Beyond these means streets we know: part 1

Grace stared blindly at the door, hardly seeing the frosted glass or the lettering on it: Thomas Linn, Investigations. Other agencies had turned her down but, at the last one, a young girl in the office had taken her aside and told her, “Look, I don’t think anyone’s going to take your case but there’s this guy I’ve heard of...” And so she’d come here, a last, desperate try. A voice called out from behind the door.

“Come in Mrs. Ferris. The door’s not locked.”
There was a dim light, shining – or rather, seeping – from an old, battered desk lamp. Behind the desk was Thomas Linn. Not an impressive looking man. Tall, yes - his long legs stretched beneath the desk. But thin and pale, eyes shadowed, dull from lack of sleep. He wore clean but threadbare clothes: jeans and a bedraggled pullover from which the collar of a faded blue shirt peeked. Not what she expected.

He takes the impossible cases, the ones the others turn down. That’s what she’d said. Mrs. Ferris walked over to the rather rickety chair in front of the desk and sat down. Nothing for it now. She took a deep breath, then started to tell him her story.
“I...I always like to take my daughter Helen to town very Saturday. We shop, have a meal, sometimes take in a film if there’s one suitable for her.”
Her voice wavered. Linn interrupted before she could break down. “Do you have a photograph? It would be a big help.”
She rummaged in her handbag and produced a crumpled photograph. She’d been carrying it everywhere, showing it to anyone she thought might help. He glanced at it briefly, then placed it to one side on his desk.
“Go on.”

“Well, that Saturday we were late getting out of the film and we’d missed the bus. I was looking for a taxi but none would stop. She stopped to take another deep breath.
“Then we came to this bus stop. I was sure it was a bus stop. I was sure...”
“Go on. What happened next.”
“We hadn’t been waiting long when we heard a kind of music - but not like music somehow...well it was indescribable. But Helen seemed to think it was lovely. It seemed to be coming from up an alley across the street. I thought that maybe a window was open over the alley.”
“And then something distracted you?”
“How did you...? Of course, the papers. There was this tramp, a beggar. He kept pestering me. I only turned round a moment to give him a few coins. And when I turned back she was gone! I thought I saw her in the alley. I searched everywhere in the alley but there was no sign of her...” Her voice was becoming hysterical now but Linn let her go on. He wanted the whole story.
“The alley was a dead end. There were no doors – well there was one, sort of, but it was all bricked up. She couldn’t have gone anywhere else. She had to have gone into that alley. She had to!” Grace was in tears now but Linn let her cry. It would do her good and he had what he wanted now. After a while, he passed her a handkerchief and she wiped her eyes.
“The police think I made it all up. They said there was no bus stop there, but there was. And anyway why would I make that up? They think I lost her...or even did something to her.” She looked up at him. “You believe me, don’t you?”
“I believe you. You don’t have to worry about fees. Mine are not high and never vary – if I’m successful. If I’m not there’s no fee.”
“But is there any hope?”
He glanced at his watch and then at a calendar on the wall.
“Well at least there are about ten days before the new moon...that gives us a chance.”
She nodded, wondering. Did he think some kind of lunatic was involved? Or was he quite sane? Suddenly he was standing over her. Almost before she realised what was happening he had seen her out the door and onto the landing.
“Don’t try to contact me again unless I call you. I won’t call, unless there’s news – good or bad.”

You can find the complete version of Beyond these mean streets we know in issue 45 of TBD.

Stuart McPherson