Saturday, May 16, 2009
This was a short story contest submission based on a charcater study of a specific painting.
Case Closed by Annemarie Bogart
Her image is etched in stained glass on the far wall of the temple that is my mind. She was much younger than her appearance suggested, a fact I would find out later. Her hair was thick and wavy. The thickness reminded me of caressing silken but heavy threads, if such a thing even exists. Her hands looked small and fragile as she pulled back that thick red curtain. She wasn't quick to smile but when she did it held that shyness yet sincerity that some women possess. Her eyes were what struck me most; they held a weariness that should not be acquired until much later in life.
She was from Guatemala. God only knows the circumstances that brought her here. She lived in a small studio apartment that faced a grimy brick wall. A dumpster sat next to her only window. She worked two jobs. During the day, she did housekeeping for an elderly couple that lived way uptown. It was a very long commute on the number six line; almost not worth the money she was paid. She took pride in keeping her employer's home impeccable. They were a nice old couple and they treated her well, sending her home with any leftovers they had. They would buy her a gift during the holidays.
At night she worked as a waitress at a diner not too far from where she lived. It meant she spent a lot of time on her feet. She couldn't afford proper shoes for the position, ones that would cushion and support her feet. When her grueling shift was over her feet would ache. You wouldn't think there would be much eatery traffic at that time of night, but as the posters say, New York is the city that never sleeps, and apparently, never stops eating either.
On this particular night, well, early morning, the place became packed with post bar patrons. The booths overflowed and she tried her best to keep up with the drunken demands of her customers. The girl she usually worked with called in sick that night. Her boss had made light of the situation by telling her that she's now make double the tips. Her employer at this position wasn't half as kind as those she cleaned for. He was an aged Greek man who lost his wife to cancer five years earlier, since then; he holds no remorse or sympathy for anyone or their situation. He could have helped her that night with the overflow of people, but chose not to. The very rowdy table by the door, the table that had ordered pretty much every appetizer as well as burger on the menu, they decided to skip out without paying the bill. Something that happens more times then you would imagine. Somehow, this became her fault, and the money was deducted from her paycheck.
She was glad to get out of there that night. It reminded her of a similar one that had occurred not that far back. The same thing had happened; it had been a thirteen-dollar deduction from her check. Tonight had been a whole lot more. But the feeling of wanting to get out of there as the tears stung her eyes was the same. It was that night she would see something that would change the course of her life.
She had walked briskly hugging her thin coat tightly to her. The weather had turned much colder during her shift and she hadn't dressed properly for this autumn blast of premature chill. Working two jobs and living in the rat's nest the landlord tries to pass off as an apartment, you would think she would have a decent coat. Truth is, she sent most of her paycheck back home so her mother can support her younger brothers and sisters.
She was almost home when she heard arguing coming from an alley across the street. She peered over casually, pedestrian rubber necking. It was then that the flashes went off in the alley along with three sharp bangs to accompany them. She froze instantly. The darkened figure emerged from the alley. The figure, most likely a man jumped into the passenger side of the idling car. She hadn't even noticed a car sitting there running until the man jumped in and it sped away, disappearing into the city night. It never occurred to her to just continue on her way home, forget what she had just seen. That would have been out of character for her.
So, she spent what little left of that night clear into late the next morning talking to the police. They seemed to think that maybe she could help them get this killer; maybe she saw something, anything that may lead them to justice.
What she didn't know was that the man who was murdered that night was a Wall Street big wig who seemed to like to welsh on bets. There is only a certain amount of rope some shylocks will shell out before they come collecting. Turns out, this guy, well, he just flat out refused to pay thinking his Fifth Avenue penthouse could protect him from the New York's underworld. He thought wrong. She saw the car. That was the kicker. The car she had barely noticed until it drove off became the most important piece of evidence. She remembered the license plate. It's a one in a million shot that anyone on a darkened New York street would even bother to investigate a shooting let alone remember the license plate of the getaway car. She was a key eyewitness. Thankfully, facts like that are not kept under wraps for long within a tainted police department. It was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I suppose. It happens too often to count.
So, you might think to yourself why this girl's image holds such importance to me. She was just a regular person struggling to get through this life, working her hands to the bone and doing little to enjoy her young life. If she never witnessed that murder that night, in all likelihood, our paths would have never crossed. I remember her so well because it was I who glanced upon that image of her as she quickly glanced out of her small window before opening the door. I only saw her for a second or two before the thick red curtain closed behind her.
She didn't even hesitate when she opened the door; she had not yet acquired the automatic distrust of strangers that comes from living in neighborhoods like this one. It was then that I had to place that fatal bullet in her head. It was the next day that I gained much of my information about her through newspaper articles. It was a few weeks later in an article buried back on page twenty that I read about my handiwork paying off. There it was in good ole black and white, "Case Closed."