Say what you like about the police, on this occasion they got it right. Mind you, when I saw the pair of them nervously handling their uniform caps at the door, I knew right away that Kathy had been found. Identification had been through DNA and the pink cardigan that her granny knitted for her one Christmas. The police came as quickly as they could, to give me plenty of time to make myself scarce before the press arrived.
I went to Mary and Bob’s. Mary was good that way, even though after she left my behaviour had not been great. Couldn’t let her go you see, even though it wasn’t really a marriage any more, not after Kathy disappeared. Mary had wanted to leave the house with all its memories, but I hung on and hung on, so she finally left. And then I just stayed put for years. Kidded myself on it was so Kathy could have the same phone number and address to get in touch, as if all she’d done was run away from home.
Anyway, the young policeman and policewoman couldn’t have been better. Helped me pack a few things, gave me a lift round to Mary and Bob’s place and even re-assured me that the delivery of the remains to the undertakers would be their responsibility. All I would have to do was turn up at the funeral. It would give us closure Mary said, as she handed me one of Bob’s old suits. I told her the police had the killer in custody and had obtained a full confession. Mary didn’t want to know the full story. Best not, she said. Time to move on.
What a caring, funny wee girl Kathy was. Even at ten, which is how I will always remember her, she was at me to straighten my tie and polish my shoes before going to work. Right little matron she was, waiting in the hallway after breakfast so I couldn’t escape. But then I was allowed to be Dad for the best time of the day, holding her hand the three blocks it took to get her to school, the three blocks that I walked again and again, for years after she was gone.
I didn’t go to the trial, but after it was over, the young constable came back. He was uncomfortable, standing there in my living room. As if for the first time I saw the cigarette burns on the carpet, the beer-stained furniture, the torn net curtains. Then he came right out with it. Asked me if I wanted a transcript of the confession. Something told me he wasn’t following the rules.
I mourn that time in a way. That time when she was still to be found, and that self who waited for her. The confession lies in front of me now, on the hall table, pretty much where she used to stand on these bright mornings so long ago.
Her last days are laid out in the black words on these white sheets. Days when she was living and breathing while I searched. It would be easy to slip between the typescript and find her. Perhaps following her as she is bundled into that white van. I could reach out and hold her hand once more. When, in the darkness, the grunting, sweating weight crushes and bruises her, I whisper words of comfort. As the very breath of life passes from her body I tell her she’s not alone.
D.B MacInnes lives on his croft on the Isle of Skye, where he plant trees, plays the uilleann pipes and writes. He is inspired by writers such as William Trevor, Alice Munro and Claire Keegan. His short stories have been published in Northwords Now, Product and Gutter magazines, among others, and he was long-listed for the Fish Short Story prize in 2019. He’s currently working on the second draft of a post-war murder mystery and looking for an agent!