Unexpected Ch. 02byThe Wanderer©
As usual my thanks go to LadyC and Techsan for their assistance in bringing this tale of woe to you.
Clarification: Dough = cash. A monkey = £500. Bird/s = young woman/women. Gobsmacked = utterly astonished. Clock = look at closely. Eurostar = high-speed rail link between London and several European cities.
Unexpected Part Two
I really fell apart a bit after that meeting with Inspector Harris. It was nice to know that the police didn't think that I'd done my wife in and buried her in the garden or something. But I was still desperately missing the love of my life.
You know, in the past I've heard people say that it's the not knowing what has happened to your missing loved ones that is the worst thing to bear. If you know that they are dead, at least you can bury them in your mind, even if you haven't got a body to grieve over. Even if you at least had some idea as to why they had walked out on you, probably you'd feel better than just not knowing.
But if they've just disappeared, as Anna had, you can't stop wondering why they went and what has happened to them.
Me, I actually attempted to take the coward's way out of the worry. I tried to take to the bottle!
But fortunately or unfortunately - it depends on your perspective which way you look at it - I had a group of friends around me that weren't going to let that happen. There always seemed to be a mate or a mate's wife kicking around, who would - if necessary - physically remove my bottle after I'd had a couple of drinks.
I couldn't even get a skin-full in one of the local pubs, because my crowd was known too well in town. I'll admit that one night I got a little violent in the Queens Arms and tried to hit Barry. I think the police were called; well, they turned up anyway. But they made no comment as I was kidnapped from the pub by my friends and manhandled around to Barry and Marie-Lise's house, where I was all but incarcerated until I came to my senses again.
Well, even that isn't quite true. What brought me to my senses actually was the arrival of Sergeant Frank Stevens at their house. How he knew that I was there, I don't know; perhaps he decided to track me down and find out what had happened to me when my daily phone calls to him asking if there was any news suddenly stopped.
"Look, Peter," he said to me, "I know what you're going through, believe me. I've seen things like this happen all too many times in the past and I know what kind of effect this sort of thing can have on people.
"I've come to tell you that the DNA on those hairs from your washing machine didn't show up any matches on our computer system. Anyway now Anna's DNA is on the system so if...." The sergeant's voice trailed off; then when he composed his thoughts. "Well, you know, if anything turns up in the future, we'll be able to contact you.
"Thanks," I said to him, feeling somewhat dejected. I assumed he was telling me that the police were pushing the case onto the back burner, unless and until Anna's body turned up somewhere.
Frank Stevens got up to leave, but when he got to the door he stopped and turned to look back at me. I must have looked like a broken man sitting there; I could almost feel his pity for me. I can't say that policemen are my favourite people, but they have a job to do and under that hard shell they put on in public they are just human beings like the rest of us.
"Peter, there really isn't anything more that I can do for you at the moment. But there is a man who might be prepared to try to help you find your Anna."
I looked up at him expectantly.
"Who?" I demanded.
"Look, Peter, I'm not sure if he will help you or not! But if Anna's disappearance piques his or his wife's interest, they just might take up the investigation; he's got the resources and all the right contacts."
I looked at the sergeant with renewed interest.
"Do you remember, a few years back, a man called John Carpenter was convicted of a murder that his wife had committed?" the sergeant asked.
The name rang a bell somewhere in my brain. I seemed to remember he'd been inside for a while and there'd been a gunfight or something a little while after he was released. Then there was a lot of publicity in the newspapers about him being innocent of the crime in the first place.
"Yeah, I think I do. Didn't he serve time and then when he got out his wife tried to kill him...? Hold on, it wasn't your boss who shot her was it? I thought his name was familiar when I met him the other week," I said.
"Yes, that's the guy. Well, he and his new wife run a kind of detective agency."
"Hey, look, I've got a few grand in the bank but, from what I've heard, those guys cost a lot more money than I can afford."
"Take it easy. John and Helen are good friends of mine; they and their team normally only do insurance work. But John's a strange sort of guy and you could find that your case interests him. I'm pretty sure that if we can spike his curiosity, he'll look into Anna's disappearance for nothing. Well, almost nothing, next to what you'd normally pay the sharks in his profession."
"Do you think he might be interested enough?" Barry asked.
I hadn't realised that Barry had come into the room.
"I'm not a hundred percent sure, but his wife Helen is an angel. If she feels compassion for Peter, John will follow her lead. I'll take a drive down and see Helen as soon as I can arrange it and test the water. Don't expect to hear from them too soon though; they are all over the place, those two, and you're never sure when they are even going to be in the country."
After reminding me to keep my mobile charged and switched on, Frank Stevens left. Barry and Marie-Lise seemed to be a lot more optimistic than I was that these Carpenter people would agree to help me in my search for Anna. Barry even offered to throw in a few hundred pounds to help with the costs. I had to wonder what Marie-Lise thought about that idea, but she didn't say anything.
The call came on the following Friday evening. It was from Helen Carpenter and she asked me if I could come down to her cottage on Saturday at two p.m. to talk about my "problem", as she referred to it. Barry said he'd drive me; they still weren't letting me out of their sight.
The Cottage - if they call that a cottage, what the hell do they call a mansion? - was set well back from the road just outside a village. It had one of those sweeping drives that ran in a big circle in front of it, with several cars parked in front of the large garage set off to one side.
As we got out of Barry's car, we could see a group of children playing in the rear garden, being watched over by a woman of about forty-five. She smiled at us and gestured towards the house. Barry made off towards the front door and rang the bell.
"Do you think that's her?" Marie-Lise asked me. Looking at the woman in the rear garden.
"Doesn't look the secret agent part to me. More like a younger Miss Marple," I replied.
"Well, Miss Marple is a brilliant detective.... Christ, its Mrs Peel!" Marie-Lise exclaimed.
I looked at where Marie-Lise was now looking, towards the front door of the house and sure enough there stood a woman who had a remarkable resemblance to Diana Rigg who played Mrs Peel in the Avengers TV series. Although on closer inspection she was slightly shorter and her hair was a much lighter colour.
We introduced ourselves and she invited us into her lounge to sit down. The woman we'd seen in the rear garden quickly appeared carrying a tray with tea and coffee pots on it and then withdrew again. I noted she clocked all three of us very intently before she did so.
"Right, Peter, I think Frank's filled me in as much as he can. Now I really need to talk to you, alone if I may. If you two," she gestured to Barry and Marie-Lise. "wouldn't mind popping out into the garden, Jenny will sort you out with tea or coffee on the lawn; she can keep her eye on the children better that way," Helen Carpenter said.
Barry and Marie-Lise stood up and left by the patio door.
"Right, Peter, is there anything that you didn't tell Frank and Garry?"
"I don't think so," I replied.
"Okay, now I want you to think very carefully, I gather from what I've read here in the police report that you haven't known your Anna for very long. I want you to go back in your mind and tell everything that you can remember about her, right from the day that you first met her."
I did my best. I told her about how I'd first seen Anna in the café and how it had been love at first sight, for me. How I'd had to chase after her, just to get that first date with her. And how remote and maybe distrusting of me she appeared to be for the first few months. I probably wondered off into what some of the girls had said about Anna as well, I honestly can't remember now.
"And you had no idea at all that she was going to walk out on you?" Helen asked.
"No, none whatsoever. In fact we...." I stopped talking as in remembered something I'd almost forgotten.
"You what?" Helen prompted.
"We made love on that Friday morning and, and when we, er, finished. She said that she loved me. I've just realised she said something that I didn't quite hear. You know, I'm thinking now, that she must have said 'forgive me!' I told you, she said some funny things in the height of passion. Not the sort of things that women usually say."
"What kind of things?" her interest obviously piqued.
"I'm not sure but she always seemed to be asking me to love her, not to make love to her."
"And did you? Love her, I mean?"
"Well, I wouldn't be here now if I didn't, would I?"
"I don't know Peter. You married a woman who you knew almost nothing about, that you'd met only a few months previous. Then, less than two years later, she walks out on you. Do you really love her, or are you just angry that she's gone?"
