There are bodies in the Blackwater River

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October 2, 2016 by downwardlymobilewoman

There are two bodies in the Blackwater River. One is a woman with a knife in her heart. The other is a dog with yellow fur.

At the precinct house, Scar takes the call. She can’t ignore a ringing phone.

Jared watches her grab her pistol and the Marlboro Reds. For the first time ever he wishes he smoked.

But his body is a temple. No toxins may enter apart from oolong tea imbibed from a scrupulously clean glass teacup.

The crime scene is deserted. The uniform who called it in has departed to police the traffic at Blackwater, leaving tape and flags to mark the spot. Such is the way with rural law enforcement. Market day can push death down the priority list.

Jared stamps slowly to keep warm. He is used to the biting cold and the quiet. Everyone living in the towns and villages around the Blackwater River knows how to exist with equanimity in the bitter winter beauty of the iced over river, frosted mountains, and freezing fogs.

All of them except Scar. She shivers. She fidgets. She darts and dances untidily. She talks all the time because she cannot process her scattered thoughts without speaking. She makes impulsive leaps to conclusions that seem illogical but are always on the money. She has to work back from her knowing to find out how she knows.

But today she gazes downward in silence into the Blackwater.

The melt is starting and the river is in the first slow throes of breaking up. She focuses on a smoother area amidst the rocks and solid white slices of the surface. The ice is milky and not fully translucent, a frozen ceiling distorting what is beneath.  But what is beneath is starting to reveal itself. Just under the surface a human hand can be seen, as if the person it’s attached to is reaching upwards to be saved.

Scar stays still and says nothing at all.

Scar never says nothing unless she is thinking the unthinkable.

Usually Jared encourages her to say what’s on her mind.

‘Trust your instincts, Scar,’ he says. ‘Then walk the chain backwards and show your work.’

He is like a maths teacher advising a gifted but nervous pupil.

This time he says nothing. This time he wants her to doubt herself. This time he is desperate she does not join the dots.

Scar looks up from the ice and her eyes reach for his.

‘When did you say Myrna was back?’ she says.

Jared cannot hold her gaze.


Myrna is Jared’s wife. He met her several lifetimes ago and fell for her the moment he saw her, a shy, beautiful student working at a waitressing job in the Blackwater Diner between semesters. After a textbook wooing and winning, he moved her into the Cabin and applied himself diligently to enabling her to live the life she was meant to live, smoothing out her edges, giving her the structure and guidance she needed to be her best self. He dissuaded her from completing her history degree, threw out her dungarees and tattered t-shirts. He bought her cookbooks, a wardrobe of designer clothes and a blond Labrador puppy to keep her from feeling lonely when he was away from home.

‘A place for everything and everything in its place,’ he said, smiling at the skillets and saucepans stored in order of size on the kitchen dresser. He trained her to keep chopping boards and knives colour-coded to prevent food poisoning. The cupboard set aside for his designer teas, glass teapot and set of cups was the only concession he made to his own needs.

But Myrna never managed to thrive. She was never satisfied. No matter how hard he tried it was never enough.

When Scar arrived at Blackwater, a junior cop in need of a mentor, sent because her previous precinct had found her too hot to handle even though she’d sent their solve rate through the roof, Jared found that work transformed into something more time-consuming, important, and complex than he had ever known.

He felt alive.

He tried to weave his new-found passion into his relationship, encouraging his wife and his new colleague to be friends. Scar was respectful and kind, drawing out Myrna’s opinions, making her laugh. On slow days when they drove out to the Cabin to collect her for lunch, Myrna often chose to ride in front with Scar rather than sit with Jared in the back. Scar would drop them off at Jared’s restaurant of choice and make herself scarce. Once she’d gone they both had less fun.

Myrna started talking about returning to college. Jared wanted to support her but he was realistic and knew she was emotionally frail. He tried to divert her into fulfilling but less demanding activities- signing her up to volunteer at the winter night shelter, helping her join the ladies book club at the Blackwater library. But she always rejected his ideas and threw his care back in his face. When he tried to offer gentle feedback on her weaknesses she thought he was being critical. Her attitude towards him seemed to harden into coldness. She flinched at his touch, refusing to be vulnerable and loving.

Then the rage attacks started. He would come home to find her in the aftermath, curled on the kitchen floor, sobbing, surrounded by smashed glass teacups she had thrown at the wall. As the outburst waned she became momentarily childlike and contrite. She seemed to want punishment and on several occasions he obliged by slapping her face.

It culminated when he found her self-harming methodically with the vegetable knife.

‘Green is for vegetables, Myrna,’ he said, feeling his face twist with hate.

He grabbed the knife and stabbed her deep in the heart. The Labrador, Rolf, howled with unbounded distress. Jared battered him over and over again with the heaviest skillet until he fell silent.


Jared looks over at Scar, who is still staring into the Blackwater. She is drawing deeply on a cigarette.

‘You shouldn’t smoke,’ he says. He marvels at his inability to stop being protective, even at a time like this.

‘It’s my life,’ she says. ‘I’ll live it how I want.’

He smiles, despite himself. He likes it when Scar is defiant.

She does not smile back.

‘When did you say Myrna was due back from her trip?’ she says again.

He does not know how to answer.

He sees his protégée’s face take on an expression of contempt he has never noticed before. Rage flickers in his belly then burns. His jaw clenches and his fists ball. He moves towards her.


There are three bodies in the Blackwater River. One is a woman with a knife in her heart. Another is a dog with yellow fur. The last is a man with a bullet between his eyes.


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