JESSICA SNYDER - UNEXPECTED
A young man dressed in stiff navy colored formals and clean loafers planted flat on the floor, sat at the reception desk with hands crossed against his chest. His eyes scanned the open lobby. The man swayed back and forth in his desk chair, rolling his thumbs over one another, and let out a forceful sigh. “Chin, chin,” hissed from behind him.
The man jumped up, scrambling for his flashlight holstered at his hip, and spun around to meet the grinning face of Officer Holmes. Holmes shrieked with laughter, bending over and even slapping his knee. “Your face!” Holmes chuckled and shook his head. “You need to take it down a notch, lad. You’re going to have a fit before you’re thirty.” Johnny gave Holmes a forced smile before sitting back in his chair. Holmes walked around the desk pointing at Johnny with a smile. “Be sharp, boy. They didn’t increase security for nothing this weekend and you being the newbie and all, you need to keep your wits about you. A lot of expensive stuff is hung up all over this place.”
“Well, did you forget?”
Johnny’s eyebrows furrowed. “Forget what, sir?” Holmes looked at his wrist and tapped on the watch strapped tightly around it. “Time to do your rounds now, boy. Get to it.” Johnny spun around to address his forgotten duties. “That’s a good lad.” He pulled his feet across the open floor until he reached the hallway that to the second and third exhibits. He carefully released his flashlight and clicked it on. He pointed it to the wall at the end of the hall and his heavy feet began making their way down.
The hall was dimly lit. Johnny peered around the corner leading to the second exhibit floor. He whipped around, facing the third exhibit floor. Twisting and whirling around not seeing anything unusual, Johnny nodded and moved his flashlight to the second exhibit.
The door was open. Johnny pointed his flashlight at the small black slit between the door and the frame. He pushed the door open slowly. Like curtains on a stage, the door revealed not Holmes, but a figure, standing at the back of the exhibit, gazing up at a portrait. It was the only painting lit so clearly that Johnny had made eye contact with her glowing red eyes. The man was covered head-to-toe in black velvet Victorian clothing and a long trench coat with a frilly white shirt and a tall top hat. The light danced at Johnny’s feet. Frozen in place, his eyes shot around searching for a clear visible path. “Come here, boy,” said a foreign voice. “Don’t worry… Come.” The man raised his pale hand and motioned towards himself with a graceful flick.
Johnny nodded, and straightened his spine. He carefully placed one foot in front of the other, gripping the flashlight tight. As he approached, the man looked over his shoulder at him. His eyes were bloodshot red resting under relaxed thick black eyebrows holding up a disturbing smirk. As Johnny closed in, the man turned back to face the woman in the painting. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Johnny released a quivering sigh, finally wiping his face with his shirt sleeve. “Y-Y-You can’t be in here, sir. The museum is closed. They open at ten o’clock tomorrow morning if you want to come back tomorrow and look at it.”
The man rotated on his heel to face Johnny. He set his hands firmly on Johnny’s shoulders. He stood taller than Johnny making Johnny lean back slightly to look the man in the eyes. “I’m here for the painting not to look at the painting.” Johnny’s eyebrows met in the middle of his face.
“I… I’m sorry sir, but—” Johnny jumped as the man’s hands slid up to his neck. “It’s no problem, really.” The man’s nails sliced Johnny ear to ear in a fluid motion. Johnny dropped to the floor squirming and grasping at his throat while blood profusely spewed out. The man licked his fingers entirely before walking up plucking the portrait from the wall and walking passed Johnny flopping like a fish. Johnny reached after him as if his head hadn’t been turned into a PEZ dispenser but became still and released one last heavy sigh.
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