Born and raised in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, John Tavares is the son of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores. He graduated from the arts and science program at Humber College and journalism at Centennial College, but, more recently, he earned a Specialized Honors BA in English from York University. Following a long time fascination with economics, he obtained certification in the Canadian Securities Course. His short fiction has been published in a wide variety of print and online journals and magazines in the US and Canada. His many passions include journalism, literature, photography, writing, and coffee.
It’s not that I was a woman who loved to hate men, even though sometimes I felt as if I hated men, whom I considered bullies, pushy, aggressive, violent, destructive, and domineering, and worst and most despicable when drunk. It’s not that I was a woman who could never bring herself to love a man, but I had a difficult time liking even the best men I met. Cliff Quarry was one of the few guys I liked when I was growing up in a small town in Northwestern Ontario. I believe in him I found a kindred spirit, someone towards whom I felt affection and attachment, but he was always distant and remote. Ursula’s parents were accountants and senior executives at a multinational auditing and accounting firm. I noticed she usually seemed to dress down, wearing ripped T-shirts, scuffed running shoes, and distressed jeans. Then, in the fall following her graduation, she suddenly became a natty dresser. I couldn’t figure out why, but I thought I needed to know the reason. I complimented her new style and her cravats and scarves. She told me Cliff Quarry taught her how to dress and wear and knot scarves. Cliff Quarry? Cliff Quarry, born and raised in my hometown, I still remembered from high school and elementary school. He possessed the worst stutter of any person I ever met alive. He was someone I liked, but I didn’t appreciate his writing, and now I envied his success. After midnight in my office at the private school, Ursula ended up talking fashion. She said she always considered scarves a tad snobbish, unless they were worn outside of winter for warmth and protection from wind chill and frostbite. A bit claustrophobic, she also sometimes found scarves stifling. Or they left her with the sensation of choking. Now she considered scarves, which I think she used as a blanket term to cover ascots and cravats as well, elegant, and stylish. I told her I needed to learn about appropriate attire after graduating from university, after I went to work as a stockbroker on Bay Street, in the financial district of Toronto. She said Quarry told her when he was young, he was a sloppy dresser. He didn’t always have the best personal hygiene as a youth, either. Growing up in Northwestern Ontario, he thought his casual habits didn’t matter. Then, in high school, he met a classmate he liked and had a crush upon. He started paying attention to his appearance and grooming. The girl was a friend of his older sister, who practically acted as his mother, since his mother was an alcoholic and suffered from mental illness. His father, a mental health counsellor and a social worker, disappeared for weeks on end, as he travelled to reservations up north, or to took hunting, fishing, and trapping expeditions, on his own reservation around Lac Seul. Anyway, his sister told him he was uppity. She spilled soup on his shirts and pants, tore his coats, and scuffed his shoes, actions he found ironic, since she sometimes borrowed his clothes. At the time her behavior was also something he didn’t understand. So he came to believe paying attention to style and fashion was futile and a mug’s game, until he started living in Toronto after his first book was published. “Petty jealousies and sibling rivalries—what else is new? I’d be worried if they didn’t happen,” I said. “You teachers think you’ve an answer for everything, don’t you?” Ursula said. “We just pretend we have the answers to project the proper air of knowledge and authority.” Oddly, the chatter reminded me of my brother, who punched me in the face and broke my front tooth the night of my graduation ceremony from high school. I never bothered to have the tooth repaired, even when I had comprehensive dental benefits, perhaps to remind me of the senseless violence of which men are capable. Still, I didn’t tell her I knew Quarry or that we both grew up in the same remote northern town. I didn’t reveal Quarry’s sister, who had once been my babysitter, committed suicide as well. “Ursula, why are we talking about Quarry’s sister?” “Because it’s The Cliff Quarry, writer par excellence, and East Yorker, no less.” “East Yorker? He is part indigenous, Ojibwe, and from northern Ontario.” “Northwestern Ontario—he’s always quick to correct me, and make the distinction.” I never told her I hailed from the region. “I didn’t know Torontonians could tell the difference.” “Whatever. I believe he’s one of the best horror writers in Canada.” “Hmm. Horror. I didn’t even know Canada produced horror writers.” “Didn’t you always tell us in class your mind is like a parachute; it’s works best when it’s open?” “Yes, but