P8: Howling.

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The drone of the petite voice is unfamiliar and he turns to face it.

The ghostly woman is fretful and weary, fiddling with a red-beaded necklace that encircles her wiry throat twice, her wispy spider-leg thin fingers ghoulish pale and jittery. Her lengthy black hair trickles down from a middle part and shines with an oiliness and musky tang his keen nose can corral, dripping over her shoulders like a silken blanket of shadows. His narrow eyes, sun-blinded, browse the bright jewelry for a missing piece, but he can’t tell for certain if it’s a link to the one he’d found earlier on Ashley.

Yes, he answers in the shape of a puzzle piece, hoping that what she will say next fits into his daydreams; everything he needs to know, a lead, a finger pointing in the right direction of a case swiftly dying, collapsing into cold.

She came to my prayer group, scratched up on her face to all hell like, animal or who knows, and uh, she wanted help, thought she was sick, possessed or something. She said we were a cult and left real quick when Jim said it’s not easy to exorcise somebody. We tried finding her after, night’s dangerous here… can be, and the moon was full. It made it easier to see, but we didn’t find her. Drove late as we could, but nothing …just howling in the night. Guess she didn’t show for work either, she says, next day she was dead.

Scratched face.
 Moon full.
 Howling.
 She didn’t show for work.

Where’d you get that necklace? He asks.

Oh, uhhh… lady makes them. Name’s Corrine, she says, Corrine Green.

He grins with recognition.

The dusky man with his worry lines transposing into irremediable creases between his brows excavates a yellow notepad and blue pen from an inner-coat pocket.

What’s your name? He asks.

Cassandra Brown, she says.

Can I see your necklace? He asks, and she lets him. There’s no missing piece.

An hour later, he’s got Cassandra’s necklace in a trouser pocket full of loose tobacco leaves and her phone number on that yellow pad, just in case he needs more answers. He’s knocking at someone else’s decrepit door on a dusty highway.

An elderly woman hardly able to move shambles over toothlessly; he sees her wobbling like a busted toy through the gauzy mint curtains. She arrives out of breath, says nothing when she props open the stuck door that’s ruptured at the hinges.

I need to speak to Corrine, he says.

Corrine gone, the woman oozes, crazy white man at motel take her somewhere, she never come back.

 

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. ]

 


P7: Sloppy.

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Always hard when a case goes cold, the sweaty man says with his pot-belly big and hard as a boulder, smelling strongly of pabst blue ribbon, endless, wet layers of Marlboro second-hand smoke paining Robs over-sensitive nose, and the un-sanitized, humid flesh of a man who is unmercifully inattentive to his own hygiene. Rob mulls intellectually over the mind of man who can live so happily in the organic outcomes of his self: a sign of depression, of a mind too burdened and brimming to leave room for thoughts of cleanliness. Was this the unique torture of all those who dwelled in centuries past, to be ignorant of their own stench, tolerant of everybody else’s?

The sloppy man, loosening scents behind him of his squalid motel when he’d shift standing as if in chronic agony, also talked too much: was this a guilty mind, or an innocent one over-compensating for being helpless? When he’d smile Rob could detect the faint black outlines of the roots of dying teeth; in his own mouth, Rob skimmed his teeth with his tongue as if being in the proximity of the other man would suddenly rot his own teeth.

Used to work ‘em myself, Texas Ranger way back, and the slobs tongue worms out of his mouth to gather the foam accumulating at the corner of it.

What do you do now, luxuriate alone in motels?

The pig-man scoffs, and then answers.

I travel with my pension, spreadin’ the good word. What else imma do? Ain’t got no family, no wife waitin’ in the wings… Ashley was a nice girl, lookin’ to find herself thru Christ, said she thought she was…. Possessed or somethin’. She approached me in the hotel after she saw my dog-eared bible. Like to stay in fancy ones, sometimes, hotels, then slums like this. Gives me a sense of gratitude. Anyways, she was real geared toward the lord it seemed to save ‘er. Gave ‘er the name of a man who runs prayer group. Recall ‘em tellin’ me she left quick before they could try’n help ‘er. Guess it wasn’t what she was lookin’ for.

He’s standing in front of an adobe-colored threshold with turquoise trim. Thick black brows reminiscent of Halloween cats superstitiously arching, and Rob is uncomfortable in his dusty suit, beginning to itch, thinking too much of what could’ve happened. Rob wears his long, raven-feather black hair down today, and he feels it toyed with by the wind on his back.

But you do have a family; Rob says impassively, not a flinch.

The filthy man looks down, and Rob sees it now: the pathetic sadness, the weary eyes. The man hesitates, but then says, not any that wanna see the likes of me.

He didn’t seem to be lying, Rob thought, able to feel his own cleanliness and loneliness, and so after a few otiose questions, he took his leave, but he keeps him on the list of suspects.

The man named Rob traipses out into the loose gravel. He’d stops in the middle of the motel parking lot, dazedly, taking in the view of the blue skies, the scatter of rooftops, beyond that, sempiternal earth with tufts of Mexican feathergrass. He shuts his eyes against the flaming wheel of the sun.

Are…. are you asking around about Ashley? A woman’s tremulous voice inquires behind him.

P1: The Red Dress.

MADRID, NM: 22:39 hrs.

 

The body is ordered quietly alongside the miry vein of the dirt road, surreptitious, unnerving in the forlorn look of it for seeming uncannily etched there or precisely carved and pale-painted, right into the southwestern landscape; it is grotesquely exquisite.

The body has ceremoniously rested here a long while, awaiting discovery with a mute patience, and in its dreamless death it doth rest eternal; some elsewhere realm they say the ancestors embrace her troubled ghost. Here the body she left behind lies with spatters of old, dried blood being wetted and carried red and away by baptismal raindrops soldiering over her. The young hands are draped aesthetically on bruised ribs, and she seems coldly to glow in the defunct amnion of night. A girl too soon returned to earth with filth caught beneath the fingernails; a hint at an earlier struggle evidently not won. The face and the head are covered with what they’ll eventually come to know as her own red dress, and the unclothed hips take the voyeurs eyes downward to naked, outstretched legs the warm color of cozy adobe homes, posed rigidly straight together down to the ankles underneath the telling shine of a shy half-moon. A shock of dark pubic hair blots the onlookers eyes.

No reveler drunk in their nightly rapture of dancing in the packed mineshaft tavern takes note of the dead, for they’ve yet to fan their merry-making out of the moist wooden doors, and into the pouring streets.

Here the crowd come now, with a cojunto accordion at their backs wafting out, ecstatic and oblivious.

 

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.]