Inspector Detective Novac examined every inch of the room with his trained eyes. From the unwashed and rancid dishes, to the smell of various putrid aromas; the room could make a hypochondriac commit suicide.
Trying to keep his lunch down Novac turned to a lieutenant who was currently admiring the image of a half nude model. The difference between this particular image and something out of any Asian filth rag the Detective summered, was a number of additional zeroes and general public would have no worries with displaying the portrait in their homes in front of their children.
Novac noticed that his subordinate was showing an extreme amount of focus, too bad it was not on his work otherwise the middle aged man might actually be given a slow clap for participating at a crime scene. “Report.” Novac’s voice shook the lieutenant from his fantasy.
The lieutenant pulled out his pad and paper. “Andre Renoir. Age forty two. Not married. One surviving family member. A brother that lives in Paris. Does part time work at a super market.”
As a London man through and through, Novac trusted the French to make his job as difficult as possible. Moving over to a number of canvasses the detective scoured the images of art work. He summarized that Andre was still trying to find his own style.
From the grotesque, to abstract, to simple plain backgrounds, no two paintings were alike. Except that the artist had a fascination with the color red.
The lieutenant continued to read from his pad while his superior shifted through the painter’s life’s work. “Reported missing three days ago. The men on the scene reported a weird smell coming from the room. When no one answered, the land lord opened the door for them. After that they called it in.”
It was little information but the detective had worked with less. A simple disappearance of an unsuccessful artist had loan sharks, drug abuse, and attempted suicide all over it. But what usually seems simple can become complicated in a heartbeat in any type of work.
Novack bent down to a half full paint can and used his pen to examine the contents, despite the color it wasn’t blood but the aroma that came from the container caused the detective to gag.
Above their heads fly paper and air fresheners hung from the ceiling like party streamers, the portraits of some of the woman seemed normal but the amount of red paint gave them an ominous appearance. “You sure he didn’t hide somebody crawl under the floorboards?” It was differently the smell of decay but there was no human way to sniff out the origin as the room was flood with the stench.
Novac summarized that the man was obviously mentally ill or cut off his own nose.
An officer checking the rest of the rooms pulled his head out from the bathroom. “Sir. You might want to check this out.”
Moaning from the effort Detective Novac got up from his knees. He doubted he wanted to look inside the bathroom of a deranged and possibly homicidal artist, but work was work. But on the positive side there was a chance somebody would take this case of his hands. After all, he didn’t get paid enough to chase down a serial killer on the streets of London.
Being marginally disappointed in the lack of dead bodies but delighted that his lunch was still safe and sound, detective Novac observed the contents of Andre Renoir bathroom. “Damn junkie.” He cursed but was ultimately pleased that there was something familiar about this case.
The chemistry set showed the makings of a drug dealer or an do it yourself junkie. The various acids, lack of personal hygiene products, and suspicious white powder had Novac cover his nose and mouth.
The inspector had dealt with the typical and untypical chemist trying to get in on the lucrative and deadly game of narcotics. Discovering meth labs next to baby cribs, pot under floor boards, and the odd overdoes in a back ally. The artist most likely found what happens when small time chemists meet hardened criminals.
However, blood packs, empty paint cans, and the smell of death gave the detective the impression that it still wasn’t a clean cut case. “Get everything down to the lab. Let the lab boys figure it out. I hate this case already.”
“Come on you pack of bastards.” Novac yelled at the TV. Around him four off duty squads were cheering for their respective football teams with enthusiasm.
The attentive cough of a lab technician did its best to be heard over the men screaming at umpire’s call. Unable to get the attention that she deserved the technician knew no one was going to answer or complement her new hair color. Frustrated, she slamed the report against Novac’s shoulder.
Knowing she wouldn’t let him go a second time, the detective split his focus between the report and the game. “What have you got for me Love?”
It was growing ever difficult to ignore the sexist remarks in the station, some might have found it okay but the technician would only take in a deep breath to stop herself from exploding. “That chemistry set you found. Zero for narcotics.”
