"Why do you want to talk about old times?" Theressa asked.
"Because it might give us a clue. Somebody is behind all this and it seems as if he's got a grudge against me. Why else would I have to kill three people to get you and Timothy back? But I don't know who or why!"
Theressa stared at him. "Three people? Three. Did he say which three?"
"No, not yet. I don't think he will, now."
"I was held prisoner by three people," she said slowly.
Richard moved to the edge of his seat and sensed she might be onto something. "What if they are the same people? If I had killed them, you would be free, but does that make sense?"
Theressa thought for a while. "Not yet. Maybe when we know what he wants. Well, okay. I'll start. We met at the tennis club."
Richard thought back on how he had joined the club and how he had been in need of a mixed doubles partner for the annual tournament. He soon discovered that everybody wanted to double with Theressa, because she was a picture in her white outfit and her previous partner had gone away. She had already tried out several new partners during practice and she had not yet decided. One could not hit any balls, another was too critical, and a third objected to her occasional groaning on court. Besides, she liked them all equally well -- or little -- and she did not want anybody to think he was special because she had singled him out. A friend of Richard had suggested that he ask her, and he had been amazed when she had said yes.
"We played very well together didn't we?" Richard asked.
"And we went to all those parties!" Theressa answered. Since neither of them had had another alternative, they had always taken their mixed doubles partner to the tennis parties. "How come you liked them then and not anymore?"
"Because then I had to go to a party to see you."
"Oh. I wouldn't have thought of that myself," she said sheepishly.
"You knew I liked you."
"Yes, after that one party in your flat I certainly did," she giggled. They had squeezed past each other in the narrow passage and she had felt very funny, and it was amazing how often they felt the need to pass through there after that, and at the same time too. Each time had taken longer.
"We got married too quickly," Richard added. "Maybe I should have told you to wait a few years when you asked me. Someone asking me to marry her because her friends told her it would be cool entered into marriage for all the wrong reasons, don't you think?"
"And someone knowing all that and still saying yes did not enter into marriage for all the wrong reasons?" Theressa countered.
"I know. But I thought you might be taken if I waited."
"But then after marrying me you discovered that I was not worth all the haste?"
"I had doubts," Richard admitted. "I felt like a new accessory, and then you had Timothy --" And Timmy had been another accessory to parade with.
"You had Timmy too."
"Yes, but he looked like a doll with those stupid hats on! I didn't really feel he was mine."
Tears sprang to Theressa's eyes. "But he is yours!" she whispered. "Did you ever doubt that?"
"It must be my fate to always say the wrong things," Richard said in a bitter voice. He sat down next to her. "I never doubted that. I meant -- well, it doesn't matter anymore. I love you both," he said almost inaudibly, hugging her. "I thought I didn't, but I do."
In the dark the man drove past the Yates's house, slowly. Yates was opening the door to someone, who turned to look at the car before he entered. The man pushed his foot down on the accelerator and increased his speed. In his rear view mirror he saw the door was pushed shut.
Something had to happen. He had told himself that before, but he had not had any ideas yet. First, however, he had to deal with Agnes and Sam. They were dangerous because they knew too much.
"I am going to file a complaint against the police," Lord Faye announced when he was standing at the bar of the polo club drinking his white wine. "They let my daughter go home with that criminal! I had a word with the Chief Constable. He says the house is being watched twenty-four hours a day, but they are outside and my daughter is inside with that man. You can't depend on the police anymore!"
"Do you know, Nicholas," Rufus Terence lowered his voice confidentially. He was a small man with a ferrety face. "I don't think he did it. Now all these police officers are watching an innocent man instead of devoting their time to finding the real culprit. If I were you, I'd have them pulled off."
"How can you say he's innocent?"
"Gut feeling," said Rufus, drowning his glass. "I'm off. Cheerio."
"Is Theressa back?" a girl at the tennis club asked Noelle. "I thought I saw her at a traffic light."
"Yeah, they found her up north."
"Too bad," said the girl. "I was going to drop by Richard tonight to see if he was lonely." She winked meaningfully at her friend Jane.
"Denise!" said Jane in a shocked voice. "You can't be serious."
"Oh, but I am," Denise smiled coldly. "I have a bone to pick with that Theressa. She broke the rules. All new men at the club are mine first."
"Hello Walter," said Richard when he opened the door.
"Hi. Just wanted to tell you that you're my case from now on. Inspector Jackson's mother had an unfortunate accident and he was called away on family business." Walter saw that his friend looked much better than before. Perhaps he had talked to his wife.
"Oh good," said Richard, relieved because he had found Jackson somewhat of a fool. "Do come in. Go on ahead into the living room. I'll just fetch a chair from the kitchen for myself."
Walter saw why. There were only two chairs left and Theressa was occupying one of them. She jumped at the sound of Richard entering through the door to the kitchen. "I'm sorry," she apologized nervously. "I keep thinking it's them again."
"Jackson wanted to keep you here," said Walter, looking at her searchingly. She had been crying, because her eyes were red. She looked nervous, but not because she was afraid of Richard. In fact, she seemed glad to have him around. He wondered how things were between them now. "But I think you should move to a safer house. They have broken into this house on two occasions already."
