Chapter Thirty-Four

Kensington, Liverpool

February 3

Dot and the WPC, whose name is Wendy Fairclough, are in Amy’s flat, munching their respective ways through slices of lemon drizzle cake accompanied by mugs of coffee. It is 2.30 p.m. and Amy has made them very welcome. She has been curious about Dot anyway having heard snippets about her ability and Keith’s open admiration for her. There have been moments when she would wake up and stare at the ceiling and find herself wondering what Keith’s admiration was based on. And then she scolded herself for even beginning to speculate that Keith might be tempted. And now, having met her, she could understand why he might be attracted to her. There is no doubt about it, Dot is an attractive lady. She is about the same height as Amy but with long, flowing blonde hair and a figure that would turn any man’s head. Having said that, they are of a similar build and Amy can understand why the deception they are embarked on might just work.

   Dot has been almost effusive in her admiration for Amy and the way she has coped with ‘the watcher’ and his implied threats. They compare hair and Dot produces her long flowing copper-coloured wig, quickly realising she will need to tie her blonde hair up. She sits on a dining chair while Amy attempts to use clips, but it doesn’t work. Dot’s hair is too long and luxuriant to sit on top of her head. They all stare at each other with Dot saying angrily that she hasn’t thought it through.

   There is a poignant silence. Without an Amy look-alike it cannot go ahead unless Amy herself takes Dot’s place.  But that has been entirely ruled out by both Keith and Lamplight on the grounds that if things should go wrong, Dot has been thoroughly briefed by Lamplight earlier on what action to take. She also has some training in martial arts, she revealed almost as an afterthought. Quite apart from that, it is Amy he is targeting, and the appearance of Dot will conceivably thwart whatever he has planned if he attempts anything other than following her.                     

   After a few minutes when Wendy is about to transmit an abort message, Amy snaps her fingers saying she has an idea. She has a hair colourant she uses for highlights. They could colour Dot’s hair. She and Wendy stare at Dot who looks bemused and doubtful, but Amy insists they will just about have time to do it if they start straight away. It won’t be permanent, she reassures Dot. It will wash out after a few days, she says encouragingly. Dot hesitates but agrees.

   WPC Wendy stares out of the window at the street below. There is nobody lurking opposite that she can see. Her radio buzzes. ‘Receiving’ she says. ‘In position’ says a voice, meaning that the detective whose name is Bruce is in place. ‘Are you all set?’ asks another voice which Wendy assumes is Lamplight’s. ‘Just a little hair problem,’ she says. ‘But we think we can resolve it.’ She looks in the direction of the bathroom where Dot is emerging in her underwear and a slip with a towel wrapped around her head.

   ‘We will have this dried in no time,’ says Amy brandishing a hair dryer. ‘What time do you need to move out?’

   ‘That depends on him,’ says Wendy. ‘If he shows up, we radio Lamplight who will decide when we move. He will probably give him half an hour or so,’ she says.

   In half an hour Dot’s hair is dried and she lets it hang loosely down to her shoulders like Amy’s. Wendy studies them both as they stand side-by side and nods. ‘That is surprisingly good,’ she says finally. ‘The only way he could tell you apart is if he sees your face and even then, there are similarities. As far as we know he has never actually met Amy so he may not know what she looks like from close up.’

   Amy dives into her bedroom and emerges with a red coat. ‘Try this on. It’s a coat I wear quite a lot and he may well have seen me in it if he has been watching me for some time.’ Dot puts it on and it is a perfect fit. Amy and Wendy stand back and study Dot who grins at them and gives a twirl. ‘I’m ready for him now,’ she declares.

   ‘We might as well finish the lemon cake while we’re waiting,’ says Amy. ‘It’s fattening,’ says Wendy.

   ‘Who cares,’ says Dot. They all giggle and cut generous slices.

   Twenty minutes later, Wendy’s radio buzzes. It is Bruce who says he thinks someone may have turned up and asks her to look at the opposite side of the road. They all rush to the window but before they get there, Wendy holds up her hand: ‘Careful girls, he is sure to look up and if he sees three faces, he will smell the proverbial rat. Just one at a time please and stand well back. Wendy looks first and radios Lamplight: ‘Target is in place. Wearing a mac and a trilby, lounging in a doorway.’

   ‘Roger,’ comes the reply. ‘Stand by.’ Dot looks at the figure in the doorway across the road and then moves to the door.

   ‘Relax,’ murmurs Wendy. ‘DI Lamplight is sure to give him at least 15 minutes before you move out.’

   She was right. In what felt like an age her radio crackles to life. ‘We have go,’ says Lamplight. I repeat we have go.’

   ‘He sounds like Cape Kennedy,’ giggles Amy.

