Read the previous chapter, Chapter 8, here first.
Chapter 9 of Deviance, London Psychic #3. Click here for buy links to the full book.
Jamie sat at her tiny desk, scanning through the financial records of a husband whose disgruntled wife was sure he was having an affair. Her new office was the size of a large cupboard, rented in a shared office space on the edge of Southwark. She had tried working in her new flat, but surprisingly, she missed having colleagues around. She had never been the chatty type, preferring to keep quiet and rarely drinking with the other police, but there was an energy in having other people around.
The shared office space was a way to get some normality back into her life, the routine of getting out of the flat, looking presentable enough for others not to notice her. The office space was generally quiet, with the tapping of keyboards and low voices making phone calls. She nodded to the other people she saw in the lobby and little kitchen, but she could see reservation in their eyes. She wondered how fast the turnover was round here. Perhaps when she had been here for a while, they would accept her as part of the community – and she did intend to be here a while.
Jamie returned her attention to the records in front of her. From what she could see, the man was having much more than an affair. She'd tracked him to another house and it looked like he had another family altogether. Jamie shook her head. She had barely managed a relationship with one person. Two marriages would be a hell of a lot of work.
She added the last pieces of information to the file, attaching photos of the man's second family. The woman had essentially paid to destroy her marriage, to break apart the status quo. Part of Jamie didn't want to send the information to her client, but perhaps the woman knew already and could use this to move on. Or perhaps she would find strength in her children. A sudden rush of loneliness took Jamie by surprise. She missed Polly every day, but the grief had subsided to a dull ache most days. It was a back note to her life, but this spike was something new. She completed the file, resolving to avoid marital cases if she could. She preferred missing persons – at least they had some chance of a happy ending.
Her mobile phone buzzed and she saw Magda's name on the screen. She picked it up.
“Jamie.” Her voice was broken with concern. “You have to help. You need to come quickly.”
“Of course. What's wrong?”
“O's missing. I went over to her flat to show her the photos from yesterday. She didn't answer the door or her phone, so I let myself in with the spare key. Her bed hadn't been slept in. I don't think she's been back here since we were with her yesterday.”
Jamie thought of O's dancing at Torture Garden, and her admission of occasional sex work. O was a beautiful woman and there were plenty of possibilities for where she could be.
“Perhaps she was working?” Jamie said.
“No.” Magda was emphatic. “We have a check-in system for when she works. If it's sex work or dancing or anything potentially risky, she texts me. Even when it's something fun and casual, she always lets me know. She wouldn't miss that, Jamie. She knows the lifestyle risks and that's how we manage it.” Magda's voice was high-pitched with desperation. “She's been taken, I know it.”
“Did you report it to the police?” Jamie asked.
“Yes,” Magda said, “but I know they're not taking it seriously.”
“It's not really been long enough yet for them to consider it a missing person, but I know some people,” Jamie said. “What's the address? I'll be there as fast as possible.”
After getting the information, Jamie jumped on her motorbike, weaving through the streets until she reached a Victorian terrace behind a park. Magda stood outside smoking, her fingers shaking as she sucked on the cigarette. Her face was pinched with worry. Bare of makeup, she looked much older.
As Jamie put her helmet in the pannier, Magda wiped a tear from her cheek.
“I keep thinking of Nick's body,” she said. “Whoever it was cut his tattoos off. Maybe Milo too. What if they have O?”
Jamie thought of how much of O's perfect body was inked, trying not to imagine her skin covered in blood.
“We'll find her,” Jamie said. “Show me the flat and then I can call someone. I still have friends in the police.”
Jamie followed Magda up the stairs of the terrace into a second-floor flat. The door opened into a large living and dining space, with one side separated into a tiny kitchen. There was a separate small bedroom and postage-stamp-size bathroom. Framed prints decorated the cream walls, all of sea creatures and dominated by octopi. There were several erotic Japanese prints, clear evidence of the inspiration for the intimacy of her tattoo.
The flat was minimalist, in keeping with O's Japanese interest. A futon with white linen and a red pillow dominated the bedroom. It felt empty, and Jamie was sure that Magda was right. O had not slept here last night.
“Do you know where she was going after her shift at the Kitchen?” Jamie asked. “When I left, she was still there.”
Magda shook her head. “She mentioned meeting someone to discuss a potential modeling contract, but it was in a coffee shop somewhere, nothing seedy. Her ink sets her apart and she has photographers flocking to take her picture these days.”
Jamie went to the window, looking out at the back of other houses in the area. She called Missinghall.
“Al, it's Jamie. Have you got a minute?”
“This murder case is crazy but of course, I'll help if I can.”
“It's about a MISPER, a friend of mine. Olivia Ivorson.”
There were sounds of typing as Missinghall searched for any notifications.
“Another one in Southwark.” His voice was grim. “It's not a great place to be at the moment, Jamie. When did she go missing?”
“Sometime last night. After ten p.m.”
More sounds of typing.
