Alonzo Baker couldn’t believe it. An invitation to the home of the world famous Florian Willamette. A personal invitation! What could it be for? How did Florian Willamette even know his name? Alonzo was but a poor old clothing designer. An up and coming one but generally unknown. He’d only ever been to one of Willamette’s parties and only for a minute or two in passing as much more important people vied for the man’s attention.
Less than a week had passed since his friend’s old roommate’s funeral. He’d been missing for close to a month and suddenly his body was found. It was a terrible tragedy and it had left a hole in the lives of those closest to him. Alonzo tried to be as supportive as he could but he really didn’t know the guy, so the best he could do was be a sturdy shoulder to cry on. Then this. A hand written letter delivered to him. It had to be a prank, right? Alonzo was convinced of this right up until he hit the buzzer on the front gate of Willamette’s home. When the gate opened he freaked. When the front door opened he freaked even more. Could this really be happening? To him? What had he done to deserve this?
“Mr. Willamette I am such a fan it’s an honor to make your, well, I’m so happy to meet, um, yeah I am very admiring of your work and…” Alonzo’s fawning died when he saw the man coming down the stairs. He was a shell of a person. His hair and his eyes were wild and his normally well kept facial hair was a mess. His clothes disheveled. His face gaunt with a greying pallor.
“Hello. You must be Alonzo. The third one.”
“Please come in. Please. I have some questions.” He led Alonzo to a dimly lit office. Design concepts and sketches lined the walls and desks.
“These are amazing. You make the bodies look so beautiful,” said Alonzo nervously.
“Yes. Yes. I am trying something new. Did you know Jeremiah Scott Spencer?” Willamette asked.
“Oh. Um. No. I mean, not really. Did you know him?” Alonzo asked, very confused.
“In a way, I guess. I met him. But I saw he passed recently,” said Willamette.
“Yes,” said Alonzo.
“He wasn’t the person everyone thought. I found this out when I met him,” said Willamette.
“He fell on hard times from what I heard. A real shame,” said Alonzo. What was this about?
“That’s not what I mean. Of course, of course.”
“So, why did you, uh, call me here? I am honored to meet you but I feel like maybe this isn’t the best time,” said Alonzo.
“I’m sorry for my haggard appearance. I’ve been… busy. Thinking about my future. My legacy. Working on new designs. Figuring out what the name Willamette really means to the world.”
“Well, obviously it means genius,” said Alonzo. Willamette laughed. It was almost a cough it was so violent and guttural.
“Flattery. I love when people appreciate what I’m trying to do.”
Alonzo wanted to bolt. And now that he had a closer look, the bodies in those sketches looked very bent and misshapen and not like normal bodies at all.
“I think maybe I should go.”
Willamette opened a drawer and pulled out a pistol.
“Please stay. I think it’s important that we collaborate on a project I’ve been working on,” said Willamette. Alonzo didn’t talk much after that.
Later, Willamette went back to his notes. Violence and threats of violence worked differently on every person. His research on interview and interrogation techniques hadn’t been much help. By now his desperation was seeping through his every pore. There weren’t many left who could help him. George Albert and Miss White and a few others had yet to respond to his missives. Would they be receptive to him? It bothered him that so far nobody really got who Jeremiah was. Not like he did. How could he show them? How could he show everyone the truth? That’s when inspiration struck and his artist’s heart led him to the path he now walked. He needed to get a clearer picture of how Jeremiah’s “friends” thought of him. The very same people that monster would have killed had Willamette not taken care of him first. It became clear rather quickly that none of these people understood the real Jeremiah in the slightest. All they saw was the façade. The lies.
He hoped they would collaborate with him on this new project. Their insights were invaluable. The trouble was that they didn’t understand what he was trying to do. One by one they refused his request. But he couldn’t just let them go. And spoil the surprise? They had to stay with him. Had to stay silent. He couldn’t reveal his work just yet. But he had to work quickly. People would start to notice the disappearances. And the amount of food he was purchasing. Everyone would understand once he was finished. They would understand why he resorted to these methods. They would forgive him. They just couldn’t tell anyone yet.
The thought never crossed his mind that perhaps they wouldn’t appreciate it. That they wouldn’t see what he saw. He couldn’t even conceive of how he would react should this latest project turn out to be a flop. But the colors, the placement, the material! The fire of a confident man burned in his chest, but underneath that, the slow simmering flame of rage. Oh, but this would be his finest work to date. A renaissance. Florian Willamette was just getting started!
He could picture the interview now.
Fashion Mag: So, Florian, darling, what inspired this latest masterwork?
Florian Willamette: Well, I realized that people are liars. They lie. These lies surround a person until nothing authentic remains visible. When the truth comes out, in a scandal, in a shooting spree, it is jarring because it is so stark a change.
FM: Which brings us to your current project. Where did the vision for this begin?
FW: For that I have to thank my muse. Jeremiah Scott Spencer. My would-be killer.
FM: And why’s that?
FW: Because he showed me the truth.
And then they’d see. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that’s the trick! The beholders themselves lie. They lie to themselves. Jeremiah Scott Spencer, bless his soul, thought he was worthy. He tried so hard to be what Florian had become. Successful. Connected. Famous. He was lying to everyone but ultimately he was lying to himself. What he really was was a monster. A killer. A murderer. That’s why the killings had to end with Willamette. The final person Jeremiah wanted to kill was himself but he didn’t see himself as what he was; a lonely, desperate, violent, prideful, impotent little man. Instead he saw himself as a failed Willamette. A Willamette yet to be. Some day. Just maybe. But genius isn’t made. It’s born. No amount of hard work can make it happen. They would understand. He would make them understand.
Florian was almost done with it. He just needed more supplies. But they wouldn’t arrive in time. That was fine. He could just run down to the corner market and grab what he needed real quick. He was so caught up in the dreams of his vision that he didn’t even notice the men in fine black suits walking behind him.
Earlier that day,
George Albert was sifting through his mail in the back office of his shop when he came upon two letters that caught his eye. One was hastily written and addressed to him by a William or someone or other. The other was a plain sealed envelope. He opened it cautiously, the slight worry that it could be laced with anthrax making him go slowly. Inside he found a single typed page with serious looking font and a still from some kind of television program or documentary film. Was that Florian Willamette? The Florian Willamette? He read the letter. It began:
Dear Mr. Albert,
We would like to bring to your attention your impending murder.