16 Comments on Cithara

“Wait, I have it! These cases, they’re connected!” I shouted with caffeine-induced confidence. My partner, Gomez raised an eyebrow, too tired to ask. It was midnight and we were still at the precinct.

“All the thefts took place after the victims went to a bar.”

Gomez massaged the bridge of his nose. “Uh, yeah. Different bars, different days. They also don’t remember anything that happened at the bar, or after. Probably drunk out of their ducking senses.” Gomez was trying to wean off swearing.

“Aah, but the same singer performed on all the days in question. Someone called Cithara. Definitely a stage name.”

We googled her. She was a quasi-celebrity in jazz circles.

“Ooh!” Gomez rubbed his palms. “She’s hot!”

“And you’re a ducking teenager.” I said. “Check out these comments. She’s a Russian spy, a witch, she can make grown men cry when she sings? Who writes shit like this?”

“We should go check her out.” Gomez grinned. “For questioning, I mean. She’s performing at Trinidad tomorrow at 7.”

“The one on 10th and Main? Alrighty. Adios, Gomez.”

I tiptoed inside the house. Janey was fast asleep. I pulled a blanket over my little girl and drowned my dad guilt in a whisky drink.

We flashed our police badges to her assistant at the retro-bar the following day. We were ushered into a waiting room. Minutes threatened to turn into hours. I got up to get myself some water when a cloud of Chanel no.5 and tobacco entered.

She wasn’t beautiful. Not in the obvious sort of way. But she was, what’s the word for it? Arresting. She was young, maybe in her early twenties. I almost wanted to admonish her for wearing lipstick and staying out past her curfew.

“Hello, officers.” she drawled, pointing her cigarette at us. There was a raspy edge to her sweet voice. Gomez gaped at her like an idiot as she sprawled on the plush white couch opposite us.
I explained why we were there. She stared at us for a few seconds and laughed. “You think I’m involved in these thefts? Hilarious! Look, I make decent money, okay? Besides, I must be the stupidest con artist if I were to steal from my audience.”

Gomez looked at me and nodded as if to say that she had a point.

“If you need proof,” she leaned forward and looked straight into my eyes, “you can see me perform tonight.” With that, she stood up and glided towards the door, where she turned around and smiled. Her eyes and her smile as if only for me.

Gomez and I stood at the very back of the bar, so we could keep an eye on the audience and on Cithara. The saxophone crooned as she walked over to the stage, wearing the black starry night for a dress, with auburn waves cascading over one bare shoulder. She looked only at me as she sang, cradling the mike in her hands, just inches away from her lips.

She stretched out one hand, and I walked towards her, as if in a trance. I was falling inside the whirlpools of her eyes. I fell until I landed in a room with black, shimmering walls. A little girl in auburn pigtails sat in a corner, hugging her knees and sobbing.

Her tears gave way to horror when a mustachioed man entered from nowhere.

“Anna, come downstairs to the party and sing.”

“No!” The little girl screamed in a raspy voice. “I want to go back to mama and daddy.”

The man delivered a sharp slap to her face. “You will do as I say or really bad things will happen.” He dragged the screaming child on her knees.

I heard something that sounded like heavy rain. The sound came closer when I realized it was applause. I was back in the bar. Gomez was gone, but I didn’t bother looking. I stood outside Cithara’s green room for an hour before her assistant informed me that she had left.

I went home with my head clouded with thoughts of her. She had let me into her world and her pain. Maybe I could protect her, be the calamine to her scars.

A couple days later, we received a complaint. Another diamond ring had been robbed. At Trinidad. I stared the date of the theft.  And I stared some more.

“But we were right there!” Gomez said.

I had seen what she’d planned on showing me. Laughter erupted from deep inside my belly.

16 thoughts on “Cithara

  1. unfoldingfromthefog

    Your opening put me right in the setting, with expectations for the characters. You brought out their characteristics well, in just a few words. I’m not sure we needed the scene in the narrator’s home. Maybe you could have used a single sentence about not seeing them yet again? I wasn’t expecting the supernatural in this piece. I liked the twist at the end, where they realized they missed the theft.

    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thank you, Margaret. You know, I went back and forth on that line so many times. I was hoping it would give an insight into his life, and how the singer
      taps into his psyche and his dad guilt to show a little girl being abused.

  2. Laissez Faire

    Favorites: caffeine-induced confidence / calamine to her scars
    You set the scene so well in the night club with the “applause that sounded like rain” the mike inches from her lips. Rather reminded me a bit of Jessica Rabbit and the singer from Dark City (Jennifer Connelly) . Got to keep your eye on those dames. I too thought the scene in the Detective’s house stuck out, it’s important I think but he could just be thinking about it rather than needing the scene.

    1. mixedbag Post author

      The detective’s house scene was a total afterthought 🙂 I love your advice of making him just think about it. Great advice. Thank you, Tara!

  3. MichelleH

    I also love a good detective story. I almost never solve them before all is revealed (clearly I’ll never be a criminal mastermind). I liked the insertion of the back story. It helped me understand how Cithara’s vision affected him so much. I do think the transition from that to the club is a bit abrupt. But the rest of it flows well. The ending is my favorite – that the vision suckered him in but he’s smart enough to realize it.

  4. Sara

    Quite a sorceress, your Cithara! Some sentences are so good – “I almost wanted to admonish her for wearing lipstick ” , “I fell into the whirlpools of her eyes” ,”calamine to her scars”. I think the story is crisp with just the right amount of detail. Its a great read Hema!

  5. Nate

    I really like this conceit, Hema. Thieves could steal diamonds from me pretty easily while I was hypnotized by a fantastic singer. I like how you left the end for the reader to draw conclusions, too. Perhaps keeping the story in the bar during the performance, cutting the earlier scenes and the little bit about trying not to swear, and having Cithara show the MC images of his own daughter mixed with a young Cithara in his enraptured vision would cut some words and give you a little more room for pacing.

    1. mixedbag Post author

      Nate, it’s good to hear from you! I struggled with how much of a backstory to write. Your comment, as always, is very helpful. Thank you!

  6. Laura

    I don’t mind the sentence in the narrator’s home, but I did wonder if you could have ‘shown’ daddy guilt somehow instead of using the phrase. I loved the strong voice in this piece, it really hooked me in from the first line. You’ve shown aspects the character by the way he describes the appearance of the singer, as being too young to be wearing lipstick. I also loved the supernatural twist.

    1. mixedbag Post author

      Hi Laura! The daddy guilt sentence was a total afterthought. I hope to turn it into something better after voting ends. Thank you so much for your comment 🙂


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