I am missing david raker.., p.1

I Am Missing: David Raker Missing Persons #8, page 1

 

I Am Missing: David Raker Missing Persons #8
 



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I Am Missing: David Raker Missing Persons #8


  Tim Weaver

  * * *

  I AM MISSING

  Contents

  Part One

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Penny

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  The Brink

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Part Two

  Extract from No Ordinary Route: The Hidden Corners of Britain by Andrew Reece

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Born Ready

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  The Monster

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Breath

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Sisters

  Part Three

  Extract from No Ordinary Route: The Hidden Corners of Britain by Andrew Reece

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  The Tarn

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Part Four

  Extract from No Ordinary Route: The Hidden Corners of Britain by Andrew Reece

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Acknowledgements

  Read More

  Follow Penguin

  PENGUIN BOOKS

  I AM MISSING

  Tim Weaver is the bestselling author of eight books, all of which feature missing persons investigator David Raker. His novels have been selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, nominated for a National Book Award, and shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library, which considers an author’s entire body of work. He also writes and presents the chart-topping podcast Missing, about why people disappear and how investigators track them down. A former journalist and magazine editor, he lives near Bath with his wife and daughter. Find out more about Tim Weaver and his writing at TimWeaverBooks.com

  For Erin

  Part One

  * * *

  1

  The church was on the coast, perched on the edge of a limestone bluff like a limpet clinging to a rock.

  I pulled up outside and turned the engine off.

  The wind and the rain shifted the Audi on its axle, the skies slate grey, the sea fierce and choppy. The building was three miles outside of Christchurch and, across the water, lost in a fine gossamer mist, the Needles drifted in and out of view like rudderless ships. As I grabbed my notepad from the back seat, I remembered the time my wife and I had taken a ferry over to the Isle of Wight, bumping across the Channel in a winter storm, and felt a twinge of regret that it could only ever be a memory.

  I locked the car and headed to the church.

  The door was open. Inside, I found ten wooden benches, a stone altar at the front, and a stained-glass window above that. Despite the weather outside, the image in the glass was leaking a coloured reflection across the nave. Against the cracks in the stone floor, a scene from the Last Supper moved like a puddle of oily water.

  He was sitting in the second row on the left, his body pressed tightly against the end of the pew, his hands loosely together on the bench in front, as if he were about to say a prayer, or had just finished one. He wore a blue raincoat and grey beanie, and I could see one of his boots, poking out from under the bench. It was spattered in mud and badly scuffed.

  I was almost level with him by the time he seemed to realize I’d arrived. He turned on the pew, dropped his hands to his lap and looked at me with an expression halfway between worry and relief.

  ‘Mr Kite?’ I said.

  ‘Yes.’ He got to his feet. ‘Yes, that’s me.’

  ‘I’m David Raker.’

  We shook hands. They were small, just like him, and bone dry. I could feel scratch marks on his fingertips – cuts, maybe, or callouses – and there were marks on his face too: new scars, the biggest in a fat arc from his chin to his lip.

  ‘Thank you for coming, Mr Raker.’

  ‘David’s fine,’ I said. ‘Sorry I’m a bit late. I know we said ten o’clock.’

  ‘Don’t worry.’

  I looked back up to the window, to the vaulted ceiling. ‘I’ve worked a lot of cases, but I can’t remember any of them starting inside a church.’

  He smiled briefly. ‘Do they ever end up here?’

  I studied him, his eyes shifting from me, along the nave, to the front of the church. Two wooden funeral biers – the stands upon which a coffin was placed – had been collapsed and were leaning against the wall. His gaze lingered on them.

  I replied, ‘I try to prevent that from happening if I can.’

  He attempted another smile, but it got lost halfway to being formed, and it made me think he’d probably glimpsed the truth already: that I could only try to affect a person’s fate once I knew they were alive. When someone was already dead, and all you were returning to the families was bones and earth, it became a different job. You became a sort of artist, painting a picture of motivation and reason; someone who constructed narratives from the things people left behind.

  ‘You didn’t say much on the phone, Mr Kite.’

  ‘Richard,’ he said quietly. ‘I know I didn’t say much. I’m sorry. I don’t like talking about this sort of thing over the phone. I’m not good on phones. I prefer talking to people face-to-face.’

  ‘Okay,’ I said, and watched him for a moment.

  He looked sad, weighed down. That wasn’t unusual. In my line of work, I saw that all the time. But there was something else, hidden behind his anguish. He seemed confused somehow, as if uncertain of himself, the expression strangely out of place on a guy who didn’t look older than thirty-five. He forced a smile again, seemingly aware of it, but it didn’t go away. It was anchored in his eyes, in the crescent of his mouth, and it had spread and thrived like the roots of a weed. I’d tried to find evidence of him online after his call, of a life lived out on social media like everyone else his age. But there was nothing. I couldn’t find any trace of Richard Kite anywhere.

