The Brown Eyed Girl

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

A small novel I'm starting to work on. I'm thinking it might lean into Horror\\Mystery and probably fall into more the Novella format. It is a first try.This is the first chapter and I'm hoping it sets up the basic idea of the story appropriately.

Basically its just setting up our initial characters and hopefully the basic direction for the story. A woman comes to a P.I. for help with a slightly supernatural problem. It's a slow burn, but any feedback would be appreciated!

Chapter 1 (v.1) - The Brown Eyed Girl

Submitted: June 29, 2013

Reads: 261

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 29, 2013

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A A A

Bethany had been waiting in a dingy little office that shared the building with a store called Calamity Jane’s House of Pleasure, which she assumed was some kind of sex toy store. At least she hoped that was all it was when she began hearing the strange groaning noises from somewhere in the back.
The moment she stepped into the office her hopes had begun to dwindle. This place wasn’t going to be able to help her. The look on the receptionist girl’s face when Bethany had walked in 15 minutes early for her appointment had been enough to tell her that. They were under prepared at best, or incompetent at worst. There wasn’t even a waiting area for gosh sakes.
Then there were the groaning noises, after she had hurriedly sat Bethany in the office, the girl had run off to an unseen bathroom where she had heard the following conversation, which only the timid little receptionist had had the courtesy to try and hush.
“You’re appointment is here now!” the girl said with whispered exasperation.
Then loudly, and probably to the girl’s mortification, “I don’t fuckin’ have to be anywhere for another 15 minutes, Sally.”
“Oh my god! Please hurry up, and quit acting like a jackass.”
“Who’s acting?” Someone said in a  genuinely surprised voice. This was then followed by a scornfully long retching noise.
Bethany’s first instinct had been to leave, the moment the f word had been uttered, but something on the desk had caught her eye just then.
The desk itself was an ugly old metal thing, that looked like it might’ve belonged to a dozen elementary school teachers before winding up in this dump. On top of it was a blotter with a million different graffito’s that Bethany automatically recognized as phone numbers. Besides this there were probably another thousand or so papers scattered around that could have been anything, although a few she recognized as bills. What caught her eye though,  was the back of a picture frame, or rather what was draped around one of its corners.
A string of bean shaped beads a deep purple like a well worn bruise hung around the edge of the frame and though she couldn’t see the other side, she knew a small crucifix lay at the other end. Then without really knowing why, she rose from her chair and circled the desk to get a better look.
Sure enough, it was a rosary that hung around the frame, and the picture it adorned showed two girls.  One of the girls was tall with a round face, the other small and thin-faced. Both wore snazzy looking fur-lined jackets that were probably bought at Sears’ and matching smiles. They stood back to back, with their trigger fingers upraised in a silly Charlie’s Angels type stance and they seemed to be the happiest people in the world. This doesn’t belong here, she thought. But no that wasn’t right, after all, everybody had a picture of their loved ones on their desks.  But before she could put more thought into it, the receptionist girl poked her head in the door.
“Mr. Quintana will be in in a second, are you sure I can’t get you anything to drink?”
Bethany looked up at the girl and quietly shook her head. Whatever kind of operation they were running here was probably honest, but the fact of the matter was that she didn’t think it was going to be good enough to spend her money on.
“Are you sure ma’am?”
Bethany took another long look at the picture before she answered the girl.
“Maybe a water will do actually.” She said eyeing the picture once more before she grudgingly returned to her seat.
As it was, Mr. Quintana returned before the girl. He was a fairly large man, not really very tall but being about 6 inches taller than Beth herself, that must have put him around 5’10 or maybe even 6‘, you could never really be too sure about these things she thought, and she hadn’t taken a look at what kind of footwear he was sporting either and that could count too. Still his largeness seemed to come more from his basic body shape. As he took his seat in front of her, she noticed the broadness of his shoulders straightaway. His arms were just as massive, with his biceps bulging at the fabric of the sweatshirt he wore that would have been baggy on most other men. His hands were oddly graceful looking, with their long fingers, the first thought that had occurred to her was that they would make for great piano playing. The only thing that really made them look as rough as the rest of the man before her though, was a thick and ugly scar that ran the length of the back of his left hand. Despite such a wound, he seemed to still wield the hand just as gingerly as the other, plucking a pen off his desk as he sat down.
`His face was just as broad and rough as the rest of him. In stark contrast to his dark complexion were three colorless scars of differing lengths that ran down his face. One small one that ran down along his left cheek no more than an inch. The second ran twice as long down the length of his wide flat nose. The third was three times as long as the first and even ran parallel with the first two giving the impression that all three scars were probably achieved all at once from the same horrific slashing, although from what, one could only guess, but upon closer inspection, she noticed small differences. All three scars were of differing widths, with the one running over his eye being the thickest. The second one, over his nose was the thinnest and ran in a slightly S-shaped curved pattern. He looked every bit the rough and hardened P.I. that you would picture out of those old Chandler books. Drinking problem and all. Still, despite all the ugliness there was one last thing that about this man that soothed her more than anything.
“How can I help you Mrs. Valdez.” he asked with eyes that she thought looked genuinely sad for her, but with a breath that reeked of  whiskey, she wasn’t sure they were for her.
It took her a moment, but eventually the words came, unexpectedly.
“Are you drunk?” she asked finding her indignation.
His gaze fell downward to his hands and stayed there as he answered, “Pretty much , yes.” He said with a slight lift of his eyebrows.
“Why?”
He seemed to find his own indignation at this question and his eyes returned to hers rather sharply.
“I guess I have a bit of a drinking problem, Mrs. Valdez.” his eyes never losing their edge.
“Why do you have a drinking problem Mr. Quintana?” She wasn’t sure why she asked, at this point she was all but done with this man and this sorry excuse for an office, but somehow she knew the question mattered.
The silence hung heavy between them long enough for Bethany to think that she had angered him sufficiently to warrant a refusal of service. Then quietly, his gaze never leaving hers, he asked, “Why do you need my help Mrs. Valdez?”
“I asked you first Mr. Quintana?” She said like a kid playing truth or dare.
“Actually if you recall, I asked you first, Mrs. Valdez.” he said without missing a beat.
Now it was her turn to sit in quiet consternation. “I’m actually not sure you can help me Mr. Quintana.” She said pushing her chair back as she started to rise.
“Yeah I’m not sure I can help you either Mrs. Valdez. The police get very prickly about reopening cases that they’ve already solved. Especially ones that are as clean cut as your granddaughter’s suicide.”
She stood glaring at this man who knew nothing about her and especially her granddaughter. “She didn’t commit suicide.” Sullen. Edging toward anger. She didn’t know what his game was but she was damned if she was going to play it.
The words hung in the air for ages before the receptionist poked her head in.
“You’re water, ma’am.” she held the bottle out to Bethany.
She eyed it wearily and just before she could decline he spoke up.
“You didn‘t bring that up with the police.”
She met the receptionist’s eyes for a moment then looked away again, suddenly ashamed of herself. What am I doing, she thought as she took the bottle and her seat once more. Bethany had come to these people for help, and more than that, it was help for her granddaughter. The people that were supposed to help her didn’t care anymore, as far they were concerned everything was over and done, and her granddaughter was just another corpse in the ground. Another file pushed away in some back drawer to gather dust as she faded from the memories of even the people that knew and loved her. As it stood the only people that probably remembered Leticia’s name, were Bethany and that damned boy. He had to have something to do with it, Beth was sure of it, but there hadn’t been any proof. No motive. Nothing except for the fact that Leti was as much his as she was Bethany’s. Two parts of a whole. Surely whatever Beth didn’t know he had to, but no, apparently he had known as little as her, and in her mourning she hadn’t pushed and fought the way she should have. When Leti died so did any reason for fighting, so for the longest time there was only that big gaping hole that most people just accept as grief.
Then one day two months ago a church friend had told her a lewd joke involving a nun, a cucumber, and a badger. She had laughed hard for the first time in a long time and not particularly at the joke but at the fact that Leti had told her the very same joke, although in her own inimitable and clumsy fashion forgetting the badger entirely and then fumbling the punch line so badly that for a moment it was all they could do to stare at each other in utter confusion before bursting in to gales of crazy breathless laughter. That second time hearing the joke had been almost as funny as the first time and when she had explained why to her friend, she realized that it was the first time the memory of Leti hadn’t brought a tear to her eye. Her grief had left her finally but now all she had were questions. Questions that were too hard for her to understand let alone speak.
“Leticia was the only person I had left in the world. I couldn’t even make the damn funeral arrangements. I just didn‘t know what was happening for the longest time.”
“Death always hits hard.”
“It was just how sure everyone had seemed. They said that the only tracks at the scene were of the guy who found her, and that there weren’t any signs of a struggle.”
“But you did bring up the fact that she wasn’t a drug user. Not even recreational?” he asked dryly like a doctor taking stock of her symptoms.
Beth was taken aback however and found herself shocked into silence once more.
