Chapter 1: Keila's Missing.
In the Braidwood Police Department, before Detective Russo’s desk, Mia Trinket sits on a visitor’s seat. She bops her right knee up down, posture rigid, beads of sweat accumulate on her temples.
Mia’s heart skips a beat when she hears the door behind her whine a high-pitched squeal. Her eyes remain in front of her, she heeds to; the heavy footsteps that thud behind her until Detective Russo appears in her peripheral view.He makes his way around the desk, and sinks unto the office chair.
“How are you, Miss Trinket?”
He reaches for his memo pad. After placing it in front of him, he retrieves one of the black pens held in a silver, steel beaker.
“Agitated, since I’m going to be late for my first day back at school.”
Detective Russo nods understandably. “You’re a senior, correct? This year is your last at Braidwood high before you graduate?” he asks, pen in hand.
“Do you know Keila Venus?” Mia’s eyebrows furrow and she stiffly nods a yes. “Are you two friends?”
Mia’s resolve wavers. "We... were.”
Detective Russo straightens in his seat and assess her with a cold, calculating look. “All students will be back at school today. Except for one. Keila Venus.”
Mia’s blood runs cold and her face blanches.
The detective examines her distraught expression. “You were not aware of this? That in the latter days of summer break, Keila went missing and until this day. No-one has seen her...” he trails off and allows Mia to digest the, apparent, new information.
Mia freezes. Perplexed. Shocked, yet somehow, not surprised.
“So, you said that you were friends with Keila Venus. Did you two have a falling out?”
Mia’s eyes widen and she slowly raises her gaze to meet with his. “Not at all. We just— we just grew apart. We haven’t hung out or even spoken to each other in years,” she stammers. Detective Russo nods and looks down to scribble a few words on the pad that Mia deems illegible from her line of sight.
“Interesting, because her mother said the same thing. But when the BPD’s forensic team cased her room, we found an old picture, framed, and shoved away in one of her draws. A picture of you, Keila Venus, Aries Black, Opal Chiang, Akin Ballo, and Erin Lockwood. Together. But much younger.”
Mia visibly stiffens and she clears her throat. “We all have our histories, Detective but—uh. How did she go missing? Who was the last person to see her?” Her hands begin to shake.
Detective Russo flares a brow. “According to her mother, she left abruptly in the night. She assumed at the time that it was for a night run, that it was a common stress reliever for her. However, when she awoke Keila had not returned and her running gear was still in her room.”
Mia clenches her hands to cease the trembles.
“Once the news is made public, a town-wide search will be on the way, with police dogs and the entire BPD to canvas the woods—”
“She’s not there.” Mia snappily interjects.
Detective Russo slants forward and the pen drops onto the pad so he can intertwine his fingers together, and stare back at her quizzically.
“Look,” she begins. “Keila and I knew each other when we were kids, yes. But a lot can change in seven years, although, one thing that will not is Keila’s fear of the woods. If she was abducted. Search away but if Keila willingly ran away. She’d rather spend a day in hell than a minute in those woods.”
An unreadable look flits across Detective Russo’s face and without breaking eye-contact, he tilts to the side to pull open the second draw of his desk, picks up a case file from the top pile and slaps it down in front of him. He pushes the draw back close and tents his fingers above the file.
“Could you be referring to the trauma she faced, including yourself, seven years ago. When Erin Lockwood disappeared in the woods too?” His eyes darken. “Except, she had witnesses to her disappearance. You, Keila Venus, Aries Black, Opal Chiang, Akin Ballo. If I did not know any better... I’m detecting a bit of a... pattern.” He emphasizes and Mia steels her resolve, jaw tightening.
“What? Do you honestly think that we had something to do with that?” Eyes strung wide in bewilderment.
Maddened, Mia shoves her hand down the neckline of her white, long-sleeved jersey reaching for her gold necklace and pulls out the pendant that hangs at the bottom. Half a heart with a jagged, broken line on its flank and the word. Best. Written on the one half of the heart that she wears.
“Erin Lockwood was my best friend; we all were and Keila Venus was a part of that. We would never harm each other. I admit...” Mia straggles off and she forces the words from out of her tautened teeth. “After what happened with Erin. We all went our separate ways. Not because of each other, but because we didn’t know how to deal with—” She cuts herself off and carefully chooses her next words.
“I don’t know what happened with Keila, but I want to do anything that I can to help you find her.” Mia’s thumb caresses the golden heart, its edges rusted. “Anything....”
Detective Russo eyes her down suspiciously and inclines his head.
“You are free to go, Miss Trinket. The school has already been informed and they will announce her, officially, as a missing person in the assembly.” Mia bops her head and leans down to scoop up the strap of her backpack with her forearm, her bag that sat by the foot of her seat.
She rises to her feet and slides the strap unto her shoulder. She swivels and makes a brisk start towards the exit. Mia leans down to scoop up the strap of her backpack and slips it onto her shoulder. Once at the door, she sneaks a glance behind her.
Detective Russo flips the case file open and starts to review it.
She moves to continue her exit, and the door cries a farewell as she closes it behind her with a soft click.
Mia manages a few steps forward in the dimly lit corridor, and suddenly, something tight clenches her chest and suffocates her with an avalanche of guilt. Her arm shoots out to press her hand against the wall for stability, she nears it and leans her shoulder against the wall.
She takes a moment to gather her emotions, before she resumes her journey to the staircase and makes her way out of the precinct.
Shortly, Mia bursts out of the double doors and trots down the tarmac steps, passing a blue and black haze of policemen and woman.
Mia’s mother, Irene Trinket, awaits in her car, parked on the kerbside, a few meters away from the precinct along the sidewalk. Mia hastily makes her way down the footpath and reaches her mother’s vehicle. She pops the passenger door open and glides into the seat, slamming the door shut and dumping her backpack by her feet.
“What did Mark Russo want to speak you about?” Her mom asks. She slides her black frames down the bridge of her nose, to peer over at her curiously.
"Detective Russo,” she corrects. “He wanted to interrogate me about what I knew of Keila’s disappearance.”
Irene’s breathing hitches. “Keila!”
Mia stretches her hand over her shoulder to grip the seat belt and aggressively yanks it forward to strap it over her torso and clips it in.
“Keila Venus? The same Keila that was part of your old crew with... Erin?”
Mia leans forward to bury her face in her hands.
“I’ll take that as a yes....” Irene turns her face forward. “My lord... I can’t believe this is happening... not again.”
Mia tears her hands from her face and slams the back of her head against the seat. “Can you start the car...? I’m going to be late for school,” she mumbles.
“Does Opal know?”
Mia shoots her an irritated look. “I don’t know, how would she?”
“Because she was once part of your old friend group. Maybe she—”
"Mom. Please. I don’t want to talk about this.” She urges. Irene glances over at her and places a warm hand on her forehead before she turns the key in the ignition. The car rumbles and promptly Irene steers the car to left and into the lane.
You’re probably wondering what happened to Keila? But most importantly, what happened to Erin Lockwood, too? No-one knows.
A cold case, dormant for years. No leads, no suspects. Nothing. And they won’t find any. No leads, no body and no suspects. Because Erin Lockwood was murdered, not by a who but by a what. By something that I didn’t know existed. By something that shouldn’t exist. Which is why they could never tell anyone and most importantly, how they were the ones that led Erin Lockwood to her unexplainable. Unspeakable.