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Authors: Louise Wise

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BOOK: A Proper Charlie
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There were several new faces in the building and lots of coming and goings by different people.

The top floor, previously rented out to a financial company called
Askew & Daughter,
was receiving a lot of attention. Apparently, Sir Donald was going to make the entire top floor into his office.

Oh, I can lend you platforms for Saturday,’ said Faye, spinning around on her chair.

Really?’ When Charlie had asked before, Faye said she didn’t have any spare.

Sure,’ Faye said, nodding happily. ‘I’ve several pairs.’

Thanks, I’ll treat them like they are my own.’

Faye smiled at her and Charlie was so shocked she almost fell off her chair.

I’m so looking forward to this party now, aren’t you?’ Faye trilled. ‘Although I don’t know how we were collared into being the Spice Girls. But I’m glad Andy isn’t coming. How can we be the Spice Girls with him tagging along?’

He was going as David Beckham.’

Faye rolled her eyes. She rose and sauntered over towards Charlie’s desk. She pointed to the ceiling. ‘As we speak, there are men up there working on Sir Don’s new office.
,’ she added with a wink and nodding her head as if she and Charlie were accomplice to the same secret.

No.’ Charlie waved her hands at her in denial. ‘I’m off men forever now. I’m a singleton and I’m staying that way.’

Once you fall off the horse, you need to jump right back on,’ Faye said.

Bollocks.’ Sarah stood beside Charlie’s desk with a cup of coffee in her hands. She saluted Charlie with her cup. ‘Here’s to singleton and never having to shave again!’

Charlie giggled, as Faye looked at her in disgust before hissing, ‘Don’t you have

Sarah ignored her. ‘You can now leave Tampax wrappers lying about and not worry that he’s going to get all disgusted.’

You can lie on both sides of the bed and get the covers all to yourself.’ Melvin spun round in his chair to join in.

You don’t qualify in this conversation,’ said Faye. ‘

You get to sexually stimulate yourself when you want it, and not just when the footie is over. Or at stupid o’clock in the morning,’ said Sarah, warming to her topic.

Why’d men like it in the morning?’ asked Faye. ‘I hate it. I feel all grubby and want nothing more than a shower when I wake up.’

Men are strange creatures,’ said Charlie, and Sarah and Faye nodded in agreement.

men are strange creatures,’ amended Melvin flicking fluff off his
Don’t Discriminate, Hate Everyone




Ben sat in his nearly empty office in
The Globe
. It was almost cleared in preparation for his new one at
London Core
next week, but as he looked around at he realised this office was as empty as his life.

Camilla still hadn’t made contact. Her number for her mobile phone was no longer registering. It was as if she had cut herself out from her family. It hurt Ben. He’d lost a mother and felt like he’d lost a sister too.

She had been missing for three days now. It wasn’t long, but it wasn’t like her not to keep in contact.

A knock on his office door caused him to minimise a page he was on on the computer. His PA looked in on him.

I’m off to oversee your things being moved to
,’ she said.

Thanks Clair,’ he said. ‘It’s close to your home, isn’t it, so take yourself off after. I’m all finished here, anyway.’

If you’re sure.’

I am.’ He smiled at her, and waited until the door was closed then he brought the page back up on the monitor. He was searching for a Private Investigator. He needed one that specialised in missing persons and who was highly discreet.

He came back to: Private Investigator, Kevin Locke, sympathetic and particularly experienced in the location of missing persons. The website looked professional, and it promised discretion.

Ben telephoned the number from the website. He was surprised and pleased when it didn’t go to an automated answer line and was answered by a human.

He briefly gave details of Camilla’s disappearance and fixed an appointment for tomorrow morning where they’d meet and discuss the whereabouts of his sister in detail, and assign him a PI. Ben wrote the appointment in his diary, and flicking through the pages he was reminded of
London Core
’s party this coming Saturday.

God, he’d forgotten! Thank goodness he’d jotted it down, his father wouldn’t have forgiven him if he didn’t turn up.

He was dreading it. He hated parties; work parties especially.

There were four types of people he dreaded meeting at parties: crawlers, superiors, drunks and women.

Crawlers: These people fawned all over him and generally made him feel embarrassed.
Superiors: These were the types who thought he was ‘uppity’ and either ignored him or treated him with polite distain.
Drunks: Need he explain? But, of course, you got the crawling drunk or the superior drunk. Drunks who brown-nosed him were creepy, and drunks who were ‘superior’ often thought it clever to ‘speak their mind’ and tell him a few home truths – usually crap but it was uncomfortable all the same.
Women: He liked women, but felt tense in their presence. He never knew how to speak to women out of the office. And then you had the female crawlers and superiors. But worse, worse of all, were






harlie had decided she was going to join a nunnery, Andy was not answering her texts and her ovaries were bouncing around inside her in panic. Or that’s how the pain in her stomach felt. Truth was she was due on, and her skin was beginning to resemble a pizza. Sheesh, life was good. Not.

There was slight commotion outside in the corridor and workmen came in carrying various bits and pieces. One held a framed picture, covered loosely in polythene. He placed it outside Mr Fanton’s office, and then went back out for more.

Is that Middleton’s stuff?’ Charlie asked.

Faye had already scuttled over as fast as her six-inch heels would allow, and was peering through the collection.

