was just sitting on the guardrails one Saturday morning, looking bewildered and
confused as if she had just gotten off the bus at the wrong stop. It looked
like she had been crying, because she had. Her blonde ponytail was starting to
unravel, and the light blue, plaid summer dress and short red cardigan she wore
were not protecting her from the icy air of the early spring day.
sight of the girl made Laura worried. She wondered why any parent would send a
child out on a cold morning, dressed like that. Did they even know she was out?
Had something happened, and did she need help?
called in her dog, retracting and securing the leash, before approaching the
child. Getting closer, she could tell that she had seen this girl before, but
she couldn’t quite place her. It was not one of her children’s classmates, or
any of her friends’ kids, she was sure of that.
everything alright?” Laura asked.
girl looked up. She had unusual eyes, bright blue with a darker circle around
the iris. Her face was really familiar, somehow, still Laura was at a loss as
to where she knew her from.
think I’m lost,” the girl said in a shaky voice. “I was just going to
the post office for my Mum, and just suddenly there was this road, and I didn’t
know where I was. It was really scary. I tried finding the way back to our
house, but I can’t see it anymore. And suddenly it got really cold.”
must be new to the area, Laura thought. Maybe her mother didn’t remember how
far the post office was, or didn’t realise her daughter had changed from
pajamas to a favourite dress that was wrong for the season. It was probably the
latter, or at least she hoped so. The child wasn’t dressed to be outside at
all, even for a short walk. Looking more closely at her outfit, Laura noticed
that she wasn’t even wearing socks, only a pair of old-fashioned T-bar sandals,
similar to the ones Laura had worn herself at that age. All her clothing looked
new and clean, though.
do you live?” Laura asked. “I mean, do you know your address?”
girl looked a bit surprised. “Of course I know,” she stated.
“It’s Millwood Drive number 16. I’ve always lived there!”
was surprised by the answer. Millwood Drive was close by, on the other side of
a small copse. Having three daughters of around this girl’s age, she thought
she knew the face and name of all the girls in the area.
just on the other side of the trees,” Laura reassured the girl. “I’ll
walk you there. You’re not afraid of dogs are you?”
the girl said with tiny smile. “The only dog I’m scared of is Mrs.
Berwick’s. It bit my sister once, so she had to have a tetanus shot! Yours
looks friendly. Can I pat her?”
is very friendly,” Laura confirmed, releasing a bit of leash so the golden
retriever could greet the child. “Her name is Wendy. She really loves
name is Heather,” the girl said, scratching Wendy behind the ear.
seemed right, actually. Laura still couldn’t remember exactly when or where she
had seen her before, but somehow she remembered that as being her name. She
took off her jacket, and draped it around Heather’s skinny shoulders.
name’s Laura,” she said. “Laura Stockwell. I’m Caitlin, Nicole and
shook her head. “I don’t know them.”
didn’t seem right, Laura thought, as they started walking towards Millwood
Drive. The local school was smallish, and her girls seemed to know everyone’s
names. Even if Heather went to a private school somewhere else, it was odd that
she didn’t know children who lived less than ten minutes away, in a semi-rural
area. She seemed to be isolated, for some reason.
was also bad news if Mrs. Berwick had gotten another dog, after the last one
was put down for attacking a home care assistant three years previously. Mrs.
Berwick was over eighty years of age, with very poor knees. Although she had
owned dogs for most of the sixteen years Laura had lived in the area, none of
which had been well behaved, she should know better. Irresponsible dog owners
was something that really rubbed Laura the wrong way, along with irresponsible
Drive came into view around the bend. Laura had decided to walk Heather all the
way to the door, and if possible talk to her parents. Maybe she could get a
small impression of what kind of people they were.
house is yours,” she asked.
one,” Heather said pointing. “It’s the one with the big oak tree
behind it. But… why?! It’s
not supposed to look like that! And what are all these strange cars doing
is going on?!" Heather started crying.
felt the blood freezing to ice in her veins. The Newgates. She had never paid
attention to the street number, but she knew very well who lived in that
knew that. Everyone knew about the tragedy that befell them
over thirty years earlier, and which in some strange way felt even more
sinister now, shrouded in the fog of the past.
had lived on the other side of town when it happened, but it had been all over
the news. She had recognized the couple the first time she saw them, after she
moved to the neighbourhood, although they were quite elderly by now. The
Newgate family had gained a sort of fame they had never wanted, that summer
evening many years ago, when their oldest daughter disappeared without a trace
on her way to the post office.
It shouldn’t be
possible. Still, there she was, looking exactly like she had done in her
picture on the news. Heather, with the blue eyes. Missing since 15 of June,