‘…Thing is,’ muttered Shaw, ‘I assumed that you had agreed to take this case on.’
‘Me?’ spluttered Dinah, indignation firing from every pore. ‘Have you any idea… When have you ever… What, exactly, are you doing with your foot?’
‘I’m trying to stretch it. It was wedged under my leg.’
‘Yes, well now it’s wedged under mine and I would be awfully grateful if you could just unwedge it.’
Painfully aware of the six-inch layer of pins and needles that played about his sole, Shaw squirmed his foot around as far as he was able, losing his shoe in the process. Searching for it, he realised, was definitely not on the agenda at that moment.
‘And anyway,’ continued Dinah, relieved that Shaw’s foot was no longer under her leg, but somewhat dismayed to find his shoe by her ear. ‘Why would you possibly think that I had taken the case on?’
‘Well,’ Shaw had a tendency to sound like an affronted schoolboy when under pressure, ‘I don’t remember doing it. I saw it in the diary. It was in your writing.’
‘Right,’ sighed Dinah, her voice taking on, Shaw sensed, a definite edge. ‘Let’s see, it was written on the back of a pizza delivery receipt. In green ink. And the spelling was atrocious…’
‘And,’ Dinah was on a roll and had no intention of stopping, ‘I repeat my earlier question: when have you ever let me… What is that?’
‘On my leg. There’s something on my leg. If that’s you, I’ll break your fingers.’
‘Yes,’ thought Shaw. ‘A definite edge.’
‘On the other hand, if it’s not you, what in God’s name is it?’
‘It’s not me.’
‘Ok then,’ Dinah fought to control her breathing. In for five, out for ten. She spoke with an exaggerated calm. ‘There is something moving on my leg. If it’s not you, then I’m out of here.’
‘Ok, it’s me.’
‘Right, I’m out of here!’ Dinah struggled to move her legs, to push towards the black rectangle of the door, the thin halo of light that surrounded it the only illumination in the bottomless darkness of the tiny cupboard. She reached out a hand to push and Shaw, sensing rather than seeing her movement, reached out to stop her, brushing a breast as he did so.
‘I take it that was you,’ hissed a very tetchy Dinah, all school teacher once again.
‘Yes, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean… Look, just wait a minute. Let’s just see if I can find out what’s on your leg. Can I?’
‘Ok, but just be careful.’
Shaw tried to marshal The Force, attempting to follow the profile of Dinah’s body without touching anything until he reached the leg. He felt flesh, definitely a leg that was not his own, and he sighed with relief.
‘Wrong leg,’ said Dinah. ‘And wrong end.’
Shaw withdrew his had so quickly that he struck his elbow forcibly on something extremely hard and angular. ‘Bollocks!’ he squawked, as far under his breath as the pain allowed, bringing an unseen warm smile to Dinah’s lips. ‘Ok, I’m with you,’ he said. ‘Sod it, let’s get out.’
‘Hang on.’ It was Dinah’s turn to be cautious. ‘There are a few things you need to explain to me first. One, why are we hiding in a supermarket cupboard? Two, if you really thought that I’d taken this case on, how come it’s only you who has the faintest notion of what’s going on? And three, when have I ever…’
‘It’s a department store.’
‘It’s a department store, not a supermarket. We’re in a department store cupboard and we’re waiting for the store to close.’
‘I know that much. I allowed you to bundle me in here. What I don’t know is why?’
‘Well, the client wants us to look for something that…’
‘Hah! So you do know what it’s all about! You did take the case on!’
Bloody hell, three exclamation marks. Shaw was forced back onto the defensive. ‘Are you quite certain it wasn’t you? You could have told me and then forgotten.’
‘Look Shaw; one, I didn’t take the case on; two, I didn’t take the case on, and three, since when have you ever let me take a case on? You’re only happy when I have no idea of what’s going on.’
‘Yes, well, since we’re partners…’
‘Aren’t we?’ Shaw managed to use just two words to plait shock and hurt together into a blanket of perceived injustice.
‘I don’t know. Are we?’
‘As long as you want to be. Do you want to be? There’s still no money mind…’
Dinah allowed herself another quiet smile. ‘We’ll talk about it later… You do admit that you took the case on though?’
‘Fine.’ Dinah was pleased that Shaw could not see the grin that threatened to tear her face in two. ‘So why don’t you tell me what we’re doing here?’
‘We’re waiting for the store to close.’
‘You told me that. Why? What are we looking for?’
‘Erhm…’ Shaw inhaled deeply. ‘I’m not exactly sure.’
‘Not exactly sure?’
It was Dinah’s turn to take a deep breath. ‘Ok’, she sighed at length, ‘we don’t know what we are looking for, so why are we looking for it here?’
‘Well, why not here?’ Shaw was intuitively aware, even in the all-encroaching darkness, that Dinah was gaping, fish-like, trying to find the words to say. And then he heard the bolt slip. Outside the cupboard the light snapped off and Shaw tensed as the thin corona of light surrounding the door turned to black. He tried to push the door, but it was firmly locked. ‘Ah…’ he said.
‘I heard it,’ said Dinah.
‘Mm,’ said Shaw.
‘You expected that, right? You have a plan…’
‘Plan?’ Shaw was clearly confused.
‘You didn’t just cram us both in here on a whim?’
‘Well, no. I certainly wouldn’t call it a whim, exactly.’
‘So, what would you call it exactly?’
‘It was more of a hunch. I thought that we might have a better chance of finding what we’re looking for after everybody else had gone home.’
‘Although we don’t know what it is, nor where it is, and now we’re locked in this cupboard until, hopefully, somebody opens it in the morning?’
Dinah sighed the sigh of a doting mother. ‘Well, we’d better settle down then. I hope you haven’t had too much to drink…’ She rested her head against Shaw’s shoulder, taking his hand, instinctively conscious of the fact that he was afraid of the dark. ‘Just in case it should stray inadvertently onto my leg again,’ she said…
Part 6 of this whole shebazzle is here with links to all the other parts.
Part one is here if you wish to start at the beginning and you can follow links from there.