This excerpt is taken from Chapter 13 of Visiting Lilly
‘Jake, Jake, I must see you, today, as soon as possible.’
Bloody hell, he was calling him Jake, reeling in friendship to generate an immediate response.
‘I’ll be with you by lunch time,’ he texted back, wondered why Yates wasn’t in, and called Helen.
‘I don’t know if that’s enough for us to use,’ she said thoughtfully after listening to how Kate had witnessed Charteris throw something at Lilly and cut her.
‘When my sergeant gets here I’ll have Kate’s statement emailed over immediately.’
‘Would you prefer to pass it over in person, perhaps do dinner?’ There was a purr of seduction running through her words.
It was a pity to disappoint. ‘Sorry, I’m going to a private view of a painting this evening.’
‘Just the one?’
‘Then it must be very special.’
The conversation ended on a note of intrigue, bringing a wry smile to his lips as it crossed his mind that Helen might fancy him, just a little bit.
Next he called Yates, only it was Trudy’s dulcet tones that greeted him with, ‘Morning, sir.’
‘What have you done with Yates?’
She laughed, which wasn’t the response he was looking for. It wasn’t friendly laughter, and the derogatory sound made him resent her lingering perfume in his office and want to fight for his territory like an angry dog. If she’d flipped back with a witty quip, he would have laughed along with her.
‘Well, where is he?’ Talbot demanded.
‘He’s driving, sir.’ There was still an irritating giggle in her voice. ‘We’re going to interview Mr Fix-it.’
‘Well, tell Yates to drive right back and interview him on the phone.’
‘He’s finding somewhere to pull over, sir.’
‘No, no, just put the phone on speaker, so that I can communicate with him.’
Mumblings and mutterings were followed by Trudy exclaiming, ‘Found it,’ followed by a surround sound audio of the car’s interior, the distinctive click-click of the indicator going, and both of them shifting in their seats.
‘Sir.’ Even in the one word he could perceive Yates’s frustration.
‘I need you back here. Bailey wants a full and comprehensive report on all of our findings. Every tiny detail.’
‘Is there a rush for it, sir?’
Talbot knew that tone: slightly sarcastic and designed to make one feel a fool for suggesting urgency.
‘Yes, five o’clock tomorrow, at the latest.’ It did no harm to give him a deadline, and he certainly wasn’t going to tread on Bailey’s toes by mentioning the Permissions.
‘I can easily get it done by then, sir.’
No doubt Yates had copious amounts of notes, the efficient bastard. Huh, he most likely had Trudy playing secretary and speed-typing dictation.
‘Did you find me a number for a specialist in astral travel?’
‘Yes, sir, it’s on a Post-it note on the monitor.’
Spinning round, Talbot spied the yellow square of paper. ‘I need a copy of Kate’s statement.’
‘In your in-tray, sir.’ There was a pause, and he heard Trudy stifle a giggle. ‘And before you ask, station gossip has it that Bailey was out at a friend’s drinks party the other night, nothing to do with Charteris.’
‘Excellent; then you’d best get on and interview Mr Fix-it.’ He was about to hang up, but Trudy obviously didn’t know which button to press on Yates’s phone because her voice lingered on, encouraging him to listen.
‘He’s in a dreadful strop,’ Trudy said.
‘Yeah, and for no good reason. Bailey told us to drop the case, but Jake’s still storming ahead into nothing.’ Yates sounded exasperated. ‘I daresay Bailey wants the report so that he can see what we’ve been wasting our time on.’
‘I thought you mentioned a murder?’
‘Missing person. No body, no crime. The kid probably came home one day and no one thought to inform freaky Mother Hayward, so she’s still banging on about it.’ He spoke as if it were a fact.
‘Is he always so stressed?’ Trudy sounded judgmental.
‘It’s the time of year that does it to him. But he coped better before the Lasseter case; and Claire up and leaving didn’t help.’
‘I thought that was months ago.’
‘Nearly a year. He arrived home one day to find that she’d stripped the place bare.’
