Then She Was Gone

The woman clutches the piece of paper inside her hands and stares desperately through the glass screen at the policewoman sitting there. She’d told her someone would be along in a minute but that was nearly half an hour ago and she really needs to get going before she gets a parking ticket and the frozen chicken breasts in the boot of her car start to defrost.

“Excuse me,” she says a minute later, “I’m really sorry but my parking’s about to run out and I really have to go. Could I just leave this here with you?” She holds up the piece of paper.



The policewoman looks up at her and then at the piece of paper, then back at her again. “Sorry?” she says, as though she’s never seen her before or been told about the paper.

“This letter,” the woman says, trying her hardest not to sound impatient. “The letter I found in a book I got from the Red Cross shop.”

“Right,” says the policewoman. “Sure. Let me take it.”

The woman hands the letter to the policewoman and watches as she reads it, watches her facial expression change from disinterest to alarm to sadness and then to shock. “Sorry,” she says, “tell me again where you found this?”

“I told you,” says the woman, her patience stretching very, very thin. “I bought a book last month from the Red Cross shop on Stroud Green Road. A Maeve Binchy. I only just got round to reading it last night. And this note fell out. It’s her,” she says, “isn’t it? It’s that poor girl? The one who had the baby in the basement?”

The policewoman looks up at her and the woman can see that her eyes are wet with tears. “Yes,” says the policewoman. “It is.”

Both of them let their eyes fall back to the letter then and they both fall silent as they reread it together, squinting to make out the minuscule words squashed tightly side by side on a tiny scrap of paper:

To anyone who finds this note [it begins], my name is Ellie Mack.



I am seventeen. Noelle Donnelly brought me to her house on 26 May 2005 and has kept me captive in her basement for about a year and a half. I have had a baby. I don’t know who the father is and I’m pretty sure I’m still a virgin. Her name is Poppy. She was born in around April 2006. I don’t know where she is now or who is looking after her but please, please find her if you can.

Please find her and look after her and tell her that I loved her. Tell her that I looked after her for as long as I could and that she was the best little baby in the world. Also, please let my family know that you’ve found this note. My mum is called Laurel Mack and my dad is called Paul and I have a brother called Jake and a sister called Hanna and I want you to tell them all that I’m sorry and that I love them more than anything in the world and that none of them must feel bad about what happened to me because I am brave and I am brilliant and I am strong.

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