. . . . Penny T. Hoze closed her eyes and wondered if, in her motionless state, she could even feel the liquid marble coating her nylon sheathed legs. She did not want to witness the process that would turn her into the latest statue in Franz Jakobs’ private collection. And she did not want to look away from the sprayer and into the vacant eyes of the other pieces of statuary in this studio of horror: the bronzed bikini girl; the plasticized temptress; the gilded cheerleader; or the ebonized stewardess.
But most of all, she did not want to see the mad, gleeful smile on the face of Franz Jakobs, as he virtually salivated over his newest acquisition: the soon-to-be marbleized, pantyhosed model. But as Jakobs pulled the trigger of the sprayer and shot a small steam of liquid marble into the air as a preliminary test, Penny couldn’t help but open her eyes to see if Jakobs’ insane artistry had begun.
"Yes, the sprayer is working very well, indeed," the goateed artist said smugly. He looked at Penny’s forlorn face. "Please, my lovely, do not despair. I assure you the process is painless. And the result, to coin a well-worn phrase in such circumstances, is immortality."
Once more the sprayer pointed at Penny’s petrified feet, and once more the lovely young lady closed her eyes tight, determined not to witness her own demise. But as Jakobs started to pull the trigger, a loud chime echoed through the studio. It was so sudden and unexpected, that the artist jerked in surprise, and a large glob of liquid marble shot out of the sprayer, and landed inches away from Penny’s right leg, hardening as it hung over the side of the pedestal.
The noise jolted Penny’s eyes open wide, and she quickly remembered the sound from when she had arrived at Jakobs’ mansion. It was the doorbell. Someone was at Franz Jakobs’ front door. Someone who could, hopefully, rescue her from this horrible fate.
Penny screamed, "Down here! Help me! Please!" But she was disappointed that her entreaty started out at normal range, and then evaporated into a whisper. At first she thought it was simply the effect of panic, like trying to yell for help in the midst of a nightmare. But for some strange reason, the words of her old glee club teacher, Mr. Poindexter, came to mind, how he preached about projecting from the diaphragm when singing loudly. The effects of the paralyzing pedestal had left Penny’s lungs with diminished capacity. No one would hear her cries.
The artist was upset by the distraction, but amused by Penny’s attempt to scream. "Frustrating, isn’t it my dear Penny? If it’s any consolation, this studio is built with soundproof walls. Even if you could scream," Jakobs looked at a couple of the statues, "and it has happened before, no one could hear you." Once again, he aimed the sprayer at Penny. "I’m sure our friend the salesman, or paperboy, or Jehovah’s Witness, will soon go away . . . ."
But again, the chimes rang out. This time, over and over again, as if the visitor was holding down on the button. Angrily, Jakobs set down the sprayer nozzle, and strode over to the electric panel where the pedestal control switches were located. He opened an adjoining panel door, behind which was a large speaker, and a small monitor. "Let’s see who our busybody is, shall we?"
Jakobs flipped a switch that activated a small camera near the front entrance of the house. He turned on the monitor, and there in black and white was his persistent visitor.
The woman standing at the door was a bit older than Penny Hoze, but from what Jakobs could tell, equally attractive. She was carrying a small portfolio in her left hand, and the strap of a leather purse rested on her left shoulder. Her attire was that of a businesswoman: matching dark jacket and skirt, white blouse, attractive legs ending in dark pumps. Jakobs was intrigued – a different day and different circumstances might have led him to escort her to his studio. But today, he had another task to complete, so he watched for signs of impatience: a look at a watch, or a glance toward windows on the side of the door. But there was none of that. The young woman stood resolutely before the front door. Waiting for Jakobs.
The artist’s hand reached for the button activating the intercom, but then drew back. The intercom was, of course, the one breach of the studio’s soundproof construction. So he moved over to the pedestal controls, and began turning a dial, watching its effect on Ms. Hoze.
Penny felt a vibration in her neck now, moving up her face, similar to the one she had felt earlier. Now she could not move her head, or open her mouth. She could still breathe through her nose – as she did deeply, fearful of losing the capacity to breathe at all. Her eyes still blinked, and she could still hear, as Jakobs explained.
"I apologize for my premature expansion of your paralysis, Ms. Hoze. But I could not risk your saying something to attract the attention of our inopportune guest."
