Authors: Katherine Pathak
Tags: #International Mystery & Crime, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #Police Procedurals
The woman put a hand up to her mouth, an expression of pure horror on her flushed, plump face.
‘Just explain to me once again where it was that you lost contact with your daughter,’ Dani said gently, more to distract the woman from her rising panic than for any other reason.
‘Lily was badgering us for an ice cream, but the queue at the van was so long, we told her no. She was crying and refused to hold my hand,’ Mr Hendricks explained. ‘We turned away, to let her know we weren’t going to give in to her tantrum. But when we turned back, she was gone.’
Dani considered how the Glasgow Fair weekend, in the centre of a packed field, wasn’t perhaps the best of times to be practising your toddler taming techniques, but restrained herself from saying this out loud. ‘Okay, most likely Lily has just got lost in the crowds. It happens quite frequently at events such as this. Please try to remain calm.’
Mrs Hendricks looked anything but and Dani sensed the woman was about to have some kind of emotional collapse, when the DCI spotted a uniformed WPC walking towards them, holding the hand of a little girl. She was wearing a red sundress that appeared at least a size too small for her.
‘Is that Lily?’ Dani immediately asked.
The DCI received no verbal reply. The couple immediately bolted towards the girl, wrenching Lily from the policewoman’s grip and hauling her up into their arms.
The WPC continued in the direction of the van. When she was standing right next to her superior officer she lowered her voice and said, ‘another family spotted the girl wandering around the fairground on her own. They brought her to where I was patrolling the main gate. Lily told me she was looking for her parents. She said they’d be in the beer tent, which is where she’d last seen them.’
‘The Hendricks spun a different tale entirely.
said the girl had a tantrum because they wouldn’t buy her an ice cream. In my experience, the kid is usually the one telling the truth.’
The mother turned and waved to Bevan, who nodded her head, indicating they were free to go.
‘Shouldn’t we inform social services?’
Bevan turned to address the policewoman, who she would have placed in her early twenties at most. ‘There’s no real evidence to go on. Besides, this little incident will have given the parents a wake-up call. The mum looked like she was about to collapse before you showed up with her daughter. Some people simply can’t work out the consequences of their actions. They have to experience the worst in order to re-evaluate their decisions.’
‘But they didn’t experience the worst, did they?’ The WPC swivelled round to stare hard at Bevan, her clear blue eyes bright and determined. ‘Lily was returned to her mum and dad in the end, no harm done. Once the dust has settled, they’ll soon forget. I suspect they’ve learnt no real lesson at all.’
The DCI did not reply, but glanced across and took note of the WPC’s name and division, intending to look out for her in the future.
This young recruit’s instincts were absolutely spot on.
he light was fading to dusk when DC Andy Calder came to the end of his shift. The majority of the crowd who joined the march to Prince’s Square had dissipated, drifting into the clubs and restaurants of the city centre.
The air hung thick and close as Calder took a final patrol along Argyle Street to Trongate. A few stragglers still remained, clinging on to one another and singing old tunes that Andy felt must have been composed well before any of them were born. Litter was strewn about the gutters, having collected there like scum around a plug hole. The sweeping machines would follow on later, cleaning up the city before the fun and games started up again the next day.
Calder radioed in to the Pitt Street Headquarters, letting them know he was heading back home. Carol and Amy had already left for the coast. Andy was aware there was no rush to return to the flat they shared off the Great Western Road. The detective decided to take a detour first, to drop in on a relative of his who he’d not been in touch with as much as he would have liked in the past few years.
When Calder drove into Paisley, it was nearly dark. He hoped it wasn’t too late to make a social call. Mae Mortimer’s house was an impressive Victorian villa in the suburb of Castlehead. It was a step up from the grey semi-detached ex-council property the woman had shared with Andy’s uncle, when he’d still been around.
