Monday, June 20, 2011
A short story by Daniel Olivas
Hernán Tafolla stared into Detective Ana Urrea’s eyes. At sixteen, Hernán stood as tall as the detective, whose light brown eyes reminded him of the hot chocolate milk he drank each morning before walking to school. Deep. Rich. Delectable. As he and the detective stood off to the side, five police officers milled about the beach, not too far from the man’s head that poked out from a mound of sand a few yards from the constant tide. If Hernán squinted, the head looked as though it had been severed from its body. But no. Nothing so exotic here. Just a dead body, covered up to its chin in sand. As the detective asked questions, Hernán could hear the waves hitting the wet sand, sea gulls calling out to each other, and the Sunday traffic emanating from Pacific Coast Highway up past the beautiful homes. He heard an officer say that David Geffen lived in the house directly in front of the head. Hernán discovered it shortly after walking through the public access way from the sidewalk to the sand. He finally had a driver’s permit and drove all the way to Malibu from the Valley to enjoy some solitude with an early morning stroll on the beach. The head had been covered by an inverted, blue ice chest, like the one Hernán’s uncle Rudy always brought to Shadow Ranch Park in Canoga Park for family fiestas. At least that’s what Hernán told the police and then Detective Urrea who now questioned Hernán with greater depth as they waited for his mother to get there. She blinked, once and then again, shielded her eyes—those beautiful eyes—from the bright August sun. Detective Urrea’s lips moved slowly and Hernán noticed that she had nearly perfect teeth, white and straight, except for a bit of red lipstick that had smudged onto one of her upper front teeth. She wanted Hernán to try very hard to remember if he’d seen any suspicious persons nearby. Hernán furrowed his brow, went deep into his memory, trying to come up with something. He knew then that he loved the detective. No doubt. A perfect love for a perfect woman. Hernán had to win her over. He was already partway there with this remarkable discovery of the man’s body. Who else would have bothered to look under the ice chest? Only a dynamic, mature-for-his-age, quick-thinking, young man. Yes, Hernán will help in the investigation and Detective Urrea will have no choice but to return his love. And because Hernán knew a lot about the man’s death—too much, if truth be told—he would have every opportunity to make Detective Ana Urrea his. All he needed to do was remain calm. What was that word his English teacher taught the last week of school? Insouciance. Yes, that’s it. In-sou-ci-ance. He must demonstrate insouciance, a lack of concern, indifference. That way, no one would be suspicious. Hernán never failed to do something once he set his mind to it. And he wouldn’t fail now.
[“Carbon Beach” appears in You Don't Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens (Piñata Books) edited by Sarah Cortez.]