WORD PLAYS : "Sealing Wax"


Tanya McClure raised from her crouch in front of the back entrance, looked carefully up and down the alley for yet another time, then returned her attention to the lock on the door. In her cut-off jeans, white halter top, and sockless sneakers, Tanya did not look like someone about to commit Breaking and Entering. So, if anyone did happen to come down this hardly used alley behind the Gruenner Emporium of Wax, she could probably claim to be Gerhardt Gruenner’s niece, bat her eyelashes a few times (if the inquirer were male), and go unreported to the police.

Of course, if Tanya’s suspicions were correct, she would want the Delta Beach Police Force there en masse. She would call them herself if, as she believed, her friend Paula Barber was being held prisoner inside Gruenner’s waxworks.

The pony-tailed brunette heard a couple more clicks inside the door knob. Almost there. Tanya reflected, somewhat ruefully, that she had not retained many positive emotional rewards from her various male companions over the past several months. She did, however, know how to change the oil in her Honda Civic; she could tell the difference between a zone defense and man-to-man in a basketball game; and, most importantly at the moment, she was fairly proficient at picking locks.

With one last click the doorknob turned in Tanya’s hand. She carefully put the lock pick back in the pocket of her cutoffs, took one last look up and down the alley for onlookers, and seeing none, stepped quietly into the wax museum.

Tanya had been in the display area of the wax museum several times, since one recent ex-boyfriend was a wax figure freak, and Paula had dragged her there a couple of times certain of modeling gigs that never came through. But those trips involved normal person/front door entrances. This was unfamiliar territory.

The first area she came to was too small to be Gruenner’s studio/workroom. With several cardboard boxes stacked against the walls, and empty metal racks lying here and there, this was obviously a storage area. Tanya was actually relieved. The last thing she wanted to do was burst into the artist’s studio and find Gruenner molesting her friend in some kinky fashion. And Tanya was sure that’s exactly what Gruenner had in mind when he invited the buxom blonde for an after hours private modeling session.

Paula was not supposed to have told anyone about the session. Gruenner had made the girl promise profusely, stressing how important it was that the public not know about possible future figures for his waxworks until the right publicity could be generated. Paula’s silence would also be of benefit to the model herself, in case the session did not result in an accompanying figure, saving Paula possible embarassment. The excited model had reluctantly related all of this to her best friend in a phone call made about a minute and a half after leaving the museum.

The more cautious Tanya had tried to talk Paula out of going to Gruenner’s alone. There was just something not quite right about the offbeat sculptor: maybe it was his devilish looking goatee; or his evil sounding accent (Tanya attributed that prejudice to too many old war movies); or the fact that his looks at Paula seemed more lusting than artistic. Paula thought Tanya was way off base, but agreed to call her friend every thirty minutes after the session began just to prove she was all right.

Paula had entered the waxworks at 7:30 earlier this evening. Tanya’s phone had not rung at 8:00, or at 8:30, and when it didn’t ring at 9:00, Tanya headed for Gruenner’s back alley. Sure, it was possible that Paula had lost track of time in the midst of this great opportunity. But Tanya had checked with some of her friends at the beach, and had heard a few stories about other visiting coeds who had visited the waxworks for private sessions, and who had apparently left town shortly thereafter, since each girl had only sent a single post card to a good friend or employer, saying a quick goodbye with no explanation. Something had apparently happened to those models inside that studio that made them want to get far away, and Tanya was there to make sure the same something didn’t happen to Paula.

Tanya moved carefully in the storeroom. The last thing she wanted to do was knock over some boxes or metal postcard holders, making enough noise to summon Gruenner. No, she wanted the element of surprise. After a few moments, her eyes had finally adjusted to the semi-darkness of the room, and Tanya spotted a door with light creeping showing at the bottom. She was guessing the light came from Gruenner’s studio.

There was a clear path to the door, and in seconds Tanya held the doorknob and silently debated how she would enter the room. Her melodramatic side wanted to fling the door open yelling "Aha!" But if all that was going on was modeling, she would look extremely foolish, and may have to answer for the backdoor’s picked lock. No, slow and cautious was the best plan. And if the scene before her was some sort of assault, she could carefully plan her next move.

The young woman slowly turned the knob, and gently pushed the door open an inch at a time. The first thing she saw was the upper half of a wax figure. It was bald, but the two well shaped breasts indicated it was once, or would be, part of a female wax figure. As the door opened a little wider, a number of empty pedestals came into view, along with some work tables and more wax body parts. This was definitely Gruenner’s studio.

As she peeked out at the room’s contents, Tanya was also listening. For conversation, or the sounds of struggle. More urgently, for the sounds of footsteps - even soft ones - heading for the door behind which she stood, in case Gruenner had detected her presence and was approaching. But there was no sound.