a schlockmeister probably invented that quote. Still, you’re right, sorry, go ahead—you were saying.” “Anyway, if horror is schlock than I guess you think Dracula and Frankenstein are schlock.” “I didn’t say that, nor did I imply it, but touché.” “Aren’t you relieved I actually did my assigned readings and enjoyed them?” I taught her in an English literature class where we spent a semester studying classic Victorian novels, including The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I resented the imputation these gothic classics of Victorian English literature were texts in the horror genre. Anyway, she said, now Quarry overcompensated and overdressed, donning leather shoes and a tailored suit when he was merely driving his Land Rover SUV to a drive through window at a fast food restaurant for hamburgers and fries. Or he wore designer clothes when he, alone, the sole occupant of his rambling house, sat down at his computer to write, and tried to work on the first draft of his next novel on his desktop computer. Or worked on household chores and yard maintenance as a source of recreation and exercise. Meanwhile, he usually didn’t encounter anyone for days on end. Still, she appreciated what he taught her about clothes and dress and style and wearing and tying and choosing scarves, which, she thought, were signs of sophistication and style, the ability to wear a scarf smartly. The only thing I remembered about Quarry was he always looked as if he was taking a hike in the bush, plaid shirts, jeans, hiking boots, and either black denim in the cooler weather and black leather jackets in the winter. This talk about clothes made me uncomfortable and self-conscious; dress wasn’t something I liked to think about. I always tried to dress plainly and functionally, and I was relieved I didn’t need to worry about how I dressed as I did when I worked on Bay Street as a junior financial advisor and stockbroker. But the principal tried to warn me about the school dress code and my own personal style, adding that Tom Thomson Collegiate was a private, exclusive, all girls school, and every weekday wasn’t casual Friday. “You’re into conspicuous consumption now?” I asked. “No!” she retorted. I made no further reply for fear of offending her or antagonizing her. Besides, who was I, a spinster, a private school teacher, to judge one of my privileged white students.
Later, I realized I should have said, “No,” replying in the negative when my star student asked me if she could do a placement with the horror writer Cliff Quarry. The last time I saw Quarry was not in Sioux Lookout but in Toronto, alone, reading a pocketbook, Antony and Cleopatra, of all books, in a dark quiet corner of a cramped tavern on Queen Street West, where I journeyed with some teachers, who wildly celebrated the end of the school year. When I found an e-mail from the notorious horror writer in the inbox of my school e-mail, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Did he remember me from years ago at Sacred Heart School or QEDHS? Then the principal confirmed the writer lived in the affluent neighbourhood of the well endowed and academically rigorous Tom Thomson Collegiate, an all girls’ school renowned for its multidisciplinary arts program, which once even experimented in a course on stand-up comedy. The principal asked me if I didn’t read the feature article my favorite student wrote for the campus newspaper. The principal confirmed Quarry was indeed searching for a skilled student with strong word processing and grammar and punctuation skills to input the brainstorms and first drafts of stories he never completed or revised from his early career in his twenties—stories never published in any horror magazines, or pulp magazines, or any publications online, or in blog posts. Ursula was perfect for the task, the principal thought. After graduating from Tom Thomson Collegiate, she decided to stay an extra year to raise her grade point average, earn extra credits, and work on the campus alternative literary magazine and school’s campus newspaper. Also, she could read illegible handwriting, including mine. She possessed strong composition skills, and word processing abilities. I already gave her twenty-four-hour access to my office in the English department to help edit the semi—annual literary magazine and a biweekly campus newspaper she founded. She once mentioned Cliff Quarry lived in the neighbourhood of the exclusive and high-priced all girls school. I skimmed through the feature she wrote about Cliff Quarry for the campus newspaper but I made no comment. I thought I should tell her I grew up in the same town and attended the same Catholic elementary school and high school, although he was several years older. I decided to approach her with Cliff Quarry’s proposition. I barely finished my proposal when she squealed in delight and hugged me. Then, because I was paranoid about such things, even though I was a woman and seemed to have more social license than a man in such intimate situations, I worried about any potential witnesses, about whether anyone, a teacher, or a student, saw the hug. Having read his early novels, the less slick, less commercial novels, the grittier, more