Laura Ch. 06

byshandal©

A romantic thriller, this is the story of Chris and Laura's love, with a twist.

Robert has inadvertently set himself for attention by the police, whilst Chris goes out of his mind with worry.


*

His mouth felt dry and opening one eye he peered over at the bedside radio clock. As he watched the time changed to 11.16, he realised he had overslept, missing going in to work. Rolling over he found that Laura was not beside him, her side untouched.

Memories of last night flooded back, and sitting up he saw he was still in his suit, now a crumpled mess. Removing the jacket as he perched on the edge of the bed, he called out her name.

Again only a silence broken by his own breathing echoed back to him. Where was the little cow? She had better not have gone to that bastard after he left for the bar. If she thought by leaving him she would get anything from this house or any money, she was going to be badly shocked he decided. She could go to hell now for all he cared.

He would install the little office junior in her place. He could get anyone he wanted at anytime. So fuck her and that big rough Neanderthal for all he cared.

Getting up from the bed and going to the bathroom he peeled out of his clothes, dumping them in the hamper, and stepped into the shower. Later he would phone up the office and explain that he was ill and take the rest of the day off and relax.

*

Laura lay curled up in a ball on the bed, tears streaming down her battered face, clutching the pillow to herself as the sobs wracked her body.

Last night without thinking she had walked through the dark streets for over an hour, unaware where she was going, her head hurting and fuzzy, until coming to a halt she realised she had walked across town to Mrs Jackson's house.

Going through the wooden gate, the one that Chris had repaired that first week they met, and up to the front door she stood there swaying, suddenly realising she didn't have her handbag holding the keys to the house. She had left her home without taking a thing, no money, no keys, nothing but what she was standing up in.

Exhausted and staggering around to the back of the house she came to the kitchen back door, and looking under the small pot holding a wilting plant that stood in a dark corner by the door, she picked up the small key she knew lay there, and opening the back door, entered the dark still house.

Moving around the house in the dark, and holding her aching head, the tears fell as she realised she would never see the old lady again, but that even in death she had given Laura a gift, a sanctuary to run to while she gathered herself together and healed her wounds before the next step in her escape.

*

Chris hadn't slept at all, and as he stood in his kitchen drinking another cup of strong black coffee, he steeled himself not to go over to Laura's house but to wait for a phone call. All night he had lain in his bed, his mind turning over with worry, aware that his presence would have inflamed any situation between Laura and her husband.

But the waiting would be hell, the need to go and see if she was alright had kept him awake until the first rays of dawn when he moved his tired body, readying himself for work.

Today he would get the bus, but there would be no Laura to wait for as he sat on the wall. Today he would go to work, collect his bike and then later on go over to the Hospice and check out that she was alright.

Drinking down the last of his coffee and rinsing up the cup he turned around and surveyed the room with a critical eye. He hoped that Laura would like what he had done with his home; he could picture her here in the kitchen, the two of them working together in the evening preparing a meal, surrounded by the old renovated oak cupboards that he had lovingly restored after he had rescued them from the reclamation supplier.

Walking into the bedroom he grabbed his old battered leather jacket off the end of the bed and shrugging into it grabbed his keys off the stand and ran down the stairs and out into the morning rain.

*

Rhiannon hadn't heard from Laura, which was not like her. If she was ill or unable to come in to work she would always phone, but today she hadn't phoned and it was now late afternoon.

After yesterday she hadn't expected the young woman to come in, but she thought she would have phoned.

Going about her duties she wondered if she should give her a quick call, and walking into the office sat down at the desk. It was then she noticed the business card lying next to the phone, and picking it up she placed it in the drawer so it wouldn't get lost and she could give it back to Laura when she came in.

Just as she was about to dial Laura's home number the husband of one of the patients poked his head in the office and asked if he could have a quick word with her, and pushing closed the draw she beckoned the man in, and with a smile asked "How can I help Mr Beckinsale?"

