|The Scarlet Web, Chapter Twelve. (standard:action, 2448 words)|
|Author: Brian Cross||Added: Jul 29 2002||Views/Reads: 2453/1528||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Chapter Twelve of a psychological thriller, involving a young girl who is indecently assaulted as a teenager, and a serial killer.|
CHAPTER TWELVE Mike accompanied by Stukeley, arrived at the flat the blonde woman had rented to find the landlord, Wright, waiting on the steps. It was a grimy area of Whitechapel, narrow and claustrophobic, the kind that looked as if it hadn't seen a dustcart in weeks, and the place was rendered more depressing by the overcast day. They were lead up a block of eroding concrete steps and into the stuffy interior of a three storey, turn of the century building, Mike grimaced at the unsavoury odour which blasted from within. ‘There's not much I can tell you, I'm afraid gentlemen,' the plump red faced man said, hitching up his baggy beige trousers and commencing a prolonged bout of coughing. He lead them up a flight of steps, narrowly covered with a threadbare carpet to a first floor room, the door to which stood ajar. He pushed it open, whistling through the gaps in his teeth as he forced his cigarette into a makeshift tin foil ashtray. ‘She was a damned good looker all right,' he snorted, ‘well dressed, tallish, and she spoke proper like. The sort you could stuff as soon as look -' he paused, Mike's eyes had hardened, ‘well she paid me six hundred quid cash,' he continued, lowering his eyes under Mike's stare, ‘a month's rent when all said and done.' Mike frowned, looking around the first floor flat, with its grimy net curtains and furniture with faded and worn upholstery, ‘You've told us she was attractive, smartly dressed and well spoken, didn't you think it strange that an attractive, apparently refined woman should have chosen to fork out six hundred pounds on this?' He glanced across at Stukeley who was searching through the room, ‘Didn't you even think to question her?' Wright shrugged, he appeared genuinely puzzled, ‘I never thought to, why the hell should I? I was only too pleased to accept the money, I mean would you turn down six hundred quid for this?' Mike raised his eyebrows, took a deep breath and regretted doing so as sickly odour pervaded his nostrils, ‘I wouldn't have the nerve to ask for it. How did she respond to your advertisement?' Wright sighed and threw up his hands, ‘I got a phone call, look why all the fuss, what's she done anyway?' ‘Just answer the question please, and open a window if you don't mind,' even his craving for a cigarette had given way to desire for fresh air. ‘I got a phone call, she said she was interested and we met here. She came up with the cash just like that, never so much as looked at the place,' Wright's forehead knotted into tiny threads, ‘I -' He stopped. Mike had turned away, his attention drawn by Stukeley, who had discovered the contents of an overturned litter bin that had been swept under a corner table. Somewhere amidst the small pile of rubbish there might just be a shred of evidence that could help reveal the woman's identity - and pigs might fly. Nonetheless he knelt beside the foul smelling heap, examining the stodgy contents fragment by fragment. A half sheet of newspaper smelling revoltingly of sour milk caught his attention. It contained the initial advertisement for the flat, ringed he noticed in thick black ink. Impatiently he beckoned Wright across, ‘Desirable apartment in sought after area, to be let at reduced rent, is this yours?' he held it out to the landlord, derision in his voice. ‘Sure it is.' The recipient was embarrassed, Mike could well understand that, but as the smelly sheet was handed back towards him something on the underside commanded his attention to such an extent that he snatched it back from Wright's grasp. It was a portion of an article on travel, and from the inscription a leaf from the magazine Saffron. What held him spellbound was the photo of the writer in the top corner: none other than the writer, Shelley Summers. Mike became rigid, his thoughts darting back to the photo-kit picture in his office, and in his mind he matched it with the face and hair of the woman who now stared up at him. The likeness was remarkable, but also unexplainable. And the discovery of a portion of “Saffron” paper beside the bin, was it simply coincidence that the lodgings advert appeared to be on the reverse side of Shelley's magazine article, was he allowing his increasing feelings for her to play tricks with his mind? If so there was still no doubting the strong resemblance he saw in the picture, it would be interesting to determine whether others remarked on it, but therein lay the problem. He couldn't ask for comparisons without revealing why and thereby placing her under direct suspicion. Any trust she had in him would be shot to pieces if interrogation were to result. Why on earth Shelley in any case? It would be insane to believe she was anything other than a journalist. Nonetheless the immediate question must be asked, he thrust the paper back into the bemused man's hand, ‘Was this the woman you saw?' Wright studied the small photograph for several seconds then shook his head, ‘I can't say yes or no, the picture's too crumpled.' ‘I'm not worried about the condition of the picture, look at it closely, is this the person?' Wright shook his head again dubiously, ‘I told you, I can't say, she's a looker just as my tenant was, but I Click here to read the rest of this story (123 more lines)
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