Daddy's Here(7)

By: Lucy Wild

“Tony said you were better than them. He said you’d find her, tell me you can find her.”

“I need somewhere to start, any idea where she’d go?”

“Not a clue.”

“She’s your daughter. You must have some idea.”

He sighed. “We’re not close.”

“Have you got a photo of her at least?”

“It…it’s all at her place. I’ll find you the key, hang on. Oh, wait, here’s a photo.”

He stood up and walked over to the desk in the corner of the room. He brought back a portrait in a silver frame. The face in the picture scowled up at me. “How long ago was this taken?” I asked.

“Five years ago.”

“So how old is she now?”

“Nineteen. Her hair’s different now.”

“Different how?”

“Blonde. She used to dye it darker, part of rebelling against me, I guess. Wait there, I’ll get you the key to her place.”

I spent another half an hour with him, getting as many details as I could which wasn’t many. By the time I left, I had a pretty good idea where she’d gone. A spoiled little rich girl with a distant father who paid all her bills. A girl like that wouldn’t go far. Nor would she go somewhere she didn’t know, it’d be too scary for her. People are so predictable.

I left him with my number and instructions to ring me if he found out she’d used her credit card. Well, his credit card really. It sounded to me as if she’d never had to pay for a thing in her life.

I could picture her perfectly. She’d be holed up in a hotel, putting everything on the card and having her little tantrum, waiting for her father to back down. He’d probably never made her do anything before that she didn’t want to. He told me as much before I went. “She was such a good little girl,” he said as I was leaving, his eyes turning misty, “at first.”

I drove to her flat, not sure what might be waiting for me there. Her place was on the second floor of an old building, though the interior was about as modern as they come, all gleaming glass and chrome. Wherever she’d gone, she’d gone in a hurry. The drawers in her bedroom were pulled out, clothes streaming from them. There was an open suitcase on the bed and it looked as if she’d been halfway through packing it when she’d decided to leave it behind.

On the wall was a photo collage. It looked like she’d taken dozens of shots in the same dingy nightclub, blurred group photos of drinking and dancing that could have been taken anywhere. To the right of the collection I found a few outdoor shots, kayaking, standing on a hilltop, camping. It was clearly somewhere she liked going to as she was different ages in the photos even though they were the same place, some small rural town.

There she was aged twelve or so, then again on the same campsite a few years older. And again, older still. I took the most recent looking photo down, at least I had a better idea of what she looked like now.

She had a desk in the corner of the bedroom. The drawer to it was locked but I soon fixed that, yanking it open to find a mountain of unopened bills inside.

I rifled through the paperwork, not sure exactly what I was looking for. Whatever it was, I didn’t find it. In fact, other than getting a glimpse into the world of a nineteen year old rich girl, I didn’t get much out of my visit at all.

I was about to leave when I noticed a postcard on the fridge. It was the campsite from the photos. On the back, it was branded at the top. Gentle Falls. I read the rest of the postcard.

‘Having a great time, reminded us of that time you brought the airhorn!?! See you soon and you better come with us next time, not ponce off with Ben. Love, C and A.’

It was undated, the postmark smeared into a black smudge.

I pocketed the postcard, taking it with me as I went back to my car. I’d start there, see if she’d gone back to the place she clearly loved so much. If her father knew her better, he’d have gone there himself, no doubt, but he seemed like a man too wrapped up in his own world to care about hers. I got the feeling he cared more about his own neck than his daughter’s and that was the only reason why he was so desperate to get her back.

I had no idea how long it might take to find her so I went home first, climbing the steps to my own flat, the peeling paint on the walls catching my attention for the first time, a sharp contrast to her place.

I went past my door and kept climbing up to the third floor, knocking once on the only door on this level.

“Hold on,” an old woman’s voice called out and then I heard the scraping of a chain. I shook my head and smiled. “Oh, Jake, it’s you,” she said when she answered, looking more stooped than ever.

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