By: A.E. Radley
Heartsome Publishing is pleased to introduce a cosy crime comedy by best-selling author A.E. Radley.
Amy is stuck in a rut. After graduating, she never left her temporary job at the motorway service station. Daily visits from a mysterious woman are the highlight of her days.
Until one day, when the mystery woman vanishes.
Amy investigates the disappearance and makes a shocking discovery. Suddenly, she’s being framed and no-nonsense Claudia McAllister is being sent to arrest her.
Will Amy’s unique approach to evading capture prove successful?
“I was talking to you, and you weren’t there,” Kerry grumbled. She pulled on her hiking boots and coat and exited the tent. She stood up tall, stretching out her back.
“Did you say anything interesting?” Amy handed her a coffee.
“I was cursing your existence, telling you that it was cold and if I died out here I’d be blaming you.” Kerry sipped the coffee. – Huntress
Amy let out a sigh and leaned back heavily on the plastic chair of the break room. She looked at the two male police officers in front of her and shook her head in despair.
“She might be dead, you know,” she told them.
The older officer smirked and looked away. Probably to prevent himself from saying anything that would upset her further. Since they had arrived, both had been cocky to say the least. They had spoken down to her; mansplaining the rules on exactly when and how to declare someone as missing. The older guy had stood by the door, presumably eager to get away as soon as possible. He leaned against the wall, his thumbs hooked onto his utility belt as he left most of the conversation to his younger colleague, Officer Raj Patel.
“I think you are jumping to conclusions based on very little evidence,” Raj told her in a soft tone that made Amy want to wring his neck.
“Why do I pay my taxes?” Amy asked.
“Good one, never heard that before,” the older guy said with a sarcastic laugh.
Raj turned around and gave him a look. He turned back to Amy and tried to look reassuring. He obviously hadn’t had a lot of practice. Amy wondered if she should suggest he request further compassion training. Or any.
“Look,” Raj said, “I get that you’re worried about your friend.”
“She’s not my friend,” Amy pointed out. For the third time. “She’s just a customer.”
“Do you monitor all of your customers so closely?” the older officer asked, a smirk firmly planted on his face.
Amy turned to look up at him. “She comes here to the motorway services every day, every single weekday morning. She arrives at six-thirty, has breakfast, we talk, and she leaves by ten to seven. She’s been doing that every day for the last ten months. Until three days ago, when she didn’t show up. Those specific details about your day, you kinda remember.”
“Maybe she got a new job? Or she’s sick of the swill you call coffee?” He chuckled at his own joke.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name?” Amy smiled sweetly.
“Look, Dave,” she drawled his name, ignoring his wince. “I don’t expect you to understand, but some people interact with other people in a cordial and sociable manner, and they make these things called friends—”
“Thank you, Miss Hewitt,” Raj interrupted in an obvious attempt to keep the peace.
“And there is nothing wrong with my coffee,” Amy added.
“Tell that to my tongue,” David said.
“No, thanks, you’re not my type.” She returned his smirk with one of her own.
“Oh, I see.” David pushed away from the wall, suddenly more interested in the case. “You were sweet on her.”
“Sweet on her?” Amy let out a laugh. “Who even says that anymore?”
David pulled a small notebook out of his pocket and detached the pen. He looked over the top of the notepad at her as he very slowly flipped through the pages, deliberately wasting time. Amy watched him, fighting the urge to roll her eyes at his pathetic behaviour.
“So, how long had you been in a relationship with her?” David asked.
Amy glared at him. She bit the inside of her mouth to prevent the reply that was on the tip of her tongue from being let loose. After a few seconds, she took a deep breath. “I wasn’t in a relationship with her.”
“But you wanted to be?”
“No,” Amy defended herself. “We were just friendly.”
“Friendly.” David nodded his head, a sarcastic smile on his lips. “So, can you tell us the full name of this friend?”
“You know I can’t,” Amy sighed. She folded her arms across her chest and stared at him. He was clearly trying to antagonise her, and she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.
“Date of birth? Place of work? Home address? Telephone number?” David listed in quick succession.
Amy looked at him for a few more seconds before turning her attention to Raj. “So, you’re not going to help me?”
Raj sat back in his chair and looked apologetic. “I’m sorry, there isn’t a lot we can do. This is a busy motorway service station, people come and people go. This… Carla—”
“Cara,” Amy corrected.
“Sorry, Cara, she may have moved away from the area. Got a new job, like Officer Rowe suggested. There’s no evidence that there has been a crime committed. Just that someone changed their pattern, which isn’t against the law, Miss Hewitt.”
“This is ridiculous.” Amy shook her head and stood up. She pushed the plastic chair back under the table and picked up her apron from the hook on the wall. She hooped the apron over her head and started to tie it around her.
“What’s ridiculous is that we’re not giving you a caution for wasting police time,” David told her.
