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Missing You, Love Sara, страница 1


Missing You, Love Sara

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Missing You, Love Sara

  for Naomi



  CHAPTER 1 How it Began

  CHAPTER 2 First Alarm

  CHAPTER 3 Impossibles

  CHAPTER 4 11.15–11.35 a.m., Thursday, 4th May

  CHAPTER 5 Thursday Afternoon

  CHAPTER 6 Thursday night

  CHAPTER 7 Friday

  CHAPTER 8 Friday afternoon, May 5th

  CHAPTER 9 Bob Munn

  CHAPTER 10 The Last Time I saw Reenie

  CHAPTER 11 Suicide

  CHAPTER 12 Monday

  CHAPTER 13 Officially Missing

  CHAPTER 14 Letter to Reenie, Tuesday, 9th May

  CHAPTER 15 Gossip, Wednesday, 10th May

  CHAPTER 16 Thursday, 11th May

  CHAPTER 17 Letter to Reenie, Friday, May 12

  CHAPTER 18 Elaine

  CHAPTER 19 Who is telling the Truth?

  CHAPTER 20 The Handbag

  CHAPTER 21 Searching

  CHAPTER 22 Incident at the Supermarket

  CHAPTER 23 Dinner with Mum

  CHAPTER 24 Things That Happen

  CHAPTER 25 Letter to Reenie, July

  CHAPTER 26 Answers

  CHAPTER 27 Myra and Johnnie

  CHAPTER 28 The Rubbish Bin

  CHAPTER 29 How to Hide a Body

  CHAPTER 30 Johnnie

  CHAPTER 31 Tom

  CHAPTER 32 Millie’s Contribution

  CHAPTER 33 The Reward

  CHAPTER 34 Birthday

  CHAPTER 35 Birthdays Again

  CHAPTER 36 No News

  CHAPTER 37 Letter to Reenie, August

  CHAPTER 38 Bodies

  CHAPTER 39 The Clairvoyant

  CHAPTER 40 More Bodies

  CHAPTER 41 Letter to Reenie

  CHAPTER 42 The Clairvoyant Rings Back

  CHAPTER 43 Bob Munn

  CHAPTER 44 TV News

  CHAPTER 45 More and More …

  CHAPTER 46 Whispers

  CHAPTER 47 Counselling

  CHAPTER 48 Letter to Reenie

  CHAPTER 49 One Sunday with Di

  CHAPTER 50 Another Closed Door

  CHAPTER 51 Another Idea

  CHAPTER 52 Letter to Reenie

  CHAPTER 53 Nimbin, one year later

  CHAPTER 54 Letter to Reenie, December

  CHAPTER 55 Life Goes On

  CHAPTER 56 Last year

  CHAPTER 57 Always


  CHAPTER 59 Letter to Reenie, October

  Author’s Note:

  About the Author

  Other books by Jackie French


  About the Publisher


  How it Began

  My sister Maureen disappeared at 11.35 on Thursday morning, May 4th, three years and seven months ago.

  It was a Thursday like any other Thursday, an autumn sort of Thursday, gold smudged across warm hills and cold shadows under the trees. The cicadas had stopped singing weeks ago.

  Reenie wouldn’t have cared about the sun on the grass or the shadows. Reenie wasn’t interested in stuff like that.

  There was nothing about that day that was any different. No one woke up that morning with a chill of horror down their arms. No coven of crows perched on the electricity wires and sang of doom.

  That’s the terrifying thing about days like that Thursday; horror can just dive down at you from a perfectly clear sky.

  At 11.10 on that particular Thursday morning, the phone rang in the flat above the hardware store that Reenie shared with two friends.

  Reenie had been to high school with one of them, Myra, at the same school I go to now, but I catch the bus in every day from the farm (it takes forty minutes) while for most of high school Reenie lived with Mum up in town.

  The other girl who shared the flat, Elaine, was new to town. Elaine worked at the bank, but the week Reenie disappeared she’d taken ten days off work to go to her sister’s wedding back home in Sydney.

  According to Myra, who was in bed with the flu, Reenie answered the phone call out in the kitchen. She was on the phone for three minutes, maybe a little less.

