Finding Daniel – Chapter 47

Tessa left to go home and, after an abortive attempt at eating a meal Sally gave up and crawled upstairs to her bedroom.  She stood for a while staring into the denuded interior of Daniel’s wardrobe.  He had touched these things today.  She reached out to run her fingers across the fabric of the remaining suits and shirts.

She brushed her teeth, dragged on a T shirt that Dan sometimes used to slob around the house at the weekend and then she climbed into bed. Emotion had exhausted her and sleep came quickly.

The sixth sense that woke her danced along the skin of her arms.  She felt the frisson down her back, nerve endings prickling and humming .  The curtains were open and the polluted darkness of urban living was brightened even more by a waning moon.  There had been no dream, no explanation for this feeling of unease and apprehension.  She sat up and rubbed at the gooseflesh.  Tension in the air froze her in the rumpled bed.  The bedroom door stood open but no lights were on in the house.  She felt fear.  Hardly daring to breathe, she drew in tiny sips of air and listened, waited.

She knew that she was not alone, knew it instinctively and certainly.

Her eyes flicked back and forth, made out the familiar shapes of furniture as her pupils dilated and adjusted.  She turned her head and he was there.  The figure moved on the landing and came into the doorway, a dark shadow in the gloom.  He raised a hand to his mouth the finger extended.  “Shhh. Shhh.” She gasped with shock and he stepped the short distance between them and hissed at her.  “Sally, Sal it’s me.  Don’t be afraid, don’t scream or anything.  Sal.  Shhh.”

“Christ, Daniel is it you?”  She recalled the dream of days ago when he had come to her in the garden and she reached out to touch him.  There was the feel of warm skin, the scrape of stubble against her finger ends as she laid her hands on his cheeks.  “Daniel.” As she moved to leave the bed and stand with him he pushed her back against the pillows.

“Hush, keep your voice down.  Oh Sal, I am so sorry.  I’ve been in torment.  I’ve been worried sick about you.”

“You’ve been worried, shit Daniel, how do you think I felt?  She hissed at him.  Though she didn’t understand his reasons, she kept her voice low.”

“I know, I know but I couldn’t tell you.  I still can’t tell you any of it Sal.  You need to go away.  I want you to go and stay at your mum’s.”

“My mum’s” Now she lost control, now her voice belled out into the night.  “My mum’s, are you mad?  Go to Cyprus, now – just like that. Don’t be stupid.  He bent closer and laid a hand gently over her mouth.  She pushed it aside.

“Don’t – don’t you dare do that.”

“Sal, please keep calm.  I can’t explain.  I shouldn’t be here but I couldn’t bear it, thinking about you and what you were going through. When I came here, earlier to get my stuff, I thought I would just slip away again but I couldn’t.  Seeing your things, smelling your scent, I couldn’t leave it all again without speaking to you.  It’s not over, I can’t come back, not yet.  You have to trust me love, please, please go to your Mums.  I got you a reservation.” He held a paper towards her.  “Tomorrow evening, you should have time to get sorted.  Don’t worry about the house.  I can take care of stuff like that, I can arrange all that – please Sal just go.”

Using both arms she thrust him aside now and pushed herself up from the bed.  “What is going on Daniel?  Have you left me?”

“No, shit no.  I promise you there is no-one else, no-one for me but you.  I thought you knew that, I thought we were sound.”

“We were, we are.”  She turned, let herself be gathered into his arms, “But you went, you didn’t even tell me, you just went.  What did you think it would look like?  Where were you anyway?”

“I can’t tell you.  I can’t stay.  I just want to get you away from here.  You have to do what I ask and go and stay with your mum.”

“Are you in some sort of trouble?”

“Huh – you could say that.”

“Have you done something – something wrong?  If you have, no matter what it is we can sort it out.  Is it money, we’ll sort it out together Dan, you should have been able to trust me, to come to me.”

“Oh love, if only it was that simple.  You have no idea, no idea at all and we can’t sort it out.  Not on our own, this is bigger than anything we can sort.”

“Well, I’m sorry Daniel but I’m not going anywhere.  No matter what it is, I’m not going anywhere.  Have you any idea how much I missed you?  How scared and worried I’ve been?”  The moisture in his eyes gleamed in the moonlight as he leaned down and pressed his cheek to her hair.

