The Man

HARRODS, London (manufacturer and retailer)
Travelling hatcase (1901-1904)
leather, metal
28.0 x 46.0 x 36.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr William Weatherly Mortlake, 1976
D29-1976
(ENGLAND)
Waistcoat (c. 1850)
silk, cotton, leather, metal
56.5 cm (centre back) 48.5 cm (waist, flat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs A. Butler, 1954
1478-D4

Fashion Detective author Sulari Gentill and Sisters in Crime Australia authors Leigh Redhead and Phillipa Martin led a fiction writing workshop at the NGV inspired by the mysterious objects in Fashion Detective. Here is one of the best stories, as chosen by the Sisters in Crime.

 

The man awoke to a gently perfumed scent. It took a few concentrated blinks to clear the bleariness from his eyes and the origin of the scent was no longer a mystery. Next to his bed, placed neatly and  folded, were a pair of black gloves. The man rubbed his eyes and more detail became evident. The gloves were leather and from the delicate design and elegant, slender fingers, they were obviously custom made for a female. But why had they been placed here and to whom did they belong?

 

A sudden rush of panic entered the man’s mind, pushing the gloves firmly aside.

 

Who was he?

 

He appeared to be lying in a hotel room. The heavy folded covers, the firm and yet plush pillows were evidence enough of that and yet this worried the man more. On the bedside table he spied a wallet and grasped violently at it, knocking one of the gloves on the floor.

 

Drivers license, credit cards and a thick wad of cash was inside. The drivers license was current and his name normal enough, and from the thick wad of bills and expensively branded wallet it was obvious he was well to do.

 

He felt the panic ease away. Of course he must be an executive of sorts, recovering from an especially hearty night of enjoyment. And of course a man of his calibre would be accompanied by a young lady who obviously must be elsewhere bringing him breakfast. The man arose and examined himself it the bedside full length mirror. He was half naked, wearing only branded boxer shorts and noticed for the first time the thick gold banded watch that was buckled to his left wrist. The man stretched his body which – while deceptively slender in the wrists and legs – culminated in a small pot belly which repulsed him somewhat, and he turned away. He saw a suit discarded on the floor and picked it up. The clothes were undeniably his, the shirt light weight cotton with his initials monogrammed in cold at the cuffs, the tie a deep blue with a golden tie clip and the suit black with pin stripes which tapered exactly to his body. He noticed a pocket square protruding from his jacket pocket and turned to the mirror to adjust it. He paused once more to look at his face.

 

His eyes were red, granted, but he had just awoken. His hair was closely cropped but neat and his facial hair was thickest at his chin, tapering off towards his eyes, obviously the product of a stylist. He had a slight scratch under his left eye but the black scabs indicated that it was already healing. He turned around and spotted a pair of shiny black shoes across the room and strode confidently over to grab them, grasping the sides of his jacket as he walked. But as he stopped to grab them he gazed out of the window and was shocked to see it was night, or perhaps early morning. His room was many storeys up and while there were a number of high rise buildings nearby, there were no lights on in them, the street lights illuminating empty walkways and streets barren of cars.

 

He shrugged, it mattered not, and tied his shoes, brushing an errant piece of dirt on a nearby curtain. As he turned to walk back to the bed he noticed a small pile of empty liquor bottles and chuckled. He could see the bright gleam of his teeth the far mirror. He walked back past the bed and placed the wallet in breast pocket, and, pulling open a few bedside drawers, found a small black phone in a monogrammed case.

 

He pressed the touch screen and saw that he had seven missed calls. The location, some sort of agency, did not ring a bell, so he pocketed the phone. They could wait. He was feeling hungry.

 

He entered the bathroom and stopped dead in his tracks. It was drenched in blood, everything from the mirrors to the shower to the rug on the floor was saturated with still damp blood, and at the centre of the room, her head lolling over the partially filled bathtub, was a young blonde girl, naked from the waist up.

 

The man gagged, his first impulse was to vomit, so he carefully removed his jacket and placed it outside the room. He wandered closer. The woman didn’t appear to be breathing. He partially extended a hand to check her pulse, then withdrew it. The sink seemed clean except for a few drops of blood, so he moved over to splash some water on his face. It was then that he saw his knuckles in the blood spattered mirror – they were bruised, scratched and he had crusted blood under his fingernails.

 

His face was remarkably clean, blemish free with hypnotic brown eyes and clean, manicured eyebrows. He glanced at the woman again, noticed her pert breasts and felt aroused. He leaned in closer to examine her until a loud pounding and yelling interrupted him. A flicker of annoyance crossed his face at this rude invasion, and he considered ignoring the persistent knocking.

 

He washed the crusted blood from his fingers and stepped past the woman, gently brushing her shoulder with his leg. He paused for a minute while he carefully brushed and put on his jacket. The hotel window had a fire escape but as he moved closer he noticed raindrops beating against the windows, their sound drowned out by the heavy pounding and clamour at his door. He looked at the rain, and down at his jacket and back at the rain. It would be a crime to submit such a fine fabric to water damage.

 

He strode confidently to the door, and reached for the knob.

 

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