First featured in the Evil Women Anthology. A free pdf of the whole anthology is available here.
The murder of Adrian Jimenez was one of those cases that carved its way into her head and festered there. The details of the crime weren’t novel: a woman, discovering her husband had a lover, had killed him in a fit of rage. No, what made this crime burrow deep into Sonia Landaeta’s mind were two things. The first was the sheer brutality of the assault; the crime scene photographer, a seasoned vet, had thrown up in the front yard, and several of the officers followed suit.
The second was that the main suspect, Carlotta Jimenez, claimed she was innocent and that her husband was murdered by a ghost.
And not just any ghost. She said he’d been killed by La Sayona.
“You’re thinking too loud again.” She felt a brush of a hand on her cheek as her boyfriend, Tyler, pulled her away from her mental cataloguing of the case.
“Sorry.” She said, turning off the TV. She’d been thinking for a while and she didn’t even know what she’d been pretending to watch. “It’s just this case…”
“You caught the bad guy, didn’t you? What are you still worried about?” Tyler dropped onto the sofa, slinging his arm around her. She breathed in his cologne, anchoring her to the present, far away from the dusty interrogation room in her thoughts.
“Something doesn’t add up.” No one at the precinct agreed with this. All the evidence lined up and pointed right at Mrs. Jimenez. Nonetheless, ever since the case began, Sonia left work a sick feeling in her stomach that they were missing something.
“This is still the one with the weirdo venezuelan vengeance spirit, right?” said Tyler, nuzzling at her neck. Sonia frowned and turned her head away.
Calling La Sayona a weirdo vengeance spirit felt a bit like calling Big Foot a bizarro american monkey man. It was technically correct, but lacking in the cultural nuance that made the stories important. Tyler wouldn’t understand.
He wouldn’t get shivers as he listened to Mrs. Jimenez’ pitch perfect description of a woman in white ripping her husband to shreds. Goosebumps wouldn’t spring up his arms at the sound of her name, harkening back to bonfire stories told in order to keep scraps of Venezuela alive in this town they’d carved out from the Everglades.
“Just because you’re too much of a gringo to know any of the good stories,” said Sonia, not at all distracted from her thoughts by the nipping kisses planted along her jaw.
“You’re the one who likes us ‘merican boys.” He teased. “I guess that’s just the price you pay.”
“I guess…” Her mind was already treading the well worn path back to the crime scene. Tyler seemed to notice and pulled away.
“I guess I’ll leave you to yours ghosts then. I’m heading over to Mike’s, he just got a new TV.” He pushed himself up off the sofa. Sonia managed to react in time and landed a peck at the corner of his lips as he stood.
She ended up going to bed before he got home, but before she fell asleep she made the resolution to speak to Carlotta Jimenez herself and try to shake the specter of this crime, once and for all.
Carlotta Jimenez looked like a woman haunted by the death of her husband. Whether this was literal or not, Sonia hadn’t decided yet. Carlotta’s dark skin looked almost grey and her black hair hung limply around her face. She had barely slept since she’d been arrested, and every sleepless night was highlighted in dark circles under her eyes. She would have looked like a ghost herself if it weren’t for the fear that clung to her like a shroud. The dead, after all, had nothing left to be afraid of.
She twitched at the sound of the door opening, but didn’t turn to look at Sonia as she sat down across from her. She kept her eyes lowered, her face hidden by a curtain of hair.
“Mrs. Jimenez?” said Sonia.
“I’m not lying.” said Carlotta, not looking up from the floor. “I am telling the truth.” The words were well worn and fraying at the edges, but from exhaustion, not from the strain of a lie.
“Then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind telling me the story again.” said Sonia, showing off her notebook and her intent to listen to her tale.
Sonia had read all the details in the reports, but it was different to hear it directly. Carlotta spoke in a hushed voice, detailing how she’d gotten home from work to find her husband in the arms of another woman. She had suspected him of adultery for some time, but she was shocked to have seen it so blatantly.
She hadn’t recognized the woman from behind, her face had been covered by her hair. But once she turned, Carlotta had recognized her from the ghost stories they’d all soaked up as children. Her voice grew more agitated as she described a woman in white, with long dark hair and a skull-like face. She had smiled, her teeth like hatchets, like razors slashing through red lips. And then she had killed him.
“He had been unfaithful, so she came for him. La Sayona only ever comes for unfaithful men, but I never wanted… I never expected.” said Carlotta, struggling through the words as she finally looked up at Sonia. “You have to believe me. I did not kill Adrian. I loved him. She killed him.”
Her retelling was so sincere, and her descriptions were so vivid that Sonia almost wanted to believe her. Never mind that the evidence all painted a different picture. The brutal knife wounds matched the knife that she’d been holding. Adrian’s blood had literally been on her hands, but she insisted on this story. All the other officers had tried to push her into corners, to trip her up and find any crack in her story. Sonia was about to try another angle.
