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The Miriam Garshowitz Case

The night was silent. The city had gone to sleep and the streets were deserted. A woman stood by the entrance to the Sheraton Hotel and inhaled the mild summer air. An empty streetcar rumbled by and she watched it until it reached the intersection. The silence returned and she glanced at her watch. It was twelve-ten. After more than twenty hours in flight, she was too tired to sleep. Ten hours on Qantas Airways from Sydney to Honolulu and ten more on Air Canada to Toronto had screwed up her body clock. She’d crossed so many time zones her body didn’t know whether to rest or run. She had stepped outside after leaving her luggage in her room, wanting to inhale real air.

Tomorrow was going to be a difficult day and she wasn’t eager to start it. She was returning home to see her father, a father she blamed for her mother’s death. She had been seeing a psychiatrist and it all came down to closure. She needed to face him for the answers she didn’t have; her reluctance to face him was the reason she had left. A police car slowly drove by and the cop smiled at her. They had called Toronto a friendly city when she was last here, and it appeared the cops were just as friendly.

She decided to walk around the hotel and re-enter from York Street, giving her at least fifteen minutes of fresh air, maybe enough for her body to want to sleep. She tucked her purse under her arm and proceeded walking briskly, turned down Bay Street with its wide boulevards and bright lights for one block, then turned onto Richmond, which was narrower and darker. The illumination from the streetlights did not extend much beyond their bases. The street appeared empty. She hastened her steps. An unexpected sound caused her heart to quicken and she stopped, realizing it had come from just ahead of her. She took a hesitant step back, in time to sense a blur of motion in the periphery of her vision. She felt a terrible pain when her head was struck, dropped her purse, then nothing, and her unconscious body collapsed to the sidewalk.

The red van was parked on the shoulder of the Don Valley Parkway; the driver slouched back in his seat, a cigarette in his mouth, when the police patrol car pulled up behind him. The cop got out and walked to the driver’s side. “Everything all right?” he asked the driver.

“Yes, sir. Tired. Thought I would take a short nap.”

“It’s a bad place to park,” the cop said.

“All right, then. I’ll be moving on,” the man said.

The cop shone his flashlight on the driver for a moment, then directed the beam around the interior of the van before answering. “Yes, sure. Drive safely,” he said.

“I will.” The engine roared to life and the van drove off.

The cop made a note of the license plate and the time. It was twelve thirty-one.

White steam hissed from under the car hood. The vehicle sputtered to a stop and the driver climbed out. He stood on the grass and cursed his predicament. He was going to be late for his appointment in Markham. He flipped open the hood and watched the steam billow into the sky, then edged to the front door of his car to use his telephone. Traffic on the Don Valley Parkway was at its peak and the long continuous lines of vehicles passed him without interruption. Just as he was about to climb into his car, a fox came out from the underbrush, dragging something with its mouth. The driver stared at the fox in horror, then bent down quickly, picked up several stones and hurled them one after the other at the fox, striking him a couple of times. The fox released the object and raced away. The driver ran to the object and stared down at it – it was the head of a young woman. He ran back to his car and called the police on his cell phone.