Chapter Thirty-Nine

Kensington, Liverpool

February 8

Keith

It is Sunday and I am having the day off. We only have a skeleton staff on at the office anyway which today is headed up by Richard with a junior reporter. They will man the office until about 3:00pm and then call it at a day, unless something big breaks.

   The story of Dot’s abduction is still news, albeit no news because nothing has happened. The police are no nearer locating her than they were two days ago. DCI Willis had a lengthy conversation with me yesterday when I arrived at Amy’s flat. He wanted background on Dot and I was actually able to tell him remarkably little. I have never enquired about her private life; I only discovered she didn’t have a boyfriend after she disappeared and we were looking for people to inform. I obviously know what her abilities are as a reporter and that she is a determined and resourceful lady which are qualities she will need if she is indeed being held prisoner. Willis readily agreed with that but then he threw a rather odd question at me.

   ‘Do you think she went willingly?’ he asked and before I could respond, he followed it up with: ‘The reason I ask is because she obviously just calmly walked out of the ice rink with the man. There was no fuss, no screaming, no struggle.’

   I point out that he may have been threatening her with a knife or a gun and any kind of struggle could conceivably have put other people in danger. He nods in agreement at that.

   ‘All the same, do you think it is possible that she may have had other reasons for going quietly?’ I stared at him and a niggling thought that had been at the back of my mind surfaced and I told him that her curiosity may have persuaded her to find out more about him and why he is doing it.’

   ‘Bloody journalists,’ he murmured, shaking his head.

   ‘It’s a damn sight better than having bodies and blood everywhere,’ I snapped. He waved his hands, deprecatingly as though I was about to have hysterics.

   ‘I can admire her bottle I suppose,’ he said, ‘but it might have been better if she had just done a runner. That would have left him standing there looking foolish.’

   ‘Now I think about it,’ I said looking at him quizzically. ‘How come you were not watching him? How could he just walk out of there with not a policeman in sight?’

   Willis scowls. ‘You must understand I was not there,’ he growls. ‘I left it to Lamplight to organise and it seems they thought they were watching him but what they were actually watching was a man wearing a trilby. After Dot vanished, we talked to him and he was completely innocent. He said he found it on the seat next to him, so he put it on.’

   I laughed out loud at that. I just couldn’t help it. It was straight out of the Keystone Cops it was so ridiculous.

   ‘I suppose you are going to include that in a report, aren’t you,’ he says wearily.

   ‘Possibly,’ I say grinning. ‘But it won’t be until all this over, and maybe not even then.’

   ‘I would appreciate it if you would keep quiet about it,’ he says. ‘We have enough problems these days without us making fools of ourselves. The fact is we are dealing with a very clever and resourceful individual. Nobody can describe him. Nobody has seen his face and he must have known that we would be looking out for the hat. It’s no excuse but all the same…’

   I laughed again and told him not to worry. Then I brought up something else that had been worrying me. I tell him that we were unable to keep Dot’s name out of the papers or TV and he is almost certain to have seen it. What is his reaction likely to be, I wondered?

   He shrugs. ‘You know as much as I do, maybe more,’ he says. ‘You tell me. It’s anybody’s guess. He may just give up and do a runner.’ I tell him that I very much doubt that. He has done all this for a reason and he appears to want me to confess to something, but I have no idea what. He may not have Amy as a hostage, but he still has a hostage.’

   Amy had been in her kitchen while all this was going on and when Willis left, she came out and asked what was so funny. I told her and she stared at me in disbelief.

   ‘That is just incompetence,’ she said angrily. ‘Dot could be in danger because of it.’ I told her that I doubted that. It will just change things but what it won’t change is his apparent hatred of me.

   Anyway, with it being Sunday and my day off, we both slept in and while Amy was still sleeping, I get up and make her a cooked breakfast – two eggs, sausage, bacon, tomatoes and Ulster Fry which I know she likes. The smell of cooking must have awakened her because I hear her coughing so I take her a mug of tea and plonk it on the bedside table telling her that breakfast will follow shortly and she is not to move.

   ‘Is it my birthday?’ she says smiling.

