Finding Daniel – Chapter 75

The sound that left her throat was part scream, part shout.  Dan grabbed at the handle and pushed the shift into drive.  She lifted her foot from the brake and the car shot forward.  They brushed the bumper of the car parked in front of them and Sally wasn’t sure whether she had hit the tall gunman or whether he had leapt back in time to avoid her.

The Fiesta shot out into the carriageway and, overcompensating for the angle she swerved back and grazed the side of the other car.  “Oh shit, sorry.  Dan!”

“Just keep going Sal, don’t stop.  Put your foot down.  Keep going.”

“Who the hell was that, what’s happening?  That was a gun, he had a gun.”

“Avilov, I think it was Avilov.” He twisted back now to peer out of the back window.

“He’s coming Sal, turn up ahead, go left.”  She glanced in her driving mirror as she made the turn and saw the dark brute of a car, headlights flashing speeding behind them.

“He’s going to get us Dan, he’ll get us.”

“Keep going, take the next right.”  Again she oversteered and collided with a parked mini , the rebound shot her over the centre of the narrow road into the path of a pair of cyclists, heads down, eyes lowered.

“Oh, God – No.”  She swung the wheel back again and touched the brake.  There was just time to see their shocked faces and hear the howls of outrage and Dan was yelling in her ear again.

“Don’t brake, don’t.  Straight across the junction.  Go now.”

“The lights are changing, it’s red.”

“Keep going, just keep going.”

They shot across the junction to the sound of squealing brakes and blaring horns and thundered down a road narrowed by cars parked on both sides.

“Watch out.”  Dan grabbed the wheel and wrenched it right as an old lady pushing a shopping trolley stepped out from the pavement.

“Oh, shit shit.  We have to stop Dan, we have to stop.  I’m going to kill someone.  Please let me stop.”  Tears were flowing freely now down her face and she unlocked her hand from the wheel for a moment to wipe her eyes and clear her vision.

“Don’t stop Sal, he had a gun.  You saw.”

“He’s coming, he jumped the lights, he’s coming. Dan we’re going to die.”

“No, no we’re not – just keep going.  Take the next left.”

“He’s faster than we are, he’s getting closer. It’s no good.”

The lights of the other car flashed in her mirror again, she glanced up for a moment. When she flicked her eyes back the rear door of a delivery truck filled her vision.  The driver strolled around and reached up to pull on the door.  She banged the steering wheel, nothing happened. “The horn, Dan it’s not working, there’s no horn.   She was upon him now, inches away.  At the sound of the squealing tyres and the roaring engine, he spun and threw up his arms in horror as she swerved.  Either fear or impact threw him sideways.

“I hit him, I think I hit him.  I can’t do this Dan, I just can’t.”

“No, no you didn’t he jumped.  He’s okay truly.  Keep going, you have no choice.”

“Where the hell are we going, do you know where we’re heading?”

“Out to the motorway, there are cameras, the police will see.”

“Right, right.”

“Watch out, there’s a cyclist. Take the next right.”

She swerved round the bike and made a huge sweeping turn through the junction. “I’ve got it, I know where I am.  He’s right on my bumper.”

“I know.”  As Dan spoke the black car hit them for the first time, the thud catapulted them forward and Sally saw stars as her head bounced on the head rest.

“Oh my God.”

“Keep going.”

“He rammed us.”  She was sobbing now, great gulps and her hands and arms shook with tension.  “I don’t want to die Dan.”

“We’re not going to.  Don’t slow down, don’t stop.”

Again the impact threw them forward but this time she was braced and the shock wave speared through her neck and shoulders.  She heard Dan gasp as he was thrown against the seat back.  “It’s okay.  He can’t get past it’s not wide enough.  There’s a roundabout up ahead.”

“I’m going too fast I’ll never make it round.”

“You will, you can do this.”

There were two other cars on the roundabout and Sally wrenched the wheel hard left, the tyres bumped the kerb and the graunch of metal made her scream again.  The sound of angry horns followed while they sped on.  As the centre of gravity shifted in the sharp turn she felt the tyres lose traction, the car skittered towards the inside kerb and she cried out in fear as she lost control.  Instinctively she lifted her foot and when the rubber re-gripped tarmac they shot forward and she struggled with the steering wheel, desperately trying to straighten up.  She was muttering continually now under her breath, prayers and pleadings that came from somewhere deep inside that she never accessed.

