April 08, 2022

The Traitor’s Moon Knows No Loyalty

Detective Herman had hardly slept for a month and his strength was waning. The taste of grits and bitter coffee was hardly a comfort. He told himself that his sleep was being disturbed by nothing more than the piling unsolved murder cases and the grief of the inconsolable. Already late, rushing down Rousseau street to the station, a young woman grabbed his arm. Her eyes pleaded with him, causing him to stop.

“Ma'am, I'm sorry," he began, then stopped.

“Detective Herman," she interrupted, “my husband is missing ."

Images of half-eaten bodies and limbs bent at odd angles flashed through his head, the street became unbearably bright.

“I'm sorry to hear that, miss." He tried to do something sympathetic with his mouth, but his lips were too dry. “Will you come with me to the station? You should make an official report."

“He's only gone since last night," she continued, oblivious to the formalities she was ignoring.

“And what was he doing then?" Herman continued, taking her arm to lead her off the street.

She opened her mouth and closed it again. She shrugged off his arm, then dropped her stare, just for a moment.

“He went to see his lover."

Herman blinked in the too bright street. The buzz of the insects seemed to swell.

“That is very unfortunate, but I'm afraid there's nothing I can do." A passerby stopped on the far corner. “Are you sure you want to talk about this in public?"

“I know what it looks like," he could hear her falter beneath her pride. “but this is different. His lover... She..."

“Miss, come on, let's get you sat down."

Her eyes shifted to him in a flash and narrowed down, sizing him up. She took a step back.

“His lover is the Moon," she said in one breath, like a challenge.

“The Moon? Is that a stage name?"

“No. Not a person. The Moon. Up in the sky."

Herman couldn't hide his unkind reaction. Her eyes turned sharp, and her voice grew with vigor.

“Every night, he speaks to her." She spoke fast, but clearly. “And every month, when she's at her fullest, he goes to her."

“To the sky, you mean?"

“No," she sounded offended. “To her reflection, on the river. He bathes with her. They... They, um..."

“Please, don't." Herman flushed. On the corner, another passerby had stopped. “And he told you about all of that?"

“My husband and I have a powerful connection, sir." Her voice trembled with grief but not doubt. “He would never hide anything from me. And I didn't see any harm in his actions."

“But now he's gone."

“He's missing."

Herman agreed with his head, a slow, gentle movement. He was late. His superiors would be furious. But something about the mad woman's story resonated with him. “Was there anything unusual, more unusual, about his behavior recently?"

“He said she was hurting. Something was poisoning the waters, she needed to get out."

“The Moon needed to get out of the river?" Herman wasn't sure now about his incredulity.

“She was changing. She was... violent." She swallowed, her eyes lost in an image inside her head. “He came back with burn marks over his arms and legs. She tried to force him to stay."

Herman moved a little closer, studying her expression. “And he came back after that?"

She put on a bitter smile, shaking her head. “Last night, he went to save her. Bring her out of the water and into this world."

“And then?"

“I went to the river at dawn. It's gone . No water, no fish, no nothing. Just dirty mud, rusted metal and dried blood." She paused. Herman's heart was beating out of his chest, oblivious now to the crowd that had gathered.

“Do you think my husband was her only one?" the woman asked again. Herman could clearly picture the dry riverbed, the mud was caked at the banks, the grooves the water had cut now dry.

“Was he her only one?" she repeated, panic in her rising voice. But Herman could only see the riverbed, the dry reeds, the carcass of a drowned horse steaming amongst driftwood.

“Detective, would they betray me?"

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