Mae Calder had re-married a couple of years before. Her new husband ran a surveying company based in the centre of town. Andy didn’t begrudge his aunt finding herself a decent bloke, but he was secretly glad that her children, Elizabeth and John, hadn’t taken on Gavin’s surname. Andy had called ahead and as he pulled his car onto the sloping driveway, Mae was standing inside the sandstone entrance to greet him.
A smile spread across his face as he approached her. Mae was 46 years old, tall and slim. Her reddish hair was neatly trimmed to frame her face and her make-up subtly applied. Mae was no longer the flame-haired beauty she’d been in her youth, but Andy noted how attractive she still was.
‘Hi,’ she called out in her sing-song voice. ‘It’s good to see you.’
Andy placed a kiss on both of her cheeks.
Mae led him inside. The hallway was wide and formal. The chequered tiles on the floor created a pathway through to a high ceilinged reception room, where Gavin and Lizzie were sitting on a long sofa in front of a giant television screen. Gavin immediately turned it off. Andy felt this action illustrated the class difference between them. In his parent’s house, when visitors came, the telly stayed on.
The long-legged teenager jumped up and threw her arms around him. ‘Uncle Andy! Mum didn’t say you were coming!’
‘It was a last minute thing,’ Calder explained.
‘How’s Amy? I’ve seen the photos on Aunty Carol’s Facebook page. She’s absolutely gorgeous.’
‘Aye, she’s a bonny lassie. I’ll bring her over the next time I come. They’re away with Carol’s mum right now, for the Fair weekend.’
The atmosphere became immediately tense after he uttered these words. Gavin broke the silence by putting out his hand to the detective. ‘Andy. It’s really good to see you again.’
Calder shook it firmly, nodding his agreement.
‘Come on,’ said Mae, leading him into an open-plan kitchen which lay beyond this room to the rear of the house. ‘I’ll make you a coffee and we can have a chat.’
Lizzie and Gavin remained in the sitting room, sensing that this conversation was intended to be private.
‘Do you want coffee? Or something stronger, perhaps?’ Mae busied herself rummaging in a cupboard, pulling down packets and jugs.
‘A coffee would be perfect. I’m on duty for the whole weekend.’ Andy perched on a stool up at the breakfast bar and watched her work.
Mae turned on her heels to glance at him, trying to look cheerful. ‘Well, you would be. It’s the busiest weekend of the year in Glasgow.’
‘That’s why I’m here,’ Andy added quietly. ‘I wanted to show you and the kids my support, but if me being around is awkward, then I won’t stay long.’ He tipped his head towards the sliding doors which separated them from the sitting room.
The woman didn’t reply for a moment. Calder knew she was fighting with her emotions. ‘No. We’re pleased you stopped by. Gavin understands. It’s important that we don’t ever forget.’
Andy’s uncle, Donald Calder had gone missing during the Glasgow Fair weekend in 2005. He was just 41 years old. The family had been living in a less salubrious suburb of Paisley back then. On the Saturday, Mae had woken up with a migraine. Donald had agreed to take the children, then 5 and 9 years old, to the fair in the city centre.
They’d all arrived back home at 5pm. Mae took a sleeping pill and a pain killer before bed and slept soundly until morning. When she awoke, Mae noticed that Donald wasn’t beside her. It didn’t look as if he’d come to bed at all. The police were called and a search made of the local area. No trace of Donald Calder was ever found. Mae felt the police always suspected he had another woman on the go and had run off with her. But within the Calder family, the belief was that Donald had gone out later that night and somehow ended up in White Cart Water, either by accident or design they weren’t sure. A body was never recovered.
Mae set the coffee pot down on the bar between them. ‘John’s gone out tonight with his mates.’ She lowered her head. ‘It’s him who finds the anniversaries the most difficult to cope with.’
‘How is the lad enjoying university?’ Andy added a dash of milk to his cup.
‘He loves it. His halls of residence look out over Kelvingrove Park and he’s close enough to bring his washing home at weekends.’ Mae smiled. ‘He’s got a steady girlfriend now too. Shiona’s a lovely lass.’
