The new girl in town

One of the most remarkable things in my young life happened just a few years ago, when I was twenty-three years old. In that time I served as the apprentice of the Townman of the town where I was born, the first step in my career as a bureaucrat. One of the tasks of the Townman is to take care of updating the list of residents in his or her town, a job which is normally delegated to a minor official like the Townman’s apprentice.

For this reason I was one of the first persons who was informed that a long time abandoned mansion was bought by a young lady. The daughter of our local real estate maker, who was also a former classmate of mine, visited me at my office at the town hall. “Asaph, I have come to you to tell that my dad has sold that old mansion at the edge of our town.” “Mariette, the mansion of late Paterson?” “Yes, that one.” “To whom?” “Some young blond lady, I believe her name is Daniella Young.” “Do you know when she is moving to our town?” “Well, my dad sold the mansion yesterday, she said she will move in this weekend.” “I will visit her this weekend. Thank you, Mariette.” “You’re welcome, my dear.”

It was not very common that people from other places moved into my town of birth. My town was rather small and most economic activity was related to the culture of switchgrass. Since this industry became highly mechanized, there is not much need for attracting more employees. And because our close community makes it difficult for newcomers to integrate, I saw it as part of my job to welcome new residents in our town.

That Sunday afternoon I walked from my own home to the Paterson mansion. This mansion was located at the edge of my town, its former owner, George Edward Paterson, had died ten years earlier. Since then almost no one wanted to come very near to it. I had only visited it once before, as part of my job.

After a thirty minute walk I arrived at the mansion. I pressed the doorbell. One minute later a white man opened the door. “Good afternoon, sir, I am Asaph Stutter. I am here in my function as apprentice of the Townman.” The man said: “Good afternoon, Mr. Stutter. Come in, I will bring the owner of this house to you.” “Thank you, sir.” I followed the man to the living room, he offered me a seat and left the room. A few minutes later a young woman with long blond hair stepped into the living, the man following her behind. The woman wore black jeans, a black leather jacket and black leather boots.

“Mr. Stutter, I welcome you into my residence. I am Daniella Young, I will appreciate it if you would call me Daniella. Would you like to drink something, Mr. Stutter?” “You may call me Asaph, if you please. But I would like a cup of tea.” “Mike, can you make two cups of tea?” “Yes, of course, my lady.” The man left the living again.

It is very uncommon for the people of my native region to keep domestic personal. Only wealthy city folks are used to have domestic servants. So I was wondering whether Daniella was such a person. “Daniella, I am interested in where you are from. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about your history.” The woman smiled: “Of course I will tell you.”

Meanwhile the white man had returned and he served us the cups of tea. Then he walked away to stand in a corner. “Asaph, I am twenty-five years old. When I was twelve years old, my parents died in a car crash. In the years thereafter I lived in foster families, until I became sixteen. Then at age eighteen I met my only living relative, my great uncle, more by coincidence than by intention.”

The woman took a sip of her tea and said: “My great uncle suffered from terminal cancer, and was searching for an heir to his fortune. Through the Registrar Office he found me. Two years later when he died, and I inherited his fortunes.” A short break followed, then I asked: “Before you met your great uncle, what did you do for a living?” “In those days I worked for the National Institute for Organ Transplantation, I was the assistant of professor Margaret Palmer. She supervised the harvesting of organs of dead human bodies, and I have witnesses over some hundreds of such operations. She also selected several bodies for dissection by medical students, you know that the government pays hundreds of credits to families to donate the bodies of their deceased relatives, both for science and organ transplantation?” I nodded.

“Asaph, do you know what happens with those bodies afterwards?” “No, I don’t, Daniella.” “Most of those bodies are cremated, sometimes they are preserved for future students. I have helped professor Palmer with the plastination of multiple bodies.” “I assume you don’t have a job nowadays?” “The interest on my uncle’s fortune is more than enough to live from.”

I took some time to observe the living room. It was full of luxury. Daniella clearly lived the life of an upper class lady, she did not attempt to hide her wealth. It was clear to me why she had bought this mansion, it would strengthen her image as a member of the Upper Class. But there was something that I did not understand.

