top of page

Finding her

“124 was spiteful”... “that being he killed the girls for spite. Got back at the chicks that ‘declined coffee’ if you know what I mean” Hank informed me, through puffs of his toxically sweet e-cigarette and excessive gesturing.


I hated working with Hank. Granted he was my superior in the precinct and the officer most well versed in missing persons cases, but the fact that he speaks down to me at every given moment and liked to refer to his closed cases by number and nickname bothered me. Those girls died and he was being so terribly casual about their killers. Captain assigned the case of missing person Cecilia Elpis to me. He said some stuff about needing a ‘young mind’ for the case and I’m guessing a sensitivity Hank could never muster. I read over the file open in front of me, allowing Hank’s ramblings about cases gone by to become white noise in a busy office, no one could master the human equivalent of whale sounds like that guy (I’ll tell him that one day, when this case is over and I don’t have to work with him again).


The file’s information is fairly sparse. I read: case number 137 Cecilia Elpis, age 19, missing, taking a gap year between completing high school and starting college, last seen leaving work at 23:00 on the 13th October... police alerted of missing person 9:00am on the 14th October when it was noticed she hadn’t come home that night (mother sounded very distressed). The family home address is also stated. I sigh. She’s been gone around two days then, initial manhunts failed so its detective time. We’re going to have to to talk to her family, I can’t find her from this information... we don’t even have a photo.


“Oi! Poet, you’ve gone glassy again. What’s yer plan?”, Hank pelts me with crumpled up post it notes and... popcorn (where’d he get popcorn?!) “Look Poe, if you’re not up to the case you can find my missing stapler and let the big boys find the girl. ”

I wasn’t about to let this case slide to that oaf. He wasn’t even that much older than I (at 32) and yet his sense of superiority had grown about as much as his hair line had receded (a lot). At 21 I’m painfully aware that I’m the youngest officer ever to be assigned a case like this, I’m not gonna let anyone down. Especially her.

“Please shut up.” I grumble back as jovially as possible. “I ain’t going glassy, I was just reading and thinking... Maybe you should try it some time.”

Hank swept up and out of his seat with surprising grace, raising his hand to his forehead in a mock salute “Yes sir!” He barks back. “So what’s the big plan? SWAT teams at the ready? Shall I make a picnic for us?”


Poor guy thinks he’s got me on the ropes with his mocking and misplaced banter. My only option is to respond calmly, maintain my stoic facade that got me this case in the first place. “We need to talk to the family. Let’s go”. I stand up before he can respond and ruin my mood further.


I pull on my crinkled black jacket, plain scarf and black fedora (although it was brought for me as a joke when I was promoted to detective, I can’t deny its actually quite comfortable)... I make a note to remove it when I leave the car if I want to be taken seriously. I hear Hank stifle a laugh behind me.


We travel to the house in silence without incident. The faint crackle of the police radio acting as the only noisy companion to our journey. Hank keeps his earphones in and obsessively scroll through names and faces on his phone, pausing infrequently to ‘like’ or ‘comment’. I practice my introductions in my head. “Hello Mrs”... “Greetings Mrs Elpis”... “We need to talk”. I wonder if I will ever be adequate at greeting people. This thought follows me to the driveway of the Elpis household, where on seeing the house all thoughts of my personal inadequacies stop and duty kicks in.


Hank and I alight the car in uncomfortable humorous unison. We have a girl to find. I knock the door at the nod of Hank’s head. I appreciated this little gesture, professionalism subverting pettiness. Maybe this pillock was on my side for once.

The door is opened by a woman in her early 50’s. Her blue eyes are tear stained and greying and it’s clear sadness has left its tracks down the cheeks of her motherly face. Her greying hair pokes out of a practical low ponytail, the hairstyle favoured by the grieving I’ve noticed. She says nothing as we stand on her doorstep, she pleads with her eyes for us to talk. I oblige, not wanting to prolong the unfolding agony of silence on this poor woman’s doorstep. Here goes:


“Hello Mrs Elpis. Um...” I notice myself lower my voice an octave, believing that an artificially low voice will hide the obvious youth of my face “I’m detective Poet Wilson. I’ve been assigned to your daughter’s case. Can we come in?” So far so good (I think). Mrs Elpis moves aside. I can see the thin and somewhat dimly lit corridor that leads straight into the sanitary white tiled expanse of the kitchen and living area. The house is well kept but cramped, frames of smiling children’s faces drag the walls further into the walkway and the well flocked rugs draw the floor upwards with a plush promise of comfort. Once fully inside the house the staircase to the left of us (which was hidden by the door) is in full view and its four watching occupants scatter at my polite smile towards them. Mrs Elpis only blinks at the disappearing shadows of her children, their little footsteps muffled by socks and rugs as they return to their childish mourning activities, I assume they ascertain that I am not the Pizza guy or their sister which merit a stairs greeting. I do not warrant such a greeting. Mrs Elpis closes the door behind the similarly disgruntled Hank and ushers us down the corridor into the extravagant white of the kitchen.


We follow Mrs Elpis to the kitchen table and take seats at the opposite side. Her ghostly movements and silence unnerve me. My mind starts to wonder which of the many bars on our journey here Cecilia worked at that night and which of the photos strewn around the house is her image. I have so much to ask. I draw a breath to speak, but...

“Cee is a good girl!” Mrs Elpis croaked, her voice had an odd texture to it. It was clear she hadn’t spoken since the initial call days ago “She wouldn’t run away. I told her not to take that job but she wouldn’t listen. Someone’s... someone’s... taken her and I was right!... Find my


baby” Mrs Elpis was frantic, she bobbed in her chair and spoke with the eccentricity of fear. Her hair fell out of its trap and flew over her shoulders greasy and matted as she continued to babble all she knew of her daughter “I’m sure it was her ex... Called each other ‘Beloved’.... Never used his real name... he was a real odd boy that one ... drives a... drives something red or Burgundy or something... smart girl, stupid boy. He has her, I’m sure of it.”