"One time they had Richard's keys," Theressa said. "I forgot to mention that Joe had Richard's keys. The ones you lost," she said to him.
"At that garden party?" he frowned, wondering how his keys could have ended up in a criminal's possession.
"By the way," said Walter. "The dead man was identified as the Joe you supposedly killed, but you apparently only knocked him unconscious. Somebody else finished him off."
"Whew," said Theressa and smiled weakly. "I am so glad."
"But this thing about the keys may be important. Where did you lose them?" Walter asked.
"Lord Faye's garden party on May 12th. I hung up my coat and left them in my pocket, but when I wanted to unlock the car, the keys were gone, so I must have dropped them somewhere," said Richard.
"Or somebody stole them."
"Who? A guest at my father's party?" Theressa asked. "Or somebody from the catering?"
"Somebody who knew exactly whose keys they were and who wanted something from you, but not money. The motive is still unclear to me. Theressa, does your father have a list of guests who attended that party? Maybe we could find somebody with a motive among them."
"Maybe he does. I think so. He usually has the invitations done by his secretary, so she should have a list."
Walter noted it down. "I'll speak to his secretary. By the way, do you know anyone who drives a dark BMW? There was one driving past very slowly as I rang the bell and it increased speed when I turned around."
"How about 75% of my colleagues?" Richard smiled.
"That doesn't help us a lot then. I want you to pack now. I'll take you to my house, because, one, I'll know where you are, and two, at least some of the time I'll be there to keep an eye on you. The Chief Constable is much too chummy with your parents, and he could seriously obstruct this case in his eagerness to please them. He suggested to me that I send you back to your parents for safety." He noted Theressa looked rather alarmed at the suggestion. She obviously did not feel very enthusiastic about that.
Richard scowled. "To Theressa's parents? Over my dead body! Which may exactly be what someone wants," he added as an afterthought.
Walter looked at him thoughtfully. "There could be some truth in that."
"Can't you move in with us?" Theressa suggested. "Timmy wants to sleep in his own bed. He has been waking up much more often in the past few days."
"Well, I suppose so..." said Walter, looking at Timmy who was fast asleep in his mother's arms. "May I use your phone to call Mary?"
"Sure," Richard said.
Walter walked towards the phone. He looked at the answering machine. "Have you listened to your messages yet?" he asked.
"No." Richard joined him and pressed a few buttons.
Hi. This is Mum. Any news yet? Bye.
"I should call her." He listened to the next message.
Was wondering if you'd heard anything from Theressa, old boy. I'm just as worried as you are, I'll bet. Well, you know my number in case you want to talk about it some time. Call me!
"He called when I was here," Theressa said.
"Rufus?" Richard asked incredulously. "What's he calling me an old boy for? He's almost old enough to be my father."
"Isn't he the fellow your parents wanted you to marry?" Walter asked.
"What?" Theressa exclaimed. "Did they want me to marry him?"
"That's what they said."
She shuddered. "Ugh. Really, like Richard said, he's old enough to be my father. How could they think that?"
The next message was a hang-up, and then one from a female caller with a sugar sweet voice. Richard? Are you there? Don't let this get you down, hunky. If you're in need of a real woman for a change, call me. 72 37 892.
"Who was that?" Theressa asked angrily. "Calling you hunky?"
"I don't know," Richard said helplessly.
"And I'm not a real woman? A real woman! Right! If she were a real woman, she wouldn't be needing other people's husbands."
Boo boo! You haven't called me yet, hunky. And why, I wonder? Surely you can guess that your precious baby Terry is out having fun. Is she old enough to drink alcohol yet? Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you to erase these messages, but such a clever guy like you could figure that out himself, right?
Theressa was furious at the unknown woman and Richard quickly played the next messages. They were not very interesting -- a threat from Theressa's father, a message from one of his co-workers, and one from one of Theressa's friends.
Walter called Mary and gave her instructions on what to bring over. Fortunately Mary did not seem to object to coming over. Richard then took the phone into the kitchen to call his mother.
"Why do you think that Rufus called?" Walter asked Theressa, who was trying to calm Timmy, who had sensed she was angry.
"I don't know. He doesn't even like Richard." She frowned. "You don't think it's him, do you? Richard says that someone has a grudge against him, but I don't really know anyone else who doesn't like him."
"It could be anyone. A dislike of Richard seems to be a prerequisite, though, I agree. And you may well be the cause of it. I don't see Richard doing anything someone else might hate him for. Getting a job? No. A woman, on the other hand... You had many admirers before you married, I understand?"
Theressa shrugged. "I don't know. A few at the tennis club, I suppose."
"What did they do when you got married?"
"I didn't really pay attention. I had to get used to living with him, and then we bought the house and we had to get it ready and I got pregnant too in the meantime, so I didn't play tennis for a while." The doorbell rang and she froze.
"It's okay," Walter reassured her. "No one with a bad conscience would ring the doorbell. It'll be Mary."
