Chapter 11

"Inga," Makepeace repeated. "Inga who?"

"Couldn't get a second name. Your guy's a little bitter it seems."

Dempsey opened up the paper bag that was left on the bench and took a huge bite out of the chicken salad roll Gloria had brought.

Makepeace held her tongue, knowing he had said 'your guy' to draw a reaction. Instead, she raised a querulous eyebrow.

"They had a thang," he supplied, "and he made it crystal clear he don't want me gettin' in contact with her."

He took another bite, talking through the food. "Now I figure that's either 'cause he's a sensitive kinda guy or 'cause he's got somethin' to hide." He looked her dead in the eye. "What thinks you, Makepeace?"

Was he seriously asking her opinion or was he suggesting that she should be more aware of Masters' emotional status than he?

"I think we need to find this Inga person."

He grinned. "I was hopin' you was gonna say that."

Inga poured herself a glass of wine and took it over to the open window where she sat down and lit a cigarette.

Her nerves were on edge. Tired after her wasted trip, she knew she couldn't put the phone call off any longer.

The hit of nicotine and menthol cleared her head a little and she gazed at the thin, brown Moore cigarette in her fingers for a moment before taking another drag.

She could hear the clock on the mantelpiece ticking, reminding her that she was rapidly running out of time – something had to be done, she must set the wheels in motion.

It wasn't a good view; not any sort of view at all really, just a mirror of the tall white buildings that her own flat was part of. She would have liked a view of the park but she supposed she mustn't be greedy and if she played her cards right she would finish up with something a lot better than a tiny, one bedroom, third floor flat even if it was in Kensington.

She took a fortifying drink from her glass of Liebfraumilch before placing it on the window sill and picking up the phone. Inga crossed her long legs and tossed her curling auburn tresses back. She dialled, a little more confident now and clear on the angle she should go for.

"Peter, it's me. How are you?"

"Impatient. What's the hold up?"

"The little shit's disappeared," she answered, injecting a modicum of venom into her tone.

The silence that followed was as Inga had predicted and she waited it out calmly.

"You have got to be kidding me," he grated then. "What the hell do I pay you for?"

"I've been doing my job, Peter. Everything's been fine up until now. I couldn't predict something like this was going to happen."

Angrily, the man replied, "You're supposed to be in control here. You run him for me. You assured me you had him where you wanted him and now you're telling me he's disappeared off the radar? And since when? When did you last speak to him?"

"Three days ago," she lied smoothly. "He told me everything was ready and I had no reason to doubt him."

"So that's it then is it? One point three million gone. That's what you rang to tell me?"

She was looking forward to telling him the next part even less.

"Look Peter, the cops have been sniffing around – he's been reported as missing so it's imperative we find him before they do…"

Another long, seething silence which Inga endured with stoical calm.

"He could be half way across the continent by now!" he suddenly exploded.

Inga laughed casually, "Come on Peter, you've got contacts all over the place. The moment he starts touting for a buyer, you'll get to hear about it."

"That isn't the point though is it? I don't need this sort of hassle, not to mention expense. You know it's going to cost me a considerable amount to track Sachs down and obviously when I do locate him – and I hope for your sake, the merchandise too, I've got to arrange for a housekeeper to come and clean up the mess."

"I know and I'm sorry, Peter, I really am. Anything I can do to help…"

There was nothing in her tone to indicate she was offering anything other than 'help' but she knew he would be hearing it all the same. She had held him at arms' length for months now, reining in her naturally voracious appetite, safe in the knowledge that what he couldn't have only made him want it more. She had maintained her cool professionalism with difficulty as she felt a little bit of power shift her way. Although he stopped short of asking outright for sex, Peter Coates had made it abundantly clear that as his mistress she could expect to enjoy a particularly lavish lifestyle. But Inga was holding out for more. Whilst she was under no illusion that she could ever hope to share his empire on an equal footing, she did hope that given time, he could be persuaded to present her to the world as his right hand woman.

"Just keep a low profile, don't go asking too many questions. I'll put a few feelers out at this end and talk to you later, okay?"

"Do you want to meet up? Just let me know whatever it is you need me to do."

Again, no emphasis on anything; it was up to him to place his own interpretation on it and she knew that he would because now, in his eyes, she owed him.

Inga was mad at herself for not seeing the signs with Charlie. He was an open book usually, a malleable Hooray Henry who was more than happy to do her bidding. That he should do something like this off his own back was completely unexpected. And now, because of his sudden attack of spirit, she was going to have to step things up with Coates before she was ready.

"Depends how things are looking," he told her gruffly. "We'll see. And then in an even harder voice asked, "You going to be around tonight?"

"Yes, Peter."

Subservience. He liked that. And if required this evening, she would have the opportunity to show him more subservience – or domination, whichever he preferred. He would definitely find her worth the wait though.

Studio One was right next door to the Montgomery's – handy because it meant no one was aware of the amount of time Dempsey and Makepeace spent searching the place nor how quick they had been in gaining access.

That the report by the investigating police officers showed not a single thing of significance had been uncovered spoke volumes to the pair of them. Nothing noteworthy simply meant they hadn't looked hard enough. There had to be something, no matter how small and irrelevant it appeared to be.

The layout of the premises was very similar to theirs except there was just a small fire exit door and an extra window in place of the wide double doors.

There was very little of his work in evidence apart from a large wire armature half covered by papier-mache. It was impossible to tell what it was at this stage other than a two foot high rectangular block of some description.

