Nail clippings


We found nail clippings lying in the sink in the bathroom at his apartment. It looks like it was one of the final things he did before leaving, getting into his car and driving across town. Maybe he cut them too short – maybe that was what made him do it? They were serious clippings for a guy.

It’s irritating, frustrating, when you do that, leave them too short, expose the quick, even wound the nailbed. But easily done. A casual slip, a simple misjudgement. If you keep your nails relatively long, there’s plenty to play with, margin for error. But if they’re short anyway – it doesn’t take much in the way of carelessness and you’re in trouble.

Then you get that uncomfortable feeling. It’s not quite pain – unless you really do draw blood – but it’s impossible to ignore. And you can’t put them back on once they’ve been cut, can you?

There’s a Charlie Brown cartoon I recall from childhood, a line one of the characters says – maybe even Charlie himself. “Cutting your fingernails too short is like discovering your psychiatrist has gone away for the weekend.” Or perhaps it’s the other way round? Anyway, it always kills me thinking about it.

He drank a coffee at Nina’s, down by the riverfront. We know that because we have the footage. There’s a traffic camera on that corner, trying to catch drivers jumping the lights. He arrives at 10.25, alone, looking nervous. We can’t tell that from his face – the resolution’s not that good. But he’s doing a lot of looking around, guilty fidgeting, almost like he’s expecting to be watched, when all the time he is being watched, of course. Maybe he never noticed that camera?

He empties six of those little sachets of sugar into his coffee. Can you believe that? At first we thought the tape must be sticking on playback, except they don’t use tape these days of course. It’s all digital. And even though he’s already cut his nails to the quick – probably – he’s gnawing away at his finger-ends. Long enough and he’d be down to bone.

She arrives at 11. Classy. One of those who wears sunglasses all the time when she’s outside. I’m just guessing here, of course. Very unprofessional of me. I can’t prove it, and it’s probably not relevant. He gets up to kiss her. She must be in heels, because they’re almost the same height, and he’s no midget. Five eleven, easy. Maybe six.

And then they leave.

That’s all we have. Our guys are searching the river, but we’re not hopeful. After all the storms of the last few days, it’s fuller than it’s been for years. It’s conceivable anything of interest could’ve been washed out into the ocean by now.

Looking at it, it would be difficult to pinpoint a specific, solely-responsible catalyst for something like this – it usually is. Sometimes one thing simply leads to another. Maybe his fingernails had nothing to do with it. It’s just something we noticed. The forensics guys are running DNA tests on the clippings, naturally. But there’ll probably be nothing under his nails for them to look at if we ever do find him.


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