Crimes of passion

CrimesDePaixao-02

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

(script for a movie soon)

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CRIMES OF PASSION

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CrimesDePaixao-02All patrons of the Kuay Bar stopped dead in their tracks when they arrived on Saturday and found that Imogen had not come to work. After all, he wasn’t just the most folkloric waiter in the extremely bohemian district of Iracema Beach. He was also known as Penalty, a nickname the customers had given him for missing work one single time in twenty years in his job, on the particular day when he masterfully defended a penalty kick in the final match of the Quintino Cunha Soccer League. The celebration had been so intense he was unable to work at night. Imogen, a.k.a. Penalty.

Now the man was absent from work a second time. It was almost as historical an event as the first one. People bragged about having been in the bar on that night when Penalty was absent. Roger Gaciano Jr., reputed journalist and habitué of the district, was looking for someone to illustrate his story about the bohemian neighborhood and guess who he interviewed. Waiter Penalty, of course. And the interview is still posted on the bar’s wall, laminated, for the whole world to see.

“Imogen hasn’t come to work?! Did he save another penalty kick?”

“I propose we hold a meeting to change his name to Double Penalty…”

Speculations ran wild all night long. Bets were placed: a month of free booze to whoever guessed why Imogen was absent for a second time. The man had such charisma that even his absence would be grounds for a party.

But on Sunday evening, Imogen’s wife came to the bar asking for her husband and everyone suspected something more serious had happened. Ms. Cecilia was distressed with a young boy on her arm and said her husband had left on Saturday afternoon and she hadn’t heard from him since. Carlitos, owner of the Kuay Bar, empathized with the woman’s affliction and offered to organize a search party to find out where his best waiter was. Ms. Cecilia should not worry and should go back home. He would put her in a taxi and soon everything would be alright. Imogen would turn up.

The mystery persisted until Monday morning, when Penalty’s decomposing body was found washing on the shore at Barra. The coroner’s report indicated drowning. He couldn’t swim, so he would never venture into the ocean. The strangest thing is that he was all dressed. Maybe he had fallen from the wharf? Money and documents in his pocket. No signs of violence on the body. What could have happened?

Penalty was buried late in the afternoon. Everybody was devastated. Almost every one of his customers attended, even the occasional ones and those who owed him money and had been avoiding showing up. The widow received offers of assistance and saw how beloved her deceased husband was. A storm of flowers was thrown on the casket and someone picked up a guitar to sing Ednardo’s “Beira-Mar”, Imogen’s favorite song.

Amidst the lamenting, nobody heard it when Jeovah, also known as Prophet, dressed in his thick black coat that hadn’t been anywhere near soap for a long time and with his fixed gaze on the descending casket, said:

“There goes the second martyr.”

If someone heard it, they pretended not to. It was hard enough putting up with the Prophet and his apocalyptic prophecy speeches in bars and it was certainly worse in a funeral.

“But it’s not over yet. There are still three…”

Although many avoided mentioning it, a whole moon went by while people wouldn’t talk about anything else at the bars in Iracema Beach. The most mournful abstained from alcohol for three days in memoriam. Others drank continuously for three days.

But nobody, absolutely nobody ever thought to connect the death of waiter Penalty to another death that had happened three months before at Le Bombom, a small modest love hotel where hookers and trannies used to go late at night. The victim was Neddy, owner of the establishment, a kind and peaceful elderly man. He was found dead in one of the bedrooms, laying on the bed. He was naked and had designer chocolate wrappings crammed in his mouth, such cruelty.

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Detective Tadeo Vieira, as he likes to be called (but known in the underworld as Tadeo Mousetrap), thirty-nine years of age and forty of card playing, always one to brag about being a good detective, woke up in that morning with a massive hangover. He had slept no more than two hours. He took a quick shower and a taxi to the Verdes Mares shanty town. They had had too much fun this time: the poker game had extended to six o’clock in the morning. And he had lost a month’s worth of wages to Mardonio, lucky son-of-a-gun.

Detective Tadeo Mousetrap (my apologies, but certain nicknames just become part of the person) never worked on Wednesday mornings. In all those years, no case had ever been important enough to justify his missing the old Tuesday night poker game or his sacred sleep on the next morning. But he had known Gina, the cigarette vendor. He had been her customer for a long time. And he couldn’t help feeling bad when someone informed him over the phone of her death in the wee hours of that night.

When detective Mousetrap finished interrogating neighbors, relatives and friends of the victim, he went to his office downtown. He sat at his desk with a view to the cathedral, went over his notes and reconstructed the sequence of events in his head. Gina comes home, a small wooden shack in the Verdes Mares shanty town at around four o’clock in the morning. She comes from Iracema Beach where she works as a peddler selling candy and cigarettes. Half an hour later, her husband leaves for the factory. Woman and son stay in the shack. The first flames are soon noticed by three men who are shooting pool in a bar fifty yards away. They rescue the boy who had been sleeping and remove Gina’s burnt up body that is lying on the kitchen floor.

Nobody in the shanty town saw anything suspicious, nothing out of the ordinary. Although everything hinted at an accident, Mousetrap scratched the back of his head and couldn’t understand why the victim had been unable to evacuate the small shack in time.

