Chapter Thirty-Seven


  The Star Agency, St Helens

February 6


I stayed the night in Kensington again after I took Amy out for meal. We went to a Berni Inn on Old Hall Street in Liverpool’s commercial quarter. It’s one I have been to before and I know I will be able to park the Capri fairly nearby. A Berni is a good night out even if the menu is somewhat limited to just steak, chicken or plaice. Whatever you choose, you know it will be well cooked and presented. In short, you basically know what you’re getting.

   We had a good chat during the meal and I think I was able to reassure her things will change when Mr Trilby is finally caught. Not just that but the owners of the agency will have their own ideas of how things should be done and it will be time for me to move on, almost certainly to the Echo or the Post. I told her we could then start looking for a house, somewhere with a garden where kids could play.

   The look she gave me, at first, was tinged with disbelief but when she realised I meant it, I thought she was going to climb over the table to give me a kiss. The rest of the evening was full of laughter and it was not until we were back at her flat that the subject of Dot and Mr Trilby came up. I told her that I still feel guilty for letting her do it but that the thought of it being her being held captive would be even worse.

   Amy told me that I shouldn’t feel that way. She said that Dot made it clear in the time she was in the flat that she was looking forward to doing it. She wasn’t in the slightest bit scared and that Mr Trilby might have got more than he bargained for. I told her about the note and the lipstick.

   Amy said she was surprised she had any because she didn’t appear to be wearing any. ‘It’s a bit out of fashion these days,’ she said.

   I told her that it would not surprise me if Dot had gone prepared for something to happen. ‘She is a very resourceful lady,’ I said to which Amy replied that so is Mr Trilby judging by the way things have turned out.

   I drove to the office early this morning leaving Amy in bed. She had assured me last night that she really did not need to be escorted to school and that she was going to tell Dan that he can stop walking her home. ‘There is no point,’ she insisted. ‘Mr Trilby thinks he has got me so there would be no point him watching me any longer.’ I didn’t argue because she was probably right.

   Before I left last night Jerry had said rather nonchalantly that the new owner is visiting this morning so he wants the office to be tidy. I have no intention of doing any housekeeping; if Jerry wants to clear up the piles of newspapers and desks covered in paper and fag ends he can do it himself. We are not clerks: we are a news agency. The ‘mess’ goes with the territory and the owner should be well aware of that if he knows anything about journalism and the way news is produced.

   Apart from all the usual bread and butter stuff liking getting someone to check with the police, fire and ambulance services to find out what is going on, there is a council meeting which promises to be stormy because rates is on the agenda and they are likely to be raised substantially which will spark off an uproar. I will put Richard on that, I think. I know he quite enjoys council meetings.

   There is another intriguing story that I am going to follow up. It’s concerns a man called Charles Danforth whose daughter died of a drugs overdose and whose wife committed suicide as a result. It’s a tragic story and one that would break many people, but he appeared in an anti-drugs protest meeting yesterday calling for more police action to stop the pushers, some of whom are outside school gates tempting kids to take pills or buy ‘joints’.

   I only know about him because there was a story in one of the weeklies. He apparently spoke out passionately at the meeting and received thunderous applause. Something tells me that there is more to that story than is immediately obvious. I don’t quite know why I think that. Call it a sixth sense if you like, but my journalistic nose is twitching and I think I will seek out Mr Danforth and get his story first hand.

   The usual heap of press releases arrive and I put them on one side for the time being. They can wait. I notice Jerry is in early. He is standing outside his office looking around, no doubt expecting housekeeping to have taken place. He looks really pissed off and glares at me but before he can say anything I pick up the phone and dial Lamplight’s number. Someone answers and I ask for him after I say who I am.

   ‘Glad you rang,’ he says. ‘I was going to ring you later to let you know that Willis has decided to cancel that plan we were talking about to trap the killer. He thinks we have enough on our plate with the Dot situation.’

   I wholeheartedly agree with that although, in all honesty I had completely forgotten about it. I also have the feeling that if we manage to find out who Mr Trilby is, the identity of the killer will also be revealed. I don’t quite know why I think that. It’s just intuition I suppose. I say as much to Lamplight who doesn’t sound too impressed.   

