THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ZENA SAXBY Part 3/3

CHAPTER TWELVE

FRIDAY

Maddy rang Mrs. Saxby on Friday morning. She asked if she or Zena knew anyone fitting the description that Nicola Chamberlain had given.

“I can only think of Joss Saxby, brother of Peter, although I can’t remember about his age,” said Mrs. Saxby after thinking for a while, then said vaguely, “you’ll have to go and ask Saxby about his age,” she said.

“Okay, Mrs Saxby. Thanks.”

* * * *

Maddy considered: she needed to visit more estate agents, to visit Zena’s school and to visit Nigel in hospital. She needed to phone the papers to check if Julia Robinson had put an advert in the accommodation wanted columns. She also needed to visit Peter Saxby; she’d get the worst done first.

She was about to depart when the phone rang. She picked up the receiver and heard a voice she didn’t recognise. It was macho, gruff, sandpapery.

“Is that Maddy Quebric?”

“Yes.”

“If you….want to know about Zena Saxby come to the top floor of the Haymarket Shopping Centre. The car park. I’ll tell you everything.”

“W-Who are you?”

“I’ll explain later. Just come to the Haymarket shopping centre at eleven o’clock.”

“How do I know it’s not a trick?”

“You don’t. Come alone and don’t tell anyone. I’ll tell you everything you want to know.”

The line was cut.

Maddy put down the receiver carefully.

* * * *

She looked at her watch. It was 9.15. She had plenty of time to get to Peter Saxby’s and also to get to the car park.

The car park? Was she going to go?

The third floor of a multi-story sounded ominous. His telephone voice hadn’t sounded very gentle either. Who did it belong to? She couldn’t place it.

Dangerous?

Somehow she felt it was. She wouldn’t go. She’d go to Peter Saxby’s and follow her original itinery. But she was turning the invitation over again. Perhaps she was being over-cautious, maybe even letting someone in trouble down. A simple visit to the theatre car park to obtain all the answers she needed was very tempting.

She stood up still not quite sure what to do. Then she decided to postpone the decision until later. She’d tell her mum where she was going in case anything went wrong. She went through to the kitchen but found her mum had gone out. Probably over to the neighbour’s.

She scribbled a note on a blue pad with a blotchy ball point: ‘Gone to Peter Saxby’s, then probably to the Haymarket shopping centre car park. If I don’t telephone by twelve o’clock you must phone the police to come and find me, your ever-loving daughter, Maddy.’ She laid both pen and note on the kitchen working surface hoping that the note wouldn’t worry her mother too much. Maddy left by the front door and walked down Meadvale to the bus stop.

As the bus headed off to the city centre there were two things Maddy wasn’t aware of. The first was that her mother wouldn’t read the note until one o’clock and the second was that a man on a motor bike was following her.

* * * *

Unshaven and still wearing the same smelly clothes that Maddy had last seen him in, Peter Saxby stood at the door, his moist eyes begging silent questions.

“Hello again,” she said, “How are you today, Mr. Saxby?.”

“Oh aye.”

He was rather pathetic. She couldn’t understand why she’d been so frightened of him before.

“Have you got a fag?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“A clean livin’ lass, eh? Look, lend me a couple of quid for a day or two. I need some snout”

“Uh, listen, Mr. Saxby, I believe you have a brother, Joss, aged about fifty?”

Peter Saxby’s eyes glazed as if he had completely become unaware of Maddy’s presence.

“….Mr. Saxby?”

His face showed no response. Nothing. She tried again louder.

“What, my gairl? I’m sorry now. What’s that you wair saying?”

“Joss, Mr. Saxby, how old is Joss?”

“Joss? My brother? Why? He’s about forty seven. Somethen’ like that.”

“Is he fat?”

“Not seen him for years. He wasn’t then.”

“Was he plump?”

“Skinny as me. Well, not quite.”

“Did he know Zena well?”

The question-answer locomotion had stalled again. It took Maddy several more prompts to get him answering again.

“Joss? Yes, when she was a little girl.”

“Where does Joss live? I want his address.”

“Don’t have it,” he said. He was coming back again. “I used to know his address in Cork, but he sold up and went to live in New York.”

“New York? America?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Oh that’s him virtually disqualified then,” Maddy sighed, “he’s skinny, not fifty and lives the other side of the world.”

“What’s that?” asked Peter Saxby.

“Nothing.”

Maddy had an idea. She still wanted a good look at his wellies.

“Hey, Mr. Saxby, I’ve just remembered….look…” She searched out several pound coins from the back pocket of her jeans.

She was going to suggest that she would wait while he went out to get the cigarettes but she didn’t have time: he had gone. He had left her in his room and had hurried off down the stairs.

Watching from the window, Maddy watched him zip up St. James Street. As her eyes followed Peter Saxby up the road they failed to notice a man who sat patiently on a wall further along.

* * * *

She replaced the boots back under the kitchen table after examining them. They appeared to be innocent. They had no tread and the soles had a rounded distinctive shape.

It was ten twenty five.

She still wasn’t sure what to do.

She left the flat, skipped down the staircase and went out into St. James Street.

She decided she would go. But she’d take another precaution: she’d phone Corky. It rang for ages but no answer. She would have rung James but she didn’t have his phone number.

She didn’t want to meet the owner of the gruff, sandpaper voice unless someone knew about it. She had left a message with her mother. Was it sufficient? Probably not. She’d phone Hanson. It was probably the wisest thing to do. She’d seen so many stupid girls in stupid TV films go to stupid rendevous at the beckon of a telephone call and end up stupidly dead or worse.

She dialed.

“Inspector Hanson is out at present. He’s just gone out.”

“Can I leave a message for him. Its quite important.”

“I’ll put you through to his section.”

The dialing beeps of another phone could be heard, as if it were ringing underwater. A younger woman’s voice was on the line.

“Hello, I want to leave a message for Detective Inspector Hanson. It’s about the Zena Saxby case.”

“Oh yes. Okay, fire away.”

“Tell him, Maddy Quebric is meeting a man at the top of the Haymarket Shopping Centre, on the car park, at 11.00a.m. The man says he has all the answers to the Zena Saxby case.”

“Will do,” she said matter of factly, and repeated the message. “I doubt if Detective Hanson will be back from Loughborough within 15 minutes but I’ll give it to Detective McTavish.”

Maddy remembered the name.

“Don’t forget.”

Maddy slipped out of the phone box onto the pavement, a conveyor belt of pedestrians heading towards the centre of Leicester. In the throng she felt even more anonymous – just a nameless face in the crowd. But the man some way behind her knew both her name and her face.

* * * *

Leicester was hot and busy. Pedestrians and drivers made angry signs and mouthed inaudible obscenities at each other as they fought to possess the road. Noise was everywhere: thousands of heels clicked on the pavements; bargain hunters babbled unintelligibly; vehicles regularly complained with their brakes at lights, crossings and other obstacles.

Maddy bustled along Granby Street avoiding the on-coming crowd as best as she could. She flurried past a corner building which looked like a cinema, passed beneath the bulwarks of another building which hung over her like a giant apple barrel on its side. She passed a puce-fronted pub, a bale of hay on its sign. She passed a Midland’s Bank.

It was now 10.50.

She pushed her way through an untidy snake of people in a bus queue, and sped by a shop for brides. For a moment Corky and James came into her mind.

She traversed a zebra crossing, caught the tantalizing smell of a passing girl’s tray of chips and baked beans. She passed a camping shop and a building that resembled a deserted cinema. She was held up by traffic pulling out from a side street. She passed a kebab house, and the Grand Hotel, with its fairy tale facade and a spirited tower. She was only half way there. She looked at her watch. It was 10.55. She was beginning to regret her previous indecision. She wanted to know the answers.

Barely short of breaking into a run she sped up. She was briefly delayed by a pelican crossing. Once over she sped through a single file walk-way under scaffolding and crossed again. She was in the hub of Leicester where buses unsuspectingly crept up from behind and tried to run you down; where cherry trees and trendy shops blossomed: Jean Jeannie, Top Shop. All the shoe heels around the market place were a thousand out-of-time castanets.

She was in Humberstone Gate. She passed the clock tower, passed a girl saying, “See you Rebecca,” and an old woman who was leaning back against the brick litter bin, asking, “Is ‘ee all reet?” Then she was under precinct trees, the shadows of their branches briefly cutting out the sun from her eye lids. She sped past a newspaper vendor, and a crowd of skinheads and punks. On she went, unconscious of the distant whistle of buses, the over-familiar squeaking breaks, the Elizabethan roofs of the Western Jean Company. She turned right, past a man wearing a blue checked shirt, past the corner of a night club and turned into the Haymarket Shopping Centre.

* * * *

The woman at Charles Street Police Station took the message she had written down for Maddy into Mctavish’s section.

“He’s just popped out for a Mars Bar,” someone said cheerily.

She left the message in his in-tray and returned to her work on her own floor.

Constable Franks came in the door.

* * * *

Maddy walked along the tiled walls of the centre; she passed two chain stores and a photographic shop and found herself in a large enclosure surrounded by neon lights, escalators, glass and metal barriers and shops galore. She was two minutes late.

She ascended a staircase which led, according to signposts, up to the second level car park.

She climbed past more chocolate block tiles, and reached for the brass stair-rails to aid her climb. First floor. More stairs and then she turned left and through a door.

She came out onto the car park.

* * * *

Constable Franks was not normally clumsy. Everyone agreed later it had been the careless position of the in-tray that had made it topple over. If it had been properly placed in the centre of the desk the slight nudge of his elbow as he passed would have had no effect.

