Il Figlio di una Strega
The ispettore is the son of a witch. He drives a red Ferrari. Early morning sunlight glints from its chassis as he speeds through the city streets.
The song that plays on the radio is Quando, Quando, Quando by Piccola Pupa.
In the village where he grew up his mother read Tarot cards and accumulated a dark apothecary of potions and lotions. Memories of his childhood are traumatised by the sheep skull and ram horn she used as a mortar and pestle. In his youth he became chronically asthmatic from the smoggy fug of the fat Cuban cigars she blithely smoked around their cottage.
Sometimes his mother's magical rituals involved sexual liaisons with her clientele. Whether they were male or female didn't seem to matter to her. More than once he was shamed and embarrassed when he came home early and stumbled upon one of her erotic encounters.
He escaped as soon as he was old enough. Moved to the city. Worked his way up from traffic cop to the plain clothes division. But no sooner had he received his promotion than his mother celebrated his success by following him. She set up shop in a tenement block. Took out small ads in the local paper, brazenly plying her superstitious nonsense to anyone who would encourage her by crossing her palm in silver.
Her irrational behaviour causes him to be the butt of jokes at the station. She compromises his ambitions. The sports car is his act of defiance. Sometimes he feels that the growl of the engine is like the roar of his pent up anger.
The killer is a carpenter.
By day he makes items of furniture, expertly chiselling out dovetail joints with his tools.
Secretly by night he is an artist.
With the setting of each sun he finds himself gripped by a wanton creative frenzy, in which he produces fantastical constructs from driftwood and reclaimed timbers. He paints his creations in gaudy, psychedelic colours and then nails his victims to them.
They are alive when they become one with his sculptures. To the killer watching them suffer is an integral part of the artistic process. A process which does not stop when they finally die. As the cadavers bloat into putrefaction his creations become organic works of art. The wood warps and discolours from the seeping of tainted fluids, fungal spores begin to grow and multiply.
Each day brings a starkly visual delight, each dawn is a fresh revelation.
The killer has created a secret gallery in his basement. He goes there now.
By the entrance is an old gramophone player. He selects Verdi's La Traviata from his collection of records, places it on the turntable and drops the needle. As grainy operatic music fills the basement he walks slowly from sculpture to sculpture, examining what new delight the night has brought.
Here is the brothel madam, who was his first. She is nailed to a circular creation, painted to look like an archery target, leaning at a slight angle against a supporting base. Her body has wizened now, mouth agape, frozen in the final exhalation of breath.
Here is the bus conductress, still in her uniform, nailed to something that looks like a huge, prowling wolf, that is painted purple and luminous green. Her decomposition is not as far gone as the brothel madam, but her flesh has now ripened to black. In a moment of inspiration, he gouged out her eyes for good measure.
Here is the laundress. She swings on a silver painted star. A silk scarf strangulates her pale neck. Nails are driven through the palms of her hands. Her eyes are bugged out and bloodshot. Her flesh is grey and marbled in blue veins.
Here is the waitress. He created for her an upturned table, with a carved banquette befitting her profession, and she as the centre piece. She is still alive, eyelids drooping half shut, fat maggots squirming in the lesions he carved into her, gorging themselves on her living flesh.
The killer believes in his heart that he is years ahead of his time. The arias of La Taviata fill him with an unflinching confidence. One day he will throw his doors open to the public. One day the world will acknowledge and celebrate his visionary innovation.
The ispettore is assigned to the case of the missing women. His colleagues taunt him. It's fitting, they say, that the son of a witch should be the one to investigate the disappearance of those who supplemented their meagre incomes by means of the oldest of professions.
In the face of their mockery the detective is stoic and vigilant in his determination to crack the case. Who are they to judge? A woman in a menial job is no less of a person. If they stray from the straight and narrow, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. A crime is a crime is a crime. He is a detective. It his job to solve the crime.
He parks his Ferrari and trudges the streets, trying to track down witnesses. He speaks to the pimps and the pushers, the pickpockets and the peddlers. No one has seen anything. No one has heard anything. No one has anything at all to offer him. The disappearances of these women seem to have been as invisible as their existence.
