Read Mystery by the Sea Online

Authors: David Sal

Mystery by the Sea

M
ystery by the Sea
By: David Sal
 
Spanish
version © 2014 David Sal
 
English
translation © 2015 Katrina R. Steffes
 
 
 
 
 
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Cover
photo: © Artesiawells | Dreamstime.com
 
All
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic, photocopying,
recording, or any other methods.
 
This
novel is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and events described
herein are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
 
For
my queen and my princess
 
Chapter 1
 
Another beautiful night passed by in front of his eyes and,
as usual, it was the best night ever for Lorenzo. From his perspective,
everything was in its rightful place: the sky was particularly starry and the
waves murmured in a swaying rhythm while he took in every second from the
balcony of his house by the sea. He never could have imagined that, not too far
from there, events were unfolding that would change his life forever. It was
actually going to be an unforgettable night, but not one he would have wished
for.
Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, he
had spent the last hours of the day alone with his thoughts. Negative thoughts,
followed by positive thoughts to offset the negative ones. He had spent months
in his house without lifting a finger. Since leaving his job, he had not truly tried
to find another one. Fear paralyzed him. Fear of failing. Fear that another
life would be harmed because of him.
A direct consequence of his
inaction was seeing himself transformed into the househusband while his wife,
Doris, became the family’s breadwinner. Although he knew it was nothing to be
ashamed of, deep down it tormented him. A 32-year-old male should be at the
height of his productivity, yet he had spent the last few months stuck inside
the house or going for strolls on the beach. Not exactly the picture of a
productive citizen.
On top of that, he had noticed that
the pointed remarks and insinuations directed at him daily by Doris were loaded
with a certain malice with the sole objective of hurting his wounded pride. “How
did you do looking for a job today? There’s work for those who want it. You
can’t be picky,” she frequently remarked. While Lorenzo understood that, to a
certain degree, they were valid observations, he simply did not feel ready. The
visits to the psychologist were helping a little, but sometimes they made him
feel defective, like damaged goods. There were times when he left his appointment
feeling worse than when he went in.
At least he had his house by the
sea. It was not a mansion. It was a simple three-bedroom concrete house built
on columns with one bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room. The design allowed
the ground underneath the house to be used for parking or for entertaining
guests. The structure was basic but functional. Oh, and the balcony! How he
loved to look out at the sea from the balcony, feeling the saltwater breeze! Fixing
his gaze on the horizon, everything else seemed so small. His mind cleared and
he relaxed with each session. That was the therapy that Lorenzo felt did him
the most good.
That and food. Lorenzo had never
looked to alcohol to forget his problems. It always affected him the second it
touched his lips. Headache, bad mood.
Why add pain to shame
? he reasoned
when he was faced with an offer from some well-intentioned person. But food was
something else entirely. And he could already see the result in his weight. But
how could you pass up the pleasure of a delicious dessert when it lifted your
spirits? He was aware of the changes he needed to make in that department, but they
were very low on his list of priorities for right now, or better yet, at the very
end of a long list of things to change or fix.
Lorenzo was so lost in his thoughts
that he had not noticed the time. It was past ten o’clock at night when he realized
that Doris had not yet returned from work. Usually, she returned home around
seven at night. However, he remembered that over the past few weeks her arrival
time had been somewhat irregular. When he really thought about it, her behavior
had been somewhat strange as well.
She had been spending time locked
up in the bathroom, outside on the balcony, or in the basement of the house
making phone calls, which was not like her. She was also spending more time
glued to social media, something which she herself had categorized as
“nonsense” not so long ago. Normally, they both enjoyed good food, too. As long
as he had known her, she had always maintained a healthy weight and figure,
which he continued to admire. But for some time now, on multiple occasions, she
had declared that she was not hungry. She ate little or missed meals. Such an inadequate
