‘It’s okay, Tina,’ the policewoman said, ‘I just want you to tell me what happened.’
Tina shuddered, shot a sideways glance at her parents, her mum in the chair, her dad perched on the arm. She was scolded if she sat on the arm of the chair like that. The policewoman was sitting on the sofa, next to her. She had a nice face, kind eyes. Not like her mum’s eyes just now: they were like ice, cold and hard, when they looked at Tina they stabbed and burned.
‘It’s okay, love, you’re not in any trouble.’
Tina doubted the truth of that statement. Her mum had already shouted at her, she’d go ballistic just as soon as the police were out of here. ‘We missed the last Metro to Sunderland,’ she told the policewoman. ‘The concert finished late and we ran all the way to the station, but we missed it.’
‘This was at The Arena… MC Boyz?’
Tina nodded. ‘They’re my favourite band.’
‘And you went there on your own, just you and your sister?’ The policewoman flicked a glance at the parents. ‘No adult.’
‘They weren’t supposed to be there at all!’ Penny exploded, her fingers gripping the edge of the cushion. She glowered at Tina. ‘You were told “no”.’
‘I see,’ said the policewoman. She turned to Tina. ‘But you wanted to go, is that right?’
Tina nodded, kept her eyes down. The row with her mother had been ‘epic’, as she described it to her best friend, Hilary.
‘Normally, we’d have taken them,’ offered Derek. ‘But we had plans and the girls were staying with my mum. She couldn’t manage a do like that…’
‘She couldn’t manage to keep them in the house!’ spat Penny. ‘Didn’t even know they were gone until you rang her and she checked the beds.’
‘Oh, that’s not fair, love,’ said Derek. ‘She does her best. She’s never had any trouble before.’
Penny glowered at him, then turned her gaze on Tina, who wisely kept her eyes on her shoes.
‘So, Tina,’ the policewoman persisted. ‘What happened after you missed the Metro?’
‘There was one that went just to Heworth, so we got on that. It meant we were half way home. We thought there might be a bus.’
‘And was there?’
Tina shook her head. ‘There was a taxi, but I didn’t have enough money.’
‘Did you ask the driver to take you home?’
She shook her head again. ‘I knew I couldn’t pay, I only had two pounds. That’s just enough for a tip.’ She flashed a look at her dad. ‘Dad says you should always tip taxi drivers.’
‘Tina, what happened next?’
‘There was this man, he saw us and he asked if we needed help.’
‘What did you say?’
‘I asked if I could borrow some money for a taxi, and promised I would pay him back.’ Tina chewed nervously on a fingernail. ‘But he said he had a daughter himself and he’d be worried if she was out this late, so he’d take us home for free.’
‘So you got in the car?’
Tina nodded. ‘He sounded… posh. I thought we’d be safe with him.’
‘He asked where our parents were, and I said they were out at a party. He said they didn’t deserve two lovely little girls like us. Then I realised he was driving the wrong way so I told him. He said he knew where he was going and not to worry.’ Tina risked a glance at her mother. ‘But I was worried, so I started shouting and hitting him and telling him to stop.’
‘Where did you hit him?’
‘On the head and the arm. I was sitting behind him. I made him swerve the car and he stopped on the side of the road. I opened the door and shouted at Annie to get out, but she couldn’t open her door. She tried to get out of mine, but he caught her. I bashed him to let go, but he wouldn’t.’
‘So you ran away?’
Tina nodded, saucer-eyed. ‘Yes,’ she whispered. Annie had urged her to go, to run for help, but she hadn’t wanted to. When she realised he would never let go of Annie, she had run, dropping her little handbag with her house keys, purse and mobile phone, sprinted into the bushes at the side of the road. The man had dragged Annie through the gap in the seats and tied something round her wrists. He locked her in the car and searched through the bushes at the edge of the road, but Tina stayed very still and held her breath, and he didn’t find her. After a while, he got back in his car and drove off. The image of Annie staring out of the window into the darkness, tears running down her face, no idea what would happen to her, would stay with Tina forever.
‘You left her.’ Penny said the words and they were an accusation. ‘Your little sister, who you’re supposed to look after, and you left her in that car with that man.’
Tina was sobbing. ‘Mum, I couldn’t get her away, I tried…’
‘She shouldn’t have been there in the first place!’ Penny roared. ‘You selfish, stupid little fool! Have you any idea what you’ve done?’
‘Mum, please! I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry!’
‘Pen, love, it’s not the bairn’s fault. You can see she’s upset…’
‘Not half as upset as she’ll be when I’m finished with her!’ Tina wondered that she didn’t melt under her mother’s venomous gaze, laser eyes burning into her, hatred burning bright. Penny stalked out of the room, and they heard her slamming about in the kitchen, no doubt making another round of cups of tea that they would allow to stand until they cooled and a skin formed on the surface.
Derek reached out to Tina and pulled her to him, gave her a hug. ‘She’s just upset, love. She doesn’t blame you, not really. Just give her a bit of time.’ He turned to the policewoman. ‘Do we have to do this tonight?’
‘Tina’s told us as much as she can about the car and the driver. We’ve got people out looking. We’ll be in touch first thing.’
Derek saw her out, then looked at the clock: four-thirty. It was already first thing, he thought as he went back in to see how his wife and daughter were coping. Not that the hour mattered: they would be unlikely to get any sleep.
Still a bit rough, but that's the NaNo nature of things at this stage! Word count up to 8500 - hoping to see 15000 by Sunday night. Fingers crossed! :)