Cathy awakened to the sound of humming, of fingers tapping away on a keyboard. Her vision was blurry, but she could make out something square hovering above her-the light coming from her right accentuating its edges. And her neck hurt-her back and buttocks were cold against something steel-hard.
Then Cathy remembered.
The wrestling move; the way The Sculptor had tackled her when she tried to run past him; the way he wrapped his arms around her neck and squeezed her from behind-Good night Irene, Steve used to call it when they played around on the bed. The Sleeper Hold. But there was never that choking feeling with Steve, never a room clad in black with white arms and legs and heads and torsos jumbling up and turning red, then breaking into snow like a UHF channel on an old TV.
Then Cathy understood.
She was naked, on her back-her head locked staring forward at what was clearly a video monitor; her arms and legs were immobile, strapped down against what she knew to be a stainless steel mortician’s table. And then all at once Cathy understood where she was. She was lying on the very same table that she had seen on The Michelangelo Killer’s DVD; the very same table on which she had watched her husband screaming in agony before what was to become The Sculptor’s Piet`a.
As Cathy thought about the fate of her husband-as she thought about what she knew lay in store for her, too-her mind simultaneously raced along with all the theories, all the knowledge about The Michelangelo Killer that she and Sam Markham had culled together in the weeks since she first accompanied him to Watch Hill.
Sam, a voice cried in her head. Where’s Sam?
Ssh! replied another voice. Stay calm. There’ll be time to sort it out later.
The Piet`a, Cathy repeated to herself over and over amidst her rising panic. Sam knew that the answer lay in the Piet`a-in The Michelangelo Killer’s interpretation of it through Slumbering in the Stone.
Yes, Cathy needed time to think-needed to stay calm, needed to focus on the moment at hand. Although she could not turn her head, Cathy knew that The Sculptor was close. She could hear his humming, the tippity-tippity-tap of his typing only a few feet away to her right.
The Piet`a. Sam was right. The Piet`a was his first-everything revolved around the Piet`a. Everything BEGAN with the Piet`a.
Sam was sure he was onto something-just knew he was so close to unlocking the key to The Sculptor’s mind. The secret lay in the reason why Michelangelo chose to portray his Virgin as a young mother. Dante’s Divine Comedy-Canto 33 of Paradiso. “Virgin mother, daughter of your son.” The inherent contradiction of the Holy Trinity; its “incestuous” context; the impure, almost incomprehensible parallel trinity-the father-daughter/mother-son/husband-wife relationship. That warped relationship between a mother and son.
Mother and son, mother and son, mother and son…
The son’s name is Christian. Christian. Christ. Oh my God. Christ.
Could it be? Could it be that he sees himself as the Christ-that is, that he sees the relationship to his mother through the Piet`a? The parallel trinity? Some kind of warped relationship between mother and son? Incestuous? Spiritual, otherworldly incest as defined in Slumbering in the Stone? Could it be?
Sam said the mother was deceased? Was her name Mary? Is it possible? Could it all be true?
Christian! Oh, dear God, Christian!
Cathy suddenly became aware of movement to her right-saw a shadow cross the frame of the video screen above her.
Then came the smiling face of The Sculptor leaning over her.
“You’re awake, Dr. Hildy,” he said-then began to giggle. “Well, not totally awake, as I’m sure you’d agree.”
The Sculptor left her again, and Cathy could hear the squeaking of something metal-something rolling on the floor. Her heart was pounding-her mind booming with a voice that said her conclusions had to be true-a voice that at the same time told her what she must do to survive!
“However,” said The Sculptor upon his return to the table, “I need to make some proportional adjustments-need to give you some sleepy juice while I work on your boobies. Then you will awake, Dr. Hildy. Then you will come forth from the stone as fate intended.”
Cathy felt something cold and wet on her forearm-knew The Sculptor was prepping her for an injection of some sort.
