The Siren

The Siren

The girl stopped in front of me and said, “You guys are twins.”

I was sitting on a bench on the waterfront. No one but tourists ever sat there, but my coffee break had been shortened by half because of a murder, so I didn’t have time to go to Sparkeys, which is where I usually had breakfast. Keith sat next to me, his chin propped in his hands, his gaze fixed on the bay.

Huh?” I said. The soul of wit.

The girl about seventeen maybe, with long, dirty-blond hair and a wad of gum in her mouth. She rolled her eyes, like I was some sort of idiot, and said, “You shouldn’t dress alike. At your age it looks hokey.” She cracked her gum loudly and strode off without a backward glance.

She can see we’re twins?” I asked, my skin prickling. I looked at Keith. “But how can she see you? You’re dead.”

Have been for years,” he agreed.

You have to stop wearing the same clothes I do,” I said. “We look hokey.”

Sorry, no can do,” he said with a crooked grin.

It’s the first time someone else could see you,” I said.

He shrugged. “Maybe she’s psychic.”

Understatement of the year.”

Are you going to make her a job offer?” Keith grinned.

She’s just a kid. Probably in high school,” I said. “I’ll wait until she graduates at least.”

We better get back to the morgue. Quentin will be waiting for us.”

Waiting for me, you mean.” I looked at Keith. He looked back at me. We were identical twins. Had been, that is. Until Keith had been murdered by a machete-wielding maniac seven years ago. We were both in the police force when it happened. Keith had been working as an undercover cop. Since then, I’d been promoted to chief inspector. Maybe it sounds impressive, but we live on a small island.

Don’t start thinking it’s paradise. There’s a lot of crime per capita here. The island, like I said, is small, and the filthy rich live within a stone’s throw from the wretched poor. Drugs abound, and the mafia has wormed its tentacles into the offshore gambling and drug dealing as well. However, most of my work is keeping the small time hoods in line so they don’t scare off the tourists.

Anyhow, Keith never left me. He was there the day after the funeral, and he’d been with me every day since. I can hear him…and usually I was the only one who could see him.

Back in the morgue, Quentin was just finishing up his report. He’s our forensic guy. Scientist. Doctor. Whatever. I used to be the youngest one in the department until Quentin got recruited right out of college.

Hey Josh,” he said as I walked in.

What did you find?” I looked at the cadaver as I spoke, and tried to ignore Keith’s comments, which were along the lines of “Holy shit, look at that poor kid!”

The girl had been about fifteen, I supposed, with long, pale brown hair and thin arms. Her collarbones were sharp, like her cheekbones and her narrow nose. She had small breasts, round and pink-tipped. The rest of her body was missing. Shark attack said the tag on her left wrist. I could believe that, but I didn’t believe a shark killed her. There were marks all over her neck: blue strangulation marks, and if I still doubted, there were her teeth, stained pinker than a North Side barracuda’s.

“Strangulation, right?” I asked.

“She has a head injury. No idea how it was caused. Might have knocked her unconscious. Check this out,” said Quentin, and he lifted up a lock her hair to show me a dark bruise and small triangular dent in her skull. “Someone hit her then strangled her with something thin from the looks of the marks on her neck.”

I pulled the sheet back up over her torso and face, then stepped back and rubbed my arms. I sighed, and washed my hands and caught a glimpse of Keith standing behind me. He was frowning mightily at the sheet covered body.

Quentin pointed to the corner of the room where the girl’s affairs were sitting in a sad pile. I opened her purse. It was dry. “Where was this found?”

“On the waterfront, under a car. The murderer didn’t take any money.” Quention shrugged.

I went through it. A wallet with a five and a twenty, some lipstick, an eye pencil, gum, a rubber in a foil pack, keys, and a small red journal. I opened it and started reading.

“What is it?” asked Keith.

“Her diary,” I said.

Quenton looked up from his table. “What?”