"I'm damned angry that she's gone, but to tell you the truth I don't know how I'm going to go on living without her. Helen, Anna's the only woman that I've really loved."
"Oh, you've got it bad," Helen said smiling at me.
"Yeah, I think I have. I don't think I want to go on living without her," I replied.
"Oh, you will, of that I can assure you. But now leave it with me for a while. I'll talk to my husband when he calls later. He's in Singapore at the moment. That's not too far for him to pop down to Sydney and check out this other Anna Thompson or Murray as she's called now."
"But what help will that be? She isn't my Anna!" I said somewhat confused by the suggestion.
"Of course she's not. But your Anna had to know a lot about her to get hold of a copy of her birth certificate. There is a possibility that they actually knew each other sometime in the past. Whether Anna Murray actually knows that your Anna had stolen her identity in the UK or not is anyone's guess. There is a possibility that she could have helped your Anna; just think what would have happened if Anna Murray had come back to the UK just for a holiday or something.
"Now go home and try not to worry too much. We'll be in touch in a few days."
Back in the car, Barry and Marie-Lise told me they'd been fairly well grilled about Anna by Jenny and some guy called Bert who'd appeared from somewhere. Barry said he looked and acted like a cop, most likely a retired one, Barry thought.
It was the following Friday before I got another call from Helen Carpenter. She asked me to come to her house again on the following day. Barry drove me again, but Marie-Lise couldn't come.
John Carpenter was a man who oozed confidence. I was surprised that he only stood about five foot six or seven, but he had an air about him that made him stand out in a crowd. Although Helen was in the room with us she said very little at the beginning of this meeting.
"Well, Peter," John said after we'd been introduced. "I nipped down to Sydney and had a word with the real Anna Thompson. She had no idea who your Anna really was and was annoyed that her identity had been stolen. But she was most helpful in telling me about her life in the UK before she went to New Zealand and that allowed Helen to make some inquires over here. Helen's been up to Bedford for a couple of days this week on your behalf.
"It was really just a matter of finding out which of Anna Thompson's old school friends had disappeared over the years. We think we've got it down to one of two women. We've got some pictures here that we'd like you to look at; they are old school photographs but one of them we believe will be the woman you married."
The second one he showed me was Anna.
"Sarah Sharp," he said after I'd pointed her out. "She ran away from home when she was sixteen and from what I've been able to get from the police, I'm afraid she got herself mixed up with the wrong type of people.
"Look, Peter, you're probably not going to like this very much, but we'd better get it over with as quickly as possible, then you can decide if you want us to look further. Sarah Sharp had a few run-ins with the law. She has a few minor convictions for drug possession and a couple of cautions for soliciting some years ago. The name of some guy who called himself Paul Nielson AKA Paul Knowles cropped up at the same time; well, she's listed as being one of his known associates in the police files. He's been charged with drug dealing and living off of immoral earnings a couple of times."
"Peter, you realise what I'm saying here. Your Anna, or Sarah to give her her real name, has most likely been a prostitute in her past life! Does that make any difference to your feelings towards her and do you still want to find her?" John asked.
"None whatsoever!" I replied.
"Good man. Helen said it wouldn't and she's the best judge of character that I know."
"But, Mr Carpenter, if Anna was arrested for drug possession and prostitution, surely then her DNA would be on the police data base."
"It's John, Peter. Anyway not necessarily, she was only seventeen or eighteen at the time. She probably wised up and didn't get picked up again after she learned the ropes. And they didn't always take DNA samples back then. The national database hasn't been going all that long, you know. And some of the earlier samples they took I don't believe were compatible with the system now.
"Anyway I've got some contacts trying to find out a bit more about this Nielson guy. From what I can gather so far, he's a small time pimp. The big boys in the area he operates in are the Hennessey Brothers. They are kind of loose associates of another friend of mine - same business, different part of London - so I should be able to get some more info on him soon. You know, it could be your Anna was running away from this guy Nielson when she bumped into you.
