Lost girl diary, p.6
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       Lost Girl Diary, p.6

           Graham Wilson

  Chapter 4 – Secrets of a Box

  Alan and Sandy delivered the box to Police Forensic Section before they returned to work in the mid afternoon. They were told that Forensics would first check the external surfaces for fingerprints and other residue and would open it about 4 pm. They were invited them to witness the opening and see what the box’s contents were. They shared a cup of coffee as they waited and chatted about their day, deciding they would have time for an hour in bed together before they joined Anne and David for an agreed two couple dinner.

  They returned at the due time and watched as a forensic technician carefully examined a thin layer of clear sticky tape which sealed the lid to the base of the box. At first he tried to lift it off as a single piece, the way Susan had described to Anne, but this proved impossible, the months in the ground had caused it to deteriorate. So he sliced through the join with a very fine scalpel, separating the lid from the base and lifting it off. Inside the only contents were two envelopes, each about an inch thick.

  He lifted out the first envelope, lifted the flap and disgorged four packages, each a series of identity documents fronted by a driver’s license, two from the Northern Territory, one from Queensland and one from Western Australia. With each license was a range of other documents, the sort required for an identity check, an electricity bill, a rates notice, a credit card and a couple other variable items.

  Each group was held together by a rubber band and each was an MB name in the way that Susan had described through Anne. Mark Butler came first, with a Katherine address and seemed to be the most used. Mark Bennet came next and seemed to also be well used, then, little used, appeared to be the identities of Mark Brown and Mark Brooks.

  There was nothing remarkable about any of this though it would give many days of work for the various state police forces running to ground all these aliases, checking bank accounts, license and address details and any connections which flowed from them. Alan had an officer reporting to him who was responsible for this part. This person now clicked a digital image of each document bundle and then of each document as it was separated.

  Then they came to the second envelope. Alan had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, mixed with anticipation. He knew that once he had these identities of the girls, assuming it was as told by Susan, he would need to contact the police forces of their home countries, seek assistance and soon he would be having agonising conversations with their next of kin. At one level he would be giving them new information which may resolve long uncertainty. At the same time he would be dealing a hammer blow to whatever fragile threads of hope they still held.

  As expected this envelope held four passports. He watched as they fell onto the table. First came one from Sweden, followed by a French one, both with the EU insignia, then came one from the USA and finally one bearing the distinctive United Kingdom insignia. As each hit the table it felt like a blow, the unknown identity of a person, once vibrant and alive, now likely dead and buried in some distant corner of this country.

  He watched with morbid fascination as the technician opened each passport and held it carefully by its edges as the photographer clicked away, page by page. The first, the Swedish woman named Elin Tordquist, looking to be in her mid twenties, strikingly beautiful with golden Nordic hair in dense tresses and a face with a striking intensity; words like elfin, and Viking Queen would have been the first words that tripped of his tongue if he was asked to describe her. The assurance in her eyes was no childlike girl but a woman used to being decisive, organising, taking risks but keeping control. He wondered about her story, where was gone.

  Then came a girl with long black hair, Mediterranean but softer, she too looked self-contained; more understated beauty than the classic form. There was a soft femininity to her face but also an edge of mischief and a sharp appraising intelligence. Her name was Isabelle followed by what looked like a typical French surname that he would have to ask Sandy how to pronounce, she had studied French at school.

  Then came the American girl, she must be the Amanda of the text message that Susan had sent to Anne, she was pretty in a conventional way, the typical post high school girl image of one of those innumerable American TV soaps.

  Last came the UK girl, with a Scottish place of birth in Inverness. She had similar long black hair and looks to the French girl though a bit more groomed and poised looking, as if had she spent time getting her hair done and her face made up before her photo.

  There was something tugging at the edge of Alan consciousness, a resemblance that he could not quite place, it was part the face, but most strongly a look, she really reminded him of someone else, he compared her photo again to the French girl. Despite some differences the similarity was striking. He wondered if it was this, the strong resemblance between the faces and the look of these two girls which ran a bell in his brain. No he knew it was more than that.

  It came to him like an outside image projected into his eyes, he realised what it was. If one superimposed the images of the two girls and blended a few of the differences what one was left with was an almost exact replica of the face of Susan Emily MacDonald. But even more it was the look, as if Susan was looking directly at him from a merging of these two photos. It was so clear it gave him goosebumps.

  He looked at Sandy, she had seen it too. She said, “They look so like Susan it is scary, there is something strikingly similar and compelling in the faces of those girls, these could almost be the same person’s picture, taken in different times and places with different hair styling and makeup. But, most of all, they have the same look; it is the way they look out at the world; with a dreamy but searchingly intent look out to a distant horizon, it must have caught Mark’s attention, like a re-meeting sequence.

  “And I have not told you of the photos I was sent of Mark’s mother, Rosita, from her brother Antonio. In early photos as a teenager and young mother, she had that look too. It was gone in later photos when she had the look of a battered housewife but it was there as a young mother.

  I showed it to Susan last time I visited her in jail but she did not seem to see it, she was fixated on the pictures of Mark as a boy. She mostly just looked at the one photo of him with his Uncle, smiling proudly as he held up a fish he had caught. She connected more with photos of Rosita near the end, when she was defeated by life, had lost hope and walked a path of no return. I think she saw herself in them, what she was becoming.

  So I think it is right, that a thread runs from Mark’s early childhood mother to his girlfriends, a look and faded memory he carried that he was always trying to recapture. Even the Swedish girl, Elin, despite many other differences, shares something of the searching intensity of that captured look, though I cannot see it in the American.

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