*

Laura slept most of the day waking up late afternoon; she lay on the bed looking up at the Airtex ceiling painted a dirty magnolia above her, an old fashioned satin light shade that once had been lime green but now looked more dirty bracken brown hung down, sad and neglected.

Her head throbbed and one eye was partially closed where Robert's hand had managed to connect hard.

Climbing slowly off the bed she limped across the room to look in the dressing table mirror. Body stiff and sore, she looked at herself, tears running down her cheeks, shoulders slumped.

Staring back at her was the image of a defeated woman, red bruise marks marred the smooth skin on her cheek and close to her eye, the lid slightly swollen, red and half shut, her hair matted and tangled, stained down one side with dried red blood.

Walking into the bathroom she ran water into the old fashioned claw footed bath tub and started to peel off her damp dirty bloodstained clothes, leaving them in a pile on the floor. A dark bruise had appeared across her ribs and arm where the chair had fallen on her, standing out as a livid dark mark against her pale skin.

Stepping into the tub and laying back in the hot water, she started to plan. She knew she could stay here at Mrs Jackson's for only a short while. Soon the legal people from the Hospice would come by and she would have to be gone by then, maybe three or four days at the most. It was such a short time to allow herself to heal and get back her strength before moving on.

There was a supply of tins of soup, biscuits and some dried food in the house and she could live of these without having to go out, and if she didn't turn on any lights at night, no-one would guess she was here.

Leaning back in the tub so that she could wash her hair, she winced as the water hit the split scalp and the lump lying under the surface. Gently she soaped herself clean, letting the hot water calm and warm her body, helping to relax and ease the aching in her bones.

Wrapping a towel around her slim body and one around her head, she stepped from the tub and padded out of the bathroom to find the clothes she had found left behind by Mrs Jackson's granddaughter, then walked down to the kitchen, avoiding the small opaque window at the front. Opening a kitchen cupboard she found the biscuit tin and putting the kettle on stood remembering that day here in the kitchen, that first day when she met Chris, and he reached up to get this very tin down.

The tears started to flow again as she realised she would never be able to see him again. Never sit quietly talking to him, listening to his stories, watching his smile as he thought of something that he found amusing, never have him gently tease her to make her smile, never feel his strong body as she leant against him, his warmth surrounding her and making her feel safe.

She needed to protect him from Robert at any cost, making sure he was safe, for in her heart she believed what Robert had said, and that his need for revenge would mean she could never be with Chris and put his life in danger.

*

Robert spent the day laying on the couch nursing a bruised ego, the bottle of wine next to him on the floor, the television showing afternoon cooking shows and re runs of old murder mysteries.

He decided he was going to tell everyone that he had thrown that bitch of a wife out. He didn't want them to know she had left, and that he had hit her.

If she turned up he would throw her out anyway, let her go to her lover boy, he didn't want any second hand goods. No, he would install that little office junior here to look after him, and life would be good.

He was sure that he could carry on with his life, uninterrupted, just with a change of woman in his life, in his bed, belonging to him.

Picking up the remote he flicked the channel until he found a quiz show and settled into the cushions feeling much better.

*

Stopping the bike in the car park of the Hospice, rain drumming down on him, and dark beginning to descend making it difficult to see clearly through the visor, he removed his helmet as he swung his leg over the bike. Striding up to the door of the large building and ringing the bell he waited impatiently, rain pelting down on his hair and dripping down his face.

After a while the door opened and Rhiannon stood there looking up at him, a quizzical look on her face.

"Laura's not here. I didn't expect her today."

"How is she? Is she alright?"

"She didn't call. I expect I'll hear from her tomorrow. She'll probably come in then or phone."

Chris stood there for a moment, unheeding of the rain soaking him to his skin, then without a word to Rhiannon ran back to his bike, got on and rode off, the only thought in his head that she hadn't called, work or him. And he needed to know she was safe.

Arriving at her home, he jumped off the bike, uncaring that it had toppled over and stood looking in through the large brightly lit window at Robert sitting relaxed watching the television as if nothing had changed.