  I can give you details because we’ve all gone over it a hundred thousand times.

  Every scrap of information is pounded into my head, almost as though I’d been there in the shabby kitchen with the laminex table—its steel legs that always looked like they were about to do the splits, but never did—and the teapot that sat in the centre, though not one of them drank tea.

  I had given Reenie the teapot for Christmas. It was shaped like a chook sitting on its eggs. I didn’t know that Reenie never drank tea. It is not the sort of thing you mention to a younger sister when she comes into town to visit her Mum—‘Hey, do you know I don’t like tea?’

  But she liked the teapot, I’m sure of that. She didn’t put it on the table just for my visits.

  At 11.13—there was a clock by the bedside table—Reenie put the phone down and came into Myra’s bedroom.

  ‘That was Johnnie,’ she explained.

  Johnnie was Reenie’s boyfriend—had been for the past six months. But she didn’t say what he had rung about. ‘I thought I’d pop down to the supermarket and get some bread for lunch. Do you want anything?’

  Myra shook her head. When Reenie was halfway out of the room, she said, ‘Tissues. And a magazine. I’m bored stiff lying here. My handbag’s on the chair in the lounge room.’

  ‘Okay,’ Reenie said. ‘Any magazine in particular?’

  ‘Whatever looks good,’ said Myra. ‘They’re all the same.’

  She heard Reenie go into the lounge room, which was just big enough for the old sofa that Dad gave Reenie when she and Myra moved in, two armchairs—I think they were there already—and the TV set they bought secondhand at a garage sale.

  Myra thought she heard her handbag being opened, but it’s hard to be sure about a sound as vague as that.

  When Myra checked her handbag later—two days later—she thought a ten dollar note was missing, which is probably what you’d take to buy tissues and a magazine.

  ‘I’ll be about half an hour,’ Reenie called. ‘I’m taking the video back too.’

  The door to the flat opened, closed.

  Myra never saw Reenie again.


  First Alarm

  Mum rang us at ten o’clock that Thursday night.

  It was exactly ten o’clock. I reckon Mum had been looking at the clock for hours, saying to herself, I won’t panic till ten, and the moment the big hand hit the twelve Mum’s hand was on the phone.

  I was finishing my homework.

  Dad had been yawning over something on TV. He dozes for about an hour before he finally decides to go to bed—always at ten o’clock exactly, unless there’s something really special on—then he brushes his teeth and puts the rolled oats on to soak for tomorrow morning’s porridge, then checks all the lights are out before he goes to bed. Always in just that order.

  Mum would have known that, would have made sure she caught him before he went to do his teeth.

  But tonight he was either extra bored or extra tired, because he’d just turned the answering machine on. (He does that every night, so the phone won’t wake us up. Don’t ask me why he bothered, because it never rang after 9.00 p.m., till that night.)

  Brring, brring, and then Dad’s voice: ‘I’m sorry we can’t answer the phone at the moment …’, uncertain and not really Dad at all, but like he sounds when he has to leave a message on a machine—for someone who spends his life coaxing tractors and hay balers and other mechanical stuff to last one more year Dad is really tentative with anything that has microchips—and then Mum’s voice.

  The voice on the
other end sounded low and dramatic. Mum does low and dramatic really well.

  ‘Sara, it’s Mum. Something dreadful has happened. Could you ring me straightaway …’ and then a pause. ‘It’s … it’s ten o’clock on Thursday.’

  Then she hung up.

  My first thought was about Grandma. She’s up at the nursing home in town, has been ever since it got so she couldn’t dress herself or even remember any of us. But if there was something wrong with Gran or, rather, more wrong, Mum would have said what it was.

  Dad lifted an eyebrow at me. ‘You going to call her back?’

  He used that carefully expressionless voice he always uses when he’s talking about Mum to me, the one that says, ‘Your relationship with your mother is up to you.’ He can’t see that his lack of expression means more than any yelling could.

  I shrugged.

  Mum’s always having a stress about something. She teaches History and Drama up at the school—thank goodness I’ve never been in one of her classes—and she’s President, or whatever, of the local Drama Club. I mean, Mum likes drama like a fish likes water.

