Process

In mid-May, a 22-year-old student at the local university was riding her bike at 2 o’clock in the morning when a registered sex offender intentionally hit her with his vehicle. He then kidnapped her, killed her, and buried her about 45 miles from her home.

This story is only complete now, months after the occurrence, after leaking out in bits and pieces. First, posters offering a $10,000 award for information about Mickey were plastered to every pole in the city. Local businesses held fundraisers in support of the daily search parties. The local Walgreens flashed a Bring Mickey Home message on its billboard, which flashed side-by-side with an ad for milk.

A woman where I work proudly displayed her brand-new pink taser, which she had bought after Mickey’s disappearance. She demonstrated how it worked. It made a sizzling sound.

Posters offering a $25,000 reward were taped to walls of building and car windows.  Judy Blume retweeted a Bring Mickey Home message.

Students stuck Solo cups into a fence facing a busy street–the cup’s bottoms facing out to read Bring Mickey Home in bright red.

It was headline news when her bicycle was found bobbing in a river by fisherman 25 miles outside of the city. The damage to it indicated that it had been hit by a car. Then footage was released of a white pick-up truck that had been caught by several different security cameras at the time of the kidnapping. White trucks are as common as oxygen here.

A registered sex offender was arrested. A press conference was held, which all of the local stations aired live. Police from several different agencies filed in to report that they had arrested the man for murder and sexual assault, but would not disclose any details on how they determined that Mickey was dead.

Here’s an odd thing about living in (what I would deem) a small city: I’ve been to the bar Mickey was at before she was kidnapped. The small diner she was reportedly urging her friends to visit to for a post-bar bite to eat? I pass it several times a day. The Taco Bell she actually ended up patronizing? I know exactly where it is. Everyone knows exactly where it is. There aren’t that many Taco Bells around here.
So that’s the odd thing about living in a dainty Southern city. When such a horrific thing happens, your daily commute turns into some sort of morbid death tour. Going to Walmart? See Mickey’s final Taco Bell stop. Bring Mickey Home. Bring Mickey Home.

After the arrest, new posters went up around Lafayette, proclaiming that the search for Mickey would never stop. I only saw a few of those.

“Did you hear about that student?” people asked. “Did you see her creepy-looking friend being interviewed? Did you hear they found the bike? Did you hear that search parties dragged the river yesterday, and didn’t fish anything else out? Did you hear they arrested somebody? Did you hear he had teeth marks on him? Did you hear he won’t tell where he buried her?”

So when Mickey’s body was finally discovered yesterday, far from the epicenter of all of the interest and fascination, I felt a kind of sorrow that I hold absolutely no claim to. I admit to be totally embarrassed by that sorrow, being swept up in the sick salaciousness of it all, as embarrassed as if I’d been caught picking my nose or adjusting my underwear in public. But there it is.

I’ve been editing two novels lately. In one, the murder of two boys is played for laughs: there’s an image of their limbs circling lazily through the air, and I love that image.
In the second, a murder mystery, the death scene maintains a kind of coy vagueness, as is required by the genre. “Murder” is a stand-in for “bad thing.” “Murderer” might as well be “cigarette smoker” or “person who rips Band-aids off of children without telling them.” I feel a little strange about it. And that’s really all I have to say about it, is that I feel a little strange and sad.

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