Chapter 1

Huge trees shaded the little flat house near the Keawaeli Bay, Hawaii. The modern steel and glass architecture almost hid under the innocence of the nature – just like his new owner was hiding. Mikael had bought the home five months ago, shortly after he had left Los Angeles in quite haste. Before the police stopped rejoicing about having brought down the wanted women killer and some annoying people started to ask dangerous questions again…

The elegant chisel scratched over the surface of the marble block, deepening a small sinus shaped ridge. Back and forth, back and forth – it was the frantic movement of a prisoner trying to dig his way out of immurement. Dust and little splinters flew, while tiny bloody rivulets colored the immaculate white of the stone.
Mikael didn’t care. He was working on this project for over a day now. As usual, when he was in the middle of the creation process, he got obsessed, flooded with Adrenalin, which kept him working without sleep, food or drink. He did not even feel the pain of his lacerated hands. He felt nothing but the urge to finish this creation! What was pain anyway, agony, death? Nothing new came into life without pain and destruction, nothing truly great without the death of anything. Nature didn’t give up its familiar shapes that easily. They had to be raped from her, the old smashed by force, to reveal the true beauty! To get ready to be transformed into something new, into perfection!

The tool clanked to the ground. He had seen perfection, touched it! His hands clutched around the edges of the artwork. It was cold. It was marble, not Hannah’s beautiful body with the velvet like skin. It was far from being perfect!
With a groan of exhaustion, Mikael sank down, in vain trying to steady himself against the statue. He gasped, fought against the suddenly overwhelming dizziness accompanying the blood pulsing in his ears. His glance fell on his image, mirrored by the video installation. He remembered now having forgotten to switch it off. The screen showed a lean, ghostlike face; its paleness heightened by the white dust; eyes underlined by broad dark rings of tiredness and traces of blood searching their way down his left cheek.

In a sudden spike of rage, Mikael grabbed the chisel and threw it into the screen. Glass shattered, electric sizzling hissed through the atelier. A moment later, the lights went out. No, he never had possessed perfection; the less he had possessed HER. She had lied to him, betrayed him. Now his touchy ego and pride were mortally wounded, and he wasn’t sure if he could ever recover and get close to perfection again.



Not so far away, in an older two storey-house what looked as if it had survived through many storms, Crystal and her ex-and-not-quite-again husband Norman ate dinner. Norman, whose upper half of the body just vanished behind some papers, was a tall, bearded man, giving the cliché of the environmentalist he was. Crystal, however, with her delicate features and light hair, seemed to belong anywhere but into the wilderness. Nonetheless, eco-activism had brought them together – and apart in the end. Now they were making a second try here on Hawaii. She was not sure if it worked, though. To be honest, she was less sure with every passing day.

Lost in her thoughts, the young woman stirred in her Minestrone. Of course, it had been her idea to give their relationship a second chance! Norman had consented without much pondering, just as if musings about this subject would draw him away all too long from his activities for the environment. Crystal felt bad thinking this. Wasn’t this selfish of her? She knew how vital Norman’s work was, didn’t she? If there would be just a small place in between the work and fights for the two of them!

She sighed and her gaze wandered to the window, through which she could observe the sunset over the sea. A wonderful sight. Heaven and earth seemed to melt into something new, a state in between, plunged into orange, yellow and gold…
“Norman?”
“Yes, Darling?” he answered without taking the eyes from the papers.
“What do you think about a little walk on the beach?”
“I would love to….” A long pause, not because he thought the subject over, but because he had found something in the papers needing all his interest. “However… you know, we have this meeting tomorrow with the mayor.”
“There’s always a meeting or something!” She heard that she sounded angrier than intended.
At least, Norman looked up now.
“You’re not fair, Crystal. If we don’t do anything, this airport is built and the biotope of the whole area will be gone forever! Don’t be that grumpy. I don’t do this for me, you know that!”

She sighed silently and occupied herself with her meal again. It was of no use. It never had been. She shoved the dish back and stared outside again. If they just had the time to watch the sunset together!
On the other hand, maybe she was expecting too much. ‘Look at your friends,’, she tried to convince herself. ‘Kate, who is already divorced twice and now sits alone with two little kids. Or Margie, who falls from one abusive relationship into the next one. Or Rachel, whose husband went off with all her money.’ No, she had no reason to complain, had she?
Crystal stood up and started to remove the dishes and cups from the table. ‘So why can’t I just be content and happy?’ She sensed frustration and anger build inside her and hurried to get the household duties done. Filling the dishwasher at least kept her mind busy. Norman was on his way to the computer; she heard his steps on the staircase to the upper floor. For sure, he would stay there until midnight at least, for tomorrow was the important meeting, and he had to finish his speech, brief his fellow comrades…
“Love you, honey!” she heard, before he closed the door.
“Love you too,” she answered.

When she had finished the work in the kitchen, the sun had set. She went up to the little roof garden, nonetheless. Now the moon let his silvery band glitter on the sea. It was also beautiful to watch. It spread some mysterious aura, reminding her at the fairytales of her childhood. It was still very warm, and the soft breezes of the wind like a bodiless caressing. Crystal closed her eyes and finally smiled. Tomorrow, it would be a better day. When Norman’s meeting was over! They could go on a little picnic….



At 2 PM, Mikael sat in his high-tech designer kitchen and prepared breakfast. He had slept until 11 AM in his atelier, and then he had started to clean up. When the periods of obsession where he didn’t pay attention to anything but the creative process, where over, he felt disgust regarding all the uncleanliness. He put everything in order in the atelier; then he spent nearly an hour in the bathroom.
Now everything was shiny and orderly – except his mood. His manager had called him again and pestered about new works and an exhibition he had planned in New York. Why on earth, this ignorant couldn’t understand that creating artwork was unlike producing hamburgers in a fast-food restaurant?!? You couldn’t just command, and it popped out! And right now, he was in a crisis for weeks.
 
Maybe, Mikael mused, he should change the material again. Stone didn’t seem to be very responsive… His thoughts circled around perfection, destruction and decay again, while he poured the milk into the cereal bowl. A French artist had recently made video experiments in recreating famous still-life paintings with real objects, and then he had filmed the growing decay of them. Interesting approach, but not quite the expression of what Mikael searched to do. He didn’t want to stop there, showing the loss of beauty. He wanted to show the phoenix rising from the ashes again, the new thing, the other thing! The circle of life…

CHAPTER 2

The doorbell rang and Mikael put his tools aside to take a look, promising himself to have a fence and a CCTV installed as he had in his other homes. He didn’t feel like dealing with any disturbances and annoyances!

When he opened, his eyes fell on a young woman with undoubtedly appealing shape and features, but displaying everything that blatantly it would not even hold any interest for him, if he hadn’t been in the mood he was.
“Yes? How may I help you, Miss?”
“Mister Gant, I heard you moved in recently. Uh, my name is Janet.”
She smiled and moved in a way she thought perhaps sexy. “I’m a huge fan of your artwork, you must know!”
He supposed she didn’t even know what art was.
“…And I just wanted to say, if you are in need for a model, I live nearby, so to speak!” A little giggle. She threw her hair back, and her earrings clanked. “I have some experience in the business and --”
“I have no need for any models at this point, Miss Janet.”
“Oh! That’s… a pity.”
“If you would excuse me now.”
Mikael closed the door in front of her without waiting for an answer.

No, he didn’t feel up to disturbances, especially by women. Before the huge disappointment of Hannah, women had a very stimulating effect on him. Now, however, the only effect was that they drew his memory back to her and her lies! He pressed his lips together and walked around the marble statue he had finished last night. It replicated parts from several famous antique statues, but he had rearranged the single elements to a new entity. There was an arm from the ‘River Nile’ of the Roman Trevi fountain, there was part of the head of a Bernini-Apollon. The best and significant parts merged into something intriguing and perhaps shocking. The work was far from being over, though. He wanted to blend several parts of the statue with metal, and then set the corrosion process into work.



Crystal had packed her picnic basket with fresh bread, cheese, Italian salami and a bottle of wine. She had chosen the sort, she and Norman were drinking during their first weekend together, 5 years ago in Yosemite National Park. He would like it, she hoped; finally some hours of relaxation after all the agitation and action of the last months against the airport !
Norman had told her the meeting would be at 1 PM, and he would be back before 5. The perfect time to snatch him for a quiet sunset picnic at the beach! Crystal was looking forward to it and could hardly wait.

It was shortly before 6, when he eventually called and told her, he would bring some of his companions with him, and no, she shouldn’t prepare any extra food, because they’d already eaten in a Diner near the airport to discuss the future strategies.
As full of pleasant anticipation as Crystal had been, now her mood dropped down like fallen from a cliff. She answered monosyllabic, when he told her about the meeting and the problems, but Norman hardly seemed to notice it. When she hung up, she was close to crying. For a moment, she mused about calling one of her friends, but they had their hands full with problems - real problems, and she didn’t want to bother them. After sitting yet another 15 minutes in front of her picnic basket, Crystal decided to go and enjoy the sunset alone. She was very hungry meanwhile and moreover, not in the mood to meet Norman’s fighting comrades. At such occasions, she always felt like being the odd one out. Putting a note at the kitchen table, she left through the rear door towards the beach.
She knew a spot there, where she could sit on an old trunk, shaded by the fan leaves of a palm tree and, from a slightly heightened place, watch the sea and the ships in the distance. Maybe she would feed some seagulls. It was always fun to see them compete and fight for the crumbs!



The sun was already close to the horizon, when Crystal discovered the man walking along the shore, partly in the water whenever a wave washed a bit higher. Perhaps someone taking a hike with his dog, she thought, munching her Camembert slice. Dog owners loved this trail, and the animals, too, when they ran and jumped through the warm water.
However, this wanderer seemed to be all alone. He wore white trousers and a half open white shirt, and the color of his hair was almost as fair, too. He was tall - maybe matching Norman’s height - and lean, without looking emaciated. There were just enough muscles and mass to give his body the perfect proportions coming from normal work instead of artificial body building. His features were very serene, almost sad.
Crystal caught herself staring at him from her secure hide out and shook her head. What was she thinking? She sounded like her friend Kate - and Kate, in particular, had a very bad judgment when it came to men! So, this guy there was one of the typical beach hunks, probably a bored Millionaire’s son chilling out from doing nothing. The sort of people who wanted the damned airport!



Crystal hadn’t paid attention to her picnic basket, which stood in a precarious position, and now, when she accidentally kicked her foot against it, it slid down the sandy slope, landing in front of the stranger.
He halted, turned into her direction and discovered her.
“Hello! What an unusual invitation.”

She rolled her eyes, while she stepped down to him.
“Sorry. It slid down before I could grab it.”
She snatched the basket from the ground one moment before his hand touched the handle and felt very silly. She continued to talk to conceal the embarrassing situation.
“Normally, I watch the sunset from our roof garden, over there.” She pointed into the direction.
“That’s only some meters away from my home!”
“Ah, you must be the artist who moved into the Hemsworth house some months ago! Norman told me about you. I heard you working sometimes still late in the night.”
“Yes. I like working at night time. It’s quieter then, I can focus better.”
Crystal nodded understandingly, even if she couldn’t comprehend what on earth anyone could find distracting in this calm area. She didn’t want to hush him away, though. A little small talk, after sitting alone at home and waiting the whole day long, wouldn’t be that bad! This guy seemed an interesting person. Someone at least, who did NOT only speak about the environment- protection actions, meetings with politicians and so on!
“What kind of artwork do you create? Paintings?”
“It depends on my inspiration. Sculptures mostly, and video installations. Some performances.”
Despite the longing for solitude in which he had begun his evening stroll, Mikael started to like this conversation. “At the moment, I search for something new… but haven’t found it yet.”
“I liked Mary Cassatt a lot, when I was a 12 or so! Her people looked that… real, as if you just needed to put out your hand and stroke over the child’s head!”

“In my artwork, I try to look behind the obvious. Behind the facades of beauty, to reveal… thoughts, emotions.” Becoming aware of the bright orange red the world was suddenly plunged in, he turned towards the sea, where the sun just melted in the water. “I try to confront them with the truth, to expose their inner self. Look at this sunset! Beautiful isn’t it?”
“Yes!” Crystal half closed her eyes and enjoyed the warmth.
“But a lot of indigenous people and ancient cultures saw the end of the world coming watching the sunset. For them, the sun died each evening. And they needed rituals to call it back in the morning. There are always multiple sides of each thing we watch…”

They stood in silence and observed the everyday drama of nature, until the last red shine had vanished behind the horizon.
“I don’t even know how late it is!” Crystal realized. “I better go! …. Uhm… do you want the rest of this picnic? In case you work through the night?”
A faint surprised smile flitted over his face. Then he grabbed the basket indeed.
“Thank you.”
“And I haven’t even introduced myself! I’m Crystal Jennings.”
“Mikael.” He took the offered hand. “Mikael Gant.”



When Crystal arrived at home, Norman and his companions where still sitting in the kitchen, smoking and discussing. For sure he had not spent one thought about her! If she had returned yet an hour later, he would not have noticed it.
“Hi, Crystal, sweetheart!” he called to her. “Meet my wonderful hopefully soon-to-be-wife, Crystal!”
All the eyes turned towards her and a multiple greeting’s murmur welled up. “How was it on the beach?” Norman asked.
Before she could answer, his attention was already occupied with the suggestion of one of his comrades again. When he looked up, she was already in the door.
“Don’t you want to sit with us a bit? We talk about a demonstration we could organize.”
‘What else,’ she thought. “No, I have a little headache. I’ll lie down.”
“Okay! Hope you feel better tomorrow! Good night!”
“Good night everyone!”

Crystal went to her room and stretched out on the couch. For some time, she lay there, musing about the things this artist had said to her. Mikael was his name, yes. Was he a famous person? She had to look up in the internet, if she had time tomorrow and Norman didn’t work all day. She did not want to be a complete ignorant in case she would run into him another time.
Still, no sign of Norman to join her. She started to undress. However, then she decided otherwise and stepped up to the roof garden. In the falling night, her eyes searched the former Hemsworth residence. Yes, there was still light! He was working indeed. Crystal leaned over the balustrade and wished to know, what he was creating.

 

CHAPTER 3

Mikael had almost been running the last steps into his atelier, as if fearing to lose the sudden bright flash of enthusiasm and inspiration. Without even changing his cloths, he grabbed some metal sheets, welding equipment, and then some other tools and started to work…

When the first light of the new day started to shine through the broad window front, its rays touched the tiny bust of a woman. The upper part, forehead, eyes and half of the nose was made of gold colored copper, delicately chiseled and polished. The rest of the statue was dark grey, left raw metal.
“Sunset’s touch…” Mikael murmured while absently caressing the bust’s cheek.
But from one second to another, his rapt smile changed into the angry grimace of a demon.
“No!” he shouted, pushing the statue down from the work bench. “Not again!”
One time his heart broken was really enough!

Fleeing out of the atelier, he discovered the picnic basket, which stood near the staircase where he had dropped it yesterday – and forgotten. He realized it might be a good idea to have something to eat and hastily shoved several bites of bred and sausage down, before he stepped to the upper floor. There, in his bedroom, he had special light repellent jalousie installed. One push of the respective button, and it moved down. The beautiful beach scenery outside vanished. Almost complete darkness enclosed him. He sighed relieved and undressed without switching any lights on, as usual. Hopefully, the shapeless blackness would calm the disturbing images in his mind, too!



Crystal and Norman had just sat down on the terrace for breakfast. The air was still cool and it promised to be a lovely, not too hot spring day. Norman had been so kind to prepare everything, as if he wanted to apologize for yesterday night, when he couldn’t spare much attention. Now they enjoyed French rolls and bacon, watched the nesting birds gather their material and listened to the sound of the waves. Crystal wondered, if it might be a good moment to ask his opinion about the new kitchen furniture she planned to buy, after the old one inherited by his mother was nearly falling apart now. She opened her mouth – and his cell phone rang.
Norman took the call. As expected, it was something very important, which kept him from eating. Crystal waited some minutes, and then she finished her breakfast alone, not wanting to drink cold coffee. Finally, he stopped and stood up the same moment.
“Sorry, I have to go. They’ve found an injured turtle. Gotta help.”
“Of course.”
He was a Veterinarian, after all. However, why did this has to happen during their breakfast?! Norman snatched his half eaten roll, drained his meanwhile cold coffee and was gone.