"I'll get it," Richard shouted from the kitchen, and a few moments later Mary entered.
"Hello dear," she said, hugging Theressa. "Are you alright?"
Theressa had always been a little afraid of her, because she suspected that Mary disapproved of her in some way. She was a few years younger and knew far less, and Mary had too much common sense to put up with too much silliness, but she looked very kind now. "I'm alright, I think. I could show you your room when I put Timmy to bed." She did not like going upstairs alone.
"Walter," said Richard, suddenly noticing the last note lying on a side table. "We never checked out that locker at the station."
"You're right," Walter said evenly. He had been wondering if Richard was going to bring it up.
"I wonder what's in it. It's a pity we can't go now."
"I'm going to send two of my men over tomorrow so they can check this locker for finger prints as well."
"It's Friday tomorrow, the day I was supposed to go. But he'll know she's gone, won't he, so there won't be any point in following the instructions."
"We'll see what the instructions are," said Walter.
"Do you think he'll try something again?" Richard asked.
"He might, and that's why I don't want to let you out of my sight. Have you got any idea who that woman is who called you?"
Richard shook his head. "No."
"I want you to call the number."
"What?" Richard cried. "No! What do you want me to say? I'm not going to call her."
"She might be connected to this case. We have to check it out. I want you to call her and get a date with her. Take her out to dinner."
"Richard, don't you want this case to be solved?"
"And what do I do about Theressa?" Richard protested.
"You tell the woman that the police have taken Theressa to a safe place and that you are now staying here alone."
Richard groaned. "No, no, no! And how am I going to explain that to Theressa?"
"We'll tell her the truth." Walter did not think Theressa would mind too much.
"She's not going to like it. She's finally trusting me a little and now you're sending me off with some...some..."
"If we don't check out this lead, we'll never know if she's got anything to do with it. Why does she only call you when Theressa is kidnapped? She certainly didn't sound too shy to do so before."
"And what do I do with this woman, if I decide to do what you say?" Richard asked reluctantly.
"You talk to her, try to find out as much as you can."
"I'm sorry for being such a coward," Theressa apologized with a small smile. "I was too afraid to go upstairs alone."
"That's alright," said Mary. "Why didn't you want us to tell Richard that you called?" she asked curiously.
"Because I didn't know if he had anything to do with it. You probably think I'm very stupid." Theressa bit her lip. "And you're probably right," she sniffed. "But it must be so hard for him to know that I didn't trust him. And every little thing is going to make him doubt him now and he knows that. I mean, he said he didn't know who this woman was, and I believe him, but still -- you know? I have a little nagging doubt about everything in the back of my mind. Can I trust you, even?"
"I know answering that you can trust me won't help you, but believe me -- you can trust Richard. He was a wreck when you were away."
"What?" Theressa cried when she heard Walter's plan. "No! He's not going out with a woman who hates me and who no doubt will be trying to get him into bed. I won't have it." Mary said she could trust Richard, but how could he possibly have agreed to such a plan? She looked at him, but he did not look guilty. He looked relieved that she did not like the idea.
"See?" Richard said to Walter. "I told you she wouldn't like it. Get a new plan."
"Theressa, he won't get into bed with her," Walter reassured her. "All I want him to do is to find out what she's after."
"I know what she's after! She's after him. She'll just take him and not care about me, like no one cares about me. All I am is a pawn that people like to push around -- push me, use me, deceive me, order me, ignore me, step over me, kidnap me -- because I'm only some kind of object, right? Without a brain or feelings and --" She had been forced to be strong because she had had Timmy to look after, but he was safe now, and she finally broke down.
Theressa ran upstairs. "Do you want me to go after her?" Mary asked.
"No, I'll go," Richard said, although he had no idea how to handle such an outburst. Theressa was crying on the bed and sat down next to her. He tentatively reached out a hand and stroked her hair. Her shoulders shook and she was pressing her face into the covers, and he was prepared to see her mascara streaked down her face, but when she finally raised her head, her face was wet and red, but completely clean. "No mascara?" he asked in surprise.
"It's not one of the necessities of life. I forgot to take it with me, but I discovered I could do without," she said shakily. "I didn't ruin the covers now, aren't you glad?"
"I wouldn't have cared."
"I'm sorry I'm acting like such a baby." She sat up straight and stared straight ahead. "I'm just fed up with them all, do you understand? They all think they know what's good for me. Going home with Mummy and Daddy, marrying Daddy's friends, doing this and doing that."
"What do you want to do then?" Richard asked.
"I don't know yet, but I want to think it up myself."
"Am I one of Daddy's friends or did you think me up yourself?"
"Well, you are the perfect example of how they resent my own initiative," said Theressa. "If we hadn't sort of presented them with a fait accompli, do you really think they would not have tried to prevent it?"
"Didn't they know it was coming? You spent the night here several times before we got married."
Theressa smiled. "I told them I stayed the night at a friend's house and they assumed it was a girl."
"You know, I won't go along with that plan if you don't want me to."
Her smile faded. "Don't you really know who she is and why she called you?"
"But you must know her."