“You’re banned,” Amy told him sternly.
“What?” he looked baffled.
“Banned. You.” Amy pointed her finger at him. She walked around the table and headed towards the door. “I’m not serving you coffee until you fix your attitude.”
He stared at her. “You can’t do that.”
“I can. I just did. And you called my coffee swill, so presumably you’ll be glad to not have to drink it anymore. Banned.”
She opened the door and stormed into the corridor without a look back. She angrily strode through the staff-only areas of the motorway service station. She was thankful that she was away from the general public and able to have some small respite from the crowds. She needed some time alone to process what was happening. The police clearly didn’t think it was an important matter, but it was. A woman was missing.
Amy knew that Cara would have told her if she wouldn’t be coming back. She had even said that she would see her on Monday morning, as she always did on Fridays. Nothing about her last visit indicated in any way that it would be her last. Something must have happened to her. Women like her didn’t just vanish into nowhere. Cara was beautiful in an exotic way that Amy had just read about in books. People like that didn’t just disappear.
Amy sighed. She’d not wanted to give any indication that she had a crush on Cara. She knew that doing so would give the police something to laugh about, and ensure they didn’t take her seriously. She hadn’t been able to keep that particular piece of information to herself. She wondered how obvious her feelings were for David to have caught on so quickly.
Despite her crush, nothing had ever happened. Every morning she would anxiously await Cara’s arrival. The tall Spanish woman would stroll into the services, hair and outfit perfect despite the early hour. She would approach Tom’s Café in the corner of the services where Amy would be standing behind the counter, smiling and hoping her hair was behaving for once.
Cara would order breakfast. Everything was precise. Muesli on Mondays and Wednesdays, wholemeal toast on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a chocolate croissant on Fridays. She always sat at the same table as she waited for Amy to bring the order. When Amy brought the food, Cara would invite her to sit down. They’d talk about nothing in particular, never anything personal. Amy couldn’t be sure, but it always seemed like Cara was flirting with her. At least Amy hoped she was. She was certainly flirting with Cara. Or doing her best to.
Cara stayed for twenty minutes and then left, promising to see Amy the next day or wishing her a pleasant weekend. Amy would go weak at the knees as she watched the well-heeled woman walk out of the services. It was the highlight of her every morning.
Until one day she vanished without a trace. Monday had been a grey and miserable day, and Amy had been looking forward to seeing Cara. She’d practiced her welcoming greeting a few times. She had a witty comment all lined up and ready to go. Despite seeing the woman frequently, Amy often found herself tongue-tied in the moment she actually arrived. Which was bizarre because usually Amy could talk to anyone about anything. There was something about Cara that just prevented Amy’s brain from working correctly.
As she practiced her supposedly casual greeting, she’d watched the minutes trickle by. Though Cara was a stickler for timing and details, she had been late before. But never by more than a couple of minutes. By seven o’clock Amy was ready to call the police, the army, every hospital in the area.
After checking details of all road accidents within a fifty-mile radius and finding nothing that matched Cara’s description, Amy told herself that maybe she was sick. After ten months of the same schedule, it had to happen eventually. The rest of her Monday shift had gone by slowly and painfully. The only bright spot was that she had convinced herself that Cara would be back on Tuesday.
Except she wasn’t.
Nor on Wednesday.
At nine o’clock on Wednesday, Amy called the local police and informed them that she wanted to declare a person missing. By midday the two clowns had arrived and the ten-minute meeting had been the least productive of her life. She vowed to never bother calling the police for anything ever again.
While Raj had attempted to be polite, his main aim of simply appeasing her was thick in the air. He clearly didn’t believe Cara was genuinely missing. If Amy hadn’t corrected him, he’d be out looking for someone called Carla. If he even bothered to look for anyone at all.
At least Raj pretended to be interested. David hadn’t even bothered, boredom coming from him in waves. And he’d insulted her coffee. Amy made a mental note to find his photograph on the local police website and print it out and stick it on the wall to inform her colleagues that he was banned.
She rounded the last corner and stopped in front of the swinging double doors that separated the staff area and the busy motorway service station. She looked through the round glass window and watched the crowds of people. Every kind of person could be found at the services, and Amy watched as they all came together in one large crowd. Nothing connecting them except the desire to rest following a long journey.
Despite the sight of over a hundred people, Amy couldn’t help but think that one essential person was missing.
“Screw the police,” she mumbled to herself. “I’ll solve the damn case myself.
A.E. Radley is an entrepreneur and best-selling author living and working in England.
She describes herself as a Wife. Traveller. Tea Drinker. Biscuit Eater. Animal Lover. Master Pragmatist. Annoying Procrastinator. Theme Park Fan. Movie Buff.
When not writing or working, Radley indulges in her third passion of buying unnecessary cat accessories on a popular online store for her two ungrateful strays whom she has threatened to return for the last seven years.