Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
“Lydia called on my way home from work today,” she said.
“Oh yeah, how is she doing?”
“She’s good and Darren’s doing well. They’ve got the boys for the school holidays staying up there.”
He nodded. At the crook of his jaw line a knot pulsed, working a stubborn wad of macaroni.
“She asked if we would like to go up there for dinner one night this week,” she said, watching his eyes, waiting for them to betray him. His eyes didn’t change, they remained half-lidded watching the investigators on television unravel a seemingly unsolvable murder plot.
He swallowed and said, “Not this week.”
“Oh, I told her we would be up on Thursday,” she said with a false tone of indifference.
“You thought you’d book us in without checking if I was busy?” he asked calmly, taking another forkful.
“When was the last time you saw your nephews?”
She had wanted no kids from when they were young. That was what she said. He asked her to marry him and she had said she wouldn’t. “You can find someone that can give you kids and someone that will make you happy. I love you and want to be with you, but you will never be happy with me,” she said holding both his hands in the centre of the dimly lit hotel room. “This is what Lucy from the salon said ‘you two are a perfect match, you seem so happy, not like me and Kent, we bicker and fight’ and that’s just it, we don’t fight about anything except that and I know we won’t get over it.”
“We will,” he had said, “if you love me, you will marry me and if I love you, I will live my life without kids.”
She said she would marry him, she said she loved him and supposed that was all that mattered. Then they both cried.
“You’re right. It’s fine, Thursday suits fine.”
“Thanks, Hon. I might make some potato salad with the bacon bits to take up there.”
“Yeah,” he said without turning away from the television. The camera panned at a low angle. A hyper-real half hand disembodied beneath a bed. Tendons thick and polished white. Flesh pale and decaying. The camera angle cut to the detectives face. His nose creased. He lowered himself, bent his back and lifted the comforter, revealing the last piece of evidence. With gloved fingers he extracted the severed hand. It hung limp, limbs un-rigid and dried up, like an octopus cadaver. Got ‘em, the detective’s eyes said and his partner expressed his agreement with a grave nod. He knew they would solve it, they always do.
They rolled up the long driveway, splitting paddocks of grass rolling in the wind and horses with foal and some without. In a pit too muddy for anything else, there stood a few pigs paying the visitors an indifferent glance before returning to their troughs. Chickens clucked and pecked and cleaned beneath their wings with their beaks. Them all stilted and scattered about organic waste as if cast in one hurl.
When the car engine died, the distant long winding howl of motor bikes could be heard. Together they crossed the tight, neat lawn, he weighing a bottle of wine as he walked and she toting a bowl of potato salad. He wanted to spit but thought better of it. They may have been watching from the long sheets of glass that appeared to hold the house up. He had left his cigarettes at home.
“Darl, they’re here!” Lydia called, leaning out from behind the ajar front door. Her tight neat body had been contained within a floral apron, the coils of her dark hair held back with a thick black band.
His brother’s soft hand enclosed his own and firmly pumped it up and down. He found his brother’s eyes, eyes that any woman could still fall for, charmed only further by the recent addition of creases splayed from the corners to his hairline. Like former colleagues or sports rivals they smiled and greeted each other. His brother’s hair had thinned through the crest and his own eye brows involuntarily raised upon noticing this.
“I called for the boys but they couldn’t hear me out the back on their bikes, they’ll be in before long,” said Lydia.
“Taken off of the neighbour’s farm this beef, home kill and all organic. Best meat you can get,” his brother cheerfully explained.
Ella nodded and expanded her eyes then looked to her husband to see if he was equally as impressed.
“Have you seen the news about that missing girl?” Lydia asked, leaning over the table and doling out the red wine. “She’s from down your ways near the village.”
He cut her a glance. “You hear about that up here?” he asked.
“Yeah they’ve been following it in the newspaper, nothing else to talk about out here in the country.”
“It’s just awful,” his wife said.
“It is. She’s probably been grabbed from near the old bread factory. I heard a guy at the club talking about it. Said that’s where she was last seen,” his brother added.
“They’ve got a suspect. The paper said, the police have been questioning a guy about it, won’t say who he is though. I reckon it’s someone that knows her, you know?”
His brother and his wife nodded in agreement that it probably was someone that knew her.
“Well, I’m only saying this because Taren from up on the ridge there, her brother owns the bar in the village and he told her this. He said that girls ex-boyfriend was there drinking at the bar until late the night it happened. He says to Tarren, the ex-boyfriend was quiet and just sitting there drinking, then he disappeared sometime after midnight. Now that’s about when the girl went missing, right? This boy has been living up there in Te Kuiti, not saying anything against the kid, just saying that’s where he’s been living and they’ve got all sorts of gang problems there.”
“So what are you saying?” he asked of his brother.
“Well I don’t want to speculate,” he began then paused to fork a piece of roast beef into his mouth. He washed it down with a gulp of red wine and his clean shaven Adam’s apple jumped. “But I heard about some of those bastards grabbing girls, then… you know?”
Lydia cleared her throat with a sharp cough. “Come on now, Dear, let’s not talk about this.”
“We know what?” his wife quietly said.
When he had first met her, she wore the sort of lines between her eyes that paranoid widows wear. “You’re a thinker. You’re always thinking, Ella, your mind's always elsewhere, worrying about little things that don’t matter,” he once said. He studied her wearing that look and she thumbed the space between her eye brows and said “I’m sorry, I know I’m getting wrinkles. I’m sorry.” And he said “It’s okay dear, I just don’t like to see you worry, I don’t care about wrinkles.”
At the table, he was too engrossed by the way his brother’s mouth was shaping silent words to notice that she was wearing that expression, the lines torn deeper than ever.
“What do they do after they grab the girls?” she asked.
“Well I don’t want to say it at the dinner table, but it’s been over a week and it’s likely this girls gone. But that’s not to say they didn’t you know?” he said, gesturing with his shoulders and his hands like a politician resisting blame, urging the three of them to understand and one by one they did.
They all looked toward the kitchen when the back door opened then closed and his brother’s wife rose to grab the remaining beef from the oven for his nephews and no further talk of the missing girl was entertained.