Julie and the View
by Ken Dean
Julie Stokes was driving on Route 101 about 2 a.m. towards her apartment in Santa Barbara when she decided to pull off in the North Oxnard area. She was returning from a Halloween party in Camarillo and was beginning to feel the full effect of having a little too much to drink. There was a park along the beach close by where she could wait a while until driving wouldn’t be so dangerous.
She parked the car and decided to go down close to the beach where there were some benches facing out towards the surf. There was no one else around, which is the way she preferred it right now. The night air was mild and comfortable with a slight breeze coming in off the ocean.
She sat down on a bench with her purse alongside, her head throbbing a little along with that disoriented, drunk feeling. There was a slight lethargic feeling to her body that was puzzling her. She was moving slow and so were her reflexes; might be the alcohol. Better not drive until that feeling went away.
The view of the ocean with a full moon shining helped to get her mind off how she was feeling, although a couple of Tylenol might help too. She usually carried some with her, but had forgotten to bring any in her purse tonight. The waves coming against the shore were soothing and might have the same effect as some aspirin.
Julie was wondering how long she would have to sit until her mind cleared enough to drive, but she was feeling so relaxed. All the stiffness had seemed to vanish, along with her headache. Even her anger over the party had left her. The sound of the surf and the moonlight reflecting off the water was mesmerizing. Somehow she couldn’t keep from gazing at the ocean.
* * *
Her thoughts went back to the party. What a waste. She only went because an okay-looking male coworker, Alex, had invited her. She had balked at first, not being a bubbly, outgoing people person. But then she relented and said yes. He lived closer to the party, so they agreed to meet there at eight.
She had to go costume searching, not having gone to an actual dress-up Halloween party before. There was a store in the local mall that had costumes as their specialty. Most of the costumes were too racy; revealing too much. Not that she wasn’t well developed and bordering on voluptuous, but that wasn’t the way she pictured herself.
Here, this one will do. A Medusa costume, with a scary headpiece of snakes to match. Totally Gorgonic.
Julie arrived at the party at eight-fifteen. She told them she was to meet Alex here, whom they knew, although they said he wasn’t there yet.
“That’s okay; I’ll just mingle until he gets here.”
Mingling was more productive than she had imagined, with one single male talking her out of her phone number. But two hours had passed along with four drinks and Julie was pissed. She had been stood up!
Walking angrily towards the door to leave she passed a mirror in the hallway, then stopped and went back. Gazing at her reflection, being tipsy, she looked upon the ugly Medusa mask and cursed it.
“Waste of time and money, except for someone getting my phone number. Wonder if you were ever stood up, you ugly Gorgon?” she said, sticking out her tongue at the mirror. She flung the headdress of mask and snakes off her head onto her back and left.
* * *
Suddenly the moon was gone and there a hint of sunlight peeking around from behind. With the sun rising there were some long shadows becoming noticeable of her, the bench, and some trees nearby; all pointing westward towards the surf.
She noticed a couple of early morning runners jogging their way along the path near the beach. Her gaze wanted to follow the joggers as they passed, but her eyes wouldn’t move. Her hearing seemed to be more acute, as she was able to hear their labored breathing.
The male sounded almost asthmatic, while the female seemed to have more of a healthy pace to her breathing. Better be careful there, buddy. Don’t want to overdo it, fall over and wake up dead.
Was she breathing? Julie couldn’t tell. She couldn’t feel anything. She had her hearing and her sight, and that was only in one direction.
Everything seemed to fast-forward to midday. It must be around noon, with the shadows almost perpendicular with the sky. Funny; she didn’t feel the sunlight.
The beach had filled up with more people now, chairs and umbrellas were everywhere. Some of the beachers were safely under their umbrellas, out of the sun’s reach, while others were laying out on blankets and chairs braving the harsh noon-day rays of sunshine. There were also the children building sand castles, looking for shells, or just running in and out of the surf screaming like little pygmies on crack.
One little boy with an ice cream cone was ambling his way towards her, unaware of it melting in the heat and running down his hand. He must have been around two years old by the way he was trying to clumsily make his footing through the sand. He fell about ten feet in front of her, spilling the cone. Naturally he started bawling as most kids would do since we all know the universe revolves around them.