“Nothing.” I read a few pages and put it back in her purse. “Photocopy this. And send the victim’s mother in,” I said to Quentin. I wanted to see her face when she looked at the body. It wasn’t the first time she’d had a look; that had been a few hours ago for the identification. Still, sometimes I get reactions. Anything would help. Quentin nodded and opened the door, motioning for the girl’s mother to step into the morgue.

She came in holding a handkerchief to her mouth. Her hair was dyed a hard crimson, and her eyes still had traces of too much make-up and not enough sleep. She blinked, her eyelashes sticking together briefly because of mascara.

“When can I go home?” she said.

“You already identified your daughter,” I said, “but I want you to show you something.” I nodded to Quentin.

He pulled the sheet back just enough to uncover her neck and I watched the woman carefully. She flinched, but her eyes never wavered from the cadaver.

I pointed to her neck. “Those marks mean that your daughter was already dead when the sharks got at her. Whoever killed her dumped her in the harbor. You understand what I’m saying?”

The woman looked at me now. Her face was slack. “You’re telling me Fallon was killed before she fell in the water?”

“Yes. Do you have anything to say about that?”

The woman looked back at the body. Her shoulders shook, but she didn’t speak. I sighed. It was going to be a long day.

#

“First deposition,” I said, speaking into my recorder and looking at the woman sitting across the desk now from me. She’d had time to go home, wash her face and brush her hair. Now she sat on the folding chair, her hands clenched on her lap. “Go ahead,” I said.

“Go ahead what?” She looked confused.

I saw Keith’s mouth twitch but I ignored him. He was sitting in the empty chair next to the woman.

“Tell me about your daughter. Anything. The first thing that comes to mind. Go on,” I prodded, after a lengthy silence.

She shook her head. “I never understood her, even if she was my daughter. I never knew what she was up to. She was always lying, that made it harder. I tried to be a good mother, I did. But hell, she was so difficult. Look where she ended up for God’s sake!” Ignoring the “No Smoking” sign on the wall, she took a cigarette out of the pack on the desk, stuck it in her mouth and lit it with a plastic lighter that she dug out of her pocket. Her hand was shaking. “I didn’t mean it that way. She was always in trouble, provoking men.” The woman exhaled hard, smoke blowing from her lips and nose. “I told her a million times not to go to the Fly Trap. That bar is poison, I said. All the wrong crowd hangs out there. Did she listen? Ha! She went there and flirted.”

I pulled a tin ashtray out of a drawer in front of me, shoved it across the table at her, and made some notes. Liar? Fly Trap? I wrote. I glanced at Keith, but he just shrugged. “When did you see your daughter last?”

“Yesterday I drove her to school. I dropped her off in front of the gate.”

“Did you see her go inside?”

“Yes, I mean no. Shit. I don’t know. I just dropped her off and went to work. I don’t recall actually seeing her step in the gate, if that’s what you mean.”

I made another note. Skipped school? “Did you see her when you came home from work?”
“No. I know she came home from school though, she left her clothes all over the floor, and there was a note on the table saying she was going to sing, and not to wait up. It was Friday night, so I let her stay out late, all right?”

“Sing?”

“She sang with some band made up of a bunch of friends that played at the Blue Bay Hotel. Nothing special.”

More notes. Blue Bay Hotel? Singing? “Did she do that often?”

“Yeah. They paid her twenty dollars a night so I let her do it on weekends.”

“All right. So you dropped her off at school and didn’t see her again.”

“Until you called me sometime last night.”

“At three-fifty eight a.m.” I was always a stickler for details. “What did you do that day?”

The woman licked her lips, dragged hard on her cigarette, blew it in Keith’s direction. “I worked at the front desk of the dental clinic, like usual. At seven I went home to change, that’s when I saw Fallon’s clothes and her note. I took a shower, and then I had dinner with Pam, my neighbor. Then we went to town and had a few drinks. We met Frank at two a.m., when he finished his shift at the bar. We got home, and you called right after.”

Pam Neighbor? “All right, if you have anything else, don’t hesitate to call.”

“Are you going to talk to Frank now?”

“Yes, why?”

“Oh, nothing.” The woman stood up and crushed her cigarette out in the ashtray.

