Friday 13 – Sunday 15 June 2014
She wondered how it was that so many women could have gone missing and yet no one was looking for them. Someone must know of the existence of the barn, so why hadn’t anyone come to their rescue?
‘Do you think we’re going to die here?’ she asked the others.
The blonde answered. ‘At the moment, anything would be better than this hell.’
‘How long have you been here?’ she asked again.
‘Trisha’s been here for about nine months, she thinks. Angela, maybe seven. Sinead about three. And I think I’ve been here for at least a year. I’m Helen.’
Weak smiles were exchanged as Poppy Sumner looked at each woman through the bars of their cages. Like them, she was shackled to the wall and housed in a cage barely big enough for her to sit upright. Already, the skin of her ankles was bleeding, worn by the metal shackles and her constant attempts to remove them.
‘Don’t bother with those.’ Helen pointed to the shackles. ‘There’s no way to get them off without a key. Trust me when I say that we’ve all tried, and rubbed our ankles raw. He won’t do anything to make life easier for you. Won’t help you if your legs become infected, so it’s safer to just leave them alone.’
Poppy couldn’t help but fiddle with the shackles just one more time . . . just in case.
‘Why is he doing this? Do you know?’ asked Poppy.
‘He’s never said,’ Helen replied. ‘And frankly, I don’t think it would make an ounce of difference if we knew.’
‘The strange thing,’ the woman Helen pointed out as being Angela added, ‘is that he’s never taken us out of these cages other than to make sure that we bathe. I think that makes it more horrifying than if he was attacking us all the time. It’s stupid to say so, but other than the fact he’s kidnapped us and keeps us chained up in cages, he’s almost a gentleman in his behaviour.’
‘I fail to see how you can call him a gentleman. He kidnaps and cages women,’ Poppy snapped.
‘You’ll learn soon enough that it’s better to focus on how well he treats you than on what he could be doing to you,’ said Angela. ‘Things could be a lot worse for us than they actually are.’
Horrified, Poppy tried her best to remain calm and level headed. ‘He’s kept you chained and caged for months, even years, and you consider him to behave like a gentleman? We need to get you out of here as quickly as possible, because I fear that you’re in need of some serious help for your mental state.’
* * * * *
Inspector Archie Milton replaced the handset of the telephone back into the cradle. He rapped his fingers in a drumming pattern on the desk as he flipped through the file containing everything the police had on Poppy Sumner’s disappearance.
‘Was he any help, sir?’ Jack Dawes’ head popped around the door. Milton looked his way.
‘A little perhaps, Dawes. Seems the disappearance of our Poppy Sumner might be related to the disappearances of a number of other women from the surrounding areas.’
Dawes invited himself into Milton’s office and sat in the chair opposite the Inspector’s desk.
‘So, does that mean Teddy Sumner’s out of the picture for this?’
‘Could be. I think it prudent that we still keep a watch over him though. Just in case he does end up having something to do with his wife’s disappearance,’ Milton replied.
‘Any idea who might be behind it?’
‘No, Dawes, unfortunately not. I’ll tell you what though . . . I’m thinking about taking a visit to our intrepid team of amateur sleuths to see what they’ve come up with.’ Milton raised an eyebrow, as if to highlight what he believed to be a genius idea.
‘Want me to come along, sir?’
‘No, no need for that, Dawes. But what I do want you to do is nip over and see that friend of yours, and get him to give us a copy of any of their files that relate to these disappearances. Maybe we can get a leg up with their information,’ Milton replied.
‘I’ll head over there now then, sir, if that’s alright with you.’
* * * * *
The importance of the information that they had obtained was not lost on any of the tea and scandal group. In silence they sat, analysing what had been transcribed from their meeting with Brian Orr.
‘You know, I just can’t help but wonder about Vicar Tallow’s appearance in the teashop. Does anyone else think he seemed a little surprised when he saw us?’
‘I agree, Emily,’ Bunny replied. ‘I may not be the sharpest knife in the block, but I do believe that the good vicar was shocked to see us. Why do you think that was?’
‘Maybe he’s having relations with a lady from that village and we caught him out?’ Lizzie offered.
‘Or maybe,’ said Alice, ‘he wasn’t so much surprised to see us as he was in seeing who we were speaking with?’
The sharp knocking on the door caught them all by surprise. Tom leapt to his feet and was on his way to answer the door before any of the women managed to catch their breath. He returned to the cramped sitting room a few moments later with Archie Milton in tow.
‘Dear Inspector Milton,’ Emily said, ‘what brings you to my humble home? I’d offer you a seat but, as you can see . . . ’ She gestured, waving her arm around the small room indicating that there was little room for the five of them, let alone another visitor.
‘That’s alright, Miss Bainbridge. I’m sure that I won’t be taking up too much of your time, provided that you give me a straight answer and don’t attempt to lead me up the garden path.’
‘Whatever can you mean?’ she asked coyly.
‘I want to know what information you ascertained from one Constable Brian Orr in regards to the disappearance of Poppy Sumner.’
‘In that case, Inspector, we’d better find you a seat.’
. . . To be continued . . .