Winter sun slanted through Lucius Gynt's tall windows spreading into a web of light. A long, low studio table made of black glass was positioned underneath the warehouse windows to catch the best of the daylight, now diffused by flurries of snowflakes glinting in the sunbeams. A cold spell had been forecast for New York.
Gynt's artistic accoutrements were spread across the table: acrylic paints and charcoal. pens, brushes, sketching paper and a collection of human body parts: strips of skin, ear lobes, lips, nipples, pubic hair and eyebrows. These had been preserved, tinted with color then treated with a transparent, light varnish.
Gynt sat on hard-backed wooden chair. On the table in front of him lay a thin, veneered board three feet square. Pasted onto the board was a painting membrane. As he worked he hummed to Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus, a Gregorian chant sung by the English choir of King's College, Cambridge, playing at low volume in background.
Gynt was in the zone. He had painted a monochrome, surreal, hallucinatory landscape reminiscent of Sickert, a dark and ruined abbey structure bleeding with shafts of red and white light. The hill of Golgotha loomed in the distance and in the foreground Gynt had placed body parts to create a faux cubist nightmare; a female form distorted.
From a certain angle the onlooker could make out a face; red lips, tongue lolling and elsewhere, seemingly at random, strips of skin, putrefied nipples preserved for all time, eyebrows and strands of pubic hair twisted into agonising shapes and intertwined with savage daubs of paint and charcoal. Over this Gynt used pen and ink to draw patterns and hatched lines, figures and numbers. He pasted here and there words cut from magazines as graphic counterpoints.
At the base of the work he had scratched in ink the title 'Ave Maria' and scrawled the signature, Lucius.
Gynt sat back with a self-congratulatory sigh. His artworks had become the apotheoses of his assassinations; the elevation of the brutal into the divine: from the husks of a cadaver into the glory of a masterpiece. It was almost too much to bear. Gynt chuckled at the image and glanced around at his audience.
'Ave Maria', such an apt title, he thought; remembering the day when, as Chantelle, he had staked out the beach house at Monterrey. His instructions had been clear. The dangerous Ms Montalban had to be disposed of by any means. Gynt's employer had suggested the story that would prove to be irresistible to such a campaigning journalist.
The story that Chantelle told Maria Montalban was simple.
It was the truth.
Posing as someone who had escaped the clutches of the organisation, she would persuade the journalist to come with her to meet two other women who had information that would incriminate the group she was seeking to expose. Blow the lid. Explain the connections. Name names. Pinpoint the high profile players involved. Worldwide.
Nevertheless, Gynt had been nervous as he approached the house across the quiet beachfront drive by the dunes carpeted with wind blown sand.
Would she recognise him behind his alter ego? Was his disguise and persona as Chantelle sufficient to blind her to his true identity? Someone she had met before: someone who had made such a devastating impression upon her.
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