Sean and his daughter Marie had been overwhelmed by their long, leisurely drive through the scenic and mountainous regions of Torridon and Assynt. ‘I didn’t realise Durness was near the tip of the north-west,’ Sean said. ‘Yes, the opposite end of John O’Groats,’ Marie replied, her finger tracing the route in the atlas. ‘Well, being so near we just had to keep going, eh?’ Sean yawned, his eyes heavy with all the driving. They were returning to their Ullapool hotel after planning only to drive a circular route via Lochinver and Drumbeg. ‘What road do we take next,’ Sean asked. Marie checked the atlas. ‘The same road as we came keeping in mind we don’t go back through Drumbeg but keep going on this road till we come to the A 835 on the right, which takes us to Ullapool. According to where we are now we’re nearly at Scourie.’ ‘Good,’ Sean replied. They continued to chat about the breathtaking landscape on both sides of the road. ‘Breathtaking isn’t it? Ah, this looks like the road sign ahead,’ Sean announced. ‘Ullapool 18 miles. Not long now,’ he added as he slowed to turn. Tired as Marie looked Sean also noticed a look of curiosity. ‘What’s up?’ he asked. ‘According to the atlas we should’ve driven through Scourie then Unapool well before we come anywhere near the A 835. That road sign did not have a road number,’ she replied. ‘So what road’s this then?’ Sean asked. Marie studied the atlas closely. ‘Sorry dad but I can’t see any road to Ullapool before Scourie or Unapool on this page.’ Sean pulled to the side. ‘Let my try. We’re both tired. Maybe a fresh pair of tired eyes will spot it,’ he joked. After a few moments scanning the atlas he handed the atlas back. ‘Hmm, my eyes cannot spot it either.’ He looked ahead and at the surroundings. ‘The atlas might be out of date,’ he suggested. Marie checked ‘2004, not that out of date. The road looks more out of date compared to the other roads. There’s at least another sixty miles to Ullapool from here. I can’t see this narrow road lopping off nearly thirty miles before we’ve even passed through Scourie,’ she reasoned. . ‘Well, the sign’s clearly marked and we’re on the road so we’ll keep going,’ Sean decided. They set off and settled once again to chatting about the landscape. ‘That’s funny, the mountains we were in awe off before we turned have suddenly vanished,’ Sean observed. ‘I’ve noticed that as well,’ Marie replied. ‘We should actually be driving through them according to the map.’ They spotted another road sign ahead. ‘Hmm, Ullapool 18 miles.’ They were puzzled. ‘Maybe our tired eyes misread the first sign after all,’ Marie suggested. ‘Have they misread the sudden change in surroundings as well?’ Sean asked as they continued along the narrow road through what was fast becoming a barren, flat landscape with no horizon ahead. After a while another sign came into view. ‘Ullapool 18 miles,’ Sean stopped the car, stepped out and walked over to the grass verge and gazed around at the landscape. Marie joined him. It was flat and tree-less. There was no sign of any mountains or hills nearby or in the distance. Marie noticed something else. ‘Listen, the silence. And look, there’s no sign of wildlife; no birds in the sky nor sheep in the fields. Nothing.’ They both noticed too that the ground beneath their feet was soggy. ‘At least the grass is watered,’ Sean mused. They also realised that no vehicle had passed them nor had come towards them as they drove. Sean looked back along the road they’d traveled and was troubled to see the road trail off into a distance without texture or horizon behind them. They knew that between Scourie and Durness there was a vast valley that was not exactly without life and contours. Sean suppressed his anxiety for the sake of Marie. ‘Come on, back in, I’m going to put my foot down and get us back to Ullapool and to bed as fast as these heavy eyes will let me and before darkness falls.’ They set off at speed along the road that narrowed to one lane both trying to stay calm Sean noticing as he drove that there were no bends or dips in the road either. ‘Hmm, no passing places either. Ah, another road sign ahead. Maybe it will be the ri…ssssh…18 miles again.’ In quiet frustration he put the foot down. Marie closed her eyes, the atlas resting on her lap.
A mist slowly descended as they sped past successive signs until their car was totally enveloped. Darkness fell, completing the cover. Silence was the only sound that remained.
Early morning. The sun is up. A police car is parked by the side of the road. A policeman stands by the open door. He is on his radio speaking while looking at an object down in the dip.
‘PC Robertson to HQ, over.’
‘Go ahead PC Robertson, over.’
‘I’ve come across a black Fiat 500L with a white roof, registration number WUV14 NUK partly submerged in the bog just off the A894 at Lexford Bridge, over.’
‘Any casualties? Over.’
‘Yes, male aged between 55 – 60 and a female aged between 35 – 40. Both deceased, over.’
‘Any idea how long? Over.’
‘At a guess I’d say since sometime last night, over.’
‘Okay, do the necessary traffic control, Assistance is on the way, over.’
‘There’s just one thing, over.’
‘What’s that, PC Robertson? Over.’
‘It’s how the car has come off the road. I expected to see skid marks but judging by the position of the tyre treads on the grass verge it looks as if the driver deliberately turned off the road into the bog, over.’
‘Suspected suicide? Over.’
‘The tyre treads are in a curved position as they would be when turning on to another road, over.’
‘Yes, and there’s something else, over.’
‘What’s that? Over.’
‘It’s what’s on the female’s person that also makes it hard to conclude that it was suicide, over.’
‘Which is? Over.’
‘She has an open atlas on her knee.’