Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Ronny tried to remember the last time he had spent so much time alone with his sons, probably not since Sandra went to stay with her Mother after her Father had died. The boys must have been only young then, six and eight, no older. He remembered how shocked they had looked when he told them that he would be looking after them while Mum stayed with Grandma to help her arrange Grandpa’s funeral. They just stared, not speaking, just two little faces looking up at him bewildered and confused. At first Ronny had tried to treat it like an adventure. He took them swimming and even offered to cook them their favourite food for tea, but Martin and George had very different ideas about what was their favourite and squabbled so much that Ronny had lost his temper with them and had ended up taking them out for fish and chips which none of them had enjoyed.
Martin had cried himself to sleep the first night and Ronny hadn’t known what to do. This was Sandra’s job, not his, he was meant to go out to work and come home when the boys had been fed and bathed. They should be there ready to say goodnight to him before Sandra took them upstairs for a story before bedtime. DI Ronny Cousins was out of his comfort zone. He could cope with a squad room full of coppers waiting for his direction, he was in his element questioning some low life who had just battered his girlfriend to death because she wouldn’t go to the shops for his cigarettes, but put him in charge of his sons for one night and he was lost.
But this was different, they weren’t little boys anymore, they were grown men who would have to realise that he knew exactly what was happening to them. Their world had changed, their family had changed forever. Dad was no longer the old bugger who’d retired from the force to live out the rest of his life in the same house with the same wife doing the same thing day after day. He was a man whose life and been torn apart by the bastard who had murdered his wife, the mother of his children and he wouldn’t rest until he found the scum who had done this to him.
Ronny jumped as the door bell rang and opening it he saw from the expression on Geoff Lintott’s face that he wasn’t here with good news.
‘Geoff, you on your own?’ asked Ronny as he led his old friend into the Lounge.
‘I wanted a word in private, off the record so to speak. Have the boys gone home?’
‘Yes, I’ve manage to convince them that I wasn’t going to fall apart if I was left on my own for a few hours.’ he laughed
‘Ronny this is very awkward and I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but I’ve just come from the post-mortem and there’s something I need to clarify with you. You told me last night that the last time you saw Sandra was when you waved her off to work yesterday morning.’
‘Yes thats right, as I said, we had a lunch date but she didn’t show up.’
‘And before she went to work how did she seem?’
‘You know what mornings are like Geoff, she was running around getting ready to go to work, nothing unusual.’
‘And before that how were you two?’
‘Before what, what are you getting at?’
Geoff looked at his friend and knew that what he said next could alter everything Ronny felt about his wife. He didn’t want to make this conversation part of a formal interview, not yet, he owed his old boss that much.
‘I’m sorry Ronny but I’ve got to ask this, did you and Sandra make love yesterday morning.’
‘What the fuck do you mean you’ve got to ask? Are you trying to tell me that Sandra had sex yesterday?’ Ronny grabbed the arms of the chair, his face was blood red and his heart was racing.
‘Just answer the question Ron. Did you and Sandra, have sexual relations yesterday.’
‘Was she raped, is that what you’re trying to tell me?’ he snarled
‘Please Ronny don’t make this any harder than it already is.’
‘No Detective Inspector, we didn’t have sex yesterday, or the day before or the day before that.’
‘Were you and Sandra having problems?’
‘She’d gone off it, sex I mean, said it was to do with the menopause. Had terrible hot flushes some nights and slept in the spare room, said that she didn’t want to disturb me.’
‘How long?’ asked Geoff feeling very uncomfortable about how this conversation was going.
‘A couple of months, maybe more. She’d been to the doctor and asked for HRT but that takes a while to kick in apparently.’
‘But apart from the sex, you were OK?’
‘Of course we were OK, we’d been married for thirty years. What’s not to be OK? What is it Geoff, do you know something that I don’t?’
‘No Ron of course not but I’ve got to ask. That’s why this conversation is off the record, I wanted to speak to you as a friend before it all becomes official.’
‘You want to know if I think that Sandra was having an affair?’
‘Well do you?’
‘What do you think? Would I still be here if I thought she was carrying on with someone else? Give me credit for a bit of pride.’
‘And what about you Ron, have you never been tempted?’
Ronny suddenly felt very cold. What was Geoff driving at? Did he know something or was this just a fishing trip? His little indiscretion had been years ago and they’d been very discreet. It was a fling, nothing more than that, well at least on his part. He hadn’t meant for it to happen, but she was young and lovely and he was horny and lonely. Sandra had taken the boys away to the Isle of Wight for the week with her parents. They’d rented a cottage by the sea. He couldn’t go. They were in the middle of a murder enquiry and all leave had been cancelled.
It had been so innocent at first, a drink after work with some colleagues. Working on any murder case was tough but when the victim was a kiddie, well sometimes the only way to sleep at night was to go out and get pissed. Ronny had suggested that they went on for a curry after they left the pub but only Jo had joined him, the rest of the team had cried off and gone home. After the meal Jo had invited him home for a coffee and he’d thought ‘why not’. It wasn’t as if he had anything to rush home for and where was the harm in it, they were just two friends having coffee.
Ronny couldn’t remember who had kissed who first. Maybe it was him who had reached over and held her face between his hands. He remembered her skin being so smooth and clear. His fingers had touched her pink lips and the next thing he knew they were locked together in an embrace that had him unbuttoning her blouse with an urgency that he hadn’t felt for years. They hadn’t made it to the bedroom that first time. He’d thrown the cushions on the floor and had taken her there, no foreplay and very little conversation but he knew that she’d wanted him just as much as he’d wanted her and neither of them were prepared to wait.
And that was the start of an affair that they both knew had no future but they didn’t care. Each time they met up was like the first time and their lovemaking was as passionate the last time as it was the first. But it couldn’t last. Ronny had his career to think of, nothing came in the way of that.
Geoff broke the silence ‘Ron, you know I’ve got to ask this, have you been playing away from home?’
‘What do you think?’ he answered
‘Sorry mate but I had to ask.’
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
As the storm clouds raced across the channel, Ronny ran across the beach screaming Sandra’s name into the wind. With no moon to light his way and only the weak beam from a tiny torch to guide him, Ronny stumbled over the pebbly shoreline scanning the deserted beach for a sign that she might have been there. With no chance of footprints on the wind strewn sand he knew that his only hope was to find a discarded shoe or scarf, anything to show that she had ventured on to the beach.
As soon as he’d spotted her car abandoned in the dimly lit beach car park he knew without feeling the bonnet that it hadn’t been there long, after all his midnight drive had merely retraced the route he had walked with Buster that morning and he knew that the blue Ka hadn’t been parked there then. It made sense that any of the patrol cars that had been looking for her would have been over her route to work earlier that evening and they hadn’t reported seeing it. So that meant that she must have parked up some time within the past few hours but that didn’t answer where she’d been all day and why she would be driving back along the coast road if she wasn’t on her way home.
The wind was stinging his face and he hurriedly wiped the salty tears from his eyes as he ran back up the beach towards the sandhills. Grabbing a pole from a discarded wind break flapping in a rubbish bin Ronny started thrashing through the rough marron grass looking for anything that might indicate that Sandra had been there. Moving slowly across the sandhills he used the pole to search under flapping carrier bags and the empty beer cans that lay undisturbed since last summer’s picnics.
He knew that this was madness; there was no way that he could search properly in these conditions. He knew that he needed help but he was dammed if he was going to wait idly by until Kent’s finest turned up.
The distant sound of a police car’s insistent siren cut through his nightmare of screeching wind and Ronny ran back to the car park in time to see a young pc emerging from his patrol car.
‘Is this your car sir?’ called the constable as he walked across to Sandra’s Ka
‘No you bloody fool, it’s my wife’s car.’
‘There’s no need for that attitude sir. I’m only trying to establish what’s going here.’
‘This is my wife’s car. I reported her missing around six o’clock last night.’
‘And who was it found the car sir.’ He asked, pulling his notebook out of his pocket.
‘Who the fuck do you think found it?’
‘I can understand you’re upset sir but that kind of language isn’t helping anyone. Now can I suggest that you wait in the patrol car until I’ve assessed the situation. Now have you touched anything in the car?’
Gritting his teeth Ronny growled ‘No constable I haven’t touched anything apart from the door handle to see if it was locked.’
‘And was it locked sir?’
‘No, no it wasn’t.’
Standing back as the constable made a play of shining his torch around the door of Sandra’s car, Ronny thrust his clenched fists into his coat pocket. He knew that it wouldn’t do any good to loose his temper with this jumped up little git. At this rate one of them would either end up in the local infirmary or more likely the bridewell and there were no prizes for guessing which one that would be. Settling in on the back seat of the patrol car Ronny watched as minutes later the station sergeant arrived with reinforcements and then an unmarked car that he recognised from his days on the force.