The paper contents of the in-tray went flying. Several of the staff helped him to collect all the pieces of paper strewn about the floor.

“What about the order of all the documents?” Franks said, his face showing his anxiety about McTavish’s temper.

“There’s nothing you can do. He’ll have to be told it’s all been mixed up. He’ll have to sort through it, so that he can deal with each note, memoranda, or whatever, in its order of priority,” said the sergeant.

“Are you going to tell him I knocked it over.?” asked Franks squeamishly.

The sergeant laughed, “You don’t think I’m going to tell him I did it, do you?”

“Oh cripes, here he is.”

* * * *

Maddy came out into the sunshine, onto the roof of the shopping centre. Car parking space spread around her in all directions; ahead were the roofs of Charles Street and behind the roofs of Humberstone Gate. Higher buildings blocked Leicester’s view on the right. She couldn’t see anybody so she sat on the steps that led up to the King of Club’s night club and waited.

The car park, like the street below, was busy. It was almost completely full of vehicles and an occasional owner would either depart or arrive by the central lifts or the stairs.

Maddy’s looked at her watch. It was five past eleven. Had she arrived too late?

She looked up again. No, she hadn’t.

Oh dear. This didn’t look too good.

* * * *

After giving Franks a burst of howling abuse McTavish sat down and began to order the contents of his in-tray. He put the most important things into one pile and less important things into a secondary pile. He accomplished this very quickly, sorted them all through again to check he had everything in order and then got up and left the room.

But Maddy’s message remained unread: when the tray had been upset it had floated underneath a filing cabinet and become hidden.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The thinner of the two youths that approached Maddy was about twenty five. His long mustard hair hung untidily over his collar. His face was in need of a shave and, in contrast to his strange red-rimmed eyes, wore a vacant wasted expression. His leather jacket was partly covered in metal studs and rock group transfers. How he could wear a leather jacket over a denim one in this heat Maddy couldn’t comprehend.

The other was dressed similarly but with a different choice of transfers and an extra belt. Whereas his partner was skinny and of medium height this one was short and spherical. His face was neither marked nor deformed but was swamped in billows of doughnut flesh: tennis balls packed his cheeks. Tufts of black toothbrush, like growths, sprouted from his unshaven chin. He was not pretty.

“Come with us,” the thin one said to Maddy, now standing over her. His weasel-like eyes were active and filched around, looking everywhere but at her.

“I’m happy sitting here thanks. If you’ve got something to tell me, tell me here.”

The one with the bulldog ripples of fat threw a glance at his leaner companion. Weasel Eyes nodded. Bulldog Fat sat down on the step next to Maddy and spoke. It had been his voice that had made the phone call. “If you know what’s good for you, you come with us. Okay? There’s too many people round here.”

“You can always whisper,” she said, whispering herself. Her throat was getting drier. She knew instinctively that these were those who had put Nigel in hospital.

“Move,” rasped Bulldog Fat in her ear. “Or I’ll tear you arm off.”

“Come with us and we’ll tell you everything you want to know,” said the thin Weasel Eyes.

Perhaps they would, but an invitation to have your arm torn off didn’t make her feel too optimistic.

As she got to her feet Bulldog Fat did also. Weasel Eyes led the way.

With Maddy tightly Indian-filed between them, they moved forward and to the left between the parked cars. Maddy was led past the entrance to the back of the car park. They approached the small four foot barrier separating the car park from a three story drop into the street below. Maddy hoped desperately that McTavish was on his way.

Maddy didn’t want to go near the car park edge. She hated heights.

Don’t panic.

They surely wouldn’t hurt me in daylight.

They almost murdered Nigel.

Perhaps they weren’t the same bikers.

Over the edge and it would be an accident.

Don’t be daft.

They could never get away in time.

Keep calm.

As they neared the barrier she could see down into the street below: distant red Chinese characters of a shop front loomed up at an odd angle disorientating her. She felt giddy, faint. She was in deep trouble. She was too terrified to either run or cry out.

“Get in the corner.” Weasel Eyes had turned, spoke and was now pointing. Less cars were parked in this area, being the furthest parking space from the ramps.

“What’s all this about?” she said.

Weasel eyes smirked and looked at Bulldog fat. Then he looked back at Maddy and pointed over the edge.

“If you get near me I’ll scream,” said Maddy.

“People usually do scream when they’re going to die”

That was enough: Maddy dashed for it. Despite planning to run like quicksilver her legs were lead. She collided into Bulldog Fat who stepped in her way.

Bulldog Fat blocked her to the left as Weasel Eyes did in front. At her back was a brick wall and to the right was a barrier and fifty foot drop into the city’s traffic.

“I’m here to tell you about Zena Saxby,” said Weasel Eyes. “When we’ve done that we’re going to push you over there.” He pointed to the barrier. “It’s no use you screaming. There’s too much noise down there for anyone to hear you.”

They wouldn’t do it.

They might.

Stall them. The only answer. McTavish will be here soon.

Weasel Eyes continued, “I have only one thing to tell you….” He stepped in closer. Bulldog Fat moved in from the left.

Maddy had to think of something clever now. She’d never been in a position like this – had never imagined it could happen. Detection was a game in the head, like Cluedo, or like the stories of Sherlock homes. Nobody could really want to hurt her.

“…forget about Zena Saxby.”

She strained her dry throat. “Zena?”

“Exactly,” said Weasel Eyes. “You’re getting the message.” He moved in closer again, and Bulldog Fat followed suit. She was boxed in between the four foot barrier and the brick wall.

“We just want you to have a look below,” said Weasel Eyes and both of the youths grabbed her violently and swung her round to face the barrier. Palms were pressed against her back and she felt her legs give way. She fell against the top of the barrier which collided with her stomach, winding her. Her head hung over into the chasm, as did her arms and dangling hands. From below if anyone had cared to look up they would have seen a girl simply fooling about, watching passers by – it would have taken a lot of imagination to perceive a potential suicide.

As she was jerked into position the scream that had been inhibited by fear at last came out. Terrifying, desperate and with a passion for staying alive that Maddy didn’t know she had, it rang over the street and round the back of the car park.

But loud as it was, noise rises. And down below, no one looked up.

“Have a good look,” said Weasel Eyes.

Gasping for breath Maddy kept her eyes closed as tightly as possible. If she opened them she knew she’d faint, and then she would not have even the slimmest chance.

“She’s shut her eyes,” she heard Bulldog Fat say.

“She’d better open them again,” said Weasel Eyes.

What can I do? Where was McTavish? Or Corky, James? Had her mother phoned the police? No, it wasn’t twelve yet.

“Grab her leg and I’ll grab the other and we’ll tip her over,” said Weasel sniggering.

“C’mon,” said Bulldog, “Let’s get it over.”

Grab her leg.”

Maddy screamed again and as they grabbed her legs she opened her eyes.

Down below she saw a yawning death. The magnetism of gravity was already sucking at her head and shoulders and enticing her to fall, slowly, lingeringly, to be bashed by the walls of the buildings while descending, and to be finally crushed to pulp by the concrete paving slabs below. She saw the teeming colonies of humans below her, none responding to her gesturing and screaming. She must bite, kick, fight, anything. Everything was swimming in her head. No building looked at the correct angle. She retched as they started lifting her legs.

Her only contact with solid earth was the concrete barrier which lay under stomach pivoting her legs and head and chest. She tried to grab the barrier with her hands to push herself back but even this proved fruitless, they were so much stronger then her.

She tried to kick and twirl but again she was defeated by their strength and grip.

Then she noticed the pipe, like a water pipe running down vertically. It led to the next floor. But she’d never be able to reach it.

The higher they lifted her legs the more she felt her body slipping over. They had now gradually lifted her legs past the horizontal position.

Maddy, who didn’t believe in God, started praying fervently.

“Who’s Zena Saxby?” asked Weasel Eyes. He had to shout twice in Maddy’s ear to get a response.

“Zena…..Zena who?”

“You’re beginning to get the message,” he said again.

Suddenly she found herself going, slipping, dropping. They had released her legs and her knees stung as they hit the hard surface. Her stomach slid off the barrier and the combined weight dragged her arms and head back. Her chin jolted onto the concrete barrier and she bloodily bit her tongue. They had dropped her back on to the car-park.

She crumpled up in pain, with no restraining hands on her.

“If you ever mention that girl’s name again, or if you continue trying to find her you’ll go over the wall,” said Weasel Eyes.

She didn’t speak.

He kicked her heavily in the thigh.

“Understand.”

She lay there crying.

“We’re going to make sure you understand.”

Weasel Eyes turned to Bulldog and nodded his head. They both stooped down and pulled her up. As she had difficulty standing, they had to prop her up in the corner again and stand close.

“Come on,” said Bulldog Fat to Weasel Eyes. “We’re taking too long, someone might notice us. Let’s get it done.”

Weasel Eyes said, “We’re warning you. We mean it. Just to make sure you remember we’re going to leave you with a little souvenir.” He pointed to Bulldog Fat, “this expert is going to decorate a part of your face.”

A steel sabre shaped blade of a large penknife was slowly being fanned out from its black plastic sheath, and was now coming up towards Maddy’s face. Weasel grabbed her tightly, while Bulldog put the cold metal point on her left cheek.

“Now listen, darlin’,” said Bulldog Fat to his victim. “If you move you’ll end up with a face like a chopped up tomato. If you stay still you’ll simply have a pretty scar that will remind you of us. So just remember that.”

He pushed the blade into Maddy’s skin. She was so exhausted and had so much pain in her knees, stomach and bleeding tongue that she didn’t even understand what he was saying. Everything was going round.

