* * * * *
Before Elizabeth Page hit the floor she caught a glimpse of blood spraying to her right. Her last thought? How dare— She was dead within seconds.
Dr. Christmas Connery, Chris to all who knew her, found herself sitting on the floor, feet splayed, ten feet from the body. She had no memory of how she got to that position. When she staggered back and landed on her bottom, surprise and shock stripped her of every perception but the corpse. Slowly, awareness of her surroundings began to return. She heard someone gasping for breath and was startled to realize it was herself. Get a grip! she told herself sternly. Her self-image as a person who coped with skill and aplomb was badly shaken.
She looked around. She was in the Midstate University Museum of Art. It was dark and deserted, except for the corpse in front of her. The emergency exit lights reflected here and there off the polished chrome of the little "Do-Nothing" sculptures filling the small sculpture gallery and the aluminum ladder lying on its side beyond what remained of Elizabeth Page.
The doorway through which she'd rushed when she'd first glimpsed someone's feet where they shouldn't have been gave her a view of the Sixteenth-century Italian Mannerist paintings filling the outer gallery. Without the usual lighting they were just dark rectangles against the lighter walls. She looked back at the body, half-expecting it to be gone. It wasn't.