Life after Death Ch. 12byExecutive Gent©
I am sorry that this chapter has taken so long to submit, we suffered a tragic loss just after Chapter 11 was submitted and it has taken me many months to be able to complete this chapter. I hope I haven't lost too many readers and that you remember my work, if not please read it again and let me know what you think of my efforts.
For the next few hours Rachel's house was a hive of activity, the police came and went, and house-to-house visits were made within the neighbourhood asking whether anyone had seen Mark and Alice when they had returned. Apparently, even the closest airports and ferry ports were already alerted. My In-laws brought the kids over at around seven, because they had kicked up such a fuss that Claire insisted that they brought them over to see us. Rachel was in a hell of a state, she ranged from abject despair to total and utter rage, but as soon as she saw Issy and Tim, she hugged them, and told them that she loved them very much.
Issy has a habit of making you feel better without realising it, we were sitting in the living room - somehow its wooden beamed ceiling and oldė world furniture made it more comforting, more homely, Rachel was sitting on a 1930's style leather sofa, which the leather was worn and almost distressed in appearance when Issy came running in to the room and hugged her tightly, then standing back a little, she looked straight into Rachel sad eyes and stroked her cheek and whispered:
"Its ok Rachel, Alice loves us all too much to stay away very long, with all these police people helping us, Mark can't stay hidden for long can he?"
Rachel looked at her and I could see she didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but smiled at her saying:
"That's true sweety, they are being so kind to us, that I'm sure that she'll be home soon."
"Hasn't she got her mobile with her, cant you just ring her on that?" she asked.
With that every eye in the room just stared at her, and Issy looked scared stiff, bless her,
"I didn't mean to be cheeky daddy, I'm sorry if I said something wrong"
I scooped her into her into my arms and told her:
"You didn't sweety, I promise, you didn't, infact that might be a good idea" turning to Rachel I asked
"Did she have it with in school with her today sweetheart?"
"Yes, I was going to call her to tell her to wait for me at school if I was running late. Let me try it now"
She reached into her bag for her phone, when the Detective in charge suggested that if we rang it straight away then we might not be able to get a trace on the signal, he thought it was wise to try and get the service provider locked in from the beginning. So he suggested we waited until he could get it set up. Claire persuaded her that this was the best course of action as I helped him by giving him the phone details etc. She took Rachel into the kitchen on the pretence of making everyone a cup of tea, whilst Rob suggested that Tim and Issy went to see the horses that must need tending to by now. I sat there wondering how this terrible ordeal would end, I knew Mark could be aggressive, I also knew that he had a history of hitting Rachel, although he had never hit Alice to my knowledge, it was now a major concern to me that if cornered he would take it out on her possibly even use her as a hostage or something. Now I know that in a rational moment you would not expect a senior surgeon at Wales' largest teaching hospital to hold a 7 year old little girl hostage, but his actions today had hardly been rational either, I admit to being extremely scared, only last night in the aftermath of our lovemaking Rachel and I had talked about another baby one day, now at best we would get her back, but we would be always worried about this happening again or at worst, well I couldn't even bring myself to think about that right now.
It seemed like hours before they said they were ready to try and phone Alice's phone, we sat around staring at Rachel in expectation, she had been told to be calm if Alice answered to try and keep her talking if Mark answered. Alice was very bright, infact for a child of 7 she seemed mature beyond her years, but she would be confused by what was happening to her and it was quite possible that Mark's manner would be strained and overly protective around her. We sat in the living room waiting expectantly as she dialled Alice's phone. She almost groaned with despair when it went instantly to the answer machine, but bravely she left a message:
"Darling this is Mummy, I hope you are having a lovely time with Daddy, ring me when u pick this message up"
The police seemed pleased that Rachel had thought to do this, because if the phone was switched on then it could be traced as it searched for messages and if Alice actually picked it up then they could pinpoint the handset's exact position. Suddenly I was so glad now, that Rachel had given Alice a phone of her own as I had originally thought she was to young for a phone of her own originally. But Rachel had explained her reasons and I have to admit they made sense, and infact I had got Issy one too. Tim already had one of my old ones, which served him well enough, although he was fancying some of the latest versions, and was hinting that he would like one for his birthday. The police said we would try once more around 9.00pm but if not we were unlikely to get any success until tomorrow. Rob and Claire took the kids back to their home for the night and as they were leaving, they made us promise we would try and get some sleep. We agreed but in reality, everyone knew that sleep would be unlikely for us tonight.
