Chapter 33. Going their own way.
Steve was in no mood to calm down. His feeling of lack of control combined with the injustice of the situation triggered a complete flip in his demeanour. He was huffing and puffing whilst gathering all his stuff. Studiously avoiding looking at Maeve as he tried to keep his temper in check. He was on a very short fuse.
Maeve, watching him, thought this guy needs help or one day he will explode in a dangerous situation. Trying to bring things to a more normal level, she said,
“I’ve been looking it up and if you can get them to stop the train and let you off at Peterborough you will be able to get a fast train back. It’s not worth trying to get off at Stevenage because you will just end up stuck there waiting for some slow train.”
Her calm logic was having an effect on Steve, she had moved away from mentioning anything that might allow for blame, on to useful information and practical help. She could almost see his blood pressure dropping so she went on.
“I can’t do anything in Canterbury that can’t be done via my phone, so I suggest that I carry on and interview the witness tomorrow morning.”
Steve’s breathing was slowing to a more regular in and out sound, then as he thought about Maeve on police business on her own, as his responsibility, his breath became shorter with irritation,
“You can’t! You are not a police officer. This is official business.”
Having made her assessment of the situation, concluding it was likely that his PTSD was causing Steve to behave irrationally, Maeve didn’t immediately take offence. She stayed calm.
“Well I can carry out a preliminary investigation. Gather information, and if there is anything important that comes up, then you can call the man and make it official.”
Again her voice and measured tones were having a good effect on Steve, she continued,
“I am not using any police powers. The dog walker had agreed to have a chat. Although the trip might be official, the conversation can be exploratory. Plus I can cover my own costs.” Maeve knew from working with the film festivals that expenses that fell outside of the norm could be far more trouble than you’d think. This was one more way of making things easier for Steve. And it meant she didn’t feel any obligation to Steve or anyone else.
“Okay, okay. You go.” Then thinking about his own situation,
“I’ve got to get off this bloody train!”
He headed for the guard, driver or anyone in charge, just as the ticket inspector walked into their carriage with a normal cheery, “Tickets please.”
Steve flashed his badge, as he shouted,
“I need you to stop the train at the next station! Right now!”
Maeve leaning out of her seat to catch his attention, added in a normal explanatory way,
“Peterborough station. He means at Peterborough so that he can get back to London ASAP. Unless there is a quicker route?”
The ticket inspector was not moving, he had his hands on the ticket dispenser in front of him which was hanging from his shoulder strap, blinking at both of them. Steve’s badge plus the shouting had taken him by surprise and frozen him into inaction.
“Out of my way!” Steve headed off in search of the train driver.
Maeve calmed the ticket inspector down, explained the situation and got him to radio the driver before Steve pulled the emergency stop cord.
The next time she saw Steve, he was standing on the platform in Peterborough looking for the London train, as her train moved out of the station. I hope he catches the express and doesn’t take the stopping service, she thought as she sighed, well I did my best for him.
Getting back to her own problems, Maeve was checking in on the girls first and then Ada.
“Yes, we’ve been on it ever since we heard what was happening.” Marianne and Orla were on speaker phone so that they could both talk and hear the conversation.
“So Ada has put out messages to her fans explaining the situation?”
“Not exactly. All the fuss moved on to Twitter. She’s not on Twitter so we have been putting out the messages there and on FaceBook.” Orla explained.
“Good, good. Sounds like you have things under control at your end anyway.”
Silence, the girls didn’t respond.
“Okay, what are you not telling me?” Maeve could read the silence.
There was a collective sigh.
“I am not sure that you are going to believe us.” Marianne had taken the lead,
“The more we put out the truth, the more it backfires.” Marianne paused, and Maeve could hear that she was close to tears,
“The fans, or some of them, react to what we put out, and they say ‘fake news’. They think someone is trying to stop them helping to solve the murder. We are getting crazy tweets back, about how we are part of the ‘deep state’, and ‘Bill Gates’s chip in the vaccine is controlling us’.” She was really close to crying now. Orla chipped in,
“We don’t know what to do, it just keeps getting worse.”
Now Maeve was quiet, thinking shit, this could get very nasty. Not wanting to make them feel worse than they already did, she said.
“Give me some time. And I’ll have a chat with Ada. Let’s see what we can come up with.”
She could hear the relief on the other end of the phone, Marianne and Orla were glad that they were no longer on their own.
Maeve got up and went to the end of the carriage to get a self service cup of tea, more to give her time to think than that she needed the tea.
Ready to deal with more drama she called Ada.
Ada had had a crash course in social media this morning so was now up to speed on Twitter and FaceBook as well as Instagram.
“They’ve taken over, and left me high and dry.” Ada was referring to her followers, or the fan groups that had sprung up on other platforms to organise the search. “One minute I am basking in fame and being sent thousands of ‘hearts’, the next, they don’t give a shit, and no matter what the girls put out they say it's all ‘fake news’. Did you ever in your life see anything like it?”
Ada made Maeve smile. It was still all about Ada. And at the same time she was taking the entire social media world in her stride, as if she had always known how to play in this arena. That gave Maeve an idea.
“So have you put anything out on Tik Tok?”
“No, why? Sure they were all off on Twitter, why would I go backwards?”
“Your fans followed you on Tik Tok, that’s the only place that they are going to believe your side of the story. You have to do another session, telling them the background to the story. I guess that you are going to have to thank them all for their support, and maybe set up another ‘live’ session to call another spirit, so that they don’t get too pissed off, and have something to look forward to.”
“Oh my God! They have such fragile egos!”
This did make Maeve laugh, to hear Ada talking about other people and fragile egos was funny. But they agreed that this might be the best way to do it, and it gave Ada something to do. Ada was to call the girls and get them to check her script first to make sure she wasn’t inadvertently going to trigger any more crazy reactions.
“Once you are set up and have put out your Tik Tok message. Send the link to Marianne and Orla so that they can spread the word, and put it out everywhere they can.”
Earlier when Steve was getting his bags down, Maeve had picked up the photocopied file and put it in with her stuff. She didn’t mention it to Steve in case he got funny about it, but if this journey was to be of any value at all, then she needed all the information she could get.
Thinking back on how the day had started out with such promise, Maeve was wondering how she had landed herself in this situation, what was she doing heading up to the north of Scotland on what was likely to be a wild goose chase. She wasn’t looking forward to driving to Cromarty on her own. She was picking up a hire car and driving the last leg from Inverness to Cromarty when it was likely to be dark. Hopefully there would be enough signal for her to use her phone for directions.
At least she had sorted some of the issues in Canterbury, it could hardly get any worse could it?
Now she settled back to read it from cover to cover with no interruptions.