The blond haired chambermaid leaves the hotel. She is wearing a blue plastic raincoat, hood up against the relentless drizzle. She hurries to the tenement where the witch has set up her den. For weeks now the chambermaid has had the suspicion that she is being followed. In all that time she has not dared to entertain a single punter. Debt collectors are prowling like wolves at her door.
She has decided that she needs protection of the supernatural variety.
The witch has a fat Cuban cigar clamped between her teeth. The acrid smoke makes the chambermaid's eyes water. The witch holds out her leathery palm and chambermaid gives her a solitary silver coin. The witch reaches out with her crooked fingers and strokes the chambermaid's blond tresses.
"There are alternatives to silver," she says, with a lusty glint in her eye.
The chambermaid shakes her head, even though the return of the silver coin could mean the difference between supper and going to bed hungry.
They sit at a table beneath the red light of the tenement's back room. When the witch turns the Tarot cards over and death is revealed the chambermaid gasps and trembles. The witch offers her reassurance and uses her sheep skull and ram horn to prepare a pungent lotion.
'Rub this on your arms and neck,' she says, chewing on her cigar. 'It will ward off evil.'
But it doesn't.
As the chambermaid hurries through an alleyway on her way home the killer steps from the shadows and clamps a handkerchief over her mouth before the scream can escape. She breathes in the chloroform. Her eyes roll upwards in their sockets.
The ispettore visits his mother. She makes him home made ravioli, stuffed with ground beef and mozzarella. But she spoils the meal by insisting on smoking a fat Cuban cigar at the table. The ispettore can see the sheep skull watching him from the shelf where it sits beside the ram's horn. Flashbacks of the trauma of his childhood flicker in his mind.
He rapidly loses his appetite.
"You're an ungrateful son," complains the witch, when he pushes his plate to one side.
"You're a terrible mother," replies the ispettore.
"You are a lousy detective," says the witch. "You can't even find the killer."
"I am good at my job," insists the ispettore.
"Then save the girl," says the witch.
"What girl?" asks the ispettore.
"The girl from the big hotel," says the witch. "I tried to protect her. But he has her now. Get off your arse and save her."
The ispettore rises from his seat in anger.
The half-eaten plate of ravioli goes crashing to the floor.
"You're crazy!" he yells, as he heads for the door. "You've no idea what you're talking about. You're a crazy old witch."
"You're no son of mine!" the witch yells after him.
The killer is admiring his latest sculpture. It is a wild, arachnid looking thing, with spidery, splintery limbs that fork out in all directions like lightening-bolts. It sits on a fat base constructed from an old wooden beer barrel. The joints are concealed so that it seems as if the thing has grown spontaneously of its own accord. Perfect for when the final touch is added.
He has painted it in the style of Jackson Pollock, frantically flicking his brushes to create wild, multi-coloured streaks and splashes. Sunlight passes through the raggedy gaps between the limbs. Dust motes dance in the shafts. The shadow that falls on the killer is that of some hellish, gargantuan tarantula.
The killer is pleased with the result and is tempted to preserve it with one or two coats of varnish. He dispels the notion. This would protect it from the corrosive and corrupting effects that are such an essential element in all of his works.
Instead he picks up a stick of charcoal and examines the sculpture from several angles before deciding exactly where the hands and feet of the chambermaid should be placed. He marks an X for each spot and sets off to fetch his nail gun.
Despite it all the ispettore loves his mother.
He decides to buy her a chair to make up for his harsh words. She can sit in it when she holds court with her clients in her smoky backroom den. He has an idea in his head what the chair should look like. He makes sketches in his notebook. He wants a pentagram carved into the backrest. It is a nice touch. He feels sure she will appreciate the gesture.
He has heard of a carpenter with a good reputation, who makes furniture to order.
He drives the red Ferrari toward the suburb where the carpentry yard is located. He passes pavement cafes. Some of the patrons are reading newspapers. The front pages show a picture of the blond haired chambermaid. The headlines read - 'Fifth Woman Goes Missing!'.