"I don't recognize the voice, though. Walter has a point, but I won't do it if you don't want me to," Richard said. "I don't really like doing it anyway."
"I know Walter has a point, but..."
"You don't trust me?"
"I don't trust her," Theressa said vehemently. "If you weren't to be trusted, you would not have offered not to do it. You would have promised me faithfully that you wouldn't do anything and then you would've gone ahead and done it anyway."
Richard smiled. "But maybe he could have me wired, or he could keep an eye on me in disguise. I'd have to ask him if that's possible. I want all of this to end and I think we must try everything we can."
"Well, I suppose so," Theressa said with reluctance. "Do you think it will accomplish anything? Because I think it won't. I think she's just after you."
"But you don't know for sure," he pointed out.
"No. Maybe you should do it then, if you want to."
"I don't want to, but I don't see that I have much of a choice."
"Alright then. I won't protest any longer if Walter can have you wired or supervised."
They went downstairs and Walter said that was indeed possible to wire Richard and have someone observe him from not too far away.
"Call her now," Walter suggested. "The sooner we get this done, the better."
"Now?" Richard asked anxiously. "What do I say?"
"You say Theressa is somewhere else and now you're bored. Or something like that. And then see what happens. Don't accept any invitations to her house. Meet her on neutral ground where we can keep an eye on you. After all, we don't know what she wants from you."
Richard inhaled deeply. "Alright," he said a little unsteadily. He took the phone to the kitchen and punched the buttons.
Hello Richard! A woman squealed as soon as she picked up the receiver.
"How do you know it's me?" he asked suspiciously. He still could not place her voice.
Because I have this little display that shows me who called, you dummy! So, why did you call, baby? I thought your wife had returned? Is she out partying again?
"She's been taken to a safe place by the police and now I'm rather bored," Richard said. "I thought maybe you could buy me dinner tomorrow since I'm on leave without pay."
Suuuuuure! If I could cook, I'd cook for you and we could have a snug candle-lit supper with wine and the works, but I can't cook -- I just had my nails done today and I'm terrified that something might happen to them. Shall I take you out to dinner? Do you like Pasquale?
"I've never been there." It was one of the most expensive restaurants in town.
Oh, it's absolutely gorgeous! You'll love it. Tomorrow?
"That would suit me fine."
Pick me up, okay, baby? At eight. I'll make a reservation for eight fifteen. You know where I live. In those pretty new flats they put up next to St. Mary's. Do you know where I mean?
Richard knew the place, and he immediately knew whom he was talking to.
"Who was it?" Theressa asked as soon as he returned.
"It's that --" he paused. "Denise."
"Who is she?" Walter wanted to know.
"She plays tennis too and she is very cold-hearted and egocentric," said Richard. "I believe she has wrecked more relationships than the Lorelei wrecked ships."
"Can you handle her?"
"But she is good at seducing men," Theressa warned him. "It's her hobby."
Richard looked at her. He knew he was strong enough. He was completely indifferent to Denise. "Don't worry." He hoped it convinced her.
Theressa stood up. "I'm going to bed. I hope you won't hear too much of Timmy during the night," she said to Mary and Walter. "I'll have to get up a few times. Good night."
"Good night," the others echoed.
"I'll come up in a minute," said Richard. "I need to tell Walter all the details first."
Denise put down the phone with a satisfied smile. Richard had called. She picked up the receiver again and called a number from memory. "Hello? It's me, Denise. He called. Yes. He said she's been taken to a safe house. Yes, seems you were right about him. Anyway, I'm meeting him at Pasquale for dinner tomorrow. Yes. Eight fifteen. And after dinner? Oh. Oh, okay. Yes, I'll let you know. Bye."
The whole house was woken by Timmy's insistent crying at three o'clock. Richard groaned. He had been sleeping soundly for the first time in several days, but Theressa would not let him sleep on. He felt her tug at his pajamas.
"Come with me, please. I'm afraid to go by myself."
Richard knew she was very afraid of everything. When he had gone to bed she had huddled very close to him and she had stiffened at every sound. He got out of bed and she grabbed hold of his hand, staying behind him. He caught himself looking around the hallway first before he stepped out. This fear was contagious.
"Thank you," she said when Timmy was silent.
Richard yawned. "That's...okay."
"I'm sorry. Do you have to go to work tomorrow?"
He shook his head. "I forgot to tell you that I'm on leave. They thought it would be better if I stayed home while I was being suspected of a crime."
"Oh," said Theressa. "When are you going back?"
"Oh, that's good. They let you work too hard anyway. You were always working at night. So, if you're not working tomorrow, you can do things with us, if you like."
The next time they were up they saw Walter who had to go to work. "Mary will stay here," he said. "I'll make sure to be home at about six to brief you on tonight's date, alright?"
"Alright," said Richard and yawned again.
"If I can't arrange any of my people to watch over you tonight, Mary and I will have to do it."
"And where does that leave me?" Theressa asked. She was not going to stay home alone. It was too scary.
"With my mother?" Richard suggested. "She'd love to see Timothy."