“We found your daughter’s diary in her purse,” I said.

The woman froze, her hand still in the ashtray.

“It says something about Frank.”

“She was always lying.”

“It says here,” I opened a small notebook and read. “The other day I was home sick, and Frank came in my bedroom…”

“It wasn’t true!” said the woman again.

“What was that story about?”

“Whatever it says there is a lie. She was always making up stories. Frank would never…”

“Never what?”

“Whatever it is she said. Are you done yet? I have to get to work.”

I nodded. “Sign this please.” I waited until she left then stood up and stretched. “She has to get to work?” I said to Keith. “She doesn’t even take a day off?”

“I know. Strange,” said Keith. “She may still be in shock, or denial.”

“Show the stepfather in,” I said into the intercom.

Frank knocked before opening the door. I had seen him last night late, standing behind his wife, staring at half a body. He’d looked green in the harsh light. Now I saw he had sallow skin and his black, curly hair was shot through with white.

“I have Fallon’s diary here,” I said without preamble. I held up the book. “It says here that you came into her room telling her that she needed to do more exercise…Fallon wrote that you were naked.”

“That’s a lie,” sputtered Frank. He crossed his arms over his chest and said, “I had on gym shorts. Why would I be naked?”

“Why would you go into her room to lecture about exercise?”

“Everyone needs to exercise, look at me, not an ounce of fat.”

I looked. It was true, Frank was as thin as a whippet, his arms were corded with muscle, even his hands looked hard.

Frank followed my glance. “A bartender has to have agile fingers,” he said, flexing them. He gave me a wink. “It comes in handy more ways than one.”

“Fallon wrote here, ‘Frank has been following me around lately. Yesterday he spied on me while I was in the shower.’”

“And you believe her, I suppose.” Frank’s voice was bitter. “She was always provoking. I was her biggest target. She walked around the house half-naked when her mother wasn’t home. But she didn’t just provoke me. Any boy or man in the vicinity was fair game for her teasing. She was begging for it, I’m telling you. She was built like a – well, you saw her.” He stopped and reddened. “Shit, she was always sprawled on the couch, wearing nothing but a tee shirt and shorts. She was a tease, but that’s all.” He shook his head. “She wasn’t a bad kid, just a little wild, that’s all.”

“How long have you been Fallon’s stepfather?”

“Me and Wanda got married in June, three years ago, but I’d been living with Wanda for almost three years before that. Hell, I’ve known Fallon since she was a little kid.” His voice broke.

I looked at his hands, trying to imagine them squeezing the life out of a teenage girl. “What did you do yesterday?”

“During the day I hung around the house. Sometimes I go to the beach, but not often. I start work at four p.m. and work until midnight, but I always take an hour and help closing the bar and restaurant. Last night was no different.”

I nodded. “When Fallon came home from school, did she mention anything about going out that night?”

“She didn’t tell me anything,” said Frank stiffly.

Did you see her at all?”

“Yeah I saw her. She came home, went straight to the phone and called someone called Skeeter, then she took a shower, wrote a note, and walked out of the house.”

Skeeter? “Did anyone pick her up?”

“She hitch-hiked.” He shrugged. “She always did. We never minded, hell, everyone hitch hikes on the island. She knew not to get in a car with a weirdo.”

“Didn’t you ask where she was going? Did she say anything at all?”

“I saw her take her guitar, so I knew she was going to the Blue Bay Hotel. Oh yeah, I said something to her. I said, ‘don’t go to the Fly Trap,’ and she just turned around and gave me the finger,” Frank said with a shrug.
“Why did you say that?”
“Because, Wanda didn’t want her daughter there.”
“Did she go there anyway?”
“Hell no, she would have killed her.” Frank turned red. “I didn’t mean that. Wanda tried to be strict with her, bring her up right, you know.”
“Thank you. If you remember anything else call me.” I stood up and shook Frank’s hand. It was hard as a rock.