“Between my analytical skills and a friend or two in the police department, I’m pretty good at finding out whatever I need to know about people, places and… things.” He offered, after seeing the look on her face.
“I’m sorry, but yes, that still surprises me, no matter how you put it. I really didn’t even think she smoked weed. But apparently she did. I just thought I knew her.”
Leticia Valdez was last seen alive on the morning of October 16 2010,  by her then boyfriend, Anthony Ortega as he left for work. She told Anthony that she was going home for the day, after having spent the night with him, while he went to work at a nearby convenience store. She left his apartment at 8:55 am in a green ford Taurus model year 2003,  registered to Bethany Ann Valdez. At 8:57 Daniel reports seeing her drive by the store. Surveillance tapes from the store confirm this.  Leticia is not seen for another two hours, until she turns up at local hardware store where she buys a 16 foot nylon rope. A receipt recovered from her car confirms purchase was made at 11:13 am. Surveillance footage from nearby convenience store confirms that she parks her car and then after entering the store to make her purchases, she exits at 11:14 then is last seen leaving in her car, headed south. Leticia is found dead in a small wooded lot approximately a half mile from where she parked her car, by a transient named William Haring. The discovery is made at 9:45 am October 17 2010. The autopsy reports traces of cocaine and no other injuries to her body. Her death is ruled a suicide.
“So that’s the basic gist of it right?”
Beth stared at him for a long time before she answered meekly, “Yes, I suppose so.”
“I don’t think there is any room for supposing, I’m pretty sure that’s it. Unless you have some sparkling piece of brand new evidence that is so groundshakingly irrefutable, that god himself could not deny it in court then I do-”
“Fuck you.” She stopped him coldly. “I wouldn’t come here unless I was damn sure of what I knew and didn’t know. I came here, to you, because I was told that if anyone could help me, it was you.”
“Why me, exactly?” he asked, not missing a beat.
“Please. You know how I heard of you, and if you don’t then maybe you aren’t as good as I hoped.”
Quintana only smiled at this and Beth got the feeling that no matter how much he was able to help her, the two of them would never be friends. He was too much at odds with the world and everyone and everything in it.
“Kate Sullivan, lives three doors down from you, and you both share a church. Yeah, I pretty much figured you were friends. But the way you act, I can’t imagine that I could help you the way I helped her.”
“Well, I didn’t believe that things happened that required the help of people like yourself.”
“And what kind of people are those?”
“Heathens.” She said matter-of-factly.
He let out a hearty bellow of laughter at this, but Beth ignored it and continued.
“Do you know what a heathen is Mr. Quintana?”
“Not precisely, no, but I’m sure you’re about to tell me Mrs. Valdez.” He said regaining his composure.
“It’s a person who was raised in the faith, but has actively turned their back on it.”
He seemed to consider that for a second before he replied with, “Well I wouldn’t describe myself as a very active person.”
Bethany shook her head in exasperation before he continued, “Unlike you ma’am, my personal life is no matter in this.”
“It should matter if you want me to hire you.”
“I choose my clients just as much as they choose me. If you don’t think I can help you then by all means, leave, and conversely if I don’t think I can help you, then I’ll tell you, and Mrs. Valdez, to be honest, I don’t I think I can help you.”
“She told me that she didn’t kill herself.”
The silence had started to become uncomfortable when he spoke once again.
“Mrs. Sullivan told you how it was that I helped her then?” His face becoming solemn.
“Yes.”
“And you believed her?”
“Enough to come here. To see you for myself.”
“To see what exactly?”
“To see if you were a phony.”
“So… what do you think?” he sighed, offering a wan smile.
She looked straight into his eyes again, the way she had when he first came in. Her thoughts now, after their conversation, hadn’t changed much since then she realized, but if anything, now he was meeting her gaze fully and fiercely.
“I think you’re honest Mr. Quintana. I think if I asked you to help me, you would, regardless of how you felt about it, and more than likely I think you do care, in spite of what you feel about… people.”
“I don’t make promises Mrs. Valdez. You can’t be sure enough in this world to make promises about anything, but if you ask me to help you, then I‘ll break that rule, I promise I will help you to the best of my abilities. Still, that may require more than a little faith in me than I think even a person such as yourself could have.”
He wants me to say that I trust him. She looked into his eyes once more, and didn’t find any of what she expected there. This wasn’t a man who knew how to help her. It was just a man who knew that he could. And trying to be arrogant only made him look tired and sad.
“I think if you couldn’t help me, this conversation would have ended a long time ago.”
“You heard that I can talk to dead people, and you think that if I can talk to your friends dead husband, then maybe I can talk to you’re dead granddaughter, right Mrs. Valdez?”
“Yes.”
“And you think if I can talk to your dead granddaughter then maybe I can tell you why she’s dead. Right Mrs. Valdez?”
“Yes.”
“And If I tell you that hiring me would cost a minimum of 100 dollars, regardless of what I turn up, you would be willing to pay, right, Mrs. Valdez?”
