He was not to be confused with a pianist.
That was the first rule. The second rule was to not make eye contact with him if you were considered a beautiful woman. Especially if you were considered a beautiful woman. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, because there was only one kind to him: innocent beauty.
Gwendolyn Jones was not an ordinary woman, but then again, no one was ordinary. It’s better if we say that she did not act like ordinary women: having preferred climbing trees in her childhood over embroidery with her grandma, skipping pebbles in the lake over sipping tea with her finishing school ‘friends’, and manning the machines in the textile factories over teaching French to her sisters at home.
It’s a wonder she even bears a silver engagement ring on her hand. Perhaps it was the vast stretch of land her father owned which attracted the greedy eyes of her fiance. Perhaps it was the sum of money she would inherit – according to his will. Or perhaps, it was the only nineteen inch waist in town that often made her swoon into the waiting arms of the nearest man at the annual balls. But the one thing that set her apart from the rest of the village was her love for words. Words. Truly ostentatious. When she wasn’t doing laundry in the yard, she was reading. When she wasn’t dusting the shelves, she was reading. When she wasn’t fitting the sheets – you guessed it – she was reading.
Witch, they would whisper behind their hands, behind her back, behind closed doors.
Witch, they would mutter when she passed by every morning to the factory.
Witch, they would spit when she adjusted her bonnet over her loose hair on the way to the marketplace, when she curtsied until her cleavage deepened like the rouge on her cheeks, when she swayed her supple waist a little too much when she walked. The same waist their hungry hands yearn to seize. The same full breasts their fingers craved to squeeze. The same silky locks they wished pooled onto the mattress around her bare body while they did as they pleased.
Gwendolyn was not considered a beautiful woman. She was hardly even considered a woman in the eyes of the people who knew her. And for those who didn’t know her, well, her reputation precedes her. What she had was not beauty. No, she was desirable – not that the many hubristic men who glared upon her with lust wished to admit that. For what she lacked in beauty, she made up with innocence. You could even call it: innocent beauty.
There was an urban legend: one that told of a feared murderer. One that told a piano man. He was not to be confused with a pianist because he did not merely play the piano, the piano was part of him. He carried music in every step, melodies in every breath and symphonies with every wispy word that trailed through his lips. He was also a murderer, if I hadn’t mentioned that yet.
Legend has it that his hands were the softest hands in the world. A brush of his feather touch across the ivory coated spruce keys could make one faint from euphoria. His voice, smooth as the velvet draped helplessly across the seat, would trace his golden cufflinks that glimmered in the dust until it pooled onto the ground under the moonlight. That was another thing: he only played under cloudless, moonlit nights. No one ever seemed to remember what his face looked like because they always got lost in his eyes. Those eyes, seeming to hold open the curtains into parallel galaxies, would stare right through your consciousness, almost as if asking, pleading you to tell them: what do you desire the most?
It’s really a shame no one remembers what his face looked like; But then again, those fortunate enough to drown in his eyes never lived long enough to tell anyone. Truly unfortunate.
You would think a man who looked like him would pursue something more prosperous, more rewarding; But perhaps that was the way he viewed murder. However, he still was a man and like all men, he wanted one thing: women. Beautiful women. Innocent women. He didn’t intend to revel in their beauty like most men desired, however, he longed to kill them. There are plenty of speculations as to how he carries that out, but rumors are a scandalous affair and I wouldn’t want to spread any groundless allegations.
Perhaps the main reason why this man’s name – well, not his name – made it this far was his meticulous, and nearly arbitrary way of killing. That and his music. Music that made knees weak, pulses quicken and blood spill. Music that lured women from their slumber and out onto the dimly lit streets. Music that tempted the innocent like Eve by the apple. Music that eased the beautiful away from their loving husbands. It has been said that every piece of music played was composed from the soul of the last. And the next helpless victim who fell into the whimsical abyss always felt a tug of the harmony on the strings of their hearts. They venture to the man under the asylum of the night looking for an answer to their sorrows. What do you desire the most?
They always receive their answer, but it comes with a price.
It’s quite a pity that Gwendolyn was not from the city and therefore never heard of the legend. However, she had nothing to fear: the piano man had not been heard of in over a decade. Besides, it was only a legend. Right? That was what everyone thought until they stood frozen inside his music, melting in his voice and drowning in his eyes. Had Gwendolyn heard the legend, perhaps she would’ve been more reluctant before following his trail. With a mind as sharp as hers, you would think she would turn the other away as soon as she heard the opening notes of D Minor playing.
It was late autumn: the second best season for murder. The ground was cloaked in dead leaves that crunched under the glossy shoes of men clutching briefcases rushing back home before the dusk fell on the river and Darkness engulfed them all.
Gwendolyn Jones was not in a rush. She was young, after all, and young people never understood the inevitability of time; Not until they faced the Darkness. Pulling the hood of her Victorian jacket over her windblown hair, she waltzed through the cobbled street, feet dancing across the stones like koi fish weaving through the ripples of her grandmother’s pond. Without a care for the fading light barely illuminating her long way back home, she nuzzled her neck further into the ruff of her collar and breathed in the fresh smell of Darkness. She has never minded being alone: not when her cousins all ran away from her while they played in hopscotch in the streets, not when her mother left her in the hands of their supercilious neighbor for months at a time to indulge in an affair she never had the heart to tell her anyone about until it was too late, not when the scarlet fever seized her beloved father by the throat and dragged him into the Darkness without giving her the chance to tell him she loved him. Yet a part of her – so small she often overlooked it – yearned for the soft touch of a hand, the soothing spell of a voice, and the beat of a heart for her.
Perhaps this was why she did not want to hurry back home although her hands ache from manning the machinery all day. The light of her estate, well her fiance’s estate, calls to her from nearly half a mile away in the dark, rolling hills of the dusk. Perhaps this was why Gwendolyn happens to hear the single B flat note echo through the dim streets. What makes her stop, however, is a single tear that rolls down her cheek and dips onto her ample bosom, glistening under the dying light of the streetlamps. She feels the melancholic yearning behind that single note, the same painful heartbreak she had felt since slipping the silver engagement ring onto her finger and locking her life into place under the hands of a man she wished never to see again. How ironic: if only she knew. Turning around, she stares into the hollow doors of an abandoned opera house. Despite all the horror story books she stole from her uncle, this scene in front of her did not stir up any kind of fear, rather, it intoxicated her. So in that moment, she makes a fateful decision: Gwendolyn takes a step away from her fiance, simultaneously locking her fate under the hands of another man.