“Straight on Sal, take this exit.”  His words were drowned in the squeal of brakes.  Sally glanced into the mirror and time suspended as she watched the big car so close behind begin to tilt.  She had a glimpse of the driver’s panicked face as his passenger leaned to grab at the wheel and then in slow motion it passed the tipping point.  Her time lapsed brain snapped back to reality as sparks leaped across the roadway  followed by the screaming thunder of two tons of steel rolling and bouncing along the tarmac.

“Oh no.  He’s crashed, Dan he’s crashed. “She stopped and flung open her door before Dan could stop her.  The whoosh of heat as the spilt petrol was ignited by sparking metal knocked her backwards.  It was too much and as the black Range Rover was engulfed in flames she hid her head in her hands and sobbed.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 74

“Hello Dan, the insurance people have given me a courtesy car.  That’s good isn’t it, I guess that means they’ve accepted the story.  Anyway I’m picking it up after work.  Do you want me to come by the office and collect you?   I thought we could go for a little drive around.  It’s a brand new Fiesta.  I think that might be what I’ll buy so it’ll give us a chance to try it out.”

“Okay, yeah great idea.  We’ll go out for meal.  I’ll be finished here about sixish.”

“How is it all going?”

“Well I didn’t have to spin much of a yarn.  The place is in such a turmoil that I just slipped back in.  I booked retrospective time off from my annual  leave, looked soulfully at Sharon and that seems to be that.”

“What’s happening about Braithwaite?”

“There has to be an inquest.  The police are here going through all the files.   It’s looking pretty dire.  This is according to The Assistant to the Senior Partners.  It’s frustrating knowing what I know and not being able to tell anyone or look at the stuff myself.  They seem to be getting a handle on it though. The Russian bloke, you know the boss, it looks as though they know who that is, well one name seems to be cropping up regularly.  Phyllis asked me if I’d ever heard of Bruno Avilov, I just looked blank and she left it.  Of course they have to go carefully before they start throwing out accusations.  I might have to be interviewed but nobody knows I was looking at the files.  I’m not worried about any of that.  But that’s only a part of it.  The house owners are threatening to sue the company, I can’t really talk about it now but it could be the end of things here.  I’ll tell you all about it when I see you later.

“That’s awful Dan.  When you say the end you don’t mean the end of the firm do you?”

“It could be yes.  There are several very rich property owners and they’ve all jumped on the bandwagon, malpractice suits and so on.  It could bring the whole company down.  Look I have to get back to my desk and I can’t talk there so – see you later yeah.”

“Right, I’ll wait for you in the back road.”

She parked in a quiet road near his office and stayed in the car.  It was brand new, full of gadgets and extras that her old one hadn’t had and she fiddled with the air conditioner, the music player, the satellite navigation.  She was sad about her old Fiesta but it had been time to upgrade and at least now she wouldn’t have to negotiate a sale herself.  Briefly she wondered what had happened to Dolly.  Dolly who had once helped her to escape and then had run.  Surely she had been part of it all but without knowing the history she wouldn’t judge her but wish her well for surely her life couldn’t be easy.

The original police report from the time she followed Braithwaite had obviously either not highlighted that the car was missing or the fact that it had been archived worked in her favour.  Car theft was so common anyway that she knew they were simply going through the motions taking a report.  The tale she had spun about it being stolen during a picnic in the country had been accepted.  That covered the risk that it would be seen on any traffic cameras near the house.  She hoped that it was now just a statistic and so it seemed, once she’d been allocated a crime number the insurance company were more than willing to accept that it was gone… …

Dan did a quick walk around before he climbed into the passenger seat.

“Well what do you think?”

“It’s nice.  You wouldn’t get this colour though would you?”

“Well probably not.  I never liked white cars.  I was thinking maybe silver, or blue.  I’m going to get a new one, we can afford it can’t we.”

“Hmm, probably.”

She pulled carefully out into the traffic, “So, things are looking pretty grim are they?”

“Yes, they are.  We are going to have to face it Sal, I may be moving on sooner than I thought.”

“Okay.  It’s okay, we can manage don’t worry about it. Oh is that why you’re hesitant about a new car, it doesn’t matter that much.”

He leaned over and kissed her cheek.  “I really want us to sit down and talk about it all but I have been having some – oh what should I call them – ideas and I need your opinion.”

“Okay.”

“How would you feel if I went back to University?”

“Oh, erm.  Oh wow, that’s big. What would you do, I mean what would you study.”

“Immigration law.”

“Ah.”