“Sal, please.”  She shook her head and then raised her eyes to his.  “Wherever you are, so am I.” And she raised herself on her toes and took his face in both hands and covered his mouth with hers.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 46

“So, what do I do now Tess?”  Sally sat on the sofa opposite to her friend; they were nursing cups of coffee a plate of shortbread untouched on the table between them.

“How do you mean?”

“Do I tell the police he’s been here?”

“Well they did say that if he turned up you should let them know – but.”

“Yes, exactly – but.”

“I suppose you could argue that he hasn’t actually turned up, you know.  He isn’t here exactly is he?  We think he’s been here, we believe that he is okay and that he’ll be in touch; because that’s what his note said.  On the other hand…”

Sally took over the conversation, “On the other hand we didn’t see him, we have no real proof it was him, though to be honest that is his writing.”

“Yes, but we didn’t see him put the note there.”

“No but we both know he did.  I just have this feeling that maybe he’s in real danger.  On the one hand if we tell the police then perhaps they’ll do something about trying to find him, but then what if he doesn’t want to be found?  I don’t think he does.”

“No, he doesn’t does he?  If he did then he would have stayed around or even gone to the police himself.  I wonder what on earth he’s got himself mixed up in Sal.  Have you not got any idea at all?  Nothing that you can remember from the days before he left?”

“No, he seemed normal.  He had been working hard, but then he always does. He didn’t seem as though he had anything particularly worrying him.  There is one thing though, it probably doesn’t mean much but with what’s happened lately I have begun to wonder.”

“What?”

“Well you know a couple of months ago he was in line for a promotion, he was excited about it – do you remember he told us about it at the pub. He said they were doing a re-shuffle and he had been told he was going up a grade.”

“Oh yeah, it was that night we went to that awful Karaoke, the one where that bloke kept singing Kenny Rogers stuff – badly.  He bought us all drinks and said we should keep our fingers crossed.  I remember that now.”

“Well for a couple of weeks he kept mentioning it and then suddenly he stopped.  I asked him about it and in the end he admitted that he’d told them he would rather wait for a while.”

“Well, that’s odd; he’s so keen on getting ahead.”

“I know and when I asked him why he just said that the new post was in the same department and he really wanted to move out, away from Braithwaite.”

“Did he?  He had never said there was any problem with his boss.”

“No, never and he wouldn’t be drawn on it.  He said he was sure it would all work out and by the end of the year he’d get his upgrade and it was better this way.  I only remembered today really in the office.  When I heard the news and I thought oh well Dan won’t have to work under Braithwaite anymore.”  She held up her hand and shook her head.  “I know, I know that was an awful thing to think but it just flipped through my mind, I felt bad afterwards but… …”

“You’re not suggesting are you Sal that Dan could have”

“God no, oh no, no of course not.  It’s just that it makes me wonder what it was about working with him that Dan didn’t like.  He was always really happy under Mr Billings, the other partner, he got on really well with him and was sorry when he retired.

“That was when Braithwaite took over wasn’t it.”

“Yeah, just over a year ago I think.”

“Well, you know what, I think for now you’re better off doing nothing.  Why don’t you just wait.  Wait and see if he comes back or ‘phones or whatever.”

“Yeah, but I hope it’s not long.  I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 45

The thunder of feet on the stair carpet was overlaid by the yells, “What! what’s matter, Sal are you okay?”

Tessa thrust through the bedroom door to find her friend standing motionless in the middle of the room, a piece of paper clutched in her quivering fingers.  “It’s a note, a note from Dan.  Tessa he was here, he’s been here.  Today, while I was out.  Oh bugger, bugger.”

“But, where is he, why didn’t he stay?  What does it say – the note?  Can I see it?”  She reached forward and pulled the paper gently into her own fingers.

Sal

I am so sorry.  I’ve been out of my mind worrying about you.  I’m okay, but I can’t come back.  Not yet but soon.  Sal don’t do anything.  Don’t try to find me.  I know what happened to you, please don’t do anything like that again PLEASE.

I’ll be in touch.  Take care darling Sal.

I love you

Daniel.

Sally dropped to the bed her face pale with shock.  “He was here; he’s been in the house.”

“Did he take anything, clothes or whatever?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” in two swift strides Sally was across the room and had wrenched open the wardrobe door.  “Yes, yes some of his stuff is gone.  For sure some of his jeans, t-shirts and stuff.” Dragging open the integral drawer she riffled through the underwear, “yes, some of his pants have gone.”

