‘But the whole family have said she was a flake; she changed her mind with the wind. It wouldn’t be out of character for her to just decide to do something else,’ said Sparks.

Erika reluctantly had to agree with this.

Sparks went on, ‘The Rivoli Ballroom is actually bang opposite Crofton Park train station, which on the map looks fairly close to Forest Hill station – to be precise, it’s just under two miles away. To get to Forest Hill or Crofton Park you need to take a train from London Bridge, but the two train stations are on completely different lines. What if Andrea got on the wrong train? She rarely used public transport. That could be why she was all dolled-up in Forest Hill.’

There was a silence from Erika and Marsh.

‘And I saved the best bit until last,’ said Sparks. ‘Last night, I got onto the organiser of this burlesque party at the Rivoli Ballroom, and he sent me though their mailing list. Marco Frost was also on that list and was sent the same e-invitation. This gives us an opportunity…’

There was a silence. Erika could see Marsh rolling it over in his brain.

‘This is very promising,’ he said, getting up and starting to pace. ‘My next question is, where is this Marco Frost?’

‘I don’t know. I’ve been up all night putting this together,’ said Sparks.

‘Look, Sparks, we’ve had our differences, and I’d like nothing more than this to be a strong lead. But it’s hardly a motive. How many people were on that mailing list of invites?’ said Erika.

‘Three thousand.’

‘Three thousand. And what makes you think Andrea went anywhere near this Rivoli Ballroom? Her body was found within half a mile of Forest Hill train station, where she got off the train.’

Marsh continued to pace up and down, thinking.

Erika continued. ‘I now have two witnesses who saw Andrea in The Glue Pot the night she vanished.’

‘One of whom has vanished into thin air, and the other a known drug-addicted, alcoholic prostitute,’ said Marsh.

‘But sir, I think Ivy Norris is—’

‘Ivy Norris is scum,’ said Sparks. ‘One of her specialities is to shit on the bonnets of the squad cars in the car park.’

‘Sir, at least acknowledge that we have two lines of enquiry,’ said Erika. ‘If you think mine is unreliable, then you must admit that Sparks’s is purely circumstantial! I think that we could use this press appeal this afternoon for information about Andrea being seen with the man and the woman in The Glue Pot.’

Marsh shook his head. ‘DCI Foster, we’re dealing with people here who the media are itching to hang out to dry. Lord Douglas-Brown, his wife and family, and of course Andrea, who isn’t lucky enough to still be here to defend her character from these accusations.’

‘Sir, it’s not an accusation!’

‘Sir, The Glue Pot is a known hangout for prostitutes,’ said Sparks. ‘It’s been raided repeatedly. A bloke got sent down for making kiddie porn in the flat upstairs.’

‘I agree with Sparks,’ said Marsh. ‘Anything we put out there about Andrea Douglas-Brown will instantly be twisted and shredded by the press. We have to be sure it’s fact.’

‘What if I can get Ivy Norris in here to make a statement?’

‘She’s unreliable. She’s made false statements before,’ said Marsh.

‘But, sir!’

‘That’s enough, DCI Foster. You will work with DCI Sparks to pursue the line of enquiry relating to Marco Frost and Andrea both receiving an invitation to this party at the Rivoli Ballroom. Is that clear?’

‘Yes, sir,’ grinned Sparks.

Erika nodded.

‘Right, you can go Sparks. And don’t be too happy. There’s still a dead girl; that hasn’t changed.’ Sparks looked chastised and left the office.

Marsh eyed Erika for a moment. ‘Erika, try and cultivate some semblance of a private life. I’m all for my officers taking initiative, but you need to do things by the book and keep me informed of what you are doing. Take a night off, and perhaps do your laundry.’

Erika realised she still had a sticky layer of beer on her leather jacket from the previous night.

‘Did you visit the doctor yet?’ Marsh added.

‘No.’

‘When you finish tonight, I want you to see our duty doctor. That’s an order.’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Erika. ‘Here’s the contract for the flat.’

‘Okay, good. How did you find it, all okay?’

***

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