Spent a lovely day at Pt Wells on Saturday. We took Les and picked up Lynne at Orewa on the way. Did the Matakana Markets, saw a couple of books by James George in the book shop ($39.95 ea, didn’t buy) and went into a quirky stationery shop Kerryn would love, didn’t buy anything there either. Had a coffee then a short stop at Simply Stitches before going on to Pt Wells and having lunch with the Martens.
The Three Stooges
Jenny, Les, John and I went for a walk round the block. Had afternoon tea and a bit of a laze. John and I went over to the bowling club for happy hour then back to the house for a roast beef dinner. We left just as the England/All Blacks game started. Dropped Lynne off in time for her to see the second half and we arrived home to witness the last 5 mins of the game.
A lovely day was had by all.
Jenny and I are going to the ‘Finale Night’ (their wording, not mine) of the First Chapters programme on Wednesday. I’ve volunteered to read an excerpt from my writing if needed (they only want 3 volunteers). There’s going to be free tea, coffee and cake.
Now the rest of the Just Another Statistic story.
Mark had a visit from two police officers later that night.
“I’m Detective Cornell and this is Detective McGregor. May we have a word?”
“Sure, come in. Have you any news of Sandra?”
“I’m sorry, we haven’t been able to locate Miss James, but we’re checking up on her movements. Now, when was the last time you saw her?”
“I’ve told the police this before. It was Tuesday morning when she left for work,” Mark said.
“And you’ve had no contact with her since? No phone calls or text messages?”
“Any messages on your answerphone?”
“None from her, but one for her from a friend that evening.”
“Do you still have it?” the detective asked.
“Yes. Do you want to listen to it?”
So Mark played it over to them. They asked him to play it again.
“So, who is this Millie person?”
“She’s on the list of friends we wrote down at the station when we reported her missing.”
Mark was starting to become a little annoyed. He thought the detectives would have had this information.
“We don’t have that list with us. Now, if you wouldn’t mind…”
Mark told them her full name, address and phone number.
The detectives then asked Mark about Sandra’s other friends and where she worked etc. They asked him if Sandra had been worried about anything recently. Any mood changes, illness or unusual behaviour.
Then Detective McGregor spoke for the first time:
“I believe you and she had a fight before she left for work that morning.”
“Who told you that?”
The detectives didn’t answer, just waited for Mark to continue.
“We had a slight disagreement. We often have disagreements. They blow over.”
“What was this disagreement about?” McGregor asked, with the emphasis on disagreement.
“She wanted me to take her to the pub to listen to a band. I said no. I’m preparing to do my first triathlon and I didn’t want to break my training routine,” said Mark.
“Which band and what pub?”
“Raging Bulls at the Crown & Anchor.”
“I don’t blame you for not wanting to go to hear them,” said Cornell. McGregor gave him a dirty look.
“Now,” McGregor again, “what did you do after she left for work?”
So Mark told them about his day. They kept interrupting him with questions like “What time was that?” “Did anyone see you?” or “Did you see anyone you knew?”
They asked him to go over it all again “just in case you’ve forgotten some little incident or event that may be important.”
The two detectives took copious notes. They thanked him for his time and got up to leave.
“One last thing,” McGregor turned and asked as he reached the door, “how would you describe your relationship with Sandra?”
Mark was shaken by the question. He tried to control the anger in his voice. “Fine. We got on well. I was hoping we’d get married one day.”
“Despite your disagreements?” the emphasis strongly on the last word again.
These bastards think I’ve had something to do with Sandra’s disappearance, he realised.
“We have different interests. We have disagreements over sport, books, films, music and just about any other subject you care to mention. Lots of couples do. That’s what makes the relationship interesting. Haven’t you heard opposites attract?”
The detectives nodded, ignoring Mark’s sarcasm.
“Thank you Mr Thomson. We may need to interview you again. You’re not thinking of going away or anything?”
“No, I’m not going anywhere. If you do come back, don’t forget to bring your notes with you. I don’t want to have to keep repeating myself.”
“We’re doing our best to find Miss James. Thank you for your time,” Cornell said.
Mark closed the door, angry with himself for losing his cool with the detectives. But, on reflection he considered that’s what they probably set out to get him to do. See how he would react.
. . .
“What do you think Mac?” Detective Dave Cornell asked his partner as they drove away from Mark’s flat.