"I hope that won't be necessary," said Walter. "But we'll see."
Walter sent two men to the railway station to check out the locker, while he looked through all the material Inspector Jackson had left behind and drew up a short report. After looking at everything he was still no closer to seeing a solution and he dialed Lord Faye's number. He made an appointment with the secretary to stop by and copy the guest list.
When he had done so, the two men returned with the contents of the locker. "No finger prints on the locker," said Barnes. "But we found some interesting stuff." He deposited a few plastic bags on Walter's desk.
"Well," said Walter, picking up the bag containing a gun. "It looks like our Mastermind was serious about having Yates kill somebody." He picked up the other bag with the note and read it through the plastic. "He was to shoot the person he was going to meet? Doesn't that sound rather tricky to you?"
"He could've missed, sir," said Barnes.
"Exactly. Or he could have been killed by the intended target."
"Why was he supposed to kill the intended target, sir?" Sykes asked.
"I don't know. I suppose because our Mastermind needed to get rid of that person for some mysterious reason." Walter shoved the bags towards Sykes. "Have these checked by Forensics, and Barnes, are you free tonight?"
"What do you mean, sir?"
"Are you free to take WPC Lee out to dinner?"
"Sir!" Barnes asked in confusion. "WPC Lee? I have a girlfriend."
"It will be work, Barnes. You're to supervise Mr. Yates's date with a mysterious woman."
"Oh. Yes, I'm free, Inspector."
"Good. Get me WPC Lee then. And you, Sykes?"
"I'm free too, sir."
"Good. You'll go in the van with the equipment."
"Yes, sir." Sykes departed to Forensics, and Barnes went off in search of WPC Lee. Walter briefed her on the situation and she was eager to be of help, not having been in the service for very long yet. He decided to take her with him to the Stantons, while Barnes could find out about Denise.
At the big house where the Stantons lived, they were met by an indignant Lord Faye. "Inspector," he began authoritatively. "What is this nonsense about wanting to see the guest list of my parties? Does it have any bearing on the case whatsoever or are you just being nosy?"
"We have reasons to suspect that whoever kidnapped your daughter had access to one of your parties, Lord Faye."
"Nonsense! I do not know any criminals and I refuse to show you any lists."
"We have a warrant," said Walter calmly. "And it's in your daughter's interest. You go get it, Cindy," he said to WPC Lee, who disappeared to the secretary's office.
"I was talking about this with a friend last night, and we agreed that the police are wasting manpower. They're concentrating their efforts on the wrong things."
"And what should we concentrate on, Lord Faye?"
"On finding the perpetrator!"
"Are you no longer convinced that your son-in-law did it?"
Theressa's father sniffed. "My instincts tell me he did it, but other people say he didn't."
WPC Lee returned with the guest list and Walter had a quick look at it. Among others it contained a Rufus Terence and a Denise Hayworth, but oddly enough not Richard Yates, nor Theressa. It seemed as if they were automatically expected at such an event. "Denise Hayworth, does she play tennis?" Walter asked to make sure it was the same Denise.
"I believe she does, but don't all people of class do so? Inspector, when are you going to send Theressa home where she belongs?"
Walter was not so sure she belonged here. "She will come here when she wants to. Not any sooner than that."
"I'm sure she wants to, but it's just him keeping her away from us."
"Did you object to their marriage, Lord Faye?" he asked interestedly.
"I would have!"
"They got married when I was in Italy for a few days. I had no idea," Lord Faye said agitatedly. "When I came back she had married him, when we had wanted her to do so much better, when we had half and half expected her to marry old Rufus."
"He might have been too old for her," Walter said calmly. "Your daughter is very young. He must be more than twice her age."
"That wouldn't have mattered at all."
"Ugh," said WPC Lee involuntarily. "Sorry, Inspector," she blushed.
"What did you think, Cindy?" Walter asked when they were in the car.
"I think he's a bit of an idiot, sir, wanting to decide all those things for his daughter. Unless she's married to an unemployed criminal right now. Who's she married to now, sir? Is he very bad?" WPC Lee asked. "I only know him by sight."
Walter shook his head. "He's a friend of mine. She couldn't have done any better. Except perhaps for that baby. He wakes up in the middle of the night. But you'll see Yates tonight when you go out with Barnes. To Pasquale."
"Yes. I want you too observe that woman very closely, go to the lavatory when she goes in case she phones someone, and of course you and Barnes must follow her when she leaves."
"We don't follow Yates when he leaves?"
"No, because he'll be going home."
"Oh," said Lee. "He's not going home with the tart then?"
"He's going home to Mrs. Yates."
"Oh. I saw her at the station. I fetched her lunch," Lee said proudly. "She was nice, and I'm glad he goes home to her."
When they returned, Sykes had the results of other tests from Forensics. "There were no prints on the notes," he announced. "But they found a hair on that corpse, from an unknown male, and traces of infant feces," he said with a grin. "They also checked out that house where Mrs. Yates was held and they discovered there were no finger prints on the infamous frying pan. Somebody wiped it clean. What else? Oh yes, there were prints all over the place there, but we couldn't place them except for Mrs. Yates's and the corpse's." He leafed through the reports. "If there was anything else, they're still working on it then."