“Well that’s great isn’t it?”

“Great, how is it great?  He was here, he was here and I wasn’t – how is it great?  I missed him”

“Yes, yes I know love and that’s rotten but if he has taken some stuff that must mean that he’s okay.”  Here she turned her friend around and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, she leaned to look her directly in the eyes.  “It means that he’s in control, do you see?”

Sally nodded, “Yes, I guess so.  But why didn’t he wait, why didn’t he tell me where he is, why did he just go again?”

“I don’t know love, I just don’t know but look, think about the positives.  The first one and the biggest is that he’s okay, he’s alive and he’s able to move around.  So, he’s not tied up somewhere or well, you know something even worse.  He said that he’ll be in touch, so that’s good and he says that he knows what happened to you.”

“Yes, but that’s odd isn’t it.  Don’t you think that’s odd?”

“Odd?”

“If he knows what happened, does that mean he knew that they had me locked up, and if he did – well what does that say?”

“No, no I don’t believe that not for a second.  He wouldn’t have let them hurt you, he just wouldn’t.”

“I thought that when I heard from him I would be over the moon, it was the only thing I wanted, I’ve wished for it over and over.”

“And, now you have, now you know he’s okay.  You know he’s coming back, that he hasn’t just left you; you know it’s only a matter of time.”

Sally’s shook her head, “It’s not like I thought it would be.  This has just opened up more questions and I know Freddy would be mad to hear me say it but does it mean that he’s involved in something criminal?”

There was no honest answer and so Tessa simply pulled her friend into a warm embrace and held her, gently rubbing her back as she let the tears flow and the wracking sobs have their moment.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 44

The little red car swung round the corner and Sally jumped forward to stop Tessa before she drove into the car park.  She dragged open the door and slid onto the passenger seat.  Tessa backed out into the road and rejoined the flow of traffic.

“Are you okay?”

“Not really, I’m a mess.  I feel as though I’m about to lose it Tess.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t think straight.”  Her fingers twisted and pulled at the shoulder strap of her bag and tears leaked unhindered to slide down her cheeks.

“Shall I take you home?”

“I don’t want to go home, but I don’t know where to go, who to talk to.  I have to do something; you do see that don’t you?”

“Well, I guess so but I don’t know what you can do to be honest.  Do you want to go to the police station, see if you can talk to that police woman?”

“Yes, I suppose so, oh I don’t know.” She shook her head.  “I’ll tell you what, let’s go to the house.”

“Your house?”

“No, the other house, the farm house.”

“No, absolutely not.  We are not going there, that is ridiculous.  No.”

“Just to drive past, to see for ourselves that it’s empty.”

“No.  Apart from anything else, what if it’s not empty.  What if those blokes are back?”

“Well, that would be good wouldn’t it?  That would be the best thing actually, then we could call the police couldn’t we?”

“Yeah right, and they are going to come screaming out there lights flashing and so on.”

“Well yes, and then they can question them, and I’ll be there and I can tell them who is who and it will prove that I was telling the truth and then we can find Dan.”

Tessa pulled into an empty bus stop.  “Sal, get real.  The police have been to the house, they are looking into things in their own way, they are not going to come hurtling through the countryside on your say so.  They will be more than likely to tell you to stop interfering.  You’re not thinking straight.”

“I want Dan, I just want him back Tess.”

“I know love, God I know you do but you’ve already put yourself in danger you can’t do it again.  Let me take you home.” She leaned and took hold of both of Sally’s hands.  “Let me just take you home.  You’ve got into a state.”  Sally nodded her head, closed her eyes and leaned back against the seat cover, Tessa had never seen her friend look so worn out and hopeless…

“Right, sit there and I’ll make coffee and then we’ll talk.”

“I’m just going up to the loo.”

Sally dropped her handbag on the hall chair and headed up to bathroom.

The house felt the same, there was no indication of anything untoward.  Sally used the toilet and moved through to the bedroom to take off her business suit and drag on some soft trousers.  At first she didn’t see it, not until she turned from the wardrobe.  There on the bed, central on her pillow a small folded piece of paper.

“Tess, Tess come up here, Tessa!”

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 43

“Hello love. Are you okay?”

“Tessa, thanks for calling me back. Yes, I’m okay, well sort of. Look, I know I said I wouldn’t do anything and I haven’t really, but…”

“Oh Sally, what have you done?”

