A young girl is in terrible distress and Mrs Graham won’t let Marilyn rest until she’s found her.
The phone shattered Marilyn’s sleep. Groaning, she twisted her head to see the time. 3:48am. She’d been asleep for less than an hour after coming in from a double shift. If it was some smartarse from work asking about a missing piece of paperwork, she’d have his balls for breakfast.
The phone was still ringing. Marilyn struggled upright, swept her thick dark hair back from her face, blinded herself momentarily with the bedside lamp then staggered into the living room to pick up the phone.
‘Whatever it is,’ she barked, ‘can’t you handle it yourself?’
‘I wish I could,’ came a cracked female voice. ‘It’s me, love.’
‘Mrs Graham?’ Marilyn tried to shake herself awake.
‘I’d never wake you up at this time of night, love, but it’s an emergency.’
‘What’s happened? Are you all right?’
‘I’m all right, love, but I need your help. Can I come up?’
‘It’s a matter of life and death, Marilyn. It really is, and I’ve nowhere else to turn.’
Marilyn was too tired to argue. ‘All right.’
A moment later she opened her door to her ground-floor neighbour. Mrs Graham was a little breathless from having climbed two flights of stairs. Marilyn had never seen her with her permed hair in curlers and without her makeup. At four in the morning, she looked all of her seventy-odd years.
‘Sit down, Mrs Graham. Can I get you a cup of tea?’
‘Oh, no, love. We haven’t got time for cups of tea. Like I said, this is a matter of life or death and there’s no time to lose.’ Mrs Graham was a devotee of the American cop show. ‘I’ve had this nightmare, you see.’
‘A nightmare?’ Had she been woken up at this hour over a bad dream? She knew that Mrs Graham was a bit eccentric, but now Marilyn wondered if she was entirely sane.
Mrs Graham clasped Marilyn’s hand. ‘She was crying out for help, love. She was terrified. I know because I felt it, too. Someone means to hurt her, kill her maybe. She can’t get away. She’s trapped. Marilyn, you’ve got to help her. Please, love. She might not last long. Whoever it was was coming for her.’ Mrs Graham seemed to be working herself up into hysterics.
Marilyn tried to be reassuring. ‘We all have nightmares, Mrs Graham.’
Mrs Graham’s was on the verge of tears. ‘I know the difference between a nightmare and a seeing, love. I saw this girl. She’s real and she was asking for my help.’
‘Mrs Graham,’ Marilyn sighed, ‘I can’t just…’
‘Please, Marilyn. Please believe me.’ Her hands squeezed Marilyn’s.
Marilyn sighed. She was a modern, well-educated woman who didn’t even read her horoscope, but she’d also been raised to respect her elders. If she had given Mrs Graham’s claims of clairvoyance the time of day, it had only been out of politeness. And if she’d ignored all the comings and goings from her flat, it was only because the laws against fortune telling had been repealed.
‘And what if I did believe you? What could I do?’
‘You’re the police, love. You should know what to do.’
Yes, make a laughingstock of herself down at the station. As if being a wog girl copper with a degree wasn’t already hard enough to live down.
Mrs Graham’s grip had eased. She looked at Marilyn with her soft grey eyes. ‘I know you find it hard to believe me, love, but are you going to let this little girl die just because you don’t want to be embarrassed in front of your workmates?’
Marilyn felt the sharp pang of conscience. ‘All right, Mrs Graham, I’ll make a few enquires.’
Marilyn fished her notebook out of her uniform jacket, still thrown across the couch where she had left it only a couple of hours earlier. ‘But I’ll need something more to go on. Can you give me a description of the girl? Can you tell me anything about where she’s being held?’
Mrs Graham had become almost businesslike. ‘It’s a small place. Dark. A cupboard maybe, or under the floorboards. I got the impression of rough wood.’
‘And the girl?’
‘Young, maybe fifteen or sixteen. Dark hair. I couldn’t make out much else.’
