Saturday 2 – Tuesday 5 November 2013
‘Mr. and Mrs. Gaynor, welcome home.’
Lance Howard smiled at the guard in the gatehouse.
‘Hi John, it’s good to be back,’ he replied. In setting up the ruse of Nora Aitcheson’s disappearance, Lance and she had become Sean and Leigh Gaynor, a loved-up, newly retired couple from Oklahoma, who’d decided that a move to a seaside city was just the ticket for the rest of their days. They were no different from the thousands of other sea-changers that could be found in any seaside town along the west coast, except that the probability of any other sea change couple staging the abduction of one of the partners in the relationship was slim.
They’d rented the house in the Blackbriar gated community some five months prior to Nora’s abduction, and had established themselves as the quiet and well travelled new couple in the community. They’d been careful about including the other residents into their lives, but had found enough balance not to seem too unfriendly, making sure to exchange morning greetings, smiles, and waves, and the occasional coffee date or barbecue with their new neighbours. As far as either Nora or Lance could tell, their alter egos were fitting in nicely. It was now only a matter of days before Sean and Leigh Gaynor would disappear from Blackbriar; hopefully before the news of Nora Aitcheson’s abduction arrived on their doorstep.
John pressed a button on the console in the gatehouse, and the entrance gates to Blackbriar community slowly opened, allowing Lance and Nora to drive through.
‘Have a good night,’ the guard called out as he waved them through. Lance waved back so as to not arouse suspicion. When the couple that he knew as Sean and Leigh were out of view of the gatehouse, John pulled his cell phone from the front pocket of his pants, dialled a number, and waited for an answer.
* * * * *
‘Lance, I think it might be wise to get moving now,’ said Nora. She put the two bags of groceries that she was carrying on the kitchen bench top, and began unpacking. Having taken a bottle of beer from the refrigerator, Lance removed the top, and drank half the bottle in one hit. He leaned against the fridge, and watched as Nora put the food away.
‘Call it female intuition. The sooner we’re out of the country, the better.’
He snickered. ‘You seriously want me to agree to a change in plan because of female intuition?’
Nora shrugged her shoulders and gave Lance a wry smile. ‘Well, that and the fact that the guard in the gatehouse took out his cell phone and called someone when we drove off and he thought we couldn’t see what he was doing.’
Lance almost choked on the mouthful of beer he had swigged as Nora was speaking. He wiped his arm across his mouth, depositing the residue of beer on his sleeve.
‘You couldn’t have brought this up earlier? Like before we arrived home?’
‘And if I’d done that, would you have driven us back here? Would we have been able to get the money, tickets, passports, and anything else we’re going to need to disappear? No, because you would have panicked? We would, however, have had a dead John Elmore, gatehouse guard of Blackbriar gated community.’
She was angered by his naïveté, and where she had in the past, this time she wasn’t going to hold back.
‘For God’s sake, Lance, sometimes you’re as thick as a brick. I have to do everything for you, everything. You’re as bad as Wade. That’s not what I signed up for when we met.’
He didn’t fight back because he knew Nora was right, and that, in part, was the reason Lance was drawn to Nora. For everything that she wasn’t, Nora was strong, smart and confident, and she took charge. He needed someone to take charge; indecision had been his demon since he was a child.
‘I’ll pack the car,’ Lance mumbled. Without another word, he left the bottle of beer on the bench top next to the refrigerator, and disappeared towards the bedroom. Nora remained motionless for a moment. She willed herself to calm down. A clear head was what was needed at this point, especially if the guard had contacted the police. It wasn’t entirely implausible that the police had been swift in their investigation of her abduction, and posted photos of Nora on the Internet and through traditional media for the world to see. Similarly, it wasn’t implausible that John the gatehouse guard was aware of who Leigh Gaynor really was.
Nora hoped that her meticulously detailed plan wasn’t about to unravel. To cover all the bases, she made a phone call of her own. Within minutes, Nora would know the extent of the police investigation into her abduction.
* * * * *
Officer Max Deacon, having excused himself from the debriefing, returned and signalled to his partner, Sergeant Frank O’Brien, that they needed to talk. O’Brien excused himself and followed Deacon outside.
‘What’s up?’ O’Brien asked.
‘I’ve just got a tip off that Nora Aitcheson and a male are at Blackbriar gated community.’
‘I doubt it. Surely our esteemed detectives would have received that kind of tip off.’
‘It’s about who you know, Sarge, and who knows you, not what rank you hold in the force,’ Deacon replied.
‘Is it credible information?’
‘I suppose that we should inform Detectives Scott and Griffin then . . .’
Deacon slowly nodded again. ‘You don’t think that they’d be pissed off that we’d pulled them off the warehouse site, Sarge?’
O’Brien sighed, and scratched his head. ‘Yeah, you’re right, Max. I think Scott and Griffin would be really pissed off that we’d disturbed their search of the secondary crime scene on the basis of some as yet unsubstantiated tip off. Perhaps it would be better if you and I took a couple of others with us to check this out ourselves.’
. . . To be continued . . .