“Onryō” by Kevin Jared Hosein
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, Kevin Jared Hosein is haunted by a ghost in Trinidad.
by Kevin Jared Hosein
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Ash Wednesday. The day after Carnival—the farewell to flesh, the not-so-greatest show on Earth. J’Ouvert powder still lining the main roads, gold and red. And we have a dead body lying prone on the savannah grass, shaded under a yellow poui. A string of petals on her body like it was weeping for her. Female. Asian descent. Late twenties to early thirties. Her small frame still in feathers and rhinestones, lookin’ like a doll snapped and tossed away by a child.
My rookie partner, Roland, prodding my shoulder. “Foreigner?” he asks.
I give him a shrug. “She have nothin’ on her. No wallet, no ID, nada. Only know the name of the band she play with.” I take a long look at her fair skin. “But I ain’t think she is proper friends with the Caribbean sun yet.”
“Have to be foreign if she wanderin’ Port-of-Spain at night by herself. Dress down like that anyhow. Either foreign or suicidal. This bird here shoulda know that birds of a feather . . .”
I wait for Roland to finish the sentence. “. . . flock together.” He then adds, “Muggin’ gone wrong, y’think?”
I get on one knee and lift her eyelids. Bloodshot like sorrel. “Strangulation,” I say. Only then I notice the light purple thumbprints over her collar. “No thief strangles.”
“Think it was wrong place, wrong time?” Roland asks.
“Well, it was the right place for whoever pull this.”
“Ain’t no CCTV here,” I say, taking a deep breath.
“What number this girl gon’ be?”
“Fifty-seven,” I reply.
He whistles. “Lord Father, not even halfway into February, and the counter already reach fifty-seven? That a record?”
“Had worse. Shit, things could always be worse. That’s the problem here.” Our own ghosts are complacent, timid, accustomed to abuse, already done worn out their welcome. They ain’t care ’bout vengeance. No interest in solving their own homicide. I spot a tattoo along the nape of her neck—three kanji. I point them out to Roland. “Chinese or Japanese?” I ask him.
“Google it. The fuck you expect me to know?”
Then it hit me. Felt my heart jump. “This girl is Japanese,” I say before I move three paces back and light a cigarette.
“How y’know that?”
I say, taking another drag, “Number fifty-seven here is a pannist—had a piece on her in the papers this weekend gone.”
“So she’s a local then?”
I turn to him. “She come down here to play. Third or fourth time now.” In the same breath, I add, “Hitomi Ito, that’s her name.” I turn to see passersby gathering on the sidewalk. “Roland, we have a Japanese national dead on our soil. Tell me how we gon’ cover our ass.” I flick my cigarette away. My lungs are good and raw now. I walk over to her body again. “Why the hell she have to come and die here, Roland? Don’t she know there’s places where death matter less? Which devil dare this bitch to die here and make the whole country look bad?”
“Ain’t the poor girl fault,” he say, gazing up at the sky. “Hard to tell the fake devils from the real whenever Carnival come round.”
“I disagree. The real devils don’t wear horns.”
“What now?” Roland asks, eyeing the growing crowd—about twenty or thirty strong now.
I click my tongue. Let’s hope this ain’t your typical jumbie. Heard stories ’bout Japanese ghosts—they real dread, y’know. They don’t fuck around. Under the hot sun, a cold wind blows. The wind carries talk, amplifies it. At the same time, I recall the vagrant that found her, kept saying, First t’ing I see was the skin, boy, that pink-pink skin. This was a real dead body to him. Shit, it’s the same for me. Pictures of the body will be printed in color, I’m certain—high saturation. Not the whole body. The crook of the leg, the craquelure of mud, the trickle of petals and feathers round the ankle, a hint of a thigh. They gon’ leave the rest to the imagination. They gon let her spirit haunt the people walkin’ this city, the people round this savannah.
I say let it haunt us. After fifty-six others resting in peace already this year—shit, let the bitch haunt us.
KEVIN JARED HOSEIN currently resides in Trinidad and Tobago. He is the 2015 Caribbean regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his entry, “The King of Settlement 4.” In 2013, he wrote and illustrated his first book, Littletown Secrets, which was named the best children’s book of 2013 by the Trinidad Guardian. He is also featured in collections such as Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean, Jewels of the Caribbean, the upcoming Peekash speculative fiction anthology. He was shortlisted twice for the Small Axe Prize, in 2014 and 2015. His poem “The Wait is So, So Long” was adapted into a short film, which was awarded a Gold Key at the New York–based Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. His novel, The Repenters, published by Peepal Tree Press, is being launched at the 2016 Bocas Literature Festival.
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: May 2, 2016
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