Friday, 7 September 2007

Chapter 139

Harry closed the office door, pausing as he did so in the hope that the fax would ring. He was acutely conscious of the gaps that still existed in their knowledge – the low scores on the flip chart sheets next to some of the main players’ names. But it didn’t. Linda had let him down. He been sure she’d come through, had expected to have the certificates in his hand before Lauren arrived. He was worried she might have put herself out on a limb, and the bough had broken. As it was, he knew, now, that they’d just have to wing it: it would all depend on how Lillian wanted to play it, and he hoped to God that Laurel was up to the meeting. And that Lillian was up to it, too.

After Laurel had disappeared, he’d made his way back through the foyer of Melrose Buildings. He’d passed Henry, the janitor, who was watering a dismal plant that struggled to make its way in life in a corner near the stairwell.

“You OK?” Henry had asked, noticing that Harry looked pre-occupied.

“Sure, Henry. Good to see that Mrs Shipman’s back.”

Henry had raised his eyebrows. “Good?”

“Well,” Harry had replied, distractedly, “you know…” and he’d made his way back up the stairs to his office, leaving a puzzled plant-waterer in his wake.

He’d entered the room just as Danny had finished his call to Lillian. He’d looked at the fax machine, and saw it was lifeless.

“Nothing through, then?” he’d asked, trying not to seem too worried.

“No,” Danny had said. “But the good news is Lillian’s quite happy for us to call to see her today. And we can take Laurel, too!”

“You didn’t tell her?” Try though he might, Harry couldn’t mask his alarm.

Danny had looked at Harry. “Of course not,” he’d said, checking that his colleague was calming down. “I told her she was called Ana. Sorry, Harry. It was the first name…”

Harry tried not to seem annoyed. OK. If it had to be Ana, it had to be Ana.

“Fair enough, I suppose. Don’t worry about it,” he’d said.

He’d told Danny to wait in the foyer. Laurel had agreed to drive them down to Telford. She’d be back to pick them up as soon as she’d changed her coat. He’d tried to make a call through to Southport, where he hoped to speak to Linda; but the only answer was her voicemail, and he thought better of leaving a message. He’d gathered together the papers he knew they’d need, and pushed them into a soft leather briefcase that was on the floor next to his desk.

Now, as he made his way back downstairs, he placed the briefcase on the top step for a moment, while he lit a cigarette and started thinking how best to approach Lillian. Laurel would be the ace up his sleeve – she wouldn’t be expecting her, and if he was careful in choosing his moment to introduce her, it might just persuade Lillian to reveal more of her story.

He was thinking, too, about how two sisters had come to play a remarkable role in this case. Danny mentioning Ana’s name, and the realization that Laurel would be assuming it during their visit to Telford had brought to mind Stuart McFry’s wife, and her sibling. That would be an interesting area to tease out with Lillian, he was sure. He wondered if she even knew about them?

Laurel was pulling up outside as he closed the door to Melrose Buildings behind him. Danny was waiting on the pavement. Laurel pushed the door open “Get in,” she said, “I don’t want to delay us any longer.” Danny folded himself into the back seat of the bronze sports car, dragging his bag onto the tiny area of free space next to him. Harry climbed into the front seat, his briefcase on his lap. “Nice coat!” he said to Laurel. It was grey cashmere, sharply cut and well-matched to her shining black hair.

“Thanks,” she said. “Now. Who’s going to navigate?” With that, she turned sharply in the street and headed fast down to the flyover, and onto the road that would take them as quickly as possible to the motorway, and on down to Telford.

3 comments:

Theresa111 said...

Wonderful!

Lord Likely said...

Keep it coming, sir, I am on tenterhooks!

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thank you so much, Theresa and Lord L!
I fear the climax is approaching...