No, wait. There was a distant noise. Like a banging of metal on metal. But not coming from the studio. From the studio there was nothing . . . .

. . . . but a low moaning. The sound of a female. Perhaps Paula.

Tanya decided to take a chance and open the door wider. And as the middle of the large studio came into view, so did a sight that caused the intrepid rescuer to gasp aloud.

There in the middle of the studio sat a lone pedestal. And kneeling upon it was the moaning, swaying, nude figure of her good friend, Paula Barber. But what made the scene even more bizarre and frightening was the fact that Paula was shackled to the pedestal with cords rising from the pedestal base, attached to some sort of metal ring around Paula’s ankles and wrists and neck, affixing the lovely blonde in her current pose.

Tanya had tried to prepare herself for a rough scene, but this was far beyond any expectation.

Tanya’s first impulse was to rush to her friend’s aid. But despite the weird scene, she still had the presence of mind to remember that there was another player in this macabre drama - the proprietor of this Waxworks cum Torture Chamber - Gerhardt Gruenner.

Slowly opening the door even wider, she scanned the room for signs of the perverted sculptor, but he was nowhere to be found. There were a few places to hide - wax figures leaning against walls, waist high pedestals and display blocks - but none were anywhere near Paula’s pedestal, and none showed any signs of movement. For the moment, Paula was apparently alone.

Tanya took small steps toward the center of the studio. Her friend’s moans continued, but as Tanya drew closer, she suspected that Paula’s groaning was not in pain. It sounded more like pleasure. The blonde captive’s swaying continued - at least within the small range of movement her cords allowed her. So Tanya was only a few feet away before Paula even knew she was there.

"Hey, Tawwnya," the girl slurred, "Great partee, huh?" Paula giggled, and then closed her eyes and bit her lower lip as another sensation of pleasure racked her body. Tanya put her fingers to her lips to quiet her friend. But Paula could no more decipher that simple signal than she could translate a Latin flash card. She was high on something more powerful, and certainly more illegal, than love.

Tanya took another quick look around after Paula’s friendly greeting, but still no sign of Gruenner. She made her way to Paula’s side, almost tripping over a narrow but deep channel that encircled the pedestal.

"God, Paula, what have you gotten yourself into this time?" Tanya whispered, as she examined the metal ring on Paula’s left ankle. It was a modified handcuff attached firmly to a leather strap. The cuff was loose enough for Tanya to slip a finger between the metal and Paula’s skin, but there was certainly not enough leeway to slip it off her friend’s foot.

"Ohhh, that felted good, girl," Paula moaned as soon as Tanya touched her ankle. Tanya was close enough now to feel and smell her friend’s breath, and there was no hint of alcohol. The girl had been given some kind of sex drug. Apparently, Tanya thought as Paula’s hips rocked just from her touch, an extremely effective sex drug.

A brief examination of the small lock on the cuff was not encouraging. This was not a simple lock like on the back door of the Wax Emporium. This was a lot more complicated, and would take Tanya a lot more time. Time that neither she, nor Paula, could spare.

"Paula," whispered Tanya, laying her hand on her friend’s shoulder. The drugged girl had enough give in her arm and hand to grab Tanya’s hand and put it on her rather ample breast. The blonde moaned loudly as Tanya’s fingers rubbed quickly against her erect nipple. Tanya quickly drew her hand back and grabbed her friend’s hand firmly.

"Paula!" Tanya whispered angrily a little more loudly than she would like. "I need you to help me if we’re going to get out of here!" The buxom blonde stopped moaning and giggling for a minute and came to at least a fraction of attention to Tanya’s voice.

"Where is Gruenner? Is he in the museum? Did he leave? Did he say where he was going? Can you remember?" It was fewer questions than Tanya would have liked to ask, but more than she knew Paula could handle in her current condition. At least Gruenner’s captive seemed to respond when Tanya mentioned her captor’s name. "Mr. Gruenner - Gerhardt - said I was beautiful. He said I become perfect model." The last ‘l’ slurred, and Paula actually started to shed a tear. Not really from her predicament, but from the drug.

Tanya decided she couldn’t push her friend, she would have to go slow. She retrieved her lock pick, and starting working on one of the wrist cuffs. It was at eye level, and maybe it wouldn’t be as hard as she thought. While she worked, she talked slowly and softly to Paula.

"Yes. A model. You are a beautiful model. But where did he go?" No response, and Tanya decided to try a different tack. "Paula, why did he leave his beautiful model alone?"" Maybe if she found out why he left, she could discover where he went, and for how long.

"Ooohhh, very mad. Sealing wax - broke."

That was an odd answer. "Sealing wax? Sealing wax for what?" Tanya asked, still struggling with the small wrist cuff lock.

