Lesley was off down the road before Jean had made it back across the bridge. She was running in the direction the car had gone, calling out her son’s name and then screaming obscenities after the rapidly disappearing vehicle. Jean caught up with her when she could run no more. The car had vanished around the corner and Lesley was doubled over gasping for breath. Tears streaked her face as she gasped out Carl’s name between gulps.
Jean gathered her in her arms and held her tightly until the near hysteria had abated, leaving the other woman groaning in despair. She looked through the knotted branches of the hedge, across the dark water and could see, flapping gently in the breeze, the police tape which had been tied to a fence post. So, as she had already thought, this was where the video had been made.
They stood in the deserted road not knowing what to do. To turn and walk away felt as if they were turning their backs on Carl, but there was nothing to keep them there. It was dark and starting to rain. A fine drizzle, blown by the wind, shimmered in waves through the pools of light from street lamps. Holding hands, they walked towards the junction where they stood again in the wet, staring back and forth, but finding no sign of the car, or Carl.
There was nothing they could think of to say to each other, the situation was so horrific that ordinary words wouldn’t do. Eventually Jean wrapped an arm round her sister’s soaked shoulders and shepherded her down the road towards home. There was nothing here for them anymore.
The route by road was the longer way home, but neither of them wanted to go back along the bank.
They saw no-one, a couple of cars passed, tyres swishing on the wet tarmac, but it was a long and silent trudge, with fear and hopelessness keeping them company. They were mentally exhausted and by the time they turned the final corner, dragging one foot in front of the other was all that they could manage. As they stepped into the house they heard the landline ringing out.
The number was withheld. As Jean lifted the handset, Lesley clutched at her arm, leaning forward, and trying to listen.
“Jean is that you?” At the sound of the familiar voice Jean turned to her sister and shook her head. Though she was relieved to hear Bob Rather on the other end, her stomach plummeted with the realisation that it wasn’t going to take them any nearer to finding Carl.
She needed to clear the line as quickly as she could, “Bob, what can I do for you?”
“Just a little warning really Jean, there’s going to be some detectives wanting to speak to you. Probably tomorrow now.”
“Speak to me, why?”
“Just about that poor girl in the canal. They want to see if you’ve remembered anything else, and just go over it all again, now that you’re over the shock. Though to be honest I told them, ‘Jean,’ I said to them, ‘she’s not your hysterical type.’ Anyway, just thought I’d let you know.”
“Will they come to my house, Bob?”
“Oh yes, I expect they’ll ring you first. Don’t worry about it now, will you? It’s just routine really. Unless of course you have remembered anything else, which would be great. I should probably not say anything, not at this stage, but I know you can keep things to yourself. This is turning into a bit of a mess. We haven’t even been able to find out who the poor thing was yet, though we know she’d been through some horrors. Anyway, as I say nothing for you to worry about. Mind, if you could just go over it in your mind, try to replay it as it were, perhaps there’ll be something. Someone you saw that didn’t register at the time, with the shock and all. You know what I mean, don’t you?”
Her throat had dried, she thought of his comment, ‘play it over in her mind’ he couldn’t know just how often she had played and replayed the whole thing and how much she would love to think of something, anything that would help her to make sense of it all.
How could she talk to the police, with Carl in such danger? But then, how could she not when a dreadful crime had been committed, and she was the only witness.
Her mind was racing as Lesley lowered to a chair beside the table. She looked grey and shattered in the bright light and, though the crying had stopped, her eyes swam with unshed tears. Jean helped her to peel off the soaked sweater and then wrapped her in a dressing gown, she sat beside her.
Once she had relayed the basics of the call from Bob, Jean leaned and took hold of Lesley’s hand. “They’re watching us, aren’t they? They knew where we were, they knew how to show us Carl, they must be watching the house all the time.” Lesley nodded and Jean drew in a breath before she continued, “So what are we going to do? If they see the police coming here…”