wolfe leave. She was absent-mindedly rubbing away his hand-print from the glass when the bell alerted her to a customer. A young man, not much older than herself, entered. His eyes bashfully regarded the flesh before him, avoiding Corinne’s gaze. She studied him silently. He was quite beautiful. His doleful, darkly lashed eyes reminded her of a cow. He seemed docile, and innocent, and sweetly stupid. She immediately detested him and was drawn to his form. His limbs seemed to hang heavily from him, his arms swaying softly at his sides, while his lumbering legs guided him across the room.
“May I help you?” she asked, her head tilted downwards, her eyes peering through a stray dark hair in an effort to meet his gaze.
“I was just looking to get some things,” he murmured.
She almost didn’t catch what he had said, but the bassy treble of his voice tickled beneath her ribs. She wanted him to speak again.
“Well, we certainly have things,” she replied, struggling to achieve warmth in her tone. He smiled sheepishly.
“Sorry, I- I’m new to the neighbourhood,” he wiggled his fingers at his temple. “My mind’s a million places right now.”
“Understandable,” she said, while exhaling an airy laugh.
“I guess I’ll just grab some breakfast stuff for now,” he said, regaining his composure. “I’ll take about… a pound of bacon, six sausages and… hell, give me one of those sirloins. Might as well eat like a king tonight.”
She smiled and complied. As she wrapped the meat before him, he keenly regarded her precise, delicate movements. Her short, dark hair liberated itself in strands from the bondage of its pins.
“On second thoughts…” he coughed. She didn’t look up. She felt the expectancy of his eyes upon her. He was beginning to disgust her.
“On second thoughts, are there any restaurants in the area you would recommend?”
His eyes were wide, and she felt certain she saw his Adam’s apple quiver. She hummed, pretending to think, while she stacked her neat parcels atop one another.
“I mean,” he interrupted. “It’d be nice to have a local show me around. Get me acquainted. That is, if you’re not too busy…”
She raised her head, her lips pursed into a strained smile.
“This is a pretty small town,” she began. “We’re not really known for our culinary achievements. I mostly cater to the elite few who would rather starve than sample the fare around these parts.”
He almost laughed, unsure of what his response should be and disarmed by his attraction to her.
“But if you’d like, I could cook you something at my place and fill you in on what you need to know about the area,” her eyes darkened, and her gaze fixed upon him like a snake, ready at any moment to unhinge its jaw.
He beamed, unable to sense the palpable danger of her invitation. She reached across and grabbed his hand, inwardly retching at its clamminess. Her eyes meeting his, she jotted down her address. She passed him a bag of his parcels, completing their transaction.
“Dinner is at 8.” she instructed, and he nodded in delight.
He turned quickly on his heel, but stopped suddenly as though he had forgotten something.
“I’m Dylan, by the way,” he exclaimed. “Dylan Wren.”
“Corrine Lamb,” she said slowly, not moving an inch as he hopped through the shop’s doors.

**************************

Corrine corked a bottle of Pinot Noir as she allowed her pan to heat. She glanced at the clock. He would be about fifteen minutes, if he was punctual. She wilted two handfuls of spinach leaves, and spooned them onto heated plates. The bell rang. He was eager.

Removing her apron, she waltzed towards her front door. Smoothing the edges of her lipstick with her ring finger, she readied herself before opening the door. There he stood, clad in the same clothes as earlier, his heavy arms still swinging. Again, the sheepish grin.
“I didn’t know what to bring…” he attempted to explain.
“So you brought nothing,” Corinne smiled coldly. “Come on in.”

Once inside she took his jacket and hung it on a nearby hook.
“Something smells great,” he sighed. Without looking back she trotted towards the kitchen.
“I hope you like veal,” she called.
“I- uh, I’ve never had it before,” he said, examining his surroundings. The house was immaculate, and impressively spacious for one person. An open-plan living-come-dining room was shielded from the kitchen by a rustic, wooden door. Decoration was sparse. He could see no photographs anywhere, no evidence of a life beyond the shop and these clean walls.
“There’s a first time for everything,” she said in a sing-song tone, gracefully carrying two plates out from the kitchen and gliding her way towards the dining table.
“Take a seat!” she called over her shoulder, and he hurriedly leapt to join her. Once he was seated, Corinne poured each of them a glass of wine and took a seat at the far end of the table. She raised her glass to him.
“Isn’t this nice?” she asked, crinkling her nose in delight.

