Fiona knew why she disliked the telephone. Her previous job had been very demanding, and in addition to everything else she’d been expected to answer a telephone that rang constantly. Calls from every country in the world. People who needed someone who had the time to answer their numerous questions patiently and in great detail. Not someone trying to cope with a computer system that kept crashing and still meet deadlines.
Fiona had spoken to her boss several times about the situation, explaining that she just didn’t have time to deal with the telephone enquiries.
‘Ah, but no-one else has your breadth of knowledge, Fiona,’ replied Mr Harcourt, thinking flattery would get him anywhere.
Two weeks later Fiona walked out. She just didn’t care any more. She gave notice on her flat, got rid of all surplus belongings, packed up her car and headed for the Scottish highlands. She needed time and space to find the Fiona that existed beyond sales figures and targets. If such a person existed any more - she felt like a dried-out, empty husk.
Fiona had been born in Scotland, but her family had moved to London when she was a teenager. Her grandmother was the only relative in Scotland with whom she still kept in touch, and it seemed like a good idea to start her new life with a visit to Nanny Mac. She had fond memories of holidays in a place where there was little other than mountains and sky and lots of fresh air.
Fiona made the mistake of thinking that once she crossed the Scottish border she was nearly there. She’d never driven up to Scotland before, and hadn’t appreciated just how long it would take her to get to the little village near Grantown-on-Spey. She had taken the Eastern route along the A1 and stopped for a late lunch in Dundee. Poring over the map, Fiona decided to take a detour inland that looked more direct than continuing along the coast.
She hadn’t taken account of the weather. What had started as a mild spring day in London soon turned to dark clouds as she headed into the mountains. Torrential rain battered at the windscreen and the gale-force wind threatened to pluck her car off the mountain road and send her tumbling down into the valley below. A valley she could hardly see through the mist.
Fiona pulled over into a lay-by and glanced at her watch. Half past four. Goodness only knew how much longer it would take to get to her destination. She rummaged in her handbag for her mobile phone, glad now that she hadn’t thrown it in the Thames in her rage the day she left Harcourts. Mr Harcourt had tried ringing her after she stormed off, and she’d been sorely tempted to fling the offensive, noisy thing into the river on her way home.
Her Nan answered.
‘Hello, Nan? It’s Fiona. I’m running a bit late, so I thought I’d ring you in case you were worried.’
‘Yes, dear. I was starting to wonder. Where are you?’
‘I’m not quite sure, Nan. It’s been some while since the last town. The weather’s not too good up here in the mountains. Visibility is very poor. I’ll press on, and I’ll ring again in another hour or so.’
‘Very well, dear. Do be careful.’
Fiona deposited her mobile phone on the passenger seat and set off once more, ever uphill. The road twisted this way and that, and the heavy cloud cover restricted visibility between one bend and the next.
She was quite glad to come to a halt nearly an hour later. It was getting dark, and her situation had not changed for the better. She pulled in to the side of the road and reached for her phone, dialling her Nan’s number. Nothing. Then she noticed there was no signal. Her heart sank. The little phone that had been her one link with the outside world was now totally useless.
Ada Mackintosh contacted the police the following morning when Fiona had still not arrived. Three days later two policemen turned up on her doorstep.
‘Your granddaughter’s mobile phone has been found,’ said one of the men. ‘It was in the snow on the side of the road, high up in the mountains. Did she contact you again after you reported her missing?’
‘Why no, Officer. I would have let you know. This is very worrying.’
‘We’ve had a search party out, but there’s been no sign of her or her car. All I can say is, we’ll be in touch if we have any news.’
If it had not been for the finding of Fiona’s mobile phone and the record of her last calls to her grandmother, the question would have arisen whether she had ever ventured north into Scotland. Mysteriously, neither Fiona nor her car were ever found.
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015