Abigail: Chapter 26
Rob and I travelled in silence along the motorway towards home. For all my cynicism, I’d really wanted to believe in Abigail’s version of happily ever after. She’d been nothing but kind and lovely every time I’d met her and I was having a hard time with this new version of Abigail. I was also beginning to have my doubts about the legitimacy of her kidnapping theory although I wasn’t about to say that out loud to Mr Smug in the driver’s seat. What I really needed to do now was map out all the pieces I knew for sure. If I was at home I’d have gone to my white board and covered it with sticky notes. As it was I had to content myself with making notes on my phone and feeling a little travel sick as a result.
“You’ll make yourself sick if you keep doing that,” said Rob.
Why did he have to know me so well? I made a huffy display of putting my phone back in my coat pocket then fixed my eyes on the road in front. When I couldn’t take the silence any longer I decided to make small talk.
“So what plans have you got for the rest of the weekend?”
“Not a lot. You?”
“Dunno.” Nice one Charlie, that went well, not.
“Have you seen the new layout at junction forty-seven?” Rob asked, desperately grasping at any random topic of conversation to avoid an awkward silence. I decided to play along.
“Junction forty-seven? Are you sure?”
“Oh absolutely. I heard they had to lay a whole new network of piping.”
“Hmm, that’s interesting.” About as interesting as watching my toenails dry but it was better than talking about Abigail and having to admit my doubts.
We sat in silence for another four miles but eventually Rob cracked. “Okay, that’s it, I give up. What are you thinking?”
“Me? Not a lot. I was just thinking it will be nice to get home.”
“Rubbish! Come on Charlie, out with it. I know you can’t possibly have sat through that character assassination of your client and not have an opinion on the matter.”
I let out my breath in a rush and laughed. “You might as well get it over with.”
“Get what over with?”
“Say ‘I told you so’ and then insist I buy you lunch.”
“Was going to say no such thing.”
“So what then?” Sometimes he really was full of surprises.
“I just thought how sad it was that two people could get so bitter and twisted they’d do anything to make life rotten for someone else.”
“You don’t believe them?”
“Not a bit of it. Why, did you?” He sounded surprised.
“I thought it was possible. I mean, can anyone really be that sweet and lovely? Everyone’s got a dark side. Maybe we just found Abigail’s?”
“You might be right.” He shrugged and kept his eyes on the road but I could feel him choosing his words carefully. “I dunno. I’ve never met the woman so it’s hard for me to say. But from everything you’ve told me, she doesn’t sound like a bunny boiler.”
“So now what?”
“I can’t answer that. It’s your case.”
“But what would you do?”
Rob didn’t say anything.
“Would you ask her about it? Tell her you’d seen them?”
He shrugged again. “Maybe. I mean, it can’t hurt can it? What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Let me think. Well, if she actually is responsible for Toby’s disappearance, what’s to stop her waiting until we’ve left and driving all the way to Caerphilly and disappearing the in-laws?”
It was Rob’s turn to laugh. “You’ve been watching too much Midsomer Murders.”
“I’m just saying we have to be careful.”
“We don’t have to do anything. This is your case. I just came along for the ride today, an innocent bystander.” He pulled up outside my house as he spoke. “Speaking of which, home sweet home. Do you want me to come in?”
“Lasagne’s all gone.”
“I know. I just wondered if you wanted some company?”
“I’ll be okay. I just need to decide what I’m going to do next and, as you so rightly pointed out, this is my case and I’m the only one who can do that.” I patted my hand on my coat pocket to check I still had my phone and keys. “Thanks for today Rob. I’ll speak to you soon.”
With one last glance back at Rob in the car I headed into my house and, after opening it with a shove, made a display of fussing Missy who was dancing around in circles to get my attention. I waited until Rob had pulled away and then closed the door with another shove. No place like home, I thought. Although I wouldn’t say no to a night away in a five star hotel, breakfast in bed and someone else to do the cleaning.
After letting Missy out to do her business I rooted around in my desk drawer for my multi-coloured board markers and sticky notes. After searching every drawer in my desk I eventually found one solitary blue marker at the bottom of the very last drawer I looked in but there wasn’t a sticky note in sight. Typical! Determined not to be thwarted by a lack of stationery, I sat in front of my white board and started writing. I began with Abigail in the very centre and worked my way out from there. Just as I was coming to the conclusion that my only avenue left was to talk to Abigail about Toby’s parent’s allegations, my mobile burst into life. It was a number I didn’t recognise.
“Hello, Charlie Diamond speaking.”
“Is that Charlotte?” The voice was that of an elderly lady and I immediately recognised it as the old lady from Barnstaple, leader of my OAP SWAT team.
I cursed myself for not having taken her name. “That’s me. How are you? Lovely to hear from you.”
“I’m very well love, thanks for asking. That’s not why I’m ringing though.”
“It’s Ryan, the lad next door?”
“Well he’s gone and gotten himself beaten up real bad.”
“Oh no! Is he okay?”
“I should think so. But I thought I should ring you. He said it was that young man of yours that done it.”
“Toby? Is he sure?”
“He said so but I don’t know. He’s not the most reliable. Did I do the wrong thing in calling?”
“Not at all. I really appreciate it. If you see him again can you tell him I’ll be coming back to Barnstaple as soon as possible? Early next week.” I crossed my fingers and hoped I could make it so. If Ryan really had seen Toby, I needed to make that trip soonest. Questioning Abigail would have to wait, for now at least.