*****************************

It wouldn’t be long before he came to. Corinne secured the ties on his hands and feet, and once more checked the wires binding his shoulders and abdomen to the table would not budge if he struggled. She had not intended the evening to end this way, she lamented to herself. But then she very rarely did. Still, she thought, he was entirely to blame. With his endless, mindless droning about his old fraternity, and his brother in the army, and his wish to open a real estate agency in the town. He cited Titanic as his favourite film, and did not recognize the Goya print that hung behind her. Such endless, piercing talk. Never a question for her. Never an interest paid. When he thankfully finished his third glass of a wine he scarcely appreciated, she found the moment was opportune to rise and bludgeon him with a carriage clock her parents had given her as a graduation present. The clock was gaudy, and not at all to her tastes, and so its destruction over his head was no great mischief to her.

He groaned, and she pulled a pair of gloves onto her hands. Her apron was tied once more around her neck and waist. He moved to rise, but found he couldn’t. His cow-like eyes fluttering open, he scanned the room until he found her.
“What happened?” he slurred.
She sighed, walking towards a work table, upon which a series of tools lay.
“Dylan, this really isn’t going to work out.”
“You’re not going to welcome me to the neighbourhood?” He spoke as if he were drugged. His sharpness, what little of it he ever had, would return shortly Corinne reasoned.
“No, Dylan. I’m not.”

She lifted what appeared to be a scalpel from the bench, ivory white and delicate as china in her hand. Dylan noticed.
“Whassat?” he croaked.
She looked at the item in her hand, smiling.
“This must seem a trifle cliche, Dylan, I apologise.” she gestured to their surroundings. The room had no windows, and was instead lit by several florescent lights overhead. It was tiled entirely with the same white tiles in the shop. Below the table on which Dylan lay, large holes, about four centimeters in diameter, bore through the floor.
“I appreciate that the basement seems obvious, but it really is the only option.”
More alert now, Dylan’s gaze turned to the floor. Corinne smiled, impressed.
“Exactly, the drainage. We’re seated right on the foundation, any drain-off falls right to the earth below.”
She pulled a stool over to the table and sat over him, looking him up and down. His face was pale. Without looking at him, she asked,
“Dylan, did you drive here?”
When he gave no reply, she looked towards him. His eyes were glassy.
“No,” he rasped. “I walked. It didn’t seem far so I… I walked.”
She nodded, returned to her perusal.
“Good. Thank you. That helps.”
She tapped the scalpel absently with a fingernail, her face screwed with thought.
“What is that?” Dylan asked, his eyes red against his ever-whitening face.
Corinne started slightly, and tapped the side of her head with a laugh.
“I’m so sorry, Dylan. I completely forget to answer your question. That was so rude of me.”
She looked once more at the utensil.
“This…” she began. “This is a kind of a knife.”
A noise came from him that wasn’t quite human. It was familiar to Corinne. She continued.
“It’s not quite as sharp as a scalpel, but it’s close. The difference is the material. Would you care to guess?”
She lifted the blade to his eyeline for him to examine. Tears were beginning to spring from his eyes now, his pupils but mere pinpricks in the blue depths of his irises.
“Please…” he whispered. She wagged a finger at him.
“Don’t be a spoil-sport, you have to guess.”
He gulped, coughing slightly on nothing.
“I don’t know,” he said.
She stared at him, feigning disappointment with theatrical poutiness. He gasped, the ties making it difficult to breathe deeply.
“I don’t know!” he insisted. His face contorted in a new bout of crying. “I don’t… bone. It looks like bone, I guess.”
He sobbed deeply, his rich voice vibrating through the walls. Corinne brought the blade back from his face.
“A very fine guess,” she said. “It’s carved from a femur.”
She looked towards him. He continued to cry.
“Do you have much knowledge of anatomy?,” she asked. He said nothing.
“I didn’t expect so,” she smiled. “Here, I’ll illustrate.”
She lifted the blade and brought it gliding down along his thigh, slicing through the cloth of his slacks. He cried out, agony gurgling viciously in his throat. With a gloved hand, Corinne slid her fingers into the wound and sliced through the flesh to reach the bone. Dylan, his face shining with sweat, bleated and thrashed as well as he could against his bonds.
“Interestingly, this knife was made from the femur of a man of a similar stature to you,” she said. Her eyes widened and almost immediately relaxed once more as she felt the familiar curve of the femur beneath her touch. By now, blood was oozing thickly from the table’s surface to the drain-holes below. Dylan whimpered, his teeth clenched.
“You crazy… crazy fucking…” he gasped.
Corinne drew closer to him.
“Hmm?,” she asked. “What is it?”
“Crazy fuckin’… psycho bitch…” he spat.
Corinne frowned.
“You were doing really well, Dylan,” she said. “For a while there we were almost having a real conversation. I wouldn’t have stopped, of course. But I at least would have thought better of you afterwards.”
She sighed.
“You really spoiled it,” she shrugged.

