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A Dead End

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“When will you finally tell me?” he asked. He lit a cigarette, making a face at her apparent disapproval. Both her brothers smoked now. If their mother had known, they’d have never heard the last of it.
The weather was better than he had expected. Not that he came here to enjoy the weather. He came here to talk, like he always did. He knew she would always be there. She, unlike all the other people in his life, would never leave him. When his wife left him, she had been there. When she had taken their daughter with her, she had been there. When Julia broke up with him, she had been there. He just wished she would tell him that one thing. He knew it was her secret, yet it was always on his mind. It never left him for a second, and he knew that she knew that.

Yet she didn’t reply. She never did.

He remembered how the hours had turned into days, how the days had turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years. It was case he still hadn’t been able to crack. He hated how of all the mysteries he managed to solve, he couldn’t unravel the mystery that was his sister. If she wouldn’t tell him what had happened that day, he would never know. And he wasn’t sure if he could live with that.

He had begged her, time after time, but she never even opened her mouth on the subject. She always let him talk, and she listened.

She smiled. “It’s good to see you again, Jackson.”
He smiled too.
“What’s the matter?” she asked. There was concern in her voice, but her eyes still smiled like they always did.
“I’m tired.”
She let her head rest against his shoulder. Tears fell from his eyes on the hand that was holding his. “That’s okay, Jackson.”
Her hair was wet against his neck. She was crying too.

He woke late, as he usually did. No, that was a lie. Usually he might not even have been home by now, which was exactly why the aforementioned women left him. Incalculable, obsessed with his work, etcetera, etcetera. His sister never minded. Or if she did, she had never expressed it.

He finished the bottle he hadn’t finished last night, splashed some water in his face and left for work. Deborah was waiting for him, annoyance dripping off her face.
“Why are you so bloody late?”
“You’re not my boss.”
“Well, you don’t act like mine. Someone has to do the job.”
“Your job is to take calls, take notes, do research – you’re an assistant, not my mother. I can take care of myself.”
Grimacing, he left for his office. “Any important calls?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Louise called.”
He raised an eyebrow. “What about?”
She rolled her eyes. “Not to ask for a date, surely. Something about your sister, I believe she said.”
He frowned, mumbling a thanks, dialling Louise’s number immediately.
“And? Did you find a match?”
“Good morning to you too, Jackson.” There was no annoyance in her voice, and that made his heart sink. “I’m sorry, Jackson. He didn’t do it. Said he was close to the scene of the crime, but he never touched your sister. Never saw her until her face was in the newspaper. The fingerprints didn’t match. I’m really sorry, Jackson.”
He sighed. “I know.”
“It was a long time ago. Perhaps you should –”
He put down the phone. He couldn’t let it go. He couldn’t let her go. He had to find her secret. Him, her, it… as long as he had something to put a bullet in.

He took flowers to her grave that afternoon. “When will you finally tell me, Niamh?” he whispered. Yet she didn’t reply. She never did.