Admiral Street Police Station
I have only visited Admiral Street once before and that was some time ago, long before I knew Lamplight who I think worked here at one time, before he got promoted and moved to St Helens. I arrived early so that I could have a brief chat to Willis, whom I rang yesterday afternoon to tell him I would be there to answer questions if necessary. Lamplight has also arrived and we are standing together at the back of the room while ACC Howard hosts the conference with Willis assisting. The top table is set out for five people; I assume the fifth chair will be for the police PR person.
We have already decided that it will be pointless to deny that Dot was attempting to lure Mr Trilby into a trap with the co-operation of the police and that she had volunteered for it. It is deeply ironic that she walked into a trap devised by him. The nationals already know that this is not just an abduction story and they have sniffed out the makings of a major crime story. It would not totally surprise me if cheque books were produced, discreetly, afterwards. Or, who knows, maybe not so discreetly and I suspect the agency is going to make a pile of money out of it. Whether any of it will find its way into my bank account is a matter for speculation. It bloody should do. And Dot should as well, both financially and professionally…if she survives this drama of course. I try not to think about that.
I expect it to be a lively meeting and I know I could be the target of some scathing comments and questions. Actually, I am quite looking forward to it. I have already thought through my responses to the questions that are likely to be thrown at me. I think it a strong probability that the agency’s name is going to be mentioned and then all eyes (and cameras) are going to be turned on me. I have already decided that I am going to call him Mr Trilby publicly for the first time because I know the boys will latch on to that and it will be in every headline in the morning. So far, it’s a name we have only used among ourselves.
The room is already rather full. There are at least four full TV crews with one or two one-man bands which I suspect could be foreign networks. Nearer the front are a couple of rows of photographers and behind them, in rows of seats, are reporters. I know quite a few of them, including John Bate from the Echo who waves and makes a drinking motion with his right hand. I give him the thumbs up.
Apart from Lamplight and me, various other people are scattered around the walls. Some are plain clothes police; some are simply hangers-on who have managed to talk their way in and others are probably connected with the case in other ways. It is then I notice, on the wall to the left of me, Durham Paddock, who is looking straight at me. He gives a small wave and a smile. I smile back.
It was a good lunch yesterday. Very convivial. I like him. He talks my language and I think I could very successfully work for him. He is very keen for me to continue in my role but also to have an editorial overview of both agencies, in St Helens and Liverpool. Although salaries were not mentioned, I think there is no doubt there would be a substantial increase. It is very tempting, and I need to ring the Echo to find out what is going on there before I decide. I will talk to John after the conference and find out if has heard any whispers. When I think about it, I am a little surprised to see Paddock here. He didn’t mention over lunch that he intended to come, although he is certain to have found out how involved The Star Agency is in the drama that has unfolded.
A door at the side of the room opens and five people troop in and arrange themselves behind the table with ACC Howard in the centre, Mr, and Mrs Sykes to his right and Willis and the PR person to his left.
The PR person stands up and the chatter subsides. She is a woman I would guess to be in her early thirties, and she runs the press room at Police HQ. She introduces herself as Miranda Thirkettle, and then ACC Howard, DCI Willis, followed by Dot’s parents, Mr, and Mrs Sykes, who are looking mildly terrified by the roomful of media. She then announces that ACC Howard will make a statement and then Dot’s mother, Winifred Sykes, would also like to make an appeal to Dot’s abductor.
AS ACC Howard stands, the TV crews switch on their lights and he reads from a sheet of paper: ‘You will all by now know of the abduction of Dorothy Sykes at the Silver Blades ice rink on Tuesday, February 3 and although we are following up several leads, we have not, so far, managed to locate where she is being held, nor have we received any demands from her abductor. I would appeal to him to release her and to ring me or one of my officers at any time. She is entirely innocent and should not be harmed.
He then invited Winifred Sykes to make her appeal. In many ways she is an older version of Dot but shorter, with greying hair and a careworn face. Her husband, Ronald Sykes, grey and balding with a thin, narrow face, looks on anxiously. Winifred stands, slides on a pair of spectacles and holds a sheet of paper. She begins reading, addressing her daughter’s abductor directly.
