Good! We are all here...′ DI Anne Talanted glances quickly at the faces of her team gathered around the large table in the ops room. Joseph Caulderway and Aneeta Dubois the two computer analysis experts, Dr. Joan Parts their resident forensic pathologist, police detective Bob Drise and, of course, freelance private investigator Sam Hansome. She glances at the wall clock, it was already 7.30am, no time to waste. ‘We are looking for a man called Clifton D’urbeville...’
‘Called what?’ Sam interrupts. ‘Sounds like a Thomas Hardy character...’
Anne interrupts cutting him off abruptly, ‘I’ve no time for your musings today, Sam. The reason we are looking for him is, although he has not been reported as missing, one of his kidneys has just turned up at the A&E department in Poole. ’
‘His kidney?’ Aneeta leans in closer. ‘As in an organ donation?’
‘As in an illegal donation being rejected by the recipient, who was dumped at the hospital ambulance bay out of the back of an untraceable van just after 4.00am this morning. The patient is in a critical stage of a renal failure and unlikely to survive the night.’
‘And we know it’s the kidney of this Clifton D’Urbeville because?’ Sam asks annoyed to have been reprimanded but intrigued by the case.
‘Because that’s who the recipient said the kidney was from.’
‘So why aren’t the police dealing with this?’ Bob asks, slowly stirring his cup of coffee with a plastic pen casing.
‘They are, they want us to see if we can try and fill in the back story of D’Urbeville, see if we can get a last location for him. They are following up leads on the van and the information from the recipient, they think it might be an inroad into an illegal organ smuggling operation. Anyhow, like I said, time is of the essence here.’
‘How long can you live with only one kidney?’ Aneeta asks Dr. Parts.
‘One kidney’s OK, as long as it’s all they’ve taken. We could be looking for a dead body here. I’ll contact the A&E, get a tissue type and put out an international medical alert for any other organs and tissues which could have been harvested and smuggled out. I’ll see if there’s a medical reason why he might have been targeted.’ Dr. Parts replies, thinking a few steps ahead.
‘Good. Aneeta, I’d like you and Joe to concentrate on any kind of online profile for this man, any chatter on illegal organ harvesting, cross reference anything similar in the UK or Europe...’
Sam interrupts Anne again, this time with a new thought. ‘Also check for an address. Like D’Urbeville House, Clifton. Just in case it’s a place not a person.’
Anne lets Sam’s interruption go. ‘Good call, Sam. It could be a place, a boat... check harbour records.’ Anne finishes her sentence and looks at Joe, Aneeta and Joan still sitting there. ‘Well, what are you waiting for, get going! This could be a live one. It would be nice to be the team who find him. Bob, you come with me back to the hospital, see what we can find out down there. Sam, what are you going to do.’
‘I’m going to follow up a couple of ideas about the name, I’ll work here with Aneeta and Joe if it’s OK?’
‘OK. That’s sorted then, keep me informed with any information on the way.’ Anne grabs her bag and heads briskly out towards the stairwell down to the car park with Bob trying to keep up behind her. Sam watches them disappear from view through the glass wall of the ops room. ‘Phew! I’m exhausted just watching her!’ But he turns to find he is addressing an empty room, the rest of the team have already left to get on with their work.
Sam puts his feet up on the desk and leans back in his office chair as the dialling tone clicks in. On the fourth ring the phone is answered. ‘Hello? Is this the Thomas Hardy Appreciation Society?’
‘Yes, yes it is. Could I ask who’s calling?’
‘Certainly my name is Sam Hansome, I’m a private investigator working on a missing person case with the FSS, the Forensic Science Service, at the moment and I wondered if you could help me regarding a name.’
‘Yes, Clifton D’Urbeville. Is it a character from one of Hardy’s books?’
There is a chuckle from the other end of the phone. ‘We get a lot of those kinds of names turn up. No, it’s a made up name, quite often people want to call their children after famous characters or locations. Now, actually, that particular name does ring a bell, hold on....’
There is the sound of papers being rummaged through at the other end as Sam takes a gulp of his coffee as he waits for a reply.
‘Ah, here we are. I thought so. I’m the secretary for membership and I keep a log of all the memberships we’ve had over the years. Now, a few years ago, in 2010 a fellow named Mr. C. D’Urbeville joined online. Paid his membership fee for the year but never attended any of the meetings. The membership lapsed after a year.’
‘It could be the person we are looking for. Do you have an address at all?’