Crystal stayed there yet another moment. Then she removed the dishes and food remains from the wobbly old table and went back inside. She hadn’t even asked if he would be back for Lunch, she realized. Well, he could call. She hoped he would. In the afternoon, she had her weekly appointment in the village school, where she taught the little ones about environment protection, they could do themselves.In the afternoon, she had her weekly appointment in the village school, where she taught the little ones about environment protection, they could do themselves. Until then…
She halted the coffee cup still in her hands. Yes, until then, she would stop by in the library and look up this Mikael Gant. She was curious; now after having made this proposition, even more. As fast as she could, she filled the dish washer. Then she hurried upstairs and made herself ready to go.



Despite the comforting darkness and despite his tiredness, the images pursued Mikael in his sleep, just as so many times before. And not only images, the voices, too. The hawk like face of this police officer practically hovered in front of him, as he hissed:
”I tell you what: you took these girls up to your fancy home, made sex with them, and afterwards killed them!”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“The fuck you know it! You’re a disgusting little creep slicing up women and taking video footage from it!”


Mikael startled from his sleep with a painful moan. Noticing it had just been another of these obnoxious nightmares, anger rose in him. Hadn’t it been enough that these moronic cops dragged him in for questioning like a criminal, must this memory stick to his mind with such tenacity?!
He fumbled for the bedside lamp and switched it on. Soft bluish light filled the sparsely decorated room. He arose to fetch a glass of water from the dispenser on the sideboard. The unusual light frequency he had used for the lamp let his body seem almost fluorescing in a pale, unearthly shine.
Why didn’t they stop asking him those questions? The uneasy feeling deep inside him didn’t go away. Neither could it be rinsed with water, nor hushed away with light. And it was more than annoyance what was brooding inside him… Mikael tried to isolate it, to discover the reason - however, it was as if an impermeable wall hid the truth before his poking thoughts. He scratched through his hair and stretched on the bed again.



In the library, Crystal found several newspaper articles mentioning Mikael Gant and, to her surprise, even a video tape from a vernissage. Quite obviously, he was a celebrity in Modern Art! The critics were very divers, though. A feminist writer accused him of ‚cementing sexist male behavior‘, some religious groups protested against the exhibitions. On the other hand, art historians praised his works as ‚dawn of a new age in art‘. After reading some of the articles, Crystal took the tape and adjourned into one of the little cabins prepared for video watching.
The sculptures didn‘t communicate her much at the moment. The video installations however, enthralled her more with every minute she watched them. She was surprised how something that mundane and common in the modern world as naked bodies and sex could be shown in that an artistic way it looked almost like a religious thing. After some of the critics, she had half expected something pornographic, disguised as artwork only by sophisticated titles. Now watching herself, she had in no way that impression. Even less, when she remembered the words Mikael had said to her.
Amazing Crystal thought and the tv screen mirrored her smile. These videos stirred up emotions in her she had not thought they could exist. A window to a whole new world seemed to open…
She glanced at her clock. Heavens! It was almost 2 PM! Meant, she had to hurry to get to the school in time!

The class was a mess this day, too. Two of the kids were constantly bickering and another one obviously had a cold and sniffed and sneezed. In addition, Crystal was somehow not in the mood to talk about submarine life and the danger emanating from oil platforms.
I really have to prepare better, she reprimanded herself while leaving. At least, it was not just a voluntary action she did here! These children would have the responsibility for the world of tomorrow - as Norman expressed it. And he was right!

Riding home, Crystal wondered if she should drive by Mikael‘s house and fetch her picnic basket again. It was almost on her route, and she needed this basket for her market shopping, tomorrow. Yes, she decided, she would say hello and take the basket and wish a nice day. Nothing to ponder about this that lengthily, right?
So she turned into the respective lane.
Some minutes later, she stood in front of the architectural dream of white stone and huge glass fronts. This was something, she had to admit, especially in comparison to her old battered house! However, this design object looked cold and impersonal, too. She liked it more when the homes had some wrinkles and cracks.

She rang at the front door, but no one reacted. Crystal decided to take her chance from the other side, though. The door to the garden was open, and she entered cautiously, not sure, if there was a watch dog anywhere. But it remained quiet. Some blocks of stone and pre-arranged metal parts informed her, that Mikael used the garden for work. She could nowhere spot him, nonetheless, and called his name.
One moment too late, she discovered the black jalousies in front of the windows upstairs. Now the black sheets already moved upwards, then one of the windows opened, and Mikael looked down.
„I‘m sorry!“ Crystal yelled. „I didn‘t want to disturb you! Only wanted to take the basket, that‘s all. I‘ll come back another time!“
„No, wait. I‘m down in a minute!“

She felt uncomfortable, though. The moment, he showed up in the door, she excused herself again.
„I really didn‘t think, I‘m sorry having roused you!“
He seemed to love white, she thought, seeing him again clad in white shorts and a shirt of the same color. In the afternoon sun, it was almost blinding.
„I couldn‘t sleep anyway. Some… nightmares. Please, come in.“
Squeezing her eyes to adjust to indoor, Crystal glanced around. The atelier reminded her of a wizard‘s castle - or something like that she had read as a child in a fairytale! A place with lots of strange creatures frozen in a spell. It was … intriguing, compelling and yet… somewhat frightening.

Mikael sensed a similar mixture of feelings sweep through him - in watching her. She stood against the light, and the thin fabric of her dress revealed much of her shape.
Beautiful… almost --
He caught himself .
„I‘ll get your basket!“
„Oh, you have barely taken anything,“ Crystal noticed a moment later, heaving it from his hands.
„It‘s not the fault of the food. I was working. And as in most cases, I forget to eat, then.“
„Working on that?“
Following the undeniable traces of metal splinters and dust around the empty space on the work bench, her gaze had discovered the metal bust on the ground. Before Mikael could say anything, she cowered down to recover it.
„Good Lord, this is…“
Her voice got stuck in her throat when she realized it was her own face, staring at her with copper eyes. Slightly trembling, she put the piece back on the bench. It attracted her almost magically, though, and she stretched her hand again to touch it.

Mikael observed her fingers trace the lines of his artwork, feel for the structure of the material. What sensuality radiated through her movements! He sensed desire flare up again, all but hot enough to burn down the toxic memory of Hannah.
„I… I don‘t know what to say. I was never been used as … as model before!“
She turned her head and now looked straight at him.
„Does it embarrass you?“
Their eyes met and for a moment, Crystal had the feeling, time stopped just as her heart missed a beat. The strangest thing she ever had felt! Another second passed, before she had collected her mind and answered with a head shake: „No. Why? … I mean …“
She couldn‘t think clearly as long as their glances were locked that way! With a considerable effort, she turned her attention to the basket and grabbed it again.
„Well! I think I have stolen enough of your precious time! I‘ll leave you to your inspiration, now!“
Mikael managed a simple Good bye, but kept his hands folded behind his back. His eyes, however, followed her until her bicycle vanished around the next corner.

 

CHAPTER 4

When Crystal came home, Norman was back, and he had brought the injured turtle along, thinking he could provide better care that way. The poor animal had been wounded by a speed boat and now needed a special bandage around his rear leg. It was a fairly young and tiny one. Norman had placed it in a box with grass and sand and a little water basin.

Crystal prepared something for dinner in the microwave; they ate in all haste, and then they took both positions next to their house guest, like parents caring for a sick child. Watching Norman acting that attentive and gentle with the tiny animal, the idea of having a real child flitted through her thoughts. Maybe this was what their relationship needed! She stretched her hand and caressed over the turtle’s shell. A sweet little baby of their own…
She mused how to bring the subject up.
“It’s that nice, just the two of us together,” she finally said. “Wouldn’t it be great, if we had some more time for us… only for us, I mean? Without politics and activities?”
“We will, Darling. When this campaign is over, we’ll have plenty of time again.”

Crystal’s mood sank involuntarily. She had waited for this or that being over the first six years of their marriage. And now, she was – waiting again, she realized. To what end?
“Norman?”
“Yes.” He was watching the turtle crawling around, and helped her, when she got stuck in between some of the dry weed.
“Maybe,” Crystal started again, “if we choose one day to be just for us.”
“You make it sound as if I had to decide between you and the things that have to be done. This is childish. We know, environment protection is essential and it costs a lot of work to drill this into the stubborn heads of the responsible. – There you go!”
He put the turtle down again near the water basin.

The young woman felt again the frustration well up which in the end had led to their divorce in the first place. It was of no use! Simply of no use to try talking to him about this subject!
For some time, silence prevailed. Then Norman asked, burying the previous conversation finally: “How was your day? Did you have a good time with the kids at school?”
“Oh… fine. Claude and Percy were fighting again the whole time. They had to be put apart,” Crystal answered leaving out the visit in Mikael’s atelier. Already some weeks ago, Norman had made quite clear what he thought about their new neighbor. For him, artists in general and modern artists in particular, were people who were one beer short of a sixpack. For sure they drank and filled themselves up with drugs supposed to ‘widen their mind’. In any case, they had lost all sane contact to the nature and world!
She remembered watching the sunset with Mikael and wondered, if he had lost that contact indeed. Or had he discerned much more than she, who always thought to walk through the world with open eyes?!?

Norman’s voice disturbed her in the re-picturing of the last evening.
“You look very tired. You should go to sleep, Darling. I’ll stay here on the couch, in case there are any problems with our little guest. I don’t think so, but…”
“…you can never be sure.”
Crystal stood up, hugged him shortly and went upstairs.
However, she couldn’t find sleep. She didn’t know what it was. Maybe a weather change was coming up. She felt fidgety and, despite Norman being only down in the living room, suddenly quite lonely. Of course he was right with the things he had said. This gave her a guilty conscience even more. Was it childish and selfish to wish to have someone belonging only to her? At least for some hours… At least for some hours no talk about work and necessary activities, but someone embracing her and watch the sunset in silence. Was that too much?
She turned around to face the wall. The moonlight shone through the half open window and wove intriguing bands of light and shadow with the pattern of the thin curtain. When a breeze moved the curtain, the light did as well. Somehow, it made her think of Mikael’s video art. When she fell asleep at last, she whispered his name.



Mikael was thrown in an emotional thunderstorm, which got worse, the more he fought against it. He tried to work with utter commitment and succeeded in finishing two of the planned metal parts of his sculpture. But he could not even look at the stony shape of the Diane-replica he had carried out with such diligence, without thinking of Crystal. He felt like an addict who saw his favorite drug within reach after months of forced abstinence, and no memory of how its previous consummation might have damaged him, was strong enough to cool the longing, lusting for it. He found a million excuses why this woman would be different from Hannah; why she wouldn’t do such a thing as exploit his feelings, lie, betray…

With a sigh of frustration, he stopped working. It was 2 in the morning. He had planned driving to the city that day, to pick up the new tools he had ordered in a shop. So he could have some coffee now and something to eat, a cold shower of course, and then hit the road.



Next morning, Crystal found her sheets in quite disarray and immediately after getting up, she stuffed them into the washing machine. What was that, she asked herself full of annoyance, having wet dreams about a man you have barely met?!? Acting like a 14-year-old teenager would not exactly make things better! Moreover, a man like Mikael Gant, rich, intelligent, famous and handsome, certainly had more women than he could count at his ten fingers! Angrily, she pushed the activating button of the machine, turned around, and only now discovered the note on the table.
Norman informed her, that he had got a call from a Veterinarian ambulance in Hilo searching replacement for one of their pensioned doctors. This might be in fact a job opportunity! Even if it meant, he would be at home yet rarer – they needed the money badly. This old house was slowly falling apart, the car too, not to speak of the damned insurances… Oh God, she hoped it would be a fruitful meeting, and he would not screw it up again with his temper!

As she could expect Norman back only in the evening, this meant another day alone. Crystal decided to bring some order in the backyard, clear the shed… and yes, the gate to the beach could use some new paint, too. She shot a glance at the turtle in the living room. The little guy was fine and Norman had already fed him. Later, when she had finished repainting the gate and the smell had dissolved a bit, she would bring the box outside.



Detective Hoover strode into his office at the Hilo police station, still spreading the relaxation of his vacation.
“Morning everyone! “
“Morning, Ray!” answered one of his colleagues, “What about your house?”
“Nearly finished!” Hoover sat down and propped his feet on the desk. “We’ll have the roof covered next month, and then Kate can relax and wait for the baby to come. Ah, this reminds me, I wanted to check if—“
“Ray? Sorry!” Another colleague, a woman with short black hair, peeked through the slid in the door. “I have something for you!”
She handed him a folder, continuing: “Nothing very nice for your first day at work, nonetheless…”
He opened the crime scene report and his face lost all traces of the former relaxed and happy mood. Naturally, he had seen some dead people in his job already; shot, stabbed, car incident victims. However these photos…! He breathed out heavily and shook his head, staring at the next one in the folder.
“Looks like we have a really crazy bastard around here...” Hoover raised his head: “Where has she been found?”
“In a dumpster, seaside near Bullock’s street.”



Crystal straightened and rubbed her aching back. Finally, the old paint was gone and the wooden planks of the gate smoothened again. She wanted at least to apply the first layer of paint so it could dry until tomorrow!
With a sigh, she reached for the bucket with the blue paint and one of the broad brushes. Actually, this was fun, despite the nasty stench of dissolver! The old planks had creases and washed out knotholes, which now, with the blue paint covering them, looked like water. This thought crossing her mind, Crystal stopped humming her favorite song and smiled. A little idea had flashed up! She put the brush down and searched for the small can of white paint, she had seen earlier while cleaning the shed. Maybe it had dried out already, but it was worth a try!

A moment later, she stood bent down in front of the gate again, applying a huge white round into the blue space. Then, some feathery stripes of lighter blue horizontally across it… She leaned back to take a probing look and suddenly had to laugh. What was she thinking?!? This had the air of a third-grader’s work! She dipped the big brush in the basket with the blue paint again, resolved to let the pitiable ‘artwork’ vanish, when a voice behind her startled her:
“Moonlight over the ocean?”
Mikael stood only some steps below, smiling.
“Heavens! You’ve made me jump all right!”
“I’m sorry. This wasn’t my intention.”
She didn’t know what embarrassed her more; that he saw her attempt to paint or that she saw him and heard his voice! Her gaze was caught by his eyes again. The most fascinating eyes she had ever seen. At the moment, she couldn’t even discern the color; they seemed rather dark now, in the shadow of the nearby palm tree. Dark and gentle and… Her cheeks started to burn and it felt like a bracket around her throat.

“You like the sea!”
Mikael walked past her to the gate.
“Oh yes!” Crystal tried to pull herself together. His voice sent chills down her spine. “I always wanted to live by the sea! I grew up in Nevada and…”
She couldn’t find a reasonable thing to say and thus stopped mid-sentence.
“It’s not so bad.” He said, turning to her again while gesturing towards her ‘painting’.
Only now she discerned that he looked rather pale. Perhaps he wasn’t feeling well?
“Have you worked all night again?”
The concern clearly palpable in her voice touched him deeper than he would’ve liked to admit.
“Ah, do I give that a tired impression? – No, this time not. I was driving to the city, to fetch some ordered material. There’s no such shop around here in the village, and I don’t trust the postal service.”
“Do you want to come in for a coffee? I could need one, too.”
“Sure!”
Crystal wiped her hands on the trousers and stepped to the house door. “Be careful, we have a little guest, a turtle.”

Mikael followed her with almost anxious excitement. He had awaken early afternoon, his body aching all over and covered in cold sweat. The first thing taking shape in his mind while opening the dark jalousies of his bedroom, had been Crystal.
He simply had to see her again! And so, he had to head towards her living place…

 

CHAPTER 5

“Perfect! I haven’t any appointment at school this afternoon,” Crystal said, filling the brewed coffee in two cups and handing Mikael the larger one.
“Thank you! - You’re a teacher?”
“No,” she replied with a short laugh and sat down at the kitchen table the same.
“I only give some voluntary lessons about environment protection, garbage sorting at home… such stuff.”
She lowered her gaze to the coffee pot, not daring to look too long into his intense eyes. “I don’t think I would make a good teacher! As long as the kids are nice and attentive, it’s okay… but… they aren’t always, you know for sure!”
Mikael took a sip, then put the cup back and searched her face again with his glance.
“I was mainly instructed by private teachers. My father was in the diplomatic service, and we traveled a lot.”
“Oh, that sounds interesting! Before I moved here, I barely got my feet outta Nevada!”
“It was an amazing opportunity to observe,” he replied, “but we never spent enough time anywhere for me to make friends. My books and my art, they were always my best companions.”