“She's a sex worker by the look of it. She's been cautioned before. Maybe she's out working?”
“I know she isn't, Al. And I'm concerned because she's heavily tattooed.”
“It's not unusual these days, Jamie. You know that. Most of bloody London has ink now.”
Jamie saw O's perfect body in her mind, the alabaster skin claimed by the octopus that encircled her. Jamie shuddered at the thought of a blade drawn over that flesh.
“You said yourself that Southwark isn't a great place to be right now.”
Missinghall sighed. “Look, everyone is focused on the Winchester Palace murder right now, but I'll see what I can do.”
“OK, thanks, Al. I'll keep looking this end and I'll text you with any updates.”
Jamie ended the call and turned to Magda. “I don't think we're going to get any help from the police at the moment. She's got form.”
Magda put her head in her hands, her shoulders slumped in defeat.
“There might be another way,” Jamie said. “I have a friend who might be able to help. Do you mind if I call him?”
Magda looked up, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. “Please, anything you think. Maybe he can come over?”
Jamie scrolled through her contacts for Blake's number. Her heart raced a little at the thought of his voice and of seeing him again. They had both been through a lot since the events surrounding the murder of psychiatrist Dr Christian Monro. Jamie had seen Blake at his weakest then, and she knew he still struggled to put the mental torture of what he had seen during that case behind him.
Her own decision to leave the police and start a new life meant she had been busy, and they had both kept away from each other. But Jamie knew it was more to do with an instinctive desire not to be hurt. They were both vulnerable, and there was a spark between them that could devastate them both if they gave into it. She remembered the night she had gone to Blake's flat – the night Polly's body had disappeared. He had been high on tequila and she had wanted to lie down next to him, let him sink into her. But he was dangerous. His gift both frightened and intrigued her, but perhaps now it could help her new friends.
She dialed his number.
Blake's voice was smooth, and Jamie couldn't help but smile. She had missed him and from his tone, he was pleased to hear from her.
“Hi, Blake, how are you?”
“Busy prepping for a new exhibition,” he said, a smile in his voice. “You know the world of academia never stops its frenetic pace. How's your new business?”
“Actually, that's why I'm calling. There's been a disappearance and I could use some help. Any chance you could come have a look?”
There was a moment of silence, and Jamie could picture Blake's handsome face as he wrestled with the decision. The last time she had asked for his help, Blake had ended up drugged and tortured for his gift by men who intended to break his mind and send him into oblivion. She understood his hesitation.
“Is it a murder?” Blake asked, and Jamie heard a note of trepidation in his voice. She turned away, hoping Magda hadn't heard the words.
“I hope not,” she said. “A friend has disappeared and the police investigation will be too slow for my liking. But I'm really worried. There have been other disappearances that haven't ended well round here lately. I could really use your help, Blake.”
“Where are you?” he asked.
“Southwark,” Jamie said, giving him the address.
“I'll come over in the next hour,” Blake said. “Extended lunch break.”
Blake arrived as Jamie made Magda a fourth cup of tea. O's flat had nothing stronger and Magda didn't even drink anymore. Reformed in so many senses of the word, Magda's strength had seemed boundless, but it was clear from her hunched shoulders and staring eyes how much O meant to her.
The doorbell rang and Jamie went down to open it. Blake stood in the doorway, two coffees in his gloved hands, his blue eyes bright.
“I figured you could use some,” he said. Jamie stretched up to kiss his cheek, her lips brushing his stubble. He smelled of sandalwood soap and she wanted to lean in to him, feel his arms around her.
“It's good to see you,” she said, stepping away.
“You too,” Blake replied, and his eyes said all she needed to know.
She took one of the coffees.
“Come on up.”
They entered the flat and Magda got up to greet Blake. He indicated the coffee.
“Sorry, I didn't know there was someone else here. Would you like my coffee?”
Magda smiled weakly, worry breaking through her resolve. “If you can help with this,” she said, shaking her head. “I'll get you all the coffee you need. What can I do to help?”
Jamie knew Blake would be reluctant to talk about his unusual gift with someone he didn't really know.
“To be honest, Magda,” she said. “I think maybe you should go and have a rest. O might even show up at your studio for those photos. We'll be here a while.”
Magda nodded. “You're right. I should go.” She handed over the keys. “Let me know if you find anything, or if you have any questions.” She left the flat, her footsteps heavy on the stair, leaving Jamie and Blake alone.
For a moment, the silence lay between them. There was so much to say and yet, none of it really mattered. Jamie knew the attraction between her and Blake was dangerous, and she needed his friendship more than anything. The balance was difficult to manage, but perhaps this time they could walk the tightrope.
“So, what happened?” Blake asked.
Jamie told him about O and the other disappearances in the area, as well as the murder from the night before.
“We're worried about her,” Jamie said. “Her tattoo makes her fit the profile of the other victims.”
Blake looked around the flat.
“So you want to know where she might be?”
“Anything you can help with really. Perhaps there's something in here that might give us some clues as to where she is.”