“Okay, I decided to come and see Braithwaite, I just thought, you know, that I should talk to him.”

“But won’t the police have done that anyway? Surely they will.”

“Well yes, I thought that but I wanted to talk to him myself.  We don’t know how much the police will tell us – and I just thought that he must know something, even though I don’t think he knows – knew, where Daniel is – at least I might have been able to make him tell me who those blokes are, and they know where Dan is; and he might have found out by now, because he had seen them yeah –  and I just thought it was worth asking.”

“You’re gabbling Sally, take a breath, slow down. What did he say?”

“He didn’t say anything, he couldn’t – my God Tess he’s dead.”

“Dead!?”

“Yes, I just spoke to Sharon, they’re all in pieces up there, the place is like the grave, oh sorry, but you know. Everyone is just locked in their offices and the atmosphere is horrible and Sharon was crying her eyes out. She said that Braithwaite killed himself.”

“Bloody hell.”

“I know. I’m really freaked out now, I’m terrified for Daniel. This is going to sound completely off the wall, I know it is but do you think that he really did kill himself.”

“How do you mean? What did they say, did he take an overdose or hang himself. God what a horrible conversation.”

“No, he was in his car with the engine running and the garage doors all shut and locked.”

“How awful.”

“But what if he didn’t, what if you know…”

“No, what?”

“What if they killed him?”

“Don’t be daft. That’s crazy.”

“I don’t know, there’s something really horrible going on and he was mixed up in it and now he’s dead. And if they did, if they killed him and made it look as though he did it himself, well I’m scared stiff for Dan.” He voice broke on the words and for a while all that she was able to do was listen to Tessa trying to placate her over the tinny scratchy speaker on her cheap spare phone.

“Where are you now Sally.”

“I’m outside Daniel’s office. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go home. Do you think I should go back to the police?”

“Well, you could do I suppose but I’m not sure it’d do any good. You have to leave them to do their job. If there’s any doubt they’ll know, won’t they?”

“Do you think so, it felt as though they’d pretty much written me off and assumed that Daniel had just buggered off on his own. We don’t even know if the same people will deal with it or if they’ll connect the two things.”

“You’re getting in a state, try to keep calm. Look I’ll come down and get you. I’ll bring the car, meet me by the car park.”

“Okay, thanks love.”

“Don’t be upset, we’ll work something out. He’ll be fine, Dan, he’ll be just fine.”

As she trudged back across the sunny square Sally tried to hang onto her friend’s words and to believe them but the longer this all went on the less confident she was becoming that he would be fine and that finally Daniel would come home.

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The Grave

Just published by The Book Folks my novel The Grave.  the South Coast – to The Lakes to Liverpool fleeing in terror and finding each other – Samuel, a loner, an introvert and Sylvie – damaged and lost.

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 42

“Dead, what do you mean dead?  He can’t be I saw him.”

“When Sally, When did you see him?”

She had nearly fallen into a trap, instinct told her that letting too many other people know what she had done –  following Braithwaite – would be a mistake.

“Oh er, I can’t remember just now. It must have been last week sometime, just out you know, lunch time – somewhere, but he looked fine.  He didn’t look ill, did he have an accident?”

“No, he wasn’t ill, no.  It’s just awful, nobody had any idea.  His wife’s away, well she’s on her way back now I suppose but nobody knew.”

“Knew what?”

“That he was depressed, or whatever.” She grabbed the box of tissues and tore out a wad to blow her nose.  Now she raised swimming eyes, sad but also fired with a sort of horrified excitement.  “He must have been struggling with depression.  That’s what Mrs Cummings said.”  Sharon waved a hand towards the cubicle further along the corridor where the senior secretary had her desk.  “Struggling in silence.  It’s common apparently and nobody has any idea until it’s too late.  It’s awful.”

As the truth began to dawn Sally was swept with foreboding.  “Why do you think he was depressed?”

“Well, he must have been mustn’t he?  I mean to kill himself.  He killed himself Sally.   Last night they think.  He didn’t come into work this morning and he had an appointment, they couldn’t get him on the phone and so Billy, the runner, went over.  Poor Billy, he’s a wreck.”  The girl lowered her voice to a whisper. “The car was in the garage, Billy heard it running and when he went tried to get in the door was locked and he looked through the window and there it was.  Mr Braithwaite on the seat and the garage full of fumes.  Billy was brilliant, they said, he broke the window and then he smashed the door lock and got in.  He dragged him out but it was too late, he was dead.”  A fresh bout of tears called for yet more tissues.  “All on his own, at that house and now his wife has to come back and the police are going to meet her at the airport.”

