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Verity Vanishes by A B Morgan Book

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Verity Vanishes by A B Morgan Read Book Online And Download

Overview: The Quirks are back, and there is another crime to solve for P.Q. Investigations.

When Verity Hudson goes missing, Peddyr Quirk – with assistance from his effervescent wife Connie – investigates a strange new case which unfolds in an unsavoury part of town. It soon becomes apparent that they are not the only ones looking for Verity.

A freelance researcher is searching for her birth mother.

An influential man of power and money is desperate to find his estranged sister.

A local politician is determined to expose a hidden tragedy.

A TV journalist will stop at nothing to expose the true story … if it can be uncovered.

Where is Verity, who is Verity, and who will find her first?


Verity Vanishes by A B Morgan Book Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
Verity Vanishes by A B Morgan Book





Verity Vanishes by A B Morgan Book Read Online Chapter One


FINDING HERSELF

Her name was on the headstone, but her body did not lie in the grave. In the light summer drizzle, Cara Laidlaw closed her eyes for a moment and swallowed down the wave of despondency that arose as she read the words carved in the granite: Taken by the angels to do the Lord’s bidding. The dates were in days rather than years because the baby born to Gregor and Muriel Laidlaw had lived for less than three weeks; a fact Cara knew nothing about. Her father, who had succumbed to cancer two months previously, had taken her hand two days before he died and declared how much he loved her. Even then he didn’t reveal the secret held tightly for so long. Instead, it fell to the family solicitor and executor-nominate of his will to hand deliver an envelope to Cara.


The first lines of her father’s letter were etched in her mind: ‘Our darling daughter, there is something you must know…’ The end paragraph of that heart-rending disclosure was the catalyst to Cara’s compulsion to turn her back on the present and unravel the mystery of what her own life could have been.


‘Given your enquiring mind and thirst for knowledge, no doubt you will choose to seek out your birth family. A word of warning; prepare yourself to uncover a harrowing truth. However, always know in your heart that our overwhelming love for you remains as enduring in death as it did in life. Choose your friends wisely, keep that wonderful zest for life burning bright in your eyes and be true to yourself. We will always be with you.’


Tucked safely away to be read dozens of times over, Cara was now left to grieve the painful loss of both parents and wonder at their deception. Believing she was an only child, a much-loved daughter who was doted upon and encouraged all her life, with their parting she learned that she was a replacement. Cara mark two. Adopted to fill the void left by the death of their real child and named after her. She didn’t doubt that she had been loved, but that fact hurt deep inside somehow.


It hadn’t taken her long to find the grave; it was in the cemetery where her parents were buried side by side as they had stipulated, and she had followed those wishes without question. They had chosen to be buried in the land of their birth, because for her parents it was a homecoming. The grave of baby Cara Louise Laidlaw was to be found near a small coppice at the edge of the cemetery, outside the town of Paisley, miles away from the small North Yorkshire village where Cara had been brought up.


Apart from the constant hum of the M8 close by, the graveyard itself was a peaceful place, somewhere she had chosen to visit each year and lay flowers at her mother’s grave on her birthday; the place her father was laid now to rest, a place for contemplation but not somewhere Cara wandered around noting names of the dearly departed, until today.


Interred together, her parents were a mere fifty feet from where their only real offspring was buried. A family reunited in death.


Cara Laidlaw stared again at her name, wrapping the lightweight raincoat around herself for comfort. ‘Well, wee baby Cara, I hope I’ve made a good job of living your life for you. Make no mistake, your mum and dad were the best you could have wished for.’ She glanced across at the graves nearby before smiling down weakly at the small ivy-clad headstone. ‘They were the kindest, most hardworking, and generous people I’ve ever known. You could not have done better. Thanks for lending them to me. I’m off now. Time to find my real parents because I can’t stay being you forever. As soon as I do, you can have your name back. Lovely though it is, it doesn’t belong to me.’ She sniffed and rummaged for a tissue in her pocket. ‘Look after them for me.’



NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The ringing sound in her telephone headset distracted Cara and she was forced to refocus her attention on her computer screen where she immediately identified the caller and adjusted the mouthpiece.


‘Cara Laidlaw. How can I help you, Brian?’ The managing director for Archer Home Care Solutions had become more demanding than usual since her upgrade of their website. It was hard to drag her eyes away from her personal emails, but she had work to do, so she picked up a pen ready to scribble notes and instructions.


‘The hit rate on the care packages has gone through the roof,’ Brian said, and she could hear the smile in his voice as he thanked her for her efforts.


‘Glad to hear that. It’s one of the many things you pay me for,’ she replied, forcing herself to sound chipper. Indeed, website management was only one of the many tasks she carried out in the course of a working day. Although not exactly scintillating, being a virtual administrator paid the bills and was proving to be helpful for Cara as far as flexibility was concerned. Wherever she went now, she could take her work with her.


Ending the call to Brian, relieved he hadn’t wanted anything more than to compliment her, she settled back at her desk where her eyes fell on a large envelope containing another contract awaiting her signature. She tore at the envelope to release the contents.


Her main income stream came in the form of freelance research, mostly signposted her way by Channel 7 documentaries. They were in the throes of producing a new series with TV personality, journalist, and presenter Konrad Neale. Expecting her participation, some time ago she had been sent an outline of the episodes and a schedule. The format had been decided upon a year in advance and was yet another remake of This is Your Life, once fronted many decades previously by Eamon Andrews, then Michael Aspel, newscaster Trevor McDonald and now they were trundling out the same show making use of Konrad Neale’s magnetic charm. Cara couldn’t recall ever having seen it but quickly accessed archive footage on YouTube.


‘Oh well, in for a penny,’ she said ruefully. ‘Even if it means having to cope with your excessive demands, Mr Neale.’


One hand on the computer mouse, the other idly fingering the pages, she read through the final lines of the most recent contract before reaching for her pen. A shrill but sweet chirping sound made her turn before she added the date to her swirling signature.


‘Give yourself a break there, Jimmy, if you wouldn’t mind. I have thinking to do. And I’ll thank you both to remember that you are on borrowed time, so pipe down.’ She hated the fact that if compelled to do so, she would have to find new homes for her father’s two budgies – Jimmy and Rab McTartan. Purchased to keep him company after Cara’s mother had died, they were now in her care and wheedling their way into her affections. They hopped about on their perches as she talked to them, bobbing their heads in syncopated rhythm.


Her new landlord had been unequivocal: ‘Any noise complaints and they are out. The tenancy agreement is clear enough; no pets… but I’m making an exception for goldfish, stick insects and for your budgerigars. Just this once.’ Cara had given the sob story, ladling it on thick, and vowed to be a responsible pet owner, promising never to allow the birds to fly free in the property. She had her fingers crossed at the time.


The phone rang again, this time a personal number.


‘How are you doing, Bev?’ Cara asked, checking her watch.


‘Never mind me. More to the point… how are you?’ Since her move to Bosworth Bishops, her old friend Beverley Brown had taken to calling daily, usually during her office lunch break. ‘Have you decided to come home for Christmas? You will come, won’t you? We’ve plenty of room, you’ll be no bother.’


The knot that had formed in Cara’s gut the day she found out she was adopted, tightened slightly. The last few years had been spent living in Essex with her boyfriend Matt. From their home in Rayleigh, she had frequently commuted into London for work because, since leaving university, that was the direction her career had taken her. With a busy life and irregular demands, her visits home to Yorkshire had become infrequent, even during her father’s protracted illness. ‘I’m not sure where home is anymore,’ she confessed. ‘I’m not even a Northerner.’


‘Anyone hearing you talk right now would argue that with you. So will I. You grew up here, you’re a lass just like me. A Tyke. Anyhow, the new flat… taking shape, is it?’