  ‘I’ll ring her tomorrow,’ I said. I couldn’t think of anything that might really be urgent, except in Mum’s mind.

  ‘It might be important.’ Again, carefully expressionless, I’m-not-going-to-interfere, but he was curious, I could tell.

  ‘Look Dad, I’m tired …’ Reenie was always happy to take part in Mum’s dramas but, to be honest, I could never be bothered.

  No comment from Dad, but he didn’t get to his feet either and amble out to the bathroom.

  So I picked up the phone and rang Mum.

  ‘Mum, it’s me.’

  ‘Oh, Sara, thank goodness. Something terrible has happened!’ Mum ‘s voice was pitched just like she was carrying tragedy to the back seat in the theatre. And then she stopped, as though she didn’t know what to say next, which isn’t like Mum. Mum always has the dialogue for her dramas down pat.

  ‘Is it Grandma?’

  ‘What?’ Mum sounded startled. ‘No, it’s not your grandmother. I saw her this afternoon. It’s Reenie.’

  ‘Reenie? What’s happened to her?’ She’s sprained her big toe, said a voice in my mind, and they’re sending her for an x-ray and Mum’s sure she’ll limp for the rest of her life, so she’s ringing me just so I can worry all night …

  It just never occurred to me it’d be anything bad. Reenie’s not the sort of person bad things happen to.

  ‘She’s disappeared,’ said Mum, and then she started crying.



  There are two things I never thought were possible.

  One was that Mum would cry. She hadn’t even cried when she left Dad. (She just muttered when she thought I wasn’t listening, but was polite and reasonable when she knew I was.)

  And the second was that anything out of the way would ever happen—COULD ever happen—to my sister Maureen.

  Reenie’s four years older than me. Four years and two weeks actually. Reenie’s pretty. Not beautiful or striking or anything like that; just the sort of person about whom everyone says, ‘Doesn’t she look pretty?’

  I’m not pretty at all, but when I grow up I want to be the sort of person who will make people say, ‘Once you’ve met her, you can’t forget her.’ They’d never talk about Reenie like that.

  Reenie’s blonde like Mum and I’ve got dark hair like Dad, or like he used to have before he lost most of it. Reenie’s slim and tall.

  Reenie always used to make her bed, even without being nagged. Dad says my room always looks like a cyclone hit it then backed away because it couldn’t stand the mess.

  I’m the one who does things that people don’t expect, not Reenie.

  I’m the one who rocked the boat by saying I wanted to stay here on the farm with Dad, not go up and live in town with Mum like everyone assumed I would. I mean you’re supposed to live with your mum when your parents divorce, aren’t you? Unless your mum has done something really drastic, like live with a child molester or is on drugs or something.

  Mum didn’t exactly say so, but I know she was thinking, What will people say?, when I said I wanted to stay here. Dad needed me, needed SOMEONE, but it was more than that. The farm is my home, in a way that Reenie and Mum could never understand.

  Not that that’s relevant. I’m digressing, just like Miss Marlatti says I do in essays. But what I mean is that Reenie never did anything wrong and, while I never did anything really terrible, I bet if you asked anyone in town they’d tell you if something odd was going to happen, it would happen to Sara, not to Maureen.

  It was as if the wrong sister disappeared.

  Mum was crying, sort of hiccupping down the phone, and Dad was next to me, not even pretending he wasn’t listening, saying, ‘What’s wrong? What’s happened?’, so that I couldn’t even hear Mum at all and my mind was just thinking: this can’t be happening. It can’t be happening.

  Like even then I knew just how bad things were going to become.


  11.15–11.35 a.m., Thursday, 4th May

  At 11.15 a.m., or thereabouts, Reenie walked down the stairs from her flat and through the tatty geraniums in the garden at the back of the hardware store.

  She was wearing her old jeans, not the good pair she bought in Sydney, and the pink T-shirt with a possum on it that Mum had given her when she started work at the café, and her sandals.

