The helicopter made three rounds high up in the sky. The children, coming out from the classrooms, were wondering why a helicopter kept on rounding up. It must be looking for something below.
As Anna approached her apartment, she saw an announcement on the wall with the picture of Susan. The poster was asking the public to report if they had seen Susan who disappeared two days ago.
Anna stopped and looked at the picture closely. It was only two days ago that she was with Susan when they were out selling cards as part of fund raising of their school on behalf of a humanitarian organization. It was late in the afternoon before five when she parted her way from Susan. She remembered they were at Tranumparken, selling the last stubs of the tickets. But she had to hurry home because she was hungry. And she remembered Susan climbing up the stairway in one of the four story buildings of Tranumparken in Brøndby Strand.
Susan must be in one of the rooms in the house. Anna knew her. She used to play Hide and Seek, using all corners in the house with the standing boxes . There was no worry in her heart. Silently, she laughed why they should make a poster to help find her and why a helicopter should hover up in the sky in order to find her. She laughed, like the way, she and Susan used to laugh whenever they could find each other’s hiding place.
She had to drop by the house of Susan and helped her parents find her in some of their hiding places. Then she thought, they would be thankful to her and would ever recognize her as the best friend of their child, Susan. Her steps guided her straight to the door of the parents. There were many people around the building, looking at the helicopter. Men in uniform were scheduled to search all the bushes and near the beach. Anna thought it must be very serious then.
When the parents of Susan saw her, the mother embraced her and bombarded her with questions especially the last time she saw Susan. Anna was stammering in her voice.” I saw her two days ago. We were together selling tickets and we parted there”, while pointing at the square building of Tranumparken.
But she never came to school after that afternoon. And the mother sobbed and the brothers of the girl joined the mother in their display of tears.
Anna said, “I think she is just around or inside the house.” She touched the shoulder of one of the brothers, signalling that she would like to see the house inside. The mother insisted that they have searched through all the corners in the house. But Anna insisted to come in. The boy opened for her the door and led her to Susan’s room and even up to the attic and down the basement in the house. But Anna could not find a trace of Susan.
It was dark again and another day and another night came in Brøndby Strand but no word, no news about the lost girl, Susan. The helicopter kept on hovering the area, stopping only when darkness began to envelop the days. The uniformed police and the volunteers in the community kept on combing the lonely areas and corners in town, but there was no trace of Susan.
Then a week had passed. The lonely town was blanketed with the deep mystery of Susan’s disappearance. The people in the church murmured some prayers for guidance and heavenly wisdom. Until one day a neighbor in the building of Tranumparken reported a very odd smell in the basement. It was like a smell of a dead animal. He reported the case to the head of the rental association. Where did the dead and foul smell come from that even flies wanted to enter into the doors or windows of the building The news spread very quickly. The nearby neighbours were seen running out of their doors up to the playground while covering their mouths. Never before had they experienced such a kind of terrible smell that seemingly invited the flies to enter into their doors.
The leader of the rental association sent people; dressed in white to search out what happened. The bad smell led them to a room in the basement which was locked. They asked who owned the room so to give access to it. But all said that it was a room not used for a long time because the owner had left. They could not find the key but the urge to know the mystery came very strongly that they had to use a special key to open the door. Something met their eyes. A young girl with a rotting body they saw with the blood and liquid of her flesh, staining the floor. The body of the girl was lying there for some days and the awful smell was the smell coming from her decaying body.
It was quick to find out who the dead body was. With the dress and shoes she wore, the parents who rushed to the area could easily identify the girl. It was Susan. It was Susan, they could not be mistaken at all. The body was sent to the hospital for further investigation. The people in Brøndby Strand woke up to the realization that among them lived there a murderer of a young child, a young child simply thrown like a garbage.
The investigation showed that the nine- year old girl was raped before she was dumped into that room in the basement of Tranumparken. People could just speculate that as she was knocking at the door to offer the sale of tickets, a man must have pushed him in to his own apartment and performed upon her the worst crime and abuse to a young girl. The local people shook their head in disbelief. The local people called the man a monster.
The mystery of the disappearance of Susan was solved but the offender was not found. All apartments in the building were searched. Policemen knocked at every door and looked for every sign for a crime being committed until they were led to come to a room of a lonely old man where some drops of blood were seen from his doorway to the basement. It was a quick clue. But to be sure that they were able to reach the right offender, they had to perform a DNA test. The result showed that it was his.
The man was imprisoned but inside the prison, he experienced that other prisoners would like to inflict pain on him as revenge for having victimized a very young girl. Brondby Strand stood never the same again. Anna wished to see the man, to visit him and to simply ask the question why this man had aborted the life of her dear friend. She stopped by the place where she said her last goodbye to Susan, still remembering her smile and her last words that she only had three tickets left to sell out. Anna remembered the dedication of Susan to every task she said yes to undertake.
Her recollection was interrupted by the ringing of the church bells. That afternoon, as the newspaper informed, Susan would be buried. The funeral service was to be done at the state church of Brøndby Strand. Anna made a quick change of her clothes, tried to wash her hands and face and put on powder, trying to erase the oil that made her face shine before the mirror. She made her way to the church. A throng of people was inside and outside the church. She had never realized a large group of people would ever show up in the funeral of a young girl, not a super star or a fashion model but only a simple young child. Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists came and trooped down to the church to have their sorrow and disgust be counted on.
Anna waved her way to the aisle of the church. There was no more vacant chair left. She moved to the corner of the church, near the wall where she could stand like the others, but giving her time to lean on, to support her body to be able to stand for one hour without any tiredness. Then the music played. The people sang and the priest stood up, offering words of hope to uplift the crying hearts of all those who joined. Anna could see many people with their tears. There was no one who sobbed loudly, but Anna saw how people used their handkerchiefs or napkins to wipe away their tears.
Anna could not stand without being touched by the display of sorrow of these people, many of whom she had never seen before. She saw the parents of Susan and her own family. Susan’s coffin was carried out of the church. The people followed. Anna followed, ever declaring to herself that the case of Susan should never be repeated again.
The church bells rang. Those outside stood up, bowed their heads and stood in silence. Susan was a rallying point of people’s general dream and hope that children in the world should be protected and that failure of a community to protect them is a great scandal. The funeral service was both a confession and a resolve to protect children in our communities.
Note: Inspired by the true criminal case in my neighborhood,enabling me to write the poem-
To Susan in Brøndby Strand, written five days after her disappearance. This poem is among my submitted poems at voicesnet.com.
This short story, The Hidden Cadaver in the Basement, was written during my train ride from Hamburg to Padborg, while recalling the same true criminal case against a 9 year old girl,Susan.I think I write this to help me deal with the horror of it, and also to affirm the hope and vow that a case like this should never happen again in all human communities.
( August 16, 2010)
(submitted: Short Story 3 )