Chapter Eight

Maggie

The trouble with Emma…

Day 9

I have just been online to view developments in Dublin and what I read in the Times is a bit disturbing. How can they have any doubts about the identity of ‘my’ body? And why are they ‘keeping an open mind’ over the explosion. I was so meticulous. Could it have something to do with the jubilee clip around the gas pipe? I only loosened it very slightly and I was wearing gloves.

   Anyway, whatever their suspicions I doubt they will ever make the connection with the real Maggie Taylor and Roisin Doyle has disappeared and is very unlikely to be found here in Liverpool so I think I can relax.

   My thoughts turn to Naomi whom I met yesterday. She saw something. I am certain of it. Why else would she tell me to ‘be careful where I go’ and then walk out. What did that mean I wonder? I should have asked her to elaborate.

   It is just another inexplicable event in a growing list since I arrived here. Life in Dublin was childishly predictable by comparison. If I didn’t know better, I would have said there is some sort of conspiracy going on involving the students. Why else are there huddles in corners, whispered chats and furtive glances that appear to be aimed at me? And then there is the hostile Mr Darke. I suppose it might just be an anti-Irish thing which I have encountered before once or twice but I would not have expected to encounter it here in Liverpool which has a high proportion of Irish residents.

   No, it must be something else. I have not forgotten the note either which may, or may not, refer to my past although my gut feeling is that it has something to do with whatever is going on here on campus.

   I have opened a bank account here. They accepted my ID without question, and I have transferred what little cash was in Maggie’s account into it. I have also converted a large part of the Wirex crypto cash into pounds and transferred that as well. I still have a substantial sum left in Wirex…just in case.

   I have been mostly in my office on campus today. I have been asked to prepare a presentation on how a modern application of mathematics can typically draw from differential equations, numerical analysis, and linear algebra. It’s a fascinating subject and it will be a public PowerPoint presentation in the Autumn or whenever the Dean sees fit.

   ‘Mr Hostile’ made a point of snubbing me in the corridor earlier but that is simply fine – for now. The day will dawn when he will face a reckoning from me for his boorish behaviour and I guarantee he will not like it!

   I am on my way to a pub called The Head of Steam in Liverpool One, a trendy part of the city centre full of designer shops and swanky bars and restaurants. I am meeting Emma, the art lecturer I met a couple of days ago in the Blackburne Arms.

   She is already sitting in a cubicle when I get there. She is nursing a pint. I ask if she wants another, but she says she would prefer a Guinness to the mild. She stares at the pint she is holding disdainfully. ‘It tastes like cat piss,’ she explains. I grin and head for the bar and return with a couple of pints.

   She asks how long I stayed in the pub the other night and I tell her I was plagued by a barfly.

   She grins and asks what that is.

   ‘A pain in the arse,’ I respond. ‘Some middle-aged tosser who thinks he’s God’s gift and that just because a woman is on her own in a bar, it is open season on her.’

   ‘What did you do?’ she asks grinning hugely.

   ‘I persuaded him to go away,’ I say.

   ‘And did he?’

   ‘With alacrity,’ I say, grinning back.

   ‘I won’t ask how you managed that.’

   ‘Better not.’ She erupts in a gale of laughter.

   We decide to change the subject and I tell her that I intended to get to the Tate, but I was diverted. I ask if she has been to their latest exhibitions. She has and mentions that she has a studio in a place called Waterloo, about five miles up the Southport coast. She says I must visit now that university and college are on the cusp of breaking for summer. I tell her that I would really enjoy that.

   As we are talking, I notice two men leaning on the bar behind Emma, a little distance away. They are staring at us. No, I’m wrong. They are staring at her, and she is obviously the subject of their conversation. I sense trouble.

   I lower my voice and mention that there are two dodgy-looking characters who seem to be talking about her and am about to tell her not to turn around but before I can she does, but there is nobody there. I assure her that that they were there. She looks uneasy. I have a strong feeling that she knows exactly who they are. I don’t like it.

   We continue chatting for another hour or so and then decide it is time to go. I scan the place to see if there is another entrance but there isn’t. I take out my keys and palm them in my left hand with a key protruding through my fist.

   We turn right to walk to the bus stops up the road. As we do, we are about to cross a narrow, dark street called School Lane on our right when the two men grab us and drag us to a doorway just down the street.

   One has his arm around my throat and Emma is held by the second. He hisses in my ear. ‘Why don’t you just fuck off so that we can talk to Emma?’ He gives me a shove. I glance at Emma. She looks terrified.

   I turn to face him. He has an ugly leer on his face, his lips parted in a sneering grin. I move quickly and with the ball of the palm on my right hand I slam it into the space just under his nose. His head snaps back and blood immediate begins pouring out. He yelps like a mongrel and falls to the ground. Emma’s assailant lets go of her and makes the mistake of moving towards me. I yell at her to run as he faces up close to me with his fist drawn back. I move within a couple of inches in front of him and bring up my knee between his legs crunching into his balls and at the same time using the key in my left hand to stab the fist that is about to be slammed into me. He cries out in agony, and I turn and follow Emma around the corner.

   There is a Hackney cab rank quite close. I yell at Emma and wave at her to follow me. We climb in and I tell the driver to head for the Ropeworks.

   Emma is looking dazed. She stares at me, her eyes wide. I put my finger to my lips, and she leans back in her seat. Her hands are trembling.

   In my apartment I pour us both a generous Jameson. I look at her. She is white. ‘Want to tell me about it?’ I ask.

   For a while she is silent and just stares at the floor ‘I have been really stupid,’ she begins softly. ‘I had a boyfriend who was great – at first. He took me to expensive restaurants, we went on fabulous holidays, no expense spared. I just took it all for granted and never really asked where the money was coming from. He said he was a dealer.’ She looks up at me. She has tears rolling down her cheeks.

   ‘I didn’t ask what kind of dealer. Maybe I didn’t want to know. Obviously, it was all too good to be true. And then he began to get possessive, you know?’ She looks at me questioningly. I nod. I know all too well what that is like.

   ‘It got to the point when I was a virtual prisoner at home. He said I shouldn’t want to see anyone else without him.’

   I think I know what is coming. ‘You escaped, didn’t you?’ She nods. ‘I changed my name, moved to Liverpool and got a job at the college. I didn’t think he would ever find me.’

   I had to conceal a smile. The similarity with me is uncanny. The only difference is that she didn’t murder him. Perhaps she should have, but I don’t think I will tell her that, or my story for that matter. Not yet anyway.

   ‘It looks like he has found you though,’ I say. ‘You have to go to the police, you know, because the two heavies he sent after you are not going to stop. They have been paid to find you and they are not going to stop just because I hurt them.’

   ‘Where did you learn to fight like that?’ she asks, a look of apt admiration replacing the fear on her face.

   ‘I had a tough upbringing,’ I say grinning at her. ‘You will stay here tonight and tomorrow morning we will both go and see a nice sergeant I know. He will know what to do.’

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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