“Was there a note? I mean do they know why?”

“I don’t know.  Nobody has said anything about a note but, well everyone’s in shock.  We don’t know what to do.  It’s awful isn’t it?”

“It’s terrible Sharon, dreadful.  Look I think I’ll just go now.”

“What did you want him for, will someone else be able to help you.  If it’s about Daniel’s leave and stuff you can go and see HR.”

“No, no it’s fine it wasn’t important.  I’ll come back in a bit.”

“Is Dan okay?  I mean we haven’t heard anything about when he’s coming back. Is he sending a sick note or …”

“Oh, yeah right I need to remind him.  Yes, leave it with me Sharon.  You’ve got enough going on here with all of this. I’ll sort it.”

“Oh, so he’s ill then. Only we never did get a call.”

“Oh dear that’s my fault I suppose I should have let you know, sorry.”  More lies they seemed now to come easily to her lips and each one took her deeper into the mire.

“Tell him I hope he gets well soon.  Oh yeah and will you tell him, about Mr Braithwaite?”

“I will yes, I will.  He’ll be sorry.  He’ll be very upset.”

As soon as she was outside she texted Tessa, it seemed far too blunt and melodramatic to send the bald facts and so she just asked for a return call.  As she lowered herself to the bench opposite the door of the office building she tried still the clamour in her mind.  Braithwaite, at his house being dragged into the back of a van, at the converted farm shaking hands with the guy in the suit and now dead.  Braithwaite was dead!

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 41

There was one thing that she would do.  She hadn’t mentioned it because the others would try to talk her out of it.  They were probably right, but it didn’t matter she had to go and see Braithwaite.

She wouldn’t let him browbeat her; she would go to the office.  Perhaps she would tell him about following his car.  That would mean that the rest of it would come out but no matter she needed to confront him. She would ask him to go to the police if they hadn’t already spoken to him.  Much as it irked her she needed his help.

Her blue business suit always made her feel confident and professional.  She spent time on her hair and makeup, concealer hid most of the damage to her face.  The bruise had faded well already, whatever Dolly had put on it worked and there was now just a yellow discolouration.  Opaque tights covered the scratches and grazes on her legs and a critical examination in the full length mirror proved that the physical evidence of the last few days was easily hidden.  The mental damage was going to take longer to heal, but there was no other way but to keep on and this would be the first step.

Braithwaite knew something.  Maybe the police had already questioned him, though nothing was clear cut any more. She needed to face him herself.  It was a question of self-esteem as much as anything else, after all, his behaviour had in large part led to what had happened.

She searched for her bag and then remembered that it had gone, with her keys, her purse and of course her car.  They kept a spare phone in the desk drawer, it was pay as you go but there was credit on it and she plugged it in to charge.  Damn, she hadn’t factored in the journey on public transport, she couldn’t use Dan’s bike, not in her office clothes and anyway she couldn’t do that, it would be too much of an admission that he wasn’t around to use it himself.  How did people deal with this she wondered, how did they just carry on?

An on line reference gave her bus timetables and so she stepped out into the sunshine, into everyone else’s ordinary day.  Sitting on the bus she felt adrift, two women a few rows in front laughed at something on a mobile phone, a couple behind her giggled and shuffled together.  She was one step away from it all, an invisible screen isolated her from other lives.  There was, just “now”, and this journey and nothing further, one step at a time, keeping on.

It was a short walk from the bus station and it took her past her own office.  Really she should pop in, tell them she was ready to return to work.  There hadn’t been time or spare mental capacity to organise a story and so she scurried ahead feeling traitorous and dishonest.

As she crossed the square her eyes lifted to the window of Daniel’s office.  The blinds were still closed and she wondered just how long they would wait before re- assigning it.  His work must have already been passed over to someone else.

With a deep breath and a shrug of her shoulders to ease the tension she walked the last few yards.  Now she had reached the shallow steps and the heavy glass door.  The lifts were on the right and she knew she had her head lowered to avoid meeting the gaze of an acquaintance or a friend of Dan’s.  It musn’t be this way.  She was guilty of nothing and so she lifted her chin and marched on.  It was quiet in the building apart from a gentle hum of discrete activity, the occasional closing of a door or a burst of laughter, quickly stifled.  All normal.