‘Anything else? Anything about her voice? An accent, maybe?’
‘Maybe, love, but she was crying. Hard to tell.’
‘Do you think it was anyone you know? Someone you may have seen lately?’
Mrs Graham shook her head. ‘I didn’t recognise her…’ Her eyes lit up. ‘Oh my goodness, that must be it. This woman came to me today. Said her daughter had run away. I couldn’t see anything when she was with me, but maybe it’s her now.’
So, the nightmare was probably a reaction to the mother’s distress, but at least this was something concrete. ‘Who is this woman? Do you have a name, an address?’
‘Just the girl’s first name, Ayesha.’
‘Did you get the mother’s name?’
‘No. She wouldn’t tell me anything else. She seemed scared.’
‘Can you tell me anything about her at all?’
‘Well, she was wearing one of those headscarfs. And she spoke with a strong accent.’
‘What did she look like? Was she African or…?’
‘Oh no, love. She was white, fair skinned even, with blue eyes.’
‘Anything else? Did she tell you who sent her to you?’
‘She just said a friend. I didn’t ask anything else. I don’t like to pry.’
Marilyn let out a hopeless sigh. ‘Mrs Graham…’
‘She might die, love. Any minute.’ Panic was returning to her eyes.
‘All right, Mrs Graham. All right. I’ll give it a go, but I can’t promise anything, not with what you’ve given me so far.’
Mrs Graham was sobbing. ‘Thank you, love, thank you.’
Marilyn showed her to her door. ‘I’ll give you the number of my mobile phone. Call me if anything else comes to you…’
Almost wishing she might draw a blank and go back to bed, Marilyn called the station as she struggled back into her uniform. ‘Colin, it’s me, Marilyn Toscano.’ How was she going to explain this? ‘I’ve… just had a phone call… from a working girl I know. Says she’s got a young runaway on her hands who won’t tell her anything. Have you got a report of a missing teenage girl? Name of Ayesha? Turkish parents or Bosnian maybe?’
‘We don’t file under first names, you know, Senior.’ Colin liked to be difficult. ‘Haven’t you got anything else?’
‘How hard can it be, Col? She’d only have been reported in the last couple of days.’
Marilyn waited impatiently as Colin consulted the database. What were the chances that the Ayesha’s Muslim family had overcome their dread of shame and contacted the police?
‘Here we are. It’s not an official complaint, yet, though.’
‘Fine, just give me a name to go on with.’
‘Ayesha Kadir. Been missing since Saturday night. That sound like her?’
It was the best she could do. ‘Yeah, that’d be the one.’
‘When was the report made?’
‘Yesterday, Monday. Guess that’s the day before yesterday now.’ She’d been missing for more than four days.
‘What’s the address?’
It was already beginning to get light when Marilyn knocked on the door of a large, brick-clad house. Her knock roused voices and footsteps that echoed through the house. The door was opened by a squat, dark man with rings under his eyes and badly in need of a shave.
‘I’m Senior Constable Marilyn Toscano. I want to speak to you about your daughter, Ayesha.’
For a moment hope flashed across the man’s red-rimmed eyes to be replaced with wariness. ‘What about my daughter?’ he asked in heavily accented English. ‘She good girl. Never any trouble with police.’
‘You’ve reported her missing, Mr Kadir.’
‘Not missing. She here. Home in bed.’ He slammed the door in her face.
Marilyn pounded on the door, shouting for Mr Kadir. She could hear raised voices inside, the man’s low and despairing, a woman’s high-pitched and pleading. But the door remained closed.
Marilyn called Colin again.
‘The complainant’s name,’ he told her, ‘is Fatima Kadir. The missing girl’s sister.’
Marilyn pounded on the door. ‘If you won’t talk to be, Mr Kadir, let me talk to Fatima.’ No answer. She thumped on the door again. ‘I’m warning you, Mr Kadir. If I have to, I’ll get a few patrol cars here and we’ll break the door down.’
