I met Minnie McKinney on a distinctly cold day in February of the year 1985. Her face was stricken with the same fearful confusion that it would grow to acquaint far too well over the coming years. At age 18, she was a full-figured, quite pale young woman who was crying almost as often as she wasn’t. On that day in 1985, as she cradled her five-week-old baby girl in her arms, she would tell me she suffered from bouts of depression, and occasionally schizophrenia. At the time, I would not think too much of this; I imagined everyone had their own hardships. Though, in the future, we would find that her symptoms more closely resembled that of a serious borderline or schizotypal personality disorder, but that is now and this is then. During that period of my life, I had just received the promotion to detective after eight long years at my precinct; in fact, I vaguely remember the letters of my name being plastered upon the glass of my office door as Minnie passed through the polished wooden frame. Almost simultaneously, only moments prior to Minnie’s arrival, I had lain down my telephone receiver in its cradle, having just finalized the terms of my divorce. A decision made entirely on my ex-wife’s part. In those few months during and immediately after the separation, I had taken to the bottle with a vigor I had not yet known existed within me, surely—and indifferently—curbing my investigative abilities. But this is all beyond the point; this is above all Minnie’s story, and it is a story that started long before I met her.


Minnie was born on May 13th of 1966 to Lucas and Patricia McKinney. Her brother, Clayton, was born on the same exact day two years later. Clayton was delivered after only 31 weeks in the womb, a premature child who was thought to have died in his bed one night, only to be found smiling moments later, emerging from a deep sleep. A few months after Clayton was brought home, Minnie would begin to undergo fits of seemingly ill-minded rage and overwhelming physical strength followed by a complete lack of memory. As a child, she would throw food, break lamps, or chase and corner the family cat, Lynus, before falling to her knees, confused and sorrowful. This was no doubt the beginning of her depression and schizophrenia, the beginning of her borderline or schizotypal personality disorder. Not long after starting the first grade, her emotions would ostensibly right themselves, and excluding a couple isolated incidents, her mind would be sound.

One incident in particular was that of Lucas McKinney suddenly vacating his family home. Minnie’s mother, Patricia, and some of the neighbours would tell you that on that day, a seven-year-old Minnie held the bumper of her father’s car in place as he attempted to reverse out of their driveway. Some people in the area are beside themselves with the notion that as Lucas McKinney floored his 1969 Toyota Corolla in the opposite direction of his two loving children, one of them stood legs at shoulder length and ripped the front bumper from the automobile with her bare hands. This is a story I find myself hard-pressed to believe, a story that Minnie cannot bring herself to remember. Sometime after this event took place, it was found that Clayton seemed to possess a photographic memory. The frail young boy could recollect every moment of his life from that point on. If you ask him what he had for lunch that day after his father had abandoned him, he’ll tell you the exact same thing every time: a tuna fish and cucumber sandwich, the bread wet with his mother’s tears, and the crusts cut off. The McKinney kids were thought of by the rest of the neighborhood as freaks. Two fatherless mutants, born on the same day two years apart.


Minnie became pregnant in what I believe was early April of 1984; she was 17 years old. The pregnancy came as an untimely shock to her and her boyfriend at the time, Lloyd Robinson. Lloyd seemed an entirely respectable individual for the short period I knew him. He was an African-American young man who played shortstop for the school baseball team and kept well-enough grades, and for the nine months after the pregnancy had manifested, he was a diligent and involved father-to-be. Sometime after the birth of Minnie’s child, Lloyd would tell me he had planned to leave Minnie, for she had at intervals succumbed to unaffected spells of anger, all of which had stopped once she found herself in a maternal position; but I am getting ahead of myself.

Minnie’s daughter was born on the first of January, New Year’s Day 1985. In the early morning hours, the cramped hospital room was filled with hoots and hollers of holiday cheer, the exhausted sighs of a young girl and the cries of a newborn child, slippery with viscous and blood. All this commotion caused Lloyd’s disorientation to be drowned out and pushed aside for merrier tidings. Though if one were to have listened past the cheering and crying, they might have attended to Lloyd’s one question. Rhythmically echoing over top itself quietly for a few minutes, the inquiry droned on unanswered: “Is she supposed to look like that?” he asked. Until finally the doctor heard him, and upon examining the baby and then Lloyd, and then once more the baby and once more Lloyd, the doctor would notice a glaring difference. The child’s face was an almost see-through pigment of white, a shade so blindingly pale that there was without a question, no chance in this world that Lloyd, with his undeniably ebony complexion, could be the father. As the clamor of the hospital room came to a halt, the occupants found truth in their own silence. No one had needed to say a word to know it was fact, but mere moments after those disimpassioned tones escaped the doctor’s lips, Lloyd was rushing down the hall, elated with the same compulsory high that the others had hardly felt wash away. Lloyd hooted and he hollered and he danced all the way home. When he arrived, he drank and he hugged his mother for the first time in months, crying in her deep, fleshy arms. Back in the then solemn hospital room, an aura of bemusement floated through the air. The doctor repeated himself: “No,” he said. Minnie held her child close and began to weep, from beyond her dark wet eyelids, she felt a familiar hand rest upon her shoulder. Her once absent father coddled her now, for all the times he had not.


