• Gina Fegan

Chapter 19. More than one?

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

By this time Marieanne had enjoyed her mooch around Calais, revelling in her favourite bits of France, had taken the local train, changed at St Omer, and arrived in Arras. She was just walking from the station down to the Rue Meaulens, breathing in memories and putting the recent stress behind her. Through the Place des Heros toward the town hall where the giants are kept between festivals. Orla and Marieanne had been part of the group to make ‘the baby’ which was the first addition in a generation to the ten foot tall giant family. She walked on taking a detour via her primary school where as a four year old she had excelled at dance, her big moment being leading the class routine at the annual kermesse, the school fete. It all seemed so long ago, strange and yet familiar. She caught the smell of beer from the obligatory Irish Pub, and more pleasantly the lingering smell of this morning’s baguettes from the boulangerie. As she passed she eavesdropped into the chatter of french as the local people went about their business; the workday was coming to a close and the weekend was beginning. It was liberating, it was the break she needed. She walked beyond her father’s barber's salon because she could see him with a client through the window, stopping at the Frite van parked on the wide verge of the bridge by the Jardin Minelle overlooking the canal basin. There were a few park benches to sit on and admire the geometric concrete plant holders full of colourful tulips, wallflowers and pansies, and with the water in the background, it was a nice spot to sit and wait.

As she sat, Marieanne looked under the old stone arches taking in the full height plate glass that had been used as walls to form the shop front through which she could see her Dad working. He was smiling, taking time with the customer, chatting as if it was no effort, yet he was totally focused on doing a meticulous job. She could imagine the conversation. As a little girl, when she could, she would dress up in a white overall that was much too big for her and take charge of sweeping up the hair. Her father had taught her how to be ‘professional’ and take pride in doing a job properly. She would hold the tall brush which was much bigger than her, standing to attention, waiting till she got the imperceptible nod then she would move in and neatly gather the fallen hair in a pile taking it away in time for her Dad to move back into place with the mirror and show the client the finished result. She was very serious, the regulars loved to see her there, sometimes clients would bring her sweets, which she always shared. Her father had told her how to be fair and share your tips, so she did. Marieanne found herself smiling at her own memories. Then she noticed Marie-Odile arriving with the children, they hadn’t seen her. As they entered the salon they swarmed over Pascal, and he, happy with the interruption kissed them. Clearly they had come to pick him up. She looked at the car which Marie-Odile had left parked  on the double yellow lines with hazard lights flashing, it was packed full of stuff for the beach. Marieanne hadn’t told them that she was coming and it hadn’t occurred to her till this instant that they might have plans for the weekend.

Back at home, food prepared, glass of wine in hand, it was Friday after all. Maeve had caught up with herself and looked at the time thinking ‘Actually, where is Marieanne, she is normally home from school long before now?’ She phoned Ada, musing that it would have been easier to get all of this sorted earlier, but anyway “so is Marieanne with you too?” Ada was really keen to make sure that there were no misunderstandings this time, “no, love, I haven’t seen her since first thing this morning. Actually I didn’t even hear her leaving for school.” Ada, shouting at her end, “Orla, dear, did you hear Marieanne leave this morning? No, you didn’t either… Maeve, you still there? Maybe she went to have a coffee with her friends in town before coming home..?” Maeve had already hung up.

Within a few minutes Maeve had established that Marieanne had not gone to school, that she might be ill and that no one had in fact seen her since about 8am this morning. Maeve had left numerous messages on Marieanne’s phone, but it was either out of range, switched off, or had run out of batteries. She knew that there was enough credit on the phone, so it wasn’t that.

She called Steve. 

He was off duty but came around anyway. Most of the press had left, there were a few lingering. But he didn’t think that they would stay long. He didn’t look like a policeman, just an ordinary bloke on a motorbike and with the helmet they wouldn’t look twice. Steve had had another gruelling day, the impromptu press conference had taken time that he needed to spend elsewhere.

When he arrived, Maeve automatically fed him. She had prepared supper but now couldn’t eat it herself. Feeding someone else was something to do while she was thinking. He was happy to enjoy some good food, as they went through the options. At the station his colleague had had a report of another missing person, it wasn’t Steve’s case, but he had begun to wonder if there might be a link with Anne’s death, which had now been classed as murder. He decided not to mention it to Maeve as it was most likely to upset her even more. He thought it was a young lad that hadn’t shown up as a replacement teacher and wasn’t to be found, could they be linked?

Dealing with Maeve’s problem Steve realised that it was probably best that he go through some of the situations that they had to face on a reasonably regular basis and let Maeve work out which one might apply. “Young people are both predictable and unpredictable, what do we know? It was a school day and she is a good student, so either she was ill or she wanted a day off. If she was ill where would she go?” They both thought that home was likely but would the press have put her off? Hospital? A quick call solved that one. Not at the hospital. “Does she have a current boyfriend? Would she tell you if she did?”, Steve had thought that a weekend off for two young people might be a realistic option. Maeve was firm on that one, “nope, she did have one but she decided that he was just boring and that if she wasn’t studying she would rather read a book!”, which Maeve had agreed was a perfectly valid life choice.

Steve was going through his mental checklist, “Any close relatives? Other than Ada.” At this Maeve got excited, “Relatives! I should have thought about that before. Her father. Pascal lives in France, the girls have often gone over on their own, it's not far, just the other side of the Channel.” She was dialling as she spoke. Pascal answered and she could hear Marie-Odile trying to keep the children quiet in the background, “sorry, we are getting in the car, on our way to the coast to Le Touquet, we are all going parasailing this time,...” Maeve interrupted the happy chatter abruptly, “have you seen Marieanne? She is missing.” Pascal nearly dropped the phone, “she’s not here. But this is totally bizarre, I was just finishing up with the last client and I thought I could feel her nearby. I was thinking I should call. Then the kids arrived and immediately you called. Weird. Okay, we go to Le Touquet. I can leave the kids with Marie-Odile and some friends there. I am coming over to Canterbury, I will be there in the morning.”

For a moment Maeve felt relieved then, she ran through the full implications of having Pascal stressing too. “No! We are just panicking, what can you do here? If we are all in one place we can’t cover as many bases. Much better that you are there in case she is coming to you! Check your home before you go, then keep your phone with you. That way if we hear anything whichever one of us is closer can go to her.” Pascal was silent as he considered this option, “that sounds like a good plan, we must call each other if we hear anything at all, or even think of something that might be useful…..” he petered out a bit deflated but more reassured, brains rather than heart had kicked in, less dramatic but more likely to have a good result. 

As Maeve was putting down the phone Steve was not surprised to see that she had wound herself up into a state. She was pretty much talking aloud, “I know why I am so worried, it’s not only that Marieanne never does anything out of the ordinary, but I saw Susan this evening and she gave me that cryptic warning, what did she say? ‘you need to know that it is not over. You must find the killer or the price you pay will be too high.’ Was it to do with Marieanne?”

Steve decided he had to tell her that Marieanne wasn’t the only one missing.

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