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Authors: Roger Gumbrell

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BOOK: A Perfect Likeness
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‘Shit, it would be him. Did he also tell you I owe him a favour?’

‘No.’

‘Well, I do. A big one, from years ago, so I suppose this must be pay-back time. The bastard. Tell me what the problem is while I finish my medicine.’ Trish took another sip. ‘Good job you caught me early in the day, a few more of these,’ she said, raising her glass, ‘and it would have taken a bomb to wake me. No promises though, is that understood?’ Her voice was deep with a slight huskiness about it. Jackie was almost jealous believing there were a great number of men who would find it very sexy.

Jackie had only said a few words when Trish interrupted.

‘That’s enough, how am I expected to concentrate with Mr Bloody Owner looking at me out of the corner of his beady little eye and grinning like that wretched cat whose name I can’t think of at the moment. Guide me back to the house and we’ll talk there. Be warned, it’s not tidy and I’m not at my best. Never am these days.’ She staggered as she got off the stool and grabbed Jackie’s arm to avoid ending up on the floor. Jackie bent down and picked up the belt that had finally displaced itself.

Jackie couldn’t resist a glance over her shoulder as she escorted the unsteady Trish to the door. She nodded towards Mr Bloody Owner as he pulled another pint. She couldn’t understand why he was showing such clear signs of delight and hoped he was not banking on her to put Trish right. Jackie was very much undecided as to whether she had found her investigator.

*

The room was gloomy, a single shaft of light penetrated a small, high level window covered with a net curtain. The French windows had the floor length curtains overlapping and secured in position by two chairs. Jackie walked straight over and opened them. She had expected there would be empty bottles heaped everywhere and the floor littered with rubbish, but it wasn’t like that. The room was untidy and in need of a good clean, but she had seen worse.

It took Trish a few moments to realise the room was lighter. ‘Hey what the hell are you doing? I don’t need light. Half the time I don’t even know what time of day or night it is anyway so what’s the point.’

‘Stop talking like that, you make it sound as though your problem is with you for life.’

‘Probably is, but who cares. We’ll talk in here,’ said Trish. ‘The office is through that door,’ she pointed, ‘and I’ve not been in there since
he
left.’

‘I have a feeling it won’t be too long before you are back in there.’

Trish flopped down on the leather sofa. ‘You sound very confident, Miss er… Sorry, I don’t even know your name.’

‘Jackie. Jackie Salter.’

‘Okay, Jackie, what makes you think I will be back to work soon? Just look at me, I’ve had it. I lost it all when that bastard of a man walked out on me.’

‘Look, Miss Lister, I know exactly what you are going through. Although we were never married I lived with a man for five years until he got tired of me and found a new model. He had been having the affair for twelve months before I found out. I was told by a work colleague that she had seen him with this other woman on a number of occasions. When I confronted him he admitted it. It hurts badly but we get over it. We have to. We will be all the stronger for the experience, no matter how bitter it is. You will be no different. We are women and can’t let this hurt tear us apart and ruin our lives.’

‘You don’t strike me as a being a women’s libber.’ For the first time she looked into Jackie’s eyes as she spoke.

‘I’m not, but I wouldn’t want any man to think he’s got one over on me, even if he has. But listen, Trish, if I may use your first name, drink is not the right way to get over this setback.’

Trish’s reaction frightened Jackie. She leapt off the sofa, picked up an empty vase from the table and threw it at the office door, followed by the two cushions from a chair. ‘What the hell do you mean? Are you accusing me of being a drunk? How dare you. What right do you have to come into my house and call me a drunk? You bitch.’ She was shaking, a mixture of anger and gin.

Jackie was furious with herself again; she thought she had said everything right, knowing Trish might be a bit volatile. She decided there was no point in changing her approach. ‘Sorry, Trish, but that’s the way it looks to me and, no doubt, everyone else. You have a major drink problem. Face up to it, woman, or you’ll have drunk yourself to death within a year. Your choice. And I was just beginning to feel sorry for you.’ She grabbed her bag off the table and made for the door. ‘Good luck, Miss Lister,’ she shouted from the hall, ‘I think you are going to need it.’

