Book Excerpt – Running to Fall: A Novel

Running to Fall: A Novel
by Kalisha Buckhanon

Publication Date: Nov 01, 2022
List Price: $18.95
Format: Paperback, 321 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780979637407
Imprint: AALBC Aspire
Publisher: AALBC Publishing
Parent Company:, LLC

Read a Description of Running to Fall: A Novel

Copyright © 2022 AALBC Publishing/Kalisha Buckhanon No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.

Chapter 6

Victor looked like a chill Saturday morning. I smelled his usual coconut and oils scent. Also, the scent of a river. His hands held a gray mush: long fish bodies and downturned faces in clear plastic tied at their fanned tails. A sprinkle of pink perspired at bottom of the bag. In his right hand, he had the mail. I relieved him of all this. The officers rose to introduce themselves.

My short journey to the kitchen gifted me a slip past the living room. I used the remote, not voice control, to get the big screen to black. Then I rolled it back up behind a wood panel, no sign it was there. I heard a soliloquy like Victor talked for a living.

“I see my own daughter in Raven McCoy,” he said. “I’ve worried for her since this situation has hovered over us all. It’s sad. Her loved ones have my sympathy.”

“Yes, we see your blog wrote kind things about her discovery,” Detective Wise noted.

Victor looked puzzled, then not.

“Oh right,” he nodded to me. I had written kind things about her.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “My wife handles most of our communications.”

So they had really looked into all residents. Victor kept a pragmatic approach. He wanted to refrain from associating us with it so much. “It’s not many blacks out here,” he reminded me.

However as a woman myself — and a black woman — I felt we needed to be active in this. I tied The Powellcast’s sympathy blog into words of caution for all parents, but especially of girls. A homage to community bonding and unity despite isolation. I highlighted the link where we had donated to the McCoy family.

I tossed the mail on the island near oils, vinegars, cooking wines. The fish was wrapped familiarly. From a Chicago River market on our ways in and out of the city. Just Victor’s short weekend drive to free up from working, to flee temptations to stay involved with people and his audience at all times online, and to add a new thing to know about. I set the fish in the sink. I washed my hands under a low stream. The water released the pent up tension of my sudden testifying. I went through a small orange Gatorade in six or seven swallows. My eyes fell on a manila envelope in the mail bundle, fat and square instead of thin and rectangular.

I pat my hands on oven mitts to dry them. The manila envelope had no postage. It had handwriting, not keyboard labels, and the script felt familiar. It was just something with Victor’s name. Victor Powell. Simple. A sharpie.

Others were in the house. The rest of the pile was standard statements and bills — nothing Victor would look for or miss or ask about later. I stuffed it all in the cubby for print magazines, with the envelope with his name. He’d ask me where. Then, I’d ask him about it.

I walked back to the others. Victor didn’t do too much coffee, probably had green tea already. He carried a BPA-free water bottle out the house just for health nut show. He would be dehydrated by now, I knew. I filled him a coffee mug of water and stood behind his chair. He started the table onto dark chocolate after-drink mints. I reached over his shoulder to select one.

“They were just telling me it seems to be little reason the young lady was last seen at a Grayson spa,” Victor said. “You know, the one I gave you a gift certificate to last fall?”

I only nodded. I felt my face was tight. My throat was too. The envelope was in my mind.

“You were a patron there, too, Mrs. Powell?” Wise asked.

“Once,” I thought out loud. “Maybe twice.”

“She has her faves in the city,” Victor said. “Most of our friends are in Chicago.”

Magnificent Mile, Gold Coast and Streeterville skyscrapers remained my go-to for essentials. Mario Tricoci salons for my hair, to my shoulders for hundreds of dollars a month in blowouts and deep treatments. I resorted to sloppy braids, split ends and grays with them closed.

Wise spoke through her melting chocolate, dead serious and deadpan.

“We have reasons to believe she was picked up at the spa by someone who lived in Grayson Glens and that person is the key to understanding what happened to her. No CCTV camera in that area. But the last time her phone pinged was a time we know she was at the spa.”

“I had a pedicure, massage, some waxing there,” I recalled. “I met the owner at the Arts Center Gala, so I got a discount. I wouldn’t be able to help figure out who was there recently.”

“This was about four months ago,” Wise continued. “End of December.”

“That’s more recent than the last time I was in that spa,” I replied.

“You were at the local body shop recently,” Loveless said. “Or excuse me, months ago?”

