Authors: Katherine Pathak
A DCI Dani Bevan novel
© Katherine Pathak 2015, all rights reserved.
© Front Cover, istockphoto, all rights reserved
Edited by: The Currie Revisionists, 2015
THE GARANSAY PRESS
The DCI Dani Bevan novels:
Against A Dark Sky
On A Dark Sea
The Imogen and Hugh Croft Mysteries:
The Only Survivor
The Woman Who Vanished
Memorial For The Dead
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means- graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems - without the prior permission in writing of the author and publishers.
The Garansay Press, 2015
he fishing trawler should only have been carrying ten passengers. It wasn’t insured for any more. This technical detail, however, was the last thing on the mind of the boat’s captain right at this moment.
His vessel was being tossed to and fro by the waves. Its skipper fought hard to keep the heavy wheel under control. He was using only one of the ship’s powerful headlamps due to the fact their voyage was less than legit. It was almost impossible for him to see what lay in the dark waters ahead.
Down below, a group of men and women sat close together in a cramped space which stank of fish and diesel in equal, sickening measure. One of the younger girls scrambled to her feet. Moving with determination, she climbed the slippery ladder and leapt onto the deck. She stumbled to the side of the boat and proceeded to retch her guts up into the foaming spray.
When her stomach was finally purged, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and surveyed the scene. There was blackness all around them, except for a tiny beam being projected from the bow of the boat. It was illuminating the towering waves. The girl could also make out the occasional zig-zag of moonlight attempting to cut through the thick cloud. She felt her nausea rise once again at the sight of the churning sea. Despite the terrifying conditions, she was still relieved to be up top, breathing in the cold, sharp air.
‘I told you to stay in the cabin!’ The angry words were carried towards her on the wind.
She didn’t reply, but hugged her arms tightly around her thin body and stared out into the night. The moonlight was suddenly extinguished. It took the girl a few seconds to work out the reason why. But then she saw it. A wall of water, maybe thirty feet high was rushing towards the boat, engulfing everything in its path. By the time she’d registered the danger, it was already upon them.
The deafening roar of the wave crashing down onto the vessel almost instantly gave way to an eerie silence. The moon lit up the sea once again. This time, no man-made objects broke the rolling surface. The little fishing boat was nowhere to be seen.
The Pitt Street Headquarters of Police Scotland, Glasgow.
t’s not like Phil to be late,’ DCI Dani Bevan muttered to herself, as she gazed out of her office window at the Detective Sergeant’s empty workstation. It was half past nine. For Phil Boag, this was the equivalent of midday. The guy was usually in before seven am.
Dani delved into the top drawer of her filing cabinet, looking for a hand mirror to check her make-up. She had a meeting with the Chief Superintendent in five minutes. Her team were working on an anti-terrorist operation which involved sifting through hundreds of hours of online correspondence. She’d been relying on Phil to provide her with the latest analysis. Now Dani would be going in to see Nicholson empty handed. The prospect made her distinctly nervous.
DCS Angus Nicholson sat behind a huge, shiny desk. The room was completely devoid of evidence that any work took place in it. Plenty of other senior officers at the station surrounded themselves with files and papers, but not Angus.
‘What’s the latest on the Gallowgate Cell?’
‘We’ve worked through all of the phone material, Sir. Now Sergeant Boag has started on their social media interactions. So far, there’s nothing to indicate a conspiracy to harm.’ Dani hoped this was true. She’d not actually spoken to Phil yet.
‘I see. You’ve filed for a great deal of overtime on this case. What’s your instinct, Danielle? Is it worth pursuing any further?’ Nicholson steepled his hands, peering expectantly at her, obviously hoping she would give him the green light to close the operation down.
Before she had time to answer, Dani’s bleeper went off. ‘Sorry Sir, I’d better respond to this.’
Nicholson gestured towards the telephone on his desk, appearing rather put out by the DCI’s insistence that she stick to the basic rules of policing. Dani picked up the receiver and dialled. She listened for a few moments and replaced it gently.
