Chapter Thirty


St Helens

January 31

It was Dot’s idea to do an in-depth feature on working women and their role in society. The thought had come to her after reading about the Women’s Liberation Movement in Oxford when more than 600 women attended their first national conference where they discussed a wide variety of issues affecting women. The first four WLM demands were equal pay, equal educational and job opportunities, free contraception, and abortion on demand and Free 24-hour nurseries. She had also read that in the US there had been strikes and protests over equality and it had become a big issue.

   She had worked on what a feature on the issue would say, who would be interviewed and what papers and magazine would be likely to take it. She had put her thoughts on paper and handed it to Keith a couple of days ago asking him to let her know what he thinks. She has already decided that if he says no, she is going to do it anyway in her own time.

   She found out yesterday that Amy had been threatened in her flat and that had been followed up by another note delivered to Keith at the office and when she arrived early today Keith was at his desk looking tired and weary.

   ‘How are you Keith? I was sorry to hear about Amy yesterday. Is she alright?’

   He nods, staring at the ceiling sightlessly. ‘Yes, she’s moved in with a friend for the time being. Hopefully, the bastard won’t be able to get at her there.’

   ‘Why is he doing this to Amy do you think? She can’t be a threat to anyone surely.’

   ‘She isn’t. It’s me he’s getting at. He must know I don’t give a shit about notes he sends to me and that my point faible is her.’

   Dot is looking thoughtful, her head on one side. ‘Do you think he knows what Amy looks like? I know that sounds like a silly question because he has broken into her flat; into her bedroom even, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows what she looks like close up.’

   Wilder stares at her in puzzlement. ‘I have no idea. I suppose it’s possible. Why do you ask?’

   ‘Well let’s imagine he was watching her flat and realises she’s vanished after his stunt with the mirror. He won’t know where she’s gone, in all likelihood, so he may just keep a cursory eye on the place now and then, or he may not care and just concentrate on you. Personally, given his track record, I think that unlikely. Don’t you?’

    ‘Where is all this going Dot?’

   She smiles mischievously. ‘Bear with me. This could be fun.’ Wilder stares at her doubtfully.

   ‘Let’s just suppose he sees me emerging from her flat, he is going to assume I am Amy. After all, we do look a bit alike from a distance apart from the hair. I could get a copper-coloured wig and he wouldn’t know the difference I bet.’

   Wilder is staring at her, a mixture of astonishment and amusement vying with each other.

   ‘What happens then,’ he says ignoring the phone on his desk that has started ringing. He picks it up and puts it down, cutting the caller off.

   ‘This is the best bit,’ she says, treating him to a smile of satisfaction. We get someone else to stand a little distance away and if the watcher is there and starts to follow me, our follower can follow him until we find out where he lives and then the police can grab him. How’s that?’ she ends triumphantly.

   ‘You have been reading too many detective novels,’ says Wilder leaning back in his chair. He looks at her reflectively for a while and then says. ‘It could be me that follows him – at a distance, naturally.’

   Dot looks doubtful. ‘Too risky. It would all go up in smoke if he turns around and recognises you. We wouldn’t get a second chance but I’m sure Mr Lamplight will provide a detective if you ask him nicely.’ She smiles encouragingly.

   ‘It’s an idea,’ admits Wilder. ‘Might even work as well.’ His expression changes to one of concern. ‘It might be risky though Dot, you do realise that don’t you. We have no idea how he will react if he discovers he has been bamboozled. I wouldn’t want to put you in any danger.’

   She shrugs. ‘I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself and besides don’t forget there will be a detective following him.’

   ‘Maybe we should go together,’ he says. ‘I can’t let you take all the risks while I’m at home twiddling my thumbs and wondering how it is going. I have to be involved in one way or the other.’

   They sit in thoughtful silence as the office fills up and the clatter of typewriters begin their daily chatter. A bundle of mail is dropped onto Wilder’s desk and the phone starts ringing again. He sighs and picks up, listens and takes a note, finally thanking the caller.

   ‘There’s a strike at Pilkington’s,’ he mutters. ‘Could you talk to the union and then the management. Find out what it’s all about.’ He pauses. Let’s put the other matter on ice for now. We can talk about it later if you like.’

   Dot hesitates. ‘Was there something else?’ he asks.

   ‘Yes, my suggestion about the role of women in modern society. I handed you a paper if you remember but since then other events have come to light which make it even more relevant.’

   ‘What are they Dot?’

   ‘Well, there is a strike going on right now by Leeds women clothing workers after the union accepted a low wage rise that discriminated against them. It’s really big Keith. 20,000 women from 45 factories marching in protest.’

   Wilder is looking impressed, but Dot hasn’t finished. ‘Then the WLM are planning a protest later this year against the Miss World beauty contest. They intend to storm the stage of the Royal Albert Hall and disrupt the contest. The organiser is Sally Alexander. I want to talk to her and find out why they are doing it.’

   ‘OK, go ahead with it but it will have to be as well as your regular work. If it sells, which I’m sure it will, I’ll make bloody sure you’re paid extra by the Beadle.’ He nods in the direction of Reynold’s office. Dot grins and heads back to her desk.

   Later that morning he rings Lamplight and outlines Dot’s idea. ‘I like it,’ he exclaims. ‘You and I could follow in a car at a discreet distance. I have just the man to do the following too. I’ll get him to dress as a drop out; quite honestly it is something he does naturally and he’s done it before when we after some conmen fleecing OAPs out of their savings. I’ll have a word with him now and get back to you later today.’

   Wilder decides on a pub lunch at The Glasshouse. He is joined by Richard Armitage who is back from court unexpectedly when a case was dropped by the CPS. He outlines Dot’s plan to trap his watcher.

   Richard smiles in approval. ‘She’s a bright girl is Dot,’ he murmurs. ‘It’s a good idea. Let’s face it the alternative is to sit around waiting for something to happen. This way you are taking the initiative with the prospect of trapping him and unmasking him. It’s a great opportunity to end this saga once and for all. If he turns out to be the killer as well, Lamplight will be over the moon. He will have both cases wrapped up in an afternoon.’

   Wilder nods. ‘That’s true. I am just a bit concerned that Dot is putting herself in the firing line. I am not sure she understands what she is getting into.’

   ‘Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. She might be a good-looking girl but underneath she is a tough nut. If you knew how hard her childhood was you would have no doubts about her ability to look after herself. Believe me Keith. She can be a hard case when she has to be.’ He looks at Wilder seriously. ‘Apart from that, it’s your round,’ he ends holding up his pint glass and staring into it expectedly.

   Wilder takes the hint and orders another two pints of Walkers. When they arrive, he tells Richard that he has been meaning to talk to him.

   ‘I asked Jerry yesterday for the rise he promised me when I got this job. You won’t be surprised that I was fobbed off with vague talk about needing more experience and that he will look at it again in six months.’

   ‘That’s a load of bollocks,’ says Richard. ‘You’re a real pro. You could run a news desk on a national never mind a tinpot news agency in the sticks. You must have felt like giving him a slap.’ He grins at Wilder’s dark expression. ‘So, when are you leaving?’

   It’s Wilder’s turn to grin. ‘Funny you should say that. I have heard on the grapevine that the Echo want to talk to me. I also need to talk to you because you should replace me. You call me a pro but so are you matey. You have been at this game far longer than me and you know how to handle people. You also have the contacts.’

   ‘He won’t give it to me,’ says Richard shaking his head. ‘I just won’t stand for his bullshit. He will appoint somebody on the cheap just like he did you. And I mean that in the nicest possible way mate.’

   ‘He will appoint you,’ says Lamplight. ‘I can almost guarantee it.’

   Richard stares at him. ‘What have you been up to, you cunning dog Wilder. Why are you so sure he will appoint me?’

   Wilder smiles at him grimly. ‘I’m sure because I will blackmail him. If the NUJ knew how he treats his trainees and how he doesn’t even pay the NUJ rate, he would be put on a blacklist and members would simply spike his copy. The agency’s income would dwindle and could even dry up.’

   ‘That would mean we would all lose our jobs.’

   Wilder shakes his head. ‘It would never come to that. He could not afford the agency becoming a pariah. He will appoint you. And he won’t regret it because you will be a good news editor. Better than me.’

   Richard stares at him. ‘I think it’s my round.’

Published by pod1942

I am a cereer journalist having worked for the London Dail Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside as well as the journalists’ leader in the region. I have experience as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. My qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University. I now divide my time between art and writing. I will shortly be publishing my first full-length novel, The Poseidon Files and as a taster I have written a short story which features the same central female character in which she talks about her world and her life. It is, however, essentially a ghost story.

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