This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 985 words.
Jill didn’t ring that night, and Anita was pleased. Her sister was probably drinking heavily again, and she wasn’t in the mood to have a argument with her about Mum’s wedding. She checked her online banking on the i-pad, and was pleased to see that Mike’s money had been transferred as promised. After eating a decent meal, she was still hungry, so decided to have some rice pudding before bed.
As she was brushing her teeth the phone rang, and she answered it on the bedroom extension. It was Ian Hope. “Sorry it’s so late, Mrs Hollis. I have had some interesting communication about Shaily, the Indian reporter. And the same contact has found out something worth knowing about Mick Steeden too. But he needs five hundred dollars to pay an informant. Are you prepared to pay that? I cannot guarantee it will help find Mike, but it might expand a few leads”. Anita hesitated. Could Ian be trying to get money out of her? Did he know about the financial arrangements that were now in place?
“I was led to believe that Mike had paid you for your services in advance, Ian. How do I know that the money will go to your contact, let alone this mysterious informant?” He was honest with her. “You don’t know that, and neither do I. But if no real information is forthcoming, my contact knows me well enough to be aware that he will regret crossing me. As for the money Mike gave me in advance, that was for my time and expenses. I had no idea then that I might be having to pay for information as to his whereabouts”. That seemed reasonable.
“Very well, text me your account details, and I will transfer the money online tonight. It will be the British equivalent of the five hundred dollars though. I don’t want to mess around buying dollars to transfer”. Ian thanked her, and hung up.
It was the phone ringing that woke her up the next morning. Expecting it to be Jill, her hand hovered over the handset, reluctant to answer. When she did, it was Ian, sounding excited. “The time difference paid off, Mrs Hollis. I was able to speak to my contact a few times during the night, and have some really good stuff to tell you. But I am not going into details over the phone. I will come and see you later, same time as yesterday”. When she put the phone down, it suddenly occurred to Anita how her life had started to so heavily revolve around the time of six pm.
The next call was later. Jill was on her lunch break, and making apologies for not ringing last night. When she tried to get onto the subject of Mum’s wedding, Anita cut her dead. Jill tried another tactic. “Look, I will pick you up. Just come for the service, so it looks like she has some family there. Then you can say you don’t feel well, something with the baby or whatever. I will bring you back, and that way we both get out of having to wear fake smiles at the after-party”. There was no shifting Anita.
“Forget it, Jill. I’m not going, and that’s that”.
During the afternoon, Anita had to do some shopping, and also popped into the chemist to get some indigestion tablets. Eating so late at night wasn’t a good idea, it seemed. Even a short trip around town had made her back ache badly. Walking across to her car, she rubbed her back with her free hand, and smiled. It was such a cliché, a pregnant woman with backache. On the drive home, she was sure she spotted that silver Ford car. It was reassuring to think that Ian was watching out for her.
There was something inside, snagging as she tried to push the front door open. Anita was thinking that there must be a lot of post today. But it was just one large envelope, one of those long padded bags designed to just fit through a letter-box. After putting her shopping away, she sat on the sofa and looked at the package. Her name was written on the front, but there was no postage mark, and no address. It made her nervous, as it was so thick. Turning it over slowly, she was relieved to see a message on the back. ‘From Ian Hope’. She opened it by pulling the tab, and tipped the contents onto the coffee table.
As well as page after page of printouts, there were also photos. Most of it was taken from newspapers all around the world, but there were also some documents that looked very official. Anita went to get some fruit juice from the fridge, and then sat down to read. Forty-five minutes later she had some of the papers laid out in date order. The oldest one went back six years, and the latest was just over six months ago. She picked that one up again, then started to go back over the rest.
‘Tragic plane crash in India claims 240 lives’.
‘Three fatal airline crashes in 9 months cause concern in India’.
‘Emirates Airline grounds 43 aircraft after technical faults discovered’.
‘US Air Force denies fatal crash was pilot error’.
‘Second RAF air disaster in 3 months. MOD to investigate’.
‘Boeing denies responsibility after 8 fatal air crashes in one year’.
‘Kazakhstan air disaster blamed on technical fault. 108 killed’.
‘Air Canada crash. Survivors and relatives of victims to sue in class action’.
A creak from above made her drop the papers onto the sofa. Listening carefully, she heard it again. Anita grabbed her phone and walked hurriedly to the front door. Once outside, she walked away from the house, dialling Ian’s number on her mobile. He answered after three rings.
“Ian, can you come quickly please? There is someone in my house”.