Darrell was waiting for the boys when they finally made it out of the changing rooms. She saw David grinning ruefully at Julian as he was teased about his rugby skills once more.
“Well I don’t see you doing any better, grand detective or not,” David retorted over his shoulder before almost bumping into Darrell.
“Oh hallo Darrell! What brings you here?” David asked, putting out a hand to steady them both.
Darrell looked worried as she spoke to the boys in a quiet voice.
“Have either of you seen Sally this evening?”
“Not for a while, since I dropped her off outside your halls about four hours ago,” Julian said, frowning as David shook his head. “Why? What is the matter?”
“I can’t seem to find her, and I’ve not seen her since she went out for a walk this afternoon,” Darrell said, rubbing her nose; something she always did when she was worried or puzzled.
“She has to be somewhere,” David said, flicking his hair out of his eyes. “Have you checked the library?”
“That was the first place I checked,” Darrell scowled at David. She didn’t like the feeling that the boys were not taking her seriously.
“What about the café?” Julian asked frowning. He was now wondering whether he had actually seen Sally heading into her halls when he had left her earlier. She had been standing on the step, he knew that, but had she gone in? It was beginning to look like she hadn’t.
“No,” Darrell admitted. “I didn’t try there. I didn’t think she would have gone there on her own.”
“Well why don’t we go and check while David goes and drops his kit off in halls?” Julian suggested, winking at David.
Darrell shrugged and nodded.
“I’ll meet you at the café in twenty minutes,” David said. He placed a hand on Darrell’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
“Don’t fret so! I suspect that Sally simply bumped into a friend and got talking, she won’t have gone far.”
Darrell tried to smile, but couldn’t shake off the feeling of unease was plaguing her. She was worried about Sally. Something about this wasn’t right. As she and Julian set off towards their favourite café, she asked him quietly whether he thought she was overreacting.
Julian wasn’t sure how to respond.
“I don’t know Darrell,” Julian said honestly, as they headed to Market Street towards the café. “I was sure that I left her at the entrance to your halls before I headed back to St Salvator’s.”
“Two things, Ju,” Darrell said, as they hurried on. “One, did you actually see Sally go through the front door and two, what were you doing with her in the first place? She told me she was going for a walk to get some air not meeting you.”
“We didn’t plan to meet,” Julian explained. “We just sort of met.” He sighed as they reached Market Street and then remembered Darrell’s first point.
“I didn’t actually see her go inside,” he said awkwardly, remembering the conversation that he and Sally had had just prior to their arrival outside her halls.
“I know for sure that I did leave her on the step to go inside, but I didn’t see her go in,” Julian admitted.
Darrell sensed that there was something that Julian wasn’t telling her, but with her worries about Sally’s safety playing on her mind so much she couldn’t bring herself to ask him about that now.
Darrell wondered why she was so concerned. It wasn’t like she was Sally’s minder or anything, she was allowed to go out on her own, Darrell knew this, but there was something not quite right. It had been a funny day altogether and this was just the limit. Darrell was worried for her friend’s safety and not only because it was a dangerous time for people to be wondering out on her own. The situation with Russia and America was enough to set anybody on edge. Darrell hadn’t really felt a threat up until now, but since the papers had been stolen, the very real threat was closing in around them was beginning to hit home.
Even if Sally had bumped into someone she would have probably popped up to their room and told Darrell where she was going and not only that but she hadn’t taken a proper jacket with her either. Darrell was sure that Sally would have popped up to change her jacket if nothing else.
“So you left her on the step, what time?” Darrell the detective asked.
“Must have been just after half four. It was getting dark and we both agreed that we had work to do. I left her and went back to halls,” Julian explained.
“Well she definitely didn’t come up to our room,” Darrell said as they reached the café.
The tired looking woman who usually served them was sweeping the dust out of the shop onto the street as they approached. She looked up when they stopped in front of the shop door.
“Sorry dearies. All closed up, I’m just sweeping up,” she said in a broad Scottish accent.