Detective Inspector Geoff Lintott knew it had been a mistake to answer his phone. Phone calls in the middle of the night were never good news and there was no way he’d wanted to get out of his warm bed and leave his even warmer young lover on a night like this.
But that’s my trouble, he muttered to himself as he pulled the collar of his coat higher, I’m just too bloody conscientious for my own good.
‘OK son what have got’ he asked the young constable who was standing by Sandra’s car.
Constable Joe Collins had been amazed when he’d seen the Governor’s car pull into the rain soaked car park. Since when, he wondered, did a DI take an interest in a routine missing person?
‘The gentleman in the squad car is a Mr Cousins, he reported his wife as missing a few hours ago and when it got dark and she still hadn’t come home he thought he would go out looking for her himself. That’s when he found her car. He says that he hasn’t touched anything apart from the door handle. Surprised to see you here Gov, didn’t think that this would be a job for the CID.
‘Haven’t been with us long have you son?’
‘Nearly six months Gov, got a transfer down form the Met so that I could be nearer home. The wife’s just had our first sprog.’
‘Well if you’d been here a little longer than six months you’d have realised that the gentleman sitting in your squad car is ex – job. Ronny Cousins was my old DI’
Crushing his wet cigarette out under his foot, Lintott climbed into the patrol car next to his old colleague.
’I know, filthy habit, though, there are worse ones. Hello Ronny how are you feeling.’
‘How do you think I’m bloody feeling? My wife’s been missing since nine o’clock yesterday morning and I seem to be the only one out looking for her.’ Snapped Ronny ‘Or do you think that I should have stayed at home waiting by the phone all bloody night?’
‘No, in your position I’d had probably done the same.’
Slipping a piece of nicotine gum in to his mouth Lintott settled himself next to his old Governor and pulled out a battered notebook from his coat pocket. ‘When did you report Sandra missing?’
Knowing that it was futile to try and hurry the system, Ronny tried to suppress his growing frustration and started to retell his story for the umpteenth time that day. How could he explain that nothing had seemed wrong that morning? Sandra might have been a bit distracted but no more than usual. She’d left for work and then just disappeared.
‘Sir’ PC Collins was tapping on the window.
Reluctant to leave the warmth of the patrol car, Lintott eased himself out and followed the constable over to the abandoned Ka. Battling against the driving rain sergeant Phil Jones was pointing his heavy duty flash light inside the small car.
‘Looks like somebody got out in a hurry. The keys are still I the ignition and down there in front of the passenger seat looks like a handbag. Lucky it’s such a bad night, had it been dry the local lads would have had it away.’
Lintott reached across the sergeant and lifted out the leather handbag.
‘That’s Sandra’s bag.’ Ronny had joined the team at his wife’s car ‘I bought it for her last Christmas.’
Opening the bag Lintott’s heart sank as he spotted the mobile phone among the usual accumulation of things woman felt was necessary to carry around with them at all times.
‘Sarg get SOCO out to check the car over and Ronny I think you should get home now. Don’t worry when I’ve got things sorted out here I’ll come around. Do you want me to get someone to give you a lift home?’
‘No I don’t want a bloody lift. I want to get back to looking for my wife.’
‘Ronny’ sighed Lintott as he grabbed his arm ’its pitch black mate. There’s no way we could see anything on the beach tonight. We’re going to have to wait ‘till morning.’
Shrugging off his friends grip, Ronny walked back to his car.
‘First light Geoff, I’ll be back.’
Watching Ronny’s car screech away down the coast road, Lintott leaned into his car and radioed for a message to be sent out to his boss. This was no longer just a runaway wife, and he would need all the help he could get if this wasn’t going to turn into a total nightmare.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Ronny stood in the kitchen with the silent phone in his trembling hand.
‘Any luck with the hospitals?’ asked George as he walked in from the garden
‘Luck?’ asked Ronny staring at his son as if he were a stranger ‘Just how fucking lucky do you think it’d be to find out that my wife was lying in a hospital bed? Jesus Christ you don’t have a fucking clue?’ he screamed.
‘No you’re right Dad, I don’t. Why is it you’re so convinced that something bad has happened to her?’ shouted George
‘Statistics son, do you know how many people go missing every year? No? Well it’s over 200,000 and that’s just the ones that are reported. I can’t begin to tell you how many people go missing and are never found. Sure some don’t want to be found, some are running away from violent partners or abusive relationships. Some run away because they can’t cope any more, they are up to their eyes in debt and it seems easier to run away from the problem and start again somewhere where nobody knows them. Some people run away to be with a new lover, they leave their old lives behind and set up again with no baggage. Do you want me to carry on?’ he yelled at his silent son. ‘Shall I tell you about the misery that some of them leave behind? Husband, wives, kids, who cry themselves to sleep night after night, month after month, year after fucking year. And that’s just the runways; there are others who don’t have any say in the matter. They’re the ones who have been in an accident or worse. They’re the one’s who will never come home.’