“But tell me who you are first,” he said, pausing, staring deeply into her eyes. “Surely you must know deep down, surely you must already understand. Tell me who you are to become? Night or Dawn. Dawn or Night? Personally, with your bone structure, I see you unquestionably as the Dawn. However, given your mother’s history with her boobies, perhaps Night is more appealing to you. Either way, I promise I’ll leave it up to you. It’s the least I can do. Yes, after all you’ve done for me. I owe you that.”
Then, without warning, Cathy spoke.
“My dear Christian,” she said-her voice not her own, the subtle flicker of recognition in The Sculptor’s eyes giving her the strength to continue. “Oh my son, oh my dear boy-let me hold you one last time.”
The Sculptor cocked his head-curiously.
“Mary, Mary, mother of God,” Cathy said automatically, an inner force ordering her what to say. “Mother and daughter and wife of the Son. Let me hold you one more time, my Christian. Just like in our Piet`a.”
The Sculptor leaned into her.
“I’m here, my Christian. Your Mary-your mother, your daughter, your wife. I knew you would understand. I knew you would find me again-my love, my only son.”
“Mother?” whispered The Sculptor-his eyes glazing over.
“Yes, my Christian,” Cathy said-at once lucid and borderline insane before the foul heat of The Sculptor’s breath. “It’s your Mary-your wife, your mother. Loosen the straps, my son. Let me make love to you again. Let me make love to you again in that special way, the way no one else understands-our secret. Yes, just like when you were a boy, my Christian. Let me take you in my arms and hold you the way I used to-just like in the Piet`a.”
“Mother?” The Sculptor repeated. “Mother is that you?”
“Yes, my Christian. Let me love you again. Just like in the Piet`a.”
“Just like in the statue, Mother?”
“Yes, my dear Christian. Mary and Christ. A mother loving her son. Just like in the statue.”
The Sculptor did not move his face-kept it close enough to kiss her-but Cathy felt his fingers on the straps at her wrists.
“That’s it, my son. Let me come forth from the stone. Let me touch you again from beyond the grave.”
First her right, then her left-yes, her hands were free! The Sculptor lay on top of her-his face nuzzling in her neck, the hardness of his erection pressing against her leg.
“I’m here, Mother.”
“That’s my little Christian,” Cathy groaned-a wave of nausea making her tremble. She swallowed hard and ran her nails down The Sculptor’s muscular back. “The strap on my head, my Christian-across my chest and on my feet-release me from my slumber, my son. Let your mother go. Let me make love to you again after all these years-let me sit up and hold you just like in the statue.”
Outside herself, Cathy watched the scene unfold before her as if she were sitting in a movie theatre. She gazed upon The Sculptor with detached terror as he, zombielike, his eyes locked with hers, unbuckled the straps on her head and feet. And when he sat beside her on the table, when he released the strap about her chest, Cathy watched herself in numb amazement as she sat up on the mortician’s table and took The Sculptor in her arms.
“Let me hold you, my son. Let me make love to you just like in the statue.”
The Sculptor lay across her lap-closed his eyes and suckled at Cathy’s breast as the man once called Christian moved her hand to his groin.
“This makes Mommy sorry?” mumbled The Sculptor. “This makes Mommy love me again?”
“Yes, my Christian,” Cathy sputtered-the dam that was her will, her sanity, about to break. “Mommy is so very sorry, but don’t ever forget that Mommy loves you.”
Her fear, her revulsion rushing back all at once, as Cathy’s left hand closed around The Sculptor’s shaft, the fingers of her right found the IV needle. Without thinking, without pausing, Cathy Hildebrant brought down the stubby steel barb hard into The Sculptor’s eye-heard a squirty pop and felt his penis go limp as he shrieked in pain, as his hands flew to his face and he flopped off her lap like a fish.