‘Something’s come up, Sir.’
‘Is it serious?’
‘It might be. A girl from Jane Boag’s school has gone missing.’
Nicholson sat up straighter in his seat. ‘Have the press got hold of it?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘Then get on the case immediately, Bevan. We need this cleared up before we’re hit by a media storm.’
‘Right you are, Sir,’ Dani carefully replied, turning on her heels and striding purposefully out of the door.
It was wet as DCI Bevan and DC Andy Calder climbed out of the car. They proceeded towards the entrance of Newton High School and were escorted straight to Jane Boag’s office on the ground floor of the main building.
As they entered, Jane was sitting behind her desk and DS Phil Boag was standing by the window. Another woman was seated in the chair opposite the Headmistress. She was slumped over uncomfortably, gripping a mug of tea with both hands.
DS Boag stepped forward. ‘Mrs Riddell, this is DCI Danielle Bevan. She’s here to help us find Maisie.’
Fiona Riddell turned around, her expression pained. She immediately stood up. Getting the opportunity to look at her properly, Dani placed the woman in her late forties. Her hair was dark brown and shoulder-length. She was slim and smartly dressed. On any normal day, Fiona would be rather attractive. ‘I called the police last night. They told me to wait until morning. I haven’t slept at all. As soon as dawn broke I decided to ring Phil and Jane. I thought they’d know what to do.’
‘Please sit down, Mrs Riddell,’ Dani urged.
The DCI already knew something of the backstory. Maisie Riddell was good friends with Phil’s youngest daughter, Georgina. They were in some of the same classes together at the High School where Jane Boag was the Headmistress. ‘Could you tell me the last time you had any contact with Maisie?’
Fiona was perched on the edge of the seat, her hands clasped together. ‘It was yesterday morning, as she set out for school. We only live a ten minute walk away. Maisie usually meets Georgina at the gate and they go into class together.’
Dani glanced towards Mrs Boag.
‘Maisie was registered during Form Time. She attended her lessons until lunch. Then she was timetabled for an activity in the Gym. But there is some uncertainty over whether or not she actually participated.’ Jane appeared uncomfortable. Dani imagined that a member of staff must have been lax with their registering of the group. It wouldn’t normally matter too much. Only in circumstances like this.
‘We’ll need to speak with her classmates and the relevant teachers in order to clarify that,’ Detective Constable Andy Calder put in.
‘She just didn’t come home,’ Fiona continued. ‘I waited until six and then started to call around her friends. None of them had seen her. That’s when I rang the police. They told me there was nothing they could do at such an early stage. Maisie is fourteen years old and they seemed to assume she was out in town with a boyfriend.’
‘And you’ve received no messages from her since?’ Dani asked gently.
The woman shook her head.
Phil Boag pulled out a chair and sat next to Fiona. ‘Does Maisie have a boyfriend?’
She looked at him. ‘No. I don’t think so. Maisie doesn’t go out without me knowing where she is and who she’s with, just like Georgina.’
Phil placed his hand on her arm. ‘What about Charles? Have you tried to contact him to see if he’s heard from your daughter?’
Dani shot her Sergeant an enquiring glance.
‘Maisie’s father,’ he mouthed back to her.
‘Not yet. He’ll only get angry. It won’t help.’
‘I’m afraid we will need to get in touch with your ex-husband, Mrs Riddell. I’d like you to provide us with his full name and address, including his work number if possible.’
Fiona nodded and scrabbled around in her handbag. ‘You’d be better off ringing him at work. He’s there most of the time. Charles is an executive at Barents Oil, based at their head offices in Stavanger.’
‘Norway?’ Dani asked in surprise.
‘Yes, Maisie’s father has lived there for the past five years.’ The woman finally dug out a dog-eared business card and handed it to the DCI.
‘Thank you. If you’ve finished your tea, Mrs Riddell, DC Calder and I will escort you home. We’d like to take a look at Maisie’s bedroom and it will be more comfortable for us to talk there.’
