Simon picked up his phone and clicked through to the contact list. His finger hovered for a moment and then he gave a shrug and dialled. “Fuzz, are you busy?”
“Hiya Simon. No, I’ve got nuthin’ on. Back at the garden centre tomorra but nuthin’ today. Why, do you fancy a game of pool?”
“No, I just wondered if you wanted to give me a hand with something?”
“Oh right, erm, is it decoratin’? only I ‘ave to say I didn’t really think it were for me.” Simon smiled as he thought of the debacle when he’d asked Fuzz to help him with some of the painting only to have to do it all again when the boy had gone home with a few pounds in his pocket and paint covering most of his clothes and much of his hair.
“No, the decorating’s finished. You should come up and see it, it looks good. No, I’ve got a job and I thought maybe two would be better than one.”
“Cool. So, like an assistant?” Simon sighed, this could be a massive error.
“Well, yes a bit. I’m going to Kirkhall. I’m trying to find a missing woman.”
“Brilliant. Will ya pick me up?”
“Okay. I’ll be with you in ten minutes.”
When he had first met the young lad he had tried to hold him at arm’s length and had been absolutely against asking for his help but then, in the face of danger and confusion Fuzz had been an unlikely hero. He didn’t want an assistant, couldn’t afford one, but maybe two of them covering the town centre would give them more chance of finding Flora. He was making an assumption, believing she was still near home and he had to start somewhere after all.
As he drew to the kerb in front of Fuzz’s gran’s little terraced house the skinny figure made a big show of pressing back against the tiny garden wall. Simon raised his eyebrows. Okay, he knew Fuzz had a very low opinion of his driving skills but felt he was improving, albeit slowly. He didn’t enjoy the car and the busy roads. He would much rather stride out on the hills. Often he would go on his own and spend hours hiking across the tops but lately Fuzz had gone with him a few times and they were comfortable and easy with each other. They were in tune, just moving through the landscape their boots pounding in time and their eyes resting on the endless sky and the surge of grass before the wind.
He pushed open the passenger door. “Yeah, yeah, very funny. Come on get in.”
As Fuzz settled in and fastened his safety belt Simon handed him a print of the picture Carol had provided. “Okay, so this woman has gone missing. We are going to Kirkhall as a start in the hope that she is still there. Quick background is that her boyfriend vanished quite a while ago and she hasn’t been well since then. Now, she’s gone off and her friend thinks she’s gone looking for him. So, to start with we’re going to try and find her and then, maybe we will take it on to the next stage and see if we can find out what happened to him, this bloke – Mark .”
“Maybe he’s just buggered off ‘cos he’s sick of her. But, she looks pretty fit… Shit, Simon, signal will ya, that bloke ‘ad right of way anyway. Bloody ‘ell.”
“Sorry, sorry. I wasn’t concentrating. He might just have, as you say, ‘buggered of’ but there’s more to it. So, for a while Fuzz listened in silence as Simon told him the rest.
“So, the police ‘aven’t got a clue then?” Simon shook his head.
“Apparently not. They’ve looked and they insist that they are still looking but Flora is in a bit of a state and doesn’t think they are doing enough.”
“Well, p’raps they’re not. It’s been a while ‘asn’t it.”
“Yes, but fair play they’re probably doing the best they can. They haven’t got much to go on. He just vanished in the night.”
“I don’t know ‘ow you can say that. After the way they treated you.”
“It’s in the past, all that. Okay they made mistakes and I was the one that paid but you know Fuzz, I can’t hold a grudge forever. It screws you up that sort of thinking, I see that now, plus they did sort everything out for Charlie Clegg.”
“Aye, ‘appen they did but then agen that Colin ‘ad been in jail a long time for sommat ‘e ‘adn’t done.”
“Yes, but that was partly his own fault for lying to cover up for himself and his wife and let’s not go through all that again. It’s over.”
“Aye well, as I say, I don’t think I could be so forgivin’. You just missed the turn by the way. You should ‘ave gone left there.”
“Oh shit. That’s your fault, distracting me.”
“No. It’s your fault ‘cos you’re such a crap driver. ‘Ere, turn in ‘ere and then you can go back.”
“Alright, okay – I’ve got this.”
“Yeah, course you ’ave.”
It had started to rain and between watching the sign posts and concentrating on driving in reduced visibility Simon was quiet and Fuzz plugged in his ear buds and sat beside him, legs jiggling up and down and fingers thrumming in time to music that Simon could only hear as an irritating fizz and burble.
By the time they reached the outskirts of the little town he was glad the journey was over.
“Did you bring a rain coat?”
“Something waterproof. It’s pissing down”
“You’re not – you’ll be soaked. My other anorak is on the back seat. Put that on.”
“No, bloody way. I’m not walking round in that.” As Simon turned and glared at him Fuzz shrugged his shoulders and stuck out his bottom lip.
“Put the sodding jacket on. We’re wasting time and I’m the boss. I bet you don’t talk back to the woman at the garden centre.”
“Well, she doesn’t make me wear naff bloody anoraks does she? Oh, awright. Bloody ‘ell.”
“Thank you. Now, I suggest we start at the centre, all the busier parts and then work our way out from there. If you see her don’t approach her. Just call me on the phone, keep an eye on her and we’ll see how we go. She’s not properly well, she’s worried and confused and Carol said that she has panic attacks so let’s make sure we don’t scare her. I’m parking in the pay and display over there. You go down that road, the one to the station and I’ll go the other way. Do a couple of circuits, try and look in the cafes and shops and keep your eyes open. Right let’s get on with it. Hey, you look good in that coat, almost respectable.”
“Bugger off Simon.”