(a/n: In an effort to get this ‘out there’ as quickly as possible, and I don’t have a lot of time at the moment. I’m going to just focus the blog on getting this up and updating on my WIP progress for a while.)
Novel had only just arrived in the office and already his day was ruined. He glared at the flashing device in his hand as if he could scare it into submission. Predictably, that did no work and the message remained annoyingly unchanged on the brightly light mobile screen.
Missed booked flight home. Organising alternative. Will update you when I know more. Can you feed the furball tonight please?
She had promised him that she would be back in the office tomorrow. Now she might not be. He needed her here tomorrow. The office had already descended into chaos without her. Someone had attempted to reorganise the filing system on the computer yesterday – a phonecall confirmed that this had been IT – and now none of his desktop short cuts worked and he could not find a single thing. If Cassie had been here she could have fixed it – made them change it back.
But she was not here and the chaos had continued on. To make it worse, he would have to go and feed that stupid feline on the way home.
Unlocking the screen, he typed out a reply:
The cat will be fed. What is your flight number?
With this information he could at least keep track of her now.
He called HR to let them know that he has authorised an additional day of emergency holiday for Cassie. Then he started reading through the report he had been sent through.
When Novel arrived home – after surviving another ordeal with the cat – he pulled his mobile out from his pocket again. Cassie had sent him through the required flight number and he used this to check details of her flight. Apparently it had landed over an hour ago – perhaps she was still stuck waiting for her luggage?
It was almost time for the mid-week briefing by the time Novel realised something was missing. He check his phone again, there was still no message from Cassie, so the only conclusion was that she was already in the office…. But why had she at not at least apologised?
He stood and walked out of his office. Then he asked the room, “Cassie, can you come to my office please?”
There was no reply except for a few strange looks from the other officers. After meeting the stares, daring them to comment – no-one did – he stepped back inside his office.
His first action was to call the reception to see if they had heard from Cassie – they had not. The HR line was also similarly lacking in information. His gut was telling him that something was seriously off. But it had been feeling like that since Cassie had initially gone off on holiday – so a complete sense of trust could not be completely provided to him gut today.
He pulled his work mobile (only mobile) from his pocket.
“Call Sarah Lucas,” he told the phone slowly.
A non-descript silhouette of a person with the words Sarah Lucas appeared on his screen. The word Dialling… quickly followed.
It was answered after a few rings, “How can I help Assistant Chief Inspector?”
“I need you to see if you can trace someone for me please?”
“Yes Sir, who?”
“Do you remember Cassie?” there was an affirmative noise though the speaker, “she was due to return to work today after some delayed flight. I know her plane landed in Northern Ireland, can you access the database to make sure she went through passport control please?”
“Text me the flight number, and her passport number if you have it. Try calling her again – because I’m guessing you haven’t yet?”
“I’ll do that now.”
This was a number he could speed-dial. However, while Sarah’s suggestion had been a good one, it did not produce the results that he had been hoping for. The phonecall went straight to voicemail. Cassie either had no signal or her phone was off. This was not helpful and entirely out of character.
After leaving the message, he hung up. The phone started ringing again about 30 seconds later.
“Any luck with the phonecall?”
“Straight to answerphone.”
“Well she definitely landed in Northern Ireland. I cannot find any details of any flight or ferry crossings, so she is definitely still in the country.”
“Any other details that might be useful? I really would like to be able to get in contact with her ASAP. This is completely out of character for her.”
“For some reason she appeared to be traveling with some guy named ‘Mohammed’. He’s got a different surname to her – any thoughts?”
“No. But she left me an emergency contact number at hers. I’ll give her family a call and see if they know anything. Can you check any CCTV from the airport? I could do with a lead as to where she went from the airports. Can you put an alert on her passport? I need a warning if she leaves the country.”
“Get me the paperwork and I can have it with you in 30. I’ll email it over to you.”
After disconnecting the phone, he left the room and headed down the corridor. He needed to ask for some time off and to explain what little he knew about the situation.
