Fifty-Seven Hours Missing
Katie leaves the DI’s briefing with a heavy heart. They’re still holding Max, but the evidence found at the cottage is circumstantial and soon they’ll have to charge him or let him go. Traces of Julia’s blood found on the side of the bath had seemed like the breakthrough they’d been waiting for. The dogs had gone crazy in Lavender Cottage and the samples taken have been matched with Julia’s DNA, but Max claimed, after his initial outpouring of emotion and denial of any understanding how it might have got there, it must have been from when Julia shaved her legs the night of the party.
‘She sometimes gets ready in the cottage,’ he’d told them. ‘So as not to disturb me when I’m mulling over the day’s work. The subconscious, you see, it often irons out a knotty plot. I can still be absorbed, sometimes hours after I’ve left my desk. My wife understands that and allows me some space.’
‘It doesn’t scan,’ Katie told her DI in the meeting and he’d nodded. ‘Why would she be using the bath in an outbuilding, a pretty crappy one at that, when she has an enormous en suite right next to their bedroom that’s filled with enough products to start a salon? That cottage was empty, nothing in it except a few sticks of furniture.’
The DI had said it was possible Max was telling the truth, but there’d been a murmur of disapproval in the room. It was clearly an elaborate and flimsy lie, and the obvious attempt to clean up had only incited further suspicion.
‘Nice bath, though,’ DC Chris Green had observed from the back of the room. ‘Max’s PA said Julia was hoping to renovate both cottages as holiday lets. No expense spared, it seems. The bath cost three grand according to Julia’s credit card bills.’
A collective gasp had rippled around the room at the extravagance of the purchase.
‘Shame she accidentally hacked open a vein with her Gillette whilst she was in it,’ Katie had observed, perhaps more harshly than she’d meant.
Katie returns to her desk to try Julia’s sister again. Jacqui Moresley has already been notified that her younger sibling is missing, but according to the officer Katie spoke to at the local police station – his accent so pronounced she’d taken a moment to attune to the Scottish lilt – Julia’s only surviving blood relative didn’t sound that bothered about her ‘wee sister’.
‘Julia was always running away as a child,’ Jacqui tells Katie, the small talk, not that there was much, soon over. ‘Good move getting away from that husband of hers, if you ask me. Not a nice man. Although he’s loaded, I’ll give him that.’
Katie grabs two espressos from the machine before collecting Chris on their way to the interview room.
‘Last chance before we have to release him,’ Chris says, holding the door.
Max looks like shit and smells terrible, sweat and fear clinging to him. Chris taps on the screen of the laptop to start the recording. A red light comes on above them and the camera hums to life. Showtime!
‘Where’s your wife’s car?’ Chris asks Max after reminding him of his rights.
‘Sorry?’ Max stares at the immaculately presented detective.
‘Where’s your wife’s white Range Rover, registration J-U-L-1-A?’ Chris asks.
‘It’s in the garage,’ Max replies, trying to move his chair away and finding it’s bolted down, his solicitor stilling him with a shake of his pudgy head.
‘We’ve checked all the garages at Brooke House and it’s not there,’ Chris says, leaning in. ‘Your Porsche was in one and your assistant’s green Polo was parked outside another. The other two were empty apart from some cleaning equipment: mops, buckets, gloves, bleach. We’ve taken the used items away, but the point I’m trying to establish right now is, where is Julia’s Range Rover, Max?’
‘It’s being repaired,’ he explains. ‘That’s what I meant; a repair garage.’
‘What’s wrong with it?’ Katie asks.
‘I caught it on the gate. It’s narrow.’
‘Which repair garage?’ Chris demands.
‘A local chap, Mim arranged it.’
‘When did you hit the gate, Max?’ Katie asks. ‘Brooke House gate, you mean?’
‘Yes,’ Max replies, addressing her. ‘It happened early Saturday morning as I left for town.’
‘Did your assistant ‘Mim’ arrange the clean-up in the cottage too?’ Chris asks.
‘I’ve told you, I don’t know why there was blood, or bleach, but most likely my wife had shaved her legs in there. The cleaners would know. Or maybe Mim, she’s very thorough.’
‘I bet she is,’ Chris says, staring at Max.
‘What is it you’re not telling us?’ Katie asks, not expecting an answer. ‘What happened in Lavender Cottage in the early hours of Sunday morning? Was there a fight after her friends left? A bigger argument than they witnessed?’
Max says nothing, his solicitor taking over, suggesting that if they’re not going to charge his client they need to release him. And just like that, the case against Max Blake crumbles. They watch as Max walks away from the large purpose-built police headquarters, Chris crushing his empty coffee cup one-handed. Max pauses to look up at the second-floor window, and although Katie knows he can’t see them through the tinted glass, for a moment she imagines he’s smiling at her. Then he’s gone, driven away in his assistant’s tatty green car, his secrets taken with him. For today.
Amanda Reynolds is the author of three psychological thrillers published by Headline (Wildfire). She takes inspiration from the stunning and atmospheric countryside and villages that surround her in the Cotswolds. Her debut novel, Close To Me, published in 2017 and was an eBook bestseller, followed by Lying To You in 2018. The Hidden Wife is her latest book. Her books have been translated into many languages for publication worldwide, including US, Poland, France, Italy, Russia, Brazil and China.
Amanda also runs one-off writing workshops as well as offering mentoring to debut authors. She has had a number of short stories and features published in national magazines.
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Website – www.amandareynoldsauthor.com