Dani signalled to Phil and they both helped Maisie’s mother out of her chair. They had to support her weight between them on the short walk to the car-park. Dani wasn’t sure she was fit to drive, but Fiona assured them she was. Bevan and Calder followed close behind in the squad car, weaving slowly through the suburban streets of the south side of Glasgow, just in case it turned out the poor woman was not.
orry I didn’t let you know what was going on earlier, Ma’am. Fiona Riddell was in a terrible state when she arrived on our doorstep at the crack of dawn. I wanted to get all the information I could out of her then and there,’ Phil Boag declared, as Bevan and Calder returned to the Pitt Street station.
‘No problem. It’s not like you to be late. I knew something serious must be up.’ Dani deposited her rain jacket on a stand and signalled for the two men to join her in the office. She pulled the door closed behind them.
Directing her comments to Phil, Dani said, ‘when we searched Maisie’s room, it became clear that she’d taken some clothes from out of her wardrobe, a few items of underwear and a soft bag. Fiona Riddell hadn’t noticed this earlier on as she hadn’t thought to check. Do you think the girl may have done a bunk? How well did Maisie get on with her mother?’
Phil ran a hand through his silver-streaked hair. ‘Fine, I think. Georgina certainly never mentioned them having rows. Although, I’m not sure how much she would share with me and Jane. To be honest, I’m really surprised to hear that Maisie might have taken off.’ Boag crinkled his handsome face in concentration. He was tall and lean, with a muscular upper body. Dani knew that Jane Boag’s career took priority in their household. It didn’t mean Phil wasn’t dedicated to his job. He just had no desire to move up through the ranks.
‘Would you mind if we questioned Georgina? You or Jane can be present, of course. I’m going over to the High School to conduct the interviews, once we’ve finished here,’ Andy Calder said cautiously.
Phil nodded. ‘Sure. I think it might be better to have Jane there. Georgie has a thing about the other kids knowing I’m a policeman. It’s bad enough her being the child of the Headmistress.’ Phil gave a rueful smile.
‘I understand,’ Andy swiftly added. ‘I’ll tread very carefully.’
When Calder had left the room, Dani turned to Phil. ‘We’ve got an all-ports warning out on Maisie. She hasn’t got a passport with her, so the girl can’t have got far.’
‘Are we certain this isn’t a case of abduction?’
Dani glanced down at the school photograph on her desk. A pretty, pale-faced girl with straight black hair and emerald green eyes stared back at her. The smile that danced upon her lips looked contrived for the occasion. ‘Maisie’s parents divorced five years ago, is that right?’
Phil took a seat. ‘Yes, Maisie Riddell was still in primary school when her father moved to Norway. The family had been living in Aberdeen before that. After Charles Riddell was off the scene, Fiona had no reason to stay on in the city. She moved back to Glasgow, where she had grown up. The girls hit it off as soon as Maisie joined the same class. She and Georgie have been great pals ever since.’
‘How did Maisie take her parents’ separation? It must have been particularly tough when her father moved out of the country.’
‘From what Fiona has told us, Charles worked very long hours. When he was offered a major job at Barents Oil, Fiona refused to go with him. The marriage was already rocky and she didn’t fancy being stuck in Stavanger on her own. But I’ve never heard Maisie speak about it. Her dad comes over every few months and she spends alternate Christmases with them.’
‘Them?’ Dani enquired.
‘Yes, Charles re-married a couple of years back. They’ve now got a toddler. A wee boy, I believe.’
Dani looked thoughtful. ‘I asked Jim Caffrey to examine what was on the camera outside the school. It seems that Maisie left the premises just after lunch. She definitely bunked afternoon Games. The footage shows her leaving through the gates alone and carrying two bags. I’m waiting to get the CCTV discs from Queen Street and Central Stations, plus the bus depots. Maisie’s certainly headed somewhere of her own accord. We just need to find out where, before she gets herself wound up in the wrong type of company.’
Phil nodded, appearing deeply troubled by her words. Dani could tell he was thinking about his own daughters and picturing them in a similar scenario.
