Although the immediate need for rescue had been removed, Amanda was pleased when a senior female officer and her younger colleague showed up, not long after the kettle had finished boiling.
The female officer with a permanent frown and greying black hair had been looking at everything, in every part of every ceiling, a she entered and was shown to the dining area.
“So, there’s no CCTV?” she said to the manager, an inquiry in an almost incredulous tone.
He shook his head. “We’ve never had the spare money to afford the equipment.”
She tutted and shook her head. She had judged their little B & B before even introducing herself. “I’m PC Sawyer, and this is my colleague PC Gibb,” she said, providing the inevitable introduction of herself and the mouse brown-haired, timid man who barely looked older than Amanda.
The manager had already introduced himself and Amanda before they had crossed the threshold.
The slightly offensive officer listened with surprising patience as the story was told by Geoff. The woman even managed a look of sympathy when he had reached the point of being locked in the bathroom at gunpoint.
She turned to Amanda, who offered her version of events, all the time watching as both officers were quick to take down as much detail as possible in their pocket books.
Geoff, who had excused himself when Amanda had started to talk, returned with a tray of cups of coffee, milk, cream, sugar and biscuits. PC Sawyer seemed grateful and unfazed by the offering. PC Gibb couldn’t take his eyes off the tray.
There was a brief break as everyone prepared a hot drink to their liking and the conversation continued. The woman seemed fixated on stirring the coffee and less keen on raising it to her lips. I wonder if she has any desire at all to drink it.
The young PC Gibbs spoke up for the first time. “Would you say you got a good look at the kidnapper and the girl?”
Amanda stared at him, straight-faced. “I would say so, yes.”
“Could you describe them for us?”
His colleague turned her head glared at him as Amanda pointed at the front page of the newspaper on the table in front of them.
Pointing to the large mugshot of the man, Amanda said, “This is the man, Joshua Billings, who’s been all over the news,” and then pointed to the other photo. “This is the girl, Abigail Castle, she has also been on the news.”
The young officer nodded and looked a little sheepish. His briefest of interviews had ended. PC Sawyer would no doubt do the talking from now on.
Amanda cleared her throat. “But they do look different now,” she said. “The girl’s hair is shorter now than in that picture.”
PC Sawyer looked puzzled. “They look different? How can you be sure they’re the same people?”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “There’s a lot more to the looks of a person than their hair. “The man’s now got long red hair with a red goatee beard. If these pictures are right, the hair must be a wig of some sorts because he’s got a shaved head here.”
The officers nodded and began writing in their books.
“He arrived in a red car,” Geoff said, pointing out of a front window. “It’s still there in the car park over the road. He must have left in another car.”
“You didn’t see the car?” the young officer asked.
PC Sawyer looked disappointed in the question a refused to look at her colleague.
Trying to remain calm and serious, Geoff responded by saying, “I didn’t see him leave, on account of being locked in a windowless en-suite”
PC Gibb nodded and shrank in his seat. “Oh, right.” He said, which could be guaranteed to be his final words in their company.
“I also didn’t see him arrive in a new car. We were upstairs talking to the kidnapped girl at the time.”
PC Sawyer got to her feet, having done nothing but take notes and stir coffee for the past couple of minutes. “We will need to get the CCTV footage from the seafront and see if that can help us.” She looked down at PC Gibb and added, “There’s a nationwide manhunt, and the guy they’re after was here minutes ago. We need to deal with this quickly or we’ll never hear the end of it.”
The young officer stood up and they were both shown to the door. She was on her police-issue radio before they had even left the building.
Amanda looked at the clock near the front door. It had been almost twenty minutes since her first call. A dangerous man was still on the loose, and the chances of the Suffolk Constabulary recovering the situation would be practically nil.