Friday, March 13, 2020

The Case

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

I've been listening to true crime podcasts so blame that haha


Shannon paced in front of the whiteboard/corkboard in her home office. Her dark hair was pulled into a messy bun on top of her head and not the intentional kind. It was a mass of tousled knots that didn't even register on her radar of concerns. If pressed, she wouldnt have any idea how long it had been since she last brushed it.

But she could tell you every known detail of the last night she spent with her cousin Emily 6 years and 5 days ago.

Emily had been murdered. Another statistic of violence against women, unsolved, a cold case, another national tragedy so said the headlines that dwindled day after day with no answers until literally everyone had forgotten her. She'd even asked around the campus she disappeared from out of curiosity around the year 5 mark, and not a single person could remember who Emily was.

A nameless, faceless statistic.

Not even a body or a grave site or an urn of ashes to show for her life. She'd never been found.

Emily and Shannon had grown up together. They were roughly the same age, and thanks to Shannon's dad being out of the picture and her mom struggling with addiction, she'd spent more of her childhood years staying at her aunt's house sharing a room, the top bunk specifically, with Emily than she had with her own mom. She thought of Emily as a sister. Probably closer than most sisters since Shannon had been so grateful for the love her extended family had shown and Emily had been so understanding and patient that they'd rarely fought.

Her entire world imploded when Emily went missing. And the guilt that still pressed on her like a weight 6 years and 5 days later because she was with her that day and chose to do her own thing was an unstoppable force. She hadn't been able to let it go for a single second not even when the police let it go cold, not when the headlines stopped appearing even on yearly anniversaries, not when locals couldn't even remember who Emily was or what happened... Shannon would never--could never--let her go.

So here she was retracing everything she knew, every report from the only private investigator her family had been able to afford, and all the files she'd gotten her hands on once she got her own P.I. license at 24. She did small town bullshit cases to pay the bills and spent far too much of the rest of her time looking for Emily's killer.

She was 27 now. She hadn't ever had a real relationship. No one could handle how much time she spent on the case or the anger she felt, the shortness of her temper, and the lack of patience she had for people who didn't understand why she was so afraid of the world.

Back to the case, the facts, the pieces, the things she could focus on instead of herself.

Emily was 20 when she disappeared.

She was finishing up her sophmore year at University of Georgia in Athens.

She wasn't dating anyone. No one had any drama with her according to the many, many people interviewed.

On the night she disappeared January 20th, Shannon had gone to Athens to see Shakey Graves play. She was 21 herself and had been with Emily almost the entire day. She spent the night in Emily's dorm on the night of the 19th after getting to North Georgia from their hometown in Valdosta pretty late. It was a long drive, and Emily had stayed on the phone with her the last hour to keep her awake. The two had done some shopping earlier in the day then ate dinner at a small bbq place. No one acted weird, approached them in any way, or--as far as she could tell--followed them back to the dorm.

When Shannon left for her concert, Emily had plans with friends to go to a home basketball game. It was actually a pretty big deal because of impending March madness. This win could give the Bulldogs some kind of direct spot to the March Madness tournament.

6 years later and Shannon still didn't understand basketball well.

The point being that lots of folks were in from out of town on top of the other basketball team from Florida State and all their staff. Every single player at that game had been cleared however. Each of their whereabouts after the game and the following day were accounted for. But with so many people being in town for this game, various concerts including the one Shannon attended, and several other events, the police had given up on finding the person. The Stegeman Coliseum,where the basketball game was held, seats over 10,000 people alone.

Shannon had grown a bit cynical. She knew the police put forth some kind of effort. They checked out the team, for example. But it never made national news. Athens' economy depended on these games, the team, tourists for the music scene, and the university. Scaring people off with a dead student wasn't something the city was willing to do. They had leads. they had people they'd eliminated. But making the kind of deal out of it that was needed was never undertaken.

Back to the facts, the timeline, the logic.

The city had been inundated with outsiders for days prior and after the 20th.