Looks like it, doll,’ Melvin said. He wore his
Touch my moobs
T-shirt today. Charlie’s personal favourite.

They pinned back the doors for the workmen to come and go more easily, and then Melvin went down to see if he could help. One came in wheeling boxes and files with a large potted plant balancing precariously on top, Charlie grabbed it before it could fall.

Thanks, love,’ he said, passing her. Charlie followed him peering through the leaves of the plant.

Fanny came out of his office and looked down at the boxes and loose furniture. ‘That’ll never fit in my office,’ he said.

Been told to bring it all up here,’ the workman said.

A tall woman had followed Charlie towards the office. She stuck out her hand to Mr Fanton. ‘I’m Clair Michel, how do you do?’

Mr Fanton,’ said Mr Fanton, clasping her hand and shaking it. ‘I’m the managing editor. Can I help you?’

I’m Mr Middleton’s PA. I’m organising his possessions into his new office.’ She pointed to Mr Fanton’s office. ‘Is that it?’

Fanny looked at his office and then back at her. ‘I thought the one upstairs?’

Eventually, yes,’ Clair Michel said. ‘The electric need rewiring, it needs redecorating and carpeting. Mr Middleton can’t possibly take up residence in such a mess.’ She looked at Mr Fanton as if he should have realised that.

But my office is too small for us to share,’ he said.

Share?’ She looked at him scornfully. ‘I don’t think so Mr Fanton.’

Get out of there, girl!’ He turned his embarrassment into anger and flapped at Charlie as she placed the potted plant on the floor. ‘And don’t be so nosy.’

Charlie flushed, feeling guilty even though she knew she was innocent.

Another workman came in wheeling a dark brown leather chair.

Do you want my men to help move you?’ Clair Michel looked around and then pointed to a spot in front of his office’s window. ‘We could position your desk there facing the room.’

Mr Fanton nodded miserably, as Charlie and Faye giggled between one another.

Charlie’s eyes fell on the framed picture. She moved away the polythene so she could see it properly. It was the famous picture of the earthrise from the moon with the caption
: God gives us dreams a size too big so that we can grow in them.

Inspiring, isn’t it?’

Charlie looked up at Clair Michel.

I think he glances at that for motivation on bad days.’

Does he get many bad days?’ Charlie couldn’t believe old Mr Middleton thought days as bad or good.

He could be happier,’ she said. She took the picture from Charlie as if afraid she’d break it and placed it back against the office wall.

The two workmen were lifting Fanny’s desk with his paperwork still on top. He was running around trying to stop stuff from sliding off. His comb-over was slipping off his bald patch and he licked his fingers to stick it back into place. Poor Fanny, he was reduced to a small desk alongside everybody else’s.

That evening, Mr Middleton’s picture and its caption inspired Charlie to open up her laptop and find her article. She hadn’t looked at it since she and Andy had split up and Melvin had told her the article was already being covered.

She sat looking at her words; not reading but just thinking about Melvin’s reluctance to encourage her. He’d always been the same. Never strive, never hope and you won’t be disappointed was his motto. Despite his sexuality, or maybe because of it, he wasn’t as liberal as he looked. She supposed his nature was because of the cruel way his parents were taken from him. He barely drank and was terrified she was going to be led astray by free-thinking friends.

The authorities took Melvin away when she was twelve; she had never forgotten the pain; it had been like a tumour inside. Expanding each and every way until she couldn’t eat or breathe. It had never gone away – oh, the pain had certainly gone, but the fear of being left alone; of being deserted was always there and that, Charlie suspected, had been the birth of her embarrassing panic attacks that dogged her life.

Melvin was adopted at fourteen and his adoptive parents had wanted to separate them, believing she was a bad influence on him; something her social worker agreed with. They all believed that because she had been in care since forever and Melvin only five years, he had more prospects whereas she was doomed. OK, she was being fanciful as usual.

Then Melvin’s adoptive parents moved to London, taking him with them. Charlie was left behind in her hometown of Northampton, and gradually they lost touch; the social workers and his adoptive parents had succeeded in splitting them up.

But Melvin found her again. Dear Melly. It was thanks to him that she had a job with
London Core

She didn’t know anything about reporting, but she knew about
. There had been many stories about the prostitutes in a negative light, and Charlie knew she could write something in a sympathetic slant instead. It didn’t have to mean an
. Melvin was right, she
write fiction. A novel!




Ben was sitting in the smart office of Mr Kevin Locke. He studied the picture of the cartoon
Pink Panther
on the back wall. Locke was writing something down in a notebook, a pink tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth. Ben dragged his gaze away from the cartoon and studied the top of Locke’s bent head. He had a bald spot the size of a two-pound coin. Ben fingered his own head.

Kevin looked up, and Ben snatched his hand away from his head as if he’d been found out doing something he shouldn’t.

So,’ Locke read back his notes, ‘last seen Friday at about 2 p.m., wearing black. Her car is a dark silver Land Rover Discovery 3. And her emotional state was…’ he checked his notes, ‘emotional.’ He twisted round and glanced at the calendar pinned to his wall behind him. ‘Missing for four days,’ he said. ‘Not terribly long really.’

BOOK: A Proper Charlie
4.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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