The Poseidon Files
Liverpool city centre. Saturday, October 27
Alex has always been adept at following targets. She knows that, ideally, you should have a team of four or five to effectively keep track of someone, but as a lone investigator she has never had that luxury. There are many tricks though; like walking on the opposite side of the street or walking in front of the target and letting them pass or staying very close. It is a strange quirk of human nature that people rarely notice what is under their noses.
Despite all that, this is the first time in her career she is aware that she may be the target. The incidence in the pub was enlightening. She was thankful for Naomi’s instincts. What would have happened if they had been spotted? The central question, however, is why? Why her? She never even met Parry so how could he have passed anything on to her?
And who are ‘they’ anyway? Alex realises that it must mean that the files were not found when Parry was murdered. Why else would they be following anyone who has a connection with the case?
She decides to walk to Naomi’s apartment from the Adelphi, so she turns left out of the hotel and walks up Renshaw Street until comes to the ruins of a church destroyed by the Luftwaffe in WW11. She stops to gaze at the poignant sculpture of a British and German soldier shaking hands, presumably on Christmas Day on 1914, before they play a game of football. She would have liked to go on to look around the church to breathe its atmosphere, but it is closed until the weekend. She makes a mental note to return. Out of the corner of her eye, she looks around to see if anyone else has suddenly stopped walking too.
She glances to the other side of the road to see if anyone is keeping pace with her.
Satisfied, she carries on up Leece Street and mingles with a group of tourists on their way to the Georgian Quarter and the Hope Street eateries. She knows she hasn’t got far to go; Rodney Street is just a block away.
She is near the end of Rodney Street were a couple of buskers are performing on the pavement, one singing and the other playing a guitar. They are good. She smiles at them and is about to reach into her bag for a coin when somebody pushes into her, almost knocking her over and she feels something prick her arm. Within seconds she begins to feel dizzy and then she falls. She is dimly aware of people leaning over her and then there is just blackness.
Consciousness comes slowly. She is aware of bright lights and voices. There is something attached to her arm, and her head hurts. She feels sick.
‘How are you feeling?’ says a voice. It is a woman’s voice. ‘Terrible,’ she whispers. ‘What happened?’ ‘Just get some sleep,’ says the voice.
Six hours later Alex regains consciousness. Her mouth feels like a tinderbox. She sees a carafe of water on her bedside table but cannot reach it. Then a nurse enters the room and helps her drink.
‘You’re in hospital. How are you feeling? You have been out for the count for most of the day.’
A few minutes later a man enters her room: ‘Hello it’s Alex isn’t it?’ he says, sitting on the side of her bed. ‘I am Doctor Jacobs. You are a very lucky lady. You have two buskers to thank for getting here so quickly.’
‘I don’t feel so very lucky,’ says Alex weakly. ‘What happened?’
‘It looks like somebody injected you with a poison which could have been lethal,’ he says solemnly, gazing at her. ‘Fortunately, the leather inserts on the sleeve of your top, together with the wool, got most of it. All you got was a tiny, tiny amount. Anymore, and we would not be having this conversation.’
‘Are you saying somebody tried to kill me?
‘We are going to keep you in for a day or two just to keep an eye on you,’ he says. And then after a silence during which Alex feels a shudder mounting, he says: ‘The police are outside. Are you up to seeing them?’
‘For a short time. I feel tired.’
‘I’ll give them half an hour – no more.’.
Shortly after, two men walk in. One comes up to her bed, pulls up a chair and sits down. He is burly, thick set with a round, beaming face but sharp, intelligent eyes. The other man, who she recognises as DS Bannon, remains standing.
‘Hello. I am DI Salisbury. This is DS Bannon whom I believe you have already met.’
‘How are you feeling?’
‘Sick and very tired.’
‘I daresay the medics have told you how lucky you are to be alive?’
Alex looks at him: ‘Yes, it feels like my lucky day.’
‘Did you see whoever did it?’
‘All I felt was somebody shoving into me, followed by a small pricking sensation on my arm and then within seconds I started feeling dizzy and then I passed out.’
Salisbury nods slowly. ‘Did you get a good look at your attacker?’
‘No, it all happened so quickly, but the two buskers may have.’
‘Yes, we will be talking to them when we find them. After calling for an ambulance and trying to give you First Aid, they vanished.’
He stares around the room for a while and then: ‘Do you have any idea who it may have been or why he or they might want to kill you?’
‘I honestly haven’t.’ Alex wearily sinks back in her bed: ‘It must be linked to Parry’s murder, but I have no idea why. I never even met him. There is one thing though. I was in a pub with Naomi Richards at lunch time – yesterday, I think – I have no idea how long I’ve been here. Anyway, we were nicely hidden away in the snug when she glimpsed two men walk in. She quickly told me to duck, and they never spotted us. I asked her why afterwards and she simply said that she had a bad feeling. We think it is linked to Parry’s murder too. She was right because they were obviously looking for somebody. They didn’t buy a drink. Simply walked out.’ Alex doesn’t mention that she is being paid by the FBI. She has a feeling it is best to keep that secret for now.
‘You didn’t see them?’
‘No but Naomi did. Maybe she could give you a description. Also, the barmaid may well remember them.’
The doctor put his head around the door. ‘Time’s up gentlemen,’ he says.
Salisbury stands up. ‘Hope you feel better soon. ‘We will talk again when you are on your feet. Oh, and by the way, you are perfectly safe. We will have a uniformed officer stationed outside at all times.’ He smiles at her. ‘Take care.’
Bannon has said nothing. He has just looks vaguely embarrassed. As they are walking out, he turns and gives her a thumb’s up. Despite feeling punk, Alex cannot resist a forlorn smile.
Shortly afterwards the nurse asks if there is anyone they could ring for her – a relative or a friend perhaps. Alex says she will think about it.
Alex mulls that over. Is there any point in telling Rogers? What would he do|? He would no doubt ask if she was still alive and since she is, he would simply put it in his pending tray and investigate it later. She doubts he would rush up to Liverpool to be by her side. He would probably be quite pleased about it because it means that she has trod in somebody’s toes and therefore she must be getting somewhere. She decides to send Rogers a text anyway a little later.
The nurse returns and Alex says that her relatives are all in Canada and then she stops: ‘Actually, there is someone. Do you know where my phone is?’ The nurse finds it her bag in the bedside cupboard. You’ll find a number for Naomi Richards on there. I would be grateful if you could ring her.’
Once the nurse has left Alex texts Rogers. Somebody tried to kill me. In hospital. Not long after a reply arrives. Are you OK? She replies. Yes, I was lucky. but why me? There is no response.
A new chapter of the Poseidon Files is published every Friday