Unsigned by Paul Wattie

Feb 5, 20202 comments

Andrea Rowe looked at the sheet of paper, scanning the names again, searching for the one name that was missing.
“And you’ve got no idea who it was?”

Rebecca shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. “I was so focused on what our guest speaker was saying that I didn’t actually notice them sitting there, I know they said their name during the introductions, but I can’t really remember much about them.”

“Paul?”

“I’m so sorry Andrea, I feel terrible admitting to this, but I’d watched a very funny cat video that morning, it was hysterical, I’ll send it to you, the first time I watched it I nearly fell off my chair. The cat jumps out of the bushes and pounces on a toddler walking past, and…” Paul became aware of the scowls that were suddenly being directed his way. “umm …anyway, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so when we were doing the introductions, I wasn’t actually paying attention.”

“You were thinking about a cat video while people were introducing themselves?” 

Paul made an ‘I’m sorry’ face and shrugged guiltily.

“How could this possibly have happened?”

Rebecca realised that the question was rhetorical, but she felt the need to answer, it was her watch after all, she was supposed to make sure that all the attendees at the Peninsula Writers Club meet up had signed the guest sheet upon entering the Seawinds Community Center.

“The fire started in the café` kitchen, apparently the toaster got jammed and the bread caught fire. It spiralled out of control very quickly.” She gave a shrug of her shoulders and made a face that mirrored Pauls “I’m sorry” face. “we all made it out to the evacuation point and milled around watching while the fire brigade put the fire out, I didn’t even realise anyone was missing until later that day when the police asked me to identify the person sitting at the corner of the table.”

Paul chimed in with the gory details.

“Apparently they were still sitting at their laptop, their whole body was burnt to a crisp, completely unrecognisable, their lips were burnt off, one of the fireys told me that it looked like they were smiling, their blackened charcoal fingers were still poised above the keyboard.”

Andrea cut him off before he could go into anymore of the grim details.

“This is ridiculous, why didn’t the police investigate? Didn’t they put out a missing persons alert. What about DNA? Surely there must be some clues as to who this person was.”

“Well…” Paul shuffled his feet and scratched his head. “it seems one of the detectives had a birthday that day, and all the other detectives wanted to get back to the station for cake.”

“CAKE. We’ve got an unidentified member of the Peninsula Writers Club burnt to a crisp and no one has bothered to find out who it was because of cake?!”

“I’m told it was a chocolate mud cake with a hot fudge centre.” Offered Rebecca helpfully.

“A hot fudge centre?” Asked Andrea suddenly interested.

“There was ice cream too.” Paul chimed in.

A wistful look came across Andrea’s face and her eyes momentarily glazed over. The moment passed and she shook her head to dislodge the thought of the gooey hot chocolate centre. 

“That’s no excuse.”

“Well…” Rebecca hesitated. “I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead, but we also found the collection cup with the gold coin donation. It was one gold coin short.” Rebecca raised her eyebrow suggestively as she said this.

Andrea let this news sink in. “So they didn’t sign the sign in sheet and they didn’t make the gold coin donation?”

“It looks that way.” Said Rebecca.

Paul said nothing, he felt bad that he didn’t have gold coin with him on the day, he was going to put in the five dollar note he had, but he wanted to stop to get a pie on the way home and he hated putting anything under five dollars on eftpos. But there was no point admitting to any of that now.

“Maybe we’ll never know who it was.” He said, changing the subject.

All three of them paused and let that thought sink in.

“All because they didn’t sign the sign in sheet.” reflected Andrea sadly.

Rebecca and Paul nodded in unison, glad that the awkward conversation was finally over and they could move on.

“Oh my god!” A look of horror flashed across Andrea’s face. “Now that the community centre has burned down, where are we going to hold the next meet up?”