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Abigail: Chapter 2
As I walked up the little path leading to her house, Abigail’s front door swung open and a barefooted woman came bounding out. Her face broke into a wide grin.
“Charlie Diamond? Abigail. Thank you so much for coming!”
Before I could offer her my hand she’d wrapped me in a hug. I’m not really a touchy feely person so was a little taken aback. She certainly wasn’t acting like a woman who’d just killed her husband.
“My pleasure,” I said, when she released me. “Shall we go in?” I gestured to the front door and followed her as she led me inside.
“Tea or coffee?”
“Coffee please. Plenty of milk, no sugar.”
She left me in the lounge while she went to make coffee and I took the opportunity to look around. Her house was one of those new builds; boxy, impersonal, but what it lacked in original features was more than made up for by the vibrant paintings on the wall. Every inch of space seemed to be taken up with art, a mixture of framed prints and originals, acrylic at a guess. What caught my eye though was the mountain range above the faux fireplace. Purples, greens and yellows mixed to give a startling vision of solitude.
“Toby painted that,” Abigail said as she walked back in with our drinks and caught me staring at it. “My husband. Stunning, isn’t it?”
“It really is quite something.” I’m useless at art but there was something captivating about the colours.
Abigail handed me my coffee with a smile and gestured for me to take a seat. I sat and waited for her to say more but after her initial burst of energy, she’d gone quiet. After sipping at my coffee I decided I’d have to lead the conversation.
“So what happened?”
She shrugged and seemed to study her coffee intently but when she looked up again I saw her eyes were damp.
“You said you thought you’d killed him?” I spoke softly. I didn’t want to add to her grief but I needed to get to the bottom of things. With no evidence of a struggle, no blood soaked carpets or stray carving knives, I was at a bit of a loss.
“We argued, the day he disappeared. He hadn’t wanted to go that day, said he didn’t feel great, but I made such a fuss. And now he’s gone, and it’s all my fault.”
With a thump of clarity the penny finally dropped. “So you didn’t actually kill him? He’s still missing?” I tried to ignore the fizzle of excitement in the pit of my belly. I loved missing people, they were one of my favourite cases to work on. And, not wanting to sound too full of myself, but I like to think I’m pretty good at them too. I kept the smile off my face as I spoke to Abigail though, poor woman.
“What? No, of course not.” She shook her head. “Sorry, is that what you thought? Goodness!” She let a little laugh escape but then clapped her hand over her mouth.
I smiled. “Well you did say you thought you’d killed him.”
“True.” Abigail’s eyes glazed over but then she seemingly pulled herself together because when she looked up and spoke again, she sounded determined. “So, will you find him?”
Despite my excitement, I needed to know more before making a decision. “How long has he been gone?”
“Six months, three days and …” she glanced at the clock. “Nineteen hours. Not that anyone’s counting.” She smiled.
She seemed like such a sweet, young thing, I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be away from her for such a length of time. But appearances can be deceptive, a voice in my head whispered. What isn’t she telling me?
“And what happened in the lead up to Toby’s disappearance Abigail?” I hesitated. “Had you argued? Any problems with money?”
The look that passed across her face made me feel like I’d kicked a puppy. “No.” She shook her head firmly. “Really, nothing like that at all. I love my husband. And he loves me. That’s why I went to the police. He wouldn’t choose to disappear. Someone must have …” Her voice trailed off, tears in her eyes. “Please find him. I’ll do anything, pay anything. Whatever it takes.”
“Okay, look, of course I’ll do what I can but you’re going to have to be straight with me.” I hesitated again, choosing my words with care. “And I’m going to have to ask some difficult questions. I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t.”
“I understand. Ask me anything. I’ll tell you everything. What do you want to know?”
The puppy dog look had returned, her eyes wide.
“Let’s start with some details. Last known whereabouts, place of work, other family members, that kind of thing. I have a form in the van which I can leave with you. Let me go and get it.” I stood up and headed back outside to get the paperwork.
In my experience, people like having something to do, it makes them feel like they’re having an impact, that their case is being heard and worked on. It hadn’t taken me long in this job to realise that a nice, official looking form was the perfect way to give a new client something to do. They always missed bits out, that was inevitable, but I liked that first initial documentation of a life, written by the person nearest and dearest to them.
I glanced over the form as I walked back towards Abigail’s house. I knew that some of the questions would make her feel uncomfortable but they were a damn sight more pleasant than having to talk about it face to face.
Abigail was waiting for me in the hallway, feet still bare. I put the form, a letter of engagement, my business card and information about my fee into an envelope and handed the whole lot to her with a smile.
“Take a look over these tonight, it’ll take you a little while I’m afraid. I’ll come back, tomorrow afternoon shall we say? And we can go from there.”
I offered Abigail my hand and she pulled me into another of her hugs. “Thank you,” she whispered. “I feel like he’s almost home already.”
They always said that, the euphoria of actually getting started. I just had to hope her confidence wasn’t unfounded.