It makes us sick all over again, especially when the photos begin to emerge. The police are building a case against Lyndee, the news says. Their evidence is a footprint that matches Lyndee’s left in the mud near Nevaeh’s body. They found a sneaker in her closet with the same dirt crusted on its sole. The news has been showing a picture of the sneaker in an evidence bag. Different angles of the same shoe, so we know how important it is. It is purple and white, and I wonder if they are making a big deal about the shoe because it is all they have.
We are all on the edge of our seats, waiting. Lyndee’s boyfriend provides her with an alibi, as do two other people—their roommates—who saw the couple that night. They release Lyndee on insufficient evidence, and the Bone rejoices. She is innocint! And who could blame anyone for believing that with her sweet, childlike face. All across the nation, people make fun of Bone Harbor’s shit poor police work. The handling of the crime scene was a joke; they didn’t even bag the evidence correctly. The media focuses its attention for a little while on her boyfriend, Steve, who disappeared for a bit and now is back. But since his alibi is Lyndee, they come up empty-handed. This is a case with no evidence.
A little girl went missing on her way home from school, and was murdered, and all they have is a sneaker in a plastic evidence bag. I wonder if the rain had something to do with it—if it washed away something the police could have used.
One afternoon, when I have the day off, I walk to the crime scene. The eating house has been strangely quiet since my mother died. It only speaks when I am trying to sleep—groaning and heaving like it is displeased. Its silence is what really bothers me. So, I escape. Judah is with his father, and I have nothing to do. The day is still. Everything frozen in place without the mountain wind. I take the path through the woods, climbing over fallen trees, and rocks, stopping briefly to pick some blackberries that grow wild along the river. Even the animals are quiet today, I think as I listen for even a bird song in this incredible stillness. But, there are no birds singing, only the sound of my shallow breathing as I push through the undergrowth. When I arrive at the place where they found Nevaeh’s body, I am surprised to find the yellow police tape still stretched between the trees. The plants have been flattened, stomped down by too many boots. I can see the water from where I stand, peeking lazy from between the trees. I wonder if Nevaeh saw it before she died—if she was conscious and if it brought her peace, or became something ugly because of what was being done to her.
I cannot feel her in this place. I came here looking for her, hoping her presence would kick-start something in my heart. A decision. Now I feel cold and lonely, worse than before. There is a tree with broad, thick branches overlooking the area. I decide to climb it, throwing my leg over the lowest branch and pulling myself up. The bark digs into the exposed skin on my arms and legs, but I don’t care because there is something I want to see. I climb higher and higher without stopping. When the branches have thinned enough for me to know that my climb is becoming dangerous, I stop. I can see far into the woods. Most of the trees are below me. Over to the left, the mountains rise, snowcapped, framing the Bone in a wild beauty. I can see some houses on the hill; two of them have red roofs so bright they look like splashes of blood amidst the green. And there it is, what I was hoping to see. The little shack I found weeks ago. It’s tiny; you really have to know what you’re looking for to be able to spot it. It’s a straight shot from here—a place someone could stop if they were hauling a body around in the woods—especially if they were coming from town. I scramble down the branches, careless, and almost lose my footing and fall twenty feet to the ground. When my feet are on the forest floor, I take off running. I hear voices now—laughter. People are in the woods, probably a bunch of kids going to see the crime scene. I flinch when I hear their loud swearing and the high-pitched screams of a girl as she calls out to her boyfriend to stop messing with her. I make a broad circle, hoping to steer clear of their path. I want to see the shed … the shed … the shed.
The door to the shed is open. Wide. I stand in between the half-unhinged door and forest, uncertain if I want to step inside. I could be disappointed. I could find everything I need. I step through the doorway and suddenly get the sense that someone is watching me. The inside is much the same as when I last left it—musty, faded. The box of garbage bags is still there … has it been moved? I can’t tell. Piles of leaves lay across the floor—more than before because the door has been left open. I search the corners, kick the leaves aside. There is nothing unusual. I wonder if the police came here when they were searching the woods after they found her body. There is nothing here, but I still get the feeling that there should be. I leave the shed, walk west toward the eating house. The moss is thick on the tree trunks, bright lime against the black bark. It’s because of that stark contrast that I see it. The pink among the green. I bend down to retrieve it, half-buried in the moss. A pink hair tie. One that I used to tie off the end of her braid that last day on the bus. I clutch it in my fist, my eyes burning from the tears. There you go, I think. You found what you were looking for.
I hope Judah comes back soon; when he’s gone I start having very bad thoughts.
JUDAH GOT A NEW WHEELCHAIR. One of those electronic things that move around with the press of a button.
“Someone donated it to the center, anonymously” he says, swiveling it in circles until I feel dizzy watching him. “I don’t like it, but the director looked like she was going to cry when she presented it to me. I feel like a lazy ass pushing a button to move.” I glance at his old chair, which looks mournfully abandoned on the lawn.
“Maybe you can lift weights,” I offer. “You can’t let your guns go; they’re a thing of beauty.”
“My arms!” He pretends to be offended, but I can see that he’s pleased. “You treat me like a piece of meat,” he complains.
“Let’s see if it can handle both of us.” I ignore him and climb onto his lap without being invited.
“You’re crushing me,” he groans dramatically. For a moment I remember the fat jokes in high school, the embarrassment I felt being the owner of my own skin. But Judah is joking, and I’m no longer fat.
I spin around to look at him. “How do you figure? You have no sensation in your legs.”
“Oh yeah,” he says playfully. “Let’s do this shit.”