Her day of getting noticed finally over, Liz returned to Delgado Manor. She left her van in the drive and headed for the house. The main doors were locked. She had keys. She let herself in then locked and bolted those twin doors. She didn't head for her room. She had other matters to deal with first. She checked her watch. It was Ten PM and she hadn't eaten since noon.
After a lengthy search, Liz finally found a room that might have been the one she was after. She pushed its door open, groped around for a light switch and flicked it on. Bingo; a large white room with a table at its centre, and walls lined by assorted white goods.
She tried for the fridge. It was a dishwasher. She tried the object beside it. It was a fridge. She checked its contents, set about making herself a sandwich then pulled out a chair to sit at the table with her ad hoc meal.
A pile of newspapers from the last few days lay to her left, which meant she had a chance to catch up with events in the real world while she ate.
According to the first paper she tried, nothing had been happening in the real world. Well, okay, plenty had been happening but nothing that was of any concern of hers. Politicians had been spouting off, celebrities had been copping off and various people you'd never heard of had been dropping off in ways that made you wonder what planet they were living on.
She tried the Daily Mail. Apart from all the names being different, its contents were the same as the previous paper's.
Or were they? Because now she'd reached page five - and that was when the thing suddenly had her attention. Under the headline, What The Hell's This Country Coming To? was a story even she couldn't ignore.
According to it, two men had been killed in an antiques shop. One of them was the owner - a Mr Andrew Jennings - - but, however tragic his death, that wasn't what interested her.
What she cared about was the name of the other victim...
Aside from being a name you could get through an entire lifetime without encountering, Boizot was also the name of one of Valentyne Delgado's female acolytes. That could have been pure coincidence - except for the murder method.
Like Valentyne Delgado, Boizot had been stabbed to death, and, again the murder weapon had been removed from the scene. No money was missing from the till, all the stock was still present and the victims' wallets hadn't been emptied. As far as anyone could make out, there was no motive for the killing whatsoever.
Well she could think of one. At the time of his death, Delgado'd been in his ceremonial robes. That meant that, if he'd been stabbed with his own dagger and not someone else's, it would've been his ceremonial one which, knowing Delgado's tendency towards self-aggrandisement was guaranteed to be some huge ornate thing festooned with jewels and precious metals. That meant it'd be of interest to a collector...
...or an antiques dealer.
What if James Boizot was the husband of Delgado's female Boizot? What if Delgado was engaged in sexual practises with her and Mr Boizot didn't like it? What if, enraged by all this, he'd gone to the manor and confronted his nemesis? There, a fight had broken out and, in the struggle, Boizot had stabbed Delgado with his own blade? Then, realising what he'd just done, he'd pulled the dagger from his victim and fled.
According to The Mail, in recent years Boizot had hit hard times, his haulage business had gone bust and his wife had left him. What if, desperate for money, he'd been forced to try and sell the only thing he had left that might be of any value?
And, what if, when he'd got there, he'd been greeted, not by the owner but by a man who was ready and waiting for him?
Liz's theory about what had happened to Boizot was pure guesswork but it was the only one she could come up with that fitted the facts and eliminated the need for untidy coincidences. And at least it filled a few of the gaps in her understanding of what was going on round here. Not that it got her within a million miles of filling the other ninety nine percent of those gaps.
Her meal over, Liz Sanford re-entered her bedroom, flicked the light on and shut the door behind her. She left it unlocked then, to guarantee a racket if anyone tried to sneak in, got a chair from by the wardrobe and propped it against the doorknob.
Now for the windows. She went across and checked they were locked. They were. She gazed at the blackness that lay beyond them. Somewhere out there lurked the thing that had killed Daniel Robinson and Tom Radcliffe.
Just after midnight, Liz was sat up in bed, making sure her gun was loaded. She slipped its safety catch on. If she was going to sleep with it under her pillow, the last thing she needed was it going off by accident and saving her would-be assassin the trouble of killing her.
This whole thing was madness. She knew that; waiting for who-knew-what to come to that window and try to slaughter her.
So why was she doing it?
Boredom because she spent all her time chasing round amusement parks, after idiots, and needed something real to tackle for once.
Curiosity because of what had happened exactly one year ago, back at the museum. Once you'd seen a thing like that, you had to see more. How could you ever rest easy knowing there were worlds out there that you knew nothing about, and never try to shed more light on them?
She slipped her gun under her pillow, gave the pillow a couple of mild punches to soften it up and then laid her head on it.
She gazed at the ceiling, and she waited for whatever horror might arrive in the night.
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