At night, he went to Iracema Beach. He talked to waiters, taxi drivers and peddlers. Everyone agreed that she was a beloved, friendly and generous person who had no enemies. At eleven, he closed the little note pad and called it a day. But before going home, he stopped by the Kuay Bar of the late waiter Penalty to enjoy a nice shot of cachaça. One by one, he recollected the conversations he had had that night. The woman did not owe money to anyone, didn’t like trouble, and was faithful to her husband. It wasn’t a crime of passion, murder, robbery or revenge. The one remaining hypothesis was that of an accident.

Mousetrap scratched the back of his head with the tip of the thumb. Something was telling him there was something off about it. And his intuition never played tricks on him. That’s why he became known as Mousetrap. As much as he tried, he couldn’t get rid of that moniker. He said it was a ridiculous nickname, that Mousetrap sounded like some corrupt, sweat stained shirt police detective. He wasn’t any of that, he was high profile. He worked as a detective because he had always enjoyed investigating, but he was graduated in engineering. He was a teacher at an entrance exam preparation course, but his real vocation was solving cases. He was so good at what he did that even the police would often ask him to help. In fact, the police had given him the nickname he hated. They said Tadeo Vieira was a teacher’s name. From then on, he was known as Mousetrap. Even ladies, ever concerned with their husbands’ dalliances, knew him by the nickname.

“This time I’m sure he is cheating on me, Mr. Mousetrap…”

He downed another shot and looked at the light-bathed sea of Iracema Beach, giving his eyes a break. All kinds of street vendors, the popcorn carts and the bright lights of the lampposts made that part of the district look like a park. How could that neighborhood have changed so much so fast? A few years earlier, there were half a dozen bars and they coexisted peacefully with the local population. They were more than a hundred now and the efforts of the residents’ association to ensure more peace and respect for the families that still insisted on living there were for the most part fruitless.

Several residents among the many he had heard had complained about the hell that life in that neighborhood had become. Some even said the death of the peddler might have been a consequence of the struggle for points of sale. Nothing would surprise them anymore since the bars had attracted a lot of people from other places, and crime was part of it all.

Mousetrap had been a frequent habitué of the district and knew its history. He knew the residents’ complaints were founded. But he also knew the bohemian vocation of the area was rather old and the proliferation of bars was difficult to control due to many aspects, including the generation of jobs and increasingly thriving tourism.

He had basically stopped going there after so much growth. Until then, one could easily walk around the streets at night in peace. Couples could go on dates and enjoy the view of the ocean unafraid of robberies and patrons knew each other and had some respect for the residents. People gathered around a guitar on the sidewalk was a common occurrence. The bohemian life was equal amounts of poetry and friendship.

Not anymore. Instead of musicians, artists, poets and intellectuals, Iracema Beach had been taken over by noisy gangs of high and middle class boys and girls, youngsters obsessed with the power of the sound system in their cars and the designer label of their clothes. They also brought robberies, car theft, bar brawls and deaths. Drug dealers and young gym-goers looking for trouble were also attracted to the scene. Next in line were tourists, eager to consume. Then the prostitutes came. Surely there had to be room for them too. “Iracema Beach belongs to everyone!” advertised the tourism campaign slogan.

The detective went back to his tiny apartment with a barrage of thoughts and a lingering suspicion. He tried not to take the Prophet seriously, but couldn’t stop thinking about him, the crazy man he had met at Kuay Bar that night. He had seen him at the bars before. The same shaggy barfly of twenty years ago with the same stinky coat and the old habit of speaking in rhymes. He hadn’t changed at all and had sat at his table without asking permission:

“Your intuition is right, Mr. Detective. What happened to Gina was no accident. But it’s no use focusing on guilt ‘cause the prophecy is going to be fulfilled.”

He didn’t realize it then, but he did later: how could that man know about his intuition while he had never mentioned it to anyone? “Just what I needed,” he thought. “Some nutjob reading my mind.” He turned around in his bed to sleep, dismissing his thoughts with the conclusion that even nutjobs are right once in a while…

A few days later, the coroner’s report contained an intriguing conclusion: there was no trace of smoke in the victim’s lungs. That meant she had died before the fire started. But that did not reveal the cause. That would take a few more days.

Mousetrap scratched the back of his head with the thumb. So Gina had been dead already. Had she fallen or something like that? Or had she been murdered?

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02“Oh waiter, two cachaças, please.”

“I’ll have a double shot.”

“Very well, Mr. Jeovah. What do you know about Gina’s death?”

Jeovah, who also went by the name of Prophet, was wearing his old stiffened black jacket. He eyed the man sitting across the table with both friendliness and disdain.

“I know that which is written, Mr. Detective…”

Gina had been dead for one week when Tadeo Mousetrap met the Prophet on the streets of Iracema Beach again and offered to buy him a drink. Maybe the nutjob had something interesting to say, seeing that he was a witness of the district’s reality day and night. The hardest part was putting up with the stench on that coat…

The waiter brought the drinks. The Prophet finished his cachaça in two gulps and began to talk about the night, the magic of the beach and the secrets of the bars. He told stories of the neighborhood, legends of old residents of the area, people who didn’t exist anymore. Tadeo Mousetrap listened carefully, marveled at his own patience. The Prophet had been roaming the area since the beginning of the proliferation of bars, he and his coat, the filthy hair, the rotten teeth and all of his oddball stories. He said he had been a photographer for a newspaper. There were rumors he had had a rock band in the 1970s called Punk Freud or something like that. People said he had lost his mind because of a woman. Absolutely everybody knew him, everybody had bought him some liquor one day.

“Don’t second guess reality, Mr. Detective. That is important in your job. For example, if I told you there was someone sitting at this table with us, someone who came with you, you wouldn’t believe it, would you?”

Tadeo Mousetrap automatically glanced at his side. When he understood what was happening, he got angry at himself and realized he had heard enough. Half an hour listening to that crazy talk, what was he thinking? He took a deep breath and embellished his voice with a tone of authority to say it was late, and if the man had nothing material to tell him, he had to excuse himself because he had to work early the following day. And ordered the check.

The Prophet gave him a brief smile of resignation.

“I’m going to speak the language you understand, Mr. Detective. Tell me one thing. If you don’t know I have a four of queens in my hand, then that hand does not exist to you, does it? It doesn’t exist because you don’t know I have it, right? But it does exist whether you know about it or not.”

Detective Tadeo Mousetrap, forty years of card playing, stared at the Prophet and felt a chill run down the spine. The nutjob knew he played poker? So he really could read his mind?

He kept his gaze fixed in the man’s eyes for a few seconds, looking for some clue that would give something away… But the expression on the man’s face did not change. He remained undisturbed, calm and unguarded, the type who would never harm anyone.

Suddenly, a black cat came in through the bar’s door and approached the table meowing at Prophet. He took it in his arms and held it on his lap, caressing its hair.

“You’re only investigating Gina’s case, aren’t you? Well, I’m going to broaden your perspective a bit more. Just because I liked your honesty.”

Tadeo Mousetrap waited. In the Prophet’s arms, the black cat watched with its yellow eyes.

“Look, Gina’s death has two precedents. One is Neddy, the hotel owner who died five months ago. The other one is waiter Penalty, who’s been dead for two months. I know you know, I know. But you haven’t connected the dots. The three of them were known characters in the area, they were part of the landscape. Behold the irony, man: the motel owner, who sold sex, died in bed. The waiter, who sold drinks, died by drowning. And the cigarette peddler died from burning.”

“She died before she burned,” interrupted Mousetrap, quickly realizing he had just let out inside information.

“It’s the symbolism that matters. The night is dying by means of its characters. The prophecy is cruel, but it’s real.”

“What prophecy?”

“You know it. One day, the night life of Iracema Beach is going to die.”

Tadeo Mousetrap lost his patience for the last time. He paid the check and stood up.

“As far as I know, Mr. Prophet, and maybe you don’t, a beautiful blond woman apparently in her twenties wearing a black dress was seen in the company of Neddy a few minutes before he was found dead. There is nothing symbolic about that. It was a murder and I’m going to prove it.”

“So, man… What better symbolism do you want? A beautiful and cruel blonde, dressed in black… A cool girl will kill you in a darkened room… Do you know that song?”

“Who knew the nutjob knew English,” thought Mousetrap, scratching the back of his head.

“You’re so obsessed with finding the murderer you can’t see the obvious.”

Mousetrap walked up to the sidewalk, hailed a cab and heard Prophet say from the table, still holding the black cat:

“Henry, Harry, Holy Pie. Who is the next one to die?”

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Over the following days, detective Tadeo Mousetrap eagerly awaited the second report on Gina’s death. He finally had some information: the coroners could not determine the cause of death. They just couldn’t.

The second conversation with the Prophet had been constantly hammering his mind. That story of a prophecy about the end of Iracema Beach was old, but it was just one of the many crazy stories that ran around the neighborhood. People smoked weed in the alleys and made those stories up. The actual truth was that Neddy had died of a heart attack and the blond woman had indeed been seen on the night of the crime by two witnesses. Waiter Imogen had died by drowning and there were no suspects. Gina’s case was the most mysterious one. The deaths, however, were not related like the Prophet had assumed. At any rate, the cases involving the waiter and the love hotel owner were none of his business. The waiter certainly had been drunk and fallen from the wharf on his own. And the police was looking for the blonde under suspicion of killing Neddy. His problem was the cigarette peddler. He had to discover why she had been unable to escape the fire.

Tadeo Mousetrap turned on the shower and walked into the cold stream. What he needed now was a good shower and a nice little game of poker. Four of queens… Who knows, maybe that was a tip for the game later at night. It might as well be. He might win back what Mardonio had taken from him the last time.

After the shower, he got dressed rapidly and went to meet the rest of the gang at Papagaio, the only bar that would let them have their poker game. Sure, it was just a table in the storage room on the upper floor, but it was allowed. Table for five, a bottle of cognac, saucers with peanuts. Next to his chips, a naked photo of Danusa, secretary of the office next door, for good luck. An old charm really. She was actually married now. “The buy-in is twenty, first pause at midnight, you touch someone else’s charm you get a warning, the prize is one, two and four buy-ins, let’s play because the game is played like this and watch it out ‘cause I’m kinda pissed…”

Mousetrap tried to focus on the game, but whenever a queen was laid on the table, he would recall the chat. How could the nutjob know he played poker? Was that why people called him Prophet, because he had the gift of guessing things?

The three cards were set on the table. A queen of spades came up. He had to focus on the game.

Henry, Harry, Holy… Mousetrap thought it was funny and laughed. He had to focus, he was very distracted.

Second card on the table: queen of clubs.

Henry, Harry, Holy… All those names began with an H. Was the nutjob trying to tell him the name of the next victim would begin with an H?

Then the queen of hearts was laid on the table. Three of queens! Everybody shouted around the table. They all exchanged glances and a sly smile. Whoever had the queen of diamonds would have the four. If anyone had it, they smiled to hide their happiness. And those who didn’t smiled to hide their fear.

Mousetrap felt his heart pound in his chest. He raised his eyes from the cards and immediately found Mardonio’s suspicious eyes across the table, behind the smoke of his joint. He looked at his cards again. He had to focus or damned Mardonio would guess his game.

He had seen the first one of his two cards. It was the two of clubs. The other one was behind it. He thought he’d do a little suspense for himself. He impulsively doubled the bet, still not knowing what the second card was. A shot in the dark. Of course it was risky. He didn’t usually do that, but it was the kind of thing that could serve as a good psychological move on the other players. He knocked back a bit of cognac. He had to seem calm.

Mardonio put many chips on the table and doubled the bet too. And stared at him again. The other players quit and left the two against each other. Mousetrap, still not knowing what the second card was, saw the bet. Someone whistled out in awe.

Mousetrap tried to remain calm. The game was getting serious. He took a long breath and finally decided to see the second card. His next move depended on it. If it were the queen of diamonds, he would keep betting until the end of the world. It had to be the queen. It had to be a four. The Prophet’s four.

Mousetrap rubbed his fingers slowly, applying just the right pressure so the second card wouldn’t be revealed completely. He was making suspense for the others and for himself. He could feel Mardonio watch him closely, ready to read his every slight gesture. The others did not dare speak. It was the highest bet of the night.

Mousetrap rubbed his fingers a little more. He uncovered the left lower side and could tell by the drawing that it was a face card, not a pip. His heart raced. That card could be the last queen he needed. It could only be a king, jack or queen. It had to be the queen of diamonds.

He went on with the suspense. He uncovered a little bit of the upper left corner and a sliver of the letter. It was red. Gradually, slowly, the red color…

Mousetrap, forty years of card playing, could not believe what he saw. For a few seconds, he could not even think at all. Then he thought someone was pulling some stupid prank on him. But nobody was laughing. Everyone was serious and awaiting his decision.

Mousetrap gulped hard. The card he had in his hand was not a king, a jack or a queen. What he had in his hand was a creepy skeleton riding a horse and brandishing a scythe. And the letter on the upper corner of the card was an H. A blood red H.

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Helga Mara stopped in front of the bathroom mirror and dried her long black hair. She brushed it, tossed it back and took a look at herself. Her experience as a blonde had lasted just six months and it hadn’t been very rewarding. Few people had approved it. Even her cat Rien had found it strange. He kept looking at her with his yellow eyes as if he didn’t know who that blond woman was. Now her hair was black again. The same color as her cat and the clothes she wore, and it was good to see her old image again.

She was living a good moment. The performances were happening. The boys in the new band were proficient musicians and did a good work together. The night gradually got to know who Helga Mara was. “Ah, life should always be like this,” she said to the image in the mirror. “Singing the blues and living the emotions. Preferably the strong ones, my dear.”

She gave one last look at the reflection of her naked body, which she admittedly used as a weapon both on stage and in life. She applied two drops of perfume in her hands and rubbed them on the back of her head and on her lap. She felt her breasts and looked at their side profile. She was wearing a black T-shirt as long as the middle of her thighs. She saw her face next to Jim Morrison’s in the mirror, a reflection of the poster on the wall behind her. Before she left the bathroom and went to the bedroom, she kissed his mouth on the mirror.

– You can’t fool me, man. I know you are alive. We will meet one day.

The record player in the living room was playing him, the Lizard King, and he sang: If you give this man a ride, sweet family will die… Killer on the road… Helga Mara closed her eyes, listened to the music and took a deep breath. She bit her lip. “I can resist anything, my dear, except temptations…” She picked up the bottle of Jack Daniel’s from the bedroom nightstand and went to the living room. She stopped at the door holding the bottle and looked at the man sitting on the floor, leaning against the couch. The clock on the wall informed her she had spent twenty minutes in the shower. “Twenty minutes is nothing for what he is about to get…” she thought, with a smile. “Cheers…” she toasted after pouring the glasses.

“To you. Cruel Helga.”

“To me.”

While Jim sang about the deadly ride on the road, Helga Mara drank a little whiskey and looked at the man in front of her. She had met him on a show one week before. As soon as he entered the bar, they exchanged odd-mannered glances. She noticed that he ogled her with lust during the performance. She was aroused the whole time she sang, feeling herself wet in the underwear. And she delivered her best performance ever. When she left her dressing room, she walked by his table to catch his attention. The allure worked: he invited her for a drink and she accepted it. He complimented her voice and the songs, especially “Cruel Blues.” She liked his mysterious gaze and behavior. And he said, “You have the style of the night…” And that stuck, she never forgot it. The style of the night.

Rien suddenly came from the kitchen and rubbed himself against her legs. She picked the black cat up in her arms.

“You escaped, little rascal. Come on, let’s go back. You can’t stay with me tonight, please understand…”

She left towards the kitchen and returned soon.

“Who are you, Helga?”

“A lucky little girl under the spotlights of the night.”

“Or just another lost angel in the city nightlife?”

She played with her fingers mimicking a shy and vulnerable little girl. She walked up to the shelf and played the record again. She could feel his stare on her back, surveying her curves. Now he was going to stand up and come close…

“Do you also like Jim Morrison?” she asked, lowering the needle onto the last track again.

“I like Helga Mara more.”

His voice was right behind her, she could feel it on her neck.

“Why do you think I have the style of the night?”

“Because the night is cruel.”

“Cruel…” she thought, savoring those words.

“Nothing that I can avoid, my dear…”

“You have a future, Helga Mara.”

“I know.”

“With me.”

“With you? I didn’t get that memo.”

“If you want, I can take you away from here and showcase your voice everywhere. We can live a torrid passion. In the end, we will die of love in Paris. In the bathtub of a hotel room.”

“Tempting… But lizards don’t die in Paris, dear.”

She felt his arm around her waist first, pulling her in firmly. Then her mouth met his. The unceremonious tongues. Then the hands, the T-shirt being pulled up and torn, his hands on her back, her neck, her breasts, her naked body in his arms in the middle of the room. Then the couch, his clothes, the urge, the sweat. Then the stars, the stars… And the keyboard like droplets of a blues dying gradually under the rain. Then the silence. Such cruel silence.

My love, this city is deafening
And you forget what I have to say
My love, the night is cruel
I smoke and drink alone in my place…

(Helga Mara – “Cruel blues”)

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Lieutenant Trinity, friend and police informant, informed Tadeo Mousetrap. Mousetrap immediately took a taxi and managed to get to the victim’s apartment before the press, when the police were still collecting material and taking photos. He inspected the damage with his own eyes. He saw the singer’s beautiful and bloody naked body lying prone on the carpet with spread legs and a gash on the neck. The police had already collected some objects for forensic analysis, including two glasses and a vinyl record broken in half with traces of blood.

“Do you know her, Mousetrap?” asked lieutenant Trinity, showing him the broken record.

“‘L. A. Woman’. Such a crime to break this vinyl.”

Mousetrap inspected the rooms. There were photos, notes and performance posters on the bedroom wall… Suddenly a black cat ran across and hid under the wardrobe. By the cat food in the kitchen, Mousetrap concluded that the animal belonged to the young woman. He tried to pick him up, but the cat leaped, quickly reached the window sill and stared at him. For an instant, he thought the animal might be trying to tell him something. Cats are magical creatures. He looked into the cat’s eyes and asked:

“Who did it? I know you know.”

The cat didn’t move on the window sill, just kept looking at him and meowed.

“So that is your method, Mousetrap… Feline interrogation.”

He turned around and saw the lieutenant standing at the door.

“The neighbor told me his name is Rien. In French, that means…”

“Nothing.”

“Exactly. So he knows nothing.”

Mousetrap picked up the cat and caressed him while Lieutenant Trinity laughed.

“We shouldn’t second guess reality… Isn’t that so, Rien?”

*      *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Tadeo Mousetrap sat down on the couch in the living room of his tiny apartment. He turned on the TV, but didn’t pay attention. His thoughts were focused on Iracema Beach…

Helga Mara was the woman’s name. Beautiful woman. Twenty-three years old, a blues singer. She had a band and the patrons of many bars knew who she was. She had been in the city for one year and lived alone. She had performed on Tuesday night and was not seen after that. The body was found by the band’s harmonica player two days later. She had missed the rehearsal and wouldn’t answer the phone, so he went up to her apartment. The door wasn’t locked. He went inside and found the body lying on the carpet.

“Helga Mara… The ‘H’ in the riddle”, thought Mousetrap. A singer of the night. Killed with the throat slashed with a record. Signs of wrestling. She had certainly resisted. But the murderer was stronger and had knocked her down. He turned her around belly up on the carpet and laid his body on top of hers. He gagged her with a handkerchief so she wouldn’t scream. He broke the record in half and slashed her neck. While the hemorrhage drained her strength, he sodomized her to the sound of “Riders on the Storm”…

“Meoooooow…”

Mousetrap snapped out of his thoughts with the cat meowing at his feet.

“Are you hungry, Rien?”

He rose from the bed and put more cat food in the dish. With the crime scene still in his mind, he took pen and paper and wrote down the names of all victims. First, the love motel owner who died in bed. Three months later, the waiter who died by drowning. Two months later, the cigarette vendor who was burned to death. One month later, the singer was killed with her throat slashed with a record. No sign of robbery. No crime of passion or revenge. Four pointless crimes in six months. But they were symbolically consistent as hinted by the Prophet. Mousetrap scratched the back of his head and wondered if the police were aware of that potential connection among the crimes. Coincidence or not, he couldn’t discard the possible connection anymore.

But how did the Prophet know the next victim’s name would begin with the letter H? Or could it have been just a hunch? Mousetrap wrote down the names of the victims. Neddy, Penalty, Gina and Helga in chronological order. N, P, G and T. That didn’t spell anything that made sense at first sight. He tried a few combinations, but nothing caught his attention. Then he realized the two first names were actually nicknames. Neddy’s given name was Neddleson, the same initial. But the waiter’s name was Imogen.

He replaced the letter ‘P’ for ‘Penalty’ with ‘I’ for ‘Imogen.’ Now he had N, I, G, and H.

A lightning bolt struck his mind. A chill ran down his body from head to toes. Mousetrap kept staring at the paper in shock.

The prophecy.

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02“I knew you would come. Wanna sit down?”

Jeovah, the beach prophet. He and his black filthy jacket.

“A shot of cachaça for the Prophet over here,” Mousetrap ordered to the waiter.

“Make it a triple shot,” added Jeovah, grave as usual. “The young lady deserves it.”

“How did you know it would be her?”

“All I know is that which is written.”

“And what is written?”

“That the end of times has come.”

“What else?”

“This beach’s nightlife is doomed.”

“Doomed by whose will?”

The waiter came with the drinks. Tadeo Mousetrap watched the Prophet raise the glass full of cachaça up to his nose, close his eyes and smell it. He was about to repeat the question when the man opened his eyes.

“People say I’m crazy. What do you think?”

“I don’t think anything. Who is trying to kill the night?”

“The night is dying…” the Prophet continued between draughts. “But death always comes, Mr. Detective. Nobody gets out of here alive. This beach’s nightlife dies whenever a new bar is opened, as strange as that sounds. The night dies when these playboys come here to show off their designer labels, when the street vendors sell booze to the underage, when even waiters supply patrons with cocaine and taxi drivers and love motel owners look the other way for tourists and their twelve-year-old lovers.”

Mousetrap listened with his eyes locked into the Prophet’s red eyes.

“The night dies whenever someone is robbed in a dark corner of the streets, whenever a car is stolen, whenever gym-grown thugs pick up a fight. The night dies whenever a mother gets angry at her baby’s crying, unable to sleep because of the loud music in the bar next door. The night dies in the music blasted from the cars, in the barbecue restaurants that attract people from distant neighborhoods who don’t understand the sea breeze. The night dies because it’s everyone’s fate. And it’s nobody’s fault. So it’s pointless to look for a culprit.”

“What should I do then?”

“The strange days have caught up with us, Mr. Detective. They tracked us down and destroyed our simplest joys. Nothing can be done.”

“There has to be a murderer.”

“Iracema Beach belongs to everyone…” The Prophet smiled sadly, looking at the sea through the bar’s window. “Everybody is entitled to a share of its lynching.”

“How about you, don’t you feel sorry for it? Or for the victims?”

“I feel sorry for the sons of the beach who try to perpetuate what belongs in the past already. They love the night and die with it. Many were not even born here, but are made of the same ocean breeze. It’s not good to grow attached to something that is going to die. Koi-guera… That which is going to die.”

Mousetrap listened carefully. This time around, the Prophet’s words were still crazy, but somehow seemed to be coherent. Or had they always been and nobody had noticed it?

“Who is next?”

“Do you still have no clue?”

“Does letter ‘T’ stand for ‘Tadeo’?”

“What do you think?”

“It would make sense. The murderer has killed the sex, the fun, the drugs and the music. Nothing else is left. Killing the one who wants to expose him would be the last act. The grand finale.”

The Prophet listened sternly.

“The singer’s killer was a man, I know. The same man who was drinking at the bar with her after the show. If there are multiple killers, then they are spelling ‘n-i-g-h-t’ with their murders. Whom does he or do they work for?”

“You don’t understand. Whoever killed those four was the same who killed Iracema Beach on each night with each act of violence. And they are not aware of it, they kill out of ignorance. Come to think of it, maybe it’s better to put an end to its misery. Kill it before it dies. Killing out of love,” added the Prophet, finishing the cachaça and standing up from the table.

“What is going to happen when letter ‘T’ dies?”

“The prophecy comes full circle.”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought you had understood already… It’s the most obvious part of the story, Mr. Detective.”

Every time Mousetrap thought about the prophecy, he felt a little ridiculous. But he could not help it anymore.

“The night dies…” the Prophet repeated, going towards the door. “Doesn’t that hint at anything to you?”

Still thinking about the Prophet’s words, Mousetrap grabbed the wallet to pay the check. Then he noticed the Prophet’s glass of cachaça was still full, like the waiter had brought it. But hadn’t he drunk it all?

*      *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02Tadeo Mousetrap got home, went straight to bed and lied down feeling very sleepy. He needed a good night of sound sleep.

But… something strange was happening…

He turned on the lamp and saw Rien lying on the bed, looking at him. Then he realized Rien was actually female. And she was giving birth in that exact moment. She was having kitten on his bed, many kitten coming out continuously, many…

Mousetrap opened his eyes. The bedroom light was on. He rubbed his hand on the sweaty face, now aware that he had been dreaming. If things kept going that way, he would end up having to undergo some treatment. In the previous month’s poker game, he had seen a letter with the figure of Death, a skeleton riding a horse, the letter ‘H’, such madness. He had thrown the cards on the table, angry for thinking it had been some stupid prank pulled on him by his friends. He had to quit the game he was so shaken by the sight of the card. Then he saw the Prophet’s glass full of cachaça after actually seeing the man drink it all right in front of him. Now he had had a nightmare about a cat giving birth in his own bed.

He took a cold shower and picked up a slice of pizza in the fridge. He ate it cold. On TV, he saw a music video of the Intocáveis Putz Band playing “Manifest of the Beatitudes,” all of them dressed like monks with hoods in dark settings… Mousetrap got angry and turned it off. The deaths were inspiring even music bands in the city.

He looked at Rien sleeping on the couch. He wondered if the cat missed his old owner. He remembered the dream about the cat giving birth. What could that mean? Labor… birth… something important was going to happen… But what? When?

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02“On December 28, nine months will have passed since the first death.”

Tadeo Mousetrap looked at what he had written, thinking about how strange it was. He had left a written testimony of everything he knew about the deaths in case something happened to him. In the letter, he admitted it was very possible he could be entertaining fantasies, but he could not discard the symbolism pointed out by Prophet.

He could easily have considered Gina’s case closed: the coroners had eventually admitted that there had been traces of smoke in the victim’s lungs, so she had choked to death, it had been an accident. But that had seemed suspicious to him. Maybe the coroners had not really found the cause of death. And since the victim was very poor and the case hadn’t attracted a lot of interest, they had made something up in the report.

The other deaths still had no culprits. The police had concluded that the waiter had really drowned. In Neddy’s case, there wasn’t any clue of the blonde in black. Nor there was a clue of the singer’s murderer.

But the strange deaths became an obligatory topic in the bars of Iracema Beach with all kinds of speculation. Some said they had been part of a plan to drive the population’s attention away from the elections while others claimed they had been part of a Machiavellian plan put in practice by businessmen who wanted to replace the bars with luxury hotels.

Others agreed with Prophet: the prophecy was one death away from being fulfilled and for the nightlife of Iracema Beach to die, so everyone should enjoy what was still left. The nights would soon be over. Bands were writing songs about the deaths. Poets would stop by the tables to sell horror-themed cordel literature. On the streets, people wore T-shirts that read “This may be your last night, enjoy it with me.” Bars jumped on the opportunity and ran promotional campaigns. “Enjoy the ApocaLIPse!” was Lip Bar’s advertising piece to its customers. Superstitious business owners were selling their places cheap to avoid a greater loss: if there wouldn’t be a nightlife anymore, who would frequent the bars?

The night, however, was still alive. And on the 28th of December, exactly nine months after Neddy’s death, Tammy Star would be at the Circus Club for the sixth performance of her macabre female impersonation “Kill Me For I Have Already Killed You”, which happened to be based on all those deaths. And Tadeo Mousetrap certainly would be there.

“It’s been nine months since it all began. I feel the mystery will be solved today. I have to be there. If I’ve been making up fantasies, nothing will happen and the crimes will remain unsolved. But if I am right, then someone will die. And maybe I will find out who the murderer is.”

*     *     *

CrimesDePaixao-02It was almost midnight when Tadeo Mousetrap arrived at the Circus Club and sat at a table far from the stage. He ordered cachaça and went to the restroom. He took the opportunity to examine the surroundings, counter, kitchen and corridors. It was not a big place. There was enough room for about twenty tables. There was a small stage in the corner. In case of unrest, the main door would be too narrow for fast evacuation.

No tables were vacant when the lights went off.

“Is everybody there?” a deep voice echoed throughout the club. “The show is going to start.”

The curtain opened for the first act. A female voice sang to the sound of a piano. You look at me that way… You think I don’t know you want to buy me… The scenario was a love hotel room. A man was lying on the bed. A blond woman wore a black dress with a long lateral opening that exposed her beautiful legs. But I am not for sale, my dear… The woman walked slowly up to the bed. Mousetrap moved in the chair, impressed by the beauty of the actress. What’s for sale is your dream of having what you can afford…

Tammy Star was the blond lover of the hotel owner who died of a heart attack while having an orgasm. Then she was the waiter meeting his wife’s lover, who pushed him overboard into the sea. Mousetrap could hardly believe that Tammy was also the actor who played the waiter. How could someone be so convincing playing both a woman and a man?

In every scene, Tammy lip-synced to especially selected songs. On the third one, she was a boy who tried to steal money from the cigarette vendor’s shack and caused the fire that killed her.

“Is Tammy she or he?” Mousetrap asked the waiter.

“Who knows. Another cachaça?”

The act with the singer began with Tammy Star lip-syncing “Little Girl Blue,” a very sad blues as sung by Janis Joplin, and Mousetrap could see that people were very absorbed by the show. Some were visibly moved. The atmosphere was loaded with commotion but also with suspense. When the singer was getting home very happy for having delivered the best performance of her life, Mousetrap heard a cat meow. He looked for the cat on stage, but couldn’t see it anywhere. Then he heard it again louder and all heads were turning, everyone was trying to determine where the sound was coming from.

It came from the entrance. Mousetrap turned around and saw a man stand up in the dark, leaning against the wall, facing the stage. He was wearing a black overcoat. Mousetrap looked more carefully and realized the man’s face was painted like a cat mask. Was that part of the show? On stage, the singer slashed her own throat with a vinyl record, dying happy and fulfilled. Mousetrap looked again and the man had disappeared.

Mousetrap scratched the back of his head, increasingly nervous. Something bothered him. There was a bad omen in the air, he could feel it.

The fifth act started and Tammy Star played a transvestite tricking on the corner under the faint light of a lamppost. Very short white skirt, black stockings, high heels, red Chanel style hair exposing the slender neck. She had eye shadow and red lips. Cars drove by and she made suggestive poses and shouted jokes to the drivers. An engaging bolero called “Lupiscínica” was playing, which served as the base for the name of the show.

Let’s postpone this fight, love…

Suddenly, a car pulled over a short distance away. Tammy smiled. The rear lights lit up and the car came back in reverse. Tammy straightened her skirt and took on her waiting position.

In the sleepy after hours, from one bolero to another…

The car stopped by her side and the tinted glass window rolled down, revealing the faces of a girl and a boy. The transvestite approached the car from the girl’s side, leaned on the window and smiled, offering the breasts as if they were on a tray.

Your mouth keeps secrets from me…

“Good evening, kids.”

“Hi,” answered the girl.

“You drove by yesterday, didn’t you?”

“You are a good observer.”

“I’m also good at other things…”

And today I am even jealous of your absence…

“Are you male or female?”

“I am whatever you and he want, sweetheart.”

“How much to solve that mystery?”

“I’ll make it a hundred for you two.”

But I’m not going to kill anybody anymore because of you…

“You’re very pretty.”

“And you two are really cute.”

“Nice breasts you have there…”

“Wanna touch them?” the transvestite asked, bringing the girl’s hand to his breast. “Such cruel competition, honey.”

“We can come back some other night, when it’s more convenient,” the young man said.

“But don’t take too long, you hear me? I may not be here anymore.”

“Are you moving to another spot?”

“I am the night, sweetheart. The night always comes to an end.”

Kill me because I have killed you already…

A man. He is wearing a black overcoat. His face is painted as a cat’s face. He came from somewhere in the darkness of the street, so quietly he suddenly was there on the sidewalk already. He came closer.

As soon as the transvestite turned around, he landed a violent punch on her face. She was knocked down on the curb, almost landing on the asphalt.

Tammy was scared. She wiped the corner of the mouth with her hand and saw she was bleeding. The man remained standing. The car had taken off fast and the bolero was over. He put his hand under his garment and took out a revolver.

Mousetrap felt his heart freeze. The only sound in the air came from the cars passing by on the avenue. Mousetrap saw Tammy Star stand up and proudly face the man standing in front of her. She screamed with her hand over the wounded lips:

“You just had to ruin everything, didn’t you?”

When the man held the weapon and pointed it at her, Mousetrap did not dare to blink. He was petrified, holding his breath, his full undivided attention on the two, the transvestite facing the man and the man who had shot the transvestite.

Time seemed to have come to a still. Mousetrap didn’t move a single muscle. Something was going to happen immediately and he had no idea what it was.

A thought crossed his mind quickly: what about those cars wheezing by and all those buildings around the scene? Didn’t anybody see anything? Wouldn’t anybody scream and stop a crime? All those windows… hundreds, thousands of windows… The night in the city had so many eyes, and still nobody ever saw anything…

Tammy Star moved quickly, took out a revolver from her purse and aimed it at the man with both hands. The weapon fired. A loud bang, the echo lingering in the air for long seconds, the smoke coming out of the barrel…

Mousetrap saw Tammy step back, stagger on her high heels, lose balance and bump against a lamppost like a pitiful disjointed dummy. Then she slid towards the ground and remained there still while headlights zipped by indifferently on the avenue. And the windows had seen nothing.

The man in the overcoat stepped forward still holding the revolver. He crouched over Tammy’s body, touched her face lightly with his hand and said softly:

“My love…”

Then he stood up and left, walking slowly on the sidewalk. He crossed the avenue with a calm step, never looking at the sides. A car stopped abruptly to avoid running him over and almost involved other cars in an accident. Passers-by saw the body on the sidewalk amidst the agitation and swarmed around it.

Tadeo Mousetrap went there too, clearing his way through the crowd. He approached the fallen body. He saw the blood on the clothes drip on the floor. He lifted Tammy’s head and she opened her eyes slowly. Somewhere in her serene expression a sweet smile sprung up:

“That fortune teller is going to pay…”

“What?” asked Mousetrap.

“She assured me… damn…. I would die in Paris…”

“Hang on a little more, Tammy.”

“It’s the end, my beautiful friend. The end of the sweet lies… of the nights in which we try to die…”

“Don’t speak. Help is on its way.”

“Are you… damn, it hurts… part of this ludicrous drama?”

“Uhnn… yes…” he answered, unsure of what he was saying.

“I think my participation ends here… Did you like it?”

Mousetrap turned around to face the people who were standing by with their indifferent faces.

“Who is he, Tammy? One of your clients?”

“It’s not his fault…”

Mousetrap noticed she was breathing with increasing difficulty.

“Why did he shoot you?”

“The prophecy. It must be fulfilled.”

Mousetrap pulled the bloody hair away from Tammy’s mouth, and while he beheld that beautiful face he recalled what she had told the couple in the car: “I am the night…”

“What is going to happen now?”

“The show is over, sweetheart. The lights will be turned on.”

She closed her eyes and her head fell to the side just as the lights were turned on. Mousetrap looked at the motionless body in his arms, Tammy’s beautiful body. He noticed one of the breasts was sticking out, a beautiful breast. He looked at her legs. He stretched his arm slowly and touched and felt Tammy’s sex…

“I’d never seen that technique, Mousetrap.”

He turned around quickly, pulling his hand back. He recognized Lieutenant Trinity standing up with the police car parked behind him. He laid Tammy’s head on the floor and stood up. His clothes were drenched in blood.

Mousetrap checked his watch: one o’clock in the morning. Then he realized the illumination did not come from any car headlights. Or from surrounding buildings. The night was bright in Iracema Beach. Strangely bright.

Such cruel brightness, someone might say.

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Ricardo Kelmer – blogdokelmer.com

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(script for a movie soon)

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this tale is part of the book:

The End Times Survival Guide
Ricardo Kelmer – Miragem Editorial, 2020
fantastic – horror – science fiction

What to do when the unexplainable suddenly barges into our reality and old truths are rendered useless? Where are we to go when the end of the world is upon us? In the nine short stories included in this book, none of them short of mystery and supernatural, people are amazed at events that challenge their understanding of reality and of themselves and trigger crisis situations so intense that people’s own survival is put at stake. This is a book about collective and personal apocalypses.

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> Amazon (kindle) english/portuguese

> In portuguese – blog 

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