authentic tales, Ursula predicted she would find working for him fascinating. She agreed to work as a volunteer intern for work credits, by inputting Quarry’s early brainstorms and “free writing,” written in virtually indecipherable longhand. After a few weeks, I called her. “How is your placement going?” “Okay. Cliff insists on paying me.” “Yes, I got your message and spoke to the principal about compensation. You’re receiving credits for your internship, but, she said, renumeration shouldn’t be a problem. Just out of curiosity? Why is he inputting his older works? For archival purposes?” “No. He’s blocked. He can’t think of new ideas right now, so he’s looking back, at these piles of papers and stacks of notebooks - brain storming, free writing, he says. But he’s very defensive and secretive about his early writing. He keeps reminding me of his privacy, warns me about my confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements.” “You signed a nondisclosure agreement?” “Uh-huh.” “So you may be violating it by talking with me.” “I wouldn’t worry about that. Anyway, he hopes to find a hidden gem that’ll provide inspiration.” “That’s understandable. So how much is he paying you?” “Thirty dollars an hour.” I whistled. “You realize he’s paying you more than I get paid.” “He bought me a transit pass and gives me a meal allowance.” I asked Ursula to keep in touch and she said, of course, but, before she hung up, I thought I heard her gasp in trepidation. Meanwhile, I sensed a certain anxiety in her voice. I realized then I shouldn’t have hung up the telephone, but I had assignments and test papers to mark in my office. Then, as I put finishing touches on a mid-term exam, she called me on my personal cellphone, not the office landline or my apartment landline. She asked me if we could meet. I told her she could come and talk to me at the office. I was surprised when she accepted my offer immediately and drove over to the school from her home nearby. Again, I admired how a young woman who recently graduated from high school seemed competent and mature. “Ms. Yesno, I want to have an affair with him.” “An affair?” I felt a jolt of fear. “I want to sleep with him.” “Ursula, you’re just a girl.” “I’m age of majority, legal for anything.” “Technically not, not quite everything. Besides, he’s your employer, so he’s in a position of power and control over you, so it might be construed as sexual harassment. Optics aside, it’s most definitely a conflict of interest.” “He’s not my boss. He’s, like, this middle-aged virgin.” “How do you know?” “I just know, from what he’s written.” “So what has he written?” “I can’t tell you because I signed a non-disclosure agreement. His lawyer insisted. You know he wrote for over two decades before anyone published his work?” “Yes. I’ve read his bio. It’s not just inspirational; it’s crazy—I mean, heroic. Hard not to admire the guy. And you noticed his stutter?” She replied abruptly, “Why do you have to talk about his disability? Tell me!” Taken aback by how she snapped back, I didn’t realize I touched on such a sensitive topic. “I’m sorry.” “So you know where I’m coming from?” “Yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to sleep with him.” “Is that an order?” “I’m not in a position to give you orders - just advice, friendly advice.” “Understood. Can I still use the office?” “Of course.” The next week, stricken with insomnia, I felt like a failure and my shortcomings depressed me, as I remembered in the past I possessed a passionate ambition to become a writer. After I graduated from university, with a bachelor’s degree, I commiserated with a classmate, whose father worked in options and commodities trading. I ended up copping out on my original aspirations, obtained my Canadian Securities Course, acquired my license, and went to work as a junior financial advisor and stock broker on Bay Street. Shortly afterwards, the tech bubble burst and the stock market crashed. Laid off from the investment bank, I settled on becoming an English teacher at a private school. Years later, my position was still only temporary. I continued to a study more university and college courses, which seemed, in hindsight, like an excuse to postpone serious career ambitions. I usually never favored one student over another, and never allowed any student to act under the pretense of teacher’s pet. Whenever any students entertained the notion they were favored, or acted as if they were in that favored position, they became the subject of my abjuration. I feared I could lose his job in an instant, from the merest, simplest gesture of overt affection or love, a hug from Ursula, or, worse yet, a kiss, witnessed by a teacher, a teacher’s assistant, a librarian, a secretary, or a janitor or caretaker. Still, Ursula and I went on picnics together the previous summer. I took her to the clothing optional beach on a quiet night, a Tuesday night, date night, when the beach was usually empty except for romantic couples. She took off her bikini top. When she caught my gaze, admiring her breasts, she insisted I kiss her erect nipples. “It’s all right,” Ursula said. “I’m an adult now. I’ve got my driver’s license. I can shoot rifles and shotguns and buy them, too, since I have my hunter’s safety and firearm’s acquisition certificate.” Restless thoughts rumbled and jumbled through my mind. Sleepless, I took my sleep and anxiety medication. I drove to my office at 2 am to catch up on marking term papers, essays, and exams. The unconventional hours I found therapeutic and conducive to my work. The principal, believing in flexible office hours, at the private school didn’t discourage these visits at unorthodox hours to my school office or the computer lab. Stepping into my office in my dripping raincoat, I paused when I saw her at my desk, behind the computer monitor, sobbing, with her hands clutching her distressed face. I asked her what was the matter. “His writing. It’s totally fucked up.” “The horror fiction?” I asked, trying to be upbeat and helpful. “He keeps calling them first drafts, works in progress, free writing, brainstorms,” she said, uttering each word louder than the previous. She pulled her knees up close to her chest and started sobbing. “It’s a complete mindfuck, disturbing,” she said, between sobs and gasps, as she clutched her head. “I’m afraid it’ll damage my psyche.” “Then you should stop exposing yourself to this material.” “But his writing is like the best horror movies I’ve ever seen—where the girl gets her head decapitated in a car accident, the farmer’s daughter gouges out the eyes of the victims she chained and shackled to restraints in the basement.” She was wearing an oversized camouflage t-shirt, a pair of rigid plastic clogs, and a Winnipeg Jets baseball cap backwards. She was clutching her ankles and had folded her legs beneath her chin, making it impossible not to notice she wasn’t wearing anything beneath the t-shirt, no underwear, no shorts, no leggings. I gave her a pair of shorts from my gym bag. She started sobbing again and told me she took the clothes from Quarry’s bedroom. I said she needed to stop working for Quarry; she should simply quit the placement and get on with her life. I would make certain she received more volunteer experience elsewhere, but then I realized she had sufficient credits since she already graduated, but Ursula argued she wanted and needed the money. Then she told me her parents didn’t want her to become a writer or a journalist because they figured she would never earn a living wage or thrive if she chose that career. But working for Quarry was teaching her how to become a writer. “Inputting, word processing, is teaching you how to become a better writer?” “It’s the insight he gives me into the entire writing process from gestation to final draft.” “But is it worth it, if your psyche is damaged?” “I think so.” After she took a sip from her sealed insulated cup, she gave me a hug and left. I had noticed the smell of liquor, spiced rum, and I decided to be on the safe side I should take her home. I walked her the short distance to her parent’s house, although mansion might be a more accurate description. Then I returned to my school office and returned to my desk and computer, where she had been working, inputting with voice recognition software, Dragon Speaks Naturally, presumably to speed up transcription. I saw she also left open the word processing program on the computer desktop. The draft she inputted stared at me from the bright flickering monitor, beside which was a stack of Quarry’s notebooks. I saved the file to the computer hard drive, but not before I e-mailed the file as an attachment to her. Then I read the first draft from a notebook she left behind and was inputting on my office computer. The story left me frightened and disturbed, afraid I might be harmed or even that I might, in turn, out of anxiety, gloom, or paranoia, harm someone. Worried I breached their privacy, violated a secret confidence, I regretted sending the file to her e-mail account. Then I slumped and fell asleep in my office chair as my sleep and anti-anxiety medication started to take effect. In the first phase of my dream I dreamt I was crazy enough to pursue my ambitions of becoming a writer. I grew up outside of Sioux Lookout on a large property, with a huge garage, beside the town garbage dump, where my father, a mechanic, serviced heavy duty trucks, transport trucks, bulldozers, tractors. After school, I helped him in the garage, fetching parts and tools, as he taught me about heavy-duty engines and motor vehicle repair. The house was near the town garbage dump and airport, and the black bears foraging through the garage around the landfill sometimes wandered onto the property, and my father shot them. Once my father handed me the rifle and forced me to shoot a black bear. I hated him afterwards for making me kill a harmless animal – for being a man, who needed to assert his dominance and authority. Now, in my dream, I was homeless and lived at the edge of a huge garbage dump, on the boundaries of a large metropolis like Toronto. I recovered auto parts and copper in the derelict auto yard, trading parts and scrap metal for cash from a one-eyed truck driver. Out of self defence, I killed a scavenger scrounging for scraps, leftovers, and discarded food at the landfill. Strangely, I awoke refreshed from my dream, blamed my medication for the surreal dream and my serene mood upon awaking, but the memories of the dream or nightmare disturbed me. Although I started the school day in an energetic mood, I feared Quarry’s writing adversely affected my disposition. The following week went by uneventfully as I buried myself in my teaching duties, preparing lessons, grading papers and tests, instructing classrooms of bored, uninspired students. I missed Ursula’s perk and spark, but I ignored the voicemails and e-mails she left for me, including the notes and drafts she left on my desk, Cliff Quarry’s shocking, horrific fiction, which I made a commitment to never read again, despite the fact I felt addicted to his raw prose. Ursula called me at home, at my apartment, though. Since I felt depressed and needed someone with whom I could speak, I answered the telephone. She sounded obsessed to me. “I want to sleep with him so badly.” “You can’t; it’s a conflict of interest.” “He’s not my boss.” “In a sense he is.” “I need to sleep with him. I think it’ll cure my dark thoughts.” “Ursula, you need to quit this gig now. You’re fired. You can’t work for him anymore.” “Only the principal can say and do that.” “Walk away from the placement for the sake of your own mental health.” “It’s like when you took me to the nude beach on that misty day. The couples on either side of us were having sex—” “They weren’t having sex,” I insisted, with a hiss, “they were in a romantic mood, making love.” “Whatever. I took off my bra and you told me I had beautiful breasts, and I let you kiss and suck my nipples.” Shocked at her words, and her lack of discretion, I worried about the potential for anyone to eavesdrop. “I need to speak with you,” I asserted firmly, sounding more like a teacher. “I need to speak with him.” “Good luck trying to contact him. The last time I saw him—he was in his home gym, going through the motions on his elliptical trainer, rowing machine, and the stationary bicycle. He’s a good-looking man, sexy even. He was completely nude, working out. It’s hard to believe he’s a fifty-year-old virgin.” “How do you know that? What are you doing with a man who exercises naked?” “I wasn’t supposed to be in his personal gym. It’s off limits, but I walked in on him. He was upset and embarrassed, and he quickly threw on his housecoat. I couldn’t believe how mad he was, too, because usually he’s so sweet and good natured. But I needed to ask him a few questions about his handwriting and some word usage.” I feared for Ursula and her health and well-being, especially her psychological stability. I feared for my own career, too. “I’m going to speak with him.” “He’s done nothing wrong.” Her voice possessed a distant, dreamy quality. She sounded as if she was under the influence of mind-altering substances. I felt I could almost smell the spiced rum on her breath over the telephone line. All through the week, I tried to contact Cliff Quarry, through e-mail and voicemail. Walking the relatively short distance from the high school, I even visited Quarry’s home. Then Quarry’s lawyer and agent separately called me at my office at Tom Thomson Collegiate. At first, I worried the lawyer and agent called to put me in my place, but they, too, believed the matter was urgent and serious and conveyed Quarry’s concern for Ursula. The two reps called me separately, telling me Quarry left Toronto for his cabin and secret hideaway on the shores of Lac Seul, near his father’s home reservation and near Sioux Lookout, in Northwestern Ontario, to start work on his latest project, a screenplay adaptation. They urged me to contact Ursula to encourage her to seek volunteer opportunities elsewhere. Meanwhile, they would search for another workplace for her to complete an internship. The literary agent even said she had a colleague who worked in the romance department of an international publishing house. This book editor desperately needed a manuscript reader for her slush pile of romances and feminist erotica for e-books, although on second thought, maybe, if she chose the assignment, seeing as how she had a sensitive disposition, she said, she could stick strictly to the romance novels. Meanwhile, the lawyer said her law firm and partners needed someone with excellent office skills and transcription and word processing skills, and Ursula sounded qualified and competent. Later, the week became more stressful. When I returned home, I discovered Ursula threw what sounded like a temper tantrum on my answering machine and called again and again, while I was at the school, leaving angry voicemail messages accusing me of getting her fired. She also sent me several short expletive and exclamation mark laden emails blaming me for the fact she could no longer work for Quarry. I never observed her this agitated. I muttered and cursed beneath my breath, while I impatiently graded the papers of students I was told I needed to pass when I thought they deserved as a final grade a fail. I was also seized with insomnia, after lying in bed in the unseasonable heat. I remembered vividly a first draft from a Cliff Quarry notebook. I feared I, too, would awake in a somnambulistic state in my apartment. I envisioned myself smashing my head against the window, climbing through the broken glass, and hurtling myself, plunging the thirty-five floors to the city street below. Since I couldn’t sleep my regular hours, I found myself sleepy during the day. I drank more than my usual amount of coffee to stay awake and ingested a combination of anxiolytics and caffeine tablets before class because I expected visits from the school superintendent to evaluate my performance before deciding to renew my contract. I became worried I didn’t make the grade, so I took an anxiolytic tablet again. I returned to my office and read the papers Ursula left behind beside the computer on my desk. I found Quarry’s rough first drafts compulsively readable. I fell asleep in my reclining swiveling chair and dreamt about an epidemic of subway suicide jumpers, which paralyzed the city downtown. Bloor Street and Yonge Street were congested with wailing ambulances, police cruisers, and fire trucks, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, summoned to the pandemonium and chaos of casualties from commuters leaping in front of moving subway trains. I awoke and took the subway home and walked the remaining distance to my apartment. My mind automatically filtered out the noise of police and ambulance sirens shrieking along the downtown streets and Gerard, the red-light district having resisted gentrification, thirty-five floors below, and fell asleep on my bed. Then I was awakened in my bedroom by seemingly nonstop telephone calls. No one ever called me at home in my apartment, except for Ursula. I still had a landline telephone. I saved the mobile telephone for emergencies, or calls from Ursula, who originally bought me the device. I reimbursed her for the cost, even though I considered the device an expensive waste. Believing it contributed to unnecessary expenses, distraction, and the clutter and disorganization of my life and career as a teacher, I didn’t want the cellphone. Only Ursula could be calling at this unorthodox hour, I thought; after all, we were both nighthawks. When I answered the telephone, I heard Ursula’s mother, sounding frantic, stammering, gasping, exasperated, desperate. Having not seen her daughter in a whole day, she expressed concern about Ursula’s well being and whereabouts. Ursula was not the type of person to take long unexplained absences from home, or disappear from the house for hours on end without explanation or a message or telephone call. Disturbed, I figured I knew exactly where I could find Ursula. I drove across town on the Danforth to Tom Thomson Collegiate and hurried down the corridor and upstairs to my office. Later, I thought the action transpired and the scene unfolded like the draft of a Cliff Quarry story I read on the sly from the pile of manuscripts, beside my computer, Ursula inputted on the wireless keyboard. From the open doors in the English department, I sensed something was amiss and wrong. I found her hanging from a beautiful stylish scarf, dangling by a silk paisley scarf, tied around an exposed water pipe, damp from condensation, in my office. I cut the scarf with scissors from the art class, for which I was substitute teacher. I used my office telephone to call the emergency line, 911, the ambulance, the police. I detected no respirations and her face had a purple hue and her flesh was cool to the touch. I delivered chest compressions as if my own life depended upon them and, when I needed a break because of the cramping and pain in my arms, I detected a faint pulse in a vein in her neck. The paramedics arrived and administered oxygen and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Then the crew grew lively and excited when they detected a stronger pulse, as they loaded her on the gurney. I bit my knuckle, which bled, as I paced frantically, feeling helpless, impotent. Somehow, I ended up striking my own face and my nose bled. What angered and disappointed me the most about my reaction to Ursula’s emergency was how, I later thought, I acted and thought like a man. I panicked over the explanations I would need to provide to outraged parents, as well as how I would answer questions from the police, the principal, teachers. Believing my career was in jeopardy, I worried more about my job. I did fear for Ursula’s survival and existence and realized I cared about her more than anyone alive, if care was the correct word. I hoped she survived—I prayed she lived, even though I feared she might suffer severe and debilitating permanent brain damage, a zombie attached to life support, ventilators, and intravenous tubes, if she lived, even though I no longer considered myself a practicing Christian, or even a lapsed Catholic. I tried to calm myself and control my trembling, shaking, and shortness of breath, as I wiped my bloody nose with tissue papers and covered my brow with my sweaty palm. I sat at my desk and wrote notes on index cards. When I saw the neat timeline and chronology I had written, I pounded my fists against the desktop, stomped my foot, and slammed my head against a heavy pile of literature anthologies. A police officer, who wore purple latex gloves, seemed nonplussed, and dropped the knotted scarf I had cut with the scissors into a resealable clear plastic evidence bag.