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Authors: J.C. Burke

The Red Cardigan (14 page)

BOOK: The Red Cardigan
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Dear Athena,

Today is Wednesday 5th July and I'm on my way to Adelaide to meet your family. I hope I can do what you've sent me here for. It feels strange and I'm scared because I don't really know what to expect. But if you're with me then I won't feel so alone and that's probably what I'm most scared of.

When I think about how alone you were at the end it makes me feel emptier than I ever could have thought possible. It's like a hole in my chest, a hollowness in my gut and a feeling of such dread I feel like I can't breathe. I've had this feeling before, but not like this. It's so powerful. It's horrible. I hate it. I'd do anything to make it go away and that's probably why I'm here. I don't mean that to sound selfish.

Please show me what to do because I haven't a clue and I know people are counting on me (especially Dad and Theo). I used to push these weird feelings away, thinking they'd give up and leave me alone. But now I understand it's not like that. So, I'll let you into my heart and head and do everything I can to help your family put you to rest. Then will you leave me alone? 'Cause I think I'm starting to realise I need to put some things to rest in my own family, too, and I can't do both at the same time.

I hope that doesn't sound rude, as heaps of good things have come out of this. I've grown up a lot the past few days. It's been big. At last I'm beginning to understand about myself and my gift (I feel stupid calling it that). I don't have to sneak around pretending nothing's going on, and now I have people I can talk to. I never had that before. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have met Victoria.

I shouldn't whinge. I'm alive.

Things are stuffed with my mother, at least that's how it feels, and yet I reckon all of this has actually made me understand her a bit more. I really don't think she can help it. She's scared, and if you ask my opinion I reckon it was her father who made her like that. He died before I was born and Mum doesn't talk about him much but when she does she gets this look in her eyes. It's sort of sad and frightened. I think that was the way she looked just before she left (although I can't remember clearly, that whole night's a bit of a blur). That's the other thing I'm beginning to understand: we are who we are.

My friend Alex reckons she's been waiting for this to happen. She said, ‘Well, Evie, it sounds like the shit finally hit the fan.' And I said, ‘No, Alex, it was more like a monster turd collided with a windmill.' We had a good laugh after that except then she started crying and I did, too. Mum and I probably just need some time apart. Alex thinks maybe I knew you in a past life. She's always been into that stuff even though she hadn't heard of a ouija board. Dag!

Anyway, my dad keeps turning around and looking at me
so I better go. If he sees me writing this he'll really think I've flipped. Poor Dad.

Love, Evie xxxxx

P.S. In some ways I feel like I should be saying thank you. I just hope you'll be able to thank me, too. E xo


The minute they walk into the arrivals lounge Evie notices them. Two big men in navy suits.

Theo nudges her. ‘See those two suits over there,' he says with a wink. ‘That'll be them.'

‘Mr Simmons?' The older one holds out his hand to Theo.

Theo points behind him.

‘Oh? Mr Simmons?' He shakes hands with Nick. ‘Senior Detective Vic Spry, South Australian Police.'

‘How do you do,' says Nick. ‘This is my colleague and close friend Theo Kavlakis and this is my daughter, Evie.'

The detective looks at Evie and smiles. His face looks kind but his eyes are weary.

‘Hello.' Evie holds his hand firmly.

‘How was your flight?'

‘Fine, thank you.'

They walk towards the other suit.

‘Evie, this is Detective Sergeant Rory Van de Meer. He is my partner on the case.'

‘Hello,' Evie says.

He is young and fresh. He hasn't seen too much, yet.

‘How was your flight?' he asks.

‘Fine, thank you,' Evie answers again.

They walk out to the white Holden Commodore that is conveniently parked in the ‘no stopping' zone. They load the bags into the boot.

‘Have you been to Adelaide before, Evie?'

‘No, I haven't, Detective, um …'

‘Call me Rory,' he smiles.

‘Okay.' Evie notices his teeth. They are thick, capped and very straight, revealing his need for perfection.

Theo, Nick and Evie squash into the back seat.

‘We've got you booked into the Hilton.' Detective Vic Spry starts the housekeeping conversation. ‘It's a convenient spot, close to police headquarters and the Mile End area. Actually, we'll drive through Mile End on our way in.'