Cara looked around her at the lack of furniture and bare walls. ‘Not really, if I’m honest. The office space is just grand, but as for the rest of it… I’ll get there.’


‘Started those tablets yet? You should… they could do you good.’


‘Tablets aren’t the answer and no matter what that doctor said, there is no way I’m taking antidepressants. I’ve just had a shite time of it lately.’


There was a mocking laugh from her old pal. ‘Shite is the word. Lost both parents, Matty chickens out and pisses back off to his wife, you find out you’re adopted, and a soft Southerner… why you had to up sticks and move to Bosworth Bishops makes no sense to me. You should have moved back here with your friends…’ Bev let out a sigh of resignation and added, ‘Still, it could be worse. You could have been a Wankastrian.’


The laugh from Cara was instinctive though edged with sadness. She missed Bev with an ache in her chest. Bev was her rock and Bev always spoke her mind. She now said firmly, ‘It don’t matter to me where you were born. You were made in Yorkshire. Any sign of a neighbour yet?’


‘No. All quiet so far, but the streak o’piss from the letting agent tells me there’s one moving into the flat next door in about three weeks. He’s right useless so I’ll double the estimate.’


‘And have you spoken to her yet?’


Cara knew exactly who Bev was referring to. She shook her head. ‘No. As I said yesterday, I’ve seen her once from a distance so far. I’ve made friends with her cat though… Look, Bev… I have to be certain before I make any overtures. I’m biding my time, keeping a low profile. As your gran would have said, “a nail sticking up gets hammered”.’


‘I’m still in shock,’ Bev said.


‘About what? That I’m adopted?’


‘Aye, that too. But I meant about what you’re up to now. What on earth possessed you?’


A LINK

Despite her best efforts, the search for her birth parents had taken far longer than Cara had imagined possible and had resulted in minimal information and frustrations aplenty. According to her father’s letter, Cara’s birth mother was called Verity Anne Hudson and with that information she had been able to apply for her original birth certificate. While she waited for it to arrive, she had trawled the electoral register, social media, registers of births, deaths, and marriages, and contacted the official organisations for adoptees, but with limited luck.


When her birth certificate came in the post, it brought with it a shocking discovery. As she had hoped, it bore the name of the baby girl; her name – Caroline: Caroline Hudson. Other than that, the record was a puzzle. The female child born to Verity Anne Hudson, widow, aged thirty-one, maiden name Thorn, had been given no middle name. No father’s name was recorded either, just the word “unknown” in the space where that should have appeared. Place of birth: Fairfield Hospital, Arlesey, Bedfordshire.


At first glance, Cara had smiled briefly at the sight of her real name; Caroline. ‘Not too bad,’ she said. It was a name not too dissimilar to the one she had been called all her life. Then the questions began to form in her mind. Why not name the father? She’s already a widow but… Nervily, she scanned the precious document in her shaking hands as if answers would somehow reveal themselves if she willed them to. ‘That may explain the adoption, I suppose. Mr Hudson ups and dies, and she can’t cope with a baby…’ This was one of several possible scenarios, Cara conceded.


Her subsequent internet searches into Fairfield Hospital revealed an appalling fact. ‘Christ-al-bloody-mighty!’ she blurted out as the truth about where she was born revealed itself on her computer screen. The hospital had closed in the late 1990s because it was a psychiatric facility, not a General Hospital as Cara had assumed, thus revealing an alarming possibility. Battling with the rising fears, she recalled the carefully chosen words in her father’s letter to her. ‘Prepare yourself to uncover a harrowing truth’. The mystery was a galling one. Had her mother worked at Fairfield hospital or was she a patient when she gave birth? How long had she been there? Was she a victim of rape? Cara’s insides churned with every awful thought that occurred to her.


