Azura

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The Nolan Manor.

The police cruiser coasts down the prime paver driveway. The private road is flanked by verdant green, geometric shrubbery that seamlessly streaks ahead, as if guiding them to the front car park. The cruiser rolls around the double-tiered fountain that cascades shimmering water, from bowl to bowl.

The paved gradation of changes into the unsullied cobblestone in the parking lot, where a gleaming black Bentley Mulsanne stands idle on the right quarter. The cruiser moves to park beside it. Two officers exit the vehicle, uniformed in beige trousers and khaki shirts with a police badge pinned to their chests, and radios attached to their shoulders. Their police-issued guns safely tucked away in its holster.

The two policemen stroll towards the Carrara marble staircase.

Under the incandescent sun, its shine lays the entire stretch of trimmed prairie aglow. Despite the brilliance of a sultry summer day. The Nolan manor itself lacks its natural warmth. The series of floor to ceiling windows, dreary in a dim and unnatural dolour. An ebbing blaze reduced to cinders.

They make their way up top and before even one them can lift a hand, the one mahogany door opens, so large that it renders the maidservant a speck between the wooden giants. Her dark hair is pulled into a flawless, low bun, her body enveloped in an ankle-high, white and cream uniform dress.

“Good day, ma’am. We’re here on Mr and Mrs Nolan’s request,” the one officer says.

The maidservant nods, her expression masked by a shroud of mourning, grief-stricken.

She steps aside and grants them entry as both policemen slip into the gap. Once they both inside, she closes the door behind them. Immediately the one officer takes notice of a Louis Vuitton suitcase parked adjacent from the double doors.

In the front entrance to their right. An expansive foyer opens up to a gallery of portraits like a revered hall of Nolan history, bordered with sculpted busts.

“This way,” she says, leading them down the hall.

Streaming down the great expanse, the further they trek. It seems the more the temperature descends, plummeting to reach a freezing point of absolute zero. Everything suffocated in a fraught silence like an invisible hand gags the entire spread. The policemen sneak glances at the dark artistry that has them surrounded. Faces sculpted in perpetual scowls; ochre ancestral paintings elevated in aged glory. Every pair of inky eyes observe them under their unending scrutiny.

Despite the diamond tiered chandeliers rowed in immaculateness, nothing is able to pierce the gloom. Everything underneath the crown moulding is engulfed in an eerie melancholia. All three of them pass through the wide venetian archway, entering the open floor lounge. The entire wall ahead is a succession of tall windows that exhibit the vast swathes of manicured land beyond. The openness that helms in a bountiful of golden light, yet still. The gloom prevails.

The Victorian styled living room, the walls with regal tones of light shades and brilliant light fixtures. Smart ambient lighting that brightens the walls with glittering metallic accents. Everything in sight bespeaks opulence: lavish ornaments, candelabras posted in the corners. The carpeted floor ornate with expensive Persian rugs all the way through to the intricate hearths on either side of the lounge.

In the far-left side, a woman sits on a crimson sofa with her back towards them. The maidservant carefully treads inside, her steps light on the plush carpets, stringing along the two officers.

She stops at the flank of the sofa. “Mrs Nolan, the police are here.”

Mrs Nolan’s chestnut brown tresses are bundled in tangles, caged in a hair claw. She looks up and sweeps the rebellious strands from her face. Her eyes bludgeoned from tears, blood-shot red, her natural wrinkles only deepened, harried by stress and harrowed by trepidation.

“Good day, officers.” An inherent chill has her voice frozen. “Thank you for finally coming.”

She flicks a look at the maidservant and makes a shooing gesture. She bows at her then makes a hasty exit.

“Mrs Nolan, I am Detective Ford—” he glances at his partner, “—and this is Detective Henry. I understand that you contacted our Chief because you want a statement taken.”

She nods her head slowly like she’s responding to a child. “Yes,” she says with a condescending smile. “I reported her disappearance as soon as we got back home.”

“Mrs Nolan,” Henry begins cautiously, “you do understand that Jessica is legally an adult, and you have to wait twenty-four hours to report a missing persons case.”

Mrs Nolan releases a small patronising chuckle. “Edgar is going to hear an earful from me, for sending incompetent, rookie cops,” she says to herself.

