Presumed Dead

Presumed Dead by Vince May Read Free Book Online

Book: Presumed Dead by Vince May Read Free Book Online
Authors: Vince May
the distance and was just about to reply when the shrill whistle of the kettle
suddenly broke the mood. ‘Coffee’s up,’ she said, getting up stiffly and going
back into the hut.
    Philippe didn’t move, so Alice brought
their coffee out and they went back to watching the sunrise, warming their hands
on the steaming mugs. Finally, his distant mood seemed to pass and he said, ‘As
soon as we have finished this, I think we should get started, that is if you
are feeling up to it.’
    ‘I’m feeling fine,’ she said, ‘ready to
leave whenever you are.’
    The Peloton de Gendarmerie de
Haute-Montagne, or the Platoon of High Mountain Police in Chamonix was buzzing
with activity. Jean-Paul, the manager of the Jardin du Mont Blanc Hotel, had
telephoned the PGHM on their twenty-four hour emergency hotline shortly after
midnight, as instructed by Ross, and reported Alice missing. They had sent an
officer to the hotel within half an hour and Jean-Paul had let him into Alice’s
    Everything in the room had looked perfectly
normal to the two men. Alex had done an excellent job of hanging up clothes and
laying out toiletries. They had found Alice’s yellow handbag tucked under some
clothes in a drawer. In it were her cell phone and her passport, which they
took away in order to copy the photograph.
    Now, at just after eight a.m., the duty
platoon of eight men was fully kited up and assembled in the drill hall at the
PGHM headquarters for a briefing. The duty officer, Captain Jacques Batard, had
distributed black and white copies of Alice’s passport photograph, which he’d blown
up on the office photocopier, and was now calling for order.
    ‘Good morning gentlemen. Today we have a
missing American woman, Madame Alice Webley, last seen at seven thirty
yesterday morning leaving the Jardin du Mont Blanc Hotel dressed for walking.
She did not leave word at the hotel of her intended route, but her husband has
informed us that she had spoken of walking to the base of the Charpoua Glacier,
so that is where we will concentrate our search today.
    ‘She is described as thirty-six years old,
one hundred and sixty-eight centimeters tall, sixty kilos, with, as you can see
from the photograph, distinctive long hair which is described as blond although
it looks much darker in the picture. She was last seen wearing a white shirt,
red fleece jacket, cream colored shorts and brown walking boots. She was also
wearing a small rucksack, so could possibly have been carrying long trousers
and a coat.
    ‘The helicopter is due to start making a
search as soon as it is serviceable, which should be in about two or three
hours when they have fixed a problem with the radio. Before then, I want every
possible route from Chamonix up to the Charpoua covered on foot. I have also
organized a local radio appeal for anyone who may have seen the lady in the
past twenty-four hours. Any questions? No? Good, let’s get going then.’
    The team split into four pairs and agreed
the routes to be covered. Two pairs were assigned to walk the two steep paths,
which zigzagged from the valley up to the Montenvers rack railway terminus at the
Mer de Glace, frequently crossing the mountain-railway track. The other two
teams were detailed to ride up the rack-railway to the Montenvers terminus and
then to cover the paths leading away from there across the glacier. They
checked each other’s kit before setting off at a quick march across Chamonix to
the rack-railway station, where they would split-up and go their separate ways.
    Down in Monaco, Ross was making a big show
out of bidding his host and the other guests goodbye. He wanted to be absolutely
certain that no one would forget where he’d been for the past thirty-six hours,
and when he’d left. The women were all full of tearful admiration for him and
the men were slapping him on the back, telling him not to worry. All the guests
waved him off as he left in the launch to be transferred to the shore,

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