Discover more from Heaven & El
Abigail: Chapter 43
My nosy neighbour Julie was waiting for me outside the house when I got back with Missy. I groaned and thought about turning round and sneaking in the back way but she’d already seen me and was waving. I stood up straight, took a deep breath and smiled.
“Good afternoon Julie. Fancy seeing you here. And how are you this fine day?”
Julie faltered and I felt a wave of guilt with the realisation that she’d never seen me jolly. “Very well thank you Charlotte. I saw your van outside so I knocked but no-one was home.”
“That’s because I was out with Missy. Here now though,” I added. “What can I do for you?”
“Got another delivery for you. A package this time.” It was then that I noticed the heavy looking package she was holding in front of her. “It’s pretty heavy.”
“Sorry, let me just take that from you …” Missy pulled at her lead making it difficult to grab the package. After a bit of back and forth though, eventually I found myself the proud owner of both dog and package and I went inside. I turned the package over but there was no return address. The hand-writing looked vaguely familiar though and with a jolt of recognition I remembered exactly where I’d seen it before. The ransom note.
I hurried to take Missy off the lead then carried the package through to my office. I gave it a shake but it didn’t tick and sniffing it offered no clues either so I found myself with no option but to open the mystery delivery and hope the sender hadn’t invested in the latest odourless explosive devices.
I pulled out the contents but they were so heavy, I nearly dropped the whole lot on the floor. Covered in bubble wrap was a red house brick. I carefully folded back the bubble wrap and inside was the first page of my missing case notes. On top of the paper was a note, printed in the same handwriting as on the outer packaging, with just four words: Bugger off or else. Despite the seriousness of the situation I couldn’t help but smile. I’d seen my fair share of threatening messages over the years, although admittedly few that were directed at me personally, and this had to be one of the most succinct. If I hadn’t known better I’d have sworn our perpetrator had been watching too much Scooby Doo. I already had the van and a dog. All I needed was the technicolour paint job and a handful of pesky kids and I’d be all set.
Remembering that this was in fact a very serious situation and not to be taken lightly I decided to invite Rob round for dinner again. It was time to get some help from the firm arm of the law and I knew exactly where I wanted him to start.
“Wow Mum, this is lush!” said Grace later that evening when we were all sitting round the table.
I blushed and kicked Rob who was smirking. He’d accepted my invitation for dinner on the condition that he bring food and after confirming that my microwave wasn’t harbouring any toxic by-products, arrived with an assortment of high-end options for us to prick and ping. Not that my girls knew that of course and I was perfectly content to bask in their appreciation of my culinary skill.
“Which book did you get this from?” Louise asked. She looked at me, her face the picture of innocent enquiry and I knew in that second that I was totally busted.
“Oh all right, it was from Marks. Rob brought it.”
“I knew it!” Louise looked jubilant and turned to Rob. “Nice choice, thanks.”
“My pleasure.” Rob said. “Your mum’s been so busy lately, I thought it would be nice to have an easy dinner. Plus I have an appointment next week that I really can’t risk missing because of suspected food poisoning.”
“Oi!” I tried to punch him on the arm but he swatted my hand away. “Gotta admit though, it is nice.”
The rest of the meal passed with the same playful banter as Rob told the girls stories about his week. They were the perfect audience, wide-eyed with wonder, although I was sure he had to be making at least half of it up. When dinner was finished I excused the girls from helping with the cleaning up. I wanted to talk to Rob and washing the dishes gave us the perfect excuse.
“What’s up then?” he asked when the sink was full and the plates were soaking.
I told him about my mystery parcel, the letter and my notes.
“You think whoever sent you them is responsible for Abigail’s letter and phone?” he asked.
“Seems highly likely, don’t you think? It’s like he’s taunting me!”
“Maybe. Probably. But from what you’ve told me of that kid, I can’t imagine him wanting to hurt Toby. What’s his motivation?”
“Other than oodles of cash you mean?”
“Well yeah, there is that,” he conceded. “It just feels too random. How did Ryan know that Toby would be in Barnstaple?”
“I don’t know but he’s the only connection I’ve got. I know he had my paperwork, I saw him drive off with it. Maybe he’s not working alone but he’s got to be involved.”
“Okay. So now what?”
“That’s where you come in.”
“I’m not sure I like the sound of that.” He smiled. “Come on then, let’s get it over with.”
“Can you check Ryan’s previous?”
“What’s his surname?”
“Date of birth?”
“You’re not giving me a lot to go on.”
“I know. But if I got you that stuff, you could find him?” In my head I was already planning my trip back to Barnstaple. His employment record would have all the information I needed and I was sure I could sweet talk someone into helping me.
“I dunno Charlie. It’s a bit dodgy.”
He looked uncomfortable. “Data protection’s a big deal. I don’t fancy getting sacked because of some kid.”
“But what if this is our only hope of finding Toby?”
“Yeah but if that were true it would be a police matter. It isn’t because it’s not.”
“No buts Charlie. I need an awful lot more than a hunch for me to go out on a limb for you.”
We finished the washing up in silence while I sulked. I’d been so excited and now I was right back to square one.