February 3 – later
I have returned to Amy’s flat leaving DI Lamplight to organise a search of the area around the ice rink. He rang DCI Willis as soon as we realised that Dot had probably been abducted. We could think of no conceivable reason why she should leave with Mr trilby of her own accord without informing us, which means that he must have somehow persuaded her. Maybe he threatened her. Maybe he had a gun pointed at her. We just don’t know. It is pointless really to speculate. Lamplight, and presumably Willis, took it seriously enough to organise an immediate search and within minutes uniformed police were everywhere. I suspect they will find nothing.
Amy was clearly upset when I returned and told her what had happened. WPC Wendy Fairclough had stayed with Amy and she was horrified at the turn of events.
‘He quite clearly thinks that Dot is you,’ she says staring at Amy. ‘The question now is why? What does he want? Is it likely to be money do you think?’ She looks at me expecting an answer. I don’t have one because I just don’t know, although I very strongly suspect that this is not about money at all. It is likely to be something much more menacing and it will certainly involve me. I tell this to Wendy and she says that I must tell Lamplight who said he will come here once the search is well under way.
‘What happens when he discovers that Dot is not me?’ asks Amy. ‘What do you think he will do?’ She looks from Wendy to me. Neither of us has an answer.
Wendy’s radio crackles. She responds. It is Lamplight asking to speak to me. I ask how the search is going. He says they have come up with nothing and that it is looking like Mr Trilby had this planned all along. He even appears to have expected us to follow him which would explain why the message Dot got was supposedly from Lamplight. He says he will return to the flat in a few minutes.
Amy says she will make coffee for us. I can tell she is upset, not surprising considering that it should be her that is now a prisoner and not Dot. I join her in the kitchen, put my arm around her and give her a hug.
‘What if he decides to come for me when he discovers it is Dot he’s got?’ she whispers. I tell her that is extremely unlikely because he will have a big problem to deal with. What will he do with her? He will have to let her go because he will have lost his bargaining chip.’
She stares at me. ‘He might just kill her,’ she says a little querulously.
Wendy must have overheard that. ‘I very much doubt it,’ she says. ‘Abducting someone is one thing, murder quite another. There is no gain in it for him. Either way he’s finished. He is much more likely to leave her where she is and make a run for it hoping that he can be far away by the time she is discovered.’
I don’t say anything, but I think that may be a little optimistic. It did, however, put Amy at ease a little. I decide to ring the office and tell them what has happened, so I ring the news desk and Richard answers. I briefly recount events.
‘Bloody hell,’ is his response. ‘I hope she’s alright. I will personally tear the bastard apart if he does anything to her and I’m sure I’m not the only one.’ I assure him he isn’t and he will have to stand in line, then I ask if he can find her Personnel file and find out who her next of kin is. Either me or the police are going to have to inform them, before the newspapers get hold of the story.
‘Are we going to run with it?’ he asks. I tell him that we must, but that we will keep Dot’s name out of it for as long as possible and that I will tell Lamplight as soon as he turns up. I tell him to make the story fairly brief – three of four pars, no more, along the lines of ‘A 23-year-old woman has been abducted from the Silver Blades ice rink, on Liverpool’s Prescot Road, earlier today, etc, etc’
‘The papers are going to want more,’ he says bluntly. ‘And the telly boys will be on it too for the evening news tonight. We will be lucky if we can keep Dot’s name out of it beyond today.’
I tell him I am aware of that and as soon as Lamplight arrives, I will talk to him about it. In the meantime, if he can find out who Dot’s parents are, where they live and what their phone number is that would be useful. I will ring them straight away.
A few minutes later Lamplight arrives looking angry. I can’t say I’m surprised. Mr Trilby, as we have started to call him, has outwitted us all yet again, but it must be especially galling for Lamplight who put together what he must have thought was a fool-proof plan.
‘I find it difficult to believe that he knew we were following him. We took every precaution. How could he have possibly known?’
‘Maybe he just expected it and had thought out a plan whether we followed or not,’ I say helpfully. Lamplight simply shakes his head and Amy gently asks if he would like a coffee. He looks grateful and she disappears into the kitchen.
