No one loves me. Silence. No one ever speaks to me. Silence. I never see any of you.
Her mum looked up and said, you’re with us every weekend.
Only when you and your pals have other plans yourselves.
I know. I’m only kidding. I’m spoiled really.
First day back on rescue duty again. We are sitting in the Café on the ship with the old woman serving us coffee and cakes. She is fussing behind the counter just beside us.
Present are dog and cat, my Wife, Pilot, Chef, the Old Woman, Gaffer with two of her friends, and myself. A bit short staffed really.
Did Pilot come and get you Gaffer? I asked her, but she was already lost in conversation with her friends again. Pilot answered me. Yes. I picked them up on my way.
Are you staying?
No. I’m just waiting for my beloved to finish the exercise he’s taking part in. Should be finishing now, but he’ll have to attend the analysis and then get showered and collect his kit.
He is a pilot in the air force. This was a NATO exercise he had just finished.
I suggested again that one of them should change their occupation. I knew she’d have to soon anyway. Her bump was showing, and she’d have to give up commercial flights for a while. Become a housewife. I said.
Where are we anyway? I asked. She had taken the helm as soon as she boarded. She flicked up the screens. I might have known. We were just above her house. She was keen to see him, though you’d never have guessed. She was always like that.
Here he comes. He drew up in their driveway. I’m off. She was already heading for a way out with her kit. I’ll call you mum. I’m off for a month. Bye. She was gone. We sat and watched them entering their house and closing the door, before I took the ship up into space.
Give us your news then girls. They had just finished school and all three were going on to universities. This was term holiday though.
Her pals were here for a week until their parents were done with being busy for a while. My Wife and I had spoken to their parents on the phone as they’d called us to ask us to babysit until they finished their projects. It was common for them, and others, to stay with us at weekends. We could not say no to Gaffers friends in moderation.
You’ll be living on site, at first Gaffer. I told her, but after your first year I think your mum has plans to buy you a place of your own. No need Gaffer said, but her mum said. It’s an investment for your future. Gee thanks mum. She jumped up to hug her mum. That’s okay her mum said, because he’s paying.
It was to be the usual joint venture.
Speaking about money. We’d collected our mail from the mainland Post Office box near our Island Yesterday, and stayed the night there. A letter from the cruise ship’s insurance company.
“Having considered your part in saving the passengers and crew on board the cruise ship, plus the temporary repairs to the ship itself, , , , , we consider that you are entitled to the sum of two million euros, , , , We hope this is satisfactory” I sent them a message thanking them.
Considering how much we’d saved them, I considered it cheap at the price, but perfectly satisfactory. Six thousand passengers, one thousand seven hundred crew, and a one and a half billion euro ship. There were several other, lesser payment for other rescues, but all satisfactory.
I was about to ask the girls their plans for University when my phone rang. It was picked up by the computer, as all our phone could be. The caller’s number was now on the screen. It was the hospital. Hello what can I do for us? I asked. It’s your partner, she hasn’t turned up, and we’re worried sick about her. She’s not answering her phone, and can’t be contacted.
That’s not like her. I said. I spoke to her on the phone last week and she told me she was ready to travel home, and would be at work today. She thanked me for the medical supplies she’d asked me for, and I’d sent.
Can you find out where she is, and if she’s okay? She never got on her plane, and her hire car is overdue.
Okay. We’re right on it. We’ll be in touch. Let us know if you hear anything, or if she turns up.
We will. She broke the connection.
The first thing to check we thought was the place where she had been helping out. Well I had the address for that. I also gave my Wife, Gaffer and her pals the job of approaching the car hire firm. Find out if it has a tracker? Find out if it has been reported found yet? Find out the make and model, and play the concerned friends part to the full. Anything else you can think of. Anything else Chef and I can come up with we’ll contact you.
Chef and myself got down on the ground at the charity medical centre where she had been. We hoped she might still be there, but she wasn’t. She’d left for the airport in the middle of last week. She must have been on route when I called. It was not a journey she’d have undertaken in a single day. This must be like returning home again for you Chef. Yes, true only a few thousand miles away. He said. I noted the slight sarcasm in his voice and I grinned.
I spoke to all the charity workers I could find, and although they wanted desperately to help, they could not explain her disappearance. They said there were many criminals who found lone travellers easy pray if one wasn’t careful.
Did anyone speak to her after she left? I asked. No. Nobody. Did she say where she might stop off on the way? Yes. The usual stops we all use. They gave us the addresses. They all said they hoped she was okay, and several even offered to help, but I declined. They did not know about the ship, and they spoke of the time it would take to drive the route. We were in a Land Rover, but the ship was nearby. Back on board we began to scan the route. There were abandoned vehicles, and we needed precise information that we hoped the girls had by now. I contacted them, and then picked them up.
We began our route scan again. We had the model, colour, make, age, registration number. No tracker, and the GPS probably didn’t work. My Wife had paid for another week’s rental, and told them she hoped to return their vehicle before it ran out. Were they okay with that? I asked. A bit suspicious I thought, she said, but they said nothing.
We checked every address, and eatery on the way. We showed her picture to the staff and got a positive identification at several, but after three quarters of the way, no one had seen her. We did not require the Land Rover up until then.
My wife checked in with the office, as it is her office also. Nothing. So what to do next. The old woman suggested fetching the troopers from the log cabin. I was tempted to ask them. Instead I said let’s go over everything we have already. We maybe missed something.
Four hours already, and we had little to go on. More coffee, and a small sandwich, and a lot of brainstorming, which is something we do a lot of, and still nothing. We took the ship up high, gave the computer another identical vehicle to compare, and did a thorough area search. Nothing. If the vehicle had been out in the open I felt sure the Scanners would have found it. It must be hidden in a barn or something, Chef suggested. A big area Chef, and a great many buildings it could be in, I said, and it would take years to check them all. It could be under water? A friend of Gaffer said. However I told her that under water would not hide it from this ship.
We came to the conclusion that the only thing we could try in the meantime was have the scanners tune into any movement and zoom in ’til we could eliminate it from our enquiries. We soon gave up on that. Thousands of images a minute, and nothing to help our cause.
Later, we were just finishing a meal when the phone rang. It was the office. A gasping secretary told us in stammering words that were not her normal turn of phrase at all, that she’d just received a phone call asking for money for the return of our Doctor.
How much? I asked her. A million. She said, but I told them I knew no one who could come up with that much money. Certainly not at short notice. They suggested the hospital would pay. How long ago did they call? I asked her. Minutes ago. I called you instantly. She said. Are they going to call again? I asked. At midnight their time. The hospital is in Europe, and we are based in Europe. Our Island is in Europe. I told her to be sure that she answered the call herself, pretend to put the call through to me. I can access the line I said. Trust me.
I put the computer to work on all the hospital phones just in case, but it was more likely they’d use the same number, but from a different phone. I also got the secretaries voice code in order to get right onto the correct line immediately if it were on a different line.
I checked the time. We’d get the call, if they made it on time, or even made it at all, in about forty minutes.