Suddenly the door opened, spilling desperate, shrill voices onto the street. A young woman of about eighteen looked at Marilyn with wide, frightened eyes.
The girl nodded. Hastily pulling a headscarf around her pale drawn face, an older woman came up behind her.
‘Please, Mrs Kadir,’ Marilyn said gently, ‘if you want to find your daughter, let me in.’
Fatima looked to her mother who hesitated before nodding and stepping back to let Marilyn in. The two women led her into the living room where the father stood staring into space, his lips moving while he fingered a set of beads.
‘Why you come?’ Mr Kadir demanded. ‘Why you make all this trouble?’
‘I’m here to help you, Mr Kadir. Not to make trouble.’
‘I not want police. I not call police.’
‘I called them,’ Fatima said. Her father turned fearful eyes on his daughter, berating her in their native language. She retorted firmly, but respectfully. The mother intervened, a calming hand on her husband’s arm. Fatima turned back to Marilyn. ‘We haven’t seen her since Saturday night. I was scared.’ She was still scared. ‘I’ve been trying her mobile…’ She gave her father an apologetic glance. Ayesha wasn’t supposed to have one. ‘…but it keeps going through to voicebank. Something must be wrong with it.’
A teenage girl without her mobile. A frightening thought. ‘What happened on Saturday night…?’
‘She…’ Fatima glanced warily at her parents. ‘She went out.’
‘Do you know where she was going?’
With another glance at her parents, Fatima shook her head. Mrs Kadir had begun to cry, burying her face in her hands.
‘Was she allowed to go out?’
Fatima bowed her head and shook it again. ‘She sneaked out,’ she said in a tiny voice.
Mrs Kadir wailed. Mr Kadir remained stony-faced.
‘Do you know where she was going?’
Fatima shrugged. ‘To a party, maybe. She doesn’t tell me much.’
‘Do you know who she might have gone out with?’
Fatima’s eyes came up sharply, wide and warning of danger.
‘School friends, maybe?’
‘Maybe. I know a couple of them.’
‘Good. I’ll need their names, and a recent photo of Ayesha, if you’ve got one.’
As they went through the photos displayed around the room, there was one of the family in happier times, perhaps three or four years earlier judging by Fatima. Besides the two pretty girls in their early teens – Fatima dark and intense, Ayesha, younger, fair skinned and with laughing eyes– was a young man of about twenty, with his father’s dark complexion and a grave look in his eye. ‘That’s our brother, Ozman,’ Fatima said. ‘He’s married now.’
A look of panic crossed Mr Kadir’s face when Marilyn asked for Ozman’s address.
Marilyn made sure Fatima accompanied her out to her car alone. ‘Why didn’t your parents report Ayesha missing, Fatima?’
‘They were ashamed. They thought she had run away. Eloped maybe.’
‘And you don’t?’
‘I don’t know. She’s never talked about anything like that, not yet.’
‘Does she have a boyfriend?’
Fatima shrugged. ‘Like I said, she never tells me anything. She thinks I’d tell on her.’ She sniffed back a tear.
Marilyn put a hand on her shoulder. ‘You’ve done the right thing, Fatima. Whatever Ayesha or your parents might say now, they’ll be grateful to you in the long run.’
Fatima nodded gravely, not quite believing her.
The Kadirs had told her that Ozman was working nightshift so he would be arriving home about now. Marilyn went straight to his house, two streets away from his parents’. It was a single story, weatherboard house. It was high enough off the ground and its gabled roof was steep enough for the purpose. Tired and unshaven, Ozman opened the door to her knock with a wary look. Marilyn showed him her warrant card. ‘I’ve just been speaking to your parents, Mr Kadir. Can I come in and talk to you?’
‘What about Ayesha?’
‘Let me in and I’ll tell you.’
