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Gallery of Tears
Gallery of Tears
He stood there sobbing, just sobbing inaudibly by the pile of ashes that was once his life’s work. The scene seemed out of place, like a blemish on the face of a perfect winter’s day. The surrounding weather was serene and peaceful, with the first real sign of Chicago’s winter coming with a ghostly snow; the flakes no sooner falling than melting. There was however one similarity he shared with the weather and that was the silence, a rare state for Smith.
“Smith? Is that your first name?” questioned an officer who made up for what he lacked in height with a deep burly voice, “or your last?”
“Neither,” he moaned in a tone that quivered and sounded especially meek in comparison to his questioner.
“You artsy-farts and your code-names, I never understood the point. What’s your real name Smith?” He spit the last word, like the simple utterance of it had left an acidic taste in his mouth.
“Vince,” was Smith’s reply, his reaction to his own name was odd, as if saying it out loud would bring all the painful memories associated with that name back into fruition. “Vince Bradley.”
It took the officer a while, but eventually a wave of recognition washed over his face, “You’re Vincent Van Faux! Oh, ha ha, I read about you a while ago”
“That was long ago, I prefer not to discuss it.”
“Of course you wouldn’t! You were the biggest joke the photography district had ever seen. How did you ever manage to come back? I mean, by the look of these ashes this used to be one fine gallery.”
Smith did not like how the officer phrased it so plainly, as if his life was as easily summed up as a five paragraph essay. He decided not to answer and instead let his thoughts take him back to that time. There was also something else lingering in the back of his cerebellum, a terrible string of thoughts that could be condensed into one word: Arson.
“Some fundamentals are missing.” was what one of the city’s least known photography connoisseurs was saying. “Like vision for one, I just don’t see any point to this photo.” It was Vince’s third attempt of the day but not even the low-class galleries were interested in his work. One would think this would at least put Vince in his place, but he was still as haughty as the deserving professionals in his line of work.
“Perhaps the reason it is lacking vision is due to your bad eyesight,” he replied jeeringly, pointing to the thin man’s spectacles. They were long and slender, and much like the man himself, looked as if with the slightest touch they would break. The man need not reply, he simply pointed towards the exit and went back to reviewing the paperwork he had left on his desk when Vince entered. He left in a flurry, slamming the door so hard behind him he could almost hear the glasses rattling on the sloping, bony, structure the connoisseur called his nose.
What did he know anyway? Vince thought to himself. He was going to continue taking pictures no matter how many galleries justly turned him down. In fact he had an appointment with a new model today. She was a mess of a girl he had spotted selling flowers on a street corner, something about her spoke to him, perhaps it was the fact that she was more pathetic than him. He rushed to his office and found the girl already waiting at the door. Like the gentleman he was he found no need to apologize, and simply scolded the girl for coming too early.
“Dreadfully sorry, I am.” said the frail creature. Vince took this moment to size up the girl, the dirt under her nails, the dark bags under her giant, black eyes. Her hair was scraggly and piled carelessly on the crown of her head, with a barrette placed sporadically to the side, as if put there as an afterthought.
“Come in.” he said, not caring enough to hold the door out after he entered, so that it slammed in her face. “This shoot is called the ‘Bare Minimum.’ You are supposed to represent simplicity, do you think you can manage that?” the way he said it made it sound more like an accusation than a question. All that followed was a blink from the diminutive girl’s eyes, which were beginning to look more and more like black holes. He set up his camera, the lights, and a single stool. “Sit.” He commanded and she did, “Now smile.” But the girl did no such thing. For a reason Vince would never imagine was his own doing the girl began to bawl. She wailed. She wept. She whimpered. Soon her hair and clothing were soaked in tears, but Vince was impatient as ever. To the poor child’s dread he began snapping pictures. One after the other he unintentionally captured the rawest feeling known to man: sorrow. Yet as he took the pictures Vince felt the exact opposite, he felt powerful and sadistic. There was this animalistic side in him that relished this triumph over his prey. As she continuously sobbed in front of the lense he was smirking shamelessly behind it.
After that famous shoot, Vince changed his name, so that he would not be associated with his old failures. He had a hard time picking a title that sounded sophisticated enough for him. In the end he settled on Smith, which was his first victim’s last name.
Smith became a household name, a trademark. All his pictures were so full of emotion that no one seemed to care that it was the same singular emotion over and over. But it became increasingly harder for him to get sincere feeling from models, for they all knew that crying was expected of them. Thus Smith started his trail of terror. He would roam the streets looking for feeble and melancholy people and began preying on their weaknesses. Each picture chronicled the way he brutally took advantage of others.
His second victim was a sweet-faced old lady. She was wearing a floral jacket while being dutifully trailed around a street corner by a cat so fat he almost laughed at the thought of her picking it up. This tabby, he could tell, was her only companion. All he did was swoop down, pick him up, and begin to sprint, in order to get her tears to run quicker down her limp cheeks than his legs did down the street. Then he turned and hastily positioned the camera that was hanging around his neck. The next day he had a check as fat as that ginger tabby in his wallet and another satisfied smile on his face.
Finding the perfect male prey proved to be quite a task. Early on Smith realized in order to make men cry he was going to have to resort to his lowest, most foul tactics. He had been watching this lanky man who lived across the street from him for a week now. Every morning the man would go outside and wax his car. This was not just any car; this was a one of a kind, chrome-plated, Mercedes-Benz. Each morning at the crack of dawn, his neighbor would wake up, pull off the dust cover, and meticulously tend to his car as if it were his sick wife instead of merely his means of transportation. He would caress its bumpers, kiss its hood, coo to it, and even address it by the name, “Wynona”. Smith’s plan of attack was simple: pulverize Wynona. After another day or two of observation Smith was finally ready. He prepared his own car and delicately eased it onto his street. The next part was easy for Smith, because for him it was all a way to get his next fix. He had become addicted to this new art he had created, and relished the opportunity to perform. Once his car was positioned properly Smith pounded on the gas, bringing himself and his car directly into Wynona’s side, her paint boiled and she bled all over his station wagon. The look of utter despair on this broken man’s face was nearly priceless, but Smith ended up getting a good price for it anyway.
The officer realized Smith was no longer listening to him, so he reached over and shook him out of his trance.
“Now I know this is tragic, but I am going to have to get you to answer a few questions.” The officer’s tone was unusually formal, he seemed to be making up for his earlier behavior. “But can you think of anyone who would’ve wanted to hurt you? Anyone with a reason to be upset with you?” To say Smith could think of ‘a few’ would be more than just an understatement. He could tell the cop was also thinking arson was the most probable cause of the fire. But Smith was now focused on another looming thought; the thought of all those who would relish and smile with pleasure when they saw the photo of him sobbing on the front page of the newspaper.