Chapter 4|The bridge

| Back to Chapter 3 | Back to the beginning

Kate leans over the parapet, fearful of what grisly sight will confront her. A broken body with limbs contorted at unnatural angles and blood pooling out onto the ballast? Or the smouldering, charred remains of a person swinging silently from the overhead lines? Craning her neck as far forward as she dares, she looks straight down.

Nothing.

Just to be sure, she wheels her bike down the ramp to the station and wanders to the end of the deserted platform – Passengers must not pass this point. From here she has a clear view of the railway track under the bridge. Definitely nothing there. Her heart is still pounding, but she breathes a shaky sigh of relief. The woman on the bridge has probably just wandered off and forgotten that she put her bag down. She’ll no doubt realise and come back for it soon enough.

Kate pushes her bike back up the ramp and props it against the parapet. It’s very quiet. She hasn’t seen any cars on the road. And she knows there aren’t any trains at this time of day. It occurs to her then that someone wanting to end their life probably wouldn’t choose to jump from a relatively low bridge onto an empty railway line. She chastises herself for getting worked up over nothing.

At first she thinks she must have missed the woman coming back for her bag, because it appears to have gone, but then she sees it again, slightly obscured from this angle by the large pile of autumn leaves blown up against the wall. Standing in the middle of the bridge, she can see for a fair distance in all directions, and there’s definitely no one around.

The obvious thing to do would be to hand the bag in to the police and leave it to them to track down the owner. But, knowing the local police, Kate has little confidence in their ability to perform even such a simple task. In any case, she now feels a peculiarly visceral connection to the young woman on the bridge, and would like to meet her. So if she can return the bag in person, she will.

magpie

As she opens the bag to look for some form of identification, Kate feels slightly guilty about intruding into someone else’s private space. She rummages around, and in amongst the comb, keys, tampons, lipstick, phone, purse and other things she might expect, she finds a framed photo of a cat, an office stapler personalised with a rainbow unicorn sticker, two shiny fidget spinners, a pink memory stick, several small plush animal toys and a purple A5 notebook. Not the sort of things most people carry around with them all the time.

The phone isn’t going to be any use to her – it’s locked with a password – so she looks in the purse for ID. From the various cards inside, it seems that the young woman is one Freyja McClelland. That was easy. Even though there doesn’t seem to be anything with an address on it, there surely can’t be too many Freyja McClellands around. And she’d been half-hoping for an investigative challenge! Assuming Freyja is from the town, a simple online phone directory search is all she’ll probably need.

Now curiosity gets the better of Kate, and she decides to open the purple notebook, which turns out to be a journal written in tiny but meticulously neat handwriting. She instinctively flicks through the empty pages from the back of the book until she comes to the last words of the last entry:

If you’re reading this, tell them I’m OK. (At this time, anyway – no shit!)

Who are ‘they’? And how did Freyja know this would be her final entry, or that anyone else would read it? Was the message intended for Kate? That seems unlikely. Perhaps Freyja has run away and wants to leave her former life behind. That may not be as final as leaving life itself behind, but it still seems quite a drastic step for anyone to take. And why just leave all your stuff behind in a bag on a railway bridge?

Kate decides to give Jude a ring. She’s a bit shaken and could do with some friendly advice. After phoning, she trundles down to the station again and takes a seat in the spartan waiting room. Her quiet is briefly interrupted by a white van leaving the station car park and heading into town. Then there is just birdsong again.

While she’s waiting for Jude to make her way over from the town centre, she takes advantage of the solitude and begins to read Freyja’s journal.

| To be continued

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