This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 1000 words.
Dreading the arrival of her fussy mother-in-law, Anita rushed around to tidy up. Then she changed the bedclothes in the spare room, did some dusting and hoovering, and finished off with a quick rub around the bath, toilet, and sink. Housework could really wear you out when you were heavily pregnant, she had discovered. Time for a sit down, and a cup of tea. She would get to the rest of the phone calls after a break.
It took a while to realise she had been asleep. A combination of last night and the exertions of the morning had worn her out. On impulse, she walked to the window to see if Mike’s car was outside, already knowing it wouldn’t be. It had been well over four hours since she had spoken to Mike’s parents, and they hadn’t turned up yet. She called Claudia’s mobile, hoping for the opportunity for a chat before the fearsome Dorothy arrived. It went to answerphone, and she decided not to leave a message. Claude lived almost one hundred and eighty miles away now, and she didn’t want to get her in a panic about Mike.
Anita thought she should tell her Mum, and Jill too. It was unlikely they would have heard from Mike, but she should at least let them know. Mum’s phone went to answerphone, so she left a message. Same with Jill, who was probably still at work, and unable to answer. Hunger kicked in, and she made herself a sandwich after checking the meal she had prepared last night. It would be useful to serve to her in-laws later. She could spread it to three people easily, with some extra vegetables.
When the house phone rang, she presumed it would be Dotty, explaining why they were late. But it was the police. “Mrs Hollis? This is Jane Dawes here. I am a detective working in the missing persons department, and I would like to come and take some more details about Mike. Would six tonight be too late?” Anita didn’t want to put her off. “That’s fine. My in-laws might be here though. Just so you know, they haven’t heard from Mike either”. She waited as the policewoman typed on a keyboard. “Very well, Mrs Hollis, I will see you at six”.
By five-thirty, there was still no sign of Dotty and Jim. Anita started to hope that they had changed their minds about coming, but knew she should phone them to check. Their house phone went to answerphone, so she tried Dotty’s mobile, knowing Jim would be driving. The number was unobtainable, with no tone or message, just a short beep, then nothing. Dotty had probably forgotten to charge it, or top up her pay as you go credit. Mike was always teasing her about that.
Ten minutes later, Mum rang back on the mobile. “Sorry darling, I was at the gym. I had a gym-date, something new for the over sixties. A very nice man, and much younger than me too. He must have been impressed, as he asked me out for dinner this evening. I had to rush to the shops to find a nice new dress to wear”. Anita explained what was happening. Mike’s disappearance, the police involved, and Dotty and Jim on their way too. She knew her Mum couldn’t stand Dotty, and was not at all surprised by her response.
“I’m sure Mike will be in touch soon. It must be a work thing. He’s such a good man, so reliable. It won’t be anything bad, I’m sure. And at least you will have his parents there to look after you. I will call you in the morning and see what’s going on. I’ll be able to tell you all about my hot date”. Anita hung up, and shook her head in resignation. Mum hadn’t really listened to what she had told her. She had never been an affectionate mother, and the girls had grown up doing what they were told, soon realising that Mum was not only selfish, but didn’t seem to like Dad very much either. When he died unexpectedly from a brain haemorrhage, she had seemed completely relieved to be shot of him.
Detective Sergeant Dawes had been in the police for all of her working life. She was worn out, and felt tired all the time. The job had cost her two marriages, and then her only daughter had committed suicide whilst at university. That had almost broken her, and she took a lot of time off, before attending counselling. Her old boss had suggested a transfer from the Crime Squad to Missing Persons. A small department, regular hours, and less stress. She could do her last years there, and then take her pension. Sitting outside the neat-looking house with its well-painted exterior, gravel forecourt, and extension over the garage, she tried to imagine the people who lived there, and get some sort of feeling about them before she went inside.
Before leaving the police station, she had received some information about Michael Hollis. Also his car details, work address, and the fact that he had no criminal record. He had never even had so much as an unpaid parking ticket. As they said in the police, he was of ‘no interest’. She rang the doorbell at exactly six.
Anita opened the door with a stressed look on her face. She could feel the tightness around her jaw, and had a strange tingling sensation in her belly. “Come in, detective. Have you heard anything? Have you found Mike? Would you like a cup of tea? Maybe you prefer coffee?” She was babbling, and she knew it, but couldn’t stop herself. Jane smiled at her. “I’m fine, Mrs Hollis. Please call me Jane. Let’s just sit down and go through a few details, shall we?”
Looking across at the pregnant woman, Jane chose her words carefully.
“There has been some progress, and I have something to tell you”.