CHAPTER NINETY-EIGHT: THE FINAL CALL

 

Author’s Note:

 

To refresh your memory, you may want to re-read Chapter 92, “Richmond House” which is a few chapters back now as well as Project Update 13 on the process section, an article (with story diagrams) which deals with building Detective Redmond up as a shadow character.

 

 

Physically, Redmond was deep in slumber, but mentally, she was at the seaside, lying with her left cheek on the sand, looking at her hair scribbled on the sunlit grains beneath her, listening to the waves, the gulls, the ebb and flow of children’s voices as they hither-and-thithered on the shore.  She could feel the heat on her back.  She could smell the tropical perfume of the suntan lotion slathered on her body.  She could taste the salt from the sea on her lips still sticky from the rock she’d been eating.  She could hear an accordion playing in the distance.  She recognised the tune.  It was a tune from holidays of yore, its jaunty melody getting closer, louder.

“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside,” Redmond mumble-sang the chorus in her sleep.  “I do like to be beside the sea.  I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom, where the brass band plays: tiddly-om-pom-pom –”

And again – and again – and again, she warbled out the chorus in her dream.

But no.

Not just in her dream.

This – and Redmond knew this somehow, although she was asleep – was one of those exceptional instances when what one does in a dream coincides with what one actually does.  Furthermore, it was made even more exceptional for the fact that she was conscious of the parallel:  the song both dreamt-sang and sang-sang.  She knew she was dreaming and doing, and in that awareness, she remembered the times when she’d stepped in a dream, but jerked her foot in the bed, when she’d made love in a dream, but climaxed so hard, she’d woken up dripping.  This, the ‘dreamt-and-done’ sing-song, was precisely like that.

“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside,” she kept on in drowsy gusts, turning on the sand, but also in the bedsheets, facing the sun, but also the ceiling.  “I do like to be beside the sea –”

And there she was – on the sand – on the mattress – realising that it wasn’t an accordion she was hearing, but rather the ringtone of a mobile.

A mobile?

No, surely that was an accordion.

She could still sense the musician wending his way through buckets and spades, parasols and sandcastles, picnics, and towels.  Sort of.  He was barefoot.  His fingers were wizened, his tattoos stretched out on his arms.  He was suntanned and smiling.  There.  But not there.  In-and-outing.  Present, then gone in an instant, leaving her halfway between sleeping and waking.

She opened her eyes and looked at the edge of the pillow – then the cracks in the ceiling – then the valise on the stool.  Her vision was bleary.  Where was the seaside?  Where were the waves?  The gulls?  And the children?  They’d all been so real.  The tune was still there, its chorus still playing in circles.  In her mind?   No.  On her mobile.  Not on her regular mobile.  But rather on her spare one – her new one.

Of course, then, it hit her.

It was her spare mobile that was ringing.

And she’d set the ringtone to ‘I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside’ because it brought back happy memories and because she knew that she’d been headed for the sea.

Rolling over in the blankets, Redmond reached for the device, and answered.

“Yes.  Hello,” she said, clearing her throat.  “Redmond speaking.”

“It’s Adrian Kettering,” the caller returned.  “Aubrey Holloway’s ex boyfriend.”

“I know who you are,” Redmond said through a yawn.  “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“Look – I’m awfully sorry to be calling you right now, at this hour,” Adrian responded, his words slightly slurred. “But it’s just – well – you said – when you interviewed me, that if anything important came to mind, to call you – no matter when – you said you’d be on-call for this.  And I know it’s late and I should’ve waited until the morning, but I need to talk to you, and if I’d waited until morning, I might’ve changed my mind and decided not to call.  It’s tearing me up.  This whole thing is sending me over the edge, and you’d said to contact you whenever, even if it were late like –”

“So, you’ve said,” Redmond interjected sharply.  “I don’t need you to repeat yourself.”

“And I assumed you meant it.  I’m so sorry if you didn’t.”

“I mean what I say,” the detective said, sitting up, and swinging her legs over the edge of the bed.  “So, if I said it, I meant it.  What is it that you want to tell me?”

There was a lengthy pause.

Redmond could hear the young man breathing heavily.

What is it that you want to tell me?” she repeated emphatically.

“I can’t tell you on the phone,” he replied.  “I need to meet with you in person.”

“And why is that?”

“I don’t know,” he answered.  “I just do.”

Now, it was Redmond who paused.

She knew it would be easier to speak with the young man on the phone, and yet, depending on what he had to tell her, having him in her clutches might be more advantageous.  With the mobile still pressed to her ear, she rose, asking, “You’re here?  At the Bay then?”

“I live here.  You know that.”

“Where do you want to meet?”

“Where should we meet?”

Redmond hesitated again before answering, “There’s a bench on the green above the stacks.  I’ll meet you there in half an hour,” she eventually replied, adding “this better be worth it” under her breath.  “Are you sober?” she continued.

“I’m sober enough.”

“Very well then.  Half an hour.  On the green.  At the bench above the stacks.”

“I’ll be there,” Adrian said.  “I have to – or I won’t talk – I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Redmond returned.  “It’s my job.”

“Okay then.  I’ll meet you in thirty minutes.”

Redmond hung up, and set the mobile down, moving swiftly through her lodging, washing, dressing, tugging on her boots, slipping on her coat, then pausing to tie her bundle of hair in a scarf, and slip on her malachite earrings.  Glancing in the mirror, she saw her former self, her inner Ada shimmering in the glass.  Redmond and Ada were so similar in appearance, they looked like the same person, just a century and a half apart.  But then, in Redmond’s mind, they were the very same person.  She was Ada Wells in Gemma Redmond’s body which looked exactly like Ada’s had, right down to the antique earrings once belonging to Ada dangling from her lobes.

Turning from the mirror, Redmond donned her black leather gloves and slipped the mobile into her coat pocket, nabbing the keys to the Triumph, and to Richmond House from the dressing table, and taking the long, narrow staircase down into the shadows of the entranceway.