The ring at the door came at 6.30am. I usually don’t rise before 10.00am, and then only with the help of my morning mug of black coffee or two. My mouth was dry, and my brain could barely comprehend what he was saying, as I opened my front door, standing in nothing but my shorts.
“There can be no doubt in our minds that a crime has been committed, whether by you or someone else has not been determined at this point. Circumstantial evidence exists, suggesting you may have had something to do with the mysterious disappearance of Mathew Jarvis, who has been missing these past two months. Answer’s are required, as to how deep be your connection to Mr Jarvis?” quoted the police officer standing in the porch of Andrew Cairn’s house, waving a search warrant in his face.
Other officer’s systematically searched, or should I say trashed my home, then my taxi, standing in the drive-way.
They hauled me back to Ipswich Police Station, where they continually questioned me about Mathew Jarvis.
As I repeated to them time and time again … I am a self-employed taxi-driver, based in Norwich, but if the price is right, distance is no object. That’s where I remember Jarvis, he climbed from my cab, and disappeared into East Lane Southwold, on the Suffolk Coastline … Each time my statement falling on deaf ears.
What had apparently started out as the mysterious disappearance of one customer had now reached three, all customers who had the misfortune to travel in my taxi?
Last week, I dropped off a short blonde woman, dressed head to toe in black, in East Lane, Southwold; two days later she was reported missing by her employers … The Chronicle. But that’s not how the cops put it; they just kept asking me, over and over. “What did you do with her?”
Another of my customer’s to vaporize into thin air was an estate agent, but for the life of me, I had no recollection of where I had taken him, or what he looked like. Why should I? My cab happens to be a convenient mode of transportation, for tourists and business people alike, hundred’s go through my cab on a weekly basis.
I remembered the reporter, for she did not look like one of those seedy individuals, digging up the dirt. There was something different about her; you expected to see her modelling, as a page three girl.
Still they dragged me down to the police station for questioning, and I had become their number one suspect. So far, the cops had not manufactured any evidence they could stick me in jail with, but that was not for lack of trying, so I remained free, but for how long?
The way I figured it, if I could find another connection between these three people, the cops would be forced to investigate my claim, and quit sticking to me. I was getting a stiff neck, constantly looking over my shoulder, to check if my police tail was still there.
In my mind, thoughts rushed back to every place I had been, cross referencing it with my weekly records, in a desperate search for answers. Until it came to me, I had picked him up, when he had flagged me down, some fifteen miles outside of Southwold, standing beside a white BMW … he had run out of petrol, and would be late for an appointment, he said. I had taken him to 21 East Lane, Southwold, and that was the last I saw of him.
While I was searching for answers, the police were attempting to build a case against me, and as yet, hadn’t enough to charge me; but they believed foul play, was involved.
According to neighbours of Daniel Ford, the owner of 21 East Lane, Southwold, had not been seen in person for some considerable time.
An Estate Agent, Reporter, and Mathew Jarvis, have all mysteriously disappeared; and the only connection, be the house, and my taxi cab…I am doomed!
Detective Sergeant Marcus Dowelling pulled his car off the main road, and into the drive-way adjoining the home of Daniel Ford. He stepped from his car, into the overgrown garden. His legs became immersed up to his knees in the long swaying grasses, as they blew in the gentle breeze.
Dowelling an officer with a long experienced service in the force, sensed things were not right here, long before he reached the door. In his fifteen years, this was the first case of disappearance of people in this manner.
Three people missing, and their only connections; the house and the taxi cab they travelled in.
As he walked towards the small white house barely visible above the lawn leading to the front door, thoughts rushed into his mind. “People don’t just disappear without trace. There has to be a logical reason?”
He gazed at the old white door, with peeling white paint for a moment; then turned the handle, and it swung open with a gentle push. Dowelling reached under his jacket, and pulled out his trusty truncheon, ready for anything as the door became fully open, coming to a stop at the wall. Since the occupant Daniel Ford had disappeared, he didn’t expect to find anyone inside, as he moved into the property, but you never know. The front door remained open; it always pays to be cautious in my line of work – a quick escape if needed.
According to the neighbours of 21 East Lane, little was known of him, other than his name was Daniel Ford, and that he kept to himself. He had regular habits said one; of going out each day at 10.30am and returning around 16.30pm. Did he have a job? No one knew. He never caused any trouble, and now he had simply vanished.
Dowelling figured that the man must have been gone for a long time to have the neighbours call in the police. The house displayed this; it was drab and colourless, with a faint musty odour. The lights were out; they did not work as he attempted to switch on the lights, presumably because the electric bill had not been paid in a while. Close by laid a large box of candles with matches on top. A fine coating of dust lay across everything.
Out of curiosity, Dowelling lifted the phone receiver on the wall; there was no tone, but that did not surprise him. “Looks like I won’t be able to call in from the house.”
Looking around this quaint old house, Dowelling discovered a bathroom down a short narrow corridor off to the left, with a kitchen directly opposite.
In the far corner to the rear of the property, stood a small oak desk on which stood a well worn manual typewriter. Laid out on the table, was the missing reporter’s notebook, and identity card, also the estate agent’s paperwork. “They had both been here,” Dowelling spoke out loud, fingering his way through the notebooks.
