Tag Archives: crime fiction

The Girl in the Water – Chapter 29

Everyone was speaking at once. Lesley was in turn laughing and crying, clinging to Carl’s arm, and using the other hand to stroke and touch her sister. Bob Rather was encouraging them all into the house, shepherding them as best he could out of the growing dawn. Carl, was trying to calm his mum, and all the while, Jean had her arm wrapped around Sonja’s unyielding shoulders. She murmured quietly to the girl, whose eyes flitted back and forth in fear and panic.

Eventually, they were inside and the door was closed. Jean slid off the uncomfortable, ruined shoes and pushed her dirty feet into her slippers. She was aching and tired, she wanted to run upstairs and stand under a hot shower until she felt warm and clean again, but knew that it was going to be a while before that could happen.

They milled around in the hall no-one sure what came next, until Jean took charge, “Lesley could you put the kettle on, love?” and they trooped through to the kitchen.

Sonja allowed herself to be pushed onto one of dining chairs. Lesley tried to catch Jean’s eye, mouthing ‘Who is that?’ behind the girl’s back. Jean shook her head.

“Do you need an ambulance?” Bob took Jean’s arms and turned her towards him, peering into her face, lifting her chin and turning her face back and forth to look for wounds. She shook her head and pushed him away, gently but firmly. “And you, Carl, you’ve hurt your hands.”

“I’m alright,” Carl flexed his fingers, and rubbed the wounds on his wrists, “Actually it looks worse than it is. I just need a bandage and some cream on them. Oh, and a manicure.” He laughed.

Once they were settled with drinks and the biscuit box open on the table, Bob realised he should take charge. He began to stand, changed his mind, and made do with pushing the mug away from him and finishing off the shortbread biscuit, brushing the crumbs from the front of his jumper.

“Jean. I don’t need to tell you that you’ve been very silly, do I?” He glared at her across the table, but she stared back at him steadily, waiting. “You’ve behaved irresponsibly, you’ve put this young man,” he pointed at Carl, “and yourself at risk. What were you thinking? And apart from that you’ve withheld information that could help us with our enquiries. Do you realise how much trouble you’re in?”

“I’m sorry Bob, we didn’t know what to do, it was so very frightening. We were at our wits end. But see, it’s all turned out alright.”

They were shocked by the strength of his response, “Alright,” he bellowed, “It most certainly is not alright, not by a long chalk. You’re going to have to come to the station. There’ll be questions to answer. You’ll need to see the doctor, all manner of things. Both of you. And who is this?” He pointed now at Sonja. Jean saw Carl stiffen with tension, as the girl flicked her eyes back and forth, from Bob and back to Jean, and then to the door. She was ready to run.

“This is Sonja. She drove us home.”

“Right.” Bob frowned, “Home from where, and how come she drove you?”

“To be honest Bob I’m not sure where it was, and thank heavens we saw Sonja.” It wasn’t a lie, just a different version of the truth. She continued. “I think we’ll be able to find it again, the place. It was an industrial estate just outside Birmingham. We’ll probably be able to find it.”

“But Jean, what has it all been about?” After he had spoken, Bob held up a hand, “No, no look I don’t think there’s any point going through it now. I’m going to have to get the SCU people here and you’ll need to talk to them. My phone’s broken,” he glanced at Lesley, “so, seeing as you’re back now, and you seem okay, I think the best thing would be for me to go back to the station. I could take you down there but they won’t be expecting you and I don’t want you hanging around. Look, you all wait here, and depending on what they want, either a car will come for you, or they will come to you. Will you do that? Will you just all stay here until I get some things organised? I’m going to ring for a car to come and take me now and then I’ll be in touch.” He stood and walked across to the phone on the kitchen wall, lifted the handset and then remembered where he was. He turned to Jean and waved it in the air. “Alright?”

“Yes, of course.” Jean nodded.

Still, Lesley was looking from one to the other, her gaze falling on Sonja, puzzled and mistrustful. She kept quiet while they waited for the patrol car but, as soon as Bob Rather slammed the front door behind him, with yet more admonishments for them to not go anywhere, and not to have showers or baths until they were given the all clear, she spun to face her son and her sister. “Right, who is she? Don’t give me any nonsense about her giving you a lift, I’ve seen you looking at each other. Who is this?” As she spoke she pointed at Sonja, who stood and backed towards the door into the garden.

Jean took a step towards her. “It’s alright, really. It’s okay now. Nobody is going to hurt you. We’re going to help.” She turned to address her sister. “There’s been a terrible misunderstanding and Sonja here saved us. She helped us to get away. Things are very complicated and we don’t know what exactly is going on. But, she’s going to tell us, aren’t you, Sonja? And then, we’re going to look after her.”

******************

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The Girl in the Water – Chapter 22

Lesley checked her watch again.  Jean said wait until half past one and it was already two. She should call Bob Rather, let the police know what was going on. Part of her wanted to, she wanted to hand this torment on to someone else. But. What about her boy? What about her sister?

She dialled Carl’s number again, the third time, and it rang for a while and then clicked over to his voice mail, again. Hearing his voice brought a lump to her throat. She didn’t say anything. It was time, she had to decide.

It wasn’t that she didn’t trust the police. She had a lot of respect for them and knew they did their best in difficult circumstances. She was aware of the work but it didn’t really touch her, not people like her, like them. But this now, kidnapping, murder it was the sort of thing that would have swathes of officers combing the fields, asking questions house to house. There would be appearances on the television – and it was mostly this, this vision of herself, trying to be brave, pleading for the return of her loved ones that stayed her hand. She couldn’t do that, live out this drama in the public eye. She wouldn’t be able to stand the reporting in the paper and the oh so often tragic result. She wasn’t ready yet to bring in strangers and the media and the furore that would ensue.

She knew she wasn’t brave. Not like her older sister who had coped with the death of her husband and come away from that horrible thing tougher, more independent. Lesley had fallen apart after her divorce, unable to countenance life alone, and it had been many months before she had even felt strong enough to go back to work. If it hadn’t been for Carl she didn’t think she would have made it at all, she would have sat in her dressing gown in the messy house and simply faded away. Nowadays she hid behind a smart exterior but so often she was a jelly inside, filled with self-doubt and fear.

So, here she was, faced with a drama so much greater than anything else in her life and she didn’t know what to do. Jean said call the police. But now it came to it she would have to rely on her own judgement, she was a grown woman after all, she was a ‘mum’. No, she wouldn’t simply make the call and hand it all on, putting them in more danger. Not yet, she would wait a little longer, give Jean a chance to fix things.

She paced through the house, peering through the front windows, turning on the outside lights to see into the back garden and then through to the lounge again. She opened the front door and walked down the wet path to stare for minutes at a time at the silent street. She was lost and alone in a dark and hostile world and found that she was incapable of holding onto a chain of thought. Ringing her ex-husband was an option that had occurred to her, but like the call to Bob Rather it would make it all so much more real, so much more overwhelming. No, not yet.

Back in the hallway Slumpy watched her, he had plodded down the stairs a few minutes ago and wound around her legs. She looked at him now, calm and unaware, “What am I going to do, cat? What the hell should l do? Where’s your mum eh? Where’s your mum and my boy?” Slumpy didn’t know.

She followed him into the kitchen where he stood looking mournfully at his empty dish. “One track mind you, Slumpy. Here, that’s something I can do at least.” She opened the cabinet and took out one of the small foil containers. Hanging on a hook inside the cupboard was a bunch of shiny new keys. There was a little cardboard label attached. Of course! Jean had changed the locks after the robbery. She slid it into her hand and turned the label over, her name was written on the back ‘for Lesley’. So, Jean had meant this for her. She always held a spare key for her sister, always had done back in the ordinary world that they had inhabited until just a couple of days ago. She put it into her pocket, fed the cat, and before she had time for any more thought, any more doubt, she pulled one of Jean’s waterproof jackets on over her stupid dress and leggings, and left the house.

Jean trusted her. Though she knew her weaknesses, she trusted her enough to have her hold the keys to her home. Carl needed her, more than ever before in her life her son needed her to be strong and to act. Instead of prowling the dark house and feeding the bloody cat, she had to know that she had done all that she could to find them. She felt instinctively that calling in the police would be a mistake, so she wouldn’t do that. Marching down the road, she was drawn back again to the canal, to the towpath where this nightmare had begun.

Of course, she had forgotten to bring a torch, she remembered now the preparations that Jean had made and cursed herself for a fool. She had a torch on her phone though and the tiny light was surprisingly efficient.

There was misty rain blown with the wind. She screwed her eyes up against the onslaught of cold water, and plodded onward. The path was a mess of puddles and mud and in no time her shoes were soaked and her legs splashed with dirty water. The canal was flat and dark. The rain wasn’t heavy enough to cause ripples, but the leaves dripped onto her hair and cold trickles found their way down her neck. In no time, she was shivering with the chill. She plodded on.

When she reached the corner where Jean had said the whole ghastly thing had begun there was nothing and no-one, save the small length of police tape flapping in the wind.

What had she expected, that Jean would be here, sitting on the verge still waiting. Well of course, she wasn’t and as she turned back and forth on the narrow bank, Lesley had no idea what she should do next. The complete hopelessness of her situation overwhelmed her.

She looked back the way that she had come. There was nothing here for her. No hint of where Jean had gone, or been taken. No sign of a car. She leaned and shone the torch into the dark water, hardly daring to look lest she saw the sudden whiteness of floating limbs, the horror of dead faces staring up at her.

She pulled out her phone and pressed re-dial. The little tone was loud in the night and the screen lit the grass like a beacon. She leaned forward and picked Carl’s phone up with trembling fingers. The bank here was disturbed, the grass flattened and there were bare patches, netted with exposed roots, where the soil had fallen into the water.

Though she was weakened with relief when there was no sign of her son or her sister in the canal, this phone, abandoned in the long grass chilled her to the bone. She had failed to do anything except put off the inevitable and now, as a matter of urgency she had to get back to the house and call Bob Rather after all. Why the hell hadn’t she taken his number from the landline, she should have put it in her phone. Angry and frustrated and sick with worry, she turned to rush back the way she had come.

The hair on the back of her neck prickled as she heard, unmistakably the sound of footsteps on the wooden stairs by the bridge.

Should she run, hide, stand her ground.

Tamping down the building panic, she turned and lifted the torch, aiming the bright little beam towards the figure stepping down onto the tow path.

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The Girl in the Water – Chapter 20

Before he properly woke from the tortured sleep Carl was aware of pain, in his shoulders and back, in his legs, and a thundering ache in his head. His hands stung from where he had picked and pulled in vain at the cover on the window. When the effort had become too much and he had acknowledged at last that it was pointless, struggling in the dark, his hands confined and becoming steadily more wounded, he had slid into the corner and lay on the hard, wooden boards. Tied as he was it was impossible to find comfort, but eventually exhaustion overwhelmed him and. he had drifted into an uneasy doze.

He had no idea how long it had been, not long he didn’t think. There was no light leaking in through the cracks on the window covering, and there was no noise. Earlier he thought he heard the faint hum of traffic on a road outside and the distant blare of a horn, just once. But all that had gone, leaving a quiet emptiness.

He shuffled on his backside until he was propped, sitting against the wall. For a moment, his eyes filled with tears but he blinked them away. He wasn’t going to waste time feeling sorry for himself. It was still unclear to him just how this had happened, what on earth was his aunty mixed up in. What information did she have that these people wanted and why had she still not given it to them? That’s all she had to do. Surely, he was more important to her than anything she knew about these thugs? Okay, the girl was dead and that was terrible but he wasn’t, he was alive and his Aunty Jean should just give them what they wanted and get him out of this. She would, he knew that she would, but he wished she would bloody well hurry up.

Though it brought with it such dread that he had tried to ignore it, there hovered in the back of his mind, the thought that perhaps, she couldn’t. She hadn’t gone into much detail about when she found the girl, but didn’t she say that she had tried to comfort her? If that was true then what had been said? All she had to do was tell these people, really, what difference could it make to anything now? And it was their business. But if she couldn’t, what would they do? The thought churned his gut.

He wished that they would let him call her, if he could talk to her, properly – have a conversation, then surely, he could get her to just fix all this. She probably didn’t understand just what they had done to him. She couldn’t. If she had any idea then she would get him out of here – right now.

He thought about his mum, she’d be desperate, she was hopeless in a crisis and he hated to think of her going to pieces. On top of all of it, he really wanted to talk to his dad. He hadn’t seen him for a few weeks, he was away. They had been going to talk on Skype just last night but then, this had happened. He hoped he didn’t feel that he had to dash back from his business trip, there was no need for that. Surely this would all be over soon. He’d be back home and then he’d talk to his dad and give his mum a big hug. God – what a mess it all was.

The other room was quiet for now, he listened hard but there was no shuffling of feet and the low mumble of voices had ceased.

Earlier, the one that he called The Man had stood in the doorway, a huge carving knife in his hand, his face hidden behind the balaclava. He had asked again what Carl knew, what Jean had told him. When Carl shook his head, and repeated what he had already said, that as far as he knew the girl hadn’t said anything important, that his aunty hadn’t told him anything more. He insisted that all he had done was help her with her computer, the bloke had snorted in fury and kicked out bruising his already damaged legs.

From the room beyond he had heard voices raised in anger once more. The smaller one, the one that he thought might be a woman, had come in shortly afterwards and held a bottle of water to his lips. She hadn’t spoken. Carl had tried to plead with her for his freedom, or at the very least to have his hands unbound. He told her about his desperate need to pee and shortly afterwards the bloke had come in, and given him an empty bottle.

After, with the half filled bottle left in the corner, shaming and disgusting him in equal measure, he heard the clunk of the lock and replayed the scene. He should have done something, that had been his chance. He should have fought, he should have run. But how could he, his ankles shackled, his wrists bound and the urgent need to pee taking precedence over everything. It made him angry to feel so weak, so helpless.

So, was he completely alone now? He called out – “Hello, hey arseholes, are you there?” There was no response. Okay, that was good wasn’t it. They’d gone and so all he had to do now was get his hands and feet free and he was out of there. He could smash down the door, of course he could. All he had to do was just get his hands free.

He twisted them back and forth and hissed with pain as the thin, plastic bindings dug into the already torn flesh of his wrists. He drew in a deep breath and, screwing his eyes up against the sting of it, he tried again. It was no use, there was no give and the stuff was far too strong for him to break it just by trying to jerk his hands apart. He needed something sharp to cut through the plastic. He rolled across the bare boards and once more kicked at the door with his feet but it was soon obvious that it wasn’t going to help and he was wasting time and energy.

He rolled into the corner and then pushed himself upwards, leaning against the wall.

There was no furniture in this little space, no radiators, or fittings. He was convinced that it had just been a store cupboard, a pantry maybe. It appeared that the walls were painted, when he rubbed his hands across them they felt smooth. He moved sideways sliding his feet along the floor. If it was a store room maybe there would be a hook in the wall, a nail, anything. Inch by inch he moved towards the next corner, rubbing his hands up and down as much as possible, which was hardly at all in truth, but he stretched on his toes and lowered to his haunches. He had thought he was very fit but this effort was painful and he could only continue for a very short while before he had to stop and rest but he had to keep going, he had to keep trying.

 

 

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The Girl in the Water – Chapter 17

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.

“Hello?”

“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…”

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The Girl in the Water – Chapter 5

Jean couldn’t see at first what was different. There was no real mess, no paper strewn about, no broken ornaments, no overturned furniture.

Her computer was gone though, and a couple of seconds stretched into eternity as she stood by the door, trying to make sense of the different scene.

The extra monitor was there, the cable trailing from the desk top and dangling just short of the carpet, the mouse sat forlornly beside an empty space. She stepped across the room and touched the denuded surface. She used a laptop but didn’t take it out of this room. It was tied to its peripheral companions constantly, unless she went away from home. She never typed in the lounge, that was her relaxing space and she never typed in bed, or watched movies on it. It was a work machine and so it stayed in her work space. Except it hadn’t. It had gone.

Stupidly she bent and looked under the desk pushing the chair roughly aside. She wiped a hand across the faint film of dust which had gathered in the place that used to be under the machine. Sickness boiled in her stomach and an idea pushed its way forward to the front of her brain. She turned from the office, ran down into the sun room and snatched up her jacket. Already she didn’t expect the phone to be there and so, when it wasn’t the shock was perhaps less than it might have been. Her handbag, which was always in the same corner of the kitchen was gone, she raced around the house flinging open cupboard doors, pulling coats from the hooks and even throwing the sofa cushions onto the floor.

She dashed back upstairs and dragged open the cupboard door in the corner. At first it seemed that all was as it should be but it felt wrong. It was impossible to remember where everything had been but she had the feeling that other hands than hers had handled the files, the little trays that she used for her mail.  She reached out and pushed a file folder back into line with its companions. She pulled out the drawers in her desk, the cash box holding emergency cash was gone.  Back in the bedroom her jewellery box was untouched and held just what she expected it to.

She perched on the end of the bed. Her hands shaking and her throat dry.

Someone had come into her house, into her home, while she was sleeping. They had prowled the dark rooms in silence and taken the computer and phone, her cash and handbag, and she couldn’t at this point even begin to remember what had gone along with that. It was ludicrous, it was ridiculous, it was terrifying.

Back in the office she hunted in all the corners but it was no good, the things were gone.

She should do something, call someone, take some sort of action.

In the kitchen she lifted the hand set on the land line and stabbed in the number for Eileen Rather.

The phone was answered quickly, “Hello, is that you Jean? This is early. Are you alright? Bob told me what happened, about yesterday. Do you want me to come over?”

“No, no there’s no need for that Eileen. But, could I have a quick word with Bob?”

“Yes, of course. Just a minute. I’ll drag him away from his bacon sandwich. He’s only just popped in, been out since early doors.” There was a chuckle and then the muted sound of distant conversation. Jean turned back and forth, peering, searching, examining the homely spaces that had become sinister and unfamiliar.

***

 “So, there’s nothing else gone?” The comforting bulk of Bob Rather at her kitchen table, his huge hands wrapped around a coffee mug, had done much to calm Jean’s nerves.

She shook her head. “No, but what is gone is pretty devastating. My phone, my bag, a silly bit of cash but Bob, they’ve taken my computer. If there is anything else I haven’t come across it yet. I mean the music player, tele. all that stuff is completely fine. I don’t have very much electronic equipment, apart from the phone and lap top. I’ve got my Kindle, but that was in the bedroom and it’s still there. There’s the microwave and suchlike, you know toaster and what have you, in the kitchen as well, “she shrugged, “I don’t know what sort of things people take.”

Bob nodded, “Well we have this spate of robberies going on in Calthorne, you’ll have seen it in the papers. We’ve been telling people to be more careful about their security,” he raised his eyebrows at her, “I suppose it could be that lot spreading their net a bit. Mind you, to be honest it’s not quite the same. What they’ve been taking is more the stuff that you’ve mentioned. Radios, Microwaves and that, maybe they intended to take more but they got disturbed. They have taken computers in the past of course but mostly game things, Wii and that type of carry on. Thing is with your laptops and such, they have to clean ‘em out, the hard drive thing you know so they can’t be identified, so it’s not their biggest choice. We reckon it’s youngsters, got themselves a contact to sell the stuff on, money for drugs most probably. That seems the most likely thing. I’ll get someone to give you a ring with a crime number for your insurance.”

“I haven’t touched much, though there will be my prints on the desk of course. Will someone come to do that?”

“Sorry Jean. I know what you’re thinking, but to be honest I don’t think there’ll be anyone coming apart from me.”

“But, what about prints, you know so you can see if it is the same people.” She stopped as he shook his head.

“Afraid not love. We just haven’t the resources. You weren’t hurt, weren’t threatened. There’s not even any damage and what they’ve taken is pretty minimal.”

“Minimal! Bob, have you the slightest idea what this means to me?! This is my work station, it’s where I do my writing. Have you any clue…?” She had to stop as her voice cracked with emotion.”

The big man leaned over and patted her hand where it lay on the table top. “I know Jean, it’s rotten but you see – it’s priorities. I am sorry. Have you lost a lot of your work? I should have thought you would be doing that backing up to the cloud, to memory sticks and all that. That would have helped out.”

“Yes, of course it does but there are little notes, small reminders and – oh well. I do see what you mean, when I think of the poor girl yesterday I feel a bit ashamed, but it’s such an intrusion, I feel defiled. Yes, that’s it. I look around my place and think about someone I don’t know prowling around while I was asleep upstairs, and it’s horrible.”

“Oh, I know Jean, I sympathise but there’s no good me pretending.”

“No. Right well, I’ll wait for my number then and give the insurance company a call. Can you recommend anyone to come and fit me some extra locks?”

“Not really love, I’m not allowed to. We could send an officer around to give you a security advice visit, but that could be a while and – well to be honest it’s a bit late isn’t it. Look, between you and me there’s a chap in the High Street, back of the Weatherspoons, he just has a little place, not one of these big firms, and he’ll do you a good job and I reckon he’ll be able to come pretty soon. I’ll write the name down if you have a bit of paper. Just off the record you know.”

“Thanks Bob. I suppose that’s it then as far as you’re concerned?”

“I’m afraid so love, yes.”

“Is there any more news about the girl from the canal?” As she spoke she saw a cloud pass across his face.

“Aye, well that’s something else again isn’t it. We’ve got the city boys coming in, I was up at the crack of dawn helping to sort things out for them.”

“The City Boys?”

“Aye. I expect they’ll be getting in touch with you pretty soon. Don’t get upset about it all will you. They’ll likely want to go over your statement. See if there’s anything else you’ve remembered.”

“Well, can’t you do that?”

“No, not now. They’ll want to do it themselves I reckon.”

“Why?” She could tell that there was much he wanted to say but he was holding back, either from kindness or regulations but she wouldn’t have it. She wouldn’t be protected from reality and she wouldn’t be kept in the dark.

Bob sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. “Seems, she didn’t drown.”

“What, how do you mean she didn’t drown. I pulled her out of the water myself…” as she spoke, the truth hit her in the gut. “Oh no, oh Bob.”

“Aye, there’s more to it than we thought. Of course it’s very early days and you know I can’t tell you much, but it seems the coroner’s early findings are – well shall we say confusing and worrying.”

He didn’t need to say anymore and so he simply lifted the mug to his lips and drained the last of his coffee. There was such sadness in his face as he looked at her again that she hardly dare speak.

“Do you know who she is?”

“We don’t. Shouldn’t be long though, we’re working hard on that. I’ll let the other squad know that you’re expecting them shall I. Will you be in all day?”

“Yes, that’s fine. I’ll ring the locksmith and see if he can come and I’ll stay in. Will they ring me do you think?”

“Oh yes, and please Jean, don’t worry about it.” With these final words, he stood up from the kitchen chair. “You stay there love, I’ll let myself out. I’m really sorry about your computer, don’t forget to contact your bank, cards and all that. Best to let them know as soon as you can.”

It struck her as he left that there was much she had to do now, the bank was just the start of it. There were passwords to change all over the place and all she had to do it on was the little Kindle Fire. She had been so upset about the loss of her writing, that she hadn’t thought beyond that and for a moment she was panicked at the thought of all she had to do. She went up to the office and drew out the household file, she had to handle this carefully so she didn’t miss anything. As she sat down at the desk her mind wasn’t full of tedious calls she had to make, but the dead young face and slender body of a girl who it now seemed had not met her death by accident or at her own hand.

 

 

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Names

The names in this story will be changed. I mention this because it will be clear to anyone who has read any of my previous stuff that Colin and Lily feature quite large in other work – not as these characters but obviously I am a writer of little brain and only have a small lexicon of names at my fingertips. I will change the names, I know what they will be but for now we will leave them incognito.

As you were.

 

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Happy everything

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and the New Year brings all that is good and peaceful.

If I may I want to take the opportunity to link to my Amazon Author Page. Thank you to everyone who has bought my books in 2016 and especially to those who took the time to leave a review. I hope that for all of my author friends the coming year is successful and fulfilling and for all of our marvelous readers you find books to thrill, delight and satisfy you.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B001KC8S2E

and now… …

Chapter 13

Fuzz had quickly overtaken Simon and sped on glancing down the side roads and alleys but when he reached the junction at the far side of the square he stopped and waited. “They’ve gone, I reckon they nipped down one a them ginnels.”

“Yeah, you’re right. What the hell was that about then? I mean why would they run away? She can’t have known we were looking for her. Shit.  Look, you carry on, do a coupla turns round the square, maybe even a street over on each side. I’ll go back into that office, where you saw her come out, and see if I can find out what she was doing.”

“Okay, then we’ll go and get some breakfast yeah?”

“What, oh you and your belly. I’ll see. Just go on. If you see her ring me and I’ll come straight out. If you do, try not to spook her again.” Fuzz turned away and jogged down the road at right angles to where they stood. Simon walked back to the office building and pushed through the heavy glass doors.

As he approached the reception desk the girl lifted her head and smiled at him. He saw her eyes lock on the disfigured side of his face but her smile didn’t waver. “Good morning, how can I help you?”

He introduced himself and then described Flora, as much as he could from the picture and the fleeting glimpse he’d had as the two girls had sped away from himself and Fuzz. He had the print in his pocket but surely it would look a bit odd were he to bring it out. “She was supposed to meet me this morning and I think I missed her. She was planning on popping in here first…”

“Oh yes. She left in a bit of a rush, knocked the table.” The girl waved a hand towards the centre of the space. “She seemed a bit upset. I was trying to make her an appointment with Mr Rowntree but he wasn’t free. I wonder, when you meet her, could you suggest she gives us a ring.” She slid a business card from the top of a small pile on the desk and held it out. “I felt bad but it was the morning meeting you see.”

“Yes, I’ll tell her. Is he free now, Mr Rowntree? Only I could do with a word.”

“I’m afraid not. What is it you need, investment advice, savings… …? Only Mr Jones is free and for general advice it might be better if you see him.”

“No, it was Mr Rowntree I needed. Any chance I could see him later?”

“What name is it?” he told her, “just hold on.” She poked at the buttons on the complicated telephone in front of her and as she spoke into her headset Simon turned to the door. He could see Fuzz on the far side of the square, leaning against a fence post. No luck there then. He sighed.

“Will eleven thirty be alright?”

“Yes. Lovely thank you, erm Rebecca.” As Simon leaned to read the badge pinned to her uniform jacket the girl blushed, he smiled at her. “You’ve been very helpful, thank you.”

“See you later Mr Fulton.”

As he jogged down steps to the pavement Fuzz crossed over to join him. “No, luck. They’ve vanished. ‘ow did you get on in there.”

“Yeah okay, I’ve got to go back later but at least I know who she was going to see. Okay, I’m going to ring Carol and let her know that at least we’ve seen Flora and she looked okay. Then we’ll get a drink and think about our next move.”

“Ace, there’s a café just down ‘ere, got pasties.”

Simon used his mobile on the way to the little coffee shop. “Hello, Carol. It’s Simon. I just thought you’d like to know that I think we saw Flora. She was with her friend. A skinny girl, short darkish hair.”

“Oh, I wonder who that was. Did you speak to her? Is she coming home?”

“No, we didn’t get a chance to speak I’m afraid. We will stay here a bit longer, in case she comes back.”

“Thanks so much, try and bring her home Mr Fulton, please.”

“I’ll do what I can. Just one other thing though, does the name,” he glanced at the card in his hand, “Alan Rowntree mean anything?”

“Alan, yes, he worked with Mark. One of his friends, the same office.”

“Ah, right. So, he’d be a friend of Flora as well I suppose.”

“Well, funny you should say that he wasn’t really. She didn’t like him. I don’t know why and they had to see each other now and then, socially you know. What has he to do with it though?”

“It might be nothing, don’t worry about it. Look, if you hear from her let me know, yeah. I’ll keep you up to date.”

“Thanks so much Mr Fulton, I’m impressed you found her so soon.”

He clicked off the call and followed Fuzz up to the counter where the boy was already pointing at pasties and cake. “Huh, she wouldn’t have been so impressed if she’d seen us careering up the bloody road and losing them would she.”

“Aye well, you don’t need to tell ‘er that bit do ya. D’ya want a pie or owt?”

“Yeah, go on why not. Then we get back out there and keep on looking until I have to go back to that office.”

“Great, can I ‘ave a bun an’ all.”

“Oh aright, make yourself sick why don’t you.”

“Grumpy sod.”

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Truth Series, Book 2/Chapter 15

The address took them to a small, neat, terraced house and as Simon walked up the narrow path the blind at the front window lifted in one corner. He rang the bell and smiled as a dog inside set up a racket and a distant voice sent it to a basket.

A tall, slender woman with shoulder length, dark hair opened the door. A little girl of about five years old, dressed in a cute school uniform peeped out from behind her. “Yes?”

“Hello, sorry to bother you. Are you Michelle Buj erm Bug?” The woman grinned and nodded, “Yes, that’s me. Who are you?”

“Sorry. My name is Fulton, Simon Fulton. I’m really sorry to bother you but I wondered if I could talk to you about the accident you saw on the moors the other day?”

“Are you the police?” He was aware of her fight to drag her eyes away from the scar that snaked down his cheek and under his chin. He never thought about the wound from his time in jail until he met someone new and saw them struggle between curiosity and good manners. His solicitor had once tentatively suggested that he could have the state pay for plastic surgery on that and the slashes across his belly. He didn’t care about the way they made him look and they made him remember. Every time he looked in the mirror he remembered it had happened because he let his sister down. If he hadn’t become bored waiting for her, then she would still be alive today. No matter what happened, he knew it was a guilt that would be with him forever, so why not wear the scars it had caused. He dragged his thoughts back to the present.

“No, no I’m not. I suppose you’ve already spoken to them?”

“I did. I gave them a statement. You’re not a reporter are you? Because if you are you can get lost right now. Anyway, I’m in a hurry, I have to get my little girl to school. We can’t be late.”

“No, no I promise you I’m not a reporter. I’m – well, I’m sort of working for Mr Clegg. The man in the car.”

“Oh right. How is he?”

“He’s doing alright now thank you. He reckons you saved his life, he’s very grateful.”

“I’m glad he’s okay but anyone would have done what I did.”

“Well, maybe – maybe not. It must have been pretty shocking for you.”

“Yes, it was. I was just glad Keira wasn’t with me.” As she spoke she wrapped an arm around the child’s shoulders, drawing her close.”

“You had to drag the door open?”

“Yes, I did, had to clamber up on that car and then once I saw he was breathing and not bleeding too badly I just left him as he was, I didn’t want to make things worse by moving him. I called the ambulance and just talked to him while we waited. I didn’t think he could hear me but you know, just in case.”

“Well you did a good job.”

“Look, I really do have to get going. Thanks for coming by, tell him – Mr Clegg is it? Tell him I’m glad he’s okay.”

“I will. I did wonder if you could just give me a few more details though?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, did you see the accident for example?”

“No, I didn’t but it must have happened just before I got there because the engine was still hot, I burned my hand on the exhaust.” She held out her arm and Simon saw the nasty reddened skin on the back of her hand. “Bit of nuisance to be honest, I’m a beauty therapist, I can do without something like that on my hand.”

“It looks sore.” She nodded and frowned as she studied the damaged skin.

“Well it’s nothing compared to what happened to that poor old bloke is it?”

“No, I guess not. So, you didn’t see any other cars, nothing like that?”

“No, nothing. Oh, well – hmm.”

“Yes?”

“Well for one thing he didn’t have his seat belt on. I didn’t tell the police, these older men, I know what they’re like. My uncle’s always doing it, stubbornness that’s all it is. They possibly thought I’d taken it off, but I hadn’t.” She smiled and shrugged. “There was something else and again I haven’t mentioned this to anyone. I wondered if I should have told the police. To be honest when they came I was still a bit upset about it all and it was only afterwards I remembered. I thought about it and decided it didn’t really matter anyway because they had pretty much assumed that he‘d fallen asleep at the wheel or something. You know him being an old bloke and that.”

“Yes, I think that’s their explanation. But you saw something else?”

“Well, I don’t know.  While I was sitting waiting for the ambulance. I saw a woman, or maybe a girl. Just on the top of the hill. Off towards where that narrow road goes. I think there’s a farm down there. She was standing on the rise and then she disappeared. I did wave to her, I thought she might be able to bring a blanket or something but she didn’t wave back, just vanished. I thought she’d probably gone to get help but I was already talking to the ambulance by then anyway so It didn’t matter. Look I really do have to get going.”

“Sorry yes of course. If I need to, could I come back and talk to you again? Could I take a number so I can ring, in case you’re busy or whatever?”

“No, I don’t think I want to give you my number but I’m here most days after five, you can come in the evening if you like.”

“Great, that’s great – thanks.”

“Tell Mr Clegg I hope he gets better soon.”

“I will, yes I will thank you.”

Simon slid into Gloria’s car and they pulled away as Michelle buckled her daughter into her own vehicle and as they reached the junction at the end of the road the two cars were together. He turned and waved at the child in the rear seat, grinning at him through the window.

“Did she say anything that might help?” Gloria didn’t look at him as she pulled into the line of traffic.

“I’m not sure. She didn’t see another car or anything like that but she did say she saw a woman, watching from up by the farm.”

“Oh, well maybe that should be somewhere else we could go, see if they saw anything?”

“Yeah. I think so. Can we go there now?”

“Might as well, as we’re out anyway.”

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