Buenos Aires, 6:00 AM
She wakes up all at once, eyes snapping open in the cold morning. Her eyelashes are clumped with mascara dried into spiders' legs, glitter and char smearing her puffy eyes. The delicate skin under her eyes is swollen and dark. Her hands are still covered in blood, half-dry but tacky enough to leave prints on the white linen as she shoves her way out of the bed. The pliers make a clattering sound when they hit the hardwood floor, even cushioned by the wayward duvet.
She stumbles toward the bathroom, but appears to hesitate, detouring left into the dining room. She picks up last night's half-empty bottle of whiskey and continues toward the kitchen, trailing her sticky hand along the waxed and polished surface of the dining table, burnished red-gold. The scent of lemon oil hangs heavy in the air. The pile of silver and broken china in the corner has a nacreous gleam.
She turns on the coffee pot and sinks down to the blue tile floor. She takes a pull from the whiskey bottle and sets it gently beside her. Her face is blank, inquiring, the face of a younger girl rediscovering a long-cherished piece of music. The burbling of the coffee pot punctuates the heavy silence and she cocks her head to the left, seeming to listen intently to a whisper that penetrates her personal fog.
She stands decisively once more, leaving the coffee and the whiskey to deal with themselves, striding into the bedroom to recover the pliers. She takes them into the music room, uses them to smash the enormous blue-patterned vase in the corner, then tosses them indifferently atop the leaking bundle of flesh slumped bonelessly in the center of the room. She scrabbles at the shards of porcelain without regard for her own skin, pulling from the mess a wad of cash and a wallet stuffed with rail tickets. She takes these into the bedroom, throws them in an open suitcase, then heads into the bathroom for a long-overdue shower.
She is gone by seven-thirty, and is never seen again.
The fog of the morning is beginning to burn off already. The house is nearly silent, a dim retreat from the vague rush of the traffic outside. Sometimes people walking by are caught by its distinctive architecture, its inviting glow.
There are broken bits of teeth scattered on the floor next to the pieces of the vase, and they gleam in the new sunlight. The record player turns, ceaselessly, the restless scratch of the record's ending a whisper in the noise of the city. The house breathes, drawing in cool against the heat of the day.
Two weeks later:
The body, eventually discovered by the cleaning staff, is wrapped in black plastic and shuffled off to the city hospital. This case is all dead ends, and the police force is already overworked. No one can bring themselves to care about a pair of vagabond foreigners.
The file is put in the records room, the body cremated. It is a cold case.
The story sinks like a stone into some hidden trench, deep into the black. There is no publicity. The house is cleaned thoroughly and becomes just another rental property. This is not the first time the real estate agency has needed to employ a renovator known for his discretion.
When new couples come to view the house, it puts on its most inviting display.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Amanda Lynn challenged me with "a shattered vase, a pair of pliers, and two tickets" and I challenged Brad MacDonald with "After the wave."