This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 761 words.
Benedict and Michaela.
We stayed at home that day. There was a van outside with a film crew for the local news, and a couple of reporters holding microphones. They knocked on the door a few times, but we stayed in bed and didn’t answer. Then someone rang my mobile, and I let it go to answerphone. Mikki looked at me, her hair crumpled, and worry on her face.
“You should listen to the message, Ben. It might be about Gabby. Might even be her”.
It was the police, a detective telling me he would be there in an hour, and wanted us to be there to let him in. When he arrived, flanked by two others, the journalists were filming me as I opened the door, and shouting questions that I didn’t take in. The policeman looked tired, as if he had seen too much and wanted to be in any other job but this one.
“I’m Detective Sergeant Wright. My colleagues here would like to search Gabriella’s room while I speak to you and Miss Petersen”. When I had closed the door, Mikki showed the men where Gabby’s room was, and the sergeant accepted my offer to sit down.
“I should tell you now that there has been no trace of Miss Parker, after an exhaustive search. The lead you gave us about plane tickets didn’t work out either. She has not flown out of the country, at least not with any ticket bought using her name, or the name Kimberley Lau. Some CCTV has been searched through, and showed nobody with such a distinctive hairstyle. So if she is moving around anywhere, her head has undoubtedly been covered with a hat of some kind, or perhaps a wig”.
Without her trademark crop, Gabby could easily look like any other young woman of her age in a crowd. I had a feeling the police had their work cut out. Mikki came back downstairs, and sat down next to me on the sofa.
“They want to take Gabby’s laptop and some of her notebooks. Her address book and phone are not there though. They want her hairbrush too, Ben”. The sergeant nodded. “Yes the brush is so we have a sample of her DNA. The laptop and notebooks may reveal if she was in regular contact with anyone she may have met before she went missing. We have to cover all the eventualities, I’m afraid. There will be another television appeal once we can get her mother up to Norwich”.
That comment confused me. “Has her mother already arrived from abroad then? Is her dad in the country too?” He looked confused. “Abroad?” Her mother lives in London, in the borough of Newham. She is currently in hospital after collapsing with an alcohol-related disease. As far as I am aware, there is no father on the scene”. Mikki was as gobsmacked as I was, and after looking at me with her eyebrows raised, she turned to the policeman.
“Are you sure you got that right, sergeant? I mean, Gabby’s family live abroad somewhere. She was brought up in other countries, and didn’t return to England until it was time to start uni. Everyone knows that. I think you must have the wrong contact details”. He checked his notes. “No, we have the correct details. Her mother has not seen her for some years. Gabrielle has been living with her brother in West London, and he has confirmed that her mother is the next of kin. I spoke to him myself”.
Mikki didn’t let it go.
“But she lived all over. Japan, Australia, Singapore. And her brother is dead, killed in an accident on the island of Bali. You must have the wrong information, you must”.
He shook his head. “I have spoken to her brother, as I said. Gabrielle lived in his house with his wife and daughter until she left to come to university in Norwich. She was with his family from the age of thirteen, when a court decided that her alcoholic mother was unfit to care for her”.
As he spoke, I was starting to realise he was right. There had always been something too good to be true about Gabby, and now that truth was coming out, it all began to make sense. I leaned forward, and asked him a serious question.
“Have you spoken to Kimberley Lau, sergeant? I think she could be most helpful”. Then Mikki spoke up.
“Talk to the tutor too, Mister Donaldson. I think they were close. If you know what I mean”.