Theressa woke up and saw Richard looking at her. "Are you awake already?" she asked stupidly.
He looked at her seriously. "No, not yet."
"You're still here."
"You saw me -- what was it? -- a few hours ago too," she reminded him.
"I know, but I was only half awake then," he smiled and groaned when Timmy made his presence known in the other room. "Oh, Timothy! I'll get him for you," he leant over to give her a brief kiss and rolled off the bed.
"What took you so long?" Theressa asked when he returned after a few minutes.
"Oh? Did it take me long?" Richard asked. "I didn't notice."
"You two are very chummy," she said with a approval. "But I don't think you have what he wants right now."
"No, Mummy has everything we want."
"Timmy was first," she said, taking the baby and sticking out her tongue at him.
"I could make you breakfast," Richard said. Such a thing had never occurred to him before, because he had always left for work in a hurry, not wanting to waste any time on breakfast when it could be spent sleeping, especially after the baby. He smiled while he considered the idea. "Yes, I could do that. I don't know what you have for breakfast, though." He frowned. "Isn't that something I should know? What do you want?"
"I'll take whatever you make."
Richard went downstairs in his pajamas and found Mary in the kitchen. "Good morning," he said.
"Good morning. Did you get any sleep at all? I heard you get up all those times too."
"Yes, well, Theressa was afraid to get up alone, so I went with her."
"Poor girl," said Mary. "I hope she'll get over it. It's changed her, though. I hope for your sake that it's permanent."
"I'll keep her away from those parents as much as possible," he said with a roll of his eyes, looking into the refrigerator.
"I understand they're dreadful."
"Oh!" he sighed. "I'm still hoping she's the result of an extramarital affair. You don't know how stupid they are."
"And your wife turns out to be less stupid than we all thought, doesn't she?" Mary asked. "I always thought it was just her looks that had attracted you."
Richard put two glasses on the table. "I had begun to wonder myself. I don't mind telling you that."
"Will you be strong enough to withstand the charms of an experienced flirt and yet go along with her far enough to see what she's about?"
He smiled faintly. "I'll think of how they were looking just now when I left them. The problem is I might withstand too much."
"You'll be alright then. I hope you don't mind my leaving for a few hours," said Mary. "I have some things to do at home, and I doubt you'll be needing me during the day. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. Theressa asked if I'd like to do things with her and Timothy, but I don't actually know what they'd do all day."
Mary laughed at the uncertain but pleased expression on his face. "It sounds like a good time to find out."
"Do you know what they do?"
"No, sorry. I don't have a baby. Besides, I usually work when it's not a school holiday."
Richard finished preparing breakfast and Mary washed a few dishes. He told her not to, but she shrugged and said she wanted to wait till Theressa came down and she had nothing to do. She smiled when the two of them came down, but wondered if Theressa was returning to her old self -- dressed well, and Timmy in the same colors. "What are you going to do all day?" Mary asked.
"Stay here," Theressa said cheerfully. "I can't go out since I'm supposed to be at a safe place. Maybe Richard could finally tell me how the computer works," she teased. "And I'll tell him how Timmy works."
They spent the day to their mutual satisfaction, and Walter returned like he had promised. He handed Richard an object. "Put this on. We can listen in on your conversation through it. Sykes and I will be in the van outside listening, and Barnes and Lee will be somewhere in the restaurant. You know Barnes. Just don't look at him too much. You know what you've got to do."
"What if we don't find out anything?"
"Then we wait. If she doesn't approach you another time, it was a dead end. On the other hand, if she does approach you again, she might have an ulterior motive. Theressa, Mary will stay here with you."
"My mother is coming later tonight," said Richard. "She insisted on seeing Timothy."
"Shall we go?" Walter asked. "We'll go to the station to test the equipment first and then you can go and pick up the lady."
"I don't think she's a lady," Theressa protested. "Ladies have a sense of decency."
"Woman, then." He waited until Richard and Theressa had finished their whispered parting conversation, and then they got into the car. "What did she say?" Walter asked Richard.
"Ha. As if I'd tell you."
Richard rang Denise's doorbell and she appeared all seductive smiles and perfume. She kissed him on the cheek and he nearly choked on the scented vapor. "Richard!" she cooed. "You are right on time. A little early even. Do you want to come in for a drink before we eat?"
He knew he was being watched, but if he went in, he would be out of sight. "Let's not," he suggested. "I have to drive."
"Oh, yes." Denise chattered all the way to the restaurant. "You look very smartly dressed, by the way."
"Thank you." He wanted to say Theressa had picked it out for him, but that would not be the right thing to say in this situation. Denise would wonder why he was out with her, and perhaps she would suspect him.
They were shown to their table and out of the corner of his eye his saw the policeman also come in. That was a good thing, and he was relieved. Denise's presence was already a burden. It somehow helped to know that there was someone else nearby.
Denise laid her hand on his and he stiffened. "Well, now we can take a drink, can't we?" she whispered. "We could take a cab back."
