¡estoy triste y os imploropuesta en tierra la rodilla!¡Piedad para el que se humilla,ojos de esmeralda y oro!

— Salvador Díaz Mirón —

The date was November 2nd, 1939. The wind was certainly cold and the trees were covered with gold-painted leaves. I was walking at that time with my sidekick James, trying to pass through the fastidious crowd near Saint Peter’s cathedral. “Something bad must’ve happened” said James with fear on his eyes. I was strongly convinced that the crowd was nothing but the ordinary mob that used to gather after the dominical preaching, but I was wrong.

Berenice Statham, mother of four, wealthy and religious, was found beheaded right in the middle of the Cathedral’s atrium. She was naked and his head was placed exactly four feet away from her body, crowned with a krone of white roses. The scene was macabre, the blood of that poor old lady painted the white cobblestones of the Cathedral’s atrium, marking so, the beginning of a dark chapter on the history of that God forsaken town. Whoever capable of such atrocity was not a common citizen of that town, which was until that fateful day, a peaceful town. The sights of amazement, fear and confusion seized the surroundings of the temple, and the archbishop was called to bless the tainted sanctuary.

Who would’ve done that? What reasons would he have had?

There was no apparent mobile, the victim was one of the unimpeachable members of the Sacred Heart Congregation, and had not known enemies or unfinished business. Would it be a random attack? And if so, why the beheading and the sinister post-mortem collocation? What was the meaning of the white roses’ krone? All those questionings crossed my mind while we walked in front of the dreadful scene, which by the way, I wished I’ve never seen. James was just as aghast as I was, “I wish I wasn’t right for just one time” he said. I couldn’t have agreed more.

We continued our way out of the crowd, but with an act of idiocy, I crashed with a young lady who was lying on the floor, crying out loud. She seemed to be facing the biggest pain a human can bare. I hurried to apologize to the young woman, and ask her the reason of her unmeasurable suffering. She wiped away her tears and cleared her throat and sobbing told me that the death woman lying on the atrium was her mother. Then she started crying again, this time she couldn’t get herself together. I asked James to help me getting up the lady and we carried her to a bench of the park next to the Cathedral. There, we tried to calm her down, and after several minutes, she finally stopped crying.

She wasn’t pretty, nor clever. A notorious gap peeked between her front teeth, her face and shoulders were replete of freckles and sun spots. As for her intellect, let’s just say that she wasn’t a devoted student. She was extremely docile and polite; her attitude was almost servile. James asked her if she knew the reasons for the unfortunate event that ended with her mother’s life, I thought James’ behavior was crude considering the incident was quite recent and was awfully traumatic for the young woman. Nevertheless, I was tempted to get some answers as well, and she didn’t seem to be bothered. She told us her mother went out for the weekend to visit her ill sister, she was supposed to arrive at her house on Friday, but she never did.

“Are your siblings aware of the situation?” asked James.

“No, they’re too little to be exposed to such dreadful news as this,” she said while biting her fingernails. She was notoriously anxious, but at least she wasn’t crying anymore. Maybe her soul had run out of tears and her heart was left dry and riven, a very understandable possibility.

Then I saw it. Her eyes emerald green, deep, mysterious. I got lost on her gaze, and I could almost read her mind through them. Her soul was full of fear, hatred, and resentment. She hated her mother. Her tears were of guilt rather than pain. So, I ventured to say: “You aren’t exactly sorry about it, are you?

She looked at me astonished. Then she turned her head violently. My thoughts were confirmed. It didn’t mean she was the murderer, but she wasn’t entirely innocent either. “Would you like to talk about it?” asked James puzzled.

“No, I better be gone” she said.

The whole situation was extremely baffling. I didn’t mean to be involved in a murder case, nonetheless, I had the misfortune to meet the only person on that town who seemed to be able to give me some answers about it. Now I was officially involved. So, I grabbed her arm firmly and ask her to stay.

“I know nothing” she said, battling to free her arm.

“Know nothing about what, Mrs. Statham?” Asked James, with a terrifying inquisitive voice.

“About anything” she said concerned. “Let me go, you better stay out of this, I beg you to step aside” continued saying while she walked away rapidly.

I was stunned. She did know something, and now I bloody wanted to know what it was. James knew then that he had no other choice than help me on that unexpected quest. After several days trying to find the mysterious girl with emerald green eyes, we finally found her. She was on a barn, with her feet dangling; staring at the ground. She was paler than the day we met, quieter. She was dead, and with her, the answers we badly needed. One thing we knew for sure, she wasn’t murdered. She, modern Judas, sepulcher of lies and secrets, tired of carrying on her shoulders the weight of guilt as Atlas holding up the globe.

Innocence lost, stolen soul. How I wail her lack of bravery. There we were, staring at a hanging body, watching the only person who knew about the murderer detaching from her life. The coroner confirmed my speculations: she wasn’t murdered. She couldn’t manage the guilt of being part of a hideous deed. The guilt of being a sinner gnawed her conscious pushing her to end her martyrdom. It seemed death had enraged against the Statham family. Berenice Statham was the key who opened a pandora box over the city.

The scenario turned blurrier than it was at the beginning. James and I seemed to have lost our north, and every path that seemed to lead us to the murderer was nothing but a dead end. Our quest had no possible solution.