She didn’t know if he had said this with exactly that purpose - however, Crystal felt sorry for him. Growing up in lonely Highway-50-land, she knew well, what loneliness for a kid or worse, teenager meant!
“For sure you had quite some admirers of your art following you, Mikael?!”
He smiled shortly. “Oh, adoring proselytes! Yes! They can be a very pestering sort of people, especially when you know they don’t catch anything on art, but just visit a vernissage because they consider it a cool thing to do. Or because they want to buy the most expensive piece so they could boast among their friends with the sum they’d paid.”
“I looked up some of your works in the internet.”
Hearing that, he seemed surprised and, she judged by the slight rise of his eyebrows and the sparkle in his eyes, he liked the statement! It made her feel comfortably warm and she smiled.
“And? What did you think? I’m curious!”
“I liked it! It was totally strange to me, but I thought about the things you said the evening before; exposing the truth, revealing contradictions in our world, and… I found those premises again. Well… maybe because I‘m that an ignorant in art, my empty mind could be filled easily.”
“Maybe… because you have kept an open mind. One not already barricaded with preconceptions.”

They talked about this and that. Crystal couldn’t remember having enjoyed a conversation that much during the past months - or perhaps years? They discovered they had loved the same book in their childhood: ‘The Secret Garden’ by Burnett; and that they were both Vegetarians…
The time passed, the sun set, and Crystal put a candle on the table to provide some light. Not only to save electricity, but because she liked it more that way.

The ringing phone interrupted her. She stood up to take the call, not noticing, how Mikael’s gaze followed every single of her movements. Earlier, while the coffee machine had done its work, Crystal had changed her paint smeared jeans for a light blue sleeveless cotton dress. He found her outfit very appealing, to say the least.
It was Norman who called to say that the car had finally done its last breath half way back to home. Now it was in a little repair shop and the mechanic wasn’t sure yet if he could revive the patient at least for the missing couple of miles. As there was no public transport on this route - except in the next morning - Norman decided to stay there until tomorrow.
“Looks as if destiny is that kind to give us some more hours,” Mikael said, when she came back with the news.
As far as he had figured out by now, this Norman was absolutely not what she needed. She was starving at his side, and she had just begun to realize that!
Crystal smiled, unsure what to say. Deep inside her, there was the warning voice of guilty conscience. On the other hand, she felt that refreshed and full of energy; she did not want it to end and sit alone at home with a turtle again!

“Maybe I should prepare us something to eat. I’m quite hungry.”
“Sounds like a formidable idea. If I’m not mistaken, I see the ingredients of a lovely Ratatouille over there,” Mikael agreed.
Crystal took the vegetables out of the basket and cleaned them under the water. Mikael chose a knife from the assortment hanging next to the stove and grabbed the eggplant. Crystal was amazed by the velocity and accuracy with which he cut the slices.
“Wow, that looks like in one of these TV cook shows!”
“Simple practice. I prefer to prepare the meals myself rather than going to a restaurant where you don’t know what is in the dishes.”
Crystal had taken the green pepper and another knife. Before the tool could touch the vegetable, Mikael’s hand sank on hers.
“Let me do that. I don’t want you get hurt.”
His fingers slid away from her hand, caressing her ever so slightly. It was the first time they touched, and she was electrified. Like magically attracted, her gaze wandered up from his slender fingers over his chest to his face and was finally trapped in his smile.
“Cooking is like artwork,” he said, choosing the spices from the board. “You can learn the craft, you have to… but the last bit, the decisive bit making it unique, is inspiration.”
He lifted the cap from the chili box.
“Be careful with that!” She warned. “That’s very hot!”
“Oh, I like it hot and spicy.”
She blushed and felt like an idiot, given the situation. Nervously, she spread the olive oil in the pan. Looking up again in his eyes, she knew exactly he could read her thoughts. Nonetheless, he didn’t seem to be embarrassed at all, not even amused.
“What do you think, shouldn’t we finish this wine now while waiting for our dinner?”
“Yes.” It was a husky whisper and she cleared her throat. “It doesn’t get any better standing here, does it?!”
She filled two glasses and they sat down at the kitchen table, relieved that the tiny space of the table stretched in between.



After finishing the dinner and the wine, they still sat there talking and laughing, until the candle had almost burned down and the remaining light was dwindling fast. When the flame had died, and their eyes had adjusted enough, Mikael discerned the silvery stripe of moonlight on the kitchen floor. He stood up and went to the terrace door.
“Look, it’s just as you painted it on the door this afternoon.”
He gestured towards the dunes and the see with the full moon shining above. “Let’s take a little walk!”

In the cool breeze with its always adventure yet danger promising scent coming from the water, they walked along the shore barefoot.
Now and then, the waves washed over their toes, when they didn’t jump aside fast enough. Suddenly, he halted, face turned towards the moon.
“For me, the waves of the sea have always been a metaphor for sensuality and sexuality,” he said, startling Crystal in her own thoughts. “It’s like a kiss, don’t you think? The tongue of nature reaching out for you and touching you. Water is the beginning of life and passion! If you close your eyes and open your senses, you can feel the force pulling…”
She lowered her eyelids and breathed deeply. The foam crowns caressed her feet.
“The sea can be quite forceful, and it can be gentle, like love.”
Mikael’s voice had an almost hypnotically timbre.

Crystal crouched down and watched as the water ran through her fingers and dropped onto the sand, glistering diamonds for a moment, in the next only a wet memory. Suddenly, she longed to see the world with Mikael’s eyes, sense the world like he did. Her existence so far seemed dull and flat in comparison.
“I wish I could create something as beautiful as you did!” she said. “But I’ll never have the opportunity to do any studies… I’m afraid…”
“Studies are not important,” Mikael replied. “Important is, if you feel the urge to create inside you!”
He sank to his knees right behind her, that close she sensed the heat of his body through her dress.
“…If you feel it burn in your heart, and you know nothing will end it until you start to unleash its force…”
She stopped breathing for a moment, when his hands closed around her shoulders and then slowly moved down her arms.
“…and make your imagination reality…”
His fingers slid in between hers and enclosed her hands tightly.
“…your deepest wishes come true! Do you feel that?”
His voice made her melt and burn altogether. She could barely speak. “Will you teach me?”
“Everything!”


His breath caressed her neck and sent chills down her spine. She knew she was dangerously close to let all caution slip, to give in and make love to him on the nightly beach. Only the last moment she awoke and flinched back.
“I think we should part now… It is… very late already.”
Mikael released her, however reluctantly, and then took her hands for Good bye.
“I’ll see you tomorrow for the first lesson?”
She nodded and pulled her hands back in order not to be drawn past the event horizon again.
“Good night, Mikael. It was … the most wonderful evening I ever had.”
“I can only agree.”
He stood there on the beach until her silhouette had vanished behind the bushes leading to her home. Already, he felt lonely.

Mikael went to bed after his usual routine, his mind still full of Crystal and the last hours. Lying in the complete darkness he cherished that much, and listening to his own breath, he found it quite draining to wait more than 10 hours before he could see her again. His hands clutched around the silky bed sheets and he stared open eyed into the blackness. He was still surprised how fast she had conquered him, after all the promises he had made to himself after the disappointment with Hannah. There was nothing he could do about it. He did not even want to do anything about.
He wanted her now, needed her now! He wanted to see her beautiful body shiver in passion and hear her lips whisper words of endearment and passion…

Crystal had trouble finding sleep, too. Until now, she had been resolved to give her marriage a second chance. Until now, she had been certain about how life went its way. Now, she wasn’t certain anymore about a lot of things. Not even, if it was love at all, what had bound Norman and her together. What was love in any case? How did it feel, really feel?
At a certain point, she was afraid of thinking any further. The guilty conscience sneaked back and gained territory. She should skip these art lessons right now! She was not her friend Margie! She wouldn’t do such stupid things! Would she….?!

 

CHAPTER 6

Another one of Mikael’s nightmares was back. This time, the one even more disturbing than the police interrogation: He was running through narrow, dark corridors, which reminded faintly of his atelier in New York, situated in an old factory hall. He heard terrifying screams and knew he would come too late to change anything. He couldn’t move anymore. Suddenly, his hands, his whole body, were covered with blood. He screamed, too, in anguish and pain, finally managing to wake up. Frantically, he pushed the button to heave the jalousies. The light flooded over him with hurting force, but at least the remnants of the dream shattered.
He breathed deeply, trying to regain control over his body. However, it took a while until he was able to stand up and walk to the shower. It seemed to get worse with every time these dreams haunted him!
Standing under the cold water, Mikael tried to remember when all this had started. He couldn’t say it exactly, though. There was this dark barrier again he just was not able to penetrate. Maybe the roots lay there on this evening when he had discovered his assistant carrying out some detestable pleasures? Maybe…
The icy coldness of the shower let him slowly feel numb and his head aching. He turned it off, stepped outside and grabbed the bath towel.



Before Norman arrived at home that day, bad news came via mail. The mortgage rate for the house had been raised. This was a real shock. They had had barely enough money to pay the previous one! Crystal strongly hoped, Norman had got the job!
However, she was about to be disappointed… Not in order to give her a pleasant surprise, he had not mentioned it last evening when he called! But more, because he had failed!
“They used medication from the Cavens-Pix-Group, and we know about the animal testing done by these criminals!” he explained now, throwing his jacket over the hook in the kitchen.
“And you had to point it out instantaneously!” Crystal replied angry and frustrated, with the mortgage rates in the back of her mind.
“Of course I had! If this veterinary clinic uses these products without thinking about it, someone has to put their noses into the matter!”
“This had to be you, of course!!”
“What’s wrong with you, Crystal? Do you expect me to sit around and keep my mouth shut after all the fights we’ve been through?”
“What is wrong?!?”
She exploded, because the worries and sorrows and everything else crumbled on top of her now like an avalanche. “We have no car, no money to pay the next rates for the house! We have no fucking jobs! And you just screwed up the one chance you had in all these months!”
Norman tried to grab her at the shoulders, but she pushed him back.
“Darling…”
“You NEVER think of other people! Just of your damned –“
“That’s stupid bullshit! You’re talking like a kid!” he answered, starting to get angry, too. “Do you want me to sell my beliefs and honor for some bucks?”
Good Lord, he was on that ‘lonely martyr’ road again! Why the hell couldn’t they talk about such things like normal people? But maybe there was no such thing like normal people… yeah… She sighed and fumbled through her hair.
“I don’t want to argue with you, but…”
“I’m not arguing, Crystal. I need your support and understanding in this fight!”
Hearing that, she got even angrier about the situation and herself. At that point, she was resolved again to visit Mikael and take the art lessons! She just wanted out of this constant waiting, these constant promises, these constant fights which he never even discerned! If for him, the morality and honor came first - well, she also had things coming first now! Crystal did not exactly realize what she was thinking in her frustration.

Norman was already in the dining room, looking after the turtle. As usual, he had finished the discussion by simply not reacting anymore or going away. Crystal inhaled to suppress at least the highest waves of her annoyance.
“Norman…”
“Yes, Darling?” He acted as if the whole argument hadn’t taken place.
“Look…,” she continued. “I’m sorry, but the mortgage rate has been raised. I can’t ask my brother again. You NEED to find a job.”
“I know. I know, and I’ll try again tomorrow.”
“Or I can go and ask again in the supermarket, if they need a helper to fill up the -”
“No! I promised I’ll be able to care for you this time. And I will be. Believe me. I’ll search the newspapers tomorrow, for any kind of work, for the moment. It will get better.”
She nodded, suddenly too exhausted to hope for anything.
“By the way, I’ll visit a friend this afternoon.” It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it felt like one, nonetheless.
“Okay. Have a good time! I’m so sorry giving you that many worries! It will get better, I promise!”
“Yes.”

Crystal turned around and went upstairs, already thinking about what she could dress in. She would work, so she didn’t need anything too delicate and fancy. However, she wanted to look nice!
She took a red dress with little white flowers out of the closet. No… this wasn’t fitting! She dug deeper into her belongings. Some new cloths would be not that bad… However, she couldn’t afford anything, now the less. In the end, she chose jeans and a plain white top. When it was time she put some light make-up on, but finished in wiping at least the lipstick away again. It wasn’t a date, was it?! Only that she was nervous as if it would be one!



When she arrived at Mikael’s home, she got the impression he had already been waiting for her.
“Welcome! Please come in!” His face lit up, as she entered. “I never taught anyone. I can only hope I’ll be a good teacher!”
There was this smile again, which let her melt in an instant! She followed him to the atelier, which this time already had lost it frightening air of a frozen forest full of goblins. On the contrary, it seemed familiar and welcoming to her. Suddenly, another issue flashed through her mind. What if he expected any remuneration for the lessons?!? He was a famous artist, not some hobo painting portraits for tourists on the street! She had not thought about this subject, and now she searched nervously for a way to bring it up decently.

“Crystal?”
Mikael stood next to one of the work benches, his left hand placed on a block of wood.
She looked away. Obviously, there was no possibility to evade the truth!
“I can’t pay you," she said. “That’s it.”
She was ashamed and startled when he laughed.
“You honestly thought I would take any money from you?” The next moment, he had taken her hands. “I said I would teach you, because I believe you have the hands, the heart, the mind of an artist.”
He was still holding her tightly and Crystal fought to pull herself together.
“So, should we start?”
Finally, he had turned his attention to the workbench again.
“The first thing, before you ever lay hand on a wooden block or a stone is, that you must see and feel the soul of the thing you want it to be,” Mikael started to explain. “It must… speak to you! I know, this sounds odd, but it isn’t. If you touch the material, you must be able to sense what it will become under your hands and skills. Now, what do you see in here?”
He padded on the wood.
Crystal’s eyes followed the lines and spots in the block and answered spontaneously: “A bird! No, two birds, flying up through the clouds!”
Mikael smiled. She had such a bright, forceful imagination! He had to help her to make it a reality! With every passing minute, he felt more drawn to her.

During the next hours, Mikael showed her the different kinds of tools and let her do some tests with them. She was eager to learn, and he judged, very talented. A pity no one had recognized this before and the creativity had slumbered that long!
Crystal felt wonderful, actually seeing the image she had in her mind becoming a real graspable shape due to their work. The silhouettes of the two birds started to emerge. Still clumsy, but yet promising. At difficult points, Mikael guided her hand or took over. She was completely happy, not only to see what she could achieve, but also because she was close to him.

The time went by that fast! Crystal only realized that it was time to go home, when they needed artificial light. They agreed to meet again in two days, as for tomorrow she had her appointment at school, and the next day the dentist was on the list, in addition to a Wildlife-Supporter’s meeting in town.
When she came home, Norman had already made some preparations for dinner. It seemed he tried to apologize for the worries he had caused by being the perfect man at least for this evening. The more Crystal felt uneasy.



The police officer entered Detective Hoover’s office and waved with a telefax paper. “Good and bad news concerning the murder in Hilo!”
“Good first, it’s seven in the morning!” Hoover answered with a wry grin, taking a sip of coffee.
“There have been similar crimes in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, spread over the last years. The guilty had been identified.”
“Great. So what’s the bad news, besides that I have to order a SWAT team or something similar?”
“The guy has been killed in a shootout during his arrest. About six months ago.”
Hoover made a tortured face and scratched through his beard stubbles. Then he asked: “That leaves us with what exactly?”
“Another suspect.”
The officer handed the papers over.
“Mikael Gant.”

 

CHAPTER 7

Mikael knew the three people standing in front of his door were from the police, even before they showed the respective badges. Annoyance grabbed him, when their obvious boss blurted: “May we have a little conversation with you, Mr. Gant?” and entered passing him, without waiting for a response.
“You have no right to march into my house like that,” Mikael said with icy voice. “I’m not a criminal!”
“This remains to be seen. I’m Detective Hoover. And I would like to ask you some questions about this person.” He presented him a photograph of a young woman, lying on the stretcher of a morgue.
Mikael glanced into the face of the Detective again, full of disgust. “Is there a specific reason the American police likes bursting into my house and asking me about dead persons?”
“Actually, there is,” replied Hoover, while his two companions scrutinized the room they were standing in. “Your travel itinerary, Mr. Gant, just happens to coincide with some of the nastiest women murders of the last years in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. And three days ago, another dead girl has been found in Hilo, showing the same characteristics.”
“So it makes me a suspect, because I accidentally shared a cityscape of some million people with the victims? This is a foolish and impertinent conclusion … Detective.”
Hoover smiled wintry. “Don’t try to play games with me! I brought the boss of the Hawaiian Chinese Triade into jail. I assure you, I know all the evasive tricks you might try.”
“I don’t know what you’re insinuating to. If you don't mind leaving my house? I have work to do.”
“Yeah, for sure.” Hoover’s eyes wandered over some smaller sculptures displayed on a wall board. “We’ll be finished soon, if you answer my questions! -
“I am not on trial here! You’re going to hear from my lawyers!”
“Well, your lawyers will have their hands full very soon. So let’s not waste our time!”
Neither Hoover nor his companions gave the slightest sign they would leave.

