WEDNESDAY: Cold Fish

BY LISA DUSCHESNAY

This is the first chapter of Lisa Duschesnay’s murder/thriller novel in progress. The material is meant for mature adult. Copyright is held by the author.

AS I FLOAT peacefully, the bright June sky seems to go on forever. The coolness of the water is refreshing. Turning my head I hear a faint sound a few feet away and see a fine ripple expand from some air bubbles. Is the mass sinking to the bottom or not? With irritation I stand and step slowly on the muddy bottom towards the shadow in the middle of the shallow pond. Grabbing a handful of wet black hair, I pull up the body of the naked girl. The lifeless blue eyes in the bloated face with a bruised neck stare blankly back at me.

Where to hide this thing? The bushes? I carefully feel my way along the pond’s edge, while the corpse in my grasp trails behind me. Between a short pine and some birches a gap appears in the waterlogged brush. I lift and push the dead girl hard against the conifer’s flexible limbs. These give way to a spacious cavity in front of more mature foliage. The body drops in the steep bank’s alcove with the pine making an effective screen. In time, the odour might attract some wildlife or curious bystanders, but since this spot is not that popular with other larger larger swimming holes nearby. It’s unlikely to be found. If not, it will be added to the count of anonymous dead sweeties. Pulling myself out of the water onto a bare spot on the bank, I return to the blue Ford Taurus nearby, arms itchy from the needle scratches.

The rest of this warm Sunday will serve to eradicate loose ends. Monday is back to work, the school year not quite over yet. Some meetings are scheduled at the Toronto School Board offices. I, Ellie Mason BScP, was hired as their behavioral psychology consultant. The sessions are meant to prepare the following year’s teacher curriculum, such as recognizing the signs of child abuse and how to reduce bullying on school property. The long drive back is exhilarating across the plowed fields, small towns and quiet highways. My dry tank top and shorts extra comfy in the breeze.

The destination is a North York suburb, one of those old rent-controlled brick triplexes with balconies in front and back. Perfect for an up and coming young professional with student loans to pay. The top right flat is mine, sharing the floor with a single mom. Alicia invited me to supper yesterday afternoon, and since I was in one of my rare sociable moods, I agreed. The pale skinny blonde and her pretty eight-year-old daughter Kimmy were pleasant enough. The menu was spaghetti and crusty bread with red wine from a huge carton, a supper you might call the “Saturday Night  We’re Broke  Special.” In the kitchenette, Alicia happily attacked the booze, while her daughter twirled the pasta on her plate, with a distracted smirk on her face.

We made small talk while I swallowed the mushy pasta and acidic wine. My host and the child were not particularly loquacious. Once the meal was over, we moved to the living room, leaving the dirty dishes in the sink. Alicia brought the carton and one glass, since I had refused a refill. We sat on the old couch and matching armchair. Kimmy got her crayons and colouring book, doodling on the coffee table beside her mother. Watching the kid, I felt something was off. The girl never looked me in the eye, or engaged me in any way. Unusual for an only child, I thought, who often crave attention from everybody. My neighbour greedily consumed the last of the wine. Eventually, Alicia’s head flopped down on her chest and she started snoring.

The girl perked up, put her crayon down and stared at me with tentative bravado.

“You know Miss Mason, I watched a really cool movie this week,” Kimmy confided softly.

“Really?”

“Yes… it was about a man… a teacher that was accused of raping a student. …She…she
was mad because her grades were bad. So, …she lied to get even.”

I wondered where this was going. “And?”

“I liked that movie a lot, it gave me a cool idea. Nobody believed the teacher was innocent,… and he was fired.” The girl grinned slyly. “I know you visit our school sometimes Miss Mason, I have seen you in the principal’s office.”

“So?”

“It’s great that you live next door now. Mommy, she won’t buy me much stuff. There’s no money since Daddy left us a long time ago. I would love to have a Nintendo and maybe a bike. Maybe for my birthday next week?”

I sat, stunned realizing the intent behind the words. A slow burning rage cracked my civil veneer. This was not my first brush with blackmail. It was the first time an eight year old tried it though. Suddenly, I pounced towards Kimmy who yelped. Wrapped both hands tightly around her small neck while dragging her off the couch and squeezed hard for a few minutes. Alicia was still in an oblivious stupor as her daughter lay dead on the floor at her feet.

Gratified, I sat back down. Another criminal career nipped in the bud early.

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