‘We never quite know what’s going on in their heads, do we?’ Dani offered.
‘No,’ he said distractedly, ‘we don’t.’
DC Andy Calder had arranged to interview Maisie Riddell’s friends and classmates in the department of the school welfare officer, who had agreed to be present throughout. Andy was relieved that she was there. He knew this was going to be a sensitive case. Jane Boag was a high profile figure in Glasgow. She was a member of several government committees on education and had a hotline to the First Minister. Phil was an easy-going kind of guy who Andy had worked with for years. His wife, on the other hand, was an entirely different proposition.
The welfare officer, Katie Law, had pulled a couple of brightly coloured sofas into the centre of the space and brought in a tray of tea, coffee and biscuits. Andy was grateful for her mumsy presence beside him as the first of the students entered the room. It was Georgina Boag. Her mother had wisely decided to let them interview her alone. Andy hoped he’d get more out of her this way. The girl was small and fair-haired. She immediately struck him as young for her years.
‘No thank you, Mrs Law,’ Georgie said quietly, after the woman had offered her a drink.
‘Do you remember me, Georgina? I work with your father. We met at his fortieth birthday party, although that was a wee while back now,’ Andy began.
She nodded and smiled. ‘I remember. You were the one who had a baby. Dad showed us the photos.’
‘Well, it was Carol who did the difficult bit, but I have got a little girl, that’s right.’ Andy shuffled forward. ‘Can you tell me when you last saw Maisie?’
Georgina gazed down at her lap. ‘In French class, yesterday morning. Maisie didn’t come to lunch. She said she had something to do in town.’
‘Are you allowed to leave the school premises during the day?’ Andy glanced at Katie Law, who shook her head.
‘No,’ Georgina answered. ‘But Maisie occasionally did. It isn’t too difficult. The gates are open for deliveries and stuff most of the time.’
‘I see. Did she tell you where she was going?’
‘Not really. She just used to get a bus into the city centre, look around the shops and that kind of thing.’
‘It must have been difficult for her to have the time to do that. Maisie would need to be back for her afternoon lessons, wouldn’t she?’
‘Aye, but she only went into town on the days we had activities after lunch. Mr Kirk never takes a register. He hasn’t got a clue who we are.’
Katie Law frowned and made a note in her file.
‘So this was a regular arrangement? Did you ever go with her, Georgina? You won’t get into trouble if you did. We just want to get Maisie home safely. If we know where she usually went to during the day, it could be a huge help to us.’
Georgina looked directly at Calder. Her large eyes were glistening. ‘I only wish I had. Then, I might have an idea of where she’s gone. But I never had the guts. Mum would make my life a misery if she found out I’d played truant from her precious school. It would make the front page of the Record.’
Andy suspected this wasn’t an exaggeration and it might very well have done. ‘How did Maisie get on with her mum?’
Georgina shrugged. ‘Okay. Mrs Riddell lets Maisie do loads more things than my parents. She can watch 18 certificate films and one time she got the plane to her dad’s all by herself.’
Andy lifted his head from his notes. ‘How long ago was that?’
‘About three months. She went to Norway for Christmas. Her mum put her on the plane at Glasgow Airport and her dad met her at the other end. Maisie said it looks magical there in winter, with all the snow and the fir trees.’
Andy was aware that many parents allowed their children to travel unaccompanied on aeroplanes. The stewards usually watched out for them during the flight. Nonetheless, it suggested something to him about the amount of freedom the girl was given. ‘You’ve known Maisie for a long time. Could she have run away from home?’
Proper tears escaped onto Georgina’s cheeks. ‘I don’t think so, we were always really happy. She and I had a good laugh together, we shared everything. I don’t understand why she’d go away and leave me alone. I thought she was my friend.’
Katie Law leant across and placed an arm around the girl’s shoulders. She snuggled into the woman’s comfortable embrace.
‘That’s all for now, Georgina, you’ve been really helpful.’ Andy smiled as the girl got up to leave, thinking it strange that in the minds of teenagers, the universe revolved entirely around themselves.