“I’m not thinking of anything in particular. In case anyone tries to pester you, notably the press, my advice is to tell them nothing
—not yet. We will hold a press conference soon, and tell them what we want them to know. In cases like this they can sometimes help.
Other agencies will be involved in finding Cassie too. You will hear from them. He watched the fear mount in her eyes.
“You think Cassie has been taken by some…some sort of pervert, don’t you?”
Mr Rigby tapped her arm. “They don’t think that, and you know as well as I do how unlikely that is. This is something else entirely, some silly mix up I’m sure. Remember what I told you.” His look at her plainly indicated: say no more.
Odd thing to come out with. But emotion did strange things to folk.
“We don’t think anything yet,” was Calladine’s reply to her question. “We’re simply following procedure. We will work fast, and we’ll do our best—that I can promise you.”
* * *
“Is it just me, or is there something they’re not telling us, sir?” Ruth asked, once they were outside. “She’s obviously devastated, but he’s something else. And did you hear that comment? What does he mean by ‘silly mix up’? Does he imagine that one small child is very much the same as any other, and some poor woman has gone home with the wrong kid?”
Calladine raised his dark eyebrows. Ruth wasn’t wrong. They were an odd couple. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something was going on there.
“I suppose we have to make allowances for the shock of what’s happened. People are quick to imagine all sorts in circumstances like this.”
“But how can he know she’s not been taken?” Ruth argued.
“Whoever owns that nursery will most certainly get a visit as soon as. But apart from that, Rigby’s holding something back—I’ll lay odds on it.”
“Who’s the WPC?”
“Kate Robinson. She’s okay; she’ll keep her ears peeled.”
Kate was good at her job. Calladine knew that she had aspirations to become a detective too. He’d see how she went, what she could turn up about the Rigbys while she was there. They could do with replacing Dodgy as quickly as possible.
“You go back to the station and give the other agencies the heads up. You can start looking into that pair’s background too. I want to know all about that family, the complete picture, and particularly since Cassandra was born. Follow up on the plant nursery too. I’ll join you in a while.” He checked his watch. “I’d better put in an appearance at the Leesworth Hotel—see if anyone’s still hanging around. Then I’ll call a team meeting. Get Imogen to check the garden centre for CCTV. You never know.”
* * *
By the time Calladine got there, there were only a few mourners left at the hotel. Zoe was seated on a stool at the bar, deep in conversation with another young woman.
“I asked Jo to come and join me. You don’t mind do you? You went off so quickly, and I’d no idea if you’d be back or not.” She smiled. “I didn’t want to sit here on my own.” She nodded at a group of elderly folk sat around a table. “They’re all lovely and have some wonderful tales to tell about Gran, but I fancied some company my own age.”
He looked around at who was left. Monika hadn’t stayed long then. He couldn’t blame her. She’d be wary of having to make inane small talk with him.
“Did you sort the flowers with Monika?”
“Yep—she took some. She was very grateful.”
“Good. Did she say anything else?” He almost hoped she’d asked about him.
“No, nothing important. Anyway, this is Jo Brandon. She owns the estate agents below the solicitors’ office where I work.”
Calladine nodded and offered to buy the two of them a drink. He was pleased Zoe was settling down and making friends, and this Jo seemed nice.
She offered her hand and a wide smile. “Pleased to meet you, Mr Calladine. Zoe’s told me lots about you.”
“That’s not a local accent. You’re a long way from home, I’d say.”
“Guess I can’t hide it, can I? Pennsylvania’s my home, but I like it here.”
“I can’t stay long. As I said before, I’ve got a missing child, so I need to get on top of things fast. I’m sorry. I can’t promise I’ll be home any time soon either.”
“That’s okay, Tom. I’m not Mum, I do understand about your job, you know. I’m a solicitor, so I know about police work.”
They’d agreed when Zoe first came into his life that she’d call him Tom. She’d had no problem with calling him dad, but the inspector didn’t think he deserved the title—not yet anyway. He’d known her for such a short time, and he’d had no part in bringing her up. Perhaps in the future, once they both knew each other better and could see how things were going to pan out between them.
“How will you get back?”
“Jo will take me. In fact I might go back to hers and stay the night, so be as late as you like.”
“We’re waiting for the roads to clear,” Jo said. “There was a nasty car crash earlier in the fog and the traffic’s still bad.”
“I didn’t know—I didn’t come that way.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about your cousin?” Zoe asked, changing the subject. “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t, because you’ve precious few blood relatives.”
“I didn’t tell you because he’s a hoodlum, and I don’t like him, not one little bit, that’s why.” He saw Jo smirk. “Despite what you might think, he’s a damned embarrassment. You’ve seen him once.
I’ve had to live with him, remember? And that wasn’t easy.”
“He can’t be that bad, surely. You’ve so little family. Have you never considered trying harder?”
“Not with him I haven’t. I’m not spinning you a tale, Zoe. Ray Fallon is evil. He’s utterly ruthless and doesn’t give a damn who he hurts, and that includes family. So keep away. I don’t want you involved with him or his wife, poor cow that she is.”
“Well, that’s telling me. My mum always used to say you were a hard man. Now I see what she meant.”
“Hard—perhaps. But only when a situation demands it. I’m not stupid, though, and getting involved with Fallon would be just that
Zoe walked her father to the hotel entrance. “Drive carefully.
This fog is hanging about, and it could come down thick again later.”
“Ditto. Are you and Jo planning a night out? Leesworth isn’t that bad. There are one or two really nice pubs.”
“We might. We’ll see how things go. But I think we’ll probably just go back to hers and chill. You know, order a curry and watch some telly, nothing special.”
It sounded glorious. What he’d give to have the same opportunity. Some downtime would suit him right now, particularly after the funeral.
“As long as you’re happy, love.”
Zoe waved, watching him drive away down the bleak, grey road.
It hadn’t really got light properly today, and no doubt the fog would close in again once it got dark. It would be a long, cold night.
* * *
“Doc Hoyle wants you to ring him, sir,” Imogen called out as Calladine entered the main office. “D’you know about the smash this morning?”
“Yeah, I heard.”
“He’s looking very dapper,” Rocco noted, as the DI hurried past his desk.
“His mother’s funeral, idiot. So tread carefully, he’s bound to be delicate for a while.”
“He does look good though. He’s a very attractive man under that stoic exterior. We tend not to notice—him being the boss,”
said Joyce, the admin assistant.
Imogen smiled in reply. She wondered if Joyce had the hots for their inspector. If she did, she’d kept it quiet for long enough, dark horse that she was.
Calladine went to his office and discarded his overcoat. He felt uncomfortable in his black suit and tie. He loosened the thing from around his neck and went to check what they’d got.