A Person Of Interest

The shrinking began after they discovered the shoe by the cart path, somewhere between the Seventh and Eighth hole. David pretended to not notice it and walked on, but when Chung-hee stepped past a cluster of prickly gooseberry shrubs to retrieve it, he turned back, feigning surprise. It was a red stiletto, left foot, the partially-broken heel poking through a carpet of browning maple leaves. David knew it belonged to Jessy Kahnawake and a vague sensation he was witnessing something from the past creeped up on him. In that precise moment, he shrank one inch. By the time he became a person of interest, two weeks later, David had all but disappeared from the world as he knew it. And when Chung-hee was called into the RCMP detachment office in Belleville for an interview, she recalled one of their last conversations to Detective Rich Richardson, about David’s latent feelings of guilt.

“Guilt about what?” frowned the hard-nosed, thirty-year veteran of the force who had never felt a latent feeling in his life. 

“About being white,” she responded. The detective immediately placed the snotty city girl’s comments away on the “anecdotal” shelf. It remained there even as the bodies were being pulled out of the lake and an army of carrion beetles were closing in on David near the bunker of the Fifteenth green. 

David was a strapping twenty-seven year old, six foot-four inches, slim but athletic build, dirty strawberry hair passed down from his mother, and the same piercing bluish-grey eyes of his father. On the original bulletin issued by The National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains, drafted by the detective’s wife, Richellea freelance poet whose sole claim to local literary fame was a self-published chapbook about her relationship to her father, titled Songs My Father Never Sang To Methe colour of his eyes was erroneously described as 'cobalt'. The only other exceptional physical attribute about David, which never made it into the public domain, but gave the poet envious pause, was the size of his penis—seven inches long and three inches in diameter when limp. And like her husband, she too relegated this aberration to the ‘anecdotal’ shelf. However, those who knew it intimately waxed lyrically about it over pitchers of locally-handcrafted beer during happy hour at Moose Maloney’s Bar and Grill. Sadly, it was, according to the coroner’s non-binding report, the first of his appendages to go.

David went to a college in Pennsylvania on a golf scholarship, but was forced to drop out after his first year because his academic grades were below par. He returned to his hometown of Bancroft, took a job as a golf pro at the local country club, where his uncle Andrew was a member, and lived year round in a boathouse on the premises. His clients were lifetime honorary members of the club, with lineages going all the way back to John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada—Members of Parliament; CEOs of multinational oil companies; unscrupulous land treaty lawyers; and local mobsters posing as antique shopkeepers who ran offshore gambling payment gateways. David’s mother felt a certain pride at her only son’s proximity to “the establishment” and occasionally gloated at church about her son’s stunning looks. Like the thirteen generations before her, Mrs. Hayes was born and raised in Hastings County, the cheese capital of Canada, once distinguished Mohawk territory. She was solidly middle-class, and like so many others who attended the local Anglican parish, held to the inflexible missionary position of noblesse oblige

Chung-hee circled the trees, kicking up leaves. 

“She would know she was missing one shoe,” she said.

David immediately scanned for clues: blood splatters, shreds of clothing, tears in the chain link fence that separated the club from the reserveanything indicating a struggle. But he could see nothing. He suspected Kevin Jones III, son of the club’s CEO, who liked to bring girls up here during cottage season to shag under the firs, although natives were not known to be his preferred caste.

Chung-hee peered inside the shoe. “No brand.”

“He likes cheap dates.” She poured acid on him with her eyes. 

Two summers ago, at a Fred Eaglesmith concert in Campbellford, David and Chung-hee found themselves squeezed beside each other at the bar. He introduced himself, offered to buy her a shot of Mind Eraser. “Thank you, but I don’t drink,” she said. “I’m a cheap date.” He bought her a virgin Bloody Mary instead. The following weekend, Chung-hee listened patiently from an Algonquin chair, chin propped on her knees, as David splashed at the full moon with his feet off the dock, and reminisced about his ex-girlfriends. The significant ones—Jennifer, Marianne, Amelia, Scarlett, Maddy, Nicole, Karen, Emma, Jane, Emily, Charlotte, Virginia, Elizabeth, Diana, Joanne, Hailey, Victoria, Susan and the Taylor twins—irritated him now, and in an uncharacteristic blaze of self-loathing, lumped them together into one undifferentiated mass, with no distinctive attribute, physical or otherwise, that set them apart. He began to see that his long line of conquests were simply accidents of geography and genes, nothing more. He also sensed that this revelation may have had something to do with falling in love with this petite Korean woman—and science scholar to boot. His buddies at the Moose teased him about being afflicted with “yellow fever” and David confessed they might be onto something, as Van Halen’s “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” squealed in the background. After all that internet porn during his short stint at college, David became obsessed with the idea of sleeping with an Asian woman, once even flirting with a Korean convenience store-owner in Innisfil, deceived by the grandmother's youthful complexion. Later, while making love to Chung-hee, he clamped his eyelids coyly when her yips crescendoed to a peak, and in a moment of luminous post-coital splendour, latched his mouth onto her neck like a toad and murmured something about her sounding like a Shih-Tzu that had just been kicked. 

