Lost Hours by Lorena Franco by Lorena Franco - Read Online

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Josh Parker, one of the creative geniuses of the renowned advertising agency, where he works with Sandra Levy, is brutally murdered. Sandra is the last person to see him alive and together with inspector Paul Tischmann will try to solve the mysterious crime. Sandra and Paul´s voices intertwine to create a troubling, chilling thriller with a secret even the protagonists aren´t ready for.

Published: BadPress on
ISBN: 9781507174258
List price: $3.99
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Lost Hours - Lorena Franco

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13

LOST HOURS

LORENA FRANCO

––––––––

Translated by Enrique A. Fuentes O.

©LOST HOURS

Copyright © 2017 Lorena Franco

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any format by any means without the prior written permission of the Publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

CHAPTER 1

SANDRA

Tuesday, October 8 2013

The Agency is immersed in a new advertising campaign, perhaps the most important this year. It will add a juicy amount of money to the company´s books. Employment guaranteed for the next ten years.

We are working very hard on this project, late hours, and I can hardly get any rest so that it´ll all be perfect. The protagonists of this campaign are top-notch models that get paid in a day what it would take me ten lifetimes to earn.

Beside me is Josh, the most valued creative director in the agency, and of the whole of New York City for that matter. I´m one of his helpers, have been for the last ten years, and his favorite; though I think he says that to all of them.

We are focused on the story of what will be on the spot. To tell the truth my eyes are watering, it´s already nine thirty at night and my stomach is literally growling.

Josh is a handsome guy, chestnut hair, athletic figure and light colored eyes, inevitably glancing sideways at the cleavage of all us girls who work with him. I´m not complaining, sometimes it makes me uneasy but I tend to find it flattering; if it wasn´t so, I´d feel bad about myself, beneath the others, some kind of weird, undesirable bug.

Some hours ago -too many already- I opted for a white shirt, it fits better if some of the buttons are left undone, so I always allow for a flattering neck line. This morning -I must have been half asleep- I also picked a black lacy bra that Josh seems to like.

Want to take a break? asks Josh, finally looking into my eyes. Nah, I want to get home soon, Matthew will be expecting me for dinner, I reply somewhat sharply.

Come on Sandra... quit pretending. I saw you making eyes at me the other day. What are you waiting for? We´re alone, everyone´s left the office.  Again he looks at my neckline, boldly this time, and he comes closer. Besides, you´re so cute... he whispers under his breath, coming closer... He pinches my ass and I buck, holding back a cocked fist.

Night Josh I mumble under my breath, calling it a day, afraid that tomorrow I will be notified I´ve been fired for refusing to comply with my superior´s orders.

I get up precipitously, putting distance between us. Deftly doing the top button of my shirt and straightening my black pencil skirt, hugging some folders that were on the table to my chest. Josh keeps looking at me. Meantime, I avoid looking into those penetrating blue eyes. Ten years ago, when I started here, before I met Matthew, I would´ve done anything for a look like that.

Why? You have to learn to enjoy life Sandra! He exclaims, not giving up, coming towards me he grabs my arm without bothering with tenderness.

He backs me into the cabinets, I feel his breath on the back of my neck and he puts his hands on my breasts and squeezes hard. His lips are tight his eyes glassy, veined with blood and he licks my neck.

I close my eyes. I feel nauseous; this can´t be happening. For a second it seems like it´s happening to someone else, that it´s not I in this situation. He´s gone too far. I spit in his face. He turns his face, laughing, feeling me up with his dirty hands.

Josh! I scream, breaking loose, Let me remind you I´m married. I hold up my hand showing my ring, pretending to be cool and calm, but he laughs harder. And you are with Charlotte. I´m not up to your games now. Why are you doing this now?

We can have a good time... Come on... He insists, giving me his dying lamb eyes. We can do it on top of the copy machine, for old times’ sake he offers, giving me a wink.

I look at the machine located down the hall, visible through the glass walls of the meeting room where we have been for hours.

This is harassment Josh, and it´s very serious, you´re really out of line.

I know you`ve still got the hots for me Sandra. He seems to have gained some control over himself, but I´m still scared. There´s no one in the office and I doubt there´s anyone in the building at all. You can´t lie to me. Josh has a strange grin on his face; his lips twist in a weird way and the expression in his eyes still gives me the chills.

Before I leave the office, I turn to glare at him. I rush out towards the lift feeling a lump in my throat and  a bit afraid he might try to drive me into a corner again and start feeling me out obscenely. I shake my head, unable to believe what just happened. Damn it! No one will believe me! Good old Josh, always proper and elegant despite his addictions; maybe it was all a joke, they will think, «Sandra has exaggerated everything» they´ll say.

That dark part of me, the one we all have, and which was a crazy twenty-some year old a few years back, wishes for Josh to come after her, drive her to a corner in the lift and make love to her fiercely as he did years ago, when she used to consent.

I reach the third level parking to get my car. It´s the only one left, everything is dark and deserted. The beep from the lock release makes me jump, and I look around. I have this bad habit of letting my imagination run away with me. Too many horror movies I guess. It is scary, at any moment the parking lot murderer could be coming after me.