“No, I wasn’t — ”

I felt Victor’s shoulders harden under my fingers. He waved his hand to quiet me.

“Yes, I had some work done there,” he said.

Wise went back into her notebook.

“You, or your wife?” she asked.

“The Jeep belongs to both of us,” my husband said.

“Some exterior damage repair and full detailing for a new 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee, black, plate number ILBD...” Wise read. From notes.

“Yes,” Victor said. “I met the owner at the Arts Center Gala and checked the dude out.”

“Why?” Wise asked.

“What does what we do with our vehicles have to do with Raven McCoy?”

“We’re curious about area vehicles that got body work or detailing around last time Raven McCoy was seen,” the detective said. “A brand new vehicle needed that much?”

“It did.”

“And so urgently you dropped it off on Christmas Eve? For what, a holiday road trip?”

“Am I being accused of something?”

Victor’s code switched up a notch. I’d seen him turn on a dime.

“Not at all, Mr. Powell.”

“What’s next? You wanna take this cup out of my house to get my DNA?”

“Victor—” I began. Too late.

“Sir, we’re taking a real close look at men in the area and possible connections to a very attractive young woman, whose family or friends know no reason she was running around in this area. Or how she was financially taken care of. Where were you last December 23rd?”

“A Wednesday,” Wise said. “Day before Christmas Eve, when you took in the Jeep.”

“I don’t know,” Victor said. “Definitely wasn’t getting ready to host a family gathering or go to church. We were getting arrested for that, remember? So guess I was home with my wife.”

“And we could verify all that?”

“You mean that Wednesday or Christmas Eve? I’d have to look at my books for the time. Let’s see. For holidays we had Facetimes, Zooms, Facebook? I took in the truck, but…”

Victor was angry and he stood, a suspect of what we didn’t even know.

“You seem to be looking for more than if I got work done on my truck. And you’re planting some strange ideas about me in front of my wife.”

“We’re questioning all men in the area,” Loveless stressed. “You’re a man in the area.”

“Yes, including young men and even boys,” Wise agreed. “An age range.”

“Like, a profile?” I questioned.

“Yeah,” Victor answered. “A profile. Does this profile have a race?”

“Mr. Powell, be sure that has nothing to do with it,” Wise insisted.

“Well you can’t get too far if your suspect’s a white male. That’s all there is here.”

Victor started to the door. The police stood their ground.

Finally, Victor said “From now, my attorney can address anything to do with my profile.”

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary now,” the chief said. “But if that’s your choice.”

I followed them out. The law’s heels and soles played a different melody now. I imagined they were looking around. But I could’ve been imagining everything. The odd night, restless morning, hangover, strange envelope vibrating in a kitchen cupboard. All a fugue.

“Good day,” Victor smiled from beside our front door.

We came all the way to high price point boondocks in belief price tags meant something. That zip codes were bulletproof to the same old offenses. Now this.

After her backup had gone, Detective Wise turned back. I soaked up my husband’s get the fuck outta here rage decades of professionalism taught him to tame.

“Where does your name, Tragedy, come from?” she asked.

“It’s a long story,” I told her.

She smiled, nodded and caught up to her boss.

I knew it took all Victor had to hold the door to its close instead of slam it. He turned, speechless. I went to wipe away signs of the intrusion. Neither officer touched their drinks. But of course. Everybody everywhere must offer them a caffeine jolt. Water, surely. It’s just prudent custom for them to accept something. Empty chocolate wrappers, though.

I could see Victor wanted to speak. But the speech would go on all night. It would run over everything in its path. We would turn into people we didn’t want to be. We would lose our humanity and just become profiles: black people in America, same shit, a different day.

I wanted to tell him to dig up the number to the grandparents we met at the Arts Center Gala. The Pitts were black people like us. Nothing like the squad of color we would have with people our own ages. We hardly saw them but in town or at their annual shindig for all their black friends and family to descend on the Glens, camp out the weekend and drink copiously. It would be racial if Christian Pitts were a suspect — my God, he and Mrs. Pitts were more likely to have wanted to adopt Raven McCoy than carry out some affair or worse with the girl.

“I left some watermelon in the truck,” I heard.

In solitude finally, I remembered something from the night.

Something in the truck. Surely where Victor could see. Damn.

The crates of wine.

Read AALBC Aspire’s description of Running to Fall: A Novel.