Annoyed at the lab’s findings and for the opposing team scoring a goal, Novac’s showed his disapproval. “Then what was he cooking?”
“Homemade paint. It’s not so difficult to find. Lots of artists can’t afford the good stuff so they make their own brand.” Excited by what else they found the lab expert pointed to a note. “But here’s the fun part. That was human blood, urine, and sweat the Vic put into the mix.”
Novac winced at the thought and pictured Andre killing some girl for materials. Getting confronted by an army of reporters was going to drive him over the edge. “I hate the psychopaths. Whose blood is it?” Looking up at his favorite player scoring, Novac cheered “You bloody beauty.”
Licking her lips at the interesting part of her investigation and growing excited at the players drenched in mud and sweat, the lab technician decided to personally tell him. “It’s his own.”
“All that genetic material we found in the paint belongs to Mr Renoir. I checked on his website and Andre was literally put himself into his art. All of his models give him a squirt of their blood, and he paints their portraits. It’s like having a piece of you mounted on your own wall.”
It seemed Andre wasn’t the only demented individual in London. Novac had the brief thought of the artist making a mosaic on his padded room using his own feces. “You can’t tell me that’s normal.”
One of the clerks smiles back. “Puts a whole new spin on the phase blood, sweat, and tears huh inspector?”
The lab technician shrugged. “Why should it just be the artist that sufferers for his work? I’ve seen a few of his paintings. Some say he’s the next Van Gogh.”
Something told the detective that he might have sent a bit more than an ear to his sweetheart. “All that blood? Perhaps Andre found himself a little light headed.” Checking the local hospitals could lead to a quick investigation.
For a second there Novac was getting worried he was dealing with a serial killer, but it just turned out to be just one more fruit loop that had a fondness for the strange. But still that sinking suspicion that something more was at play didn’t leave. He shrugged it off. Getting too involved in your case was how he got bumped down from homicide to missing persons.
As the lab specialist walked back to her duties with ideas of having her own portrait done, Novac glanced at the file, occasionally becoming distracted the game. “Wanker.” He breathed as the ref called foul.
The hospitals were a bust, no one sharing Andre’s description was seen or heard. This had caused Novac’s mood to darken as he drove through the streets of London.
At this stage anything was possible. There was no evidence of drug abuse but as Andre was or thought of himself as an artist it was a high possibility that he got his inspiration from some where.
Out of pure curiosity Novac had contacted Andre’s models but there was nothing there. At least two of the models he had used were prostitutes that had needed Andre’s home to either snort or to keep themselves warm, he had paid them only for their portraits and then they were boot out the door.
Five housewives with more money a fading beauty claimed it was a pure business like deal, Novac had enough time to get back in his car before laughter spat out of him. From the photo he had of the artist Novac could tell the man did not have problems picking up girls, and from how one of the birds fancied a man with a badge it was easy to see an affair in the mix. There was a thought that the man was gay but it didn’t fit, Andre did not do one single painting of a male model.
This meant that to add onto the drugs there was a possibility of an affair with a client and a jealous husband or girlfriend taking him to a hole in the ground. Of course with some of these cases the missing person could have just gone to a night club and woke up in the gutter, but it was slowly getting to the point of no return.
Missing persons was strict when it came to such things, there was a window of investigation. This started at the forty eight hour mark and stopped when the next folder with a missing person was tossed in front of Novac’s nose. And sorry to say to Andre and those poor bastards like him but children take the priority.
Now it was coming close to the mark, another case involving a child had turned up and Andre looked to be turning into a cold case. There was no evidence to indicate murder, no matter how much blood there was in the artist’s shit hole of an apartment. At this stage it was looking unlikely that Andre Renoir was alive.
But still Novac was a man that did his job, it was not a glamors job as the TV portrayed it as, but it was a job that he did well most of the time.
