David said, “They’re called Moai, aren’t they?”
In the moment before she realized he was talking to her and looked up, David saw a red dress crammed into her open backpack. From across the waiting area, he had been watching the girl—this young woman—read a small, photocopied publication.
“Those sculptures. They’re called Moai, I think.” David smiled.
She flipped back a page. Her hands were venous and boney. Strong looking. She read the caption under a different photograph of a different Easter Island figure. “Yeah, that’s it.”
“What’s that book?”
“It’s a zine a friend of mine gave me. It’s called, ‘Saying Aliens Did It Is Racist’.” She flipped the book closed. The cover had a picture of the pyramids.
David chuckled. “Great title.”
“You’re not one of those douche-bags who think, How could Africans or Polynesians or whatever non-Europeans possibly have done something we can’t figure out, are you?”
He didn’t think douche-bag was really the right type of language for the VIA Rail passenger area, so he asked quietly, “Do I look like a douche-bag?”
“No, you don’t,” she whispered, maybe mocking his embarrassment.
“I try not to.” David looked at his watch.
“What time is it?” The girl asked.
She sat up in her seat and looked towards the entrance.
“Yeah. My friend and I are heading to Montreal. We’re going dancing.”
“Is your friend Skye Ryan?”
“What the fuck?” She was mad and frightened and confused and it made her sit up straighter.
David reached for his badge.
The girl jumped out of her seat, knocking her backpack over and spilling her red dress.
David held his free hand out to reassure her, “Shh, it’s okay.”
“Other hand,” she said.
“Alright.” He held both hands out to her and backed away.
A woman in a hijab stared at David and clutched her Nike gym bag to her chest.
“I’m police,” David said. “I just want to show you my badge.”
“How do you know Skye?”
“I don’t.” He was proud of himself for using present tense.
“But you obviously knew she’s supposed to meet me here.”
“Come with me. We’ll find a quiet place to talk.”
She was shaking her head without meaning to.
“Skye isn’t coming. I’m sorry. I’m going to show you my badge now.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his ID.
She stared silently.
“Are we cool?”
She opened her mouth, but no sound came out.
“I— I’m just gonna grab your bag.” David, still holding his badge out to her, reached his free hand across his body to gather her dress and backpack. “Just follow me. I’ll let you know what’s going on. I promise.” He started walking out of the waiting room and back to the concourse. He’d seen a liquor store and figured they would have some private space he could commandeer. Between each step he counted one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, and so on, so that he wouldn’t walk too quickly. Things would work better if he appeared calm. An older man and woman were coming the other way. When they saw Skye’s friend’s face they paused. The man asked, “Is everything okay here?”
“I’m a cop,” David said, holding up his badge.
“He asked if everything is okay,” the woman said.
“I heard him,” David said. “I have something I need to tell this young woman.”
Skye’s friend’s legs gave out. She lay on the hard floor and wailed. David forced a smile. The girl started to sob. He squatted and put his hand between her shoulder-blades where the heaving was worst.
“I’m so sorry,” the man said.
The woman opened up a fresh bottle of water and offered it to the girl.
The girl didn’t notice.
It took a minute for the older man and woman to silently decide to move on and another minute before David’s quiet imploring to, “Come on, we’ll find someplace private,” finally motivated the girl to try and stand. David put his badge in the hand holding her red dress and backpack before he bent over, reached around the girl’s waist and instructed her to, “Put your arm across my shoulders.”
A woman pushing a tiny, tall shopping cart holding a few bottles of wine waited impatiently for the cashier to finish with a skinny nineteen, maybe twenty, year-old guy buying two tallboys. The cashier had curled a counting finger into her change-filled palm. All three looked at David and the girl. “I need the manager,” David said.
The cashier tried to peer through the curtain of hair that had fallen over the girl’s face.
“The manager?” David held up his badge, the dress and the open backpack to the cashier.
The cashier was confused.
“I’m a policeman.”
“Right,” the cashier said.
“Where’s the manager?”
“He’s in his office.” She pointed up a ramp towards the back of the store where two walls with one-way mirrors jutted out from the corner. One wall had a black door.
David had to turn sideways to support the girl up the narrow ramp.
“I’ve only got enough for the one,” the young guy said.
“I still need ID,” the cashier replied.
The young guy looked at David.
David smiled and knocked on the office door.
“Um,” the young guy said. He turned to the woman behind him, whose impatience had been replaced by staring, open-mouthed curiosity at David and the girl. The young guy said, “You want to go ahead?”
She was startled. “Yeah, sure” she said, forgetting her previous annoyance. “Thank you.” Then remembering herself, she reset her face to scowl.
The cashier poured change back into the young man’s hands.
The manager’s door opened. His face was broad and round. “Yes? Can I help you?” He used the door like a barricade.
David held up his badge, the dress and the backpack.
The manager was confused.
“Badge,” David said.
“You’re with the police.”
“Detective Constable David Markham.”
“How can I help, officer?”
“I need your office.”
“Uh. Give me a minute.” The manager closed the door.
The young guy stood behind a row of Argentine wines and peaked over the shelf at David. The woman with the tiny cart and sour face was now focusing her impatience on the Interac machine’s slow processing of her payment.
David knocked again at the manager’s office door. “Hello?”
The girl took more weight on her own feet, but continued to hold on to David. She smelled to David something like warm milk, or oatmeal, at least from just above her crown. David found himself noticing the way his fingers sunk just some into the flesh at the girl’s side before they were resisted by moving, powerful muscle. He felt guilty for knowing that he was holding a healthy person because his method for assessing it was like something you would use for livestock.
Just as he was about to knock again, the door opened.
“It’s all yours.” The round-faced manager looked to the side and attempted a smile. “How long do you think you’ll be?”
“I’m sorry to put you out,” David said. “I’ll—” David had to count back his frustration—one one-thousand, two one-thousand. “I’ll be as quick as I can.”
“That old computer took a while to log off.”
“That’s fine. Thanks for the space.”
“I put those chairs out for you.”
“Thank you. Excuse us.”
“Of course.” He was standing there like he was waiting to be reprimanded. Maybe the manager had been using his work computer to watch porn.
“I’ll let you know when we’re done. Thanks again.”
David put the girl in the manager’s chair then lay the backpack and red dress down on the floor. He closed the door.
When David sat down in the other, harder looking chair, the girl asked, “Actually, can I sit in that one? My back.”
“Of course,” David said.
She smiled. “What a mundane thing to think about, my back. I mean, considering.”
“That’s life, hunh?” David returned the girl’s smile. “What’s your name?”
“Marilyn, Skye is dead.”
“I know. I mean, I knew that was what you were going to tell me, which is why,” she flopped her hand in the general direction of the place she’d had her episode. “I’m sorry about that. I’m— Anyway, I figured ’cause why else would a cop, I’m sorry, a police officer or detective or whatever, why else would they come to the train station to find me?”
“I can’t imagine.”
“I did just request my CSIS file, but that’s not really your jurisdiction.”
“I’m in homicide.”
“Skye was killed, then. I mean, I guess, why else would she be dead?”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you that.”
“Can you give me any details?”
“We just started our investigation. Anything you could tell us might be helpful, but there will be time for that. Later, I mean.”
“I haven’t known her that long.”
“But we really hit it off, I guess. We met at High Park. We were— We were at the playground at High Park. You know, the one that got burned down a few years ago and then Mike Holmes rebuilt or whatever. She came with some girls I knew. Came to— To hangout with us. Then she, like, disappeared at one point and I went to look for her and I was calling her name and she was up in the woods there. I tried to follow her voice, but I was tripping and shit— I mean, stuff— Sorry. And she— So, I was tripping and she grabbed my hand and led me to this log I could sit on. Her eyes had adjusted, I guess. To the night-time. It was a new moon, I remember, because the sky clear, but so dark.”
“Were you scared?”
“Of the woods? No. Scared of rapists, though? Well, I try not to be. Sorry for the frankness. I really don’t mean to sound like George W. Bush when I say this, but then the rapists win, you know? If I’m frightened, I mean. Only the threat of terrorists is, well in my opinion anyway, way overblown, where, like, the threat of rapists is—” Marilyn’s face changed abruptly. “Oh my God. She wasn’t— Was she—” She couldn’t finish the question her mouth and chin were twisting so hard with grief or pain or whatever you want to call that sense that someone else has suffered horribly.
David pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and handed it to her with the reassurance that, “It’s clean.”
Marilyn nodded as she wiped her nose and eyes.
“Nothing else happened that night, did it?” David asked. “Nothing out of the ordinary or suspicious, I mean.”
Marilyn shook her head, No.
David looked at his watch. “You’ve missed your train. I’m sorry.”
“It was only a birthday party.”
“And dancing,” he said.
“And dancing.” She cried a little more before saying, “I probably should be around anyway, right? In case I can help?”
“Yeah. For sure. Can I give you a ride home?”
“Can I take the subway?”
“You can do whatever you need to.”
“I can call in. Find a female constable to ride with us, if you’d be more comfortable.”
“Then I’ll take that ride.”
Toronto, August 2015
Emoji sequence: Maggie Gilbert and Alisha Brown of Dogwood Initiative. Find out more about their work here or make a pledge.
Story: Lee Sheppard
An acknowledgement: I am indebted to Emily White of the Toronto Police Service for her patient explanations of how an investigation like this might work.