Chapter Fourteen

                                              Naomi

Liverpool. Monday, October 29

It might sound a little odd, but in a way, I am not too surprised when the hospital rings. When I gave Alex a reading, I had a premonition that something unpleasant was going to happen, and probably to Alex, but I couldn’t tell her that. What these premonitions very often don’t tell me is ‘when’ or even ‘who’ at times.

   All the ward sister would say is that she has been poisoned which I must admit I think rather strange. Anyway, I jump in a black cab which happen to be passing on Rodney Street and make my way to the Royal – as it is known.

   When I arrive at Alex’s private ward, I am met by the ward sister and a constable sitting outside. I have to explain who I am and why I am there.

   The sister takes me to one side and says softly that there has been an attempt on Alex’s life by someone trying to give her a lethal injection on the street. I just stare at her askance. This is Liverpool. Things like that just don’t happen here. They only take place in the movies …don’t they?

   Then, when I see Alex, I am shocked. She looks terrible. She is drained of colour and looks like an elderly lady. She is asleep, so I nod at the sister who is looking on at the door to signify that I will stay until she wakes up.

   Hospitals are never really quiet. Even during the night, there is always a background clatter of trolleys, of people walking around, doors opening and closing and the muffled sound of people talking. In a way, it is comforting to hear the sounds of life rather than just the sound of Alex’s laboured breathing.

   Two hours later she stirs, opens her eyes and for a while stares at me unseeing until finally recognition dawns, and she whispers: ‘Naomi. You came.’

   ‘Of course, I have,’ I reply. ‘I was shocked when they told me what happened. I honestly couldn’t believe it. Is there anything I can get you?’

   She shakes her head and moments later mutters; ‘I wonder how long they are going to keep me in here?’

   ‘The sister seems to indicate it is going to be a few days.’ Then I put my hand on hers and say: ‘Alex, I don’t know how long you were planning on staying in Liverpool, but you can’t go back to that hotel given what has happened. How about moving in with me until you need to go home. I have a spare room with a single bed. You are welcome to it.?’

   She stares at me and her eyes well up with tears:

   ‘You’re a lovely person,’ she says. ‘Are you quite sure. I seem to be nothing but trouble. I don’t want to involve you.’

   ‘I’m already involved,’ I reply. ‘Remember I am the only one who has met and spoken to Parry so we can support each other, whatever happens. And apart from that, it will be nice to have someone to talk to.’

   She smiles, and mouths ’thank you’, and then, her face becomes serious, she tries to sit up:

   ‘I think that inspector wants to talk to you about those two guys in the pub. He seems to think it is all connected.’

   ‘I’m sure he’s right,’ I say.

   Then a thought occurs to me: ‘Would you like me to go to your hotel and check you out? There’s no point paying for a room you’re not going to be using.’

   ‘Good idea’. She motions to her bedside cupboard and asks for her bag. I hand it to her. She rummages in it and brings out her room key card and a credit card. She tells me the pin.

   We chat for a little while longer, and she looks brighter when I finally get up to go. ‘I’ll take your bag to my place, and then I’ll be back later.’

   When I’ve paid Alex’s bill, I make my way to her room. Once I’m in there, I have the uneasy feeling that I’m not alone. I search the bathroom, open the wardrobe door – both empty. But still.

   I check the door to discover if it locks properly. It does. Then I check Alex’s bag. It is a mess. Everything has been emptied out and just stuffed back in. I seriously doubt that Alex would be that untidy. Her clothes have been thoroughly searched; in fact, the entire room has been the subject of what looks like a professional’s touch who obviously didn’t care if it was noticed. And then a thought occurs – maybe they expected Alex to be dead.

   I pack it all up and make my way down to reception.

   ‘Has anyone been in Miss Nelson’s room,’ I ask politely.

   The girl looks at me nonplussed. She calls up the room number on her computer and says: ‘No, everything seems to be in order,’ and then she stops. ’Wait a minute a man called in yesterday and said Miss Nelson had asked him to bring her a notebook, so I gave him the room number. He was back in 10 minutes or so. Is everything all right,’ she says anxiously.’

   I sigh. ‘Yes. It’s fine. What did he look like?’

   She thinks for a while and then: ‘He was average height I would say. He was a thin face man with wispy hair. And. Oh yes, he had an accent. I do remember that because I couldn’t place it.’

   ‘Not French or German then?’

   ‘No definitely not. We get plenty of them here. And I speak both those languages. You have to in a big hotel like this,’ she explains reassuringly.

   When I get back to my apartment, Inspector Salisbury is waiting for me: ‘Glad I caught you. I wanted to talk to you about your visit to the pub with Alex.’

   ‘Yes, I thought you might, given what has happened.’

   He looks meaningfully at the suitcase. I glance at it and tell him that Alex is going to move in with me for the rest of her time in Liverpool once she is discharged from hospital.

   ‘I’m glad you’re here because I wanted to talk to you too. Alex’s room at her hotel has been searched and by one of the men at the pub.’ I give him a description of both men. ‘It was the thin-face one who searched her room,’ I tell him. ‘The receptionist was hoodwinked into telling him which room he was in. She will probably get into a ton of trouble if Alex complains.’

   ‘She also said he had an accent which she couldn’t place, other than confirming that it wasn’t French or German.’

   Salisbury has been taking notes, and then is silent for a while: ‘You know Miss Richards, this is a very serious situation. Whatever these people are searching for they are not going to be content until they’ve found it, unless we catch them first,’ he adds, almost as an afterthought.

   ‘Are you sure you have told us everything you know?’

   ‘Absolutely everything,’

   ‘I was with Parry for perhaps 20 minutes. I didn’t catch sight of whoever he was afraid of, and that was it.’

   Salisbury just nods: ‘Well, I suppose it makes sense for you both to be together. Decent of you to take her in though.’

   ‘It’s the least I could do.’

   ‘We’ll be in touch. Don’t hesitate to call,’ he says handing me a card.

   After he has left, I ponder on the strangeness of it. Why Alex, for heaven’s sake? The two men in the pub didn’t see her, or me for that matter, because we were both out of sight. So why try to kill her? It reinforces the feeling that there is something about Alex that is hidden. I can sense it and it troubles me. I can only hope that she will learn to trust me.

   As I lie there I suddenly ‘see’ death in the form of a black cloud. I shiver. I suddenly know, without any doubt, that I would soon have to move out of my apartment.

The next chapter of Poseidon will be published on Friday next week.

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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