Half an hour later, they were still there, and the positions were locked. Mikael began to feel tortured. Why his nightmare did come to life again? Why didn’t they stop asking him these questions? What was going on in their perverted minds?!?
“I told you I don’t know anything about these things!” He repeated once again, with all his effort keeping the emotional barricade up.
Detective Hoover didn’t care that much about his attitude. He walked on and off in front of Mikael, suddenly swirling around and grabbing one of the stored videotapes from the board.
“We both know you love doing this porn stuff, don’t we? Don’t play innocent altar boy now!”
“I don’t do ‘porn stuff’, Detective. Pornography aims to sexually arouse people by stimulating their animalistic senses. The intention of my art is to reveal what—“
“I’m not interested in philosophical theses,” Hoover cut in. “It’s not my business what you do with your girlfriends, as long as they don’t show up mutilated or death ON MY DESK! And I want precise answers to my precise questions NOW, Mr. Gant!”
Mikael remained silent, needing all his strength to stay calm.
“Where have you been four days ago, the night from the 20th to the 21st?”
“On the way to Hilo, to fetch some items I had ordered there in the artist supply store. I drove by night and arrived early in the morning.”
“I assume you had some hours left until the shop opened? Did you spend them alone?”
“I went into a little coffee shop to get something to drink.”
“And there you met Miss Fenley, an appealing young stripper on her way home?”
“There were quite a lot of people in the shop. It is possible she was there as well.”
“Did you talk to her?” Hoover thought himself to be on the winner’s path now.
Mikael stared at him. “I don’t remember having seen her. I have told you that, Detective!”
Hoover hissed through clenched teeth and tried a different approach to catch the fox.
“At which time your supply shop opens?”
“At 10. I was some minutes earlier that day, and had to wait.”
“And you were at the coffee shop early in the morning? Five o’clock? Six? What did you do in the remaining hours?”
Mikael raised his hands and shook his head. “I slept in my car! I was very tired, because I had worked the night before, and then hit the road after midnight.”
“You slept? Alone? Or with Miss Fenley?”

“Ray…” The hand of one of the other police officers sank down on Hoover’s shoulder. “You’re going too far!”
Hoover snorted and inhaled deeply. He knew his colleague was absolutely right. The fact he was sure this smart blond bastard in front of him lied, didn’t give him the right to grill him – not YET at least!
Hoover straightened and headed to the door, followed by his colleagues.
“I’m going to get a warrant!” he said, once outside the house. “And I’m going to get the damned evidence!”
When the door slammed, Mikael sank down like a puppet which someone had cut loose from its strings. On the floor, he curled up in embryo position and cried.



Crystal sat in the animal welfare meeting. However, she could not focus very well. Of course, she knew the important issues discussed in this round. Nonetheless, her mind was with the artwork she had started together with Mikael. Two birds flying up into the sky…
Her eyes drifted from the screen with the power point presentation to one of the lights on the tables, consisting of a little metal basket with a small candle. Light shone through the tiny holes and created a pattern on the desk. Crystal had an idea…

--“Hey, don’t you want any coffee, Hon?”
She startled and discovered Jenna next to her and all the other participants of the meeting already under way to fetch a snack or something to drink. Coffee break!
“Uhm… yes, of course! I was somewhat lost in my thoughts!”
“That I saw!” The other woman smiled friendly. “So, how are things going?”
“Oh, I started to take art lessons,” Crystal replied, her mind still elsewhere.
“Really?!” Jenna grabbed a sandwich. “That sounds fantastic! What do you learn?”
“Sculpting and…” She found it difficult to express and describe how many new things and perceptions she had gained in the meantime. Luckily, the other woman was far too occupied with herself for paying attention:
“This reminds me at the weaving course I took some years ago! Oh was that funny! I never had laughed so much! But my results … well… let’s not mention it! – How’s Norman? Has he found a new job yet?”
Hearing, that this wasn’t the case, Jenna promised to look herself and ask some people. Then, the conversation turned again to the airport problem. Another meeting member joined them and said that they were about to organize something spontaneous, after the visit of a Senator had been announced. Crystal’s thoughts wandered away again. She started to become downright allergic to all these things! The more, because Norman was gone planning exactly that spontaneous ‘thing’, instead of searching for a job. She had left the house annoyed.
“Sorry, folks,” she interrupted the discussion. “I think I have to leave. I might come down with something… I don’t know! I just feel awfully tired.”

Accompanied by the concerned and best wishes of her friends and comrades, Crystal left the church hall, where the meeting took place. Outside, she took a deep breath, feeling a bit guilty for having excused herself that way. Then, she vaulted the bike and rode as fast as she could. She had to tell Mikael about the idea!



It took some time until he opened. Crystal was already about to leave.
“I have disturbed you once again!” She apologized. “I’m sorry!”
“No, no, not at all! Come in! It was just a… a bad day.” Mikael ran his fingers through the hair. “Had nightmares again.”
“You should do something about that,” she answered worried. “Maybe a doc—“
“I don’t trust these quacks.” He smiled. “And I already know the cure: having you around me!” He stretched his hand and let it wander through the strands of her hair. Before she could get caught in the haze of his seductive aura again, he talked further: “So what brought you here, before our scheduled lesson?”
“I had an idea, for the bird sculpture! I would love to see them fly around light, like around the sun! I don’t know how to do this… maybe with a lamp…”
“Yes!” Mikael understood within that moment what she had in mind, and saw it clearly. The nightmarish morning was swept away immediately, as the inspiration rushed through him. “Of course! We put the birds on a metal skeleton! In the format of the globe. If we make the partition walls thin enough and the light source strong enough, the skeleton will be almost invisible!”
He grabbed her hand and dragged her along towards the atelier. “We have to make some tests with the metal, and the light source! It must not bet too hot, but bright!”

The next hours, they spent drawing various sketches and checking some available metal parts if they would fit into their plans. Crystal’s face was glowing with excitement, seeing her idea take shape more and more. Mikael observed her in complete rapture. She was perfect; the incarnation of the perfection he was chasing that long. She was the spark, the flame that set his mind and body to fire.

Realizing that he had not given any answer to her latest suggestions concerning the artwork, she looked up from the sketchpad. Mikael stood steadied against the table, his eyes fixed on her; his gaze all so seductive under his long lashes.
“Have you ever considered being a model?”
She was surprised by the sudden change of topic, and it took her a moment to answer. She gestured to the tiny bust now standing at one of the boards, and smiled. “You already took me as one…”
“I mean in a video performance. I know you would be perfect.”
As wonderful as the work with Mikael had been so far – now Crystal flinched back.
“I really don’t know if…”
“…it would be appropriate?” He finished her words with a disarming smile. “I wouldn’t do anything degrading to you, you know that. These performances are the place, were the artist and its art can meet, can truly be one. I would love to share the experience with you.”

Crystal gave in, enchanted and excited by the prospective to reach this new level of experience. While Mikael prepared the camera installation, she undressed and wrapped herself in the almost transparent, shimmering fabric he wanted to see draped around her. Her heart raced in anticipation, when she stepped back into the atelier, which was already plunged into the bluish light of the installation.
“Welcome my beautiful goddess,” Mikael called out to her, appearing from behind of one of the cameras. “And – watch yourself!”
Crystal turned around and faced the screen. The high contrast light contoured the floating folds of her toga-like dress and the shape of her right arm, shoulder and neck, while her face remained in the twilight. It looked that unreal! The more, because one of the cameras used a delay effect. She moved curiously, like a child seeing itself in the mirror the first time.

“I know some figures from the Indian temple dance. You would like me to do that?”
“Yes! Just… make slow movements… very slow…”
Crystal felt more free and in peace and enjoying herself with every step.
And he could absolutely not wait any longer to have her…
Crystal startled when she sensed his arms enclosing her. A moment later, his right hand loosened the light knot holding her dress at place. With a short, sizzling sound it fell down on her feet.
“Mikael –“
“Feel me,” he whispered. “Feel what we could be together…”
Her body tensed. Her mind started to spin in a mixture of fear and joy.
“Don’t be afraid,” he breathed into her ear. “Open your senses; open your eyes! Watch!”
His hand gently cupped her face and thus forced her to see the captures the camera took of them both.
“Lust is the prime artist of nature. The creator re-shaping our bodies into one…”

 

CHAPTER 8

Crystal awoke from the gentle touch of Mikael’s lips, wandering down her spine. Slowly, she turned around to face him. The room was dark if not for the soft bluish light of two half pipe shaped lamps at the wall, whose shine made his naked body look even more like a marble statue. A perfect piece of art…
“I’ve done the primary cut of our video; do you want to see it?” Mikael asked, and the sound of his voice alone let the heat of desire rush through her again.
“Do you ever sleep?” she asked, taking the hands he offered her.
“How could I, with you next to me? I would regret every second of not being aware of you!”
He dragged her up. They embraced and kissed and almost reclined again, when a glimpse at the watch catapulted Crystal back into a reality which was far from being a perfect piece of art!

“Oh my God!” She freed herself and jumped up. “It’s four in the morning! Norman will be crazy because of worries!”
Mikael’s features changed, as if someone had put a dark veil over a radiant light. “He won’t be worried,” he said. “He never was worried because of you.”
“You don’t understand!” Hastily, she picked her clothes from the ground and startled, when he suddenly stood behind her and grabbed her by the shoulders.
“Mikael, I have to hurry home! Please, I--”
“Your home is here, with me! Think of all the things, all the wonders we still have to explore, all the dreams, your dreams, we have to make a reality!”
The prospect she might leave and perhaps never come back made him almost panicking. He was afraid, very afraid, without knowing why suddenly, like a little child left alone in the pitch-black night.
“I think of it, Mikael. But I have to sort out other things, first. I can’t simply… vanish and let Norman… let him…” She got stuck in the sentence, as she got stuck in between her conflicting emotions and guilty conscience. Taking a deep breath, she tried to find her balance again, but failed.
“I love you, Crystal. Do you know how much I love you? He has never loved you. He never will. You know that.”
He put his arms around her and held her head tightly to his chest, so she could hear his heart beat.
She was too overwhelmed at the moment to think clearly. All those years with the one and only aim to be a good and honest wife at Norman’s side - she couldn’t just sweep them away like nothing! It felt like jumping from a rough, but well known cliff, and suddenly she was afraid, too.
“You’re going to tell him about us?”
“Of course I will!” Crystal answered, even though she had no idea at the moment how to manage it.
“Shall I accompany you?”
She shook her head. “Norman won’t hurt me. He isn’t that kind of man.”
Mikael looked not very reassured.
“I’ll be fine.” In reality, she wanted to avoid being seen together with him by Norman. She just wanted to procrastinate everything. A bit! And get a clear mind… somehow!


Arriving at home some minutes later, Crystal discovered that Norman wasn’t there. However, the telephone responder informed her that he would ‘be late, but have some great news in his backpack’ – whatever that meant! Crystal was relieved to have yet won a little time to think and come up with something reliable!
Only a moment later, she realized what she had been thinking at all. ‘Come up with something’? What the heck was that?! She didn’t want to come up with something! What for?! So she could continue her nonexistent life with Norman?!
She let herself fall onto her bed and stared at the wall. She did not want to lie – but she didn’t know how to decently come about with the truth either!
Shortly, she mused about calling her friend Margie. However, on the other hand, she already knew what her answers to her problem would be: ‘You have met a gorgeous rich guy who loves you, and you love him? Just grab your stuff and move in with him, girl! You aren’t even married to Norman; let him chew on this himself. You are a free woman, follow your feelings and don’t get chained to some ridiculous old fashioned moral beliefs!’ She sighed. Margie’s view of the world was that simple…

Crystal hadn’t found any sleep yet, when the key turned in the front door, announcing Norman. After a short hesitation if she should just pretend to sleep and win herself more time, she went down to greet him, nonetheless.
Norman didn’t leave her any opportunity to fumble for words. He just swept her from her feet and embraced her, laughing.
“I have great news, Darling! – Remember Jordan Pelletier, the chairman of the Whale-Rescue-Fond? I met him at the meeting yesterday, and he has offered me a job in his office in Hilo! Isn’t that terrific? I won’t earn that much, but it’s a great opportunity, and Jordan is a heck of a nice guy! You will like him too! Ah, yes, we’re going to participate in a protest march tomorrow, in Hilo, against the airport!”
She was too tired and full of her own worries to process every detail of his excited account. Thankfully, he was that preoccupied with himself - he didn’t notice her lack of enthusiasm at all. At one point, she felt that dizzy, she had to lean against the cupboard in the kitchen.
“I’m sorry, I… I couldn’t sleep and…” She searched for an excuse, when Norman stopped with a concerned look.
“I’m sorry,” he said now. “I was that busy with the news. I forgot the time! My poor Darling! Now, let’s hurry and finally get some sleep!”
As usual, Norman managed to doze off like a child. Crystal fought for sleep until the break of day, when she finally fell into an exhausted slumber.

The next day came all too soon. When she opened her eyes, the pressing worries were back, and she felt immediately a bit sick. During breakfast, she desperately searched for the right moment to talk, but couldn’t spot one. This was partly Norman’s fault, because he was speaking constantly and let her no breach to step in at all. Nonetheless, a part of Crystal was content it was that way, and she had not to open her mind. It was an almost strangling loop of thoughts, reaching no end, but only keeping her busy and away from a decision. Just like a dangerous computer program which needed all resources and yet produced no result.
She wanted to phone Mikael, postponed it further and further, until she sat in the bus direction anti-airport-protest. Am I a coward, she wondered, and this thought did not make her feel any better! Am I a responsible woman or just a fool?


Mikael woke up with a nagging pain in his back and neck, and discovered he had been sleeping on his video cutting table. In front of him, on the screen, was still the last scene he had been working on. The high-contrast filter he had used for the shot, made Crystal’s and his intertwined bodies look like a strange flower bud. Not yet fully awake, he traced the silhouettes on the screen, diving back into his memory and savoring their love once again.
Only after a while, Mikael stood up, planning to take a shower and then prepare something to eat. It was early afternoon, and maybe Crystal would show up very soon! Perhaps she had already tried to reach him – a thought that let him finish his usual cleaning ritual very fast and hurry to the phone. The answering machine, though, had only two notices from a gallery owner in London. He didn’t bother answering. With a little frustration settling in, he went into the kitchen.

He was busy with fruit salad and sandwich, without having much appetite for this sort of enjoyment right now, when the door bell rang. Reluctantly, he opened and was shocked to see Detective Hoover and four other police officers with special equipment.
The very next moment, a neatly sealed warrant was shoved under his nose. Instigated by some barked orders from Hoover, the little task force deployed in the house.
Mikael felt physically violated.
He followed two of the officers into his atelier, but could not do much more than just watching. Of course, the police didn’t overthrow or even destroy things. However, it was enough for him to see these dumb creatures file through his sketches, pat onto sculptures and making comments revealing their absolute misunderstanding of everything that could be misunderstood.
“You know,” one of the officers just said to his colleague while collecting something they thought to be evidence in a little plastic bag. “I made a hot photo of one of my girl friends, when I was sixteen. I should publish it and make a bunch of bucks! Obviously, you can make big money with this kind’a stuff – look at this, dude!”
He lifted some photographs from a board and grinned. His colleague agreed with a juicy joke, and both laughed.
Detective Hoover entered the atelier, building up in front of Mikael, who stood aside in frozen disgust.
“Mr. Gant, I want to see your car!”
“I don’t know what you hope to find there.”
“Leave that to my men and me, will you?” Hoover signaled one of the officers to join him.
When they stepped out, the other police man stood head shaking in front of the decay-themed statue and murmured something about ‘crazy guys walk around’.

