- Author: James Delargy
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To my Mum and Dad
And to all the essential workers who gave their all for the common good during the COVID crisis
Detective Emmaline Taylor
A family was missing. They had been in the town and then they weren’t. What they were even doing there in the first place wasn’t yet known. No one should have been there. No one had for close to fifty years.
It had been a short, choppy flight from Perth on a twin-prop plane into the blood red dirt and streak of tarmac that was Leonora Airport before driving south along Route 49. The Goldfields Highway. An indication of what was out here. Or at least what used to be out here. The good times had long gone.
The relentless desert scrub drifted by the window as Detective Emmaline Taylor rested her arm atop the steering wheel. There was no need to move it. The road was as straight as an arrow. From here to the horizon. The kinds of roads driverless cars were built for. But she had insisted on driving herself rather than be picked up at the airport by one of the local cops. The hundred kilometres would give her time to think. Mainly about why she had been called out here. It was unusual for the Major Crime Squad to get involved in what was technically a misper case but as it involved three members of the same family, someone had classed it as a major case. Hence the need to come out here. Into the dust.
From the file that she had scanned on a plane that seemed to flit up and down through the turbulent air like a hawk swooping for prey, the place that she was looking for was called Kallayee, a town on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert. A name suspected to be Indigenous in nature but as mysterious as the family’s disappearance.
The names of the family had also been in the file. Lorcan Maguire, thirty-one years old, Naiyana (pronounced Nee-Ya-Na, according to the file) Maguire, twenty-eight years old, and Dylan Maguire, six years old. Last known address given as Cannington, Perth. Married for eight years. He had worked in the financial sector and she had been a housewife, charity worker and campaigner. Not the kind of people you would expect to be living in what was essentially a ghost town.
The information she had on Kallayee was that it had been mainly deserted since the 1940s when the goldmines had run dry. The whole region had been briefly popular again in the 1970s when increasing gold prices led people to check out old sites but it was short-lived. Since then it had been abandoned and left to rot. Now it was another spot on the map, never to be returned to. But the Maguire family had returned to it. They had even been living there, according to Lorcan Maguire’s parents. She had skimmed through the facts to get a better idea of the timeline and environment. Surveying the entire pond before diving in. A moment’s peace before disturbing the calm surface.
She nearly missed the turn-off. She had been warned that there was no sign for Kallayee anymore and that the GPS would not direct her to it, but she was still distracted by Seamus and Charlotte Maguire’s statement. They had called the disappearance in because Lorcan had failed to contact them since a Christmas Day phone call. This was apparently unusual as he gave them an update every couple of days. The family – at least on Lorcan’s side – was close knit. There had been less concern from Naiyana’s. Emmaline wondered why. Disappointment at her choice of husband? A past dispute? The file had mentioned nothing about it. She tucked it away for later. It would all mean nothing if she could locate the family. The reasons why Naiyana might not want to talk to her family or vice versa only became a concern if there was a crime. And right now there was no evidence of one.
Just a family who had straight up disappeared. From a town that had itself disappeared long ago.
It doesn’t take long for eyes to adjust to absence of light. In fact after a while it just becomes the nature of things. But the craving for daylight remains. For the sun’s rays. For that vitamin D.
What the darkness also brings is loneliness. Not that I am alone down here but right now I cannot hear or see anyone. I miss the sound of other people breathing. Even the wretched snoring, which was apparently all the bed’s fault. I’m going to buy earplugs. If I ever get out of here. At least I can smell and taste the rising smoke, even though the machines aren’t working. But what I miss most of all is the rumbling. The reverberations that signalled life, signalled progress, ingrained into me. Part of my life out here. I can see them for what they are now. Soothing. The white noise that dulled everything else. I’m left with only the clack that reverberates around the walls like time is ticking down. And running out.
A reoccurrence of the victim mentality I’ve always fought against. I am not a victim. In fact it feels fitting, considering what I have done, to be buried underground for eternity. Or until business is complete. Even if part of me still thinks it was a mistake coming here. You can run, but you can’t hide. Even down here.