The artist’s attention returned to the monitor, and he depressed the intercom button.
"May I help you?" he spoke, and the sound from the monitor eerily echoed his words. The attractive visitor looked around a moment for something to speak into, but Jakobs’ spoke again. "There is a hidden speaker. Just speak normally and I can hear you. Again, what brings you to my home today, my dear."
Jakobs’ last comment led the visitor to deduce that she could be seen as well as heard. "Yes, Mr. Jakobs, my name is Charlotte Wingate. I am a private investigator retained by the family of Mindy Simpson. And I was hoping to ask you a few questions."
"You have me at a disadvantage. I’m afraid I don’t know a Mindy Simpson. I don’t know how I can help you."
Charotte Wingate opened her portfolio, and pulled out a large photograph of a smiling, attractive co-ed in a cheerleader’s outfit. She held the photo up, and slowly turned it around, not sure of the location of the camera. "Ms. Simpson was a cheerleader at Kelsey College about fifty miles from here. She disappeared following a football game that Kelsey played here in town. Her parents have hired me to find her. I was hoping you could help."
Penny couldn’t turn her head to look, but as soon as she heard the young woman mention "cheerleader," she knew who was beneath that gold veneer on a pedestal in the same room. Putting a name and person with the statue made Penny both very sad, and even more afraid than before. Real people made up Jakobs’ menagerie of beauty. And she was but one more real person about to join the others on display.
"I’m afraid I still don’t see a connection. And I’m afraid I’m in the middle of a very important project. Could we possibly make an appointment for later this week. I really would love the chance to discuss your exciting career with you." Jakobs was being polite in his attempt to end this distraction. He both wanted the beautiful detective to go away for now, but come back later to stay a little longer. Much longer. In fact, his bizarre mind was already beginning to concoct a tableau for the lovely sleuth.
"I realize you’re a very busy man, Mr. Jakobs, and that you’re in the middle of modeling session right now, with a very attractive young blonde. But this will only take a few moments of your time."
Wingate’s comment cut the artist to the quick, and a small surge of panic began to rise up from within. The detective obviously knew that someone had come to see Jakobs, and was still in the mansion. But how? He didn’t think Penny had told anyone. She had no reason to be worried or suspicious. And there was no one in sight when Jakobs first escorted Penny into the house. Unless, the detective had been out of sight. Watching. And that meant, she had reason to be suspicious. Franz Jakobs’ scowl turned to a smile. Ms. Wingate’s volley had landed inside the line. But it had bounced higher than she thought it would, and the sculptor was preparing to smash a winner.
"I’ll be happy to see you, Ms. Wingate. I will unlock the door by remote, and meet you in the foyer in just a few moments." He would be happy to show Ms. Wingate his home, and his studio. He would even be happy to show Ms. Wingate Mindy Simpson, aka ‘First Place Trophy.’ And he would be especially happy to show Ms. Wingate one of his special pedestals. Yes, Ms. Wingate had very cleverly talked her way into the home of Franz Jakobs. And Franz Jakobs would make sure the beautiful young woman would never leave.
Penny’s first reaction to Charlotte Wingate’s statement about her presence in the house was a silent shout of joy. Someone did know she was here, and would get her out of here alive and unharmed. And Jakobs’ initial panic confirmed her jubilation. But then she saw that evil smile begin to form, and along with the artist, Penny realized that the detective may have been too clever for her own good. But maybe she was armed. Maybe she was ready for a trap. And surely, when she walked into the studio and saw all of these too lifelike statues, as well the posed and petrified body of Jakobs’ next statue-to-be, she would act decisively.
Franz walked to a cabinet near the large spray canisters, and took out a dark bottle, along with a white cloth. He lay the two on a table near the door of the studio, and then walked over to the control panels. First, he turned a switch that began returning the occupied pedestals back to their hiding places within the studio walls. All of the pedestals save Penny’s were once again hidden from view.
The artist now spoke to Penny. "Once again, Ms. Hoze, I apologize for this delay. And I apologize for sending you into the darkness, prior, of course, to your eternal future as my special work of art. But I must place you prematurely in your resting place. And minus your voice as well – my outer walls are thick, but these special inside walls are rather light and thin so they may turn more easily. And I can’t have you saying something to ruin these special moments I plan to spend with Ms. Wingate, now, can I?"