That night, across the lake, a lone coyote bayed.

Chung-hee brought the shoe back to the boathouse. For the next six hours, she sat in front of the computer, searching all the lost-and-found sites from Huntsville to the easternmost tip of the Kawarthas. She took photos of it on her cellphone and posted them online. He had never seen this in her before: the stirrings of an obsession, with a touch of manic anxiety. He massaged her shoulders, slipped his hand down her tee shirt, and slid his calloused hand over her tiny right breast.

“Stop that,” she said. He returned to the living room, watched the Cowboys pummel the Redskins on Sunday Night Football, and fell asleep on the couch. The next morning, she was gone, back to Toronto where she headed a clinical research team on the Neanderthal genome. There was a note on the kitchen table: Will call on Wednesday. She took the shoe with her.

David first began to notice something was awry that very morning when he went to take a shower. He banged his left knee on the rim of the bathtub and found himself scaling the side of it with some effort. He stood on tippy-toes to reach the tap, and even as the tennis ball-sized droplets of water crashed down on his head, managed to project the image of Chung-hee’s naked body on the inner screen of his eyelids. He played quickly with his nipples, pulling on the areola hairs for feeling, and reached down toward his member. Immediately he sensed something was up. His erect penis—usually held in the classic Arnold Palmer golf grip, by interlocking the pinky finger of his dominant right hand over the thumb of his non-dominant left—barely fit into one palm.

David last saw Jessy Kahnawake at the Moose the previous Friday night. He had just finished a late afternoon lesson with Daniel Brock Jr., eldest son of Daniel Brock Sr., the "Wizard of Wall Street". When he arrived, the Moose was busy and the dancefloor was in full swing. He took the only empty stool at the bar and caught James’ eye. Jessy was in her usual spot at the end of the bar, twirling a straw around her Tequila Sunrise, and James was playing it up with her. Jessy was half-Ojibwe or half-Iroquois or quarter-Metis, neither David nor James could remember, and lived on the reserve. She worked as a summer temp groundskeeper at the golf course. Through the golf shop window, David would watch her watering the greens or trimming bushes along the fairway. She always wore the same tight blue shorts and white tee shirt knotted just above her belly button. He would overhear the waiters at the clubhouse joking about giving it to her. Sometimes, when Chung-hee missed the weekend because of work, David stood in the shower, and, in a paroxysm of lust, superimposed Jessy’s body over Chung-hee’s.

Jessy smiled in his direction, so David smiled back. He considered moving his stool over to join her, then thought against it because he didn’t want the smell of cheap perfume on him. When Jessy got off her stool and went to the restroom, James kept staring after her. She was wearing a tight black one-piece mini-skirt that curved over her ass and hugged the area just above the knees. She was also wearing red stilettos that gleamed when she crossed the dance floor. 

“Will you look at that?” James said. “Jesus Murphy.”

James was David’s oldest friend, and grew up across the street from each other. They had graduated from pinging off groundhogs and blue jays with slingshots to stalking beavers and Canada Geese out in Mr. Martin's soy bean field with their Martin Ridge bows. They got to talking about their upcoming moose hunting trip to Manitoulin Island when Jessy reappeared. She was being followed to the bar by Kevin Jones III. He had his mug over her right shoulder and was whispering something into her ear. She nudged him with her elbow. Kevin held his ribs and keeled forward in mock agony. His buddies on the dancefloor laughed at him. 

“Hold on,” James said and returned to her end of the bar. She pulled down the sides of her mini-skirt, glanced hard over her shoulder at Kevin, and climbed back on her stool. David recalled this same gesture of Jessy glancing over her shoulder from the porch of her house. How that image came into his head when he had never ventured past the band administration building on the reserve and therefore had no way of knowing what Jessy’s house looked like, was anyone’s guess. 

A coyote bayed.

David gave his head a good shake and threw back a shot of Jameson’s. Jessy hooked the heels of her stilettoes over the footrest of the stool and leaned forward on the bar to say something to James. To David, James relayed: “Little shit told her he wanted to fuck the squaw out of her.” He brushed the fingers of his right hand at Kevin who kept grinning idiotically at them. “Go on,” James mouthed, “you piece of white trash.” 

The rest of the night was a wash for David. Later, James told Detective Richardson that he could not recall the exact number of Jameson’s he had served his friend. He remembered seeing David and Jessy on the dancefloor, turning the lights of the bar up after last call, and watching the two of them leave out the front door together. But as for what may have happened after that he had no clue. Nobody did. All David knew was that the next morning, he was simply relieved to find himself alone in his bed, even though he sensed someone lying beside him, and his body was wracked with an inscrutable sense of dread. 

Chung-hee called on Wednesday just as she wrote in her note. She spoke breathlessly about a lead she had on the shoe. An antiques shopkeeper in Madoc saw the shoe online and called her. He told her it belonged to Jessy, who the shopkeeper knew worked at the club.

“Hey,” David said. “You’re being a bit obsessive, don’t you think?”

“What if something happened to her?” 

“She was probably so drunk, she didn’t even notice it was missing.” There was a long pause on the other end of the line. David shrunk another two inches.

The next day, David found the head groundskeeper, Jackson, watering the greens on the Sixth. After a few exchanges about the weather and the health of the grass, David said, “Shouldn’t Jessy be doing this?” 

Jackson shrugged his shoulders. “They come and go as they please, these folk. She’s probably back on the reserve. She’ll come back when she needs some money.” David laughed along with him and shrank some more.

That night, Chung-hee called again. 

“She was last spotted at Moose Maloney’s on Friday.” 

“Everybody ends up at the Moose on Fridays.”

“Was James working?” 

“James is always working.”

“We’re you there that night?”  

A coyote bayed.

“David?”

“What?”

“Were you or weren’t you there that night?”

“I might have been there that night.”  He shrank an inch.

“You were drunk.”

“I don’t know if I was drunk because I don’t remember if I was there.” Another inch.

David watched a cardinal on the bird feeder. When he blinked, the cardinal turned into a red stiletto. 

“You know, Chung-hee,” he said. “Sometimes you say the meanest things.”

“You must remember that night.” she said. “I came up to see you the next day.”

“Of course I do.”

“Do you remember telling me what you saw?”

“Jesus. No.”

“A coyote. It was on the other side of the lake.” 

“Yes.”

“And that you were thinking about shooting it with your bow.”

“Christ,” he said and slammed his fist against the leg of his desk. The startled cardinal flew away. “Yes, I remember, okay? You happy now?”

“No, David. There was no coyote on the other side of the lake.” He shrank four inches.

“Chung-hee, what exactly is going on here? Ever since that goddam shoe-”

“David. Please. Stop it.” Then, “Let’s discuss this in person.”

“Discuss what in person?!”

“I turned the shoe in to the police down here. We’ll talk about it this weekend.” 

“Fuck,” he said and regretted it the moment the word came out of his mouth. 

“Oh, David.” When she hung up, he shrunk another inch. He threw the cellphone up onto the sofa.

Jessy did not return to work. Nobody seemed to recall her last shift. Nobody seemed to remember anything. When David called James at the Moose, he told him she hadn’t come around since that Friday night. 

“Dude, the last thing I saw was you and her leaving without so much as fuck off. You get lucky?”

“Was anyone else here when I left?”

“That little shit, Kevin. He left soon after you with those punks.” 

David walked over to the reserve. There was an RCMP cruiser parked in front of the band administration building. Inside the office, under the glare of florescent light, an officer was taking down notes. David thought he recognized Jessy’s parents sitting on a bench and the band leader at the desk, but Jessy herself was not there. He returned to the boathouse. Chung-hee was on the sofa watching Quest For Fire in the living room. 

“What are you doing here?” David said.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re supposed to be here tomorrow.”

“David, I’ve been here all weekend.” There was the look of weary suspicion on Chung-hee’s face. 

Later that night, at her car, Chung-hee’s only parting words were: Bye, David. Take care. He watched the red tail lights fade down the road like Spanish fireflies.

The moment news broke of the two bodies recovered from the lake, David was waking up on the shaggy rug of his living room. Bottles of empty beer lay beside him like upturned redwood trees. He rose, navigated his way around them, and stepped out into the late afternoon light. He crossed the road in his bare feet, around boulders of gravel. An hour later, he made it to the edge of the Fifteenth green. Before him, as far as he could see, forests of grass covered the fairway. Suddenly, out of the sky, a giant red bird the size of a twin-engine airplane, dove toward him at full speed, squawking. He took cover under a leaf. The intense scent of pine needles jolted him awake and he felt for just a moment that everything would be okay. He peeked out from under the leaf and the bird was gone. Suddenly a huge shadow began to form around him. It was a groundhog, smirking down at him. He made a beeline across the fairway, tripping over granules of sand. The groundhog playfully chased him for a few strides, then let him go, watching as David's buttocks swung from side to side like a pair of sesame seeds. When he stopped to catch his breath, panic seized him. The images came, like flashcards in some sinister game, one after another they came: scar on a left ankle, the spring action of his Martin Ridge, the boy lying face down on the grass, a bloody shirt, a black skirt raised over the hips, a red stilletto. He took to a trot again, weaving in and out of the grass. On the edge of the bunker, he dropped to his knees, his body now heaving. The earth erupted in front of him and a worm appeared, its head (or tail?) twirling from side to side like a giant charmed serpent. The smell reminded him of something, but he could not recall what it was. He leaped down into the bunker and it was then everything began to tremor, light at first, before picking up in a thunderous roar, white stones exploding like geysers. He fell to his knees, hands clamped over his ears, crying out for Chung-hee. All around him, in every direction he turned, his naked body was reflected back to him from the funhouse-mirrored eyes of carrion beetles. 


A coyote could be heard baying from across the lake.

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