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Jury Selection

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Dorian Blake loved women and he was loved by them, passionately, madly... He was so attractive with his gray-blue eyes that would make a frigate keel over, his demeanour that was both virile and feline, the natural class with which he could dart a killer phrase, like a dagger, to anyone who dared contradict him. Despite his irresistible charm, this elegant thirty-year-old with his made-to-measure suits was not a soft touch. Not in any case with the staff of the business he managed with Lewis Sharpe, his long-standing associate and friend, a sawmill in the Catskills. When the two men decided by common agreement to reduce manpower costs, the axe fell without any fuss. It was Dorian who took charge of things, laying off some twenty employees without any qualms, deaf to protests from the unions. He must certainly have been less cold in love because the women he came across melted before him. He made men jealous by taking the lion’s share for himself; no rival dared pit himself against such a born seducer.
Dorian aroused many fantasies, but who really knew anything about his romantic adventures? He was so discreet in this area. People talked about his conquests but who had seen him walking along the street, in a park, or anywhere else, with one of those pretty women on his arm? When some curious person tried to find out a bit more, Dorian cut the conversation short.
Why was he so reticent? After all, Dorian was a man who liked to see people and invite friends round to dinner - he was a divine cook and all those who had tasted his chop suey remembered it as delicious. You just had to see him in an apron with his sleeves rolled up, putting his work plan into action, choosing one of the superb knives from his collection suspended from the rack and chopping onions at the speed of lightning with a chef’s dexterity: chack, chack, chack! What a virtuoso! He was also a highly ranked tennis player, with a formidable serve, a ruthless volley and a killer slice backhand, but for all that the embodiment of fair play. He never shouted or lost his temper; he knew how to keep his cool.
Whoever would have suspected that Dorian Blake had had an unhappy childhood? Whoever would have imagined that the refined, smiling young man that he was had been placed in a foster family at the age of eight because of the ill-treatment he was suffering at the hands of his father and mother, both alcoholics and drug addicts? So he had succeeded in overcoming that terrible dark period and making a success of his life despite everything. What resilience! That would have aroused the admiration of all around him but Dorian prefered to keep quiet about his tragic past. He had never told anyone about it, not even his closest friends.
Nevertheless, he was much sought after for his company. He was an intelligent, cultivated man, with many interests. He earned a very good living but did not seek to increase his assets; he spent his money without restraint, without an ounce of stinginess. Besides, everyone had noticed a charming little detail in his behaviour: Dorian never paid for anything by check. He always had bundles of notes on him and settled all his bills in cash. He must have liked to feel the notes and derived sensual pleasure from them or else it was a little touch of eccentricity that fitted his man-about-town image? Did he not have Louis XVI-style furniture in his living-room? And when it came to shaving, he prefered a cut-throat razor and shaving soap rather than an electric shaver.
If his female admirers had only known that the man turning their heads had not in fact ever lived with a woman, and that despite him appearing to be a ladies’ man, Dorian Blake had never had a romantic relationship! They would never have believed it, all those women who were jealous of his imaginary conquests, who thought that one night in his arms was worth more than all the nights spent with some other man. No, the truth was that no-one had ever shared his bed, even though he easily made people believe the contrary. His love life was a desert: nothing, ever, no kiss, no embrace, an empty chasm.

One Sunday morning in June 1966, when Inspector Steele and his squad forced the door of his home, it was too late. Dorian Blake had taken his own life by slitting his wrists. So what had pushed the dashing thirty-year-old to commit this an irrevocable act? Had his heart been broken by an unhappy love affair?
When they found the display case hidden behind a thick curtain in the office, Steele and his men suddenly realized that chance had guided them to the solution of a mystery that had remained unsolved for years.
There they were, behind that window, hair carefully arranged, blusher on their cheeks, foundation and mascara applied: Julie Schwartz, Shirley McLean, Rosie Jones, Sarah Mayer, Louise Drummond, Rebecca Stone. Six heads perfectly preserved due to the chilled environment. What had he done with the rest of their bodies? No doubt he had burned them, because no-one ever found the six women who had disappeared mysteriously in the Catskills region between 1963 and 1966.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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Image of Alisha
Alisha · ago
Appreciable..Keep writing.
Image of Bruno Teyrac
Bruno Teyrac · ago
Thank you very much for your reading and your encouraging appreciation !