Becky ran back out of the house, heading for the spot where Sara had been taken into the water. She found the large shoulder bag, and placed it around her body. There must surely be something inside it that made Sara bring it along, and she would check that later. The police car took almost fifteen minutes to arrive. Long before the officers appeared, she had given up all hope of ever finding Sara alive. The man who snatched her was obviously Thomas Oliphant, and he had taken the clairvoyant before she could reveal any secrets.
There was no ambulance available just yet, in this rural part of the county. But soon after two police officers had arrived, a solo paramedic turned up in a car. It was all rather pointless of course, as Sara’s body was nowhere to be seen, and the emergency services were unable to enter the river without the assistance of trained divers. A serious young policewoman asked for the divers on her radio, and requested a helicopter to search downstream too. But Becky knew it was all a waste of time. Sara would never be found. Mum was still in the house. She hadn’t even bothered to follow her distraught daughter back to the riverbank. They took Sara’s bike away in a police van, saying they would try to trace her next-of-kin.
Becky was escorted back to the house, as the search gathered momentum. The policewoman took her statement, and Becky stuck to the story that she had contacted Sara online, and asked for help with a history project. They were walking by the river, when Sara stumbled, and fell in. She wasn’t about to mention her being dragged under by a ghostly apparition, that was for sure. There was also no talk of the surname connection with her Mum. Best left unsaid, until she could find out more. With the police in the house, Mum acted concerned. She was cuddling her daughter, offering her everything from drinks to food, even sweets. Mum gave a statement too, a very short one. She had met the woman, who had taken her daughter for a walk. Then the woman had fallen into the river. That was all she knew.
After dark, they were still looking, miles away downstream. The sound of the helicopter could be heard in the distance, and the light it shone down onto the countryside illuminated the surrounding darkness. Becky instinctively knew Sara would not be found. Something had conspired to make her disappear, and she was convinced her Mum was involved. She went to her room early, unable to eat anything. Mum left her alone. She seemed to know how her daughter was feeling.
Sunday was spent in a haze. No visits from any long-dead Oliphants, and a small meal eaten at teatime. Becky stayed in her room for most of the day. The canvas bag was still hidden under her bed, but she was almost afraid to look at what was inside. The police had phoned the house at ten o’clock, with an update.
As expected, there was no trace of Sara.
Mum was acting cool. She didn’t know the woman, and that was that. She asked Becky three times if she wanted anything else to eat, then gave up. Later, she said she didn’t have to go to school on Monday. But Becky was adamant that she should go. “What can I do around here, Mum? I might as well go in. I don’t want to lose any course time”. Mum agreed, and went so far as to get her daughter’s clothes ready for the next morning. Sara’s bag was left undisturbed that night.
The next morning, Becky had to get up almost one hour earlier. Besides the walk into the village, she had to allow for the bus picking up other kids on its way into school. There were two or three other stops in villages on the way, so it took much longer than just driving straight in with Mum. After a brisk walk along the lane, she saw the yellow bus, where she had been told it would be parked. It was small, more or less a big van with windows. As the first there, Becky walked up to the door, and the driver asked for her name, checking on a clipboard. She was a woman about forty, but she looked like a man. Other than obvious boobs, everything about her was masculine; from the short hair, to the cigarette dangling from her lips. She managed an early morning effort at a smile. ” Rebecca Webster? Okay girly, on you get”. A few minutes later two older boys appeared. The driver called to them. “Come on, lads, you’re running late!” They got in the side door, glancing around to where Becky was sitting right at the back. She got the impression that she was in their preferred seat.
They set off to the next village, where they picked up two girls in the year above Becky. Both kept looking back at her, whispering in each other’s ears. The driver called out, “Ralph is sick today, apparently, so just one more stop”. At the end of a driveway leading to a rather grand house, the bus pulled up. Becky watched as a beautiful girl got on. It was Tilly Vosper, the head girl. She was at least seventeen, and looked older. A sensual mouth, lovely blonde hair, and a stunning figure. Tilly climbed aboard, and headed for the seat next to her at the back. Her smile made Becky swoon. “You’re Becky Webster, I’ve heard about you. Mind if I sit next to you?” Becky nodded, unable to speak. She had seen this girl at school, and already had an overwhelming crush on her.
Tilly crossed her long, wonderful legs. She smelled like something unbelievably desirable but impossible to name. And her make-up and gleaming teeth were flawless. “You’ve had some excitement at your house I hear? It was all over the local news. Would you like to meet me in the Senior Common Room at lunchtime, and tell me all about it?” Becky was inhaling the girl’s breath. It was like a cross between honey and fresh spearmint. She nodded, annoyed at her stupid inability to reply. Tilly placed a hand on Becky’s knee, and that made her tingle all over. “Shall we say twelve-thirty? Becky finally managed to reply, but it sounded like the croak of a toad. “Yes, twelve-thirty”.
When they got out of the bus at the school, Tilly went off ahead, catching up with some older girls she knew. Still in a dream state, Becky carried on into her class.
She didn’t see Tilly’s self-satisfied smirk.