#

I looked at my notes, sighed, and pulled the drawer open. I took my wallet and tucked it into my shoulder holster, (safer than my pocket) then stepped out the door. The police station was nearly empty – it wasn’t tourist season yet, the cruise-ships hadn’t docked, the navy wasn’t in town, and Carnival hadn’t started. Calm ruled the tiny, sun-scorched island. Calm, except for the half-eaten body of a teenage girl. I waved to Beatrice, the young station secretary.

She paused typing and made a face. “Inspector, I am not eating lunch with you, I’m engaged, so just stop making cow-eyes at me!”

I grinned. “Did you know the girl in the freezer?”

Beatrice stopped typing altogether. “Fallon Dasilva?”

“How many girls are in the freezer?”

Beatrice frowned. “There you go, making fun of me again.” She noticed my expression and stood up, taking her knit purse from beneath her chair. “Look, I have a photo here. I went to the same school she did. She was three years younger than I was so I didn’t know her that well. She has, I mean had a bad reputation, that much I do know. She’s in this picture because she was singing the night Gerald and I went to the Blue Bay Hotel, and some tourist took our picture. Look, she’s right behind us.”

I took the photo from Beatrice’s slim, brown fingers and studied it. Beatrice and her fiancé, Gerald, were standing in front of a low platform. Behind them was a band made up of three young boys and Fallon. I recognized two of the boys; there was Nelson, a native boy playing the steel drums, and Terrance, an Asian boy holding a bass guitar. The tow-headed boy playing drums looked familiar but I wasn’t sure.

Fallon stood near the mike, hip cocked, mouth half-open, her eyes half closed. Her sultry pose was pathetically defiant. Her dress was so tight it showed every curve, and she was well-built despite being too thin for my taste.

“She was hot,” said Beatrice, taking the photo back. “But she was bodacious.”

I smiled at the quaint, island expression. “Who was the boy on the drums?”
“That’s Skeeter Rouge, a Frenchie boy. Watch out for him.”

“Thanks Beatrice.” I plucked the photo from her, ignoring her wailing protests. “I’m just borrowing it,” I said, as I walked out the door into the blinding sunlight.

Even this early, it was hot. Sunlight sparkled on the harbor and danced off the aluminum masts of sailboats. Keith walked next to me, no shadow at his feet. We walked down Main Street, empty now that tourist season was over. Keith and I ducked into Palm Passage, and walked through a cool dark alley leading towards the market square.

The women in the market held cardboard over their heads for shade and hawked their wares. “Gnips! Tamarinds! Mangos! Get fresh papaya here! Yellowtail, I have yellowtail, and one old wife left!”

I loved old wife fish, but I wasn’t buying. We walked through the market stalls, looking for the Rouge family stand.

“You recognized him, didn’t you?” I said to my brother.

Keith nodded. “Old family. Been here for generations. Fishing family. From Frenchtown.”

I spotted him near the fountain. “Rouge!” I shouted. “Skeeter Rouge!”

The boy was helping his father load fish onto the back of a dilapidated pick-up truck. As soon as he heard his name, he stiffened. He didn’t make a move, but his father caught his arm and held him tight. “The law after you, boy?” he asked, and would have cuffed him but I yelled, “I just want to ask a few questions!”

Skeeter stood sullenly, rubbing his arm. “I ain’t done nothing wrong,” he said.

I showed him the photo. “I want to know about Fallon Dasilva.”

The boy took the picture hesitantly, holding it as if it were made of glass. His hands shook. “Is she really dead?” The voice came out a whisper. “I heard she got fished outta the harbor last night.”

I nodded and took the photo back.

“What happened?” Skeeter asked.

“Tell me what happened last night,” I countered.

The boy sat down on an upturned crate and wrapped his arms around himself. “We played at the Blue Bay, like usual. She sang real good, did you ever hear her?”

I shook his head.

“She had a nice voice, not strong or too loud, but she could sing the blues, and go high, shit, she gave me the chills when she sang. Did they tell you she wrote most of out stuff herself?” Skeeter looked up at me, and tears glittered on his cheeks. “I can’t believe she’s gone,” he said, his voice ragged.

