Twenties Girl

Page 17


Suddenly she’s in front of me, blocking my way to the door. “No one can see me except you. No one else can help me. Please.”
“Look, you can’t just say, ‘Find my necklace!’” I exclaim in exasperation. “I don’t know anything about it, I don’t know what it looks like…”
“It’s made of glass beads with rhinestones,” she says eagerly. “It falls to here…” She gestures at her waist. “The clasp is inlaid mother-of-pearl-”
“Right.” I cut her off. “Well, I haven’t seen it. If it turns up, I’ll let you know.”
I swing past her, push the door open into the police-station foyer, and take out my phone. The foyer is brightly lit, with a grubby linoleum floor and a desk, which right now is empty. Two huge guys in hoodies are having a loud argument while a policeman is trying to calm them down, and I back away to what looks like a safe corner. I get out the minicab firm number DC Davies gave me and start keying it into my phone. I can see there are about twenty voice messages on there, but I ignore them all. It’ll just be Mum and Dad, stressing away…
“Hey!” A voice interrupts me and I pause midway through. “Lara? Is that you?”
A guy with sandy hair in a polo neck and jeans is waving at me. “It’s me! Mark Phillipson? Sixth-form college?”
“Mark!” I exclaim, suddenly recognizing him. “Oh my God! How are you doing?”
The only thing I remember about Mark is him playing bass guitar in the college band.
“I’m fine! Great.” He comes across with a concerned expression. “What are you doing at the police station? Is everything OK?”
“Oh! Yes, I’m fine. I’m just here for a… you know.” I wave it off. “Murder thing.”
“Murder?” He looks staggered.
“Yeah. But it’s no big deal. I mean, obviously it is a big deal…” I correct myself hastily at his expression. “I’d better not say too much about it… Anyway, how are you doing?”
“Great! Married to Anna, remember her?” He flashes a silver wedding ring. “Trying to make it as a painter. I do this stuff on the side.”
“You’re a policeman?” I say disbelievingly, and he laughs.
“Police artist. People describe the villains, I draw them; it pays the rent… So how about you, Lara? Are you married? With somebody?”
For a moment I just stare back with a rictus smile.
“I was with this guy for a while,” I say at last. “It didn’t work out. But I’m fine about it now. I’m in a really good place, actually.”
I’ve clenched my plastic cup so hard, it’s cracked. Mark looks a bit disconcerted.
“Well… see you, Lara.” He lifts a hand. “Will you be OK getting home?”
“I’m calling a cab.” I nod. “Thanks. Nice to bump into you.”
“Don’t let him go!” Sadie’s voice in my ear makes me jump out of my skin. “He can help!”
“Shut up and leave me alone,” I mutter out of the corner of my mouth, shooting an even brighter smile at Mark. “Bye, Mark. Give my love to Anna.”
“He can draw the necklace! Then you’ll know what you’re looking for!” She’s suddenly right in front of me. “Ask him! Quickly!”
“Ask him!” Her banshee voice is coming back, piercing my eardrum. “Ask-him-ask-him-ask-him-”
Oh, for God’s sake, she’s going to drive me insane.
“Mark!” I call, so loudly that the two guys in hoodies stop fighting and stare at me. “I’ve got this tiny favor to ask you, if you have a moment…”
“Sure.” Mark shrugs.
We go into a side room, with cups of tea from the machine. We pull up chairs to a table and Mark gets out his paper and artist’s pencils.
“So.” He raises his eyebrows. “A necklace. That’s a new one.”
“I saw it once at an antiques fair,” I improvise. “And I’d love to commission one like it, but I’m so bad at drawing things, and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe you could help…”
“No problem. Fire away.” Mark takes a sip of tea, his pencil poised over the paper, and I glance up at Sadie.
“It was made of beads,” she says, holding up her hands as though she can almost feel it. “Two rows of glass beads, almost translucent.”
“It’s two rows of beads,” I say. “Almost translucent.”
“Uh-huh.” He nods, already sketching circular beads. “Like this?”