Entering the garage, Hoover raised his eyebrows, discerning a brand-new Mercedes Sport. “Well, art seems to pay off these days, doesn’t it, Mr. Gant?” He walked around the car and scrutinized every detail with experienced eyes. “Or rather some nasty little by-products?”
“I can’t follow you, Detective.”
“Just open the car. You have been in a car wash lately, as it looks?”
“This is not forbidden by law I think.” Mikael opened the front door and took a step back.
Skipping any answer, Ray Hoover and his colleague set to work. This guy is the most shameless, ice cold bastard I have ever seen in all my years of service, Hoover thought, turning away from Mikael towards the car’s interior. He does not even blink when telling his lies! Through the windshield, he stared at his opponent again. You’re clever – but not clever enough, believe me. You had an alibi all along your way, but you made a mistake in killing that girl in Hilo while your alibi is unfortunately dead for some months!
For a moment, the eyes of the two men were locked in a silent struggle.

The car was really clean, too clean in the Detective’s opinion. Nonetheless, his partner eventually found something: a little dry spot, half hidden under the floor mat, where the cleaning staff had overlooked it. “This could be blood…”
As cautious as possible, the police officer made the test with the Luminol-dilution, and had the result only a moment later. “Positive, Ray!”
Hoover had already mentally prepared himself to bring the suspect down. However, Mikael just stood there and glanced at him. “It is probably my own. I had a cut on my left hand some days ago. You can still see the scar, if you want.”
“I’m afraid I have to take you with us, though.” Hoover had his fingers within reach of his gun, while his colleague approached with hand cuffs.

Mikael receded. “You can’t arrest me just like that.”
“Shall I read you the regulations what I’m entitled to do under the circumstances?” Hoover hissed.
“I’m waiting for someone. She will be worried, and I—“
“Well, better worried than dead.” The hand cuffs clicked. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.-
Let’s move!”

 

CHAPTER 9

Mikael’s gaze wandered again through the tiny rectangular room with the metal-grilled window, a dull place hurting his senses with its bleakness. Had it been a space of pure white with clear shaped lines, he would have found it stimulating, perhaps. However, the color of the walls was a shabby mixture of dirty brown near the concrete floor and tarnished beige further up, additionally decorated with scribbles and the signs of frustrated violence, and wounds of fallen plaster. The plastic chair had a crack, too, the table’s metal surface felt as if it badly needed a cleaning. One of the neon lamps was gone, and the remaining one fought a hopeless struggle to illuminate the room, from which daylight had receded hours ago.

When Detective Hoover had arrived with him in the afternoon, it turned out that the guy from the lab already had quitting time and so they had to wait until tomorrow for any tests. Mikael assumed Hoover sensed quite a satisfaction to have him locked up for a night at least. He had tried to get permission for a phone call, but all the obviously bored officer did was handing him a bunch of paperwork, mumbling ‘fill out everything in a readable manner; my superior will look at it tomorrow’. Mikael would file a complaint for sure. At the moment, the thought of Crystal had priority, though. He did not want her to worry, but what if she tried to reach him and could not find him? And these ignorant numbskulls here just did not care! Yes, he would sue them!

When the light was switched off, he was grateful that he had not to see these insulting walls anymore. He lay back on the bunk – a cold hard metal pallet and thus the natural enemy of sleep. Only because he had been awake for over 30 hours now, Mikael dozed off eventually. However, only to get snatched into one of his nightmares. He heard the frightened cries of a woman and was running through dark corridors and spacious halls without being able to utter a sound himself, or move faster, for that matter. The more he struggled, the less he could move, and the surreal surroundings sunk deeper into a blurred haze. Suddenly, he sensed something cold and when he looked down – he didn’t want to, but the dream had its own laws to force upon him – his hands and clothes were full of blood. He tried to get away more frantically, but could not. From everywhere was oozing blood, even the sculptures opened their immaculate stony bodies and bled.

Mikael screamed and fell – on the concrete floor of his cell. If the sudden pain hadn’t woke him up, the banging against the door a moment later surely would have.
“Hey, in there, everything okay? Do you need a doc?”
“No.” Still crouching on the ground, Mikael could barely speak because he trembled that much. “I’m fine. … Leave me alone! Just leave me alone!!!”
The warden shrugged and shuffled away to the staff’s room. So Hoover had dumped some crazy moron here again!



Some miles away, Crystal sat at dinner with Norman’s new comrade and boss Pelletier. After the protest against the planned airport, he had invited some of his fellow activists, and so several people ended up discussing and celebrating amidst a huge barbecue in the garden. Norman was in his personal heaven. So many great ideas, new connections, plans - and moreover people sharing his enthusiasm and fire. Crystal however, felt very uncomfortable. The events had left her absolutely no occasion to talk about the urgent problems. In her nervousness, she spilled her coffee, let the sausage fall on her dress, and got irritated, when the other guests’ children danced around. She was simply not herself.

It was already dark and the hosts had switched some colorful lights on, when Norman came looking for her and she finally decided to speak, because she just could not hold it anymore inside her without breaking under the pressure.
“Norman, we have to talk,” she started.
“Yes, Darling?” He already had some beer and was in a completely happy mood. It didn’t make it any easier that he put his arms around her. “I hope your worries are a bit calmed now! I have a job, and we will be able to pay the next mortgage rate! Everything will turn out well! Didn’t I promise you?”
Crystal clenched her teeth to suppress a sigh. How should she possibly begin, where should she begin, for heaven’s sake?! “It’s not about the house. It’s about… us,” she made a half-heartedly second attempt. “I’ve thought a lot about life…. About my life lately. I want… What I want to say is…” Maybe this wasn’t a very good moment! A frustrated huff escaped her.
Norman embraced her tighter and kissed her on the cheek. “I know the last months have been difficult for you, Honey. But now, everything has changed! Jordan and I, we’re going to pull off a great campaign, one that will achieve a great deal! He has connections in the House of Representatives. We will win this battle!”

You will win this battle, if at all, It was more an emotional reaction than a conscious thought. She felt very exhausted, as if she had been running like hell and suddenly realized that she was only moving in circles. It would never end. Norman would never change. She would always come second after whatsoever in his fight for whatsoever. Never before, she had grasped the truth that clearly. She would tell him exactly this right now! With this resolution, she opened her mouth, when Jordan Pelletier showed up, ruining it. Crystal found herself shaking hands with another of his friends who had just arrived; found herself answering to propositions about projects. And then - she stood alone again in the garden, while Norman walked off with Jordan, busy with forging a better future. At this moment, she wanted nothing more than to be with Mikael; working on their common piece of art, talking, laughing, dancing, loving… Freezing, she dragged her jacket tighter around her body and wished there could be some sort of fairy tale transportation away from this place and right into Mikael’s arms.

 …

Head Detective Shea, a bulky round man with Irish-Chinese heritage, glanced upon Hoover, who stood in front of his desk with an anticipating look.
“Well, you’ve been right; the blood we’ve found was not Mr. Gant’s,” Shea said.
Hoover’s figure straightened in preparation of a victorious expression, when his boss continued: “But it wasn’t from the murdered girl either.”
“So we have to check further, dig further!” Hoover wasn’t discouraged at all. “We have--”
“We have to behave very careful now, Ray. VERY careful and VERY friendly, or we’re going to end up like our colleagues in Chicago, with a nasty lawsuit!”
“You’re not suggesting we let this bastard walk away, are you?!”
“To have a little blood stain in the car is not a crime, I’m afraid. Please, Ray, don’t make this difficult for all of us. I would hate to dismiss you from office.”
Now, Detective Hoover’s personal dam of restraint broke and anger flooded him. “You can’t be serious! We have damned evidence! Let me grill this guy; you’ll see he’ll talk!”
“We have nothing! At least not enough to keep him here!”
“Dammit! I don’t want my wife or any other woman or girl out there alone, while a crazy psycho killer roams around!”
“It’s what also will happen, if we set our jaws into the wrong guy. We have to be objective. We can’t afford our work being clouded by personal dislikes.”
Ray Hoover rolled his eyes to the ceiling and barely suppressed another curse. He was as sure as someone could be in that case! He placed his hands on Shea’s desk and repeated insistently: “I know Gant is our man! Give me one more day and I’ll have the proof we need!”
“I can’t. You know that damned well, too. We’d need an arrest warrant, and we’ll never get it with that!” Shea patted on the paperwork in front of him.

Hoover mused one last time if continued pleas would gain him anything and decided against it. He could not afford a suspension, indeed!
“Fine,” he managed with a hiss and straightened himself. “I’ll suggest keeping Gant under observation, though.”
“You want me lose my job, Ray, don’t you?! – Now get the hell out of here before I fire you!”
The Detective left the office and answered his colleagues waiting outside with a head shake. He hadn't been intimidated by the Chinese Triade-boss two years ago, who threatened with his internationally acclaimed lawyers, too. God help him, but he would surely not give in now in front of similar threats made by Mikael Gant’s advocates! He would do a little research without orders, then! He would be careful – but he would also be very accurate and tenacious!

….

Norman and Crystal returned home only in the morning, and the young woman deferred the subject of talking to him until they both had slept some hours and had a clear mind again. He was fast asleep on the couch, still in his clothes, no wonder after all this beer and Bourbon at the Pelletier’s dinner. Crystal was very tired, too. Nonetheless, she knew she wouldn’t be able to close her eyes until she had at least spoken to Mikael! She had skipped yesterday’s visit, after all, and not even called. Probably, he would think she’d gotten cold feet and preferred to sail the known, even if unhappy, waters with Norman!
She sneaked into the kitchen and dialed Mikael’s number. No response. Shortly, she considered getting some sleep, too and try it again later. He usually stood up only in the afternoon himself. However, then she decided otherwise. She did not want to spend more hours separated from him, and perhaps nurturing a misunderstanding! There were only some steps to go; she had a key. Some steps and she could be in his arms again! The thought let her tiredness vanish, and her just felt frustration changed into a comfortable warm feeling of anticipation. Hastily, she grabbed her jacket and was out of the door a moment later.

She had no idea that almost simultaneously with her, Mikael left his house to which he had only returned some minutes earlier himself. He had made the fastest work possible of the way back; it had nearly been a flight. No, not nearly, it had been exactly that. He wanted to get away from the police, their imaginations and insinuations and the terrifying nightmares – somehow! Even if he knew that at least the latter part of this wish wouldn’t come true. The bad dreams stuck to him with vile strength. Every attempt to get rid of them had failed so far. The only, however impossible, solution was not to sleep at all! But when he finally did, they seemed to grab with doubled greed, what had been denied them the nights before. Right now, he needed Crystal and nothing, no one else. To sense her, would soothe every storm and pain… He had been running the last steps from the garage into the house, sure to find a message from her on the answering machine or in the post box. Or even herself waiting!
The realization that there was no such thing was a cold harsh blow, which made him sink exhausted into one of the chairs in the lounge. For some moments, his thoughts were blocked, only a nasty subconscious feeling crept through him and manifested in a silent whisper. Betrayal! No, he did not want to hear that! He would go and see for himself! He would force the jealous demon inside him to fall silent! The next instant, Mikael was on his feet again and on his way.

He missed Crystal because of a bus driving by and shielding his view in the decisive moment. Shortly after, he pushed the door bell of the little old house near the beach. It took a while, then Norman opened. Thinking, the man standing outside might be a sales rep or religious missionary, he barked: “Sorry, I’m tired and I have no time right now, pal!” and wanted to shut the door in front of him again.
Mikael’s foot was fast enough to prevent this.
“Good morning. My name is Mikael Gant. I would like to see Crystal.”
“What?” In Norman’s head, an ugly hangover started to spread, and so he wasn’t in a particular welcoming mood, the more when it came to people like… What had he just said?! The name let his temper automatically drop even more.
“What dealings do you have with her?” It sounded as if he spoke about pimps and drug dealers, and his features told the same.
Mikael, on the other hand, felt his previous opinion about Norman confirmed. He was a narrow-minded, self-centered blighter. And Crystal… had obviously told him nothing! But Mikael wasn’t the kind of man to play hide and seek or any other games in this matter, the less with persons he considered below his own level. And someone who let a treasure like Crystal was, rotting that way, simply had to be below his level!
“I love her,” he answered plainly. “And I want—“
“Do you people,” Norman had grabbed him, “think you can buy everyone with your money? Buy and corrupt and destroy? What have you done to her?”
“Let go off me.”
Norman called for Crystal. Getting no answer only heightened his dark suspicions. Far from easing his grip, he swung Mikael around and pushed him against the wall. “Answer me, you lousy—“
The punch came totally unexpected. Norman did not only loose his grip now, but his ground, too and stumbled backwards. Now the unwelcome visitor, this example of wealthy decadence and recklessness, had carried things too far! Fuming with anger, Norman attacked again. A moment later, both men were embroiled in tight grappling.

 

CHAPTER 10

Already from afar, Crystal heard the unmistakable sounds of a fight in her home’s garden. She ran faster, thinking Norman might have surprised a burglar. When she pushed open the wooden gate, her eyes fell indeed on Norman, standing next to the staircase leading to the entrance door, with torn, stained shirt and breathing heavily. And down on the ground, another man was just about to struggle to his feet again. A blonde guy, whose hair and face were half-covered with blood dripping from a wound at his head. He must’ve been fallen very nasty into the little ‘scarecrow’ from glass fragments she had placed on the grass…
For a second, Crystal froze in shock. Then she stormed ahead, closed her arms around Mikael, steadying him into a sitting position. Her gaze graced Norman, who still stood at the door, staring, in disbelief.
„It is true… ?”
„You could’ve killed him!”
Hastily, she ripped off her scarf and pressed it against Mikael’s injury. Norman said something, sounding like an apology, but she didn’t want to hear any explanation or excuse! She didn’t want to hear anything from him at all! She sniffed, fought against the tears of shock and cradled Mikael.
„What have you been doing here?”
„I was searching for you,” he answered, touching her cheek with a dirty and shaky hand. „Where have you been?”
„On the way to you!” She embraced him tightly, not paying attention to the blood. „Did you come by car?”
He nodded, and she got to her feet again. „I’ll get some bandage material! Then I‘ll bring you home!”
In the door, Norman tried to grab her. „Crystal! Listen to me! I—“
„Leave me alone!” she cried. She knew she was becoming hysterical, but the mental stress of the past 24 hours was just getting on her, and she couldn’t restrain herself anymore. „Leave me alone or I’ll call the police!”
She stormed past him, into the kitchen, where she fumbled for the first aid box, hands trembling and view blurred because of tears. Norman was entering behind her. She did her best to ignore him. A package of bandages in one hand, she ran upstairs, fetched her passport and some other papers and hurried down again.
„Crystal, wait! Please! Let’s talk!”
But time for talking was over - at least in her opinion.



Crystal had helped Mikael to the couch in the living room downstairs, considering the way up to the second floor a too dangerous endeavor in his present condition. Now he lay there, while she checked the extent of his injury and tried to clean and bandage it again. The cut reached from across his forehead to his ear, where it met a second, smaller one. Both were not deep, but it looked ugly, though.
„I should bring you to a doc, Mikael!”
„No. It will heal.”
His fingers caressed the backs of her hands and then moved upwards over her arms. Despite her tiredness, she felt sparks dance over her skin, and her heart beat faster. It was some kind of magic in his touch, in his smile… making her just fly … on wings of fire.
„I’m going to make us a tea. Do you have some herbal tea?”
„Yes. First cupboard to the right, in the upper half,” he answered.
„Good.” Crystal bent down for a kiss, and almost got lost in the flames of desire, when his tongue slid into her mouth. It cost her some effort to get up again. „I’ll be back in a moment!”
Picking their dirty and blood-stained clothes from the floor in order to stuff them all into the trash bin, she hurried into the kitchen.



She filled some water into the stylish metallic electric kettle and opened the cupboard to get some tea bags. Out of the large assortment she discovered there, Crystal chose a cinnamon-roibos-blend and went on to take two cups from the board on the other side of the kitchen.
On her way there, her eyes fell on a paper thrown carelessly on the table; a paper bearing the seal of the police and looking highly official. Now she took a closer look.
It was a release certificate! With Mikael‘s name on it! Issued this very morning! She was embarrassed, and the calm relaxation which had just begun settling in her, the relaxation to have finally found out of the mess, was swept away. She was used to see similar stuff, because Norman tended to get in all kinds of trouble with his environmental activism. But Mikael?!
She could barely wait for the tea to be ready.

Mikael smiled at her, when she entered, and cautiously sat up. This time, Crystal couldn‘t manage to return the smile. She put the tablet with the tea cups on the glass table next to the couch.
„I found a release certificate in the kitchen.”
He sighed and irritation flickered over his face while he turned away.
„What is this about, Mikael?”
Urgency colored her voice.
He would‘ve loved to keep these things from her; he had been resolved to. But now, that he had forgotten the damned paper he had thrown onto the kitchen table this morning, there was no way to hide the truth.
„Some delusional detective arrested me,” he said, eyes closed and head leaned against the back of the couch. „I didn‘t want to tell and worry you.”
This had obviously been the wrong approach! „He arrested you? Why?”

