This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 1020 words.
Sergeant Dawes nodded to Jill as she walked into the living room. Anita was wide-eyed. “This is my sister Jill, Sergeant. Jill, this is Jane Dawes. Please sit down, Jane”.
Taking a deep breath, Jane began to tell them why she was there so late. “There’s no real way to break this to you gently, Anita. I received a message tonight from Lincolnshire Police. They were responding to my missing persons alert about Michael Hollis. There was an accident this afternoon, and the car registration came back to a James Hollis. They thought it might be connected, so let me know. Two people were found dead in the car, badly burned. It appears that it had somehow run off the road, overturned, and caught fire. No other vehicle is believed to have been involved. The bodies are unrecognisable, but are those of an elderly man and woman. Dental records will be used to confirm who they are, but it is almost certain that they are your in-laws”. Anita was just staring at her, saying nothing, so she continued.
“I thought you should know, before you saw it on the News, or heard it from anyone else. I’m so sorry to have to bring you this, on top of all your worries about Mike. I will of course let you know as soon as what we fear is confirmed, but as you had been expecting them to arrive here, I thought it was only fair to come and tell you in person”.
Anita finally cracked. A combination of stress, worry, hormones, and now this terrible news was just too much to cope with. The tears came first, running down her face and off of her jaw. That was followed by a crying sound that developed into body-shaking sobs. Her sister Jill wrapped her arms around her, and made soothing sounds. Jane sat awkwardly for a while, and then felt she should do something. Catching Jill’s eye, she spoke quietly. “I will make some tea, okay?”
It was almost twenty minutes before she had calmed down enough to talk. “Thanks for coming to let me know, Jane. I appreciate it is late for you, and you have had a long day. I don’t know what to do. Mike would have sorted all this out, funerals and stuff. What about their house? Can someone get a neighbour to check on it? They have a cat, Percy. Somebody must have a key so they can go in and feed it”. Jane was reassuring. “The local police will deal with all that, Anita. Let’s not worry about the details for now. I will speak to them in the morning. You should also know that Mike didn’t travel on any passenger plane, or pass through an airport. At least not using his own passport. My team are scouring the CCTV footage to try to track the movements of his car after he left home that morning”.
Sergeant Dawes stood up to leave. “I will come and see you again once there is any new information. I will have a list of all Mike’s contacts from his laptop and phone records tomorow, and I might want to go through those with you. Try to get some rest now”. She glanced at Jill, who nodded. “I will stay here tonight, and go into work late tomorrow”.
After her sister had left the following day, Anita knew that she had to try to get on with her routine. Showered, make-up applied, she poured the last of the wine down the sink, and started to go through their address book. It hadn’t dawned on her before how few friends they had now. Other than Claudia, she hadn’t kept in touch with anyone from school, and she had never bothered to get that close to her work colleagues over the years. Mike had always been adamant that he didn’t want to do what he called ‘the couples and barbecues thing’, and they had both happily drifted into a life that was all about them, with occasional contact with family members.
When she got to the page in the book for ‘S’, she glanced at the only name on it. Micky Steeden had been Mike’s best man at the wedding. His oldest friend, they were known as ‘the two Mikes’ at the time. But Micky had been offered a very good job in the Middle East years ago, and now lived in the Emirates somewhere. She picked up the house phone, and dialled the number on the page. Expecting to leave a message, she was surprised when Micky answered. “Michael Steeden here, how can I help you?” He obviously hadn’t recognised the number that had come up on his mobile.
Anita went over the events of the past couple of days, and included the news about Mike’s parents. “Micky, I was wondering if you had heard from Mike? If he was going to talk to anyone, it would be you”. He sounded distracted, but made the right noises when it came to being concerned about Mike, and was sympathetic about his parents too. “I haven’t spoken to Mike for months, Nita. I think the last time was on his birthday last year, and he was driving, so I kept it short. He told me about the baby though, seemed so excited that you were pregnant”. Micky had to go, something to do with work. He ended the conversation on a lighter note. “Listen, I’m sure he will turn up with some wacky explanation. You can trust Mike, you know that. He will find out about his parents, and sort that out too, I’m sure. Let me know when you hear from him, and tell him to give me a call”.
She hung up feeling strange about the call. Micky had said all the right things, but he hadn’t sounded surprised, or even genuinely concerned.
In the bedroom getting dressed to go out, she suddenly thought of something else. Claudia hadn’t phoned her yesterday, or the day before.
For the first time since she had told her best friend she was pregnant, there had been no daily call.