Home > Inked Forever

Inked Forever
Author: Dale Mayer


Chapter 1



Tasmin Baker opened up the shop door, twisting the sign to Open. Then she propped the door wide open to let out some of the formaldehyde fumes, turned on the lights and headed to the back room, where she put on the coffeepot. When she turned back again, a man, a huge presence, filled the room. Yet she felt no fear.

He stared at her and asked, “Tasmin Baker?”

“Yes, that’s me.” She walked toward him with a cup in her hand. “What can I do for you?”

“I understand you run a very unique business.”

She snorted at that. “Yeah, something I fell into.”

He hesitated and then asked, “I don’t suppose you’d care to tell me how?”

“No, not really. What are you, a reporter?” Such disgust filled her voice that she immediately tried to change her tone. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it quite that way.”

“I’m not a reporter. I’m a cop.”

At that, she froze, looked up at him, and frowned. “I have a business license, and everything is in order. Even my taxes are paid.”

He held up a hand. “That’s not why I’m here.”

“Sure,” she quipped. “In my experience, cops don’t usually come by for any good reasons.”

He relaxed slightly. “That may be, but I’m not trying to make your life more difficult. However, I do have a few questions for you.”

“Yeah, about what?”

He hesitated and then added, “One of the pieces that you’re preserving.”

She groaned. “Look. A licensed doctor did the cuttings. I have all the paperwork, including the legal stuff,” she stated. “Man, I have more paperwork than you can shake a stick at,” she declared, her tone somewhere between mildly irritated and pissed. “It’s all legal, I assure you. Who is it you’re talking about?” She looked around. “I have quite a few cuttings here. As I told you, I keep a lawyer on tap to help me with this.”

“I get that,” he replied, then looked at one of the framed pieces. “That’s your uncle, isn’t it?”

“I hate the way you say that,” she admitted. “That is a piece of my uncle’s artwork, yes,” she stated cautiously.

“Right.” The cop turned and looked at a couple others on the wall. “Have you ever had any bad press over this?”

“Lots,” she answered succinctly. “People don’t want to see tattoo preservation as an art form.”

“It is very personal,” he noted, looking at her, “and it crosses all kinds of boundaries that make people uneasy.”

“Yes, I get that, but what does that have to do with you?” He hesitated. She wrapped one arm around her ribs then took a sip of her coffee, her eyes watchful.

“Has anybody tried to stop you from doing this?”

She shrugged. “Not really. Most people don’t know all the details, except for those interested in having their ink preserved.”

He nodded. “So there have been no attacks on your shop or anything like that?”

“No. Why?” she asked curiously. She looked around and frowned. “I mean, everything seemed normal when I opened this morning, but I haven’t really had a chance to get started. This my first cup of coffee since I was a little late coming in, but now you’ve got me worried.”

“Could you take a look around, please?”

She stared at him for a moment, then slowly nodded. “I gather you won’t tell me anything until we get that far.”

“No, it would be nice if I could clear something up first.”

She put down her coffee cup and glared at him but walked around, checking to make sure everything was as it should be. Then she headed to the back room, to her workshop.

When she got into the workshop, she flicked on all the lights, looked around, and said, “It looks okay in here.”

“What about artwork?” he asked.

“I’ve got four pieces in progress right now,” she stated, as she turned to look at the pieces she had saved. “I’ve got two that are here.” She pointed them out. “Then I’ve got another one in the drying room.”

She walked into the drying room, frowned, and looked back at him. “That one’s missing.”


“Yes,” she cried out. “Oh my God, it’s missing-missing.” She frantically went through the shop. Then she turned slowly, looked at him, and asked, “You knew it wouldn’t be here, didn’t you?”

He hesitated.

“Stop,” she cried out. “I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t know what this has to do with you. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m missing a piece that matters a lot to somebody, and I will wind up in a shitstorm if I don’t find it.”

“I think I can help you with finding it,” he said, “but it might have been damaged.”

She stared at him, then he pulled out his phone and showed her an image of a beautiful tattoo.

She nodded. “Yes, that’s it,” she cried out in relief. Then she looked at him in shock. “What do you mean, damaged? How did you get it?”

“It was found in one of the fountains downtown,” he explained, “stretched out and nailed into the bottom of the fountain.”

She stared across the room, her bottom lip trembling, her gut twisting at the image. Ever-so-slowly afraid she’d break and rage at him, she whispered, “What?”

He nodded slowly. “Somebody decided that preserving the art was the right thing to do, but private it was not,” he noted, “and he put it out for public display. Do you want to tell me who this artwork belongs to?”

She swallowed hard. “A model, a beautiful model who ended up with cancer and died twelve days ago. I got the legalities taken care of on behalf of her family, with all the paperwork, and the surgeon cut the tattoo off her back, and it was sent to me to preserve for her family.”

He nodded. “So, do you have any explanation as to how it went from your shop to a fountain where this model’s tattoo is now on display for the rest of the world to see?”

To say she didn’t have an answer was one thing, but, as she stared at the craggy features in front of her, she realized he wasn’t really looking for those kinds of answers. She took a second, then spoke. “I don’t know what to say.”

He produced his business card, as a way to formally introduce himself. Then he continued with his questions. “Do you have a security system?”

She nodded. “An alarm, and it was on when I opened up this morning,” she said cautiously.

At that, his gaze narrowed. “And you got here to Inked Forever at what time?” He pulled out a notebook and started to ask her questions.

She knew she had to answer but didn’t have much to give him. She provided as many details as she could. “I came in at eight a.m., unlocked the door, and disarmed the system. I put on coffee and came back out to find you had walked in,” she said quietly.

“Who knows the security code?”

“Lorelei, who’s my sister, and my mother, who both come in to cover for me every once in a while. I’ve had others but no one recently.”

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