Well after days of phone calls and searching through the morgue it was time to give the report the final verdict.
The gallery that brought Andre’s paintings was little more than a shop, it was one of those places which was a firm believer in no price tags. That old saying kept going through Novac’s head as he tried to understand the senseless mess that was behind ever frame. If you needed to ask the price than you couldn’t afford it.
“May I help you?” Straight from that sentence Novac disliked the Curator. Any decent man would have had the word ‘may’ in that sentence beaten out of him and replace with ‘can’.
“Yes. Do you know an Andre Renoir?” Novac flashed his badge as to illustrate that the truth was much appreciated.
The fear on the curator’s face was good or bad sign depending on how you took it. “Oh. Um. Has he done something wrong?” No luck, from the man’s expensive clothes he looked to be more worried about his business than his supplier.
“I was hoping you could tell me. When was the last time you saw him?” And so the song and dance for answers begins. Would the Curator start with a lie or was this another dead end.
“I saw him about four weeks ago.” Like a puppy that just found his dog did an accident on the carpet the curator took an aggressive stance. “What trouble is he in?” From his action it appeared as if the curator had no idea that his artist has gone missing.
“He’s missing.” Novac said waiting for a tell,
The Curator did not seem bothered by it. “Check the pubs. Check that girlfriend of his.”
Girlfriend? The case was growing more of a headache. From Novac’s notes, if Andre did have a girlfriend she never once was introduced to the models. “This girlfriend of his. You know her name?”
The Curator gestured to one of the paintings that was being displayed. “I can do you one better. That drunk bastard painted her portrait.”
From what Novac had seen Andre was an all right painter, even if his materials were more morbid than a sitcom about coroners. But this one the Detective could see being posted on a magazine, not of course the ones he would read as those were normally brought under the counter, but a real arts magazine.
The image depicted Andre, he looked horrible in that drunk lost to the world appearance that happens to blue collared workers who are given a job but with an unreasonable amount of time to complete it. The blood reds had mixed with the blacks that it was beautiful in its description. The artist had captured his own ragged demeanor perfectly.
Novac truly saw that this man he looked at would sell his very soul to the first buyer he came across that so much as smiled at him
But what became the focus of the Detective’s attention was the woman standing behind him. The figure was a looker capable of earning her way off the streets and into a desperate married man’s home and heart. Her breasts, her ebony locks that looked as if she were alive, everything about this woman would have had a sane man on his knees begging.
Novac gave a sigh. “Do you know anything about her?”
The curator returned a shrug before he pulled out a small envelope. “The painting arrived by mail. No stamps, no return address. It was just wrapped up in brown paper and left on my front porch. There was a letter.”
Novac’s eyebrow rose. “Can I see it?”
The Curator shook his head. “Sorry. Tossed in the bin, took me all night to get the smell of blood out of my hands.”
“And that wasn’t an indication to call the police?”
There was a small chuckle on the curator’s tongue. “Andre carried a pen with ink mixed with his own blood. Said he wanted to make his signature more personal.” He shook his head. “The letter said he met this new girl and that he wanted to donate his earnings to an arts school.”
“That’s it? No suicide note? No invite to the wedding.”
If the Curator had killed Andre he was doing an incredibly piss poor job in helping himself. Destroying possible evidence was cause enough to bring him in for questioning. “You don’t mind if I look around?”
There was no trouble, like a host inviting a dear beloved guest the Curator allowed the Detective to search his establishment. All the while he stared up at the captivating portrait of one Andre Renoir and the unknown female. It was only until Novac’s permission to put the painting through the crime lab did the Curator put up any fight.
Novac would later put in the report that the man became possessed, enough that he was about to attempt bodily harm of the Detective.
The court order on the Curator’s house proved nothing but that he had poor taste. The man was set free without further enquirers.
What the Technician did find strange was that there were two types of blood used in the portrait, one belonging to the missing artist and the other was explained to be contaminated on some level, enough that it did not appear to be human.