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The Scarlet Web, Chapter Twelve. (standard:action, 2448 words)
Author: Brian CrossAdded: Jul 29 2002Views/Reads: 2504/1560Story 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 

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