That very morning, he pinned that same picture to the felt notice board in his office.
The song that plays on the sports car's radio is Non Credere by Mina Mazzini.
The sun is sinking low in the sky when he finds the carpentry yard. He parks his Ferrari by the entrance and pushes open the unlocked gate. There is no one to be seen. The yard is full of objects of various shapes and sizes, covered in tarpaulin sheets.
Items of furniture, thinks the ispettore.
He calls out.
Beyond the covered items he finds the killer's spidery construct. In the gathering gloom the gaudy monstrosity unsettles him. Sweat beads on his brow. He can smell the newly dried splatters of paint. And something else. Something which reminds him of his dysfunctional childhood.
He breathes deeply.
His nostrils fill with the heady aroma of marjoram, moonwort and myrtle, ingredients greatly favoured by his mother. Beneath their scent there is more than a trace of the stale smoke from a Cuban cigar.
Curious now the ispettore pulls his Beretta from its holster beneath his jacket and goes in search of the source. He finds the chambermaid bound and gagged in a small outhouse, still dressed in her blue raincoat, reeking of his mother's lotion.
When he pulls the rag from her mouth she yells at him to watch out.
When he turns the killer is approaching, armed with his nail gun. The ispettore's training kicks in. He kick's the nail gun from the killer's hand and wrestles him to the ground. A struggle ensues. The inspettori knocks the killer out cold with a sharp blow to the head from the Beretta.
He unties the chambermaid's wrists and hands. When he looks back the killer is gone. He checks the bullets in the Beretta's magazine and tells the chambermaid to wait for him by the Ferrari.
The ispettore hears the sound of La Traviata blaring from the main building beyond the yard. Beretta held out before him he enters the building and quickly realises that the music is coming from the basement.
Slowly he descends the steps and finds himself shrouded in darkness. The operatic music is at full volume and somewhat disorientating. The ispettore fumbles around and finally his hand makes contact with a chord hanging down from the ceiling.
He pulls it and the basement becomes suddenly illuminated. He is faced with the dreadful quartet of the killer's gruesome exhibition, the mummified madam, the eyeless conductress, the blue, marbled laundress, and the waitress, squirming with maggots and hissing out her final breath.
The music and the horror cause him to drop his guard. The killer rushes him. This time it is his weapon that is knocked from his hand. The Beretta goes spinning across the basement floor.
The killer dodges behind the installation that bears the crucified conductress.
The ispettore scans the floor, looking for his Beretta.
When he makes a dash for it the killer pounces, sharpened chisel raised high above his head. La Traviata rises to a crescendo. The ispettore manages to dodge as the killer's hand comes plunging violently down. The blade of the chisel tears through the shoulder of his jacket and rips into his flesh.
The ispetorri falls to his knees, blood gushing from the ragged wound.
The killer raises his arm for a second attempt
"Not so fast," says a voice.
The chambermaid has appeared at the foot of the stairs.
The killer's eyes pop wide when he sees that she is armed with the nail gun. The chambermaid pumps the trigger. Five nails travel in a slow motion trajectory toward the killer.
They slam into his chest.
The killer staggers back, crimson fountains spraying from the entry wounds. When he falls he falls against the madam. Her rotting hands rip free from their rusted nails and wrap around the killer in a ghoulish embrace. Against his dead weight the supporting legs of the archery target splinter and snap. The horrific sculpture collapses and brings the others down with it in a clattering domino effect, which finally smashes the gramophone player to smithereens.
The ispettore and the chambermaid drive to the coast in the red Ferrari. Sunlight glints from its chassis. The chambermaid pulls down the hood of her blue raincoat and laughs as the wind blows back her blond hair. Sunlight glints from the engagement ring she wears on her finger. She laughs again and kisses the ispettore on the cheek. The inspettori takes the sports car up a gear. He feels that the engine purrs contentedly now, rather than growling with pent up rage.
In the back seat the witch puffs blithely on her fat Cuban cigar.
The song that plays on the radio is Se Perdo Ti by Patty Pravo.