Then her head was gripped by Weasel Eyes. She wanted to faint, to collapse, to sleep, to not exist. As Bulldog put his knife shallowly into her cheek drawing his third line she started to feel her face burn. The realisation of what he was doing hit her. With all the energy that remained she squealed. It sounded as if it came from someone else, a long way off. A dirty handkerchief was stuck in her mouth to plug up the wail.

“Hurry up,” said Weasel Eyes, “I can’t hold her much longer.”

“Only one more. It’s a work of art, this one.”

He was half way along his fourth line of blood when his knife froze. A voice was shouting.

“This is the police. We are armed. You are surrounded. Give yourselves up. One at a time.”

Bulldog’s knife instantly dropped, point side up, to his side. Weasel Eyes muttered an incantation of abuse and dropped Maddy’s head.

“We’ll split up,” said Weasel eyes. “You go that way, I’ll go this.” He quickly fell down on all fours and moved off.

But Bulldog Fat didn’t move. He remained stationary as he watched Weasel Eyes weave his crouched body away between parked cars.

Looking down he caught Maddy on the ground staring up at him.

“You brought the police along, you bitch!” he spat.

* * * *

“Come out with your arms up, one at a time,” shouted the voice. It didn’t sound right somehow. Maddy couldn’t understand why. Didn’t they usually shout through a megaphone?

Bulldog moved to the barrier and looked over. No way was he going down there. Like Maddy he also suffered from a healthy fear of heights. But like Maddy earlier he noticed a pipe well secured to the wall which had a number of collars and supports that could provide valuable hand and footholds. After climbing down about eight feet he could slip over the barrier on the next floor and escape by losing himself below in the crowds.

He looked back at Maddy watching him; she obviously intended to sabotage his descent; drop something on him, pull away the pipe, or something else to make him fall the moment he started down.

And yet she looked pretty harmless and the supports looked solid and what could she drop on him; there were no heavy objects around except cars.

The voice was closer.

“This is the police. We have your friend. Give yourself up. Throw away any weapons you have and walk forward with your hands up.”

He walked up to Maddy and savagely kicked at her head, to prevent any trickery from her, but she saw it coming and moved just in time to avoid it. His foot hit crunched into red brick.

“If you don’t give yourself up on the count of five we will be forced to resort to the use of fire arms.”

That was enough.

He hunched himself carefully into a sitting position on the barrier and swung his legs round so that they hung over the street. He was beginning to doubt the sanity of his plan, beads of sweat were quickly forming on his forehead. He took a deep breath and quickly, but carefully rolled himself over so that his stomach was on the eighteen inch wide barrier top. His feet groped for a foothold on the two inch ledge below him, but before making contact he had to descend three terrifying inches; his arms gradually straightening as he did so. His grip of the barrier remained desperately firm as his feet slipped down to feel their way.

Now that he was standing on the ledge he was going to have to look down.

The pipe joined the guttering that was attached two inches below the ledge he stood on. He needed to get his hands around it but his hands were the furthest point of his body away from it; his feet being only a matter of inches. He couldn’t look down and study his problem for long because it made him panicky. He took another deep breath. Must keep cool.

He wasn’t down far enough from the barrier to obscure his view of the car park and he still couldn’t see any police. Perhaps it was safer to risk being shot, or caught than climbing down from this height. Maddy was still kneeling, blinking, staring at him, eyes like a vixen. She’s going to push me off the ledge, he thought, but she was making no movement.

I must get to the pipe before she comes over, before she can reach me. And there was a man approaching, a man in a light jacket, wearing a tie, about thirty, obviously a cop.

He looked down again. If the pay-off of failure wasn’t so great he could make it to the pipe. But it was and it stripped him of his confidence. Back to the car park. He’d fight it out. He’d made a mistake.

His arms were tiring of holding him against the barrier. He couldn’t let go but he needed extra leverage to hoist his stomach onto the barrier. He thrust himself upward, forward pulling against the rough textured concrete, attempting to haul himself over. As the man came running closer Bulldog found his stomach on the barrier, and his feet dangling away again over the street. He was almost over. Just hang on and heave. But he was slipping. The leather was sliding away. Where’s the ledge? Don’t panic; find the ledge. But his feet couldn’t find the ledge, and his leather was still slipping, and he had no support to push or pull against for his arms were sliding too, and his foot crashed through a section of plastic guttering. His feet had passed the ledge! He was going. He felt a immovable force on his jaw as it crashed against the barrier and slid away rapidly following the rest of him. His hand grabbed at the elusive pipe as his body fell but it hit it at such an obtuse angle that it was gone.

Tumbling, falling, waiting for death, a hundred years, a second, a kneeling girl’s eyes. I won’t try this, I’ll give myself up, he thought. This is stupid; I am falling. I won’t die. Anyone can make a mistake….

* * * *

At the hospital Maddy was given a thorough examination. Eventually after she’d been fed with tranquillisers she had her cheek treated.

“It will heal,” the doctor had said.

“I won’t be scarred for ever?”

“Not if it’s kept clean.”

Maddy was now sitting in a small hospital room facing Detective Inspector Hanson, and the policeman who’d been with him on their first meeting,

“Now let’s clear this up,” Hanson was saying, “You seem to be under the misunderstanding that Inspector McTavish sent a team of police officers to the car park. That wasn’t so. The only policeman who was there was PC Kean here. He’d been following you all day on my orders. After visiting you yesterday I decided that a tail on you for a week might prove useful. You’re lucky I did. I told you last Thursday you may well get hurt. I don’t think I need to repeat my warnings now.”

“You are lucky,” said the constable, “I was beginning to think I had lost you. When I saw you squashed up in the corner with those two animals I wasn’t sure what to do. I had no radio on me so I thought my best chance was to bluff them to come out one at a time: I’m trained at unarmed combat and I could use their belts to bind them up. I arrived when I saw the knife at your face then I was forced to act quickly.

“Anyway,you know the rest. This yobbo stupidly climbed over the wall and then tried to climb back but….he didn’t make it. I’ve never heard a scream like that before. He’s a dead as a dodo. I lost the other one.”

“I think the time has come for you to tell me everything you know about Zena Saxby now, don’t you? Everything,” said Hanson.

Maddy’s eyelids were tired, leaden.

“Yes. Okay,” she said.

“Right, where do you want to start?”

“Tomorrow.”

“That’s not good enough?”

“I’ll tell you everything, I promise. I’m too tired now. I was given some pills. I’m…..”

“You’re excellent at delaying tactics, Miss Quebric. If you don’t give it to me straight from the mouth tomorrow morning I’ll throw the book at you. And I can do!”

“Yes.”

“I’m booked up until 11.00, so come in then,” he said.

“I’ll be there at eleven,” said Maddy. “I’ll come in and tell you everything I know. After today I don’t want to have anything to do with this case again.”

“Alright. You’ve had a rough time. I’ll do you a favour and drive you home. Okay?”

“Okay,” said Maddy, feeling grateful.

* * * *

“I was so worried by Maddy’s note,” said Mrs. Quebric to Detective Inspector Hanson later. “Thank God, she’s alright. I know she’s been looking for Zena Saxby, but I never thought anything serious would come of it.”

“You weren’t here when I came to see your daughter last Tuesday. I warned her that she might get hurt. But you know what she’s like; eager and headstrong. Fancies herself as a detective; so she goes round treading on toes. She’s obviously upset someone and these thugs were trying to frighten her off.”

“Let’s hope they’ve been successful.”

“You must make sure she gets to my office, at Charles Street Police Station, at eleven o’clock tomorrow morning.”

“Yes. Of course.”

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

SATURDAY

“You stupid fool!” shouted Corky.

“Don’t go on.”

“You’re mad!”

“Oh shut up!” shouted Maddy down the phone, losing her patience.” How did you find out about it?”

“Hanson told me about them attacking you. He was at the hospital last night interviewing Nigel.”

“Oh. So Nigel can talk at last.”

“There’s nothing much to tell. Nigel didn’t have much to say. His jaw is fixed but it’s still painful for him to talk.”

“Did you find out what he wanted to tell me before he went into a coma.”

“No. James and I got there first. Nigel seemed bright at first, but then he became like a dumb cabbage. Five minutes later Hanson arrived to interview him. We were asked to leave so we listened from behind the screen.”

“Did Nigel remember the attack?”

“Only vaguely. During this time Hanson made a comment to the other cop about the same gang getting you on the car park that day! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I dashed for the phone and rang you. Your mum explained what had happened. She said you were fast asleep but alright.”

“So you missed the police interview with Nigel?”

“Some of it – but James stayed near the screen with his ears open. Nigel was pretty useless, he couldn’t remember anything.

“Hanson knows about our visit to the station,” said Corky, “He asked me if I often broke into left luggage lockers.”

“He’ll know a lot more soon. Do you know what I’ve got to do?”

“Tell me.”

“I’ve got to tell him everything. I’m meeting him at eleven. What happened really frightened me. I hate to admit it: I’m giving up.”

“Good idea.”

“Is that all you can say?”

“Yes. They are the police and this case is big time stuff.”

“You didn’t believe I’d ever solve it, did you?” said Maddy.

There was a pause.

“I don’t think I ever really wanted to get involved.” said Corky.

“You understand why we had to, don’t you?”

“Why?”

“You know, just overcoming the puzzle, pitting our wits against a mystery that’s been thrown in our laps. Surely it was given to test us?”

“Test us?” said Corky trying not to laugh.

“Yes.”

“But I don’t want to be tested.”

Maddy was thrown by this comment. It disturbed her; it awoke in her the possibility of a difference between them. She felt a loneliness for a passing moment.

“You don’t quite understand.”

“Yes I do. You like being tested, I don’t.”