‘Not everything.’ Trudy giggled, and a knot tightened in Talbot’s gut. No, not everything, Trudy, she left me a roomful of antiques, the kitchen appliances, a bed, a sofa and some stale bread. He felt like shouting at her to mind her own business, but he should have known better than to eavesdrop, because it was always painful hearing what other people had to say about you in your absence.
Deciding to hang up, in a minute, he snatched the Post-it note off the monitor. That’s when he heard Trudy say, ‘He’s a bit washed up really, isn’t he.’
‘Yep. He can’t cope with Christmas. He shouldn’t be working at all. And that’s why Bailey’s letting him fiddle around with this pile of crap.’
Talbot hung up. A painful stab tightened his chest as his solar plexus took the full force of the blow. For a moment he stood very still, staring into the aching space that had become his life. One very nasty criminal was up for trial. A job well done, worthy of national news coverage. Is that what had cost him his relationship with Claire? She had been his sticky plaster, and as soon as she abandoned him, the old wound had opened up with a vengeance. The pain of Christmas alone, with all of its haunting memories, threatened to overwhelm him. He perched on the back of Yates’s chair and blinked several times, trying to focus on the number scrawled across the Post-it note.
Damn Trudy. What did she know? He didn’t have to explain himself to them, to tell them he had chosen the Hayward case, that he had seen something sinister lurking in the shadows, and that he was the one who was bloody well going to find out what it was. Oh Christ, he needed a fag.
Opting for the warmth of the office instead of the cold and nicotine, he made a mug of tea before phoning John the psychic, the expert in astral travel. Keep going, he told himself, keep motivated, Kate would be coming round this evening with the painting, and that was something personal and exciting to look forward to. No, he wasn’t sad, or washed-up; he was mending, in his own way. In his own time.
Twice he dialled John the psychic, and twice it went through to voicemail. There was little point in leaving a message, so he hunted down Kate’s statement and sent it over to Helen’s office. Ah, so Kate was thirty-five, and a miss. To his mind she hadn’t emphasised the point enough about Charteris having cut Lilly. The officer writing it down should have used stronger words. It was all they had, so it would have to do. A third attempt with John the psychic proved fruitful, but the guy didn’t seem to want to give a straight answer and preferred to go on and on about his personal out of body experiences.
‘John, do you have enough knowledge and expertise to answer my question or not?’ Talbot asked, prepared to hang up if he waffled on any more.
‘I don’t quite understand what you’re asking,’ John admitted.
Neither did Talbot. The very idea of separating yourself in two, of your consciousness leaving your body, voluntarily, pressed all the wrong buttons in him; yet here he was asking stupid questions because he was trying to do his job. He sucked in a long breath and once again said, ‘John, during astral travel, can you go backwards in time?’
There was a pause while John pondered, and Talbot could hear the cogs whirring. ‘I don’t see why not.’
‘Have you experienced it, or known of it, in any case study?’ Knuckle him down to specifics, Talbot thought.
‘Well … no, but I imagine it’s possible. The human psyche is very complex, and when one travels through the astral plane, all manner of phenomena may manifest. Many people have accessed information regarding the past and future.’
‘Ah, so it can be done.’ At last.
‘Of course!’ His tone was indignant.
‘So, someone can astral travel back in time and interact with someone in the past.’
John’s voice turned pompous. ‘I spoke with a man once who witnessed Nero burning Rome …’
‘Did he speak with him? Did they have a conversation?’
‘Your questions imply that you’ve been experiencing etheric projection, and not true astral travel at all.’
‘You didn’t answer my question.’ Talbot unclenched his fingers; they were aching. He hadn’t realised how much force he was putting into his fist. Perhaps psychic John could feel the energy of him hitting him square on the chin through the astral plane; he certainly hoped so.
‘It sounds like you require a full consultation, a private sitting, Mr Talbot, to help process the phenomena you have been encountering.’
He sighed as if Talbot were a lost soul. ‘Where shall I send the bill for today’s session?’
‘Surrey Constabulary, accounts department, and put it for the attention of Detective Inspector Talbot; you’ve been helping the police with their enquiries.’
Visiting Lilly by Toni Allen
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