Sunday 15 – Monday 16 June 2014
‘I’m not entirely sure that this is a safe or sensible option, Emily.’ Tom paced back and forth Inspector Milton’s office.
‘There’s no need for concern, Tom. I’ll be well guarded between you and the constabulary.’ The glibness in her voice infuriated him.
‘Concern is an understatement. Emily, you’re not taking this seriously. If Inspector McGovern’s theory is right, that man’s been at this for at least a year. Maybe longer.’ Tom was visibly shaken by the situation.
What had seemed a good idea at the time, Tom now considered foolhardy and stupid. He did not believe that putting Emily in danger was the way to approach solving the disappearances of women from around the nearby villages. He desperately wanted to change her mind, but Emily was as stubborn as he, and there would be no swaying her from the decision to bait the kidnapper.
‘Really, Tom, I’ll be fine and I promise not to do anything that might compromise this . . . operation.’ She smiled playfully, her intention to distract Tom from the seriousness of events. He stormed from Milton’s office and disappeared from Emily’s view.
‘Never mind Tom, miss. He’ll come around. He’s just worried about you, and rightly so,’ Constable Dawes wisely commented.
Inspectors Milton and McGovern, along with Constable Brian Orr, surrounded Emily cutting off her view of the office door and Tom. Instructions were sternly directed at her – stay where we can see you, don’t act suspiciously, remember that he’s dangerous – too many for her mind to focus on and remain calm. At some point, Milton patted her on the shoulder and announced that she was ready to go. She passed Tom in the corridor on the way out of the police station, and avoided a second look at his forlorn face.
‘We’ve baited him pretty well, Miss Bainbridge, so it’s possible that he’ll try to take you today.’ McGovern kicked the ground as he spoke. It wasn’t the most ideal of situations to put a civilian in the line of fire, but they were desperate to apprehend an evil criminal who had already destroyed too many lives.
* * * * *
Surprised by the barn door opening earlier than what had become the norm, the caged women shrank back into their cages, fearing punishment from some act that they were unaware that they had committed. He was a cruel man, despite his apparent social position. Poppy Sumner had fast come to the conclusion that there were two sides to every man, and in her experience those sides were bad and worse. Another surprise was the woman he was dragging into the barn. To Poppy, she looked familiar.
With a flexibility and dexterity unusual in a man of his age, he tossed Emily into the open cage next to Poppy. He took none of the care and concern with her that he showed with the others. He was angry and cursing his bad luck as he shackled Emily to the wall. After slamming the cage shut and quickly locking the door, he stormed outside without a word to any of the other women.
‘Something’s not right,’ Angela whispered. ‘He’s never behaved like that when he’s brought in anyone new.’
‘I think I know her.’ Poppy craned to see if her thoughts were correct.
‘You know her?’ Angela replied.
‘Yes, I think she’s from my village. One of the tea and scandal group . . . that’s what they call themselves. They get together every Friday and try to solve local mysteries. Seems Emily’s part of one of her mysteries now.’
‘Any chance of a rescue?’ Helen chimed in. ‘I’d really like to get out of here before my next birthday.’
‘I bloody hope so,’ Poppy answered.
It was only a few minutes, but Poppy thought it felt like a few hours, before Emily awoke, groggy and pained.
‘Ooooh, my head.’
‘Honey, that’s the least of your worries,’ replied Helen. Emily sat up too quickly and had to steady herself against the wall. Her head resting in her hands, she sighed.
‘You’re Emily Bainbridge, aren’t you?’ asked Poppy.
‘Please tell me that this wasn’t your half-arsed attempt at a rescue.’
‘Well, yes, it sort of is. But hey, Poppy, things could be a lot worse. You need to have a little faith in my tea and scandal friends and I,’ Emily laughed.
‘Really? Why is that?’ Poppy replied.
‘I might not have come with police back-up.’
* * * * *
Vicar Tallow lay face down on the ground, inches from cow dung.
‘Rather fitting, I’d say, vicar.’ Archie Milton kicked a little in Tallow’s face.
‘You’ll pay for that, Inspector Milton,’ Tallow snapped.
‘Unlikely, Peter, but your sense of justice is certainly interesting.’
Flanked by constables and Inspector McGovern, Tom raced into the barn. Flashlight beams lit up the inside, and the women, having spent most of their time in darkness, squinted and covered their eyes.
‘Easy on the lights,’ called Emily, and she noted that three or four flashlights were switched off.
‘Emily? Where are you?’ Tom called out. His voice echoed around the space.
‘Here,’ she called back. ‘You walked straight by me. Some saviour you are.’
Constables jumped into action, cutting the locks from the cage doors and the shackles from their ankles. One by one, the once missing women were extracted from their prison, and escorted to waiting ambulances by the constables.
‘You’ll all be taken to hospital and be examined and treated. Inspector Milton and I will speak with you all after you’ve had some rest. However,’ McGovern cringed as he came to the difficult news to break, ‘you won’t be able to see your loved ones until after we’ve taken your statements. I understand that this is terribly, terribly difficult, but it is necessary.’
Helen spoke for them all. ‘Can you at least call our families and let them know we’re alive?’
‘That would be our pleasure, ma’am. It’s not often that we get to deliver good news to worried family.’ McGovern’s sincerity was almost tangible, and he looked at the women with awe.
As they walked free from the barn in which they’d been caged, Angela and Trisha, the two women who had been kept hostage the longest, veered towards the prone Vicar Tallow. A look passed between them, and with considerable force for people who’d been unable to exercise themselves for a long time, both women viciously kicked out at the vicar. Constable Dawes moved to intervene but was held back by Milton. He shook his head, and leaned in close to the constable.
‘Jack, this is one of those times that it’s appropriate to look the other way. We didn’t see a thing. Got it?’
Dawes slowly nodded, a minute smile spreading across his face. ‘Yes, governor, I understand.’
. . . The end . . .