"Bren . . . ! Brenndaaa . . . !!" Colin shouted breathlessly as he ran toward the motionless woman. Her still, shadowy figure stood in the centre of the path just ahead of the approaching duo.
The constable who accompanied Colin came to an abrupt halt just short of the unmoving figure.
"Oh thank heavens you're . . . ." Colin's voice trailed off, when he got close enough for a sufficient look at his temporary American partner. "Oh Brenda, . . . No!"
It was now obvious that the potential trap that Acting Inspector Taggart set had sprung in the opposite direction. Ironically, Miss Brenda Taggart herself had become the mysterious perpetrator's sixth victim.
Both men stared momentarily in disbelief. The combination of the fog that hung round them, and the shadows from the street lamps, cast an eerie light upon her unmoving figure and everything else that stood before them. There was no one else in sight.
As the uniformed constable lowered his "billy club," seemingly in defeat, Colin scanned the fog-shrouded area. His eyes darted back and forth from the bushes that lined the cobblestone path, to the darkness that lay ahead of him. Colin now returned his attention the unresponsive female statue that moments ago had been the American policewoman, Brenda Taggart. He slowly approached the latest victim of this bizarre rash of crimes, and reached out gingerly to touch her hardened cheek. He nearly jerked back, as his fingers made contact with the cold, hard, slightly moist surface.
"Oh, Brenda. The bloody bastard got to you, too, did he?." Colin said remorsefully. He appeared ready to weep, as he looked deep into Brenda's once bright, blue eyes, and saw nothing more than two fixed, glassy orbs. "I told you not to go through with this silly idear of yours. You poor, dear thing."
The now plastic form of Brenda Taggart simply gazed back at the young inspector with a blank, unseeing expression. An expression that had been molded earlier by the vanished perpetrator into a bewildered half smile.
"Well, don't just stand there, you boob!" Colin shouted to the other constable. "After the bastard. Search the pathways and call for some bloody assistance."
The other man wearily obeyed the senior officer's command, cautiously moving forward along the cobblestone path. He soon disappeared into the mist, along with his beam from his dim flashlight.
Colin once again turned his attention the rigid figure before him. His mind began to race. He noted that every detail of Brenda Taggart's body was captured in perfection. Right down to the small scar below her left ear and the slight dimple in her chin. Every article of clothing that Brenda had worn earlier, including each piece of jewelry, was also present. There was no way that the perpetrator could have had time to kidnap this cautious, determined woman, replace her with a replica, transfer the clothing and leave the scene before he and the other constable's arrival. Besides, she had been armed.
Looking into the handbag that dangled from the stiffened woman's arm, Colin realized that the weapon Brenda had been carrying was no longer present. Where could that be? Did the perpetrator or perpetrators steal the firearm? There was no scuffle, no screams, only the strange words that the unidentified stranger had spoken after Brenda's warning to Colin over the mike. "The mike!" Colin exclaimed. "Forgive me Brenda," he said apologetically, as he lifted the mannequin's short skirt.
Almost in shock, Colin gasped. The wire that Acting Inspector Taggart had worn was also still in place, and still activated. The entire episode, vague as it was had been, had all been transmitted back to the recorder in Colin's vehicle. No, this confirmed his earlier suspicions. It would have been impossible for a "switch" of the real Brenda Taggart, and this replica to have taken place. This vitrified figure was Brenda Taggart. But how was that possible?
It was also apparent, however, that the policewoman's hunch had been correct. The five previous victims of these crimes had not been merely abducted and replaced with replicas or models of themselves. The rigid figures that had been recovered were indeed the missing women. As Colin scanned Brenda's hardened, plastic body, he looked once again upon her blank, emotionless face. Her -- er, its -- hollow expression seemed to infuriate and sicken him simultaneously.
Soon the park was crawling with inspectors, curious onlookers and Press. It also wasn't long before information was leaked to the nosey reporters that the "Medusa Killer's" latest victim had been an American policewoman on special assignment to New Scotland Yard. A virtual field day ensued in the tabloids.
After the crime scene was processed, and the exhausted law enforcement agents began to thin out, the petrified body of Brenda Taggart was loaded onto a dolly and wheeled toward an awaiting truck. The stiffened form did not move in the slightest way under its own power, and simply stared blankly into the distance. Unknowing and uncaring of its whereabouts or present predicament.
