• Gina Fegan

Chapter 7. Really?

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Maeve didn’t want to feel embarrassed over who would pay for the coffee so she had got to the cafe early the following morning. She was sitting in the most discreet spot in the corner nursing her favourite, a flat white. Most of the other customers were in for their morning take-away so the tables were pretty empty.

She began to reflect on the children, who weren’t really children any more. Marieanne the eldest just turned 18, and during that last year they had done the rounds of universities. She had her heart set on Cambridge. Maeve was thinking that  Marieanne has the brains and she works hard, she should be fine. At the same time Maeve hated the pressure it put on her and was worried about how Marieanne would handle it if she didn’t get the grades she needed. In fact Maeve hated the whole system from GCSE to A level. In her view the kids don’t get a break, the pressure never lets up, and all this at a time in their life when hormones are raging and they are finding out who they really are. It’s tough. The youngest, Orla 16 this summer, dealing with the imminent GCSE’s without a bother for the moment, Maeve was more concerned about her clothes, her ‘look’, Maeve hoped that this wasn’t developing into a real issue. She was just thinking if she took Oral shopping would that help or would that be the worst thing ever, when a shadow fell over the table. 

Looking up Maeve saw Steve, coffee in hand, he looked a little sheepish. “Sorry about yesterday,” he said as he sat down opposite her. Somehow this seemed to embolden her, “So you bloody well should be! What made you change like that?” Steve didn’t answer immediately, he added two scoops of sugar to his coffee and stirred it slowly, “you said something you couldn’t have known unless you read the files.” “Or unless someone I met told me!”, Maeve still had a sharpness in her tone. Steve came back with “How likely do you think that is? I mean, would you believe it if a random stranger came looking for you and told you a ghost wanted to talk to you? Actually, I take that back, given your recent experience, you probably would. Anyway, I ascertained that you were not set up by any of my colleagues which is a step in the right direction. So I apologize. I hope that you accept my apology?” Steve wasn’t making fun of her but still there was a lightness in his voice which she liked.

Wanting to be witty and intelligent, “Apology accepted. Let’s start again, shall we?,” was the best she could manage. 

“I wanted to meet you this morning because I have something that could be more important.” Maeve started recounting her trip back from Folkestone, retelling Kamal’s story and ending up with the bag. “I don’t know anything about how the police work, so I may have spoiled evidence, but then again I still don’t really know if he was killed.” She sounded more vulnerable now, as she went on, “I tried calling the hospital to see if he was there but no joy. So then, I did open the bag, and took out a passport, as soon as I saw his name in the passport I put it straight back in the bag and shut it. I was shocked that I was touching something that had belonged to him directly. I didn’t know what to do, I thought we might go through it together? What do you think?”

Steve took a deep breath, “not sure where to start. First, if this was evidence then your fingerprints and DNA would be all over it, so you would be the prime suspect and I would be reading you your rights before taking you down to the station.” 

Maeve turned white. “Don’t worry. That’s not going to happen. It’s okay, really.” He put his hand over hers, to reassure her. It was warm and comforting, she felt better and recovered her colour. He continued, “No bodies or even serious accidents have been reported anywhere near there in years.” Pause, as Steve went back through his mind for any old cases that might fit. “Actually thinking about it, there was a guy killed in a hit and run accident some years back at Barham. When people take the wrong exit off the motorway sometimes they turn round at the crematorium. It must have been dark and the driver didn’t see the victim, we assumed the victim had been hiding in the bushes, and stepped out at exactly the wrong time, he had no papers and looked foreign. Driver probably panicked, and certainly didn't leave enough evidence for us to identify them. Then no one came forward looking for a missing person, no one to identify the body. We get a lot of asylum seekers in East Kent, from the ferries, or EuroTunnel. No papers, no ID, no money; conclusion, probably an unlucky asylum seeker.” 

