All the places you think are real, are real. Events and people are pure invention.
I couldn’t tell Margaret what I knew about where Riley had been, about his dead father, or about the ghosts, she’d think I was crazy and they’d take my kids away from me. Instead, I told her she needed to let the police know that she thought her son was alive.
In the end, it was easier than you ever would have imagined to find him. Margaret took out ads in all the papers and went on social media for the first time, posting photos of the wooden car and saying, “Is this yours?”, telling the story of how she’d found it.
People love coincidences.
They found Riley. He was living in Sydney, married, one little boy. He had no memory of being a young child. All he knew was that his father brought him up and they’d lived in one small flat after another. They moved around a lot. When Riley was 17, he left his dad behind. Ran away without a word because he didn’t want to be the man his father wanted him to be.
He had found a job at a supermarket, and finished high school when he could. He met his wife in a cooking class. Margaret told me they adored each other, and that she adored the wife and the feeling was mutual.
Margaret told me all of this on the phone. “You have to meet them. And my grandson. If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t have found each other. I still can’t believe it.”
Riley didn’t know who he was. He didn’t know he was missing until he was found.
I didn’t make the connection between Riley and the suicidal man in Allawah flats for anyone. I let him stay buried under the wrong name. I wanted there to be nothing to connect him to Riley.
I knew I could never meet Riley. His ghost dad nudged at me. Go on, let’s see him. Let’s see him. But, there’s no way I’d let that happen. No way Riley’s ghost dad was getting hold of a happy family to destroy it.
Gloria told me all I needed to know, that the little family was as happy as any family can be, and that being in the same room as them made you feel good, just sitting there with them.
That’s the happy ending.
It’s not my ending, though.
Bram Stoker, twice-World Fantasy Award Nominee and Shirley Jackson Award winner Kaaron Warren has lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Fiji. She’s sold more than 200 short stories, three novels (the multi-award-winning Slights, Walking the Tree and Mistification) and six short story collections including the multi-award-winning Through Splintered Walls. Her latest short story collection is Cemetery Dance Select: Kaaron Warren. You can find her at kaaronwarren.wordpress.com and she Tweets @KaaronWarren
Part ten of The Public Menace of Blight, the final instalment, will be published on the site tomorrow.
The title comes from Pritchett, Wendell E. 2003. The “Public Menace” of Blight: Urban Renewal and the Private Uses of Eminent Domain. Yale Law & Policy Review 21, 1-52.