********************

Dylan was heavy, but Corinne managed to mount him within the basement’s walk-in freezer without too much difficulty. She needed him fresh before she could use him. He would be decorative, she decided. He was beautiful enough for that. But she despised him too much to harvest from him. Only a select few were worthy of that. Not worthy of living, of course. But worthy of her skills. She was pleased that she no longer had to feast alone. It seemed a shame to keep such a pleasure to one’s self. And feeding lesser men to Wolfe thrilled her. She mythologized it, as if she were strengthening his greatness through the sacrifice of others. Unbeknownst to him, he had conquered the flesh of those unworthy of her. In a way, he was her defender. Not that she needed him as such. But the idea appealed to her. It seemed romantic.

No, Dylan would not grace Wolfe’s plate. She had another idea in store for him. But it would require one more participant before it could come to fruition.

Fifty Shades of Gotham: Riddlin’ for a Diddlin’

24 May

The smoke finally cleared, and Wayne’s hulking, sexual form came back into relief. I came back too. By which I mean I came. I achieved sexual climax. For seemingly no reason at all. It’s a thing I do often in his presence. True love!
The cackling laughter continued, and as the smoke continued to dissipate I became aware of another figure. It wasn’t the sleek form of Wayne’s PVC-clad Mrs. Robinson – that Stalingrad skank had already flown the coop. No, this figure was tall, slender, and clad in an awful suit. Think of an awful suit. I need to rely on your imagination, and not my poor descriptive skills. 

“Joker!” Wayne growled.

I was so preoccupied by his pretty, that I didn’t fully register what he had said.

“Hm? Choke me? Oh, Mr Wayne! Was this in our contract?!” I gasped shyly while tripping over my panties. 

A pair of spats clacked into view, bringing with them a thin, bedraggled man caked in make-up. 

“Bats” he chuckled, his crazed eyes gleaming.

“Whoa,” I protested, pouting at my fifty shades of fucked up fuckery kink caped crusader. “We agreed on paddles, not bats!”

Wayne gruffly edged me aside to face the clownish fiend. I was so hurt. Why wasn’t he including me in his business? Did he think I was stupid? Why was it always about sex, even when we were in alleys filled with shady, villainous characters, and suddenly not actually about sex at all? I was so confused. This had to end. He was bad for me. I could tell.

“Bruce, I want the keys. I’ll drive myself back to the manor,” I huffed. Bruce winced. Maybe he did care!

“I told you to stop calling me that,” he hissed.

The clown croaked another laugh. 

“Bruce, eh? And a manor? Well, well, well. What a mystery! Whoever could be lurking behind that mask!” he wheezed. Bruce scowled beautifully. I wanted to run my tongue all over the crinkles above his nose. I came again. The confusion! The longing! The ecstasy!