At that, Jakobs turned one more dial, and the floor beneath Penny’s pedestal began to move sideways and then backwards. And in seconds, Penny was cast into darkness behind the false studio wall. This was her most frightening moment yet, a foreshadowing of the eternal darkness that awaited her if Charlotte Wingate fell prey to the mad sculptor. Surprisingly, she heard Jakobs say clearly to the detective, "I’m unlocking the door now, Ms. Wingate," and even heard him push the button. In one sense, at least she wasn’t completely cutoff. But, it also meant she would hear almost everything that transpired between the detective and her quarry - the artist and his prey.
There were several moments of silence, with only the hum of the infernal pedestal on which Penny’s semi-nude figure reclined resounding in the young girl’s ears. Maybe, Penny thought, Charlotte Wingate would hear that hum and become alertly suspicious before the artist attempted to capture her. Then, Penny heard heels clattering on the steps descending toward the studio. Snippets of conversation made their way through the wall.
". . . a grueling session . . . she’s resting upstairs . . ." That was Jakobs, probably covering for Penny’s absence.
". . . to the point . . . someone who looked like you . . . speaking to Mindy at halftime . . . hope you have some idea . . . did she mention any plans . . ." Wingate speaking, first close than far, probably walking around inspecting the studio for clues.
". . . must be mistaken . . . never met . . . parents very worried, I’m sure . . ." Jakobs again, but further away, near the door and the table where he had set the bottle and cloth.
". . . more checking . . . a flight attendant . . . Keisha Poole . . . last seen only two blocks from here at a service station. She was asking directions . . . this street." The detective’s voice was louder and stronger now. She must be at the wall in front of Penny’s pedestal. Facing the wall. Her back to Jakobs!
"Are you sure you haven’t seen either of these two women . . . mmmmppff," something was placed over Charlotte Wingate’s mouth. And then the sound of grunting and muffled yells. A struggle. The grunting is louder, and the muffled sound a little softer, and then fewer sounds, further apart. Finally, a last weak cry. And then silence. Then the sound of something being dragged across the floor. Shoes. Women’s heels.
The sound stops further away, and then come the unmistakable sounds of clothes being removed. At first slowly, and cautiously, and then intermittent tears of fabric. Those sounds stop after a few moments, and there is walking across the room. And then, the most ominous sound of all. A wall moving, and a new pedestal being moved onto the studio floor. More walking, and then more dragging. Something – someone – to put on the pedestal. Hardly any sound now for a few moments, and then the sound of a rope being tied into a knot. More walking, and then a loud humming noise. Involuntarily, a tear comes out of Penny’s eye and tickles as it rolls down her cheek. She knows that Franz Jakobs has put the attractive female detective on her own pedestal. And she knows that her last hope for rescue ended when that humming began. All that remains now is the spraying, and the hardening, and the darkness.
But as the humming grows louder, Penny thinks she detects the humming in her pedestal to be diminishing. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but no, there is less humming in her pedestal. As Penny ponders what this means, her lips begin to loosen, and she can open her mouth. Her neck begins to move a little, as well. She tries not to get too excited. It’s just a start. She’s got to think of what to do next. But an encouraging thought comes to Penny’s mind. She would bet a heap of money, that Franz Jakobs has never tried to make two statues at the same time before.
As Penny tries to move her shoulders, her pedestal begins to move again, and she hears the sounds of all the pedestals moving. In a few moments, she and the once living statuary are on the studio floor once more.
Jakobs stands in the middle of the room, exulting over his trophies. "All my beauties! All my beauties! Here for me to see and enjoy, forever!" He walks over to the stewardess – Keisha Poole, wasn’t it – and rubs his hand down her dark wooden leg from her knee all the way to the tip of her woodened shoe. The "Boudoir Temptress" is the next to receive Jakobs’ loving touch, as he snaps the garter at the top of her red nylons in glee. The artist poses for a moment before his "Beach Bunny," tilting his head and allowing the sunlight from a small high window to cast a special shine on her bronze surface. And then he walks to the gilded co-ed, Mindy Simpson. "I owe you a special, thanks, my golden lovely, for my latest acquisition."