He sighed again. „They think…” His hand went up to the bandage around his head, where suddenly an awful headache began to spread. „Think I … I had murdered someone… a girl… They are harassing me for months…”
Crystal was too terrified to react. The accusation was that - absurd! How on earth, the police could suppose Mikael would even have hurt someone? Seeing him suffer visibly, she felt her heart cramp as well.
„You think I may have done something, too?” he asked, eyes still closed and a tortured expression on his features.
Crystal leaned in and embraced him. „Of course not!” Gently, she caressed through his hair. „But why does the police hold you for suspect?! This is awful!”
„I don‘t know. I don‘t know! … Maybe… someone is framing me.”
„Who? Who could do such a thing?”
He tried to probe his mind, tried to find something, but at a certain point, everything seemed to dissolve into blurred blackness and the hard he tried, he could not get through. There was this frightening darkness he could not illuminate. But something was hiding there, eluding his grasp… „I don‘t know.”
As Crystal heard the painful tone in his voice, she whispered „I’m sorry. You should have some rest!”
She laid him back into the cushions. „Do you want an Aspirin?”
„No, it’s okay. Just stay with me. I need you.”


Mikael slept surprisingly well and without invading nightmares, as if Crystal’s presence kept them at bay. The setting sun woke him, as its rays fell brightly through the huge front windows, before being swallowed by the trees around the house. His headache was gone, only a little burning pain surrounded the cuts. Turning around, he discovered Crystal still sleeping, hair spread over the cushion like a sunflower. The sight made him feel all warm and happy. He brushed the hair away from her face. With a faint moan, she rolled onto her back, revealing her bare breasts. He ran his fingers in delicate patterns over her skin, making her smile in her sleep and float in a sea of delight. Only when he climbed on top of her, her eyes opened.
„I see you feel better…”
Mikael just smiled deeply and bent down to kiss her.



Detective Hoover smashed the telephone down and pressed a curse through gritted teeth. ’If you are not on this case I can’t give you any files.’ he repeated the just received answer from the police in Chicago. Fine! Doing all by the book and getting some more women killed, right?!
He filed through the phone books stapled on his desk and finally grabbed the receiver again, dialing a new number.
„Stone here,” a husky voice barked at the other end of the line, and Detective Hoover congratulated himself for having managed a step forward. He introduced himself and finished with: „We have a common ‘friend’: Mikael Gant.”
The phone voice became yet crispier. „The bastard almost cost me my career, not to mention some other things! I hope you have a very good reason for reminding me of him!”
„I do.” Hoover lowered his voice in a conspiratorial manner. He was still sitting in his office at the police station, after all! „This maniac probably has killed another woman, a week ago here in Hilo! The pattern is the same as in the murders in New York, Chicago and L. A., and if I’m not mistaken, the other suspect upon whom your department has agreed, is slightly out of business for some months now.”
„I’m all ears!” Detective Stone answered from L. A., and then listened avidly, when Hoover told him the details. Was there finally popping up an option to bring this arrogant ass down?!
„Look, I know this isn’t conforme to the regulations…”
„I give a fuck about the regulations! I want to nail this guy!”
„…I’d need the obduction files of the two victims in L. A., especially the detailed blood count,” Hoover continued.

 

CHAPTER 11

 

Mikael and Crystal sat at an opulent breakfast, prepared by him while she was still sleeping. The young woman had planned fetching some of her things from her house, however then, she decided that she didn’t want to cross Norman’s path that soon. She absolutely needed some distance, some time to ‘cool off’. And it was just that wonderful with Mikael! She did not want to be reminded at unpleasant things! He was charming and attentive and he listened to what she said – really listened, unlike Norman who very often only grumbled an ‘Uh-uhm’, because occupied with whatsoever. They could laugh together, and right now, during breakfast, she had the impression they didn’t need words at all to communicate and understand each other. Yes, he was a dream, except…

“We must do something about that police affair,” she said, looking up from her dish. “That’s just horrible what they do to you. It must end!”
“I already spoke to my lawyer this morning. He will take care of the matter. The police will stop their delusional persecution.” Mikael reached out for her hand and took it. “Don’t worry!”
Crystal was drowning too fast in his soft grey-green eyes for noticing the slight uncertainty coloring his voice and the delay of his smile.
“Let’s not think of this now!” He had taken another of the strawberry tartlets and gently shoved it into her mouth, using the opportunity to trace the outlines of her face again. “I’m going to make a new sculpture after you…” he whispered, pausing with his finger on her lips, while she swallowed down the last crumbs. “And I’ll name it…Perfection.”
“And I’m going to make a statue after you,” she teased, kissing him. “That is, if I’ll ever have the skills.”
“I told you I’ll teach you everything. You have the talent and the eye; all you need is some patience and training. – So…” Mikael stood up. “We shouldn’t lose any time, but start working, do you agree? – I only clean up the kitchen and fill the dish washer.”

“Why don’t you have a housekeeper?” she asked, helping in putting the food into the fridge.
“Oh no. I don’t like strange people snooping around in my house.”
Of course. Crystal nodded. He was a famous person and very concerned about privacy. Well, now she was here and could help! While cleaning the metallic gleaming window place next to the stove, she said: “Would you mind if I buy some plants for the house?”
“If you like it, I like it. I trust your judgment for design and décor!”
She smiled happily. It was almost unbelievable she had had such luck and found Mikael, amongst all the Millions of men on this planet!

Originally, Mikael and Crystal had planned to work further on the ‘birds’-sculpture. But when one of the carving tools broke, it turned out they had no replacement and would have to get a new one in town. So Mikael decided to show her some more techniques for the work on stone. His still not finished decay-themed sculpture was the perfect training piece, because he would erase large parts and treat the surface with a sandblast anyway. So she started to scratch with chisels of different size over the replica of Andromeda.
“Use a bit more force with the hammer, yes… and the angle shouldn’t be that wide,” Mikael guided her. “That was better! Now, once again! See if you can smoothen this sharp edge there!” He leaned against the wall opposite to her and watched Crystal and her attempts intently. She had her beautiful lips pressed to a tight line in concentration, and little pearls of sweat glinted on her forehead. Again, she pushed away some unruly hair, and then set the tool to the stone another time. He was fascinated by her, with every passing hour more. Fascination…  floating close to obsession…

“Why ‘decay’?” Crystal asked, taking a breathing space and slowly walking around the sculpture. “I mean… wouldn’t it give an amazing impression if left intact, too?”
“Maybe,” Mikael answered, stepping at her side and placing his hand next to hers on the crude stone surface. “However… the really interesting is behind the facades. They must be stripped away to reveal the true self. When the truth, the darkness is exposed, no one can hide or run anymore.” As if summoned by these words, he felt the unreadable, ungraspable gloom almost emerging from the cold statue under his hand; almost staring at him from empty lifeless eyes. Appalled, he flinched back, gasping for air to calm his racing heart.

Alarmed the same, Crystal grabbed him by the shoulders. “Mikael? … What’s the matter?”
His hand closed tightly around her arms and he inhaled deeply. “I’m okay. Just a bit…” He blinked. “Dehydrated, probably.”
“Or maybe you’ve hit your head harder than you thought in the fight with Norman! C’mon, sit down! I’ll get you something to drink!”
“Wait!” He still held her right hand, and when she looked at him, waiting, the smile came back onto his face. “Marry me!”
Crystal couldn’t have been more surprised. “What…?” was all she could manage after a moment of speechlessness.
“I know a little chapel in Hilo, where we can go around the clock! Right now!”
“Mikael… I… O God, I don’t know what to say!”
“You said you love me.” He pulled her closer and embraced her.
“I do! Of course I do!” Nonetheless, she had rushed into the marriage with Norman once, and that particular memory made her feel uneasy. “I just need some more time!”

Mikael looked down on her, trying to overcome the sudden panic, trying to convince himself that she spoke the truth and did not plan to leave or betray him. He wanted to trust her. If only the little devil of fear inside him would dissolve!
“I want our marriage a big event!” Crystal continued, caressing through his hair and in doing that calming him a bit. “With a gorgeous dress! I always wanted that, not only a quick ceremony as if it was nothing important!”
“Yes.” His voice had still the sound as if it came out of a torture chamber. He wanted to trust, so much to trust! He clung onto this with all his willpower. Slowly, the sensation of her warm body pressed against his, the radiance of her eyes, then finally her smile, hauled him back. She couldn’t betray him. She wouldn’t.
“We should indeed pause and have something to eat,” he said, letting her go. “It’s four PM after all.”
“And afterwards, we’ll rest a bit, until you really feel good enough for work, okay?”

Detective Hoover had waited impatiently for the investigation files to arrive from L.A. Because neither he nor his partner in this insubordination could work in the open, both had to wait until the respective offices were almost empty and the fax machine unguarded – so to speak. Now he stood there and watched as one paper after the other was printed, just like a gambler waiting for the distribution of his prize. Soon, he would hold the decisive proof in his hands and this arrogant porn-sampling so called artist would get what he deserved! Finally, the machine beeped and the last sheet lay in the tray.
Hoover grabbed them all, filed hastily through, and then retreated into his office. He needed not only the data from L.A., but the ones from the lab in Hilo, too. And these were in his chief’s room, a place, which was still occupied at the moment. Hoover stared at the watch and hoped, the ‘boss’ would not make another night shift today but go home early for once…

Mikael had planned to take a shower, while a vegetable pie was in the oven, but the shower evolved into a full scale bathing session in his whirlpool upstairs. From the circular marble pool, designed by Mikael himself, the view went unhindered over the tree tops to the beach and the sea, both now tinted from beautiful sunset colors. For later, when the sun had set, he had placed candles all around.
Now, the two lovers sat in the warm and softly massaging water streams, eating, and drinking Champaign. All sorrows seemed to be from another world. When it was dark outside and the orange flames of the candles remained the only light, transforming the bathroom into a fairy tale grotto, Crystal and Mikael started indeed planning their wedding.

The chief of the Hilo police department had been half way home already, when he discovered he had forgotten his daughter’s graduation present in the office. Quite sore, because this meant some hours more on the highway – construction areas inclusive – he turned around and headed back into the city.
When he arrived at the police station and the respective floor, it was shortly before 9 PM. To his surprise, he discovered the lights in his office still on. Forgotten to switch them off, he thought even grumpier. It was really time for a short vacation, after all! Key in hand, he wanted to open, realized that he obviously had forgotten to close properly, too… or…? All other hypotheses became obsolete, when the door swung open and the chief of police found himself face to face with one of his Detectives: Hoover. He took a deep breath before saying:
“Ray, you’re one of my best men. Therefore, I hope you’ll have the best explanation I’ve ever heard in such a situation!”
Hoover had clearly been caught off-guard and fumbled for words. “I know this is against regulations, but it might safe lives! And so I thought-“
“You thought to hell with the law, I’m going to do this wild-west-style!”
“I’m on something in the Gant-women-murder-case! I’ve contac—“
“There is no such case!” the chief snorted. “I thought I had made myself clear!” He marched to his desk, eyeing Hoover and shaking his head. Then, his gaze fell on the staple of faxes which had the seal of the L.A. police department. “What have you done?”
Hoover’s next words made the chief sigh. “Ray, you’re such a goddamned idiot!”
“We can nail this bastard! I’ve found a blood sample matching the stain we’ve discovered in his car, and it belonged to the victim in L.A.!”
“And that’s your proof?! (P.S. they could not make a full genetic check, then!) We’ll get into a hell of a mess with that! Gant’s lawyers will eat us alive, for the way alone you acquired this proof!” He sighed again, then went to the water dispenser to fill up a glass. The time he needed to empty it was indispensable to lower his level of Adrenalin, before continuing the conversation.
“I don’t like Gant either, but as I told you, we can’t proceed on that ground. You can’t proceed on that ground! You’re a Detective, not a bounty hunter, for Christ’s sake! We are police and we have to obey certain regulations! I’ll have to suspend you; you can work that out for yourself!”
“Not if you cut me a break,” Hoover insisted, but the chief of police shook his head. “Not this time, Ray. I just can’t do it.”

Crystal woke up early in the morning and could not find sleep again. Contrary to former times, when this state usually was evoked by sorrows concerning Norman or money or in most cases, both – this time she could not sleep anymore because of happiness. They had made love still in the whirlpool, while the last candles burnt down and finally night shrouded them. Crystal was still and ever again amazed how many ways could be found to please each other; they seemed as endless to her as the starry sky of which she could see a part through the windows. More and more, her previous life seemed unidimensional to her. Mikael had pushed open the doors to a whole new universe full of discoveries in every field. Maybe, she thought, lying there and looking her sleeping lover, she had been dead and only now awake and alive?!

After being awake for a while, Crystal decided to stand up, go down into the atelier and make a little surprise for Mikael. Last day, she had spotted a sandstone cube, which would be perfect to transform it into a stylish little flower pot. If she hurried and everything went fine, it could be finished until he would wake up – probably in the late morning – and already decorate the breakfast table! He should see what she had learnt already!

She had roughly carved the hollow which should hold the flowers later, when she heard a terrified cry from upstairs. Letting her tool clank to the ground, she ran to the staircase, calling Mikael’s name. Trembling and heart racing, she arrived in the bedroom and found Mikael sitting on the edge of the bed, fear and shock etched in his face.
“What happened?”
“Just a nightmare.” He did absolutely not look like ‘just’ whatsoever. “Where have you been?”
“In the atelier; wanted to make a gift for you!” Crystal sat down next to him, caressing his back. “I’m worried about you!”
“It’s nothing.”
“Don’t you want to talk about it? To me, at least? I had bad dreams, when I was a kid. After I had read some monster stories I had stolen from my brother, you know. Therefore I was afraid to tell anyone. He hated it when I browsed through his boy’s stuff. Well, but after I had opened my heart to grandma, the nightmares were just gone.”
Mikael shook his head, staring past her, at the violet-painted wall.
“Please! I love you. I don’t want to see you like that and not be able to help you – and if only in listening what’s ailing you!”
He remained silent, got to his feet instead and paced through the room, slowly, as if he had to probe the ground first before making the next step. Crystal waited patiently, trying not to show too much how worried she really was.

“A few years ago,” Mikael started finally to speak, “I had an assistant… a helper doing some minor sculpting tasks, acquiring material, that sort of things. He had said he was a student, wanting to supplement his scholarship.” He stood in the middle of the room, eyes half closed, appalled. Again, some time passed until he continued. “One night I had sent a young woman to my atelier, for some test photos. I wanted to fetch an ordered camera filter before, and so I sent her ahead. … But the car broke down and I only came home long past midnight. … Just in time … to find my assistant raping the girl.”
“That’s horrible. No wonder it still haunts you!” Crystal had put her arms around him.
“When he saw me, he fled, but the police got him and he was sentenced.”
“Is he out of prison yet?” She asked. “Could it be he who frames you?”
“He’s dead. He killed a prostitute back in L.A. and was shot during his arrest. Only his ghost… still grins at me…” Mikael’s voice trailed off as his gaze wandered toward the window, which mirrored ghostlike image of himself and the woman in his arms.
Crystal’s eyes were closed now; she leaned against him, attempting to shoo away the frightening remnants of the past with her presence. Mikael still stared into the window-mirror like hypnotized. He hadn’t told her everything. He had not told her that at the end of this night’s dark dream, it hadn’t been his assistant who awaited his frantically running self. The man who was bent over the screaming girl had been himself; he had looked into his own devilish smiling features.

 

CHAPTER 12

 

The jalousies weren’t completely closed – he had made that arrangement for her, as she didn’t like to sleep in complete darkness – and a carpet of light rays spread into the bedroom as the sun rose. Crystal loved waking up next to Mikael; see him, feel him, smell him first thing when sleepiness receded. She wished that it could stay that way forever. They might get older – but she couldn’t imagine ever loving his sight any less.
Right now, her caressing awoke him and he smiled at her radiantly.
“I want a child from you,” Crystal said without thinking any further.
His smile froze and then faded, while he turned away to the bedroom wall.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, surprised by his reaction. With a very careful touch, she stroke over his hair. “If there’s something… You know, you can tell me everything, whatever it is, okay? I love you, and that’s the most important thing of all. … Mikael?”
He turned back to her, lifted his arms as if to embrace her, but stopped, staring at his hands which posed black silhouettes against the sun rays.
“Do you think I could’ve killed someone?”
She shook her head, tried to cover her embarrassment. “What gives you that idea now? Of course not!” She took his hands and kissed the palms. “Shall I put some music on? The electronic samples you bought yesterday?”
Mikael nodded and forced a little smile. He had not wanted to talk about THAT – it had just broken through the surface before he could restrain. “I’m sorry,” he said now. “If I scared you. It’s just… I don’t know. … I don’t think I … should have children.”
“It’s okay. Let’s not talk about it anymore!” Crystal stood up and lifted the jalousies a bit further. “What a beautiful day! And no storm at all, as they told yesterday in the weather forecast!”