“Daniella, this house has been for sale for ten years and your uncle died five years ago. Why didn’t you buy this house earlier?” The woman laughed and said: “I heard about this house only very recently. For years I have been looking for a home in the country side, the more remote the better it was for me. You can understand why I want to enjoy as much privacy as possible.” “I understand.” “In the city where I lived, the curiosity of the public made it impossible for me and my two servants to live quietly.” “This is a small town, almost everyone knows each other and rumors spread very fast.” “Well, as I have understood, this house is avoided by most towns people.” “Yes, it’s true that your house is in a more remote part of town.” “So I have almost nothing to do with the towns people, have I?”

Clearly Daniella was not interested to become part of our community. But the longer I talked with her, the more I got the feeling there was something strange about her. I couldn’t explain, at that moment, what exactly caused that particular feeling.

“Daniella, you said you have two servants?” “Yes, that is right.” Then she said to the man standing in the corner: “Mike can you fetch Kenneth for me?” “Yes, I will my lady.” And Mike left the living for the third time. A few minutes later he returned in the company of a black man. “Asaph, this is Kenneth.” “Kenneth, this is Asaph Stutter, the apprentice of the Townman.” The black man said: “Nice to meet you, Sir.” “Likewise.”

Thereafter Daniella ordered the two men away, so that we were alone in the living. Curiously I asked the blond woman: “How did you get these servants?” “These men were homeless guys who, just like me, don’t have any family. I have met them in the homeless shelter of my native city. Mike and Kenneth have been friends for years, they have met each other on the street. When I met them I liked them and I wanted to help them. So I offered them to live with me, I would provide them food, shelter, clothes and so on, in return they agreed to become my full time servants for the rest of their lives.” “So you don’t pay them wages?” “No, but I pay for everything they need. Mike and Kenneth are happy to be my voluntary servants. They really like to obey me.”

“How old are those men?” “Kenneth is thirty-seven and Mike is thirty-five years old.” “Daniella, we cannot deny you are a beautiful young woman. Do you think that…” “No, Asaph, I don’t have sex with them. I have a platonic relationship with my servants, and if you want to know, I rely on my vibrator for pleasure.” “Alright, that is clear then.” I decided to rest this issue, since Daniella was apparently determined not to reveal any further details about her personal life.

I was glad that she switched to another subject. “Asaph, this region is known throughout the world for the culture of switchgrass. Many people claim that the best switchgrass is grown here.” “Scientific reports have confirmed that claim, genetic engineering has greatly improved both the yield of the field as the quality of individual plants. My paternal grandfather owned one of the greatest switchgrass plantations in these region.” “So you are part of the local aristocracy?” “I don’t consider myself as an aristocrat, but that is maybe due to the fact we in these region do not recognize institutions like aristocracy.” The woman smiled. “Well, you are from a good family and you are a local politician. I see that as the characteristics of a local aristocrat.” “Daniella, do you consider yourself as an aristocrat?” “No, of course not. My parents were lower middle class city dwellers, and my great uncle had become rich by winning a large price in a casino, which he wisely invested in real estate.”

“Daniella, two hundred years ago this region was known not for its switchgrass, but for its cattle. But in that time, people had to choose between driving cars or eating meat, due to the depletion of petroleum. Since agriculture could provide either biofuels or animal food, but not both. After an intense debate, they eventually choose to keep their cars and so cattle farms, including the farm of my grandfather’s grandfather, were bought out by the government, and all the grass lands were transformed into switchgrass plantations. I suppose you can see that the gradual abolition of cattle farming had one major consequence, do you know which?” The woman took the time to answer my question, I took the opportunity to pay a closer look at her. Her outfit made her more attractive than she was on herself. An inspection of the fine details of her jacket, convinced me that it was made of real leather and not some very good imitation material.

After a few minutes Daniella said: “Asaph, please, tell me the answer.” “Well, in the time when cows were kept for meat, their skin was a byproduct from which leather was made. And due to the enormous size of the meat industry, leather was very cheap in those days. When cattle farming was abolished, there was such a surplus that it took twenty years before leather had become scarce. Nowadays, real leather products are extremely rare commodities.” She only nodded. “Your jacket and your boots represent a huge monetary value.” The woman’s only reaction was a nonchalant statement: “I also have leather gloves.” I looked deep into her beautiful eyes. “Daniella, leather, especially high quality leather, the kind you have, is very expensive. I am not an expert, but I estimate that your jacket alone is worth more money than your house.”

