Chapter Seventeen

Naomi

Day 18

I am back in Rodney Street after our visit to Maggie’s place. Steve has returned to Admiral Street to file a missing person report. I did consider telling him and Emma what I ‘saw’ when I gave her a brief reading a few days ago and obviously it has occurred to me that her disappearance may be leading up to that but as I swiftly pointed out at the time, I had no idea whose death was foretold. It just doesn’t work like that except in rare cases, but then I would never tell the person concerned.

   Anyway, while I was in her flat, I found something of hers, a bracelet that was on her dressing table which I held it for a minute or two and while I could not tell where she is, I am quite certain that she is alive. That being so it follows that she has ‘disappeared’ for a very good reason and that it is almost certainly connected to her past life in Ireland.

   Why Mr Button of Special Branch should think she has anything to do with whatever is going on with the Chinese is beyond me. And I should not forget that he took a most unwelcome interest in me too. Yes, I have one or two Chinese friends like so many people in this city which has the oldest Chinese community in Europe, but that does not mean we are all intent on spying for the Chinese government.

   Despite Maggie’s colourful past life, or perhaps because of it, I instantly liked her and I hope she doesn’t come to any harm with whatever she is involved in. I know the police are keen to talk to her and Steve has not explained why. Despite us being close friends, he can be like that where police matters are concerned.

   The buzzer sounds. Before I can ask who is there, a voice says gruffly ‘It’s me.’ That means it’s Joe, the second man in my life – sort of! I open the door slightly and he walks through in just a couple of minutes. He must have run up the two flights of stairs.

   ‘You must have something important to tell me to run up those stairs,’ I say grinning. ‘Are you getting married or something equally unimportant?

   ‘God no,’ he says, looking horrified at the thought. ‘I just thought you might like to know there was all kinds of drama in college this morning. Police everywhere: students lining up to be questioned, especially our Chinese friends. They even questioned me,’ he says indignantly.

   ‘I’m not surprised,’ I say, digging him in the ribs. ‘They are hardly likely to pass up an opportunity like that, an old-fashioned class warrior like you. I wouldn’t be surprised if Special Branch have a file on you.’ I wasn’t being serious of course but nevertheless Joe smiles at the thought.

   ‘What sort of questions were they asking?’

   ‘They were extremely interested in the lecturer you’ve met – Maggie Taylor. They wanted to know everything about her; what she taught, any clues about her private life, how well we know her – that kind of thing.’

   There must be more to it than the Chinese conspiracy, if indeed there is one. How could Maggie be involved in that? It just doesn’t make sense.

   I look at Joe seriously. ‘They have been here to question me too, or at least one of them has. A smoothy by the name of Button. I got the distinct impression he is in charge.’

   ‘They’ve questioned you,’ says Joe incredulously. ‘They surely don’t think you are involved in spying?’ He laughs at the thought.

   ‘I have no idea,’ I tell him. ‘They wanted to know what Maggie and I talked about on the two occasion I met her.’ I shrug resignedly. ‘I can’t say I liked him much.’

   ‘What did your copper friend have to say about it?’ Joe smirks.

   ‘There is nothing he can do about it. Special Branch rule the roost apparently.’

   ‘They’re all pigs,’ he says contemptuously. ‘I don’t know why you have anything to do with him.’

   ‘He’s a decent man,’ I say. ‘And we have worked on a couple of high-profile cases in the past. I trust him just as much as I trust you,’ I add diplomatically.

   ‘That is not going to help you if the spooks get their fangs into you, is it?’ He’s right, of course, it isn’t, but that is hardly Steve’s fault. Before I can think of a pertinent reply, the buzzer sounds. I ask who is there.

   ‘Button from Special Branch,’ comes the reply.

   ‘It’s him,’ I mouth to Joe as I buzz him in. I keep my apartment door closed. He can ring the bell. It’s a protest, albeit a small and probably a completely pointless one.

