About a discussion on Friday, September 9, 1997
We didn’t have murders in town, except for the time that Crazy Cathy shot her husband with his hunting rifle, but that was a pretty open and close case.
Brant Garrison was the Sheriff’s boy. He was a patrol officer at the local station, the one across from Liza’s Pizza. When Dani went missing he was automatically appointed as Detective, seeing as there were no detectives at his station. Brant was 2 years older than Dani & I, but he’d been our buddy since we came up to the High School. Dani’s case was more than just a job boost for him.
His brother, Joseph Garrison, took over Caleb’s defense shortly after the initial sentencing. Back in 1997, he was merely a law school student who shared a carpool & internship cubicle with Caleb. The two men were also new to fatherhood – Allie Mitchell & Scottie Garrison were both 2 years old when Dani died. Joseph Garrison was the only person in town that had anything in common with Caleb. Except for Dani & I, of course.
Dani told me everything. She always did…
…but she never told me about the fight that she’d had with Caleb the day she left town. Caleb, on the other hand, felt the need to vent to Joseph Garrison.
Joseph & I have been over the conversation multiple times & still can’t get past its ambiguous implications.
“He told me he forbid her to leave,” Joseph said. “That she was immature, she was slowly losing her mind, & that he refused to put up with it anymore. She had wanted to take Allie with her & he said ‘like hell you will.’ He told me that if she was gone when he got home…”
“He’d what?” I asked. “What was the rest of that sentence?”
“I don’t remember. It was one of those conversations you didn’t think you’d have to remember. I was busy filing client invoices.”
“Yet, you told the police & the court that he said, ‘If she’s gone when I get home, I’ll kill her’.”
“That could very well have been what he said. I just don’t…Honestly, Mer, at the time nothing stuck out as unusual. Even if he did say that, I just took it as a euphemism. How many times have any of us thrown around that phrase? Yet, in light of everything else that surfaced, Caleb was inadvertently laying the groundwork for his arrest. Whether or not he killed her, I couldn’t just sit on that information. I wanted to find her just as much as Brant did.”
Joseph had a crush on Dani for a month in High School. It was one of those minor anecdotes that slip into the back of your mind until something jars it into consciousness. He wrote her one of those notes – I like you, do you like me, circle yes or no. It wasn’t creepy or lame like if one of the band kids had written it. It was cute.
He even added a clause, “You better not write maybe & circle it.” Dani wrote “possibly” & circled it. Then, Joseph never followed up. Though I swear his cheeks rouged at the mention of her name, or even the name Danny for that matter.
Sometimes I think they might have done pretty well if they’d actually gotten together. I see an alternate world where Allie and Scottie are siblings. Twins even. But then I guess they would’ve been different children, different genes. And what would have happened to Caleb? If Dani had gone to college in a serious relationship, who would Caleb have dated? Is it weird to think that he could have ended up with me? Of course, I don’t think of Caleb like that, but he’s an admirable guy and he’s better than the Nobody I’m with now. Can you imagine if that one little detail were different, it could have changed all of our trajectories. If Dani had just circled “yes” on that love note, we could all have different lives today. And maybe Dani would still be alive.
Even on that particular Friday, Joseph had no way of knowing that while he was filing invoices & listening to Caleb’s babble, I’d be saying goodbye to Dani for the last time.