Many thanks to Jedbeaker for editing this story.
In this story you'll find much more romance than in other Winterfrog stories.
It was the last Friday in June and I, Eric Robertson, had left my job for my four-week summer vacation. On the way home I picked-up my seven year old daughter, Amanda, at my wife's parents. They took care of her during her school summer break until Anita, my wife the past nine years and I began our summer vacations.
This year we had not planned or booked any long holiday trips because Anita had suggested and I had agreed, to do some maintenance work on our house. So we planned to take only short one-day trips, now and then depending on the weather.
Anita left her job at noon so both Amanda and I had great expectations about a nice celebration and family fun when we came home. Anita's blue Renault Clio was parked in our driveway just as expected, but we were surprised when we did not get any reply when Amanda was running around in the house shouting, "Mom, dad and me are home now!"
At first, I thought Anita had gone talking with some of the neighbors at their house. I tried to calm down the worried Amanda by saying, "Mom is only away for a few minutes and will be back soon." But when she realized that Anita hadn't done any shopping or preparation for the summer vacation celebration, even I understood that she was into something that she obviously hadn't known about in the morning.
My second thought was that she was out with her co-workers for some kind of celebration that had been decided that day. What surprised me was that she had not called me or sent me a text message about her new plans. We always used to do that when one of us was expected to come home late for some reason.
Two hours later without any message from Anita, I began to be really worried about the situation and began calling several of her friends and co-workers. But none of them had any further information about Anita to share with me.
At Anita's job they had celebrated the coming summer holidays already during the eleven o'clock coffee break because everybody with a family wanted to hurry straight home after the job. None of her friends knew if Anita had any special plans for the day. I didn't call her parents because if they had known anything, I was sure they would have told me when I was there getting Amanda.
One thing was for sure. Anita had been in our house since she parked her car in the driveway because her car key was hanging from the hook where it lived when not in use. One further confusing thing was that she hadn't left any message on a "Post-It" on the fridge. We always did that if we hadn't talked or left any other kind of message.
Anita and I had a fair marriage, not perfect but at least not worse than average. We met eleven years ago at a party and had been married for nine. I had been faithful during our marriage and there had never been any reason for me to suspect Anita of cheating. No quarrels about financial problems, no health problems and, at least in my opinion, still a good sex life. When talking about sex, Anita had always told me that she was satisfied with her life and promised to tell me if she had suggestions or new expectations of any kind. In most matters we were just like many other Scandinavian middleclass families.
Of course, the hope was for her to come home during the evening and give me a fair explanation about what had happened. But as the time went by my hope began fading away and at three o'clock in the morning I went to bed with the hope that Anita would be in her bed when I woke up in the morning.
But she wasn't.
It was a hard awakening for me to realize that there was a problem, a huge problem indeed.
After a few phone calls to Anita's parents and her best friends I had to admit that nobody knew any more than when Amanda and I came home yesterday.
However, Anita's parent's and sister became really worried and rang me at least once a hour during the day even though I had promised to call them if there was something new.
After lunch I even went to the police who asked me to calm down because almost all people missing during the summertime usually return within a few days.
Back home while investigating everything about Anita's absence, strange details began to pop up. Some of Anita's clothes and a suitcase were missing, as well as her laptop computer, her pills and passport. That really confused me a lot. There were still no messages from her, so I decided to search for further clues.
Our file at the Telecom company's website that showed incoming and outgoing calls to our landline gave no clue to what Anita had done. There was nothing of interest at all. The next thing to check was our joint bank account and it didn't give anything. Of course, all information about the bank account in Anita's name only was closed to me just as all the information about her cell phone usage.
Though her passport was gone, I really doubted that she had left the country. Too many small things she used to take with her abroad still remained at home which gave me an idea. If she was somewhere within a close distance, she could just come back to the house and take what she needed when Amanda and I were away somewhere. I couldn't stop Anita from doing that, but it might be possible to get evidence of her visit.
Therefore I went to a big electronics store and bought two video cameras. One was very small for hiding indoors and one was better for outdoor use. The indoor camera was activated by movement and could even record sound. It was placed so that it was impossible to avoid being seen by it, even if somebody went in via the front or back doors. The outdoor camera took pictures of my driveway at a rate of ten pictures per minute so it could be checked daily in a short time.
It was a terrible time for me and for Amanda although I did my best to comfort her by saying that mom would be back soon and would call us as soon as she had time. Though I did my best, it didn't sound very convincing, not even to a seven year old child. My almost sleepless nights were a real hell while thinking about where Anita could be and why she had done this to Amanda and me. A woman might abandon her husband for several reasons but it is very uncommon that a mother leaves her seven year old child without any message or explanation. That is especially true when the woman doesn't have any known problems with health, finances, work or marriage. It didn't matter how much I thought about it, Anita's absence still remained a mystery.
Nothing happened until the next Wednesday when a policewoman named Carolina Person rang me and wanted to see me. I told her, "You name the place and time and I'll be there."
She replied, "In ten minutes at your house." I accepted.