“It’s a big ask Sally.  I know we have some savings but it would mean cutting back quite a bit and truthfully at the end of it I don’t think I’d ever be earning the sort of salary that I have been up to now. But the thing is I could help, I really want to help people, not be a part of a system that hurts.  Does that sound too worthy and prattish?”

“I understand Dan.  I do.  I have been half expecting something like this to be honest.”

“It’s the greed, the greed and the nastiness.  I never really thought about it until all this happened but the days when people bought property because they needed somewhere to live have gone.  Well at the level we are talking about anyway.  It’s all about money and power and the higher up you go the more greed there is.  I don’t want to be a part of it, not anymore and not in any way.”

“Daniel, I love you and as long as we’re together and you’re doing what makes you happy I am happy.  Have you done any research?”

“Well… …”

She turned and grinned at him. “You have haven’t you?”

“I’ve found a course locally.  It starts next September.  I spoke to someone this morning and we filled out the application on line.”

“You bugger.” Her words were gentled by the smile on her face and the dancing light in her eyes.

“Are you mad with me?”

“Well, I wish you’d keep me in the loop a bit more to be honest.”

“I wasn’t sure I could do it, especially not so quickly and I didn’t want to talk to you about it until there was actually something to really discuss.  If the firm does have to close – and I have to say it looks very possible now that the reputation is so badly tarnished, then I should get some redundancy money which will keep us going for a while.”

“Well, that’s it then, I guess it was meant to be eh.”

“Have I told you how fantastic you are?”

“Yeah you’ve mentioned it but I don’t mind if you want to tell me again.”

“There is something else though.”

“Oh.”

“Well what we did, setting the fire and so on – that was, shall we say less than legal.”

“That’s one way of putting it.”

“And, hiding what I knew, even though it’s all coming out now wasn’t really the right thing to do. I see that now but it’s a bit of a blot, a sort of smear in the background.”

“But nobody knows Dan, only me.”

“Yes, so I was thinking – just to protect my future you understand and seeing as I’m making sweeping changes.  I was thinking that maybe it would be better if we changed our living arrangements.”

Her stomach lurched, “Dan, I’d never tell anyone.”

“Well just to be sure,”  he was smiling broadly now, “what I thought was that maybe if we got married, well then you’d be my wife and you’d have a vested interest in keeping me out of trouble. Hey, hey watch where you’re going.”

“Dan. Oh – bloody hell.  Just a minute.  I’m pulling over – God Dan you’re an idiot.  You can’t do this, you can’t propose to me just like that.”

“Yes, I can.  I just did.  What do you think then?”

“I think you’re mad, and wonderful and a total nut.”  She pulled the car to the side of the road and threw her arms around his neck.  “Yes, yes, yes.”

“Well, whew – I’m so glad because I would have hated to have to take this back.”  The box was small and velvet and he held it in front of him and flipped open the lid.

They gazed down at the cluster of stones, though her vision was blurred with tears.

The noise and the impact against the window took a moment to register.  Lost in the joy they hadn’t noticed the dark car slide in behind them and they hadn’t seen the tall figure approach.  Sally reached a hand towards the window control, “Oh shit did I cut you up, I’m sorry.”

“NO!” As the yell left his throat Dan grabbed at her hand, “Sally, get out of here, get out of here now.”

“What, get out – what do you mean?”

“Drive Sally, drive now.”

Her head spun between them; Dan, his eyes wild and the dark figure standing in the road.  Then she saw the gun.

 

 

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 73

They left the van and walked from town.  It was a long drag in their worn out condition but, hand in hand they plodded along the familiar roads until their own front door was in sight and their own place welcomed them in.

The bank had sent her replacement cards, the temporary repair of the back door had held and so they booked a locksmith to come out and fix it properly.  Some of the food in the fridge was wilted or dried out but there was enough to scratch together a meal when they got in.  Bacon and Eggs and toast, comforting and normal, it made them smile.

After the meal they took turns to stand in the shower under the scalding spray until the smell of smoke and two days on the road had been washed away and then they fell into bed.  Tomorrow was Sunday and there was no need for an alarm and nothing to disturb them and they dropped into sleep like pebbles down a well… …

“What time is it Dan?”

“Uhm, just a sec, oh right it’s just after eleven.”  He turned to her, soft and warm in their nest and pulled her to him.  “It’s brilliant isn’t it?”

“What is.”

“This, just this.  Bed and you and me and the sun through the curtains and well, just normal.”

