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Abigail: Chapter 37
Rob was waiting for me in The Railway Inn when I rushed in the following morning. Despite their protests and reminders that they’d been promised a fun evening just the three of us, the girls had forgiven me for my exit the evening before and all was well again in our household. I only wished the same could be said for the Rogers family. I sat down opposite Rob with a sigh and he pushed a mug in my direction.
“Got you a coffee. You look as if you need it. What’s up?”
“Where do you want me to start?”
“That good eh? How was your trip?”
“Eventful. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. That’s not why I wanted to see you. I need a favour.”
“Uh oh, sounds like trouble.” He smiled. “What have you done?”
“Me? Nothing. But Abigail’s got herself in a spot of bother. I need your help.” I hesitated. “Unofficially.”
I told him about the ransom note, listened as he counselled me on the folly of not reporting it to the police, agreed with him completely because there was nothing to argue with, and then involuntarily leapt up and hugged him when he agreed to help.
“I can’t promise that it won’t get back to the investigating officers though,” he warned me. “If they happen to pull up his file they’ll see the trail. There’s no way round it.”
“But you won’t go out of your way to specifically mention it to them?”
“Of course not. Have you got the letter with you?”
I took the letter out of my bag where I’d stored it safely in a plastic folder and gave it to him.
“This will only pull up matches for any finger prints we have on file. If the suspected kidnappers aren’t known to us, we’ll draw a blank.”
I winced. Hearing the words ‘suspected kidnappers’ was doing nothing to help my growing sense of anxiety. I’d been trying to prove Toby had been abducted and now, with the evidence literally to hand, I was unable to do anything about it.
“You know this is crazy, right?” Rob was looking at me and shaking his head.
“I know. But she’s afraid what’ll happen to him if she goes back to your lot.”
“I’m afraid what will happen to him if she doesn’t! We don’t pay kidnappers. You know the rule.”
“I know, but that’s a much easier rule to follow when it’s someone else’s husband. You didn’t see her face Rob. I don’t know what’s going on with her and his parents but there’s no way she’s responsible for any of this.”
“What will you do next?”
“Next I’m going back to Toby’s parents. They deserve to know about the ransom. I also need to ask them about Barnstaple.”
“You still think he chose to go there? That there’s a connection? This note would suggest otherwise.”
“I dunno. But I need to ask. If nothing else it’ll give me something to do while I wait for you to work your magic.” I took a sip of coffee before speaking again. “About Barnstaple …”
He listened, eyes wide, as I filled him in on my trip to Devon. “Bugger Charlie! And he took everything?”
I nodded. “Every detail of my case is now in the hands of the person last known to have seen Toby alive.”
“I ought to go there and bust him, scrawny little halfwit!”
Rob didn’t agree with my reasons for letting Ryan stay on the run but with no known whereabouts and in lieu of actual evidence that he had anything to do with Toby’s disappearance, there wasn’t a lot he could do. I knew in theory he could speak to colleagues in North Devon police, alert them about a possible felon on the run, but I knew he wouldn’t do that. Ryan was a loose end that needed tidying up and I accepted his offer to come with me when I next headed back to Barnstaple but in the meantime, there was work to do here.
The weather was grey and damp as I parked outside Saul and Carol Rogers house. I rang the bell and was soon greeted warmly by Carol and shown into the same room as last time.
“I’m afraid you’ve just missed Saul. He shouldn’t be long though. Did you want a cup of tea while you wait?”
“Coffee please. But it was you I wanted to talk to Carol.”
“Me?” She stopped in her tracks. “What can I do?”
“Forget about the coffee. Come and sit down.” I waited while she got comfortable. “I wondered if you knew any reason why Toby might visit Barnstaple? It’s in Devon,” I added.
She smiled. “I know where it is.”
“We used to take our summer holiday there every year when Toby was a boy.”
“So Toby knew Barnstaple well?”
“Very well. He was about fifteen when we stopped going. Decided it was getting a bit boring for a teenage lad so we took him to Spain instead. Why?”
“Money from his account was withdrawn from a cash machine in Barnstaple. I’ve been trying to find someone who might have seen him there but nothing so far.”
“You mean he’s still alive?” She grabbed my hand, tears shining in her eyes. “After all this time. I mean, you always hope. But it’s been so long.”
I heard the front door opening and she rushed out to greet her husband. “Saul, it’s Toby. He’s alive!” I cursed myself for not having had the foresight to begin this conversation with the ransom note. She sounded so happy but I knew it wouldn’t last long.
“What? Our Toby?”
I heard them talking in the hallway and then Saul appeared followed by Carol. He came straight to me. “Is this true?”
I smiled helplessly. “We’re cautiously optimistic. Some money was withdrawn from his account.”
“In Barnstaple!” Carol interrupted me. “Of all the places.”
“What’s he doing in Barnstaple?” Saul roared. “Tell him to come home!”
“It’s not that simple. Would you sit down Mr Rogers?” I watched as he paced up and down the room.
“Saul please. Sit down.” Carol turned to me. “Where is he?”
I took a photocopy of the ransom note out of my bag and handed it to her. “I’m sorry.”
A sob escaped from behind her hand as she read. “Fifty thousand pounds?”
She showed it to Saul who stopped pacing and sat next to her on the sofa and started ringing his hands.
“I can’t believe this. Fifty grand? But he’s alive? I can’t believe it.”
“What’s she going to do?” Carol spoke softly. “Abigail? Is she going to pay?”