Two months prior to the conception of Minnie’s child, Lucas McKinney resurfaced and was greeted with open arms by his daughter and wife. Patricia McKinney never remarried; by her children’s account, she never had another man in the house during the ten years of Lucas’ absence. She proclaimed that her family had been rewarded for their willingness to endure. Lucas seemed happy to be back, but when pressured for information regarding his whereabouts during this time, he was often dodgy and would tend to give incomplete answers. He has at times since 1984 stated that he lived in northern Alaska, Canada, areas of Scotland, Japan, and Australia, in no exact order. Minnie and her mother did not care where he had been; they only cared that he was back. Clayton did not agree; whereas his female kin reveled in his father’s return he rejected it. Clayton was already a small boy for the age of 15 and he was often ridiculed for his advanced learning capability. Amidst his father’s reappearance, Clayton became somewhat of a recluse; he spent most of his time holed up in his room and rarely spoke. His mother and sister had shunned him for his caution around Lucas. During the pregnancy, Clayton had almost ceased to exist in his own home, until the day he at last spoke. He sat down in my office and revealed to me the parentage of Minnie’s daughter.


Clayton recalled to me a story in vivid detail, thanks to his enhanced memory, of one Saturday night in April, the time in which the baby was assumed to have been conceived. According to Clayton, Minnie had been given a ride home after a night of binge drinking by her and Lloyd’s good friend Chet Feeney. Chet was a pale, freckled boy of average build. While Chet also played for the baseball team, his grades were much lower than Lloyd’s, and he could often be found smoking cigarettes behind the science wing of the school. Clayton would recollect the Saturday in question in great candor for me a few weeks after the baby’s birth. He would tell me that his mother was away on business that weekend and his father had stayed over at a friend’s house after drinking through the day. He would tell me that Chet had brought a drunken Minnie upstairs to her room in the middle of the night and forced himself on her. He told me that he was too afraid to interject or attempt to run for the telephone. He sobbed into his palms and told me he couldn’t handle the regret any longer. Minnie couldn’t remember the night herself, but would state when she tried, she was visited by violent flashes and dull pain. Lloyd clarified that Chet had indeed given Minnie a ride home that night. These testimonies forged a rather solid story for the courtroom, but none more than the term “photographic memory,” and the in-depth retelling of what transpired that night. After two instances of Lucas McKinney being held back by guards as Chet passed him in the halls and hours of courtroom debate, the McKinney family had won the trial. This was my first case as detective, and to celebrate, I took the family out for dinner. It was an Italian restaurant; I can’t bring myself to remember the name. Throughout the evening, I had consumed far too much wine and I believe I made a fool of myself; the next morning, I swore off liquor once and for all. I imagined I had needed to apologize for my actions the night before; more than that, I felt a sort of ineffable urge to contact the McKinney household. Lucas answered when I called and insisted that I had been no bother; he and his family had been more than absolving.

For a time, everything was all right, up until the discovery of DNA profiling.


In 1984, Sir Alec Jeffreys developed the modern process of DNA profiling while working in the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester in England. It was first applied in the Richard Buckland case of 1986, in which he was exonerated despite having admitted to the rape and murder of a teenage girl. Chet Feeney never admitted to anything; he stood solemnly by himself in court and all that followed. He would constantly bring to light the notion of genetic evidence. It became his only pastime while incarcerated. Chet was adamant that he had been wrongly convicted; he swore that Minnie McKinney’s child was not his own. After many failed appeal attempts, Chet got his wish; early the following year, doctors took a sample of the baby’s blood and compared it to Chet’s. The answers were conclusive: Chet Feeney was not the father. Furthermore, it seemed as though Minnie held no relation to the child, either. In fact, the closest match genetically to the child was her grandfather, Lucas McKinney. He had donated blood some months prior and his DNA was on file as an almost point-for-point duplication. Chet Feeney did not care for the stupor the McKinney family had been thrown into; he only cared for his own freedom. Unbeknownst to Chet, this entire ordeal he had embarked on had been for naught. The fact that he was not the baby’s father did not change the testimonies of Lloyd and Clayton, did not change the fact that as far as anyone was concerned, Chet had raped Minnie; this was a truth widely accepted by everyone involved in the trial. Although this distress had thrown myself and the McKinneys for a loop, further investigation would no doubt be needed. Upon accepting his failure, Chet had quietly shuffled through his daily routine at the prison for just over two weeks before crafting a makeshift noose out of a belt and an extension cord and taking his own life. To this day, I do know not for sure whether he was innocent or not.


