Moscow had a lot of museums. And that wasn’t a good thing.
Tied to my mother by morals, I was forced to follow her around the various exhibits she wished to visit. The irony of it all was that I was meant to be pleased by it, having been the one who suggested the trip in the first place.
On the other hand, and this was a revelation that surprised myself, there was one place that caught my interest.
The exterior building was shabby, defaced repeatedly by animals, the white granite, grey by now, almost buckling under the weight of spring’s ever-lasting snow.
Classical music dripped from a warm, open door, inviting us in; and that was when I saw the full beauty of the interior place.
The noise of excited chatter managed to drown out the hoof-like sounds of ever-hurrying footsteps; the light did not blind, but for a second I had to shade my eyes as the shadows of the visitors swarmed in and out of the faux chandelier light.
We had found ourselves in an art-gallery-museum, arrows affixed to the walls pointing out the various ‘famous’ exhibits, and some other good ones besides. I marvelled at the…creativity of what I was seeing beyond my eyes; I could see that every work had been crafted with the most passion and care, as I would have done with a piece of music, back when music was the ultimate thing I cared the world about. But that had gone to the back of my mind, along with my father, a man who I had chosen never to see again.
He had just hardened my proof that love was not as simple as a game of give and take.
My mother shuffled us through to the ticket office and, having bought tickets in her hurried manner, she began to guide my brother and I around the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. I actually felt myself perk up and listen to what various tour-guides were saying. My mother took notice of this.
“Are you enjoying this, Aggie?” she asked.
“Oh yes, definitely,” I replied, looking up from an abstract sketch of scarab beetles clambering over each other.
My mother beamed.
"Isn't it wonderful? Everything is so peaceful here."
I wandered on to the next painting by the same artist, showing darkened, red skies and figures of death hovering below, feasting on what seemed to be crying, live victims. Somehow, I think it was disagreeing with her.
A loud voice ahead summoned my attention. A scrawny tour guide was standing on a bunch of steps, speaking slowly in clear English to a group of obnoxious, old foreigners.
"This way, this way," he beckoned them, "to the most controversial piece of artwork for 2011."
My curiosity piqued, as sometimes odd things had a habit of doing, I followed the group of seniors and their guide, making sure that Ben and my mother were aware and following. One elderly lady shot me a curious look, to which I glared right back. There was, however, something familiar about her, and I couldn't help give my curious stare back in order to try and work the puzzle out. I couldn't grasp at whatever ‘it’ was, and it fell between the fingers of my mind...
"Oh, Agnetha, I've read about this. It's meant to be quite a shocking, and rather odd, piece of art," I heard my mother’s voice screech at me.
"Great!" I said, and bounded up the steps out of my her grip.
The next room I wandered into was a white-lit one, with a white floor and tiled white walls. I guessed it was meant to give out an essence of clinical-ism, bright, clean, and sensible to contrast the array of artifacts being boxed in by the white.
I ignored the Tracy Emin-style messed up beds and slighted erotica to walk over to where the majority of tourists were in this room.
Being short-legged, I pushed a path through the people.
"And this," the guide was saying, "this is The Coffin of Rushcliffe..."
It was a coffin. I boggled, laughing to myself. On a stainless white platform was a large wooden box, about the size of a young woman's coffin, polished and painted in a coat to give a false wooden grain.
What was more surprising about it, however, were the large metal hinges and padlocks, shining in their silver coats. They had been used in place of nails to shut the casket, but looked far more vicious; silver keys had been painted in various positions around the coffin, some out of view, the ends pointing to the matching locks.
"This is also called 'Trapped'. As Rushcliffe didn’t want to be fully associated with the piece himself, he gave it two names" announced the guide. I nodded along with the crowd of O.A.Ps. Appropriate.
The floor around the box was a network of silver and dull red meshing. I leant forward, frowning at it. I was ever so tempted to touch it.
"It's weird, isn't it?" said an American tourist beside me.
I giggled as he walked away. Checking my mother wasn't around, I whipped out the letter. Caroline's second letter to me. The same Ms. Caroline Peterson I hadn't seen for years had (not quite) turned up out the blue, sending me a letter when I had sent one to her years ago.
Something's happened. I can't tell you much now, but I think your intelligence will be needed over here. You know where I am. Karkroff Hall. You can become a special private-investigator here, if you like.
Come soon, please... We may not be safe...
Now I just had to put my plan into action.