When Ellie had left the offices of the Private Investigation Services it was almost dusk. The usually busy New Bond Street with its high end shops was quiet and the shadows lengthening. Ellie turned out of the building and walked toward Oxford Street to catch her bus home feeling slightly vulnerable in the quiet street. She knew it would be busier once on Oxford Street and clutched her bag close to her body.
Ellie crossed the road walking briskly and began to relax as she neared Oxford Street. She pulled her mobile from her bag and checked for messages and emails. Nothing. Good, she hoped that no-one at the office noticed that she had left.
Ellie put the phone back in her bag and became aware of the sound of running from behind. She stepped to the side of the pavement, expecting a jogger to pass her, however, the sound of the steps slowed and then faltered, Ellie turned, feeling slightly panicked as a heavy blow hit her on the head.
She stumbled putting her hand out to break the fall and managed to regain her balance.
“What are you doing?” she screamed as she straightened. Another blow struck her, her vision blurred and then everything went dark. She felt the cold pavement as her cheek hit it.
Her ears began to ring loudly and she fought to stay conscious. Someone tried to wrestle her bag from under her, Ellie wrapped her arms around it but was losing the fight to hold the bag.
Ellie screamed but it came out as a low hoarse cry. Her arms were tangled in the straps of the bag and the attacker wasn’t able to free it without rolling her over. Arms reached under her, pushing her over, Ellie fought against it which helping her regain consciousness, anger giving her the adrenaline to scream, this time louder, she continued to scream and the hands wrestling her bag pulled away. Ellie listened for the attacker’s footsteps leaving but there were none, until she felt a blow to the side of her face and then everything went black.
+ + +
The next time Ellie opened her eyes she was moving along a brightly lit corridor, people were dressed in blue and white uniforms and gowns, they spoke to each other above her.
“Hello, hi.” Ellie tried to say but her words were caught in her throat.
The blue and white clad people continued to talk, hurriedly above her.
Ellie tried again her voice coming out as grunts.
“It looks like she’s coming around.” One of them said.
Suddenly Mike’s worried face came into her vision.
“Ellie, can you hear me?” he asked
Ellie nodded, pain shooting down her neck.
“Don’t try to move. We’re taking you to x-ray.” Mike explained.
Ellie tried to nod again and winced in pain.
“I’ll give you something for the pain once we get to radiology.” Mike said.
+ + +
Ellie opened her eyes to find herself in a ward similar to Kate’s a month earlier. Her head throbbed, she went to touch her face feeling gauze instead.
Ellie attempted to sit up pain shooting through her, quickly followed by nausea.
She lay back in the hospital bed, unable to do anything else, her mouth too dry to call out.
Ellie racked her brain trying to recall what had happened to her. She replayed her last few memories, talking to P.I Brown, leaving his office, walking down the stairs of the office to emerge onto a deserted New Bond Street.
Ellie heard footsteps approach and opened her eyes.
“Hey, you’re wake.” Mike’ said, leaning over her.
Ellie eyed his smiling face feeling a sense of relief then recalled his worried face earlier.
Pain shot through her face as she attempted to smile at him.
“Hey, my favourite patient,” he said sitting on the edge of her bed, “I prefer treating you at your place with paracetamol.”
Mike began prodding the bandaging, “Follow my finger,” he said tracing a figure eight in front of her eyes, “good, now how many fingers am I holding up?”
“Four.” she said, her voice rough and dry.
“Good. Well lucky for you the best surgeon in London was available to operate on you.”
Ellie looked at him unable to show him how grateful she was. He handed her a couple of tablets and passed a plastic cup filled with water. Ellie gingerly took them.
“I had to perform a zygomatic reconstruction, that’s your cheekbone, I wasn’t sure if we would have to reconstruct the eye socket as well. It’s as good as new, your perfect cheekbones are intact.”
Mike leaned forward and kissed her gently on the forehead. “You really gave me a fright. When the Casualty department rang and said you were there unconscious and covered in blood I didn’t know what I was going to find. Please don’t do that to me again.”
Ellie’s eyes filled with tears.
“What were you doing? Were you visiting one of the bookshops you’re arranging an author talk for?”
Ellie knew she couldn’t lie to Mike, but he was going to be cross with her, especially after their last conversation.
“My bag?” she said gravely.
“They didn’t get anything, pair of hooded youths apparently.” He said reaching down beside the bed and handing her her handbag. Ellie rifled through it and found the receipt from the Private Investigation Services and handed it to Mike.
Mike read it, noting the address and realised why she was on New Bond Street.
Mike held up the receipt, “Is this about Kate?”
Ellie nodded, gingerly.
“Ellie, this has to stop. Kate is alive, she doesn’t want anyone to know where she is or she would have told you. Wait for her to call.” He said, annoyance in his voice.
Ellie shook her head, wincing again. “No, I found some things, across from Kate’s place. Someone was stalking her before she went missing.” She said, slowly.
Mike shook his head. “You’re sounding obsessive again,” He sighed, “what did you find?”
Ellie took her phone out of her bag and showed him the photos she had taken, the footprints, the cigarette ends and the direct view to Kate’s bedroom window.
Mike looked carefully at each shot, flicking between the pictures. He handed the phone back to Ellie, “Where are the cigarette ends now?”
“I picked up a couple and gave them to the Private Investigator. There’s more at the park.”
Mike sat and flicked through the photos again.
“This has to stop, Ellie. You’re putting yourself in danger.” He sighed again. “If I go and pick up the rest of the butts and get them checked here and there’s nothing to them; so they’re from lots of different people. Will you leave it alone?” Mike asked. “It’s probably where Kate met her dealer.”
“Okay.” Was all she could respond.
Mike kissed the top of Ellie’s lip where it was bandage free, “At least I’ll know where you are for the next couple of days. I might even keep you in a little longer.”
”Can’t stay here. Too much to do.” Ellie responded, feeling sleepy.
“Ellie Gordon, you’re not going anywhere. I’ll go and look at this park and pick up the rest of the cigarette ends, get them checked. If they are from lots of DNA sources you’ll forget this and wait for Kate to call?”
Ellie reluctantly nodded. “Will you please call Morgan? She’s going to kill me.”
“Yep, will do. I have to go, I do have other patients to see, unfortunately.” Mike said, standing up, “I’ll be back a little later, I’ve managed to get you in this ward on your own so I can have my nap in here, with you.” He gave Ellie’s forehead another kiss before leaving.
Ellie leaned back and thought about the sequence of events. Her head was hurting and she was finding it difficult to keep her eyes open.
She began to drift into a heavy sleep and then snapped her eyes open as a sudden thought came to her, what if the person who took Kate had mugged her? Perhaps he had been following her the whole time and wanted to stop her. But surely he would have mugged her before going into the Private Investigators? Ellie’s mind began to spin, strange images flooding her thoughts as she dropped into a fitful sleep.