Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Girls In Dark Places

It was dark except for the police lights on the crime scene, as well as the  flashes popping from the crime photographer’s digital camera. Booze was on nearly everyone’s breath, except the dead native girl. Her face was slashed in dull red marks across a bruised inert face. The girl’s black thong panties were tied around her neck. Her breasts were scarred with still more cuts of dried blood. Jenna squatted next to the girl and wiped the sleep-sand and tears from her own eyes to get a better look. The constables stared at the dead girl’s breasts. Jenna pointed to the black body bag.

“She’s all yours, boys. I’m taking a walk,” Jenna said taking a Zoloft and walking toward the water. She waited for the rattle to hum. She pulled out an empty Marlboro package. Looking around she saw a young girl on the pathway, a curious on-looker walking in stiletto high-heels kinda wobbly.
“Got a smoke?” Jenna asked the girl.
The girl gave Jenna a cigarette and lit it for her.  They let the smoke waft.
 “You work these parts?” Jenna asked.
 “You got other options, you know.”
“I’m not stupid.”
“Just saying.”
“Yeah, it could happen anywhere.”
The girl, all of 15, white skinned and freckled, yawned and walked away as Jenna patted her on the shoulder. It was a token act of care but Jenna didn’t want to redeem the girl or even know her name. They all had a way of breaking your heart. The girls had names like Mandy, Angie, Dixie, Smiley – happy names for sad stories.
Jenna grew up with the lost girls. Just a slip here and there and she’d be just so much flotsam like the scores of native girls who came to Vancouver and got lost.  Save for a guiding hand here and there Jenna could be among those who drowned in shallow waters off Vancouver’s eastside streets. But genes made Jenna pretty, street-smart and clever enough to create a better life off the reserve.

Jenna watched the tankers sitting on the water like cats on a warm sidewalk. The birds sang their song as the first hint of spring came to the trees nearby.  Things were getting better. Maybe it was the Zoloft. Jenna wondered how many pay grades it would take to live on the other side of the water. She’d never been inside a luxury house in West Van. Beads of sweat broke out and a wave of nausea washed over her.  Maybe the first pill was wearing off already. Or maybe it was something instinctive that rebelled when she saw a tall shadow walking toward her. The chief detective held out his hand. 
“Hello, Sir.”
They sat down on a bench and looked across the bay.
“She one of yours?”
“No. But thanks for asking. “
“We like to stay involved. So, you see anything?”
A pimp got out of control. Trying to make a statement. Not one of ours.”
The Detective seemed disinterested in the crime scene.
“I wanted to tell you personally. There’s a two pay grade jump into an office with a door and better hours for starters. I’ll toss in more school time. No more of this early morning shit.”
“Isn’t that when the bodies start washing up?”
“You’ve done your time. I need investigators.”
Jenna sat quiet, waiting a moment for the Detective to pull the string.
“Look, Jenna, you guys are undergoing a review and I hear you will staff down. I’d like to make a place for you on my team.”
 “My work’s not done. Still more girls. Plenty, in fact. I’m not much of a team player. ”
“Well, maybe so. But you can’t save them from themselves.”
“Maybe I’ll turn up something that will save one or two girls down the road.”
“Come and see me in a couple of days, after you’ve thought it over.”
 “I can’t just say yes. Too much water under the bridge.”
“Well, just take some time to think about it.”
“You mean that?”
. “Take your partner with you.”
 The Detective nodded to Jerry standing a few yards away then walked back to the crime scene with his hands in his pockets.
 “What about Jerry?” she asked.
“We only have room for one desk, Jenna.”
Jenna sat for a moment then waved to Jerry, standing a respectful distance from her.
“Jerry, we’re taking a drive.”
“Over there,” she said pointing to the other side of the water. “We’re taking the rest of the day off. First, breakfast.  The brass is paying for everything.”

After breakfast at a swank West Van eatery Jerry parked the grey sedan that had “cop” written all over it.  Jenna got out of the passenger seat, freeing her dark hair so that it flew like a flag in the wind. “Come on. Hurry up.”
Jenna ran down to the sandy part of the beach and took off her shoes.  Jerry was wearing his raincoat and his black cop shoes.  He watched Jenna pull her dress up to her thighs and let the breeze fly through her nether regions. Jerry wished he’d brought a blanket and chilled wine.
 “Take off your coat. It won’t rain. I promise,” Jenna said. “It’s supposed to be hot today.”

