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Authors: Louise Wise

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BOOK: A Proper Charlie
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You seemed such a shy, timid little thing that I was worried you’d never make anything of yourself in adult life. The business was going to be handed down to you, but I thought the business would start and end with me, because you seemed so… so… anxious,’ Donald said at last struggling for words. ‘I felt your easy lifestyles had made you soft, I wanted to toughen you both up.’

You made me take up boxing,’ Ben remembered. He also remembered how he came to have his nose broken.

You liked it in the end,’ Donald protested.

I hated every minute of it,’ Ben said. ‘I carried on with it to please you. It was so hard to please you as a child,’ he admitted. ‘Even now, as a man, nothing is good enough.’

I don’t want you to waste yourself,’ Donald insisted gruffly. It was something Ben had come to hear so many times, but had only understood recently. His father had rarely spoken about his childhood, but it all stemmed from there. He had grown up on London’s back streets, and had to practically fend for himself. His own father had been an alcoholic; his mother had worked her fingers to stumps taking up various cleaning and factory jobs to keep her husband in vodka or gin. As an only child, both parents ignored Donald; he was never encouraged or praised. He grew up hungry for acknowledgement and success.

You made Cam take up horse-riding. She hated it and used to prick herself with a pin to pretend she had an allergic reaction to horse hair,’ Ben remembered.

Donald laughed. ‘Did she really? The little minx. You and her were as different as cat and dog. You, the faithful Labrador and she the spitting tiger.’

Ben bristled. He didn’t like that description of him.

I’m worried about her,’ Donald said.

I know, so am I.’

There’s a weirdo on the prowl. Did you see the headline in
? They think the two disappearances are linked – police have confirmed it. Two whores presumed dead, but who’s to say the murderer isn’t prejudiced against ordinary women?’

You can’t think like that. Besides, nobody knows for certain what’s happened to those women,’ Ben said knowing, despite his words, he’d been thinking the very same. ‘I’m sure she’ll show up before long.’

Have you phoned her friends? Her university?’

I’m doing it today.’

I want to keep this out of the press. I don’t want her reported missing, yet…’

Ben forced a light-hearted laugh. ‘She’s only been gone since Friday. Two days is hardly a missing person! Tell you what, how about you and I head to the golf course after I’m back from Bradshaw’s?’ Bradshaw was the firm’s solicitors. ‘I don’t rate your chances on beating me though.’

It worked. Donald cheered up at a mention of his favourite past-time and challenge.

He smacked the arms of the chair he sat in. ‘You boy, stand no chance.’

As Donald settled to watch Lee Westwood take a shot, Ben, with the family’s personal telephone book, headed to his observatory and began to search through it.

His observatory also doubled as his office. It was built at the rear and off set from the house as an eighteenth birthday present. The ground floor was his office and ‘upstairs’ - a metal ladder led up to steel decking where in the centre was a metal pier which held his large telescope that extended out to the heavens by the touch of a button – was his observatory. The dome roof was closed at the moment; the stars hadn’t held any interest for him lately.

Ben began keying in the numbers. He would try all family, distant and near, first.

An hour later, Ben dropped the phone on the desk. Camilla hadn’t been seen by anybody. Over and over Ben had repeated his lie that she had said she might ‘pop in’ but could she call the house because she’s forgotten her door key? A lame fib, but everyone seemed to buy it.

Ben didn’t know where to try next. He told himself she was nineteen years old and quite able to look after herself, another voice told him that she had led a sheltered, structured life from birth and wasn’t equipped for life in the outside world.

Camilla was always getting into scrapes at school coming home with laddered tights and bloody knees. And she always used to hide. Whenever there was a problem, or she thought she was in trouble, she’d vanish.

Ben stroked his chin. That’s what she’s doing now, he thought. Only she wasn’t a little girl hiding in her Wendy house anymore.





ere you go, Lots,’ Andy said.

Charlie took the offered mug of tea with a smile. She and Andy had made up with Andy offering to vacuum the carpets. She’d taken him up on the offer and now sat back to watch, lifting her feet when required, and sipping her tea as he moved back and forth with the upright cleaner.

At last he was finished, and sat on the settee beside Charlie. She didn’t remind him that he hadn’t quite cleaned the entire carpet. She smiled instead and leaned her head against his shoulder.

I was going to tidy up, honest,’ he said. ‘Only you know what Dave’s like. He was para, hun. Me and Paul had to physically take him home else he’d have stayed at ours all night!’

She loved it when he called her flat ‘ours’. He stayed occasionally but preferred to alternate between his mum’s or his friend Paul’s. He was a free spirit. This was another of his attractions. Charlie found it so admirable that he didn’t want to belong.

You don’t have to keep apologising,’ she said.

But I do. I came back from taking Dave home and must’ve fallen asleep. Sorry I didn’t text you or nothing. His missus Susie was well pissed off. God, she’s a dog.’ He squeezed her shoulder. ‘Not a patch on you.’

Charlie glowed. ‘I’ve said it doesn’t matter, and sorry for the misunderstanding about her.’

I must’ve been having a nightmare about her!’

Charlie giggled.

It won’t be long now, hun,’ he said. ‘We’ll have our own place. You, me and the little ones.’

Charlie’s heart swelled and the messy flat seemed no longer a messy flat. When he spoke of
little ones
, well, she could forgive him anything.

I’m having lunch with Melvin today,’ she said, snuggling up to him. ‘Want me to put it off?’

