Tag Archives: Stories

Excerpt from “Black Swan Hunting”

Photo by Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash

Content Warning: this story alludes to spousal abuse and the assumed death/suicide of a distraught woman.

I’ve been working on a writing project idea for a murder mystery with lots of twists and turns. Just what everyone needs, right? I love murder mysteries that involve birds – I’ve been writing them since I was 8… though that one was terrible. It involved a frontier family being murdered and the daughter being brought back to life as a falcon who hunts down their murderer for revenge! He stole their family’s gold! Peck out your eyes because it’s a falcon with a gun! It got silly. I hope I’m better at writing murder mysteries now.

I fell in love with black swans while we were in New Zealand from December 2018 – January 2019. They behave differently than our North American sassy sociopaths that have a penchant for mauling small children along lakesides. Instead they are the more chill goth cousins that happen to be open about their homosexuality. That said, I would not put it past them to maul a child or two just for funsies on occasion.

How do black swans connect to this story? Well, that will be revealed in time. Let me know what you think of this brief preview in the comments.


The rain-soaked through Harriet’s trench coat as the mud swallowed her boots, belching with each step toward the fiery wreckage. Her umbrella braced against the torrential spring storm while the sergeant shouted over the pummeling drops. “Just spoke with the husband. Seems there’d been an argument and she’d taken off with the car a few hours ago. Someone in town says they saw her buying a bottle of vodka.” He paused and gazed at the flames spewing from the driver’s side window against the efforts of rescue workers. “A body is still inside, but it will be a few days before the official medical examiner’s report.”

Harriet’s heart sank. Another death on another stormy night. “How’s the husband?” She asked, shielding her eyes against a stinging attack of wind and infernal heat.

“Seems real broken up over it, but it sounds like a mate’s supporting him. Not much you can do here – you might as well go see him.” He ripped and folded a piece of paper, pressing it into her palm. “That’s the address.”

With a final glance at the war waging between emergency services as they continued to attack the blaze with billowing flame retardants, she slogged back to her car.

When Harriet arrived, the townhome glowed with two men visible through the front window. With her muddy boots in the back seat, she rummaged through her passenger seat finding only her gym bag for a pair of non-muddy sneakers to pull on over her damp wool socks. Taking a deep breath, she thanked God she was not tasked with delivering the bad news. Opening the car door, she scurried to the storm door, opening it and knocking as one of the silhouettes moved to greet her.

A familiar tall, slender man with grey temples answered. “Hello?”

“Sorry to disturb you so late, I’m Detective Dunn. Is John Morrisey available?” As she spoke, the recognition connected in her brain and her face reddened. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Rogers. No one informed me you were involved in this case.”

He opened the door with his face cast down, “The Morriseys are dear friends. Please come in, Detective.” Removing her wet sneakers in the foyer, she followed the man into the front room where a broken John Morrisey folded himself into the corner of the bay window. “John, there’s a detective here to see you.”

John lifted a head of dirty blond hair from his knees to reveal swollen grey-green eyes. “Is my wife really dead?”

Harriet swallowed. “I’m afraid the car appeared to have someone inside, yes.” Turning to look at the other man she motioned to a plush armchair and sat when he nodded. “It’s important that we ask questions as soon as possible to reduce lost information. Do you think you can help?”

John closed his eyes and nodded. “I can try.”

Harried pulled a notepad and pencil from her bag. “Mr. Rogers, were you also present?”

“Please, call me Dustin. I think it will help John feel easier.” Dustin sat next to John on the window seat, putting an arm around his shoulder. “I came over shortly after Libby and John fought.”

“What did you fight about?” Harriet jotted the date and time at the top of the page.

“I filed for divorce.” A tear escaped John’s eyes.

“And she did not agree?” Harriet pressed, a small point of graphite forming on the page where the pencil rested.

“Correct.” John nodded. “Our relationship had degraded since the birth of our daughter, Kedra.”

“How so?” Harriet scanned the two men as Dustin’s expression changed.

“There are police reports,” Dustin added. “Libby’s behavior had always been wild. But she started hurting both John and Kedra.” John nodded, his face red and breathing irregular.

“She’s just a baby! I had to protect her!” John sobbed. “When I told Libby we were moving out – that I was taking Kedra – she lost it. Fucking lost it. At first, she started hitting me until I said I was calling the police. Said I’d be sorry. Said I’d regret it.” John crumpled. “Then she drove off with our car and I called Dustin.” John wailed as an infant awoke somewhere in the house. “I never wanted her to die! She’s my wife! I loved her!”

Harriet watched John slide to the floor from the window seat, her hands gripping her notepad and pencil. “Do you know where she went after she left?”

John shook his head while Dustin’s shoulders slacked. “I called some of her friends, but no one had seen her.” Dustin stood up and walked from the room, returning moments later holding a crying child around a year old against his shoulder.

“About what time did she leave with the car?” Harriet frowned as John lifted his head and mumbled. “I’m so sorry, could you repeat that?”

“Five-thirty this evening.” John choked out through a sob.

Harriet wrote the time and stared at it. The accident report came in shortly after eleven leaving five and a half hours unaccounted for. She returned her gaze to John and softened her face, putting away her notebook and pencil. “John, I’m so sorry for you and your daughter’s loss.” Reaching into her wallet, she fished out two cards, passing one to each of the men. “If either of you thinks of anything or need anything, please do not hesitate to give me a call. I’m going to go ahead and get out of your hair for the night.”

