Chapter Twenty-Nine

The Star agency

January 30


‘I just don’t see the need for it,’ declares Richard holding up a new 10p coin and scowling. I have decided to do a vox pop on decimalisation in St Helens town centre this morning and I know Richard is implacably opposed to it, whereas Dot is all in favour. Whether he likes it or not he will have to get used to it because D day is looming. Officially, we will wave goodbye to the old coins on February 15 next year. We have already waved farewell to the halfpenny and the half-crown disappeared last December. It will be interesting to hear what people think, although I suspect the majority will be opposed to it. Anyway, I am going to send a team out led by Richard with Dot and another reporter, together with a photographer.

   ‘I can tell you this,’ says Richard. ‘Whatever the government says, prices will go up, you can bet on that. The only people who will benefit are big business and the Americans.’

   I ask him how the Americans come into the equation and he fixes me with a contemptuous stare. ‘Everyone knows that they are behind it, just because they don’t have the brains to figure out 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the Pound. What could be simpler?

    I smile. It’s an argument I’ve heard before. I tell him that it gets complex when you have to sort out sixpenny pieces, threepenny bits, half crowns, florins and some years ago you could have added farthings and groats to that.

   ‘Bring back the groat, that’s what I say,’ declares Richard at the same time giving Dot a winning smile who has just arrived at my desk. He tells her that they are going to town this morning to talk to the Great Unwashed about decimalisation.

   ‘Great,’ she says. ‘I will enjoy that.’

   ‘Bloody typical,’ mutters Richard. I wave them away saying that I want them back by lunchtime. Apart from the vox pop I also have the aftermath of yesterday’s power cut to deal with. It caused chaos because there was no warning and it was about the time when families were having their evening meal. Our phones never stopped ringing and the nationals were full of it this morning. Is this a sign of things to come I wonder? Anyway, I will also despatch a reporter to talk to the strikers. What everyone is asking is will there be repetitions. A sidebar story I also want to investigate may well be a few paragraphs on how much candle sales have increased from the local shops.

   It looks like being a really busy day which is just how I like it. All this has taken my mind off the events of yesterday. I know the threats aimed at Amy are all because of me and I hate the fact that Amy is being targeted in this way. Dianne was right, she and I do need to talk and I know one of the topics will be us moving in together, but I am honestly not sure whether it is the right time for that. One of the problems is that if she moved in with me it would be difficult for her to get to school and conversely if I moved in with her it would involve a daily drive to St Helens which is not ideal. Because of the unsocial hours I work I really need to be fairly close to the office.

   Maybe the trap that Lamplight and Willis have planned will bring it all to a close, but I have a feeling it won’t. I have increasingly felt in recent weeks that the killer and the note writer are two different people. I have no logical reason for believing that; it is just a gut feeling I have.

   I am sure the note writer is pursuing a personal vendetta against me for reasons I can only guess at, but we shall see. I will ring Lamplight later and see what he thinks.

   The mail arrives with the usual batch of press releases. I am leafing through them to see if there is anything vaguely important or interesting when Jerry Reynolds sidles up to my desk.

   ‘A lot going on today?’ he sniffs wiping his nose with the back of his shirt sleeve, a habit I find rather repulsive. Jerry is the boss and the owner of the agency which was started by his father in the 1930s. I know he has never worked for a newspaper and would struggle if he had to cover a court case. He is one of the reasons I want to leave. Pay is the other. I have heard on the pipeline that I am likely to be hearing from the Liverpool Echo in the near future which is another reason to bide my time as far as moving in with Amy is concerned. A move to the Echo would solve our problems.

   ‘I hope you are going to talk to the politicians about last night’s cuts,’ he mutters meaning the Tory opposition leader on the council, who I know is a personal friend. They play golf together I’m told.

   ‘Only if it’s pertinent,’ I say. ‘I place rather more importance on what the strikers have to say and why they took the action and, of course, it will be balanced by a response from management. You know the routine Jerry.’