Ozman ushered her into the living room. Marilyn could hear a woman’s voice crooning and a baby’s whining. ‘What’s this about Ayesha?’
‘Haven’t your parents told you? She’s missing. Since Saturday night.’
Ozman shook his head as though he wasn’t particularly surprised. ‘I keep telling them, but they won’t listen.’
‘Told them what, Mr Kadir?’
‘That that girl is out of control. Dad’s always been too soft with her. But if the poor bastard ever puts his foot down, she screams bloody murder. She’s always been a drama queen.’ He’d found a packet of cigarettes on a coffee table and was lighting one up.
‘What did you advise him to do?’
‘Lay down the rules and stick to them. But it’s probably already too late.’
‘What do you mean, too late?’
Ozman looked at her sharply. ‘That she’s already spoilt and pigheaded. What d’you think I mean?’
Marilyn decided to try to provoke a response. ‘Muslim men are well known for taking extreme measures if their womenfolk don’t toe the line.’
Ozman gritted his teeth and breathed deeply. ‘I haven’t seen Ayesha, or any of my family since Friday afternoon at the mosque. I’ve been at work every night since. You can ask my wife.’
‘So, she’s not here, then?’
‘You can search the place when you’ve got a warrant. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to grab a shower and go see my father.’
It was still too early to try the school. When Mrs Graham rang, Marilyn was sitting in her car, gratefully sipping on a hot double espresso.
‘I’ve been worried sick, love. Had any luck?’
‘I think I’ve identified your Ayesha.’
‘There, you see.’
‘It still doesn’t prove anything.’
‘She’s the girl. I’m sure of it now.’
‘Well, we’ll see soon enough.’
‘I just hope we are soon enough, love.’
The school principal was glad to co-operate and called Ayesha’s friends into her office. The three looked at Marilyn’s uniform with the hunted eyes of the guilty.
‘Did any of you see Ayesha over the weekend?’
They all shook their heads.
‘She sneaked out on Saturday night to go to a party. Were any of you at that party?’
Again they shook their heads. The principal came forward to intervene, speaking to them in a gentle but authoritative voice. ‘Girls, no one wants to get you into trouble. We won’t tell your parents anything you tell us here. The police officer just wants to find Ayesha.’
‘If her father ever found out…’ the one called Huria mumbled.
‘Listen to me,’ Marilyn said. ‘I have reason to believe that Ayesha may be in grave danger. Whatever her father might do to her is nothing compared to what she might be going through right now.’
The girls looked at Marilyn with eyes wide with horror.
Anh Lee finally spoke up. ‘Yeah, we saw her on Saturday night. At the party.’
‘Did anything happen? Did Ayesha get into any trouble? Did she get drunk or anything?’
‘No,’ Huria answered hastily. ‘She was fine. She doesn’t drink… much.’ The girls exchanged covert looks.
‘Was she with a boy, by any chance?’
Zorica tried to deny it, but Anh Lee silenced her. ‘Yeah. She was with someone. We’d never seen him before. He’s not from school.’
‘Do you know his name?’
Huria answered. ‘Ayesha said his name was Chris. He’s a skip.’
‘Tall, kinda cute,’ Anh Lee said. ‘About nineteen. Long reddish hair. Bit of a hippy.’
‘So, where was this party?’
Zorica looked warily at the principal before she mumbled, ‘Jack Casey’s place. I can’t remember the address.’
The principal pursed her lips. ‘A former student. I have his address. I should know it and his phone number by heart, I had to call his parents often enough.’
The girls lowered their heads and shuffled their feet.
Marilyn had one last question. ‘Did you see them leave?’
‘They left together at about one o’clock,’ Ahn Lee answered.
‘Where were they going?’
‘Ayesha said she was going home, but Chris wanted to go to another party.’