“Don’t know. He seems a nice guy. Not the type to do away with his girlfriend. But he was on his own for hours that day and nobody can verify where he was. We’ll keep an open mind.”
“Yeah, I’m with you. He seemed honest enough, but then again he might be very clever.”
“Where to now Dave?” Detective Mac McGregor asked.
“Let’s go and see her employers, Mr and Mrs Davis, see what they have to say.”
Jane Davis showed the detectives into the lounge.
“This is my husband Ted,” she said. “Ted, these are two policemen come to ask us about Sandra.”
“Any news about her?” asked Ted as he directed them towards the couch.
“No, nothing yet I’m sorry to say,” McGregor answered.
“Would you gentlemen like a cup of tea or coffee?” asked Jane.
“Thank you. Tea with milk, no sugar,” Cornell said.
Jane left to make the teas and the detectives turned to Ted.
“Mr Davis, can you recall Miss James’ state of mind on Tuesday, the day she disappeared? Was there any difference to her normal behaviour?” McGregor asked.
“Yes, I can. She was her normal self. I spent a considerable amount of time with her that day. We discussed an upcoming promotion. She seemed excited and was full of ideas. It has come as such a shock to us that she should disappear. Have you any idea what has happened to her?”
“We’re keeping an open mind. Now can you tell me what time she left work on the day in question?”
“Yes, we close the shop at 5.30. She left about 20 minutes later,” Ted said.
“And how does she travel to and from work?” McGregor asked.
“Normally she catches the bus, but she told me she was meeting a friend at a café in town then going on to a concert. I presumed she’d just walk there.”
Jane came in with the tea and a plate of chocolate biscuits. Once the cups had been distributed and plate of biscuits handed around McGregor carried on with the questioning.
“And what time did you two leave?” he asked.
“Well, we come in separate cars on Tuesdays. Ted has a regular meeting with clients after work on that day and I decided I’d better catch up on the book work,” volunteered Jane.
“So, what time did you leave?”
“Ted left about the same time as Sandra. I stayed on for a while and left at about 6.15 or thereabouts.”
“And did either of you see Sandra again.”
“Not me,” said Ted.
“No,” said Jane shaking her head.
“Who was your meeting with, Mr Davis?” Cornell enquired.
“Oh, just some suppliers and reps. It’s a very informal gathering. A few drinks after work, you know, that sort of thing.”
Mac was watching Mrs Davis while Dave was questioning Ted.
“Tell you what, Mr Davis, why don’t you write down a list of people who were with you, when you get a quiet moment, and drop in into the station with it sometime tomorrow,” McGregor said.
“Yes, ok, I’ll do that,” Ted replied.
“Round about 10 o’clock say. Tell the person on the desk you want to see Detective Cornell or McGregor.”
“Fine, no problem,” said Ted.
“And you, Mrs Davis, what did you do after you left work?” asked Cornell.
“Me? Nothing much. I was supposed to go to a meeting, but it started at six and as I was running late thought I’d give it a miss. I came straight home.”
“Did you go out again?”
“No. I cooked dinner. Ate mine and put Ted’s in the fridge. He had his when he came home just after eight o’clock. We both read till about 10.30 then went to bed. Not very exciting lives we lead, I’m afraid.”
“You didn’t pass or see Sandra James on your drive home by any chance did you?”
“Well, I think that’s all for now. Thank you very much for your time,” said McGregor.
The two detectives left. When they were in the car Dave asked Mac what was that all about getting Ted Davis to drop by tomorrow.
“I wanted to question him on his own. Better down at the station. Wherever he was that night he didn’t want his wife to know. She knew he was lying. There’s something odd about him. Her too. Funny couple.”
Jane Davis turned to her husband after she closed the door behind the detectives.
“Well, are you going to tell them who you were with that night?” she asked.
“Of course. I’ve nothing to hide. I’ll give them a list of the people I was with,” he said.
She noticed he had his back to her when he spoke.
“That’s good. We have to be honest with the police,” she said.
. . .
The two detectives’ last call was to Sandra’s parents. It was more of a public relation visit to keep them up to date with the enquiry into their daughter’s disappearance. Not that they had much to report, but it would let them know they were taking it seriously. The parents are seldom, if ever, considered suspects in cases like this, but they had to ask them about their movements the day of the disappearance. Nothing unusual occurred.