I ask if there have been any leads from the house-to-house. Again, he shakes his head. ‘A few people recall seeing a girl in a red coat getting into a car in the car park, so they could be just anywhere by now. We have set up roadblocks on Kensington, Prescot Road and Edge Lane – all the major routes out of the city and officers have been told not to just question cars with a girl in a red coat but every car with a man wearing or even having a trilby.
I have a strong feeling Mr Trilby won’t have gone far. If he has thought through police action so far, he will have expected them to set up roadblocks, so he will have driven to a place he had already prepared and I would put money on it not being a short drive away. I share my thoughts with them, but Lamplight looks unconvinced.
‘I agree with Keith,’ Says Wendy. ‘It makes perfect sense.’
‘I’m sure we are all relieved to hear that constable,’ says Lamplight sarcastically.
Just then we hear a door closing in the hall. Amy and I exchange glances. ‘It sounds like Mr Parker has arrived home,’ I murmur. ‘How convenient.’
Lamplight glances at us. ‘Do you suspect him of having something to do with the notes?’ he asks, standing up, then he changes his mind and asks Wendy to go and speak to Parker and tell him about the abduction mentioning Amy’s red coat of course. He tells her that they don’t want to accuse him of anything, obviously, because we have absolutely no evidence, but it might be interesting to hear where he has been for the last two or three hours if she can casually throw that in, almost as an afterthought.’
‘Certainly Sir. Do I mention who has been abducted?’
‘No. It might be interesting if he asks though.’ Wendy sets off and we can hear her ringing the bell and the door being answered. Parker invites her in and the door closes.
I remember that I must talk to Lamplight about whether we name Dot or not, so I repeat the conversation I had with Richard and our decision not to name her, for the present at least, until I have spoken to her parents.
He nods in agreement and says that it is something the police should do first with the help of a victim support officer or at least a WPC. It would obviously be good if I could follow-up and offer support as well. We agree on that approach.
I then tell them both that I am expecting a phone call or a note from Mr Trilby because he will have pulled this stunt for a reason. I haven’t the faintest idea what that might be, but I suspect it will have something to do with getting back at me for some reason. The last line in the most recent note still haunts me. Think on your sins it said. I really must go through my cuttings to see if I have been involved with any stories that could conceivably have led someone to mount a vicious campaign like this.
Wendy returns and says Mr Parker told her that he was working and on a site visit. ‘I asked him where that was and he said it was on the Liverpool to Manchester railway line at Newton le-Willows. He’s involved with railway electrification apparently,’ she says. She pauses: ‘Almost as an afterthought, I then asked if he was with anyone and he said he wasn’t. He asked me why I wanted to know and I told him it was just routine.’
‘Did he believe you?’ I ask.
‘He gave me a searching look and said he hopes the girl is found soon and that was it.’
‘I think perhaps I should ask DCI Willis to keep an eye on Mr Parker,’ says Lamplight.
‘I think he’s a bit creepy,’ says Amy vehemently. ‘He just happened to turn up at the same places I was at a couple of times, like the Walker,’ she says.
I tell them I have never liked people who smile too much. ‘It just isn’t natural and it certainly isn’t sincere.’
Wendy pulls a long, lugubrious face and Amy giggles. ‘No chance of that with you then, is there Keith?’ says Lamplight with what passes for a jocular taunt. Before I have a chance to poke fun back Amy’s phone rings. We all look at each other and she picks up a little nervously.
‘It’s for you for inspector,’ she says, obviously relieved it isn’t Mr Trilby. Lamplight takes the handset off her and after exchanging few words, he listens intently, finally thanking the caller and saying that the information is extremely helpful and quite unexpected.
‘You are going to be interested in this,’ he says to me. ‘That was our consultant handwriting expert who has been studying the notes, as well as the photo of the scrawl on Amy’s mirror.’
He stops rather dramatically and the three of us stare at him wondering what is coming.
Lamplight’s brow creases and he finally looks up. ‘He says with a high degree of certainty that the notes have been written by two different people.’
That is a major surprise. ‘So, it’s the killer and somebody else.’ I say.
‘It means we are looking for two people,’ says Lamplight.