I'M BIRKITA KAIE MACKINNON. Let me tell you something about myself. Maybe, you'll find I'm not lacking in intelligence. Nor am I completely insane, although, I do wonder as to my sanity. I have finished my third year of med school. Two loving, highly intelligent parents raised me, I'm an only child. My Father dealt in overseas commodities, my Mother, a Professor of History.
My experiences are strange, although it's abnormal to think I could define this as strange, considering what occurred over the past year. We all perceive circumstance on different levels. We contemplate the playing fields, how we approach them, in dealing with different situations. I prefer to keep it within a simple realm of coherence. So as bizarre as the things that happened to me, strange is the best way of my dealing with them. I will attempt to document my accounts as accurately as possible.
In the latter part of May, I received a call at school from my Father. He's overprotective of me and my Mother. Da returned in December, from one of his infamous business trips. He requested that I fly home immediately. When questioned as to why my presence was so necessary, he simply said it was for my own safety. After twenty minutes of convincing him, of my all-important worth at school, we agreed, I'd fly out the following Friday night.
Feeling put upon, this request to leave immediately, seemed an imposition on my time. My priorities didn't include flying home, on his intuition that something horrible was about to happen. So booking the red-eye flight for the following Friday night left a sour taste, for this intrusion. The urgency for my return came too late. The self-centered, selfish person I am, realized too late.
The dean of human resources called my dorm room, the next morning, requesting I come to his office. He gave no hint as to why he wanted to see me.
I held the receiver in my hand for several minutes, after our conversation ended. The dread, I started to feel became overwhelming. My knees buckled. I slumped to the floor. The croissant and Starbucks I had consumed earlier ejected from my stomach. I pulled myself together, rinsing my mouth and changing my clothes, then trudged to the dean's office.
The dean's secretary opened the door to his office. Not a word passed her lips. The grim look upon her face spoke of doom, adding to the dread that lingered deep within me.
Two men in cheap suits stood there as I entered the office.
"Birkita come in, take a seat, please." The dean rose from his chair, pointing to the leather chair before his desk. "This is Detective Cain from the Portland, Maine Police Department and Detective Drumming from our Ann Arbor Police Department."
I looked at them, their faces stoic and unreadable. I took the proffered chair, sitting with my dread growing. My mind could form no coherent sentences.
Detective Cain pulled a crumpled handkerchief from his pocket, mopping the beads of sweat from his brow. "Miss MacKinnon, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this. There's been a fire, your parents were killed. It appears to be arson. The ATF is investigating the scene. Your parents were returning home around ten-thirty, last night, when they entered their home, there was an explosion. They were killed instantly." He took a breath then studying my face.
I remembered blinking several times, then slumping back into the chair.
Dean Collins handed me a glass of water. "Birkita, drink this."
I did. I believe this is when I became a marionette, letting others pull the strings.
Detective Drumming, who stood slouched behind Cain, moved clumsily to the fore. "Miss MacKinnon, do ye know who would want to hurt yer parents?"
I became hysterical at this question. "Who could 'hurt' my parents? Hell you idiot they are dead, not hurt!"
Dean Collins came around his desk, squatting next to my chair. He placed a firm hand on my arm. "Birkita, I'm so sorry. Do you know who would want your parents dead?"
I felt the tears running down my cheeks. As I looked him in the eyes I could see deep concern there. "No." I whispered tasting the salty tears as they coursed into my mouth.
Dean Collins handed me a fresh crisp, ironed handkerchief. I blew my nose then dabbed at my cheeks.
Detective Cain, wheezed for air. "You'll need to return home with me, to identify their bodies. We'll need a positive ID Detective Drumming, will you, arrange our flight? Try to get us out today." He turned to Drumming, who nodded.
Drumming left only to return within a few minutes. "There's a flight out at two this afternoon." He addressed Cain.
Cain looked at me with sympathy. "I'll pick you up at noon, in front of your dorm." Cain held his hand out in front of me.
I stood, looking at it, not wanting to touch the man. "I'll be ready." My voice sounded dry and raspy. My feet began to move. The next thing I knew, I had my things packed in a suitcase and I was in front of the dorm, waiting for my worse fears to come to fruition.
* * * * *
THE SMELL OF ANTISEPTIC assailed my nostrils. The cool air filtered deep within my bones as we stood in the entrance of the morgue waiting for the coroner. James Dunham held my upper arm tightly. He had met Detective Cain and me at the airport. I was sure he told me why he was there, but I couldn't recall. He was the family attorney, had been since I could remember.