"I'm going to have someone asking questions around near your place. It could be that this Nielson guy or someone he knew showed up in town, but Sarah saw him first and ran."
"But why did she run away? Why not tell me or the police?"
"Fear most likely. Look, Peter, quite a few of those pimps keep their women in line by using violence. Once a woman's been treated like that for a while, for some reason they get used to it, their spirit is broken and they are almost completely under their abuser's mental, as well as physical, control. They could go to the police, but they are too scared to. They think that the pimp will get them or anyone they care about, no matter what happens.
"Sarah changed her name and moved to your town. That leads us to suspect that she most likely found the gumption to run away from this guy and hide. She met up with you, fell in love and married you. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Sarah didn't run because she was worried about what could possibly happen to you."
"You don't think he could have snatched her back, do you?"
"Doubtful. She packed some clothes and left a note, didn't she? If that little shit had grabbed her, I doubt she would have had time to do that. Besides he would have forced her to empty your bank accounts by now; you did say she hadn't taken any money out of the bank since she left."
"No, not a penny. Look, Mr Carpenter, you don't think he could have discovered that she was with me and killed her for running away from him in the first place, do you?"
"I got to admit that that's a slight possibility, but a very small one, Peter. Little shits like that guy use violence to frighten and control their women. I'm pretty sure that, if he'd found Sarah, he'd have either knocked her about a bit and put her back to work on the streets, or as you say, possibly killed her.
"But killing her would not do him any good unless his other girls knew about it. Knowing that he found and killed a girl who managed to escape his clutches would surely scare the backsides off them and help keep them under control. But for that to work a body would have probably turned up somewhere by now. That hasn't happened, so I tend to believe something frightened Sarah and she just ran away again."
"But what would frighten her that much?"
"Just about anything really. Maybe she saw an associate of Nielson's or even a punter who'd used her in the past and might recognise her. You've got to think of it from Sarah's point of view. A regular customer might just say something to Nielson about seeing her the next time he used his services. That probably could have been a risk that she wasn't prepared to take."
"She could have told me. I would have protected her!"
"Tell me, Peter," Helen Carpenter, who had remained silent up until then, suddenly joined the conversation. "How would you go about telling someone that you love that you've been working as a prostitute for years? And that you've probably had sex with several men at the same time on many occasions? How do you tell someone you believe loves you about that?"
"You know, Anna.... Sorry, Sarah said something to me once about having done terrible things in the past. I could tell that she didn't want to enlarge, so I told her that I didn't care," I told them.
"Saying that is easy, Peter. The truth can be a hard to swallow," Helen replied.
"She didn't trust me then?"
"That's a difficult one," Helen said. "She might have been too ashamed to tell you the whole story of her life. Try to think of it from her point of view."
Helen and John informed me that Helen was going up to Bedford again to nose around a bit more. And John was going to get his friend who knows the Hennessey Brothers to ask them more about the Nielson guy. They told me they'd be in touch in a few days.
I was worried about what all this was going to cost me, but John Carpenter told me not to be.
"I had a bad experience with my first wife," he said. "I was surprised at how many people believed in me and helped me. The insurance companies pay us handsomely for what we do for them, and my wife and I try to help as many people as we can. Your story intrigued us to start with. Now we think it's Sarah who needs our help."
During the next week I'd moved back home and was trying to get back to work. Fortunately my boss and fellow workers were being very tolerant of the poor quality of my performance in the office.
Barry told me that he thought he had caught sight of John Carpenter's man Bert, around the town a couple of times. And one of my neighbours told me that some man knocked at her house and was asking questions about Anna. I didn't tell anyone but Barry and Marie-Lise that Anna's real name was Sarah.
I suppose another couple of weeks must have gone by before I heard from John Carpenter again. He called to tell me he'd arranged a meeting with the Hennessey Brothers and asked if I wanted to tag along. I said I would.
"Pete, you've got to understand these Hennesseys' are hoods, gang leaders who run their part of town. They're not the sort of people your mother would want you mixing with, if you know what I mean?" John said to me.