‘Yes. Do you have a pen handy? Well, it’s Finchdown Hall, Finchdown, Dorchester. But I must stress, we do get fake names and addresses sometimes.’
‘No chance of a phone number or email address?’
‘Well, thank you for your time, you’ve been very helpful.’ Sam puts down the phone and looks at the address he’s written down. Joe might be able to help.
Sam finds Joe watching a computer screen running a programme, lines of computer code scrolling vertically in an illegible curtain of text.
‘Are you busy?’
‘Hmm? Oh, hi Sam, just running a internet search on the name. Funny thing is, I get nothing. Which is bizarre, most people should have some digital footprint these days and a name like that should leap out. Almost like he’s been erased professionally or just doesn’t exist. What can I help you with?’
‘I’ve just got hold of this from The Hardy Appreciation Society. It’s an address, he joined the society online though, no phone number or email.’
‘Well, it confirms my suspicions. He’s had his online profile erased professionally. Leave it with me, it’ll only take a few minutes to find contact details. Aneeta was asking after you a few minutes ago, said she had something of interest.’
‘Thanks, let me know soon as you have a phone number.’
Sam heads back to his desk just as Aneeta is about to leave it. ‘There you are! I’ve been looking for you. I think I’ve found something. I didn’t come up with any addresses matching the name but, rather bizarrely, I did get this.’ Aneeta hands him a list of boats registered at Poole Harbour.
’It’s a yacht called ‘Tess’ registered to a Mr. Clifton Hardy. I know, pretty far off the mark but...′
‘No, it’s good. I’ve got an address on the name through the Hardy Appreciation Society but the secretary there thought the name was fake. Maybe Clifton Hardy is our man instead. See what you can get on him and let me know.’
As Aneeta leaves, the internal phone buzzes, it’s Joe. ‘Sorry no land line phone number. It’s an old mansion turned into a set of short term holiday flats. Best I can give you is the owners name, address and number... a Mrs. Wilver.’
Sam jots down the address and telephone number and replaces the handset, then immediately dials and waits. There is no reply. He would have to go out there and see this Mrs. Wilver. He picks up his coat and mobile and calls DI Anne on his way down to the underground car park to let her know his progress so far.
‘Good, good! Let me know what you find out from her and check out the flats as well, just in case anyone there recognises the name. There is little progress this end, the hospital has stabilised the recipient but he’s unconscious. No ID of any kind. Bob’s been interviewing the staff in A&E who found him. I’ve got to go, the Doctor wants to speak to me now.’
‘OK, I’ll catch up with you later. See you.’
A few minutes later Sam pulls his truck out of the car park and grounds of the FSS building onto the bypass and heads for Dorchester. It would take a good half hour to get there. He checks the time, 8.20am. The roads would be busy by now.
‘Mrs Wilver?’ Sam tries his most engaging smile but the half of a female face he can actually see in the small gap of the chained door is not impressed.
‘No, she doesn’t live here anymore.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry. I was looking for her because she is the landlady for a block of holiday flats.’
‘You interested in them then?’
The door opens a fraction wider and Sam can make out the features of a twenty something woman with thin brown hair. He nods encouragingly and the door closes enough to release the chain and then swings wide and the young woman steps out, pulling a thin cardigan tighter around her, arms folded. ‘They were my Nan’s flats. But she died. We had to evict a few tenants recently, we’re selling the lot but can’t if... anyway we’ve had a bit of trouble. You never know who’s going to be at the door.’
Sam nods in agreement at her predicament.
‘So, you sent round by the estate agents?’ She smiles hopefully.
‘Um, no. Actually I’m trying to trace one of your Nan’s tenants. His name is Clifton D’Urbeville.’
The woman groans slightly, her smile vanishing at the name. ‘Are you another of his debt collectors?’
‘No! No. I’m working with the Forensic Science Service Cold Case team. We’re looking for him, urgently. The flats are the last address we have for him.’
‘A lot of people are looking for him. Last I heard of him, he got a contract and would be out of the country for a year. Left two years ago owing my Nan over a thousand pounds. Every now and then a debt collector turns up to try and get hold of him. He owed a lot of people money.’
‘This contract he got. Do you know what it was?’
‘Yeah, my Nan said he was a actor, he got a contract for a bit-part abroad. In some film or something. In Italy.’
‘Yeah, it’s all I know. I’ve got to go...’ Inside the house Sam can hear a phone ringing.
‘Thank you for your time!’ But he is talking to a shut door. He retrieves one of his contact cards from his jacket and posts it through the letterbox but it looks as though the trail has run cold.