“That’s fine, but we were really wondering with you could help us with something,” Julian said politely, stepping forward.
“Aye, I can try and help my dears, but I don’t know what it is you want to ask,” the lady said, leaning on her broom.
“Well, we hope you can help,” Darrell said, stepping forward. The woman seemed to take note of her worried face and smiled reassuringly.
“Why don’t you come inside for a moment, while we chat. It’s too chilly to be standing outside on a night like this. It’s blowing up into a real cold night,” she said, with a smile at the two of them. She pushed open the café door and lead them inside. Julian and Sally were glad of the warmth of the shop. The fire was just dying down, but still warm enough to give some comfort.
“You settle yourselves down there and warm up a little my dears. I’ll just see if there is any hot chocolate left that I can give you,” she directed them.
“Very kind of you,” Julian said as he helped Darrell off with her coat.
“You just ask your questions young man, don’t mind me bustling about, I am listening.”
Julian glanced at Darrell who was staring into the fire while the kind lady fetched them what was left of the day’s hot chocolate.
“Thank you. We just wondering if you could help us find our friend, we seem to have lost her. She’s got blonde hair, about my friend’s height,” Julian started before he realised that he wasn’t sure how to describe Sally without using such phrases as ‘sparkling blue eyes’ and ‘a beautiful smile’ as that was the way he thought about her.
“She didn’t have a proper coat on for this weather, would have been here about half four, quarter to five,” Julian continued, leaving the general description of Sally for now.
The woman looked puzzled as she brought a tray over with two cups of hot chocolate on them. She set the tray down in front of Darrell and handed her a cup before turning to Julian and speaking.
“Yes, I remember that bonnie lass. She came in on her own, looking rather pensive I thought, and ordered herself a coffee.”
“Super, did she leave when you closed up do you know?” Darrell asked, looking up from her cup of hot chocolate as the woman passed the other cup to Julian. There was a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
“No miss, she didn’t. She left about half an hour after she came in. Left with a tall fellow she seemed to know. They had been chatting since he arrived, about ten minutes after she did. Funny thing was that another chap followed them out. I only noticed that because he looked like he had something to hide, kept glancing over his shoulder before he left as well.”
“Did you notice which way they went when they left at all?” Julian asked as Darrell’s shoulders slumped.
“Looked like the boy and the girl were heading towards the old cathedral, young man, but I can’t tell you any more than that. I did have customers to serve after all.”
Julian put his cup down on the tray as he gulped down the last of the warm drink.
“Thank you,” he said, giving her a brave smile, though a frown creased his features. Darrell put down her cup as well. She held out her hands to the fire one last time before she began to pull her coat back on.
“No trouble my dears,” the woman said with a friendly smile. “I hope you find her. It’s not a nice night to be out!” She moved to the front door of the café to open it for them. Julian smiled at her as he pulled his own coat on and dropped some money for the hot chocolate on the table.
Just as they were heading out of the door, the lady spoke again.
“If you’re interested, the chap that went out with your friend came back just before I closed, about half an hour ago, searching for something. He was in a right panic, asked me if anyone had handed any papers over, and did he mind if he checked through the bins. He was very worried about these papers, in a fearful temper he was. I don’t know whether the girl was with him or not, if she was she didn’t come in with him. I do hope I’ve been of some use to you! Goodnight!” she added as she closed the door behind them.
Julian and Darrell bade her goodnight as she closed up behind them. They walked a little way away from the shop and stopped under a tree, waiting for David.
“She was helpful, wasn’t she?” Julian said eventually as Darrell lent back against the tree, keeping an eye on the café.
“Yes, she was and she is very nice but we still don’t know where Sally is,” Darrell pointed out. “Or who she left the café with.”
“She might be back in your room by now, wondering where you are!” Julian pointed out to Darrell, who looked a little abashed. “As for who she left with, well I don’t think that there are many chaps around here who Sally would go anywhere with do you? I think she left with Ainsworth.”