  ‘I work here on Tuesdays and Thursdays,’ he sa
id, gesturing to his surroundings. ‘I help the vicar keep the garden up together – the grounds, that sort of thing. I’m not a gardener, really, but I do my best.’ He stopped, his eyes back on the funeral biers. ‘Anyway, Reverend Parsons said we could use the room at the back – if you wanted.’

  There was an open door at the rear of the church, leading through to a corridor. A yellow bucket was on the floor partway down, catching a leak.

  ‘I’m happy to talk,’ I said to him, ‘but maybe you should just tell me who it is you want me to find first.’

  ‘Yes, of course.’

  He held up an apologetic hand but didn’t continue. He looked away again instead, searching the shadows for the words he wanted, his face thin and pale, black stubble lining his jaw, his eyes oddly colourless. And as he did, something struck me: I’ve seen him before. I know him from somewhere.

  Had the two of us met at some point?

  ‘I called you,’ he said, ‘because I know that you find missing people. That’s what you do, and that’s … well, that’s what I need.’ He stopped, swallowed hard. ‘Someone’s missing, and I need you to find them.’

  ‘So who is it that’s missing?’

  I was still thrown by the familiarity I felt. As I waited, I tried to wheel back, to figure out where our paths may have crossed, but I couldn’t think. If I’d met him, it wasn’t on any case.

  ‘Richard,’ I said again, ‘who is it that’s missing?’

  It was like he hadn’t heard me, his eyes still probing the corners of the church where the light from the windows didn’t reach. But then, just as I was about to repeat myself a third time, he turned to face me.

  ‘I am,’ he said.

  I frowned. ‘You are what?’

  ‘I’m the person that’s missing.’

  2

  ‘I have dissociative amnesia,’ he said quietly.

  I’d heard of it, although didn’t know much about it – but something made sense now. When he’d called me the day before, I’d tried to get information out of him and he’d told me he would prefer to meet in person. He’d referred to the case as unusual and difficult to explain, and those were enough to get me interested. It had been the sadness in his tone too, his voice carrying the echo of loss that I heard in all the families I helped. I just thought the loss he felt would be for a wife, or a parent, a brother, a sister, a child. But it wasn’t any of those.

  It was for a life he couldn’t remember.

  We moved through to the back room. A salt-misted window looked out over a small but well-maintained garden, and then the cliff dropped away and there were just the frills of the copper-coloured shingle and miles of sea and cloud. In front of me, a table had been pushed up against one of the walls. Richard brought two chairs across from a stack in the far corner, and asked if I wanted something to drink. There was a kitchen area – little more than a shelf with a jar of instant coffee and some milk on it – but I’d driven ninety-six miles to get here, so however the coffee came, it was welcome.

  After a couple of minutes, he returned to the table, set my coffee down and perched himself on the edge of the chair opposite. He looked nervous and unsettled. Steam curled out of a mug in front of him, his fingers half covering four lines of thick black lettering that read: HOW DOES JESUS MAKE THIS TEA? HEBREWS IT. As I watched him, his head bowed, I thought again about how familiar he was to me.

  ‘Have we met before, Richard?’

  He looked up, frowning. Of all the questions he’d expected me to ask first, I doubted that would have been one of them.

  ‘No,’ he said. ‘I don’t think so.’

  I couldn’t yet see a reason for him to lie, so I let it go and picked up my pen. ‘Okay,’ I said softly, attempting to put him at ease again, ‘why don’t you explain what dissociative amnesia is?’

  He nodded and cleared his throat, like the words were already sticking to the back of his mouth.

  ‘It’s a condition where you forget important information,’ he said. ‘It’s like the brain erases these huge tracts of who you are. It’s not the same as the amnesia most people have heard of. With that, you lose these vertical pieces of memory – they’re gone and not coming back – but you can remember everything else either side of that: what you did before, what you’ve done since. Your name, your age, who your family are, where you work – all that sort of thing. With me … it’s different. I don’t have any of that. Vertically and horizontally, everything important to me is gone. I have no memory of who I am.’

  ‘At all?’

  ‘Very little.’

  ‘Is Richard even your name?’

