Viva El Fotógrafo

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Write a story about a wedding photographer.... view prompt

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Thriller Crime Suspense

This story contains sensitive content

**TW/CW** This story contains instances of physical harm, violence, and gore, as well as adult language.


Ashley and I had known each other for nearly 15 years, since the freshman year of college when we sat next to each other in English 101 at the University of Arizona. We became quick friends with similar interests. She became like a sister, and I was always protective. After graduation, we both moved back to Phoenix and started our careers. I worked as a photojournalist for The Arizona Republic and Ashley went to work as a paralegal. We’d see each other a couple times a month along with our other friends from college but would always text and keep in touch through social media in between. 

With my experience in photography, I started a wedding photography business to make some extra income. I really enjoyed it, both the photography aspect and especially seeing couples so deeply in love. I’ve shot probably 100 or so weddings in the last three years. Witnessing the essence of true love in its purest form so many times was so beautiful and humbling. To be a central part of such an intimate moment for so many couples was truly the privilege of a lifetime. I aspired to find that same true love someday, and still do. Through multiple relationships, none more than a year, I never quite found the right one.

But Ashley did.

When I first met Connor, I didn’t like him. Call it the big brother in me, but I just couldn’t fathom someone of his pedigree for Ashley. He was from the East Coast, undergrad at Harvard and law school at Penn. He came from deep pockets and connected rolodexes and carried himself as such. His father was a named senior partner at the largest law firm in Philadelphia, as his grandfather had been as well. Connor came out to Arizona to “make a name for himself outside of his family’s,” then proceeded to gain all his legal business from clients and contacts of his father who were out West. Figures. But over time, I saw how he treated Ashley and slowly began to like him more. Well, like him enough I guess you could say. Enough for me to accept her marrying him. 

Naturally, Ashley asked me to be her wedding photographer and I was happy to do so. Seeing her happy made me happy.  

The wedding was on a beautiful Arizona spring day, a dry 90 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Connor was handsome in his tux and Ashley was as gorgeous as ever in a stunning strapless white floor length gown. It was simply yet elegant, like the sophisticated girl that wore it. The ceremony was gorgeous, and the reception was the most fun we had in years, partying with all our college friends. 

Towards the end of the evening, close to the end of my contracted time, Connor and Ashley and I went to a bridal suite to take some private couple pictures. They turned out to be some of my favorite photos I have ever taken. After we finished, I slipped out the door back to the reception. I found the DJ and told him my contracted time was up and winked as I told him that the couple was in one of the suites enjoying the spoils of holy matrimony. Then I left and went through the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home. 

The morning after the wedding, I was awoken by doorbell ringing incessantly. When I opened it, I found two men dressed in black suits.

“Are you Timothy Bennington?”

“Yes, can I help you?”

“I’m Detective Randall and this is Detective Ramirez with the Phoenix Police Department. Can we come in?”

“What’s this about?” I asked.

Randall looked at Ramirez then back at me.

“You were the photographer at the wedding last night of Ashley Morrison and Connor Andrews, correct?”

“Yes…”

“Ms. Morrison… or Mrs. Andrews rather, was found murdered last night.” 

My jaw dropped in astonishment. My friend, just… gone? How could it be? I started to cry.

“Ashley?” I asked.

Detective Randall cuffed his lips and nodded. “We were hoping to just ask you a few questions and see some photos of the wedding to try to figure out who was there.”

“Sure,” I managed to stutter, “anything for Ashley.” 

I invited the detectives in and reexamined the entire day, with every detail I could remember from the timeline down to the color of the bouquets. Being a wedding photographer, you tend to remember the minute details. I also gave the detectives my original memory cards from my camera. I had already backed up the photos for post-processing and had duplicate cards in the camera, so the originals would be more useful in helping the detectives than it would be to me. I didn’t ask how she was killed; I honestly didn’t need to know. That information would be irrelevant to how I wanted to remember her. 

As the detectives got up to leave, Detective Randall told me, “You might have been the last one to see her alive, besides the killer and Connor. Try to remember the good times you had with her and hopefully you find some solace that it was probably the happiest night of her life.” 

I let the detectives know that I would be out of town for a few days, first for a wedding in Puerto Peñasco and then some newspaper business in Hermosillo. I took the detectives’ business cards and they promised to keep in touch. 


***


I haven’t been completely honest with you. You must understand that I lied to you until I knew I could trust you. We made it this far, so I suppose you’ve shown loyalty. I did know Ashley in college, that wasn’t a lie. It was love at first sight. At least for me it was. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on. Lucious, flowing blonde hair. The sexiest hourglass body. Smart as a whip yet stupid enough to never see what I could give her. Truth is she rejected me four times. I asked her out and it was always a no. I remained friends with her all these years in hopes that one day she might realize and reciprocate the love that I held for her. 

But she never did.

When she asked me to be her wedding photographer, how could I say no? Yes, it would probably be devastating to watch her marry someone else, to watch the only woman I’ve ever loved slip away before my eyes. But I loved her. And when you love someone, you will do anything for them. So I set her free. 

Detective Randall was correct, I was the last person to see her alive. Towards the end of the reception, Connor and Ashley and I went to take some private couple photos before my contracted time was over. Connor was already plastered, at least 6 beers in and 8 or 9 shots down with his fraternity buddies. I slipped a Rohypnol, a common date-rape drug, into his open beer bottle as we walked down the hallway to the private room for pictures. Connor became disoriented beyond the inebriation and sat down, where he promptly passed out slumped over in an armchair. It was the moment I had waited for. 