Whatever happened to them, the answers must lay within the confines of these four walls.
On the floor, piled up between the desk and the wall, were two-inch binders, rising from the floor like a tower towards the ceiling. He ran his fingers across the spines of the binders. Each one was labelled from volume one to forty, and stuffed full of printed paper. Our Mr Ford was a writer, and a prolific one at that.
Dowelling removed the binder marked volume one, from off the top of the pile. He walked over to the opposite side of the room, put his truncheon on the table, and sat down on a cosy looking sofa, underneath the window. He opened the dark-blue-cover, page one was titled: Introduction.
He turned to the next page, and started to read: “As of today, March 21, 1988, I begin my life’s work. This and the ensuing volumes is a saga, the product of my soul and mind. I hope that this has been worth the effort, but if it was not, I cannot tell. This is my life, embodied in ink and paper.
Dowelling turned the page and began to read the novel, for which Daniel Ford had apparently worked so hard on. Dowelling figured that if he read the work, he may gain some clue as to what had happened to the author – reporter and estate agent. “I will read a little bit, and see where it takes me,” he thought.
It began simply, as the words formed a vivid picture of events that had taken place: As I walked from my office, along the crowded sidewalk at a fairly brisk pace, on my way to a working lunch in the city.
Little did I know that I was due to be assassinated that day: 21st March 2001? A smallish guy dressed in a dark grey suit, thin faced, with swept back blonde hair, bumped straight into me. I yelled, staggering back from the unexpected force. “Sorry,” he muttered, as he disappeared into the crowded streets.
My forearm tingled, as my left leg started to go numb, anxiously I rubbed it, but by now it was useless.
Daniel Howard, young entrepreneur, died from drug overdose, according to the papers. What a way to go – injected with a drug in a busy road, dead in a matter of minutes.
As I died my last thoughts were – if only I had listened to those around me – warning me that our competitors would not stand by, watching our profits grow and theirs diminish.
Dowelling reached the end of the first paragraph, stopped for a moment, sighing heavily. Inside he could sense the story pulling him back to the words on the page, with a feeling of wonder and amazement passing through his body. He just could not understand, why he was able to read this with ease, he mostly read police reports and the paper. This was different from any other novel he had tried … unsuccessfully … to read.
As Dowelling plunged forth into the next paragraph, it was as though he became part of the story, and the characters came alive, laid bare before him; to explore.
Time passed by quickly, as each page was turned over, from afternoon to evening, until night darkened the room. He lit candles, placing them on the window sill above his head, as other’s had done before him.
Time continued on, he became so engrossed in the story, as morning dawned he had nearly completed two binders. Hunger took him out to his car, where he always carried packets of biscuits and canned drinks for stake outs, and returned to the story with them.
Munching slowly away and taking the odd drink, he blazed through the binder with renewed strength, and set it down on a new pile forming on the floor. He started the third without breaking for a rest. By dusk, he had progressed through binder’s three to seven, when a knocking sound echoed through the house.
Dowelling, swore at the interruption, as he gathered his thoughts and staggered to the door. There standing before him, a young uniformed officer, no more than twenty, his right hand resting on his truncheon.
“Sergeant Dowelling, the station was worried when they had not heard from you,” as the officer relaxed his pose.
“I am conducting my own personal investigation into this case,” replied a husky voiced Dowelling.
“What shall I tell them back at the station?”
“Tell them what you like,” replied Dowelling.
As the officer turned to leave, Dowelling slammed the door and hurried back to the story. Through the night, volumes eight through to fourteen joined the new pile.
The next day was free from interruption, so he managed to progress through to volume twenty one, before he was forced to light up some more candles.
Even with bloodshot eyes, unshaven, crumpled clothing, and his body suffering from lack of sleep, he just couldn’t put the novel down – he just had to read it cover to cover. He had become completely oblivious to the outside world. Dowelling found the plot was thicker and more realistic than anything he could ever have imagined, but as his body showed signs of weariness, it took longer for events to register. As dawn shone through the windows, he gazed at the pile, nine more volumes had been read that past night.
Another day and a half passed by without incidence. As he came to the end of the final volume, a constant repeating knocking came from the door.
Dowelling looked from the book to the door, and ignored the knocking – hoping they would go away and leave him in peace to finish the last few pages.
It seemed like ages had passed by, when the knocking had been replaced by the hollow thudding sound of a police door ram, a sound he knew well.
As Dowelling read the last paragraph, the last sentence, then the last word … the police burst through the door…
Dowelling was before their eyes one minute, then gone the next, but it was no illusion, he had vanished. Just as Mathew Jarvis, the estate agent, and the reporter, vanished without trace.
Officer’s looked over the house thoroughly, leaving two on guard, standing watch over the near empty room, whilst other’s returned to the station.
Curiosity got the better of these young officers’s.
“What is so important about these binders?” asked one.
“I only know one way to find out,” said the other. He pulled out the binder labelled Volume One. Holding it between them, they began to read the introduction.
“As of today, March 21, 1988, I begin my life’s work. This and the ensuing volumes is a saga, the product of my soul and mind.”
The two young officers’ gazed at each other, as they returned to the binder, drawn by something inexplicable. A force of some kind!
Are two more unlikely participants being drawn into this story – only to vanish without trace as other’s have before them!