Tuesday 9 April 2013
Against her better judgement, Beth Goulbourn unlocked the door to her daughter’s bedroom and stood aside for Grace Fellows and her film crew of two to go inside.
‘You make sure that anything you touch goes back exactly where you found it. And don’t you dare think about taking yourself a souvenir.’
‘Don’t worry, Mrs. Goulbourn, we’ll leave everything just as we found it. I promise,’ Grace replied. She turned her attention to Andy and Banjo, her camera and sound guys. ‘Are you two ready?’
They nodded in unison, camera and sound equipment at the ready.
Grace cautiously opened the door, half expecting to see Charlotte Goulbourn’s ghost parading around the room or moping away in a corner, but there was nothing supernatural about the sixteen year old’s bedroom other than the fact that it was spotlessly clean. There were no clothes dumped in the middle of the floor, no magazines strewn around the room. Nothing. Not a single thing was out of place.
‘It looks perfect,’ Grace whispered as she entered and stood by the door. Andy entered directly behind her, filming every direction that he looked in, and Banjo, lugging a sizeable boom microphone followed Andy. Grace closed the door just as cautiously as she’d opened it.
‘In fact,’ she said, ‘it looks a little too perfect for an ordinary sixteen year old girl’s room.’
‘What do you mean?’ Banjo asked.
‘Where are the clothes that she’d worn and tossed on the floor because they weren’t dirty enough for a wash? Where are the teen magazines? The make-up? The stuff that teenagers have? There’s nothing here that shows this is the room of a sixteen year old girl. No posters on the wall of singers she has a crush on. No photos of her and her friends. Nothing.’
‘Maybe the mother cleaned everything up,’ replied Banjo.
‘I guess that’s a possibility,’ Grace said, ‘but why would she do that? Don’t you think that she would have left it exactly the way Charlotte left the room the last time she was in it? Isn’t that what mothers of children who’ve disappeared do?’
Andy scoffed and shook his head.
‘It’s evident, Grace, that you don’t have kids,’ he said. ‘You can’t categorise all grieving parents the same way. You have no idea what Beth Goulbourn has or hasn’t done with this room, so stop making half-assed assumptions. Mothers of children who’ve disappeared grieve, Grace. That’s what they do. They don’t sit around thinking, hey, I should clean up my kid’s room just in case Grace Fellows calls around and wants to do a story on us. God, you’re such a . . . a . . . I don’t even know what to call you, you’re so insensitive and, and stupid.’
‘Thank you for that great insight, camera guy. Between the mother and you insulting me, I’ve got all my bases covered for persecution day,’ Grace snapped. ‘Just look around and see if there’s anything interesting hidden away here before the mother kicks us out.’
Grace headed to the bookcase by the window while Andy and Banjo looked over the few trinkets and keepsakes on the shelves. It was, Grace thought, an unusual place for a bookcase: directly beside the window, potentially exposing the contents to the weather when the window was open. The shelves of the bookcase were filled with well-read books, their cracked spines outward facing.
‘Nothing much over here,’ Andy directed at the reporter.
‘Move on to the closet and the drawers then,’ she replied. Andy threw her a look of disgust. How could she expect him to go through a sixteen year old’s drawers and closet? The thought of committing such an act reviled him.
‘You wanna know what’s in her drawers and closet, then you go through them. I’m not going through her underwear and clothes.’
She shot him a look that said she’d deal with him later.
‘Fine. You two big boys go through the bookcase. I’ll check the drawers and closet.’
It wasn’t long before Grace found an interesting addition to Charlotte Goulbourn’s closet that she wasn’t expecting.
‘There’s something up here that I can’t quite reach. Get me something to stand on,’ Grace directed Banjo. Still holding on to the boom microphone, he grabbed hold of the only chair in the room, dragged it from the opposite side of the window to the bookcase and dumped it at Grace’s feet. Hoisting herself up on the chair, she peered into the section of the closet that had been difficult for her to see from the floor without standing on tiptoes. High on the top shelf, pushed right to the very back of the closet was a sports shoebox.
Grace stretched as far as she could to reach the box at the back. When it was close enough, she took it in both hands, stepped off the chair and sat on Charlotte’s bed. Andy and Banjo gathered around her as she lifted the lid off of the box.
‘Well,’ Grace said, ‘this is very interesting.’ As quickly as she had removed the lid, Grace replaced it and held out the box to Banjo.
‘What?’ he asked.
‘Stick it in your equipment box. We’re smuggling this baby out of here.’
Banjo, resigned to the fact that arguing with Grace today was going to be utterly futile, snatched the shoebox from the reporter and forcibly pushed it in to his equipment box, hiding it under several feet of audio cable.
‘Right, the chair needs to go back where you found it, Banjo, and then let’s get the hell out of here before the mother comes in to see what we’re up to.’
. . . To be continued . . .