When Emily hadn't shown up to the dorm that night to let Shannon in after the concert, when Shannon finally found Emily's roommate who hadn't seen her since she left for the game, and couldn't get Emily on the phone by call or text, she called Mama Leena. Emily's mom. Basically her own mom. Leena immediately hopped in her car when she couldn't get Emily either. It wasn't like her not to check in or answer a call or text even if she had been with a boy. She would have text Shannon at her concert to let her know not to wait up. She would have left her a way to get in or made arrangements for her to stay with a friend. And in all honesty even though the police never bought it, Shannon knew even then that Emily wouldn't have gone off with a guy with Shannon up there for the weekend. They never got to spend time together at that point, and any time the two of them did manage to get together, it was about quality sister time as much as possible. No one night stand would have gotten in the way of staying up late, talking, and watching shitty B horror movies as was always their tradition. And Emily hadn't really been interested in anyone. Shannon thought she might have been gay. Or asexual. But she didn't press. Emily wasn't a one night stand kind of person. She wasn't into romance or dating. She barely had crushes on celebrities. It stood out. But police see college aged girls as being a certain way, and they never accepted any other description preferring to hold on to their sexist stereotypes.

She kept getting lost in the memories. That was always the trouble. There wasn't one time in all of these 6 years that going through this thin stack of information didn't take her on scattered train of memories and feelings and facts all at once.

Given Emily was over 18, the police wouldn't do anything until she didn't turn up the next day. So by the time they were finally called again to come take a report, Shannon and Leena had already put together much of Emily's night.

She had definitely gone to the game. She had seats with 2 of her good girl friends at school, Alaina and Marcella. Their boyfriends attended too but met the group of girls there. All of their stories checked out. After the game they had gone out for a bite to eat, but Emily had chosen to stay behind and walk the half a mile back to her dorm so she could clean up and be ready for Shannon to get back. Even with this explanation, the police had assumed Emily had changed her mind. It was one of those big things that really held the investigation up.

The only other person these friends saw Emily talk to was a guy in a green shirt with an Irish sounding name like Seamus. None of these friends knew him from school, but they hadn't really paid much attention to the conversation. He had the seat beside her, and he had talked to her quite a bit even celebrating with her when Georgia would score so he had to at least be a home team fan. Alaina was closest and said it seemed a bit flirty on his side, and Emily seemed shy but maybe interested? Shannon has always considered this piece of information a bit biased. When any of her closer friend group spoke of her in the days after her disappearance they discussed their concern that she didn't date, that she wasn't getting out there and trying, that she was happy but they felt like she was missing something.

But that was just Emily. The idea that a young woman on her own for the first time in life, going to college, working a part time job at the library, who had a good family could be happy without dating should have been more normalized. Maybe the police would have seen the comments for what they were and not make so many suggestions about Emily running off. Fuck them.

Of course Shannon had spent most of her adult life single too. She sat at her desk and pulled at her messy hair. Her cat Simon the orange destroyer jumped in her lap purring. She joked his was the only male attention she needed, but that wasn't true. Something in her own life was missing, but no one ever seemed to understand her need to figure this out.

She didn't even know how she felt about justice anymore or the system. It had failed Emily so hard. She just wanted to know where her sister's body was. She wanted to be able to say goodbye. To bury her.

Emily had last been seen on CCTV footage in the coliseum and leaving it with this tall red headed kid. Green shirt. Maybe he had offered to walk her back to her dorm, but none of the CCTV cameras outside the dorms she would have passed before getting to her own picked her up. In a less than half a mile walk, Emily was gone. The police assumed she ran off with the boy, but that just wasn't Emily, and even when her clothes turned up a few blocks from the dorms, the police still shrugged their shoulders and said there were too many folks and that chances were slim. Shannon's heart was broken in pieces, and her family had never been the same.

No one had ever identified or tracked down this guy, but tomorrow might bring answers or at least open the door for them. Shannon got up again and packed all the pieces of Emily's disappearance. Tomorrow she was going on a little podcast that did deep dives in cold cases. Maybe someone would recognize the CCTV photos of this person or had been there that night and seen him or Emily or them together.

Every time she got her hopes up, she came away worse than ever before, but her love for Emily knew no ends. Hope would never die.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Spatulas on Parade

Wandering Web Designer

Follow Me Home

On the Border

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Sparkly Poetic Weirdo


  1. You left me hanging! I hope you pick up this story again at some point.

  2. I have a weird obsession with these kinds of "true crime" shows. Every once in a while I have to remind myself that they actually happen to real people. Your story made me feel like I was watching one. I'm going to pretend that Emily had amnesia and was found otherwise healthy. There aren't nearly enough happy endings.

  3. I love this story! I watch those murder shows all of the time, but this one is better.

  4. Great story and all too real these days.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

  5. I can't help but wonder... if they never found a body, how did they determine Emily was dead, murdered even?

    Did they trace her cell phone and credit card?

    I can relate to Shannon, I wouldn't be able to let it go either.