As I sit behind the steering wheel, I take a deep breath, first checking behind me to make sure no one´s in the back seat. It has been an interesting day, my feet hurt and I feel a monster headache coming on. This situation I just went through has made me feel extremely uncomfortable; I wouldn´t be surprised if Josh was high on cocaine.

It´s something that had been going around the office: Josh´s bad habits and how he seemed to be getting worse. Tonight they got out of hand. I feel sorry for him. But I´m still nauseous.

Driving south for twenty minutes on the night streets of New York, too brightly lit, I reach my apartment in Soho. I´ve always loved the cobble stoned streets, the cozy coffee shops where I love to spend my free time in the company of a good book, the boutiques and fashion stores over which I have so many arguments with Matthew.

«You think we´re rich or something? Three  hundred bucks on a damn shirt! You´re nuts!» he tells me. I laugh with a smirk on my face and look at him with puppy eyes and tell him I will wear it a lot because it combines well with everything, and he forgives me.

Six years ago we fell in love with the spacious and bright Soho apartment in which we live. We moved in three months after the wedding, after an idyllic honeymoon in Bali. The best moment of our lives. I´m not saying it´s bad now, not at all! We´re great. People say when you get married, you let go: you get fat and careless about your looks because you no longer need to attract the other guys that are not your mate, and he will see you the same way whatever you wear. This hasn´t happened to Matthew, or me, he still looks at me with the same desire. Matthew still has his dark auburn hair, though a few grays have shown up that make him look even more attractive, also, the small wrinkles at the corner of his green somewhat slanted eyes, make him irresistible. He still goes to the gym every day, it´s almost an obsession. We eat healthy, no burgers or pizza, at home you only find fresh fruits and veggies and fat free yoghurt.

I park the car, and as I get ready to enter the building, hungrier than ever to see Matthew, I bump into Joana, a friend I haven´t seen for five years. I gape at her surprised and pick her up in a big hug as she runs towards me with her typical craziness and joy. She looks good, time has been kind to her.

Joana still flaunts that spectacular black curly hair and her expressive blue eyes haven´t lost one bit of the cheerfulness of bygone days. Her smile is as stunning as ever, closing on perfection and there is no makeup that might cover the cute freckles on her small upturned nose.

She is dressed quite informally and her faded worn jeans show splatters of multicolored paint; I surmise she that she is still doing those abstract canvases and that she is going with them to the unlikeliest places around the world.

Sandra! she bursts out, joyful at the unexpected meeting, - though I sense certain bewilderment in her eyes- we haven´t seen each other since... She pauses, looking up and wrinkling her forehead, trying to remember. I remember it well, since the disastrous bar b q she had at her apartment. The neighbors complained about the nasty smell of the burnt meat. We´d been focusing our attention on the mojitos and completely forgot about the smoking grill. We ended up having an awful time and having to order pizza, and we nearly started a fire; it became a funny anecdote.

Yes, it´s been a while I realize thinking about the capriciousness of time, the hours, the minutes, seconds... they never stop. They are always ready to pounce on you, watching and showing you that time is a precious commodity and often regrettably scarce.

We´ve got to celebrate this unexpected encounter! Don´t tell me you get home from work at this hour? She looks at her watch. It´s ten past ten, I know it well, I just checked a moment ago.

We´re working on a big project at the agency I let her know.

That´s wonderful Sandra! You must be keeping busy. Should we get a drink, she suggests enthusiastically putting her hand lightly on my shoulder.

What I really want is to drop on the sofa, have Matthew pour me a cup of wine and give me relaxing massage. Maybe that way I could forget the unsavory incident with Josh and my exhausting day at the office, wracking my brains.

But I am happy to see Joana and the truth is I would very much enjoy having a drink with her after so long. She always has a thousand stories to tell, two thousand trips to talk about and a few anecdotes worth listening to.

It´s ten thirteen. I´m sure Matthew won´t be upset about an extra half hour, and this meeting´s worth it.

Two steps from my apartment building, on Thompson Street, is Jimmy´s joint. We greet the security guy at the door, with his unfriendly face and a look in his eyes that begs to sit down for a damn while. We go in. I know Joana´s been thinking the same thing I have, about old times when we were young, walking into any bar, pub or disco and being stared at by all the guys. This hasn´t happened this time, we are two thirty-six-year-old women that go by unnoticed. I, with my elegant attire, white -fully buttoned- shirt, black pencil skirt and pumps, and Joana with her splattered worn jeans, a gray sweatshirt and comfortable Nikes.

We sit at the only two free spaces at the bar and order Bloody Mary’s. We watch in suspenseful silence as the barman skillfully mixes our drinks, abundant vodka, tomato juice, the essential Worcestershire Sauce that will give it that special flavor that Joana and I have always enjoyed. Drinks in hand, we begin a typical conversation for two friends who haven´t been in touch for a while, yet it seems time never set them apart.

So, tell me I ask, where are you living now? Joana has always been an adventurous soul, free and carefree, without a fixed home. The typical person you never know where to send a letter to. She has no social network – hates them -  so locating her is always complicated.