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News & Features » August 2017 » “The Silver City by the Golden Sands” by Jennifer Swain

“The Silver City by the Golden Sands” by Jennifer Swain

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, the tables turn on a mother.
 
The Silver City by the Golden Sands
by Jennifer Swain
Aberdeen, Scotland

There was a young couple eating on the floor of a dead shipmaster. I was sitting on a bench about twenty feet away, salivating at the smell of their chicken biryani. Three months after quitting my job, my appetite was finally starting to come back. I checked my watch—11:30. The woman couldn’t have picked a more conspicuous spot to meet. Teeming with people startled by the first appearance of the sun in twenty years, the graveyard in front of Kirk of St. Nicholas was the only refuge off of Union Street that offered any sort of shade.

“You don’t travel to Scotland and expect it to be this hot,” the woman said as she adjusted her sunglasses. They were black and boxy, like those special glasses people wear to look at the eclipse. She nodded at the spot next to me, and I offered a shrug in response.

She continued to grumble about the weather, while wiping down the bench with a handkerchief.

I don’t expect people to carry around handkerchiefs anymore either, but I kept this to myself.

“No, I guess not. But the weather didn’t factor into my decision that much. I wanted a place where people didn’t have their phones taped to their ears, but also spoke English.”

“Well, people are still addicted to their mobiles here. At least, Isla was.” She fished out her daughter’s cell phone from the bottom of her purse.

As fastidious as this woman appeared to be, she didn’t know the first thing about properly conveying electronics. I took out my faraday bag, and placed the phone carefully inside. “I don’t imagine you know the password?

“Of course not. You do this for a living though, right? You shouldn’t need one.”

Did. Yeah, I did do this for a living.”

“Look, you agreed to do this for us. It’s not like I can hand this over to the police. They think Isla just ran away. Where would she run off to without her mobile? She doesn’t even go to the bathroom without it.”

I fixed my attention on the empty takeaway carton left behind by the young couple across from me. A small offering for the good Captain Kinhilt.

“Don’t worry, I have her laptop. We’ll see if there’s anything on the phone. I’ll be in touch,” I said, ending the conversation before I agreed to another stupid thing.

*

Aberdeen had a lot of nicknames for such a nondescript place: the Granite City, Furryboots City, the unfortunate sobriquet, Oil Capital of Europe, but my favorite had to be the Silver City by the Golden Sands. It was the perfect name for a city built on artificial romance. Even the oil rig vessels here assumed an otherworldly character—springing up out of the water in the morning fog with their mechanical tentacles. I stared out at them while holding my second cup of coffee.

The clock read 6:00am, which felt about right. I rubbed the crick in my neck. That was a rough seven hours. I worked through the night, combing through Isla’s text messages, Instagram account, and old Snapchat conversations. This used to be my life. Every day I’d go to work and adopt the moniker of a fourteen-year-old girl, a forty-three-year-old man, an unhappy soccer mom. Whatever narrative arrived at our lab, I would live it for the course of twenty-four hours. Sometimes longer.

However, Scotland boasted happier narratives. A rare occurrence, any violent crime would stay in the news for months. The first thing I did after getting off the plane was pick up a copy of the Edinburgh Evening News to check out the crime section—can’t shake some habits. There was a spread about that Britain’s Got Talent star, Susan Boyle. Some neighborhood boys had hurled “horrible insults” at her, prompting a British celebrity to refer to them as “vile little vermin.” Not quite a happy narrative, but a simple one. And here I had Isla’s story in front of me, neither happy nor simple.

*

My hands were shaking as I ducked into one of the side entrances to the cemetery. I had pulled my hair up into a tight bun, and smeared on enough foundation to support a skyscraper. Still couldn’t cover the bags under my eyes though. Isla’s mother spotted me right away.

“I hope your appearance suggests that you’ve found something. The woman dug her heel into the ground, like she was stubbing out a cigarette. “Did she meet someone? What happened to her?”

“You did. Now, where is she?”

***

JENNIFER SWAIN is currently an Academic Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She holds a MA in English from Texas State University and lives with her husband and two cats.

***

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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Aug 14, 2017

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , ,



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