I saw the woman dragging her suitcase along the gravel path into the woods from my kitchen window. I had thought it odd that anyone would enter the thick copse of trees at that time of night, let alone a woman trailing a large suitcase. I watched her for a few minutes until the dim light of the torch she had been carrying faded between the trees. Not many people used the woods anymore, the occasional dog walker perhaps, and so it had become a potential site for fly-tipping.
I heard the report on the news the following evening. A child had gone missing. They showed a photograph of a four year old grinning beside his laughing Mum and I knew that it was the same woman I had seen the night before. As if to confirm my suspicions the news-caster mentioned the street where the family lived, only three miles away. My hand hovered over the telephone, but I did not make the call.
The next day I showed a charming young couple around my house and knew as soon as I shut the door that they would make an offer. Sure enough, an hour later the call came. I accepted with joy. I had been trying to sell the house for three years. Their offer, only a small amount below the asking price, was the first I had received. I requested a prompt sale. It could be done within a month, they told me.
I made sure I had packed up all my things before I decided to tell the police what I knew. Any time before that and I wouldn’t have sold my house, not if that little boy had ended up in that suitcase. Who wanted to buy a house on the edge of a body dump site?
I told them I had been away during the initial reporting of the incident; that the day after spying an odd woman dragging a suitcase through the woods I had gone to visit relatives in Scotland. I wasn’t a suspect; they believed what I said. By this time, though, they could no longer locate the mother. She had scarpered with the new boyfriend.
The remains of the boy were found beneath a pile of autumn leaves, along with a worn stuffed bear that was missing an eye, and a bloody baseball bat. The suspects – the mother and her man – are still unaccounted for.
I chose to buy my new home because it is surrounded by other houses. It makes me feel safer somehow. But I keep my kitchen blind closed, just in case.