Cathy dropped from the table, The Sculptor writhing on the floor only inches away from her-his screams swallowed up by the spongy black walls surrounding him. Despite her panic, Cathy could not help but notice the computer screen. She did not pause, however, when she saw the figure of Michelangelo’s Dawn floating in the black like a corpse on the sea. No, instead Cathy immediately went for The Sculptor’s video camera-picked up the tripod and brought it down like a club on the back of his head as he rose to his knees. The Sculptor-a hand at his eye, the blood spurting between his fingers-braced his fall with his free arm; he just knelt there stunned for a moment staring at the floor. But as Cathy brought the tripod up again, The Sculptor unexpectedly kicked out his leg like a mule, knocking the video camera from Cathy’s hands and sending her flying into the mortician’s table. It swung on its chains-gave way to her weight as Cathy fell backward. There was a loud crack-the feeling of the floor giving way beneath her-and suddenly Cathy was falling.
In the split second that it took her to hit the cement below, Cathy understood what had happened-remembered all too well what the mortician’s table had looked like from the DVD and knew that she had fallen into a trap underneath. But unlike her intellect, her feet were not so accommodating; and Cathy slammed into the first floor of The Sculptor’s studio-her left ankle buckling and twisting in a bright burst of pain. Cathy howled and stumbled against the van-the force of her impact bouncing her backward into a pile of plastic sheeting. Yes, there was light down here cast from a small black-and-white monitor atop the drafting table.
And then there was the smell. The strong smell of-
Nail polish remover?
Cathy did not have time to think. She could hear The Sculptor scuttling above her. She screamed and staggered to the garage door-tried to lift it by its handle but it would not budge.
“Help me!” Cathy cried. “Somebody help me!” Like a caged rat, Cathy zigzagged to the rear of The Sculptor’s studio-found no exit there either and collapsed at the edge of the stainless steel hospital tub. The smell of the nail polish remover was stronger here; it was coming from inside the tub-a tub that looked to Cathy like a chrome coffin.
The Plastination chemicals, Cathy thought. The acetone.
Cathy spied a cup on the ledge of The Sculptor’s slop sink and made a limping dash for it. She was back at the tub just as The Sculptor’s feet dropped through the trap door in the ceiling. Cathy threw open the lid and plunged the cup into the cold, stingy liquid. Quickly she brought it out again, hiding it from view as she crouched by the tub, as she turned to face her attacker. Her eyes met The Sculptor’s as his feet hit the floor. He just stood there, staring at her for what seemed like forever-his one good eye blinking robotically as the blood trickled down from the other’s pulpy socket.
Then The Sculptor began to giggle.
Amidst her paralyzing fear, out of the corner of her eye Cathy spied the glow of the garage door button to her left-two of them, in fact, across the hood of the van on the opposite wall next to a door.
“All right,” Cathy hissed, gripping the cup of acetone. “You can’t get it up for anyone but your mother, so I guess you’ll have to kill me you sick son of a bitch.”
In the shadows, in the dim light cast from the TV monitor, Cathy could not see the look in The Sculptor’s remaining eye. No, all Cathy Hildebrant could make out was the clenching of The Sculptor’s fists, the cocking of his elbows and the lowering of his head.
Then, without warning, he charged.
In a flash, Cathy brought up the cup of acetone and splashed it in The Sculptor’s eyes. The Sculptor screeched like a cat, his hands flying to his face as he stumbled backward. Cathy climbed over the rim of the tub and lifted herself onto the van-her bad ankle banging painfully against the wall, her naked flesh rubbing raw as she slid across the hood. Cathy made it to the side entrance. She could not see The Sculptor as he cried out again, as something came crashing down out of sight behind the van.
“Help me!” Cathy shouted-her body sandwiched awkwardly between the van and the door as she wrestled with the knob. Then she noticed the dead bolt-one that required a key from both sides. But Cathy did not pause, did not look behind her when she heard the driver’s side door open, when she realized The Sculptor was coming for her across the front seat of the van. No, her fingers automatically went for the glowing garage door buttons.
But nothing happened.