“Rrrrrrrrrrriddle me this!” cried a voice from atop a nearby building.

The clown, Bruce, and I whipped around in search of the voice. Leaping down from a fire escape came another thin man, clad entirely in green and question marks. Sadly, he was not a visual metaphor for the QUESTIONable quality of my writing, but an actual character shoe-horned in so I could use the clever title I came up with. 

“Riddler?!” Bruce and the clown cried at once. It was becoming crowded now, and I was feeling self-conscious. With Bruce in his fetish gear and the other men in their suits, I felt so stupid and under-dressed. Why was I such a failure at everything? 

“Bruce,” I hiccuped through sobs. “I’m going home. You can try to make it up to me with all the computers you can afford, but I still won’t know how to use them!” 

With that, I bid my dark love adieu, and walked home alone. 

The men stood around awkwardly.

“Should…should you go after her?,” Joker asked.

“Yeah,” said Riddler. “It’s late, and this is a bad part of town.”

Batman sighed as he watched the figure trot off into the distance.

“No one will dare mess with her,” he sighed. “She’s fifty shades of fucking mental.”

 

THE END?

Detour

24 Feb

Standing at the bus stop, I compiled a list of the most loathsome things in existence, and put light, barely-there rain in pride of place. I’d given up wiping it from my eyes, the bastarding mess of stuff flying horizontally right at us, as if to mock both the notion of a bus shelter and the idiots taking refuge beneath it. Fogging up my eyelashes, my face dewed with the occasional dripping of gathered precipitation, the best I could do was make a list of things that are shit and crown this rain, this specific, particular rain, as the most shit of all. The stranger beside me harumphed inside his heavy jacket, his mouth twisted in an ironic smirk. 

“You hear about the latest delays?,” he asked.
“Couldn’t be fucked,” I replied.

He laughed curtly and wiped the moisture from the bridge of his nose.

“They reckon we’ll have another month of it. That’s what they reckon. Another month. Sounds pretty optimistic to me, mind.”

“Please,” I said. “I don’t want to know.”

Across from us, a pair of seagulls fought over a stray chip, all limp and pale. Behind them the sea crashed and roared, dark grey behind the veil of bloody rain. Angry and churning and noisy, challenged only by the squawking of the gulls. The twentieth month in detour and plebs like himself next to me were still waiting for a break. Idiot. Didn’t matter about the delays, or when we’d be out of detour. It was all just noise, really. Fact was, nobody really cared how long we stayed here. They didn’t care about us at all. The whole point of detour was to keep us out of the way, and in that regard it was a roaring success.

It started off pretty slowly to begin with, which I suppose is how these things often go. One year it’d be a month’s wait, and that was alright. But with every passing year it’d get a bit longer. It’d fluctuate, sure. Sometimes there wouldn’t be a wait at all. But most years, most years they’d have us on detour for a couple of months. Once it was lifted, and traffic got moving again, we’d see why. It’d be a good Summer then. Real good. You can tell why it was delayed, why those other sods left it so long to leave. It was always a little bit used up after, too. A little frayed. Hand-me-down time. Time that’d already been used up. Mind you, we weren’t ones to complain. We were just happy to be moving, really. That was when it was alright, though. When detour was just a bit of a nuisance, rather than an ongoing deal.

Trouble was, once the well-to-dos figured out they could have their Summer holidays whenever they wanted, it was just a matter of picking the year that had the best Summer. Started off as a real wealthy thing, which I guess is why detours were shorter back then. Not like now. It was still new then, see. A bit weird. Very much a specialist thing, I suppose. So the well-to-dos, all these la-di-das would book the Summer up. Sometimes they’d book it in advance, hop forward, give themselves a nice break after Christmas and that. And if they liked it, if it was a good Summer, they’d go back. Visit again. It’d become their spot. But no matter what way they did it, they were always one step ahead. They’d get the Summer first, and they’d get it the longest. The rest of us, well, we had to just wait.