A tan, blonde mother rushed over to pick him up. “Charlie, what’s the matter?”
“Drop ice cream,” he answered through sobs.
“We’ll get you some more.”
“Mommy, lady staring.”
“That’s okay, we’ll just leave her alone.” She gave Julie a quick, furtive glance.
The sun was now just visible in her range of vision in the West. Someone must have called the police since she would occasionally see one or two of them in her line of sight, looking her over.
Two police cruisers were in the beach parking lot with lights flashing but no noise. A detectives’ car pulled up beside them. Detective Reese wasn’t very happy about being brought out on a call just before his shift was over. The dispatcher had relayed the info about a possible body on the beach near North Oxnard. ‘Now why would I want to see a body before dinner?’ he laughed to himself. He saw Sergeant Malco approaching his car as he was getting out.
“Sergeant Malco, fill me in please.” Malco had a funny look on his face that Reese wasn’t used to seeing, at least on a seasoned police officer.
He made his way towards the beach park area with Malco while donning the standard crime scene gloves that the two police officers were already wearing. Didn’t want to compromise any evidence.
“Dispatch had a call from a citizen who noticed a woman sitting on one of the park benches, not moving or responding to questions.”
“Was there any ID?”
“Yeah. She had her purse beside her and luckily no one did a grab on it. Her name is Julie Stokes and she lives in Santa Barbara. The way she’s dressed I would guess she was either on her way to or from a Halloween party last night.”
“Did you check for a pulse?”
“Yes. But there’s something unusual about the body, if that’s what you want to call it, and I couldn’t find a pulse. No signs of visible trauma either. We thought you should take a look too.”
They walked together towards the back of the park bench where Officer Brady was keeping an eye on things and keeping the curious away.
Reese noticed that a hood and mask were pulled back from her head and was hanging down her back. She had beautiful blonde hair, even though it was tied back in a ponytail to fit into the costume. There was a slight breeze blowing, enough to gently move his own hair. When he had gotten closer he noticed that the ends of her ponytail weren’t moving at all, although they should have been loose enough to move in the breeze.
Reese walked around to the front of the bench and took off his sunglasses to get a good look at her. She was beautiful, and totally normal looking. He felt he could reach out and touch soft, pliable skin.
He tried for a pulse on her neck. Odd; it felt like he was touching rock. Rigor never turned the body that hard. Reaching in his jacket pocket, he pulled out a ball point pen. He then took the pen and tapped very gently on one of the hands in her lap. The feedback he got was solid. He gently touched her face with the pen also and it was the same, hard as a rock. Touching her cheek with his gloved hand gave the feeling of touching fine porcelain.
Julie could see the detective taking the pen and reaching out to places outside her range of vision to do something. Then he took the pen and seemed to touch her face with it, though she couldn’t feel it. The same with his hand, he seemed to be stroking her cheek, but once again there wasn’t any feeling.
“Gentlemen, we really have one for the books here. We have to get her back to the lab and find out what caused this. Do you think she will fit in back of one the cruisers for the trip?”
“Yeah, I can make sure there is room in mine for her to fit in the back seat,” answered Malco.
He went back to his cruiser to make sure the back seat didn’t have any junk lying in it.
Reese bent down and looked Julie in the eyes. “What happened to you, Julie?” he whispered under his breath.
Julie looked back at him. ‘I don’t know. Can you or anyone help me? I don’t want to be like this forever. I’m still alive!’
Of course Reese heard nothing.
Malco returned. “Ready, Detective.”
“Okay, we are all three going to have to lift her up to be able to get her to the cruiser; I would imagine she is heavy. And be very careful not to break anything.”
All three lifted her up with some effort and began carrying her towards the cruisers back seat.
“Detective, just what kind of costume is this anyway, with the mask and snake headdress?”
“It’s the Gorgon Medusa.”
They reached the cruiser and gently sat her in the back seat like a heavy mannequin.
None of them noticed the glistening tear that had formed at the corner of her eye and was running down her cheek.
Copyright © 2007 by Ken Dean