IN THIS EPISODE: …Vincent dallies with a lover and contemplates a new sculpture for his waxworks…
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CHAPTER 6 – Vincent’s Secret
Vincent Duprix – The Studio at 1951 Fisher St.
A Night of the Waxing Gibbous Moon
Vincent Duprix rose from the couch in his studio, feeling refreshed yet strangely disturbed. Something had changed, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
He walked over to the sculpture he was working on and pulled off the covering that kept the work moist and pliable. It was merely cold clay now, but one day it would be glorious wax with all the warmth and luminosity of real flesh.
That might be hard for some to imagine, here, in the semi-darkness with the chilly light of the stars beaming down through the skylights and only a single electric lamp burning nearby, but in Vincent’s imagination, the finished waxworks piece loomed as clear as day.
He ran his hands over the sculpture, subtly reshaping the breasts, making them more realistic—easy to do, since he’d been handling the actual things just a few minutes before. Then he worked on the waist, slimming it, and the torso, defining every firm rib that he’d recently found beneath his fingers.
Yes, sleeping with a woman always made sculpting her so much easier—at least until his wife found out.
But she wouldn’t. Not this time. She was at the theater tonight, and Vincent had feigned illness to avoid accompanying her. After more than twenty years, he’d had quite enough of Victoria.
Despite that, somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to leave her. Was it the thought of what she might cost him in alimony?
No. Not that. Vincent had never been that concerned about money. He didn’t care about it when he had been young and rich, and he didn’t care about it now that he was much older and on the verge of being broke, either.
His art—that was the thing!
Victoria cared about the money, though, cared enough to badger those poor Cushing girls almost night and day—and this after she’d claimed that ornate, and undoubtedly valuable, mirror from them. From what Vincent knew of antiques, that piece alone should have covered the Cushings’ rent for a year. Yet, Victoria wanted more.
At first, her insatiable appetites had been alluring. They’d done everything together… everything (even before they were married). They’d traveled, seen all the great art of Europe, and even been to America once. And they’d drunk, and dined, and made love to excess at every possible opportunity. It was a wonder that they hadn’t become fat, alcoholic slatterns within a year.
And yet, Victoria had maintained her figure, and so had he. (Perhaps it was all the energy they expended in lovemaking.) And what a pleasure she had been to sculpt…
That face! Those breasts! Those hips! That derriere!
Vincent gritted his teeth, torn between the lusty memory and the unpalatable present.
His left thumb slipped, crushing the delicate cheekbone he’d been trying to re-shape. A stab of pain shot through his hand and up into his spine.
“What’s wrong, darling?” his current model called from the couch. She turned over and sat up, but didn’t cover herself up. (What was the point? He’d seen it all—and handled every inch of her—anyway.) “Is anything wrong?”
“No, nothing,” he said, wiping off his hands and sucking on his left middle finger. “I just slipped, that’s all. Nothing I can’t repair later. Maybe I should stop until morning.”
“What about that finger?” she said, nodding toward him. “I noticed you were favoring it earlier—or were you just holding back?”
Vincent crossed to the couch, took her in his arms, and kissed her savagely.
“I never hold back,” he said. “Not with you.”
She pulled away slightly, and he winced. “Oh, really?” she said.
Vincent scowled. “It’s nothing. Just that finger I pricked a week ago while helping those Cushing girls unpack their mummies.”
“Are you sure that’s all you helped them unpack?”
He ignored her salacious implication. “It doesn’t seem to have healed properly.”
“Let me take a look,” she said in a motherly tone.
He sat down beside her and laid his hand in hers.
“Oh, my!” she exclaimed. “That does look awful. It might be infected. Have you been keeping it clean?”
“I work with clay all day, but other than that…”
“You should see someone about it.”
“I’ll just pop down to the chemist’s and get something for it, after you’ve gone.”
She reclined on the couch once more, opening her arms in welcome. “I’m sure we have time for just a little bit more.”
