This is the twentieth part of a fiction serial, in 955 words.
Ian was happy to see his comment had cheered Anita up, but felt he should add a note of caution. “Obviously I cannot be completely certain, but what I have found out is encouraging. Someone I know in Ireland looked into some things for me. He is sure that Mike arrived in Northern Ireland on a sea ferry. From there, he took a flight from Belfast to Amsterdam, then connected to a flight at Schipol leaving for Dubai. He was certainly using a fake passport, but one good enough not to attract attention. As for his car being found at Portsmouth, my guess is that someone else arranged that”.
Anita was looking confused. “Why would Mike go to Dubai? And who could have arranged the passport, and the car thing? I don’t get it”. Ian was still smiling. “Mick Steeden is my best guess. He still has contacts in the UK, and he was working for Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai. No doubt Mike warned him about the problems with the aircraft, which is why they were grounded. Mick is a senior engineer at that company, or at least he was, until he skipped to Australia. He worked for Qantas at one time, so kept his place on over there. My theory is that Mike met him in Dubai, and they travelled back to Australia together, but avoided going to Mick’s apartment. You told me he didn’t seem too concerned when you phoned him, remember?” Anita felt a lot happier.
“So you think Mike is alive, and hiding out somewhere with his best friend? I could ring Mick now, and tell him we have worked it all out”. Ian smiled at her use of ‘we’. “You mustn’t do that, Mrs Hollis. For all we know they have a trace on your mobile, and probably Steeden’s too. We will have to wait until someone contacts us, when they think it is safe. Meanwhile, you are still potentially in danger, if they think you know about the glue. But I doubt they will do anything for now, as they hope you will flush Mike out. That means I could be in danger too, as well as Mick Steeden. Let’s hope they don’t think you have told your Mum, your sister, or your friend Claudia. I am sure they caused the accident that killed your in-laws, but it was probably opportunistic, once they were on the way down here to see you”.
She finally asked the question Ian had been expecting. “Who are ‘they’, Ian? Who would go so far as to want Mike dead, and anyone he might have told?”
Looking a bit lost without his whiteboard, Ian jabbed fingers into the palm of his other hand instead. “One. Governments. Definitely the UK and US ones, and very possibly the Indian one too. Imagine if it got out that they were using military and civilian aircraft that they knew might be dangerous because of a failed glue? That would explain Pete Springer trying to contact Mike, as well as Susan Judd from Air Command becoming involved. It might also be the reason why the Indian reporter has gone missing, though my best guess is that she will eventually turn up in Australia”. He shifted his weight on the sofa, and leaned forward.
“Two. Aircraft manufacturers and Airlines. Just think about what it could cost them if their use of that glue became public knowledge. Nobody would buy their planes, or use their airlines. Compensation claims could run into the tens of millions or more, and then they would have to refund the purchase price of hundreds of aircraft. Share prices would crumble, and the whole aviation industry would start to collapse. Not only that, there would be criminal charges too; probably deliberate negligence, as well as the cover-ups”. Anita nodded. It was starting to sound completely plausible. Ian smiled again.
“And lets not forget the company Mike works for. It is only a UK subsidiary of a huge Japanese company with offices and plants all around the world. They have companies in the US, China, and also in South America. They would go bust overnight if the news got out. I imagine Mike went to Winkowski, expecting him to be shocked, and to agree to expose the scandal. But then that manager passed Mike’s information down the line, and your husband knew he was running out of time. After finding out about Judith Harley and her ISS being involved, I can only assume that she is working for the parent company, and trying to find out where Mike is. So, Mike has few friends, and at least three very large professional organisations trying to find him and silence him”.
After making them both a cup of tea, Anita had an idea. “Why don’t I go to the media? The newspapers and television would eat up a story like this. Once it was public, Mike could come out into the open, and come home. We have enough proof already, and the information from your contacts will all add to it”. Ian looked glum. “Sorry to tell you, but it will never be printed, or reported on TV. The governments will just shut it down, say it is a matter of national security. I’m guessing that Mike has already tried that, and that was what alerted everyone to him in the first place”. It seemed to her that every time she heard good news, the bad news cancelled it out.
“Then what do we do? What’s the point of even finding Mike, if all that will do is maybe draw them to him, and nothing will be published anyway?” Ian was smiling again.
“Never underestimate the power of social media, Mrs Hollis. We are about to unleash a Twitter and Facebook avalanche”.