Forgive me when I tell you it was me.
Is she telling the truth? Can’t be. That many? Dead? Surely not.
It was me that told.
The detective. A kindly man, belly full and round. Disbelief at first. Then, the stained dungarees I pulled from my bag. Tiny.
The teddy bear on the front peppered red with blood. I could have brought more, so many to choose from. She never knew I kept them.
Shifted in his chair he did. Sat up straight, him and his gut.
His hand – I noticed a slight tremor as it reached for the telephone. Come now, he said. You need to hear this. The silent waiting for his superior to arrive. Bearable for me. Less so for him. A hundred questions beat a drum in his head. Is she telling the truth? Can’t be. That many? Dead? Surely not.
I told the story again. And again. Same story. Different faces watched, different ears listened. I told them everything.
The video recorder on, a gentle whirring the only noise in the room once I finished my statement.
You might have to go to court, you know that, right? You’re the only witness, one of the detectives said. Another asked, do you think it’s safe for us to send her home? If what she’s saying is true? The chief inspector in charge replied, we’ll have a team assembled in a matter of hours, then turned to me and said, nothing’s going to happen to you. It already has, I wanted to reply.
Everything moved quickly after that, it had to. I was dropped off at the school gates, in an unmarked car, in time for pick‑up. In time for her to pick me up. She would be waiting with her demands, recently more urgent than usual. Two in the last six months. Two little boys. Gone.
Act normal, they said. Go home. We’re coming for her. Tonight.
The slow grind of the clock above my wardrobe. Tick. Tock. Tick. And they did. They came. The middle of the night, the element of surprise in their favour. A nearly imperceptible crunching on the gravel outside, I was downstairs by the time they forced their way through the door.
Shouting. A tall, thin man dressed in plain clothes, unlike the others. A string of commands sliced through the sour air of our living room. You, take upstairs. You, in there. You two take the cellar. You. You. You.
A tidal wave of blue uniforms scattered throughout our house. Guns held in praying hands, flat against their chests. The thrill of the search, along with the terror of the truth, etched in equal measure on their faces.
And then you.
Dragged from your room. A red crease of sleep visible down your cheek, eyes foggy with the adjustment from a state of rest to a state of arrest. You said nothing. Even when your face was mashed into the carpet, your rights read out, their knees and elbows pressed in your back. Your nightie rode high up your thighs. No underwear. The indignity of it all.
You turned your head to the side. Faced me. Your eyes never left mine, I read them with ease. You said nothing to them, yet everything to me. I nodded.
But only when no one was watching.