January 18, 2017
Copyright C.S. Poe
Artwork: Dianne, Lyrical Lines
Genre: Mystery, contemporary romance, choose your own adventure
The Murder Collection
Pt. 5 ended with two options:
Dean recognizes the victim.
Dean doesn’t know the victim.
Readers chose for Dean to recognize the victim!
Trying to recognize a dead body congealing in a tub of turpentine and what, at this point, had to be mostly his own fluids, was not what I had envisioned after a long day of painting.
Or no painting.
Frankly, I couldn’t imagine such a moment ever happening in my life.
But Detective Watanabe had asked me to look at the guy and I wanted to prove I was a big strong man, so I fucking looked.
God, did I regret it.
It took a minute for me to process who I was seeing, because it was a bit difficult to look past the bloated mass and face practically drooling off the skull. But I noticed that stupid van dyke facial hair… and then the huge gold ring on the hand hanging out of the tub….
I turned, shoved Watanabe out of the way, ran from the water closet, and vomited into a nearby trash bin, much to the annoyance of the surrounding cops and crime scene personnel. I slowly got down on my knees and hugged the bin as if it were a life raft.
“Oh my God,” I moaned.
Watanabe was at my side in seconds. He put a strong hand on my shoulder. “Sorry,” he said gruffly. “I shouldn’t have asked—”
“I know the guy,” I said. I looked up, and by the expression on Watanabe’s face, I was assuming I was a fabulous shade of sickly green.
Just Saw My Art Rival Dead Green.
“Who is he?” Watanabe prompted. I think he was a bit concerned I was on the verge of passing out— but he was also a cop, and the cop wanted the name more than he wanted to rub my back when the dry heaves started.
“Uh… Bradley. Jordan Bradley,” I answered. I wiped my forehead with the back of my shaking hand. “He— I went to art school with him.”
“How long have you known him?”
“A few years.”
“Were you friends?”
The question startled me enough that I momentarily forgot I wanted to puke again. “Wh-what? No way!”
“It’s just a question.”
“I wouldn’t have dated Jordan Bradley if he were on fire and my affection would be all that put out the flames.” I considered the kneejerk reaction. Maybe I shouldn’t be telling a cop that the dead man in my studio was someone I actually loathed.
Watanabe clearly thought the same thing. “You didn’t get along?”
“We had…uh… artistic differences of opinion.”
“Rivals, then,” he concluded.
“You make it sound so dramatic.”
He raised his eyebrows.
“I mean, Jordan once threw one of my projects out the window and a taxi ran over it,” I admitted.
“Sounds a bit dramatic to me, then.”
“Yeah, but it was all him, not me!”
Watanabe stared at me with a hard crease between his eyes.
I stared back.
He eventually motioned with a small gesture for me to follow him out of the studio. I got to my feet, knees like Jell-O, and stumbled into the hallway after him. Watanabe motioned me to lean against the wall, then proceeded to question the every-loving hell out me. From what I had for breakfast, my daily route to and from the studio, to every single interaction I’d had with Jordan Bradley over the last month.
“And the last time you saw Mr. Bradley was when?”
“I don’t…,” I let out a frustrated huff. “A few days ago.”
“For what reason?”
“We bumped into each other at a coffeeshop.”
“How long did you talk?”
“Long enough for him to make fun of me.”
Watanabe stopped writing in his notepad and looked up.
“I’ve had a bit of an artist block lately, and he’s been rubbing salt in the wound,” I said, looking down and speaking to my shoes.
“What exactly did he say?”
CHOOSE DEAN’S ACTION!
What did Jordan say to Dean in the coffeeshop:
“Dean. It’s been so long. How’s that collection coming—is it at the MoMA? I’d love to see it.”
“Oh, I’ve been fine. Busy. So busy. I have a show opening this week. If you’ve got nothing going on, I can add your name to the list and get you in.”