“No, really….. I hate exams.”

“But you just said you like being tested.”

“But that’s different. This is solving a puzzle. Its like scratching an itch. After you’ve done it you feel better.”

“Yes, or course. I know that, but…”

“But what?”

“To be honest, Maddy, I can’t see why you haven’t told the police before. Why do you have to do everything on your own? And why can’t you work in a team? Both me and James thought you were a bit selfish, like you’re Sherlock Holmes and we are your two Dr. Watsons – the idiots.”

“That’s a horrid thing to say. We’ve all been working independently as far as I’m concerned and then sharing things.”

“I’m sorry… I don’t mean to upset you.”

Maddy didn’t know what to say.

“I can’t understand why you’re so cross with me this morning. I nearly get killed and all you do is criticise me,” she said a moment later feeling close to tears.

“I’m sorry. I’ll go. I’d better get off the phone anyway. My dad’ll kill me.”

“Before you go Corky answer me two things, they’re really important to me.”

“Alright.”

“Did you think I was going to get to the bottom of this? “

The line was silent for a moment.

“I didn’t think about it at first, then I thought you would, and recently I’ve had my doubts.”

“You don’t have much faith in me, do you?”

“Don’t be silly. Of course I do.”

“Secondly, do you think I should tell the police everything?”

“Why fight them? You’re both on the same side. There’s nothing else we can do. Nigel doesn’t have anything to tell you. School is out for summer. The police are in a much better position to follow up the leads at the station. Yes, and that’s being realistic about it.”

“Okay.”

“I thought you were going to anyway.”

“Yes, I am, but.. it doesn’t matter.”

“I’m sorry. Look, I’ll come round and see you later, and then you can tell me all about yesterday if you feel up to it. What time shall I come round.?”

“Make it three-ish, or later. It should be well over by then.”

“See you later then, bye. Good luck.”

* * * *

Kandy telephoned at 9.30 and invited Maddy to have a coffee in the city. “Um…..I’ve got to go to the police station at eleven,” she explained.

“If I meet you at the Italian coffee bar, Puccini’s, in Charles Street – it’s only round the corner – you’ll have plenty of time.”

Minutes later Maddy was fawning to her mum, “Don’t worry mum. I’ll get to the police station at eleven, you needn’t worry.”

“I was going to drive you. Detective Hanson was adamant I drove you there.”

“But mum, I’ve just arranged to meet Kandy.”

“And will you let me down?”

“I’ve already told you! I’m going to the police station!” Maddy snapped, completely exasperated by everybody.

“All right. If you let me down you’ll be for it! And make sure you put this stuff on the fridge away before you go.”

Maddy collected the photographs Corky had printed the previous Friday. She folded them over and slipped them in her jeans. The mini-cassette recorder, complete with the cassette recorded at Rowley Hills, and her penguin notebook, were soon arranged comfortably around her jacket pockets. She was sure Hanson would be impressed.

* * * *

Maddy found Kandy sitting in the corner of the Puccini’s, reading what looked like a legal document. The cafe smelled of garlic, strong coffee and parmesan cheese. A series of Mediterranean beachscapes in gaudy exaggerated printers colours hung from the walls. Kandy now ordered two capuchinos from the weighty proprietor who stood over her.

“What have you done to your face? It looks like someone’s tried to draw a sailing boat beneath you eye.”

Maddy explained what had happened and the doctor’s optimistic comments: it should clear up soon.

“You’ve got courage.”

“Perhaps yesterday, but it’s deserted me today.”

“You must be have been terrified.”

“Yes. I’m giving up. Although in some ways I’m more fed up with people’s lack of interest than through fear of those maniacs.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh…What do you think, Kandy? Do you think I’m being a coward giving up?”

“Don’t you want to,” said Kandy, her eyes brightening with comprehension. You want to carry on? You’re feeling sore about giving up when the trail’s getting hot.”

“I was terrified yesterday. Hanging over that ledge – ugh. And I don’t want to think about the scream of that man. No, it’s not so much telling the police, it’s everyone telling me I’ve got to give up. It makes me feel no one has ever believed in me at all: that I could solve crimes. I pretended to be Sherlock Holmes and got a reputation for it, and everyone played along and enjoyed it. Now everyone’s got bored and seem to be saying ‘we were only playing a game Maddy and the game’s over. You didn’t take it seriously, did you? You didn’t really see yourself as a real Sherlock Holmes?’ ”

“I see.”

“I feel empty.”

“It’s simple. Just don’t go to the police at eleven o’clock.”

“I’ve thought about not going, but I’d get myself into mega-trouble with my mum and dad and Hanson would burst a blood vessel.”

“I can’t persuade you to stick you neck out?”

“No, but I appreciate it. You’re the only person who’s shown any confidence in me this morning.”

Two more coffees were delivered by a young waitress with cinnamon hair.

Kandy told Maddy her good news: she had found a new flat in East Park Road. Next Saturday Maddy was invited to a flat-warming rave up. Kandy was really excited about it.

“Look…” she said, grabbing Maddy by the shoulder. “I’m going there in a minute once I’ve got the key. Why not come along and have a look?”

Maddy declined. There wouldn’t be enough time. It would take an hour to get there and back. “I’ll come round about six, this evening,” she said.

“Write down my new address and phone number.”

Maddy scribbled them down in her notebook.

Kandy was going the same way so they left together. It was warm but the wind had grown up. A roguish breeze prevented the tiredness and lethargy that often rides on the back of hot weather. In Charles Street, neither of the girls spoke, both silently meditating upon their own immediate courses of action for the coming day.

Kandy had to go into the claustrophobic office of Clerkenwell’s Estate Agent to get her key for her new flat. Maddy followed her in amidst the colour photos and advertising displays. Inside the noisy roar of traffic from London Road lessened to a hum but the taste of central heating was nauseating. A salesgirl smelling of Eau de Cologne tapped on an old golf-ball typewriter. Maddy had been in there before. The sales girl remembered her and said hello.

“I’ve come to get my key,” said Kandy excitedly.

“Your name?”

“Kandy Lawrence.”

“Just a moment.”

“The girl disappeared behind a screen and shouted the number and the road of the flat.”

“Yes, that’s right,” shouted Kandy back.

The girl reappeared.

“Have you signed the tenancy agreement?”

“Kandy put her hand to her mouth. “Oh no. Not yet. I forgot.” She pulled out the legal document that Maddy had seen Kandy reading. She shuffled around in her basket and found a ballpoint. She placed the document flat on the counter and signed it.

“Have you actually read it?” asked Maddy.

Kandy laughed, “I tried to,” she whispered.

The shop assistant looked at Maddy and caught the conspiratorial smile on her face.

“You came in earlier this week, didn’t you? I’ve got some good news for you.”

“Me? yes.”

“You were asking about your friend. Julia Robinson. You were trying to trace her.”

“Yes.”

“I found her name on our books after you’d left, or have you already caught up with her now?”

Maddy’s pulse jumped.

“No.”

“Do you want it?”

“Yes, yes of course.”

“After you had gone last week I remembered that Mr. Thomas had the key to the filing cabinet that was locked. It was such a busy day when you came that my search was a bit halfhearted. In the late afternoon we were slack, and I remembered you were looking for your friend. I’d written her name down on a scrap of paper and I found it when I was clearing the desk. Mr. Thomas was here in the late afternoon so I got the key from him and checked through the only locker I hadn’t gone through and I found it. Unfortunately I had no way of contacting you. You didn’t give me your name. As soon as I’ve served Miss Lawrence I’ll get you her file.”

The girl returned from behind a partition and handed Kandy a door key. She started to read an inventory of things that were left in the flat, in preparation for Kandy to sign it, but Kandy stopped her. “No, its alright. Give her this address, first.”

“Here it is,” said the girl a moment later reading it from a file. Julia Robinson, flat 5A, Ratcliffe Court.” She looked at Maddy. Do you want to write it down?”

“No thanks, I can remember that. How long has she been living there…living in Ratcliffe Court?”

“According to her file here she came in on the 21st May and asked for a quiet, self-contained flat. We didn’t have any on the books at the time but we noted her name and what she was looking for and put her on our books. She said she was prepared to pay for high quality accommodation. She came in again on 28th May and we had found a flat for her. She took possession that day.”

“What previous address did she leave you?”

“7 Barncombe Avenue,” she said looking at the file.

“I see. Well thanks a lot. I’d better be off.”

Kandy gave Maddy a sly look.

“Are you going to see the Detective or do you suddenly have other ideas?”

“I’m going to get myself into lots of trouble and go hunting big fish.”

“As usual. Need any help?”

“Errr… I might need some money.”

“Five quid enough?” She dropped the coins into Maddy’s hand

“Be careful Maddy, don’t get thrown off any high buildings.”

“I’m going to be as careful as a mouse.”

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Maddy checked the exact whereabouts of Ratcliffe Court by slipping into W.H. Smiths and consulting a street map of Leicester.

Traveling towards her destination in a Red Fox minibus she began to carefully consider what course of action to take. She wasn’t quite sure what she was in for. How many people would there be in the flat, or was it now no longer occupied? Would she meet those motor bike loonies again? Was she being stupid not informing Hanson? Probably, but she could always phone him later – although that hadn’t proved too useful yesterday.

The bus trundled up slowly up London Road through Stoneygate. Maddy pressed the buzzer as she approached Ratcliffe Road. She alighted from the platform and walked along London Road to the next right junction.

If Maddy had looked across into Guildford Road she might have glimpsed a tall dark figure walking away from her. It’s likely even if she had she would have made no connection. She imagined Julia Robinson inside her flat – not moving off in the opposite direction.