   He changes the subject and says morosely that there has been no progress in finding Dot. He asks if I have heard from her captor and I tell him that he will be the first to know when I do. He asks what I think about the lipstick message. ‘You know her. Why would she say that?’

   I tell him that she will use it to guide us to her.

   ‘But we have seen no sign of lipstick anywhere,’ he protests.

   ‘That’s because you are looking in the wrong place,’ I say.

   ‘So where should we be looking?’ he says impatiently.  

   I tell him that if I were Dot, I would conceal the lipstick in one off my hands and put a mark like a cross or a tick wherever I could. A car boot or bonnet, for example and then on the door of the house or place, wherever he is hiding her.

   ‘Are you seriously saying that we should look at every car in Liverpool to see if it has a tick or a cross in lipstick. That is completely insane. And it is even more so when it comes to houses. She could be just anywhere.’

   ‘That is where you are almost certainly wrong,’ I say. ‘Think about it. He would know you would expect him to try to get out of the city as quickly as possible and that consequently you would set up roadblocks. But this was no snatch. He didn’t put a bag over her head and carry her out. They left the ice rink together. There was no fuss. No struggle. We don’t why she went with him so submissively but one thing you can be absolutely certain about is that she will have had a reason. The other thing is that they will not have gone very far. I would put money on her being just a few minutes away from the ice rink. And I would also bet a fiver on the car having a lipstick tick on it as well as the house she is being held in.’

   As he was talking, all the staff have arrived in the office and Jerry is at the door wearing a welcoming face, a sycophantic smile that would have done justice to Obadiah Slope. A man about the same height as me wearing jeans, an open neck shirt and an Aquascutum Trench Coat follows him in.

   I finish my chat to Lamplight and study our new owner, for that is whom I assume our visitor is. I would judge him to be in his middle thirties, square-jawed, with wavy dark hair and wearing designer spectacles. Not what I would have expected of a new owner. He makes Jerry with his dark blue suit and waistcoat look like a pawnbroker.

   Jerry and he have a brief talk in his office and Jerry emerges and calls for everyone’s attention. ‘This is Durham Paddock, the agency’s new owner,’ he announces. ‘He would like to say a few words to you.’

   Paddock steps forward and smiles. ‘I want to meet you all individually in time,’ he begins. ‘But for now I want you to know how much I admire this agency and to reassure you that your jobs are safe which is what I’m sure you all want to know.’ He smiles at the room reassuringly.

   Jerry then steps forward. ‘I’m sure you will all show Mr Paddock the same loyalty you have shown me over the years,’ he says. I had so stop myself from sniggering at that. They all despise the bastard. I look at Richard whose face is a mask. He glances at me and a flicker of a smile crosses his face.

   Paddock walks over to my desk and we shake hands. ‘You are Keith Wilder I assume. I have heard a lot about you. Could we have a talk over lunch one day next week? I think we have a great deal to discuss, don’t you?’ I spot Jerry scowling behind him.

   I readily agree and then he asks if there is any news on our abducted colleague. I tell him that I was talking to the police just as he arrived and there was no news but there are one or two promising ideas. He shakes my hand and tells me that he hopes she is found alive and well very soon. He half turns and with what looks like almost a grimace says he has to have a talk with Jerry. There is a hint of amusement in his eyes as he says it. I can imagine that he just about tolerates the man.

   They vanish into Jerry’s office and Richard walks over to my desk. ‘What do you think of him?’ he asks. I say that if looks are anything to go by, he’s OK but we shall see what he has to say when we have lunch next week.

   Richard is holding an envelope. ‘Oh, almost forgot,’ he says. ‘This was under your car’s windscreen wiper when I walked past it earlier.’ He puts it on my desk. It simply says Keith Wilder on the front. I open it. It is a typewritten sheet of paper.

It’s really good to have Amy near me. Do you miss her? I really hope so. What will I do with her? That depends on you. I want you to suffer like you made me suffer. Think on your sins and then tell the world.


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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