The bus pulled up and old idiot, delay-watcher hopped on, doffing his cap to me. I climbed on behind, keeping a distance. God forbid I be saddled with that poor sod for company. Only thing more depressing than detour were the people who constantly spoke about it. As we pulled away from the stop, I noticed a queue of people along the strand, all waiting outside the recruitment building. Huddled together, just a mass of coloured raincoats. Little CVs all bundled up in plastic pockets. The only hope of a jump out of detour, if only for a bit.

It became apparent very quickly that they couldn’t drive us out of the Summer completely. Not out of any sense of propriety, you see, no no. But they couldn’t very well have the well-to-dos fending for themselves in their bought-time. No, they needed flunkies. Lackeys. Whatever. That was us, anyway. They might’ve pushed us out of linearity, but they still needed us. At least a little bit. So resorts started hiring. It was a bit messy, see. For the well-to-dos, Summer could last however long they liked. And with the constant influx of them, given word of mouth, it would just keep going. Almost made me laugh, thinking about their daft conversations.

“Oh well, I say, you simply MUST Summer in 2134 this year! We’ve never looked back, have we darling? Simply the best Summer in decades! Why, we stayed for four months the last time! Divine!”

Sods. Problem was, so long as you had the money, you could buy up all the time you wanted. Though realistically, in linear time, the Summer only lasted three months, if you had the right amount of pocket-padding you could go back again to day one and just do the whole thing over. Nothing stopping you. Only problem is, time isn’t self-contained. That’s something we all copped very quickly, us in detour. So the longer Summer is replayed by the well-to-dos, the longer we stay in detour, waiting for linear time to recommence. Knocks everything out of whack, really. We haven’t had a full year, a proper, traditional year, in… well, years, I suppose. And now, now that it was the big thing, traveling to times rather than places like before, well you had it coming from all sides. Well-to-dos would get home, tell their mates, and their mates would zip back to the Summer for a break, before any of us even had a chance to get to it. That’s what’s got us stuck in the twentieth month of detour. World record. Must be some fucking amazing Summer. 

The bus lurched to a stop and, noticing my surroundings, I sprung from my seat to the exit. The Sailor’s Tavern, one of the old town landmarks. Doubt it gets much custom beyond the detour. Doubt it even still stands beyond the detour, if stories are anything to go by. Seems the well-to-dos are getting rather enterprising. Been building complexes, making the place cushier. Must be nice, that. The bastards.

I entered the tavern and took my spot behind the bar, grabbing my apron from an old wooden hook. The owner, Ken, gave me his usual old nod, stuck listening to the droning of some poor arse still too hopeful to be content. Across the room there came an eruption of laughter. A group of young men, all about recruitment age, sat amidst a mass of empty pint glasses. One of them, mirthful tears still springing from his eyes, beckoned to me for another round. 

“Celebration, lads?,” I enquired, clearing the evidence of their achievements so far.

The bloke who’d gestured to me slapped some skinny lad on the back. The lad himself was red-faced with glee.

“This bastard here,” the bloke hiccuped. “This cheeky fucking bastard! Only gone and gotten himself booted!”

The men cheered theatrically again. The skinny lad laughed convulsively.

“Fuck ’em!,” the lad cried. “Lousy pricks, didn’t even know what I favour I was doin’ ’em.”

As I moved from their table balancing the stack of glasses, the bloke nudged the lad sharply in the ribs.

“Tell ‘im! Tell ‘im what ya done!”

I placed the glasses on the bar and turned to listen. Breathlessly, his eyes wild with cheer, the lad began to speak.

“So’s I’m working one of the resorts, yeah? Bell-boyin’. Bringing shit to and fro. Regular old shite. Bitta bob, though, can’t complain. And I tell ya, it’s gorgeous, it is. Worth waitin’ for, I tell ya. Just you wait til detour is done this year, we’ll all go fuckin’ mental.”

Another whoop of cheer from his cohorts before he continued.

