Tag Archives: cold case

Wednesday Writing – ‘The Discovery’

Photo by Drew Geraets Sourced at: www.unsplash.com

Photo by Drew Geraets
Sourced at: http://www.unsplash.com

The Discovery

‘Are you all right there?’ The Garda’s large hand catches me, tight as a clamp, just as I stumble on a loose rock.

‘Thanks,’ I say, steadying myself. I glance up at him, but he’s looking at my feet, frowning. ‘Should’ve worn better shoes!’ I wince at my own words. Now he’ll think you’re a mindless flake, I tell myself. Typical woman, only concerned about her bloody footwear.

‘Ah, sure it’s hard to know what to be wearing, up here,’ he mutters, blinking at the sky. ‘It’s different every day. Hiking boots mightn’t be enough some days, and others you could trot up here barefoot.’ He looks back at me. ‘You’re all right, now?’

‘Thanks,’ I nod, and he lets go of my arm. He wasn’t using force, but my flesh throbs anyway, like I’m bruised.

I take in a deep breath, trying to swallow.

‘We’ll ring your mother, now, as soon as there’s anything to report. All right?’ He’s keeping a respectful distance, hands in the pockets of his luminous jacket. ‘Mightn’t be signal for the mobiles up here on the bog, but we’ll do our best.’

‘Right,’ I tell him, hoping that it’s the police who’ll be talking to Mam, if and when there’s anything to say. They’ll hardly expect me to, will they?

‘Is she keeping well, anyway?’ He pauses. ‘Your mam, I mean,’ as if I wouldn’t have known who he meant.

‘Ah, well. You know. As good as can be expected.’ I’ve always hated that phrase. My mother’s doing fairly well, all things considered. Better than me, maybe. It should be her up here, walking this rough-cut path, other than she said she wouldn’t be able for it. She insisted I go, instead, and made the Gardaí change their normal procedures, just for her. They complied, because everyone says ‘yes’ to Mam.

‘It’d be great, now, if we could find a few answers for her,’ the Garda mutters. ‘Let her spend the rest of her days with a bit of peace.’

‘She’s hardly on her deathbed,’ I tell him, a bit more sharply than I mean to.

‘God, no,’ he says, quickly, turning to me with his eyes wide. ‘I only -‘

‘It’s my poor father needed the peace. He could never accept that Gillian was -‘ I still can’t bring myself to say dead. Murdered. I clear my throat and carry on. ‘He always thought she’d be found, you know. Without her memory, maybe. Kept in captivity, or something. It destroyed him. But Mam? It’s like she knew, from the beginning.’

‘Mothers have that sort of instinct, though, don’t they.’ He kicks a sharp-edged rock out of my path.

‘Shame her mothering instinct wasn’t as strong,’ I say, mostly to myself. The Garda lets on he hasn’t heard me, but I see a twitch around his mouth as he clenches his jaw.

‘Here we are, now,’ he says, his voice soft, as we crest the hill. The peaty, rocky path we’ve been walking on turns into churned-up muck, tyre tracks and footprints everywhere. He leads me off to one side where temporary flooring’s been laid down across the boggy surface. A hundred yards away, yellow, flapping security tape is tied in a rough triangle around a patch of ground. It flicks at my vision like a hook dangling in front of a fish, but I refuse to look.

So many people. All these cars. Lots of high-vis overcoats and muttered conversations, and nobody – no matter how much they want to, and how badly the air crackles with their need to – not one person looks over at me. I float through them like a ghost, the Garda at my side.

There’s a folding table at the end of the plywood walkway covered with large plastic boxes, white, with tight-fitting lids. He leads me towards them and my knees start to soften. His vice-hand is around my arm again.

‘If you’re not able,’ he says, ‘nobody is going to mind. All right, Gráinne? You just say, now, and we can go back down. We can just wait for the DNA tests to come back, and you can put all this behind you.’

I shake my head. It’s too late. I’m here.

‘No,’ I manage to say. ‘I have to find out. For Mam.’ She’ll be less than pleased, otherwise.

He nods. ‘Take your time, so. You give me the nod, when you’re ready. All right?’ I close my eyes. They’re swimming in a thick layer of hot tears, which overflow and run down my cheeks. They start to sting in the cold breeze.

‘Right,’ I say, half-whispering. ‘Now, before I talk myself out of it.’

The Garda gestures at a colleague and she unseals the nearest box. I blink and look into it, and sitting there in a neat plastic bag are a pair of tiny T-bar sandals, still mostly red. One of them even has the plastic flower attached. I remember the day they were bought for her, and how hard I cried.

‘Good Christ,’ I hear, vaguely, and the Garda catches me, lowering me gently to the ground. He shouts for help, and someone brings over a blanket and a flask. They get me sitting up and I stay there, staring at the forest across the way, watching the trees dance, until the cup of steaming tea in my hand turns cold.

‘Gráinne,’ I hear, and I turn to see the Garda crouched beside me, a mobile phone in his hand. ‘We’ve been trying to get your Mam for ages, now, but she’s not answering. Will you give it a go, instead? Maybe she’ll talk to you?’

My mother knew, all along, that this day would come, I want to tell him. She won’t be answering the phone to me, or anyone, ever again.

But I take the phone and dial her number anyway, and he holds my hand as gently as a child.

 

 

 

Wednesday Write-In #88

plastic  ::  verdant  ::  gingham  ::  lighthouse  ::  bathe

 

Image: camperlands.co.uk

Image: camperlands.co.uk

The Sleeper

The wind rippled across the surface of the rain-sodden plastic, lifting it into sharp-edged waves. It crackled and snapped, spitting water up at me like it was angry. It was like an animal protecting its young.

‘Between me and you,’ said Brennan, ‘d’you think this is it?’ He didn’t look at me. He just stood on the far side of the sea of plastic like a lighthouse, passing his worried gaze back and forth over it with gentle sweeps of his head. The rain ran down the lenses of his glasses.

‘I hope so,’ I said. Brennan blinked and glanced over at me, frowning. ‘You know what I mean,’ I muttered, and he said nothing for a while. I shrugged deeper into the collar of my coat, feeling cold droplets bathe me right down to the bones. I wondered if I’d ever feel warm again.

‘I suppose it’d be a comfort for the family. What’s left of them,’ he said, eventually.

‘Exactly.’

The plastic reared again, and I caught the barest glimpse of faded, dirt-encrusted gingham embedded in the claggy, dark soil. It made the bile rise inside me, and an image flashed across my mind; a tiny, smiling face, straw-coloured hair in one long plait. The little checked sundress she’d worn that day in June when she’d vanished, disappeared from the verdant fields around her house, never to be seen again.

Never, until now.

‘Jesus,’ said Brennan. ‘Grab that rock, there, and weigh it down. We have to preserve the scene until Forensics gets here.’ I turned to do as I was told, and caught a glimpse of the farmer who’d found her, standing cap in hand behind a line of luminous tape. I could hear someone talking to him, asking him questions, but all he was doing was just staring, feet planted in the soil, eyes full of water, up at the makeshift grave that had been on his land for the better part of forty years. Maybe he’d raised his own family in sight of it.

I turned back to see Brennan struggling with the groundsheet, and hurried to help. We smoothed the plastic down over her like it was a blanket, tossed by a bad dream or a too-hot summer night. She settled into peaceful sleep once more.

I put my hand on the sodden plastic and I swear I felt it rise, like a little, contented breath had been taken beneath it, and finally released.