Binns Road, Liverpool
It is bitterly cold in her cell, which is how Dot increasingly thinks of the room she is being kept prisoner in. She is shivering and wraps her coat around herself in an attempt to keep warm. She is also hungry because Mr Trilby, or the clown, has left no food or water for almost two days. Her water is down to half a bottle and she decided last night that she will have to begin rationing it. She now just takes a sip or two at a time.
She read somewhere that you can last without food for a couple of weeks or more but that you will die if you are deprived of water for three days or so.
Is this how her life is going to end? In this stinking room with no heat and just a bare bulb that glows reluctantly during the long winter nights. Is she really going to suffer the long, slow, agonising, death of starvation? She has also not washed for two days and very soon she knows she will begin to stink. She needs a shower and clean underwear.
It was not supposed to end like this. From what Keith and Lamplight said when they were discussing it, the police were supposed to confront Mr Trilby as soon as she was sitting in the café. Instead, it looks like he has outwitted them and instead lured her into a trap.
She sinks to the floor and tears begin running down her cheeks. She stares out of the grimy window. Maybe the reason he hasn’t been here is because something has happened to him. Is that possible? Or perhaps he has simply decided that it has all become too risky and has done a runner, leaving her here to rot. She doubts that somehow. He seems utterly determined to get his revenge on Keith. Why would he kill her anyway? If she dies, he loses his bargaining chip, so it is in his interests to keep her alive.
Her mood changes and she scolds herself for being a wimp and defeatist. She isn’t beaten yet and she has her plan to escape which she must press on with. If he really does intend to starve her it just adds an extra urgency to her plan so she should just get on with it.
Her thoughts turn to her ticks on his car and on the door. Surely someone from the Meccano factory has noticed them by now. Maybe they thought it was just a joke and dismissed it but that’s OK providing they tell other people about it. All it takes is for it to get to the ears of one policeman and maybe, just maybe, he will realise they’re significance.
She retrieves the nail from under the mattress and walks to the window. She has almost freed the first bar and scrapes away at the mortar until the end is free. She now must dig out a channel so that it can be pulled forward. The bar is just in front of the window itself which is of the sash type which is intended to be pulled or pushed upwards. It doesn’t look as though it has been opened in years and she doubts whether she will be able to free it. She may have to break the glass to escape but that is something she will have to worry about later.
She works away for another half an hour being careful not to leave evidence of her excavations on the floor which is filthy anyway but all the same he might notice a little mound of mortar, so she is careful to spread it out.
She studies her work. She has managed to carve out a one-inch channel. The rest is just plaster which will be easy to remove but she doesn’t want to do that just yet, not until all three bars have been freed.
She tentatively grasps the bar with both hands to see if she able to bend it. The steel is old and rusty and she is rewarded by feeling it beginning to bend in her direction. She stops. It is curved slightly but not noticeably so. She wouldn’t want clown-face to smell a rat and uncover her escape plan. She will start work on the second one today and with any luck she will have three ready to be bent back in two or three days and then she will face the problem of the window.
She hears the front door slam and stops. She quickly hides the nail under the mattress and sits on the chair waiting. She hopes her tears are not visible. She decides she is going to be truculent with clown face. She has nothing to lose and everything to gain if she appears to be assertive and in control of herself. It might put him off guard because it’s the last thing he will be expecting.
Five minutes later she hears footsteps outside and then the sound of her door lock being drawn back. The door opens and clown face strides in and walks purposefully to her table placing a food tray, a flask and a bottle of water on it. She can smell food and her tummy rumbles. He steps back towards the door as she opens the tray to reveal a cottage pie. It smells delicious and finds a plastic fork and tucks in. She opens the flask which contains coffee. She pours herself a cup.
‘You really are somebody called Dot, aren’t you?’ he says in a natural voice. For some reason he has abandoned the metallic sound. ‘It’s all over the papers,’ he says tossing a copy of the Daily Express on to the table. Dot looks at the splash headline. ‘Killer snatches sleuth girl’ with under it ‘“Mr Trilby” linked to two drug dealer murders.’ The story underneath names her and how the police were outwitted.
‘Looks like you’re famous,’ she says, staring at him. ‘Did you really kill those two drug dealers?’
‘No, I bloody didn’t,’ he says emphatically. ‘And I really don’t care that I have you instead of Wilder’s girlfriend. It changes nothing.’
‘Well, from what I can see, they have you in the frame for both murders whether you like it or not. And that is in addition to kidnapping.’
‘They can think what they like,’ he snarls.
‘They will get you and when they do you will be going down for a very long time. Actually, you’re lucky, because if it had been last year you would hang. Instead, you will be doing two life terms. Do you like porridge?’
He produces the knife and takes a step towards her. Dot assumes a karate posture saying: ‘Ok, come on, try your luck because you had better be fast with that, otherwise I will kill you.’
He takes a step back and snatches off the clown mask to reveal a long, slightly sallow face with sandy hair and green, wary eyes.
‘I haven’t killed anybody,’ he growls. ‘They are trying to pin it on me, but I haven’t done anything.’
‘Well, if I were you, I would give myself up so that you can plead your innocence and explain why the murders had nothing to do with you, otherwise the longer you keep me prisoner, the worse it will be for you.’
‘As soon as I have settled my account with Wilder, the sooner you can walk out of here,’ he says.
‘Why have you got it in for him?’ asks Dot innocently. ‘He hasn’t done anything to you, has he?’
‘He ruined my fucking life, that’s what the bastard did with his story in the papers. I spent years inside because of him and my family abandoned me.’
‘All he did was report on the racket you were operating and he wasn’t the only journalist to run with it. People went blind because of the dodgy cosmetics you were selling. At least you still have your sight. You just didn’t care, did you?’
He takes a step nearer her, brandishing the knife. Dot crouches low again, palm outstretched. He stops, eyeing her uncertainly. ‘He was the first, the others followed. He ran a campaign against me. I was going to wind it up anyway.’
‘Easy to say that now, isn’t it?’
He backs off and Amy relaxes. ‘What’s your name anyway?’
‘Never you mind what my fucking name is. Tomorrow, you are going to record a message for Wilder and if you refuse, I will just leave you here to rot.’
‘That would be murder. Leaving me starve to death would be premeditated murder. If you say you are innocent of the two killings, give yourself up and let’s end this lunacy.’
He backs out of the door. ‘If you want to be fed you will record it,’ he growls, closing the door. Dot hears the lock closing.
She slumps on the floor, trembling. Could she really have stopped a knifeman? It’s all very well practicing karate moves in a gym but in real life, could she really kill him if he had gone for her with the knife?
She finishes the coffee and stares at the window. She knows she will record whatever it is he wants her to say and then a thought occurs. Maybe she could include a secret message. How would she do it. Put emphasis on certain letters. He might cotton on to that. Perhaps she could tap out something with her fingers. Tap what though?
Then she remembers doing Morse Code when she was in Guides. Does she remember it? The message only needs to be short. Just Binns Road. That’s all is needed for them to locate her. She will practice it.
And in the meantime, she will get on with the second bar in the window. She sets herself a target of two days to finish it.
She suddenly realises she is feeling warm and looking around spots a radiator against an end wall. She walks over and feels it. It is hot.