Maddy skirted the corner into Ratcliffe Court and yards later she turned right into Ratcliffe Court. To avoid being seen she sheltered under overhanging leaves, kept tight into the pavement and stooped behind the cars which were parked on her side of the road.

Maddy looked around. Garages were over the road, further along were blocks of brick and wood-slatted flats. Each block was fronted by a grassy area dotted with occasional saplings and each block had a white porch with a brown door. The court was residential, quiet, select.

Julia Robinson’s flat was evidently in the first block: block A. Maddy briefly looked up but could see no snooping faces in the netted windows.

What could she do now?

She kept walking. She passed B Block and on to C Block. Then she had to stop as the court terminated at a walled car park.

Who could she be? A salesman? A member of a charity collecting an envelope? Someone looking for a friend? That’s a better idea. Someone looking for a friend who used to live at No 5A.

Was she being foolish again?

The motorbike boys might open the door. Before she went into action she’d check the ground for motorbikes.

* * * *

“Where’s that bloody daughter of yours?” screamed Hanson down the phone. “She should have been here twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh no…..She left to go for a coffee over an hour ago. She promised she’d come.”

“If she’s not here in another twenty minutes she’s going to be skinned alive.”

“Oh dear…Do you think she’s in trouble?”

“She will be.”

Mrs. Quebric bit her lip.

“I’ll put a call out to look for her,” he said, “What’s she wearing?”

* * * *

Maddy found one motorbike parked alongside B block – an unlikely place to park it if it belonged to anyone in A block – so she decided to go ahead with her plan.

She crossed the grass and passed through the wooden door and found herself at the bottom of a staircase. The two doors on either side were numbered one and two. On the first floor she passed numbers three and four. She pulled herself up the final staircase until she arrived on the lino of the third floor. She now stood outside the door of No.5: Julia Robinson’s flat.

She pressed the doorbell and waited.

A while later she pressed again.

No one came. No noise stirred.

She became more courageous and gently flapped back the letter box. A mustard coloured hall led off to a number of rooms. All the doors were closed. The flat seemed deserted, empty. Maddy pressed the bell again, long and loud. This time she didn’t stand on the top stair, ready for a quick departure but remained where she was.

Either its inhabitants were deadly quiet or had gone elsewhere. She put her eye to the letter box again. A newspaper lay on the floor, too far away to have been delivered through the door and too far away to read its headlines to date it. Then Maddy spotted something else.

Maddy adjusted her position to the extreme edge of the letter box so as to extend her view. She could see a handle. It was a bag. A brown bag that was zipped up, its contents concealed.

Maddy was going inside!

She needed a telephone. Where was the nearest one?

She remembered seeing one nearby in London Road. Perhaps there was a closer one. Getting no answer from both flats on the lower floor she descended to the ground floor and knocked at number 1A.

“Oh, I thought it was John,” said an elderly lady in a grey cardigan.

“Is there a telephone in these flats?,” she asked awkwardly.

“I don’t think so. I’ve not seen one if there is. But you can use mine if you like.”

“Its very important.”

“Come in, my dear. Whatever’s wrong? Has someone hurt themselves?”

“My friend’s car has broken down, we’re in a hurry,” Maddy improvised as she passed into the lounge.

“Oh, I thought you needed a doctor. That’s not so bad then, is it?”

Maddy quickly found the number in her notebook.

Relief! He was in.

“Johnathon, this is Maddy Quebric. Listen, I need your help. Urgently.”

“Oh Hello.”

“I’m desperate. I need the same sort of service.” Maddy had to use her words carefully as the elderly lady was listening.

“What? Another luggage locker?”

“No. A door.”

“What sort of lock is it?”

“Guess.” Maddy didn’t want to mention it aloud.

“What do you mean guess?”

“Just mention a few makes. I’ll tell you when you get it right.”

“Yale, -“

“Right!”

“Okay, no need to deafen me. That’s no problem – I’ve got several skeleton keys – I’ll bring a few extras as well.”

“Brilliant. Jump in a taxi and get here now. I’ll settle up the money later.” She gave him the address and directions. “I’ll meet you outside Block A.”

“Okay. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Maddy replaced the receiver and turned to the elderly lady. “Thank you, how much do I owe you?”

“That’s alright dear.”

The lady refused to accept any money but insisted on asking awkward questions and giving awkward suggestions.

“When my John gets here I’ll get him to come and look at it. He’s so good with cars.”

Maddy left as quickly as she could and went outside onto the grass. She crossed the road and hid herself behind a parked Cortina, partly hidden itself under a cloak of beech leaves.

* * * *

Maddy grabbed Jonathon as soon as he had got out of the taxi.

“Follow me.”

“You owe me three pounds already.”

“Ssshhh.” She led him through into the entrance, up the first staircase, along the corridor and up the second staircase. Soon they were both outside No 5.

“Is anyone in?” he asked.

“No,” she said hesitantly.

“This is all a bit nerve racking. What the hell are you up to?”

“Open the door. I want to get inside.”

“But is it the place of someone you know?”

“No, its just old fashioned burglary – now give me your keys!”

He passed a key ring containing five skeleton keys.

“Just keep watch,” said Maddy as she tried to insert the first one.

The fourth one fitted. She turned it and the latch drew back. The door opened into the flat.

Jonathon’s hand touched Maddy’s arm.

“Someone’s coming up the stairs,” he whispered.

Footsteps could be heard coming along the landing. The owner of the footsteps would soon be visible, walking up the steps towards them.

The elderly lady hovered at the bottom of the stairs looking up at them.

“Hello dear. Are you up there?” she called.

“Yes,” said Maddy, coldly.

“John’s here. He said he’d have a look at your car.”

“Oh, its alright, thank you. It’s been taken to the garage.”

“Already?”

“Yes.”

“But you only phoned about fifteen minutes ago.”

“Yes…they’re very efficient.”

The lady stood silently for moment, thinking hard.

“You don’t live up there, do you?”

“No,” said Maddy, “we’re just waiting for a friend.”

“I see.” Her voice brightened. “So you don’t need any mechanicals doing on the car then?”

“No thank you.”

When they heard her door close downstairs Jonathon turned to Maddy.

“Give me my keys, I’m going.”

“Don’t you want to come in?”

“No. I don’t want to get done for burglary. That woman is dead suspicious. I’m going.” He removed the key ring from the door and slowly descended the stairs.

“Good hunting,” he whispered. “Bring my money round.”

“Okay.”

Maddy pushed the door quietly open, slid inside and quietly clicked it shut. She made towards the brown bag.

* * * *

Julia Robinson was now walking along Ratcliffe road. She pulled the hood of her cloak over her glossy black hair so that it wouldn’t be eddied by the wind. The carrier bag kept knocking against her leg; she swapped it over to her other hand.

Beech leaves flurried in the garden shrubberies. The sun above was bright, dazzling, but hazy, neon through frosty glass.

As Julia Robinson turned into Ratcliffe Court she saw a youth hurry out. She couldn’t recall seeing him in the flats. She would have remembered his stripy blazer. His unfamiliarity made her nervous. She studied his worried face as he passed her by.

She crossed over, went over the grass and through the A block entrance. She began climbing the stairs. Seconds later she stood outside her own door. She groped in her blouse pocket for the key. After the latch yielded she picked up the carrier bag and went in.

Once inside she stopped moving. She sensed something irregular. She removed her glasses and slipped them into her blouse. The door of the lounge was open. She had closed them all before leaving. She placed the carrier bag containing her groceries down on the carpet as gently as she could. She stood for a moment but could hear nothing. No voices, no movement. She relaxed and closed the flat door behind her, but more quietly than she would normally have done. She must have left the lounge door open.

She walked along the carpet and slowly stepped into the lounge.

“Oh Shit!”

“Hello Zena.”

She stared unbelievingly. In front of her sat Maddy Quebric dipping her hands into her brown bag like a child with a bag of sweets.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

“She should die,” said Weasel-Eyes.

The speckled blue enamel of the Harley Davidson blazed in the sun. The chrome of the large diameter forks, exhaust pipes, headlights and wing mirrors sheened like silver. The rider and his bike hovered, waiting, potent, like a bullet in a gun.

Weasel-Eyes was red-eyed.

“Wouldn’t it be better just to get outta here,” said Eddie.

“We settle up first,” said Weasel Eyes.

“That’s right,” said the biker with the blackheads. “I’m not going nowhere ’til we settle up.”

“Remember, Eddie,” said Weasel Eyes with passion, “You may be our leader but… remember, you weren’t there, you didn’t see it, I did. ”

“You’ve turned her over once. Do we need to go back?”

“I didn’t turn her over. Jeff did, and look what he got.”

“Okay,” said Eddie. “We track them down and do ’em proper. Then we get out of here.”

“Then we split. The pigs will soon be onto us when they check out Jeff’s documents.”

“Alright,” said Eddie, “We pay off. We do it for Jeff. For the brotherhood. I know where the organiser lives. We’ll look for the others. Lets go!”

The world suddenly throbbed with the roar-blast of torque and horse power – with the violence of repressed energy unleashed. Vibrations riddled themselves up through the metal machines through every bone in the bodies of the riders. Astride their steeds were the Gods of evil.

Leaving exhaust fumes smelling like burnt toast they exploded out into the country lane with Eddie leading; three hell’s angels bent on vengeance.

* * * *

“I said Hello Zena.”

The tall dark girl was still staring.

“Or should I call you Julia?”

Zena flopped down on the adjacent settee. She looked at Maddy still quite startled by her impossible presence. “How the hell……?”

“I’ll tell you what I know and then you can fill in the missing details.”

