The dead man's head was swollen, his hair matted blue-black, his lips and tongue a royal blue, his protruding
eyeballs a lighter shade, perhaps cerulean. A human gargoyle in death, he was a sight both horrible and fascinating.
A song played unbidden in Lacey’s mind. He wore bluuuue VELLLL-vet . . . Lacey, stop! NOW!
How long would
his blue skin last? Lacey wondered. Through all eternity? Or just through decomposition? With Valentine's Day less than two weeks
away, maybe he should have been dyed red instead of blue. Then again, maybe not.
Although the man had been
completely submerged in the tint, the spool of velvet was only half dyed, the unsubmerged part still cream-colored. It was a sodden
mess hanging from a long heavy chain attached to the overhead machinery of the dye house.
Lacey had been touring
Dominion Velvet, the last velvet factory in Virginia, on its final full day of operations, for a special report for her newspaper
on the vanishing U.S. textile industry. She was planning to write a fashion-related feature article, one with more substance than
style. Her agenda for the day was not supposed to include murder. Murder was never on Lacey's game plan, and yet here it was. Again.
This time death wore blue velvet.
Lacey spared a sigh for the velvet, the deceased, and the factory workers.
And herself. She wondered how the man's demise would affect her feature story. There were days Lacey detested being a fashion scribe.
Today might be one of them. I can't believe this is happening.
Standing next to Lacey and also witnessing
the royal blue debacle was Dominion Velvet's newly hired security consultant, Vic Donovan, her boyfriend. He was supposed to start
working up a security plan the next day and have new guards and a new security system on-site within a week. He was there to get a
look around, but he was getting far more than he'd anticipated.
Vic was dressed in his professional
attire, a close-fitting black turtleneck that showed off his muscles, a black leather jacket, black boots, and gray slacks instead
of his usual jeans. One pesky dark curl fell over his forehead. Lacey restrained the urge to push it back and gaze into his green
Vic Donovan, the man in her life, had tipped her off to the factory closing story. He invited
her along to the little town of Black Martin, Virginia, to see the factory firsthand while he initiated the security contract for
Dominion Velvet in its waning days. After angry graffiti was scrawled on a factory wall one night, the company had instituted some
stopgap security measures, but its original plan was not much more sophisticated than locking the doors and turning out the lights.
The workers were unhappy about losing their jobs. The local economy was devastated; there were no other jobs in town. Dominion Velvet
was afraid an empty plant would just encourage more vandalism. The company hired some local good old boy to watch the plant at night,
but he wasn’t a real security guard. Donovan’s company was hired to install a serious security system to ensure there would be no
more incidents on-site. When and if the building and the machinery were eventually sold, security would be the new owners' problem.
For Lacey and Vic, this foray to Black Martin was supposed to be a quick road trip away from Washington, D.C. Lacey could work on
her serious fashion story, Vic would meet his new client, and she and Vic could have a romantic dinner somewhere. But their plans
for a little romance were spiraling down the drain, along with the blue dye dripping from the corpse. [cont.]
Shot Through Velvet
The body was blue.
Not merely wearing blue, he was blue—and not the
blue pallor of death. He was sapphire from head to toe, a deep shade of mood indigo.
Oh, that's taking
the matchy-match thing way too far, thought Lacey Smithsonian, fashion reporter for The Eye Street Observer. No, Lacey, she told herself.This is not What Not to Wear. This is how not to be caught dead.
The corpse was lashed to the bottom of a
giant spool of velvet, fastened with strips of the same velvet, as blue as his skin. He rose dripping from a vat of blue dye, splashing
inky blue liquid on the factory's cement floor. Everywhere Lacey looked there was a serene shade of blue made obscene by death.
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