As they drive by the railroad track, Corin spots something, telling his mother to stop. They are horrified to find that what the buzzards are feasting on, is a dead person. They stop the car and call the police. Detective Vanessa Weinstein responds to the call.
Weinstein’s phone chirped. “I do now. I’m sorry, Mrs Partridge. It’s grim.”
“I can vomit later,” Deirdre said. “That young woman deserves her dignity and identity.”
Weinstein handed her the phone. Deirdre looked carefully at it, imagining it without the ravages of death. She shook her head.
“Boys? I hate to ask….” Weinstein said, handing it to Burl, who was closest.
“I know her,” Corin said. “I don’t know her name, my friends and I just call her the Running Girl.”
The detective frowned. “What? Why?”
“Because she runs all the time,” Corin replied, with fifteen year old logic.
“Her name is Wendy Hamilton,” Aiden said, choking on the name a little. “She was a senior when I was a freshman. She did girl’s golf and I was on the boy’s team. She was team captain. I had a huge crush. She kissed me once—when I got—I got a hole in one.” Fighting tears, he handed the phone back. His fingers went numb and he dropped it.
Corin caught it, handing it to the police detective.
“You’re sure?” Weinstein made a note.
“Yes. She always wore that necklace. And the earrings…. I gave her those for graduation.”
“When did you last see her?”
“I saw her a few times after her graduation night, three years ago. She went away to school a month or so later. If the birds didn’t get to it….” He swallowed hard, looking like he would vomit. “She has—a heart shaped mole….” He pointed to his left chest. “Under her breast.”
No one asked how he knew. It was obvious that he’d been intimate with the girl.
“She was really sweet. She had a tough life. She liked me because…I was—I was—nice.” He burst into tears.
His brothers hugged him, but he pushed them aside, reaching for his mother. Sobbing, he held her in a death grip. The boys joined them, adding their comfort.
Detective Weinstein put her hand on his shoulder, comfortingly. “I know this is hard for you. I’m sorry I had to ask. Thank you for giving us her identity.” She went to the body, putting on booties and gloves. Taking the crop top in one hand, she lifted gently, pulling the sports bra away from the left breast. Closing her eyes, she dropped her head. “We have positive identification. We need to notify next of kin.” She walked back to Aiden. “Do you know if she had any family?”
He shook his head, wiping his face with his fists. “No. She was an orphan, in the system. She went to away to college, she wanted to be a doctor. I don’t know why she’d be back. I didn’t know she was in town.”
“It’s okay, Aiden. If I have anymore questions, I’ll call you. Meanwhile, if you think of anything else, please call me.” She handed over her card. Turning away, she stopped and came back to Corin. “You said you all called her the Running Girl. How long have you done that?”
“Maybe four months?” Corin thought a moment. “Yeah, she started running right before summer. Every day, early and late, she was out. She was really hot…pretty,” he corrected. “Me and my friends used to wonder why she ran so much. Like she was running away from something. Does that make sense?”
“Yes,” she said quietly. “Did you ever speak to her?”
“Yeah. She looked really hot one day, I mean overheated. We’d been to the skate park and stopped for drinks. She was in the store and didn’t have enough money for a bottle of water, so we pitched in and bought it. Me, Danny and Mike. They live down the street from us. She gave each of us a kiss on the head, even if we were sweaty.” He blushed slightly, remembering.
“You think that’s important?” Corin asked.
“I don’t know yet. Maybe. Thank you. Burl, did you know her?”
“No, ma’am. I’m two years younger than Aiden. By the time I got to school, she had graduated. I did see her out running sometimes, but I never spoke to her. I’m sorry.”
“No reason to be sorry. Thank you all for your help. If you’d like to go, Sergeant Waters will let you out up at Twenty-sixth.”
When they got back in the Jeep, Aiden looked green. “Can we go home, Mom? I can’t. I—I can’t….”
“Of course. I don’t suppose the place will fall down without you there.”
“Thank you.” Leaning back, he closed his eyes. Silent tears ran down his cheeks. “She was my first,” he whispered. “And it was beautiful.” Biting his lip, he fought the tears.
“Let them fall, son,” Deirdre said when they were home. “Don’t fight the grief, or it fights you. She meant something to you, and that’s important to acknowledge.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes