The lake was black, reflecting the starless sky. A faint fluorescent glow from suburban streetlights hung about, silhouetting the trees. Their shapes seemed distorted in the half-lights. It was as if the leaves on the trees held their breath as the body glowed white against the water’s surface. It was their secret at first, the water kept her for hours, confining her delicacy to the night. But then the sirens came with blue lights, screaming ‘Panic, panic!’ and the wind started up, jumping from tree to branch to leaf, flashing about in blind hysteria. The men called to each other, in their calm formality. They dragged her body, like a dying pearl from the water, her light fading as her body gave up. She looked strangely beautiful, so quiet, so at peace among the chaos that surrounded her.
‘Sir, we found something that might change the case direction.” Lodge was timid, and talked to his superiors like a shamed schoolboy. He looked younger than he really was, with a mind that matured long before his body.
‘At her flat? What is it then?’ Horden was a gruff, ugly man, with a nose that bulged out at the end like a beetroot. He had flat, greasy hair and hummed to himself while he worked. But he was good at his job, he was the head of the case.
‘A diary, Sir. It looks like suicide. She was depressed.’
‘No, it can’t be, we talked to all the family, friends, colleagues, she was a normal, happy, everyday girl. She never went to the doctor with any problems. She was a target, Lodge.
‘I think you should read it.’
‘Alright, go and get it then. And fetch me Barrett while you’re up.’
Barrett and Lodge returned with the diary. It was turquoise, neatly held together with a flash of pink ribbon. Horden made notes before they opened it together.
The property of Samantha Newman
‘Nothing new here’ Horden said mockingly, jotting something down and laughing to himself. He turned the page.
Today I woke up, felt a bit off, like a tingling sensation at the back of my head, so I showered a bit longer, took things a bit slower. I always feel at peace when I’m in the shower, I can imagine it now, how the heat of the water weighs down my hair and trickles at the bottom. I dressed quietly so not to wake up Tim. He seems to sleep longer and longer. I went downstairs, had cereal again, listened to the radio. There was something on about tourists returning to the English seaside holiday instead of going to Tenerife or somewhere like that. Hopefully that will do the town some good. It’s sad when even the seafront looks drab and dreary. After breakfast, I made a list of all the things I had to do today, including write in this diary, because I like telling you about things. Then I left for the bus, I was ten minutes early and it was ten minutes late, I had half a mind to complain to the driver, but I just sat and finished my list. When I got to work, I realised it was Wednesday, which is the best day, because I only have three morning classes to teach before it’s lunchtime and then I’m finished for the day. I talked to Sue in the morning, and then went to my first class. I had a bit of a panic, because I wasn’t sure whether I’d set the alarm so Tim could get up, but when I got home later, he said that I had. The third class was pretty hectic, they got bored of Richard III very quickly, so I let them make posters by the end, which cheered them up, and I got to finish my marking. At lunch, I went down to the river at the bottom of the school field, which felt good to get some peace from the water. Its flow is constant, which I like. I have to stop writing now as Tim wants his dinner, think I’m going to have to scrape something together as I stupidly didn’t go to the shops after work which I normally do on a Wednesday.
Horden looked at the other men sitting round his desk.
‘Are you serious. This is calls for a suicide?’ He was annoyed at the disruption, but there were a tone of smugness to his voice.
Barrett fidgeted. Lodge felt a spark of bravery.
‘I didn’t think so either when I read the first page. But then I noticed some pages had been torn out, there are big chunks missing, and it’s all this wishy washy stuff until right at the very end. Dated last week. She’s real, she isn’t just this little teacher who bakes fairy cakes and watches TV with her boyfriend on the sofa. I don’t know whether they’re covering up, but someone in her life knows this stuff isn’t real.’ Lodge had worked himself up, and people around the room were looking. He sunk back down and waited for a response. He remembered he had forgotten to say ‘sir’.
‘Alright, alright, show me.’
‘Well..’ He paused. He took the diary out of Horden’s reluctant hands. ‘If we go to five days before the incident.’
It happened when I was taking a bath. The water burned my skin, but the pain was nice, it was soothing in this bizarre way. Safe, that’s how I felt. I watched the water lap up against my body, like a mini tide in my bath. I don’t know how long I had been lying there when it happened, I just felt a crash that ran through my peace, I could suddenly feel the blood pulse around my limbs, jumping into action. I just kept thinking fight or flight response. I always think of the most stupid things when he gets like that, I have horrible images of him smashing up the flat like he did last Christmas. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat there, holding my breath while he tore away, wishing that he wouldn’t hear me and find me. You know what happened before, but no-one else does, he made sure of that. He made sure I can never leave. I’m going to hide you this time, where he can’t find it. But I need to tell you what happened. I need to clear my head and write it down. He started screaming my name, but I didn’t reply, even though I should have. I heard him go from room to room, my name getting quieter and louder, like someone was playing with the volume dial. He started pounding on the door, screaming at me, calling me a daft bitch. He called me a whore. I began to cry, but that always spurs him on. I don’t know why. I don’t know why that fires him up. He started kicking at the door, he told me to get the fuck out of there. I was quiet for a long time while he screamed. But then I said, what have I done wrong. I wanted some reasoning before I came out. I wanted to brace myself. He said that I knew what I had done. I had embarrassed him at work again. He said I talked to fucking Sue at school. You know she’s married to my boss, he said. I tried, I tried so hard to remember what I said, but I only talked to her about school, about my classes. I never talk to her about Tim. I never said anything bad, I told him, from behind the door. He just screamed, and I plunged under the water, like the ocean swelling over me. I want to be there now, at the bottom of the sea, with the serenity of the water to lap over my pain.
Lodge made eye contact with his boss, but did not feel smug, or happy at his discovery. He did not want praise. He wanted to go and save the girl, she felt so real to him, but her life was only was in his imagination. She was a ‘victim’. He has rifled through her belongings, he had found something inside of her, that no-one would ever know if she had not gone through with it. But Horden was unconvinced.
‘Why does it say suicide, Lodge. This bloody wells says the boyfriend drowned her in that lake. It says that we still have a murder investigation.’
‘What about ‘the serenity of the water to lap over my pain’, she wanted to be in the lake!’ Lodge found himself becoming angry, his grip on the diary tightened, he rose from his seat. ‘Read the last entry, please, I know I’m right’.
She clings to me, when I eat, when I sleep. She lies down next to me in bed. A third passenger. A dark whisper, nudging me, clawing at my sanity, feeding on me like a leech. Does she want my blood, I ask her. What does she want, my end, my beginning? No, no, she never answers me. She crawls into my mouth, swings from my eye sockets, sleeps in my skull. Her hands, filthy little shreds, dig holes, and I fall into them. I shout to her, why? Why are these holes here, what reasons do you have? She mocks my caution, my rationality. She mocks that I never leave. Only tell her. Only her. She mocks my plans for the day, for the year, for my life. She is a black soul, I hate her, I am her, I hate myself. I need her. When she leaves I sit and wait for her return. And then I detest her even more, dragging me under the soil, into the coffin. But I must follow her now.
‘You sure you want to go ahead with this?’ Horden asked.
‘Yes, yes, absolutely.’
‘You better start on the paperwork then.’