As legally required, Social Services held the details of her adoption on file, so she was left to make a Subject’s Records Request hoping to find answers. With endless forms to complete it was a protracted exercise and the wait could be months. Even then, she was told, there was no guarantee she would be allowed full access.


She had already found the marriage records for Verity Anne Hudson which confirmed that Verity had married Raymond Charles Hudson when she was only twenty years old, he a much older man in his forties. Ray died when Verity was pregnant, because the birth certificate for Caroline Hudson confirmed the birth as taking place less than six months after Ray Hudson’s death. If this was the case, then why hadn’t he been named as the father? The mysteries had begun to pile up.


Thwarted by bureaucracy, out of desperation Cara made a rash decision. With a promise to ‘find new branches of your family tree’ and ‘discover new relatives’ she bought a DNA testing kit and set about finding whether she had any other family members out there in the world. Family who could lead her to her mother.


 

* * *


When she was informed by Ancestors Reunited of the astounding news that there was a highly likely match, Cara had danced around the budgie cage until she could no longer catch her breath. There was a cousin on her mother’s side and a glimmer of hope on the horizon. ‘I have a tribe,’ she shouted. ‘I belong to someone!’


In no time at all, both parties were put in touch anonymously, each corresponding through the dedicated email provided by Ancestors Reunited. Cara’s cousin, calling themselves “Only Child 125”, revealed much in the frequent correspondence that ensued. “Only Child 125” was male, in his late thirties, married, two children, privately educated, trying hard to please a high-achieving father who had lofty expectations of his only son. Little by little the clues came and were slotted together by Cara who, in sharp contrast, held back. Careful not to let slip anything significant about her personal circumstances, she gave herself the pseudonym “Timid Mouse” – a name designed to give the impression of someone unlikely to be gutsy enough to meet face-to-face and she consistently declined offers to speak over the phone. All in all, Cara had reservations about the wisdom of direct contact, and rightly so. All her careful research led to the conclusion that she was related to the Harkness family. She didn’t know how this was possible, but if the facts and the genetics were correct then nothing else seemed to fit.


 

* * *


She looked again at the list containing the names of the celebrities timetabled to make an appearance on This is Your Life; an Olympic rower, a renowned scientist, an author, a musician, a newscaster, and an entrepreneur made up the six episodes scheduled for filming in back-to-back live shows.


The entrepreneur businessman was the mysterious Austin Harkness; Cara was certain his son was “Only Child 125”. So certain that she had immediately forwarded the suggestion of Austin Harkness for the show and now she emailed the programme producer to tell him of a missing relative, a long-lost sister to the man. The story she spun was not far from the truth, but she failed to mention her connection to the family. ‘He was adopted, and his name changed from Thorn to Harkness. That’s how I found the existence of a sister. It’s marvellous stuff. So, I’ll crack on and see if we can persuade her to give her side of the story.’ She typed with care. Anything in writing would be subject to a great deal of scrutiny should the truth of her blood relationship to Austin Harkness ever be revealed. Konrad Neale would be all over that juicy snippet like a vulture on a carcass.


‘If I can track Verity Hudson down, the episode will have the surprise ending to outdo any other in the whole series,’ she wrote.


It was time for “Timid Mouse” to bow out, and to enlist the help of her cousin indirectly and through devious means.


Dear Only Child 125,



It has been good to chat with you over email and you have been very friendly and welcoming. Thank you for offering to help with my search. Taking advice, I am seeking counselling to help prepare me for the day I track down my real mother, who we assume would be your aunt. However, until then, I hope your own family can shed some light on where she might be found.



Good luck and please keep me informed of any progress, no matter how small.



Kind regards,



Timid Mouse


Channel 7 was about to give her legitimate grounds for what she had in mind. The lies she had already told had paid dividends and thanks to “Only Child 125”, subterfuge, and a suspension of honesty, here she was staring out of the window of her newly rented flat at the bright October day and across a car park in Browns Court, Bosworth Bishops.



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