WELCOME TO THE 13 DAYS OF HORROR
My next featured guest is a mastermind in writing stories so robust and original, you know you’ll read them again. His clever and captivating writes are regularly debuted on Thrillers, Killers, ‘n’ Chillers, A Twist of Noir, MicroHorror, and many more. His omnibus, The Osseous Box, is an ongoing epic at TK’n’C, busting with adventure and where characters, “get fucked up, fucked over or fucked off.”
It is an honor to welcome, Lee Hughes and his chilling story, With Brush & Pain.
With Brush & Pain
by Lee Hughes
When Gracie had dreamt of becoming a model, the dreams consisted of Parisian parties, catwalk strolls and champagne living.
She left an independent audition after a photographer had asked her to be a sport and get her tits out.
An agency in London had told her she wasn’t tall enough. However, there were always photo-shoots for catalogues.
They said her lips were too thin for the make-up pictures and her hands too chubby for the jewelry shots.
She only got one gig — in the outdoor section of a catalogue. Her crowning moment was her head poking out of a two-man tent with a woolly hat on.
She worked a monotonous job, ferrying cups of coffee.
When she spotted an advert in the local rag, she smiled.
An artist was looking for a model.
“Hi. You’ve an advert in the paper. You’re looking for a model to sit for you?”
“How much does it pay?”
“Twenty pounds an hour.”
“And how many hours do you think you’ll need me to sit for?”
“One sitting, about five hours,” the voice said.
She could handle that.
“I don’t do nude.”
“It won’t be necessary.”
“When would you like me to sit for you?”
“As soon as possible.”
“I’m not working; is tomorrow any good?”
“Fantastic. The address is on the advert. See you about noon?”
“See you then.” she hung up.
It was a big old townhouse.
She rang the doorbell.
The door opened.
The man was tall with long blond hair.
“Are you the model?” he asked.
“I’m, Gracie Mills.” She put out her hand and he wrapped his big oaken mitts around it.
“And I am, Tobias Corbaux, please come in.”
The inside was very neat and very clean. Gracie had suspicions that Tobias Corbaux might be gay. That notion fled when a little old woman trundled down the hallway with an armful of linen, it was her home.
The little old woman looked up. “Who’s your friend Tobias?”
“Mrs. Fitzgerald, this is, Gracie, she’ll be sitting for me this afternoon.”
“Very nice,” she said and tottered away.
“I rent the top floor from, Mrs. Fitzgerald.” Tobias set off up the stairs.
The room looked professional apart from a lack of actual artwork.
“Where’s all your work?”
Tobias began to rotate slowly, making revolution after revolution.
“A studio should be like a blank canvas. All of my finished work is in the next room.”
“Can I see one?”
“Afraid not. Please sit on the stool.”
She was under the intense scrutiny of Tobias as he walked around her. Judging her, measuring her, and imagining what she’d look like on canvas.
Tobias crouched before her and smiled.
“Gracie, how do you feel about pain?”
Gracie looked puzzled. “Come again?”
“I like to paint pain. I don’t mean the grimace or the flinch that usually goes with it. I’m talking about the aura it creates, the patterns and its colors.” Tobias looked at her earnestly.
“You’re off your rocker.”
“I want to paint your pain.”
“But, I’m not in pain.”
“But you could be!” he grinned.
“I don’t think so.” Gracie made to hop down from the stool.
Tobias put a hand up.
“Renegotiation time. One hundred pounds for just one hours work. Look, the others were fine afterwards, pretty much.”
Tobias struck her hard.
He only needed one more painting and then he would be finished.
Tobias went to the door and hollered.
“Mrs. Fitzgerald? I need a hand!”
Gracie awoke to find herself flat on her back.
Her face ached from where the goon had walloped her.
She tried to move but found herself restrained with ropes.
“Let me go.” She hissed.
Tobias was over at his easel. Mrs. Fitzgerald was in the corner.
Gracie begged.” Mrs. Fitzgerald, help me.”
“Why would I want to go and do that?’ growled the old woman “for the past six months I’ve had tramp after tramp, just like you, dragging their stiletto heels through my house.”
Mrs. Fitzgerald looked at Tobias. “What sort of pain do you need?”
Tobias took on the pose of an ‘artiste in thought’ and replied. “Agony.”
“Back in a jiffy.”
“What the hell is going on here?” Gracie begged as tears streamed down her cheeks.
Tobias looked over his easel. “I was commissioned for a piece of art and I intend on producing it.”
‘You are so going to prison!”
Tobias looked confused. “And why’s that?”
“This is kidnapping!”
“I believe you’ll just go on your merry way.”
“You’re in for a big surprise then.”
“No more than the one your family will get.”
“What’s that mean?”
Tobias reached into his pocket and pulled out a small digital camera. He showed her some snaps.
Her eyes went wide and she felt sickened.
Whilst she had been unconscious, the brute had taken all manner of lewd photographs.
“They’ll be everywhere, every lamppost, every school gate, I’ll make you famous.”
That had been how he’d kept the other girls from going to the police.
She knew that it would work on her too.
Mrs. Fitzgerald returned with a glowing poker. “This do?”
“Perfect, just start tapping her with it please. I want to capture all the little sparkles of pain.”
Mrs. Fitzgerald approached and gave Gracie a prod with the poker.
Tobias slashed at the canvas with his brush capturing the moment of pain.
“Again, but for longer this time.”
Mrs. Fitzgerald applied the poker but for longer to Gracie’s nape. This time she didn’t screech, she howled as she felt the heat claw its way into her flesh.
