"He used to throw pretty beads at my window," Rita said. "Usually at the crack of dawn."
Morazan stopped writing and looked up from his notepad. "Beads?"
"Yes, the noise used to wake me up. Tik tik tik!" She found one of the beads and gave it to him.
Holding it in his palm, Morazan looked at the blood-orange bead, which appeared to be made of glass and was irregularly shaped like a pebble. It glittered under the light. After examining it, he put it in his pocket and went over to the window. He opened the wooden panes, and a warm afternoon breeze blew in, inciting a feeling of loneliness in him. Pull yourself together, brother, he imagined Carlos would say.
"Then what happened?" he said looking down across the courtyard, where the mango trees swayed in the breeze, their leafs fluttering and glittering like diamonds.
The girl remained silent.
He looked back at her and saw that she was looking down at the floor.
"Please go on," said Morazan. "This will help us with the investigation."
She looked up coyly and said, "one night I went to the window and saw him standing under the large tree over there. I could see him because the moon was full. He was wearing a large pointy hat. His eyes glowed like those of a cat reflecting the light. He was holding something in his hand. It looked like a stick of cotton candy. He waved it and did a little dance. And then he... he..." She pressed her lips with her fingers and closed her eyes, seeming on the verge of tears.
She took a deep breath. "He dropped his pants," she said, burying her face in her hands, shoulders trembling.
Morazan realized that she was actually attempting to stifle a laugh and not a sob as he had initially assumed.
"So what happened afterwards?"
She blushed and said, "Well, he wasn't wearing anything underneath, and I thought he was just a mischievous prankster from the village. It was strange, I should've been more careful and told someone, but I wasn't afraid of him. I laughed when he danced and waved his stick of cotton candy. I began to feel light headed, as if I was under a spell. I don't remember exactly what happened after that. I stepped out and went to the tree, I think, but he wasn't there. I saw him further down the path near the fence. I must've followed him out the gate and into the woods. I know it sounds stupid, but I don't know why I did so. I think I was bewitched. El Duende is a powerful spirit."
She didn't remember anything after she followed the pant-less figure into the woods.
"Don Miguel, the curandero, found me lying on the ground while he was out looking for herbs. He says the holy spirits must've guided him to me."
After the interview with the girl, Morazan stood outside in the courtyard beneath the large mango tree, where the girl had seen the so-called Duende. He looked up at the old colonial house silhouetted against the darkening sky. It somehow seemed out of place in the mountainous wild country. As if it had arrived there from another time and place.
He reached into his pocket and lifted the glass bead to eye level. Through it, he could see the light in Rita's room. It was a soft and tender light that incited feelings of yearning in him. Odd. As he rolled the bead between his fingers, the girl's shadow appeared on the window, and the bead shimmered excitedly in a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. It was mesmerizing. She stood there for a moment, looking out at him. Then leaning over the windowsill- her hair gleaming in the scarlet twilight- she closed the panes.
Morazan walked to his jeep and sat inside looking up at the window. A part of him hoping that the girl would open it, so he could see her through the glass bead. He shook his head and slapped his cheeks. What was he thinking? She was barely a quinceañera. Putting the bead back in his pocket, he started the car and drove away.