Then without any warning she stood up and she said: “I have to take care of other businesses, I hope to see you again soon, Asaph.” “Well, I have also another appointment. It was nice to meet you, Daniella.” The woman accompanied me to the door, before she opened it, she kissed me on my cheeks. Then I left her house and I walked to the house of Mariette and her parents.

After having dinner with my former classmate, the real estate maker and his wife, I wanted to speak with Mariette’s father in private. “Sir, you have sold Paterson’s mansion a few days ago.” “That is right, Asaph.” “What do you know about the woman who bought that house?” “Not much, only her name, date of birth, and that she had a declaration from her accountant that she had the money to buy the home.” “Can you give me those data to me?” “Of course, as long as you keep it confident.” “No problem, I will not share this with anyone else.” The real estate maker gave me a sheet of paper, which I put in my pocket.

That night I could not fall asleep. I had the strong feeling that Daniella had a big secret, and since I could not sleep I took the sheet from my pocket. Behind my desk I studied the information on the piece of paper. I sent an email to the National Registrar Office, since I wanted to get more information about Daniella’s great uncle.

Although his great niece had claimed that he had won his fortune in a casino, I was suspicious that he was possibly involved in the (illegal) leather trade. Leather itself was not illegal, and trading was allowed if you had the proper licenses. But still leather is nowadays extremely rare, not only due to the small size of the cattle population (which is almost exclusively confined to zoos) but mainly because of the fact that the leather industry realized that a decreasing supply of leather would mean an increasing price. And in order to accelerate this process, the leather traders had decided to buy ninety nine percent of all raw hides, with the sole purpose of destroying those hides. Not only did they destroy the stock of raw leather, they also managed to acquire more than eighty percent of all processed leather. Some of which were stored in underground vaults, but the overall majority had to be destroyed.

A few days later I received an email from the NRO, with the requested information on Daniella’s great uncle. The mail confirmed her story about the origin of her uncle’s wealth. But since I wanted to learn more about the background of the newest resident of my town, I searched on the web for Professor Margaret Palmer. I learned that she had retired three years ago. Thereafter she had emigrated to an unknown foreign location, but I learned the identity of her successor: Professor Colin Davids. I tried to make an appointment with him, but his personal assistant told me that Davids was out of the country for the next two weeks.

Of course, the news that a stranger had bought the mansion of the late Paterson, could not be kept secret for long. At a barbecue organized by our local baker, multiple towns folk asked me about the new resident. I told them that Daniella wanted to be left alone and that she was not interested in being part of our community life. Happily for her the people were willing to respect her wishes, although they were not discouraged to engage in busy speculation about Daniella’s past.

A few weeks after my visit to Daniella I learned from a member of our local hiking club, that a black van was spotted a multiple times at her property. My first reaction was that it was hers, but when I checked the national register of motorized vehicles, I discovered that the young woman did not own a black van. Unfortunately, no one had seen the license plates, so I was not able to establish who was visiting her.

From other town folk I learned that neither Daniella nor her servants were ever seen in town. So I developed the following theory: the black van would bring supplies from somewhere else, so that the wealthy lady or her subordinates had no need for coming down town. Of course she could easily arrange this, but I was wondering why the girl wanted to do so. Therefore it was no surprise that I wanted to visit her again, but I realized that Daniella would possibly not be willing to speak to me, so I wanted to wait a little time longer.

Sometime after I had learned about the black van, I got a phone call from the secretary of professor Colin Davids. The successor of Margaret Palmer was willing to invite me at his office. I made an appointment directly for a few days later. At the day of my appointment with the professor I walked to the nearest maglev station of my town. The trip to the city took about two hours, I spent my time reading my dossier about Daniella. In the city I took a cab to the university’s faculty for medicine, where professor Davids was waiting for me.

