Dan’s brainchild of a press conference had commenced under the guise of a status update by the police. They shared information about Joshua Billings, his last known whereabouts and the exploding car. They formally identified the victim as a twelve year old girl by the name of Amy. The family had been notified and would make their own statement. The media were urged to leave the family to their grief in the meantime.
Dan and Jennifer were sitting hand-in-hand next to DC Brokes, who was finishing his statement with woolly phrases about further leads that were being pursued. He would finish with the typical police scare tactic, insisting that they were very close to apprehending the kidnapper and that his arrest would be “just a matter of time”.
Dan had considered his words carefully. His purpose in holding this press conference was to ascertain whether Joshua could be believed before a ransom was prepared. His hope was that it would push the man into another mistake. Neither of those sounded good in a press conference, so he needed to be very careful with the words he would choose.
Jennifer would not be speaking, but her effect would be felt. She needed no encouragement to play the part of the grieving, guilt-ridden mother, looking with tearful eyes into every camera lens.
“My message is for Joshua Billings, Abigail’s kidnapper.” He cleared his throat, feeling it tighten with emotion more than he had anticipated. “You promised the release of my daughter when I met your ransom demand. So far my cooperation has only led to the tragic death of another innocent girl.”
He took a deep breath and thought about glancing across to Jennifer, knowing that doing so now would cause him to break down in tears. His tone lowered as his head hung above the microphone on the table.
“I remember when Abigail was about six years old. She was playing in the garden and enjoying herself so much that she barely noticed that the sun was going down.” He felt a tear roll down his cheek.
“She became frightened by shadows amongst the trees and the bushes. She ran for the house and misjudged a step, falling over and scraping her knee. I picked her up, cleaned and dressed the graze, and I promised her that she would never need to worry about shadows. Despite my words of comfort, she would not calm down until I promised that I was there to chase any evil away.”
Dan considered picking up the water, but instead continued by saying, “Today, I would give everything for the chance to speak to her, and to tell her that I will once again make everything right. Please give me the chance to keep the promise I made to my little Abbie.”
Camera flashes bounced off every wall. Notes were being taken on various tablet devices. One or two still trusted paper and pen. There was a murmur from somewhere in the room. At least one reporter was apparently getting bored of their story.
Dan took a drink of water before continuing with his statement. “Joshua, we have the money to meet your ransom demand. The police might expect proof of life in a situation like this. We just want our daughter back.”
He gulped and wiped his eyes with a tissue from a nearby box before looking straight into the lens of the camera in front of him. “Abigail, if you can hear me, I want you to know that we love you. We will bring you home very soon.”
DC Brokes wrapped up the meeting by adding, “Mr and Mrs Castle have no means of contacting Joshua Billings directly. It is our hope that the people in this room will make every effort to share Mr Castle’s words in the hope that this man can get in touch with the family and arrange for the safe return of their daughter. Thank you.”
As everyone behind the table stood up in unison, a deafening cacophony of questions engulfed them. Ignoring further comment, they left the room.
Dan let out a sigh as he walked through the doorway and leant against the wall. It’s done. I just hope he’s paying attention.
Jennifer looked him in the eyes, approached and gave him a hug. A gesture of unity. Whatever happened from that moment, they would face it together.