I was taken aback by her blatant accusation. Why hadn’t she mentioned this kid sooner? I looked to Hank for help, his eyes were as wide as I suppose mine were.

“Wwwhy.... Why didn’t you say this sooner?” I stumble over my own words, her tightened energy impacting my usual cool facade. My desperation to find her as raw and as evident as hers. Hank remains remarkable cool, it seems to be his turn to exercise stoicism and show me up. I’m sure my inexperience is evident now and I regret not introducing him as we came into the house.

“I thought you would have found her by now. Didn’t think that boy would have kept her!” Mrs Elpis was beginning calm under Hank’s expert gaze.

“Maam, I think you should start telling us more about your daughter. Everything this time” Hank chimed in for the first time since we left the office. His tone was level but cold. As if the empathy that motivated me to act was lost to him, useless unless proven factual. I kept quiet.

Mrs Elpis slowed, she began to reveal more of her missing daughter’s life to us.


“She’s 19” (I knew that), “Graduated last summer” (My school, odd coincidence... don’t dwell), “she worked at the pebble moat bar” (Officers have been called out 4 times to that pub in the past 2 months, it made sense now why she was adamantly against her daughter working there.), “she don’t drive, never wanted to... she’s real smart, into all that eco stuff the kids are talking about these days”

The portrait of this girl was being painted in my mind. The curves and edges of a young woman appear in my mind. Her with her eco-conscience ways and defiant streak. Defiance evident in her choices of boyfriends and bar jobs. The portrait of a girl so close to me for so long and yet completely invisible; standing behind me in lunch queues or libraries... I’m kicked from under the table. At some point Mrs Elpis has left the table to retrieve things of Cecilia’s that pertain to the case, I’m embarrassed I hadn’t noticed.

“You went glassy again Poe” is all Hank has time to grumbled warning to me, obviously unimpressed at my mental distance, before Cee’s mother re-enters the room. Her arms laden with frames fulfilling various taste preferences and a laptop covered in stickers depicting globes alight, eco warrior symbols in a rainbow of colours and various bands iconography that I recognise.

“Thank you Mrs Elpis” Hank takes the burden of frames from the woman and places them out neatly on the table. To say his work persona was unnerving would be an understatement, all semblances of locker-room banter has melted away and an accomplished Detective sits beside


me. Mrs Elpis has retreated back to her reserved and almost silent self in this man’s presence and I remember why I was assigned this case. Hank didn’t possess the sensitivity this case required. Quietly and delicately I took the laptop from her, smiling reassuringly as I did so, attempting to regain my composure which I allowed to slip. I placed the laptop down on the table beside the carefully curated collage of a girl made of an inescapably familiar sunshine. The first thing that stood out to me was that the girl in the pictures has chaotic blue eyes, even in the static image I can see the ever glistening Lapis lazuli waves of the Riviera sea. In this picture she’s giggling, her nose is scrunched up just above the bridge, folding the freckles as if they were simply spots on a summer dress. She grins brightly, beautifully, her lips drawn back across her teeth with delicacy. A snapshot of perfection. Of a girl I’m falling so easily in love with. Of a girl missing. One I’ve got to find.

“She was a pretty one” Mrs Elpis’ voice is somber, sad and sobering. Her use of the past tense was jarring against the images of life and vitality in-front of me. In those five simple words a mother lost hope. I was here to restore it, to find that girl for her... and for myself.

“Mrs Elpis we’ll find her” I’ve never said anything I meant more in my life. “tell us about this boyfriend” With that. She obliges.


Within hours we have a warrant and a plan.


We’re in the car. Hank has gone quite again, all his thoughts and bravo seem to get drowned out by the hum of an engine and the shriek of the sirens now blaring as he drives. The toddler tantrum scream and swell accompanied by the spinning blue light have a dizzying effect on us occupants. We called for back-up and told them the address 20 minutes ago. As the time and distance on the sat-nav ticks down the world is beginning to become fearfully tangible. My mouth fills with the taste of blood as I chew my cheek, the smell of my aftershave increasingly becomes far too strong clogging up my nose and my throat, is it possible to drown in the smell of yourself? I guess I’m about to find out.

“Poe... we’re here” Hank nudges my arm, he’d already turned off the lights and alarms that accompany the cars motion a block away. As not to announce our arrival. “Are you ready?” This is perhaps the biggest question I have ever been asked. The answer rumbles a resounding no in my head. Shut up. Come on. We have someone to save.

“Is the back up here?”. Is all I can begin to muster.

“Affirmative. Try looking up Poet” Hanks voice scratches against my slipping hold on hearing.

Then, the adrenaline. “Let’s get the girl.”


With that comment the world turns into a whirlwind. Police officers leave cars, doors slam, house bells are rang. No answer. Bang. The door falls in. Again theres action, movement and people working as one. Slow steps up steps and into empty rooms. My eyes strain through panes of dust. In each room a glass like layer of dust and fluff has formed itself in the air from the disturbance of footfall and voices. Some how back-up has taken the lead and all but one room remains uncleared.

Hank knows it first. His prior experience of cases like this has ruined any sort if mystery once in a dusty house. Our eyes meet, he almost pleaded with me not to open the door.

But this is my case. I need to see it through. I’m the one to open the door. I’m the first to see it.

The final image that’ll go into the case file... an image of a smart brave girl identifying her killer. I know what Hank’ll call it in the years to come, when he’s become comfortably numb, he’ll name it after what she’s written in ash and blood on the floor... Case closed... I choke out all my brain is saying “case 137, Beloved”.

bottom of page