As the lift opened on the third floor the change in atmosphere was a slap in the face.  Here it wasn’t subdued, it was silent.   No-one loitered at the water cooler, all doors were closed and at the reception desk only the top of Sharon’s head was visible.  The quiet sound of sobbing grew as Sally moved across the floor.  Unconsciously she had tip toed, the strange ambience now causing her to whisper.

“Sharon.”

When the girl lifted her head, eyes red and puffy and tears trickling towards her quivering mouth, Sally gasped, “Oh love, what’s the matter?”  Her thoughts leapt to Daniel, had they heard something, had the police been trying to contact her.  While she sat on the bus was the woman constable banging at her door.  She had to swallow deliberately to moisten her mouth before she was able to speak again.

“Are you alright Sharon?” Though it was plain that the young woman was in distress the platitude was the only thing that she could manage.

“Sally.  Oh hi Sally.  How are you? How’s Dan?  Is he coming back soon?” The relief dizzied her.

“Erm – I’m not sure to be honest.  I wondered, could I see Mr Braithwaite.  I don’t have an appointment but I don’t need long.  I can wait until he’s free.”

Sharon’s shining red hair swung back and forth as the girl shook her head and burst into fresh tears.  “You can’t Sally, you can’t.  He’s dead.  Mr Braithwaite – he’s dead.”

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 40

She had cried, raged and then cried again.  Freddy walked into the storm unsuspecting and despite his words earlier he was now one hundred percent on the side of the women.  It was unfair, it was insulting and it was devastating.

Now though, they sat in the living room without speaking.  It had all been said and the unacceptable truth was that there was no way to turn, no more that they could do and Daniel was still missing.

All that she had been through had been for nothing.  Sally felt that life had swept her back to the night three weeks before, except that now she had things in her life story that she knew she would never fully be able to put behind her.

“I can’t just let him go.  I can’t do nothing.  He is out there somewhere, possibly in danger and even if he’s not, sorry Freddy, but even if he is a part of whatever is going on I can’t just turn my back on him.

“What am I supposed to do, just carry on and hope that one day, maybe months, years from now he’ll come back?  Am I supposed to get up every day and just cross my fingers that they don’t find his body or I hear that he’s been arrested or what…?” The tears were spent and she sat in the corner of the settee with her friends grieving with her and unable to offer any help or comfort.

“Do you want us to stay Sal?” Freddy’s whisper curled through the silence.

“Can you?  Just for tonight.  Tomorrow I have to arrange to go back to work, I have to contact the insurance company about my car but I don’t know what they’ll say.  I should have asked the police about it, I don’t suppose they can give me a crime number unless I can prove that it was stolen and I don’t know how I’ll be able to do that.  What a mess, what an unholy, impossible mess.

“I feel as though I’m going mad. What will I do about the mortgage, I can just about cover it I think, for a while at least but long term it’ll be crippling.  There’s so much I don’t know, if he was dead it’d be easier.”

“Oh Sally, don’t, don’t say that, don’t even think it.”

“I know Tessa but I just can’t work out which way to turn.”

“It’s late, let’s go to bed.  Do you think you can sleep Sally.”

“Yeah, I have some sleeping tablets from when I had a bad back.  They’re old but I don’t care, I’ll take a couple of those.”  Tessa and Freddy glanced at each other across the room, concern etched on their faces.  Their friend was a mess and they were torn between worry for her and fear and confusion about Daniel.

They dragged themselves upstairs and as she slid between the covers Sally heard Tessa and Freddy murmuring in the room next door.  She felt lonely and abandoned and very frightened.

Emotion had exhausted her and, with the help of out of date medication sleep came quickly…

Monday brought with it a fuzzy head, sore eyes and no lightening of her mood or ideas from any of them as to how to proceed.

“Look, I know you guys have to get on with your lives.  You’ve been brilliant but you need to go home.  I’m going back to work tomorrow.  I need today to find some solid ground.”

“We’ll stay as long as you want us to love, you know that.  I feel bad enough that I wasn’t here for you as much as I should have been anyway.”

“It’s okay, truly.”

“Keep in touch, promise me you will and Sally please don’t do anything – well you know, dangerous.”

“No.  I won’t – after all what is there left for me to do.”

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Finding Daniel – Chapter 39

They assumed that the knock on the door was Freddy.  Tessa went to let him in but then, after a few moments of muttered conversation she came back into the living room.