Departing the house she called her partner from the car – he’d know what to do. “Hey – have you started the case file on the Morrisey death?”

“You know I have.” Her favorite partner’s melodic voice responded. “More details?”

“The wife left the house with the family car around five-thirty in the evening.” She read off her notes. “Be sure to pull up all domestics filed on Libby Morrisey. It sounds like she had a record from the past year. The husband filed for divorce. He told her this shortly before she left the house.”

“I’ll have it all pulled by the time you’re here, dog.” Her partner grinned through the phone. “Drive safe – bad weather out there.”

“I will.” Harriet fastened herself into the vehicle and looked back at the house where two silhouettes faded into the background of a backlit bay window with pulled curtains just before turning out the lights.


Thank you for taking the time to read this draft excerpt today! If you would like to follow this project or see updates, please like, comment, and/or share. This helps me know which stories and projects interest my readers the most.

Things That Influence My Writing: Missing And Unidentified

Why Am I Drawn To The Stories Of Missing People?

I have a tendency to wander off – in grocery stores, in parking lots, in Costco. I get this trait from my father. At one point this led to an interesting scenario where I was 17 and in the back of a police car, but that’s a story for after I’m dead.

This is why I wear a GPS enabled watch with Find My Friends and cell service. It’s because my husband loves me and genuinely cares for my safety and is the only person on this planet that has access to that information in case he can’t find me one of these times I’ve wandered off somewhere. Flowers and books can be distracting when you’re in the woods.

There are a lot of people like me in this world. And there are a lot of people mixed up in bad 💩 one way or another. I look at these cases and I see missing people that could have been me, but I’ve always found my way back. I’ve never been lost – for some reason I have a confident sense of direction even when in wilderness areas. I can’t explain that part, but I bet many of these people felt the same way – they tripped and fell without a way for someone to find them.

I think about their families and that’s where I get stuck. I struggle with understanding extremes of emotions – I tend to shut down instead. I think about how many of those families also shut down and the generations down the line that shutting down impacts. It’s like a death with no closure – it’s so much worse because it’s unknown.

Montana has a huge number of missing persons and cold cases. A lot of these cases are children and there is some suspicion that some of these kids end up in Canada, human trafficking, (sometimes both of those), and worse.

Unidentified Remains

For more information: https://canadasmissing.ca/index-eng.htm

The world is full of unidentified bodies and missing persons. Some of the reconstruction methods for unidentified bodies are better than others – the (Combination) Manchester Method used in the video above is one of the better methods and is a more recent improvement. And all of these bodies are missing their stories.

With these newer methods we are finally putting faces to the skeletons of unidentified remains. These faces have helped family members identify lost loved ones years after their disappearance and finally put what happened to them to rest.

Last autumn I listened to The Disappearance of Des on my commute. It’s a podcast about Desmond Francis Carr – an Australian man who died in 1979. It was when I started listening to missing persons podcasts that I realized just how many unsolved disappearances. In fact, every few years a news network like NPR in 2013, or even Local News Stations in 2019 notes just how many cases go unsolved and that some states seem to have more than others – in that report Alaska, Arizona, and Oregon has the top 3 lead, with Georgia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts having the fewest missing people per 100,000 residents.

According to NAMUS the United States has 4,400 unidentified bodies found every year and 600,000 people go missing. I think of the number of lives impacted by those 600,000 missing stories and then I realize that’s why all of those podcasts exist. That’s why people need to keep talking about these missing people.

Recent Cases In Montana

As of Friday, 56 children are missing in the state of Montana. The demographics break down as follows:

Here’s a nifty chart I made for everyone to show the comparison.

Without equal representation in both sex categories, I can’t run a full analysis, so I had to throw one of the categories out. If we focus on just the white and native children and look to see if there’s any statistically significant difference between the numbers of children missing in these groups, there isn’t (this is assuming boys and girls all have equal representation within the population).

There are going to be those that argue with me about the inaccuracies of this analysis because of the identities of these children. If the identity is impacting the way the child is now presenting to the world that’s important information that people should come forward about, but that is not information available on the sheet provided by Montana DOJ. I am working only with that information.

I ran it with a generous 95% confidence interval:

The chi-square statistic is 0.1922. The p-value is .661126. Not significant at p < .05


The chi-square statistic with Yates correction is 0.0195. The p-value is .889073. Not significant at p < .05.

There is one thing that is significant though – these populations are supposed to be statistically different. Only 6% of Montana’s population is Native American, so why are 37.5% of missing children from that demographic? If children were being selected randomly from the population, then the distribution should be proportionate to our population, not insignificantly different between the two groups.

That would mean that if missing children were proportionate we would expect only 3.36/56 missing children to be Native American versus the reality of 21/56 missing children (following the percentages mentioned above). Comparing these proportions with a one-tailed Z-test and a generous significance level of 0.05:

The value of z is -4.0403. The value of p is < .00001. The result is significant at p < .05.

NAMUS has a special program in place because of this issue. You can check out the United States Department of Justice’s data sheet here. Montana is one of the states that has not yet passed legislation mandating case entry into this database. I understand that a lot of decisions will need to be worked out.

Anyways, that’s a lot of rambling. This is a heavy subject to write about. If you have any interest in this topic consider volunteering your time to write about a missing person cold case for some form of media. There are a lot out there – more than have been written about.

Thank you for reading. Without you these little bits of data aren’t anything – communication requires a recipient and for you I am grateful.