“John! Why didn’t you stop?” Jennifer asked her husband.
John continued driving his trusty Land Rover up the hill through the mountains, heading for the coast.
“What for?” he asked, “There’s nobody in the car; it’s stopped in a proper lay-by and there’s no reason to believe anyone’s in difficulties. Why stop?”
“But someone might have been in trouble,” Jennifer protested.
“And you base that on what?”
“Call it ‘woman’s intuition’,” she said.
“Oh, that old thing again,” John complained. “Let’s get this straight. I see an empty car, I assume its owners have gone for a ramble in the mountains, a picnic between the outcrops or maybe just a pee. You see… what? A crime scene? Someone been murdered, assaulted, raped; what?”
“I don’t know, John. I just have a bad feeling about it. Stop the car and go back. I need to know everybody’s okay.”
“You’re not going to let this go, are you? It’s bloody Beirut all over again, and the result’ll probably be the same; nothing, nada, zilch, a big fat zero.”
Three years before, they had been on holiday in Lebanon, driving from Beirut in a rented car and headed for Byblos where Jennifer had wanted to see the historic ruins and museums. On the road, they passed a small cart loaded with what looked like pottery; a donkey was attached to the cart, but no-one was in sight. John assumed its driver had gone for a pee. He was wrong. Jennifer suspected foul play. She was wrong. They had eventually found the driver at prayer behind some bushes. Jennifer had asked him if he was okay, at which he had shouted at them, waving his jambiya in the air. It seemed he hadn’t appreciated being disturbed while communing with his God. Jennifer had tried to reason with him, to apologise, but John had seen the glint in his eye that matched the glint on the curved blade of his knife, and neither of them had filled him with confidence. He had grabbed Jennifer by the wrist, dragged her to the car and driven off before the man could get to them. John did not want a repeat performance here in the Hajar Mountains between Dubai and Fujairah.
Nonetheless, he dutifully did what his wife had asked. He stopped and turned back. As soon as they arrived at the parking place, it became clear that Jennifer’s concerns were not completely without foundation. The driver’s door was open and the keys were still in the ignition.
“The bonnet’s still hot,” Jennifer said, “It can’t have been stopped long.”
“How can you know that?” John asked. “Feel the roof and the boot. The whole car is hot. It’s almost 50° in the shade here!”
“I’m not stupid, John. Watch my lips – The bonnet is a lot hotter than the rest of the car. Feel it for yourself if you don’t believe me, you cynical sod!”
John felt it for himself with just his fingertips and promptly gripped the lobe of his ear to dissipate the heat that was burning his digits (it does work, believe me).
“Still fits with my theory that the poor guy needed a pee,” John said, almost smugly.
Jennifer poked her head into the car, and noticed that it was cooler inside than outside. Without the benefit of a double-skinned roof like the one on the Land Rover, that could only have been because air conditioning had been used, probably not many minutes before.
“You’re no detective, are you?” Jennifer asked.
“What makes you say that?”
“Oh, puh-lease,” she said, “look inside the car. Does it even look like a man’s car? How many men would leave a pair of heels in the passenger footwell? How many would have a make-up bag on the front passenger seat, and a pink holdall on the back seat?”
“Might have had a female passenger.”
“Nope. The sand-dust on the passenger seat and back seats says they’ve not been sat in for a while. How many men do you know, who would have a pink fluffy surround to the vanity mirror on the driver’s sun visor and a pink fluffy steering-wheel cover? The whole thing shouts out ‘I am a woman’s car’ and probably a young woman at that.”
“Not all men are as masculine as I am, my love,” John said.
“Now who’s clutching at straws? This is a young woman’s car, and it’s been abandoned in a hurry. Very recently. I’m looking around. Coming?”
“It’ll be nothing again,” John complained.
“John. You’re an accountant, not a detective. To you, a deduction is something that you can knock off your income on a tax form.”
“And suddenly you’re a master detective?” he asked.
“No I’m not,” she replied, “but I do know that a deduction is a theory you arrive at after examining evidence and, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a woman. And before you ask, the difference that makes is that I add inference to evidence – ooh, I like the sound of that, I may use it again – I use my intuition to help me visualise what I can’t see.”
“And what are you inferring from this, may I ask?”
“Simply that a young woman is in trouble and needs help; and there’s no-one else for miles to give it. If you want to stay married to me, I suggest you get your ass into gear and lets start looking.”
“To find what?”
“I don’t know, but a damned site more than we’ll find just stood here jawing about it.”
…to be continued?
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 27, issued on this site earlier this week.