   I know why he is so keen to include the Tory leader. It is because council elections are looming. He sniffs again and frowns, His goatee beard protruding out truculently. ‘I want him included,’ he snaps and is about to walk away. It is on the tip of my tongue to tell him to do it himself but decide this is not the time to create a confrontation. Instead, I tell him that there is something I have been meaning to talk to him about.

   Since the office is virtually deserted with everyone out on jobs, he sits down at the end of my desk and stares at me, expressionless. Perhaps he thinks I am about to hand in my notice. I wish I were.

   I tell him that around a year ago he promised that I would get a salary review if I had run the news desk successfully. Since there have been very few complaints, from him or indeed anyone else, I think I can justifiably claim to have done exactly that so I ask him when I can expect a salary review to bring me in line with other news editors.

   He clears his throat noisily. ‘Yes, you have been doing a good job,’ he concedes, ‘But you are still relatively inexperienced you know. Let’s see how things go and in another six months we can review your progress.’

   I stare at him. Is he serious? I have been doing this job for the best part of two years and have not had a pay rise since I was appointed news editor. I badly want to tell him to stuff his job. He has got me on the cheap and he knows it. I grit my teeth and ask him if that’s his last word on the matter. e has got me on the heap and he knows itH

  • He says it is and promptly walks away.

   Fine. At least I know where I stand. That has made my mind up for certain and he can fucking whistle as far as the Tory leader is concerned.

   I am furious. I know I am being taken for a ride by a man I have little respect for. I daresay he will find another sucker to take my place instead of appointing Richard, a real pro, who has forgotten more about journalism than Jerry ever learned. I am going to talk to Richard later and tell him to officially apply as soon as I hand my notice in. It’s worth a try, especially if I also put pressure on Jerry.

   I turn to the unopened mail on my desk. Most are addressed to the news editor, but I spot one addressed to me personally. I open it and take out a folded sheet of paper. It’s another note.

Mr Wilder

You must be getting really pissed off with me by now. How did the lovely Amy like my art on her bedroom mirror? Life must be getting pretty shitty for you especially since you and Lamplight are no nearer catching your killer.

But take heart, the best is yet to come. Think on your sins.

I stare at it. All I need is my watcher crowing about his latest misdeeds. What does he mean ‘the best is yet to come’, not to mention, ‘think on your sins’. What sins? I decide to ring Lamplight.

   He answers after some delay and sounds impatient. I don’t beat bout the bush and tell him immediately about the new note and read it out to him. He says he was sorry to hear about the events in Amy’s flat and asks if she is able to stay somewhere else. I tell him that she is staying with a friend for the time being. I ask him what his thoughts are about this morning’s note.

   ‘My first impression is that he appears to be stepping things up,’ Lamplight says thoughtfully. ‘Amy’s flat yesterday and a note to you today. That is actually a good thing in my view because the more notes he sends the more likely he is to make mistakes and inadvertently tell us things that may lead us to him. Take the line about catching the killer, for example, that implies that it is somebody else.’

   I say that it may, of course, be deliberate in trying to make us think he is not the killer. ‘True,’ admits Lamplight. ‘It will be revealing when we set the trap. Whoever turns up to silence you will be the killer, but he may also be your watcher.’ There is a slight pause. ‘Are you still up for that Keith?’

   I tell him that I am and the sooner the better. I say that I am heartily sick of it all and deeply regret picking up the phone that night just two weeks ago.

   ‘It wouldn’t have made any difference,’ says Lamplight. ‘If he were determined to target you, he would have done so anyway – always assuming of course that the man on the phone is the same person as your watcher. And as far as the trap is concerned, we are talking about launching that in a week or so. We will be in touch of course.’

   I turn back to the note and read it yet again. I tell him that there is one ominous bit that makes me uneasy: it is the bit about the best is yet to come. That means he has something planned and it is certainly something I will not like.

   I wouldn’t worry. ‘says Lamplight soothingly. ‘It’s probably all talk.’

   ‘Think on your sins,’ says the note finally. I must have upset somebody pretty drastically for him to go to all this trouble. Who could it possibly be?

%d bloggers like this: