Dirty Daddies

Page 17

It’s another sigh that cuts me off.
“You’re too late,” she says. “She’s gone.”
My mouth drops before I reply. “Sorry?”
“She took off this morning. Left with all her clothes and everything.”
“And where has she –”
“Don’t know, don’t really care,” she interrupts, and it pains me.
“She didn’t say?”
“Didn’t see her. She’d slipped out the living room window before Bill and I got up.”
I’m lost for words, my pulse heavy in my temples. “Have you called the police?”
She tuts like I’ve insulted her. I probably have.
“Of course we did. They won’t do anything until she’s been missing forty-eight hours, not given the trouble we’ve had before. By then she’ll be eighteen. Not our problem.” She pauses. “And not yours, either.”
Her tone is kind but it’s pointed. I’ve known these people a long time, and they know me. “She’s not on your books anymore, is she?” Rosie asks, already knowing full well she isn’t.
It’s my turn to sigh. “No, not officially.”
“Then I think it’s about time we all let her go, Mike. We’ve all tried.”
Not hard enough.
I can’t say that to her, not given how hard they’ve worked for those in need over the years, so I don’t.
“You’ll let me know if you hear anything?”
She tuts again. “You’ll be the first to know. It’s not a long list.”
I say thanks, and I’m surprised at how clammy my palms feel when I hang up.
She’s really gone.
The thought of her being alone out there is a kick to my gut. She could be cold, hungry. Lost, for all I know.
We’re surrounded by miles of woodland – she could be trekking through there for days. She could trip and break and ankle. Those boots of hers have seen better days. They wouldn’t hold up to that.
I’ve grabbed my car keys before I’ve regained my composure. And I’m driving the streets before I’ve even contemplated what my strategy is.
There isn’t one. She could be anywhere.
I head out towards Gloucester, scouring the verges for sight of her. Nothing.
I double back and drive the country lanes through the forest. Nothing.
I pass through Lydbrook three times, asking dog walkers if they’ve seen her around. Nothing.
Finally, I drive into the heart of Gloucester itself, not caring that the night is closing in and I haven’t stopped for dinner. I wander streets I shouldn’t be wandering, asking questions of those settling down outdoors for the night.
I’m crazy and I know it.
I shouldn’t be doing this, and not even Jack is around to talk some sense into me.
Finally, after stopping at all the picnic areas through the forest on my way back home, shining my flashlight around like a madman, I accept defeat for the evening.
I grab some instant noodles and eat them in a daze. I do internet searches on my work laptop, even though I know my history is logged, and I ring the local police and hospitals before I allow myself to get some sleep.
Carrie Wells has gone.
I don’t sleep a wink.CarrieThe sleeping bag at Eli’s stinks of weed like the rest of the place. I know they say it’s nature’s herb and all that, but it’s always smelled like crap to me. It’s only ever made me sick and giggly. I don’t really do giggly, so I’m better off without the shitty stuff.
Eli says it will chill me fucking out, but I do chilled even less than I do giggly. He stays up late with the TV on loud. The room is full of the stench, and when I hunker down under my grotty covers that’s when I come to realise everything smells of it here.
I probably smell like it here.
He has a couple of cats that he doesn’t let out. Their litter tray stinks even worse than the weed. Some random ex-girlfriend left them here, he told me once. He hardly feeds them, so I share my ham sandwich with them, loving the way they purr as they settle down under the covers with me.
Maybe I can take them on the road with me, but they’ll probably run away.
I wouldn’t blame them.
I’d run away from here too if I didn’t need to stay warm for the night.
Eli isn’t coming on the road with me, not like he promised. We talked about it earlier, but he’d already been snorting his white stash by then. He told me he wasn’t ditching this place for a crappy fucking gig in a caravan somewhere. He told me he doesn’t love me, either. I already knew that. I already knew all of it.
He says I’m going to have to pay my keep before I leave here, that food doesn’t come cheap even though I’ve only had a couple of slices of bread and I had to tear the crusts off because they were mouldy. It just reinforces everything I already know.
People are dicks, and nobody gives a fuck. Not Bill and Rosie, and not Eli either.