I have enjoyed a few days of peace and quiet with my mum in the Isle of Mann knowing I could relax without being scared of every knock at the door wondering if its Billy’s thugs coming to drag me back to Birmingham. I wonder what affect Sergeant Bannon’s efforts on my behalf have had. I don’t doubt that the police will have been round to see him but I also know how charming he can be. He will no doubt have declared no knowledge of the two thugs in Liverpool. I can almost hear him denying it with wide-eyed innocence while offering the officers a coffee or a drink in the palatial mansion that had become a prison as far as I was concerned.
I have briefly been to my flat to dump a few things and I have arrived at Maggie’s place at The Ropeworks. I have a key so I let myself in. There is an almost oppressive silence which is unusual because she nearly always has music playing. Either that or she is singing in her rather fine soprano voice. But there is nothing. I shout a ‘hello’ just in case she’s in bed but there is no response. I go to her bedroom and the bed has obviously been slept in and been left unmade.
I feel uneasy. I should have sent her a text first. Has she taken a break and gone to the Lake District or somewhere for a few days, but surely, she would have told me because she knew I was returning today? I call up her number on my phone and text her. I’m back. Where are you? Call me back please. I stare at my phone hoping for a response but there is nothing. And then the thought occurs that maybe she left me a note and I haven’t noticed it. I return to the lounge and scan the room. There is nothing on the table other than a glass with dregs of wine and a dirty plate with a knife on top of it. There is also an A4 notepad but it is blank.
Her desk also has odd scraps of paper. I leaf through them and one catches my eye. It is a handwritten note to somebody called Roisin with just a single letter at the end. F. I stare at it. Who can Roisin be and why is it on Maggie’s desk? I look at the note again.
Hiya Roisin. What’s the Craic then? So, you’ve become Maggie Taylor eh? Cute. The boys have been asking after you when we heard about the house fire. They said it would be grand to see you again after all this time. We knew you too well to think you were dead. Mind, one or two said you have been acting the maggot moving to Liverpool the way you did. But you haven’t lost your touch that’s for sure. I daresay your hubby deserved it. Pity about the old Maggie though. But now it’s time to come home. You know where we are.
I begin to feel scared again. Who is Maggie? Is she really the Roisin person mentioned in the note and what does it mean about her being dead? And who are ‘the boys.’ Maggie had hinted once or twice about an earlier life after she fought off the two thugs. Is it possible that her past life has caught up with her and could this note have something to do with her disappearance? I suppose it is a grim irony that we are both on the run from people who want to harm us. I smile gruesomely at the thought but then judging by the way she dealt with the two heavies, Maggie – Roisin – or whatever her name, is well able to look after herself.
I decide to hang onto the note. I’m sure she would not want it to fall into the wrong hands. I tuck it safely away in my wallet.
I go to the kitchen. The sink is full of dirty dishes and I open the fridge. It is full of food, with an almost full container of milk. Maggie is a very organised person and I know she would not leave dirty dishes on the table or in the sink, nor would she leave her fridge full like this. It all points to her leaving in a hurry.
Then the intercom buzzes. I freeze. What should I do? It may be people looking for her but on the other hand it may be someone with information about her. I decide that whoever it is, I can just play ignorant and say that I have no idea where she is and that I have just returned from the Isle of Mann to find the flat deserted, all of which is quite true. I will not mention the note I found.
I press the button and ask who is there. ‘Detective Sergeant Bannon from Merseyside Police,’ comes the reply. It’s Maggie’s favourite sergeant so I buzz him in and leave the door slightly open.
Minutes later he arrives and a woman follows him in. I stare at her. The sergeant introduces her as Naomi Richards who he says has helped the police trace missing people in the past. We shake hands.
He looks surprised to see me and asks why I am here. I explain that following the attack Maggie said I could stay with her for a while and gave me a key. I hold it up and say that I have just returned from visiting my mum and found the flat deserted. I wave an arm around expansively.
‘I think she left in a hurry,’ I say, leading them to the kitchen and pointing to the pile of dirty dishes as well as all the food in the fridge. ‘And there’s a wine glass and a plate on the table,’ I say. ‘Maggie would never leave things in a mess like that. She was meticulous and very house proud. She would tell me off if I left dishes on the table.’
Bannon asks if he can look around and I wave him away to the bedrooms pointing out which was hers and which was mine. Naomi asks what I do and I tell her about the college and the art faculty. She smiles and says that she studied at Liverpool Hope ending up with a Master’s in creative Practice.
‘Do you make a living at it?’ I ask. She smiles ruefully.
‘Not really. I have to subsidise it,’ she says.
‘What else do you do?’
‘I’m a psychic. I sometimes help the police resolve cases. It’s something I have been able to do all my life.’ She looks at me. No, that’s not quite right, it felt as though she is looking into me with strangely magnetic eyes.
‘There are people hunting you, aren’t there?’ she says. ‘An ex-boyfriend who can’t accept you have left.’
‘I suppose the sergeant told you that,’ I say smiling.
‘He never even mentioned you. We were both hoping to see Maggie here. You were a surprise but a pleasant one. You must come to my flat on Rodney Street. It doubles as a studio. You can give me a professional opinion on my work. I’m afraid it’s a bit of a mess compared to this,’ she says grinning and waving an arm around the uncluttered sitting room. She hands me a card.
‘My flat is too,’ I say. I can’t go there for a while because I am sure his heavies will be waiting despite being warned off by the police.’ I glance at her. ‘You were quite right by the way, I did have a controlling boyfriend and basically escaped but he managed to trace me here.’
‘Well, if you need somewhere to hide, you can always come to Rodney Street,’ she says.
‘Why would you do that, you have only just met me,’ I say. ‘I could be completely deranged or some kind of freak for all you know.’
‘But you aren’t,’ she says smiling. ‘If you were, I would know.’
Sergeant Bannon returns frowning. ‘Looks like you are right,’ he says. ‘I have just gone through her wardrobe and chest of drawers and it looks like she has grabbed what she could and left in a hurry.’ He asks if I know if she has any relatives here. I shake my head and tell him that she never spoke about her parents, but that I had the impression that they are both dead.
‘She is quite a private person in many ways,’ I tell him. He asks if I know what her address in Ireland was. Again, I shake my head.
He looks resigned. ‘All we can do then is file a missing person report,’ he tells us both. ‘If you are staying here keep your eyes open for strangers and if she does get in touch, tell her that we need to speak to her urgently.’
A thought occurs to me. ‘I don’t suppose the Chinese spymasters could have something to do with her disappearance, could it?’ I stare at him searchingly.
He just shrugs. ‘It’s possible I suppose given that she would appear to be involved, no matter how unwillingly. At the moment we simply have no idea what has happened to her.’
He then asks if there has been any repeat of people threatening me. I tell him that it has all gone quiet thankfully. As they both leave, Naomi gives me a smile and tells me to give her a call.
I have a feeling that I will, sooner rather than later.