His office had an old fashioned interior, a big wooden bookcase was standing behind his desk. The man himself was rather small and almost bold. The pair of glasses he wore, were typical for medical men. “Welcome, Mr. Stutter. I have understood that you are interested in the assistant of my predecessor.” “Yes, that is right.” “What exactly do you want to know?” “Well, first, how well did you know her?” “I have met Daniella a couple of times, but I have never had any substantial conversation with her.” “What do you mean with substantial?” “Everything beyond simple everyday talk, you know things like the weather, ‘how are you?’ etcetera.” “Is there something very remarkable about her you know off?”

The scientist took a short break and said: “She was very obsessed with death.” “How do you know that?” “When professor Palmer was looking for a new assistant, Daniella was the only person who had applied for the job. Of course not much people like to work with corpses, so that is not very strange. But a few days after Daniella’s first day at the faculty, professor Palmer said to me that the young girl was very eager to see the corpses and how their organs were harvested. My predecessor said: ‘That girl was not frightened, but she was looking with fascination even with some excitement, how I removed the organs. The dead human bodies held a strange fascination for the girl.’”

Professor Davids took a nip from his glass of water. “Professor, do you know that Daniella’s parents died in a car crash when she was just twelve years old?” “Yes, I know, I have harvested their organs for transplantation.” I stared at the professor, “Sir, does she know that?” “I don’t know. When I learned how her parents had died, I was interested whether they were organ donors and I looked up their names in our database. That is the way I discovered that I was on the team which had removed their organs.” “Have you ever considered to share this knowledge with Daniella?” “Never, that would be an infraction of my professional oath of confidentiality.” “Why did you tell me?” “Because, I know you will not tell this to her.”

“Professor, when did Daniella quit her job?” “Sometime after she had learned about her great uncle, she was his only heir. After his death, she had enough money to leave the labor force.” “Is it possible that she killed her great uncle?” “I don’t believe so.” “Why?” “Her uncle was already terminally ill, he had only a short time to live, when they met each for the very first time. Actually her uncle lived somewhat longer than expected, so it is more likely that she took good care of him instead of killing him.”

I was looking at the bookcase and I saw a row with leather bound books. “Professor, what are those leather bound books?” The professor turned his head to the bookcase and when he turned his head back, he said: “That is a medical encyclopedia, it is more than a hundred years old. It belonged formerly to professor Palmer’s immediate predecessor.” “Who owns those books right now?” “The university, because he left those to the university in his will.” “What kind of leather is it made off?” “I don’t know, but there are rumors that those books are bound in human skin.” “Human skin?” “Yes, a few centuries ago there was a tradition of binding medical books in the skins of dissected bodies. There are a few thousand books in the world, which are bound in human skin. The practice is known as anthropodermic bibliopegy.” “But it is not sure that those books are bound in human skin?” “No, they have never been tested.”

I was horrified by this information about a tradition of about I had never heard before. I asked indignantly: “Is anthropodermic bibliopegy illegal?” “No, it is legal if the body is legally donated. But it is very uncommon these days, mainly because the tanning of animal skins is an almost forgotten art in our time.” “Do you know someone who know the art of leather tanning?”

The professor took a few moments to answer my last question. “I have heard some rumors that there is one person in this city who had learned the art of leather making from his grandfather, one of the last professional leather makers of country. I don’t know his name or whether he is still alive. If so he is at least hundred and five years old.” “If this man exists and still alive, would he be capable of tanning human skin.” “If this person exists, then the answer is yes. There are only a few minor technical differences between the skins of diverse mammals. Maybe he would need a little practice in order to get used to the processing of human skin. Only morality would prevent him for doing so.”

My next question was the following: “If someone wants to make human leather, how easily can he get human skins?” “Very easy if he has contacts with medical schools, most of them destroy their donated bodies after dissection by students, and those institutions can make good use of the money. Therefore they will sell you the skins, provided that you will keep it secret.” “Is it possible to prosecute medical schools for this trade?” “No, once donated, a body becomes property of the school and no one is entitled to interfere with it.”

I decided to tell nothing about Daniella’s collection of leather items to the professor, instead I said: “I thank you for your time, professor.” “Well you’re welcome, sir.” I stood up from my chair and left his office. On the way home I was thinking: Daniella had the money, the contacts with the medical world, but did she know that one man, the grandson of the last leather maker? And if she did, does it mean that her leather jacket, boots and gloves were actually made of human skin? Then I remembered that Daniella was fascinated by death, fascinated enough to wear the skins of dead humans?

