Chapter no 53 – Missing Link

Where the Crawdads Sing


The next morning, Tom had only one more witness. His last card.

He called Tim O’Neal, who had operated his own shrimping boat in the waters off Barkley Cove for thirty-eight years. Tim, nearing sixty-five, tall yet stout, had thick brown hair with only whispers of gray, yet a full beard, nearly white. Folks knew him to be quiet and serious, honest and gracious, always opening doors for ladies. The perfect last witness.

“Tim, is it correct that on the night of October 29 to the 30 of last year, you were skippering your boat into Barkley Cove Harbor at approximately 1:45 to 2:00 A.M.?”


“Two of your crew members, Mr. Hal Miller, who testified here, and Mr. Allen Hunt, who signed an affidavit, both claim they saw Miss Clark motoring north past the harbor in her boat at approximately the times mentioned. Are you aware of their declarations?”


“Did you see the same boat, at that time and place, that both Mr. Miller and Mr. Hunt saw?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And do you agree with their statements that it was Miss Clark in her boat that you saw motoring north?”

“No. I do not.”

“Why not?”

“It was dark. There was no moon until later. And that boat was too far away to recognize with any certainty. I know everybody ’round here with that kinda boat, and I’ve seen Miss Clark in hers plenty a’ times, and known right away it was her. But that night, it was too dark to recognize that boat or who was in it.”

“Thank you, Tim. No more questions.”



Eric walked up close to the witness stand. “Tim, even if you could not identify that boat, or who exactly was in it, do you agree that a rig about the same size and shape as Miss Clark’s boat was headed toward the Barkley Cove Fire Tower at approximately 1:45

A.M. the night Chase Andrews died at the fire tower around that time?”

“Yes, I can say the boat was a similar shape and size as Miss Clark’s.”

“Thank you very much.”

On redirect, Tom rose and spoke from where he stood. “Tim, to confirm, you testified that you have recognized Miss Clark in her boat many times, but on that evening, you saw nothing at all to identify that boat or boater to be Miss Clark in her rig. Correct?”


“And can you tell us, are there very many boats the same size and shape as Miss Clark’s boat operating in this area?”

“Oh yes, hers is one of the most common types of boat around.

There’s lots of boats just like hers operating here.”

“So the boater you saw that night could have been any number of other persons in a similar boat?”


“Thank you. Your Honor, the defense rests.”

Judge Sims said, “We’ll recess for twenty minutes. Court dismissed.”



• • •

FOR HIS CLOSING, Eric wore a tie with wide gold and burgundy stripes. The gallery was quietly expectant as he approached the jury and stood at the railing, passing his eyes deliberately from one to the next.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you are members of a community, of a proud and unique town. Last year you lost one of your own sons. A young man, a shining star of your neighborhood, looking forward to a long life with his beautiful . . .”

Kya barely heard him as he repeated his account of how she murdered Chase Andrews. She sat, elbows on the table, her head in her hands, catching only fragments of his discourse.

“. . . Two well-known men in this community saw Miss Clark and Chase in the woods . . . heard her saying the words I will kill you! . . . a red wool cap that left fibers on his denim jacket . . . Who else would want to remove that necklace . . . you know these currents and winds can drastically increase the speed . . .

“We know from her lifestyle that she is very capable of boating at night, of climbing the tower in the dark. It all fits together like clockwork. Every single move she made that night is clear. You can and must find that the defendant is guilty of first-degree murder. Thank you for doing your duty.”

• • •

JUDGE SIMS NODDED AT TOM, who approached the jury box. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I grew up in Barkley Cove,

and when I was a younger man I heard the tall tales about the Marsh Girl. Yes, let’s just get this out in the open. We called her the Marsh Girl. Many still call her that. Some people whispered that she was part wolf or the missing link between ape and man. That her eyes glowed in the dark. Yet in reality, she was only an abandoned child, a little girl surviving on her own in a swamp, hungry and cold, but we didn’t help her. Except for one of her only friends, Jumpin’, not one of our churches or community groups offered her food or clothes. Instead we labeled and rejected her because we thought she was different. But, ladies and gentlemen, did we exclude Miss Clark because she was different, or was she different because we excluded her? If we had taken her in as one of our own—I think that is what she would be today. If we had fed, clothed, and loved her, invited her into our churches and homes, we wouldn’t be prejudiced against her. And I believe she would not be sitting here today accused of a crime.



“The job of judging this shy, rejected young woman has fallen on your shoulders, but you must base that judgment on the facts presented in this case, in this courtroom, not on rumors or feelings from the past twenty-four years.

“What are the true and solid facts?” Just as with the prosecution, Kya’s mind caught only snippets. “. . . the prosecution has not even proved that this incident was indeed a murder and not simply a tragic accident. No murder weapon, no wounds from being pushed, no witnesses, no fingerprints . . .

“One of the most important and proven facts is that Miss Clark has a sound alibi. We know she was in Greenville the night Chase died . . . no evidence that she dressed as a man, bused to

Barkley . . . In fact, the prosecution has failed to prove that she was in Barkley Cove that night at all, failed to prove that she went to the tower. I say again: there is not one single piece of evidence that proves Miss Clark was on the fire tower, in Barkley Cove, or killed Chase Andrews.

“. . . and the skipper, Mr. O’Neal, who has operated his own shrimp boat for thirty-eight years, testified that it was too dark to identify that boat.

“. . . fibers on his jacket, which could have been there for four years . . . These are uncontested facts . . .

“Not one of the witnesses for the prosecution was sure of what they saw, not one. Yet in her defense, every witness is one hundred percent certain . . .”

Tom stood for a moment in front of the jury. “I know most of you very well, and I know you can set aside any former prejudices against Miss Clark. Even though she only went to school one day in her life—because the other children harassed her—she educated herself and became a well-known naturalist and author. We called her the Marsh Girl; now scientific institutions recognize her as the Marsh Expert.

“I believe you can put all of the rumors and tall tales aside. I believe you will come to a judgment based on the facts you heard in this courtroom, not the false rumors you have heard for years.

“It is time, at last, for us to be fair to the Marsh Girl.”

You'll Also Like