A Shade Too Strange

– Anoushka Fernandes, I BBA

Sitting at his desk Homer looked around the office. Each cubicle encompassed its own world. The smoking cigarettes and ringing phones were deaf to his ears, background noise. He looked at those sad souls, lost in life’s mundanity.

He strolled out of the office. His desk was left scattered with papers and unpaid bills. He didn’t care. At home, he was at ease. The small studio apartment was dimly light and a mess. Paint brushes and wooden strips scattered the hall table. Open food containers lay stacked up in the kitchen. 

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Homer had no family. Besides Todd and Jason, no one really spoke to him. He was a quiet guy to most, the sort that usually stays at bar in an office party. His tie hung loosely from the collar. He didn’t press his shirts anymore. His eyes drooped at the corners. He was thirty one but wrinkles were already beginning to show. He hardly smiled.


He painted for himself. Bad days were often symbolized by dark and bold strokes with shades of black, blue and grey. Of late, the shades were getting darker. Most of his paintings were on blank sheets stolen from the office. If ever he had painted for days on a single canvas, something significant had happened.


One would think that he was lonely. But he wasn’t. He had his mind and that was his greatest companion. He could spend hours sitting in isolation, entertained in solitude by the thousands of thoughts in his head. Looking at a flower he could prepare a detailed analysis of the color schemes ingrained in its petals. Every detail or everything caught his attention. Sometimes it drove him mad, to think about things that didn’t have to be thought of. 

Painting was his everyday escape. These paintings were often a summary of his day. Art lovers would hardly be able to decipher what his paintings meant. He painted for himself. Bad days were often symbolized by dark and bold strokes with shades of black, blue and grey. Of late, the shades were getting darker. Most of his paintings were on blank sheets stolen from the office. If ever he had painted for days on a single canvas, something significant had happened.

When Vanessa ended their one and a half year relationship, he painted that canvas like moulding pottery, ever so gentle, but with pressure, so as to meekly define it. He took a month to finish that one, his longest yet. The colors used were mixed, brown and rose on one end and orange and scarlet on the other. Strokes were changed from bold to thin and sometimes even smudged.

As he ruminated on the origins of his turquoise wall carpet, a knock on the door was heard.

“Good Evening Mr. Murphious. I’d like to ask you a few questions about Mrs. Greyford. May I come in?”

“Please do, Detective”,  he said in a cold tone.


“What more do you want to know? Vanessa and I dated for a year and five months, as I’ve said repeatedly . The beginning was magical. But things started dying out and I guess we didn’t love each other anymore.”


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Detective Samuel Macy was a one of the brightest officers in the precinct. He was pushing forty but looked as young as a fresher on his first job. With his wit in hand nothing could escape his ever so watchful eyes. His crisp shirt and buttoned down sleeves made him look like a man of action, which he aspired to be.

As Detective Macy took his seat, Homer attempted to tidy the hall table.

“Can you tell me about your relationship with Mrs. Greyford again?”


“She’s been missing for a month now and we had no leads, except, we got a tip yesterday. Someone told us they saw Vanessa come to your apartment at 11:44 pm on the day she went missing. Is this true?”


“What more do you want to know? Vanessa and I dated for a year and five months, as I’ve said repeatedly . The beginning was magical. But things started dying out and I guess we didn’t love each other anymore.”

“Her husband told me you made quite the scene at their wedding.”

“I had too much to drink.”

“You broke chairs and…”

“Look, it was an impulsive move and I apologized”

“Did you take her Homer?”

“No.”

“She’s been missing for a month now and we had no leads, except, we got a tip yesterday. Someone told us they saw Vanessa come to your apartment at 11:44 pm on the day she went missing. Is this true?”

“No.”

“I’ve got a search warrant here and four officers waiting outside. I expect your full cooperation.”

“Okay”

The officers barged in, in their boisterous manner. They pushed down books and cleared the wardrobes. Homer’s paintings were scattered on the floor. He attempted to pick them up but they pushed him away, lest he should interfere in the “investigation”.

“That’s a nice painting Homer”, the detective commented as he passed by the canvas, set at the corner of the hall.

“I made it for Vanessa. The frame is hand made. She always wanted me to use red. Not my favorite color, but anything to make her happy.”

I’m a man of order and I declare this place a mess. How do you suppose to bring order in your life with no discipline.”

“Things haven’t been going so well Sam, I don’t suppose you’d understand how it feels to have someone in your life and then, the very next moment, she tells you she doesn’t love you anymore. She’s found someone else, a real man, and she intends to spend her life with him. It can drive you to a place where maddening solitude can be your only friend.”

After two hours of searching , the police came up dry. The apartment may have belonged to a broken man, but there were no signs of the victim. They left without a word of apology leaving poor Homer in a world of mess. His messy apartment was He glanced at the painting and smiled.

Once in the squad car, Macy was disappointed. Homer was a person of interest but there was no evidence. If there was anything that helped his career it was his keen eye for detail. He began to recap all the elements in the apartment as the other officers were discussing what the next step was to be.

“Why was there no red?”, he shouted out.

“What do you mean Macy?”


“Think about it, black and red gives brown, red and purple gives rose, yellow and red gives orange and blue and red gives scarlet. I saw all these colors on his canvas edge, expect red. He said Mrs. Greyford loved red. Why was there no red?”


“Think about it, black and red gives brown, red and purple gives rose, yellow and red gives orange and blue and red gives scarlet. I saw all these colors on his canvas edge, expect red. He said Mrs. Greyford loved red. Why was there no red?”

The car turned around heading back to the dingy apartment.

“Detective?”, said Homer.

“Move aside Homer, I need to see the painting again.”

He ran his hands on the frame. Homer stood silent.

“Officer Maple, take samples of the surface. I want the results now.”

As the hours passed by Homer remained calm. He occasionally glanced out the window of his tiny home to look at the traffic outside. He remembered waiting for Vanessa through the long hours, waiting for her to come home. He knew her car had arrived by the screech of the engine. He knew every little detail about her.

“What do the results say Maple?”

“There is definitely a mix of blood in the paint, Sir. I took a sample from the frame as well . The material is bone .”

“Bone?”

“Human bone sir. Also, if you measure the frame, it’s about 16 by 7 inches. Guess how long a female femur and ulna are?”

The room was silent. Homer had a smile on his face. Macy ordered the officers to arrest him.

Shades-of-Red“Do you have anything to say Homer?”

“I called the tip line.” After a long pause he continued, “People called her nasty for leaving me, for causing my grief, but I wanted you to see her in her best shade.”

 

 

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