“A Better Life on San-Bay-O” by Hallie Price
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, bad things happen to Hallie Price during a week on a fishing boat off the Oregon Coast. Next week, Kurt McGill investigates the interception of a crate of human cargo in Ensenada, Mexico.
After Dad went to prison for running over a six-year-old girl while driving home from the Sandbar, I had to make money fast so Mom could feed her prescription pill habit—as well as my younger brother—and pay the rent. The only way for a person with no special skills to make fast cash legally in Newport, Oregon, was offshore—I joined a fishing boat.
It wasn’t easy to find one with a captain that didn’t believe that a woman on board was as unlucky as a black cat on Friday the Thirteenth. After haunting the docks, I finally found a captain who already had a woman working for him—Isabella.
My man V (short for Vincent) made good money as a cook at Cecil’s Dirty Apron. He visited his son in California often and had a brand-new car, but I didn’t want him to think I couldn’t support myself. I was surprised when Isabella said her brothers worked at Cecil’s. “I know V,” Isabella said as we put bait on our lines, “just through Arturo and José.” She chomped her gum, not looking at me the way Mom did when she lied about stealing nail polish from Dollar Tree.
I tightened my life jacket. I was the only one on board who wore one.
Isabella had wide hips and blue-black hair. “Let me know if there’s an opening at your apartment building,” she said.
“Sure.” I thought of the cheering from the baseball field that was connected to San-Bay-O Circle by a pebbled path, the fragrance of pines and rhododendrons, and the thump of the music our neighbors in the salmon-orange duplexes played late at night. “I wouldn’t mind raising my kids on San-Bay-O,” I said.
We would be at sea for just a week. I hadn’t been away from V for more than a night since we moved in together, into the apartment on San-Bay-O, above his stepmother, Kathy. Kathy moved from Louisiana to the cool, cloudy Oregon coast because of an alleged sun allergy and was known for her heavy accent and racist remarks. She and V’s dad divorced after two months. The San-Bay-O apartments were one of the few decent places in town that allowed pets. V couldn’t bear to part with his pit bull, Roxy.
I called V as soon as I could. We sweet-talked, and I pictured the tree house in the maple on San-Bay-O where V and I had sex when he dared me to. The next nights at sea were gusts of wind that rocked the sturdy commercial fishing boat like a dinghy. I swallowed nausea in the cabin.
I called V again the fifth night when I knew he’d be available. When V didn’t pick up after three tries, I called Kathy and told her V wasn’t answering my calls. She said she would go check on him.
“Roxy, sweetie, what are you doing outside?” she said. I heard her heavy breathing as she walked upstairs and her knock on the door. “Vincent! Vincent!”
Her shriek pierced my ears so that I nearly dropped the phone.
“It was the Mexicans!”
“Vincent’s been stabbed!”
“What?” I gasped. “Kathy, please. Check his pulse.”
“Vincent’s dead! The Mexicans were here last night.”
“What Mexicans? What are you talking about?”
“The ones that drive around that Mexican girlfriend of his!”
“Kathy, it’s Sandra. I’m his girlfriend.”
“I have to call the police.” She hung up.
“Kathy!” I imagined V, tall and handsome, bloody and breathless on the love seat.
Isabella appeared at my side. “What was that?”
“You said you just knew V through your brothers.”
“V’s hurt,” I said.
“Your boyfriend was involved with the wrong people.”
“Your people?” My mouth tasted like arugula and soap—Mom’s favorite forms of punishment. “Do you have something to do with this?”
“How dare you accuse me? I can’t help it if my brothers want a better life.”
“What are you talking about?”
Isabella lit a cigarette. “God, you’re stupid.” The foghorn sounded. “I saw the look on your face when you heard my brothers work with V. He works for them.” She exhaled smoke. “Do you really think people make that much money flipping burgers in Newport?”
I saw my life jacket reflected in her eyes.
“Were you sleeping with V?”
“Would it make you feel better if I said I love him too?”
Isabella’s cigarette flew into the air and fizzled in the dark water as I tackled her to the deck.
HALLIE PRICE graduated from New England College in 2011 with a Bachelor’s in creative writing. She currently lives on the Oregon Coast and is working on her first mystery novel.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Oct 20, 2014
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