Murder Offstage
investigation. I
always hate Private Dicks, but I’ve never yet met a female one, thank goodness.
Take my advice, and stay away.’
    Inspector Oats made to leave.
    ‘But what about the Maharajah diamond?’ Posie asked. ‘Can’t
you look for that at the same time as Lucky Lucy, at least?’
    The Inspector looked like he was chewing a wasp. Then he
spoke to Posie slowly, as if she were a particularly dim-witted child:
    ‘Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that .
Your pal has gone off with his father to file a missing item report. Once the
paperwork goes through I’ll add it to my list of things to do; maybe I’ll
notify my contacts in Hatton Garden where the diamond dealers hang out. But to
tell you the truth I’m not going to get myself in a spin over it, and if I was
you I wouldn’t go getting your hopes up. It’s probably left the country by now,
on its way to be cut up into a million little pieces and resold in Antwerp or
New York.’
    The Inspector put on his homburg hat, that regulation
Scotland Yard staple. He looked at Posie smugly.
    ‘The beauty of a diamond is in its transportability, like
drugs. Not as cumbersome as gold. Now, I can’t be standing here all day,
talking to you. Good-day to you, Miss Parker, and remember what I’ve told you.’
    As she watched his trench-coated back retreating further
down the grim Court room, Posie was struck by something the Inspector had said
to her, but she couldn’t think what exactly. It was as if the Inspector had
given her a clue, ripe for the picking, but it was obscured by a particularly
heavy cloud.
    She sighed, hoping the fog would clear.
    Lyons Cornerhouse on the Strand was very busy. It was
coffee-time and every table was taken, the smart but harassed waitresses
bustling around the hungry customers, serving all manner of cakes and
cream-topped fancies.
    Posie located Dolly straight away. She was sitting over by
the window, watching the world go by. She was eating her way steadily through
her own purple tin of Peek Frean’s Marie biscuits, defying Lyons’ rules about
not bringing in food from outside. They greeted each other warmly and Posie sat
down and ordered tea for two and a plate of iced Chelsea buns.
    ‘My treat,’ she declared and tactfully moved the Marie biscuits
onto the window ledge, out of direct view. In the harsh light of day and out of
the dank theatre cellar Dolly looked even more extraordinary than ever; her
pale elfin face and bleached cropped hair made her look somehow other-worldly,
vulnerable. The silver greasepaint and black clothes of yesterday were gone,
and instead she was wearing crimson lipstick and a matching red-and-white
polka-dot smock. She looked like a little rag-doll.
    ‘Gasper?’ she asked companionably, offering Posie a black
cigarette from a very scratched silver case. Posie shook her head, and attacked
her sticky cake instead.
    In a few concise sentences she told Dolly what she was up to
and why she had needed her help the day before. She even told Dolly about the
murder of Lionel Le Merle, and the fact that Georgie the chorus girl was in
fact a famous criminal known as Lucky Lucy.
    Dolly looked at her, open-mouthed, cigarette unheeded, a
mountain of ash steadily piling up on her plate.
    Posie gave her one of her business cards, and unlike the
Earl, Dolly looked very impressed. She studied it properly before tucking it
carefully into her own red handbag.
    ‘Is that what you always wanted to do, then?’ she asked, in
slight awe. ‘Become a Detective? Is that what kept you goin’, during the war?
Was it your dream? Did you think to yourself in all the carnage – after all of this ,I’ll run my own Detective Agency?’
    ‘No. Not really.’ Posie laughed. She had never really
considered it from that point of view before. ‘I just always liked solving puzzles.
I was left a small amount of money when my father died, and I thought, why not?
I had no-one in the world and no place in the world.

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