‘Bastard,’ shouted Trish as she slammed the living room door. She pounded on the closed door and continued to scream abuse.

Jackie hesitated, her eyes filling. Unsure what she should do. If she left and Trish did ‘something silly’ it would be her fault. She knew she could not live with that.

It went silent. Jackie put her ear to the door. Nothing. She wiped her eyes, took a deep breath and slowly opened the door. Trish was sitting on the floor, knees raised with her head lowered.

Jackie knelt down and placed her hand on Trish’s shoulder, expecting her to become violent at any moment.

She raised her head. ‘You came back, why?’ All signs of anger having vanished.

Jackie felt more comfortable. ‘I couldn’t leave you like that. Didn’t know what you might have got up to. Come on, Trish, up you get, my knees are throbbing.’ She took her hands and helped her up.

‘Thanks for coming back, I hoped you would. I did consider suicide you know. Not long after he left me, but couldn’t do it.’ Trish couldn’t hold out any longer, she threw herself into Jackie’s arms and cried. Six months of repressed emotion was unleashed.

Jackie said nothing, as she stroked the back of Trish’s head and allowed her to cry it out.

When the sobbing stopped Trish remained silent for a while before stepping back. ‘Sorry about the wet patch on your blouse.’ She tried brushing it away with her hand.

‘Don’t worry about it, glad to have been of some use.’

Trish sniggered, only momentarily lightening her melancholy. ‘You are right with everything you said and I know it, but why bother when there’s nothing left?’

‘Nonsense. There’s the rest of your life left. Use it. You’re luckier than most, Trish, you have a business to get stuck into.’

‘I’ve a lot to thank Inspector Deckman for, but who, in their right mind, would employ me now? Just look at me.’

Jackie looked at her and was filled with sadness for the woman in front of her. She couldn’t help herself when she spoke. ‘Trish Lister, Private Investigator,
I
need you to work for me. Will you do it?’ Her tone softened, ‘Please say yes.’

‘I… I don’t know, Jackie. I want to say yes, but I don’t want to let you down and I’m sure I will. I rely so much on the bottle at the moment. I don’t have anything else.’

‘Look, I want to give you that something else. A means to put that wretched bottle behind you. You will get there in the end, but it will be hard and you will need some professional support. I will be about to help you as much as I can, but you must accept there will be the odd set-back along the way. The most important thing, Trish, is a longing to get better. Nobody can help you if you don’t have that wish and are not prepared to help yourself.’

‘I do, I do.’ Trish grabbed hold of Jackie again and held her close. ‘Thanks, Jackie, I have no sisters or friends and my dear mother died last year. No one for me to talk to. I guess I’ve been waiting for someone like you to come along. I need you. I can’t do it on my own and I hate myself for not being able to.’

‘I’ll be there don’t worry, but we need each other, Trish. Right, first of all we are going to get you smartened up. You look an absolute mess and your hair is disgusting.’

Despite them having just met for the first time they hugged and laughed together. It felt right to do so. Trish had not laughed for six months and it made her feel good. An hour later Trish’s appearance had been transformed. Shower, hair-do, clean clothes and a touch of make-up.

‘You look great,’ said Jackie, ‘and that dress is gorgeous.’

‘Thanks, I feel great,’ replied Trish looking at herself in the full-length mirror that she had taken from under the settee and leant against the wall. ‘I hid all the mirrors months ago; couldn’t bear to look at myself. Can’t remember where half of them are.’

‘Okay, so now you can put them all back, when you find them. Right, let’s go across the road to The Study for a celebratory drink.’

A look of alarm spread across Trish’s face. ‘A bit risky isn’t it?’

‘Don’t panic, coffee only and a bite to eat. You look as though you need some real food inside you. And then we can talk about what I need you to do for me. I’ll make sure Mr Bloody Owner doesn’t bother us with his beady eyes. So, do I take it that you are going to work for me?’

‘Yes, but I don‘t think…’

‘No arguments, Trish, you are going to be fine.’

