Wide, Sweet Eyes
It didn't happen the way they say it did in the newspapers and on the local news programme. Not really. It happened like this:
A small group of us had been day drinking. Hiking around town and hitting every decent bar we could find, necking ales for the first few hours and then, when we felt bloated, moving onto the shorts. The Whisky had made me weary so I decided to leave.
I staggered out of the bar - I don't recall which - and across the road to a taxi rank with a single car. It was still early evening so there was nobody queuing. I climbed into the taxi and told the driver my address. He nodded, flicked on the meter, and pulled away, joining the one-way system that would take us to the ring road, then the bypass, and home. The radio was playing softly. Weird music that might have been jazz.
"And she didn't even cry," he said, as if we'd been in the middle of a conversation and he was resuming the chat. "No matter what I did, she never shed one tear."
I glanced at him in the rear-view mirror: a thin face, ace scars on both cheeks, short black hair, dark eyes with slightly less dark smudges beneath.
"She didn't speak either. Not a word the whole damn time."
I realised that he'd forgotten I was there. He was talking to himself; a sad, strange monologue. I wanted to get out of the car. Right there and then. In the middle of the busy ring road. I didn't want to hear any more. But he kept on talking, and it was as if his words were physically pressing me against the seat, trapping me there. Binding me in place until I heard what he so desperately needed to say.
"I wanted her to tell me to stop but she didn't. She just stared at me the whole time with those wide, sweet eyes and I felt like I couldn't stop what was coming. It was beyond my control. There was nothing I could do but let it happen."
He drove carefully, if a little far over to the right, not speeding, not making any erratic manoeuvres. Just cruising. Hugging the white line. The exit for the bypass was just up ahead; our journey was almost done.
"She's a small girl so she fit inside the car boot easily. I didn't have to cut her up. Not this one."
I closed my eyes. I didn't want to know this. Not any of it. When I opened them again, we were entering my street. He pulled up at the kerb and sat there, saying nothing else.
Fumbling for the door handle, I stared at the back of his head. It was damp with sweat. His shoulders were shaking. When the door popped open, I almost fell out of it and into the road. As I walked slowly around the back of the vehicle, staring in horror at the lock on the boot, he pulled slowly away. He hadn't even asked for the fare.
I called the police on my mobile. They arrived quickly. No siren. I told them exactly what had happened and then went inside, where I made a cup of strong tea and sat staring at the wall while it went cold, trying not to scream.
A couple of days later a police constable called by to check my statement and give me a brief update.
She said they'd caught the man a mile or two from my house. He'd parked outside a carpet shop and sat weeping, his hands still gripping the steering wheel. He kept crying while the police car pulled up in front of his taxi. When the officers checked the car boot, there was nobody inside. They did find some spots of blood but when they passed the DNA through the system, they got zero hits regarding an identity.
Whoever she is, she's still out there, either injured or dead. I often think about her. Who she is, or was. Whether that maniac killed her, or if he let her go. She comes to me in my dreams, with her big, kind eyes and her forever open arms. She's bleeding, always bleeding, but she never cries.
© Gary McMahon, 2022