A freelance private investigator is hired to figure out why a client’s wife was transformed into a statue.
Much to the detective’s displeasure, the sun was out in full song and dance without a cloud in the sky. It’s not like he couldn’t work in the sun, but he had to take precautions to ensure his safety, which slowed him down. The client insisted on a rush job and offered to pay extra to start investigating now. He protected his skin with a refined black and purple suit with a subtle gothic flare of gargoyles on the back of the jacket.
With one hand holding his enormous umbrella, Psychon glided his fingers over the face of a statue of a surprised young woman. The detective looked down the urban wilderness trail, making a note of the other sculptures decorated along the path. There were various species and genders depicted with nothing in common other than they had a scared look on their faces.
Psychon turned to his client. Her outfit was the opposite of his in every way – bright, floral patterned shorts, a matching sports bra, and running shoes. Psychon understood her blue skin wouldn’t catch fire like his under the sun.
“Are you positive this is your wife?” the detective inquired.
“Absolutely,” the client responded with firm calmness. “She’s punctual to the second, and when she didn’t return home from her morning jog, I retraced her usual route and found her here.”
Psychon pulled off his pointy black hat with an eclectic assortment of patches sew on it. He dug around inside and pulled out a black tube the size of his hand. He returned his hat to his head, pressed the device against the statue’s neck, and tapped the red button on the other end. The device emitted three, quick high-pitched beeps.
“Looks like your suspicions were correct. Your wife was turned into stone. Does she have any enemies, Karviná?”
The client scoffed. “How much time do you got? Being a corporate leader gets you a few.”
“I change by the hour, but how about you share me the short version of who can transform her into stone.”
Karviná crossed her arms and thought for a moment. “I can’t think of any.”
Psychon glanced around the trail, looking at the other statues. “Do you, by any chance, recognize any of these other statues?”
“Can’t say I do.”
The detective went up to the nearest statue and tested it with his analyzer. It emitted the same three beeps. “This person suffered the same fate.” He checked another—the same result.
“What are you thinking?” Karviná asked.
“This may not have been a personal attack, or it could’ve been personal, and these people were bystanders. Not enough clues.” He kneed down for a close inspection of the ground, being mindful of the umbrella’s location as not to damage the statue or get himself roasted. “Interesting.”
The detective searched the ground for the same clue on the surrounding statues. “They were all turned to stone where they stood. There’s nothing to indicate someone moved them. Do you know when these statues first start to appear?”
“Come to think of it, she sent me a photo of one of the sculptures commenting on how it was new. My wife takes this route every day.”
“We should get the protectors out here to get everyone to a hospital to be healed. Once they’re restored, they should be able to tell us what happened.”
“But that process takes time, and whoever did this is still out there.”
“Very well. I have a theory, but I’ll need your help.”
Karviná jogged along the paved trail as it came out along a river. She hadn’t seen anyone for several minutes. She was doing her best to follow the detective’s instructions to be natural. It was challenging to resist constantly look over her shoulders, and with the upcoming stretch having no statues, she was on high alert.
She turned her focus to the flow of the river, hoping the sight would relax her like the waterfall white-nose she listened to at night. She took a deep breath to center her mind when a woman jumped out in front of her.
“Hello, there!” the stranger greeted with an extensively cheerful smile. Paint splatter covered her long-sleeve shirt and well-worn white jeans. Only her rainbow pattern beanie cap was free of paint. “Would you like to make some art with me?”
“I’m just out here enjoying a jog,” Karviná stumbled to explain.
The artist pulled out a large knife from her belt holster. “But my project needs more volunteers.”
The artist’s beanie flicked off her head as several gorgon snakes hissed to life. Karviná screamed, prompting Psychon to jump down from the treetops. While floating underneath his umbrella, he landed directly on the artist, knocking her down. He immediately handcuffed her, which neutralized the snakes.
“I can’t believe that worked,” Karviná said, coming down for an adrenaline rush.
“I already called the protectors to treat those transformed and to make an arrest.”
“Why?” the artist cried. “All those people with increasing terror on the faces as they got closer to the big corporate complexes. It was going to be beautiful.”
A pair of uniformed protectors spotted them and rushed their way.
Psychon gently forced the artist up. “Maybe next time, don’t build statues out of people.”
This short story was somewhat inspired by the following writing prompt: “A man discovers that a statue in a public square has something strange. She seems way too real. He discovers that there is a corpse inside it. A detective is called to see this, and he figures out that every single statue in this square hides a corpse.”
I thought it would be fun to write a short story featuring Detective Psychon, who is a minor character in my book, The Crashing of Heaven and Hell, and from a TV series I once attempted, but still plan to do. Since I’ve originally published this story, I’ve written more about the detective. You can find all of them in chronological order on his profile page.
Thank you to Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle for bringing this beautiful scene to life. For inspiration, I gave Janine a photo of the Tulsa, Oklahoma rival trails. In my mind, as I was writing this story, I even pictured those trails. If you ever find yourself in Tulsa, I recommend taking a hike or bike ride along there.