I sat down next to the boy. “Where did she go afterwards?”

Skeeter shook his head. “I don’t know. I had to get home, we went fishing this morning and I have to help dad. We leave at four a.m., so I wanted to get some sleep.”

I looked at the boy’s father, who nodded. “Skeeter was home by one,” he said, then he picked up a crate and shoved it into the truck.

“Did you go to the Fly Trap last night before going home?”

Skeeter darted a glance at his father. “No, I didn’t have time. But she said she was meeting someone there.” He wiped the tears off his cheeks with the back of his hand. “I can’t believe she drowned,” he said. “Can I have the picture?”

I got up and patted the boy awkwardly on the shoulder. “No, it’s not mine. Fallon didn’t drown, someone killed her.”

Skeeter’s head jerked up. “What?”

“Strangled her, from the looks of it.”

The boy turned ashen. “I bet it was her stepfather. According to Fallon, he couldn’t keep his hands off her.”

The boy’s father stepped in. “Hush your mouth, Skeeter! That girl was trouble, and you know it. If her stepfather had her hands on her, she probably loved it.”

Skeeter opened his mouth, then shut it and turned away. “I gotta get back to work,” he said sullenly. He ducked his head, his white-blond hair hiding his face.

I nodded and let the boy go. I stood for a minute, watching the water sparkle in the fountain, thinking. I was getting hungry so I got a curry patty at the Crazy Cow’s bar. Over a hot spicy patty, and a cold beer, I read my notes. Sitting on the stool next to me, Keith recited the facts as we knew them. There wasn’t much to go on. Girl sings at the hotel, goes to town, ends up dead in the harbor.

#

Back at the station, I called Pamela, the neighbor.

“Why did Wanda Dasilva forbid Fallon to go to the Fly Trap?”

“Well,” said the woman, “she didn’t want her to go there because the people there take drugs, screw around, and drink too much, isn’t that a good reason?”

“Yes, but that description fits all the bars around town, why the Fly Trap in particular?

Pamela’s voice was gravelly over the phone. “The bartender at the Fly Trap is the hottest guy in town.”

“Did you and Wanda go there last night for drinks?”
“Sure as hell did. I wouldn’t miss a chance to see Samson.”
“Samson?”
“Samson Greaves. The bartender.” Pamela paused. “Wanda has the hots for him. She didn’t want Samson to see her precious little Fallon. Feminine jealousy, you know?”

I knew. I thanked Pamela and looked up Samson’s number in the phone directory. The bartender answered after ten rings, his voice rusty with sleep.

“Yeah?”

“Samson Greaves?”

“S’me.”

“This is chief inspector Quentin Green. I’m calling about Fallon Dasilva.”

There was a long silence, then, “What about her?”

“Did you see her last night?”

Another pause, then, “No, she never showed up.” A yawn, and the sound of bedsprings creaking.

“Did you have a date with her?”

Samson coughed, then I heard the sound of something being poured into a cup. “Hold on, I have to drink some OJ. I’m still asleep.”

“Go ahead.”

After a minute, Samson said, “Did I have a date with her? Yeah. But she didn’t show.”

“Was this your first date?”

“No. Me and her we’ve been seeing each other a lot lately. We usually met after I finished work on Saturday night. She has school, so she doesn’t have much free time. Look, was it her mom that called you? Because she’s not a minor anymore. She’s sixteen, and according to the law…”

“I know the law. How old are you?”

“Twenty. I’m working as a bartender to get some money to go to college. Fallon wants me to get a degree. She’s the only one who thinks I’m stupid to be bartending. I make a hellova lot of money. But if she wants me to get a degree, then I will. I’m crazy abou…” His broke off and I heard him take a deep breath. “What’s this about, Chief?” he asked, his voice suddenly faint.

“I’ll tell you when I get to your house.” I took his address and left the building, wincing as the sun scorched my face. Samson was dressed when Keith and I arrived. He opened the door and watched as I got out of the car. He was a good looking young man. He was black, which surprised me for some reason.

Samson opened the door wider and said, “Don’t mind the mess.”

