To Those Who Killed Me
Crime Fiction written by J.T. Siemens
Nominated: Arthur Ellis Unhanged Award
Published by NeWest Press April 2022
Thursday, October 10, 2019
The brunette in the silver Audi convertible was dead. Even from thirty feet away, I knew from the level of stillness and the angle of her slumped head, down and to the right. I had seen that angle before. As I approached the rear of the vehicle, blood slammed through my neck and temples, my body still buzzing with endorphins from my twelve-mile run up and down the hills of West Vancouver. As I came closer I saw the small woven dreamcatcher hanging from the rear-view mirror. My throat made a strangled sound as I stopped breathing.
It was my friend Geri’s car, and she was in the driver’s seat.
Geri, oh my God.
I sprinted to the convertible, shouting her name as I reached in and shook her shoulders. Her head lolled further down and her skin was pale where normally it was olive. I pushed my fingers through her thick hair to check for a pulse that wasn’t there.
Bringing my face near hers, I couldn’t feel any breath, though the smell of wine was strong. An open S’well bottle sat in the centre console.
The car’s digital clock read: 4:24 PM
An unsealed white envelope and an iPhone sat on her lap. On the floor mat of the passenger side was an open bottle of prescription pills, some of which had spilled out. Zolpidem. Sleeping pills.
I pulled out my phone and called 911. “My name is Sloane Donovan. I found a woman in her car who seems to have OD’ed on sleeping pills. No vitals. Hillside Country Club. 930 Crosscreek Road, West Vancouver. End of the south service road.”
Yanking open the driver’s door, I got my hands under her armpits and dragged her onto the road. Her phone clattered onto the gravel nearby. As I knelt to begin CPR, everything around me constricted, swirled, and blurred: the trees, the car, my friend on the road. A second later, reality came roaring back. Impossible. I’d spoken to her only a few days earlier. This was wrong, a waking nightmare, a sick joke. Interlacing my fists together, I pumped her sternum.
After thirty compressions, I tilted her head back, pinched her nose, lowered my lips to hers, and gave two breaths. Following three more cycles of CPR, I thought I saw her facial muscles twitch. Another cycle. One of her brown eyes was partially open.
In the polished chrome rim of the rear wheel, I caught a distorted reflection of myself, eyes wild, red ponytail bobbing up and down. In the branches of a hemlock above, a crow mocked me and flew off.
Give up, it seemed to say.
A drop of sweat from my face splashed onto Geri’s blue lips, rolled down her cheek before getting lost in the twisted gulley of her ear. After countless rounds of CPR, I got dizzy and had to stop and breathe and shake out my hands. Only then did I take in the curve-hugging red and black silk cocktail dress she wore, its pattern like angry Japanese characters. Her fingernails were painted the same red as her dress. Her wedding ring was off. So was one of her black leather pumps, probably still in the car.
Twenty feet in front of us sat a rusty blue shipping container. Beside it were several stacks of old tires and a pile of discarded lumber. Country club junkyard.
I continued CPR.
Blink. My sister, Stephanie, her nails bitten to the quick. Blink. Little Charlie, blond hair neatly parted, purple Barney dinosaur beside him. Blink. Blue-faced baby Emma, snuggled into Steph’s cold bosom. Blink. Steph’s head cocked down at that same final angle Geri’s had been.
The phone buzzed on the gravel nearby. As I pumped her chest, I glanced over. The display read: PAYPHONE 604-615-6761.
From habit, I quickly recited the number under my breath before going back to mouth-to-mouth, running the digits through my head a few times so they stuck.
Sirens howled beyond the trees. I saw the envelope a few feet away.
The sirens grew louder. I remembered finding Steph’s note on the bedside table and reading the words that would haunt me forever. I’d made the mistake of showing the note to my mother, thinking she needed to know. She didn’t. I grabbed the envelope and shoved it into the waistband of my tights, pulling my shirt over it just before a fire engine crested the rise.