As Masters had already mentioned, plaster residue seemed to rime every surface, thinly coating the floor in scuffed patches where several pairs of shoes had walked through it. The place was littered with large plastic buckets and other receptacles used for the mixing of the plaster and sacks of the stuff were stacked in one corner.

"Looks like our boys in blue have covered the obvious at least," said Makepeace, eyeing the white powdery mess that had spewed out of the knifed rent in each sack. The whole area was awash with it, the effects of gloved hands delving deep.

"Anything?" she asked, following Dempsey to the table that was strewn with sheets of printed documentation.

"Who knows! Hours of reading pleasure here."

He leafed through a handful. "Invoices, advice notes… all in no particular order." He sifted through another pile at random. "A friendly reminder that payment is due… a not so friendly reminder…"

Harry had picked up one of the piles, resting it thoughtlessly on her 'belly' as she flicked through. "Hardly surprising that he should forget to pay if this is representative of his accounting system."

"Final reminder," Dempsey continued.

Harry raised an eyebrow. "How much for?"

"Thirteen ninety-five."

She returned to her own search with a disgruntled sigh.

It was some time later when voices outside the studio drew their attention from the job in hand.

"Knockin' off time?" queried Dempsey, checking his watch. It was five o'clock.

"Goodnight you two," called Gloria.

Going to the door, Dempsey looked out to find Jenna and Gloria making their way down through the reception area, Frobisher on his lead at their heels.

"Goodnight ladies," he smiled.

"Don't stop too late dear," said Gloria, seeing Harry appear by Dempsey's side. "You need your rest."

"Oh, I won't," Harry assured her.

"Just about to call it a day ourselves in fact," said Dempsey and to be honest, he had actually had enough. He had the feeling they needed to cast the net a little wider to get some answers.

"You haven't turned anything up then?" Jenna asked blandly.

"Not a thing," replied Harry. "I think Gloria was right, we should just leave it to the police, they must know what they're doing."

Gloria smiled encouragingly. "Of course they do. Don't you go worrying yourself about Charlie, he'll turn up."

"Yeah, bad pennies always do," Jenna chipped in, gaining a look of disapproval from Gloria.

"Paul and Billy are still here. One or the other of them is always the last to leave so just drop the catch on your way out," she told them.

Jenna started for the door and when it looked like Gloria was about to continue the conversation, Harry stepped past her into the hallway saying, "Just need to pop and get my bag before we go."

Dempsey followed swiftly. "Yes, you have the car keys in there, right honey?"

Gloria looked disappointed at having lost the opportunity for a chat.

"See you in the morning," said Dempsey, bending to pet Frobisher.

The dog wagged his tail eagerly and Gloria was assuaged.

"Do you live close by?" she asked, sticking with Dempsey like glue whilst Makepeace fetched her bag.

"Quite close – just outside Richmond."

"Oh really? I have an aunt lives out that way…" she began brightly.

He jumped back in quickly, wanting to deflect any questions on an area of London he was completely unfamiliar with. "Although we're spending a few nights in a hotel whilst builders sort out a nursery for us."

Too late he realised he had just handed her a fresh new topic of conversation with which to batter him.

"Goodness me, how exciting! Just a few nights you say? We'd better hope it isn't any longer then, you know what these builders are like, turning up when they feel like it. Still, I'm sure they're well aware of their deadline and really I suppose staying in a hotel will be a nice little break for the both of you…"

Jeez, did this lady ever quit beatin' her gums?

"Okay, Gloria, I'm going to let you go now. We made dinner reservations in the hotel restaurant and I know Odette's planning a long soak in the tub first."

"Yes, yes of course. I mustn't keep you." She nodded, golden curls bobbing. "Frobisher and I have plans for this evening too, don't we my sweetheart?" she cooed to the bemused looking animal. "We're going for a nice long walk around the park this evening and we might even treat ourselves to an ice-cream."

Okay, so Dempsey felt just a little bit bad. Walking the damned dog was the highlight of her night? But then, what was gonna be the highlight of his… catching mini-bar peanuts in his mouth whilst laying on the bed watching crappy British shows on the hotel room TV?

Getting down on his haunches, Dempsey fussed Frobisher playfully.

"Well who's a lucky little fella? Walkies and ice-cream!"

Gloria laughed delightedly.

"Have a good night and you take care, Gloria, okay?" he told her as he straightened up again.

"Goodnight dear. We'll see you in the morning."

After the entrance door had shut behind her, Makepeace emerged from the Montgomery's studio, keys in hand.

"Is the coast clear?"

"Chicken!" he accused with a grin.

"She does go on rather."

Makepeace turned and locked the studio door, slipping the keys into her handbag.

Dempsey patted at his trouser pockets. "Where'd I put the keys for One?"

"I have no idea," she sighed. "Glove compartment, perhaps?"

Dempsey narrowed his eyes at her sarcastic reference before pulling the keys from the depths of his front left pocket. "Lucky for you I can appreciate your brand of humour, hah?" he grinned.

They moved to the next door along and she watched as he inserted the larger of the two keys into the lock.

"I thought I didn't possess one according to…" Makepeace stopped. "That's it!"

"That's what?"

She reached out and plucked the keys from his hand.

"On the keyring… The Raine Gallery, they were the ones hosting the party."

"Where you met Masters?"

"Yes," she nodded eagerly, "and I've got a feeling that's where I saw the delectable Inga too."

They both looked down at the silver and black printed key fob bearing the gallery name, address and telephone number before looking up at each other again.