by Lady H
Just as quickly as it’s all been whipped up, it dies down. Dead. Silence.
The Great Escape - Part Four
When I wake Saturday morning, my eyes blink with surprise as I catch sight of the time. It’s past 11:00; I’m not one to sleep in late, especially considering I went to bed so early last night.
Once dressed, I pad downstairs and into the kitchen. Dad is sitting at the table slumped over a cup of coffee, and barely registers my entrance.
“Morning Dad” I smile but he doesn’t look up.
Instead, he grunts in reply. I remember Mum leaving early this morning and realise today is going to be quiet, whenever Mum’s left before Dad mopes around silently for a least a day. In the past, Michael and I have tried various ways of cheering him up, but we’ve learned nothing really helps. He’ll be okay again when Mum returns, which she inevitably will do after a few days.
“You okay?” I have my back to him, reaching into various cupboards to assemble my usual bowl of cereal.
There’s a beat of silence. “We’re out of milk, would you mind popping to the corner shop to pick some up?” I then notice he’s drinking black coffee, which I know he hates.
“Oh yeah.” I’m not thrilled at the idea of leaving the house again, but Dad seems rather delicate this morning. “I’ll go now.”
Dad’s got the TV on in the background, although seems to be paying no attention to it. It’s running the headline news segment, and I’m surprised to see they’re not discussing ‘The Enigma’. ‘The Enigma’ is the term the media have coined for the Castle disappearances, I think it’s foolish, but as soon as one reporter said it, everyone cottoned on and it stuck. The segment runs for its usual five minutes every half hour and ends without a single mention of The Enigma.
“It’s weird that ‘The Enigma’ is no longer headline news, huh?” I comment as I’m shuffling around the kitchen checking the cupboards and making note of anything else we’re running low on.
“What?” He finally looks up, frowning at me.
“The Enigma? You know, the 1800 missing students? The talk of the nation for the last week?” I guess it had been a week with no new developments, maybe they’d decided to park the story until more evidence was found.
He blinks, staring at me blankly.
“The disappearances? From the new club?”
No flicker of recognition.
“The club Dad! And the pills? The police interviewed me, remember?”
“What in god’s name are you going on about Lucy?”
“I... erm…” I didn’t know what else to say. “Never mind.” It was useless; he was clearly too hung up on mum to function normally.
Dad makes no further comment and goes back to sipping his black coffee.
Shopping list complete, I grab some bags and my purse, and leave the forlorn figure in the kitchen.
As I'm walking out the front door, I spy Mrs Greene, our neighbour with a daughter who went missing from Castle, kneeling, and digging at the flowerbed that splits our two front gardens.
Reaching the gate after smiling politely at her, I pause; she hasn't asked me for an update on the case.
I turn slowly, but she's turned her attention back to the plants. “Mrs Greene?”
“Yes, Lucy?” She asks, sitting back onto her heels and wiping her forehead with her upper arm because her hands are covered in soil.
I don’t know what compels me to ask, but the words fall from my mouth before I can halt them. “Did you notice the story isn’t on the news today? I guess it could be because nothing more has happened but it’s odd.”
“Nothing more happened in what, Sweetie?”
“The missing people from the club. Jessica's disappearance.” Now I wish I hadn't brought it up, perhaps she's trying to push it to the back of her mind for a while.
“Who's Jessica?” She looks puzzled, and my eyes widen in surprise.
“Jessica. Your daughter.” I study her face, but she's not showing any recognition.
“Don't be silly Lucy! You know I don't have a daughter!” Mrs Greene looks like I've just pulled some sort of practical joke and lets out a breathy laugh before leaning forward and picking up the garden trowel again.
I stand and listen to the cold clang of metal on stone as she digs out some pebbles from beneath the soil.
After a moment, I turn away, not wanting to force the issue with her. My mind is reeling, and it clicks into overdrive when I notice as I walk down the road that all the ‘missing’ posters that had been stuck up on streetlights; nailed to walls; pinned to notice boards; they've all been taken down.
My heart skips a beat – have they been found? But surely if they have, it would have been reported on the news. And Mrs Greene would be over the moon. So why have the posters been taken down? What the hell is going on?
As I reach the shop, I notice a huddle of people standing near the wall, and two flashing police cars. Everyone is shouting over the top of each other fighting to be heard.