“Yes, I have to say it’s pretty outstanding for normal.”  He leaned to her and gently covered her mouth with his, she sighed and he felt her relax into his arms, “I love you Sally, I really, really love you.” As he pulled back to look into her eyes he caught the glimpse of tears and so kissed them away.  They lost themselves in the gentle morning intimacy, healing and affirming and so very much more than ordinary.

Later they took their coffee cups into the back garden.  “Does it spoil it all for you Sally?”

“What?”

“What happened.  When you sit here does it all feel okay, I mean you’re not reliving the break in and the dash over the fence and so on?”

“No, I’m not as it happens.  I did think I might.  I was nervous yesterday, coming down the road you know, but as it turns out it’s fine.  What about you?”

“Yes, I’m just glad to be back.  This is our place isn’t it, and it still feels like our place.  So, we’re okay then?”

“Oh yes, I think so.  We do have to think things through though don’t we.”

“What things.”

“Well, my car for a start.  I’m going to report it stolen.  I don’t know if I’ll get away with it but I’ll just go into the local nick and tell them it’s been pinched.  With a bit of luck they will never connect that up with what happened at the farmhouse.

I don’t think they ever even took the registration number.  They never really believed me I don’t think, not when everything was gone.  So, I’ll give it a go.  All I need is a crime number and then I can get in touch with the insurance and see what happens.

“Okay.  I’m not completely happy about it but if you think that’s best.  It’s yours after all.”

“If it doesn’t work I’ll just have to shell out for a second hand one, I know you’re happy to go everywhere on your bike but we do need a vehicle.”

“Yes of course we do, it’s just that I’m a bit worried about trying to hoodwink the insurance people.”

“Well, we’re not are we?  The bloody thing was pinched, I don’t see how I’ll ever get it back so I just fudge the dates a bit without actually lying.”

“Be careful Sally.  Just remember they can blacklist you.”

“Yeah okay.  Then you have to cancel your cards.”

“I did that while you were making the breakfast, that’s all done.”

“Oh good.  Then there’s the elephant isn’t there.”

“The elephant?”

“Yes, the one we are both avoiding.”

“Ah, you mean work don’t you?”  She gave a small nod. “Well, I don’t see I have much choice.  I’ll just go into the office, play on the story that I’ve been ill.  I’ll spin some sort of a yarn about us having a row and so on, to get over you not knowing where I was.  If that’s okay?”

“Yes, I think Sharon was thinking along those lines anyway.  It doesn’t matter.”

“I’m going in tomorrow. I want to find out what’s happening with Braithwaite’s accounts for one thing and I really need to just get back to it all.”

“What about Tess and Freddy?  What shall we tell them?”

“Oh I don’t know.  I don’t want to lie to them really but we can’t tell anyone about what we did.”

“Let’s just say you had a lot of worry about work and so you took yourself away.  Now, you’re back and you feel like a prat and you’re sorry about all the trouble you caused.”  She gave him a cheeky grin as he sighed and nodded.

“It does make me look a bit of an idiot but I guess it’ll work.  Shall we go over there tonight, go out for a drink with them.  We can get that bit out of the way at least.  One more step back to real life.”

“Yes, I’d like that actually.  I’m going back to work tomorrow as well and I’ll stick to my family problems story and just be vague and mysterious about it.”

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 72

The girls had left pillows and blankets scattered around the cargo space.  Sally laid them one on top of the other, with just a quilt kept to one side for a cover.  She stacked the cushions around the walls to help insulate them from the cold metal and the noise of passing traffic.  The back of the grubby van now looked cosy and inviting.  They were in a layby, amongst the huge trucks from Poland, and Portugal, Romania and Lithuania and so many other places.  Daniel commented that any one of them could have brought yet more girls into the country, or young men or even children.  Even acknowledging that the port authorities did their best, at the end of the day they couldn’t search every lorry and find every illegal immigrant or trafficked innocent.

Sally hadn’t known what to say to him, the emotion was so raw still and she was concerned at how much it was eating at him.  Until the last few weeks these things were not for them to worry about.  They were things you saw on the news or in the papers, other people’s tragedies, other people’s crimes.  Then she saw in the back of her mind the pathetic figure of Sophia, sick and ruined dragging herself back home with all her hopes and dreams in tatters and it stirred a little of the passion that had driven Daniel and the hopelessness that seemed to consume him now.

“Come on Dan, we’re both done in.  When we’ve had some sleep we’ll feel better.”  She mimicked Gladys. “It’ll all look better in the morning.”  He smiled down at her and they clambered into the back of the van.  Once they closed the doors, it was so dark that they had to feel their way to the makeshift bed where they fell onto the strange softness and pulled up the quilt that Sally had laid to one side.  As he wrapped his arms around her and held her close it occurred to her that this was the first time since the morning she first found him gone that they had been in bed together.  She turned over and returned his embrace.

