Jean and Carl grabbed their jackets. Sonja had walked into the hall and waited by the front door, the phone in her hand, peering at the screen. Lesley hadn’t moved. Jean went back into the lounge, took hold of her hand as she spoke. “Come on love, we need to be ready to move as soon as we find out where. Run upstairs and get changed.”
Lesley shook her head, “I can’t do this. I’m not going out tearing around the countryside looking for missing wives and kidnappers. Bloody hell Jean, this isn’t our business.”
“But we have to help them.”
“No, we sodding well don’t have to help them. Why? Tell me that, eh? Why do you think we have to help them? Carl’s back, you’re back, that’s all that matters. You’ve always been like this. Dashing about, poking your nose into other people’s business. Well, not me. No.”
“You have to Lesley. You’ve got to come with us. Either you’ve got to come with us or you’ll have to just go home, back to your place, where you’ll have to sit and wait, and worry. You can’t stay here.”
As she looked up from the settee Lesley’s chin wobbled, she bit her lower lip. “You rotten sod, you’re actually throwing me out. I’ll stay here, I’m just going to stay here and wait until you drag yourselves back. Unless you all end up in hospital or worse. Then I suppose I’ll be expected to be sympathetic.”
Jean sat down and spoke quietly. She didn’t want the others, still in the hall, to hear. “You can’t stay in the house, because any time now a police car is going to arrive and if you’re here then you’ll have to explain. As for helping Sonja, well that’s up to you of course, but, I have to. There are people in distress, desperate, and I can’t turn away. Yes, you’re right, in a way, I do poke my nose in but it’s only because I care, because I feel for other people. If we leave it to the police, there’ll be procedure to follow, explanations, questions and before we know where we are it’ll all be too late. Look how long it’s taken them just to fetch us. Paul’s wife may well be dead and who knows what will have happened to him by the time they get organised. This is happening now and I don’t think there is time to wait. I’m sorry love, I know you’re scared, I am to be honest, and at the end of the day I don’t know what we’ll be able to do. But there we are, I’m going to at least try. Either come with us, or go home.”
Lesley raised a hand to Jean’s face, “You’re burning up Jean. You look awful, and you’re feverish. You should be in bed. You’re mad.”
“I’m okay, I’ve taken a couple of pills. I’ve just picked up a cold.” Before Lesley could answer they heard Sonja’s phone.
Jean pushed up from the settee but the room spun, she had to brace against the door frame, steadying herself. She didn’t want Lesley to see, she didn’t want to argue with her any more. “It’s up to you, Lesley.” As she waited for her sister to decide, Jean listened to Sonja, a one-sided conversation but it was obvious that she was receiving directions. She had started to ask questions, trying to find out why Paul had left so suddenly, what had happened since, but halfway through she held the phone away from her ear and looked at the screen, shaking her head. The screen was dark.
Lesley had pushed by where Jean still leaned against the door frame. She clomped up the stairs and they heard her in the bathroom, and then her footsteps across the landing, heading towards Jean’s bedroom.
Minutes later she thundered back down the stairs, she wore the jeans and top and as Jean grabbed a jacket from the hall stand and held it out, she pushed her arms into the sleeves, “If anyone gets hurt or, if I get killed, which I probably will, I’m going to come back and haunt you Jean, for the rest of your life.” and with a huff of her shoulders she followed Sonja and Carl out into the drive; Jean locked the house and joined them.
“I’ll drive my car, Lesley come with me. Carl, you go with Sonja. I assume you know where you’re headed?”
“Yes, I know the place. It’s near my flat.”
“Okay you lead the way.” They reversed into the road and the little convoy joined the rush hour traffic threading and weaving through the town centre and out towards the hospital. Lesley was stiff and silent in the passenger seat, her arms folded tightly across her chest, her face turned away. The atmosphere was thick with tension and Jean, bone weary and feeling more and more ill, didn’t know how to break the deadlock. “I’m sorry Lesley. Do you want me to drop you at the bus stop? You can just go home.”
“No, thank you I don’t want dropping at the bloody bus stop. I want you and my pig-headed son to come to your senses and see what idiots you are. You don’t know this girl from Adam, she’s done you nothing but harm and here we are dashing about on some fool’s errand.”
There was no answer, it had all been said and so Jean let the silence grow and concentrated on following the little blue Renault.
After a while she spoke again, “Why was he still there? I mean really, why hadn’t he done more?”
Her sister’s voice was sullen as she barked back. “Who, where?”
“It’s just occurred to me, why was Bob Rather still at my house? You would have thought he’d have done more than just sit with you. You know I think he’s out of his depth with all this. He should just have let the SCU people know and then maybe we would have been much further on. Mind you that wouldn’t have been so good for Paul and Sonja. But, apart from anything else we wouldn’t be having this row now. I reckon Bob’s ready for retirement just between you and me. Well look at the way he’s behaved. It shows how much importance he was attaching to us being missing. As if it was some sort of game. Had he just sat there waiting since one o clock? Just hanging on hoping we’d come back? I mean really, he didn’t do anything until we were back and then he starts running about telling us what to do. Silly old sod.”
“No, I met him, and I stopped him.”
“How do you mean, you met him?” Jean glanced across the car, a frown creasing her forehead.
Lesley told her about the desperate walk to the canal, the meeting with Bob and the subsequent attempts to stop him visiting the house. She continued with the explanation that she had from Bob Rather, about being unable to get the idea of the dead girl out of his mind. “I was scared stiff that those bloody thugs would see him, but he wouldn’t be shaken off. Then when he was going to call the others, the Serious Crimes people, I stopped him and that was just when you arrived. Right in the nick of time.”
Jean was almost thinking aloud, “It’s awful, isn’t it? I mean, he’s been a policeman for years and years, and this was so dreadful that it haunted him. Still, even though you stopped him when he tried to move things along, and I understand that,” Jean reached across and touched her sister’s knee, “even so he didn’t exactly rush did he.”
Before Lesley answered, the blue car turned from the main road and began to thread its way between streets of houses and small shops. The conversation with her sister was abandoned as Jean concentrated on her driving, but talking seemed to have eased the tension.