Carolina was a surprisingly pretty woman who looked a few years younger than me with her blond hair in a ponytail, blue jeans and a red top. She greeted Amanda with very friendly small talk and met me with a bright smile on her face, obviously playing "the good cop". She asked me, "Is it okay for you if we use our first names Carolina and Eric?"
I told her, "No objections". But I had serious doubts about if this lovely lady could get anything done about my missing wife. But I decided to be polite and asked her, "Would you like to look around in the house or talk first?"
She preferred talking and I started Amanda's favorite DVD film in the living room while Carolina and I sat down at the kitchen table waiting for the coffee to be ready. She began with information about her plans for the case and then continued with, "In a case like this I'm on your side but only as long as you are telling me the truth. Lie to me and you will be in big trouble; very big trouble, indeed. Can we agree about working with the truth?"
She obviously preferred playing the 'good cop' even though she knew that the husbands in most similar cases are not as innocent as they pretend to be. But as I had nothing to hide, the reply could only be, "Yes, we can agree. I promise to do everything I can do to help you solve this mystery"
After giving honest answers to all her questions she promised to do her best to check if Anita's phone had been in use and if there had been any bank account activity. But due to the summer holidays, she couldn't promise any fast action about these matters for the time being. Carolina had no objections about my video cameras.
After talking with me, Carolina had a short friendly chat with Amanda and at the front door, she looked me right in the eyes and said, "I have my own daughter, the same age and can't understand how anybody can voluntarily abandon a child."
Now I was sure that the police would regard missing Anita to be a higher priority. It was well known that the spouse was the main suspect in similar cases. And it had happened several times that an innocent spouse had been jailed for several months. Innocent or not innocent didn't matter for being suspected. But my co-operation with Carolina ought to keep me free as long as they didn't find anything against me.
Thursday morning Carolina came for Anita's car and on Friday she came to my house for some additional talk. She told me that nothing had happened with her bank account during her absence. I said that nothing had been seen by my cameras. Then Carolina surprised me by saying, "There are only two possible explanations why Anita is gone. Some of my colleagues are beginning to think that you are somehow involved or that she has a very strong reason to stay away from you and her child. That seems very strange for me since, as you know, I'm a mother to a seven year old daughter. However, as I promised you before, I'm on your side as long as you're telling me the truth."
I had nightmares about what could happen to me if Anita had planted some faked evidence against me. When telling that to Carolina, she comforted me by saying that whatever Anita was into she wanted me to take good care of Amanda, and had not done anything like that. And another reason could simply be that Anita didn't hate me, but had some other reason for abandoning her family. Carolina suggested "a hot romance" and if that was the case, Anita would probably call Amanda, me or her mom within a few days.
What could I say to that? Then Carolina said a few words about information releases to the media. But since Anita took her suitcase and passport during the main holiday season, being gone for only one week was too short a time for the media to make any hot news of the case. If the media took up the case, we would probably get a large number of unwanted invalid observations from the whole country.
Saturday evening Anita was eight days gone without any new clues.
Carolina and I had lunch together on Monday, the tenth day Anita was gone. She reported that Anita's smart phone had been switched off the whole time. Carolina was glad to say that she now had some assistance and they had found a few small clues in Anita's car. They worked on those, but there was nothing that would lead us to where she was for the time being.
Nothing was heard from Anita on Wednesday her twelfth day missing. That day was her mother's birthday, so Amanda and I went there for a barbeque that evening. Alf Nygren, the husband of Anita's sister, obviously had some hidden booze because he made several trips to his car and got more and more boozed during the evening. I didn't like him even when he was sober and now he turned into a real pain in my ass when he began accusing me about Anita's absence.
Though his wife and her parents did their best to get him to shut up, they failed, so I had enough and told him, "One further word from your big gap and you'll hit the ground."
He shouted, "You Damn bastard, I'll show you what a real man can do", and aimed a swing at my head. The swing missed, but Alf hit the ground and remained down there.
I took Amanda with me and left the party. We went home, stopping to shop for a few things at a supermarket that was still open. We met a good friend of mine and I had a long chat with him.
After Amanda was sleeping back home, I checked the camera recordings and got such a surprise that it almost knocked me down. In the pictures from the camera I could see clear pictures of Anita, and she looked to be in a good shape.
Pictures from the camera outdoors were of less quality due to the rain but one could see
Anita arriving alone in a black BMW SUV. Unfortunately it was impossible to see the first two characters of the license plate.
Carolina had written her private cell phone number on a card and said I could use it if something really special happened. She agreed that my pictures, without any doubt, were such a case. But she regretted to say that she couldn't find a baby sitter and could not come over to see what I had. Since I had the same problem, we agreed that my pictures could wait to the next day.
Now I began to wonder if she was a single mom because she had never mentioned a spouse, but that wasn't any of my problems because all our connections had been strictly business. One thing was for sure, she had sounded glad after getting the big news. It could have been because the mystery would probably be solved within a few days or was it because now she knew that she been right about my innocence? It was probably for both reasons.
The next morning she got to my house early, and was very satisfied with my recordings which were better than she had expected. Then she gave me a bright smile and said, "I'm happy I had the correct opinion about you even though some of my colleges suspected you were involved in her disappearance."
