London Art Gallery
Sasha Cohen stepped into the gallery as the doors opened for the latest Henry Roberts' preview. Like others, she was intrigued by the article and photo in the paper and wanted a close-up view of the statues. And when Michelle gave her a ticket that someone had anonymously sent her, deciding to attend was a no-brainer. In the main room, she saw several figures draped with cloths. After a few minutes, Roberts appeared.
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I do want to thank all of you for attending this preview of my upcoming show. Actually, I do prefer to call it a 'reception,' because, as you can see, there are some people who have just arrived, and I do want you to meet them. Now it is quite possible that you have met some of them before, at one time or another, because they come from all walks of life; all marches of time. They are those members of humanity at perhaps whom you have always wished to stare at or examine or scrutinize in an attempt to experience what it's like to live their lives. Ladies and gentlemen, now you have that chance, so may I suggest: 'Here We Stand.'" Roberts motioned to two associates, who then unveiled the statues. The crowd gasped in amazement and moved closer for a better view.
Sasha, too, was surprised at how life-like the statues appeared. "Michelle should have come," she thought; "This is incredible. He's a genius... the man's an absolute genius." She moved slowly through the hall, examining each statue closely for several minutes before moving onto the next. She had just turned her attention to a statue of a female gymnast on a balance beam when someone tapped her arm. She turned to find Roberts himself standing beside her.
"Enjoying yourself, Miss...?"
"Cohen... Sasha Cohen. Yes, Mr. Roberts. It's an honor to meet you. Your work is fascinating. This gymnast; her details... the hair, the fingernails, the wrinkles.... How do you do it?" she asked.
"It's an honor to meet you Miss Cohen. I am sorry I didn't recognize you. I guess I'm used to seeing you gliding on ice. You are even more beautiful in person than you are on the television."
"Oh; thank you, you’re too kind," Sasha replied. "I'm sorry but I feel as though I underdressed for the occasion. I hope you are not offended."
Sasha was dressed casually in an untucked, oversized, white button-down shirt and blue jeans that were tucked in to flat-heeled, light brown, over the knee boots.
"No offense at all; I love your outfit," Roberts replied.
"Thank you, but Mr. Roberts, you do HAVE to tell me, how DO you create such life-like statues?"
"I'm afraid I have got to keep that part a secret; but I do thank you for coming." Roberts looked closely at the young women for a moment and smiled. "However, I look forward to seeing you again." He shook Sasha's hand and made his way over to Fulton, who stood near the entrance, watching the crowd.
"It seems everything is going our way," Roberts whispered. "That young woman standing in front of our gymnast statue is Sasha Cohen, a good friend of Michele Kwan... and a beautiful young skater herself. When I sent the ticket to Ms. Kwan I didn't expect Ms. Cohen to come in her place. But Miss Cohen, however, is an unexpected bonus. Miss Kwan will just have to wait. You know what to do." Fulton nodded, and Roberts rejoined his guests. Fulton kept an eye on Sasha as she wandered from statue to statue. When Sasha finally headed from the gallery, Fulton placed a quick phone call and followed.
He caught up with Sasha just as she exited the building.
"Excuse me, Miss Cohen? I'm Mr. Roberts' assistant. He wanted me to tell you he had a change of heart. He said you were very interested in how he creates his statues."
"Well yes, it's very fascinating; I’ve never seen anything like it."
"Mr. Robert said he would let you in on his secret on two conditions."
"And what are they," Sasha said, smiling.
"One, you are sworn to secrecy, forever. And two, you would pose as a model for one of his statues."
Sasha was surprised by the second request. "How long would I have to model? I’m not exactly prepared."
"It wouldn't take very long; just a few minutes to pose for some photographs. We have a special camera we use."
"I'd love to, but my schedule is very tight for the next few days."
"Actually Mr. Roberts gets kind of over-zealous when his mind is made up. He wanted to do it today. He already made a call to have a skating outfit delivered and, oh, here comes the limousine to take us to his studio."
"What, you're kidding, I don't know if I'm ready for...."
"That's fine, it is your choice, but this opportunity may not arise again.."
Sasha shrugged her shoulders as the limo pulled up.
"We can have the limousine bring you to your residence afterward. You'll be there in less than an hour."
Just then Roberts came rushing out the door, looking a little flustered. "Are you going to come by to learn my secret or not?" he said as the driver opened the limo's door. “This isn’t something everyone gets a chance at.”
Sasha sighed and then nodded her head. Roberts stepped aside, allowing her to get in first. Roberts and Fulton followed as the limo took off for Roberts' studio.
. . .
Henry Roberts’ Studio
The studio was in a nondescript warehouse building in an industrial area not far from the gallery. Inside were many more still figures draped in white cloths. Sasha noticed that none of the statues were open to be viewed.
Sasha said, "Okay, so what's the big secret. Some special kind of clay or paint that you use?"
"I can let you in on that while you're posing. I am so looking forward to using you as a model. You could end up being my most popular statue."
