7th December 1997
I can’t remember whether the dogs came in the darkened afternoon, or later.
Happy, dedicated, concentrating German shepherds – Alsatians, we used to call them – wagging through the dark church, checking every pew, ballooning the altar cloth with their cheerful tails, into the side-vestries and choir stalls, eliminating each area for Bink’s murdered and hidden body.
“You do realise, don’t you?” Shaun asked me, when they’d finished the church and we were all herded into our dining room so they could start at the top of the Vicarage – his father had been a policeman – “who the prime suspects are?”
I thought of this later, so many times, when the poor McCanns lost their daughter Madeleine. How fortunate we were, to have the professionalism of our British Police Force, and be eliminated within hours.
What did I care who the suspects were? What did it signify, if they suspected me or Shaun?
What did anything matter, if Bink was gone?
Eventually they had worked the whole house, so at last we were moved out of the dining room – one of our lodgers crying noisily – so they could eliminate that too. The room where Bink had once hidden behind the long faded velvet curtain that swept down to the wooden floor.
She wasn’t there now, was she? Those jolly, enthusiastic dogs would have found her.
You could tell how they loved their work.
That evening we were due to sing carols at our local, The White Horse. Church and pub enjoyed a close relationship, opposite each other on the Green, the landlord often supporting our efforts and helping with fund-raising and other events.
An evening of four-part carols was the least we could offer in return.
What was the point of cancelling? It would bring Bink back, would it?
Half a dozen or eight of us, in the pub’s upper room. Forty minutes or so. Trays of mulled wine brought in to refresh us, before starting again.
As the others chatted in front of the roaring fire, I slipped the other side of the curtains and gazed over the street next to the Green, yellow in the garish lamplight.
If she was home, if there was any news at all, someone would have come and told us. I could see the corner of the Vicarage from where I stood. There were police watching and waiting in our house.
We sang again.
When the landlord, a good friend, learnt at the end of the evening that Bink was missing, he was stunned that we had turned up.
What else was there to do?
The police searched the garden too, the darkness of my memory suggesting near on midnight.
When we first moved in, in 1991, we had built an above-ground swimming pool. Someone had given us a cheque, when Shaun was briefly unemployed, and I’d invested it well: that pool kit was the most expensive item we’d ever bought, having never had enough money to buy our own car.
It was twenty four feet long and four deep so you could have a pleasant swim by moonlight. Though not, obviously, in December.
Every autumn we would clean it out meticulously and cover it carefully, so the leaves and light couldn’t get in and it would still be sparkling clean in the late spring when we opened it again.
The police asked if they could lift the cover up in one corner. They shone torches into the black water to check Bink’s body wasn’t sunk in the icy shadows.
We never got round to putting the cover back properly.
The following spring, for the first and only time, one end of the water was full of leaves and dirt. Though thankfully not Bink’s body.
It wasn’t the last or only time someone dreamt of finding her, bobbing lifeless in dark water.
The next time it was poor little Rose, younger even than Bink was then.