Standing there watching, eyes burning red for lack of sleep and worry, his body cold and wet, his stomach tight from tension, he felt a wave of helplessness rush through him, and for the first time in his life realised that he had always taken his ability to deal objectively with problems for granted, so that now when the most important thing in his life was happening he had lost all reason and was working on raw emotions.

*

Days went by but no word from Laura, no phone call and no contact. He haunted the Hospice each day, speaking with Rhiannon, sharing their worry about the lack of any sign of Laura. He drove by her house daily trying to catch sight of her. Every five minutes he would look at his phone to check to see if a text or missed call had appeared but there was no message, no sign of her, it was as if she had disappeared.

Discussing what to do about it a week later as they sat together in the bright day room, Rhiannon looked across at the anxious man sitting opposite her, an untouched cup of coffee by his side as he talked to her about his love for Laura, and the madness gripping him not knowing if she was alright, what might have happened to her to stop her coming into work or contacting either of them.

Sitting there, unshaved, his black hair ruffled from running his hand through it continually in frustration, light blue eyes red rimmed and heavy with worry, sadness and defeat seemed to emanate from his every movement.

Voicing the unspoken thought that had hovered between them for the last half hour Rhiannon quietly said "I think it's time to contact the police. He may have hurt her so bad she's unable to contact us."

Chris looked up, the feeling of real dread that had haunted him since that night he had left her behind now taking full grip, and settling as a dark cloud draining all other thoughts.

"I should never have taken her home." His shoulders slumping further, his head bowed in defeat "I was a fool, it's all my fault."

"No Chris, it's not your fault. None of this is your fault. It was happening before you met her."

"But I didn't help the situation. It gave him a reason. I love her so much it hurts, and I've done nothing but cause her pain and make the situation worse."

"Chris listen to me, it's not your fault. I'm phoning the police and asking them to go over there to check on her, but I want you to stop beating yourself up. It's not your fault."

As she outlined what had occurred to the policeman on the other end of the phone, Rhiannon explained that she knew Laura would have contacted her if she could have either because of work, or because of Mrs Jacksons funeral which was to happen later that week. Recounting the scene at the Hospice Robert had made the day before she disappearance the person listening asked if she could remember the name of the policemen who had attended that night, and assured her he would get someone to go over and check out the situation.

Putting down the phone she sat back and told Chris "The police are going over to check on her, and they'll let me know the outcome." But inside her heart she felt the news would not be good. A terrible premonition had settled over her and she worried how the man in front of her was going to take any bad news that might be coming their way.

*

Mick stood waiting for the door to open, glancing to his left he noted the Mercedes parked in the driveway and stepping back, looked up at the light in the upstairs window. Raising his hand he rung the bell again, wishing he was back at the station and out of this cold wind that had picked up during the day, and now in early evening, was whipping up and looked to become a real storm.

Deciding that there was no point is staying any longer he was just about to turn back to the Police car when the door opened and in the doorway stood a very young woman with short blond cropped hair, wearing a silky pink Kimono style dressing gown.

"Good evening is Laura Hamilton in?" he enquired, noting that this young woman was not the wife he had met last week at the Hospice.

"No." the young girl hesitantly answered, pulling the robe higher across her breasts, and as she did so Mick noticed the red marks around her wrist. "I'll get Robert," and she disappeared only to return five minutes later following the man wearing a short black towelling robe, blond hair wet and brushed back from his face, which held a look of contempt.

"She's gone." arms folded he stood in the doorway, his manner aggressive "No longer living here, I booted the two timing cow out."

"Well Sir can you tell me where she can be contacted? Do you have a forwarding address or contact details I can reach her on?"

"No, she probably buggered off with that big thug she was having an affair with. I've no idea where they are, and I don't care. When you find her tell her she won't get a thing from me."

Mick looked behind Robert to the young girl hovering behind him and quietly asked "When did she leave Sir, what date?"

"The 24th, last week."