Mrs James had played golf in the morning and went to the local shops in the afternoon. Mr James was at work all day and went to his Rotary Club meeting in the evening. They said they hadn’t seen or heard from Sandra for about a week.
They asked them about Mark. What they thought of him as a person and the fact that he was living with their daughter. Both Bob and Norma said they were delighted Sandra had met as nice a young man as Mark. They were hoping the two would get married.
Ted Davis turned up at the police station at exactly 10 o’clock. Detective Dave Cornell came to the front and invited Ted into an interview room.
“Do you have that list with you?” Ted was asked.
Ted handed over a list of names, the names of the companies they worked for and phone numbers.
“Thank you, I’ll just have someone check this. Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?”
“Yes, thank you, black coffee, one sugar,” said Ted.
A policewoman brought him his coffee and stayed in the room with him. He had about a half hour wait before Detectives Dave Cornell and Mac McGregor came into the room. The policewoman left.
“Sorry to keep you waiting Mr Davis. We’ve checked with the people on the list and they’ve verified you were with them that night. Regular weekly get-together I gather,” said Detective Cornell.
“Yes, we’re in the same industry and it’s an informal networking group. We’ve been doing it for a few years now.”
“That’s great. There’s just one little thing I’d like you to clarify if you would.”
“Oh, what’s that?” Ted said.
“All of your friends said you arrived late, at about 7.45, and only stayed for one quick drink then left. They also said you seemed distracted, unusually hyper and nervous. Can you tell us where you were from the time you left work before six and 7.45 and why you were in the state you were?”
The colour drained from Ted’s face.
“I . . . er . . . I can’t remember. What night was it again?”
“Come on Mr Davis. You know what night. One of your friends even thought you looked as if you’d been doing some heavy physical work.”
Ted sat quietly looking down. The detectives waited. Five minutes passed without a word being said.
“I’d like my lawyer present,” Ted eventually said.
“That can be arranged, but it would be quicker if you just told us the truth and get it off your chest. We’re going to find out eventually.”
“I’m saying nothing till I have a lawyer present,” Ted said.
“OK. Do you have your own lawyer or do you want us to find one for you?” asked McGregor.
“If I tell you can you guarantee no-one else, especially my wife, will get to hear of it?”
“Is Sandra James involved?”
“Sandra? Good God no. I’d nothing to do with her disappearance.”
“Well, you tell us where you were and who you were with and, if it checks out, it will stay in this room. If you insist on your lawyer being present I can’t guarantee it won’t be on the front page of all the newspapers tomorrow.”
That was exaggerating a bit, but it worked. Ted told them where he had been. It checked out. They let him go.
“Told you there was something funny about him,” Mac said to Dave after Ted Davis had left.
“Kinky. The things some people do for relaxation. No wonder he didn’t want his wife to know,” said Dave.
“I think she does know,” Mac replied.
. . .
The investigation continued for months but gradually wound down. The extra police returned to Wellington. The file went into the unsolved mysteries category, not forgotten but not active.
Mark resigned his job and returned to Auckland. He started training again for what would be his first triathlon.
Bob James took early retirement and he and Norma sold their house and moved down to the Kapiti Coast. They had both aged 10 years in the past six months.
Ted and Jane Davis carried on their usual marital and business life. They had a new person doing Sandra’s job.
“How’s the new girl working out?” Jane asked Ted one night after dinner.
“Very well. I think she’s going to be a real asset,” Ted replied.
“Well, so long as you don’t get too close to her. I might get jealous and that would never do, would it,” she joked.
“No dear, no worries in that department.”
They went back to their reading.
Later when they were having a nightcap Ted looked at Jane and said “What say we go out to dinner tomorrow night, just you and me. We haven’t done that for ages. Make a nice change.”
“What a lovely idea,” said Jane, “but not tomorrow, let’s make it Wednesday. You go to your meeting with your friends and, don’t forget, tomorrow’s the night I go to my Rotary club.”
. . .
Postscript: Eighteen months after the disappearance of Sandra James two trampers were walking in a native bush reserve on the outskirts of Palmerston North when they came across what looked like human bones. They informed the police and their suspicions were confirmed. More searches in the area uncovered another human skeleton in a shallow grave close by. Pathology examinations confirmed they were the remains of two young women.