The Drowning Lesson
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The press conference, one year ago
Our home is a crime scene now.
I am in yesterday's clothes. The clothes in which I kissed Sam goodbye. Then he'd belonged only to us. Now his image will be shared with the world.
We should be grateful.
'Our son . . . Sam . . .' My eyes fill with tears, the writing on the paper blurs. 'Someone took him. Please help us . . .'
I back away from the microphone, the paper falls from my hands.
The Jordan family thought they would return from their gap year abroad enriched, better people, a closer family.
Not minus one child.
A year on, Emma remains haunted by the image of that empty cot, thousands of miles away, the chasm between her and the rest of the family growing with each day that Sam remains missing. Is her son still out there? Will the mystery about what happened that night ever be unravelled?
Inside there were two small knitted lions, complete with woolly manes and labels tied around their necks with red ribbon: ‘For Alice’ and ‘For Zoë’. Texting me later, she told me Andrew had panicked; he was fine now. We arranged to try again a fortnight later. CHAPTER SEVEN Provence, August 2013 When Alice had finished her croissant, she tipped her chair back and shut her eyes. I registered a fluttering sensation deep inside my pelvis, the kind a butterfly might make if trapped in a palm. The
He was searching for something that made sense. Now that the scan had proved it was a simple strawberry naevus with no underlying lesion, he considered the problem solved. If I told him why I avoided picking Sam up, he wouldn’t believe me. It would make no sense to him that every time I looked at that small marked face I felt the dull weight of failure. I told Megan, though. She came early one frosty Sunday morning, her cheeks flushed with cold, carrying a basket of knitted toys. She handed
my study along with my papers, grateful but convinced she had wasted her time. I glanced round the familiar space, the light in the corner, my father’s desk, the piles of books heaped on its surface. I snapped off the light as I left, feeling a tingle of apprehension. Despite Adam’s organization and careful planning, the maps, the books and the equipment, we were going into the unknown. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Botswana, March 2014 The boy veers down a smaller track and through a gate, his long legs
Elisabeth puts flowers in a glass. A crested bulbul startles up from the track, his staccato call tearing the peace: be quick, be quick, Doctor, be quick. The gold light darkens between the trees; a desert flower flares red in the shadows, and then it’s dusk. Supper time. Bath time. Sam might be crying. Another bird answers the first and another, then all the trees are full of their broken sounds. The darkening air feels thick as cake in my mouth. In front of my feet a thin snake slithers
snake Josiah killed. It had been skinned, and so had the lizards. Why would anyone do that?’ Her hands stop moving. ‘Why, Elisabeth?’ ‘Spells,’ she says quietly, and resumes chopping, but her knife misses, cutting into the board. Someone from the village then, someone who has crept very close; even Elisabeth is frightened. We should take up Kabo’s offer of guard dogs: I send him a rapid text. Peo is murmuring to Elisabeth, who tries to smile as she translates, but her mouth quivers. ‘Peo