The sunlight streamed through in violent, dusty motes. Dust lay everywhere. Every piece of furniture, not covered in dusty tattered sheets, contained a thick layer of dust. There was no sign of violence in the room. It was simply a room, dust-laden, quiet, lit up by sunlight, devoid of any signs of life. Human life, that is.
It smelled foul, but nobody was there to experience the odour of decay, of paint, turpentine, alcohol and human flesh.
Decay, soft and all pervasive, was the essence of the room.
Fifty miles away, in the village of Whitstone, four people sat in the quiet pub, talking in hushed tones. There were just the four of them and a handful of locals in the pub. Outside the moon had just appeared in a cloudless sky.
Alison’s voice was urgent and passionate.
“It has to be. I’m sure of it! There’s no other place he could be.”
“Yes, Alison, I am inclined to agree with you. But we can’t go rushing off on a mere whim. Hold on! I wasn’t going to say your theory is a whim. As I said, I also think this is most likely. Anyway, we’ll go tomorrow and check it out”, said Jeffrey.
“Don’t you see? Philip Wainwright has to be there. You guys don’t know him as I do. When he disappeared, two years ago, everyone assumed he’d gone away to the Bahamas. And, to be fair, those initial postcards from him were quite suggestive. But then, Noddy Sewell went to Bahamas and couldn’t find him. Nobody seemed to know him, or of him. And his disappearance was written off as just another artist deciding to retire some where out of sight.”
The group nodded at at that. Philip Wainwright had never quite got over that fateful art showing, where the the Fenworthy sisters, influential, snobbish and utterly devoid of empathy, had torn the display to shreds in their column. The column was considered one of the foremost voices in the art world. If the Fenworthies said the art was terrible, it was deemed so. And they had taken, it seemed, a special dislike to the Wainwright collection.
Philip Wainwright had read the papers, seen the scathing commentary, and by mid-afternoon he had disappeared. He was last seen getting into cab, with a backpack and small suitcase. The art gallery had reached out to him without any success. His paintings were taken down and stored away.
Alison, Jeffrey, Tim and Margorie finished their drinks walked out of the pub to the little inn, a quarter mile away, and retired to their rooms.
They arrived in the little hamlet of Hexworthy just after 11am. They parked the car on the main street and looked around them. Margorie spread her map out on the bonnet of the car and they all peered at it. There was just one hill, which wasn’t too high, but which didn’t seem to have a path leading up to what looked like a shepherd’s hut at the top.
“It has to be. Come on, let’s check it out, doesn’t look like it’s too hard”, said Jeffrey.
They shrugged into their backpacks and set off. Very quickly, it became apparent that despite not being very high, the walk up was not going to be easy. Ninety minutes later, they arrived at the stone cottage.
They entered the room in silence. The air of gloom, dust and despair filled their hearts with foreboding.
The dead body lay where it had fallen. Philip Wainwright had been dead a long time in that dusty room.
The four walked around the room, examining the paintings on the wall. Tim, walked over to a couple of easels and removed the sheets.
The four of them stared at the two portraits. The canvas on which they were painted, glowed with a violent light. The silence of the room was replaced, it seemed, by an earth-shattering roar.
It took four weeks to properly catalogue and safely transport all the paintings. It took just two more to announce and set up the show.
The headlines screamed, “Artist Philip Wainwright found dead. Stunning nude portraits of Justine and Nadine Fenworthy, noted art critics, found in previously unseen collection of Wainwright canvases.”