When I had returned to my town, I immediately went to my parents’ attic. There I found a leather briefcase, which had once belonged to, Alphonse Stutter, the grandfather of my grandfather. In the briefcase I found a directory. Between the cover and the endpaper there was a photograph of a brown skinned Alphonse Stutter and a white and blond Annemarie Greis, one of the last cowgirls in history. Carefully I laid to the photograph away, and I started to leaf through the directory. A few moments later I saw something very interesting: Mario Edgar Barrow, a tanner who had worked and lived in the same city as Daniella.

Although this information was important, it was also incomplete. The directory only provided Barrow’s address and nothing else, so I couldn’t establish when my ancestor met this tanner for the first time, or the man’s age. But Barrow was the only tanner in the directory who had lived in the city where Daniella used to live. And therefore he was a likely candidate to be the grandfather of the mysterious tanner. I wrote down the name of Mario Edgar Barrow in my notebook and I went to my own room. Subsequently I logged in on the database of the National Registrar Office and I searched for this name, apparently there were a dozen people in the last two centuries with this name. But fortunately only one person had the correct domicile. I clicked on that man’s file and started to read it.

Within a several minutes I learned that Barrow had one son, Matthew Oliver Barrow and that person had three children, of which only the youngest one was still alive: hundred and nine year old Marcel Patrick Barrow. I learned that Marcel had lived his entire live in the same city has his grandfather. Of course I wanted to speak with this man, but how could I approach him? Simply calling was not the best way, since I did not know him and he did not me, and only a vague connection between our ancestors does not create a real relationship. So I decided to invent a story. That I was interested in writing a book about the history of leather, because my family had been involved in cattle farming and the leather trade a few generations ago. This would also explain how I had learned about Marcel Barrow.

The following day I tried to contact the man, but my first attempt was not successful. So I tried it over and over again in the next days. After my fifth attempt I was able to get him on the phone. Fortunately he was willing to talk with me in person. Although he did not give much information, I got the impression that he knew much more about leather than I had ever dared to hope. We made an appointment for the next week.

In the days before my appointment I studied the diaries of Annemarie Greis, I was especially interested in the diaries from the date that she had moved into our town. After her high school graduation Annemarie wanted to become a cowgirl, so she decided to leave the suburb where she had lived her entire youth in order to get a job at the farm of Alphonse Stutter’s father. Like many girls in her time, she used to keep a diary. She had started her diary at age twelve, and happily for me she wrote very elaborate about her experiences as a cowgirl.

It was during Annemarie’s third year as a cowgirl, that the decision was made to abolish all cattle farming in favor of the cultivation of switchgrass for biofuel. The abolition had come as a real shock for her, since she had dreamed of being a cowgirl since her early childhood. In her diary she wrote how Alphonse tried to comfort her and that she really liked him. Furthermore Annemarie also described a lot about Alphonse’s relationship with the leather industry.

The diary affirmed his participation in the conspiracy of the leather traders, which had resulted in the destruction of a large part of the stock of leather. However, it was not clear who had come up this idea to increase the price of leather. Annemarie noticed of a discussion with Alphonse about what she initially considered as a waste of a high quality product, but he said that this speculation would provide them with a secure retirement.

For the second time in two weeks I took the maglev to Daniella’s native city. Because Barrow lived in an apartment block at the edge of the city, I had to take a trolley bus to his neighborhood. Underway we passed a fusion power plant, which provided most of the city’s power. After half an hour I arrived at my destination.

I had to take the lift, since Mr. Barrow lived at the twenty-second floor of the building. When I pressed the bell of his apartment, the door was opened by a young woman wearing a white suit. “Miss, I am Asaph Stutter. I have an appointment with Mr. Barrow.” “Sir, Mr. Barrow is waiting for you inside. By the way I am Anastasia, Mr. Barrow’s nurse.” I followed her to the living.

