This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 925 words.
Tom Calder sat opposite the female detective. He was annoyed that she really wasn’t showing him due deference. He had asked for an update on Marjorie’s case, and when he was told he would have to come in to meet the Inspector, he was surprised that she hadn’t considered driving out to the house to see him. And now she was sitting looking through some files, hardly acknowledging his presence. The young woman sitting next to her was eyeing him up and down, a look something like distaste on her face. He was just about to start shouting, when the older woman spoke.
“Do you want a lawyer to be present, Mr Calder?” Tom leaned forward, his legs open, his posture aggressive. “Why the hell would I need a lawyer? I just want to be appraised of what is happening in the search for my missing daughter”. Tina Collier turned to Danielle. “Please note that Mr Calder has declined legal representation”. The young woman nodded, making notes on a pad. Tina shuffled the files for effect, then slapped them down on the desk. Leaning back and crossing her legs, she spoke in a matter of fact tone. “I am currently working on the theory that your daughter has run away from home. That she has absented herself voluntarily, and is probably staying with a friend or confidante who is hiding her. I am also assuming that she had good reason to leave such a nice house, with servants, a horse, and all the trappings of wealth that go with that. Is there anything you want to tell me about your relationship with your adopted daughter, Mr Calder?”
He stood up so quickly and violently, that his chair fell over. “So that’s it, is it? You can’t do your job in finding the girl, so you insinuate it has something to do with me. I wasn’t even in the country at the time, and I resent your inferences. I am going to leave now, and I suggest that if you want to talk to me again, you had better be prepared to arrest me, and charge me with something”. He stormed out of the interview room, and Tina heard him shout “Unbelievable!” as he left the main office. She turned to Danielle, and raised her eyebrows. “I think we hit a nerve there, Danni”.
Phil sent a reply to the short text message he had received from Rod. ‘Everything fine mate. Will be busy for a few days, but will come round and see you soon’. Rodney read the text, and shook his head. He was wondering what his friend was playing at. But he wasn’t going to risk asking direct questions in a text, or going round to his flat. It was close to the end, and he hoped Phil didn’t mess it up at the last minute.
He came home from work with a bottle of champagne. Showing her the label, he said, “Is this one OK?” Marjorie had never had champagne, but studied the bottle. “Moet and Chandon, yes that’s a good one. Put it in the fridge for when we need it. As he loaded other things into the small fridge, Phil spoke without turning. “I got some steaks too, nice ones. Sirloin”. Standing up, he walked back to look at her. In her pyjamas and slipper-socks, wearing no make up, she looked younger than fifteen. And much younger than almost sixteen. But when he had seen her in that red dress, he had thought she could pass for eighteen, maybe even older. She smiled a fond smile at the man. “Steaks sound lovely. Steaks and champagne for my birthday. Sounds wonderful, I can’t wait”.
He walked back to the kitchen, pleased with himself for choosing the right things. “Oh, I got some lasagna for tonight, with garlic bread. Is that OK?” He couldn’t see her replying, or would have noticed that her expression was dark, despite the sugary tone in her voice. “Lasagna? Yummy”. As they ate the food a little later, Marjorie chose the right moment to drop her bombshell. “Phil, I am going to be sixteen, so you know what that means?” He looked confused, but smiled as he replied. “Yeah. You will be sixteen. So?” She wrinkled her eyes and mouth, contriving to look both painfully shy and seductive at the same time. “Well, I hope you have some condoms in this place”. Phil paused as if time had stopped, his fork not quite into his mouth. Marjorie continued. “Come on, don’t look so surprised. I have seen you looking at me, and you must know that I fancy you too. I will have a lovely birthday, and you can help me celebrate by making me a complete woman”.
Marta retreated to the kitchen, and pretended to be busy with some baking. Mr Calder had returned in such a rage, she had never seen the like of it. He was stomping about the house, screaming into his phone, and swearing like a drunken sailor. She had waited outside the door of his study for a while, but when she heard him say ‘The bitch as good as said I was abusing her”, she scuttled off to her bowls and flour. As she absentmindedly played around with the ingredients for a fruit tart, she thought about what she had heard. Could the girl have run off because of something like that? Mr Calder was hardly ever here, and Marjorie was always in her room, except at meal times.
But you never knew…