Within 15 minutes he had the equivalent of a blank cheque for resources he needed – providing he got a sanity check on anything that involved foreign governments. He forwarded the confirmation email to Sarah and headed out of the building.
Within half an hour he found himself staring at the Cassie’s white plastic front door. He hovered there for a few minutes before eventually knocking.
He knocked again, louder his time. Then shouted a greeting through the letter box.
If in the increasingly unlikely event that she was in he would have to re-explain basic etiquette to her. This was just rude.
After a pause, he wondered how she would have got in anyway. He had new locks put in after the break in…
After using the key to let himself him, he scanned the small entrance hall. It was as he had left it.
There was a small black folder on the left side of the desk labelled ‘travel papers – Novel’ on the spine. That would be a good place to start.
He picked up the folder and made himself comfortable in the lounge with a coffee. Flicking through the folder, he quickly found a printed itinerary of her trip. A neatly typed page of emergency contacts was next. Her place of accommodation – the house of a cousin – would have to be his starting point for intel.
After deciding to use the landline, the phone was picked up after a couple of rings.
“Hi Cassie,” greeted a woman, “how was your trip back? We were expected to hear from you yesterday.”
“This isn’t Cassie. I am her boss, Chief Inspector Novel. I’ve been looking after her cat while she has been away.”
“Chief inspector, may I ask why Cassie isn’t calling?” the woman on the other side of the phone was starting to sound worried.
“She has not made it home yet. All I know is that she missed her initial flight, took an alternate flight home to Northern Ireland and I can’t trace her from there.”
“The last time I saw her was when she left from here with her cousin, Mohammed, he kindly agreed to escort her to the airport.”
“He was still with her in Northern Ireland. Can you think of any reason why?”
“Perhaps he was still escorting her? He did promise to keep an eye on her…” the voice was sounding less than convinced at this point, but she would not elaborate any further. However, she did make him promise to make Cassie contact her once he had found her.
Upon returning home, he gave his mother a summarised version of events so as to explain why he would be leaving.
Her only reply had been an enigmatic smile combined with a set of twinkling eyes. However, she did offer to make him a sandwich for the road – so he presumed she understood.
Within an hour, there was a taxi by the front door. His passport was tucked safely in a hidden pocket in his backpack – along with his credit card.
It was the middle of the afternoon when Novel arrived at the airport. The driver handed him his backpack and received his payment before driving away.
After moving into the airport, he walked purposely over to the ticket desks. After reaching the front of the queue, he inquired as to the availability of tickets.
“Good morning Sir, how can I help you today?”
“I could do with getting to Northern Ireland as soon as possible. Do you have any available seats please?”
She smiled politely and did a quick search on the computer in front of her.
“We have a spare seat in business class on a flight leaving 3 hours from now. How does that suit?”
“That would be ideal. I’ll pay by card.”
After the payment had processed successfully, she handed Novel his newly printed ticket. “We hope that you have a pleasant trip. Please take the time to enjoy the airport’s duty free facilities and the executive business lounge.”
“Many thanks,” he replied, carefully storing the ticket in his jacket pocket and moving in the general direction of Check-in.
“Holiday Sir?” asked the man at the check-in desk. He paused briefly to peer over his glasses at Novel to compare to the unflattering passport picture.
“Just meeting up with a friend.”
After receiving back his passport along with a bright pink stick emblazoned with HAND LUGGAGE he headed in the direction of security
Eventually, Novel emerged into the brightly lit shopping mall that was the duty-free area. It was packed full of items he would not normally buy and people he did not have any inclination of speaking to.
He had some time before his flight, so he headed into the calmness of the business lounge. Once he had found himself an armchair, he settled himself down with a coffee to wait.
After the customary safety talk, the plane took off without incident. Once the seatbelt sign had been switched off, Novel reached into the back and retrieved the paperwork Cassie had left for him.
It was evident from the paperwork that she have planned to return on the booked flight. There was a clear travel timetable typed up, along with the confirmation email of her flights. It was unclear how she could have missed her flight from the plans – although the escort of her cousin could have thrown her initial planning.