Chapter Thirty-Six

The Star Agency, St Helens

February 4

Keith

I stayed the night at Amy’s as much for myself as her. I feel responsible for allowing Dot to go through with it but what would have been the alternative? How would I have felt if it had been Amy who had been abducted? I shudder at the thought. I know she was quite willing to be the decoy; in fact, it took some persuading to stop her when I first told her about Lamplight’s plan and Dot’s offer. I think the clincher was when I told her that Dot had some martial arts training. It was only then that she reluctantly accepted that it was probably best that Dot do it, but I knew deep down she still resented it.

   I also feel sorry for Lamplight. I don’t envy his task of explaining to his superiors why and how his plan had gone so disastrously wrong and I am sure he will be under immense pressure to resolve the situation and to find Dot alive and well. The situation has materially changed now though because it is Willis who is in charge and not Lamplight. The Kensington area comes under his bailiwick and Lamplight is now just an onlooker. However, it seems they are colleagues from way back and I’m sure Willis will keep him in the loop.

   I escorted Amy to school this morning. It is just a short walk away but all the same I kept a close look-out for anyone taking an undue interest. I know it is unlikely that Mr Trilby will still be watching now that he has his trophy; or at least what he thinks is his trophy. How long will it be, I wonder, before he realises he has been tricked? And what will his reaction be when he does. That is the question that really troubles me. As we reached the school gates we kiss and I tell her not to worry and that I will ring her later and come round after work. I know that her brother Dan is going to escort her home.

   The other event, or non-event really of yesterday, was the intriguing interview that Wendy had with Amy’s neighbour Mr Parker. I never did get around to checking him out with BICC who I know are electrifying the railways. I used to know somebody who worked at their drawing office in Kirkby. There is also a corrosion research lab there. I think he said he was a draughtsman and the boss there is really helpful, a chap I have talked to before called Lathom. I shall look him up and ring him as soon as time permits.

   Meantime, I am in the office and we have been inundated with calls about Dot. I was right about her name leaking out. One or two of the nationals had got hold of it before the day was out yesterday, so Richard had a difficult time on the late shift fielding questions. In the end we had no choice but to admit that she is one of ours. I informed both Lamplight and Willis who reluctantly agreed that it was a fait accompli. Naturally, all the questions were about why; why was she abducted? Do they want a ransom? What was the story she was working on when she was snatched? Do they really think we are going to tell them that for God’s sake? One question was particularly pertinent though; was she working undercover for the police? Well, actually yes, she was in a way, although we are not about to admit that.

   The only details we have released is her name, age and the fact that she is a reporter working for us. We have not released her address or her parents’ address. Her parents live in Wokingham and I know they have been visited by the police and given support. I have also spoken to her mum and offered help in any way we can. I also said that I will pass on whatever information we get as soon as we get it.

   Dot does not appear to have a boyfriend or at least if she does, she hasn’t told anyone about him, and I would have expected to have had a phone call if there had been anyone. I suppose I’m not really surprised because she has made it perfectly clear that her career is of paramount importance which leaves little time for anything else. Still, I am sure there are many suiters out there who would only be too happy to fill that void if she ever changes her mind.

   I have warned everyone in the office that under no circumstances are they to divulge any information about Dot to anyone outside the office and that if anyone does, it will be a sacking offence. I also told them to beware of strange, apparently innocent, phone calls from people asking for her. If they have any doubt such callers are to be referred to me or the police.

   The question that is lurking like a poison at the back of my mind, however, is what does Mr Trilby want? I know, without a shadow of doubt, that I will be hearing from him. I just have no idea what form it will take: a note perhaps, or a phone call. I just don’t know. I have a suspicion it will be in a form I least expect.

   The silence from Mr Trilby does not surprise me. It’s all part of his game. A softening up process I suppose, his thinking being that the longer I am held in suspense the more pliable I am likely to be. As it happens, he is completely wrong about that. The longer I wait the angrier I will be and the more vengeful will be my ultimate reaction.

   The other event which is intriguing is the revelation that the notes were written by two different people. That was completely unexpected and opens up a number of new possibilities. For example, if we assume that one is Mr Trilby; a safe bet since we know it was he wrote on Amy’s bedroom mirror; does that mean that the other person is the killer? Or is there a third person we know absolutely nothing about?

   If that is so, what possible reason can there be for him sending notes to me? I know the world is full of oddballs. Every journalist will tell you that we seem to be a magnet in attracting them. Just as one example, I once had a man on the phone completely convinced that Martians had landed at Sherdley Park. He said there was a crowd there throwing rocks at them.

   A reporter went out and surprise, surprise, there were no Martians; there were no crowds throwing rocks either. Maybe the Martians had been frightened off by rock-throwing Lancastrians or perhaps the prospect of appearing in a red top newspaper had been just too daunting. The more likely explanation, however, is that my caller was just a nutter!

   Jerry appeared in the office at an uncommonly early hour this morning wanting to be kept up to date on Dot’s disappearance. I suspect the new owners had been on the phone to him asking for details and because he takes little or interest in the day-to-day running of the office, he had been unable to tell them anything. He must have felt rather foolish which is a comforting thought in itself.

   ‘Well, life must go on I suppose,’ was his only comment when I had finished briefing him. I stared at the man hardly able to believe that somebody could be so insensitive. I felt like planting one on him, but I restrained myself with a Herculaneum effort. Instead, I gave him a hard stare and completely ignored him, picking up the phone and dialling Lamplight’s number.

   ‘I was just on the point of ringing you,’ he says. ‘There has been a development, a rather interesting one too. It came to light rather late yesterday.’

   I asked if that brought the prospect of locating Dot any nearer. There is a pause and the reply comes back that it could well do. I am curious and hopeful.

   ‘DCI Willis rang me last night,’ Lamplight begins. ‘It seems that one of the girls behind the coffee bar went to clear the table that Dot had been sitting at and found a note under her cup and saucer. She took it back to the counter and forgot all about it thinking it was some kind of silly joke.’

   ‘It’s a wonder she didn’t just throw it in the bin,’ I say.

   ‘She was about to, apparently, until uniformed police arrived in force and began searching the place. It was when they got round to questioning the coffee bar staff that the penny dropped with this girl and she fished around and found the note all crumpled up.’

   ‘What did it say,’ I ask, wishing he would get to the point.

   ‘Well, that’s it. Not very much but it could be quite significant. She had just written Just follow the lipstick.’

   I can’t help smiling at that. It’s typical Dot. She obviously wasn’t sure what to do about the message purporting to come from Lamplight, so she thinks of a contingency – just in case.

   ‘The problem is that we haven’t seen any signs of lipstick anywhere,’ grumbles Lamplight.

   ‘You will,’ I assure him. ‘You just have to look.’

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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