Until this moment, Penny had been ignoring this insane display of Jakobs’ covetousness, as she gained a bit more movement in her shoulders and upper arms, particularly the right arm. She wasn’t sure how moving her arms would help her escape before the sculptor sprayed her permanently to the pedestal. But she had to keep trying.
Hearing Franz address the cheerleader, Penny remembered the detective who had interrupted her transformation, and at least given her a slight chance to work herself free. Charlotte Wingate. And now as she slowly moved her neck to take in the poor victims of Jakobs’ evil, her eyes began to follow a trail of clothing – a navy jacket, then skirt; a torn blouse and white slip; then a pair of wadded up pantyhose inches from a discarded blue brassiere. The bra was only inches from another of Jakobs’ evil pedestals, only this slab, empty moments before, was now occupied. Penny’s eyes came to rest upon the only other figure on a pedestal not yet hardened into artistic permanence. And she visibly shuddered.
The paralyzed body of Charlotte Wingate knelt on the pedestal, one hand up in a what appeared to be a clenched fist, her eyes staring in that direction. The attractive detective appeared to be completely nude, but staring more closely Penny saw that she still had on a pair of blue bikini panties. All of the detective’s features, even her countenance, was completely immobile. Apparently Jakobs had turned her pedestal on full blast. Penny wondered what canister the artist would wheel to Charlotte’s pedestal. Would she be marble like Penny? Or gilded, like the young woman she was trying to find? Or perhaps Franz had some solution he had not yet used in his display – clay, or wax, or silver?
More tears were streaming down Penny’s face, and while she knew that negative thinking was bad in her situation, anger was good. And she was getting very angry.
The joyous artist walked to Wingate’s pedestal next, gave her body a few quick pushes here and there to make sure she was indeed immobile, and then untied the rope that had held the chloroformed detective’s body in position until he could activate her pedestal. Once he removed the rope, he stood back from the figure, put his chin in his hand, and studied.
"I have forgotten something – of course!"
He snapped his fingers, and quickly walked over to the cabinets near the front. He opened one door and then the next, rifling through several props and objects contained therein. And then he shouted, "Aha! Here it is!" and quickly walked back to the detective’s pedestal. At first, Penny couldn’t see what he had found, but as soon as he placed it in the detective’s outstretched fist, his tableau became clear.
Now, the immobile face of private detective Charlotte Wingate stared intently into a magnifying glass she held in her immobile fist.
"Excellent! Excellent! I wish you could see this, Ms. Hoze. This is a momentous day for my private gallery. Two beauties added, each with a special theme and title. And if my process works, Ms. Wingate’s title will be even more appropriate."
As the artist walked back to the control panels, Penny was feeling even more movement in her arms, and even some feeling in her hips. She needed more time, as the buzzing in her pedestal grew minutely dimmer as each moment passed. She had to stall Jakobs. "What do you mean, ‘your process’? Does it have something to do with the magnifying glass?" She asked.
"Not exactly, my dear Penny. My various sprays make attractive coatings, and provide a certain level of preservation. But the coatings still eventually crack, and the beautiful bodies beneath eventually decay. But I designed a special power booster, attached to Ms. Wingate’s pedestal, which provides a level of current so strong it results in more than paralyzing. It actually petrifies, solidifies, changes molecular structure from animate to inanimate. From beautiful living female – to a perfectly formed, perfectly shaped, figure of solid stone. Hence my title," the artist held up a rough draft of his intended plaque for Charlotte Wingate: ‘No Stone Unturned’ it read.
"Perfect, don’t you think? ‘No Stone Unturned’ for the detective. And yet the female is ‘Turned to Stone.’ Perfect, just perfect."
Yeah, thought Penny, you should go to work for the ‘Jumble’ puzzle people. But at least Jakobs’ tirade had given Penny’s body a few more moments to become unparalyzed. The question was, would she have enough time?
The answer to that appeared to be no. "Don’t worry, pretty Penny. I haven’t forgotten about your marble spray. I’ll be there in just a moment, as soon as I increase the voltage to our lovely detective." Jakobs turned a dial in the pedestal control panel, and the humming in Charlotte Wingate’s pedestal became even louder. And Penny literally gasped as the detective became paler, and more rigid. The artist’s plan was working. He was turning Charlotte into a statue of stone!
