This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 985 words.
Watching him as he set up, Anita couldn’t fail to be impressed by his ease of movement, and obvious confidence. Although he was perhaps fifteen years older than her, he had a presence that was undeniably attractive. In another life, she would definitely have fancied him, and wanted to get to know him. He had even brought a whiteboard. Just a small one, but still. That was unexpected. He had photos and documents too, paper printouts from websites or emails, by the look of them. Spreading those out on the coffee table, he started to write on the board with a marker pen.
“The names the sergeant gave me were interesting, Mrs Hollis. Let me show you what I have found out”. As he wrote each name, he turned and spoke about it. Anita felt as if she was in a company meeting, or back at school.
“Okay, Judith Harley. She comes up as someone important in SIS, but I have discovered that she quit her job almost nine months ago. She now works for a company called International Security Systems, based in Dublin. That’s merely a front though, and the company is almost certainly dabbling in something dark and secret.” He wrote another name.
“Pete Springer. He is recently retired from the US Air Force. He writes a blog about travelling, and flying his private plane. That’s irrelevant though, and almost certainly a diversion. I doubt he has actually retired from the Air Force. What is interesting to me is that he was a senior Colonel in charge of a base of Stealth bombers, new ones in development and testing. So new, they haven’t been made public yet”. He changed the colour of the marker from red to blue, and wrote a name on the right hand side of the board.
“Audrey Driscoll. She is a housewife in Canada. Her only claim to fame in this incident is that she is currently taking Air Canada to court over the loss of a relative in a plane crash four years ago. Then there is Lorraine Lewis. I narrowed that down to a definite connection, as she was on that same Air Canada flight, and survived the crash with life-changing injuries. Someone is trying to find out for me if they have had any email exchanges, but Mike obviously knew both of them”. He changed back to the red pen.
“Shaily Agrawal. The Indian reporter that has gone missing. My contact has found out that nobody is actually looking for her. There is no current police report active in India, and as far as we can tell, she has no relatives. The only person remotely worried about her is the editor of the New Delhi Times, and he’s not that concerned, as he suspects she is working undercover on a story”. After he had written the next name below Shaily’s, he turned with a wide smile on his face.
“This is definitely a lead worth following. Susan Judd works for the Ministry of Defence. She served in the Royal Air Force Police, then worked for the Counter Terrorism Command in the Metropolitan Police in London. For the last few years, she has been some sort of investigator with the MOD, working from the office of what is called Air Command”.
Anita sat back against the big cushion on the sofa. “You have really found out a lot, Ian. But none of it makes any sense to me. Other than the phone call I answered from that Indian reporter, I have never heard any of those names mentioned until Mike went missing. How did you manage to discover all this in such a short time?”
Sitting down opposite her, Ian looked serious. “Before I left the Army and went into business for myself, I made sure to build a network of contacts. I had served in pretty much every part of the world, either on missions, or on training exercises. I guessed it was going to be crucial to my new job to keep in touch with all of them. So far, I haven’t needed to call on many of them, but this case has proved my hunch right, as they have all delivered”.
Rubbing her face, Anita raised her legs onto the sofa. They felt heavy, and she was still tired from that earlier nap.
“Are you going to tell Jane about all this? And I am wondering why you never let me know that you were following me, keeping an eye on me. I was quite scared when I saw that blue van”. Ian shook his head.
“For now, I don’t want Jane to know much more than she already does. She is sure to write it all up on the case notes, and all sorts of people can access those. It will have to be between us, and I’m sorry if that adds more pressure to a difficult situation. As for not contacting you openly, Mike insisted that I didn’t do that. He said he didn’t want you to know that I was around. I presume that he had hoped to come back, and for you to be none the wiser about what had gone on. To be honest, I never thought you would make that connection with my van, but I see now that was a huge error on my part. Anyway, you are obviously tired, so I will make a move. I will be sure to let you know what else I find out”.
As she saw him to the door, Anita had one more question. “Tell me the truth, Ian. Do you have any idea where he is, or what has happened to him?”
He nodded, which surprised her.
“I do have one theory, but I am not going to say what that is until I have spoken to some more people”.