The rundown house sat near the shoreline of the small town called Bahia Kino, which was on the Eastern Shore of the Gulf of California. Bahia Kino was approximately 200 miles Southwest of Tucson, Arizona, USA and maybe 30 miles due West of Hermosillo, Mexico. The town was a hidden jewel that saw an influx of tourists in the summer had a small contingent of expatriate Americans that resided there, among which was a woman named Susan and her eleven year old daughter Maria.
No one knew much about the mother and child except that they had come to Bahia Kino sometime in early 1997 when Maria was just a baby, leased the old house at 9 Mattice Road and stayed pretty much to themselves, carefully avoiding tourists or other Americans. They didn't seem to have any real source of income and no one knew how Susan managed to pay the yearly lease and buy food, yet somehow their bills were always paid.
The house itself was in barely passable living condition and could have sorely used the talents of a handyman, but there was only Susan and she had no talent whatsoever when it came to repairing anything. The house had no windows, only crude rectangular openings covered with peeling wooden shutters that allowed the breeze from the Gulf to cool off its inhabitants in the summer and yet chill them in the winter. Maria didn't go to school, as her mother had never thought it was necessary. Maria spoke perfect Spanish and passable English, having learned that from her mother, although she couldn't read or write English.
It was already dark outside when Susan came home from her short trip downtown and Maria could hear that she wasn't alone. Susan had cautioned her daughter to 'never ever' come out from her room if she returned with a man and Maria always obeyed her mother. Susan quietly poked her head into Maria's room and handed her a small wicker basket with warm tortillas and refried beans.
"Go on honey take it, it's all I have right now but I promise you that there'll be a lot more tomorrow."
"Thank you mother."
As she ate her meal she could hear them talking through the thin walls although she couldn't make out what they were saying, her mother's English was just to fast for her to understand. She heard her mother and the man grunting and rolling around on the bed and she heard her mother call out to God, not from pain of course, but from the pleasure of the flesh. This wasn't the first time her mother had brought a man into their house but this didn't happen frequently, maybe only once or twice a year. Normally this intrusion into Maria's life was followed by an increase in food and money. As she ate her meal in silence she wondered if this man might be her father. Maria often thought about who her father might be, a flight of fancy that usually left her eleven year old mind in short order.
The next morning the sun shown through the shutters and woke Maria. She listened carefully to make sure the man had left and after a few minutes of total silence she crept out of her room and went across the hall and peeked into her mother's room. Susan was lying on her back, not moving, and with only a sheet partially covering her nude body. As Maria approached the bed she could see vomit on the sheets as well as on her mother's lips. She noticed that her face was light blue and that she wasn't breathing. Maria sat down and held her mother's lifeless hand and had tears running down her cheeks.
It was late that afternoon before anyone in the neighborhood took notice that anything was wrong at 9 Mattice Road. It was possible that no one would have taken any notice for days except that most people knew that Susan sat outside and painted on her canvases around noon each day. When Alyce, the next door neighbor, realized that she hadn't seen Susan or Maria all day she walked over to investigate and found Maria sitting on the bed hold her dead mother's hand. The proper authorities were notified and after a while a Captain of Provincial Police showed up and looked at Susan. Without touching the body he looked up and declared,
"She died on her own vomit, probably just another drunk Amerciano!"
He didn't see the needle mark under Susan's left armpit and due to the cost of an autopsy one was highly unlikely. Maria was taken to Alyce's house for care until someone from the provincial welfare office could arrive to review her case and find placement for the child, but Alyce knew from experience that no one from the Province would ever arrive and that Maria was now part of her family. That evening she and Marie walked across the yard to retrieve her clothes and personal items. The only thing Maria took of her mothers' was a small, but fancy, tin box that was decorated with multicolored roses.
Looking at the tin box quizzically Alyce asked. "What's inside the box Maria?"