Abigail: Chapter 40
After a solid night’s sleep, broken only at 3am by Missy needing the toilet, I woke the following morning feeling more human. By the time the girls walked into the kitchen for breakfast, I’d unloaded the dishwasher, made them both a healthy mid-morning snack for school, folded the washing and turned on all the Christmas lights so they could walk downstairs to the warm glow of fairy lights. The only thing left to do was feed, brush and walk the dog and we’d be all set for the day. There was something about doing chores that unlocked the part of my brain usually reserved for chewing on problems. In this case, the problem of Winklemans and the contract at the service station. I still couldn’t articulate what was niggling at me but I’d made up my mind about my next course of action. It was time to go back to the site and see if the missing workers had turned up. I’d left Mike my card with instructions to call me when they returned but in lieu of news, I’d decided that today was the day to go in search of clues. The problem was, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
I dressed carefully that morning, keen to strike the right balance between feminine and practical. I didn’t want another ballet flats in the mud moment but I knew that if I turned up in my plumbing kit, I’d be less likely to appeal to their in-built desire to help a lady. It was total bollocks and part of me couldn’t believe we still played to such out-dated stereotypes but it was a stereotype I was ready to take advantage of if it meant a breakthrough for my case. My hope was that if I went back to Abigail with something concrete, she’d be more open to hearing about Carol and Saul’s desire to help.
When I arrived on site I noticed the windows in Bill’s office were dark. I parked in my usual space and went straight over to knock on his door. When no answer came I tried the handle but it was locked. I didn’t know if that was unusual but I was determined to find out. Progress on the site appeared slow. From a distance, everything looked exactly as it had the last time I’d been here but when I got closer to the concrete slabs I could see a fresh layer of plastic had been added and a few bricks had been laid on what appeared to be the outside walls.
I walked towards where the men were working and was soon greeted by Mike.
“Charlie Diamond, good morning my lovely.” He shook my hand and smiled. “What brings you here?”
“Hi Mike. I was hoping to get some news on those missing men. Peter and Andrew?” I’d had to recreate my notes from scratch but thanks to a silly word association trick my dad had taught me when I was a little girl, I never forgot a name.
“I was meant to ring you.” He looked sheepish. “Sorry, something came up.”
“They’re back though?”
“They were, briefly, but the boss took them off site.”
I did my best to hide my surprise. “Do you know where they went?”
Mike shrugged. “Not a clue, sorry. We have work all over the place, not just here. I’m guessing he needed them on one of the other sites.”
“Is that normal? Bill mentioned you and the other two were running things here. Makes it tricky for you doesn’t it?”
“It is what it is. We’re just glad for the work. There’s so many places laying boys off.”
That was news to me. “It’s a tough time for the building industry?”
“Winter’s always tough, no-one wants their roof off when it might start piddling down any second.” He glanced at me and blushed. “If you’ll ‘scuse my language.”
I smiled. “It’s fine, you should hear my kids.”
“So yeah, winter’s always tough but this year they’ve just not been shifting the plots.” He gestured towards the sea of concrete slabs in front of us. “This lot should have been sold by now, new builds usually go like hot cakes.”
“None of these have sold?”
“Some of them have. But it’s slower than they’d like, so when the boss comes along and says go here or do this, we just shut our mouths and do what we’re told. Don’t want to get laid off, ‘specially not this close to Christmas. My misses would have a fit!”
“Speaking of the boss, where is Bill? His office was all closed up when I knocked.”
Mike stuck his hands in his pockets. “Dunno. Think he might be sick. Lots of it about.”
“Yeah I heard that. Okay Mike, thanks for your time.” I was about to walk back to the van when I remembered the other reason I’d wanted to come. “Do you know anything about the Winklemans contract over at the service station?”
Mike hesitated but then smiled and shook his head. “Nope. Like I said, we have work all over the place but people like me, we just do as we’re told. Anyway, if there’s nothing else, I need to get back to the lads.”
“Of course. Thanks Mike.”
I walked slowly back to the van, thinking about Mike’s choice of words. People like me. Bill had said that Mike was one of his right hand men but Mike wasn’t acting like one of the supervisors. It was clear from the way the other men reacted to him that he had some authority but that apparently didn’t stretch any further than this site. With Bill away, there had to be someone else I could speak to who’d know about the company’s inner workings but if they were based on site they were keeping a very low profile. I decided it was time to make myself known to the team at Bridgend services. Maybe they’d be able to help me track down Bill and the two missing men. If I got really lucky they might even know Toby. I shook the thought away. That really was too much to hope for but at this stage, wishing and hoping were my two greatest assets. With one last glance at the building site, I headed in the direction of the services and, hopefully, some answers.