“How could anybody find me?”

“All will be explained,” said Maddy. She held up two books from out of the bag, “You see these books here you borrowed from Nigel. Did you find anything inside them?”

“Yes,” said Zena, “Yes, I did.”

She went to the bookcase and returned with several type-written sheets of paper. “An envelope dropped out from one of the books. These two sheets of paper were inside.” She passed them to Maddy. “Look, what the hell are you doing here?”

“It’s what I’ve been looking for,” Maddy said a moment later.

“They look like someone’s scrappy address book to me.”

“I’ll have to go and make a phone call in a minute. Now, let’s talk about you, Zena.”

* * * *

After a lengthy discussion Maddy left to make a phone call.

As she was leaving the flat, Maddy matter-of-factly said to Zena, “Don’t try and get clever. I’ve a tape recorder in my pocket which has recorded everything you’ve just said. Just make sure you’re still here and let me in when I come back.”

Maddy had to walk up to the phone box on London Road as the elderly lady in the grey cardigan and her son appeared to have gone out.

* * * *

Corky was irritable. She was waiting for a phone call from James, she felt he ought to ring her for once. She desperately wanted to go out. A distant relative, Glennis Hencombe, or ‘Jaws’ as she called her, was driving her mad. The woman just never stopped talking.

The woman was droning on now.

“….Its so nice to see you, Caroline. I must say you look a lot happier than my daughter. Oh, I’ve been having such a time of it. Have you heard about Belinda? She’s been unspeakable! I keep saying to her ‘she that corrects not the small faults will not control great ones’, but she will not listen to me…..”

And on and on she went.

Suddenly the telephone buzzed. Corky dashed for it, completely forgiving James for his timely interruption.

But it was Maddy.

“Hello Corky. Are you with James?”

“No. I thought it was him calling.”

“Look phone him and tell him to come to 5A Ratcliffe Court.”

“5A Ratcliffe Court?”

“Yes. Have you got that?

“Yes.”

“Don’t mention it to the police or anyone, okay.”

“Hey! You should be at the police station.”

“Don’t tell anyone where I am Corky! It’s really important. Listen. I’ve found Zena.”

“You’ve found her? You’re Joking!”

“Yep. Look. I’m not going to speak for long. I’m in a phone-box. and I’ve hardly any more change. I’d have rung James myself but I don’t have his number. Give him a buzz and phone me back if he’s coming.” She gave Corky the number of the phone box and hung up.

“I used to know someone who lived around that area,” chortled Jaws in the background.

Corky phoned James. He’d be over in minutes.

She phoned Maddy back.

“Is he coming?”

“We’ll both be there in minutes.”

Maddy put down the phone, grimaced and bustled out of the phone box.

She hurried back down to Ratcliffe Court. She climbed the stairs.

Zena had now discarded her Julia Robinson disguise and was now a natural blonde, wearing her familiar pink jumper.

“What’s going to happen now,” she asked expectantly.

“We wait.”

* * * *

Before leaving to collect Corky James unlocked a drawer in his bedroom. From this he procured a six inch knife and slipped it into his inside jacket pocket. He didn’t want any trouble.

A quarter of an hour later Maddy opened the door to James and Corky.

“What’s happening?” said Corky.

“She’s in the lounge,” she said.

Maddy followed them into the lounge. James stood in the middle of the carpet looking at Zena, and Corky stood just inside the room, a little in front of Maddy.

“I remember you,” said Zena, frowning in concentration, “James Riverdean, you were at my school.”

Zena gave Corky the once over.

“I know her too; I always thought you were a bit scrawny and terribly, terribly,” she said mockingly.

“Thanks,” said Corky.

“That’s alright,” she said sacastically. “What are you two doing here?”

“We’ve come because Maddy phoned us,” said Corky.

“And to find out what’s been going on,” said James.

“What’s it got to do with you?”

“I’ll try and explain everything,” said Maddy. “Some of the details that I didn’t know Zena has filled in for me. While I explain no interruptions please. Okay?”

James sat down next to Corky.

* * * *

“I thought at the very beginning,” began Maddy, “that Zena may have kidnapped herself, but I thought it was too fanciful, and without real motive. What I didn’t realise was that the motive wasn’t entirely hers.

“Briefly, her whole intention has been to create the impression that she had been kidnapped by a gang of blacks; so as to generate a bad impression of the black population in Leicester before the election. Now you will understand why the media has been so full of this case, even when the police have tried to suppress it.

“It began when a man approached Zena at her youth club and asked her if she still supported the British Empire party. They are the most active anti-black organisation in Leicester. She was never actually a member of this racist party, but she used to chat to some of them at football matches. On the first meeting the man said if she carried out a series of instructions she not only be helping Britain but she’d also receive £5,000. So much now, so much later. On subsequent meetings, he told her exactly what to do and when to do it. After a specific number of meetings he stressed it was important that she never saw him again or have any connections with the party.

“His final meeting with her was on a platform at Leicester Station. He gave her a bag. Inside was £1000 in £50 notes. She had been instructed to prepare another identity, so with some of this money, she traveled to London, bought this wig and all these clothes. On returning to Leicester station she changed into her disguise in the platform loo and using the name Julia Robinson booked a long term luggage locker in which she placed her bag containing all of Zena’s clothes.

Disguised as Julia she went to open a bank account. It was a Saturday but she had been told of one that would be open. She had identity together with relevant forged documents included in the bag. She was instructed to destroy these after their purpose had been served. She banked the majority of the money she had left from the £1000 and was issued with a cheque book.

“Then she returned to the station locker and collected the bag, got another platform ticket and changed back into Zena in the platform loo. She put all her clothes, bank book et cetera into the brown bag and put it back in the locker. You see? Zena Saxby was leaving the station to go home, Julia Robinson, her disguise, was inside the locker.

Next Saturday she did it again. She went to the station locker, took out her bag, bought a platform ticket and went down to the ladies’ toilet and changed into Julia Robinson. She then went out to find a bed-sit or flat. She also bought a bike, which I didn’t know about until half an hour ago. She had to remember all this from her original briefings. Remember the man had planned it so that she had no contact with him after the initial meeting.

All she had to do now was to set up the kidnapping and then hide in her flat until the election was over, on Thursday. Then she would change back into Zena, and suddenly reappear saying she’d lost her memory and can’t remember anything.

On the evening of the ‘kidnap’ Zena wasted a few hours and then began to prepare. After she had waved Leslie goodbye at the station she collected her bag from the locker and took it home with her. She waited until it was dark and then changed into Julia Robinson. She dropped a Rasta medallion on the floor and left the ransom note on the dressing table. She then put on some heavy Wellingtons she’d bought and climbed backwards out the window before she put her feet down. She made certain she left really heavy footprints. She walked backwards all the way down the garden until she reached the stile.”

“Backwards!” doubted Corky.

“Yes. Do you remember? I thought there was something odd about those footprints at the stile when I asked you to photograph them. When someone climbs over a stile the footprints are deeper in the direction in which they travel, because people usually drop off or jump from the stile. The strange thing about these was that their impression in the mud was deeper on the side she would have climbed up from. Zena climbed on the stile backwards, clambered over, and then dropped off backwards. It was a mistake – she should have climbed down gently.”

“Oh shit,” whimpered Zena.

“Carry on,” said Corky.

“Further down the jitty, Zena – who was still walking backwards – heard someone coming. Unbeknown to her it was the fifty year old tramp. She was close to a stile so she jumped over into a field and hid behind a large barn. She waited for about fifteen minutes but heard no one go by. She was worried because she’d walked round the barn walking forwards. She thought the best thing to do was to continue in a circle back to the stile. And of course, when over the stile she carried on walking backwards. Her instructions were to give the impression someone had walked up from the canal. She couldn’t imagine what the police would make of her unplanned detour around the barn.

“As soon as she was on the tow path she swapped her Wellingtons for her shoes from the brown bag. She walked for about half a mile where she came to a small bridge. She was quite frightened and her bag was heavy. Then she heard a splash that almost made her jump out of her skin. She didn’t know it but the tramp had fallen in.

“Over the bridge and several yards further along she unlocked a bicycle which she had previously bought and hidden in the hedge. She put the brown bag on the bicycle rack and switched on its lights. She didn’t want to get stopped by the police for not having lights on her way up to Ratcliffe Court! She avoided the traffic as much as possible and let herself in.

“The next day she took her cheque book shopping to turn this flat into something bearable to live in. She only went out as Julia Robinson and since then her only contact had been with shopkeepers. If she hadn’t been discovered she’d have waited until the election was over on Thursday and then re-emerged as Zena with amnesia. Isn’t that right Zena?”

Zena looked perplexed.

* * * *

“Where’s Oakthorpe Avenue?” asked Eddie.

“Its near Wyngate Drive,” said Blackhead.

“Let’s go,” said Weasel Eyes. He leant forward gripped his handlebar and started up his V-twin engine.

* * * *

“And there’s more,” said Maddy.

“More?” asked Corky.

Maddy pointed at James, who was – as he had been for some time – examining the contents of the brown bag.

Corky considered Maddy’s fixed frown. She didn’t like the look of it. Maddy kept her eyes firmly on James.

James suddenly became animated. He pulled the Nigel’s two books from the bag and quickly flicked through the pages of the first book, and then through the second. He thumbed through the first book again, page by page. It was obvious he was agitated. He looked up, becoming aware for the first time he was being observed. He snapped shut the book and said, “Have you found any addresses, Maddy?”

Maddy wasn’t sure how to play this.

“There was a list of addresses in one of those books,” said Zena, pointing at Maddy. “I gave them to her.”

