The Stone Carver
In the gallery of statues, the old stone cutter swept around the life sized, Greek-Roman statuary. Many were carved of solid blocks of pink salt from beautiful flowers of incredible detail in different colors of salt, to macabre life-sized statues of people in still life. Some writhed in horrific throes of agony, where he had carved the body, then used water to partly dissolve an appendage.
The tourists that came to the gallery, never left disappointed. It was a gallery of classic, eclectic, romance, and agony.
And within him, was agony. He suffered the loss of his wife, murdered years before. The funeral lasted two days, and had thousands of people in attendance. Such was her popularity.
Security video showed a Saleen Geeteks, who killed her with a broken lampshade as he robbed her. When the police apprehended Saleen, he was found insane and they sent him to a mental asylum for life.
In the end, Angus felt no justice was served and he was not whole. Following his disappointment, he vanished from public life. Never to venture out, he moved his shop to the country where he carved and whittled on marble and salt blocks. It was the quiet life where people left him alone in his heartbreak.
It was quiet, until two couples opened the door and stepped into the gallery. The number and size of the stone carvings was beyond belief.
“I have heard of this place. I didn’t think it was real.” Trokken said, dressed in the latest adaptive combat camouflage. A cream-white jumpsuit that changed patterns and colors as the wearer moved, reducing the wearers visible outline.
They stood inside the door, one of the women, Sunrise, pulled on the others.
“Get out of the line of the door. Stand between the decorations.”
“May I help you?” Angus walked from his studio.
“This is yours?” Trokken asked.
“All you see here; marble or salt, I have created. Flowers, faces, from beauty to horror. What you wish, you will find here.”
“Flowers?” The one called Lillith looked around. “This is stone?”
“Salt, to be precise. The pink comes from a mineral that’s extracted from different sources, and then baked into a block of anhydrous sodium chloride. I carve the shapes as I see them after that.“
“This is gross.” Lillith said.
“The images you see here represent many facets of the struggle of humans, and the beauty of the human body in the marble. Nudes are in the other room, away from where children or people easily offended.” Angus smiled. “Follow me.”
He turned and led the others into the studio of creating.
“In here, I make the objects of beauty. Those flowers you have seen, Miss?” He looked at the taller, dirt-encrusted woman.
“Lillith. That is my war name.”
“War name?” Angus blinked. “Very well, Lillith. The flowers are made of a kind of salt I call, “Dood”. And here, I have a bust of a woman who requested to have her looks immortalized for her grandchildren.”
A crash sounded in the gallery by the entrance. They realized that Odyri was not with them. The young rebels ran to the gallery followed by Angus.
The statue of Adonis lay on the floor, decapitated and splintered.
“Ach! Noooo.” Angus picked up the head. “This was hundreds of hours of chiseling. It was Kaelin’s favorite. I made the body as I was when she met me.”
“This is what must happen to all graven images. You have souls captured in here.” Trokken hissed.
“I do not! You need to rethink your perversion.” He held a stone finger in his hand his voice became tight. “I cannot accept this.”
He glanced around with a fire in his eyes.
“You will join that statue.” Trokken told the kneeling stone carver.
Screams of fear and terror shredded the silence in the gallery.
After six weeks had passed, Detectives Barnes and Noble stepped through the doors and rang the ancient bell on the counter.
“May I help you?” Angus asked.
Odd, he doesn’t seem surprised to see us. Thought Detective Barns as they introduced themselves.
“Business going well for you?”
“Quite fine. I am busy in my studio back here.” Angus smiled, motioning the men to come join him. The old chisler struggled to move a statue of four life-sized figures carved out of a single block of salt to the wheeled frame of a moving dolly.
“We are looking for four people, two men and two women who are wanted in connection to a bombing at the community services center.” Detective Nobel said, reading off of his handheld notebook. “They stole a car and murdered the owners. About a week ago the car was found up the road about ten-kilometers from here. Your gallery is the only building between the city and where it was found. Has anyone that looks like this come into your shop?” Detective Noble showed Angus images of the four wanted felons.
“No sales, a few visitors. I sell mostly by online catalog. I keep busy creating salt-blocks for my sculptures. I am preparing a new block of marble in the back and I’m making a block of red-salt in the mold over there.”
“You mold salt?” Detective Barns
“Yes, it’s heated to over eight-hundred degrees centigrade and slowly cooled so it grows into a translucent crystal. It takes about a week to make a pretty block with inclusions just before the block solidifies and I start carving.”
“You do some beautiful work.” Detective Noble said as he leaned over a flower. “This is very beautiful. How do you get it so smooth?”
“Moist rag. I sometimes lick a finger and just rub, but that leaves striations. So, I use a nanofiber rag with a fine spray of water.”
“This is macabre.” Detective Barns examined a figure of a woman with a horrified look, a spill of simulated water had dissolved her hand off her arm.
“Yes, I have a wide range of creation. It is my therapy since my wife was murdered a few years ago.”
“Yes, my deepest condolences.” Barnes’ words were without emotion. “As I recall, the killer was sent to a hospital for the criminally insane.”
“For life, which is longer than my wife had at his hands.” Angus stood up and glared at the taller detective in the eye with undiluted rage. “There was no real justice in that. You know how she died, detective?”
“Yes, he used a sharp object that was never recovered.”
“Yes. The reason it was never recovered was because she had been repeatedly stabbed by a shard of salt. He left it in the pool of her blood where it dissolved.” Angus hissed. “Not only did she die alone, she died in unremitting agony. Each hole stuck in her by that sharpened stone would have burned like a hot iron. So, forgive me if I have some statues that have a touch of anger in them.”
“This statue is odd.” Detective Noble commented on the life-sized quartet Angus moved.
“Odd, yes, it is my most recent inspiration. It is the Compass of Justice. Each criminal turns on the other, each stabbing the next in a circle. There is no honor among those that worship death.” Angus smiled softly. “I apologize for my flare of anger, detective. Kaelin was my sunshine. When she was alive, we helped the community. Now, I am just a stone carver. I have no use for the outside world other than to bring me subject matter.”
“You have some fine detail, Mr. Cu’Laith.” The detective said, leaning forward. “This face has shadows, but the salt is clear as glass. Like something is inside of the sculpture.”
“You can see into the crystal, nothing is there.” Angus smiled. “I have been working it for a few days to get that effect.”
Angus pulled at his ear. “If you would be so kind as to watch the clearance while I roll this to the gallery, we can get on with the interview.”
“Oh, Mr. Cu’Laith, this is not an interview. Just tying up some loose ends.”
“Of course, detective.” They followed the stone carver to his gallery with the newest display.
Something about that. Ran through Detective Noble’s mind. Oh, I know! He has used the same faces as the museum downtown.
The two detectives bid their farewell from the stone carver. Gave their condolences again over the loss of his wife and crossed the address off of their list. Barnes and Noble glanced at each other and shrugged.
He struggled with the statue and muscled it in place. Then in an inspiration, he rotated it to the best view from the door, then walked back into his studio.
He stopped at the Compass of Justice. The framework inside was barely visible. You could almost see the gossamer thin flesh of a face under the half-inch of polished sodium chloride.