Chapter Nine

                                                Maggie

Admiral Street Police Station

Day 10

We are waiting in reception for Sergeant Bannon at Admiral Street. Emma is looking uneasy and pacing up and down. It took all my blarney at breakfast to persuade her to come. At one point I think she was just going to walk, but in the end, I persuaded her that her boyfriend, and his thugs, aren’t going to give up; they will find her wherever she is, and they will take her back into captivity, unconscious if necessary. There is only one way to end her nightmare, and this is it.

   Bannon opens the door and summons us to follow him. He looks at me questioningly, no doubt thinking it has something to do with the murdered boy in the park. He takes us to an interview room, and we all sit around a table. He stares at us expectantly and asks how he can help us.

   I introduce him to Emma and tell him that we were attacked last night by two thugs sent by Emma’s boyfriend Steve Keane. Their intention was to take her back home, forcibly if need be.

   He looks at us in turn and asks Emma why she left him. She tells him the tale of physical abuse, threats and controlling behaviour and that she was a virtual prisoner and how she planned her escape carefully over two months. He asks where this was. She says he has a large, detached house in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Bannon has taken out a notebook and is writing down details. He asks what her surname is, and she says it is Threlfall. She is twenty-eight.

   ‘So, what exactly happened last night?’ he says looking at us both quizzingly.

   ‘We had just left the Head of Steam on Hanover Street and two blokes grabbed us and dragged us down a street into a doorway,’ says Emma looking tearful. ‘They told Maggie to fuck off. It was me they wanted. The one holding me said I was going home.’ Bannon takes a note of that.

   ‘How did you manage to escape?’ he asks.

   ‘Maggie attacked them,’ she says grinning.

   He looks at me with renewed interest. ‘How did you manage that? What did you do to them?’

   ‘I persuaded them to go away,’ I say. ‘They may have needed a little help from A&E on the way though.’

   ‘You aren’t going to arrest her, are you?’ says Emma. ‘If it weren’t for her, they would have abducted me and taken me back.’

   ‘Not at all,’ Bannon assures her. ‘You are perfectly entitled to defend yourself if attacked. I hope you gave them a bloody nose.’

   I laugh. ‘Oh yes, I certainly gave one of them that. I probably broke it as well. As for the other heavy, he may be talking in a high-pitch voice for a while.’

   ‘Good,’ says Bannon grinning. ‘I will contact colleagues in Birmingham CID, and they will have a word. He will no doubt deny he had anything to do with it. But that’s fine. He will have got the message. His boys will have got back to him no doubt. If there is any repetition of anyone following you or harassing you, we will act. In the meantime, change all your passwords, tighten up your security on social media and try not to be on your own, especially of a night. Do they know where you live do you think?’

   ‘I don’t think so,’ she says. ‘I haven’t noticed anyone suspicious by my flat.’

   ‘How long have you been in Liverpool?’

   ‘Just over a year.’

   ‘How do you think they found you?’

   ‘Well, he knew I was an arts teacher and I have an aunt in Liverpool. They no doubt kept an eye on her house and no doubt did a stake out of art colleges until I was spotted. He probably had teams out everywhere looking for me.’

   ‘He really is determined, isn’t he?’ Bannon murmurs quietly.

   ‘That’s what worries me,’ she says.

   ‘Cheer up. He will over-reach himself and then we will have him. Do you have a picture of him?’

   She says she will hand it in later in the day. Bannon tells her to be watchful wherever she goes.

   I tell him she can stay with me for a few days.

   As we are walking out, I ask Bannon if there is any progress on the dead boy. He shakes his head and says they are no further forward. They need information from students but all they are getting is silence.

   I tell him there is definitely something going on at the campus. I mention all the huddles and the whispering. I tell him I will be in touch if I hear anything. Before we leave, he asks me for my phone number and stares at it quizzingly when I give it to him. We leave him in reception and decide to head for the nearest bus stop intending to head into town for a coffee and something to eat.

   We are standing at a bus stop on Park Road when a man almost knocks me over. I am about to tell him what I think of him, but he is away down the road. I stare after him.

   ‘Are you OK?’ says Emma. ‘Some people, honestly. He didn’t grab your bag, did he?’

   I am carrying an open canvas bag holding my purse as well as odds and ends. I still have it and I can see my purse inside. I breathe a sigh of relief. I hold it up triumphantly. ‘Looks like he was just a clumsy eejit,’ I tell her.

   I am about to return it to the bag when I notice something else inside.

   It is a memory stick. We both stare at it and then at each other.

   ‘He deliberately banged into you to drop that into your bag,’ says Emma. ‘There was plenty of room on the pavement. He was targeting you. No doubt about it.’

   ‘Did you see if he was Chinese?’ I ask her.

   ‘He definitely wasn’t. He was young though from what I could see of him.’

   ‘What the bloody hell is going on?’ I mutter staring at the stick in my hand. ‘Let’s see what’s on it when we get back to the flat,’ I say as our bus approaches.

I plug the stick into my laptop and six files appear on the screen. Emma is leaning over my shoulder. I open one at random and stare at it. It looks like a series of complex chemical formulae.

   ‘Make any sense to you?’ I ask Emma. She shakes her head.

   I open the other files. They are also technical documents dealing with what I suspect are metallurgical properties to do with the reduction and oxidation of metals, and their chemical performance.

   Other files appear to deal with crystallographymaterial characterization, mechanical metallurgy, phase transformations, and failure mechanisms.It’s all a bit beyond me and has nothing to do with mathematics or the department I work in.

   ‘Why would he give it to you?’ Emma asks. ‘And what does it all mean do you think?’

   It is obviously not intended for me, so whoever is behind this must think I am somebody I am not. I close the laptop and sigh. ‘We need to go to your flat to pick up a few things, don’t we? I think you should stay here for a week or so. I could do with the company and apart from that, whoever gave me that file is going to want it back.’

   ‘So, we could both have thugs after us,’ says Emma giggling.

   ‘It’s no laughing matter,’ I say with a mock seriousness and then join in with her giggles.

   ‘What are you going to do?’ she finally asks.

   ‘I think I am going to ring the good sergeant,’ I say.

   ‘She looks at me curiously, a half-smile hovering. ‘Do you fancy him?’

   That takes me by surprise. I haven’t even thought of him in those terms. In fact, I have had quite enough of men for a while.

   ‘Not at all,’ I say briskly. ‘You’re away with the fairies if you think that?’

   She gives me a knowing smile.

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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