Marcel Barrow was reading a newspaper, while he sat in his easy chair. The nurse said: “Sir, Mr. Stutter has arrived.” The centenarian looked at me: “Nice, to meet you, Mr. Stutter. Please take a seat.” “Thank you.” And I took a seat at the sofa. “I appreciate it that you were willing to invite me.” “It is an honor to meet you. You are interested in the history of the leather industry, aren’t you?” “Yes, I am. I understand that your grandfather was one of the last tanners of this region.” “Yes, he was.” “What was your profession?” “I worked for the city zoo for more than seventy years.” “In what function?” “Oh, I have held many different positions.”

The old man was clearly glad to talk with someone about his history. “Mr. Barrow, I have heard some rumors that your grandfather had taught you the art of tanning, are those rumors based on facts?” “Do you know how those rumors started?” “No, sir.” “Well, I had been the zoo’s taxidermist for many years.” “What did the zoo do with those stuffed animals?” “They were sold to both museums and private individuals, of course we only stuffed animals who had died of natural causes. The zoo made more than enough profits through ticket sale only.” “I assume that it was widely known that you were a taxidermist?” “Yes, I still receive questions whether I sell stuffed animals.”

“Mr. Barrow, I understand, but do you know about tanning animal skins?” “Yes, it is true that my grandfather has taught me the art.” “Have you ever practiced tanning?” “I have done it a few times in my life, always with skin of animals from the zoo.” “When was the last time you have done this?” Without hesitating he said: “A few years ago, a young blond woman came to me and asked whether I knew anything about leather making. She had heard that I used to be a taxidermist and therefore she thought that I would know about tanning.” “What was your reaction?” “I told her the truth of course.”

I wanted a small delay and I asked Mr. Barrow whether I could have something to drink. “Anastasia, could you bring Mr. Stutter a glass of water, please?” “Yes, sir.” When she gave me my drink, I asked: “Sir, why did she want to know whether you could do tanning?” “The young lady said that she wanted to learn the art herself.” “So you agreed to teach her?” “Yes.” I took a short break, after which I asked: “How did you get the necessary skin?” “From the zoo, through a former colleague.” “What was the name of that woman?” Mr. Barrow took a nip of his own water and he said: “I am not quite sure, but I believe that her name was Daniella something.” I had no doubt that the blond woman was no one else than Daniella Young, and that I had the proof that she was able to tan animal skin.

I looked at my watch and said subsequently: “Sir, sorry I have to go now. Thank you very much for your time.” “I would like to thank you, Mr. Stutter. I have enjoyed our conversation, let me know if you want to meet again.” “I will do so, goodbye.” “Goodbye.” And Anastasia let me out.

I decided to go to Daniella’s home immediately in order to confront her with my findings. I had enough circumstantial evidence that her leather stuff were made from human skin: her fascination for human corpses, her contacts with medical schools and the fact that she had taken lessons in tanning by Marcel Barrow. Now I wanted to hear her explanation, I wanted her to confess the horrible truth about her fashion choice.

Little less than three hours after I had left Mr. Barrow’s home, I stood in front of Daniella’s. I pressed the door bell, and after a few minutes Mike opened the door. “Sir, is your mistress home?” “Yes, she is, Mr. Stutter.” “I want to speak to her right now.” The servant nodded and I followed him to the living, where Daniella was reading a book. I saw that she was wearing the same outfit as during my first visit. She looked up and said: “Hi Asaph, what can I do for you?” “I want to speak with you in private, Daniella.” “Of course, if you please so. Mike, can you leave us alone?” “Yes, my lady.” And he left the living.

Then Daniella asked with a smile: “What is the reason of your visit, Asaph?” “Girl, maybe you remember that last time I mentioned that natural leather is nowadays a very rare commodity.” “Yes, I remember that, but I can’t see how…” “Of course you can, young lady!” The blond woman looked at me with great astonishment. “Daniella, my family has been involved with leather and the trade of it for generations. My grandfather has told me a lot about it and how to distinguish between natural and artificial leather. I can easily see that your jacket and your boots are from natural leather, what would mean that those objects are worth at least some tens of thousands or even some hundreds of thousands credits.” “What is your problem? You know I have a lot a money.” “The problem is that if you paid for your gloves, boots and jacket, you couldn’t have bought this mansion.” “Do you suggest that I have stolen these precious objects?” “No, I do not, because you know exactly what kind of leather you are wearing, girl!” “Asaph, please calm down a little bit.”

