What Audrey knew

For legal reasons I’ve changed some names in the following strange story. 

In May 1970, a 35-year-old private investigator named Robin Cardinal – a man who hailed from Huyton – sat sipping a black sugarless coffee in the tiny room he called his office on Manesty’s Lane off Hanover Street. 

Cardinal was licking his wounds; he’d recently pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to contravene the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949” after he had installed and used unlicensed apparatus for wireless telegraphy – in other words, cardinal had planted a radio bug in the bedroom of a man he had been investigating, to obtain evidence for divorce proceedings initiated by his client, the well-to-do daughter of an Earl. 

Well, because of that little misdemeanour, Cardinal had been fined £300, ordered to pay £250 costs, and in default of payment he would have served six months. 

So now Cardinal was skint, hence the coffee lacking milk or sugar, but he received a call that day from a man anxious to have his former fiancée investigated – and this potential client – Jim Pritchard – had said: ‘“Money is no object to me – I’m loaded, a self-made millionaire. Take it or leave it.”

Robin Cardinal told him: “Come and see me at my office at a time that suits you,” and Pritchard had replied, “No time like the present.”

There was a hard rap at the door of the office and Cardinal shouted: “Come in.” 
In walked Jim Pritchard; balding, steely eyed, dressed in a smart pinstripe suit. He looked at Cardinal, smirked, and said, “Your telephone voice paints a different picture of you.”

“Were you expecting Humphrey Bogart?” quipped Cardinal, and he reached out to shake hands but Pritchard shook his head and said: “I’m a germophobe.” 

He sat down at the desk and Cardinal said: “So, what would you like me to do?”

“What I told you on the phone,” replied Pritchard, “I’d like you to find out a few things about my former fiancée. We were engaged for a month, and then she just up and left. Went out to get cigarettes one day and never came back. This was a month ago. We’d been living together in Aigburth.”

“You think she’s left you for someone else?” Cardinal asked, watching Pritchard reach into his inside jacket pocket. 

“That’s what I’d like you to find out Mr Cardinal. This is her,” Pritchard produced a small monochrome picture of a very pretty girl in her twenties. 

“Audrey Ellis is her name. Her hair is red. She’s about five-foot-three, slim.”
Cardinal had a close look at the photograph. “You’ll need to tell me everything about her, Mr Pritchard; her friends, where she works or worked in the past, her family, and so on.”

Pritchard nodded. “So, are you hired?” he asked, and Cardinal told him: “My rates are fifty pounds a day plus expenses. I’ll require a £25 deposit.”

“Will it take long?” Pritchard wanted to know, taking out his thick wallet. Cardinal said: “It all depends. If she’s still local we could get results within a week.”

“Here’s a hundred,” Pritchard slapped ten ten-pound notes down on the desk. “And here’s my number. Get cracking.”

Robin Cardinal pulled out all the stops and set to work in the quest to find 25-year-old Audrey Ellis. 

As well as trying his usual techniques to trace a person and making many discreet inquiries, Cardinal also visited the shops Audrey frequented – and he found Audrey browsing in a boutique on Church Street in the city centre. Cardinal kept his distance as he followed Audrey to a bus stop on Lord Street. 

He pretended to look in a jeweller’s window, then walked to the stop and lingered six feet away from the young lady. She put her hand out for the 73A bus – but when it slowed she never got on it. 

She turned to the puzzled private investigator and said: “Robin Cardinal.”

Cardinal was completely thrown by her when he heard her recite his name. She shook her head and walked away, and he followed her and said: “How did you know my name, Audrey?”

She refused to answer and marched along Whitechapel, and after he’d pursued the woman for a few minutes Cardinal said: “Look, Audrey, your fiancé just wants to know why you walked out; that’s why he hired me.”

Audrey stopped, turned and glared at Cardinal, then tilted her head sideways, indicating a café. She walked to the door of the place and Cardinal shoved it open for her. She sat at a window table and said: “I’ll tell you over a cup of tea.”

Cardinal bought her tea and a cake and he sipped a coffee as he listened to a very strange story. 

Audrey said: “You are naturally wondering how I know your name,’ she said, her intense brown eyes piercing the private detective, “well I’m telepathic; inherited it from my Gran. 

“You think I’m lying – I can read your thoughts right now as you think that. You live on Lincombe Road in Huyton and you’ve just been through a bad court case where you nearly went to jail.”

“All that’s been in the newspapers,” said Cardinal, but then Audrey told him about his mother’s pet name for him when he was a boy and how she had been knocked down and killed when he was eight. She eventually convinced him she was indeed telepathic. 

She said she had left Pritchard because she had read his mind and discovered he had drowned his previous wife in the sea during a Greek holiday. She had seen him holding her head under the waves. 

Cardinal decided to tell Pritchard he was too ill to continue the investigation, and he and Audrey began a relationship. 

They moved to London and married, and Robin Cardinal discovered that a private eye with a telepathic partner resulted in immense financial rewards...

• All Tom Slemen's books and audiobooks are on Amazon.


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