Ronny threw the phone and poured himself a Scotch from the open bottle on the kitchen table. Swallowing an inch of the amber liquor he looked at his son standing there with his head bowed.
‘I was a copper for too long son, I know too bloody much, that’s my trouble. I know what can happen to people who go missing, and I’m frightened.’
Standing in the kitchen that had always been the hub of their family home, George felt like a stranger in a foreign land. Without his mother there the house seemed incomplete. She filled the house with love. This was her domain, her place and there was no way she would leave it willingly. The kitchen was full of memories, running in from school throwing his bag behind the door and diving into the fridge that was always kept stocked with freshly cooked ham and strong local cheese sweating gently in it’s paper wrapper.
‘She wouldn’t leave all of this Dad. This is her home. This is where she belongs.’
There was a silence between the two men that threatened to engulf them. George knew that there was only one thing left that they could do. ‘Do you think we should call the police?’
There it was, he’d said it. The one thing that neither of them had wanted to voice. The final admission between them, this was one problem that his Dad couldn’t solve.
Putting down his glass and picking the phone up from the table, Ronny looked at his son with a sadness that went deep into his eyes and dialled the number of his old squad in Ashford. ‘Geoff, its Ronny Cousins, I think I need your help.’
It was nearly midnight when Ronny closed the door behind George and suddenly the house felt cold. With only Buster for company, he walked into the lounge and switched on the electric fire. The artificial glow from the fire gave the dark room a ghostly feel, Ronny walked over to the window. The bare branches of the old tree in the front garden swayed madly in the wind. How many coppers, he wondered, would be out on a night like this looking for his wife? DI Geoff Lintott had done his best to reassure his old boss that everything possible would be done to find Sandra. They would check the hospitals again tonight and alert the patrol cars to look out for her car. Most of the leg work would have to wait for the morning when they would check out her friends and colleagues and scan the local CCTV for any sightings of her.
All very routine, he thought, everything by the book, but this wasn’t a routine case, this was different, this was his wife who was missing. Grabbing his car keys Ronny ran out to his car. Turning the heating and windscreen wipers on full, he pulled right out of his drive and retraced Sandra’s route this morning. If she was planning to go to work she would need to have driven down Coast Drive to Dungeness and until he knew for certain otherwise, he had to presume that she’d intended to go there.
Ronny’d seen her leave for work at eight thirty as usual and Mo had told him that she had spoken to Sandra at about ten to nine, so what had happened in that 20 minutes gap. If she had really been ill then surely she would have turned around and gone home. Nothing added up, years of experience told Ronny that something was very wrong. He couldn’t explain it to the boys and he wasn’t sure that he wanted to. He knew that in cases like this families wanted to cling onto any ray of hope they could, no matter how tenuous. They had to believe that their case would be the one with the happy ending. But Ronny knew that life wasn’t like that. No matter how hard you pray, shit happens.
Peering through the rain spattered windscreen Ronny scoured the road ahead in vain for any sign of Sandra’s Ka. The only driver mad enough to be out so late on such a foul night was the landlord from The Seahorse Inn making his way home. Ronny knew that his sons would think that he was a fool to be prowling the streets like this but with a long night of sleeplessness ahead he knew that even this wild goose chase was better than sitting in staring at the four walls. He wasn’t prepared to just sit and wait for something to happen, he had to be out looking himself.
Pulling onto The Parade at Greatstone, Ronny looked over into the car park opposite the Jolly Fisherman pub and suddenly braked. There tucked into a bay up in the corner was a dark blue Ka. Ronny held his breath as he threw his gears into reverse and screeched into the dark car park. He didn’t need to look at the number plate to know that this was Sandra’s car. The RNLI sticker in the back window together with the slight crease in the offside wheel arch screamed at him as he parked up beside the empty Ka.
With the torrential rain battering his face Ronny ran around to the driver’s door and tried the handle. As the unlocked door opened, his heart sank as he spotted Sandra’s key ring hanging from the ignition and her black leather handbag lying open on the front seat.
‘Sandra’ he screamed into the black night. ‘Sandra my love, where are you?’