“Excuse me please!” A voice, deep and authoritative, booms, and the crowd falls silent.
I recognise the voice and cross the road to join the scene.
“Can everyone please stop talking and leave the crime scene. Any eyewitnesses or individuals with information they think might be useful in this investigation please make your way over to my colleague DC Lee, who will take your contact details.” DS Forster takes control of the crowd.
As people begin to drift away, the wall of the shop is revealed, along with a huge hole in the bricks where the outside cash machine used to be. That would explain the police attendance.
DS Forster notices me standing in the road and staring. “Are you okay?” He asks, taking a step towards me.
“No!” I want to scream, but I don’t. “It’s just really good to see you because this morning has been weird.”
As he stares at me, I see the tell-tail signs of him not recognising me. His expression is polite concern, but his eyes slightly glazed.
I step forwards in confusion and realise too late that I’d been close to the curb. I move my foot to try and regain my balance, but it’s too late and I tip forward, ending up on my hands and knees. It’s the second time I’ve fallen over in a week, which only adds to my embarrassment. My knees and palms, which had started to heal from my fall in Castle, were now covered in fresh cuts. Great.
“Whoopsie Daisy!” DS Forster explains, closing the distance and helping me up. His phrasing succeeds in making me feel like a small child.
Once I’ve assured him that I’m fine and brushed off the loose gravel that had embedded in my skin, DS Forster turns away from me, presumably to return to his colleague.
“Wait!” I say, and he swivels around.
I’m tongue tied. He clearly doesn’t recognise me. There's something wrong. Why doesn't he know who I am? What’s going on? My heart begins to thud louder in my chest, I can hear it in my ears.
“If you have a crime you would like to report then please go ahead, but otherwise I need to continue with my investigation.” He's polite but firm, gesturing to the hole in the wall.
“DS Forster, it's me, Luce Jones!” I cry, feeling stubborn tears building up behind my eyes.
He's looking really confused now, like I'm a mad woman. “Should I know you?”
“Yes! I’m the only witness to the missing people from the club/”
He cuts me off before I can explain further, puffing out his chest. “Missing person’s case?” His eyes darken, and he steps closer to me. “What do you know of a missing person’s case? Lily, did you say your name was?”
I'm feeling feint, my head spinning. What with Dad, Mrs Greene, and DS Forster not knowing what I’m talking about, I quickly start questioning my own sanity. Was it possible I dreamt the whole thing up? After all, no one else seems to remember. But it doesn't explain Mrs Greene saying she doesn't have a daughter. She does have a daughter. She did have a daughter. I'm sure she had a daughter. Didn't she?
DS Forster is still talking, questioning me on this new case he thinks I've come to inform him about, but I can't quite focus on what he's saying. His lips are moving, but no sound is reaching my ears. I feel sick. I want to get out of here, away from this nightmare. Sort my head out.
The date today is the day it should be. Saturday 22nd May, exactly one week after I woke to Dad banging on my bedroom door. Is it possible to dream a whole week of events occurring? In the past? But it doesn't make sense, it all seems so real. Seemed so real. I can remember the whole night at the club clearly, the police interview, the news stories, the posters, the club being searched...
The people still hovering begin to turn their attention to DS Forster and I, concern etched on their faces. They're all asking questions, my head full of different voices talking over the top of each other, scrambling for my attention but I don't want to listen. I want DS Forster to remember.
“Can't you remember anything?” I finally shout at him, tears breaking free and streaming down my face.
“Lily,” he starts, moving to comfort me, “Let's get you calmed down. There's no need to panic, everything is going to be okay.”
But it isn't really, is it? I'm crazy, building up some wild story in my head...
He tries to guide me to a near-by bench, get me sat down, but I shake him off, now in hysterics. What was wrong with me? It all seemed so real…
Before DS Forster can take hold of my arm again, the whole scene is interrupted by the high-pitched screech of tyre on tarmac, and the tight group of people knotted around me parts like the red sea in the bible, jumping for safety out of the road.
A sleek black car accelerates out of the corner, then there is more squealing as the driver slams on the brakes just in time to stop right beside me.
The passenger window opens, and a man with dark reflecting glasses leans over the passenger seat.
“Jones, get in the car.”