Discover more from Heaven & El
Abigail: Chapter 12
The following morning at eleven o’clock on the dot, Jonathan pulled up outside the house and, with a toot of his horn, called my two beautiful girls to him. I wanted to beg them to stay, to coerce them with promises of Christmas shopping, reminders of how much fun we'd have but of course I didn’t say a word. Instead, I plastered a smile on my face, kissed them goodbye, and waved until they were out of sight. Only then did I allow one solitary tear to fall down my cheek. Pity party over, I drowned my sorrows under a hot shower before making myself pancakes and bacon for breakfast. I wasn't much of a cook but pancakes with bacon was my signature dish.
After hoovering the house, reorganising the fridge and walking the dog, it wasn’t until the thought of decluttering my sock drawer made me smile that I realised I had to get out of the house. It would be hours before the girls were home and I was driving myself crazy. Driving aimlessly around the countryside just for the fun of it wasn’t really my style so I took a peek at my inbox in case there was anything new that could distract me and nearly danced for joy when I saw an email from a law firm in Cardiff asking me if I’d help them track a potential client. Like me, they worked on a no win no fee basis. Unlike me, they rarely took on a case before first getting the inside scoop. It wasn’t the most exciting gig in the world but it paid the mortgage and was just the distraction I needed to fill an otherwise empty Saturday.
As luck would have it, the address of the client in question was just around the corner from Bill Winkleman’s site. I didn’t expect to find any of them working on a Saturday but it wouldn’t hurt to snoop around a bit. I decked myself out in my plumbers issue polo shirt and combats and, after making a flask of coffee, headed to the van. Thanks to the sat nav on my phone I found the address easily. I pulled up a little way back from the house on the opposite side of the road and did my best to look invisible. Gone are the days of hiding behind broadsheets, peeking over the top when you think no-one is looking. Thanks to the law banning mobile phone use while driving, it was now easier than ever to sit at the side of any public road and be completely unapproachable, as long as you mastered the art of making fake phone calls. It could lead to a terrible case of arm ache but when it came to staking out a client’s house, there was nothing better.
After an hour of holding my phone to my face though, even I was starting to get a little restless. I’d also drained my flask and found myself in dire need of the little girl’s room. I thought lovingly of Bill’s office, certain that for a site of that size there had to be a toilet and without thinking, put the van into gear and headed straight there. Of course no one would be working, of course the toilets would almost certainly be locked for the weekend, but just in case, it didn’t hurt to try. The alternative was finding a large bush to squat behind and I definitely wasn’t dressed for that.
By the time I found my way back to the site and over to Bill’s portakabin, I almost wept with relief to see a few figures dotted around the site. I knocked on his door and walked in without waiting to be invited. Bill turned and looked surprised to see me.
“Ms Diamond. What a lovely surprise. Can I get you a …”
“Not coffee. Please don’t say coffee.” I fidgeted from foot to foot. “I know this is highly irregular but, any chance I could use your loo?”
Bill roared with laughter. “Of course. Follow me.” He led me to a bank of cubicles a short distance from his office. “Come back and see me when you’re done. I can make you that cuppa.”
When I walked into his office a few minutes later, Bill handed me a mug of coffee and led me in the direction of the comfy chairs.
“I didn’t expect to see you again today.”
“Honestly Bill, I didn’t expect to be here.” I thought of the cubicles outside. “Not that I’m not grateful. But why are you and the boys working on the weekend?”
“We need to get back on schedule.” Bill shrugged. “You know how it is. Things happen, little setbacks. Before you know it you’re six weeks behind schedule and you’ve got people breathing down your neck.” He smiled weakly.
“I imagine losing Toby Rogers hasn’t helped either.” I spoke gently, keen not to spook him.
Bill shook his head. “Toby’s a good lad. Damn shame.”
“What do you think’s happened to him? Strictly off the record.” I held up my hands to show they were empty. “No phone recording.”
Bill sighed and rubbed his temples. “I don’t know. I mean, you’d think after all this time there’d be something. It’s like he’s disappeared into thin air.”
“Abigail blames herself. Apparently he wasn’t well that day, when he came in. Don’t suppose you remember? Did he seem under the weather to you?”
“It’s hard to say. Working outside all day, place like this, there’s always a few coughs and sniffles.”
“But he didn’t say anything to you? Complain of a bad head?”
“No, nothing like that.” He sighed again. “Look, I might as well tell you now, you’re going to find out soon enough anyway.”
My belly tingled. I loved it when people said that. Feigning a look of calm personified I turned to face him. “Oh?”
“There’s a life insurance policy. He got it at a discount, one of the perks of the job.”
“Wow!” I hadn’t known building sites to be so lucrative.
“But no body, no payout. That’s the rules.”
A thought occurred to me. “Did Toby know the rules?” Before he could answer I had another thought. “Is that why Abigail wants me to find him?”
Bill frowned. “I didn’t say that. I just thought you needed to know what you were dealing with.” He stood up and took my empty mug. Our meeting was over. “But no, I doubt Toby would have known the specifics about the life insurance. It’s not the sort of thing you’d talk about.”
I shook his hand. “Thanks Bill. You’ve been very helpful.”
“You didn’t hear it from me.”
“Got it.” I was about to reassure him when my phone burst into life. “Sorry, let me just …” I was going to send the call to voicemail but when I saw it was Abigail calling I changed my mind.
“Charlie, it’s me, Abigail. I need you to come round. There’s been a letter.” And before I could ask any more she burst into tears.