Abigail: Chapter 16
I walked into my hotel room, dumped my bag and keycard onto the dressing table and threw myself onto the bed. This trip was definitely not working out the way it was meant to. Not only had I still not been able to access the CCTV footage from outside the bank, according to council jobsworth Steve my only hope now of doing so involved going back to Rob, cap in hand, asking for his help. Not only was it frustrating, it was downright bloody unfair! Just because he had an official badge, as if that made him any more trustworthy than me, it was a joke.
Logically I knew that the rules were only there to protect people, that anyone could print themselves a business card and set up shop as an investigator but logic didn’t come into it right now when those same rules were stopping me from doing my job. I was so wound up, I toyed with the idea of getting back in the van and driving all the way home. I wanted to see my daughters, I wanted to sleep in my own bed, and I definitely wanted to leave this dump of a town far behind me. If Toby really had come here he was crazy and maybe it was better if he stayed disappeared. Abigail was too nice a girl to be shackled with a crazy man for a husband. I’d be doing her a favour.
Slowly my racing pulse slowed to a gentle meander and I could feel myself relaxing. I replayed the events of the day over in my mind and thought about Abigail. There was still so much about her I didn’t know. She felt like an enigma. I wanted to pick her up and examine her from all sides under a microscope, to find out what really made her tick. Only then, I felt, would I have any hope of finding her missing husband. And I meant what I’d said to Steve, I really did want to reunite them in time for Christmas, if such a happy ending were still possible.
My phone rang. I looked at the screen, saw it was Rob, and immediately sent it to voicemail. If it was important he’d leave a message. A couple of minutes later my phone pinged with a text message. Rob, again. Answer the phone or I’m calling your mother. I couldn’t help but smile. I waited for the phone to ring again and this time I answered it.
“What are we, five?” I adopted a baby voice. “I’m telling mummy!”
“Well you wouldn’t answer the phone, again. And you said you’d phone me back. That was hours ago.”
“I’ve been busy Rob. Things to do, people to see.”
“Are you going to tell me what you’re doing in Barnstaple?”
As much as I didn’t want to ask him for help, I knew Rob could sidestep the rules in a way I’d never be able to, not unless I joined the job. I shook the thought away. Never going to happen.
“If I tell you, will you help me?”
“Depends what you’re doing. But if you don’t tell me, I definitely won’t be able to help you.”
“Abigail’s bank statements showed cash withdrawals from several weird locations. Places she’s never been to.”
“Let me guess. One of the was Barnstaple?”
I nodded and then remembered he couldn’t see me. “Yep.”
“So you drove all the way there, for what? To prove a point?”
“To get footage from CCTV, showing that it wasn’t Abigail at the cash machine.”
“What good would that have done?”
“If I can prove she didn’t take the money, it means he might have done. And then you can stop bleating about him being low risk and actually move your arse and do something helpful. Track his phone. Alert other divisions.” I stopped talking when I heard him laughing. “What’s so bloody funny?!?”
“I can’t believe you drove all the way to Devon to prove that a man who is allegedly missing isn’t actually missing at all.”
“That’s not what I said. If he took the money then …”
“If he withdrew the money, and by the sounds of things, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he did, then it only proves what I’ve been telling you all along. There’s no case here. Leave the guy alone. If he wants to stay missing, let him.”
“But what about his wife?”
“What about her?”
“She misses him. Worries about him. Wants him home with her and the kids.”
“Aren’t you the one who told me you didn’t believe in all her ‘happily ever after’ nonsense?”
“Yes but …”
“And didn’t you just tell me she couldn’t have travelled all the way there to withdraw the money?”
“Probably not but …”
“So do yourself a favour, go back to your client and tell her there’s no case. You’re a private investigator Charlie, not her bloody social worker. If she needs a shoulder to cry on because her husband’s too spineless to dump her properly that’s not your problem.”
“You’re impossible!” I could feel myself getting wound up again.
“I’m just being pragmatic. You know I’m right, you wouldn’t be reacting like this if you didn’t.”
I didn’t want him to be right, he couldn’t be, and if he’d actually met Abigail he’d know why I was determined to prove it. I’d had my doubts about her and I wasn’t ready to buy into her brand of happy ending but there was definitely something fishy about this whole case and I was ready to find out what. I took a deep breath to calm my voice before I spoke again.
“Thanks for your input Rob, always appreciated.”
“You’re going to completely ignore me and look for him anyway, aren’t you?”
“And when you prove me wrong you’re going to expect me to buy you dinner so you can rub my nose in it?”
“I was thinking lunch but sure, dinner sounds delightful. Bye Rob.”
I hung up, pulled Abigail’s file and a pen from my bag, and started making notes. I had a feeling it was going to be a long night.