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Authors: Louise Wise

A Proper Charlie (9 page)

BOOK: A Proper Charlie
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Ben played with the end of his tie. He discovered a hole in the tip. Probably when he caught it in the car door yesterday and nearly garrotted himself, he thought absently. Ben looked up, realising Locke had spoken and was waiting for a reply.

Four days,’ Ben agreed, ‘and that’s four days too long in my opinion.’

I can understand your concern.’

That’s very decent of you.’ Ben let his tie go and sat forward in his chair. ‘I know it doesn’t seem long, Mr Locke, but with all due respect she’s my sister and I
she’d not have left it this long to call home.’

, people can act out of character, and sometimes the longer they stay away the harder it is for them to make contact.’ He swivelled around so he was facing his computer. It was the old chunky model from the late 90s. ‘Why’d she leave?’ he said, Ben wasn’t sure he was talking to him or the computer he was tapping away into.

Hmm, family, er, family disagreement.’

Locke turned to look at him. ‘Has she left in shame? Anger? Disappointment? It helps if I know the kind of emotional state she was in on leaving.’

Ben realised he’d have to tell the PI the entire sorry story, but he hesitated. His father didn’t want their family business in the newspapers, which Ben could understand. Also, if Camilla saw her name in any tabloid, and given her emotional state, they’d be highly unlikely to ever see her again!

What you say will not pass these walls, Ben,’ Locke said.

Then I’d say she left with all those emotions,’ Ben said, and found him telling Locke everything.

Locke was expressionless as Ben related the story, so Ben really didn’t know where the description ‘sympathetic’ came from on the webpage.

This does change things,’ Locke admitted at last. ‘From what you’ve told me she probably feels she caused your father’s heart problem, and now that her mother is dead may feel that she doesn’t have a home.’

That’s absurd.’

Nevertheless,’ said Locke. ‘I asked you to bring me current photographs of her, do you have them?’

Er, yes.’ Ben reached for his briefcase. He handed over several photos of Camilla.

Locke took them and laid them out on his desk in front of them. ‘Long blonde hair,’ he said. He looked at Ben. ‘If she was serious about staying away for good, she’d easily change her appearance.’

She didn’t take her passport,’ Ben said. ‘That tells
she’s not serious.’

I hope you’re right.’ He gathered the photos together. ‘OK, my fees…’ and his dead-pan face brightened.




iss off!’ The vividly made-up woman turned her back and began to slowly walk, hips swaying, along the path.

Charlie sighed. It was growing into double figures the amount of women telling her, clearly, to go away. She tucked her microphone back into her handbag and delved inside to turn the machine off. All week she had been studying the red-light areas; finally plucking up courage to interview a few on foot tonight.

But prostitutes were a bolshy lot, Charlie thought and muttered a few words beneath her breath, and then turned and walked in the opposite direction.

What was it with microphones that prostitutes didn’t like? Or was it her? She raised an arm and sniffed the pit. All Charlie could smell was her deodorant. Maybe she should try another brand just in case. Feeling she had earned a break, she began to make her way across the road to an all-night café when a car pulled to a stop beside her.

After some fun?’ a grey haired man asked leaning across the passenger seat, his hand reached to open the latch for her.

Charlie quickly fumbled for the recorder in her bag where she flicked it on and pulled the microphone discreetly out.

How much do you expect to pay?’ she asked.

The man pulled a face. ‘Isn’t that your decision? I want full sex,’ he added.

Fine,’ she said without embarrassment. ‘Fifty quid for full sex, twenty five for, er, manual.’ She bit back a giggle then, and watched with a grimace as the man frowned suspiciously. It looked as though she had blown it. So much for her acting skills.

You look a bit old to be new at this,’ he said.

Cheeky devil, Charlie fumed inwardly. She considered lying, but said, ‘I’m twenty four.’

Like I said, you’re a bit old to be new at this.’ His eyes dropped to the small microphone held in her hand. He swore violently, and his car disappeared, tyres screeching.

Another satisfied customer,’ she said to herself and grinned.

Charlie continued across the road and opened the door to the café. It had the shy atmosphere of a large place, which was used to crowds of bustling people, but now only had a few late night shoppers.

She bought a mug of hot chocolate with cream and marshmallow and chose a table where a dog-eared newspaper,
The Globe
, lay. She pulled it towards her and opened it up. There was a small piece about the merge inside. ‘The Middleton Group that owns the fast selling newspaper,
The Globe
, has bought
London Core
,’ she read softly to herself. She felt a tickle of excitement as she read. ‘It is said that it has been a challenging year for the newspaper industry,’ She pursed her lips and muttered, ‘It’s
to be a challenging year for me if I want to get ahead.’

Charlie stirred her drink. She was feeling more positive since she’d decided to turn her article ideas into a novel. If not her work colleagues, it’d certainly impress Andy! She blew a hole in the froth so she could take a sip, and organised the paper in front of her for a further read. There were many cup rings and spillages over the pages.

Damn,’ she said, as a blob of creamy froth joined the stains and covered the face of Sarah Cameron. ‘Sorry, Missus,’ she said. Looking
up she caught the startled glance of a businessman.

He smiled awkwardly, and looked away, obviously determined not to catch her eye again.

Typical Londoners,’ she muttered, dropping her eyes back to the newspaper. She pushed it away and fumbled in her pocket for her mobile. She checked it for texts or missed calls from Andy.