Maddy could have kicked her. She hadn’t told Zena to keep her mouth shut about the addresses, nor – come to think of it – about the tape recorder which was buzzing quietly in her pocket.

“Oh these, you mean?” said Maddy, “they must have slipped my memory.” She relinquished the type written sheets that Zena had given her.

“Thank you.” He studied them quietly

“What are they?” asked Corky.

“What are they James?” echoed Maddy.

“What’s going on?” Corky asked them both.

“Nothing,” said “James, Everything is perfect.”

“James, what’s all this about? You’re not mixed up in this, are you?”

“Of course not.”

“Of course he is,” said Maddy. “He’s been involved in running a drugs and protection racket in several Leicester schools for over two years. He is tearing up a list of the names and addresses of the new fourth formers with wealthy families who are starting at upper schools. You see he was never a close friend of Zena’s. Was he Zena? And neither was Nigel – they were merely acquaintances. These addresses were the addresses of future victims. That’s why he’s tearing them up.”

James was tearing the pages down the middle. He continued until little strips and squares of paper floated down to the floor.

“Lists of future fourth form victims were passed down the organisation secretly, through James, on to Nigel, and then onto the next link in the other schools. Nigel kept these particular names and addresses for safe keeping in between the end-papers of a book called ‘The White Horse’, and our stupid Zena here borrowed it. When Nigel returned home and found Zena’s note saying she’d borrowed it he almost had a nervous breakdown. Not surprising really – if you do anything wrong in James’ organisation you’re treated very harshly; that’s why it worked so well, so secretly and for so long.”

“This is complete rubbish,” protested James.

“…So Nigel discovers Zena’s got these damning addresses of the syndicate. What was he to do? He must get them back. He phones Zena but gets no reply. He must go round and get the list back. If it fell into the wrong hands the syndicate may well be discovered. It was run so secretly that many people in it didn’t recognise fellow members.

“He goes round but no one is in, and there are no lights on. He walks around the back of the house – leaving his footprints – and finds the window of Zena’s bedroom flung open. He climbs inside and discovers the place is a mess. Very strange. Zena, of course had gone by now. Nigel starts hunting for the books, and makes more mess in an unsucessful attempt to find them. In the dark he finds an envelope on the dressing table. Assuming it is the envelope he is looking for he puts it in his pocket. He considered putting the light on and checking it, but it was safer to do that later. He left by the way he came in, by the window, and went home.

“Imagine his chagrin when he opens the envelope and finds a ransom note. Consider his situation: he’s in trouble with the syndicate for losing a list of revealing addresses, he’s left his finger prints all over a room where someone had been kidnapped, and where he’s committed a break-in. And remember if any of these criminal activities were discovered his father’s would be utterly livid as his political career would be compromised.

“So what could he do now? He was supposed to pass on this list of addresses at a meeting on Wednesday or Thursday. I’m not too sure which but it’s not important. Imagine Nigel’s fear. Tomorrow he has to meet other syndicate members with this important list. But he’s lost it. What did he do? He didn’t do anything. He didn’t go to the meeting. He stayed away and sweated his socks off. Or perhaps he came and saw you, James? I’m a bit hazy about this bit as well.

“Its not important what happened at this point – it all works out the same. On Thursday the police visited the school and Zena was still missing. Nigel was frantic. It had by now got back to the syndicate organisers that Nigel hadn’t shown up at the meeting. He was a marked and worried boy.

“In desperation Nigel came to see me. You remember what he said, Corky, Zena’s a great friend, she’s disappeared, I think she’s been kidnapped, we’ve got to find her. Remember? All he wanted was this precious list.” Maddy pointed to the shredded paper on the floor.

* * * *

Back at Oakthorpe Avenue the doorbell rang.

“Get that for me, Glennis,” Corky’s mum asked Glennis Hencombe, longing for a few minutes silence.

Jaws walked along the hall and answered the front door. Eddie stood on the doorstep, his a face as taught as a drum skin.

“Is James Cortenage here, Mrs?”

“No….ah…that would be the boy who Corky rang up. Yes, he came about twenty five minutes ago. They’ve gone out.”

“D’ya know where they’ve they gone, eh?”

She put on what she considered to be one of her most dazzling smiles.

“Yes, I do actually.” She was pleased with herself. “They’ve gone to Ratcliffe Court. I remember her mentioning it on the phone.”

Without another word Eddie turned and disappeared through the gate. Mrs. Hencombe was so taken aback by his abrupt and rude departure she was temporarily lost for words. However it wasn’t long before she found them again.

“The younger generation – so scruffy – can’t even find a thank you in their hearts!”

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

“Anyway,” continued Maddy, “we went to Zena’s bungalow, – which if you remember was at Nigel’s suggestion – and found a ransom note in the bed. An odd place for a ransom note we all thought, which indeed it was – it shouldn’t have been there at all. Nigel had placed it in another envelope, because the original one had been torn when he had opened it. The only envelope he could find was the wrong colour and wrong size but it was the best he could do in the circumstances. He brought it – with the ranson note inside it – and must have slipped it between the sheets when you had your back turned and I was in the hall. He wanted to put it back where he’d found it, by the dresser, but he couldn’t do that. The police would have smelled a rat; there’s no way they would have missed that.

“He returned it for four reasons. One, because he wanted to wash his hands of the ransom note. Two, it would put the police in the right direction and speed up their investigations in finding Zena – and his list of addresses. Three, to ferret about the room again to see if he’d missed the books. Four, for there to be a legitimate reason for the appearance of his finger prints in the room.”

“Fascinating,” said James.

“Its true,” said Maddy quietly.

“Prove it.”

“You are in trouble, James. Nigel was beaten up on your orders. He had made such a dangerous, unforgivable cock-up in your organisation, hadn’t he? Such things couldn’t be seen to go unpunished or everyone would start to get sloppy.”

“That’s crazy,” said Corky. “James wouldn’t hurt anybody. He’s been to see Nigel virtually every day in hospital.”

“And why do you think that is?”

“Because………” Corky lapsed into silence. No one spoke for several seconds.

“It was because Nigel might talk. As soon as Nigel could put the finger on who’d done him over all would be lost. James went along at visiting hour to show him that silence, lack of memory was the best policy, or he might end up in hospital again.

“The syndicate, you see, employs a gang of hit men called – guess what – the Nibes. They are very well known within the drugs/ extortion racket. Step out of line and you’re roughed up, you get a visit from the Nibes.”

“It’s not quite as simple as that,” James protested angrily, “I have to follow orders, too. I have no choice. I have people threatening me as well, outside the school. It went wrong. I never intended for the Nibes to hurt Nigel. I didn’t expect them to do Nigel over so -“

“And what about me?”

“It was the same. I only told then to warn you off.”

“So you admit its true,” said Maddy.

“You’ve only been going out with me so you could find this,” cried Corky, pointing to the torn paper on the floor. Her face now strained with disgust.

“Your behaviour was odd when you first arrived, James,” said Maddy standing by the window. “We all sat around eagerly trying to dig a trail to Zena, but there were certain things that you seemed blind to.”

“Oh no, not more of your wonderful theories.”

“I gave you a couple of Zena’s exercise books to look at. Yet you didn’t even open them. I thought that was peculiar considering how interested you claimed to be. Why didn’t you look at them? I asked Corky later if she’d shown them to you at school. No she hadn’t. So where had you seen them before?

“It’s obvious. Your first reaction to find the missing addresses was to have Zena’s locker searched. You didn’t look at those exercise books in my house because you’d already seen them and discarded them as irrelevant.”

Corky was staring at Maddy, intent upon every word.

“James told me Paul Statham and his friend had broken into the locker – which was true enough – but he forgot to explain that he’d set them up to it. The boys were so frightened by Corky’s questioning because they were being threatened in some way by the syndicate. One of the punishments was to be physically forced into a drug habit. They were well aware of what the Nibes could do.

“What really made me suspect you, James, was the incident on the car park. Who would want to stop my investigations so much? I had touched a nerve. On Thursday I had told you and Corky I was going to visit the school again. You didn’t like that idea, did you? I may go and discover something about the syndicate – or worse I may meet Paul Statham who might start blurting out dangerous information.

“So what do you do?” Maddy asked him, “You contacted your heavy boys and told them to rough me up, to frighten me off.”

“I hear you’ve killed one of them,” James said sarcastically.

Suddenly Zena piped in with a comment, “You want to watch her,” said Zena, “I drivelled on for ages – and she had a tape recorder in her pocket. She’s trying to get you as well.”

James quickly sat up, “Ah….the pocket tape recorder. I was wondering what she was up to. I should have realised. I knew it was something.”

Maddy froze. The tables could quickly turn. This hadn’t been planned well at all.

“I think you better give me the tape, and we’ll all be on our way.” said James, his voice easy, but determined.

“I’ll think about it,” said Maddy, thinking desperately.

“When Corky rang me up and told me you’d found Zena, I thought things might get a little difficult, so I took an extra precaution of bringing something with me to help in matters of persuasion,” said James. “Do I really have to slip my hand inside my jacket or are you going to be sensible and give me the tape. You know that I’m not a violent person.”

Her exit was cut off. James was nearer the door than she was. She couldn’t escape.

“You really won’t get away with this.”

“You have no evidence. Just give me the tape, please.”

She turned away from him and looked out of the window down to the drive of Ratcliffe Court.

“Give me the tape.”

“Don’t you dare touch her,” hissed Corky.

Down below Maddy recognised the elderly lady downstairs and a young man who was presumably John. They walked over the grass towards the flats.

Maddy unfastened the button of her jacket pocket and slowly began to withdraw the tape recorder which was still running.

“I’m glad you’ve seen sense,” said James walking towards her.

An instant before the recorder was free of her pocket her other hand shot out and released the locking arm of the window catch. Simultaneously, as the window was flung open, James’ arms encircled her neck, and a cacophony of shouting began. Blindly, Maddy flung the tape recorder through the glassless space into the open air. Corky jumped up and tugged at James’ collar almost throttling him. Zena watched it all wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Then Maddy was on the floor and James was at the door, in the corridor, racing down the stairs.

Maddy, closely followed by Zena, pursued him. Corky remained sitting with her head in her hands.

Downstairs, James hurried out into the blustery wind onto the grass. The tape recorder had fallen by a nearby tree. He dashed across and snatched up the machine in his fingers.

Maddy, closely followed by Zena, arrived at the ground floor seconds later. The elderly lady was just closing her door, and shouted, “It sounds like an exhausting game you’re playing.” As Maddy got to the door she abruptly stopped. Three men were getting off motorbikes. “Stay inside! Inside!” she shrieked to Zena, pulling back the door.

Maddy pulled Zena over to the window near the door. “Look! That guy who has just come into view is the one who tried to throw me off the car park! This is bad!” She started banging on the old lady’s door.

“Back again?” said the old lady. “You looked a bit puffed out. Its running up and down these stairs. Has your – “

“There’s going to be some trouble. I need to call the police.

* * * *

Blackhead arrived head on. Eddie moved in from the side. Weasel Eyes came from the rear.

“We’ve a bone to pick with you,” said Weasel Eyes.

James was startled by their sudden appearance. He knew Eddie, he was the only one he ever had to meet.

“How did you find me here? You know I only like to do business by arrangement.”

“We went to your place, then to your chick’s place, and we were told you were here.”

“Well you can get lost. What the hell do you want?”

“It’s more what we can do for you, mister,” said Weasel Eyes.

James instantly felt their menace.

“We don’t do things by your arrangement anymore, Mr.”

“Ohhh…I was really sorry to hear about the accident. Didn’t Maddy Quebric push him over. You ought to have a chat with her. She’s in there.” He pointed to the flats.

“We’ll find her in a minute. Thanks,” said Eddie.

No one spoke.

“What do you want? I’ll pay you later. I haven’t got any money now.”

“We don’t want payment in money,” said Weasel Eyes, who was now only six feet from James.

“Money won’t bring Jeff back,” said Blackhead, making his first contribution.

“You’re not blaming me for his death surely?” said James heartily.

“It was you who suggested we do over this girl,” said Eddie, whose enthusiasm for vengeance was growing by the second.

Realisation crept like a shadow over James’ face: he was being ensnared by his own trap. Eddie’s smile widened; he was enjoying himself.

“But that’s ridiculous!”

Weasel Eyes looked over to Eddie. “Okay. Let’s go.”

“Wait,” said James, holding up his hands like shields, “Hold on a – ” But they didn’t. A burning pain scorched his groin as Blackhead edged forward and kicked him. Simultaneously a blow fell across his neck which, if half an inch lower, would have been fatal. Already Doubled over and falling, his acceleration to the ground was increased by a kick in the hip delivered by Eddie. His shoulder skidded along the grass.

The grass seemed to swim about him.

I can’t move. My knife. In my inside pocket.

It was in his grasp. He snatched it out and quickly stabbed at nearest boot, inches away. It sliced through the leather last and momentarily pinned Eddie’s foot to the turf. There was a scream. Then nothing; an impasse; a preparatory silence for forthcoming pain; the precognition the second before the fall; a hush before storm for the psyche to stiffen its barriers against impending horror; a second of a thousand years duration.

Then it came: a millennia of vermilion sparks and racking rheumatic tremors in every bone. Jaws clenched so tight that the lower bit into the top, through to the skull; agony that lead to the mind shutting off, the body closing down as a means of mental and physical defense. His own knife had been buried in his side.

* * * *

“Yes, immediately! I rang a few minutes ago, but we’re still waiting,” said Maddy on the phone. “Someone’s being attacked by a gang of hell’s angels. That’s right.”

“I’ve got to help,” cried John, the elderly lady’s son. He was watching out of the window.

“Oh no,” he cried a moment later. “It’s a knife!”

John rushed passed Maddy and ran out into the corridor, through the wooden door and out into the howling afternoon. She watched him from the window, running towards the youths. They ran off down the slope towards their bikes, leaving James lying flat on the grass.

Maddy rang 999 again, this time for an ambulance.

* * * *

“You’ve murdered him!” yelled Blackhead to Weasel Eyes as they ran towards their bikes.

Weasel Eyes straddled his bike and fired his engine.

“We’ve got to wait for Eddie.”

“Sod Eddie. He’s lame. Let’s get out of here.” Weasel Eyes revved up, engaged power and wheelied off along Ratcliffe Road. Blackhead was road-borne and after him.

Seconds later a police car swung round into Ratcliffe Road.

* * * *

Corky had to stare out of the window of Charles Street Police Station out into busy traffic while Maddy scribbled behind her for forty five minutes on a pad of A4 paper. Corky hated this building with its dark leather-smelling rooms, its proliferation of plastic telephones and its profusion of secretive inmates gathering to whisper in gloomy corridors.

Hanson appeared at last in the open doorway frowning.

“I can’t believe it,” he said drolely, “Maddy Quebric in Charles Street Police Station writing down the truth! I just can’t believe it.”

“I’ve almost finished,” she said.

“Do you know this whole thing is so crazy. There is almost nothing we can charge her with. I couldn’t do her on racial discrimination. The Public Order Act and Race Relations Act doesn’t cover such third party conduct. I can’t do her on having another name – that’s not a crime. If she refuses to make a signed statement explaining in brief what she did, and how she was put up to it she can’t be charged with any crime whatsoever.”

“You’ve got the tape. You can use that.”

“Its inadmissible in court. Its not evidence. I need a signed statement.”

“Won’t she give you a statement?”

“I don’t know. I’ve not asked her yet. I’ve left her sitting alone for three hours.” he said, scratching his nose.

“What if she gives you a statement explaining it all?”

“She can be prosecuted for wasting police time under the Criminal Law Act 1967. If she wasn’t a minor she could be sent down for six months and be fined £200.”

“Couldn’t you just persuade her to go to the newspapers and TV companies and tell them what happened, and how she was set up.”

“Don’t worry about that. I’ll beholding a press conference later. But I still need a statement.”

“She’s not really a criminal, just an ignorant fool,” said Maddy.

“She’s a racist. Anyway, I think she’s been stewing long enough, its crunch-time.” He turned to leave but Corky delayed him.

“What’s happened about James?”

“Didn’t I tell you. The hospital rang an hour ago. It appears he’s in satisfactory condition. He’ll live.”

“No, I didn’t mean that. What about the trouble he’s been in?”

“A conviction is inevitable, although we have yet to root out exactly where all the drugs were coming from. No trouble with extortion: Blackmail and Theft Act 1968. He’ll probably have to do a stretch. Those pieces of paper should be quite useful once we’ve glued them all together. We’ll nab the ringleaders in each school. I’m sure that Nigel and James will be helpful in providing names of useful parties if we negotiate a little.

“What about the bikers?” asked Maddy.

“Oh yes. Three of the four are accounted for. One died falling from a great height, as you know. One is in hospital having his foot sewn together. One was picked up on the M69 an hour ago but the other one hasn’t been found yet. But we’ll get him. He’s called Gary Borell. According to the others he was the one who did the stabbing but they’re bound to say that. Wounding? That’s easy: Offences against the Persons Act.”

Maddy called after him as he turned to go, “I’ve finished this report. Can we go now?”

“Good. That’ll help me to write all this up,” he said. “I’ve appreciated your help. Don’t go yet. I’ll be back in ten minutes and you can have your tape recorder back.”

* * * *

An hour later Hanson came smiling into the room and returned Corky’s tape recorder to her.

“Can we go now?”asked Maddy again.

“I’ve done it,” he said. “She’s written a statement and signed it. I’ve got her.”

“Good,” said Maddy.

“Please let us get out of here,” shouted Corky acridly across the room.

“Of course. You can go. Nothing’s stopping you.”

Maddy pulled her chair back from the table and stood up. Corky, moved away from the window.

“When are you going to inform the media about all this?” asked Maddy thickly.

“Considerable damage has no doubt been done to race relations in this city because of this con-trick, so I’ve arranged a press meeting at 7.30 tonight. The truth should be on all tomorrow’s front pages. There’s still five days before the election so with counter publicity its possible that any public support these racialists have gained because of this trick will desert them. If the TV companies go for this story these racialist groups are going to be in for a rotten time nationally.

“Good,” said Maddy.

* * * *

Maddy and Corky walked along Charles Street towards the town centre and neither spoke.

Corky suddenly turned away to look in a shop window. Maddy wondered if she was hiding tears, but when Corky looked back, her eyes were quite dry.

“I’m going home,” she said.

“Shall I come with you?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Let’s not talk about it. You could have warned me, but I don’t really blame you.”

“I didn’t really know myself until the last moment,” said Maddy.

“I won’t be around for a while.”

“Okay.”

Corky turned and crossed over Charles Street. Maddy’s stare followed her until she became lost in the rush hour crowds.

Maddy walked along slowly, dodging awkwardly between on-coming pedestrians. She didn’t know what to do; she didn’t know where to go; she didn’t want to go home. She felt aimless. She couldn’t understand it. She was supposed to feel elated, pleased with herself, not like this.

But she had done it, she had found Zena Saxby. Despite all the doubts and set-backs she’d done it.

Pretty good really.

Ends.

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