‘We'll pass where the Glendi Festival's held, too,' says Rory from behind the wheel. ‘Tell us if you want us to stop anywhere.'

‘Is there something there now?' asks Nick.

‘No,' answers Rory. ‘It's just parkland. The festival only goes for one weekend.'

‘I know all about the festival,' Theo says. ‘It's a celebration of Greek independence from the Turks.'

Theo launches into a history lecture on Greek–Turkish relations. Evie's sure the two detectives are rolling their eyeballs.

Nick winds down the window. ‘What else is at Mile End?' he asks.

‘There's a big railway terminal,' replies Vic. ‘It's where the Ghan, the Overland and the Indian Pacific meet.'

‘It's the Keswick Terminal.' Rory adds in the extras. ‘There's a goods line and a passenger line.'

‘Really?' Nick nods.

Evie isn't really following their conversation. It's that uncomfortable trying-to-break-the-ice, get-to-know-you kind of talk she'd rather avoid. Who cares what's there? she thinks. She's here to help Athena, not make boring small talk.

‘It's stuffy,' Evie says, slipping her shoulders out of the tweed coat.

‘Theo, wind down your window, mate,' Nick says.

Evie pulls open her jumper and blows into the neck. ‘I'm so hot.'

‘Here,' Theo says, helping her with her coat. ‘Give me that and take your jumper off.'

‘I hope you're not getting sick,' Nick sighs.

She senses the detectives exchange a look.

‘Stop the car,' she calls, surprising herself as much as the others.

‘What is it?' asks Nick.

‘We're here, aren't we?' Evie says to them. She leans over her father and looks out the window. ‘This is where the festival's held, isn't it?'

Rory turns around. ‘Do you want to get out?'

‘I'm so hot.' She pulls at her seatbelt. ‘I want to get something out of the boot.'

‘What is it, Evie?'

‘It's just something I need, Dad,' she snaps. ‘God, I'm suffocating in here.'

She can't undo the belt. The clasp is stuck. She tugs at it.

‘I can't believe I forgot it,' she keeps muttering. ‘I can't believe it. Can someone let me out of this car? I can't, can't – breathe!'

Evie rips the belt off, fighting her way out of the car. She leans over the boot shaking, trying to get her breath.

‘Get someone to open the boot, Dad.'

Rory presses the magic button and the boot pops open.

Evie pulls her bag out and starts rummaging through it. ‘I know I packed it,' she says over and over. ‘I did. I know I did.'

Nick, Theo and the detectives stand back, watching her. She is almost chucking things out of her bag. Things she wouldn't normally like strangers to see – bras, undies, tights, a packet of panty liners.

‘Got it!'

She opens the lid of a small black box and slips the square-shaped silver bangle over her wrist. The comfort wraps around her like the softest woollen blanket.

The men still watch in silence.

‘My mother's bangle?' Nick stammers.

Evie shrugs. She knows to them she looks crazy, yet she doesn't care and even that feels strange.

‘Do you want to have a walk around?' Rory finally says, back to business.

‘Okay,' says Evie. ‘Do you mind if I go by myself?'

‘We'll wait here,' he replies. ‘Give us a yell if you need anything.'

Evie wanders around the park. She can see the men standing by the car. Vic's smoking and Theo and Rory are chatting. Her dad hasn't taken his eyes off her.

A jumbled sound drifts towards her. Every now and then it gets a little louder. Evie walks towards it. It's so close
now. Music, screaming, laughter; it's just for her ears. ‘Does the festival have rides?' she calls.

Rory comes over to where she's standing. ‘They have a merry-go-round, dodgem cars, a ferris wheel –'

Suddenly she interrupts. ‘There's the star!' Evie is pointing to the air.

Rory looks up.

‘It's so big,' she gasps. ‘The star's all lit up. It's going around and around.'

In her mind's eye she can see the back of Athena, her long, dark hair falling behind her as she walks towards the star. Evie follows her through the noise.

‘Oh, she doesn't want to go on it.' There's a whining sound to her voice. Evie reaches out her hand. ‘No. Don't. Stop it! He's taking her hand. He's making her. He says she has to. He says she's chicken.'

The others have joined them. Vic holds a small recorder.

‘Stop, she doesn't want to!' Evie cries out, twisting the bangle around and around her wrist. ‘She hates the ferris wheel.'

Evie stops. Athena's gone. The men are standing around, watching her. She presses her lips together, her face flushing.

‘She came here with someone she didn't like.' Evie looks down, digging her toe into the dirt. They're still staring at her. ‘Someone who made her go on the ferris wheel. She must've tried to get away after that.'

‘Where did she go, Evie?'

She frowns at Rory. ‘I don't know.'


They check into the hotel.

‘That's bloody generous of them,' grumbles Theo, as the porter unlocks one hotel room with two double beds. ‘Any chance of another room, mate?'

‘There's an adjoining room,' Evie giggles.

She's sure Theo's one of those men who take hours in the bathroom. He's holding the most enormous toiletries bag. She catches a look from her dad and tries to suppress the laugh that's sitting in her throat.

‘What's so funny?' Theo asks.

‘You're cute, Theo.'

‘Why? What'd I do?'


‘Are you trying to read my mind, Evangaline Simmons?'

They hang around the room. Theo orders a club sandwich and takes a beer from the mini bar. Evie lies on the bed listening to her discman, and Nick stares out the window, an open book in his lap.

‘Well, no use just sitting around.' Theo drains the last drop from the bottle. ‘I might go and check out the gym. Anyone interested?'

‘You go,' Nick says. ‘I'm expecting a call from Robin.'

‘Come on. Twenty minutes on the treadmill will do you good.'

‘I'm fine, mate.'

But when Theo's mobile rings Nick jumps.

‘Theo Kavlakis? Yes, hello. Thank you, it was fine. I'm so sorry.' He starts speaking softly in Greek then calls out in
English. ‘That's amazing! I will. Thank you. Yes. I'll tell her. We'll see you soon.'


Evie and Nick stand there waiting for the news.

‘That was Athena's uncle,' begins Theo. ‘They just spoke to Vic and Rory. The ferris wheel at the Glendi Festival is famous for its fairy-lights display. Each year the lights are hung in a different pattern. This year it was a six-pronged star.'

Evie drops onto the bed, the saliva pooling in her mouth.

Theo keeps talking. ‘Athena was terrified of the ferris wheel. She hated any sort of heights. When she first disappeared, the police had a report that someone saw her on the ferris wheel, crying. Her family said no way it would've been her, she'd never, ever go on it, it was a real phobia. So the police disregarded it as a false sighting but of course the family remembered the report. They're very excited about meeting you. It means a lot to them.'

‘Theo?' whispers Evie, her fingers holding her throat. ‘We're not going to find her alive.'

He slumps down next to her. ‘Are you sure?'

She nods. They sit in silence.

‘Are you going to tell the police?'

‘I'm sure they already think that. They're looking for a body. They want to close the case. The missing persons case, that is.'


They drive through Adelaide bound for the western suburb of Mile End. It is time to meet the family.

‘How flat is this place,' notices Evie, as she watches the suburbs pass by. ‘Flat, flat, flat, flat as a pancake,' the words start in her head. ‘Flat as a pancake, flat as a pancake.' They gather rhythm and momentum. ‘Flat, flat, flat. Flat as a pancake. Flat as a pancake. Flat as a railway track.' The voice in her head grows louder. ‘Flat as a railway track, flat as a railway track, flat as a railway track.'

A shrieking sound races past, all bells and thundering. It's the sound from her dream. The tyres bump and rattle over a railway crossing. Evie wipes her hands on her jeans and swallows hard.


The Poulos house stands in a quiet street. A bull-nosed tin roof covers the front entrance. The door is open. They have been waiting for her. Theo and the detectives go in first. Evie waits in the car with her father.

‘You're being really brave, Evie.'

‘This has been the longest day of my life. There's a circus going on up here.' She points to her head. ‘And it's getting harder to ignore.'

Nick frowns. His hair sticks up at the front, reminding her of a little boy, dazed, just woken from sleep.

‘I don't really know what I'm doing, Dad.'

BOOK: The Red Cardigan
12.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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