Skip to main content

Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 40 page 05


pickup truck behind wire fence

You’ve Got to Drop This

by Julie McClement

My desk overflowed with paper, but there was only one photo: Kimmy’s. My eyes went over details I had long since memorized: the pinkness of her cheeks, the crinkle of her eyes as she grinned. It was the last photo ever taken of her.

“You’ve got to drop this,” said Detective Jones. She was sitting across from me, but I kept my eyes fixed on Kimmy.

“There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t see Chad Evans, living his life like nothing ever happened,” I said. “And you think I’ll drop this?”

“He has an alibi,” said Detective Jones.

I looked up, my jaw tight.

“Really?” I said. “His alibi was his best friend. I grew up with Steve Graham — he’s a puppy. You think it took Chad more than two minutes to convince him to say they’d been out fishing?”

Detective Jones was silent for a moment, her shoulders hunched, eyes closed. I knew she hated having this conversation, hated that I kept making her have it. Somehow I was less than moved.

“There’s no evidence he lied,” she said.

“So find some,” I said.

“Chad lawyered up,” said Detective Jones, “and Steve’s not talking. All we can do is hope some new evidence comes to light. And I believe it will. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”

My eyes narrowed. “That’s your plan? You’re going to pray?”

“I know how hard this is for you,” said Detective Jones. “But I don’t have good news.” She stood up. “Give your family my best.”

I managed to wait for my office door to shut before a tear leaked out, which I forcefully wiped away. Above me were laminated versions of my best news articles, as well as the provincial award I’d received for my exposé on mismanagement at our local school board. I’d become a journalist because I wanted to reveal the truth to the world — yet my own cousin’s killer walked free.

When Kimmy broke up with Chad, he’d keyed her car. After I’d seen the marks, Kimmy had confided about how his jaw would tense up whenever she talked to other guys, how he balled his fists when he yelled.

“I feel so worn down,” she’d said. “Like after him... there’s less of me.”

But at Pumpkinfest, the shadow lifted as we walked from booth to booth. Kimmy lingered by the booth run by the Boy Scouts, with its mystery boxes. You stick your hand in them and guess what’s inside.

“Is it peeled grapes?” Kimmy said.

“No,” said the boy. “Those are eyeballs!”

Kimmy gasped in fake terror and the boy laughed.

After that, Kimmy went off to use the port-a-potties. I had a great time on the spinning teacup, hair flying, careless and free.

I wasn’t worried when ten more minutes passed and Kimmy still hadn’t come back. But when I called her phone and it went straight to voicemail, my gut twisted.

The next day, search parties spread through the fields and woods. People swore to me they’d never stop looking, though our numbers dwindled more and more as the weeks passed. Soon frost crunched under my feet.

She’ll be cold when we find her, I thought. All the terrible thoughts I never let myself think crept towards consciousness, ready to ambush me, and then I walked faster, calling Kimmy’s name. We’d have to feed her, get her warm. Soup would be good. Something hearty, with potatoes and chicken. And something to drink. Kimmy liked her hot chocolate with cinnamon.

Then, one day, a hiker found a metal barrel beside a trail, its lid half off. On impulse, he slipped his hand in, and it took him a moment before he realized what he was touching was a foot.

There was no DNA evidence. No fingerprints. No fibres.

All we had was the starfish.

“In the hours after you die, blood pools at the lowest point,” Detective Jones had said. Her voice was level, as though this was just another interview on jaywalkers and graffiti. But at that point she hesitated, searching my face.

I met her eyes defiantly. “Blood pools,” I said. “Got it.”

“However,” Detective Jones continued, “if there’s some object pressed against the skin, blood doesn’t settle there. Hence the mark.”

My finger traced the white starfish shape on the autopsy photo, palm-sized and crisp against the dull purple of Kimmy’s back. They wouldn’t let me see the photos with her face.

Chad’s apartment had been searched for anything even remotely similar to a starfish, but the cops came up empty. And with Steve swearing that he and Chad had been fishing all day, never out of one another’s sight... apparently that was that. The case was cold.