Back at the mortuary, Jasper Bignall stood silently as a sixth motionless figure was carted in and placed in front of the refrigerated lockers. This newest "statue" wobbled a bit as it was set down near its five predecessors.
"My heavens, I can't believe this." Jasper said to Chief Inspector Claymoore as the plastic figure came to rest. "Miz Taggart?! Ah, Brenda?" He said remembering her insistence to address her on a first name basis. "How?"
"Playing American cowboy, or should I say, cowgirl." Claymoore replied in disgust. "Freelancing, mate. This is what it will bloody get you." The Chief inspector glanced over to where the motionless figure of Brenda Taggart stood, and returned his attention to Jasper. "I want complete lab results and a complete analysis, I imagine you could call it an autopsy, on Miz Taggart immediately. Run everything you did on the others, and then some. We'll be in to observe when you and your staff are ready."
"Yes, Sir." Jasper replied. "We will prepare the laboratory immediately."
Soon Claymoore, Colin and the remainder of exhausted, disgusted and confused inspectors crowded around a large stainless steel table that reflected the bright lights of the laboratory. Once everyone was in place, the Medical Officer beckoned his staff members and the frozen body of Brenda Taggart was carried horizontally into the room. Her stiffened form was hoisted by three staff members who clutched her unyielding body at different points individually. One man was on each ankle, the third lifted her by her hard, plastic neck, and shoulders. The female figure that the three men carried did not bend or give in the slightest way as they approached the table, and then laid down their burden with a solid "thud".
"You may begin when you are ready, Mr. Bignall." Claymoore instructed.
Receiving the command, Jasper's staff cut away Brenda's clothing, and her stiff plastic body soon lay nude on the examining table. She continued to stare blankly upward toward the bright lights in the ceiling. Her expression unaffected, the men began to examine the hardened female form that had been placed before them. Each and every detail of the young woman's body was preserved perfectly in hard, shiny, plastic.
As the biological assessment continued, every inch of the young woman's naked body was systematically, scanned and scrutinized. Her nipples stood erect from the cool night air at the time of her plastification and still retained their pinkish-tan color. Every muscle from her face to her lower legs had been captured, and hardened, just as the previous victims' had been. It was obvious to the on-lookers that what lay before them was definitely sheer hardened plastic.
Their thoughts raced. Was it really Brenda Taggart, or merely some fabricated replica?
However, many opinions were swayed as one of the medical staff members began combing the patch of stiff, brown, pubic hair surrounding Brenda's genitalia. Even the experienced inspectors seemed a bit shocked when they saw that every defining curve and intricate detail of her sex had also been transformed and hardened into unyielding plastic. This was too real.
At the completion of the examination, Brenda's plastic form was returned to its former location along with the others but unlike them, she remained nude. Normally, Brenda in life would have been aghast at being displayed in such a fashion, but in her present, and most likely permanent, form she could not have cared less.
Jasper had excused himself from the examination room, and entered the conference area where the inspectors were huddled in the early morning hour.
"Inspector Claymoore," Jasper began.
"Yes, Bignall. What did you find?" Claymoore said looking up from his files.
"Nothing new, Sir. Same results as the others. The victim's fingerprints, dental records and retinal scan match those that we have on file for Brenda Taggart. The body weight is also close on the same as Miz Taggart's, and the fluoroscope shows outlines of bone and organs as well." Jasper paused to catch his breath and composure. "Sir, although the object that we just examined, is composed entirely of solid plastic, and shows no sign of organic matter, I am convinced in my personal . . . and professional . . . opinion that this is indeed Miz Brenda Taggart. If you still require a complete autopsy, and dissection, we will proceed later in the morning."
A hush fell over the crowded room.
"No, Bignall, I don't believe we will need to turn that stone just yet." Claymoore paused, seemingly deep in thought. "However," the older man spoke up once again, "In which direction shall we proceed, ladies and gentlemen? I am open to suggestion."
Before anyone could respond, Colin's cell phone began to chirp loudly, and he reached for it reluctantly.
"Yes? This is he." He stated to the party on the opposite end. "You don't say? You did Indeed? That's spectacular, mate; I'll be right along. Right-o!"
Pressing the end button on the telephone, he turned toward the anxious crew. "They've found Acting Inspector Taggart's revolver. It has fingerprints on it that are in addition to her own. We may just have a bloody lead after all!"
The End, for now . . .