Squinting into the sun Jenna soaked up the rays. She sunned while Jerry read the newspapers. She let the warmth pour over her.  By noon Jerry finally began to relax enough to pour sand out of his shoes. Together they walked the promenade to the far end and back. Jerry was sunburned. Jenna turned and walked backwards, carrying a wide smile, one Jerry seldom saw.
“Never saw you this happy.” Jerry said.
“We’re good. It’s all perfect.”
Jerry looked at his watch. “So?”
“So… I’m hungry. There.”
Jenna tugged on Jerry’s arm and pulled him toward a tourist restaurant overlooking the water.”
“We’re still on the clock?”
“No way. This is a jailbreak.”
“I’m in.”
Jenna hooked her arm in Jerry’s and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “It’s a date. Can you handle it?”
“I can handle it.”

From their table on the deck of the restaurant Jenna and Jerry sat watching sailboats, tankers and yachts on the bay. Jerry broke a long silence, speaking like he didn’t want to hear the answer.
“So where does this leave us?”
“The Detective wants me to take a desk.”
“Yeah.  I figured. You bailed them out big time.”
Jenna pulled his arm toward her.
“No, it was you and me. We were partners. We’re still partners. We got each other through that. We’ll always have that.”
They walked back to the beach holding hands.
“Let’s watch the sunset and then I’d like to take a drive downtown,” Jenna said.
“Why spoil the day?”
“One last time,” she said with a grin.
 The sun was setting when Jerry turned down the familiar dark, lifeless streets off Hastings. He parked where they had done their surveillance on many occasions.  “You believe this?” Jerry asked, waving his arms toward all the construction of the posh hotels and condominiums under construction. New luxury towers were being built alongside trendy coffee houses and specialty stores.  A few flop houses were still open and dark figures scuttled to and fro looking for a fix. Jenna and Jerry walked slowly past them.  Near the last remaining junkie dens and strip joints girls stood in small knots smoking, telling war stories and killing time.
“A whole new batch of kids just rolled in from the prairies. Can you believe it?” Jenna asked. “Don’t they know?”
“They don’t know because the only ones who could tell them the truth are dead,” Jerry snapped.
Jenna knew the pretty whores were doing well so long as the construction boom held out in the city. The better looking girls got paid a living wage to take their clothes off on a stage. Most of the dead native girls worked well past their due date. They weren’t so pretty and roamed even darker streets and disappeared.  In spite of all the warnings new girls still came to deliver the goods.
Jenna stared at a pack of young girls skulking in an alley.
“It’s time to move on,” Jenna called to the girls.
“You don’t have to be responsible any more,” Jerry said.
The girls flipped Jenna off.
“I know, but it’s hard not to say something.”
On the street they walked past a couple of snitches in dirty jackets. They pushed past Jerry and gave him a friendly wink and nudge. They were high. Sometimes they helped him, like the time they led him to a farmer in a pickup truck. It was him who confessed to Jerry he had killed so many girls back at his ranch he forgot how many he sawed up in his pig feed grinder. Maybe it was sixty or more girls before he lost his memory. When Jerry and Jenna got to the farm all they could find were pieces of bone. It took the Jenna and Jerry all of 18 months of searching the farm before forensics found the DNA off a missing girl’s inhaler. Now the pig farmer was sitting in prison.
 “You want me to drive you home?” Jerry asked.
“I’d like to walk some. I’ll take a bus, thanks,” Jenna said, putting her hand in Jerry’s. “You don’t mind?”
 “I’ve turned old in this job,” Jerry said. “You tell the girls they got choices, but you have a choice too. Don't look back. We move on.”
Jenna smiled and gave Jerry a kiss on the mouth and waved good-bye. She hid her eyes as Jerry got in the car. Then Jenna walked back to say something to the girls. Jerry followed Jenna in the car as she walked to the intersection and waited for the light. Jerry rolled down the car window at the crosswalk and yelled out.
“Do me a favor, pal. Walk that way,” Jerry said, pointing to the tall buildings in the business district. The lights were coming on.
 “Go where the lights are. I want to remember you that way. Enough time in the dark.”
Jerry’s car pealed away from the intersection and headed to his family in the suburbs.
 For a moment Jenna stood under a street light on the sorriest piece of real estate in the nation. Jenna, too, had once fallen for losers with wide smiles, just like the missing girls. Who could blame the dead? Tomorrow she could have a desk near a window looking out on the side of town where no one went missing.
Jenna began walking then paused. She looked back and hoped some of the girls lurking in the shadows would dare to follow her out of those dark places.

No comments:

Post a Comment