“Sally, it’s the police.”

“Oh, oh right.”  As the woman in uniform stepped through the door Sally craned to see behind her. Her heart jumped as she waited to run to Daniel, to wrap her arms around him and cling on.

He wasn’t there.

There was a man there, just coming through the hallway,  but it was another police officer who took off his hat and glanced around the room.

“Daniel?”  It was the only thing that she could manage from her tightened throat. The woman simply shook her head.  She didn’t look away and there was sympathy in her eyes but so much more.

“Maybe we can sit down. We need to have a chat and I’ll bring you up to date.”

“Do you want a drink?”  Tessa hovered in the entrance. “Shall I stay, do you want me to stay Sally?”

“It’s fine, you can stay, don’t bother about a drink I think we’re fine,” she glanced at her colleague, “Dave?”  He shook his head and perched on the edge of the armchair near the window.

She had to ask, though she dreaded the answer now, she had to ask. “Did you find Daniel. Is he hurt?”

“I’m Sharon, Sharon Bleasdale and this is Dave Jones.  We’ve been with the rest of the team out to the house that you said you were held in.  We spoke to Mrs Pritchard.  She gave us the background to the house and from what you have told us as well we are sure that it was the right place.”

“How do you mean the right place?  You could tell surely you could tell.  My car, my car is there in the barn, those horrible brutes, Xander and Andrei, and Dolly – did you find Dolly.  Is she okay?” Questions tumbled and crowded for space in her mind, there was so much she needed to know but of course the main thing was Dan.”  They hadn’t found him, what did that mean. Either, he had never been kept there or he had escaped, yes that was possible wasn’t it, after all she had.  There was a third option and, though she tried to push it away it demanded to be acknowledged.  As it muscled forward her eyes swam.  They could have hurt him, they could have hurt him very badly.  Please God no.

She gulped and grabbed at Tessa’s hand as her friend took her seat.  A brief silence followed, filled with dread and hope and awkwardness.  The young policeman cleared his throat and with a glance in his direction the woman leaned forward closing the distance between herself and Sally.

“We went to the house.  I have a picture of it here.  I want you to look at it and confirm that this is the place that you were taken and held captive.”  She pulled out an A4 sheet and handed it across the small space.

“Yes, yes, of course.  That’s it that’s the barn and the yard.  It’s the right place.”  She passed it to Tessa who examined it and then held it awkwardly on her lap, waiting.  They were all waiting.

“Daniel wasn’t there then?  You didn’t find him?”

With a sharp shake of her head the policewoman crushed the last hope, “There was no-one there Sally, there were no dogs, no cars and the whole place was locked and empty.”

“But, inside – Did you find the room I told you about?  The cell with no proper window and the odd furniture?”

We had no reason to go inside the premises.”

“What?”

“The house was empty Sally, empty and locked up.”

“My car?  Did you get my car?”

“There were no cars at the premises.  There was an old tractor in the back of the barn.  I don’t think you mentioned that did you?”

“I didn’t see any tractor, there was no tractor.”  With the simple shrug of her shoulders the policewoman spoke volumes.  She pointed again at the photograph.  “You are sure this is the house?”

“Yes, I said, of course I’m sure.  You’ve made a mistake, you’re wrong.”

“I was there Sally, there were no cars, there were no people and the place was locked up.  There were shutters, well boards at the windows, padlocks on the barn and there was no sign of life.”

“But, you need to go inside.”

“We are looking into it all further, of course we are but it will take time.  We need to confirm ownership and then get permissions and if it’s decided that it’s necessary we’ll get warrants and of course we’ll keep you informed, but it’s going to take time.

“But, Dan?”

“He’s on the missing persons register.”

“So you’re looking for him right?”

“Well, he’s an adult, he isn’t what we would consider vulnerable.  Of course if he is seen at airports, or in an accident, if he turns up in hospital something like that we would probably be informed, well maybe.  But there are so many people who go missing every year.  I’m sorry, I know it’s not what you want to hear but right now there isn’t much more that we can do.  I have to be honest with you, there was nothing suspicious at the premises and for now it is out of our hands until a decision is made about whether or not we should take it further.  I’m sorry.

“I’ll keep in touch and if your partner comes back, or you hear from him you should let us know.” And with that they were gone and all that was left was an absence of hope and a deepening of despair.

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