  She must have been carrying her handbag, too, though no one remembers seeing it. But it wasn’t in the flat when Mum came to search for it and anyway, Reenie always carried her bag when she went out. It’s a shoulder bag and she always wore it over one arm.

  There’s a window in the side of the hardware store and Sid, who works there, saw her walking down the driveway. He nodded and Reenie nodded back.

  ‘Did Reenie look worried? Or depressed?’ people asked Sid later.

  And Sid just said, ‘She looked just like she always did.’ He was busy serving someone and he didn’t notice anything else.

  Reenie must have gone up the street first, to the newsagents, instead of down to the supermarket which is at the other end of town.

  Several people remember seeing her in the street and Joe Hacker at the newsagent’s remembers her too. She bought a magazine, but Joe couldn’t remember which one, and she bought a newspaper. The newspaper would have been for her, not Myra.

  Reenie wasn’t passionately interested in politics—she wasn’t passionately interested in anything—but she liked to know what was going on.

  Joe didn’t note the time, but Mrs Harrison from the school had popped down at recess to buy a paper—she wanted it for her Social Sciences class—and she was hurrying to get back before the bell. Recess is from 11.10 to 11.30, so it must have been between 11.20 and 11.25 that Reenie was there.

  After that Reenie strolled down the street to the supermarket. No one saw her. Or, rather, lots of people must have seen her, but no one remembered that they had seen her, if you know what I mean.

  No one noticed any strangers either, or anyone doing anything odd. Like I said, it was just a normal day. Except it wasn’t.

  Reenie left the video on the counter at the supermarket, which is what everyone does. The videos are on the shelves just by the front door—or their empty boxes are at least. You take a box up to the counter and they put the video into it for you and write it down on your card. And when you return it they mark it ‘in’ on the card and note the day you brought it back.

  They don’t put the time of course, but Sally, who was on the counter that day, has one of those watches that tell the date as well as the time, and when she checked the date so she could enter the video back in the record book she saw what the time was.

  It was 11.35.

  Sally didn’t remember exactly where Reenie went after that, but if she had done anything unusual Sally would have noticed. She thinks maybe Reenie went down to the far aisle, which is where the bread is; right
down the back where you have to pass the chocolates and all these other impulse-buy items to get to it. We studied all about supermarket layout and impulse buying last year with Miss Hilyard. Reenie just vanished into the supermarket …

  ‘… and no one’s seen her since,’ said Mum, and there was a hoarseness in her voice I’d never heard before.

  ‘Mum, can you hold on a second? I’ll just tell Dad.’

  I explained as fast as I could. Dad listened without saying anything and then he took the phone from me.

  ‘What’s all this, Phyllis?’ he asked, as if I hadn’t told him anything, and I could hear Mum’s tiny voice like a bat on the other end of the phone, telling him the whole story again.

  ‘Look, Phyllis, calm down,’ said Dad, just like he always used to years ago. And then Mum’s voice, like it was coming from inside a tin, even faster than before.

  ‘Have you asked Myra where she might be?’ asked Dad, and then a pause, and then he said: ‘Look I was just asking. How about Johnnie? Has he seen her?’ and then he was listening again.

  It looked like they’d be at it for some time, so I sat down and tried to concentrate on my homework and then I heard Dad use the word ‘police’ and without looking up I started to cry.

  I didn’t know what I was crying about. I mean I wasn’t even really worried, not then. Reenie had just gone to visit someone, that’s all, and had forgotten to tell Myra, and Mum was having one of her stresses about it.

  But it was like my body knew, even before my mind did. And my nose clogged up and my throat began to hurt, the way they do when you try to stop the tears from falling.


  Thursday Afternoon

  Myra didn’t worry much when Reenie didn’t come home as planned. She slept for a while, she wasn’t sure how long, till about 2.30 p.m. maybe.

  Then when she woke she called out, ‘Reenie!’, just in case Reenie was in the kitchen and could bring her in a cup of coffee.

  There was no answer.

  Myra thought that perhaps Reenie had come in and gone out again … but Myra didn’t really think much about it at all, if you know what I mean. She got up and had a shower and dried her hair and when she went out to the kitchen she glanced at the clock on the stove. It said 3.45.

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