(This post is Part 2 of of Chapter 6. To catch up on the story so far, look at:
Post 1 (Chapter 1, Part 1)
Post 2 (Chapter 1, Part 2)
Post 3 (Chapter 1, Part 3)
Post 4 (Chapter 3, Part 1)
Post 5 (Chapter 3, Part 2)
Post 6 (Chapter 4, Part 1)
Post 7 (Chapter 4, Part 2)
Post 8 (Chapter 6, Part 1)
NB: Chapter 2 and Chapter 5 have been omitted deliberately. Chapter 5 takes place in the art room at Frankie's school and contains additional revelations about both Penny Ganz's mother and the cheating scandal).
After washing my hands and putting the nappy in the outside bin, I went back into the kitchen, where Mum was washing out the cutlery drawer with a set look on her face. “Mum,” I said. “I can walk Phil to gym if you like. I’ll call Mrs Obloswki and we can meet up with her and Tina and Jess at the corner and walk with them.” This, it must be said, represented a generous offer on my part, if I do say so myself. It was a solid half-hour walk each way to the gym, and Phil would train for an hour, so I was committing two hours. (I was planning, however, to do my homework in the observation room at the gym, so it wouldn’t be entirely wasted).
Mum looked at me consideringly, then smiled. “That’s kind, Frankie, but I’ll take her in the car. I need to talk to her coach today about the state championships anyway. Besides, you need to tidy your room. Remember, Vicky and I are camping out with you for the next two nights. Auntie Dido will be here around 9 o’clock tonight.” She sighed.
“Oh yes,” I said gloomily. “Auntie Dido.” Sigh.
Auntie Dido was my Mum’s aunt, so technically my great-aunt, but let me tell you, there is nothing in the least bit great about her. She’s in her early seventies somewhere but acts much older in a lot of ways. She lives in Adelaide but comes to Melbourne five or six times a year to see her army of medical specialists, at which time she always expects to stay with us, and to occupy Mum and Dad’s lovely big room with its en suite and beautiful herb garden walled courtyard (where Mum sits to edit sometimes while Vicky plays endless games of tea party with her dollies). Auntie Dido has a range of health issues, both minor and major, and I suppose that’s part of what makes her so crabby all the time. It must suck to be sick. (Well, I remember. Having leukaemia at 7 was pretty sucky and all. But I am healthy now, thankfully).
Sick or not, Auntie Dido was a difficult guest. Nothing was ever good enough for her, and she sniped constantly at my Mum about the State of the House, the Behaviour of the Children, the Inadequacies of Doctors, the Dreadfulness of Melbourne, and anything else she could find to whine about. My Mum always dreaded her visits, although she tried to pretend she didn’t. It was easier if Dad was here when she came; he buffered Mum a bit, and drove Dido to her medical appointments (reluctantly, but he did it). Still, they used to argue about it. Dad thought Mum shouldn’t have to put up with Dido’s filthy rudeness. Mum thought Dad didn’t understand the obligation she felt. They were both right, which meant the argument never ended.
When Auntie Dido came to stay, Mum, Dad (if he was home) and Vicky vacated their room and moved to mine, which was the biggest of the other bedrooms and had a double bed and plenty of room for Vicky’s cot. If Dad was home, I slept in with Phil in her room, on a mattress on her floor. If he wasn’t, though, Mum and I just shared my bed. Thankfully, neither of us snores.
So this meant that I had some cleaning to do, and quick smart too. “OK,” I agreed. “I’ll move Vicky’s cot, too.”
“Thank you,” Mum said, and gave me a tired smile. “I think the living area is pretty OK and I’ve made a lasagne for dinner, all you need to do is put the oven on at 5 o’clock and put it in. When I get back with Phil at 5:30, I’ll make the salad and we can eat at 6.” With that, she hurried off to collect Phil and Vicky. Within three minutes, the car doors were slamming, and they were on their way.
Seb was doing homework in his room, so I had the main house to myself, a rare and enjoyable event. The kitchen, usually fairly orderly anyway (my Mum hates to cook in a messy kitchen), sparkled with the extra attention it always got pre-Auntie Dido. I put the kettle on and went into the living area, which looked great – everything neat and packed away (not its usual state, I have to say). I decided to give myself a breather before starting work on my room, and sank down into my red chair, opening my notebook.
Right, to review, I thought. First up, the Miranda case.
The things I knew about Miranda Ganz were:
- Her full name and her maiden name
- Her age (she’d now be 31)
- Her place of birth (Bulgaria)
- Her profession (modelling)
- The date and place of her marriage to Ivan Ganz
- That she didn’t speak much English
- That she liked, no, loved, children
This was more than I’d known yesterday, which was encouraging, but none of it got me much closer to finding out why she’d left. At this stage of the case, sometimes a bit of speculation can be useful. I opened a fresh page and wrote – What Happened To Miranda? Possibilities – and started a list.
First up, sadly but inevitably, was DEATH. If Miranda had died soon after she left Ivan and Penny, that would explain why she never came back or got in touch. There were a few problems with that explanation, though. If her death had been a “normal” one, it should have been registered, and Ivan notified. If he knew she was dead, why wouldn’t he have told Penny that? The other possibility was a nasty one – that she had been killed, and her death concealed. Ivan wouldn’t have notified the police to look for her if she had already left him, because he wouldn’t know she was missing.
A chill went through me as another thought struck me: Assuming she did leave. I quickly shelved this one, though. I don’t underestimate myself, but even I boggled at the notion of trying to find out if Ivan had killed his wife then lied about what happened to her for 11 years. Besides, from the little Penny had said, it seemed that maybe there was more evidence to be found that would show that Miranda had left under her own steam.
Second option on my list, therefore, was AMNESIA / MENTAL DISTURBANCE / POSS. COMMITTAL? FALSE NAME? If Miranda had suffered some kind of severe mental problem, maybe one that meant she couldn’t identify herself, it was possible that she simply didn’t know or wasn’t able to contact Ivan and Penny. One thing that fitted well about this option was that it explained neatly why a woman who loved children so devotedly could leave her own baby behind. If she was not herself, that was the answer to that.
Third option was harder to define, but I wrote it as PRESSING / COMPELLING REASON, POSS. PROTECTIVE IN NATURE. By this, I was talking about Miranda leaving because she felt that to stay would endanger her family in some way, or else because she had a strong pull factor to protect someone else. This was a bit far-fetched in some ways, but, remember, Miranda wasn’t Australian-born, which meant there might be factors at work in her past that no-one knew about.
Fourth option, which I was coming to consider unlikely given what Mrs Genovese had said, was simply NOT WANTING DOMESTIC LIFE / LACK OF ATTACHMENT. It happens, sadly; total long-term silence is pretty rare, but sometimes, a parent just bails on the family. It didn’t seem all that likely that Miranda had done this, but you never can tell.
I reviewed my list, frowning. None of the options I’d listed felt like a stand-out at this stage. What I needed to do next, I decided, was some talking. Ideally I needed to find more people who had known Miranda; I made a note, CHECK NEIGHBOURS BACK STREETS and HEALTH NURSE? (I knew that our local Maternal & Child Health Nurse, the professionals who do the well-baby checks on kids in Melbourne, had been in her job 15 years, so in theory that meant she’d met Miranda at Penny’s check-ups). I also noted, although this was obviously harder, that I should CHECK PPL M WORKED WITH – mind you, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get an entree to the modelling world, but I’d think of something. Probably a first step, now I thought about it, would be to find out which agency Miranda had worked for. I wrote AGENCY? MRS G – ASK on my list.