Sasha giggled, "Mr. Fulton said you wanted me to pose in a skating outfit?"
"Of course; what would suit you better than that?"
Just then, a plump woman about 60 years old walked in to the studio.
"Miss Cohen, this is another assistant of mine; Mrs. Barnknuckle. She can direct you to the wardrobe room."
Sasha followed Mrs. Barnknuckle down a hallway to a small but well lit room. A white sparkly-accented skating dress was laid out on a chair along with a pair of shiny tights. Sasha held up the dress, which because of the flesh colored midriff, had the appearance of being a two-piece outfit. She commented on how short the skirt was and Mrs. Barnknuckle just smiled and closed the door, allowing Sasha privacy.
After a few minutes Sasha emerged dressed in the outfit and tights. Mrs. Barnknuckle, obviously a woman of few words, just nodded her approval and turned to lead her back to the studio. In her hands were a pair of white ice skates.
"I'm wearing skates too?"
"Yes dear, Mr. Roberts insists that everything be authentic."
Sasha was led to another room that was fairly dark except for a spotlight shining brightly on a platform that had a sheet of milky plastic on top that looked almost like a frozen rink. A black partition surrounded the platform on three sides. Fulton brought a chair over to Sasha and motioned her to sit down to put her skates on.
"I don't know why I am so nervous," Sasha said as she laced up the skates.
"No need to be nervous my dear; you won't feel a thing," Roberts reassured her.
"I assume you want me up on the platform for the pictures?" Sasha asked as she rose from the chair, looking ready to perform.
Roberts smiled as he held out his hand to assist Sasha onto the platform.
"Is that the camera?" Sasha asked asked as she noticed Fulton bringing out what looked like a laptop computer but definitely wasn't.
"No, actually there are many tiny cameras planted in the partition walls. That contraption is what controls them."
"Ok, well how would you like me to pose?"
"How about you have one foot on the imitation ice, back leg lifted behind you and arms straight out from your sides?" Roberts asked.
"Like this?" Sasha easily and gracefully struck a pose, balancing herself on the thin blades.
"Just perfect. But wait; I forgot something," Roberts said reaching into his pocket. He pulled a gold bracelet out of his coat pocket and approached Sasha, who stood back on both her feet.
"This is the secret to my success," he said while nodding towards Sasha's wrist.
Sasha held out her wrist, "What's so special about this bracelet?" she asked in a very puzzled tone.
Roberts fastened the bracelet around her wrist and backed away, taking the computer-like machine from Fulton. "When activated, that bracelet will produce an electrical impulse that will place you into a state of suspended animation.....
"What are you talking about?" Sasha couldn't comprehend what he said.
"I am not really a sculptor, Miss Cohen. I am a scientist. Up to this point, all of my subjects have been willing participants. I suspend their animation with the bracelets and once they are placed in a museum or wealthy home, I can reanimate them. Then they can procure valuable items from said museum or home and.... it has turned in to quite a profitable venture."
"You're not a scientist either then; it sounds like you're a thief." Sasha snapped back.
"You can think whatever you want my dear, Lord knows you'll have plenty of time to think, standing in your display."
"So you're going to turn me in to a statue? I'm not going to commit any crimes for you!" She casually fingered the clasp on her bracelet, trying to unlatch it, but the mechanism was locked.
"I would never expect that. A business opportunity recently came up that I had never contemplated before. A patron of the arts recently inquired about the possibility of sculpting a statue of Michelle Kwan for them. They were willing to pay a very high price... and I thought, why not the real thing."
"So you sent her the ticket so you could lure her here?"
"Precisely. But when you came in her place I saw a golden opportunity. Through my dealings I have made many contacts with patrons who, shall we say, keep their collections undercover. That is they may have many pieces illegally obtained. I am sure I will fetch a pretty penny for your figure."
"You're sick. Plenty of people saw me at the gallery and they will find me."
"Yes but they also saw you depart by yourself. They can never tie your disappearance back to me."
Sasha started stepping down from the platform. "I'm out of here."
Roberts pressed a button on the controller, which sent an electrical shock through Sasha. She screamed and fell to the floor. After a half a minute she slowly started to get up.
"I can keep sending pain waves through you all day if you like Miss Cohen. But at some point you are going to cooperate."
Sasha swallowed hard and rose to her feet. She looked around the room and became resigned to her fate. She saw that there was no way out for her right now. But she felt there was no way they could get away with this; someone would find her eventually. She stepped back on the platform, which put a smug grin on Roberts' face. She nodded at him. He raised his eyebrows at her indicating he was waiting for her classic pose.
She swallowed hard again and the slowly raised her left leg behind her while bending forward and raising her arms gracefully to the sides, finding her balance. Roberts pushed a few buttons on his controller and then moved a switch from a setting labeled "temporary" to one labeled "permanent".
He turned a dial and the machine emanating a whirring sound as Sasha started feeling a tingling sensation throughout her body that lasted about 10 seconds, and then after that she felt nothing at all.
To Be Continued...?