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.