This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 1060 words.
They had caught up with Tommy and his parents forty miles north of Renton, at a roadblock set up to check for the missing girls, or suspects. He was wearing the same clothes, and obviously covered in scratches from the thorns. The very fact that they had run away didn’t sit well with the authorities, and attention began to focus on him.
But that didn’t stop them hauling us all in for the trip to the County seat, at White Oaks. Things had escalated overnight, and the small town Police Department led by Sheriff DeWalt was not considered to be up to the task of a double investigation. Dad took time off from work, and drove me to White Oaks to give my deposition. He had got me a lawyer, just in case, and that guy told me to say as little as possible, but to tell the truth.
I was upset by everyone telling me to tell the truth. As I told them, that was all I had been doing up to now.
With school still out for the summer, it was hard to have to stay around the house and not be able to see my friends. Mom rang in to where she worked part-time, and they understood her need to take personal time until things calmed down. She suggested a visit to Donna’s parents, but Dad was adamant that would be a bad thing. “They have enough to worry about, losing their girl. The last thing they need is us turning up. Besides, I doubt Sheriff DeWalt would be too pleased if we did that”.
And we had to deal with reporters and TV crews too. They came from as far away as Renton, trying to get me to say something. When they set up camp outside most of our houses, one of the deputies had to move them on, as far as the edges of the properties at least. Then the phone calls started. At first, they were mostly sympathetic. Friends and neighbours asking if I was alright, and trying not to pry too much. Later, there were the disturbing calls. Unknown voices screaming that I should tell the truth about what had happened. Threats about what was going to happen to all of us who were there that Sunday.
Even someone saying they would burn the house down.
Responding to the third call from my Dad, Vince DeWalt drove out to the house to talk to us. The best he could come up with was that Dad should contact the phone company, and change our number. Mom decided to leave it off the hook instead, hoping things would calm down soon.
The search for Melanie continued, with the State Police bringing in special dog teams. Meanwhile, more facts about Donna started to get leaked. After the newspapers had spent two days speculating, County Police released an official statement. The cause of her death was drowning. They classified it as a murder though, as she was found naked, and covered in bruises. The medical examiner had found signs of sexual assault too, so they were investigating known offenders and not ruling out anyone.
The fact it could no longer be called an accident set off a spark in town. Riverdale had a small population, and it wasn’t known for being easily riled. But small crowds began to appear outside the Sheriff’s Office, and at the Town Hall too. Mayor Jenkins seemed at a loss to be able to cope, and passed everyone on to the Sheriff. When Mom went to buy groceries, people looked at her funny, and she saw them whispering about us out of the corner of her eye. At the lumber yard, Dad’s workmates were happy to believe that I had nothing to do with it, at least to his face.
Eddy Silverman’s Dad owned a small watch repair and jewellery shop. He also sold gifts for special occasions, and did engraving on trophies. They were the only Jewish family in town, perhaps in the whole county, and nobody had ever troubled them about that before. But now nobody would go into the shop, even when it was reported that Eddy had left the river before anything happened. I found out just how soon people can turn nasty, when something unexpected happens.
They were hungry for an arrest, and didn’t seem to care who got arrested.
Dad came home from work that night and told us about Tommy. When he had got home, still acting crazy and unable to make any sense of what had happened, his parents had quickly arrived at the conclusion that he was somehow involved. In a moment of madness, they decided to try to run, and make it to Canada. They must have been insane to think that they could get across two-thirds of the country without being stopped, but they tried anyway. Tommy was now in the hospital at White Oaks, undergoing evaluation for mental illness. His worried parents got off with a warning, followed by a strict telling off from Vince DeWalt. After that, they shut themselves in the house, and wouldn’t speak to anyone.
As for Freddie and Duke, nobody had seen them since we had left the Sheriff’s Office that night. We had been made to give our statements at different times, so that there was no chance of us seeing each other. Frankie’s Dad, Mr Hayes, ran the car dealership on the road leading to the Interstate. He didn’t show up there, leaving his salesman Harley to cope with all the reporters, and riled-up townsfolk. When the reporters turned up at Duke’s place, his step-dad threatened them with a shotgun, and Deputy Tyler had to drive out and calm things down.
Things were getting real tense around the town, and there was a feeling that something had to give, and soon.
Then on the third day, they found Melanie.
The dogs had been searching the riverbank for evidence of anything, when one of them took off straight up the path to Old Man Henderson’s barn. It had already been searched the night everything happened, but not with dogs. When the Police Dog stood and barked next to some wood in the corner, the handler ordered a full search.
Under the planks they found some disturbed earth, and Mel’s naked body in a shallow grave.