He loved the drive up to Inverness: leaving Edinburgh on the motorway, crossing the Firth of Forth and looking across to the old railway bridge, wondering, each time, if it really was true that when they finished painting it they had to start all over again … Even the inevitable congestion around Perth he didn’t mind so much because once he’d got through all that it was the A9 and a free run all the way up to the Highlands. On a beautiful autumn day like today it was just unbeatable. He felt so good in fact that with only an hour or so still to go he decided to pull off the road into Aviemore and grab a bite. There was a wonderful ice cream store there that also sold cannoli and he picked up a box for the trip home. That put him behind schedule a little but he reckoned he still had plenty of time to do what he’d come for and get to the bed-and-breakfast by a reasonable hour.
As a result, the afternoon was well underway by the time he reached the city itself, with the light seeping from the sky. Muscle memory almost took him across the river Ness and along the A82 to the north side of the loch. He smiled as he remembered his first trip to the castle overlooking the water. There was a young boy peering intently across the waves hoping for a glimpse of ‘the monster’ “There!” the boy had shouted. “Look! There’s something in the water.” “It’s just a log” his dad had told him. “No, look, it’s moving against the wind.” the boy had replied, his face reflecting the determination of his belief. And then the father had explained about the temperature differences in the water and the tilting thermocline that pushed objects along against the wind but the boy had lost interest long before the end and had turned away, deflated.
Just in time he remembered to turn off and head along the southern shore, down the ‘Military Road’ once used by occupying troops to quell local insurrections, now less well-travelled. Pulling over at an empty lay-by, he sat and waited under the trees, looking out over the wind-chopped water as the light began to fade. Judging that it was dark enough, he went back to the car and opened the boot.
The body was heavier than he’d remembered, wrapped in a tarp and weighed down with a concrete block he’d picked up from an old building site. “Bend at the knees” he reminded himself and then quickly scuttling bow-legged over to the side of the loch, he slid the body in with barely a splash. The underwater drop-off was sharp and the bundle quickly disappeared into the peaty water. He smiled to himself again as he thought that perhaps one day it would rise back to the surface, buoyant with the gases of decomposition, and some kid would spot it bobbing along and cry out “Look! It’s the monster!!” But for all the times he’d done this, that had never happened yet.