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Punishment and Discovery

She drowned in the loch eight months ago."

"Say what you like, it's the Todd's child."

Jessie lost her color and almost removed the top of her finger with the chopping knife. "Finn, don't say things like that to me; you'll stop my heart."

"You'll soon stop it if you don't bandage that finger."

Working over the first aid box in the tiny kitchen, Jessie asked nervously, "Where are you going?"

"Back to my chair to ready my 'Scotsman.'

"Aren't you going to talk to the wee bairn and tell her to go home?"

Finn coughed and said, "I don't go out talking to the dead after dark."

Jessie's eyes rolled up and she fell to the floor in a faint, fortunately with the blood flow already stopped by a band-aid.

Agnes Todd's and husband Charlie lay huddled together drunkenly on a bed of their clothes in front of the hearth. They'd just finished having sex.

"I suppose I best go and give that sniveling laddie his dinner."

"It's a bit late for him now; he'll be asleep."

"Then I'll wake him up, won't I, and forced it down his sickly little throat if necessary; or would you like to do that for me, you lazy sod."

"No," Charlie sighed. "Our understanding is you look after him, I ensure we have bread on the table and my reward for being so kind to you is I get what I want."

"I sometimes wonder if I'm too kind," Agnes giggled. "Shall we go again?"

The next evening was Halloween and almost everyone was out in the street in costumes trying to scare the daylights out of each other. Mary Lewis had refused to go out because she believed such a celebration was barbaric. It was much warming that evening so she sat in the conservatory facing the brick wall behind the properties that was high enough to stop little children climbing and running down to the loch, although it hadn't stopped Lorna Todd climbing it and tumbling down to drown in the deep dark waters. Calum called in to check on her, found she had the whisky bottle out, so joined his wife.

"Look, there's the Todd's bairn," Mary pointed.

"Well, go chew a crow," Calum breathed. "I'd recognize that cute freckled face and red pony tail anywhere. It's a miracle you know."

"I know. But I didn't see her climb the wall."

"She probably walked through it," Calum said, not smiling.

Mary saw that Jessie was at their window pointing out the child to Finn. She attempted to attract attention. Jessie saw the movement and waved. Mary held up the whisky bottle and she and Finn disappeared from their breakfast room obviously on the way over.

They sat at the table watching the six-year-old.

"We should do something," Finn said.

Mary covered her mouth in anxiety and said she wasn't going near the bairn. Calum suggested it was no use calling the police because they'd arrive with a dog that would go crazy trying to rip the girl to pieces only to find itself biting at air. He added, "I think it's up to the Todd's to retrieve their daughter. When they come in off the street he'll do his usual and go out to pee over the wall and will see her, the drunken bum."

"She's no better, the way she neglects that baby," Jessie said, correcting herself to say he was no longer a baby; he'd turn six in a few months.

They lined up their glasses for another round.

Mary cried, "Oh look!"

The sickly child had come out of the house and his sister - or what had been his sister - went and kissed him. It was miraculous - the boy lost his stoop and suddenly appeared to be a healthy child, although it was difficult to see in only indoor lighting escaping through windows.

One of the adults asked, "What now?

Jessie was fanning her deathly white face with a magazine. "I'm going out to fetch the Todd's."

"No stay," Mary said. "Look, here are the parents now, both carrying beer bottles to toss down into the loch. This will be interesting."

Although the lighting was poor, the shock on the faces of Agnes and Charlie Todd was evident.

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