Joe was seventeen years old with blond hair and blue eyes. His six foot athletic frame was straining to remain still. He had been posing for Artie Winfield, the photographer for Sebastian Demar, the European clothes designer, for well over four hours and he was hot, tired, and sick of smiling when he could think of nothing about this predicament that made him happy.
"Okay, that's it for today," Artie declared twenty minutes later. "Frank, take this film to Beverly," he instructed the brown headed, brown eyed, six foot one Frank Hardy. Frank took the film, shot his year younger brother a sympathetic smile and left to find the woman in charge of developing the film.
"Artie's tough!" Paul Wisenthorpe commented after Artie had walked away.
"Yeah, but he's the best photographer in the business," added Danny Donaldson.
Joe looked at his two fellow models. Both were his age with the same basic features except Danny had green eyes and Paul's hair was a darker shade of blond than Joe's and Danny's. The three boys had been modeling skin-tight jeans and form fitting shirts which were included in Sebastian Demar's new fall line.
"Maybe he's too tough," Joe commented, thinking about why he was there in the first place. Two models had vanished in the last two weeks without a trace. Both had been working for Sebastian Demar and both had been subjected to Artie's sharp tongue and grueling expectations.
"What do you mean?" Paul demanded.
"Well, I heard Troy and Jeff took off because of him," Joe said, fishing for information.
"No way!" Danny denied with a strong shake of his head. "Troy and Artie got pretty close. They even hung out together after some of the shoots."
"Then why did he take off?" Joe queried, tilting his head sideways.
"Maybe he had no choice," Paul answered. "There's been some things going on around here."
"What kind of things?" asked Joe, looking intently at Paul. He had already heard about someone trying to steal Demar's designs and the attempt to torch the building housing the first few completed originals of the new season.
"The phone calls for one thing," Danny said.
"What phone calls?" Joe asked, his forehead wrinkling in thought. Their client hadn't mentioned anything about them.
"Troy started getting phone calls before he disappeared," Paul said. "He said they were really annoying."
"What were they about?" Joe pushed.
"I don't know," Paul admitted. "Troy didn't say. As a mater of fact, after he told me about them, his face turned white and he refused to talk to me for the rest of the day. After the shoot, he headed for the hotel and that's the last time I saw him."
"Did Jeff get any calls?" Joe asked.
Paul shrugged. "Jeff didn't talk much. To us anyway. He always acted like he thought he was better than us."
"After that work-out, I'm surprised you three are still here," Kenny Parsons said, coming over to Joe, Paul, and Danny. Kenny was five foot eleven with sandy blond hair and blue eyes. At twenty-two years old, he had already attained status as Demar's assistant. "Go and get some rest," he ordered them.
Paul and Danny said their goodbyes and left. "I've been wondering how you became Demar's assistant?" Joe asked Kenny. "I've heard he's a hard man to be around but you seem so easy-going."
Kenny shrugged his shoulders and pushed a lock of blond hair out of his eyes. "You have to be easy-going to work for Demar," he responded. "I got lucky," he continued. "Demar was at a party I attended where I was wearing one of my own designs. He loved it! We got to talking and before long, he was offering me this job. It was too good to pass up." Kenny ended his tale with a good-natured laugh.
"You look hungry," Kenny said to Joe. "Come on, I'll buy you dinner." He and Joe headed outside, passing Frank on his way back from Beverly's office.
"Frank," Kenny said. "Joe and I are going out for dinner. Be a dear and tell Artie I'll stop by around tenish to go over the photos." Not waiting for Frank's reply, Kenny walked on.
"I guess I'll be home before tenish," Joe quickly quipped to Frank in a whisper before hurrying to catch up with Kenny.
Frank went over to Artie and relayed Kenny's message. "Ten?" Artie shouted. "Ridiculous! Beverly won't have finished with the photos by then. Mr. Parsons," Artie spat the name with disgust, "will just have to wait."
"He seems like a nice guy," Frank said, helping Artie take down his equipment.
"Never judge a subject by his picture," Artie told Frank. "The camera, in the hands of a master, can tell some big lies."
"Do you photograph anything besides models?" Frank asked him.
"Never," Artie answered. "This is my specialty. Why do you ask?" his brown eyes boring into Frank's.
"It's what you said," Frank explained. "You said not to judge a subject by its picture. I would have thought you would have said a person by his picture."
"I do not take pictures of people," Artie said a bit harshly. "All those models are nothing more than pieces of flesh to be modeled and shaped." He laughed. "I will grant you, it is harder to mold some than others, but once they are in front of a camera, they are all putty."
"Do you have a favorite, uh, subject, to work with?" Frank asked him.
"Not really," Artie answered. "Of course, Troy Spencer was the most intelligent subject I've ever worked with."
"What made him special?" Frank inquired, folding the camera's tripod.
"He wanted out of modeling. He told me he hated being in front of a camera but figured it was the only way to break into the business. He wanted to be a photographer. He asked to be my assistant but he lacked experience. I did agree to give him pointers though. Troy really absorbed information. I only had to tell him something once and he knew it."
"What about that new model in today's shoot? Joe Hendricks? His bio said he was an amateur photographer," Frank stated, talking about his brother.
"He will never be a great model," Artie said with disgust. "Like Troy and Jeff, his heart is not in it. He will most likely go running off like they did."
"Artie!" a voice interrupted their conversation. "I need you to look at some designs. I can't decide if tomorrow's shoot should be at the park or the fairgrounds," Sebastian Demar said. Demar was a short, balding man with a large black mustache and beady brown eyes. He was dressed in blue jeans and a light gray tee shirt. Seeing him, no one would believe he was one of the world's best designers.
Artie nodded. "Frank, finish up here. Be sure and lock up," he instructed before following Demar from the studio and back to the main office.
Frank finished curling the carpets and set them up near the back of the studio with the others. Then he placed the lenses inside their cabinet and locked it. The only thing left was the actual camera. He picked it up and walked over to the cabinet beside the one holding the lenses. He unlocked it and placed the camera inside. He started to close the door when he sensed someone behind him. Before he could turn around, something came crashing down on the back of his head. Frank fell to the ground unconscious.