"Sealing wax for me, silly. Sealing wax for me to become perfect model." Paula said that in a melodramatic whisper, as if she were q uoting the ‘great’ sculptor, himself.

Tanya was still confused. When Paula first slurred ‘sealing wax’ she thought she had misheard. But she was pretty sure that’s what the girl was saying. But sealing wax for what? Maybe it was to seal these handcuffs tighter, so Paula would not be able to move at all from Gruenner’s selected pose.

Maybe it was something kinky. One of Tanya’s illustrious ex-boyfriends had told her he was really turned on by porn involving melted candle wax dripping on a naked female breast. Tanya told him to go buy some candles, a video with lots of kinky S & M, a whole box of Keenex, and go screw himself. She figured that’s exactly what he did. And maybe that’s what Gruenner had in mind for the evening, as well.

But then why go to all this trouble - with the drugs and the pedestal and the cuffs? As Tanya thought about all of this and worked rather hopelessly with the lock, she looked up to make sure there was still no sign of the waxworks owner, and saw an easel standing about ten feet away. Hoping it might provide some clue to these bizarre events, she took a quick break from her work on the lock and walked over to the pedestal.

There was a sketch of Paula’s nude form kneeling on the pedestal. The drawing was okay, and maybe that explained the whole posing thing. Something for the sculptor to remember his latest conquest. But then she saw that other figures had been sketched: a couple of women in gowns holding masquerade masks, and an elaborately dressed man wearing a mask and holding a cat-o-nine tails. A large square was drawn beneath the group, like a display sign, and on it was scribbled: "An Evening with de Sade." Apparently Paula was inspiring the sculptor. At least part of the evening was in fact business. Maybe this way Gruenner could write off the price of the sex drug.

But then she saw the note, jotted beneath the tableaux sign. "Final piece acquired 9/14. Exhibit ready for 10/1." Final piece? She looked at the sketch, and then at Paula helpless on the pedestal. Horror movies and television shows set in creepy wax museums started to play on the screen of Tanya’s mind. And suddenly, as a gnawing fear began to grow in the pit of her stomach, she knew what the sealing wax was for. To seal his latest acquisition. To seal her perfect beauty. To seal what was once living flesh in a coating of wax.

The sealing wax was for Paula. To turn her into Gruenner’s newest wax figure. Those other girls had never left the Wax Emporium. They had been lured here by the sculptor. Drugged and then bound, just like Paula. And then waxed and put on display in this emporium of evil.

Now Tanya didn’t know which way to turn. Keep working on the locks - which, in fact, wasn’t working? Call the police - but would they get here before Gruenner came back - before he turned Paula, and maybe even herself, into wax statues?

Gruenner! She had to know more, and quickly. She rushed back to Paula’s side, and then tried to speak in a calm but urgent tone.

"Paula, honey, this is really important. When you said ‘broke’ - what did you mean?"

Paula rolled her eyes. "Broke. You know. Mmmmmmm," she made a sound like a smooth motor, "and then, phht, phht, phht. And then a loud rrrrrrrr - and then nothing. Broke." And she made a raspberry noise to punctuate her description.

Tanya looked around. No sign of any machine in the room. So it must be mobile . . . oh, my God! Tanya thought to herself. Gruenner had his wax sealer, sprayer, whatever in this room just before she had come in. Warming it up, ready to spray her lovely friend into immortality.

"So, Paula," Tanya tried to speak slowly, but was too excited to slow down very much. "Gruenner went to fix his sprayer." Paula gave her friend a puzzled look. "I mean, ‘sealing wax.’ Right?" Paula nodded. "Where, Paula? Did he have to go get parts? Call somebody? Some evil sculptor contraption repair shop, or something? What did he do?" Tanya was getting nervous and excited and impatient with her drugged friend’s slow reaction and response.

The shackled blonde just starting shaking her head no when Tanya’s questions became too complicated for her to understand. "No, no, no, no, no. Not leave. Fix sealing wax," Paula got a strange look on her face, then a great big grin like she just got the best joke she had ever heard. "Fix sealing wax in basement." And then she laughed like she had said the funniest thing ever.

Tanya looked in the same direction that Paula had glanced, and saw that there was an open door near the museum side of the studio. She slowly walked over to it, and as she got closer, she heard a light banging, similar to the noise she had heard before her attention became focused on her bound friend. She walked to the doorframe, and carefully peeked through it. There was a lit stairwell, and some tinkering noises coming from the basement below. There was apparently a workshop below where Gruenner was fixing his insidious device.

While it was good to know where Gruenner was, it wasn’t very comforting. He could start up those stairs any minute, wax sealing device in hand, and give both her and Paula a permanent paraffin coating before either could escape. But as she put her hand on the door to listen more carefully and try to devise a plan, Tanya got very lucky.