"Oh no, that would be a bit fast, don't you think?" Richard said, trying to sound as amiable as possible.
"You had no qualms about moving fast with little Terry, had you?" Denise asked sweetly. "Or are you one of those men who prefer women who follow their lead? I'm all yours!"
"Why?" he asked as he studied the menu for a drink.
"Why I am all yours?" she smiled. "Oh darling! You're too modest. Do you mean you really don't know?"
She was teasing him -- flirting with him. Richard kept his eyes on the menu. "Well, I really don't."
"You're just fishing for compliments, aren't you? Does your little wife never give you any compliments then? I find that hard to believe!"
"Poor baby! Why not? She's too young to appreciate you, and your looks, and --" her eyes roved over whatever was visible of him. "-- your body. It takes a real woman to do that. Someone more experienced, who does not cheat on you," Denise said compassionately, but with the intention of delivering a coup de grace.
Even though Richard knew he could not believe a word she said, he was stunned. "I beg your pardon?"
Denise smiled and caressed his hand affectionately. "Poor Richard. I know I shouldn't have broken the news to you this way, and I'm really sorry if it came as a shock, but it's true -- your little wife is having an affair."
"With whom?" he asked. He wished she would not call Theressa his little wife. She was the same size as Denise. And she was not having an affair.
"I don't know," Denise said sadly. "But," he eyes brightened. "In case you ever need me, I'm here." She placed her hand on her heart and opened her eyes very wide.
It did not work, because he saw another pair of much more sincere eyes in his mind, and a much more pleasant, unaffected, artless manner. He was not in any danger and he smiled at her stupidity to think that she could ever worm her way into his heart. "Thank you."
Denise saw his smile and thought she was winning. There was a smile on her face for as long as it took them to give their orders to the waiter. "I don't mind that you have a child," she said when the waiter had left their table.
"Neither do I."
"Just," she waved her hand slightly. "Keep him away from me."
"I wouldn't let him near you for the world," Richard smiled truthfully. "But tell me more about this affair Theressa is having."
"Oh," she gestured. "I don't know all the particulars, really, but I have it on good authority --"
I bet you can't even spell that, Richard thought.
"-- That she's cheating on you. Where do you think she was these past few days?"
"I don't know," he lied. "Nobody's telling me anything. The police interviewed her and then they took her away."
"That's because she was away cheating on you, and she told the police and now they're afraid you might do something to her," Denise said in a low voice.
He was wondering what he could say to that when he saw Noelle Stanton approach him. He froze.
"I, for one, shall never be jealous of my big sister anymore," hissed Noelle to him. She was leaving the restaurant with someone who had already gone by and he could not see who it was. She stopped by his table.
Richard stared at her with wide eyes, thinking of what might happen if she told her parents. Had they told her parents that Theressa was not at home? No, they had not. What would they think then if they heard he was out with another woman? He could live with their disapproval, but he hoped they would not start complicating matters by later telling Denise they knew nothing of Theressa's removal to a safe house. Damn. Why had no one foreseen that they might run into someone he knew?
"Neezy, you b***h" said Noelle.
"Oh, don't get so upset, Nono," Denise laughed. "She's cheating on him all the time. I'm just giving him the chance to strike back."
"Terry is cheating on Richard?" Noelle asked skeptically.
"Yeah, during the day."
"That's crap, Neezy, and you know it."
"I have it from a very good source," said Denise, but she fidgeted a little.
"Your good source must be wrong," said Noelle with sisterly loyalty. "Theressa is not the kind to do that."
"What would you know about stuff like that?" Denise asked with a laugh. "You're only a teenager."
"Oh? So you can only know stuff like that when you're over thirty?"
Denise looked angry. "I am not over thirty."
"Exactly thirty, then. Richard, did you know she was that old?" Noelle asked, but Richard had more interest in the food that had just been set on the table. He did not want to get involved in this argument. He might say something he regretted. Glancing over, he saw that the policeman was looking at them, as were most other people in the restaurant. He cringed. They could probably hear half of what was being said too. Another reason to stay silent.
"Excuse me, Nono. Your date isn't exactly just out of the cradle himself."
"The difference is that I'm not trying anything with him, and you are," Noelle threw back her head and marched off.
"I'm not thirty," Denise reassured Richard.
"Does it matter?" he asked. He was glad to see that most people returned their attention to their plates and their own companions.
"I'm twenty-nine," she lied. "How old is Theressa?"
"Fourteen," he lied back.
She laughed affectedly. "You are so funny!"
Richard grimaced. "What do you want with me?" he asked politely. He had to know. Maybe she would even give him an answer.
"With you? How can you ask? Baby, you're wasted on a fourteen-year old schoolgirl," Denise said earnestly. "Even if she's probably nineteen or something. You should have someone nearer your own age."
He smiled at her brilliantly. "I agree." Theressa was nearer his own age than Denise, whom he estimated at thirty-three at least.
"I'm glad we see eye to eye," Denise smiled. "Let's not beat about the bush, shall we?" she asked in a low voice. "Your place or mine?"
