When the Spanish Ladies Sing
by Heather Hunt
Matt stared down at the dead girl in his bathtub while drying his hands on a towel. Even dead, Ariana looked lovely. Her eyes were open and her mouth was just barely agape, as if her death were no more surprising than a bee flying in through a window. He’d held her under for almost ten minutes. It was overkill, of course, but Matt hadn’t gotten as far as he was now by leaving things to chance.
She’d fought, of course. She had cut her leg on the faucet and it still seeped blood, the body not having quite caught up to the fact that she was deceased. The water had taken on a pinkish tint with the spilt blood. Some of it was his. He looked down at his arms, at the long scratches. Thankfully Ariana had never been big on long nails, in fact she bit hers. Still, the scratches would hurt tomorrow.
Tomorrow. That was going to be the really tricky part of this plan. His wife would return in five days and everything hinged on tomorrow. Compared to what he still had to do, killing Ariana had been child’s play.
To her credit, Ariana had been the perfect mistress. She never once asked him to leave his wife. She was discrete. In fact, if it hadn’t been for her love of the ocean, he could have seen himself keeping this going for untold years to come.
But no. That had been that the downfall of their relationship. She’d begged him to come to the Virgin Islands with her, and he’d relented. It had been a wonderful week: snorkeling, making love, making the rounds of the restaurants. He’d asked her several times why she loved the water so much. She’d only shrugged and said she was a Pisces.
He tossed the towel into the water and turned from the spacious bathroom. His wife had come within a hair of finding out. Matt knew then that it had to end.
Oddly enough, he never once considered just asking her to end it. He’d sent his wife off for the week and invited Ariana over.
He went into the kitchen. The dead girl in his bathroom could wait. He needed a drink.
He poured a double of bourbon, trying not to notice how badly his hands shook. He took the drink into the living room. He’d have to make sure he took care of all of Ariana’s things tomorrow. She hadn’t brought much, but one of her CDs sat atop the bookshelf. He picked it up, setting down his drink for a second.
It was one of traditional sea shanties. He liked the CD, though Ariana had a voice to shame the professional singers. On impulse, he put it into the player, keying up her favorite song. Spanish Ladies filled the air, sung by the Robert Shaw Men’s Chorus. He picked up his drink and took a swallow. He would miss Ariana’s voice, he realized.
The song finished and silence filled the air. He knocked back the rest of his drink.
Glass still at his lips, he froze. He’d imagined that, right? He’d read that old Poe story about the heart. He was just imagining. He made to swallow and remembered he’d finished his drink. Shaking his head, he walked to the kitchen to refill his—
He snatched the bourbon, filling the glass full. He just hadn’t turned the faucet off fully, he told himself. He hadn’t noticed it before because he was distracted and then he was playing the music. His mind was just trying to find something, some way to bring her back to him. She was dead. He’d held her under for almost ten minutes.
He marched back into the living room and—
He snatched the sea shanties CD from the player, putting in another one at random. He cranked the volume, and Bob Seger began singing about night moves.
He felt better immediately. He was just too wrapped up in this to think straight. He took a seat at the couch and returned to nursing his drink. By the time the CD ended, he was feeling nice and warm, ready to call it a night. He’d probably have a headache tomorrow, he thought, getting up to turn off the stereo.
He resisted the inclination to freeze. It was nothing. Just a leaky faucet. Still, he planned to sleep in the guest room tonight, which was on the opposite end of the apartment from the bathroom.
Now he did stop. That was no quiet sound of water dripping into a full tub. It sounded like something moving in water, as if a fish were in the tub.
Without consciously willing it, he looked towards the darkened doorway of the bathroom.
Someone started singing. The sound was quiet but the melody and the voice were both ones he was intimately familiar with.
“Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies.”
The glass fell from his hands, shattering on the wood floor. The singing paused then there was the sound of something wet rising from the darkness of the bathroom.
“Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain.”
The light clicked on in the bathroom. Someone stood in the doorway, backlit. Water dripped onto the floor, glittering.
“For we’ve received orders for to sail to old England.”
He stared. He couldn’t breathe. She was dead. She had to be dead.
“But we very well hope to see you again.”
She stopped singing and he broke. He ran for the guest bedroom. Her voice followed him.
“We’ll rant and we’ll roar, like true British sailors.”
He fumbled through the closet. They kept a gun in there to safeguard against intruders. Where was it? Where? His fingers closed on cold steel. He gasped in relief.
“We’ll rant and we’ll roar, across the salt seas.”
He flipped the safety catch. He turned. She was standing in the doorway, once more backlit. He swallowed hard. He brought the gun up and fired.
The first shot went wild and she paused in her song. He shot again. This one hit her in the chest. She started singing again. She moved across the room, into the darkness with him. He collapsed on the bed, still firing. He heard the springs squeak. She was on the bed with him. He kept firing. She never stopped singing.
“Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain...”
* * *
The wife was hysterical, and the facts simply weren’t adding up. The detective popped an antacid and went to talk to the medical examiner.
“Please say you can tell me how this fellow died,” he begged of the ME.
She shrugged slightly. “There’s not a mark on him. In fact, if it weren’t for just one thing, I’d say heart attack.”
“The bullets?” he asked, gesturing to the discarded gun on the floor and the scattering of spent shells around the corpse. Bullet holes freckled the wall and door frame.
“Not that. It’s not unheard-of for heart attack victims to hallucinate. He could have had a stroke beforehand, which can lead to hallucinations as well.”
“What’s the one thing then?” he asked, looking with disgust at the bloated body. It had to have been in that apartment for days.
“The lungs are full of water,” she said.
“So someone drowned him and brought him here?”
“Not unless it was in the ocean.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean this.” She brandished a small bottle, filled with what looked like murky water.
“I’ll have to send it to a marine biologist to be sure, but in my professional opinion, I’d say we’re looking at krill. They’ve been living off this guy’s lung tissue for days.”
Copyright © 2019 by Heather Hunt