The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo
by Chris Hugh
“Many years ago,” the Dragon said, “my niece Harriet disappeared. I believe she was the victim of a brutal rape-murder described in loving and lingering detail.”
“Mmm, how nice,” Mikvail Kvistkvist replied, distracted by thoughts about whom he was going to hook up with next and where he was going to get his next fix of sandwiches and coffee.
“My poor, poor niece,” the Dragon continued, puffing out a sad puff of smoke. “She was so artistic.”
“Did you say autistic?” Mikvail perked up. “Autism is really hot right now. Did you know that every single autistic person is high -functioning, is able to earn a big salary and is a genius with an instinctive knowledge of high technology?”
“Of course I know that. I've watched Rainman. But I said my niece was artistic, not autistic. Look at these pretty pressed flowers she made for me.” The Dragon gestured to a wall decorated with framed, pressed lilies, daisies and petunias.
“Oh, nice,” Kvistkvist replied. “Those flowers represent your niece's youth, beauty and innocence and will certainly transform her into something other than a cardboard McGuffin.”
“It's a plot device. Traditionally, it's something that everyone in the story cares about but that the audience doesn't. So, those are nice flowers that Hermione—”
“Harriet,” the Dragon corrected.
“Whatever, made, but I'm more interested in the framed, pressed corpses along your other three walls.”
A score of dissected and plasticized human corpses were displayed in huge picture frames about the mansion's large library. A tear slid down the Dragon's cheek and vaporized into steam. “Ever since Harriet disappeared, one of these has arrived every year on my birthday. I think the murderer does it to torment me. I want to hire you to solve the murder of my niece.”
“Well, I'm going to be pretty busy in a little while.” Kvistkvist shuffled his feet. “I might not have time.”
“I know,” the Dragon replied. “I've studied your career with interest. I realize that you have been convicted of publishing information about someone that was so inaccurate and defamatory that you now have to spend three months in a Swedish jail for libel. Thus I have so much confidence in your research ability that I want to pay you a million Swedish units of currency to investigate the murder of the only person in my Godforsaken family that I ever cared about.”
“Well, that sounds believable,” Kvistkvist replied. “I trust it is equally believable that although my reputation is in ruins and I'm without a job, I’m still going to dick around with you about whether I'm going to take the job or not.”
“Understood. This certainly does make things suspenseful. While you're deciding, let me tell you about my relatives. There are eight hundred and fifty-nine of them, all named Vander. One of them, Vander, was particularly bad. He was a Nazi sympathizer.”
The Dragon thought to himself that he was glad he could describe that relative as a Nazi, since this saved him the trouble of having to flesh out the character and show that he was evil. Telling Kvistkvist that Vander was evil was much less trouble than showing it.
Kvistkvist thought to himself that this could be an important clue. One of the relatives was a Nazi; I bet his descendents were evil too. “What was his name, again?”
Oh good. That will be easy to remember.
The Dragon continued. “All the suspects in this case live here with me on this isolated island, and on the day of the disappearance, the sole bridge leading to the island was blocked. Therefore, I know that the murderer was one of the people here at that time.”
“Wow,” Kvistkvist said. “That's just like an old-fashioned locked room mystery. Except it's an island, not a locked room, so it doesn't seem contrived at all.”
“Well, just watch out when you look at the old pictures of that day that you don't mistake my niece for her friend that looked exactly like her.”
“I will be careful,” Kvistkvist replied. “A case of mistaken identity like that would indeed strain credibility.”
“So, are you going to take the case?” the Dragon asked.
“Well, okay,” Kvistkvist said with feigned reluctance. “I just hope I don't end up having to rehash a series of old rape-murders with mysterious Biblical overtones. Although I'm a modern European who delights in trashing everything religious and embraces nihilism, it would be just awful if I had to indulge in protracted, voluptuous descriptions of torture, incest and murder.” He rubbed his sweaty palms on his pants. “Just awful.”
“Shall we have sandwiches and coffee to celebrate?”
Kvistkvist was sorely tempted, but other needs drove him. “No, I must go and be promiscuous now. It shows I'm a modern, attractive man unfettered by outmoded morality. I'll take a sip of coffee though.” He washed down a Valtrex, his daily herpes medicine, with it.
“Okay, son. Be back soon to start investigating. And make sure whoever you have casual sex with doesn’t fall deeply in love with you.”
“I can't help it. As you can tell by now, I'm just that loveable.”
Kvistkvist walked down the path to his car. He unlocked the door and entered the car and then closed the door again before starting the engine and driving away.
* * *
Kvistkvist teamed up with a sidekick named Salamander. He was overjoyed to find that she was autistic.
Incredibly, their investigation led them to scores of rape-torture-incest murders across the Swedish countryside. It was a veritable smörgåsbord of sexual perversion. Kvistkvist and Salamander discussed the horrible crimes at length in vivid detail and looked at many gruesome photos.
One of the milder photos depicted an eviscerated corpse. Next to the body lay its desiccated entrails, twisted into a strange pattern. It reminded Salamander of a painful incident from her past.
Despite being extremely intelligent, competent and able to take care of herself, for some reason she had a court-appointed conservator to manage her finances. Her good conservator had died and was tragically replaced by a bad one. He was evil and sadistic and did not take his duties seriously. One day at his office he touched her breast.
Although she was handicapped, she did have human awareness, so she said, “That's bad touching,” and he stopped. Then she tortured him, tattooed him, gutted him and made balloon animals out of his large intestines.
Salamander pointed to the coiled intestines in the photo. “If you blew air into that, it would look like a kangaroo!” she said sulkily. Then she grinned.
“Wow, you have hit the nail on the head,” Kvistkvist said, along with many other clichés.
Meanwhile, time was running out as other meaningless plot threads raced to their conclusions. Kvistkvist and Salamander hurried through the rest of the photos, identifying balloon animals of several poisonous snakes and a koala bear. Kvistkvist flew to Australia and suddenly found the missing niece. She wasn't dead at all. She had run away! It was so surprising.
* * *
The Dragon was very happy to see his niece again. “I'm so happy to see you, Harriet! I care about you a lot,” he said. “Not enough to have noticed that when you lived near me you were being subjected to mind-bogglingly terrible crimes, but you know, whatever. I'm happy you're back now. Especially since I suddenly need someone to run my huge multinational family-owned business.”
“Well, luckily, despite being a traumatized runaway in a foreign country, I was able to build a huge corporation of my own in Australia, so I should be able to step right in as CEO.”
“That's great,” the Dragon said, swishing his scaly armored tail. He opened a window and blew smoke out of it, being careful not to set the roof on fire again.
“I just wonder why you're a dragon with a girl tattoo,” Harriet said.
“For the same reason you are girl with a dragon tattoo.”
“I don't have a tattoo.”
“Dragons are cool and mysterious, and tattoos are youthful and edgy,” the Dragon added excitedly.“Yes, but they have nothing to do with anything. It's meaningless. It's stupid.”
“Bingo.” The Dragon's eyes strayed to the collection of corpses. “Now who has been sending me these all these years?”
Harriet shrugged and proudly admired the display along the walls. “I sent them to let you know I was okay, that I had a lucrative sideline as a 'body artist.' Since for some reason it would have been impossible for me to send you a postcard or other clear message, I sent you my artwork with the expectation that you would be psychic and understand its meaning.”
“In twenty long years I never figured that out.”
“I'm sorry you were tormented by decades of what seemed like morbid stalking. But at least the artwork, similar to artwork shown in galleries and museums around the world, served as a cheap device to create reader interest... Oh, now I get why you're a dragon.”
“Well, it all worked out for the best then,” the Dragon replied, looking about the library. “And not only a cheap device, a metaphor as well. Note the shock value, the fact that no artistic skill was employed, the lack of respect for the value of human life, the exploitation of violence for entertainment, and the defiance of religious principle.”
The Dragon looked anew at the ghoulish display of pointless ugliness among his books. “How could I have missed that this was art?”
Copyright © 2012 by Chris Hugh