I smiled back and said, "I've really appreciated your kind co-operation in this sad matter and
faith about finding the answers."
"We are not there yet, but hopefully soon. What are your plans for Anita if she comes back? Whatever they will be, please don't do anything stupid neither to her nor to any male friend if there is some man involved. Please don't make any new problems you have to regret later. Promise me here and now that you are not going to make me disappointed." Carolina said.
"No, nothing will happen to Anita or her lover. The only thing I will give her is a divorce so she will be completely free from me to do whatever she wants to do. Why in the hell didn't she just ask for a divorce instead of sneaking away and creating this damn mess for Amanda and me?"
"Sounds fair to me and I'll keep you updated as soon we find any further information about this BMW and the owner of it. The only thing we can do now is to ask your wife if she went away of her own free will and why she did it. If she did that, she didn't do anything illegal, though she acted like an asshole toward her child and her husband." Carolina told me, and I understood that Anita's case would be a lower priority from now on.
After checking out the BMW license plate with the missing characters the police found eight possible BMW cars. Six of them were black that seemed to be a popular color on that make. Four of them were owned by people a long away from our town. So they were not of interest for the time being. One of the remaining ones was owned by a 70 year old retired vet who told that it was his 22 year old grand-son who used the car most of the time. Nowadays he preferred the small Nissan that was registered to his wife. The boy was somewhere at the coast with his new girlfriend. Carolina said that the man had been very pleased to hear that the boy wasn't involved in any serious problems and assisted her with getting in contact with his grandson.
Only one possible BMW in our area remained. It was owned by a self employed 39 year old dentist living in a newly built very luxurious house. He was even known as a "slum-lord", making big money from worn out rental houses he bought for a bargain price when the previous owner had went bankrupt. He was involved in some local political matters where he was best known as a trouble maker. Two children with his first wife who had full custody of them and now he was married to a member of the Parliament who was away on a two month long tax-money-paid trip to Singapore, Japan, Australia and New Zealand for studying some kind of "communication problems in suburban areas". For saving taxpayers money, as they said, her party boss and she were the only participants on that expensive trip.
Of course, the tabloid papers and gossip magazines had articles about their trip. Though nobody accused them to be lovers, it was easy to get that information when reading "between the lines". That many people did, and rather soon the abandoned dentist was a laughingstock in our town.
Carolina called me and said that they had a problem. They knew for sure that the dentist wasn't living in his new house in town. But it was found out that he owned a big summerhouse at a lake. The problem was that the police had no right to go in the there if the dentist said "No, I don't know any Anita Robertson" because they had no evidence that the missing Anita really was there against her will.
But Carolina had a plan, which needed me to help them get the necessary evidence. I accepted.
Due to staff on summer holidays they were very short of policemen on duty and finding a woman who, obviously left her husband for a lover, was of low priority. But if the police had evidence that she was in the house, they could get a warrant to go in and talk with her, even if the dentist tried to stop them.
It was a simple plan. One of Carolina's fellow policemen was a bird watcher. The next day I would use his equipment and watch the summer house from early morning to late afternoon.
The bird watcher and I were of the same size so his camouflage colored clothes fit me perfectly. Then he gave two green colored plastic 2 liter jars, one for water to drink and the other for the pee. He even gave me a camouflage net, a simple green lightweight ladder that could be folded into a small package, and a camera with a zoom lens. Then he told me about a good choice of food for a long day up in a tree.
The remaining time of that day I wrote my divorce papers, I took Amanda to her grandparents, fixed my food, loaded my phone and the mini laptop Carolina had given me. She gave me orders to save the limited battery capacity in the laptop as much as possible. The phone in stand-by mode would not be any problem but there should be no surfing on the web.
Five o'clock the next morning, the fourteenth day of Anita's absence, the bird watching policeman and I were in the woods overlooking the dentist's summerhouse, where he suggested to me a suitable maple tree perch with perfect branches and many leaves. I got the last instructions, folded out the ladder, climbed up, took up the ladder, folded it and began to fix my hide-out while the policeman went fixing an automatic camera taking pictures towards the sea side of the house; it was not seen from my perch.
When back, the birdwatcher inspected my hide-out and gave an okay sign and left. My seat, just like some kind of a swing seat was rather comfortable and I began my job with a short text message to Carolina, "All is well, 3G signal OK"
She replied two hours later with a text, "Good luck."
Nothing happened until 7:30 when a car stopped at the mailbox delivering a newspaper. About twenty minutes later a man, dressed only in red boxer shorts came out for the paper. Although I didn't know the dentist very well, I was almost sure it was him. I took some pictures, downloaded the best to the laptop and sent them to Carolina.
She replied, "It's him, well done."
There was a boring time again until two hours later when a small white Renault Kangoo decorated with the bright blue and red text "Mobile Maid" parked outside and two females in red overalls went in to the house. It was the best and most expensive home service company in our town. I thought that asshole has really spoiled Anita. I sent pictures of the car to Carolina so she could talk with the two women when they were back in town.