“No!” Cathy screamed, pressing frantically; and then she began backing away between the wall and the van. Suddenly, the passenger door slammed open into the wall. The Sculptor’s massive frame was too big to get through, too big to follow her along this side of the van. But then again, it was clear to Cathy that The Sculptor had no intention of following her. No, in the dim light of The Sculptor’s studio, Cathy could see that The Sculptor had retrieved from the van a double barrel shotgun.
Yes, all The Sculptor really cared about now was his aim.
“Bad material,” he said perfunctorily.
Then The Sculptor fired.
The shot was sloppy, half-blind. It took out a chunk of Cathy’s right arm and spun her against the van, dropping her to the floor. But Cathy kept moving. Another shot, the crack of the pellets ricocheting off of the cement as Cathy rolled underneath the van. The Sculptor howled with frustration as Cathy emerged on the other side and rose to her feet-her arm bloody, her naked body scraped and soiled. Cathy began to shiver, began to weep, but did not cry out when she saw The Sculptor open the van’s sliding side door; she did not say a word when she saw him reloading his shotgun. She only backed away until she could back away no more, until her naked body crashed into The Sculptor’s drafting table.
The Sculptor did not speak either-only stood in the middle of his studio and raised his shotgun for a clear shot at Cathy’s head.
And then time seemed to slow down for Cathy Hildebrant-seemed to all but stop as a flowing black angel tumbled from the trap in the ceiling and landed directly on top of The Sculptor. The shotgun fired, wide and wild with a clang to Cathy’s left-a hiss and a pop and the instantaneous smell of sulfur. And then time resumed, rushed back to normal speed when Cathy recognized Sam Markham falling back against the van-the blood on his face, on his shirt as black as oil.
“Sam!” she cried, her legs coming to life. But they did not carry her to him. No, as Markham slumped weakly to the floor, in an instant Cathy found herself running toward The Sculptor.
Already dazed and off balance, The Sculptor received her like a domino. He gave no resistance as Cathy slammed into him, knocking him backward, knocking him directly into the stainless steel hospital tub.
The Sculptor hit the acetone with a splash, sending the chemical spraying all over the carriage house as he went under. Cathy was close behind; she fell on top of the coffinlike lid and slammed it closed-her fingers locking only one of its four latches just as The Sculptor pushed up like a vampire from the inside.
Then out of the corner of her eye Cathy saw the flames.
The Sculptor’s errant shot had set to sparking what Cathy recognized to be an arc welder, and now the spattered acetone had ignited. Cathy backed away toward the van-The Sculptor’s furious movements rocking the stainless steel tub as more acetone seeped out from underneath the partially locked lid. Whirling, the flames mating and multiplying all around her, Cathy spied the van’s keys in the ignition.
“Get up, Sam!” she shouted. “Get up into the van!”
Her strength not her own, Cathy Hildebrant lifted the semiconscious FBI agent through the van’s open side door-took the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition as The Sculptor suddenly burst up from the hospital tub in a spray of acetone. And just as she slammed the van into reverse, Cathy saw The Sculptor go up in flames. She saw him point to her and heard him scream like a fiery demon when the hospital tub exploded-its force sucking the wind from Cathy’s lungs as the van crashed backward through the garage door in a fireball. Cathy kept her foot on the gas; she slammed into a tree as she tried to back away from the sheet of flames that engulfed the acetone-soaked windshield-the sheet of flames that was eating its way around the entire van.
“Sam!” she cried, dragging him out the side door of the burning van. Cathy helped Markham to his feet and supported him on her bad ankle as they stumbled together down the overgrown dirt driveway.
They had only gotten about twenty yards when another explosion sent a wave of heat up their backs and knocked them to the ground. But Cathy did not turn around-did not care to see the carriage house go up in a plume of chemical fired flames. No, all that mattered now was Sam Markham.
“It’s over now, Sam,” she whispered, holding him in her blood-soaked arms. “It’s all over.”