“Mrs—”

“Here’s the plot twist,” she interjects. “My daughter, which you will refer to as Miss Nolan,” she reprimands with a venomous tone, “she arrived earlier this week on Wednesday. My husband and I only returned yesterday. So, I will leave you to do the math of how long she’s been missing, but hopefully you are competent enough to realise that it’s been longer than twenty-four hours.”

She crosses her arms; she slants her head to the side to look behind them, and nods to it.

They both swivel and they see another archway that leads into a study.

“Mr Nolan will see you now,” she says with an ominous smile. They all follow into the chamber, the deeper they walk, the more the space above them looms with a ceiling that rises in ambition. Towering bookcases line the three boundaries with a wrought catwalk circling the room to reach the shelves brimming with books on the heights, where no man can reach. Accessed by a spiral staircase in the corner. Beyond, a yawning fireplace sits dormant until needed, with the flagstone buffed to a shine.

In the centre of the chamber stands a prism, mahogany veneer table, with documents neatly arrayed on the brink. Mr Nolan himself is seated behind it on a black leather office chair. His eyes focused on an open file, black-framed glasses teetering on the edge of his celestial nose.

“Richard, love.” Condescension thaws from her tone. “Please tell these fine policemen that our respectable daughter, the head of Nolan foundation and a member in the board of directors of Nolan Enterprise. That she is not gallivanting with friends, but wherever she is, she’s in jeopardy.”

Mr Nolan examines the document nonchalantly, his lips moving, muttering his own calculations to himself as if he’s alone.

“Well, if you could actually give us a full account of what happened,” Detective Henry says and delivers Mrs Nolan a deliberate look. “We could be of better use.”

Mrs Nolan whisks forward to seek her husband’s backing, but his eyes remain cemented to his work.

She fiddles with her diamond tennis bracelet and looks back to the detectives. She exhales and begins, “Jessica was due to return from Milan, the host is a good friend of ours and we sent Jessica in our stead. Whilst she was there, she was to attend a few corporate assemblies that naturally extended her stay.”

She inhales and her fiddling intensifies. “My husband was called for business on the last minute, in Dubai. When we returned, we saw Jessica’s suitcase parked out front, but no Jessica.”

Tears scrap at the back of her throat, she blinks to the ceiling and dabs her acrylic nails under her eyes. Regaining her composure, she sets her gaze back on them. “We called her boyfriend, Francis, who lives in Hillcrest. And that’s when he told us that she had completed her tasks early, and was taking an early flight to surprise us.”

She shrugs helplessly, shaking her head wildly. “Days later, no-one knows where she is, but evidence shows that she came home that’s why I told my staff not to touch her bag, because—” her voice breaks and she looks down, cupping her hand over her mouth as if to restrain a cry.

“You must forgive her.”

The policemen look back at Mr Nolan and he finally glances up to acknowledge them.

“She has a flair for the dramatics.”

Head trembling, her face rises to look at him with a sear of a thousand suns.

“Dramatic?” She rips her hand from her mouth and marches up to him. “Dramatic.”

She stops before the table and her anger spikes. She whacks a stack of papers on its side—sending them flying, sprawling on the apt flooring.

Mr Nolan calmly places his elbows on the verge of his desks and tents his fingers. “And that was to prove what exactly?”

Mrs Nolan vaults over his questions and says, “I know my daughter and for her to drop off the grid is not by her doing. Even her former caretaker knows something is ill that’s why she’s on her way back. Jessica always lets either me, Katalina or Francis know where she is, and neither of us do. I want her found.”

Detective Ford raises a placating hand. “Mrs Nolan, we understand the situation and we will look into—”

“Perhaps I did not make myself clear,” she booms and her voice ricochets. “I want all available units of the LPD canvasing this town, I want this story to be on every platform of the LS media. I want the whole world to know she’s missing, so they won’t be surprised when I burn it down trying to search for her!”

Mr Nolan shakes his head and resumes his reading.

“Or should I hire private investigators or, better yet, call in for federal assistance?”

Detective Henry’s eyes widens with alarm. “There will be no need for that. I can assure you; we will do everything in the department’s power to find Miss Nolan, and bring her home to you.”

Mrs Nolan sniffs and a tear strings down her cheek. “Be sure that you do. Or else you both will be subjected to an early retirement.”

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