Jon and Vikki fell in love the day before Vikki returned to her home in Australia – leaving Jon in London. Her former abusive partner, Guy, is tracking her. Her childhood sweetheart, Dan, has proposed marriage to her. Jon must move fast. He has scraped together the air fare and flown to Melbourne. Dan meets him at the airport and tells him Vikki has disappeared…
“Yeah. She set off to the bakery this morning early and never came home. Here, do you need to sit down? You don’t look too good.”
Jon shook his head.
“Did she leave a note?” he asked
Dan took the handle of Jon’s luggage.
“Here, let me. Car’s this way.” He gestured. “Note? No, she didn’t. Margaret – that’s her mum – told me to bring you straight to the house.”
“You’ve told the police?”
“Yeah. They can’t list someone as missing until they’ve been gone twenty-four hours.”
“Where might she have gone? You know her well, don’t you?”
“The only place I would expect her to go would be home. I’ve never known her go walkabout, and I’ve known her since we were both little kids.”
Dan dropped the luggage into the boot of the car.
They sat in silence as he drove, slickly, as though he thought of himself as a racing driver.
“Here we are.”
A short woman, with dark, curly hair, burst out of the front door, and ran down the path. She was at the yard gate even before Dan had applied the handbrake.
“You must be Jon!” She grabbed him, as he climbed out of the car and hugged him fiercely. “I’m so glad you’re here. Did Dan tell you about…?” She looked up at him.
“About Vikki going missing? Yes.”
“Come in, come in! I’ll make you a cup of tea – that’s what you English drink, isn’t it? Dan, be a love and bring his case would you? No, Jon, you’re staying with us. I insist.” Her voice was unemphatic but decisive.
“I’ve been through Vikki’s stuff with a comb,” she announced, as they sat in the kitchen, Margaret at one end of the long table, Dan and Jon on her right and left. “There’s absolutely nothing to suggest she was going to run off. All her clothes are there.” Her voice quavered; her lip trembled. Dan put his arm round her shoulders.
“Keep your spirits up, Ma,” he said quietly. “We’ll get this sorted.”
“Did she tell either of you about the man she used to be with?” asked Jon
“You mean Guy? Yes, she did.” Margaret’s face became pinched and hard.
Jon moistened his lips.
“Did she tell you that he had taken a flight for Melbourne? He would have been here a few days ago.”
Dan and Margaret glanced at each other.
“She didn’t tell me. Did she tell you, Dan?” Dan shook his head. “How do you know, Jon?”
“The police told me. I was burgled and they thought it might have had something to do with Guy. When they checked, they found he had flown to Melbourne. I wrote and told Vikki.”
“If that bastard does anything to Vikki, I’ll kill him.” The words were a shocking contrast to the quiet voice in which they were uttered. Both Jon and Margaret stared at Dan.
“Now, Dan, there’s no need for threats. Our job is to get my girl back.” Margaret put an arm around both young men.
“Jon. You say the English police are investigating Guy? That gives us enough to go back to the police here and insist they take Vikki’s disappearance seriously. Will you two boys do that for me?”
At the station, the desk sergeant was anodyne.
“Do you fellows know how many people officially go missing in Australia every year? Thirty-eight thousand. That’s more than one every fifteen minutes, every day of the year.”
Jon leaned forwards.
“Look, sergeant. One,” he raised a finger, “Vikki has been the subject of threats from a man in the UK. Two,” he raised a second finger, “He has a record of violence. Three, he made it plain he was determined to obtain her address in Australia. Four, he’s flown to Melbourne, and five, Vikki’s disappeared. How much more do you need? With every moment that passes it will be more difficult to trace and catch him, and rescue her.”
“We’ve heard nothing from the English police. If she’s still missing tomorrow morning, you know what to do.”
As they trailed home, a fine rain started. The droplets made halos around the streetlights. Jon walked with his fists clenched in his jacket pockets.
Dan strode freely.
“Looks like we’ll have to go unofficial then.”
“What do you mean?”
“Better you don’t know the detail. Like I said, unofficial. Do you know Guy’s surname, and roughly where he lives?”
“He’s Guy Northcott. I think Vikki said he had a house in Luton.”
“Okay. Might be enough. You see, if I were going to kidnap someone and I didn’t live here, I’d rent a camper van. We might find him that way.”
Dan stopped, and Jon realised that they were back in front of the house where Vikki lived.
“I’ll be round in the morning, about eight,” said Dan. “We’ll go and see if we can stir up some action from the police.” He drove away. His car was dirty, and one of the rear lights had failed, Jon noticed.
Margaret welcomed him warmly, fed him, chatted to him about Vikki, but it was a melancholy evening. She was troubled at what Dan might be planning.
“He’s very fond of Vikki, Jon. He always was, even when he was an age when boys don’t like girls. I’d always thought Vikki would probably marry him. So did he, I think. This is hitting him very hard. I’ve never heard him threaten anybody like that. I hope he doesn’t do anything stupid.”
Jon excused himself early, and went to the bedroom Margaret had prepared for him. It wasn’t large. There was a single bed and a bookcase filled with novels, all well-worn. He sat on the bed and phoned home.
“I’ll see if I can help,” offered his father. “I have one or two senior contacts in the police. They might be able to encourage liaison with the Australian force. Call me in eleven hours and I’ll let you know if there’s anything useful.”
“Thanks, Dad. I appreciate that. I’ll put a reminder in my mobile.”
“Yes. Yes, I suppose you would. Okay. Chin up, Jonathan. Chances are that everything will work out. Till this evening, then.”
Dad always knew someone. And never knew how people felt inside. “Irritating old bastard,” Jon said to himself.
Despite the fatigue of the journey, and the comfortable bedroom he slept badly.
Dan was early next morning, and Jon was still on the phone to his father.
“So I need to email Bedfordshire police, and complete a witness statement for them, and then they will contact Melbourne with a formal request for help with tracking Guy?”
“That’s it. I should give the locals twenty-four hours after you submit the witness statement before you contact them.”
“Thanks, Dad. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
Dan greeted him with a wolfish grin. “Maybe we won’t need the jacks after all. I found something last night. Come on; I’ll tell you about it in the car.”
“Hang on while I grab my tablet. I can do the witness statement on that while we drive. Are we going far?”
“Couple hundred miles maybe.”
“We’d better tell Margaret.”
“All done, mate, while you were chatting to your dad.”
And even as he spoke, Margaret entered the room with a large bag.
“Breakfast, lunch and probably dinner too if you’ve not been able to stop.”
She hugged them, first Dan, then Jon. As she held Jon close she whispered, “Find my girl, Jon. Bring her back to me.”
Dan had been driving for about ten minutes, and Jon had been typing on his tablet. He pressed send.
“Okay. I have to wait for a reply before I can do anything more. So. What did you find out last night, and where are we going?”
“Guy Northcott rented a camper van in Melbourne. He picked it up two days ago. Last night he was booked into a site about a hundred miles up the Great Ocean Road. And that’s where we’re going.”
He paused, and added, “We’re going ready for trouble. Look in the glove pocket, but don’t touch anything.”
Jon opened the glove pocket. Lying on an oily cloth was an automatic pistol. It had a long barrel, and a large magazine. It looked, to Jon’s inexperienced eye, to be very deadly.
“Is that legal?”
“No, of course not. Do you have a problem with that? Because if you do, now’s the time to say so. I’ll drop you off, and you can take a taxi back to Margaret. I’m sure she’d understand.” His scorn was obvious.
“Don’t be stupid. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
The two of them drove on in silence.