“I suppose that makes sense,” Darrell allowed. “But why would she not come back? Ainsworth was at rugby practice, wasn’t he? I saw him dash out of the changing rooms as I came to find you and David.”
“I don’t know Darrell,” Julian said, quietly. He glanced around the empty street before reaching inside his blazer. “We do have something to tell you though, David and I found this is Ainsworth’s possessions.”
With that he pulled the paper out of his pocket and showed it to Darrell. She took the paper and scanned it as Julian told her the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the paper. Darrell looked up at him with shining eyes.
“Oh Julian! This is wonderful!” Darrell said, handing the paper back to him. Julian tucked it back into his pocket. “So you were right all along, it was Ainsworth!”
“I was going to tell you when I saw you earlier but this whole thing with Sally came up,” Julian said. He looked at Darrell carefully. “You know, I may have said the wrong thing to Sally earlier, when I met her on my walk. I do wonder whether she came here to mull things over and then ended up blurting things out to Ainsworth.”
Darrell looked up at Julian, concern filling her eyes.
“You don’t think he’s hurt her do you?” she asked, grabbing his arm tightly.
Julian bit his lip but shook his head. “I don’t think he would have hurt her. He doesn’t seem to be too much of that type. My dislocated shoulder seemed about the total of things, but I do wonder if he’s taken her somewhere until he’s disappeared.”
Darrell shook her head and took a deep breath before she spoke, considering what Julian had said.
“You think he’s kidnapped her?” she managed to ask a moment later, trying to keep her voice steady.
“I think it’s possible,” Julian said carefully. Darrell clutched at his arm again.
“We must find her, Julian, we must! Lord knows where he may have left her, and if tonight is going to be as cold as the woman in the café said, tomorrow may be too late!”
“We will, Darrell, I promise you,” Julian said, pulling her into a hug. “We just need to wait for David, and then I promise we will do everything in our power to find Sally!”
Darrell wrapped her arms around Julian as he hugged her, taking some comfort in the action. She managed to hold on just long enough to compose herself once more as Julian promised her that they would find Sally.
Darrell pulled back as she heard footsteps heading towards them. She gave Julian a wan smile in the darkness. David appeared a few seconds later, panting slightly.
“I take it she wasn’t there,” he said, looking at their faces. “Find anything out?”
Quickly and quietly Julian and Darrell told David what the woman had said and what they had deduced from this, putting the paper from Ainsworth’s bag and what they knew about Sally walking out of the café to someone who fitted his description.
David listened to everything in silence, his face darkening at every word.
“Please tell me that I can land a few punches on the traitor when we finally get Sally back?” David pleaded. Julian had to stop himself from agreeing to this.
“Never mind that now, we need to find Sally. It’s getting cold and we haven’t got much time,” Julian said checking his watch. He glanced at his friends. “I don’t suppose either of you brought torches did you?”
“Well, I thought you might ask that,” David said with a smirk, pulling his torch out of his pocket. “Did you bring yours?” he asked Julian.
Julian smiled at David and patted his pocket.
“I always have it with me,” Julian said with a grin.
“I don’t have a torch on me,” Darrell said softly. “But I have one in my room.”
“That’s good, we can go back and get it, because I think you might need to fill a bag for when we find Sally. Her warm coat and a blanket might be a good start. A thermos flask if you have one, and something to eat,” Julian said to Darrell with a smile. “David, will you go with her? I have some things I would like to pick up. Meet back here in twenty minutes?” he suggested looking at his watch.
“We can do that,” David said, as Darrell nodded. Julian smiled at them.
“Good! Twenty minutes no more,” he said. He reached over to Darrell and gave her another hug. “Chin up old girl, we’ll find her. Go with David and get a bag ready. Anything that looks useful, David, string, rope, penknife, matches, anything you see that might be useful, we need, clear?” he asked looking at David.
David whipped off a salute. “Aye, aye Captain!”
Julian shoved his shoulder and then left his friends, heading back to St Salvator’s at a fast pace.
Another great episode, Stef.
Thanks Francis! Glad you’re enjoying it!