Dave Gamboa

"Tandos y Calcos," by Veronica Ortega

“Tandos y Calcos,” by Veronica Ortega

The Girl in the Rain

Don’t know what happened on that one stormy night. It all happened here at the Moonlighter’s Bar in downtown Los Angeles. I was having another shot of vodka when Mauricio the bartender suggested I go home and sleep it off.

“Don’t ruin yourself like that, Sebastian. Not worth it,” he advised. But he didn’t know the truth of it all. In fact, he never even saw her.

It happened two weeks ago, you see. I thought I could forget, but her face kept crossing my mind. She had these beautiful green eyes and raven hair down to her shoulders. I don’t know how Mauricio could’ve missed her.

As I sat at the bar thinking about that night, the scenario played in my mind. I looked at the neon clock on the wall and it read 11:30 — around the time she walked in.

I remember it well: Patrons were rushing in on a Saturday night from the pouring rain, and the song “Brandy” by Looking Glass was playing. Cigarette smoke and chatter filled the air. Some dancing to the music.

Patrons were rushing in on a Saturday night from the pouring rain, and the song “Brandy” by Looking Glass was playing.

Mauricio had just poured me a gin and tonic when someone passing brushed against my back, someone with a sweet scent, like a gardenia.

I couldn’t help but to notice the attractive young lady heading toward a single table for two at the end of the bar. She sat down and glanced at her watch as if waiting for someone. She had on a black leather jacket over an off-white business suit. Someone had a lucky date. I remember the waiter setting down a mixed drink as she checked her watch again.

About ten minutes later, I noted her date hadn’t arrived, so I decided I’d try my luck. I walked over and introduced myself and asked if I might join her. She hesitated at first, bit her lip, but then said her name was Lilly Harper.

“That’s a nice name,” I said, and complimented her about her fragrance.

She simply said, “I do business with the flower mart over on Seventh.”

“Well, that explains it,” I replied. “They’ve got the right girl.”

She smiled and said I was trying to make points and that her company had just arrived. My luck. That’s when a tall man in a dark suit headed our way. I excused myself and thanked her for the short meeting.

“Maybe we’ll meet again,” I said.

She said, “Maybe.”

I nodded to the approaching man. He just grinned. It was a bit awkward.

Lilly Harper and the man in the suit didn’t stay long, just long enough for one drink. I got the impression their meeting was more than just business. But Lilly wasn’t happy about something. For when she passed me by, she gave me a worried glance. Something seemed amiss. As they walked out the double-brass doors, I was left with the hopes we’d meet up again sometime. Why couldn’t I be so lucky?

If I didn’t work so much, maybe I’d meet someone like her, I thought. I did security on the weekends.

After staring at my empty glass, wondering “what if,” Mauricio asked if I wanted another gin. I said no thanks, that it was time for me to go. Lilly was still on my mind. I bid him good night and rushed to my white four-door sedan. The rain hadn’t let off, either.

Luckily, I had parked across the street. It was not only coming down hard, but it was one cold night. At first I turned the ignition and just sat in my car. I couldn’t help but to think that Lilly and that man might have had a heated argument. And on a night like this, cold and stormy, in the dark streets of downtown Los Angeles, anything could happen.

And on a night like this, cold and stormy, in the dark streets of downtown Los Angeles, anything could happen.

I realized I was overreacting to something I had no right to be worried about. Who was Lilly Harper, anyway? Did that man’s relationship with her suddenly turn sour? I grimaced and hit the wipers and commenced driving. I drove from 11th Street to Broadway and turned left, then stopped at the next traffic light.

As I waited for it to change, something told me to turn right. The light changed and I did so. But when I approached the end of that street, I noticed someone standing at the bus stop, someone in desperate need of help. Of my help. So I pulled over and lowered my blurry passenger window. Strange as it appeared, and if by mere chance, the girl from the bar, the girl Lilly, stood there staring at me. Drenched from head to toes, half her face covered by jet black hair, her eyes said, help me.

She looked frightened, lost.

“Lilly?” I asked. She nodded yes. “Get in, I’ll see that you get home,” I assured.

When she entered my car there was this lifeless feeling about her. Her face and lips, pale from the chill. I shook my head, astounded that I’d sensed a bad feeling. An intuition, perhaps. I asked where I should go, she just looked straight ahead. Something bad had happened. Maybe it was the tall man she left with. Then I asked if she was all right, but again she didn’t answer, just gave me an empty look.

I exhaled and proceeded to drive when I noticed that I was, in fact, on 7th Street. What were the chances? That’s when I found myself passing the flower mart.

“Were you here with that man?” I asked with concern. She nodded yes. “He hurt you?” No answer.

Worried something traumatic had taken place, I offered to take her home. When I asked which way, she pointed straight ahead, her finger shaking, couldn’t talk. I figured I’d best follow her directions.

The streets were flooded, and my wipers kept sloshing the water away, all the while my passenger Lilly spoke not a word. Some first meeting, I thought.

But then… something changed.

As I headed away from the flower mart, away from the downtown streets, over the 1st Street bridge, the girl named Lily disappeared. That’s right, just like that. Disappeared out of my seat before I reached the other side.

Gone!

I went numb.

The only evidence was my soaking wet passenger seat. Almost hit a lamp post when I slid on the wet pavement and came to a scary stop. A shot of whiskey sounded good right there and then. Instead, however, I drove home and sat on my couch wondering what the hell just happened. Was she even real?

Now I was shaking.

Ever since I’ve had trouble sleeping. All I could do was wonder about that strange night. As a security agent, I reported the incident, but the police hadn’t yet found any evidence behind her disappearance. As a matter of fact, Detective Denton looked me square in the face and told me to lay off the gin and tonic. Still, they told me not to worry, that they’d let me know if something came in.

Ever since I’ve had trouble sleeping. All I could do was wonder about that strange night.

Something had happened, and I couldn’t explain it.

And so here at the Moonlighter’s Bar once again, on a Saturday night, I found myself staring into an empty shot glass, wondering what happened to my mysterious girl in the rain.

But that wasn’t the end of it…

Mauricio had suddenly turned up the volume on the overhead TV.

It was breaking news.

A reporter in front of yellow crime-scene tape was sharing the shocking discovery of a missing young woman’s body. She’d been found near some railroad tracks and the 3rd Street bridge, buried beneath a large dumpster, not so far from the flower mart. My jaw dropped when they revealed the name of the victim. Her name was Lilly Harper.

Dave Gamboa is an indie writer who has published four books to date. He loves to read detective stories with a paranormal element, ghost stories, and sci-fi thrillers. His favorite authors are James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Heather Graham, Janet Evanovich, and his reason for writing, Ray Bradbury. Currently, he is working on a mystery ghost story, which he hopes to finish in 2023.

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