They were exhausted and the stirring of  passion surprised them both, but their bodies were familiar and the love-making in this strange place was like coming home.  When it was over they spooned close and in the deep darkness, with the muted sounds of cars and vans sweeping past they fell into a pit of sleep that held them until the lorries began to move and they were amazed to find that it was morning.

“You look better this morning Dan.  You’re not hurt are you, after the fire and everything?”

“No, my hair is singed look.”  He pulled at his fringe and bits of dried hair fell onto his face.

“I thought I could smell burning.”

“Yeah, ‘fraid that’s me.  I am filthy, absolutely rank.”

“Yeah you are a bit but then again so am I.”

“We went into a pub last night looking like this.”

“I know.  Then again he must be used to seeing people who have been traveling a long time.”

“Well it didn’t seem to faze him did it?”

“No not a bit.  Are you ready to go?”

“I am.  Have we got any money left?”

“We’ve got some, but won’t we need some fuel?”

“Yes, probably, but I would love a cup of coffee.  Is there enough?”

“We’ll get a big one and share it and a sandwich.  That should leave us enough to put about sixteen or seventeen pounds worth of petrol in the van.”

“That should work and if it doesn’t we’ll just have to use the emergency number on the paperwork and call them out.”

“Oh right, we can do that can’t we.  Right – a sandwich each then.  Come on I’m starving.”

In the event there was a caravan not very far up the road selling coffee and bacon sandwiches for far less than they would have paid at the motorway services.  They munched their way through the bacon and warm bread and savoured the hot coffee and the world did seem a brighter place than it had for many days.

“Are you okay Dan?”

“Yes, I said, just singed my hair that’s all.”

“No, I mean are you really okay.  This seemed to get to you this whole thing.  It’s upset you so much.”

“Yes, it has.  It’s all so wrong Sally, so cruel and – well greedy at the end of the day isn’t it. It’s all about rich people grabbing and walking over anyone to get what they want.  Add to that man’s basest instincts and you end up with a horrible stew of pain and suffering.  Last night, in the van – that was special.  You and me, we’re good together aren’t we?”  She nodded, “those women, Stefania and little Sophia they’ve been robbed.  No matter what, all of these things are part of their history.  When they are grandmothers it will still be there, in their memories.  The things that they did, were forced to do.  If a woman choses that sort of life well I suppose that is one thing, I know some do for many different reasons but these women were given no choice.  It hurts Sal to know that we in the more privileged countries are a party to that sort of thing.  It makes me ashamed to be a man.”

“But Dan, you didn’t do any of it.  You helped them, you set them free.”

“No, I got them out.  I don’t think they will ever be free of what has happened.  Oh don’t take any  notice of me Sal, I’m just really confused right now and angry.   Come on, let’s go home.”

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 71

There were a few cars parked in front of the passenger terminal and, as usual a huddle of smokers clustered around the doors.  Daniel pulled into a space and they walked hand in hand across the tarmac.

“Don’t let’s go in Dan.”

“I just want to make sure they’re okay.”

“I know, but just look through the doors, leave them now.  You can’t do any more for them. You really can’t.”

He turned and looked into her eyes, they were swimming with unshed tears and he knew that she was as emotionally overwrought as he was, but she was right.

“No, I can’t can I?  Okay, let’s just look.”  They moved towards the glazed entrance and peered through the grubby glass.  In the middle of the space they could see the group of women and by the P & O Ferry desk the tall blonde girl was talking to the receptionist.  She had a bundle of passports in her hand but as they watched she had to call the others over and they each took hold of their documents.  The receptionist checked the passports against the girls and then after what seemed like an age she handed over what they assumed were travel tickets.

“Hey mate, you goin’ in there or what.”  Daniel turned to face the burly driver trying to open the door alongside where they were standing.

“No, no sorry, just looking for my friend that’s all.”

“Well come on make some room, some of us have a boat to catch, right.”

“Yeah, sorry.”  He turned away and took hold of Sally’s hand and they went back to the van.  Once inside he kissed her.  “Sal, you are amazing you know that don’t you?”

“Well, of course I am.”  She grinned back and then poked him in the ribs.  “I hate to bring this up, me being amazing and so on but what exactly are we going to do now? We’ve got hardly any money, no cards, nowhere to stay.  We do have one ham sandwich – slightly sad and two bottles of water, slightly warm.”