   ‘Let’s make it your official birthday, like the Queen,’ I say to her, heading back to the kitchen.

   Later, when we have both eaten and I am reading the Sunday papers, she leans on my shoulder and blows in my ear. ‘What shall we do today Oh Mighty Media Mogul?’

   I tell he if she does that again we will end up back in bed. She giggles. ‘I must sleep in more often,’ she says.

   She sits next to me on the sofa and I can feel her staring at me as I try and concentrate on a particularly riveting story about the Prime Minister Harold Wilson, whom I have met a couple of times when he stays at a penthouse at the Adelphi Hotel while visiting his constituency of Huyton. It seems his adeptness at keeping the warring wings of the Labour Party together may well be fading and the pundits can feel an election coming.

   Finally, I give up and ask what it is she so desperately wants to ask me. ‘Are you likely to stay at The Star now that you will have a new boss? And I have another question too. What is it this Mr Trilby wants? You must have some idea surely.’

   I tell her that Mr Paddock wants to have lunch with me next week and I will reserve judgement until after that, but at the moment if the Post or Echo off me a job I will accept it. I have no intention of working for a news agency for the rest of my life.

   I pause and gaze reflectively at the window. I tell her that I have had a cursory look through my cuttings and one story caught my eye. It was about a man whose business went bust after I did an investigative job on him. I found out he was selling cheap but dangerous cosmetics from China and several people went blind as a result. He was prosecuted and jailed for three years. His life fell apart apparently. He went bankrupt and his wife and kids left him as well, I believe.

   ‘Did you ever meet him?’ she asks.

   ‘I shake my head. ‘I managed to interview him on the phone once but never face-to face. There were pictures in the papers, of course. It was a long time ago. It was a major story and I had not long been a reporter.’

   ‘Could it be him do you think?’

   I shrug and say that if it is I fail to see why he could blame me. It was him who broke the law and blinded people with the crap he was selling. So, if he wants to me to admit to ruining his life, he will have a long wait. He did that all on his own.

   ‘Where is he now?’ says Amy.

   I tell her that I have no idea and that once you have done with a story it is rare to keep track of what happens to the protagonists, unless it becomes a follow-up. ‘You just move on to something else,’ I tell her.

   ‘You are going have to find a way of telling Mr Trilby that,’ she says. ‘What was the name of the man in your story?’

   I tell her it was Howard Balmer. She nods and scribbles it on a notepad. ‘Well, what shall we do today Mr Big Shot? You decide.’

   I consider the options. ‘I don’t suppose you fancy skating?’ I ask pensively.

   She gazes at me. ‘Why not! We can see how Dot managed to walk out without anybody apparently noticing.’

   I thought that an eminently good plan and suggested we go after lunch. ‘I have ironing to do anyway,’ she says, which means that I can settle down with my papers and a good strong coffee.

   Almost an hour later the phone rings and Amy calls over saying that it is for me. I reluctantly get up expecting it to be the office, but it isn’t, it is Lamplight.

   ‘You won’t believe who I’ve just had on the phone,’ he growls and before I can respond he says. ‘It was the bastard kidnapper. He had the fucking nerve to ring me as bold as brass.’

   To say that I am all ears is an understatement. ‘What did he have to say for himself,’ I ask in wonderment.

   ‘He said he knows what we are up to and it won’t work.’

   ‘Did he expand on that,’ I say.

   ‘Oh yes. He said we might fool everyone else in thinking that he has somebody called Dorothy Sykes, but he knows he has Amy and he intends to hang on to her.’

   ‘You’re kidding,’ I say incredulously.

   ‘Nope. And he had a message for you too which was “Tell Wilder to think on his sins. I want a public apology for what he did to me.’

   I tell Lamplight about my story and the possibility that Mr Trilby may be Howard Balmer. I suggest he may be able to discover what happened to him when he was released from prison and that if he does manage to locate him could I come along when they talk to him.

   Lamplight rings off without answering. I think he was ringing from home. His wife will not be happy about him working on a Sunday.

   Could this be the break we have been waiting for?

   My thought turn to Dot. What is happening to her? Is she safe?

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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