Not Mel the poof?’

Yes, and don’t say that. He’s a very good friend to me. I don’t know what I’d do without him to be honest.’

Andy grunted. ‘Sometimes I think you prefer him to me.’

Jealous?’ she teased. She put the tea on the floor and straddled his lap. She kissed his nose, moving to trail little kisses over his cheek and jawline before claiming his mouth.

He kissed her back and then fumbled under her T-shirt for her breasts. He clamped his hands over them.

Ouch,’ she complained. ‘They’re attached you know!’

Sorry,’ he said. He let go and pulled at her jeans. ‘Take them off then.’

Charlie climbed off his lap and stepped out of her jeans and underwear as Andy lowered his to his thighs. He indicated that she straddle him again.

Is it in?’ she asked.

Hang on. Yep, it’s in.’ He sighed, and settled back with this eyes closed. ‘Enjoy,’ he said.

She bounced up and down as Andy sat back with his hands behind his head.

Harder,’ he instructed. Breathless from effort more than ecstasy, she moved up and down with more force. She wondered what was on the menu at the
Rat and Parrot
. She fancied a nice juicy burger.

Andy groaned.

Maybe with a jacket potato instead of fries. She didn’t like those thin fries that seemed to be served up all that time. What happened to chunky chips?

You done yet?’ she looked down at Andy. He opened one eye.


Charlie bounced some more, telling herself that it was all good exercise for the thighs. She turned her head to catch the time. She should really be making tracks. She bounced harder hoping he’d come.

That’s right. Harder, Lots, harder.’

Up. Down. Up. Down. Her thighs were aching, and her right knee was beginning to click with every ‘up’. She noticed a spider high on the wall, it was striding up towards the ceiling and she wondered if it’d make it before Andy came.

Andy yelped, and Charlie smiled at the spider. ‘You’re a winner,’ she said.

I am pretty good, ain’t I?’ Andy agreed as she pulled off him.

Charlie picked up her underwear and jeans as Andy barely raised from the chair to pull up his clothes. He sat back down, adjusted his anatomy and fastened his fly. With one hand he reached for her discarded tea on the floor and began to drink it, with the other, the remote control where he turned on the TV.

Charlie headed towards the bathroom.

Put the hoover away for us before you leave,’ he said as he channel hopped.




She bit into her burger, licking the corner of her mouth free of tomato relish. Dean, Melvin’s partner, was attacking a steak. Melvin, knife and fork politely balanced on his plate, dabbed his lips with the serviette. He picked them up and began to cut into his Sunday roast.

Why can’t you see through him?’

They were talking about Andy. Or rather Melvin and Dean were trying to put her off Andy.

There’s nothing to see through. I bet he’s dusting my flat now, bless him. Hoovered all round, he did.’

Melvin and Dean glanced at one another.

He was so upset when I accused him of seeing another woman. Practically crying even.’

upset?’ Melvin said. ‘Doll, don’t you think that
had a right to be upset? I mean this isn’t the first time, is it?’

Charlie scowled. ‘Trust you to bring that minor blip up.’

Blip? Doll, someone’s got to wise you up to that pillock.’

OK guys,’ Dean interjected. ‘Let’s just agree to disagree about Andy, shall we? Before Charlie decks you anyway, Mel,’ he added as Melvin opened his mouth to speak.

Melvin looked at her, then slid his hand across the table to lay his hand over hers. ‘Sorry, babe. If Andy makes you happy then who am I to complain?’

We’re going to have a baby together.’

Melvin began to cough. He sipped his orange juice as tears formed in his eyes. ‘Don’t do this to me, doll. Tell me you’re joking?’

She grinned.


That’ll teach you for your dad act. So, are you going back to work after lunch?’ she asked, changing the subject.

Melvin shook his head. ‘I’ve done all I can. The new headline went out today and my phone hasn’t stopped all morning. I need the afternoon to recover.’

Is anyone, er, asking the prozzies questions?’

I guess the police are interviewing everyone, babe. I’ve always wanted a serial killer on my patch, this is so exciting.’ Melvin forked a carrot and pushed it into his mouth.

That isn’t certain though, is it?’

Melvin shook his head, swallowed, ‘No, but it’s just a matter of time.’

But what I meant is, are we, er, journalists, you know, making enquires,’ she fenced.

Of course, babe, they’re following the police around all over the shop.’

What about the women?’

What about them?’

Is no-one doing a story on them? Everyone is concentrating on this “Gentleman Abductor” but the prostitutes in general aren’t having their views told.’

Do they have views?’


And even if they did would they be worth knowing? Babe, what they are doing is immoral, and I haven’t time for people like that.’

Yet you have for a murderer?’

No time for him either. I just want to sell newspapers.’

Charlie pushed the rest of her jacket potato around her plate. ‘So, no-one is doing a story on the women?’

Melvin laughed at her. ‘Not at this moment, no.’ He patted her hand. ‘Stop worrying, babe, and just carry on with your brilliant secretarial duties, sweetie, and leave the investigation to us sleuths.’

He couldn’t have known how patronising he sounded. She knew Melvin would react badly to her going out onto the streets to conduct her own interviews. To say Melvin was over protective was an understatement. She dropped her probing, deciding there and then to keep her article a secret.

This merger with
could be the making of you,’ Dean said proudly. ‘What with this new story and all.’

BOOK: A Proper Charlie
12.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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