"You see, Ms. Hoze, it is working!" The large smile on Franz Jakobs’ face became one of puzzlement. "Wait a minute. How can you ‘see’? You weren’t facing Ms. Wingate’s pedestal. And how are you speaking? I paralyzed you up to your nose."
Uh oh, thought Penny, he’s figured it out. And it came at the worst time. The extra voltage going to Charlotte’s pedestal was draining even more power from Penny’s. The lovely blonde could lift both her arms and hands, and even bend forward at the waist. But there was still enough voltage in the pedestal to hold her legs fast to the stone. And time had appeared to run out.
"Well, I see I need to make a slight adjustment before spraying you, Ms. Hoze. I’ll need to reduce Ms. Wingate’s voltage temporarily – pity, too, she was nearly finished." Sure enough, the female detective’s breasts already appeared to have hardened, and her widespread greyness indicated the rest of her was soon to follow. Jakobs turned the appropriate dials, and the voltage began to more evenly distribute itself. Penny could feel increased vibration in her own pedestal, and knew she’d very soon be completely immobile. And probably forever, this time. She had to do something.
"Now be patient, my lovelies, while I increase the current coming to the studio," the artist said, taking a screwdriver and opening a small electric panel next to the control boxes. "This won’t take but a couple of minutes, and then everything will be back to normal."
Normal? There was absolutely nothing normal in this whole house, Penny thought, as she desperately tried to think of a way out. Time was almost up. The increased vibration in her pedestal was already causing her hips to stiffen, and she knew her arms would be next. She had to stop that voltage, but how?
As Penny desperately looked around for some inspiration, her eyes fell on the hardened marble clump that Jakobs had first shot out by mistake when Charlotte Wingate rang the door chime. It was firmly attached to the pedestal, but the fluctuations in voltage and vibration had caused it to loosen. Half of the clump hung over the edge of the pedestal, and when Penny stretched with her arm, she was able to get her hand under the overhang. And when she pulled, it came loose.
She now had a rather large projectile in her hand, and her eye was on the pedestal control box, still open near where Jakobs was working on the electrical current. If Penny could hit that control box just right with the chunk of marble, maybe the vibration would lessen – or stop – in her pedestal, and she could get free before Jakobs made his repairs. Hitting that control box was her only chance. She was a softball shortstop from way back, so she knew she could make an accurate throw just this once . . .
Unfortunately for Penny, her athletic memory was slightly off. She was not a shortstop in softball, and her throw of the marble chunk missed the control panel by a few feet.
Fortunately for Penny, she had played softball and did have a strong arm. She had played third base, not shortstop, and so her throw was a few feet to the side. The marble chunk missed the pedestal control box, but landed with a soft thud in the side of Franz Jakobs’ head. The artist lurched forward, and the metal tip of his screwdriver thrust into the electric panel touching several connections that one should not touch with the metal tip of a screwdriver.
Jakobs’ body vibrated, shuddered, and even smoked for a few seconds, before he finally dropped to the ground, dead. Along with the electric panel and Franz Jakobs’ heart, everything shorted out in the studio, including the vibrating current heading into the pedestals on which Penny T. Hoze and Charlotte Wingate were posed. The shock was not fatal or harmful, but was potent enough to throw both women off the pedestals and onto the studio floor. After several moans and groans, Penny stood up, and stumbled and staggered over to the hunched body of Charlotte Wingate.
"Ms. Wingate! Ms. Wingate! Are you alive? Are you alright?" Penny shook the detective hard. Wingate’s head came up and stopped the overzealous blonde.
"Yes. And no. But I’ll be better once we get the hell out of here and call the police."
Charlotte picked up her coat to give her some covering, and Penny did the same with the torn blouse. As they walked to the door of the studio, they paused over the lifeless body of Franz Jakobs. His hands pointed to two signs that his falling body had knocked over. One read ‘No Stone Unturned.’ The other, ‘Precious Pearl.’
"I guess we need a sign for Franz Jakobs’ final tableau," Charlotte suggested.
Penny turned over the ‘Precious Pearl’ sign, picked up a marker, wrote on the sign, and laid it at Jakobs’ head. And the two ladies stumbled out of the studio together, leaving behind the charred body of world famous sculptor, Franz Jakobs, with a sign propped beside him reading: