The trees stood perfectly still, their branches barren, waiting patiently for life to emerge from their thick skin. Wind hardened the trees, rendering them heartier, more inclined to survive the following season. Each spring promised a new beginning. The eruption of tender grasses and sweet wildflowers signalled the animals that it was safe to give birth to their offspring. New life quickly surrounded the pond. Baby rabbits, birds, and deer all were learning the traditions of their forefathers, eager to frolic amongst each other.
The pond remained frozen. Embedded in the dark ice were particles of leaves and debris left over from the autumn. Once floating atop the cool water, shades of red, orange and amber were left to rot, falling into the void, eventually succumbing to their weightlessness. Tall broken reeds of bamboo flanked the pond's edges on the northern side, where mother birds would perch calling out to their young in the months of summer.
With each passing day, the sun rose higher in the sky. The heat of it warming the ice from the outer edges of the pond. With a slow and steady thaw, the pond melted this way every year. Spring had arrived. The water was taking its time, adjusting itself to the rising temperature from the sun, altering the composition of the water from a solid crystalline to a liquid form. It took time, measured in hours, days even.
Bodies of water can hide truths from plain sight. Garbage can become tangled in the reeds of a pond. Misplaced sneakers and ball caps tossed haphazardly during the dog days of summer eaten up by the algae that skirt the edges. Yet, the pond became more than just a refuge for animals one day in the autumn when the leaves were falling in the breeze. Before the winter freeze ensued and many weeks after the heat of summer had said goodbye.
Strands of her hair became visible first, now tangled and knotted, the colour tarnished. She used to brush it every night before bed. Attentive to its sheen, motivated by vanity. Eventually, her torso rose to the surface and floated as though she enjoyed the water on a sunny summer day, swimming with friends.
It would be weeks until anyone saw her there. Instead, crows circled the pond, diving at her occasionally, scaring off the magpies that swarmed from the ranch that lay south of the property. Her body continued to float, her empty eyes gazing up at the clouds that danced above her.
"But why? Why does it have to be this way?" Her eyes imploring him, praying for mercy.
He retorted. "Don't speak. Not another word. Just be quiet." His plan required nothing more than her complete cooperation. There was no room for arguments, and he had no time for discussions. He looked away from her then.
"Please don't do this. I can change, I will, whatever it is that I'm doing, I promise, I won't do it anymore. I just need you to tell me what it is, Please. Please, we can be happy together." Tears flowed freely from her blue eyes, mascara pooling in the eye sockets. She looked like a raccoon to him.
He stared straight ahead. Unmoved by her emotional petition.
"We have a child. What about the children? Think of them. Please. This whole thing is insanity. Please. Please don't."
Her body was heavy, limp still. He found it difficult to move. Rigour Mortis had not yet begun in her slight frame; he threw her over his shoulder and moved away from his car towards the pond. He trudged through the long grass and mud. He muttered to himself under his breath about dirtying his shoes.
The wind blew leaves in colours of autumn all around him; the frosty air chilled him. But, his frigid heart was unsympathetic to her pleas; he hadn't heard her.
He filled the pockets and the hood of her coat with heavy rocks. He found a flat oblong boulder and wedged it under her jeans in the front of her panties. He did the same with her bra and her shoes. He knew that time and erosion would move them; the rocks would come loose in due course. Her body would move about the bottom of the pond, and in the long run, she would be found.
It would be spring before anyone would see her. She would spend Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year, Valentine's Day, and Easter decomposing before her body would pop up to the surface. He had known that dental records would most likely be the method of identification. For this reason, he had used his father's plyers to remove her teeth before dumping her in the water that would be her resting place.
“Adios mi Amor, y gracias para todo, que las vaya bien.”
He was thankful to her. Thankful for she had helped him to complete a part of his plan. He would inherit her estate as her only surviving relative: a sad story but a necessary outcome. When the spring arrived, he would be long gone. But, for now, he would be a grieving father playing on the sympathies of his supporting characters. He had things to do. He had plenty of time to prepare his subsequent move. His ultimate course of action would be to report to the appropriate authorities that his wife had disappeared.
He drove slowly on the dirt road away from the pond, the three-mile drive seeming to take longer than it should have. When he reached the main highway, he took extreme caution approaching the route—wanting to be seen by no one. Not a soul was to be found in the area; he was sure of it.
He drove her car back to town and parked it at the shopping mall she preferred to frequent. He used her credit card to buy himself a new shirt and sweater, and a new pair of jeans and a blouse for her. Again, he was careful to use tap. He didn't make eye contact with any sales staff and refused offers of assistance. "Anything I can help you find today?" he shook his head. "No, thank you." His last stop was the Gap, where he purchased two pairs of sweats and t-shirts for each of his boys on his way out of the mall.
He then crossed the parking lot to the train station and waited patiently for the light rail transit which would deliver him within two blocks of his elaborate townhouse. Finally, when the train arrived, he boarded an empty car. He sat alone. Using her phone, he sent himself a text message, typical of her. "Hey, what you doin..?" He responded from his phone, "Where you at?" then sent another from hers. It was a playful thing they did. He had received pleasure from her amusing pastimes. A bit theatrical. It was fun.
He then carefully messaged her best friend Tiffany using the same language she would have from her phone about meeting up for drinks later in the week. Next, he responded to an email from an employee of hers seeking guidance on a report due to the Canada Revenue Agency. Then, he opened her Instagram, liked and commented on a few photos he knew were within her standard algorithm, and did the same on Twitter.
When he reached his stop, he casually left all the shopping bags with her purse and cell phone on the train. He walked the two blocks to the house and then entered the home just ten minutes before Nanny and the boys returned from their daily expedition to the park.
He waited an hour before asking Nanny if she had heard from his wife.
When Nanny responded that she had not spoken to his wife, he commented that it was strange. He tried calling her. Her phone rang to voice mail. He left a message and returned to preparing dinner with Nanny and his two children.
It was just before midnight when he called the police. His wife was not answering phone calls or text messages. He appeared concerned. He gave the impression that he was worried about her whereabouts.
They responded quickly, arriving at the townhouse. There were two officers to begin with; they gathered information from himself and Nanny. They wanted to know when they had spoken to her last, when they had seen her, what her routines were like, was it possible that she was having an affair? The officers wanted as much information as could be given. Both he and the Nanny cooperated fully, offering everything they could. A full-scale investigation would begin a few days later if she didn't return and wasn't seen at home or work.
For months the police would search but find nothing. Her purse and shopping bags were found on the train but were a dead-end because although her credit cards had been used at the mall, no one remembered seeing his wife that day. Her car left in the mall parking lot, another dead-end; no one remembered seeing her.
Her best friend Tiffany had responded to her text about meeting up for drinks, suggesting their favourite spot on Friday evening, but she had never confirmed. So instead, the investigators found dead-end after dead-end.
The husband and the Nanny had alibis, and neither had cause for involvement. The marriage was new, a seemingly happy one, with a new baby. The wife was a successful entrepreneur, well established, loved by her employees and colleagues. Her only family, her parents, had died when she was a teen, leaving her a substantial sum of money, likely what she had used as seed capital to start her business.
Her disappearance made no sense.
He lay low for months. Knowing that eventually, his wife's body would surface, she would be found. But by then, he would be long gone, and there would be no evidence to link him to her murder. She had provided what he needed, and his plan was moving ahead. He had gotten all that he desired of her. And she would be just another woman found floating in the water when the spring sunshine took to thawing the pond.
About the author
Taught by some of the greatest literary minds of this century, Sandra's delivery method is reminiscent of her mentors and yet uniquely her own page-turning style. Her novels are suspenseful, unpredictable, & thought-provokingly colorful.