James eased his tight grip on my arm. "Birkita, I will identify them, if you want. You don't have to put yourself through this." He spoke in a whisper.
I stared at him in disbelief. Didn't he understand? I had to see them one last time. "No." I had no more tears. They had fallen freely from the time the detectives informed me, until the flight landed here in Portland. I felt nothing. I was sure Detective Cain tried to entertain me on the flight here, as well as the drive from the airport to the morgue. He stood to my left, watching my every move. I couldn't recall much since the news of my parents' death.
We turned automatically when we heard a door opening. A short man, in his late fifties, wearing a doctor's white coat, with rubber gloves hanging from the pockets and hand smears of bloodstains on the front of it, entered the room.
He swallowed the last bite of food he was chewing. "You here for the MacKinnon ID?"
James moved toward him, pulling me along. "Yes, we are."
The man turned, walking to another door of the room and shoved it open. He walked to the wall of stainless steel crypt doors. Stopping at one, he opened it and pulled the tray out then moved to the next door in line, opening it.
The bodies lay on the cold stainless steel trays. Each one was covered with white a sheet. I moved to the first one, the coroner had opened. My body shook and my hands trembled as I lifted the sheet, pulling it halfway down the body. The body was male, burned on approximately ninety percent of his body. My father's hands had curled in a twisted distorted form from the muscles retracting, as the fire had engulfed him. His Masonic ring had partially melted to his finger. On his other hand, his wedding band reflected brightly under the florescent lighting. I only nodded to the coroner.
I was unable to inhale a deep breath, as the stench of burnt flesh prohibited me. I moved to the next door. The coroner lowered the sheet down to my mother's shoulders. She must have been the first to enter the house. Her face, all but gone, was unrecognizable. I moved to the left side of her body and lifted the sheet to expose a birthmark on her hip. I tried to lift her hip, only to have her skin peel and rest on my fingertips.
The coroner moved next to me. He rolled her body exposing the mark I sought. I nodded and left the room and found the bathroom. There, I scrubbed my hands for fifteen minutes. James and Detective Cain stood outside the door waiting for me.
James encompassed me in his arms, as I left the bathroom. "I'm sorry, Birkita. I'll take you to the hotel. I've reserved a suite for you there. There are things we need to discuss. We can do it there instead of my office." He took my arm again, leading me from the building.
Detective Cain moved closer to me. "I'm sorry for your loss. Tomorrow if you could come to the station, there are a few things I need to clear up."
James turned to him. "We will be there at eleven."
* * * * *
I BOARDED AN INTERNATIONAL flight to Edinburg Scotland. This trip was to take my family to their final resting place. James was here to see me off, carrying my travel bag and laptop case. The sliding doors eased to the side, I stood still, not wanting to enter the airport. James took my arm pulling me through, leading me to the tram.
I stood watching him converse with the flight boarding attendant as James handed him my boarding pass. The man looked at me with compassionate eyes, and then nodded at James pointing to an opening to the left.
Soon I was moving through a retractable tunnel to board the plane; James forever attached to my arm. I glanced to the right as we entered the plane. Rows of empty seats filled the large airbus; silence deafening to the ears. James pulled me toward the front of the plane, half way down the aisle he placed my travel bag in a seat then my laptop case. He assisted me into the seat next to my things.
James perched on the arm of the seat across the aisle from me. He opened his briefcase, withdrawing two envelopes.
"Birkita, I've gone over everything with you. Your itinerary is in your laptop case. Your parents wanted me to give you this upon their deaths. This first envelope you should read on this flight. The next envelope you're instructed to read when you reach Spey. A car will wait for you at the airport. The driver will take you to a hotel. Get a good night sleep. He'll return early in the morning to take you on to Spey. Your parents will already be there. After the services, the driver will take you to your parents' cottage. Read the last envelope there."
My mind refused to wrap itself around all I had learned and what James was saying. I heard him, saw his lips move, but I wasn't sure I understood.
James stood, preparing to leave. He placed a hand on my shoulder, and bent, kissing the top of my head. Then he was gone.
Dear god in heaven, I'm alone. This is it. I'm by myself, no one to turn to. The icy hand of fear tightly gripped my soul. I felt the rise of deep seeded panic growing within me. I felt the silence, the deafening silence, maddening my mind. I wanted to run, as fast and as far as my body will permit. I start to sing Silver Wings by Merle Haggard. I couldn't carry a tune if my life depended on it, but the noise soothed me.
The intercom pierced my mind, as it announced the boarding of those in wheelchairs and passengers with small infants. The tiny semblance of reality calmed me and I breathed again. Voices vibrated off the interior of the plane. I'm not alone, there is life surrounding me again. I heard movement behind me and turned in my seat to see a giant of a man lumbering, shoulders slumped so as not to bump his head, coming toward me. He smiled.
I averted my gaze to the two envelopes, I held in my hand. Meanwhile, the giant took the seat across the aisle from me. Fumbling, I placed the second envelope in my travel bag. I opened the other envelope to read on the plane. I withdrew letters and photos from it. The pictures are of my parents and me. In the photos, I was four years old standing between them. They sat on a bench. We were cheek to cheek with each other, all smiling. I didn't remember that photo and wondered who took it; the nanny? No, she never went with us. This had been our family time, and she would have been visiting friends or her family. More photos with all three of us. Who could have taken these photos? I wondered.
I opened the folded four-page letter, written in my father's hand. The print is block letterform, a precise no nonsense tone to each square printed mark. I read, it but wasn't sure what it meant. After reading it again, at the end of the four pages I whispered, "Da, what have ye done, to me?"
The next letter was from my mother. Her flowing script sang off the pages. She pleaded with me to trust in them, told me of their love for me; how they would always be with me; how I must follow every single instruction to the fullest.
The tears have restarted. The lines of the letters were obscured through the tears. I then replaced the letters, along with the photos, to their original envelope, holding it close to my chest, I closed my eyes. I dreamed…..
The dark cold water wrapped its icy fingers around my body. It pulled me deeper into its violent abyss. I struggled to free myself from the rip tides' grip. The more I struggled the tighter it held me. My lungs were close to bursting. The freezing water refused to let go. It drew me closer to the depths of Darkness. I forced my eyes open, to see an image of Stonehenge float into view. This view frightened me so, and my body fought for release. The current carried me deeper into the center of the stones. I closed my eyes again and prayed. I heard distant voices calling to me. "Be strong child. We're with you." The voices were that of my Dad and Mother. "You're almost there, stay with us." I tried to understand what was happening. My mind fogged with fear of drowning or pulled deeper through the stones.
A familiar brogue jolted me out of the dream, insisting I open my eyes. I felt a strong large hand on my arm. Slowly and carefully I opened my eyes. The giant who entered the plane earlier was patting my arm.
He smiled, "I'm sorry for waking ye lass. That must be one horrifying dream ye were having." He removed his hand from my arm.
I blinked several times trying to clear my mind before responding to him. "Thanks for waking me. I normally don't have nightmares." We stared at each other for a few seconds.
The sound of clinking glass and banging metal neared our seats. The attendant was pushing the food cart. He stopped, smiling at me. "I have your dinner ready. Could you clear your things for the food?" He released the tray built into the seat ahead of me, pulling it down flat then placed a covered plate on it, along with a glass and a small bottle of white Zinfandel in front of me.
I refused to look under the cover, at the plate of food. Without hesitation, I opened the Zinfandel and poured it into my glass. I watched the giant across the aisle, from the corner of my eye. His long dark hair lay braided over his shoulder. His huge hands moved gracefully as he devoured his meal. After finishing his meal, he leaned back in his seat.
I drew a deep breath, "Would you care for my meal? I'm not hungry." I lifted the covered plate toward him.
His smile was brilliant. "If yer sure ye won't be eating it. Ye are skin and bones lass. Maybe ye should eat it."
I shook my head, pushing the plate closer to him. He nodded his thanks as he took the plate. I turned in my seat to find the attendant for another drink.
The big man held his huge paw up to stop me. "Can I get ye something?" He said, after he chewed then swallowed his mouthful.
I noticed his eyes were the darkest shade of blue I had ever seen. "No, I'll wait, I only wanted another drink." I settled back into the seat.
The giant demigod rummaged through his travel bag, producing a flask. "Yer welcome to this. My family makes it. The recipe has been handed down from generation to generation."
He reached for my glass filling it to the rim. "Thanks." I lifted the glass to my nose, sniffing then sipped the amber liquid. The smooth flavour ran coursed my throat, however, when it reached my stomach, it erupted into flames. The liquid warmed every muscle of my body. The more I sipped, the more relaxed I became.
I glanced at him. "Your family makes a fine scotch."
He smiled, "I thank ye for the nice compliment. It's my brother, whose diligent work makes it so popular."
I nodded feeling sleepy again. I finished the scotch, leaned back and closed my eyes.
I awoke to the captain announcing our arrival to Scotland in twenty minutes over the PA system.