Arriving at work to find she’s lost more than five-and-a-half days (133 hours), Briony Chaplin, has no recollection of where she’d been or what had happened to her. She is distraught. Has she been ill, or had a breakdown, or could she have been drugged and abducted?
Doubting her own sanity, Briony is fearful of what she’ll find. Yet she’s driven to discover the truth. When she trawls her memories, she’s terrified by visions, believing she may have been abused and raped.
Assisted by her friends Alesha and Jenny, and supported by a retired detective, she’s determined to learn where she’s been and why.
Introduction and context
Paula is the police officer assigned to take Briony’s statement and question her about her suspected abduction..Briony has been accompanied by her friends, Jenny and Alesha.
“Have you ever researched to find who your real parents were, or whether you have any other relatives?” Paula asks.
I’m affronted and it’s not only her questions; I find her style of asking to be confrontational and very intrusive. How dare she make assumptions or try to impress her own values onto me? I’m also annoyed with Jenny. How could she leave me open to this when she must already know my feelings on the matter?
“I know who my real parents are – they’re the ones who’ve cared for me and raised me for the last twenty-five years. Just because some man and woman went through a random act of fornication, resulting in an egg being fertilised, doesn’t make them parents. It certainly doesn’t make them my parents. There’s no reason why I need to, or want to, find out more about my biological mother and father.”
I know I’m sensitive on this issue and I shouldn’t let it get to me. Maybe it’s guilt, because, if I were to be honest, I’ve often thought I’d like to research where I came from, but I don’t want to upset Mum and Dad. They haven’t ever discouraged me, but I’m concerned it might be taken as a betrayal. It’s nobody’s business but mine, so I won’t have anyone, whether they be police, friend, or anyone else, trying to tell me what I should have done.
“I’m sorry,” Paula says. “I didn’t mean to upset you. The purpose of my question was to find out if there might be…”
“Might be what?” I’m trying to calm down but it’s a struggle.
“If we’re going to properly investigate to find out what happened to you, then you need to be completely honest with us. We need as much information as possible, so we don’t waste resources looking down blind alleys and so we explore every relevant avenue. You may think it improbable, but we need to research whether your adoption has any relevance to the enquiry.”
“In case I’ve inherited any mad genes,” I say, my tone caustic.
Jenny places her hand on my arm. Whether it’s to support and comfort me or to restrain me, I can’t tell. I’m intolerant and shake her off.
“I won’t pull my punches,” Paula replies. “Yes, it’s our job to consider every possibility. We can’t rule out that your complaint might be frivolous. We also need to consider whether any family members could have an involvement, be they birth or adopted family. Statistically, a very high percentage of crimes are committed by family members, so we will want to carry out checks on your birth family. For what it’s worth, I believe what you’ve told me. However, I’m duty-bound to follow the standard procedures.”
I inhale deeply, considering her words. “I’m sorry if I overreacted. My emotions are very near the surface.”
“That’s understandable, given your situation.” She continues, “I think it best if we can move on.”
“Yes,” I agree, nodding.
“Are you currently, or have you recently been, in a relationship?” Paula asks.
I frown and shake my head.
“Please answer, verbally, for the recording.”
“No, nothing serious.”
“Can you tell me the last time you had sexual intercourse?”
Jenny clasps my hand, and this time I don’t withdraw. She knows the answer because I’ve told her about it. I should have expected this question. I expected to be questioned about my personal life, but nevertheless, someone I don’t know quizzing me on such personal issues feels intrusive.
“Saturday night,” I reply. “The Saturday before last Friday,” I correct. I feel the need to explain further. “Michael and I were in a relationship for over a year. We were very close. I thought we would get engaged, but then he was offered a transfer to a big job in Newcastle. This was six months ago, about the same time as I was being recruited at Archers.”
I sigh, then carry on. “I was telling you the truth when I said I haven’t recently been in a relationship. When Michael moved away, we agreed to have some time apart… see how it worked as a long-distance relationship. At first, we talked daily but gradually it became less frequent. He called to tell me he was coming up to Glasgow last weekend. We met on the Saturday and it was as if we’d never been apart. We shared a meal and a bottle of wine. He stayed that night at my flat and yes, we did have ‘sexual intercourse’, but in the morning he admitted to me he’d found someone new in Newcastle. I was furious because he took advantage of me, acting as if we were a couple and not telling me it was a one-night stand. I threw him out and told him I never wanted to see him again.”
Despite my determination that I’d never let the bastard upset me again, I feel the trickle of tears roll over my cheeks. Jenny is holding my hand reassuringly and Alesha has taken my other hand.
Much as I don’t see the point, Paula takes Michael’s contact details.
“I’ll contact his local police force and get them to speak to him,” she says. Knowing he may be inconvenienced doesn’t displease me, even a bit.
Having the background of a successful career in commerce and finance, Zach Abrams has spent many years writing reports, letters and presentations and it’s only fairly recently he started writing novels. “It’s a more honourable type of fiction,” he declares.
Writer of the Alex Warren Murder Mystery series, set in Scotland, Zach has also written the psychological thriller, Ring Fenced and the financial thriller, Source, as well as collaborating with Elly Grant on a book of short stories.
Zach is currently producing a non-fiction series to help small businesses – using the collective title Mind Your Own Business. The first, So, You Think You Want to be a Landlord, is already available.
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