A Study in Grey, White, and Red

A Study in Grey, White, and Red – A collaborative element story by Vago Damitio

(To read previous stories go to http://vagobond.posterous.com and to take part in new ones stay tuned for my posts asking for elements here on Google+)

“What do you think you are doing?”

Rafael hadn’t seen her come back into the office. He had been….occupied. He dropped the shoe from his face back to the floor but the feelings it had stirred in him were anything but lowered. He had to get out of here.

“Why were you smelling my shoes?” Mrs. Bartolinni was in her early sixties, but she was dangerously big and from what he could tell, she was also dangerously aroused. As she came at him with her old fists raised he suddenly saw her lying sprawled on the floor. For the most part, he hated the visions but in this case it was nice to be able to step back without too much worry.

As he moved away, the old woman’s big feet were snagged on the rug and she came tumbling down. Rafael moved to the door before turning back “It turns out I won’t be needing any tax advice from you after all, something smells funny here.” And then he was gone. Mrs. Bartolinni’s moans followed him out the door. Damn, another dead end. On his way down the steps he stopped to smell the roses…literally. For some reason that ephemeral sweet smell always acted as a reset on his olfactory nerves no matter if the most recent smell had been potent, musky, heady or sweet. In this case, he was glad for the opportunity since the old woman’s shoes had smelled of medicated ointment, toe jam, and dog turds along with something else…. Definitely not what he had been expecting. Hopefully it was enough to go on.

If you’ve ever heard someone refer to a ninety-five pound weakling, chances are the picture in your brain would fit Rafael pretty well. At just five feet and exactly 95 pounds he was anything but intimidating. In fact, no one took him seriously, not even children. He’d tried growing mustaches, beards, and working out but nothing changed him. Once when he’d grown a particularly thick and full beard he’d been walking through the park when he heard some child say “Hey Dad, look at that little kid with a beard!”

That wasn’t the worst of his problems though. Rafael had a nose that made Pinocchio look honest and skin that looked like it had been fried in a vat of canola oil. Not only was he small, but Rafael was ugly with a capital “U”. Still, that wasn’t the worst of his problems either. What was the worst?

Those damn visions. Ninety percent of them came true just like the one of Bartolinni falling on her face but the other ten percent just disappeared. That may not sound like a big deal, but when you grab a child to rescue them from a speeding car and no car appears, things start to look weird and you know what the funny thing is about humans? You can be right 90% of the time but they only remember the 10% when you are wrong.

The one thing he did have going for him was the fact that he smelled good. Now, when I say he smelled good, I don’t mean he had a pleasant odor. Rafael’s magnificent nose was not only huge on his face, it was also huge in the ways that he could use it. He could out-smell bloodhounds and sniff people’s emotions. He’d sometimes wondered if it was this odiferous miracle that gave his brain the power of the visions, as if the brain’s architecture was altered in such a way to provide the one that he automatically got the other. A cosmic buy one get one free that perhaps made up for his shortcoming in stature.

His nose had given him everything. He’d used it to find money (he could literally sniff it out), he’d used it to get laid (because when you can smell exactly the right moment, you can have any woman), and he’d used it to make a career for himself as a dick. Dick nose. Rick Nose. Richard Probiscus, Private Detective aka Rafael. Funny how childhood taunting had led him to the perfect career.

As he walked down Old Compton Street he had another of those stupid flashes that were the bane of his existance. In this case he saw a giant tower that stood way over the buildings of London. The tower was white and had the letters BT on it in impossibly big letters – and then, like that, it was gone. He looked down and saw an abandoned newspaper on the ground. The headline was what had gotten him into that horrible business with Bartolini in the first place.

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and The Duke of York had announced their engagement the previous day, January 23rd, 1923. The future King and Queen had caused royal madness as the world prepared for a royal wedding like none they had ever seen before. The advent of film and radio meant that the entire empire would be able to take part. That in turn had caused everyone to start planning their own Royal Wedding parties and that had led to the call he’d gotten this morning offering to pay him five thousand pounds if he could track down a bottle of 1893 Chateau Margaux. Not it turns out, an easy thing to find. Through a chevalier friend, he’d managed to trace a bottle to the Bartolini cellars on Hastings Street but by the time he’d gotten there, all that remained was the cork he was absently fingering in his pocket.

Bartolini had told him she sold the decanted wine to a young man earlier that day. She would tell neither his name nor where she had met him. It was for this reason he’d resorted to smelling her shoes. He needed to know where she had met the buyer. Then it hit him…Hyde Park. The smell was from the duck shit that visitors invariably stepped in.

As he quickened his pace he suddenly had another vision. His white white body lying on the ground bleeding. With five kinds of northern European blood spilling onto the grey cobblestones. A study in grey, white, and red. If he could have one thing, certainly it would be to stop seeing that particular vision.

In such a moment, it was no wonder that he didn’t see the car bearing down on him, didn’t smell the scent of his own blood coursing through the veins of the eighteen year old driver, didn’t remember the woman he’d seduced twelve years before because it was ‘her time’, and didn’t have any clue that the driver of the vehicle that hit him was not only drunk on the same 1893 Chateau Margaux he was looking for, but was also one of many sons he never knew he had. After all, what woman in her right mind would tell a hideous lover she was pregnant with his child? In this case, it made more sense for her to tell her chevalier husband that the big nosed child was his own.

And thus it was that the one thing Rafael desired more than any other, a stop to the false visions came to pass as his white white body lay on the ground bleeding. With five kinds of northern European blood spilling onto the grey cobblestones. A study in grey, white, and red. Even the greatest nose it turns out, can’t smell it’s own death coming.

Here’s the threads where elements were provided…