Money for Beauty (A Short Story by Martie Coetser)
The bedroom in the tower of the entrancing Victorian house was all of a sudden open, thanks to a nail file Monia always kept in her purse. Bedding all over the floor, a scattered cell phone and a pool of cold blood revealed a violent kidnap.
Only the pictures on the walls, of Caroline winning beauty contest, were intact. She was a stunner, with sparkling violet-blue eyes and an innocent smile. According to Votes, Caroline had the most beautiful nose in the world.
Monia was halfway down the stairs when her brother-in-law appeared at the bottom, obviously suspicious, as she was supposed to be in the guest room on the ground floor.
“Are you lost?” His glare could kill. He never made a secret of his unwillingness to share his beauty-queen-wife with her relatives and friends.
“Sorry, Juan, but how could I not be curious? Here I came to visit my sister just to hear that she has left you for another man. I would rather believe that she was lying dead behind that locked door.”
“My dear sister-in-law, don’t let your writer’s mind runs away with you. Remember, curiosity killed the cat.” An unspoken warning darkened his ebony-brown eyes.
Monia gestured surrender. “Oh, I feel awful because Caroline did not tell me anything.” The sound of the doorbell reminded her of the saying ‘saved by the bell’. She followed Juan to the foyer where the walls were mirrors reflecting all objects into eternity.
An unattractive young woman was standing in the doorway. Her nose was awry, as if it was not hers.
“Good to see you, Adelia. Meet my nosy sister-in-law, Monia.”
“Oh, if I knew you had a visitor…” Even Adelia’s voice sounded weird, as if it was not hers.
“No, you came just in time.” The next moment Juan turned around and hit Monia with his forearm with such force that she spun like a top until she lost her consciousness against a mirror.
On her way to learn the reason why Caroline was ‘not available’ for more than a week without any explanation, Monia stopped at a flea-market to buy some homemade ginger beer. The sun was glaring down on the gazebos, blinding her, consequently she did not recognize Juan at first sight. Dressed in jeans, he looked like an ordinary businessman selling goods and not like a surgeon spending most of his days in air-conditioned theatres and hospitals. He was smiling at a woman with an awry nose.
The smell of ether pulled Monia out of her dream. She was in a cold room, surrounded by incubators filled with mutilated corpses connected to equipment of all sorts. She closed her eyes, praying that she was dreaming about faces without noses and lips, empty eye-pockets and heads without ears. Another human groan made her realize that she was awake in horrible circumstances.
She pulled herself up, relieved because she was free to move. The moans came from a body strapped to an operating table, unrecognizable behind a multitude of tubes and monitors. Even before she saw the mutilated face, Monia knew it belonged to her sister.
Oncoming voices prompted Monia in the opposite direction where she could see a door. But the door was locked. A container, loaded with surgical clothing stained with blood, was the only hiding place. She jumped in and wriggled herself to the bottom. The smell of old blood started to enter her nostrils; she was going to vomit.
“She’s gone!” Monia recognized Adelia’s funny voice.
An also Juan’s. “She can’t get out of here.”
“Of course she can… With your help, Juan. Do you think I did not notice the empathy in your eyes…”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Why would I… jeopardize our future?”
“What future? You will always be ashamed of me, in spite of my money. You are driven by your feelings of guilt, Juan. That accident you've caused when we were kids will haunt you forever. Let’s face it, you will never be able to restore my beauty. You will go on with these experiments…. keeping corpses alive, human spare parts…. accepting money from criminals, giving them the make-overs they need to escape the Law…. I have had enough of this, Juan. Enough!”
“Shut up! Dammit! Help me find her!” Juan shouted.
According to the noise Monia knew that Juan was running around, moving incubators and pulling tubes out of corpses in search for her. Her tension was intensified by Adelia’s sudden silence.
Then, out of the blue, complete silence started to accumulate in Monia's ears. Only the ticking of a clock assured her that she was not dead. When she was sure the silence was not a trap, she dared a peep.
Juan and Adelia were lying on the floor. Two empty syringes, one still in Adelia’s hand, revealed the end of a riddle to be unraveled by the police.
Four weeks later Monia and Caroline returned to the entrancing Victorian house with its bay windows, old wooden floors and view on the Boa River and Blue Baluti Mountains. After too many weeks in the hospital Caroline was rattling pale and a bit too slim. With her silicone nose she would never again win a beauty contest, but being alive was a good enough reason for her to be happy. Or maybe being wealthy, as she was the only heir of Dr. Juan Raminez.
“I think I must change the house into a guesthouse,” she said while she led the way. “I can buy a couple of canoes and kayaks…. I can change the lab into a restaurant…”
Monia looked at the garage. Who would have guessed that behind those old wooden doors and casement windows was an ultra modern surgery, stocked with living body parts? “No! I will never be able to eat in there. But maybe I will be able to write best-selling horrors,” she said.
Caroline laughed. In her unconscious state, she never saw the inside of Juan’s laboratory.
© Martie Coetser
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