“I have bad news,” I said. Keith stepped right though Samson and walked into the house, snooping.

Samson rubbed his chest. “I guessed as much. Fallon would have at least called to tell me she wasn’t coming. What happened? A car accident?”

I watched him carefully. “She was murdered, Samson. Strangled with one of her guitar strings.”

The boy’s shock wasn’t faked. He looked like he was about to puke, and his knees suddenly gave out. He sat down on the couch with a crash. Tears coursed down his cheeks. He buried his face in his hands and started to sob. It was so childlike I was surprised. I pulled up a chair and sat next to him. “Who would want to kill her?” I asked.

Samson wiped his face with his hands and looked at him, his expression desolate. “How would I know? I don’t think anyone would want to kill her. She was a good person, she really cared about me. She had smarts. She was always making plans, and not castles in the sand, real plans.” Behind him, Keith appeared. He shook his head. Nothing incriminating here.

“Castles in the clouds, not sand.” I corrected. “Like what?”

“Like she was going to go to college and get a degree in nursing. She wanted to be a nurse. She was smart. She wanted me to get a degree too. She said I could be a business man. She said she didn’t want her husband to be a barman, because there was too much temptation behind a bar.”

“You were planning on getting married? Wasn’t she a bit young?”

“Of course she was. So am I. It was just talk. But I was crazy about her. I was.” He put his face in his hands again.

“If you think of anything, tell me.” I got up.

Samson scrubbed at his eyes with his fists and got to his feet. “Thanks for not telling me over the phone,” he said. Then he said, “who has her guitar?”

I blinked. I hadn’t thought of that. Guitars float. It would have been found in the harbor. It must have been dumped somewhere.

#

Keith and I went back to the office and I put out a call asking everyone who’d been in involved with the case to look for her guitar. In the end, it was easy. Pedro, the cop who’d gone to get Fallon’s mother for the identification remembered seeing it in the back of her car. Then it was just a case of me going to check, and finding the guitar minus a string.

I summoned Pedro. “We have an arrest to make,” I said, taking handcuffs from the drawer. We took the station car up Skyline Drive and parked in front of a cement-block house surrounded by overgrown hibiscus and bougainvillea.

“Wanda Dasilva? You have the right to remain silent the right…”

“What the hell is going on?” Frank stood in the doorway, his shirt unbuttoned, his eyes blazing. “Leave my wife alone.”

“She killed her daughter,” said Pedro. He cuffed Wanda, while Keith and I stood back, watching. For once, Keith didn’t have any wisecracks to make.

Frank looked stunned. He looked at Wanda. “Is that true?” he asked, his voice breaking.

She turned to him, fury in her eyes. “Listen to you! All broken up aren’t you? Couldn’t keep your hands off her could you? She was a slut! A little whore!”

“You know that’s not true!” Frank cried.

To me she spat, “you can’t prove I did it!”

“I can, actually. I have the guitar. You were the only one who knew she went to the Fly Trap last night,” said I. “Everyone else knew you forbade her to go there. But she did go, didn’t she?”

“She had to go to the Fly Trap! She had to go see him, couldn’t keep away from any man. Frank, Samson, Greg, hell, as soon as I was interested in a guy, she had to go and seduce him away from me!” Wanda shrieked.

I nodded. “So you saw her with Samson and you lost it. You waited until she was on the waterfront, hitchhiking home, and you picked her up in your car. You probably got into a fight. There is a dent in the guitar, there is a key missing. You hit her with the guitar and knocked her out, then strangled her with a guitar string that broke loose. Then you dumped her body in the harbor.”

Wanda looked at me, her face contorted. “She was always taking them away from me. Her father loved her more than me, and then Greg, and Frank, and now Samson. She won’t do it again. The little whore, she won’t do it again!”

I turned to Frank. “I’m sorry,” I said.

The man just stared at him. “I never touched her,” he said. “Never.”

I took the photo out of my pocket and smoothed it with my thumb. The girl stared back at me.

“She was just a siren, wasn’t she?” Keith said softly.

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