Infinite Ground - Martin MacInnes




Walking is something perfected by children, the people who learn it and who have nowhere else to go. Walking is a special pleasure of children and they see it springing up in others. They learn it quite similarly, watching each other move. Children are the ones who learn to move for the first time, and not simply by growing but by moving themselves. Children don’t need to tell themselves to continue moving, once it’s all started, and adults are grateful for this process having been enabled. Once it’s been established, walking commands the community area as people move around and pick up pieces and drop them elsewhere. In addition to transporting body-weight and facilitating social interaction, walking maintains air-diversity in trailing multiple breaths across and over each other, and this in turn supports the growth of vegetable, fungal and animal life.


He got the call in the night, for some reason. His help would be appreciated going over a case. How recent was unusual – the man had been gone only three weeks. He was to put everything aside and concentrate, for a spell, exclusively on this. Resources would be made available. He would be given all the support they could provide.

He explained his doubts and received the necessary assurances: he would have authority and resources; he could work independently or in league; though he had officially retired, to all intents and purposes it would be just as if he remained a senior investigating officer.

Carlos, the missing person, was twenty-nine years old, single, and lived in a small apartment under an informal rent agreement that afforded him little security. He had joined his workplace – a financial institution in the process of a large and complex merger, leaving it for the moment without a name – six years ago, straight from college. He was devoted to his job, known to forego holidays.

He had recently moved into his own office, with a personal secretary: a considerable forward step. His work demands were said to have increased three-fold, but remained nothing out of the ordinary. Reception records showed he was arriving earlier and leaving later every day.

Carlos took a metro and two buses to and from his work. To enter the corporation building he would wait for a vehicle to approach the basement parking lot entrance and jog or walk briskly in behind before the barriers closed. He phoned his mother, Maria, every second Sunday. Maria had been planning the meal at La Cueva for some time. It took around thirty-five minutes, after Carlos had got up from the table, for the party to establish that something had gone wrong. His cousin, Gabriela, had insisted they continue their meal, the price of which meant it was considered a treat.

Maria first reported her son missing the following morning, but he couldn’t be registered as such for another thirty-two hours. By this stage not only had all possibly significant for­ensic information been dispersed from the restaurant, but Carlos’s flat had also been reoccupied, his possessions, among which was either a telescope or a microscope, dumped in two black refuse sacks left out on the street.

The original investigating officers monitored his phone records, bank accounts and email addresses; all activity had ceased on the 24th. They interviewed his family, reconstructed the night in question, and promised they would do all they could to find him. Most likely, one officer had said, your son left of his own volition, and he will walk back in through this door just any day now.

The inspector found it a little confusing to begin with, going over his questions with the people concerned – family, friends, the staff at La Cueva, adjacent diners on the evening Carlos disappeared – as their answers seemed laboured, artificial. People responded to his enquiries without any evidence of thinking. They spoke, almost to a person, in the manner of a performance. Of course they did – they had been through all this before, he realized, several times at least. He was not the first to put these questions to them. And now, bringing them back, all he was doing was dredging up remembered, polished versions of the things they’d said some time before.

‘It is just,’ she said, ‘that I haven’t been back here since. Maybe none of it happened. Is that possible, Inspector? Is that ourselves, there, at the table?’

‘Just tell me, Maria, exactly what you remember.’

‘Well we hadn’t all been together like that in years. A reunion of