Chapter Fourteen

Naomi

Day 16

Steve Bannon is sitting on my sofa staring the wall in an abstracted way. I ask him for the third time if he would like a coffee. He shakes his head as if waking from a reverie.

   ‘Sorry,’ he mutters. ‘I was miles away. ‘Yes, I would love one thanks. I was just thinking why the dead student in Princes Park was clutching the phone number of one of his lecturers in his fist.

   ‘Which one?’ I ask already suspecting that I know the answer.

   ‘Maggie Taylor. She teaches maths and psychology. Do you know her?’

   ‘I have met her. My friend Joe is a post-grad student of hers.’ I decide to leave out the reading I gave her yesterday. That would make things just too complicated. Besides, my readings are confidential as far as I am concerned.

   ‘What are you going to do?’

   ‘I have to question her, of course. It’s a murder inquiry. She might have had something to do with his killing for all I know or she might be able to give us a lead. He was clutching her number for a reason and we have to find out what that reason is.’

   He relapses into a silence again and then after perhaps a minute. ‘He was killed in a very strange way too. Killings in public places are usually committed quickly with knives, guns or just a brutish kicking. This was much more sophisticated. Whoever did it knew precisely what they were doing. It was not a spur-of-the-moment killing by any means.’

   ‘How was he killed?’

   ‘I’m not supposed to tell you this so keep it to yourself. A very narrow spike or long needle was thrust through two heart ventricles. He would have died almost immediately. It’s not the sort of weapon our lovely Liverpool thugs would carry around.’

   I ask him if he has contacted her yet. He looks thoughtful and says he tried ringing her mobile earlier but was just put through to voicemail. ‘Maybe you can try and tell her to contact me urgently. If I don’t hear from her by this time tomorrow, I will have to hand it on to people who will be much less sympathetic.’

   I tell him I don’t have her number so he fishes one of his cards out of a pocket, scribbles it down and hands it to me. I tell him I will ring a bit later.

   After he has left, I stare at Maggie’s number and key it in on my phone. It goes straight through to voicemail. Her phone must be switched off. I wonder why. Could Maggie really have had something to do with the boy’s killing? My thoughts turn to the reading I gave her. In a weird way it felt like a humdrum chat, almost as though we were talking about the weather. I have to remind myself that she admitted to being a murderer, but despite that there was still something about her that was strangely likeable.

   I stand at my window looking down at Rodney Street shaking my head in disbelief. I have an uncanny feeling she was right. I have no doubt I will see her again despite all that. I know she murdered her husband and she hinted that there may have been others. Maybe she had a good reason for killing him. Even so, most people would simply walk out in a situation where a partner was cheating and stealing from them. It would not automatically occur to them to resort to murder. Yes, OK, she did say he had been trying to poison her – for her money I assume and perhaps that makes a difference.

   I did not get the feeling she was a ruthless killer when I did that short reading. Yes, I did see death and not just her husband’s either. Sometimes the past, the present and the future can become confused but having said that I got the distinct feeling that this was a future death. Indeed, it may even have been more than one. I could not tell.

   All I do know is that Maggie Taylor is a highly intelligent, articulate and gregarious woman and I can well imagine that she has led a colourful past in Ireland. Maybe that has finally caught up with her. Who knows?

   I instruct Alexa on my Amazon Dot to play Classic FM. It is playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, a spine-tingling, dramatic piece of music which I first heard on Disney’s Fantasia soundtrack, and after that for a macabre scene in a 1962 film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera. It has since remained a bit of a horror soundtrack go-to.

   It’s a highly suitable soundtrack as I gaze at the wintry scene on Rodney Street below. People hurrying to catch their buses home, their umbrellas pointed into the north wind and their collars turned up as snow batters their faces.

   I have always enjoyed winter which might sound a mite bizarre. I have invariably thought that it is easier to get warm than it is to get cold. I revel in dense fogs, sharp, biting gales, hailstones that batter you and snow, wonderful snow! I once visited Toronto in Canada and spent Christmas there with a friend who I met on my very first case that became known as the Poseidon Files. Anyway, it was glorious. It snowed on Christmas Eve in a big way and we woke up on Christmas Day to a couple of feet of snow.

   My muse is interrupted by my intercom buzzing. I feel annoyed. I’m not expecting anyone and I had decided to have a cosy night in with a roast chicken and roasties followed by a movie. I sigh. It may be a client. Who knows? I press the button and ask who is there. A voice answers saying that his name is Hugh Button and that he is from Special Branch. What on earth does he want with me? I buzz him in.

   A few minutes later I open the door to a smartly dressed man in his mid-forties wearing a hat. Is he for real? I ask for ID and he shows me his warrant card. I open the door wide and invite him in.

   I study him as he looks around the apartment with paintings leaning against one wall and an easel sitting nonchalantly by the kitchen door. He is wearing glasses with heavy frames that reveal two blue, expressive eyes. He reminds me of someone and then it comes to me. Of course! Michael Caine. The fedora, specs and blond hair. Did Caine wear a hat in that famous film of his, The Ipcress File? I can’t remember. I smile and ask him if he would like a coffee. He declines. I invite him to sit on the sofa while I take the easy chair and ask how I can help him.

   ‘It says you’re a psychic consultant on the door,’ he says, staring at me curiously. ‘Is that the same as being a fortune teller?’

   ‘Not even close,’ I say. ‘I don’t tell fortunes in the sense you mean but I do have the ability to read people and can sometimes foretell things that are likely to happen to them but don’t ask me what the National Lottery numbers will be on Saturday because I couldn’t tell you.’

   ‘Do you have seances?’ he asks.

   ‘No, I don’t. There’s a lot of fakery associated with that and all too often vulnerable people are taken for a ride.’

   ‘What do you do then?’

   ‘I can get a glimpse into people’s lives and what is worrying them. You, for example, are worried about your mother who is seriously ill but she will recover so you can relax a little.’

   That surprises him in a big way and he looks at me warily. I smile. It isn’t every day I startle a spook! Finally, he says that I am right and that she has a heart condition. She is due to be operated on next week. I nod and smile.

   ‘I don’t imagine you came here to talk about my psychic abilities though, did you?’ I say. ‘It must have something to do with security for you people to be involved.’

   His face is expressionless. ‘I believe you know a university lecturer called Maggie Taylor. You were seen talking to her,’ he says, by way of explanation.

   ‘Was I indeed,’ I say. ‘You must have been watching her, in which case you will know that I have only met her twice, the second time for a reading.’

   ‘In the Blackburne Arms on Catherine Street. Yes, we saw her with you there,’ he says unperturbed.

   ‘Why this interest in her?’ I ask, not expecting an answer so before he can respond I say: ‘Special Branch are surely not interested in the murder of a student.’

   ‘No, the police are dealing with that,’ he says. I stare at him expectantly. Instead of responding he asks what we talked about.

   ‘My readings are confidential,’ I tell him. ‘All I can tell you is that we talked about her past life.’

   ‘She didn’t mention any involvement with the Chinese community?’

   I shake my head. ‘All I know is that a number of her students are Chinese but I would imagine you already know that?’

   Again, he doesn’t respond. He stares around the flat as if looking for something. Finally, he stands, thanks me for my time and makes his way to the door.

   I stand and stare after him.

   What has Maggie been up to? And then another thought occurs. Did Button really come here to ask me what we talked about in the pub? The more I think about it, the more unlikely it seems. There has to be another reason. What could that be?

   Only one explanation springs to mind and that they are checking me out. What on earth is going on and how are the Chinese involved.

   I must try and contact Maggie.

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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