She Googles the murder. The dead woman was staying with people just four houses down the beach on the other side of Nia Johnson’s house. Here’s a photograph of her. Depending on your tastes and inclinations, you might liken her to Nan, the sister of the painter Grant Wood, who used her as the model for the Iowan woman in American Gothic; or the diminutive Italian actress Giulietta Masina, the star of La Strada and other Fellini movies, who was also the director’s wife; or Granny Moses, the pint-sized matriarch of the Clampett family in the Beverly Hillbillies series on TV long ago. Big Mama is tiny, birdlike, with her silver hair tied behind her head in a neat bun, and wears half-rimmed glasses with thin gold frames, and looks like she might be good at knitting scarves and sweaters; but she is nobody’s sister, nobody’s grandmother, and above all nobody’s wife.
Nobody knows why she was killed. Something about a quarrel with somebody in Florida.
These people don’t like loose ends. They like things to be tidied up. So they will be aware that there are two missing pieces in the jigsaw, and this will feel unsatisfying to them. These are people who like their puzzles completed.
One missing piece is the money. The other is her.
Follow the money. Cherchez la femme.
What’s wrong with me, she thinks. Now I’m doing it. I’m in the screenplay too.
She feels her forehead. She’s burning up. She can’t sleep so she decides to watch Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil on Francis’s laptop. At the end there’s Marlene Dietrich looking down at Welles’s body floating face down in water.
He was some kind of a man, Dietrich says. What does it matter what you say about people.
She loses consciousness with the two weapons in her lap.
When I read your work Haroon and the Sea of Stories I was blown away!! I had never been able to visualize like that from reading a book. It was such a surreal experience for me! Thank you! I am excited to read more!! If I decide to write one day I hope I can learn to express myself as you do!!