In her old house, Crystal packed her belongings. There was not much to take with her anyway – Mikael had bought her several new pieces of clothing already; and she didn’t want to grab personal items such as photo albums reminding her of the time with Norman either. She was about to start a new life. She wanted to draw the line under the previous chapter!
Norman stood nearby all the time, watching her and searching for an opportunity to start a conversation. “Crystal, please, just wait a minute! We have to talk about this!”
“I don’t think so.”
“This Gant doesn’t take you serious!”
“YOU didn’t take me serious, Norman!” She put some music tapes into her bag.
“He… he only plays with you, and one day, when he has enough, he’ll throw you away!” He tried to grab her, but she eluded him. He continued, nonetheless. “I’ve done some research about him in the library! He’s a playboy; having mistresses everywhere in the States! The yellow press is full of scandals! He doesn’t care about you! Crystal!”
“Stop it!” She hurried downstairs. Whatever Mikael might have done before they had met – it didn’t matter to her. Now, she knew she was the only woman in his life. She trusted him.
Norman followed her, not wanting to realize his long relationship with this woman was finally and completely over. Still, he searched for a hook to grab her again, haul her back into his waters! The ringing phone ended his musing about the subject. It was Crystal’s friend Kate, and as she sounded, she was in big trouble – once again.
Reluctantly, because she wanted to be out of the house as soon as possible, Crystal took the phone from Norman’s hand.
Sobbing and sniffing, Kate’s voice reached her. She was sitting at Hilo International Airport, after her latest lover had walked out on her, because she had told him she was pregnant. A third child in addition to the other two Crystal could hear bickering and whining in the background. Why for Christ’s sake Kate couldn’t make certain provisions?! Well, it was of no use ranting now; her friend was already desperate enough.
“I only need a little bit money to pay the flight to Washington for me and the kids! I’m going to live with my aunt Mary for a while. Can you help me? Please, I don’t know where else to go. And Gordon seems to get sick on top of all…”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Crystal promised her crying friend and suppressed a sigh.

Shortly after, she stood in Mikael’s atelier and repeated the problem for him. She did not feel too comfortable in asking for money for a – to him – strange person, but he listened quietly.
“You don’t need to beg,” he answered eventually, “How much is it you think she’ll need? 2000 Dollars? I’m going to write you a check.”
Mikael cleaned his hands with a towel and went ahead into the living room.
“Take my car,” he said, filling out the form.
“Thank you! That’s really very kind of you!”
Smiling, he took her hands. “I don’t want to see you worried about your friend! Just make sure you’ll come back soon. You know how fast I miss you, my love!”
Crystal grinned. “Do you think I do NOT miss you?”
He pulled her in his arms. “I can’t stand it very long without you.” The gentle little good-bye-kiss became a long, deep one.
“You think this may keep you alive until I come back?” She teased, not really wanting to go anymore.
“Who knows?” Another kiss. They just could not desist from each other.
“I’ll call you when I’m on my way back!” Crystal finally promised, taking the check and her sunglasses from the table.

As Crystal had expected, her friend Kate was in a miserable state. Maybe her ex-lover had mistreated her as well, because some bruises were visible on her arms.
“Thank you so much you could come, Hon!” she said under tears, trying to calm her coughing son. “I’m sorry! I just didn’t know where to go, and whom to ask!”
“It’s okay! Here is some money for tickets, and some more for whatsoever!”
“I don’t know how I shall thank you! I’ll return you every cent, believe me! I just have to find a job!” She remembered her pregnancy and finished sobbing: “That is… now… I mean…I’m such a dumb chick! How could I believe this guy meant serious business… how could I?!”
“Don’t worry about repaying anything, Kate!” Crystal lifted her friend’s little daughter up on her knees. The girl’s trousers were dirty and her hair was in need of some shampoo, too. “You have to take care of your children, okay? Don’t worry about the money!”
Kate wiped over her face and looked up. “Has Norman found a new job, finally?”
“I’m not with Norman anymore.”
And if it was only to distract her friend from her own misery, Crystal started to tell about Mikael, his art, their plans together…

Mikael had spent the afternoon working; however he had stopped, feeling increasingly uneasy and anxious. He couldn’t name the source of this emotion, though. It was just a numb unpleasant anxiety, as if something nasty was awaiting him. The more time passed, the more nervous he got. And why Crystal had not called? He needed her!

The next plane on schedule to Washington had been delayed because of the weather conditions, and finally, the flight was cancelled. The rain smashing against the waiting lounge windows didn’t leave much hope for an improvement of the situation within the following hours.
Kate’s two children slept exhausted on the chairs, and Kate herself sat slumped down, very badly in need of rest the same. Crystal decided to check them in at the Airport hotel. She tried to call Mikael twice, but first all lines very busy, because of the agitated stranded passengers attempting to reach their families or business partners, and then, the phones were dead! Probably, the storm had knocked over a decisive telephone pole! The airport staff promised to have it running as soon as possible. Nonetheless, the damage was outside their reach, and AT&T could only do so much.

Mikael had decided to go for a walk through the city. Maybe some fresh air would help against the headache and this strange tension torturing him. It rained, but not that much it would make a stroll unpleasant. A little bit of rain could be quite inspirational, on the contrary, because everything was mirrored strangely twisted in the puddles and drops of water. He enjoyed watching the world this way. Considering the hurrying pedestrians, he was the only one – except some children jumping through the puddles, of course.
Mikael’s thoughts were with Crystal, while he stared into a shop window with more or less dressed manikins. [i]I should go home, perhaps she’s back already…[/i] However, now, the clouds literally burst, and he was forced to seek shelter in the next entrance.

It was shortly before midnight when the storm settled just enough for Crystal to risk the way back. The streets of the city and the freeway were a mess, of course. Overthrown garbage cans rolled over the roads, accompanied by tails of loose junk. There were several traffic accidents, too. And the telephones in the area were still out of business. Crystal wanted only to arrive home and rest in Mikael’s arms.

The loud music and the disturbing pattern of lights waved with hypnotic strength around the people in the club, who celebrated Friday night.
Mikael leaned at the bar and watched them. He did not know exactly how he had ended up here, but at the moment, the surroundings left him no time to explore this strange sensation of amnesia. He remembered being in a similar place, however not this one… it had been some time ago… or not? He frowned and stared into his glass, feeling that he was missing something important.
“Hey – alone and sad?” a female voice reached him.
He turned around and discovered a young woman who seemed strangely familiar.
“Have I seen you before?”
The woman laughed, not quite sober anymore. “It’s me, Janet! Remember? I asked you some weeks ago if you’d search for a model.”
Mikael’s eyes wandered over her displayed body – but his memory was a black hole letting nothing escape at the moment. Nonetheless, this woman had something very appealing and enticing…
“You search for one, now?” She asked, putting her hand on his chest. “Or… do you want something else?”
“Perfection,” he whispered.
“Do you want to test if I’m perfect enough?” She giggled.
“I’m not out for some blunt sexual encounter. I’m an artist.”
“Yes I know.” She took his hands. “You create marvelous sculptures.”

The elderly couple driving slowly through the storm and smashing rain in the early morning didn’t even notice the running young woman at first. Only when she almost stumbled in front of the car, they stopped with squeaking breaks - and were shocked. The stranger was barefoot, barely dressed anyway. Blood stained her blouse and her face, she was crying and in obvious panic.
“Help… me! O my God! Help!”
The driver’s first thought was a car crash not far away. He tried to see something through the curtain of rain, while his wife cared for the frightened young woman, who despite the look, wasn’t injured at all. Whatever had happened - the blood on her clothes was not her own!
It was hard to make sense from the words she uttered in between sobs and chattering teeth. Was she the victim of domestic violence, or a derailed junkie? She smelled after alcohol, at least!
“Police! … Call… police!… O my God… ”
“Calm down, you’re safe,“ the elderly lady repeated again and again, putting her own jacket around the woman’s shoulders and helping her into the car.
“We’ll get you to the police! Calm down! - Joe, turn around, I’ve seen a public phone at the last corner!” As the car started moving again, the driver’s wife did her best to secure the hysterical human bundle in the rear.

….

Crystal drove as fast as she could, given the circumstances of the growing storm and all the branches and debris on the street. Blinking red and blue lights at the next crossroad stopped her, though. A tree had fallen across the street, hit another car. The police and a rescue team were already there and no one seemed seriously hurt - the street however, was blocked of course.
Crystal cursed, stared some moments out into the not changing situation and onto the growing line of vehicles. Then she made her decision. She was only some streets away from home! Carefully, she veered out and parked at the nearest possible place, not caring for any restrictions. Then she grabbed her bag and was out of the car. The storm almost swept her off her feet and she slipped out of her shoes to get a better footing. Soaked within seconds, she struggled forward. Maybe, it hadn’t been such a good idea after all! Thanks God, there was a shopping passage nearby, allowing her to cross some space sheltered from rain and storm and catch her breath.

Finally, the familiar flat roofed house in between the now battered trees showed up. There was even light in the atelier! Out of breath, Crystal conquered the final meters toward the house, wondering why the door wasn’t closed in this weather so it was ripped wide open and smashed again with every new gust of wind. But maybe Mikael was that buried in his work, he didn’t pay attention to these ’minor distractions’!
However, Crystal shut the door tightly, and still the storm rattled on it.
“Mikael?”
She couldn’t see him anywhere, so she stepped further, leaving a rivulet of water on the floor. “I’m back!”
A sound, like the clanking of a tool mixed with a moan, came from the left side of the atelier.
“Mikael?”
She started to feel a pang of sudden worry clasping inside her, while she turned into the direction. The blink of an eye later, the pang became something ice cold, squeezing the air out of her lungs and letting her knees buckle. Mikael laid there, the right arm clasped around the workbench’s leg, the left hand pressed against his side, from where blood spread over his once-white working clothes, over his fingers, on the floor.
“Oh God…” She stumbled at his side, put her arms around him in an instinctive reaction. “What happened?”
“I don’t… know…” he gasped, staring at her with pain shrouded eyes. “Someone… tried… to kill me.”
Now, reason superseded the shock almost paralyzing Crystal. “Lay back!”
Hastily, she shoved the next best things – a toolbox and some cloths – under his head and then got to her feet again. There was a telephone at the rear of the atelier! She had trouble dialing 911 because she was that shaky. Hopefully this line wasn’t destroyed! It cracked and sizzled awfully in the connection! After some seconds of panic, someone answered the call, and she tried to give the necessary information in a halfway understandable mode, her eyes always on Mikael’s stretched out figure.
“Please hurry!” she shouted in the phone. “Please!”
Then she ran back to him. Mikael was barely conscious by now, and Crystal was cold with fear. She pressed her jacket against the wound in his side, without much luck trying to stop the flow of blood somehow.
“I love … you …” he murmured, “Love you… Crystal…”
“Don’t speak! Save your strength! Help will be here in a minute! – Mikael? Do your hear me?!” Her hands clasped around his shoulders. She felt like choking. Her lips formed the letters but no sound escaped her. Mikael, my love… Don’t leave me…don’t leave me…

 

CHAPTER 13

 

Someone banged against the door. The sound was accompanied by a harsh “Police! Open immediately!”
Before a clear thought could form in Crystal’s terrified mind and she could answer, the task force stormed into the atelier and guns pointed at her and Mikael.
“Get aside!” one of the officers shouted.
Crystal stared at the intruders in shock. She couldn’t have moved, even if she had wanted to. What was going on here? Why no one did help him?! She tried to speak, to explain – when she was grabbed by the shoulders and dragged aside. Now, her spirits awoke, and she struggled.
“What are you doing? He’s dying! Don’t you—“
“Easy, easy.” The police man held her in a tight grip, while one of his colleagues gave an order into his walkie-talkie. A moment later, finally some paramedics joined them…

The next three days became a terrible ordeal for Crystal. While the police turned  upside down Mikael’s house to gather evidence, she was questioned by the police and send home only to be harassed by greedy reporters who wanted to know “how it feels to be the lover of a serial killer. Having noticed all the commotion in the neighborhood, Norman showed up on top of all. He managed to shoo the reporters – not very politely; and highly probable they would file an action against him – however, then, he tried to assist her further. This was the last thing she wanted.
“Leave me alone, Norman!” she cried, trying to get the door open despite her shaky hands.
“Come over to our house, Crystal!”
“THIS is my house! Don’t you get it?!”
“Darling! I’m so glad nothing happened to you! Please… I’m not mad at you…everything will—“
She got the lock open and literally fled inside, smashing the door behind her. Norman still tried to reason with her. She couldn’t handle anything of that sort right now. Hands pressed against her ears she ran upstairs.
Staying there in the room where she had already spent so many wonderful hours with Mikael was torture as well. The more, after the hospital had refused to give her any information about his condition, because she wasn’t related and a police investigation was going on. All she could do was waiting … for the nightmare to end. Unfortunately, it had just started.

Detective Hoover abstained from displaying the satisfaction about being right in this case, when he walked into his superior’s office. They hadn’t time to indulge such ‘decencies’ anyway. The Hilo PD was in a state of emergency, and every available officer was on duty. They had to keep out reporters, re-open old cases, check evidence and question witnesses. Hoover didn’t mind the additional work. He was exhilarated, on the contrary.
“The evidence,” he said and put the folder he had just got from the lab guy onto his boss’ desk. “Gant’s fingerprints on the girl’s clothes; her fingerprints on the knife, and elsewhere in the atelier. Traces of a fight. Obviously, she tried to flee, but was grabbed again. That was when she scratched  him – skin particles were still under her fingernails when she was brought in. So far, every detail confirms her story of self-defense.  The psychologist has talked to her, but she’s still under shock.”
“What about Gant?”
“Out of ICU and responsive. He persists that he can’t remember anything.” Hoover would’ve loved to question the suspect with a little more insistence, however, given the presence of medical personnel that had been out of question. 
The chief of the Hilo PD nodded, shooting a glance into the collected files. “We’ll have a psychological expert checking him, too. Make contact with the medical staff!”
“Understood!” He turned toward the door.
“You enjoy this, don’t you?”
“I enjoy making the area safe for my wife and family,” Hoover answered. “And it was about time we got our hands on this bastard! Now, even his renowned lawyers won’t save his neck!”

Mikael blinked and tried to remember what it was he wanted to say only a moment ago. It was hard to concentrate. Probably, it was the effect of the injection they had administered him shortly ago. He felt dizzy and a headache was spreading, too. He blinked again. In front of him sat a man in casual clothing, some papers in front of him, and looking in his direction full of expectation. The reminder of the question Mikael had just heard was back.
“I heard the cries when I came back to the atelier,” he answered. “I ran. But… I came too late. I always … come too late. … I want to go home.”
The door opened, and through his blurred vision, Mikael saw someone entering. “Crystal? … I’m sorry. I can’t remember what we …” The vision dissolved into the figure of a white-clad nurse, now grabbing the handles of his wheelchair.
“Mr. Weber,” she addressed the other man, “I’m afraid you have to stop for today.”
“Of course. I understand.”
Mikael tried to lift his right hand to massage his forehead and re-discovered that he was handcuffed.
“I killed them?” He whispered. Suddenly, the shock turned into something else, and he laughed.

A few minutes later, Weber, a psychologist hired by the Hilo PD, met with Detective Hoover in the hospital’s café.
“So, what do you think?” Hoover was impatient.
“It’s difficult to assess him after only two meetings,” his companion answered, slowly sipping his tea.
“He suffers definitely from a personality disorder – or several disorders. The catalyst seems to be the night, when he surprised his assistant raping one of the models.”
The Detective nodded. “I know that case.”
“It looks to me like a guilt trauma evolved into a repetition model,” the psychologist continued. “Someone unconsciously repeats the action he or she abhors, in order to change the once experienced outcome. Because this is impossible, though, the methods and violence increase. However, as I said that's not all. In my opinion, Mr. Gant can’t be held criminally liable for the murders.”
“You’re sure he’s not just a very good actor?” Hoover didn’t like it when some sorts of criminals got out of the affair pulling that string.
“Trust me; I’m in this job for 20 years. I recognize if someone fakes insanity.”

The fifth day had passed and half of the sixth night since the dreadful events, when Crystal woke up after a sleep of exhaustion in one of the living room’s chairs. For a merciful second, everything seemed fine. Then, reality was back with all its weight. Still, she could not believe that Mikael should’ve done such horrible things; how on earth, someone could accuse him at all! This must have been a terrible misunderstanding!  
After a glance at the watch, Crystal stood up and shuffled to the phone to call the hospital. Once again. Before she had dialed, she reassessed that plan, though, and went upstairs to get dressed. She would go there in person! These damned docs should tell everything to her face!

At the hospital, nothing had changed concerned the restrictions, and no arguments and pleas were of any use. Crystal was close to a nervous breakdown, and the nurse whom she had talked to the last minutes, informed two paramedics to take care of her. That minute, when one of the doors behind the huge glass portal opened, she got to see Mikael after all.
And the sight was worse than any nightmare she had had in the past few days.
“Mikael…?” She looked at the person sitting slumped in the wheelchair, only held upright by a restraint around his chest. She felt sick. Tears started burning in her eyes.
She slammed her hands against the separating glass.  “Mikael!”
The hand of the nurse sank on her shoulder. “Miss…”
“Let me go in there! Let me talk to him! Please!” Hands pressed against the glass she stared at Mikael, whose wheelchair was just rolled into another room, and the door closed behind.

On her way out, Crystal ran into the police officer who had interrogated her a few days earlier – Ray Hoover – and another man accompanying him. She didn’t think any further; the words just flooded out of her: “Detective, please, you must hear me out! Mikael can’t have committed these crimes! Please, you must help him! He can’t have murdered someone!”
“Misses Jennings –“
“He is such a kind and sensible person; he would never be able to do such things! He was even afraid I could hurt myself in the kitchen cutting the vegetables, or using the sculpting tools in the atelier!” She couldn’t hold back the tears anymore.
Hoover signaled the hospital’s personnel that already had approached to stay back, and put his arm around her shoulder. “Crystal. Please calm down.”
“He hasn’t done anything wrong! I know him!”
Hoover led her into an adjacent room and closed the door. Then they sat down at a table.
“Misses Jennings,  I’m Alan Weber, psychologist,” the Detective’s companion now started to speak with low, emphatic voice, looking at her. “Mr. Gant is very ill; you have to understand that. I’m sure this is a shock for you – it always is for the relatives of a patient. Nonetheless—“
“You HAVE to help Mikael!”
“Misses Jennings, do you know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?”
“I don’t get what—"
“We don’t know yet what makes Mr. Gant ‘switch’, but when he does, he becomes an extremely dangerous psychotic person. Unlike the man, you may know. And in this state of mind, he has undoubtedly killed several women.“
“No!”
“I am very sorry. I know this is hard for you.”
Crystal wiped over her face, tried to order her wildly swirling thoughts. “There has to be a way to help him!”
“Right  now, Crystal,” Detective Hoover said, “our primary goal is to protect the world from him. And this includes you.”

After arriving home, Crystal was not able to do more than just drop down and cry. Several hours passed until she could at least begin trying to cope with the news. Aimlessly, she wandered through the atelier. It felt as if she could see Mikael, hear him, sense him everywhere, inside every piece of art. No wonder - this all had been his very soul!  
Sitting beside his latest sculpture, which stood exactly like the sign of decay Mikael had wanted it to be; a monstrous image of the raped human soul in the darkening surroundings, Crystal  understood, that love meant far more than laughing, working, dreaming and having sex together. It could mean to walk through hell and yet not leave each other! She leaned her cheek against the stone. She realized she loved Mikael unconditionally.

The proceeding started 2 months later, after an evaluation had declared Mikael competent to stand trial. It was decided to exclude the public, basically because of the press, which had sunk their teeth greedily in the matter and exploited it with an almost obscene sensation mongering. Outside the court, protesters rallied demanding the full application of justice, and not as they feared, the prevalence of money. A group of religious fundamentalists spoke about a ‘re-incarnated devil’ that should be locked away forever.
The situation became unbearable for Crystal, because of which the police eventually decided to relocate her. She could dispose of one of Mikael’s accounts, so money wasn’t that a problem. Maybe the stress and the physical strain of the move even helped her to survive the weeks of the trial. She took all the items of the atelier with her and arranged them in the first floor of her new home, as if the owner and creator would be home any day. Her only contact to Mikael consisted in short conversations with his lawyer, who was not very talkative.

When the trial was over and Mikael sentenced to confinement in a Forensic Mental Institution, she delved into case studies, pharmaceutical reports, and psychological papers in search for any ray of hope. Tenaciously, Crystal  began to fight for the permission of a visit – so far denied because of the instable condition of the patient and the fact she wasn’t related. And - she started to paint in order to prevent her from getting insane herself.  She did not think about what she wanted to create. She took several colors and pencils, sat down in front of the paper or canvas and let all the emotions flow. When she was deep inside the creative process, she felt very close to Mikael again. The results were dark and disturbing; layers of sinister colors covering the background like a wood of thorns or a maelstrom of black water, leaving only tiny spots of light. But at least the light didn’t die in her soul as well…

 

CHAPTER 14

 

Four months after Mikael’s institutionalization in the forensic department of the Hawaiian State Hospital, Crystal finally got the permit for a visit. She took the next available flight and was there as early as possible to fill out all the prepared forms. The building was modern and had in no way the eerie appearance mental institutions so often had in horror films. The walls’ colors were friendly and sunny, plants decorated the aisle. Nonetheless, Crystal sensed that particular depressing prison feeling.  Maybe the locked doors and the security cameras were to blame. And of course, the fact that the ‘inmates’ were indeed chained, when they were accompanied into the visitor’s area.

She was about to sign the final paper, when a young member of the medical staff approached her. “Mrs. Jennings? Good morning! I’m sorry, but I have to inform you that your visit today has been canceled.”
“I have all the necessary forms and permits; from the court, the senior physician of this hospital and a lawyer’s—“
“I’m really sorry. But the patient started to show extreme suicidal tendencies, and he had to be sedated.”
“I want to see him,” Crystal insisted. And if she only could sit next to him – it wouldn’t matter to her! “I have a right to see him. I won’t leave!”
“I’ll check with the responsible psychologists. I can’t promise you anything, Mrs. Jennings. Would you mind waiting over there in the office?”

She agreed – and waited for over an hour, until a nurse showed up to tell her that maybe the visit could take place after lunch time, depending on Mikael’s condition then. Crystal just nodded and waited further. She wasn’t in the mood to go outside and have something to eat herself. Eventually, a staff member asked her to join him.
“He’s awake now, but don’t expect too much,” he explained with low voice, as if speaking about a dying person. “We’ve taken care you’ll be safe during the meeting. Just try to stay calm whatever his reactions might be and avoid body contact. One of us will be next door all the time.”
Crystal was disgusted, but remained silent. The paramedic guided her past the normal visiting area into a separate room. Here, it looked much more like a hospital. The bright warm colors had given way to pure white. The atmosphere made her freezing. Tightly, she clutched her present for Mikael.

After another ten minutes, the second door across from her seat opened and Mikael was brought in. He sat in a wheelchair, just as last time when she had seen him. But no well-meant precaution of the medical team could’ve prepared her for this sight. He was barely more than a shadow of his former self; emaciated, pale, unshaved and hair hanging disorderly into his face. He of all people, who always paid that much attention to his appearance! He looked up to her with eyes full of desperation and Crystal had no doubt that he recognized her. When the door had closed again and they were alone, she didn’t give a damn about all the warnings, but embraced Mikael. His hands were shackled, so his attempt to put the arms around her the same, had to stay an attempt.
“I missed you so much,” Crystal whispered in tears.
“I didn’t remember anything…” he said. “I was fascinated that much by contradiction and duplicity… I didn’t know…”
“I will get you out; do you hear me, Mikael? I contacted specialists!” She kneeled down beside him and held his hands. “You have to cooperate with the doctors here. For me, do it for me! Mikael!”
He didn’t react.
“I brought you something! They said I wasn’t allowed to give you any tools, but for this I got the permission!” She took her present out of the bag and put it into his hands. It was a high-end aquarelle set, complete with brushes.
“You must not… visit me again, Crystal. I don’t want you to see me… like this.”
“Don’t say this! I love you! I will never stop loving you!”
He lowered his head, stared at the present in his hands, and slowly closed his fingers around it – before lifting it and smashing it to the ground.
Crystal leapt back, frightened. The noise had alarmed the nearby waiting paramedics, who now stormed into the room.

Crystal was still in shock when she arrived at home. She spotted a man walking on and off in front of her house, obviously waiting for her and suspected him to be a reporter who had managed to track her down. Resolved not to take notice of him and not to answer to anything, she ran toward the entrance door.
“Mrs. Jennings? Mrs. Jennings!” He called after her and was at her side the next moment. “I’m Dr. Hauteville, from the APA (=American Psychological Association). You wrote me, but I was on a congress in Europe and only returned yesterday.”
Yes, she remembered having written him and having already buried the hope for an answer! She turned around, trying to pull herself together but succeeded only partially. “Dr. Hauteville, thank you. I’m sorry… I just come from the hospital, and I…” She bit her lip and wiped over her eyes. “Excuse me, please.”
“If you prefer, we can meet tomorrow,” he offered.
She shook her head and opened the door. “No, it’s okay, I just need a second.” She breathed deeply. “I’m grateful you found the time for a personal conversation. Please, come in! – And I’m sorry if it looks a bit disorderly, I wasn’t really in the mood for house polishing!”

The psychologist entered past her and his view fell on some of Crystal’s paintings she had stored in the corridor for lack of room.
“Are these works by Mikael Gant?” he asked, lowering down curiously to inspect one of the canvas closer.
“No, these are my own pitiful attempts. I figured painting is a good way for me to … deal with everything.”
“It’s really intriguing! You should have someone take a look at your works! An expert!”
“Oh no, it’s not that good. It’s just… it’s amateurish.”
Dr. Hauteville got up again and turned to her. “Believe me, I know what I’m saying, my sister owns a gallery in New York! You shouldn’t just keep these works here in your house! You could perhaps make much money by selling them.”
That proposition repelled Crystal. She considered her paintings a very private thing, something to be close to Mikael – certainly nothing to earn money from it.
She gestured into the living room. “Please, have a seat. Would you like some tea or coffee?”

Concerning help for Mikael, the visit of Dr. Hauteville was of no use. But, the contacts he made became the starting point for Crystal’s artistic career. To her surprise, people liked her artwork. They seemed to find themselves in it; found themselves taken on a journey into the desperation and loneliness so often part of modern life. The paintings did not leave them there, though, but reminded them that hope was still somewhere and should not be considered lost. The reactions of the public helped her in turn, when everything seemed to crumble and really the last rays of hope extinguished: when Mikael did not react in any way during her visiting time; when the doctors denied her any further visits because ‘they aggravated the patient’s condition’; when a newspaper launched a nasty campaign against her and mobbed her as the ‘crazy killer’s bride’ who now ‘made money using this pervert publicity’.
Crystal had been very reluctant to sell off her works, but on the other hand, she had no job and Mikael’s capital wouldn’t last forever, the more if she continued financing several pharmaceutical and psychological research projects and lawyers…

That day in 1998, five years after Mikael’s arrest, was one of these days on which Crystal thought she couldn’t go any further, hold on any further. She looked at the paper the lawyer had just placed in front of her and felt simply drained. Her appeal had been denied!
“Why?” she managed after some time. “The medical evaluations were that positive! What about rehabilitation and integration?!”
“The point is the environment the patient is in,” her lawyer replied. “They argued that the medication might work very well indeed, however Mr. Gant is in a secure, controlled environment now, apart from multiple impulses, which might influence him outside the institution. Thus, his reactions can’t be predicted. It can’t be asserted he won’t show any behavior endangering him or other people.”
“And what for were these evaluations, then?!” Crystal took the folder and smashed it back on the desk. “No one can say this for sure about another person, right? A man is no computer you can program and predict! And not even that works to a hundred percent!” She started to cry. She had put such high hopes in this appeal! Even a representative of the Baptist Church had supported her!
“Mrs. Jennings, I’m really sorry, but it doesn’t seem there’s enough legal ground for me to intervene again.”
“Yes. I understand.” She signed his check, and after the lawyer had gone, she remained sitting there in the living room until it went dark. Only then she remembered the mail found in the box this morning. It had been a huge bundle of letters and magazines; she should definitely check it. But it took her some effort to get up and do it.

Once again, Crystal sat in the Forensic Hospital’s visiting room. She hadn’t seen Mikael for a few weeks, but she found he looked better than last time, even though the very short haircut they had given him. She had been told that he had begun discussing several artistic or philosophical matters with the staff – or at least he had tried; the attempts had failed because of the missing knowledge of the latter. The activities they offered were no challenge for his intellect and energy. That fact obviously frustrated him and had led to some setbacks, which the doctors thought could be cured by medication. Crystal was sad and angry at once. Mikael needed to get out of here or he would slowly die! And she just had found something she believed could be the key to his release.
“Mikael, do you understand?” God, why did they have to stuff him with these tranquillizers?! “Mikael, that neuro-surgical procedure I read about has a very high success rate! I already spoke with a doctor, and he said it looks very promising in your case! But I need your informed consent!”
“I love you.” A faint smile flitted over his face, then suddenly, he started to search in his pockets. “I have made some… sketches for a project… I thought I had put them somewhere…”
“Mikael!” Crystal shot a hasty glance to the watch. Her visiting time was almost over. “I need your written consent for the surgery! If it works I can file another appeal to the court, and your case has to be reexamined!”
Now he turned his head until the papers were in his focus – at least visually. He stared at them for a while and then murmured: “I remember. They made me remember.”
Crystal suppressed a sigh. She was not sure if he had grasped the situation and would look at the papers. And now, the door opened and a nurse signaled her it was time to leave.

Crystal lay still awake despite the late hour. Her mind replayed the events of the last three days, which had started in paradise – so to speak – and now neared the proverbial banishment from there. Eleven years had passed, eleven years of grueling struggles and long terms of waiting. The last three years had been filled with a special anguish. Mikael had been in a coma after the neuro-surgery, and it took a long time until he had recovered. And then, the cycle of evaluations, appeals and court sessions continued… but finally, she had won!
Won what, she wondered now, and silently cried in her pillow. Had she hoped for too much? Expected too much? Maybe the man she had loved – and still did – did not exist anymore. So far, he had not even set foot into the atelier. Maybe it had been the worst idea ever to keep his old works, from a time connected to his murders. I might just have ruined everything, Crystal started to blame herself. She did not know how to reach out to him; he did not speak very much and avoided touching her. She understood it was difficult for him, and she wanted to help – but how?

After another restless hour in bed, Crystal got up and went over to the guest room, where Mikael had spent the nights since he was back. She would just slip under the blanket and curl up next to him – perhaps the shared warmth would grow into a new start. Cautiously, she opened the door, peered in and discovered that the bed was untouched and Mikael nowhere to spot. She called for him – no answer. She ran upstairs to the roof terrace, then down into the living room. No trace of him as well. Crystal started to panic. She hurried back upstairs to the bathroom to check if he had taken his prescript medication. On her way, she heard a faint sound coming from the annex, where she had placed the atelier. She stopped in her tracks and took that direction instead.
There Mikael was indeed, standing at one of the work benches, bent over the old, half-finished sculpture they had begun eleven years ago.
“There you are!” Crystal breathed a sigh of relief. “You scared the hell out of me!” She would’ve loved to pull him close, but was not sure if he would appreciate that at the moment.
“I always liked to work at night,” he answered, without taking his eyes off the sculpture. “You have never finished this one…”
“I waited for you.” She stepped up to him.
He had grabbed one of the neatly stored tools and set it on the wood. However, the angle had been wrong; it slipped and cut his fingers. With a fast move, Crystal took his hand, wrapped the folds of her nightgown around it and held it tightly against her chest.
Mikael looked at her now, and slowly a little smile lit his face. “Seems as if I need some practice again.” With his other hand, he caressed her face. “To live up to the great artist you have become.” “All I am, I am only because of you. But I can never be complete without you.”
They embraced and held each other.
“Welcome home, Mikael,” she whispered, knowing that he had finally, truly come home to her.

THE END