To my surprise Daniella was not angry at me, although she was slightly shocked. I resumed talking: “Shall I tell you what kind of leather you are wearing?” She gave no answer. “I suppose that you want people to believe that you wear artificial leather, and for good reasons. Why?” No answer again. “Daniella, I know your secret and I can see on your face that I am right.” I waited for a few moments, but my opponent had nothing to say. “Girl, I have discovered that your leather products are made from human skin.” “Asaph, you can’t prove that.” Then I told her everything about my investigation.

When I had finished my story, she said: “Even if your accusations were true, then still it would not be illegal to use human leather.” “How do you know?” A long moment of silence felt down upon us. “Daniella, I know it is not illegal, but how do you know? Unless, I suppose, you have consulted the law before you started to tan human skins.” Daniella was looking to the floor in order to avoid eye contact with me.

After a long break she said: “Asaph, you are right. I am wearing tanned human skins, but I do not see why it would be wrong. All the skins I have used came from people who were already dead, I have not killed anyone and will never do so. Anyway, it is entirely legal to have products made of human leather.” “That something is legal does not mean that is not objectionable. Personally, I find it rather disgusting.” “The point is that I have not harmed anyone, so I do not understand why it would objectionable.” “The point is that you are using humans as a mere mean for seeking your own pleasure.” “I am not using humans, Asaph. I use the remains of what happened to be humans. Therefore, I am not doing anything wrong, whether you like it or not.” I replied: “Have you ever thought about the feelings of the next of kin? Would you like it if your skin is used in some commodity?”

Daniella took some time to answer: “I admit that I never thought about the family of the skin donors, but I don’t think that it really matters, since they knew that the bodies are used for medical purposes. And I don’t mind whether my skin is used in some way or another after my death.

“Asaph, I want to ask you to be a little more open minded. You are an intelligent man, who should be able to understand my side of the story, even if you don’t agree with me. Please, don’t tell anyone about it.” “Daniella, do your servants know about your gruesome taste?” “Yes, they do.” A few minute break followed, after which I asked: “Daniella, why do you use human leather?” The blond woman stood up and walked to the window, so that I was looking at her back. “Well Asaph, you are right that I have a fascination for death. It is maybe a deviant interest, but nevertheless not illegal or immoral. I would never do anything that would be either illegal or harmful to others. Further I like leather, so when I heard about anthropodermic bibliopegy from professor Margaret Palmer, I developed a strong desire for human leather.

“When I inherited my great uncle’s fortune, realized that I could easily obtain human skins from medical schools. Usually they throw away the skins of the bodies they donate, and since I know people in that world and I had the money, it was not hard to convince a few medical schools to sell me the skins.” “Professor Davids told me that the bodies are legal property of the medical schools.” “Therefore, my collection of objects made of human skin is not illegal, the only thing you can do is to destroy my reputation, making me shunned by everyone. I hope you understand why I want to be left alone with my dedicated servants.” “Yes, I understand.” “I would also like it, if you would respect my way of live, regardless of your personal opinions. As you know, I am a law abiding citizen, just like you.”

The young woman turned, and I saw her smiling. “Dear, I would appreciate it if you would stay and have dinner with me.” I was a little bit astonished, since I had expected that she would throw me out of her home. “Daniella, even after this conversation?” “Asaph, I like you as a friend, even if you disagree with some of my choices in life. I really believe that our friendship would be good for both of us.” While I was still hesitating, she walked to me and took my hand. “Come, follow me. I will show you my dining room.”

Since Daniella’s activities were not illegal, there was nothing that would require any action on my behalf as the apprentice of the Townman. The only thing I could do as a government official was making sure that her rights as a citizen were not violated, so I did not share any of my finding with the people of my town. In the aftermath of this turbulent phase of my life, Daniella continued to isolate herself from the towns people and a year after my first visit to her I got a job at the department for agriculture. And a short time later I married Mariette.

From time to time I still visit the mansion of the late Paterson, which now belongs to Daniella Young.

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