"Thank you for your time, and if you hear from her please can you get her to contact the Station and let us know, as we would like to confirm her whereabouts."

Turning and saying good night as he left, Mick had a bad feeling about this. He knew from speaking to the Hospice Manager that she was not with the man that the husband alluded to, and he knew there was no sighting of her from work.

The door had slammed behind him and he was about to get in the car when he could hear a woman's voice calling out, and looking up he noticed the next door neighbour standing in her doorway gesturing for him to come and speak to her. Closing the car door and walking over to the neighbour, he passed through as she opened the door wider and beckoned for him to come in.

After settling on the couch, the nervous woman started to explain that she and her husband had lived next door since the couple had moved in five years ago and during that time she had heard and witnessed some terrible scenes where the husband had terrorised the young wife, and recently the violence she heard through the walls had increased until last week.

Last week, the night of the big argument in the street had been the last time Laura had been seen or heard by her, or her husband.

"That night my husband and I could hear him screaming at her. He screamed he was going to kill her. I was so worried, I wanted to phone the police, but my husband kept saying to leave it alone, that it's not our business, but I'm so worried about her. There's been no sign of her since that night. And now he has that other woman living in the house with him and yesterday I noticed her wearing some of the wife's clothes when they went out."

"When did the other woman move in?"

"About four days ago."

"Tell me about the night of the fight in the street, what exactly happened?"

Leaning forward, relieved at last to be able to tell the Police everything she had heard and seen Barbara Morrison poured out the story of her next door neighbour's turbulent marriage and the terrible things she had heard through the thin walls that the two homes shared.

*

He had no proof, just a suspicion built on intuition, but he felt that was enough to have a chat with one of the detectives back at the station.

Standing there leaning against the messy file covered desk, he outlined what he knew and felt. It wasn't much, but as he explained his gut feelings, Detective Martin Dowler listened intently.

"What do you think has happened?"

"Not sure, but no one has seen her since that night. The Hospice Manager says she knows she would have contacted the Hospice, not least because the old woman's funeral is within days and Laura loved the old woman."

"You sure she's not with the boyfriend or that he's involved in any way."

"No she's not there; he's pretty worried about her as well. Seems that no one has seen or heard from her, not the neighbour, not work, not her friends, nor does the husband seem particularly worried."

"Maybe she's run off, just had enough of them all."

"Maybe, but I don't think so, not from what I witnessed when I did the call out to the domestic that night at the Hospice. Seemed to me she was too cowered and too afraid of her husband to fight back, even to the extent of running. Martin I just have a bad feeling about this. The husband is an arrogant sod, full of himself and if that night he went too far we might have a missing wife and only the word of the husband that she ran off."

"OK, I'll do a little digging, but I bet she turns up at the boyfriend's pretty soon."

*

Tapping the pen in his hand on the table in front of him, the Detective sat back pensively studying the man sitting opposite him in the interview room. He still wasn't completely convinced this person wasn't somehow involved in Laura Hamilton's disappearance. And it now was classified as a missing person case. After three weeks and no sign of the young woman, no sign of her using her bank account, no sightings or contact with former associates, it was looking more and more like a case of foul play, but by whom, and when? Her husband, the most likely person, or this man sitting in front of him, face haggard and eyes showing strain, but could that strain be the result of a guilty mind.

"Let's go through it again. You left in the cab that night and went straight home, no witness other than the cab driver, and no contact with Laura Hamilton from the moment you saw her go into her home with her husband?"

"Yeah, the cab driver took me back to my house."

Leaning forward elbows on the table, hands running for the umpteenth time through his thick hair, he closed his eyes and recited again for the Detective in a hollow voice. "My bike was taken from the pub where I had left it at lunchtime by the site Foreman in the back of the works van, and left at the site, where I picked it up the next morning." And looking up "You can check with him, the bike was at the site when he got in that morning and I came in after him, I was running late due to getting the bus and because of not sleeping the night before with worry about Laura."

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