The man named Rob is visibly dispirited, morose; one can nearly find it palpable when within the propinquity of him. He is a man seated alone at the end of a lively bar, ornate with women laughing open-mouthed with big hair and men in pressed suits. He’s off in his own hinterlands, on his third Jameson on the rocks, light on the rocks, and he stares into the veneer of the wooden bar top before him for so long without blinking his tired, bloodshot eyes, that the fake, oval lantern above him reflecting onto it becomes dimly reminiscent of a summer moon.
The weight on his shoulders is sheer, like lace, but heavy as leather, and he hardly carries himself up tonight. He’s more wont to slouching after hours of brainwork, as if the stringing together of detail upon detail into an intricate mental map exhausts all the senses so, that it makes one lean into themselves as if desiring the refuge of the curled position of a fetus, before it is flushed, pushed into this pitiful world that it never had a say in joining.
Ashley was her name.
Ashley Bitsuie, he says out loud.
Rob purchased this hotel for the week, and he may purchase it for longer. He doesn’t pick up his daughter from his ex-wife until weekends, and the last time he saw his daughters face, she had said something that still haunts him now:
Daddy, I wanna be just like you, she’d said.
He scoffed and said, no you don’t.
Yes, I do! I wanna save people, just like you, she’d said, so innocently that it agonizes an empty gut.
I don’t save anyone, he said, by the time I know about ‘em, it’s already too late…
He came back to his room late, swerving like a car out of its lane in the long hallway that leads to his door. He does not fester long admiring the mediocre art on the walls, because none of it makes sense to him. None aside the blurry figures of confused faces, which he finds himself creating tales for: the artist was trying to convey anger, helplessness, he thinks; the artist was trying to make you look in the mirror, read yourself. You’re that stain, that blur, that lash in the eye, that old drunk fool…
The room illuminates when he flicks the lamps on beyond the burden of the heavy door, and all along the walls are photos of the crime scene, statements he’d already gathered. Some from earlier, with only one lead given by a coworker, and much red sharpie used to emphasize clues with thick circles: a strange man who had checked into the hotel last week, who seemed to take a liking to Ashley. Whom her coworker, Regina, had said that Ashley apparently left with on the night of her murder.
This being the very hotel she was employed with, he had asked if there were any security footages he could review… none. But he got a name and an address, and that was damn fine for him, just like the acrid lure of the coffee they brew in the early mornings here. He would question her grandmother, gently, since she’s old and rickety and faint of heart, but his partner had said that she knew nothing, was genuinely upset, and he wasn’t too sure if her heart could take anymore questions, or anymore harsh memories.
Ashley Bitsuie, he says out loud.
There’s a Polaroid unlike all the others tacked to the wall. This one is happy; Ashley is grinning in the sun, holding down a hat curved by the push of the desert winds. She is smiling with somebody else, someone stern, with a tight-lipped grin, as if grinning doesn’t come easily to them, but in the eyes he is light and full of the same happiness that she is.
She is smiling with Rob.
I’m not solving this murder, he says out loud.
I’m proving to myself that I didn’t do it.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[ ‘Girls That Vanish At Night: New Mexico, 1986′ is the continuation of a short horror series told episodically by Samantha Lucero. To catch up on series 1, go here. ]