Maeve started to frown, “But what if I am right? That would make it murder wouldn’t it? Okay, the timing might be wrong. Kamal, the victim, the spirit, may think it has just happened and maybe it was a few years back. This bag has all the information in it. And his photo is in his passport. Do you keep photo records of dead people? If he was a student at UKC then the University would have a record of him wouldn’t they? We could check it out.” This was a new direction. It would mean more work for Steve, he had enough to do without digging up old cases but still it shouldn’t be too much just to prove Maeve wrong. If she was right however that would be a whole different kettle of fish and he wasn’t ready to go there yet. Maeve on the other hand, felt confident, there were practical things she could do and now she had someone in the real world to talk it over with. 

Steve still had his hand over hers in friendly reassurance when Maeve felt someone staring at her, she turned her head and gave an involuntary exclamation “Shit!”. Orla was standing in the cafe staring at her and Steve. Maeve panicked there were so many things wrong with this that she didn’t want to explain. She pulled her hands away embarrassed. “Steve, I can’t talk anymore. Can you dig around at your end and I will check in with the University? See you here, same time tomorrow?” Without waiting for an answer she grabbed her bag leaving Kamal’s behind and almost ran out of the cafe to chase after Orla. 

Steve finding himself suddenly alone was part-surprised and part-amused wondering what had just happened. Whenever he could, he was a regular in the cafe at this time of day so it shouldn’t be an issue. He would just have to wait till tomorrow to find out. He had some time this afternoon and could check the files, he wanted to show Maeve what a good investigator could do, or maybe he just wanted to impress her with what he could do. As he collected up his stuff he could hear the soundtrack from ‘Knives Out’, ‘Play the Ponies’ by Jo Blankenburg should keep him going.

Gathering her thoughts as she did a fast walk after Orla, Maeve rounded the corner, she could just see Orla striding ahead of her along the High Street. First Maeve thought, why wasn’t she in school? What the hell is going on! Orla had never done anything like this before, or had Maeve just not known what she has been up to? Then, in the cafe Maeve had only had a quick look at Orla, but she could have sworn she had glimpsed a tattoo on her neck and she had certainly seen a nose ring. Could she have got all that done this morning? Maybe she had been concerned about the wrong daughter. 

Catching up with Orla, she called out “Stop! Young lady, we have to talk, now. Right now!” Orla froze and stood stock still until Maeve caught up with her, and without waiting for her mother to say anything else Orla fists clenched by her side launched into a tirade “How dare you! How dare you say anything to me when you are sneaking off to meet some man! And he’s filth! One of them, the other side. Does Marieanne know about this? Does Dad? Am I the last one to hear? WTF, Mum?”

Maeve was stunned, completely shocked. This was her daughter, this was her little girl that she kissed better when she fell over, that she loved. But it didn’t sound like her at all. The shock was like a slap in the face and made her stop, stand still and breath, there was only one thought in her head. No matter what was happening she loved her daughter and had to do whatever it took to make it right. 

Maeve reached out and put her arms around Orla giving her a huge all-enveloping hug. Orla was rigid for a few minutes and then just melted. Pulling back to take a look at her, Maeve saw tears running down Orla’s face, then Maeve realised that she too was crying. Maeve spoke softly “Love, whatever it is, whatever happens to you or to me, we can always sort it out if we talk to each other. I’m sorry, so sorry, I have things that I should have told you, but seeing a new man isn’t one of them! Clearly you have things to tell me too!” Through her tears Orla sobbed, “Oh Mum, I have so many things I need to tell you, I just didn’t know how. When everything is normal I don’t know what to say, or how to bring things up, and you haven’t seemed to be really with us over the last few days”. More hugs and tears then they found they were both laughing as Orla hiccuped and tissues were found. 

“Let’s not stay on the High Street! How about I treat you to a hot chocolate in the French Cafe?” Maeve was back in control of herself, feeling that she had been facing more emotional trauma in the last few days than she had in the last ten years and food in a warm cafe would help. They had a lot to talk about.

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