Her hand came to rest on a large lock bolt. She smiled widely as she glanced at the front of the basement door and saw her and Paula’s salvation affixed firmly. It was an old building, and the previous owners must have used the basement for storage, and had no reason to put a lock on the inside.

This changed everything, of course. While the sounds of repair continued downstairs, Tanya slowly closed the door, with only a few creaks. And then pulled the bolt into place. Gerhardt Gruenner, and his deadly wax sealing device, were locked in the basement.

Tanya made a fist, pulled it down like a chain, and whispered loudly, "Yes!" She then told Paula, "we’re getting out of here, kid." And looked quickly around until she saw a desk on a far wall. She rushed over to it, and began looking for keys to the cuffs imprisoning Paula. She now had something she didn’t have before. Time.

"I don’t suppose you know where Gruenner keeps the keys to the cuff locks, do you Paula?" It wasn’t really directed to her friend, who seemed to be slipping in and out of wakefulness as time passed. But Tanya was surprised to hear her friend say, "Yes, I do," in response.

Tanya quickly returned to the pedestal. "Great. Where did you see him put them?"

Paula leaned down as far as her neck cuff would allow to whisper her answer to Tanya. "In - his - pocket." She said, very pleased with herself. Tanya just stared blankly at her a moment, then returned to the desk to resume her search.

There was no sign of cuff keys, but Tanya did find the answer to one puzzle. A postcard with a scene from Los Angeles lay face up on the desk, and when Tanya turned it over she saw that it was addressed to Paula’s mom. The address was in Paula’s handwriting, albeit a little shaky due to the drug Gruenner had given her. And so was the message of the card, which stated simply that Paula had decided to go to L.A. to pursue her modeling career.

Finding the card simply confirmed Tanya’s earlier suspicion. Those girls that had supposedly moved away had never left the Wax Emporium. They were undoubtedly now permanent parts of the various displays in the museum.

But not permanent for long, Tanya thought. Not once she got Paula out of this place, called the police, and blew the whistle on Gerhardt Gruenner, supposed artist, confirmed psycho.

The second drawer Tanya searched yielded a second prize. A large key ring with several keys attached. One of these would surely be an extra set to Paula’s cuffs, and she quickly took them to the pedestal.

As she sat on the pedestal beside her friend, and carefully tried each key, Tanya sought to reassure Paula. "Don’t worry, honey, I’ll have you out of those cuffs and off of this pedestal in no time."

Paula just frowned. "But I want to be a model," she said, in a higher pitched, annoyingly girlish voice.

"Trust me, Paula. You don’t want to be the kind of model Gruenner is looking for. He wants to make you a permanent model."

"Aaahhh . . . beautiful model. Perfect forever." Paula sighed.

"Yeah - perfectly dead forever," Tanya muttered, as she tried yet another key. If one of these keys didn’t work, she guessed she’d have to go into the museum and try to find a phone and call the police. She was worried that Gruenner would head back upstairs, find the door bolted, and try to break it down. But she had heard no noise on the stairs. Apparently it was taking a long time to fix the sealing wax . . . .

Tanya’s thought was interuppted by a loud humming noise, that seemed to start in the basement, but then traveled up through the walls. "What in the world?" Tanya wondered aloud, thinking that surely even a large sealing wax cannister wouldn’t sound that loud.

But Paula got a very serious look on her face, and ominously began making a noise. "Mmmmmmmmm. Sealing wax not broke anymore. Sealing wax sounds fixed."

At first, Tanya started to look around for some sort of sharp or heavy object - something to face Gruenner with should he make it through the bolted basement door with his wax cannister.

But then, she saw Paula’s eyes roll slowly upward. And in a flash of a second everything came into focus: Paula’s pose on the pedestal; the channel surrounding the pedestal; the pedestal’s distance from everything else in the room; the sketch; and, most distressingly, Paula’s slurred words.

Tanya had been partially right. Gerhardt Gruenner did lure beautiful young women to his waxworks studio to spray them into wax statues. And that was his intention for Paula Barber, as well.

But she had made two errors. She had mistakenly believed Gruenner used some sort of spray cannister to accomplish his task. And she had misunderstood Paula’s description of Gruenner’s methodology. And as the humming noise grew louder and spread from the top of the wall, Tanya realized her mistakes were fatal ones. Like Paula, she was also on the pedestal, not chained, but frozen by her realization, and the inevitability of the fate awaiting them. She was unable to move, looking upward, and finally understanding what Paula had been telling her all night long.

"Ceiling wax," Paula whispered, eyes looking upward, anticipating her initiation into full-time modeling.

"Ceiling wax," Tanya echoed her friend’s words, staring up at the large spray nozzle affixed to the ceiling of the studio, as it began to shower the two young women in a permanent and petrifying coat of warm, fast drying, quick hardening, wax.

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