   Wendy moves to the door but before opening it she tells Dot to walk casually, not quickly or slowly but as she would normally and not to look behind her. Once she gets to the ice rink, she should slowly head for the coffee bar. She can watch the skaters before she gets there for a while, if she wants, but not for too long. Once she is in the coffee bar she is to sit tight as though waiting for Keith.

   She then opens the door. ‘When this is all over, we must all go for a drink, just the three of us,’ says Dot. They all smile in agreement.

   ‘Good luck Dot,’ says Amy. ‘I can’t wait to find out who he is. Be careful. Don’t take any risks.’

   Dot grins and winks and heads off down the stairs.

*

Lamplight slowly drives the car around the corner onto the main road just a block away from Amy’s flat and stops. He and Keith Wilder watch as Dot emerges and walks along to the traffic lights and then waits for them to change. They can see a figure in a doorway a little further along on the opposite side of the road and as the lights change, she and half a dozen other people cross over and disperse when they reach the other side. Dot and two other people walk in the opposite direction to the figure in the doorway who slowly and casually follows. Further down the road, Bruce the busker puts his harmonica away and ambles along after them.

   ‘Why don’t we drive straight to the ice rink,’ says Wilder. ‘There’s no point us crawling along after the procession. For one thing cars are going to sound their horns at us for going so slowly and that will only attract attention which is the last thing we want.’

   ‘Good thinking,’ mutters Lamplight and speeds up until he gets to the junction of Kensington, Prescot Road, Sheil Road and Beech Street. The Silver Blades ice rink is next to a derelict cinema on the corner of Prescot Road and Beech Street.

   Wilder attempts to glimpse the follower as they drive past but his trilby is pulled down obscuring most of his face. As they near the ice rink Wilder asks if DCI Willis is aware of what is going on.

   ‘Of course.’ Lamplight replies. ‘This is his patch and if anything goes wrong, we will need his co-operation.’

   Lamplight turns right at the junction and then into the car park. Before they get out, he tells Wilder to stay hidden as much as possible, perhaps in a corner of the coffee bar where he can’t be seen or perhaps just outside.

   ‘If he spots you the game will be up,’ he says ominously. ‘So, keep out of the way.’

   ‘Where are you going to be?’ he asks Lamplight.

   ‘I am going to be watching Dot as well,’ he says. ‘I’m not sure exactly where as yet. I’ll have to see how things play out. Don’t forget we also have Bruce following.’

   ‘The watcher is going to be lucky to dodge this,’ mutters Wilder.

*

Wilder knows the ice rink well. He and Amy are regulars so he has an idea of one or two places where he can keep an eye on Dot without being noticed himself. He is wearing a duffle coat and he has pulled the hood up as he sits on one of the seats at the side of the rink where he can also see the coffee bar. Sometimes the best way to hide is to be in plain sight.

   He does not have to wait long before a ginger-haired Dot in Amy’s red coat appears at the rink-side. He smiles. She really does look the part. If she has spotted him, she doesn’t show it but just gazes at the skaters with a wistful expression as if she wants to join in.

  He looks around to see if he can see her follower and he spots a trilby in a cluster of people near the skate hire area, but his face is obscured. He quickly turns back so he can see Dot out of the corner of his eye.

   She suddenly turns and walks towards the coffee bar, disappearing while she presumably orders a drink. Ten minutes later she sits down at a table and gazes out of the window at the skaters below. Wilder looks around to see if he can spot Lamplight or Bruce, but neither are to be seen. Trilby has also disappeared.

   He turns his gaze back to Dot, but she has also vanished. He decides she may have returned to the coffee bar for something to eat and decides to see if she returns. But she doesn’t. The minutes tick by and her seat by the window is taken by somebody else. He decides to investigate.

   When he reaches the coffee bar he is joined by both Lamplight and Bruce. There is no sign of Dot anywhere. Wilder asks a girl behind the bar if she remembers seeing a girl in a red coat sitting by the window. He points to her seat. She nods and says she gave her a message from an Inspector Lamplight asking if she could meet him at the skate hire centre.

   ‘I’m Inspector Lamplight,’ he snaps. The girl looks at him and says the man who gave the message was wearing a trilby and he was also shorter.

   The three of them rush to the skate hire centre and but there is no sign of her. They return to the rink and separate to conduct a search of the entire rink, both people on the ice and those seated around it. Wilder decides to go to the foyer and ask people if they have seen her in her distinctive red coat.

   Most people have only just arrived and are of no help but a couple waiting for their daughter to appear do remember seeing a girl in a red coat leaving about ten minutes ago.

   ‘Was she on her own?’ asks Wilder.

   The couple look at each other and finally the woman says: ‘I think she was with a man. They left together.’

   ‘Can you describe him?’ he asks

   ‘Not really,’ she says and then by way of explanation. ‘He had his back to us. I do remember he was wearing a trilby hat though.’

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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