Saturday, January 13, 2024

They emitted a slight rattling sound every once in a while, as if eager to spring into action.

None of the wire characters stirred from their assigned positions on the landscape. But despite being still, they emitted a slight rattling sound every once in a while, as if eager to spring into action. Even Lace seemed to have a vapor of cold breath trembling in the air just outside her mouth.

Staring at them, Michael felt as if he, too, were locked in suspended animation. He missed Ash. He missed hearing her voice. Was it too early to call her?

At any other time, he would not hesitate to wake her up and whisper sweet nothings in her ear. With every word, he would come closer to arousing her. But this morning, what he had to say wasn’t sugary, and it was far from intoxicating. 

He had to share a clue with Ash, a substantial clue that sobered him. Michael had derived it from The Artist’s Hand. The scar on its palm could be explained in one of two ways: either Bull had an unusual intuition, which allowed him, somehow, to depict its shape—or else, he was the killer. 

So far, Michael had been inclined to set aside his suspicion and give Bull the benefit of the doubt. Even now, there was nothing he wanted more than to go on trusting him. After all, his friend shouldn’t be judged by the same measuring stick as other people, should he? His mood swings, extravagant as they might be, served to fuel his inspiration. In his art, creative forces were tightly coupled with destructive ones. 

“The artist’s hand is really invisible,” Bull had told him. 

Michael remembered the bandage around his wrist. Was his the invisible hand? 

“Long time no see,” Bull had said. “When did you see me last?” 

To that, he had added, “I think you don’t care to remember. But sooner or later, it’ll come back to you.”

Did he think that Michael had spotted some detail, some hint of the killer’s identity and might, one day, figure it out? 

There would be no urgency to answer any of these questions, if not for Ash, planning to head over to his studio. 

“My last model was beautiful, just like you, but she stopped coming,” Bull had told her. “I can always use a new one.”

Michael groaned. Flipping his cellphone on the palm of his hand, he clicked her name. Would Ash disregard his concern, would she treat it as mere jealousy?

There was a ring, a prolonged ring that died out in the end. 

He clicked her name a second time. 

No answer.

And just as he was about to click one last time, there was a loud bang on outer side of the garage door. It rolled up as if of its own accord, revealing two figures standing there. They were practically indistinguishable from each other. Same height, same cropped haircut, same police uniforms. 

The first cop rubbed his hands together. “This time,” he boasted, baring his teeth in a smile, “we got ourselves a murderer.”

Directing his gaze towards Michael, the other said, “Yes, if the shoe fits.”

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Haunted by discovering the body of a beautiful dancer, Michael re-constructs her murder in a virtual reality. Can he bring the mystery to life? Can he solve it in time, before the killer turns on the woman he loves, Ash?

"A truly fascinating glimpse into the world of virtual reality. I felt as though I was in Michael's work environment whenever he was using Virtual Reality. Whether he was displaying Laguna Beach or the Northrop Grumman B -21 Raiders flying overhead, I not only was there but I could feel my heart pounding and my pulse racing..."  

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