Lost & found: a Nick Thompson story
Lost & Found, A Nick Thompson story
(Homage to the detective genre, loosely based on the Rapunzel fairytale.)
‘Ok, Chief… Yes, I understand the pressure we’re under… I will make this my top priority. You can assure the embassy we’re doing everything possible… I’ll let you know as soon as there’s any news.’ Inspector Nick Thompson replaced the receiver and buried his head in his hands. Some foreign playboy disappears, and he has to drop everything. Hardly surprising the Chief’s arse was flapping though: the media were all over the story. A missing prince (even one from a tinpot country) made great headlines.
Nick glanced through the photos littering his desk: the Prince playing polo; leaving Annabelle’s with a girl on each arm; surrounded by bikini-clad babes aboard his behemoth of a yacht. A smooth bastard, with a penchant for young blondes… He was probably holed up in a penthouse, sniffing coke off some teenage call girl’s surgically enhanced tits. Nick called Jess Hunter in Vice.
‘It’s me. Can I buy you a coffee? Great. Starbucks in five.’
He and Jess had a complex history. Fifteen years ago her baby had been snatched from St Michael’s, and he’d been the investigating officer. Witnesses had provided an unusually clear description of the suspect: female, late 50s, 5’4” to 5’5”, pale complexion, Roman nose, shoulder-length straight black hair, black coat; seen entering the maternity wing at 9.00am that Tuesday, carrying a bunch of purple flowers. A nurse had checked on baby Heather Hunter at 9.10am and found the flowers where the baby should have been. Yet, despite the fact that only ten minutes had elapsed and that Heather, helpfully, had a heart-shaped birthmark on her neck, thousands of man-hours, a national TV appeal and wall-to-wall press coverage (due in no small part to the gorgeousness of her young mother) had since generated
not a single sighting of either woman or baby. It was as if they’d vanished into thin air.
In the aftermath of the disappearance the Hunter’s marriage had broken down, and six months later there seemed to be a certain inevitability in Jess taking solace in his arms. Unfortunately for Nick, who was smitten, she’d finished things after deciding to enter the force.
‘It would send out the wrong message,’ she’d said, regretfully.
Nick brought the lattes to the table and leaned down to kiss Jess’s cheek, his eyes glazing over as he inhaled her familiar scent. He found her as irresistible at 41 as she’d ever been.
‘You look like crap,’ Jess remarked. ‘Chief on your back about the missing prince?’
‘How’d you guess?’ groaned Nick. ‘I need your help. Seems he has a thing for classy young blondes. Any ideas?’
‘Hm, not really. Although…’ Jess paused. ‘A snitch mentioned something odd last night, and I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.’ As she spoke, Jess opened a webpage on
‘Maiden Holdings,’ she read aloud, ‘CEO Elizabet Göethel.’ To the left of the screen was a sketch of one of the Martelo towers that littered this stretch of coastline: to the right a
‘What’s that’s about?’ asked Nick.
‘He seemed to think it was an online virginity auction,’ she answered, grimacing.
‘Sickos bidding megabucks to deflower some poor kid.’
Spotting something in the corner of the screen, Nick shivered as an improbable idea took hold of him. Using his thumb and forefinger he enlarged the area, revealing a distinctive
‘What’s that?’ asked Jess.
‘Campanula Rapunculus,’ answered Nick. ‘Gotta go.’
He hit gold at the third Martelo Tower. He’d abandoned his car and was racketing down the shingle beach when his leather soles slipped on the stones, sending him tumbling down to an algae-covered groyne. Getting up, he spotted the Prince hidden behind the wooden boards, holding fast to the wrist of a young girl. There were scratch marks on his cheek and blood trickling down from behind his Prada sunglasses. Shaking off the Prince’s hand, the girl stood up, and Nick’s heart leapt as the breeze lifted her long hair from her neck, exposing a distinctive heart-shaped birthmark. Liz was finally getting her happy ending.
The Sun ran with ‘Prince rescues maiden from tower,’ The Mail with ‘Fairytale of Prince and missing Heather.’ Though Nick didn’t for one minute believe the prince’s claim that, having been approached about the auction, he’d viewed ‘the merchandise’ solely to stage a rescue, he’d been ordered to drop it, so his focus now was on finding the old witch who’d stolen Heather in the first place.