“Shit, I’m so tired.  What are we going to do?”

“Well we could ring the rental people I suppose and tell them we need the van for another day.  I don’t see how it would be a problem and even if it is they can’t do much can they – oh hold on – ‘phone’s dead, ah well there goes the deposit I guess.  The back is full of pillows and blankets – how do you fancy camping?”

“Camping?”

“Well okay maybe that’s a bit over-ambitious but you know – sleeping in the car.”

“Where?”

“Erm. – Right – good point.”

“No, I think we need to get back home somehow.  I wonder if it would be okay to just use the van.  There’s nobody after us is there – I mean there was no contact with the police, Xander and Andrei – well, maybe they’re were in that accident, maybe not but they don’t know where we are and we could just drive back.  Then we need to go to the bank and get some money, Your replacement cards may have arrived but anyway I’ve got a check book.  To be honest I just want my own bed, my own life and you – my own brilliant girlfriend.”

“I know but it’s so late, and it’s been such a bloody awful day.  Look, let’s pull into a layby and get a couple of hours sleep first and then we’ll share the driving.”

“Good idea but only on one condition.”

“What’s that?”  He was smiling a little now and the lines of tension were easing from around his eyes, “I get the top half of that ham sandwich.”

“Oh go on then. Seriously though about the van, do you think they might report it stolen?”

“Good point, we don’t want pulling over by the police at this stage.  Shit, I hadn’t realised how hard it is when you don’t have your plastic.”

Okay, here’s what we’ll do, we’ll go into that pub over there,” she pointed back up the road where lights shone out across the pavement. “We still have a few quid left of the money we kept from the stack; we’ll buy a drink, see if they have a pay phone or if not ask if we can use theirs.  We can tell them mine’s flat and you’ve lost yours.  Then we either ring the van people or – maybe ring Tessa and ask her to do that for us.  I have to admit though that at this point the thought of trying to explain all this to Tess exhausts me.”

“See, I said you were brilliant.  The hire people – and we tell them we were delayed and we need it for another day and we’ll drop it back where we picked it up from. Then a couple of hours sleep and home – Sorted.”

There was a pay phone in the pub but as it only took cards they had to speak to the young barman.  He was happy to let them use the phone and pocketed the couple of pounds they gave him to cover the call with a wink and a promise to pass it on to the landlord.  It wasn’t their problem.

Daniel had an orange juice and Sally ordered a cup of coffee and for just a little while they sat in the table in the window.  There was no music and only a few customers and the quiet hum of normal life was a balm.  “Get a couple of bags of crisps Dan, we can have them with the sandwich and then I guess we’d better get on the way.”  As they left the building they glanced back towards the ferry port, she wrapped her arm around his waist and hugged him.  “It’s okay Dan, you did your best.  Let it go.”  He shook his head, just once.  Something had changed in him, she saw it now and her heart jittered as she wondered what it was going to mean for them and for their future.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 70

The motorway was busy as always but once they turned onto the A20 the traffic thinned.  Daniel had taken a turn at the driving and when they saw the first of the road signs with the image of a boat, he pulled into a layby.

“I think it’s time we spoke to the girls and made sure we all know how we are going to handle things.  I don’t think we can just sweep into the ferry terminal and unload a gang of women from the back of the van.  They must have security cameras there and so on.”

“Right, what’s the best way to do it do you reckon?”

He pushed open his door and jumped to the roadway.  “Let’s go in the back and have a word.”

By the time they had walked around the van the back doors were open and seven of the women were climbing down to the tarmac.

“Is it okay?  Is there a problem?”  The tall blonde glanced around nervously.

“No, nothing to worry about, but it won’t be long now and we thought we needed to have a plan.  Where’s Sophia?”

“She’s sleeping, she’s not well – we thought it best to leave her.”

“Right, I hope she’s going to be able to get through this.”

“We’ll help her; we’ll take care of her.”  As Stefania spoke she glanced back into the van where a hump of blanket could be seen against the wall.

“Okay.”  Daniel’s face creased in a frown.  It had been such a long and difficult slog to get this far and it was hard to believe it might soon be over.  Any small hint that there could be a hiccup at this, the final stage tied his stomach in knots.  “Well, there will be security at the port.  You are not doing anything wrong, you all have passports – I assume they are all legal?”  He glanced around as the group nodded their heads.  Would they tell him at this stage, so close to freedom?  He had no way of knowing, he felt yet another clutch at his gut.  “Okay, there will be cameras actually at the terminal, so what I thought was that I will park up somewhere near and you can walk down.  Maybe best in twos and threes, although I don’t know, maybe a group would look more like a sort of trip.  What do you think Sally.”