“Say I believe you.” She said, trying to ignore the way that Carlotta seemed to sit straighter with the hope that someone finally did believe her insane story. “What would La Sayona be doing here anyway? We all know the stories, sure, but she’s a Venezuelan ghost, and we’re pretty far from los llanos.”
“I don’t know… I was surprised to see her, but it wasn’t surprising, you know? Maybe she isn’t tied to a specific place. American ghosts are like that; they haunt a house or a graveyard and they don’t leave it ever, but our ghosts are different. La Llorona can cry anywhere in Venezuela, and people hear El Silbon whistling from Maracaibo to Sucre. Our ghosts aren’t tied to a place, so maybe… maybe they followed us here.” She stopped and looked up at Sonia, utterly convinced by this line of thinking.
“Maybe they don’t haunt Venezuela, but they haunt Venezuelans. Maybe some ghosts are tied to the people instead.”
Sonia ignored the shiver down her spine as she closed the notebook and had Carlotta escorted back to her cell. The other cops laughed and asked if she’d enjoyed her story time with the suspect. Sonia lied and said yes.
Mrs. Jimenez was taken to a holding facility, and was out of their hands. The trial would proceed during the next couple of months with the same agonizing slowness most legal proceedings did, and Sonia would worry about her testimony when that time came. Right now, she wanted to enjoy the lack of an ongoing murder investigation and go home early to Tyler.
“I’m home.” She called in, hoping he’d be here this early. Her job had her keeping odd hours, so it wasn’t surprising that he found other ways to keep busy.
It wasn’t until she turned the corner into the kitchen that she saw just how busy.
Tyler stood in the middle of the room, one hand tangled in a woman’s long black hair as he kissed her relentlessly. The other hand crept down her leg, hiking up her white dress and revealing pale skin, inch by inch in what seemed to Sonia like slow motion.
“Tyler?” She couldn’t keep the tremble out of her voice, a simmering mix of fury and betrayal. He noticed her now, only barely breaking away from the woman’s embrace.
“Sonia! Y-you’re home early.” His hand didn’t leave her hair, tanned fingers curled tight around pitch black locks.
“Surprised?” She felt an icy burn in the pit of her stomach spreading cold fury through her veins. “I didn’t expect you to be home. You’re usually over at Mike’s…” She let the words fall as the pieces clicked into place. He had been overly, cloyingly affectionate at home, but still leaving all of the time. Always one excuse or another.
“Sonia. Don’t. It isn’t like that.” Said Tyler. He finally tried to pull himself away from the woman, tugging his fingers away from her hair.
Only they didn’t move.
“What?” The more he tired to pull his hand away, the more the silken tresses seemed to wind around his fingers, locking them in place. He yanked harder, and she didn’t flinch as he turned wide eyes onto Sonia.
The woman turned with him and Sonia felt her breath rush from her in fear. A sunken, cadaverous face grinned at her through needle like teeth. Sonia was trapped by the smile as La Sayona turned her head back towards the writhing and panicking Tyler. She could do nothing but watch as the ghost lowered her mouth onto Tyler’s neck in a mockery of a kiss, and tore out his throat.
The gush of blood broke whatever spell Sonia had been under and she drew her gun, shooting at the spectre. Tyler screamed as La Sayona slowly turned her face towards Sonia. The corners of her hollow eyes crinkled in a ghoulish smile, as if they were old friends.
Sonia shot again.
La Sayona responded by reaching down to cup Tyler almost gently, a caress. She could hear him trying to babble through his torn out throat, but the ghost didn’t stop. Still smiling at Sonia, she clenched her claw-like hands and ripped it over her head triumphantly.
Sonia shot one more bullet as Tyler fell, but La Sayona’s laugh only echoed through the kitchen. Her dress was still pristine white as she reached blood-drenched hands out to Sonia and lunged.
She didn’t have the time to fire again before La Sayona was upon her and Sonia shut her eyes, bracing herself for a blow that never came. She only felt a splash of blood pushed by an icy wind, and then nothing.
She didn’t know how her shaking hands kept hold of her gun, but they did and she turned to fire at the ghost that had passed through her, but there was nothing. Not even a whisper of white fleeing out the door.
She was already dialing for an ambulance as she turned to check on Tyler, but at the sight of him, the phone slipped through her bloodied fingers.
He lay on the floor, throat ripped out,and blood seeping through the four bullet holes that had bloomed on his chest. The operator’s voice buzzed from the floor, even as the sound of sirens grew louder, and the flashing lights threw macabre shadows all over his body.
She looked down at herself, her white shirt and dark hair splattered with blood. Her hands were red-stained claws clenched around her gun. Sonia sunk into a crouch, dropping her gun to the floor. There was no point in running.
After all, she could run as far as she liked. It didn’t matter. Some ghosts didn’t haunt places.
They haunt people instead.