“Carl is that you?” Jean had made a cup of tea, changed her mind, and poured a glass of wine. It was early evening and her nephew would have finished at his college for the day.
It seemed like only yesterday that he had been running around her living room in mini jeans and sweaters, smearing the paintwork with sticky fingers and then sleeping on the big old couch. Nineteen years gone in a flash. The baby was just a lovely memory, but in place of that was a fine young man with whom she had a good relationship. She was part friend, occasional stand in mum.
“Oh, hello aunty Jean, do you want Mum? only you’ve called my mobile.”
“No, it’s you I want to talk to. I wondered if you had a bit of time for your old Aunty?”
“Yeah, course I do. What is it, computer problems again?”
“Sort of, yes.” He had helped her with setting up her home network and when she had software problems he was the person she turned to first. She had to admit that he was a Geek, computer science was his chosen degree course and he loved it.
“I wondered if you could pop in sometime. I need your expertise. I need to buy a new computer and phone, so I’d like your thoughts on that. Secondly, there are some things that I don’t quite have a handle on, but that I think you can probably help me with.”
“You’re getting a new computer? You’ve only had that one less than a year!”
“Yes, I know. It’s a darned nuisance and I’ll explain all about it when I see you. Can you come to dinner tomorrow evening?”
“No, sorry I can’t tomorrow, tell you what though I could come tonight, if you’ve got anything to eat.
“Brilliant. That would be excellent. Thanks, so much Carl.” She still had the casserole, she would do some baked potatoes and while she waited for him there was time to put together a quick rhubarb crumble with the things she had in the freezer.
“No probs. I’ll see you in about half an hour if that’s okay.”
“Thank you love. Say hi to your mum for me.”
“Huh – I would but she’s out with her mates. All gone to the pictures.”
“Ah that explains the dinner engagement!” Jean laughed as she finished the call.
“Hello love.” Jean stretched up to throw her arms around her nephew’s shoulders. He smiled back at her, his blue eyes alight. “Have you’ve lost weight.”
“No, not really, perhaps toned up a bit. I’m in training, a half marathon.” He had moved into the hall, shrugged off his backpack and was now taking off his hooded jacket. He draped it over the end of the banister rail and then ran a hand through his smooth, brown hair, pushing it away from his forehead, it immediately flopped back in a shiny fringe.
“Are you ready to eat?”
“Come on then. Its’ ready and I’ll tell you my problem while we have our dinner if that’s okay.”
He listened quietly, a frown creasing his forehead now and then but he did not interrupt. Jean made him promise not to tell his mother about the problem, “I don’t want her fretting and I’m sure I’ll be able to sort it out.” She had begun the story from the ill-starred decision to take a walk in the rain. She glossed over the horrible moments with the body, simply saying that she pulled the girl from the water and sat with her until the police came. “I should have left her where she was but I couldn’t. I just felt this desperate need to comfort her. It’s hard to explain. So, that’s it. That’s my problem.
Anyway, first I think I need to find out how there is an image of me on the canal tow path with the girl when it never happened. It was horrible seeing that. I did get a bit flustered and I couldn’t decide what to do, I still can’t. I keep thinking I should tell the police and then that scares me a bit. I haven’t dared to look at social media in case I’m there all over the internet.
“You know that’s not difficult Aunty Jean. Imaging software is so good now that you can never trust what you see in a picture. First of all though, I’ll have a look and see whether or not it’s been posted on-line and if so how much damage it could have done. As for the police. You’re probably worrying unnecessarily. They know as well as we do how easy it is to fake this stuff. That’s kinda up to you though.”
“More and more I am starting to think that it’s whoever stole my laptop and all my other things, has done this. There’s nobody else I can think of.” Jean stopped speaking for a moment and pressed a hand to her mouth. Carl leaned over and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Sorry, sorry – that just overwhelms me a bit and I haven’t had a chance to process it properly yet. You see it’s so specific, so deliberate and I can’t understand why. It scares me. I’m trying to be calm and logical about it. I just keep wondering where my stuff is, my bag, my phone and apart from that I couldn’t bear the thought that someone could believe that I’d done this, that I could have had anything to do with someone dying.”
“Well of course not, it’s ridiculous.” Jean nodded and waited for him to continue. Her throat had closed with unshed tears but she wasn’t about to embarrass her nephew with a display of emotion.
She knew he would have brought his own machine. It seemed that he never went anywhere without at least one of his devices. He sat quietly for a little while, his fingers flying across the keyboard and when he looked up he was smiling. “Well, one good thing is that there is no sign of it anywhere. Not on your newsfeed, twitter account nothing and as far as I can tell nowhere on a news blog or anything.
Jean sighed. “So, it was just sent to me.”
“I would say, yes.”
“Right well that’s good. But…”
He tipped his head to one side, frowned at her, “But… but what, I thought you’d be relieved, see there’s no problem.”
“But, if that isn’t why it was done, to embarrass me on the internet, then why. Who and why would have sent that horrible thing to me?”
“It is odd, unless you’ve really pissed someone off I can’t think of any reason? I can understand why you’re a bit spooked by it.”
“It’s been going round and round in my head and I can’t make any sense of it. To be honest so much has been going on that I’m in a bit of a turmoil.”
Carl came around the table and wrapped his arms about her. She leaned in to the young strength of him, closed her eyes and wished it would all just go away.