This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 1022 words.
Even though she had hardly known Ian Hope, Anita felt the tears flowing down her face at Jane’s news. “How? I mean, why? Sorry. What happened?”
Jane pointed at the TV screen, and through the tears Anita could see a report about the news spread by her social media activity, now being headlined as ‘Aircraft Glue Scandal’. “That happened”, the sergeant replied, her tone cold, sounding frustrated. “What were you two thinking of, Anita? Okay, you got it on the news, and now the governments and the airlines are all red-faced and trying to make excuses. The downside is that it also meant they shut Ian up, and Mike is now in more danger than ever”.
“Wiping her face with some tissues, Anita sat up straight. “How was Ian killed, Jane?” Shaking her head, Jane still sounded pretty fed up. “The way I would have expected. No signs of forced entry, no weapon used. The Police Surgeon could only come up with natural causes so far, until the post-mortem. The best guess is that they used some drug that mimics a heart attack. If it hadn’t been for a maid going in to change the towels, the body wouldn’t have been discovered for some time, I suspect. The cheap hotel has no CCTV other than over the reception desk, and there is nobody on that except other paying guests who can be accounted for”.
Anita was still upset, but trying to keep it together. “So where do we go from here, Jane?” The policewoman raised her eyebrows, and also raised her voice.
“We? Well, ‘We’ don’t go anywhere, Anita! This is no longer a missing persons case, as according to you and Ian, Mike absconded with his secrets about the glue. He knew he was going, to the extent that he must have obtained false documents, and made provision for you financially, as well as getting Ian Hope to keep watch on you. So as far as the police is concerned, he is not missing, just gone into hiding. The case will be closed, and I will no longer be able to help you. Ian’s death will be investigated by the murder squad, and likely covered up, written off as heart trouble. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you are on your own now. Except for the press and TV news, who will soon be all over you”.
Although inside she had to admit that she hadn’t thought about that happening, Anita was determined to at least appear to be resolute. “Well if the press arrive at my door, that’s a good thing. I will give them statements, tell them the facts. Anything that helps Mike come home. I don’t think anyone is going to chance doing anything to me in the full spotlight of press interest, don’t you agree?” Jane just smiled, waiting until she had finished talking.
“It will be all over the papers and TV, I agree. But give it a few days, and you will see another story will suddenly appear. Something like a royal engagement, an unexpected fairytale love story involving one of the young Princes or Princesses. Perhaps a scandalous royal divorce? They have ways and means of getting hold of the front pages, Anita. Likely one of the senior royals will suddenly become gravely ill, the nation waiting with bated breath to hear if they live or die. That’s how it works, I’m afraid”. Anita set her face, defiantly.
“Then I had better work faster, Jane. Thanks for letting me know about Ian. I will see you out”.
The first task was to update the blog with news of Ian’s death, and her theory that he had been killed by either interested parties, or governments trying to silence him. As she typed, Anita suddenly realised that she didn’t even know if he had left a family behind. That was something she was going to have to try to find out about. Then the phone started to ring. Now, she was wary. Rather than speak to any other reporters on the phone, she told them she would be happy for them to call on her the next morning, when she was prepared to give a small press conference in her front room. She wanted witnesses, and didn’t intend to be alone in the house with anyone.
There wasn’t much in to make a meal with, so she had a strange dinner of toast and jam, followed by some cream crackers and Camembert cheese. The phone kept ringing, but she let it go to the answer machine. There were already two TV news companies and three reporters set to arrive tomorrow, and that would be enough for now. Upstairs later, she had just got undressed ready for a nice bath, followed by bed. When the doorbell sounded, she put on a dressing gown and walked to the window in the front bedroom. No way was she going to open the door without seeing who was there.
When she saw it was Claudia standing outside, her heart skipped a beat, and she walked quickly downstairs to let her best friend in. Claude wrapped her arms around her, and kissed her warmly on the cheek. “I had to come down, Nita. As soon as I read about Ian Hope on your blog, I just couldn’t leave you on your own. I got someone in to keep an eye on Betsy, and drove down as soon as I could”. She was carrying a small weekend bag, and lifted a bottle of wine in her other hand . “Let’s open this, and you can tell me what’s going on”.
After telling Claudia everything, and answering all her numerous questions, Anita was feeling very tired. But her friend was buzzing. “Let’s put the rolling news on, Nita. See if they are still talking about your story, and Mike”. She picked up the remote, and switched on the television.
Anita thought she would faint when she saw what was on the screen
He needed a shave, and his hair was untidy, but the man being interviewed was Mike.