Tobias pranced as he caught the aura of the agony and splashed it to life with paint upon the canvas.
He decreed that another few bursts of light taps and it would be there.
Gracie was sweating and crying when it was over. She felt ill used and ashamed. She just wanted to get out, to run far away and curl up into a ball, and be forgotten about.
Mrs. Fitzgerald popped the cooled poker into a vase.
“Let met have a look.” She went and had a peek. “Looks like a kid did it.”
“Believe me, Mrs. Fitzgerald, that when put with the others, the finished product will be more than enough to meet your needs.”
“It better be; get it ready.”
Tobias started untying Gracie.
“No, we’d best keep her until we’ve got it all done with.”
Tobias nodded and watched as Mrs. Fitzgerald left.
“That was absolutely fabulous, some of the best pain I’ve ever seen, and I have seen some eye-popping moments Gracie.”
“Fuck-you.” Gracie said between gritted teeth.
He left her to her own devices whilst he went and prepared the other room to showcase the fruits of his labor.
Gracie saw Tobias pass by the open door and stick his head out over the banister. “Everything is ready!”
“On my way.” Mrs. Fitzgerald shouted.
She looked in on Gracie. “Bring her too.”
Tobias nodded and untied Gracie.
He retied her hands behind her back.
They entered the magnificent gallery, for which many a young woman had bled, blistered, and cried for.
Mrs. Fitzgerald asked. “Everything’s covered, why are they all covered?’
Tobias pushed Gracie deep into the room. “I will pull all the sheets off in one swift tug so that each piece of work cries out with one another.”
Gracie felt herself strong enough to ask. “What’s happening?”
Tobias turned to her. “Ever wanted to meet the Devil?”
“Of course, that’s what all the paintings are for. What better bait than pain and misery intensified into its purest form, art?”
Without any preamble, he pulled at one of the sheets and it brought the rest of them free.
Gracie closed her eyes. The colors were distasteful, the shapes vulgar, and it disturbed her to her very core.
Tobias looked on proudly.
Mrs. Fitzgerald looked on in anticipation.
Gracie didn’t know if it was her imagination but it felt like it was getting hotter in the room.
“He’s coming.” Mrs. Fitzgerald whispered with excitement.
Tobias had a sketchbook out ready, clearly meaning to draw the devil.
The air shimmered, the color of blood on fire. Smoke grew like ill saplings from the floor, weaving like ivy amongst them. The Beast was there. More forgotten animal than man, its movement fluid as it became a vulture to the art, drawn to the mess of agony. Ogling the strokes of pain as though painted by Gogh.
“I want my soul back!” begged Mrs. Fitzgerald.
The Beast seemed less than thrilled to be distracted from what it had actually come to see and roared its displeasure.
Mrs. Fitzgerald shied back. “I’m willing to swap this young one here for my soul back.” She hooked a thumb at Gracie.
The Beast sidled up to Gracie and sniffed, turned back to Mrs. Fitzgerald and said, “The girl is not yours to trade; you have traded the only thing I could want from you.”
The Beast cocked its head and grinned. “Ah, I can smell the cancer, black and solid like stone, growing big, not too long I should wager.” It snorted.
Mrs. Fitzgerald seemed beside herself. “I’ll sacrifice her to you, anything!”
“Hmmm.” It seemed to ponder the thought of a gift.
Mrs. Fitzgerald took it as agreement, pulled out a kitchen knife, and stabbed Gracie in the chest.
Gracie had no chance of defending herself with her hands bound behind her.
She slumped to the floor to bleed in front of the Lord of Hell.
The Beast swished over.
“You really did it, a gift to me?” It asked.
Mrs. Fitzgerald nodded triumphantly.
Gracie shook her head in the negative, feeling her strength waning she made the most of the strength she had left.
“I want to deal,” she said.
The Beast’s eyes glowed with fun.
‘My soul in exchange for getting to live and her getting triple the torture she would have got when she gets to Hell!’
The Beast practically danced.
“Interesting proposal.” It looked to Mrs. Fitzgerald who was shaking her head.
“No, no, no, not fair, not allowed, no, against the rules.”
“Which rules are they?’ The Beast asked, and added. “I make the rules.”
It quickly turned to Gracie knowing her time was short.
“I will deal if you are sure?”
“I’m sure.” she coughed blood-bubbles.
Mrs. Fitzgerald started screaming and wailing for all her hag-like old self was worth. She clutched at her left arm, then her chest.
She slumped to the floor turning a funny color and no one bothered to help whilst she did the heart attack jig. The Beast approached her, grabbed her by an ankle.
“I will take this one with me.”
The smoke blossomed around them and when it subsided all that remained was the stink of brimstone.
Tobias was grinning at what he had sketched.
Tobias put down the pad and freed her.
As soon as she had her hands free, she tried to touch every place where the poker had menaced her but could find no wounds, which meant no evidence.
Tobias noticed the lack of burn marks. He tossed the camera to her. “It seems I don’t need those now.” He grinned and walked out.
Gracie sat and sobbed with relief until she realized what she had done in a moment of madness.
She guessed that in the end she would end up like Mrs. Fitzgerald, but would worry about it when it got nearer to the time.
Gracie saw Tobias only once more. It was in a newspaper as he unveiled his latest piece of art. It was entitled The Devil and His Misfits. Gracie didn’t like being referred to as a misfit, but it seemed apt. She bought a print of that painting but couldn’t bear to mount it on the wall. She swore that the eyes of the Beast followed her.
Lee Hughes Writes here: leehughes