diet, like the one she had been eating, would surely have negative repercussions
on her health.
Something else that Lorenzo questioned
but did not want to ask himself was if she still loved him. An analysis of
Doris’ behavior over the last few months would serve as a barometer to answer
that question. She woke up very early to leave for work and took off without
saying goodbye. She did not call him during the day, and she was uneasy when
Lorenzo called her during work hours. “I can’t right now, I’m really busy,” was
her favorite response. When she returned to the house the conversations between
her and Lorenzo consisted of trivial matters of little importance or questions
that she answered tersely. There was no doubt; their relationship was falling
apart. But he refused to think that she could have been compromising the
integrity of their relationship. Lorenzo wanted to think that there was still
love in her heart. They were still intimate, not as often as before, but they
were. After ten years of marriage, one could expect a certain decrease, right?
And with the problems they were facing, things could have been much worse.
Should I call her?
Lorenzo
wondered to himself while looking at the time on his cell phone. What should
have been an easy question turned into an in-depth analysis given the reaction
she had the last time Lorenzo called her because she was late. On that occasion,
Doris blew up at him, accusing him of not trusting her and launching a full-on
attack at him. Lorenzo had no desire to take that same medicine tonight. He
just wanted to be sure that everything was all right. Besides, what good would
it do him to be full of doubts and suspicions? He did not think he had the
moral strength to be demanding, either, when he knew full well that he himself had
spent months in neutral and she was bearing the economic responsibility of their
household.
His reflections were interrupted
when the familiar sound of Doris’ car joined the delightful beach symphony. The
halo of light produced by the car’s headlights momentarily illuminated part of
the beach before it returned to darkness. Lorenzo quickly entered the living
room, closing the sliding door behind him. He sat down on the armchair facing
the TV, which was turned on, while closing and slightly lowering his eyes,
hoping to give the impression that he was sleeping. Although he felt ridiculous
doing it, he convinced himself that it was necessary. He was curious to see how
she would react believing that he had fallen asleep watching TV.
Lorenzo listened as the door opened
and closed in rapid succession. He immediately heard the click of Doris’ heels walking
past him and then quickly fading away down the hallway before reaching the
bedroom at the back of the house. Lorenzo straightened up and leaned forward to
try to better hear her movements in the bedroom. The next thing he heard was the
slamming of the bathroom door.
Either she didn’t see me when she came in or she
didn’t care if the noise woke me up,
he thought.
Then Lorenzo heard what sounded like
whimpering or crying.
Is she crying?
he wondered, worried. He stood up
and walked slowly down the hallway, paying special attention to not make even the
slightest noise with his steps. He positioned himself in front of the bathroom
door and very carefully placed his ear on it. He could tell that Doris was
crying or very upset; he had no doubt. The noise from the shower, however, kept
him from scrutinizing the situation any further. But something had definitely
happened to her.
Once the flow of the shower water
stopped, Lorenzo scurried back to the living room on tiptoe and sat down in the
armchair again. The bathroom door opened and, immediately afterward, the
bedroom door closed. Lorenzo waited for a few seconds until he could not wait
any longer. He had to know what had happened to Doris and why she had gotten
back at this hour. And he did not want to know just for the sake of knowing. He
genuinely wanted to help her in whatever way necessary and wanted her to know
that he was here to support her.
Lorenzo returned to the bedroom,
which was completely dark. Nevertheless, he did not have a difficult time
locating the bed in the middle of the room. He sat down on his designated side,
the left side, while Doris lay on her side, her back to him. He tried to get a
reaction from her, wiggling the bed a little more than usual when he leaned
back. Nothing.
“Doris, how are you?” Lorenzo asked
quietly.
“Asleep,” she answered, faking sleepiness.
Lorenzo did not fall for it.
Lowering his voice to the volume of
a whisper, he asked, “But are you okay?”
“Fast asleep,” Doris answered
without moving. Lorenzo sat up on the bed to use a more direct method.
“I mean, I’m asking why you got
home at this hour when you get done at five…”