“Anyways, I’m hoppin’ for this couple of well-to-dos one day, right? Real sour bastards, them. Missus dripping with jewels and can’t even force a smile, meanwhile himself is this big balding, sweaty fuck, nose so high in the air he could’ve fallen backwards. So I’m takin’ their stuff up, right? Trying to make small talk, as you do, part of the job. Service with a smile and that. They ain’t havin’ none of it. Don’t want to talk to me. That’s fine, I reckon. Stuffy bastards like them, I don’t want to talk neither. Suits me just fine. So we get to the room, yeah? And I’m taking everything in, real careful like, just like they tells us in training.”

At this point, several of his mates began to chuckle into their pints in anticipation of the next series of events. The lad himself laughed briefly and airily, before going on.

“Anyway, they have this fancy luggage. Course they fucking do. I’m bringing it all into the room real careful, and I get to the last bitta luggage, tiny little wheelie thing, probably for missus’ shoes or some shit. So I’m rolling this little yoke along and – oops – I accidentally scrape it of the bottom of the wardrobe. Just a scratch, like. You’d hardly notice. Only himself does notice, of course. Himself notices very fucking much.”

His mates laughed louder, and the lad gets taken in by the fun of his own tale again. Ken had started to listen, a slight little smile on his lips.

“So he starts effin’ and blindin’, all like ‘You stupid little rat! This is why we drive your kind out of here! Filthy scum!’ blah blah blah all about how I don’t understand or appreciate the finer things and how that’s good and all because all I deserve is the damp and that. Usual shite.”

The mood in the pub sours, momentarily, but the lad keeps going.

“So he’s shouting, and she’s shrieking, all about me being scum and a rat, And, I mean, I just get really upset, y’know?”

His eyes twinkled with mischief, and his friends continued to chuckle, ruddy-faced.

“I mean, I just felt so upset because… these bastards, with all their money and education and that well… they don’t know what rats are. I find that really sad. They don’t even know what a rat is.”

He laughed, took a swig from his drink, and kept going.

“So I think to myself, right, I’m not having that. Those poor, well-to-dos. Those poor, poor rich bastards, not even knowing what a rat is and going around mistaking people for rats. I get to thinking, what a faux pas! They’ll be excommunicated from all their educated, well-to-do mates! So, being the diamond bloke that I am, I decide to give them a biology lesson. Gratis. Pro bono. On the house. Just because I care so much for those poor, poor misguided well-to-dos. So the next day when housekeeping is in, I pass the maid a tenner, tell her I’ll make sure the rest is done. Smooth out the sheets, put little mints on the pillows. All of that. Only I ain’t got mints. Fucked if I’ve got ’em. I only went and spent the night before finding the biggest, nastiest rats I could find.”

More cheers and laughter. At this point, I came around from the bar and sat closer. The big bloke, his best mate, was wheezing at this stage.

“Tell ’em,” he huffed. “Tell ’em why they had to be the nastiest rats!”

The skinny lad smiled.

“Because,” he explained. “I didn’t want to do this lesson by halves. If they saw a nice pet rat, they’d still not understand. They need to know that a rat is a rat, and I was going to show them exactly what a rat was. So I takes these two big fuckers from the bag I’d brought with me, and I grab ’em by their tails-“

He stopped and burst into a fresh fit of laughter.

“And I- And I swings ’em around, bouncin’ off the walls, bashin’ their little heads in. And there’s bits of ’em here and there, but that’s rats, and they need to know what rats are. So now I’ve got these limp little bastards in my hands and I sorta tear at them a bit, just roughing them up, and it’s all going everywhere. Just rat bits everywhere. Real nasty. And once I’ve mangled up these rats good and nice I leave ’em on the pillows, like the little mints. Only educational, like.”

More hysterics. His friends patted him triumphantly on the back. Having heard enough, I returned to pull their next round.

“So, course then, they expel me from the resort and send me back here,” he finished, taking the last gulp of his pint. “But I tell ya, once it comes ’round, it’s fucking gorgeous. You won’t be disappointed with it. Best Summer in ages. Wait til ya see.”