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Angel Zapata
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maramara.jpg

Mara, Mara on the Wall

by Angel Zapata

 

Sandra Sawyer hired me to find her father. These types of jobs were usually routine. She sat across from me at my desk; a curvy blond with sunset autumn eyes. The lacey handkerchief in her hand was soaked in tears.

“I can pay you whatever it takes,” she said.

The gold letters etched on the wide window behind me read Skip Mara, P.I.

“When did you last see him?” I rummaged through the top drawer, pulled out a notepad. I never wrote anything down, but figured it might make her feel better if I at least pretended.

“This evening,” Sandra said. “In fact, I have my eyes on him right now.”

I stopped moving my pen. “Come again?”

“I’d like to show you something.” She unzipped her purse and handed me a woman’s compact. “You’ll find what my father looks like inside of it.”

I flipped back the lid and stared at myself in the small, round mirror. “Is this a joke?” I snapped it closed, set it on the desk. “Do me a favor and hit the road.”

“Please, Dad—” she caught herself. “Please, Mr. Mara. All I ask is for you to gaze into the mirror. I’ll give you all the money I have on me— three thousand dollars— if you just tell me who you see.”

At the time, there were four collection agencies nipping at my heels.

“Show me.”

She tossed me a fat envelope. I’m not ashamed to admit Ben Franklin is an attractive man.

“Okay.” I put some extra teeth into my grin. “Why not?”

I left the compact flat on the desk and thumbed it open. The face I saw in the mirror was weathered, ashen, alien. The bags under my eyes appeared to have been packed for the long haul. “This is the easiest money I’ve ever—”

The gun she held was nickel-plated and cute in her bony hand. “Hold up the mirror and call to the man inside of it.” Her voice was stronger and she wasn’t crying anymore.

“I don’t allow guns in this office— hell, I don’t even carry one. And I don’t take kind to threats.” I rose from my chair. “Especially from—”

A bullet hit the ceiling.

I sat back down.

“You know how long it’s taken me to find a man of your features, height, and weight?” Her smile was humorless. “Too long.”

“Okay, I’ll play nice.” My mouth went dry. “But your threat won’t work. You need me. You’re not going to shoot me.”

“Every shot doesn’t have to be a killing wound.” She aimed at my shoulder. “What’s it going to be?”

I threw my hands in the air. “You’re a crazy bitch, but I’ll do what you’re asking. Do I still get to keep the cash?”

She pointed at the compact.

I slowly repositioned it. The outer surface was etched in some sort of bizarre symbols. “I don’t have to say any magic words or anything, do I? You know like any mirror, mirror on the wall jazz.”

“My father’s Christian name is Faircott,” she said patiently. “Stare at the glass and summon him. Do it.”

When I was kid, there was a woman who lived five houses up the street from me. She was from a country in Europe that doesn’t exist anymore. She’d moved to my neighborhood after the war. Everyone said she was a witch. One day after school, my so-called buddies dared me to ring her doorbell and run. I got as far as the third porch step when her front door opened. I nearly pissed myself. In a panic, I fell backwards and hit my head. But instead of snatching me up and eating me, she doctored my cut and fed me homemade cookies. I remember she had really sad eyes. I figured folks had been wrong about her. Four months later, the cops were digging up bodies in her backyard.

It hit me that this Sandra girl was a dead ringer for the witch of my childhood.

“Do it,” she repeated. “Now.”

I cleared my throat. “Faircott,” I said to myself, and then I smirked. “You’re quite a handsome devil.”

“Your praise is unnecessary,” I said, but it wasn’t me.

“Daddy!” She was around the desk in two seconds flat, bent over my chair’s backrest. The gun muzzle was glued to my head. “Oh, Daddy.”

“Sandra.” The reflected voice was deeper, softer than my own. “I’ve missed you, princess.”

She sniffled and laughed. The pressure of the gun eased.

“I found a home for you, Daddy.” She glanced at me. “He’s not nearly the man you are, but I think you’ll approve.”

Faircott’s eyes burned into mine. A dark light shifted behind him. All the shadows in his mirror world had claws and horns. I’ve never been more scared in my life.

“Recite the spell, Daddy,” Sandra said. “Hurry.”

The old man spat out the language of the damned. I felt my heartbeat slow, lungs fight for oxygen.

“Sorry to break up the party.” I clenched my jaw. “But to hell with you both.” I pushed down with my knees and shot my chair backwards. The caster wheels beneath me squealed.

Sandra wasn’t expecting it. She was knocked back and through the third floor window behind us. Her scream was short and sharp.

The gun had dropped near my wingtips.

It felt great in my hand.

“There’s only enough room for one of me in this town,” I told Faircott. “Tell your daughter I said ‘hi’.”

The bullet shattered his face.

I wiped the sweat from my forehead and leaned over the windowsill. The street sweepers had some work to do. Sandra looked like busted porcelain.

I’ve got to confess, it wouldn’t be the last time I’d break something beautiful.

 

THE END

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