HIS DEADLY MUSE
“Looking back at the day when Alison Denton
first arrived in New York City, I realize I would have done anything to get her
into my life. No matter the cost. I see now there was a cost, and it was high.
Very high indeed.”
Looking every bit the best-selling author
that he is, Arthur Chesterson is doing a reading from his most recent novel at
the Read It Again, Sam bookstore near Central Park. Online sales have been
brisk, and he can probably count on half of the fifty or so in attendance to
buy a book today.
He scans the audience while reading, trying
to make eye contact with as many in the audience as possible.
Being a good writer is important in getting
a book published, and Arthur is a good writer, but marketing is not his strong
suit. He tries.
“I pursued her relentlessly. I now see that
it was she who was pursuing me. I was clueless as to her
intentions. I was blinded by what I thought was love.”
Arthur’s gaze wandered to the back few
rows. He saw a woman standing alone near the doorway of the little backroom
they were in. She was holding a large bouquet of red roses.
It’s a secret only Arthur and his wife,
Sophia Santos know, but this new novel is semi-autobiographical. The name
Alison Denton is fictious, but there really was an Alison Denton. Or there had
been. She had been Victoria Caldwell.
Arthur choked on the sentence he was on and
covered it with a cough and a sip of wine. After recovering, he continued
reading and waited a bit before glancing again to the back.
“An obsession, that’s what it was. Once I found
myself ensnared, it was too late. I was hooked.”
Sophia Santos sat in the front row
listening to her husband read. And watching him. She thought he looked a little
pale. Why was he making furtive glances toward the back?
Taking care not to be obvious, she casually
turned to look at the back of the room.
“It’s her!” she gasped to herself. “But it
can’t be, can it? She’s dead, buried in our backyard.”
She knew Arthur was almost to the point
where he finished reading and began the question-and-answer part of the
program. A few might leave then, but those who stayed would probably be buying
Other people had noticed Arthur and Sophia
looking to the back, and now some of them did too. As more did, a low murmur
filled the small room.
People looked at the woman standing in the
back and then looked at the books in their laps they’d purchased and intended
Those who didn’t have books looked from the
woman to the easel standing next to Arthur. On the easel was a large picture of
the novel’s cover. With an artist’s rendition of Alison Denton, or Victoria
Caldwell, wrapped in the arms of a muscular young man.
Arthur had stopped reading when the
murmuring had started. He stared at the picture on the easel, realizing the
reason for the disturbance.
A hand shot up. “What does this mean?”
asked a man in the third row. Pointing at the woman in the back who now had a
small smile on her lips, he said, “Is she the model for your book’s cover art?”
A collective sigh rippled through the
audience and there were whispers of, “Of course, that’s it…. She’s
a model…. How clever….”
But Arthur and Sophia didn’t feel all that
clever. Out of revenge, they’d put the antagonist, Alison Denton, on the cover
using a photo of Victoria Caldwell for the artist to use. They thought the
irony of making money from book sales with a likeness of Victoria Caldwell on
the cover could be savored for years. She had almost wrecked their marriage
before Sophia had hired a hitman to take care of her.
For an extra thousand dollars, the hitman
had helped them bury her.
“Ya outta let me put her in the landfill,”
he’d said. “That’s how we do it. It’s
But Arthur and Sophia had their own ideas and
they prevailed. They planted rose bushes on the spot and intended to enjoy
those roses for a long time.
“I’m not a model,” shouted the woman in the
back in a commanding voice. “I’m the woman in the story, Alison Denton. In real
life I was Victoria Caldwell, and Arthur Chesterson and his wife had me
murdered, and then buried in their backyard. Just as Alison Denton was murdered
and buried in his book.”
Victoria started walking up the aisle
throwing roses to crowd as she went. The roses disappeared as soon as they were
touched, and people shrank from the horrible stench given off by Victoria’s
Most of the crowd was now nearing a
complete state of panic, and they overturned chairs in their haste to get out
of the room.
When Victoria got to the podium, she
wrapped her ghostly arms around Arthur in a bear hug. He screamed and
struggled, but could not free himself.
Sophia tried to come to the rescue, but her
hands were unable to grasp the spirit that was Victoria.
Arthur suddenly stopped his struggling. His
eyes rolled back into his head and fell to the floor.
Sophia shouted curses at Victoria, but
Victoria merely laughed at her.
She then raked Sophia’s face with the
thorny stems of the roses and disappeared.
There was one person in attendance who had
not run screaming from the room. Crime Fiction aficionado, NYC Detective Oliva
Hudson, strode up to the podium and put handcuffs on Sophia Santos. She checked
Arthur Chesterson for vitals, but found he was gone.
know I’ll probably catch some ribbing from the guys I work with, but after I
get a warrant, you and I are going to look at what’s buried under your