It was seven o’clock, they were drinking coffee as they watched BBC Breakfast news, the lead story was the abduction of their little girl. They sat in disbelief, their story was the lead on all the major UK news channels. They watched the BBC correspondent report from outside the hospital, and they could see that they were not alone, several TV reporters were doing their pieces to camera in the background. Alan muted the sound, he didn’t need to know what happened, they all knew.
A nurse entered the room and interrupted them, she told Alan that Susan had asked for him. Alan stood, he turned to her parents,
“Alice, Joe, come, she needs to know that you are here.”
He looked at his parents.
“You don’t mind guys, do you?” They shook their heads, they understood.
Susan managed a smile when Alan walked in, which soon disintegrated into tears when she saw her mother follow close behind. Her Mum and Dad rushed to her bedside as Alan stood back and they wrapped their arms around their daughter and hugged her, all three were in tears. Alan looked away, he noticed that the nurse who was observing his wife also had tears in her eyes, she forced a smile.
“I’ll wait outside, I’ll give you some time together.”
He whispered and turned away.
Alan returned a little later and when he walked in, they were watching the BBC news. Susan seemed to be encouraged by the level of interest from the media, not wanting to upset her, he emphasised that the press would be a great help in getting information out to the wider public, but, in a softer tone, he reminded them all, that it did not guarantee the successful conclusion that they all wanted.
She looked at him, her eyes begging him to give her the answer she craved as she asked if they would find her.
“They are all doing everything they can honey, we have to be patient.”
After a stressful day, their parents eventually went home, with police escorts, and Alan settled down with his wife, she was already asleep, but he wouldn’t leave her side. He held her hand and watched her as she slept, her eyes hardly ever stopped moving under her eyelids, and she wore a frown on her forehead as she slept.
Alan was woken by a nurse, she told him that she’d arranged to have blankets put in the relatives' room, she promised that she would come for him as soon as Susan was awake. Reluctantly, he left.
As promised, the nurse woke him around six in the morning, Susan was still sleeping but would be woken up soon. He freshened up and grabbed a little breakfast in the café, then, refreshed he headed back to his wife’s room, armed with the latest information that he’d gained from a visit to the incident room on the way.
Outside her room, he met her doctor. Alan asked just how much he should tell her, the doctor told him to tell her everything.
“We will deal with whatever happens with her, but she needs to know the situation, Mr Charlton.”
He took a deep breath and pushed the door open and stepped inside. She still looked stressed, he sat beside her and encouraged her to eat some toast that the nurse had placed on her tray. As she did, he told her what DI Rogers had said.
“They found their car in Dover.”
Her head dropped when he said where it was, but he continued.
“A local PC found it in a car park, they found Alice’s hospital I.D. band on the back seat, it was their car. They left the car park and headed into town, unfortunately, the CCTV cameras lost them. It is assumed that they got into another vehicle somewhere in Dover and boarded one of two ferries bound for France.”
When he finished telling her everything the police had told him she sighed.
“They must have taken her abroad then?”
The disappointment in her voice palpable. Alan assured her that all the European police authorities were aware and searching for their daughter. She slumped back in the bed.
“I guess that’s it, she’s gone forever.”
Alan reached out and took her hand.
“Honey, I promise you, I will never give up looking for her, you have no idea just how many people are looking for our daughter.”
Susan looked at him, her eyes expressed the hopelessness that she felt.
“I know, but they’ve been looking for Maddie for years now. “
Alan knew what she meant, he had said the same thing to DI Rogers, he looked into her eyes.
“I know honey, but we know that Alice was taken for a reason, we know that she is alive, she was probably taken because someone wanted a child, but we know that she is alive. And alive, we can find her. I promise you that I will never stop looking for her, it if takes a year, ten years, or the rest of my life.”
Alan gave her one last bit of information, he told her that DI Rogers had informed him that there was to be a press conference at noon, and he was going to attend. She was surprised, but he explained that it would help to get their message out, across Europe.
Susan’s dad, Joe, owned a transport company, his vehicles travelled all over the UK and the European Union. He’d instructed all his drivers who were abroad or going abroad to spread the word amongst the other truckers they meet on their journeys, both Alana and Susan were grateful for his efforts.
A little later Alan walked into the meeting room to discuss the press conference, accompanied by his father. He saw the two executives sat at the far end of the table, he ignored both men as the introductions were made. Before the meeting began Alan spoke,
“Detective, I am here to help find my daughter, and will do whatever you ask of me, but,” He stared directly at the two executives sitting at the end of the table. “I’d rather you were not involved, but I guess that is out of my control, so, just stay out of my way and do not try to talk to me! I do not want to hear a word from either of you.”
DI Rogers explained the timetable and outlined the networks that were taking the conference. He said that the press would ask questions, but, he and the hospital staff would do their best to answer most of them.
Alan expressed his concern that he wouldn’t know what to say, DI Rogers explained that the press officer, who was seated beside DI Roger, would advise him beforehand, and would be with him during the conference to step in if needed.
“Inspector, can I take questions before they speak?”
He nodded in the direction of the two executives. The CEO raised his head and looked at Alan.
He could control himself no longer, he stood up, his fists were clenched as he banged them onto the table.
He yelled, pointing his finger at the shocked executive.
“You shut the fuck up! I told you I don’t want you to talk to me, and I certainly don’t want to listen to your lies, somebody walked into this hospital and walked out with my daughter, unchallenged by anyone! You have nothing to say that I want to hear!”
Still standing he turned to DI Rogers.
“If they are there, I won’t be!”
He pushed his chair back which toppled onto the floor and stormed out of the room, followed by his father. He stood outside the room, his body was shaking, his father said nothing, he just stood beside him. After a few moments, his father put his hand on his son’s arm.
Alan shrugged it off, “Not now Dad, I need to calm down,”
He noticed the sign on a door a few doors to his right, ‘Toilet’ he stormed off and into the bathroom. Inside he splashed his face with water and stared into the mirror above the basin. He stared at the reflection, he looked a mess, his hair was all over the place, his eyes looked like he hadn’t slept for a week ‘You look like crap’. He met DI Rogers as he left the bathroom, he raised his hands apologetically.
“I’m sorry Inspector, but I can’t share a platform with those two.”
“You won’t have to Alan.”
He explained that after Alan had left, he had threatened to exclude them altogether. He then explained that he had heard, from sources, that some sections of the press, particularly the newspapers, and their local’s reporters, were itching to get at the guys from the Trust. He’d heard that there were some reports, from unnamed sources, that there had been similar incidents in the past that had been averted, by sheer luck and the eagle-eyed hospital staff.
Eventually, Alan returned to the meeting and they completed all the preparations. On the way back to Susan’s room he asked his Dad not to tell the others of his behaviour, his dad agreed.
“Though I don’t see that you have anything to be ashamed of, I’d have done the same, or maybe worse.”