I left just after that. I got out onto the main road and just sort of looked blindly about, then a bus pulled up that would take me to my Granny’s and I got on it. Granny will make everything better.
They’re both trying to help. I know that, and I love them for it. Solveig is putting her job on the line by keeping me informed – I phoned the detectives who’d interviewed me earlier today, and the guy, Henrik, just said that they were working on lines of enquiry and would update me as and when there was something solid to tell me. Is the fact that some guy maybe wanted to eat me not something solid? Anyway, at least I know.
But something about Cara’s story just did my head in. I’m going to go and have a wee drink with Granny, then I’m going to forget all this completely for the weekend. I’m starting work on Monday, so I’m going to work out and do yoga and cook. I’m not qualified to try to figure any of this out myself anyway, what am I doing playing at being the Famous Five? I’m going to let the police do their job, and trust that if my brain is keeping a year from me, then it’s got good reason to.
I sat on the upper deck, in my favourite seat right at the front. I used to sit there and pretend I was driving; even now my foot presses an imaginary brake as we approach a red light, and my hands itch to swing a big invisible wheel round the corner. It was dark, and the drizzle glowed orange under the streetlights. Down below I could see folk hurrying home, takeaways and buggies and backpacks in hand. I pressed my face against the window, steaming it up with my breath and probably breathing in the plague or something, and just for a second desperately wished I were one of them. Any one.
Then I gave myself a talking-to – how many is that this week? Don’t remind me.
It’s just a daft story.
It’s no more real than Nessie.
(SORRY, sorry, I take it back. Nessie is real.)
But what are the things I know here?
I went for a hike to mend my broken heart (bleugh!) and I got attacked.
I may or may not have been on a boat.
I may or may not have been in a petrol station in the middle of America.
But I didn’t spend a penny, don’t have a valid passport.
I woke up on a beach fourteen months later.
The cut on my forehead from the attack was still fresh.
The man who attacked me is some kind of cannibal who sacrifices cows, but he chose to spare me.
That I somehow wandered into Brigadoon is probably the least weird explanation.
The bus pulled up at the stop for Granny’s and I got off, pulling my hood up against the light but persistent drizzle. To get to Granny’s flat from where the bus stops, you need to cut through a rec that was once a playpark but was closed a few years ago and the council came and took away the swings and the seesaw, like a reverse Santa with a lorry. Now it’s a wasteground, and the fact it’s so well lit – practically floodlit, like a sports arena – actually makes it freakier because it’s so blatant that they figure that otherwise we’d all be out tearing each other from limb to limb under cover of darkness.
I’ve been cutting across it alone after dark for twenty-something years, and it’s definitely not going to faze me tonight.
But as I set off, I suddenly remembered a project I’d done at school about Sawney Bean. If I remember correctly, he may or may not have really existed, but if he did, he lived some time around the 15th century in Ayrshire. He had something like 40 kids, and the whole family were cannibals. Which, you know, the family that eats together… Anyway. They used to stalk the highways and capture, murder and eat people who had the misfortune to pass by. It took 400 men to capture them, and the entire family was executed in various gruesome ways at a prison in Glasgow. I was partners with Cara and she insisted we did the Bean family – I wanted Isabella MacDuff – and I had nightmares for weeks afterwards. For some reason I kept thinking about the kids and grandkids who were born into the family – they never knew any other kind of life. Were they even truly evil if it was just they way they had been raised?
It was with these cheery thoughts that I made it to Granny’s and was relieved to see that the light in her front room was on. I hadn’t noticed how late it was when I left the restaurant and though I’ve got a key, I wouldn’t want to freak her out creeping in the flat in the middle of the night, not with her worrying about seeing ghosts and all.
She answered the door, and right away I could see that something was up. She was all jittery, grinning away with shining eyes and although it was lovey to see her happy, I have to admit my first thought was that her blood pressure medication had made her go a bit doolally.
“Linley pet, come in,” she shouted, giving me a big cuddle and kiss on the cheek. “My wee lassie – I’ve got someone I want you to meet!”
Someone was in her flat at after eleven on a fright night? Someone that’s got her all aglow and sparkly? I don’t know if I can quite handle my Granny having a fancy-man right at the minute.
She let me into the living room and my heart nearly stopped. Sitting there in the good armchair – the one neither of us sit in, ever – by the electric fireplace was Nate. The American.
“Linley – meet your grandfather,” said Granny.