Red Stuff Part Three
The cheers were deafening.
Gypsy's Kiss tore through another number as the entire population of Risdale maximum security prison stood on its feet and roared its acclamation.
Alex could see her brother hammering away at his drumkit, occasionally turning to give her a brief smile.
A makeshift stage had been constructed in the prison gymnasium and row after row of plastic chairs had been arranged before it.
Warders formed a cordon in front of the stage and also down both sides and along the back wall of the gym.
The big, bearded security guard who usually accompanied the band prowled back and forth behind the warders with their backs to the stage, glancing at the watching audience.
Alex smiled as she saw their ecstatic reactions and thought that the term 'captive audience' had probably never been more apt.
There were photographers and reporters close to the stage, some distinctly uneasy about their surroundings. Alex knew for a fact that there were representatives of at least four national newspapers there. Outside the prison, camera crews from both the BBC and the Independent networks waited.
A track called "Gangland" was particularly well received by the audience and Alex couldn't remember seeing Gypsy's Kiss perform with quite so much exuberance for some time. "Assassin" was greeted with equal delirium. By the time they played "TheFugitive", Governor Jennings was beginning to wonder if a riot was imminent.
In the front row, a warder on either side, Paul Morrison sat, mesmerised by the spectacle before him. The sheer power of the performance was devastating.
The last encore was completed.
The band walked to the front of the stage and bowed.
It was then that the lights went out.
The entire place was plunged into darkness.
Warders closed ranks.
Shouts echoed around the gym.
It was then that Morrison chose his moment.
He leapt from his seat and ran at the stage, crashing through the uniformed men, pulling something from his prison overalls as he dragged himself up on the stage.
Alex saw figures moving in the darkness.
Saw the black shape on the stage close to her brother.
The emergency generator kicked in.
The lights came back on.
Morrison was standing inches from her brother, his right hand extended.
In it he held a sheet of rolled up paper.
"Take it, please," he said, quietly. "It's a gift."
David Baker nodded and took the offering.
Three warders grabbed at Morrison and one pulled him to the ground.
Baker and the other band members backed away.
More warders ushered them off the stage.
David Baker gripped the rolled up sheet tightly in his sweating hand, glancing back to see that Morrison was being dragged away. He was smiling.
Alex looked at the painting.
"It's a superb likeness," she said, quietly, sipping at her drink. "But why would Paul Morrison want to give you a portrait of himself?"
Her brother shrugged.
"He said it was a gift," he said. "Perhaps he's a fan."
Alex smiled and looked again at the watercolour.
'You'll see it but you won't understand it'
"Didn't you say he was involved in Black Magic?" David Baker said.
"It depends on your definition of Black Magic. It was never proved that he took part in the rituals. He was sent down for kidnapping and abuse. He supplied kids for Satanists to use in their ceremonies."
There was a moment's silence broken finally by Alex.
"Are you going to keep the painting?" she wanted to know.
"Why not? I might be able to flog it to some weirdo for a fortune in a few years. Artwork by murderers is very popular isn't it?"
"Charles Manson's paintings have been sold. So have John Wayne Gacy's."
They both laughed.
"I'm going to bed," she said, finally.
"Are you sure you don't mind me staying the night?" he asked."I wouldn't want to cramp your style if you know what I mean."
"What are brothers for if not to nick your spare room? Besides, do you see any boyfriends around? I haven't got a style to cramp. It's nice to have you around, Dave. Even if it is only for a day or two. I'm glad it went well tonight."
"Perhaps we should do a tour of all the prisons in the country if we get that kind of reception. It's a pity they can't go out tomorrow and buy the album."
"I don't think the governor would approve. See you in the morning."
Alex padded through to her bedroom and closed the door, surprised at how tired she felt.
As she hung up her jacket she reached into the pocket and found the small piece of paper she'd taken from Martin Kelsey's cell. She glanced at it for a moment, her brow furrowed. Some of the dried red paint was coming off on her fingertips. She put the paper on her bedside table, undressed and climbed into bed.
She was asleep within minutes.
When she woke it was with a savage suddenness. Wrenched from slumber. Unsure whether she'd been asleep for seconds or hours.
Her whole body was shuddering.
She looked at the piece of paper on her bedside table.
That small, thumbnail sized fragment with the scorch marks and the red paint.
"Dave," she called, clambering out of bed.
She hurried through into the spare room, thoughts tumbling through her mind.
Thoughts she did not want to entertain. Thoughts that were alien to everything she knew to be rational.
'You'll see it but you won't understand it'
Won't understand the power he had? How he did it? How whatever he sent got inside those locked cells?
It suddenly seemed all too clear to her.
"Dave," she said, breathlessly.
He didn't stir. The blankets were wrapped tightly around him, like a cocoon.
The phone began to ring.
At two in the morning. Who the hell would be calling now?
Leave it to go on the answering machine.
She took a step closer to the bed. "Dave," she murmured, reaching out a hand to touch his shoulder.
The phone was still ringing.
Alex gripped her brothers shoulder.
The shape inside the blankets collapsed beneath her touch.
She sucked in a horrified breath and pulled the covers back.
Her eyes bulged in the sockets.
Whatever lay in the bed had her brothers features and form but it looked as if someone had punctured a blow-up doll and allowed the air to drain from it. The slippery mass of reeking flesh was like the sloughed skin of a snake.
There were no bones. No internal organs.
Just skin. If she'd held the glutinous mess up to the light it would have been transparent.
She reeled back, stumbling away from the monstrous sight and, as she backed into the wall, she heard the voice on the answering machine.
Through her own growing madness she recognized it as the voice of Matthew Jennings.
"Alex. I don't know how to say this. You're going to think I'm insane," said the voice.
She was staring at the flattened, glistening eyes of what had once been her brother.
"It's Paul Morrison. He's gone. His cell's empty."
There was a savage hiss of static.
"..Don't know what's happened.."
"..Morrison is gone."
The line went dead.
Alex struggled to her feet, towards the door.
She had to get help. Had to...
The doorway was blocked.
Paul Morrison was standing there grinning at her, a kitchen knife gripped in his fist.
He struck with lightning speed, driving the blade deep into her chest.
Alex tried to scream but the second thrust slammed into her mouth. It severed her tongue, shattered three teeth and tore through the base of her skull.
Paul Morrison stooped over her as she fell.
Her eyes bulged in the sockets.
He cut them both out with the point of the knife.
Morrison cleaned the knife of fingerprints before he gently parted Alex's legs. Then he pushed the blade into her vagina, ignoring the blood that gushed from the cut as the delicate tissue was lacerated. A portion of her bloodied labial lips dropped to the carpet beneath her like sliced liver. When the handle disappeared inside her he retired to the bathroom and washed his hands.
He used matches to burn the portrait of himself.
He watched as the flames devoured it, turning it to black ash, leaving only a tiny corner intact.
A corner about the size of a thumbnail.
© Shaun Hutson 2000