How terribly cliché, Richard thought. He looked at his plate and pretended to consider the idea, but in reality he was only thinking of a way out. "Perhaps we should wait till the investigation is over," he suggested. "It might be incriminating."
Denise looked a little disappointed, but not too much. "I'll trust your decision," she said. "After all, you have a degree, don't you?"
"I hope they finish that investigation soon," she smiled.
The man smiled to himself. He had got a few good pictures of the two, even if he doubted that Yates was completely won over. Yates did not behave like a man who was eagerly grabbing the opportunity presented to him. Perhaps he needed a little more time. Denise was good. She would draw him in. He knew how her mind worked, because in some ways they were a little similar. He knew how he could get her to do anything, and of course she need not be told everything. The cow would not even know it if she was told lies.
Mary had gone to answer the door, while Theressa stayed behind in the living room with a firm grip on her tennis racket, in case it should be someone who meant harm.
"I'm Richard's mother," said the lady at the door. "I've come to see my grandson."
"Come in. He's upstairs." Mary watched in surprise as the woman hung up her coat and climbed the stairs. She closed the door and returned to Theressa.
"Who was that?" Theressa asked.
"I thought she was coming in? Has she gone again?" Theressa was confused.
"She went upstairs directly."
"What?" Theressa's mouth fell open and she looked hurt, because she saw it as a lack of trust. She thought for a while. If Richard's mother went up directly, she must be thinking that Timmy was not well. But Timmy is very well. I took good care of him. "No, I'm not going to sit here waiting till it pleases her to tell me that Timmy looks well. I'm not going to sit here whining that people don't take me serious again. I'm going up."
Theressa walked out the door, but returned immediately to take her tennis racket. "You never know if it isn't a criminal. I'm starting to get paranoid, I think."
"Look, I know his mother by sight," said Mary. "I wouldn't have let her in otherwise."
"Does that say anything? She might be behind it all for all I know. I'm taking my tennis racket." She breathed in deeply and climbed the stairs. Timmy's door was open and she could hear her mother-in-law coo to him. "Yes, he's alive," Theressa said from the door opening.
Mrs. Yates turned and looked at her for quite a long time.
"Is something the matter?" Theressa asked when she was getting uncomfortable under her gaze.
His mother was even less talkative than Richard himself. Theressa had never been able to find out what she was thinking of anything. Not that she had cared very much about Mrs. Yates's opinions on anything other than herself, Timmy, their house or their clothes and such things. She swung the racket lightly in her right hand, trying to think of something to say.
"Why are you carrying a tennis racket?"
"To defend myself," she said defiantly.
Mrs. Yates looked slightly shocked. "From me?"
"Maybe." Theressa could see that the woman thought she was a case for a psychiatrist. Maybe she was not dangerous then.
"Where is Richard?"
"He told you he was out tonight."
"I know he did, but how could he leave you alone with Timothy?"
"I am Timmy's mother, and if he can't leave me alone with the baby, who can he leave alone with him? You're not suggesting Richard himself, I hope? I'll have you know that only since one o'clock this afternoon does he know how to change his son."
Richard's mother shook her head sadly. "It was too soon. Much too soon. I knew it couldn't go right, but I could not change his mind. I have nothing against you, Theressa, but --"
"But I'm not the right wife for your son?"
"You have such different backgrounds..."
Theressa suddenly understood her. "Oh! Is that it? Am I not clever enough for him? I'll go to university then. If I fail my first year, then you may say I'm not clever enough, but not before I even tried!"
"And what about the baby?" Mrs. Yates asked calmly.
"Well," said Theressa, thinking rapidly. She did not know if Richard's mother approved of it or not. It was so hard to tell if they never showed any reaction. "I'll get someone to watch him. I won't be gone for very long. It's just around the corner."
"I'll watch him."
"I beg your pardon?" Theressa stared at her in confusion.
"If you really want to do this and you're not doing it for me, I won't mind watching Timothy for you."
"I really want to."
"Yes, why should I do something for you, who aren't even my mother, that goes directly against the wishes of my own parents?" Theressa asked. "They have always told me not to go because I would meet bad sorts of people who would sell me drugs."
"Is Richard on drugs?"
"Are any of his friends?"
"Okay," Theressa sighed. "I wasn't very clever then."
"And how are you and Richard getting along now that you're back?" Mrs. Yates asked. She did not know all the ins and outs of the marriage, but she had sensed that it had not been the way it should before the kidnapping.
"Didn't he tell you?"
"Dear, I don't know if you had noticed, but it is very difficult to get that sort of information out of Richard," Mrs. Yates said somewhat sarcastically.
"Oh. Well, it goes better."
"Better?" her mother-in-law asked skeptically.
"Almost well," said Theressa. "But it doesn't go that fast, you know."
"Tsk! I could have told you that a year ago."
"I know! But then we wouldn't have had Timmy."
Timmy's grandmother looked at him affectionately. "He's such a sweet baby."
"I like talking to him. He's the only one who always approves of me," said Theressa, also looking at Timmy. "Aren't you, Timmy?"
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