In the coming months of 1988, the McKinney household became a tense and unwelcoming place. Patricia grew to distrust her husband following the DNA test results and he soon moved into an apartment across town. I had started to suspect foul play; details which seemed unimportant before now came into a different light. The time frame of Lucas’ reappearance, how close he was to Minnie. Of course, a grandfather should share some genetic code with a grandchild, but the sample was almost indistinguishable. The district attorney was pressuring me for something to keep the case moving forward, but Lucas denied anything of the sort along with his daughter. Patricia had sided with her son in his resentment of Lucas and exiled him from her children’s life. A short time later, Minnie had been found to be sneaking out to spend time with her once again estranged father, and the lab technicians found something else.

The discovery that Minnie shared no genetic resemblance to her baby was strongly believed to be an impossibility. Minnie had been the only woman to give birth in that hospital on that day. What I soon found out was that the child was a genetic chimera, a single organism composed of cells with two distinct genotypes. At the time of conception, Minnie had produced two eggs, both of which had been fertilized at the same time and, instead of growing into twins, had fused together in the womb. In this process, the two sets of genes had camouflaged Minnie’s DNA and would seemingly only show relation to the father, who was at this time, heavily presumed to be Lucas McKinney.

The people needed an answer, the McKinneys needed an answer. I needed an answer. And he was there; a warrant for the arrest of Lucas McKinney was issued in January of 1989, almost one year ago. It seemed the only explanation. Minnie fought it tooth and nail; her mother cried and held the child close. Clayton was expectedly silent. Minnie testified that her father had never touched her, but the DNA evidence was overly convincing to a relatively unknowing jury. Lucas was put away, and not long afterward, Minnie began to experience psychotic episodes derived from her past. She was institutionalized late last year. The child was left with her mother and Clayton. This was an ending I had never hoped for. I wish this story could have ended in the delivery room that New Year’s Day five years ago, but the truth has a way of revealing itself, no matter how ugly it may be.


I had forgotten she had different coloured eyes, but now, as I investigate them, they are glaringly dissimilar. One an ocean blue, the other more silver than gray.

“Say hi, Aran,” Clayton tells her.

“Hi.” She is very shy.

It is January 7th, 1990, Aran just turned five last week, and I had let it slip from my memory what exactly her name was.

“Hi Aran,” I say, trying very hard not to come off monotonous.

“How have you been?” Clayton asks.

“I’ve been well.” My ex-wife told me I pause too often in conversation. “And you?”

Clayton pats Aran atop the head. “We’re doing quite well, too.”

“Patricia?” I ask.

“Mom moved out last year; she met a guy. Now we’re staying in the old place by ourselves.”

“Uncle Clay, my feet hurt,” Aran interjects and Clayton picks her up.

“Uh oh,” he says, and he places her gently down in the shopping cart. She squeals with laughter and he smiles back at her. He seems brighter than before, his skin is flushed, there is a sincerity behind his smile. Clayton McKinney is not the scared, frail adolescent I once knew.

“Look, I’d love to catch up, but we’ve got to get going. Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight?” he asks me.

“Um…yes, sure,” I reply.

“Alright, I’ll see you at seven at my family’s place,” Clayton pushes the cart down the shopping aisle and out of view.

The last time I had dinner with another person was at that Italian restaurant, those few years ago. I’ve lost track of time. I hurry home and clean myself up, excited for what’s to come.


Clayton sits before me. Between us are two empty glasses, a bottle of red wine, a lightly-buttered baguette, and two plates of spaghetti and meatballs. A peculiar coincidence, of course. Clayton has told me Aran went to sleep early after a long day.

“We went for a stroll along the boardwalk. Aran likes to watch the sail boats leaving the harbor,” he says.

“Sounds lovely,” I reply through a mouth full of tomato sauce and pasta.

“She’s nothing like her mother was at that age, that I can remember.”

“And you surely would.” We have a bit of a laugh followed by some not overwhelmingly uncomfortable silence. “Has Minnie seen any improvement?” I ask.

“Sadly, my sister is not right in the headl she never really was. Something inside of her is deeply broken.” Clayton has yet to start his meal.

“Awful, just awful,” I say.

He pours himself a glass of wine before offering the bottle to me.

“Oh, no, thank you,” I tell him.

“Ah, that’s right, you swore off the stuff.” He swishes the liquid around the inner rim of his glass.

“Yes, I did.”

“After that night, when you took us all for dinner,” his eyes stay on the glass.

“Yes.” For reasons unknown to me, I begin to feel a cold sweat coming on. Tiny beads of perspiration creep down the small of my back.

“That was very painful for me. The dinner, the trial, having to go through it all with them.” Now he is looking at me, although I wish he would not. His rigid glare cuts through my core; the very personage of my being feels challenged. What did I miss?

“I can only imagine.” My throat has gone dry and I struggle to swallow, the food in my mouth the same chewed up mush from the start of the conversation. The wine, its soft hydrous aroma, pulls at me.

He finally sits the glass down, untouched.

“You really don’t remember.” It is not a question.

I do not attempt to hide my confusion.

“Outside the restaurant, all those years ago.”

Does he want to know the name of the place we ate? I cannot remember. Syllables attempt to spill through my mouthful of tasteless Italian cuisine.

“Clayton I—I assure you I don’t know what you—”

“I told you everything once we were alone, and you were so drunk that you actually forgot.” He stunts laughter.

Feebly, I try to shake my head.

He continues, “I was only 16 and I trusted you. I felt like I had to. You broke my heart…no, you didn’t break my heart; not even your incompetence as an officer of the law or as a man could do that. It was letting myself believe I could trust you only to be forgotten; that’s what did it. You were and are too small to break me in the way I let myself be broken. I take full responsibility for imagining you could help me. And it wasn’t the buildup that was the worst of it, or the release of letting the truth out; that was oddly calming in a way. No, it was the waiting. The endless hours of waiting silently in my room for you to come here to my childhood home and save me. Get me the help I needed. I starved in the room down that hallway on the absence of even a semblance of acknowledgement. And you called; the morning after the dinner you actually called. Because maybe a little piece of you knew that there was an obligation to be accounted for. If only I had gotten to the phone before that piece of shit…but no, I did my part. I tried to end this nightmare that we all live in now. But you abandoned it, you abandoned me, my family. See, my mother isn’t shacked up with some nice guy. She’s two towns over hooked on painkillers in the shallow hope of forgetting her daughter has gone mad. Trying to forget that her beloved husband could do such a thing to his own flesh and blood. To forget she has a granddaughter who asks after her day in and day out. I am all Aran has left, and you know why, don’t you? Somewhere, buried deep inside your thick skull, you know it.”

Oh no…


“Say it.”

I failed a young boy. A scared, vulnerable child who chose me to protect him.



For a moment, I see a bony 16-year-old Clayton weeping through this young man’s eyes.

I swallow.

“You are Aran’s father,” I say.


“Minnie overpowered you…that night, she had an episode…she came into your room, she—she was stronger than you.” My eyes fall into my palms.

“When she came out of it, she cried for most of the night, too drunk to know what was happening. I stayed with her while she puked and fell asleep beside the toilet. My big sister…” he takes a deep breath in, “Chet never touched her. I didn’t want anyone to know. The other kids already thought we were freaks. I needed someone to take the fall, to stop the truth. But I tried to fix that.”

“Does anyone else know?” I can’t look at him.

“No, and they never will. Aran is my daughter, more than she ever was Minnie’s. I love her so much, and I will be what she believes in. Will you try to stop that?”

Aside from the fact that I would lose my job, no. I shake my head.

“I can’t protect her from her own intuition. She’s a smart young girl, and one day she may question the truth, and on that day, I will tell her. But every day until that moment, and for every one that follows, I will be there for her.” He swallows. “We become what we love, Detective; I believe it is this reason that makes us human beings.”

He drains the glass of wine in one requited gulp. I slide the bottle towards myself, and after emptying one glass, I pour another.

“I’m sor—”

“Uncle Clay, I’m hungry.” Aran enters the dining room rubbing sleep from her eyes with tiny, balled fists.

“Here, honey, you can have my spaghetti.” Clayton lifts her up into his lap and, with his arms wrapped around her, begins to spool the strands of pasta in the end of his spoon. I slide him back the bottle of red wine and he carefully fills another glass. It is silent apart from Aran’s chewing. I throw back another mouthful of the long-desired liquid and Clayton returns the bottle to my side of the table.


He looks up at me, the fury gone, or at least shrouded from his eyes.

“What was the name of that restaurant?” I ask.