  ‘I think so.’ He paused. ‘When I was first asked what my name was, that was what I remembered it being. It was just there, in my head.’ He took one hand away from his mug and began rubbing at an eye. ‘With this type of amnesia, the memories aren’t always gone for ever – but most of them are buried so deep I might never find them. I’ve had therapy sessions, I’ve even had hypnosis, and I’ve been able to remember a few things. I think I’m called Richard. I think I grew up by the sea. But if you asked me whether I had a girlfriend somewhere, or who my parents were – if my parents are even alive – I wouldn’t know. I honestly wouldn’t know.’ His words fell away, and he turned his head and looked out through the rain-smeared window. ‘I gave myself the surname “Kite” because I sit here sometimes and watch kids flying kites on the beach down there. I watch them with their parents. I feel sad when I do – jealous, I guess – which makes me think I must have had someone who loved me, because why would I feel jealous of those kids otherwise? But I can’t remember, so maybe I didn’t. I don’t know.’

  He may only have been in his thirties, but he spoke like someone a lot older. The loss of such important memories – the idea of there being people who may have loved him, and who he may have loved back – had altered him.

  ‘You said you think you grew up by the sea?’

  ‘Yes,’ he said.

  ‘Because I’m trying to place your accent.’

  His mouth flattened into a half-smile. ‘Yes.’

  ‘Other people have mentioned that already?’

  He nodded. ‘The police spent a lot of time trying to figure out if it was a West Country accent – or whether I was born into royalty. It’s a mix of the two.’

  He was clearly joking about the royalty part, but it was a pretty accurate assessment of how he spoke: most of the time, his accent maintained a kind of elegance, almost what might be termed ‘posh’, but then he’d hit words like are or there and he’d start rolling his R’s. Alive came out more like aloive, gone as gahn. It was a strange symmetry, a line walked between two competing dialects.

  ‘You don’t remember anything else about where you’re from?’

  He shook his head. ‘No. I just have this one clear memory of the sea, this strong feeling of being young, and of looking out of a window and on to a beach.’

  I finished making some notes and spent a moment going back over my shorthand account of what Richard had just told me.

  ‘I woke up near a lifeboat station.’

  I looked up at him.

  ‘That’s where they found me. That’s where my memory begins. I woke up on the Hampshire coast at the start of the year, right outside a lifeboat station.’

  ‘You woke up on the …’

  But then I stopped.

  ‘You’re the Lost Man,’ I said, almost to myself.

  He didn’t like the name he’d been given. The second I said it, his nose wrinkled and his lip curled and he looked out of the window again, as if wounded by what I’d said. But that was what he’d become known as in the regional press. That was how I knew him: the case had been covered by the media along the south coast, in an effort to try and find out who he was. I hadn’t met him, I’d just read about him in the Devon newspapers when I’d been down there visiting my daughter: the young man who’d been found unconscious at the mouth of Southampton Water, with no memory of who he was.

/>   The Lost Man.

  I’d seen his story at the time, had read about how he couldn’t remember anything, even his full name or his family, but the publicity, such as it was – his plea to anyone who knew him to come forward – faded quickly when he got no response. That was why I hadn’t instantly made the connection. He looked different now, which was another reason it hadn’t clicked: older, more beaten down, even though, in January, he’d had plasters on his face and blood in his eye. Now he just had the scars.

  ‘I’m sorry,’ I said.

  He shrugged. ‘There’s no need to apologize. That’s what they called me. When all that was happening, I thought, “There’s no way they won’t find out where I came from. All this coverage, all these newspapers writing about me, someone I know will see it and will come forward and I’ll have somewhere to start.” But no one came forward. Not a single person.’

  ‘There were no leads at all?’

  ‘None.’

  I gave him a moment.

  ‘So you woke up next to that lifeboat station.’

  He nodded.

  ‘That’s the first thing you remember?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Nothing that happened before then?’

  ‘You mean, do I remember how I ended up there? No, I don’t remember anything.’

  ‘What date was it in January again?’

  ‘They found me on Wednesday the twentieth.’

  ‘The people from the lifeboat station?’

  ‘Yes.’

  Today was 25 October – over nine months on. It felt like even longer since I’d read about him, since his plight was pushed aside by a million other stories. I’d been a part of that machine once, a journalist consigning people’s lives to a footnote before they’d ever really found a voice. That was what the media did. To them, to me back then, nine months was like nine years.

  ‘What was the place called where they found you?’ I asked.

  ‘Coldwell Point.’

  ‘Can you remind me where that is?’

  ‘It’s a sandbank about a mile and a half long, just where the River Hamble meets Southampton Water. There’s not much there. A little car park and a small shingle shore. A slipway. The RNLI station is right on the end of it, as far out along the peninsula as you can get. That’s where the guys from the station found me.’

 
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