We knew the name of the young lady until the day of her funeral. We attended uninvited, mingled among the people. Her name was Aida. The exact same day we formally knew the name of the girl, the Statham brothers crossed our way. They were all teenagers, no older than 15, no younger than 10. The youngest was Paul, named after their father, Gerard, the one in the middle, had the fortune of carrying their grandfather name, and Norman, well, her parents just liked that name. They were there with her aunt Clarisse, a middle-age woman, as pretty as her now dead niece. We decided to offer our condolences to the family. After all, we did know her sister and the proper thing to do was saying a few comforting words to the grieving family. The burial was quick so as our stay on the graveyard.

After the tragic events that we had witnessed, we decided to step aside for a while from the Statham case. After all, our mental health needed a break. We went home to have some tea, finish our neglected readings and have some rest. I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. My nap lasted near six hours. I saw her in my dreams, her hanging corpse didn’t want to leave me alone. I woke up elated, my breath was heavy, my heart was pounding rapidly. I tried to calm myself, I told myself it was just a dream. I wish I were right.

There was she, standing right next to the door; staring at the floor. I called her name quietly, but she didn’t answer. She wasn’t a ghost, but I knew she wasn’t alive either. I tried to turn the light on, but she looked up and stared at me with her emerald green eyes, she said nothing. I had a lump in my throat, and my legs were trembling. I couldn’t even call for help. After a long time of silence and fear, she closed her eyes and a loud and terrifying scream came out of her mouth. I covered my ears but the scream went down my spine and took over my body. I woke up the next morning on my backyard, covered on mud and three white roses were nailed by the thorns to my chest. It didn’t make any sense; how come I was able to be all covered on mud if there were any signs of mud on my backyard? What did the roses have to do with all that? Were they some kind of death sentence?

I got up and run straight to the bathroom to wash the whole mess I had turned into. Once in the bathroom I looked myself on the mirror but somehow the mud wasn’t there. Not even a single mud stain was over me. I was shocked. Would it be possible that the whole Statham case dragged me to insanity? I started to cry as a child, trying to understand what on earth was happening to me. I couldn’t find a reasonable explanation for the situation I was in.

James found me a couple of hours later in the bathroom, and asked me what was wrong with me. I couldn’t explain to him, I wish I could have, but I couldn’t find the right words to explain it to him without sounding insane. He helped me get up and took me to my bed. I asked him to stay, and he did. I felt asleep again while James cleaned my room a little bit. A scream woke me up, but this time wasn’t Aida, it was James. My room was dark, and I was alone. The fear took over my body. There was no trace of James, I got out of my bed and opened the door to find him. I didn’t have to search much. The first thing I saw after I opened the room’s door was my dear sidekick, all covered in blood. He wasn’t dead yet, he was choking with his own blood. I tried to save him, but there was nothing left to be done, he was dying.

I held him hard against my chest and he squeezed my hand. I felt his soul abandoning his body, I sensed the cold touch of death taking over his life. Suddenly my chest started aching, I felt sharped knives cutting out my flesh. So, I ran to the bathroom and looked at the mirror; my chest was full of black thorns. I was close to death and I knew it. There was no imaginable way out of the situation I was in at that moment, not even the wisest or bravest human being could’ve gotten me out of my death moment.

I was doomed.

“So, this is how dying feels” I thought.

I knew she was there, I knew she wanted me dead. I had no chance to get rid of that sentence. I turned around and looked at her eyes, she was staring at me, like a hunter who watch the prey before jumping over it.

“Go ahead, kill me, as you killed your mother” I said.

“I am not a killer” she said.

I was desperate, I wanted that moment to be over once and for all. But she seemed to be enjoying it, she liked my suffering. I begged her to kill me, but she didn’t listen. She kept playing tricks with my mind, she was determined to drive me crazy. And I, I was close to let her win. She pushed me through the hall to the balcony, I asked for mercy but she didn’t care. I looked at her eyes, then I saw it again, all the hatred, the fear, the resentment. I was there, the night Berenice was killed, she was there too. Then I saw the truth, she wasn’t a murderer. She defended her mother, she tried to save her, but she was too late. The author of the dreadful murder, the one who stained with blood the white cobblestones of the Cathedral’s atrium was the same one who came to bless it again. He killed her in the name of God, in the name of sanctity.

I was paying my mistake. My unfounded judgment, I condemned an innocent girl with prejudice and false suspicions. And now she was making me pay for it. It was a quid pro quo, my life and my mistaken judgment had to be vanished from the earth. She was committed with her vendetta. And, I had nothing to argue.

I was standing on the edge of the cornice. I closed my eyes and felt how she pushed me to the void. The dead wasn’t as instantaneous as I would’ve wanted, the pain was unbearable. She was standing next to me, I saw her placing white roses on my chest, singing a lullaby. I knew I was dying.

She sat next to me, grabbed one rose and cut her throat open with its thorns. Her blood was as thick as tar, she sat next to me and cried, her blood kept coming out as a waterfall. The last thing I saw was her blood turning into black lilies as they touched the ground.

She was dying, and so did I.

Osvaldo Álvarez

01–18–2019