Jack Casey’s place was a large, ramshackle Californian bungalow backing onto the creek. Not much cleaning up had been done since the party. A skinny, unkempt teenager with rheumy eyes finally threw open the door to Marilyn’s persistent knocking. He became defensive as soon as he saw the uniform and half closed the door again.
Marilyn flashed her warrant card at him. ‘I want to ask you a few questions about the party here on Saturday night.’
‘What about it? A bit late to complain about the noise, isn’t it?’
The fragrant fug coming from the house would have been grounds enough to pull this young punk in, but Marilyn had more immediate concerns. ‘I just want to know about a couple of your guests. Ayesha Kadir and a boy called Chris.’
Casey shrugged. ‘There were lots of people here. Can’t remember everyone.’
Marilyn didn’t have time for this. Shoving against the door, she pushed the boy into the house, caught his wrist as he tried to steady himself against the wall and pushed it up his back. ‘Listen, you little shithead,’ she hissed into his ear. ‘Either you tell me about this Chris, or I bring the drug squad in here and we rip this place apart, brick by fucking brick.’
The boy stank of smoke and alcohol. She doubted he’d washed or eaten properly in days. ‘Fuck you,’ he forced out between gritted teeth. Marilyn pushed his wrist up until he whimpered and blurted out an address. ‘I’ll get you,’ he groaned, as Marilyn let him go. She shot him a quick glance as she closed the door behind her. He was rubbing his arm, but nothing was broken.
Marilyn’s mobile rang again as she drove towards the city.
‘Let’s hope I’ve tracked her down,’ Marilyn answered Mrs Graham’s inevitable question. ‘I’ve found her boyfriend. Maybe she’s with him. He doesn’t sound too reliable.’
‘I don’t think whoever’s holding her is her boyfriend, Marilyn.’
‘How do you know?’
‘How do I know anything I see? I just know. Whoever she’s scared of isn’t someone she knows.’
Marilyn sighed. ‘OK, Mrs Graham. I’ll keep that in mind.’
Chris lived behind the last in a row of shops. The entrance was on the side street. The goth who opened the door wasn’t Chris and couldn’t even be sure if he was home. He banged the heavy door shut, leaving Marilyn standing in the street, while he looked for him. There was an ancient orange Corolla parked by the door, just itching for an unroadworthy sticker, but Marilyn didn’t have her canary book with her.
After a long while, a boy with long straggly hair and carefully torn clothes admitted to being Chris. If he was cute, it was hard to tell. He reluctantly let Marilyn into a cluttered living room furnished with mismatched armchairs and beanbags and decorated with the icons of a variety of cults. He stood with his hands in his back pockets and didn’t invite Marilyn to sit.
‘You were with Ayesha on Saturday night?’
Chris looked at her warily and nodded, shrugging.
‘But you didn’t take her home after the party. Where did you go?’
‘I was taking her home…’ He was already defensive.
‘We… um… we had an argument.’
‘Stuff… personal… stuff.’
Marilyn didn’t have time for the third degree. She’d get back to it later if she thought it might be relevant. ‘And then…?’
‘She got out of the car.’
‘You left her there?’
‘She wouldn’t come back… She… she said she’d catch a taxi. Told me to piss off. I was, so I did.’
‘When was this?’
‘Not sure. The clock in the car doesn’t work. I got home at about two o’clock.’
Marilyn stood on the corner where Chris claimed he had left Ayesha. She looked up and down, imagining the long, broad road in the dark and devoid of peak hour traffic. What would Ayesha have done between one and two in the morning? Where would she have gone? Was her mobile still working then? Marilyn checked the telephone box. There was stale chewing gum stuck in the coin slot. None of the few shops on this stretch would have been open at that hour, and there wasn’t even a Seven Eleven in sight. But there was a motel across the road. Would reception have been open?