The police finally left except for one liaison officer at around 10.30pm, we thanked them for their support and were assured that they would be working on this through the night and first thing tomorrow. We thanked them and shut up the house for the night, Rachel was numb with shock after the day's event, we showed the policeman to the spare room so that he could get some rest if required. Thanking him she turned in for the night, he asked if he could stay down stairs for a while as he was still technically on duty for another hour, although he would be on call whilst he stayed at our house he was not actually on active duty unless required. We were happy for him to do as we wished, as it made us feel that much safer knowing there was a police presence with us, if there was any news. I checked the outbuildings and locked the house up, and made us all a drink, I couldn't believe that Mark had gone this far, I knew of his temperament ofcourse, but if I'm honest I didn't expect him to actually abduct Alice, we chatted about this as I made our drinks and he assured me that is estranged relationships this sort of thing happened pretty regularly, especially if one party feels threatened by new events in their ex partners personal life.
The strange thing for me was that if it was me in his position, then I would be bending over backwards to ensure that my ex-wife wouldn't feel intimidated by me, in order to ensure I kept contact with my kids. Mark's behaviour was so alien to me, I wasn't trying to take his place, Alice needed her father in her life, but I had been worried about his reaction to me over recent weeks. We lay in each other's arms listening to the sounds made by the trees outside, and the odd noise from the stables, but mostly I lay there holding Rachel as she silently sobbed into my chest. I felt so helpless, I had come to love Alice as much as one of my own kids, infact on a day to day basis she was treated exactly as my own kids were, but how could I understand what a mother feels when a child that she has carried inside her body for nine months has it so cruelly snatched from her by someone who she once loved enough to have a baby with. All I could do was hold her, tell her how much I loved her and that I was sure she would come home to us soon.
Rachel took out her pain on me by telling me that I was a dreamer and that if Mark lost control he was capable of anything. She cried as I held her close again, promising that if she did come out of this ok, then he would never see her again, if she had to move then that was what she would do, I continued to comfort her as much as I could, telling her that I would sell up everything and we could start over if necessary, knowing that it would probably not come to that, but I just wanted to keep her as strong and positive as I could. Infact I was more worried of what he was capable of than I could ever show her, after all the contents of the report my security people had compiled on him was damming enough. Rachel finally sobbed herself to sleep at around midnight, although I was still unable to sleep, and after an hour or so, when I was sure that she was fast I crept out of bed and went down to the kitchen for a drink, secretly hoping that by some miracle, Mark would bring her home before morning. When I got down to Rachel's kitchen, I couldn't help but think of the first time I visited this lovely old house and how warm and inviting it felt. Alice and Rachel meeting us as we arrived, the excitement as she took Issy on a tour of the house and stables, the wonderful day we all spent together, culminating in me fetching Tim and bringing him back for supper.
Sitting with my head in my hands as I drank a steaming mug of tea, the tears streamed down my face as I sat quietly fearing the worst. I don't know how long I sat there but it must have been over an hour, before I felt a soft hand on my shoulder, I looked around and saw Rachel looking haggard and drawn, her normally beautiful dark hair and soft features looking sallow and lifeless.
"Hi sweety" I almost whispered, "You ok?"
"Steve, I can't believe he would do this, but I'm better because you are with me, I couldn't bear to go through this on my own." "Rachel, I'm so sorry sweety, perhaps we should have waited a little longer, I knew he didn't like the fact we were together, perhaps we should have waited until he could accept the situation better ...... I'm sorry, I almost feel that this is my fault somehow."