‘How about Lizzie? She looks well.’
‘Aye, but she’s a homebody. It’s been the same ever since her father disappeared. I have the opposite problem to most folk with teenagers. It’s a battle to get her to go out with her friends, even for a burger in the High Street.’
‘Has Lizzie ever been referred to a child psychologist? I’ve got some good contacts if you need a number?’
Mae sighed, the tiny lines fanning out from her eyes crinkling with concern. ‘She did see someone, in the months after it happened. It helped for a while, but then the nervousness came back.’ The woman gripped her mug tightly. ‘It could simply be Lizzie’s personality, you know. We can’t blame everything on Donald going missing.’
‘No,’ Andy ventured. ‘But it was a pretty devastating event for the kids. Something like that is bound to have a lasting effect.’
Mae lifted a hand to her face and shuddered, as tears began to escape onto her cheeks. Andy stood up, coming round to place a hand on her shoulder. ‘I’m sorry to bring it all back.’
The woman began to sob noisily. The anguished sound summoned Gavin into the doorway. He moved across the room and wrapped Mae in his arms, flashing Andy a hostile look as he did so.
When Andy left the Mortimers’ place it was nearly midnight. They had arranged for him to bring Carol and Amy over for Sunday lunch in a couple of weeks. Mae had fully recovered her composure by the time their guest departed and she gave him a warm wave from the top of the steps as he backed out of the driveway.
Gavin Mortimer stood beside his wife, an arm placed firmly around her shoulders. His expression was much less cheerful. It was clear the man didn’t relish the thought of Andy returning to their house any time soon and if the detective was honest, he could totally understand why.
he Saturday passed without any major incidents. The lock-ups at the Holland Street station were full of drunk and disorderlies by midnight but the atmosphere was jolly enough.
On the following Sunday morning, Dani Bevan was taking her time to shower and dress. She wasn’t due back at Pitt Street until 1pm. The DCI was daring to allow herself time to relax a little. After the revelries of the previous night, Bevan was expecting the city to be quiet today. There would be traffic problems certainly, as the many folk who’d headed down the coast for the weekend started to return, but this wasn’t her jurisdiction. Another division could deal with that.
Dani popped a couple of slices into the toaster, lifting a mug of tea to her lips and savouring the warmth of the aromatic brew. Bevan experienced a shiver of anticipation as she considered that in less than seven days she would be seeing her boyfriend in Edinburgh, staying in his tiny apartment and enjoying a lazy Sunday morning like this one, lying in bed with him. The thought made her smile.
The sound of the telephone brought her back to the present. She put down her cup and moved swiftly into the hallway to answer it. ‘DCI Bevan.’
‘Morning Ma’am, it’s Alice Mann here.’
‘Good morning, Alice. Is there a problem?’
The detective constable hesitated. ‘I’m not sure. There’s only me and Dan Clifton in the department, so all emergency calls are being directed to us. I’ve just had a strange one. My instinct was to let you know about it immediately.’
Dani sighed. ‘I’ll finish my breakfast first, Alice. Then I’ll be straight there.’
Andy Calder drove his boss out of Glasgow along the M77. In this direction, the route was reasonably clear. But on the other side of the central reservation, Bevan could observe the traffic gradually building to a standstill.
‘When are Carol and Amy due back?’ She glanced across at her companion, who had dark shades obscuring his eyes.
‘Not until tomorrow. They didn’t want to battle the Sunday queues.’
‘Very wise. Carol needs to take advantage of the fact they’ve got the freedom to take these wee holidays. It will all change when Amy starts school.’
Calder swept the unmarked police car off the motorway and headed south-east, in the direction of East Kilbride. The address they were aiming for, in the suburban town of Giffnock, was already punched into the Sat Nav system. The directions led them through the quiet High Street and into a modern executive estate. The house that Andy pulled up outside was one of the larger properties, the front garden was well maintained and the grass lush and green, despite the recent heat-wave.