Vincent rose, shaking his head. “Victoria’s due back from the theater within the hour, and you know it wouldn’t do to have her find you here. She doesn’t even know you’re posing for me.”
His model laughed. “And what would she do if she found out? Would she leave you?”
Vincent pulled on his pants. “I should be so lucky. No. I don’t actually know what she might do—and that’s what worries me, and it should worry you as well.”
“I can handle your wife,” the woman said. She sat up and reached for her clothing.
“You may think so, but she hasn’t seemed quite herself lately.” Just as I haven’t felt quite like myself, he thought. He walked to the room’s full-length mirror, buttoning his shirt, the festering wound on his finger making him grimace. I’ll definitely have to get something for this. “You should get dressed.”
“If you insist,” his model said, rising from the couch and starting to reassemble her clothing.
Vincent glanced in the mirror, intending to gaze at her nude body one final time—for tonight.
Then he gasped.
For in the mirror, he saw not his lover dressing, but an entirely different woman—a woman with long black hair and dark-tanned skin dressed in nothing but glittering golden jewelry. And behind her, almost completely hidden in the shadows, stood a man wearing only a loincloth and a gold skull cap. Both of the strange figures looked Egyptian, but it was the woman who seemed to return the sculptor’s gaze. She was stunning!
Vincent shook his head and blinked, not quite able to believe what he was seeing. And when he opened his eyes again, much to his disappointment, the strange woman and her companion were gone.
His finger throbbed.
“What’s wrong?” Vincent’s lover asked.
“Nothing,” he replied. “Just this damn finger!”
She crossed to the mirror and hugged him, then took his wounded finger and kissed it.
For a moment, the flames of lust rose up within Vincent once more. Then the finger throbbed, and the fire faded.
“Please get that looked at,” she said.
“I will. I’m going right now. There’s a chemist that’s open late just three blocks away.”
She nodded. “Good.”
“Oh,” he said, tying his tie, “take the back stairs, would you?”
“The servants’ stairs?” she asked. “Is that all I am to you, Vincent?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “But no one ever uses those stairs, so there’s less chance you’ll be seen.”
“I thought you said Victoria wasn’t coming home for another hour.”
“We don’t live alone in this house,” he reminded her. “And besides, you never can tell with my wife. She might take it into her head to return early out of sheer paranoia.”
The model put her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Do you think she suspects?”
“I wouldn’t put it past her, even though we’ve been careful. Let’s continue being careful.”
“If you insist,” she said with an insolent nod of her head. She turned to leave.
Vincent swatted her on the bottom. “Begone, wench! Don’t darken my doorstep again until I summon you.”
She laughed, flipped him the double finger “V,” and then exited out the back way.
Vincent chuckled and shook his head, then realized she’d distracted him; he’d done his buttons up wrong.
He returned to the mirror and straightened them, making sure he looked presentable.
But try as he might, he couldn’t catch another glimpse of the girl he’d seen in the mirror.
I’d swear I know her from somewhere.
He shrugged. No time to figure it out now if he was to get to the chemist and back before Victoria returned.
With a spring in his step, he left the studio by the front exit and made his way toward the chemist’s shop, three blocks away.
There, he quickly secured a tube of ointment suitable to the job.
“I guarantee this will clear it up in no time,” said the chemist.
Vincent thanked the man, paid, and went on his way.
He’d barely gone a block, though, when something unusual caught his eye.
Sure enough, his wife was getting out of a horse-drawn carriage two blocks away from their home at 1951 Fisher.
Such an extravagance! Vincent thought. She must not want me knowing she’s wasting money on hansoms rather than taking an ordinary taxicab.
The carriage driver helped Victoria down. Then he took her in his arms and kissed her.
Victoria kissed back—passionately.
Vincent’s eyes narrowed, and a stab of pain shot through his skull.
So! Victoria’s up to her old tricks again, is she? Well, this time she won’t get away with it.
“This time,” Vincent muttered to himself, “she’ll pay!”
TO BE CONTINUED…!
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