"Don't be stupid Steve, how can you say such a thing? The problem is HIS not yours, you have shown Alice and I what real love is, you have accepted her unconditionally and I believe that you will be a real father to her for the rest of her life. She loves you, not as much as I do!!!" she smiled wanly "You have changed our lives darling, don't think of it as your fault, you tried to warn me about him, and I didn't listen to you, I was convince he had changed, but infact he is more unstable than ever. I love you Steve, please give me the strength to get through this I can't do this without you, I need you here by my side, I need to believe that tomorrow we will be a family again and that Tim and Issy will be here to welcome her home ...... please baby hold me for a while."
We clutched each other for dear life for several minutes until we heard a mobile ringing upstairs ... looking at each other we realised it was Rachel's phone ringing in the bedroom We looked at each other in shock as she raced upstairs to try and reach the phone before it cut to answerphone. She cleared two steps at a time and made it just in time, I almost collided with a sleepy looking police officer, who had obviously been in a very deep sleep as he stumbled onto the landing.
"Alice...are you ok sweety?" Rachel sobbed down the phone.
"Mummy, I got your message, Daddy is acting funny, he bought me some new clothes and he drove us past Swansea all the way to St David's it's really pretty, but he wouldn't let me ring you earlier, he told me you had gone away with Steve for the weekend and you said he could take me away with him on a holiday."
"Do you know exactly where you are sweety?" Rachel almost whispered.
"We are in a cottage overlooking a small beach but I can see a bigger beach on one side under a mountain and caravans on the other. Daddy wouldn't let me go and play down on the beach though, and he kept walking up and down looking out of the kitchen window up the dirt road... Will you come and get me Mummy please.. I'm not having a very nice time, he is really grumpy, I'm so glad he didn't know I had my phone with me. He's asleep in a chair downstairs"
"Alice, I need you to be really grown up, can you see anything that could tell me where your cottage is, if you can I could get there soon and surprise Daddy and we could spend the rest of the weekend together"
The policeman had run down stairs to contact his superiors about the call, and came back smiling saying they had a fix on the signal and to keep her talking as long as possible.
Rachel was shaking as Alice said that they had gone past a big church, but she had told Rachel everything she could think of. Rachel told her that she was a good girl and to hide her phone, and that the fact she had it with her was their little secret. She told her that if she and Daddy went to another place to let us know if she could. Alice said that she needed to go as she thought she could hear Mark moving around downstairs. Rachel tried to sound upbeat as she said goodnight, but the policeman said they had got a fix from where Alice had called. He said that they were in a little cottage overlooking Whitesands Bay, two miles from St David's in Pembrokeshire. I knew this area well having spent many summers there as a child, St David's is the smallest city in Great Britain and is situated on the far south west coast of Wales. Granted city status by Queen Elisabeth I because of the presence of the cathedral St David's is in reality a small attractive village. Situated within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park St David's is surrounded by spectacular coastal scenery renowned for its beauty and abundance of wildlife. Although, Rachel, was heartened by the news, I knew that we were a long way from getting her back safely as there were so many back roads and lanes that Mark could slip into, if they moved on before the police got there.
It was now 3am and the police were now back at the house asking questions, Rachel and I had dressed and wanted to get going to be with Alice when they rescued her, but we were told that we needed to wait for a little while until they had confirmed the suspected location was correct. Within the hour they had established that the location pin-pointed by the trace from Alice's mobile phone was indeed where Mark had driven to with Alice. They were hiding in a small 1930's cottage situated two miles west of the picturesque city of St David's in Pembrokeshire overlooking Whitesands Bay. St David's is the smallest city in Great Britain and is situated on the far south west coast of Wales. Granted city status by Queen Elisabeth I because of the presence of the cathedral, St David's is in reality a small attractive village. Situated within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, it is surrounded by spectacular coastal scenery renowned for its beauty and abundance of wildlife. St David's Cathedral has been the dominant presence since the 12th century and was a popular pilgrimage destination throughout the middle ages and indeed remains so to this day attracting thousands of visitors every year. Adjacent to the cathedral stands the magnificent ruins of the medieval Bishops Palace, it was area that I had spent several very happy summers as a child, and an area I knew it would be easy to get lost in as there was hundreds of miles of winding single track lanes which if you needed to disappear meant you never needed to travel by main road if you chose not to. However, the police assured us that they had the element of surprise as there was only one way in and out of the cottage and they promised us that they would be in an out with the minimum of fuss and that they would have Alice safe and sound by the time we arrived.