“I went to a movie with the girls,”
she shot back, hoping to end the interrogation.  
“Oh, I see, yeah. But you didn’t say
anything to me. You didn’t call. Maybe I would have wanted to go, too,” answered
Lorenzo, lying down again.
Without looking at him, Doris
explained, “It came up at the last minute. Next time I’ll let you know. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. Don’t worry. I
understand.” Lorenzo looked at the ceiling for a few seconds. “What movie did
you see?”
 “Lorenzo, please. I’m tired. We’ll
talk tomorrow,” snapped Doris, irritated, while trying to get comfortable.
“It was a simple question, sorry.
Goodnight,” he said apologetically.
Now Lorenzo was positive; something
had definitely happened. But maybe it was best to leave it alone for the
time-being. In the morning, with a calm head, he would surely be able to get it
out of her, or she would give it voluntarily, or maybe it would not be
important to him anymore and they would continue distancing themselves from
each other. But something else forced Lorenzo to break the evening silence once
again.
“Listen...”
“Lorenzo, please,” she groaned, annoyed.
“Did you hear that?”
“You being annoying? Yes.”
“No, a noise. Like footsteps,” added
Lorenzo, moving his eyes from side to side while sitting up in bed.
“It could be a neighbor,” suggested
Doris, minimizing the matter.
“We don’t have any neighbors.”
“Maybe it’s a cat, then. Go to
sleep already.”
Just then, another noise, louder
and more obvious than the first, made Doris sit up, too. With wide eyes and a
wrinkled forehead, she said, “Okay,
now
I heard it.”
Forcing himself to ignore the
signals his nervous system was sending to his body, Lorenzo got out of the bed
to slowly peek out the window. He moved the curtain and twisted the wand of the
aluminum Persian blinds, careful not to make any noise that might alert the
intruder. He opened the blinds enough to make out a ray of light resembling the
light of a lantern and the unmistakable shadow of a person in motion.
“It’s definitely not a cat,” reported
Lorenzo while sliding his feet into his flip-flops.
Watching Lorenzo head to the door
frightened Doris. “Lorenzo, don’t go.  Don’t be a hero. It’s better to call the
police,” she begged without giving up her place on the bed.
“Well...I left my cell phone in the
kitchen. But thanks,” answered Lorenzo, feeling a certain degree of relief
given the situation, noting that Doris was worried about his well-being.
He left the bedroom, carefully closing
the door behind him, and slowly walked down the hallway until he got to the
kitchen. From there, Lorenzo was better able to distinguish the shadows that
moved across the windows and walls, giving the impression that ghosts were
invading their privacy. He guessed that there must be more than one intruder.
He grabbed his cell phone, which was connected to the charger on top of the
cabinet, and ignored a strong impulse to look out the window to confirm his
theory before returning to the bedroom. Upon entering the bedroom, he saw Doris
standing next to the window and he began dialing.
“Lorenzo, look!” interrupted Doris,
careful not to raise her voice. Lorenzo joined her, listening and peering out
the window. The deafening silence of the nighttime beach surrounded them for a
few moments. “It looks like they’re gone. They didn’t do anything,” said Doris,
relieved.
 “Or they took off because they
already looted our cars. Better to call the police anyways,” said Lorenzo,
dialing the numbers on his cell phone. But he stopped when an unlikely noise puzzled
them both. There was a knock at the door.
“Could it be a robber?” whispered
Doris with wide eyes.
“Um...I don’t think so,” he replied.
“Stay here,” he ordered, squeezing her arms. Doris closed her eyes, breathing
in deeply as Lorenzo opened the bedroom door and left, closing the door behind
him.
What started out as a friendly
knock on the door instantly turned into banging. It sounded as though the
person were trying to knock it down. Thinking more about ending the annoying
noise than about his own safety, Lorenzo yanked open the door to find two men
dressed in jackets and ties, wearing somber expressions accentuated by the nighttime
shadows. One of the men was bald in front, slim, and looked about 50 years old.
The other, who stayed a bit farther back, was younger—close to 40—heavier, and had
a full head of hair.
“Good evening, how can I help you?”
greeted Lorenzo in the most hospitable tone possible, as if it were seven
o’clock in the evening.
Both men flashed their
identification badges while the older man answered, “Good evening, I’m
Detective Zayas.” Then, signaling behind him, he said, “Detective Lieutenant Gómez
is with me. Is this the home of the Almeida family?”

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