“Yes, I guess.” The price was actually way cheaper than she had expected, but she surprised herself by not letting this on in the slightest.
“And finally upon satisfactory completion of said case, not only will you know the name, birth date, and social security number, should he or she have one, of the true perpetrator, but you will also know the name of said persons grandma, when I hand you my final report. Otherwise the final fee, which usually runs in the neighborhood of $$400 to $1000 dollars, will be waived. Sound good?”
Beth almost smiled in spite of herself. He was a strange man. “Yes.”
“Nice, because those are my only real stipulations.” he said with a slight smirk.
“Just my payment then?”
“Well, I might need to move in with you for a week.” He said with that same invincible smirk.
“Are you serious?” she said incredulous.
“Oh yeah.”
“Umm, yes, I guess.”
“Okay then  I guess, I can help you. But like I said, I don’t make promises. So if I don’t help you at all, then fine, I won’t charge you, but if I do give you, any kind of help, then you owe me. The rest of my payment. Right?”
“I suppose yes.”
“Okay, so we have our agreement, and that’s all there really is to it. Still, Sally will have you sign some papers that will say the same thing with absolutely no addendums I can assure you, but if you want to have someone else take a look at them before you sign then I won’t begrudge you that. Still once you sign them though, we are in agreement, and I can assure you that it will be final. So unless you refuse us I will be giving you a call in the next few days Mrs. Valdez. Cool?”
“I guess, yeah.” She said a little befuddled, not quite sure if they were really done yet, but relenting nonetheless.
Even before she started to rise herself though Mr. Quintana had already gotten up from his seat and started out the door.
“So you can help me the way I think you can?” Bethany asked.
He stopped in the door for a second and spoke in an eerily solemn voice.
“I can’t bring your granddaughter back to life. I can’t promise you that I will find you  a real killer that can wipe the sins from her soul either. I can’t even promise you that at the end of this, I’ll deliver something that could make you feel better or more at peace. But for now, I can promise that once you sign those papers, I will lay down my life, just so I can help you Mrs. Valdez. To whatever end.” Then  with a nod, he smiled a big gentlemanly smile that even managed to touch his starry eyes.
For the longest time she didn‘t know what to make of the man or her own reaction to him. Honor, that’s what it was, she thought later on, He had honor that went down to his very bones, and not just the fake kind that we bestow on ourselves. He wears honor that others have bestowed on him. Honor that he’s earned.
But, he’s still a drunk.
She wanted to know more about him, but she had no clue as to how to go about that. Kate had told everything she knew of the man. He was big, ugly, and he worked, had been her exact words. “He helped you with Henry?”
“Yes he most certainly did.”
“Can I ask how, though, I mean, I remember you talking about the dreams you were having, and it kinda sounds like what I’m talking about but, how-”
“You want me to say that this man came and talked to my husbands ghost.”
Beth couldn’t think of anything to say to that.
“Well I can’t say that Bethany, I don’t know what he did, but I know that it seemed like i asked him to do something impossible at the time only instead of failing at it he delivered. He promised to help me if he could and he did, and I trust him. I think you should too, or else I wouldn’t have recommended him.” Then she did something Beth hadn’t expected at all but had warmed her heart all the more because of it. Kate Sullivan, the little birdy woman that clutched her purse tight against her lap in church just as if she were in a bad neighborhood, reached out and gave Beth’s hand a soft squeeze. And so she had trusted Kate.
That night as she began to drift into sleep a word came to her that described the odd feeling she had gotten from the big ugly detective, that explained why she had felt so surprised by him at the end. Chivalrous. That’s how he sounded. Like a knight in of those wispy old romantic stories about a grand quest to save some fair maiden.
That night she dreamt of a tall heavily armored knight braving a black and terrible castle. He carried a torch and a dull rusted sword. He seemed to grow wearier as he stalked from empty room to empty room, and as he did the conflict and rage that simmered and brewed behind his eyes melted away only to give rise to a look of despair more dreadful than the dark that threatened to engulf him with every bone chilling draft that whistled through the halls carrying whispers of unfamiliar words from unrecognized voices. Then, just before the darkness became too much to bare, the knight came upon a set of heavy oaken doors. From behind them sounds of merriment, laughter, and boisterous conversation echoed. He cast the torch and sword to ground and pulled the two great doors open. Only instead of some grand feast, darkness greeted him. Darkness and silence. The knight slipped into the abyss as if they were well acquainted lovers and in a moment all sense of his form was lost. Are you okay? What’s in there? Beth heard herself ask in a tiny helpless voice.
Then before she realized she didn’t want to know the answer, a flat hollow voice that sounded eerily like Ruben Quintana replied, “There are only ghosts.”


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