Friday, June 5, 2009

Beth, or The Missing Girl. Part 2

I set out the dinner things in my dining room before leaving for work that morning in anticipation of our returning there. The day passed quickly. I worked in a travel agency which specialised in tours for elderly people. Often their tours had a cultural element: I was responsible for setting these elements up; finding guides and organising itineraries. I had spent the day in discussion with the Austrian Board of Tourism. They were going to find a guide who spoke English for a day in Vienna. That day would be concerned with the Secession in Austria.

My desk was at the back of the hop. At the close of day I heard the door open.

I looked across: it was a woman. But it was not Beth.

She turned to me: hello

Hello, I said

Do you do any trips to Russia, she asked.

Madam, I said, I strongly advise you against visiting Russia. It's government is scarcely legal and the whole place is awash with cannibals.

She broke into a laugh. I've been to Russia many times. I want to know about going to St Petersburg. My mother wishes to go to see the Hermitage.

I went to get her the brochures.

She left. Ten past six. No-one.

Perhaps Beth was late. I decided to wait. I went through he racks straightening things. I went into the kitchen and tidied the mugs. I got a cloth from there and a can of furniture polish and I sprayed it on the surface of the desks. Then I polished them with a cloth.

I got sick of waiting. I dialled her number. No reply.

I went out of the shop. There was no-one standing outside.

Then I got a call at home some days later in the morning at 9am.

"Is that Clancy?"

"Yes," I said

"Maybe you don't remember me. Its Cath."

"O."

"I'm Beth's sister."

"Ah," I said

-Well," she said, "You should know something."

"What," I said

"Beth is dead," said the voice.

"O," I said.

"Yes," she said.

She put down the phone.

*

That can't be right, I thought.

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