A freelance private investigator is hired to figure out if a client’s wife was transformed into a statue.
The sun was out without a cloud in the sky, but Psychon’s enormous umbrella protected him from the deadly-to-him UV rays as he strolled through Riverside Park. After his last job solving a missing person’s case, he asked his client for recommendations for scenic spots. They urged him to explore the park and smell the Blue Hibiscus flowers, which only bloomed during the day. He stopped and smelled the mild sweetness of the blossoms as suggested.
“Kay, you would’ve loved this place,” Psychon said aloud to no one. “Maybe I’ll get a shuttle to the Blue Planet next and visit the beaches there.”
Psychon’s networker on his wrist vibrated with an incoming commutation. He pushed aside his jacket sleeve, allowing the network to cast a holographic screen. A Karviná Uvae listed the incoming call as a job request with a nearby location in the park. He tapped on the green accept button, connecting the call, replacing the screen with a video of an ghaukvoi woman. The ghaukvoi were similar to humans but taller with varying shades of blue skin and pointy ears.
“Detective Psychon!” Color returned to Karviná’s blue face like she had been holding her breath in anticipation. “Praise the goddess. Are you available? I saw you’re one of the best detectives in the Five-Following Planets, and this might be beneath you, but I really could use your help.”
“I’m available. What problem may I solve for you?”
Karviná turned the screen to a statue of a young adult human woman. “I believe someone turned my wife into a statue.”
Psychon started to walk in the direction of the caller’s location. “You know, you could call the protectors and get her cured.”
“I could, but I don’t want to embarrass myself if I’m wrong.”
“Understandable. Every interaction with the protectors does become public record.”
“Exactly! Plus, you see, my wife is part of the arts council. She met with the rest of the council to discuss some public art projects, and I decided to take a jog while she worked. When I finished, I came back here where I found this statue, and I cannot get in touch with her.”
I wonder if she is the kind of person to allow herself to be temporarily transformed statue for art, Psychon thought. No, judging from how worried Karviná is, she would’ve told her in advance so she wouldn’t panic.
“I’m not cheap.”
“Your rate won’t be an issue, especially if you save me from embarrassment.”
“And if your suspicions are correct?”
Karviná paused to think. Her worry shifted to anger. “Then I’ll want you to hunt down whoever did this.”
“Very well.” Psychon chuckled at her sudden enthusiasm. “I think I see you now.”
Karviná waved, and Psychon ended the call. Her outfit was the opposite of his in every way – bright, floral patterned shorts, a matching sports bra, and running shoes. Still, she didn’t have to worry about catching on fire in the sunlight.
The two stood facing the statue of Karviná’s wife. With one hand holding his umbrella, Psychon glided his fingers over the surprised facial expression. The texture of the stone felt like the work of a gorgon, but he had to be sure.
Psychon pulled off his pointy black hat. The detective decorated the outside with an eclectic assortment of patches he sewed, while the inside featured spatial revamping technology. He could store items ten times the hat’s size, such as his umbrella and anything he needed for work. He dug around inside and pulled out a material analyzer. The gray cylinder device was about the size of a flashlight.
After putting his hat back on, he pressed the device against the statue’s neck and tapped the red button. The device emitted three quick, high-pitched beeps.
Psychon glanced at his client. “Looks like you’re right. Your wife was turned into stone by a gorgon–a human one, to be precise. Does she have any enemies, Karviná?”
His client scoffed. “Sometimes she would complain about rejected eccentric artists, but she always made the matter seem like no big deal.”
The detective put his analyzer in his jacket. “Anyone who would want to turn her into stone?”
“I don’t know! You’re the detective!” Karviná took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”
“It’s the love of your life. You’re allowed to snap.”
Psychon looked down the urban wilderness trail, noting the other sculptures decorated along the path. Various species stood with nothing in common other than what he interrupted as an expression of fear or surprise on their faces.
“By any chance, do you recognize any of the other statues?”
Karviná turned away from her wife and studied the others. “Oh. I’ve been so focused on my wife that I didn’t realize someone turned the rest of the arts council to stone.”
“Let me confirm.” Psychon went to the nearest statue and performed the test. “Same result.” He checked another one. “Also, same.”
Karviná pointed to a statue. “I don’t recognize that one.”
Psychon tested the statue. “Interesting. Someone turned this person to stone before the arts council members.”
Karviná crossed her arms. “What do you think is going on?”
“I’m not sure.” Psychon kneed down for a close inspection of the ground, mindful of the umbrella’s location as not to damage the statue or get himself roasted. By the statue’s feet was a golden plaque with the engraving, The Horrors of Corporations. “Curious…”
Karviná jogged to the detective. “What? What did you find?”
Psychon pointed to the plaque. “This statue was deliberate. We should get the protectors out here to get everyone to a hospital for treatment. Once restored, they should be able to tell us what happened.”
“But that process takes time, and whoever did this is still out there!”
Psychon paused. His client had a solid point, and so he constructed a plan.
“Very well,” he announced. “I have a theory, but I’ll need your help.”
* * *
Karviná jogged along the paved trail as the route came out along a river. She hadn’t seen anyone for several minutes. She resisted hard to look over her shoulders constantly, and with the upcoming stretch having no statues, she was on high alert. The detective’s instructions to “act natural” kept repeating over and over in her head.
She focused on the river’s flow, 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 human 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 from the adrenaline rush.
“I already called the protectors to treat those transformed and 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. This project was going to be beautiful. The stupid arts council would’ve seen the genius of my work!”
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.