Roughly a week later, Jamie’s Dad failed to return home from his work at the supermarket Fleshgo. They said he left as normal.
They had phoned the police, who said there had been no car crashes anywhere in Shetland during that day. An investigation was started, but as of February, still nothing had been found.
This affected the family very deeply. His Mum was signed off her job for a few weeks, and Jamie started performing worse at school. He stayed in his room most of the time, often too depressed to leave, which damaged his friendships with Mary and Robert. Mary still visited him sometimes, and they sometimes went out and did something, but he usually couldn’t be bothered.
His life slowly changed. He knew he had to try to put it to the back of his mind, as they didn’t even know if his Dad was dead, and if he kept up like that it would destroy his life. His Mum was growing concerned about him, and referred him to a psychologist, though unfortunately there was a year-long waiting list.
Eventually it came up to Mary’s 14th birthday. Jamie decided he’d try to visit her, for the first time in weeks. It conveniently was on an occasional school holiday.
Though feeling very insecure, he opened the gate and walked up to her house. He knocked and Robert answered.
“Oh, you’ve come!” he said, surprised. “Come in.” He looked taller than Jamie could remember.
“Who is it?” Mary called to him.
“Jamie,” Robert replied.
“What! Oh great!!” She walked up to the door. She was wearing a dress that Jamie hadn’t seen before, which made her look very pretty. Had he really been paying so little attention to his friends?
They went through into the sitting room. There was a banner saying “Happy 14th Birthday” and cards over the wall, and the bin was full of wrapping paper.
She showed him stuff she had got* including an interesting book on architecture (Craft and Design was her favourite subject) and an old calendar of Shetland – she liked collecting them for some bizarre reason.
Jamie looked at the calendar.
“None of these pictures have wind turbines in them!” He cried, amazed.
“I know,” she replied. “It looks good!”
“It looks great!” Jamie wondered if leaflets advertising holidays in Shetland had pictures of the wind farm.
Mary and Robert’s Dad had told him about Shetland before the wind farm. It had been an unpopular idea from the beginning, yet the former Shetland Islands Council+ had always said it would be the best thing ever to happen to Shetland.
“Could we go up Vementry soon?” Mary asked him. Their grandparents had lived in Vementry before they went missing, but instead of selling the house their unemployed son, who was Mary and Robert’s uncle, moved in and sold his old house for a profit. It was a very big house and they liked visiting it.
“Yeah ok,” Jamie answered. He’d almost forgotten what it had looked like!
“And Uncle Len will be at his new job now,” Mary stated. “I bet he doesn’t stay long,”
“I’m estimating less than two weeks if his previous jobs are anything to go by,” Robert said, bringing in two cups of tea for them. “And you’d better drink this before you go, I didn’t spill hot water over myself for nothing!”
They drank their tea, and departed up the road to Vementry. Robert was working part-time at the shop so he was too busy to come.
Jamie noticed how much more out of breath he was than usual just walking. Just a month of no exercise had almost destroyed his fitness! Jamie had been shocked to learn that a few decades ago people would have just taken a car for that short distance.
Economists estimated that by next year the price of petrol would have almost doubled what it had been ten years ago. Cars were used as little as possible, therefore busses had become so popular that half a dozen more had had to be shipped up to Shetland. The wind farm was meant to be bringing in enough income, but for some it wasn’t, and this was currently under investigation, they were losing more money than they were gaining.
It had been a harsh winter, and Len’s house was evidence of it; tiles had blown off the roof, a window was boarded up and there was no sign of a fence that used to split up the garden. Even so, it still looked beautiful.
They went into the hallway. There wasn’t much to actually do there, but it was nice just to be there. They turned on the television in the lounge, but it was all news on the 3rd Great Credit Crunch destroying the economy.
“So... what should we do now?” Mary asked.
“It feels quieter without Robert,” Jamie said.
“Well sometimes it’s nice not having your older brother go everywhere with you.”
Jamie got up and looked at the bookcase. It looked ancient, and had wonderful markings on the edges, though they’d never found out what they were.
Jamie had given up asking for news about what had happened to her grandparents; there was little point. They had disappeared roughly a year ago, and though the investigation was still active, there was very little chance of them being found.
But Jamie then had a thought.
“Hey, Mary, how did your grandparents go missing again?”
“Um... it was at night I think. Dad went to visit them and they had just vanished.”
“Oh,” Jamie said. There went his theory. Although…
“Why?” Mary asked.
“It’s just weird that them and Dad both…” Jamie hesitated. It still hurt to mention his Dad.
“Both went missing, and neither were found,” he finished.
“Yeah, I know. It happens though.”
“But surely the police must have had some leads!” Jamie said. He realised they’d never had a proper conversation about this before.
“Well I don’t know, um, any enemies they might have had, or things they were hiding…”
Mary opened her mouth to say something, but stopped.
“Oh!” she cried, realising something.
“What is it?” Jamie asked her.
“Oh, it’s probably nothing…”
“What is it?” Jamie repeated.
“Well, Granddad had a safe in his room, in a cupboard, which he told me was secret.”
“Wouldn’t it have been opened when he went missing?”
“They couldn’t find the key…”
“Oh?” That seemed careless, for something that could be important.
“Can I see the safe?” Jamie asked.
“Yeah, I don’t know if Uncle Len will have moved it though,” she replied, walking up the stairs. Jamie followed.
There had been a nice picture of Mary and Robert on the wall, but Len had obviously taken it down. Instead was a picture of a goat for some bizarre reason.
On the landing there was a red stain that smelled of wine.
“Your Uncle Len, he seems a bit, well, a bit of a slob,” Jamie said carefully.
“I know!” Mary exclaimed, annoyed. “At our New Year party he spilt soup all down his shirt onto the floor. All of it!”
They went into her Grandparents’ bedroom, which now was unused. Len slept in the small spare room. Nobody knew why. Nobody cared.
Mary opened a cupboard and inside was a small safe. Jamie tried to pick it up, but it was either too heavy or attached to the ground. He hoped it was the second.
They looked at the lock. It had a unique golden pattern around it.
“Wait a second…” Mary gasped. “That’s the same pattern that’s on a key I found!”
“You found the key!?” Jamie yelled.
“I must have. It was shortly after they went missing, I found it on the road about thirty metres away from their house. I assumed someone had lost it, so I kept it just in case I heard anything about a missing key,” she explained.
“On my shelf.” That made sense. Mary kept everything on her shelf, from biscuit wrappers to an old keyboard.
“Let’s go and get it then!” Jamie cried.
“Wait, shouldn’t we tell Dad?” Mary asked him.
“Oh,” Jamie replied, disappointed. “I suppose we should… That doesn’t mean we have to though…”
“We could look and see what’s inside then tell your Dad we’d just found the key.” Jamie really had changed in the last year; he’d never have done something like that last year.
They walked back to Mary’s house.
“Should we let Robert in on our plans?” Jamie asked.
“We’d better not, you know what he’s like,” she replied. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“A little bit. It’s hardly James Bond though.”
“I could imagine you as a spy!” she said, laughing.
They got to her house and went in. Fortunately Robert was out, so they avoided some awkward questions. Mary went and got the key from her room.
“That’s definitely the same pattern,” Jamie said.
They then went back to Len’s house to try the lock. They arrive back there after half an hour, exhausted.
They tried the safe, and it worked! Mary opened the door and looked inside.
Nothing. It was completely empty.
“Um…” Jamie said.
© Copyright 2016 Mathew Nicolson. All rights reserved.