Following a debriefing with Stratton and Caldwell, Maisie was
taken back to her office in Fitzroy Square by Stratton's driver, who would
collect her again tomorrow morning for another interview with Avril Jarvis.
Maisie knew that much rested on the outcome of this second interview. Depending
upon what was revealed and what could be corroborated, Avril Jarvis might spend
the rest of her life behind bars.
"You've been gone a long time, Miss," said Billy Beale, her assistant, running his fingers back through his sun-burnished hair. He came to Maisie's side, took her coat and placed it on the hook behind the door.
"Yes, it was a long one, Billy. Poor little mite didn't stand a chance. Mind you, I'm not sure how deeply the police are looking into her background at this point, and I would like to have some closer-to-the-bone impressions and information. If I'm required to give evidence under oath, I want to be better prepared." Maisie took off her hat, placed it on the corner of her desk, and slipped her gloves into the top drawer. "I'm wondering, Billy. Would you and Doreen fancy a trip down to Taunton for the weekend, with everything paid for?"
"You mean like an 'oliday, Miss?"
Maisie inclined her head. "Well, it won't be quite like being on holiday. I want you to find out more about Avril Jarvis, the girl I interviewed this morning. She said she's from Taunton and I have no reason to disbelieve her. Find out where she lived, who her family are, whether she went to school there, if she worked, and when she left to come to London. I want to know why she came to LondonI doubt if she knew it was for a life on the streetsand what she was like as a child." She shook her head. "Heavens, she's only thirteen nowall but a child. It's wretched."
"She in trouble, Miss?"
"Oh, yes. Very big trouble. She is about to be charged with the crime of murder."
"Gawdand she's only thirteen?"
"Yes. Now then, can you go to Taunton?"
Billy pressed his lips together. "Well, it's not as if me and Doreen have had much of an 'oliday together, ever, really. She don't like to leave the nippers, but you know, I suppose me mum can look after 'em while we're away."
Maisie nodded and took out a new manila folder, which she inscribed Avril Jarvis and passed to Billy, along with a collection of index cards upon which she had scribbled notes while waiting for her debriefing with Stratton and Caldwell. "Good. Let me know as soon as possible if and when you can go. I'll advance you the money for the train, a guesthouse, and incidentals. Now then, let's get on as I've to leave early this evening."
Billy took the folder and sat down at his desk. "Oh, yeah, you're seein' that old friend of yours, Mrs. Partridge."
Maisie turned her attention to a ledger before her. She did not look up. "Yes, Priscilla PartridgeEvernden, as she was when we were at Girton together. After two terms she joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in 1915 and drove an ambulance in France." Maisie sighed and looked up. "She couldn't stand to stay in England after the Armistice. She'd lost all three brothers to war, and her parents to the flu, so she went to live on the Atlantic coast of France. That's where she met Douglas Partridge."
"I reckon I've 'eard that name before." Billy tapped the side of his head with a pencil.
"Douglas is a famous author and poet. He was badly wounded in the war, lost an arm. His poetry about the war was very controversial when it was first published here, but he's managed to continue with his workthough it's very dark, if you know what I mean."
From Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear. Copyright Jacqueline Winspear 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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