“A Woman of Privilege” by Désirée Zamorano
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, Désirée Zamorano reveals the dark side of the upper class in Pasadena, California.
A Woman of Privilege
by Désirée Zamorano
Bungalow Heaven, Pasadena, California
The body didn’t belong in the freezer.
It belonged in the Pasadena sunshine, skateboarding down the uneven sidewalks, cycling around McDonald Park, kicking a soccer ball around the Rose Bowl.
Inez Leon, PI, touched the frost on the body and saw her hand was trembling; this was unlike her, but the body, like the freezer, had taken her by surprise.
Upstairs, Audrey and her guests waited poolside in the warm September afternoon for more ice.
Audrey wasn’t the kind of woman Inez typically socialized with; she was white, honey-haired, and moneyed, with an impeccably restored Greene and Greene Craftsman home in Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven. Inez’s social circle was emphatically small—essentially her sister Helen—but Audrey had been Helen’s friend. Tragedy had struck Audrey in the form of her husband abducting their son and disappearing to Canada. Helen and Inez had half-murmured at each other, “Un otro que se fue al norte,” another gone north, but the husband, and son, Aidan, remained resolutely untrackable.
Helen had suggested that Inez be called in. Informally, really, just to ensure that everything that should have been done, had been done. It had. And somehow the knowledge that such a tragedy had struck this woman of privilege had softened Inez, and she found she enjoyed drinking a glass of Santa Barbara pinot noir under the wisteria with her, listening to Audrey sort through all that had happened, watching her build herself back, the color returning to the freckles on her face, a few extra pounds smoothing out the wrinkles.
Inez recalled Audrey, on the Craftsman porch with a glass of pinot one afternoon, pointing out a bird’s tiny nest in the overhang, along with a hummingbird as it fed its young. The bird shoved her bill into a tiny one, with thrusts that looked jarring and painful. Audrey had commented, “That’s what a mother does: what’s best for her child, even if it’s painful.” Inez wouldn’t know; her only knowledge of motherhood was what she had gleaned from her sister’s foray. “Young life,” Audrey continued. “So much hope, promise, and anxiety.”
A year had passed since the abduction. Audrey had commemorated Aidan’s birthday—he would have been thirteen in August—with a social media blitz, an appeal on the news, turned off the mica lighting, and closed herself off against visitors and reality. Inez sent a card in the mail. What do you say? So sorry for the loose threads, the hanging expectations, the questions, the questions, the questions?
It was in thanks for their thoughtfulness that Audrey had now invited the women upstairs. They had arrived, except for Helen and Inez, all of a type: bearing small exquisite bags containing hostess gifts, wearing diamond earrings and activewear like a second skin, slinging designer handbags. Her sister, nut brown, sleek and elegant, always surprised Inez in her ability to appear at home in any setting, and here, as she proffered a bottle of wine, was no different.
Over the glasses of chilled white wine and delicately arranged finger foods, Inez realized, again, that she was terrible at the conversation these social settings required. Her topics revolved around surveillance, gun violence, the myth of stranger danger. Aidan’s abduction was a perfect case in point.
She scanned the poolside table and announced to the hostess, “I’ll get us more ice.”
Audrey waved at her. “I think we’re out. Check the freezer downstairs.”
Downstairs was a California basement, a small musty, embarrassed thing, with a ceiling light illuminating a Viking freezer chugging along. Inez opened it, pulled out a bag of ice, and slammed the lid down. She was in no hurry to return to the gathering upstairs. She knew she’d rather be at her Krav Maga workout. The Viking went silent.
It was then that she heard it. A second compressor, huffing its energy and exhaling its warm exhaust. Inez knocked down the flimsy wall panel that hid it.
The freezer light revealed that the freckles on Aidan’s face mirrored those of his mother. Inez noticed there was dirt under his nails, but his face appeared peaceful and calm. At least there was that. She recovered enough to notice the second body underneath. She closed the lid firmly and returned upstairs.
“The ice, Inez?” Helen asked, surprised.
“I don’t think we’ll be needing it.”
Inez picked up her cell to dial her contact in the Pasadena police department. Inez glanced at Audrey and shook her head. Good friends were so damn hard to keep.
A Pushcart prize nominee and award-winning short story writer, Désirée Zamorano delights in the exploration of contemporary issues of injustice and inequity, via her mystery series featuring private investigator, Inez Leon. Human Cargo, Lucky Bat Books, was Latinidad’s mystery pick of the year. Her most recent novel The Amado Women, Cinco Puntos Press, is about four women linked by birth, separated by secrets.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—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.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Aug 8, 2016
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