*

The Study was busy, the early evening trade had begun. Heads turned and eyes homed in on the two attractive new arrivals. A few wasted no time on them, they were not the friends who were expected. Some of the single men hesitated, considering whether it was worth an approach. Most of the regulars rubbed their eyes in disbelief as they had grown used to seeing Trish much the worse for her G & Ts and an open-mouthed Mr Bloody Owner cursed as he allowed the pint he was pulling to overflow.

Jackie grabbed Trish’s arm and rushed her the final few steps to the bar. ‘Mr Bloody Owner,’ she said, ‘I have the greatest pleasure in presenting the
real
Trish Lister.’

‘Trish, you look fantastic, bloody fantastic, whatever you want is on me.’

Chapter 2

Jackie and Trish chatted non-stop during the forty minute drive to Nunhouse prison. Jackie leading the way, talking about pets, food, music and fashion. Anything trivial to keep Trish’s mind away from her interview with Michael and, more importantly, her craving for a drink. It was approaching thirty-six hours since her last gin and tonic. Jackie had made sure of that by not letting Trish out of her sight, day or night.

Trish was clearly uncomfortable. Fidgeting, playing with the seat belt and blindly flicking through her paperwork.

‘Relax, Trish, you’re making me nervous.’

‘Come in with me, please, I can’t do it on my own. I won’t do it on my own.’

‘Yes you can, you must do it and, anyway, I’m not ready to see Michael yet. Not until I’m sure he didn’t murder my sister.’

‘I need a drink. A proper one. Another mug of coffee and, I promise you, I’ll explode.’

‘What sort of impression do you think you will make? Breathing gin over Dr Ingles and Michael.’

Trish took a quick glance at Jackie, unsure as to whether she should laugh or not. ‘Could just be the strength I’m after.’

‘Might be, but it’s a non-starter. Tell you what,’ said Jackie. ‘I promise to buy you a real drink, just one mind you,
after
you’ve completed the interview.’

Trish was not convinced. As Jackie reversed into the only available space in the prison car park she broke down again. ‘I don’t want it in hours, I need it now. Don’t you understand what I’m saying. Now. For God’s sake, who am I trying to kid? Let me get out of here, I’m not going through with this.’ She went for the door handle.

Jackie grabbed hold of her arm. ‘Trish,’ she shouted, ‘stop this nonsense. You’ve got to do it. If not for me, Michael or my dead sister you must do it for yourself. Stop running away from life. You
can
do it and you’ll do it well because you are the best.’

She relaxed her hold on Trish, still expecting her to get out of the car and run. Much to her relief she didn’t. She turned towards Jackie, her eyes filled.

‘And don’t you dare start to cry,’ said Jackie waving a warning finger. ‘You’re not going in there looking like a clown.’

The giggles relaxed them both and Trish looked in the mirror to check for any damage.

‘How do I look, Jackie. The truth?’

‘You look great, if I were a bloke I’d probably fancy you. Now get your butt out of here and start earning your fee.’

*

Trish sat alone in one of the prison interview rooms. Uninviting, spartan in the extreme. A functional wooden table displaying random cigarette burns stood in the centre, surrounded by four green plastic chairs. A further two chairs were stacked in one corner. A narrow chipboard cupboard was screwed to the wall next to the door. Trish couldn’t imagine what was inside, but she noticed the corner of a white piece of cloth sticking out from under the padlocked door. A wall telephone was mounted next to the cupboard. The recently applied daffodil yellow emulsion failed to conceal the outline of Victorian bricks used to construct the prison. A single window, permanently secured and with three vertical bars provided the only natural light. Trish looked out over one of the exercise yards where a handful of inmates were taking their frustrations out on an orange coloured football whilst the two warders standing in front of the only exit were enjoying a joke.

Trish had done many things during her fifteen years as a private investigator, but interviewing a convicted murderer in prison was not one of them. She searched her handbag for the photo of Michael Campbell. It had been taken during a skiing holiday four years earlier, but his right arm was missing where Jackie had cut him out of a group picture. Trish was wondering how much he might have changed after two years in prison when she heard footsteps and voices in the corridor. She put the photo in her pocket as Dr Ingles, so she presumed, entered and closed the door behind him.

BOOK: A Perfect Likeness
9.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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