‘I don’t know why you have taken our daughter Dorothy or what you hope to gain by holding her, but I would beg you to let her go. You will gain nothing by harming her or by keeping her prisoner and I appeal to you to talk to the police as the Assistant chief Constable has suggested. Dot is our only child, and we love her. She stops and blows her nose in a tissue and wipes tears from her eyes. There are a series of flashes from the photographers as she stands there uncertainly looking as though she has more to say before being helped back to her seat by ACC Howard.
The PR woman announces that she will take questions and asks for reporters to state their newspapers or TVchannel.
The Telegraph: ‘Have you any idea what the abductors demands are?’
Willis: ‘No, he has not outlined any demands so far.’
The Sun: It isn’t true that you haven’t heard from Dot’s abductor, is it? We understand he has spoken to DI lamplight in St Helens.
Willis Looks meaningfully at me and Lamplight before answering. ‘No, somebody purporting to be the kidnapper did ring DI Lamplight, but we have reason to believe that this is one of the many hoaxes we get in cases like this.’
The Sun: ‘But he has been in touch with Star Agency we understand. What was that all about?’
Willis. ‘You will have to ask Mr Wilder about that. He is at the back of the room.
All heads turn to stare at Lamplight and me. I can sense Lamplight moving away imperceptibly, as though I had suddenly become infectious.
‘Yes, it is true,’ I tell them. ‘Mr Trilby did send me a note, thinking that he had my girlfriend as his prisoner and doubting that Dot is who she says she is.’
That resulted in a loud buzz in the room. It was the first they had heard about a ‘Mr Trilby’.
John Bate, Liverpool Echo: ‘Why has he picked on you Keith?’
Me: ‘Because he appears to think that something I wrote about him ruined his life, but since I have no idea who he is or what I am supposed to have written, it’s difficult to know.’
The Press Association: ‘So he is holding Dot, thinking she is your girlfriend. Is that correct?’
I simply nod in response to that.
Daily Mail,addressing Willis: ‘Is it true that Mr Trilby is suspected of two recent murders in a drugs turf war?’
Willis: ‘We would like to question him in connection with those.’
Daily Express: ‘Is it true that the police were using Dot in a Sting operation to trap her abductor, but it all went wrong?’
Willis: ‘I cannot comment on that.’ All heads turn to look at me, but I assume a sphynx-like expression. I decide I will do a runner before the conference ends.
Daily Mirror: ‘Do you know if Dot is still alive?’
Willis. ‘We have no reason to believe that she has come to any harm.’
I decide it is a good time to go and I slip out of the room while Willis struggles to answer another question. It is as I thought. The boys have sniffed out that there is more to the story than just a simple abduction. I know how it works.
When I get to the office, I ring Amy. I know she is off this morning because there were problems with the toilets at school, so the decision was taken to close the school for the day. She answers a little hesitatingly and I quickly tell her it is me. I tell her the national have got hold of the story in a big way and they are almost certain to find out where she lives. I tell her it will make no difference that she is my girlfriend and that it would be best if she did not answer any questions.
‘What am I supposed to do?’ she cries. ‘None of this is of my making. Why are they coming after me?’
I explain that it is because Mr Trilby insists that he is holding her despite all the press coverage saying that it is Dot he is keeping prisoner.
‘Why don’t you ask your mum if you can stay with her for a few days,’ I suggest. ‘They won’t know her address and you will not be plagued. Dan can get you from school in his car. It will be more convenient than moving in with me. What do you think?’
To my surprise she laughs. ‘It’s all very cloak and dagger, isn’t it?’
‘You can be the Mata Hari of Kensington,’ I say blithely,
‘She was an exotic dancer and artist’s model as well as a spy, wasn’t she?’
‘Yes, she was famous and had many admirers and you will be famous too. Your name will be in all the papers,’ I say.
She giggles. ‘Maybe I should try exotic dancing then?’
‘You hussy,’ I say, smiling.
‘Only for you, if you play your cards right.’
‘Haven’t I always?’
There was no answer to that.