Preview:  The Pursuit of Revenge


Chapter 1   


London UK April 1999


What’s the point of editorial meetings? thought Julian, as he rushed out of his house, turning back briefly to retrieve his car keys that in haste he had almost forgotten.  These occasions were always a pain and he approached this one with the same anathema that he had experienced for every other one since he joined the paper ten years previously.  The situation was not helped by the decision of him and his wife to live in a town near the countryside outside of London, which worked for his day-to-day writing, but necessitated a train ride to the office for meetings such as this.  An hour on a busy commuter train and tube from Sawbridgeworth seemed to exemplify in advance the misery that he knew he would experience at his destination.  But at least his wife found it easier to get to work in Harlow, so, he told himself repeatedly, if she was happy, then so would he be.


His aversion to the forthcoming day, and the lack of motivation that accompanied it, had delayed his departure and, as usual, his expectations concerning the time taken to get to the station were over-optimistic.  But he had done it: parked his car in a place that he knew would prompt a parking ticket, ran at full pelt into the station and leapt onto the train just as the doors were closing.  Surprisingly, there were two adjacent empty seats - backward-facing but never mind - so he collapsed into the one by the aisle, head back, buttocks on the edge of the seat and legs extended straight in front.  He closed his eyes and tried to regain control of his breathing.  Some people never learn, he thought; this happens every time.  Luckily, no heart attacks so far - but one day?


After a few minutes, when he had regained his composure, he began to make himself more comfortable for the journey ahead and sat up straight.  As he shifted his rear back into the seat, he heard the jingling sound of coins falling from his trouser pocket.  Inwardly cursing the bad trouser design, he turned in his seat to retrieve them but discovered that they had slipped down the side of the seat cushion.  With difficulty because there was not much space, he forced his hand into the tiny gap.  He could not quite reach the coins, which had come to lie underneath some paper seemingly trapped between the cushion and the seat.  As he withdrew his hand, the paper slipped out with it.


It was an open envelope containing a letter.  Instinctively, he withdrew the letter, unfolded it and began to read.


“Dear James,


I know you will not understand this, however much I try to explain it, but I have to leave.  Nevertheless, to explain I will try.  Before I do, however, it is sadly necessary for you to understand that you will never see me again.  I am so unbelievably sorry about that but is a fact.  Do not, therefore, attempt to find me because you will not succeed.  I really mean that - I do care for your future welfare but you would be best employed adapting to life without me because any alternative is impossible - absolutely impossible.  Again I plead, do not try.


The reason I am leaving is nothing to do with you.  I still love you now as I have always done - more so, in fact.  But there are things that have been going on in my life and I am still suffering the consequences.  I want you to know that I have done nothing wrong - really, truly - but there are people who I believe are determined to destroy me in as horrible a way as possible.  I cannot explain more, partly because I do not fully understand myself, but I am not imagining this.


I would obviously have preferred to say all this to you in person but I had to leave in a hurry.  I did not even have time to write this letter before I left, which is why I am posting it to you.  I am so sorry but please believe me if there had been any other way out of this, I would have taken it willingly.


All my love,


Charlotte”


Instinctively, he picked up the envelope and examined the address: 9, Burlington Court, Hackney.  In a moment, a rush of memories swept across his mind: Hackney, Charlotte, James...a missing person.  Within a few minutes, the fragments had coalesced to one clear memory: he recalled vividly the article he wrote several weeks earlier and the subsequent series of published comments, some by him and others by a series of experts, including psychiatrists and criminologists.  


A girl named Charlotte, aged twenty-two, had suddenly and inexplicably disappeared from her home in Hackney.  Very few of her personal belongings had been taken from the flat she shared with her boyfriend, James.  There was no suicide note; indeed, apart from a brief, obscure parting letter to her boyfriend, there was no communication of any kind to indicate why and where she had gone.  Her friends were unaware of any problems that she was experiencing and they all said that the relationship with her boyfriend of approaching one year’s standing was unusually close.  She seemed content in her clerical job in a large office and had given no notice, formal or informal, to her employers or work colleagues of her intention to leave.  The police investigation was thorough but there was no evidence of break-in at the flat, no suspicious fingerprints and no other forensic clues.


Sadly, two days later, her boyfriend was hit by a train after having jumped from a bridge onto the railway track near to Cheshunt Station, on the line from London Liverpool Street.  Now that he was permanently incapable of defending himself or providing any other kind of evidence, there was a brief spurt of gossip stemming from the fanciful imaginations of some of the locals.  The most popular lay theory was that he had killed her, disposed of the body and then committed suicide.  Although the police stressed that here was no evidence for that hypothesis, in some ways its appearance led to a form of closure in the community by a process of post-hoc rationalisation.  The police kept the file open but the case generally went quiet.


On the way out, this line goes through Hackney on the way to Cambridge, thought Julian.  If these really are the same people, he must have taken this train from his home in Hackney with the letter on him and got off at Cheshunt, which he knew was one of the stations with a nearby bridge over the line.  Gosh, he must have sat in this very seat!


He rested his head back against the seat, closed his eyes and let his mind wander.  He had been fascinated by the case when he first reported on it those weeks ago.  He was never quite sure why but now wondered if some instinct told him then that there was a lot more to it than met the eye; now he was certain there was and he vowed to find out what.

    C    © Harvey Sagar 2013