Rachel looked less than convinced but took heart when the police assured her that Mark had no knowledge of their presence outside the cottage. I rang both Rob and Claire and my own parents to let them know the situation and to inform them that we were travelling down to Pembrokeshire to be there to fetch her. My main worry was all through these moments was that, what if the rescue attempt went wrong? After all I had read the file my staff had compiled about Mark's temper, what happened if he was armed? I know I had handed this information over to the police but I was so worried that the rescue would not be as straightforward as we were being told. By 3.50am we were ready to go, and an unmarked police people carrier came to fetch us and our liaison officer for the 2¼-hour journey to West Wales, Rachel and I sat together quietly holding hands praying that Alice would be safely returned to us. Our liaison officer had been wonderful, he continued to keep in contact with his superiors to ensure we knew what was going on, the raid was due to take place at 5am, and the special forces were being manoeuvred into position in readiness. There had been total quiet at the cottage with all police vehicles kept out of sight and no sirens or headlights used to keep their presence unknown to the inhabitants. Rachel and I hardly talked throughout the journey, but gave each other the odd little smile or squeeze of the hand every now and again. Our thoughts were totally focussed on what was about to happen, the police were sure that Alice and Mark had not left the cottage during the night as the car was still out side and there seemed to be little evidence of them setting off by foot.
At 4.30am we heard the police radio crackle into life, informing our escorts that the operation was about to commence, Rachel was transfixed with fear as she whispered quietly:
"Look after my baby ...... please look after my baby........."
I held her tightly as the large vehicle sped through the darkness, hoping that Alice would be safe. My heart breaking for the wonderful woman in my arms who had given me so much hope in recent months and who now seemed so alone and frightened. I knew that just being with her now was helping, but I felt so useless, I would have done anything to make it better for her.
At the cottage the police were keeping a very low profile, the cottage was in darkness and although its inhabitants seemed to be still there, the Inspector leading the raid could not be totally sure that Mark had not slipped out under the cover of darkness. Slowly just before 4.40am he gave the signal to advance on the cottage, which infact a square 1930's dormer bungalow which had all rooms leading of a central living space. The were two entrances to the building, the main at the rear which was into a lean to conservatory that led into the central living area and a front entrance via a large picture window that led into the same room. This made it easier to secure from an escape point of view, but harder to enter without being exposed, as the building was originally built to maximise the spectacular views of the bay from the interior. However, using the cover of the darkness and the fact this was a holiday home with relatively low security they were able to enter the building relatively easily and very quietly. However, what was totally unexpected was the fact that at first inspection the cottage appeared empty, however the beds were still warm and there was evidence that they had appeared to leave in a hurry, but if they had already left, the thermal imaging surveillance equipment the police had set up would have picked them up as they left. Therefore they either had to have left previously or were actually still there, the police started to look harder over the little house, they were just about to leave when one of the officers noticed an irregularity in the spacing in the parquet flooring in the central living area. Quietly he alerted his colleagues of his find, and within minutes a portable thermal imaging unit was brought into the room, as soon as it was switched on, it soon became obvious that there was a cellar of some kind beneath the property, almost like a priest hole or smuggler's retreat. Also, the imager picked up two human beings huddled in the western corner of the room, they were here, the next issue was how to into the room with the minimal amount of risk to Alice.