The receptionist wore a bright smile in a fresh, peaches and cream complexion. She made Marilyn feel drab and worn. ‘I wasn’t on Saturday night, but, luckily for you, we just started keeping a log at night. You can imagine,’ she confided with a grin. ‘We get some weirdos in here sometimes, and we’ve had a few incidents.’ She ran her eyes down the page of a red ledger book. ‘OK, let’s see. Saturday night, between one and two. Noise of breaking glass and shouting outside at 1:23am. Police called but there was no one there when they arrived. Room 9 got dropped off at 1:49am. 2:10am police come back. Ask if there was any more noise. Nothing to report. Sorry, that’s all. No teenage girls.’
‘Do you have a number where I can contact Room 9?’
The receptionist punched a few keys on the computer and gave Marilyn two numbers, a local number and one interstate. Fortunately, he was still in town.
The voice on the phone was the convivial salesman type. ‘Saturday night? No. Can’t remember seeing anyone… My flight had been delayed and came in very late… Picked up a taxi at the airport… Can’t remember the company… I think it was yellow… Look, I was pretty zonked. Didn’t take much notice of anything… Sorry I couldn’t be more help.’
The duty sergeant at the local station assumed Marilyn was on official business and she didn’t disabuse him. There had been a call out to the motel at 1:23am on Sunday morning. The officers found shards of brown glass and fresh vomit but no offenders. Marilyn got the officers’ numbers and called them at home, copping an earful from the senior who had been asleep. But neither remembered seeing a teenage girl.
‘So why did you go back at 2:10?’ Marilyn asked the constable.
He chuckled. ‘The coffee’s good. Beats the piss down at the station.’
It would have been too easy if the police had seen her.
Colin was still on duty. ‘You mean, you want me to ring all the taxi companies and ask them if they picked up a passenger from the airport and took him to that motel on Saturday night. Every taxi company. Are you sure about this, Maz?’
‘Come on, Col. A girl’s life could be at stake. No really. This girl’s gone missing. Someone could have picked her up outside that motel.’
‘I thought you said she was with this working girl.’
‘It’s… it’s her friend. She says they had an argument and her friend stormed off. Now she’s missing. Look, Col. I’ll owe you one.’
‘A fucking big one. All right. You’re lucky it’s a quiet day. I’ll get back to you.’
Marilyn was sitting by the creek, trying to stop garlic sauce from dripping from the end of her souvlaki onto her uniform, when Colin rang back. The taxi driver in question was being called back to his depot and would wait there for Marilyn.
‘Col, you’re an angel.’
‘Yeah. Well, don’t advertise it. And boy am I saving up a big one for you.’
‘Oh, Col. Promises, promises.’
Marilyn was doing her best to reassure the taxi driver he wasn’t necessarily under suspicion himself. ‘Thank you so much for agreeing to help me, Mr Ahmed,’ she said, shaking his hand. ‘We’re looking for this girl who went missing on Saturday night…’
‘I no take no girl.’
‘No, Mr Ahmed. I’m not saying you did. But I’m hoping you may have seen her when you dropped off your fare at the motel.’ She showed him the photograph. ‘She was with a boy in an old orange Corolla. He says she got out of his car round about there. She may have been looking for a taxi.’
‘No. She no want taxi. I stop for her. I worry. I have daughter same age. But the boyfriend, he come back. He say sorry. She get back in car and kiss him. So I go.’
Marilyn held her breath. ‘Are you sure, Mr Ahmed?’
‘Yeah. I sure. Orange Corolla. Sticky tape on back light. Boy have long dirty hair. Not good. Girl, she Muslim? Ahh. Poor father.’
Marilyn parked in the side street opposite the heavy door. Should she risk taking the softly, softly approach and go in by herself, or call in backup? But then, this wasn’t official. Backup was not an option. She had to ring the doorbell a couple of times before she got any response – a window on the first floor being slammed shut. She rang again. The goth opened the door. Marilyn pushed it, sending the pallid boy reeling.
‘Chris,’ she shouted. ‘I know you’re here. Come down, now!’