Once Connor passed out, it was quite easy. I untied the cord that held the drapes together on one of the picture windows while Ashley was bending over his unconscious body trying to revive him.  I came at her from behind wrapping the cord around her neck and pulled tight with all the love I had for her. Extremely effective; I tugged at the exact correct place on her throat that wouldn’t allow her to scream let alone breath. Just luck, I haven’t the slightest clue about human physiology. She went limp in about less than 30 seconds with little struggle. Then I removed Connor’s pants and underwear and placed Ashley’s dead body hunched on the floor in front of him, her lifeless head laid on his naked lap. Whoever found them would assume them to have been attacked during a post-wedding moment of newlywed pleasure. Then I slipped out the door back to the reception. I found the DJ and told him my contracted time was up and winked as I told him that the couple was in one of the suites enjoying the spoils of holy matrimony. Then I left and went through the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home. 

After Detective Randall and Detective Ramirez left, I packed my life in two suitcases and left forever. The tears were real; I loved her and would miss her, but I knew she would be better off this way. Ashley gave me some money. Well, kinda. I took her engagement ring and wedding band, her necklace, earrings, and bracelet. She was dead; what was she going to do with them? I needed an alibi incase I was stopped heading into Mexico, so I took State Route 85 instead of I-19, the route one would take heading from Phoenix to Puerto Peñasco for a beach destination wedding that I would ostensibly be shooting. I got gas in Ajo, the last American town I would ever see, if you could even call it one. Once I crossed the border at Sonoyta, I turned South towards Hermosillo, where I was able to offload all the jewelry to a nice gentleman affiliated with the Sinoloa Cartel. Or at least his tattoos would indicate such. We had an immediate understanding of no questions asked of either party, which was fine by me. Since everything was bursting with diamonds, I knew I would make out like a bandit. Connor was loaded, after all. $35,000 for the bracelet, $25,000 for the wedding band, $40,000 for the earrings, $100,000 for the mammoth necklace, and $120,000 for the engagement ring, a stunning and massive Tiffany’s diamond ring with brilliant clarity. $320,000 U.S. dollars in total, just shy of $6.5 million Mexican Pesos, which would be less traceable. Upon seeing my Audi A4, he was willing to trade for his Ford Ranger. The Mexican plates would be less conspicuous, and no one would be looking for it. 

Okay, another lie. I did show the cartel proxy my Audi, but the exchange was not mutually agreed upon. I shot him with his own gun and torched the car with his body in the trunk. Sinaloa soldados tend to have full jerrycans handy. We were about the same size; if law enforcement ever found my car, perhaps they would relay the information back to American law enforcement without a DNA test. There was another $383,000 USD in the trunk; I took it after pulling the trigger but before lighting the match.

After collecting the cash and truck keys, I kept heading South until I reached Oaxaca de Juarez. Oaxaca is far from the U.S.-Mexico border, and certainly flies under the radar for most. Oaxaca is also cheap. Like one of the cheapest cities in Mexico to live. I can stay here forever on the money that I brought. The weather’s also nice, if not predictable and a little monotonous. 83 degrees every single day. There’s beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, bespoke art galleries, delicious and cheap restaurants and neighborhood haunts. Beautiful women. Not as beautiful as Ashley, but plenty to ogle over. Enough things to keep an early-retired guy like me busy. 

I spent the first few nights here in a motel and was lucky enough by the end of my first week in town to find a great basement apartment to rent. The landlord lives above and I’m the only tenant; a gorgeous two-bedroom furnished unit with a courtyard. $300 a month and he was happy to accept cash for 12 months up front with no signed documents or lease. Probably better for both of us.

It’s been a lovely seven months since I arrived. It was an easy change for me. My mother has long passed, and the man I got my name from can go fuck himself, wherever his corpse presently presides. No siblings. Probably not missed much by anyone at all. I got a fake driver’s license with a different identity, so nobody in Oaxaca knows me as Tim. You’ll understand if I don’t reveal it to you. I trust you, but I must remain shrewd. 

I’ve shaved my head and grown out a beard, which came in much grayer than expected, much to my fortune. I’ve also gained 35 pounds; endless supplies of cheap tacos y tequila y cerveza fría will do that to you. Practically indistinguishable from my previous profile, not that anyone’s looking for me anyways.

The law did find my Audi, and to my luck, they assumed the charred remains were mine. At least from what I read online. No DNA test or review of dental records once the VIN was ran and tracked to my registration. The bullet found in the corpse’s head, the empty jerrycan beside the car, all trace work of the Sinaloa cartel, and that’s what it was taken as. I’ll never know if I was ever considered a serious suspect in Ashley’s murder. Any remote suspicion died with me after I was kidnapped and murdered while presumably investigating Sinaloa’s Arizona connections for my photojournalist work. With no leads in Ashley’s case and a pile of shitty police work later, they closed the case and wrote their report. Ashley was robbed and murdered at the wedding venue by a killer lying in wait; the executioner fled out a window with the diamonds and likely headed South to Mexico and was never discovered. That’s it. End of story. 

Although I lost the love of my life, I gained the satisfaction of knowing that if I can’t have her, no one can. It’s best that way. No one could love her the way that I do. I know we’ll meet again in the next life, our souls’ destinies intertwined in perpetuity like the coyote and the roadrunner. Someday, she’ll be mine. 

Until then, I hear the mariachi playing. The cerveza is calling my name. 


May 06, 2022 15:37

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2 comments

Faith Belle
02:46 May 30, 2022

Great story! It seems hard to write a mystery with the narrator as the culprit but you pulled it off wonderfully.

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Ryne Moore
05:47 Jun 02, 2022

Thank you Faith! This was my attempt at an unreliable narrator, so I'm happy the vision was realized. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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