Monday, August 08, 2016

The Butterfly Garden

I don't like butterflies. I'm not exactly afraid of them. They're Nature's creations and are beautiful that way. But I see them as creepy, like puppets, clowns and dolls. Dot Hutchison's 'The Butterfly Garden' was chilling.

The book unfolded like an episode on CSI and Law & Order: SUV. The plot isn't new. It's how the author chose to present it by way of a safe-enough rescue and recollection that made me want to read it in ne sitting, and find out what happened to these young injured girls in hospital. It was riveting.

It's the story of every parent's nightmare. A wealthy family of warped males with a sick fascination with butterflies, abducting girls of no older than sixteen to place them in their perverse fantasy world. The girls have butterfly wings tattoo-ed onto their backs, are sexually abused and then murdered when they turn twenty-one. The psycho called them 'Butterflies'. Then these bodies are strung up like butterfly specimens and preserved in glass cases of formaldehyde and resin. The glass cases and girls are locked within a highly-secured place called the 'Garden' with high walls, movable barriers, and cells.

The father Geoffrey MacIntosh, otherwise known as the 'Gardener', and his two sons keep a current harem of 22 kidnapped young girls. The father has been doing this for 30 years. He wants it to be a family thing, and for his sons to continue it. Rape, torture, abuse, sick fantasies, murder and self-justification. Ugh. The girls were only rescued because the younger of the two sons had a conscience. Desmond broke out of his misplaced loyalty to the family when his volatile brother Avery brought in a 12-year-old girl.

For a seasoned reader of crime fiction and tv series, I felt sick mid-way through because such crimes happen in real life. It's one of those bone-chilling plots. The eighteen-year-old protagonist, Maya/Inara/Samira, is tough and keeps secrets of her own, but worthy secrets. She plays a mother figure within the harem and tries her best to protect the girls as they have little hopes of escape. Except for one all those years ago- one Butterfly escaped. It isn't a myth. Inara bides her time, never losing her sense of self. Hope came to fruition.

"We've been interviewing her, Senator, not hiding her," Victor says mildly. He reaches out to grip Inara's shoulder gently but firmly turning her around. Inara's eyes flick over the woman. She musters a smile so obviously fake it makes him wince. "You must be Ravenna's mother.""Her name," the senator says tightly, "is Patrice.""It was," Inara agrees. "And it will be. Right now it's still Ravenna. Outside isn't real yet.""And just what the hell does that mean?" 
The smile disappears. Inara's thumb rubs against the sad dragon. After a moment, she straightens and looks the woman in the eye. "It means you're too real for her to handle yet. The past two days have been too much. We've spent so long living in someone else's terrible fantasy that we don't know how to be real anymore. It'll come, in time, but your real is very ..." She glances at the knot of aides and staff members hovering a respectful distance away. "Very public," she says finally. "If you can get rid of the entourage, maybe it'll be easier for her." 
"We're just trying to get to the bottom of this.""Isn't that the FBI's job?"The senator stares at her. "She's my daughter. I'm not just going to sit by and watch- ""Like every other parent?" Victor winces again."You stand for the law, Senator. Sometimes that means standing back to let it work." 
Eddison spins to hit the call button for the elevator again. Victor can see his shoulders shaking. 
But Inara isn't done yet. "Sometimes it means being mother or senator, not both. I think she'd like to see her mother, but with what she's been through, the adjustments she'll have to make, I don't think she can handle the senator. Now, if you'll please excuse us, we need to check in on Ravenna and the others." 

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