The Connolly sisters were having none of the bluster from the somewhat unkempt man standing on their doorstep. He was asking impertinent questions about the pretty, quiet girl, Louisa, who lived in the big room upstairs with the bay window. He claimed to be a relative of the girl, but both elderly women were suspicious of him and refused point blank to answer his questions. Although many years past their prime, the united front the two ladies presented visibly frustrated the man. He clenched and unclenched his fists repeatedly and he face grew thunderously dark when the information he was seeking was not forthcoming.
“You have not seen the last of me, ladies,” he growled in a tone that was clearly a threat. “Good afternoon!”
Percy Styles could feel the murderous rage building inside of him. What was it with old biddies and his niece? That vile old whore had tried to con money out of him until he had come within inches of throttling the life out of her and now another two old bitches were disrespecting his position as Louisa’s uncle. Who the fuck did they think they were? Okay, so he was only her uncle by dint of being married to her mother’s sister, but he was still family, right? He had rights.
Considering that he and Louisa were both fugitives from the law they had more in common than her geriatric protectors could ever imagine. Whilst it was true that the police were completely ignorant of Louisa’s crime of theft, the material fact that it had occurred was enough of a connection in Styles’ mind and way of thinking to put them on the same legal footing. She may never answer to the law for what she had done but he, Percy Styles, would ensure that one way or another she would pay a penalty for her crime.
The only useful titbit of information he had managed to glean from the Connolly sisters was that Louisa was still at work. Armed with the name and address of her place of employment Styles made his way to the boutique, forming a plan in his mind as he walked. He presumed – correctly – that Louisa would not be overjoyed to see him. Therefore he would need to be crafty. That was never going to be a problem: after a lifetime of practice Percy Styles had crafty down to a fine art. It was how he had managed to avoid Parsons’ fate.
At a leisurely pace Styles made his way on foot across the city to the busy retail thoroughfare where Deschamps du Paris was situated. From a relatively secluded spot in a doorway of the premises directly across the road from Deschamps du Paris he watched the comings and goings at the store. A succession of young and not-so-young well-heeled women, often accompanied by a companion, but rarely a man, swept in through the brass and glass double-door entry and disgorged themselves again up to two or more hours later looking extremely pleased with themselves. Styles despised each and every one of them for their shallowness and wasteful ways with their husbands’ or fathers’ money.
“Poncing peacocks!” he spat vehemently when one particularly affluent customer emerged from the store trailing a line of porters, each overburdened with several large packages, which were carefully loaded into the gleaming Rolls Royce that eased to a stop at the kerb as soon as the chauffeur spotted his employer. Once the last package was safely secured, without so much as a word of thanks to the lackeys who had carried her purchases, the hideous old witch had stuffed her ample proportions into the passenger seat of the luxury vehicle and it pulled smoothly away to join the flow of early evening traffic.
“Fucking rich bitch!” Styles swore at the car as it swept past his place of concealment, his resentment burning in him like a naked flame of hatred. He had always loathed the upper-classes and the manner in which they abused their wealth and status. At any other time he would have railed angrily about the subject, but this was neither the time nor place.
It took just the merest glimpse of his niece, Louisa, as she passed by the store entrance to help refocus his mind on the present and why he was standing in that doorway. A moment later an older woman appeared at the glass doors, a large ring of keys dangling from her left hand. Styles watched as she carefully selected a key before lining-up the two doors and inserting the key into the lock. Styles thought he heard the ‘clack’ as the lock mechanism engaged, but he dismissed it as his imagination playing tricks on him. Clearly the day’s business was concluded. It would not now be long before Louisa would be making her way home to her rented room. This evening she would have an unexpected guest to entertain.
Louisa mulled-over in her mind what she was going to say to Marilyn whilst she waited for the young mother to gather her things together. She had decided that she was going to ’come clean’ with her colleague about who she really was and her true age. Louisa reasoned that if she was truthful about those minor deceits Marilyn, and more importantly Marilyn’s husband, would be more inclined to take her seriously and listen to her concerns with an open mind. She found a pleasant smile for her friend as she joined her at the locked entrance. The two young women bid Dorothy Evans a cheery ‘good evening’ as she locked the door again after they had left. Walking side-by-side the two colleagues made their way towards the brightly-lit welcome of the nearby coffee shop.
Watching them, an irritated Percy Styles swore when he saw that his plan had been thwarted, albeit unintentionally. His eyes bored into the backs of Louisa and her friend as they walked away from the store. Clearly he was not going to be able to accost his niece as he had intended, which meant that he would have to rethink his strategy. Percy Styles was nothing if not adaptable. Two minutes later he emerged from the doorway’s shadow and walked briskly away, retracing his steps to the Connolly sisters’ house.
Marilyn Penney listened intently to Louisa Tavistock as she spoke. If she was shocked or hurt or disappointed in the young woman whom she considered a friend it did not show on her face. If anything, in spite of the deceptions Louisa had admitted to, Marilyn was growing increasingly concerned about her safety with her killer uncle on the loose. Louisa had decided to keep just one part of her story to herself. The shame and disgust she felt about that part of her history was still too great for her to speak about it.
“Goodness me!” Marilyn exclaimed when Louisa took a moment to sip her coffee. “How awful all this must be for you.”
“I’ll be fine once I know that my uncle is behind bars” Louisa said bluntly. Now that the truth was out there she felt empty, drained, mentally and emotionally. It just felt good to be able to talk openly about things that she had kept bottled inside her for so long. The telling, though, had taken a lot out of her and all she wanted to do now was get to her room and slip into bed.
“Yes, I imagine that will be a huge relief for you.” Marilyn agreed. “Maybe I could ask Bernard if there is anything to be done by him and his colleagues?” she suggested.
“I don’t want to trouble him or anybody…” Louisa began.
“Oh, phooey to that!” Marilyn giggled. “When one has a policeman for a husband one ought to be able to utilise him for the purpose he was intended!” she declared, grinning broadly across the small table at her troubled friend.
In spite of her dour mood and tiredness, Louisa could not help but join in with Marilyn’s infectious laughter.
“You are terrible!” she chided good-naturedly.
“That’s why Bernard loves me and why you like me so much!” Marilyn said confidently. Louisa could only nod her agreement.
“I will speak to him when I get home and we’ll talk about it again tomorrow, okay?” she told Louisa.
“Okay, that’s wonderful. Thank you ever so much… for everything!” Louisa gushed as the two women embraced outside the coffee shop before parting company, heading in opposite directions to their respective homes. Feeling unburdened after her conversation and revelations Louisa Tavistock’s steps were much lighter as she walked home than they had been the previous evening. She felt that she had made the right decision in taking Marilyn Penney into her confidence. It just felt right.
To be continued...