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Amber made a snort. “Fucking idiots.”
“I got my story from Colin. He’s only once removed from the source,” Roxy said wisely.
“So after that, I packed Amber upstairs because I knew she wasn’t going to leave her house, and then my boss ordered me to start recording and removing more of the wall. There were three adults in that wall. All of them were completely decayed, just being skeletons. One had a broken bone, each of the people had been buried in a coffin made of the wet lining that is used in bathrooms. The coffins had all been waterproofed very well so that no fluids could have escaped. The bodies were in various stages of decomposition when they were entombed. Behind the exterior wall, we found another three bodies and in the bedroom, there were four. The last one was pretty bad. Forensics tells us that the bodies were all aged between 18 and 30. The Area Commander was stationed here at the time of the disappearances. He found his records on three backpackers who disappeared. Currently, the detectives are tracing the owners of the house at the time, but they have changed their names. There, that is the gory details.”
“What, no dismembered bodies under the floorboards, why did they rip up the boards then,” Roxy protested.
“They wanted to see if there were any clues under the floorboards but the people had just insulated, probably for no other reasons than these old houses are bloody cold in winter. It’s good to see you again Roxy, but I’ve been working long shifts for the past week now so I am going to disappear. I’m off in a couple of nights, you should con, sleeping beauty here to hold a remembrance for the dead before she does anything to the interior, tell her it would mean a lot to the town and two, get her to come to my house and I’ll cook you both a real meal on my day off, none of this pizza, we can have a barbeque.”
“I love meat,” Roxy declared. She said goodbye and disappeared upstairs.
“Hey what do you say I call the local churches tomorrow and tell them you are okay with a remembrance,” he nudged Amber.
“I guess if it means so much for the town.” Amber rose, “Do you think the victims were in pain when they died?”
Maverick nodded. “They were, let’s leave it as at least one of them was entombed alive. I’ll get the priests in. It won’t take too long to organise. A couple of the families have come from overseas. They want to help the churches but have been very good about respecting your house.”
“I’ll shift everything upstairs before I take Roxy to work in the morning. I don’t want to have anything to do with the memorial.”
“You don’t need to explain Amber, the town will look after it, you have power in your attic, you could take a trestle up there to work on and one of the chairs. You probably need to come to the memorial. It will be standing room only. Just as well you have such a great deck. I’ll see if I can get Robert’s older kids to finish it whilst he is away. There is only a bit of flooring to put in.”
“I’d do it myself but I don’t know how to use his tools and I don’t like using stuff that I don’t own, just in case I break it.”
Maverick risked a gentle kiss on her cheek and then he smiled and pulled away.
“Take care and try to sleep in tomorrow.”
Amber headed upstairs and slept fitfully, her sleep intersected with the horrors of someone being encased in a tomb alive.
By the time Roxy appeared for breakfast, Amber had everything except the fridge upstairs. She couldn’t move that by herself.
“I’m ordering insulation from Colin this morning when I drop you off.” She said over cereal. “I’ve also decided to have a memorial service here. Apparently, there are some relatives of the dead coming. But I do have to work for the next few days so if you want to help organise it or whatever, I’m fine with that.”
“I thought I would start placing your garden edging back this afternoon. That should keep me out of your hair. You know,” they were getting into the ute now, “You’re pretty cool. I thought most adults morphed into these people who knew everything, but you’re just as clueless as me sometimes, other times you’ve got your head screwed on right.”
“Come on, we don’t want you late for your first day on the job, have you got your tax file number, and your bank account details.”
“Yes big Sis,” Roxy joked.
When Amber returned, three men and a woman were standing out the front of her house, the two eldest of Milly’s children were laying decking boards and another car pulled up.
“Hi,” Amber greeted them.
“You must be Ms Smith,”
“Please, call me Amber,” she replied.
“I’m Ted, this is Theo,”
“I’m Jacqui and this is Alan, we’re the ministers of the various local churches, Sergeant MacDonald said that you had given permission for us to run a memorial service.”
“I have, look I have a lot of work to do, Um I’ll show you in, if you need me to do anything or to shift anything then I am happy to arrange it to be done, but just leave me a note if you could.”
Amber led them into the house, ignoring the car. “Maverick would be able to show you more about where the bodies were, but at least two walls that they were buried in have been removed.” Amber’s phone buzzed.
“Sorry I need to get to work,” she disappeared upstairs and didn’t stop until she had gotten to the attic. There, in the light of a window, she logged onto her machine, organised an offsite backup and started returning emails.
One caught her eye. “We have tried contacting you by phone a couple of times now, we are a firm of Lawyers in the United States and would like to speak to you about a personal matter. If you could call us at your earliest convenience.”
Amber felt a shiver and she pushed it aside, continuing through her backlog of emails. Perhaps Maverick was right, perhaps she needed to train up someone to actually allocate jobs to her crew of casual translators. It would give her more capacity to work. What were the boys always saying, something about spending wisely to make money?
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