The first time Solomon laid eyes on Gemma, Yang’s housemaid, he was disarmed.
There, on her left temple, was a distinct birthmark in the shape of a rabbit. He supposed Chinese quadrillionaires like Yang took subtle pleasure in surrounding himself with slight imperfections in what would otherwise be flawless beauty. Yang may have even specifically requested this slight detail when co-designing Gemma, and Miruku Tek happily obliged.
“Yes?” said Gemma, one hand on her hip.
There was an undertone of brusque annoyance in her voice. Which was baffling to the mind as to why Gemma’s programmer would include an algorithm for impatience towards strangers at the door.
“Inspector Solomon, MPD,” he declared. “I have an appointment with Mr. Yang.”
“Right. Follow me, officer.”
She turned elegantly, swiftly on her fish-mouth heels, away from Solomon and began to walk down the hallway.
Solomon crossed the threshold. For a moment, he was distracted by Gemma’s body-hugging cheongsam — gold embroidery on bright scarlet silk — writhing on her lithe body.
Yang’s lobby was richly appointed. Checkered marble-tiled flooring. Raised-panel wainscoting. Floral crown moulding. A claw-foot console table in rich cherry wood. And above it, a burnished gold-framed mirror.
Gemma stopped in front of a doorway. “In here,” she gestured. Such seemingly delicate, alabaster fingers… masking the titanium hydraulics beneath it all.
“Thank you,” Solomon smiled, as he wandered into the sitting room.
“You know,” he continued, as he gawped at the luxurious velvet curtains, the artwork (each piece worth a decade of his salary), the antique Tiffany lamps. “I actually went to school with your owner, Lawrence Yang. We took a first year poetry class together. Both of us were under the ill-conceived delusion it would be the most efficient method for completing our arts prerequisites. We haven’t spoken in years. Almost ten, if I’m not mistaken. And if it wasn’t for that modicum of a connection, I would not have visited without a reason given.”
Solomon turned to face Gemma, who stood sentry by the doorframe. She blinked, expressionless, unresponsive, her lips in a constant state of a downward pout.
“You wouldn’t happen to know why Mr. Yang beckoned, would you?” Solomon asked.
“I wouldn’t have the faintest idea.” She grimaced.
Gemma didn’t offer Solomon refreshments, or an invitation to sit. A heavy silence flooded the physical distance between them for what seemed like hours.
“Excuse me,” she finally said. “I’m being called by Yang.”
“But I didn’t hear any…”
Gemma interrupted him by tapping the lapine birthmark on her left temple. Of course. Why would Yang raise his voice, ring a bell or anything as vulgar as that.
“Please, make yourself comfortable,” Gemma simpered. “I’m sure Yang will come down very shortly.”
“Very well, thank you,” was all Solomon could muster.
After Gemma had left, making sure to hear footsteps climbing up the stairs, Solomon sat down on a loveseat facing away from the large bay window.
At forty-six, he felt an indistinguishable listlessness. The earlier, youthful thrill of playing cops-and-robbers now exhausted him. A living cliché of being promoted to just above his level of competency, two failed marriages and a daughter in college he regrets every single day for not saving from the maws of estrangement .
And now — unmistakably, irreversibly aroused… by a robot. And a rude one at that.
Yang’s message was cryptic and telegraphic. “Require your presence. Tuesday 10:05 AM. Come to my Tier-5 Kensington townhome.” But Solomon read it with revered relish. It pierced his thick skin of monotony. Despite what Solomon told Gemma, he did not visit out of nostalgic social duty. He came because it was an exceedingly, far more interesting option than paperwork.
The minutes idled by. Solomon began to worry and felt guilty.
But then — he heard violent shuffling above. A sudden thud. A male voice shouted in shock… and then was abruptly cut off.
Solomon hurried off the loveseat, through the sitting-room entryway, into the labyrinthine hallways of Yang’s billion-pound London townhome. He quickly found a set of stairs and took them, two, three steps at a time. On the landing, he surveyed the infinite doors to the multiple rooms, each holding the unknowable secrets of a rich man.
One was ajar. He chose that one.
It was a bedroom with a ceiling-height four-poster bed. On the Persian rug, by the foot of the bed, Yang laid on his back. His head twisted grotesquely towards Solomon, his trousers at his ankles, his erect penis casting a shadow like a sundial announcing his time-of-death. On the waist-high bed, another man. Asian. Late 50s. Armani suit. Neck also broken with inhuman strength.
By the French windows leading to a trellised balcony, Gemma, barefoot, sat in a damasked chaise longue with gold rivets… hugging a pillow and sobbing uncontrollably.
She looked up and saw Solomon’s confounded face staring back at her. She instantly stopped weeping, as if a switch had been thrown. She stood up, the pillow falling to the rosewood floor.
There was a garish tear on Gemma’s cheongsam, from hem to hip, right up the middle. Solomon caught a glimpse of her sex, rough black pubic hair. He averted his eyes.
But then she started to walk towards him. One, two timid steps at first. Then three, four, five sure strides. Fast approaching him, Solomon didn’t know whether to unholster his sidearm or open his arms.
Gemma chose for him. She turned away from him (the second time this morning), and broke into a sprint towards the French windows.
“Wait…!” shouted Solomon.
She threw her entire frame, shoulder first, against the doors. It shattered.
“Stop!!” Solomon said, uselessly.
Glass and splintered pieces of sash bars, muntin and railings exploded from the 553rd floor balcony of Yang’s London townhome in Tier 5 Kensington. And in that efflux of debris, a female body propelled out and spiraled into the oncoming air traffic of Queen’s Gate and Old Brompton Road.
Solomon tapped his ear piece as he rushed to the balcony.
“Central, I have a double-homicide here. Suspect is a…” he hesitated momentarily. “female RC5. A Miruku-Tek model. Made to look early twenties.”
Static. No response.
“Central. Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?”
He heard rustling, thumps, unusual sounds in his ear as he leaned over the trellis. Gemma had landed on top of a ’49 Vauxhall Griffon. Her impact caused the roof panel to cave, perhaps killing the driver. It careered south on Old Brompton at level Tier 5.
Gemma was gone. ☣
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn…
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9:10
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Nicholas Brack, Dogwood Daniels and Jinn Zhong) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast. Listen to the episode here: