Tell Me A Story
This is my effort for #samplesunday on Twitter - the opening paragraphs from PAST SINS under my pen-name Ellie Jones - a Kindle romantic mystery. I hope my regular readers forgive my indulgance.
The face in the mirror reminded her of a bad shave in a cartoon. It was full of nicks and scratches, and visible ends of stitches where flesh had been sewn back together. The trouble was, cartoons were supposed to be funny but this cartoon made her feel like crying… Where had her face gone?
Apparently, after they’d brought her in she’d remained unconscious for several days - and they said she was lucky… She felt like shit.
Her shoulder had been pinned together, her head, a tiny metal plate inside. It was true that only a small chunk of swirling dark hair was missing but it made her self-conscious. Her once petite nose was swollen, discolouration fading but noticeable, high cheekbones marred with stitches.
“You haven’t caught me on a good day,” she said, glancing from the mirror to the woman by her bed. “I could be bitchy.”
“You’ve been a hard person to trace, Jenny. I’ll manage.” The woman proffered her hand. “Maria Santos, abogada.”
“You’d probably call me a solicitor back in Britain. A lawyer.”
“I know what an abogada is. What I don’t understand is why you’ve been tracing me.”
Jenny took the hand in her good hand as best she could. It hurt her shoulder though, and she wished she hadn’t. She’d almost learned to move without moving, would probably make a good busker when she got out.
“Sorry! I should have realised. Are you feeling up to this?”
“I guess so. But I’m still woozy. I’m afraid you’ll have to bear with me.” She put the mirror onto the cabinet by the bed.
“Say if you want me to leave.”
“I’m fine. I’ll be okay, just don’t expect too much.”
The woman undid her attaché case, took out a sheaf of papers and studied them. “I’m afraid red tape in Spain is rather cumbersome. I sometimes wonder if one day we’ll get buried under our own paper work.”
Jenny became curious and struggled into a sitting position. Denia hospital was far from home and the prospect of company, a treat. The next bed was empty. It had been occupied for a while but the woman was gone, discharged. There’d been hardly anyone to talk to for days. Not that the woman had spoken much, but she’d been a face to look at, someone to share her frustration with.
“Is it the accident? I wasn’t driving you know. I can’t remember much about it but I wasn’t driving. I’d scrounged a lift after a party.”
There had been a confusion of red tail-lights, a blocked carriageway, the car jolting, scraping, bucking; nowhere to go before they hit metal. She’d drawn her knees up; instinctively lowered her head; willed her whole being to shrink up her backside. It was sounds she remembered the most; metal screeching, glass splintering, sounds she didn’t want to recall.
“No, it’s nothing to do with the accident.” Maria shook her head, her eyes all the time on Jenny, perceptive, no sign of emotion. “Okay, so let’s start with your full name.”
“Jennifer, Alicia, Bucknall… What’s this about?”
“Do you have Spanish nationality?”
“No. Born and bred in England.”
“The maiden name of your mother?”
Jenny had to think hard, paddled through a head full of thick soup, but it came eventually. “Olive Grace Peterson.”
“Tell me about your father.”
“I never knew my father.” Jenny screwed her face. “He died before I was born. His mother was Spanish. He died over here.”
Maria wrote it down, seemed satisfied.
“I’m sorry. I can’t seem to remember much. It annoys me, but they say it’s not unusual.” Jenny pointed to where the plate was on her head. “They’ve put a trap door here so that if things get bad you can open it up and dig out the memories for yourself. I keep forgetting things, silly things, not everything… God knows why. They say it’ll get better with time … Look, what’s all this about?”
The vase of flowers on the bedside cabinet was flaccid in the heat. Maria pushed herself to her feet.
“Your flowers, shall I give them fresh water? It’s a shame to let them spoil.” She sniffed at them, took them to the sink in the corner of the room, and filled the vase. “You have proof of your identity?”
“I guess so - passport, bankcards. They’ll do, won’t they?”
“I wonder if I could see them.”
Jenny heard the murmur of television in the common room, a scrape as someone moved furniture, hushed conversations. The wearisome familiarity of the place depressed her. It felt as if she’d been lying there forever. Maria Santos made a welcome break and she intended hanging onto her for as long as possible. If it involved answering questions then so be it. She said, “There’s no harm in you seeing my passport. You’re not touching my bankcards, though.”
“In the cupboard by your side; a clutch bag. It should be in the zip pocket…Look, do you mind telling me what’s going on?”
“Please bear with me, Señorita.” Maria found the bag, took out the passport, studied it, checked the date of birth, looked at Jenny and compared her to the photograph, put the passport away again, wrote on the paper, then offered it to Jenny. “Would you mind signing this?”
“Difficult. My shoulder, I can’t use my arm. I’m right-handed.”
Maria smiled wanly, “Sorry! No worries. It can be done later. I’m reasonably satisfied you’re the person I’m looking for.”
“The significance being?”
“Juan García. Juan Cabra-García to be pedantic. Cabra was his mother’s family.”
Jenny shook her head from side to side. “No! You’ve got me there. Means nothing to me.”
“He died a few months ago, in that terrible bomb in Madrid. In his last Will and Testament, he made you heir to La Finca Piedra, along with his younger half-brother.”
“It isn’t an even split. His brother has the major share, but these are details we can go into at a later date.”
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The important thing is we’ve established your identity.”
“But I don’t know a Juan Cabra-Garcia.” Jenny closed her eyes, thought hard. Nothing.
“There will be formalities to go through, and documents need to be drawn up. A Public Notary will need to verify the documents to legalize them. But these things are only a matter of time.”
Jenny said carefully, “I rather think you’ve made a mistake.”
Maria smiled. A small inclination of the head indicated she didn’t think so.
“We’ll make arrangements for you to come to my office when you’re feeling up to it, say in six months … I’ll probably need that amount of time to confirm things, and to make further checks. I’m afraid things tend to move a little slowly over here.”
“Damn!” The letter was crumpled into a ball then pressed between his palms. Eduardo, window seat 27A, had no one by his side. He had purchased 27B and 27C to ensure privacy. People talked and he didn’t want to talk. Who was doing this? Why the hell send it to him here in the U.S.? He’d barely been away ten days.
The engines flared, died, flared again, and they were on the move. He stared at the control tower, at reflections on rain-slicked tarmac. A yellow van scooted in the distance, wound through the handful of light aircraft scattered outside hangers. He stared as the van disappeared into the complex.
Someone had gained access to his business movements. Surely, it wouldn’t be too difficult to pinpoint who had done it?
The plane taxied to the end of the runway and waited for clearance. The sky looked resentful, made everything miserable. There was no first-class on the plane, which hadn’t improved his temper. The girl at check-in couldn’t offer an upgrade; the flight was too short, the plane too small. She’d smiled widely, showed too much gum, told him to have a good day.
Jeez… There were all those in the office, friends, consultants. There were probably dozens if you included those who might have passed word on without thinking. Maybe it wouldn’t be so easy after all.
It would be another week before he made home. He didn’t need shit like this. He hardly had time for what was planned, never mind worry about threatening letters. The jaunt had been time-consuming, the sanctity of Spain, a long way off, but business was business and it was what he did.
This was a double hop, Charleston to Atlanta; Atlanta to Manchester. It would involve a mad dash across the sprawl of Atlanta airport to find the Delta flight. It would be a mad dash because the bloody plane was already late. He stared morosely through the porthole window. The overcast skies looked tortured.
He hoped they’d be up soon because a storm could delay them and if they were delayed he’d miss the connection.
The heavens opened and rain bounced high off the runway, but the engines were screaming, the plane shaking. They were going, regardless of the weather.
He unscrewed the letter; stared at it, felt angry all over again. Someone was turning it into a campaign.
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Purchase PAST SINS from Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo