I sit by Urquhart Castle’s tourist shop, my hands wrapped around a hot mug of coffee. My ancestors owned these lands centuries ago. Memories flit through my mind like shreds of stained gossamer. By the Gatehouse, Morag had called my name. By Grant Tower, she rested a hand on my shoulder. Our last kiss was beside Loch Ness, so dark and ancient.
Should I tell the police all I know about my pretty lady?
Forty Summers later, I cradle my head in my hands, plead with myself for mercy. But there is none. Fiends torment me, clawing at my sanity. I remember Morag’s hands, so gentle and kind, unlike mine made rough by hard labor. Her long blonde hair and wide blue eyes could drive a man to madness.
She’s still missing.
Traditional Scottish ballads were bred into Morag’s soul. I can still hear her lilting voice sing “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.” She believed in Jesus, praying on Sundays in Old High St. Stephen’s in Inverness. She loved psalms and choral music. Hymns came easily, her supple fingers flitting over organ keys. She’d hoped to study music at an English university. She never went, of course. She stayed here with me. Where she belonged. Hallelujah.
Nobody has found her half-hidden remains. Nobody has spotted lush green ferns growing through her skull. Nobody yet.
Her friends told the police she was moving to London. That she hated the Highlands. Complained of freezing cold winters. But I know better. Morag didn’t want anyone knowing we were sweethearts. She didn’t want her friends, or mine, coming between us. We were each other’s best kept secret.
That bloody ring triggered my rage. I’d bought the diamond sparkler in a jeweler’s shop in the Eastgate Shopping Centre. Four month’s wages gone. I’d surprised Morag with it while we were hiking along a dirt track far outside Inverness, down past Abriachan. A wooded landscape, wild and romantic. Maybe I caught her off guard, but she shook her head. “I can’t,” she’d said. “I just can’t.”
Mists of searing anger had clouded my mind. Unleashed my frenzy. Berserker blood flowing in my veins. My father’s side were Vikings. Red hair, narrow eyes. Born for brawling. Moody fuckers. Morag only screamed once, scattering deer, grouse, and pheasants, her slender neck smooth in my workman’s hands, her perfume scenting the air like hyacinths in a spring breeze.
I’d had to work fast, tearing my fingernails in haste, clawing under bracken and rotting leaves, digging her final resting place. Worms, moss, and damp earth crumbled under my fingers. Pine and fungi scented the air. Jagged thorns slashed my wrists. Hurt like hell. Blood dripped all over my hands. Three tiny scars still show. Morag’s revenge.
She sleeps alone, untended, near craggy rocks and tall birch way outside the village of Drumnadrochit. Now there’s a tongue-twister of a name. Scottish Gaelic. A small pile of stones marks the spot. A wee cairn. I’d hurled the ring into an overgrown ditch nearby. Wasted.
I take another sip of coffee, swirling the rich nutty flavor over my tongue. From time to time I return to Urquhart Castle, only a few miles from where Morag had screamed in vain. More tourists arrive, chatting and chirping, intruding on my reflections.
A young woman dances past, blue eyes peeping out from under a blonde fringe, jeans tight over her curves. Same as Morag.
Head down, I crack my knuckles, watching, waiting.
Her friends called out to her. Isobel. What a beautiful name. And a trusting smile.
Just like my pretty lady.