“Yeah I think if they all go together it might just look like some sort of girls outing, apart from that I guess they want to stay together, don’t you.”  Again they all signalled agreement.

“Fair enough, so I’ll drop you off and you can go and buy your tickets.”  He shrugged, there was nothing more to say.

It was evening now and very busy as they drove into the town.  They had seen the channel from the top of the hill and the lights of boats plying back and forth across the grey water.  Sally reached and squeezed his hand where it lay against the gear stick.  The tension had ratcheted up to the stage that neither of them could speak.

They parked the van in Athol Terrace just one road back from the huge roundabout that separated the docks and town traffic.  Dan slid out onto the road and glanced around.  It was busy with cars but there were few pedestrians.  It was as good a place as any to unload his cargo and so he banged on the side of the van to alert them and then threw open the back door.  They jumped out and moved to the pavement.  Sophia was pale and drawn but she managed a smile as a couple of the other girls helped her down and to safety.

It was impossible to know what to say now. They hugged, and a couple of them cried but there were no words to cover the situation.  Dan pointed to the junction, “Just go back up there and then to the roundabout.  You will see the trucks, follow that way and it’s a shortish walk down to the passenger terminal.  Are you okay with this?  Do you know what to do then?”  They glanced at each other, unsure and nervous now that they were to be left to their own devices.  “Okay, well it’s not complicated.  There are ticket counters, you just need to buy a ticket, you might need to show them your passports and then sit and wait.  They will take you to the boat in a little coach but you will possibly have to show your passport then as well but that’s it.  When you get to the other side you should be able to get a taxi to the town – Calais you know, and then… …”  He shrugged his shoulders, “Well, I don’t know – there will be a railway station, or the bus… …”

“It’s okay, we’ll be fine.  We have money and we will work it out.  Don’t worry.  Okay.”  They were all tearful now and consumed with mixed and powerful emotions. It had been such a short time since they broke the window and caused chaos inside the farmhouse but Daniel felt that he had been moving towards this moment, or something like it since the first glance through the window into the unspeakable brothel.  Now though, there was nothing else but for them to go and so they straggled away, a thin line under the orange glow of the street lamps moving towards the junction and around the corner.  Sally and Daniel stood for a long moment gazing at the roadway.  It was a strange, empty feeling and neither of them knew how to move on.

“We’ll drive down eh Sal, we’ll wait until they’ve had time to get there and then we’ll just drive down, make sure they’re okay.”  She nodded and brushed at her eyes with the back of a grubby hand.

“We didn’t tell them about the men, the accident.”

“I think they’ve had enough to be honest.  I imagine they are far from out of the woods, there were more people involved in all of this than the ones we met but at least they are going home.”

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Just me then!!

Okay – when I started the re-write I realised that actually you hadn’t had the chance to notice the loooooong day because I had read a couple more chapters – well in all honestly there are only a couple more chapters written.  However, it did mean that for you the day was probably still reasonable length.  So, I could have got away with that one!!

in the end it wasn’t too much of a re-write I just had to mention dawn!.

You can have that chapter later and we’ll just keep this little faux pas between us shall we. :-)

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OOOOPs

Timeline glitch – did anyone else notice that this day has lasted about 50 hours!!???

:-)

Woke up this morning with The Muse sitting in the corner of the bedroom smirking.

Off to do a bit of jiggery pokery with day and night!

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 69

They were both dead.  It was breaking on the local news channel on the radio.  The lorry driver was in hospital but the two men in the car had been killed at the scene.  There was as yet no formal identification but Sally was convinced that it had been Xander and Andrei.  She was horrified.  Yes she hadn’t forgotten the attack and their brutal treatment of her but the thought that they had been killed so suddenly, so unnecessarily brought her to tears.

“Come on Sal, they were pigs.  Look at the things they were doing, the way they treated you, and the women in the back.  They were brutal thugs and we only know a part of it.  I bet if we asked our passengers about them we’d hear some pretty horrendous stuff.  You didn’t see the house they were using as a brothel.  I wonder what happened to the girl I talked to there, she’s not here and I don’t imagine she’s gone on holiday.  No Sal, I’m sorry but I find it hard to drum up any sympathy. Don’t forget they were running away as well, they didn’t care what happened to any of the women, not even the dogs.”

“But Dan what if they have families of their own?”

“Well they weren’t looking after them all that well were they, mixing in all this stuff and goodness knows what else.  If they did, if they had wives, sisters, maybe even daughters how would they feel if their women were treated like that.”  He flicked his thumb towards the back of the van where they could hear the low murmur of voices.”

“Should we tell them do you think?”

“I don’t know, I suppose we could but we don’t know for sure it was them, we’re making an assumption aren’t we?”

“But they might feel safer, if they know.”

“That’s a point, well maybe before we leave them.  Tell you what though.”

“Hmmm.”

“I’d love to get out of these clothes.”  She glanced across to where he was slouched in the seat wearing Xander’s tracksuit pants and his hoody.

“Oh Dan, eurgh.  I’ll tell you what, there’s a service area up ahead and they have a couple of outlets I bet you can get something to wear.  Shall I turn in?”

“Yeah, please.  We could get some food as well, it’s about four or five hours drive and I think we’ll all need something to eat soon and some water and I’d love a coffee.  Yeah turn in.”

Daniel used a little of the cash to buy himself a pair of jeans, a top and some shoes.  The women shopped for food and they all bought huge mugs of coffee from the machine, except for the youngest girl.  Sophia wanted Coke and chocolate.  She was quiet and shaky, more frightened than the others.  Her eyes were constantly flicking back and forth and she walked with her shoulders hunched, shuffling behind the group and failing to join in the chatter.  Sally was becoming more and more worried about her.  “Is she okay Stefania”

“No, she is sick.  She needs a fix.  I don’t know if she has anything but it’ll be hard for her if she hasn’t.”

“But she can’t take anything with her on the ferry.  She can’t risk going through the port with drugs.  Can you try and find out? and maybe mention it to the others – just in case you know.”

“I can ask her, I don’t know her very well.  She only came a few weeks ago.  She has been very sad and they gave her drugs.  Too many drugs.  They gave us all drugs when we first came.  Does that shock you Sally, do you think badly of us?  Some girls, they were addicted very quickly but not me, I didn’t want to take them.  They wanted us to work for them.  You know what I mean by work?”  Sally nodded, “Yes, well they made us work and then some of the girls would be so ashamed and it helped.  But, I just wanted to go home and I knew that wasn’t the way.  I tried to get money but always they said I owed it for food, for my clothes.”  She shook her head and waved a hand in the air, trying to bat away the memory.

“Yes, it shocks me of course it does but you’ve been through so much, I am not going to judge you, any of you.  But, if Sophia tries to take drugs through the port and gets caught you could all end up in trouble and then this has been a waste of time.”

“Why did you do it?”

“It wasn’t me, not really.  It was Daniel, he couldn’t rest knowing that you were all being kept like that.”

“He’s a very good man, Daniel.  I will never forget what he did and you, you are both very brave and to do this for people you don’t even know.”

“It didn’t matter that we didn’t know you.  What happened to you was wrong and Daniel has always stood up for what he thinks is right.  He was like that even when we were at college, that’s why he went into law.  Well, at first but somehow he got a bit side-tracked, you know – he didn’t get the jobs he wanted and so he ended up working in property.”

“Well maybe that was meant to be.  If he hadn’t done that he wouldn’t have helped us eh.”

“Well, maybe.  Anyway if you could talk to Sophia.  I think she’s going to the ladies.”

“I will, don’t worry Sally, you have done your best and if it is possible I will make sure she gets back home.”

With a brief hug the two women separated.  Sally began to round up the others and took Daniel his coffee and Stefania followed the pale figure of Sophia into the toilets.”

They walked back across the car park and climbed aboard.  After several minutes Stefania shepherded the smaller girl towards them.  She helped her up into the rear space and then nodded and smiled at Sally who was watching in the rear view mirror.

As the van left the car park an impromptu picnic was spread on the floor of the rear cargo space and Daniel and Sally grinned at each other as they shared their own sandwiches and listened to the quiet laughter and the hum of conversation.  It was just beginning to dawn on them that they had actually succeeded and the hard part was surely over now.  There was money for the trip, no-one knew where they had gone and they were on their way to Dover.  They had no idea what would be in store for these women once they arrived back at their homes but surely with their family around them it had to be better than what they had been enduring.

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Thank you Fran

Just a quick note to say that Chapter 68 has now had a bit of an edit thanks to some, really useful and honest comments from lovely

Fran Macilvey author of the book Trapped.

Thanks Fran.  I appreciate your input and constant support.
trapped

 

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