   A minute or so later the bell rings. Mr Button is obviously not in a hurry so I motion Joe to sit on the sofa as I take my time opening the door.

   Button walks in without looking at me and is followed by a woman who I recognise as the unpleasant woman in CID. I forget her name.

   ‘You didn’t say you had someone with you.’ I murmur.

   ‘This is DC Fairchild,’ he says nodding in her direction.

   ‘We’ve met,’ she says evenly staring stonily at me.

   ‘Why have you come with reinforcements?’ I ask sitting by the table. I don’t invite them to sit.

   ‘Pigs are pigs,’ mutters Joe.

   ‘And who might you be?’ Button says staring at him.

   ‘None of your fucking business,’ says Joe standing up and facing Button.

   ‘His name is Joe Halsall,’ I say, trying to defuse a potentially explosive situation. Joe glares at me.,’

   ‘Oh yes, now I remember you,’ says Button with a sneering smile. ‘The class warrior studying psychology with a lot of half-baked opinions.’ He turns to Fairchild. ‘Interesting combination, don’t you think detective constable. A lady with one foot in the afterlife and a student who thinks he has all the answers to this life.’ They both snigger.

   ‘If ever there was a nest of spies, I would think they would have to qualify Sir,’ says Fairchild. ‘Exactly the kind of people who will undermine the state if you ask me. We should take them in for questioning in my view.’

   ‘Why Exactly have you come here?’ I ask holding my hand up before Joe can intervene. ‘I imagine there is a reason for your visit other than insulting perfectly innocent people? I can tell you that I will be talking to chief inspector Salisbury about your behaviour. I don’t think he will be too impressed.’

   Button shrugs nonchalantly. Fairchild no doubt thinks she is fireproof if she is with him. We shall see.

   ‘I am not convinced that you have been entirely truthful about your contacts with Maggie Taylor,’ he says.

   ‘I met her briefly twice,’ I say. ‘I have no idea where she is or what is going on with her. You can question me for as long as you like but I cannot tell you what I do not know.’

   ‘Maybe it would make a difference if we did it down at the station under caution,’ says Fairchild to Button. They both stare at me.

   I can feel myself becoming angry which is not good because things can happen that are out of my control.

   ‘What can you possibly charge me with,’ I say, struggling to stay calm.

   ‘How about attempting to pervert the course of justice,’ says Fairchild.

   ‘Fucking nonsense,’ shouts Joe. ‘I think you should say nothing else Naomi without a solicitor.

   ‘He’s right and you both know it,’ I say struggling to stay calm.

   ‘The problem, you see, is that if you had just met her once I could accept that you know little about her. But you met her twice and the second time she sat down with you and you did your psychic stuff so you must have told her things and she, no doubt, revealed things about herself, her past and so on.’

   ‘How do you know that?’ I ask him. He doesn’t answer. Fairchild stares at me, a triumphant half-smile on her face.

   ‘So, you’ve been following her.’ I shake my head. ‘What I told her was deeply personal and can have no bearing on spy rings, Chinese or otherwise and I can only repeat what I have said before. I have no idea where she is or why she has vanished.’ I pause and glare at Fairchild.

   ‘Take me to the station if you like but I will only repeat what I have just said but I will call a lawyer who will read the riot act to you. So will Salisbury I shouldn’t wonder, so on your own head be it.’

   Fairchild looks at Button who gives her a barely perceptible shake of his head. ‘We will be back,’ she snaps. ‘I would advise you Miss Richards to co-operate in your own best interest.’

   As she stares at me, a vivid picture forms in my mind and a message comes through quite clearly.

   ‘I am sorry about your baby,’ I tell her. ‘He says he forgives you.’

   She stares at me, her eyes wide. She has gone pale. She turns and rushes from the room without another word. Button looks confused and stares after her. He glances at me and follows her slowly.

   ‘What was all that about?’ asks Joe grinning.

   ‘Something I think she would rather forget,’ I say slowly.

   ‘Pair of bastards,’ he mutters.

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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