She’d been texting in between calling and not getting an answer. She figured he was busy. He did love her. He had to. She realised she was close to becoming obsessive. Soon she’d be parking outside his mum’s for short glimpses, stealing hair and nail clippings and resorting to papering her walls with his photos.

He was as close to a family as she was going to get, and Charlie didn’t want to let that feeling go. She’d been in a care home for all of her childhood; apart from the times when various families fostered her. Her last ‘posting’ (that’s what she called her placements because she felt unwanted in all of them) was at the age of fifteen and if it hadn’t been for Melvin, she didn’t honestly know how she’d have coped. She longed for a family to belong to.

Charlie sipped her drink and debated on whether to order a pastry.

She texted Andy instead.

I luv u. Call me pls. We nd 2 tk.




She’s nearby.’

Ben pressed his mobile against his ear. ‘You’ve found her?’

Not exactly,’ Locke said. ‘After she left the wake she dumped the car and wandered around the city. I suppose she left spontaneously without any clear thought at all, anyway to cut a long story short, she squatted with a group of homeless people –’


For a night or two. It’s not certain, but anyway she left with a woman called Sally Readman.’

Oh Jesus! Cammy squatting? Are you sure? That doesn’t sound like her.’ Ben, in his observatory, paced the floor. He cupped the back of his neck. ‘But maybe… I don’t know… she was very upset. Irrational.’

Quite.’ Locke cleared his throat loudly. ‘According to police records Sally Readman is a known prostitute and drug addict.’

Well, find her and you’ll find Cam!’

I have, and she’s denied ever knowing Camilla.’

I’ll pay her to tell us. Where is she? What’s her address?’ Ben was ready to rush round with money and demand answers from Readman.

Again, not as easy as that sounds,’ Locke said.

Ben gritted his teeth against Kevin Locke’s dictation slow voice.

Why not?’ Ben asked.

I haven’t got that information. I met her, er, on her patch, so to speak. She’s an addict, Ben, totally out of it.’

Please, Kevin, find Camilla before the abductor does. It’s all the more important now, don’t you see? There are prostitutes going missing and Camilla, for some reason only known to her, is with them.’

I’m sorry. The Gentleman Abductor; I should’ve made the connection and broke the news to you gently.’

Ben stared upward looking at nothing and clutched the phone tighter against his ear. ‘It’s a week today that she’s been missing. A whole week.’

We’ll find her, Ben, or my name’s not Kevin Locke.’

Offer Readman heroin for information. You say she’s an addict, so that’ll get her attention, won’t it?’

Unethical, Ben, unethical.’

Yeah, well, it doesn’t look like this abductor cares about ethics.’

Locke made a noise in his throat which sounded suspiciously like, get a grip you prat. But Ben didn’t apologise. Money and drugs were supposed to talk in those circles, weren’t they? Trust him to get a prostitute with morals!








harlie was the designated driver to the fancy dress party. She hobbled out of her flat on platforms, her dress so tight she could barely put one foot in front of the other and wondered if being so willing to be the chauffeur for the evening was wise.

She made it across the car park and opened her car door. She turned and sat carefully on the car seat backwards before swinging her legs round. She waited for a ripping sound, but thankfully nothing came.

She checked her mobile for messages before starting the car, hoping from one from Andy. There was nothing. Maybe his phone had been switched off for the last few days?

Luv U, she texted, and dropped the phone into her bag.

She drove her Fiesta towards Melvin and Dean’s apartment. Dean was dressing up as Andrew Ridgeley, the other half to Melvin’s George Michael in
. This apparently meant a dark wig and not saying a lot which suited Dean fine.

The men were ready and waiting as Charlie pulled up. She was grateful, because she didn’t want the difficulty of climbing out of the car and stumbling up to their front door.

The next pick up was Sarah, who looked suspiciously like Baby Spice.

There’s going to be ructions,’ stated Melvin when she climbed in.

Bollocks to Faye,’ Sarah said. She was having the same problem as Charlie with her short skirt and platforms. ‘How did they manage to dance in these things. No wonder Mel C wanted to be Sporty Spice.’

I don’t think they argued about it like you and Faye,’ said Melvin.

Your hair looks nice, Charlie,’ she said, from behind.

Thanks. It took me ages to straighten it. What do you think of the blond clip-ons? Not too much?’ Charlie’s hair was normally a mass of curls. A curly gingha/copper-nob/Duracell or plain carrot top: they were so imaginative during her school days. She was so glad they were all adults now.

They look really good and natural. But you’re still a ginger-minger,’ Sarah said, grinning at her in the rear-view mirror. ‘So, you heard the rumour?’

What rumour?’

Can we get there before we break the news?’ interjected Melvin. He was sitting beside Charlie in the front.

You have to tell me now!’ Charlie braked for a green light, realised that that was the colour for go, and proceeded across the junction.

Well,’ began Sarah. She leaned forward with her head between the two front seats. ‘Apparently Sir Don’s going to be there.’

Be where?’

At the party, dummy! Christ, they really broke the ginger mould when they made you, didn’t they?’

Can we stop the ginger jokes now, please?’

Sarah sighed. ‘Anyway, Middleton is said to be showing his face tonight. Best not get too drunk!’

Oh God,’ Charlie moaned. She threw a cross look at Melvin. ‘When were you going to tell me?’

BOOK: A Proper Charlie
3.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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