Chris came down as far as the landing.
‘Where is she, Chris?’
Chris opened his mouth but nothing came out.
‘She got back in your car, Chris. Now, where the fuck is she?’
Marilyn waited while Chris’s mouth worked again. Suddenly the phone at the bottom of the stairs rang, making Chris jump. It kept ringing until the goth picked it up. ‘Um… it’s… it’s for Ayesha.’
Chris’s colour changed from white to red. Marilyn took the phone. ‘Hello.’
It was a girl’s voice. ‘Ayesha, if you don’t get here soon, I swear I’ll come there with Ozman. And then you’ll cop it.’
‘You’re not Ayesha.’
‘No, it’s Senior Constable Toscano, Fatima.’
‘Oh my God, oh my God. I swear, I didn’t know when you came here this morning. I didn’t know. She called me. She knows I always answer the phone. I swear. I told her, I told her the police were coming for her.’
Marilyn smiled grimly at Chris. ‘Thank you, Fatima. Tell your parents I’ll be bringing her home soon.’ She hung up the phone. ‘Well.’
Chris turned and Marilyn followed him up the stairs. He brought a ladder out of one of the bedrooms and propped it against the wall under the manhole. Marilyn climbed the ladder and pushed the manhole cover aside. Somewhere in the dark a girl was whimpering with fear. Marilyn suppressed her anger and spoke gently. ‘Ayesha, you can come out now.’
The whimpering turned to a wailing.
‘Ayesha, come out of there, now!’
The figure crawled towards her. A pale, tearstained face took shape. Marilyn backed down the ladder and made sure Ayesha’s high-heel-shod feet made contact with each rung. Chris took the girl in his arms as she reached the floor. She sobbed delicately against his shoulder.
‘She was afraid of her father. You don’t know what he’s like. If he knew we had… he would have… he would have killed her.’
Marilyn wished now she had made it official so she could charge them both with wasting police time. ‘I’m going to take you home now, Ayesha.’
Chris pulled Ayesha closer.
‘It’s all right, Chris. I’ll be with her. She’ll come to no harm, won’t you, Ayesha?’
‘I’ll be all right, Chris,’ Ayesha breathed through her sobs. ‘He won’t do anything with the police there.’
Ayesha was smothered with hugs and kisses the moment she walked through the door. Even Ozman had a tear in his eye.
Marilyn was sent home laden with baklava, Turkish delight and pide. Ozman helped her carry it all out to her car. Marilyn paused before getting into the driver’s seat. ‘Ozman, don’t get me wrong, but… will she be all right?’
‘They’ll give her a hard time for a while, watch her night and day, but she’ll be fine.’
Marilyn held Ozman’s eye. ‘You can promise me that?’
Ozman sighed. ‘Yes.’
‘I might drop by next week, just to see how she is.’
Ozman shook his head. ‘Yeah. You do that.’
Marilyn just wanted to climb the stairs, drop into bed and not surface again for twenty-four hours, but she thought she should knock on the door of the ground-floor flat first.
Mrs Graham swooned over the Turkish delight. ‘Oh, it’s the real thing, love. You don’t get this in the shops.’ She had the good grace to wince sheepishly as Marilyn told her the story over tea and baklava in her tiny kitchen. ‘Oh dear. There’s no telling with these things. I can only go on what I see.’ She took Marilyn’s hand between her two. ‘But look at you, love. You’re exhausted. How much sleep have you had?’
‘About an hour in the last thirty-six.’
Her grey eyes twinkling mischievously, Mrs Graham turned Marilyn’s hand over and examined her palm. ‘Mmmm. What I see for you is… a well-earned rest. Go upstairs and get some sleep.’
There was a message from her Senior Sergeant waiting for Marilyn on her answering machine. ‘Senior Toscano, that leave you applied for has been approved. You can book that holiday to Vanuatu.’
© Pauline Montagna 2013
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