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‘My friend, Karl. It was a rubber dinghy,’ said Toby. ‘But me and Karl were thirteen when we went fishing, I was four when Jessica went missing.’

‘What about Trevor Marksman, eh?’ said Martin looking up and wiping his eyes. ‘That nonce who the council seemed to think it was okay to put in a bloody halfway house at the top of our road! Have you got people talking to him? The only reason they never got that bastard is because there wasn’t… Because Jessica wasn’t found. Have you seen the photos he took of her, and there’s video, video from when she was at the park with Marianne and Laura!’

‘He is first on our list of suspects, and he will be brought in again for questioning,’ said Erika.

‘We wrote to our local MP, asking if there could be an inquiry into the first investigation you know what she did?’

‘I don’t,’ said Erika.

‘She sent back a fucking template letter. Didn’t even have the courteousy to put pen to paper. I employ secretaries for my building firm who don’t have much more than the basic qualifications, and even they know to give a proper handwritten response, but an MP? Do you know that to be a Member of Parliament you need no qualifications whatsoever…’ He was now pacing up and down the living room watched by Marianne, Toby and Lara. ‘What qualifications do you have? Marksman got himself a fancy Barrister and legal aid, and sued you all for, what was it, almost three hundred grand?’

‘What happened with my predecessor was regrettable,’ said Erika. As she heard it come out of her mouth she knew it would anger him even more.

‘Well, I’ve got money, I don’t need legal aid, and did you know that Laura’s boyfriend is now a pretty shit hot Barrister himself?’

‘Dad,’ said Laura shooting him a look.

‘No. Charlie is a partner at the Omnia Chambers, and he’s already said he’s ready to work for me!’

‘This is Charles Britton, he was your boyfriend at the time of Jessica’s disappearance?’ asked Moss.

‘Yes, he was,’ said Laura wiping her eyes.

‘And you were both camping in Wales when Jessica vanished?’

‘Yes. We came home straight away when we heard. We saw it on the news…’ her bottom lip began to tremble.

‘What happened between you and Charles?’

‘We were teenagers. He’s married now with kids, I’m married with kids, but he’s kept in contact. That kind of thing gives you bond.’

Erika could see Martin was now pacing up and down, and red in the face,

‘Jessica’s killer has been fucking running around laughing for the last twenty-six years, cos you lot, you useless fucking lot have done nothing! You’ve let stuff slip through your fingers! How could she just disappear? She only went up the bloody road, it takes no time at all and NO ONE SAW ANYTHING!!!’

With that he flipped up the coffee table and the cups and plates went crashing to the floor.

‘Please you need to calm down, Sir,’ said Peterson moving over to Martin. Moss got up with him.

‘You don’t tell me to calm down! You don’t come in to my house…’

‘It’s not your house anymore, Martin!’ screamed Marianne, ‘And you don’t get to come back here and wreck things.’ She knelt on the floor and began to pick at the large slivers of broken china.

‘Mum, you’ll cut yourself,’ said Toby softly kneeling down with Marianne and gently pulling her hands away. Laura helplessly between her brother and mother, her father pacing up and down, red in the face.

Martin started kicking at the wall. Marianne screamed at him to stop.

‘Mr Collins, if you don’t calm down right now I’ll have to cuff you and put you into a police car,’ said Erika. ‘Do you really want that to happen? There is press outside and they want nothing more than to find a new angle, and the guilty father will play right into that…’

This brought Martin up short and he looked at Erika.

‘So you are going to calm down, please?’

He nodded, chastised, ‘I’m sorry, he said rubbing a hand over his head.

‘I can’t begin to imagine what this has been like for your family,’ said Erika.

‘It ripped us to shreds.’ He started to cry again and Marianne moved to comfort him, followed by Toby and Lara. Tanvir stood to one side watching with Moss and Peterson.

‘Okay, I think we’ll leave it there. You need to spend some time together. We will be going over all witness statements again, and we may like to talk to you about certain aspects. One of my officers will be in touch,’ said Erika.

She signalled to Moss and Peterson, and they left.

 

 

19

 

 

After their meeting with the family, Erika, Moss and Peterson sat outside 7 Avondale Road in the car.

‘That was terrible,’ said Erika.

‘And all still so raw after all these years,’ agreed Moss.

‘You’d expect it to be, Marianne is still living in the same house. Jessica went missing, well, just here,’ added Peterson. They looked out of the window at the street lined with huge bare oak trees, their branches reaching up above them against the grey sky.

A few photographers had arrived, and were sussing out the house. One started to make his way down the drive so Erika briefly activated the blue lights and siren. He jumped back, noticing their unmarked car. Erika left the blue lights on as she put a call into the station asking for a uniform officer to come down to the house.

‘What do you think about Martin having had an affair with Amanda Baker?’ asked Peterson.

‘The Family Liaison never mentioned it when I gave her a lift the other night.’

‘Would she have known?’ said Moss.

‘Maybe not… Did you think Martin was a bit theatrical in there?’

‘What do mean?’ asked Peterson.

‘There was just something hoky about that whole flipping up the tea tray. If he’d thrown something, or… I don’t know, hit one if us I would have expected it. This case seems to get more complicated by the minute,’ said Erika. She looked up at the street and undid her seatbelt, adding, ’Let’s take a walk.’

The got out of the car and came to the top of the driveway.

‘Any comments?’ asked a journalist with a thick beard, carrying a camera. He had one eye on the house at the bottom of the drive.

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