26

Moss, Peterson, Crane, and the rest of the team were back at Lewisham Row, gathered around a large flat-screen television. The BBC News channel counted down to the hourly bulletin, and then a wide shot of the press conference came onto the screen. Seated at the long table were DCI Sparks, DCI Foster and Chief Superintendent Marsh. Next to Marsh sat Simon Douglas-Brown, who looked haunted and drawn.

Simon read his statement from the prepared script, and footage of him was interspersed with the driving licence photo of Andrea that had been doing the rounds in the press, plus a newer photo: Andrea on her last family holiday with Linda, David and their parents. They were all smiling at the camera, with a backdrop of the sea behind. David smiled bashfully. Linda’s face remained set in the same pudgy-faced scowl.

‘DCI Foster was right, this is all very touching,’ said Crane. ‘But it’s like a well-packaged display of grief. Will it prompt anyone to call in?’

On the screen, Simon Douglas-Brown finished his statement, and the camera pulled out to a wide shot. Chief Superintendent Marsh was about to speak, when Erika leaned over and shifted his microphone towards her. She addressed the camera and started to speak.

‘The events leading up to the disappearance of Andrea are confusing, and we need your help. We would appreciate anyone coming forward who saw Andrea on the night of the eighth of January. It was a Thursday night. We believe Andrea spent some time between eight pm and midnight in a pub called The Glue Pot on London Road – that’s South London, in Forest Hill. Andrea was seen by a member of the bar staff talking to a dark-haired man and a blonde-haired girl. Members of the public may have also seen Andrea walking up London Road between eight pm and midnight, towards the Horniman Museum, where her body was found. If you have any information, however small, please come forward. Phone the incident room number which will be coming up shortly.’

‘Was that planned?’ asked Peterson, back in the incident room.

‘Nope,’ said Moss.

On screen there was a moment where Chief Superintendent Marsh couldn’t find his place, or what to say next. He shot Erika a look and pulled back the microphone. ‘We’d like to, erm, add that this is, um, er . . . it’s a lead that Andrea was seen . . . We also believe that Andrea could have been on her way to a party at the Rivoli Ballroom, which is close to Forest Hill Station, where she alighted on the night of the eighth of January,’ countered Marsh, more forcefully. There was a moment of silence. The camera cut again to a wide shot of the press conference.

‘Jeez, he’s making a mess of it. It’s like he’s making it up, not Foster,’ said Moss.

The cameras flicked between wide shots of the conference room and the gathered press, which added to the confusion, before settling back onto Chief Superintendent Marsh, who finally got back on track and finished the scripted appeal. He ended with: ‘We have officers standing by now to answer your calls and emails. Thank you.’

The camera then cut away from the press conference to the anchor in the BBC News studio. The screen behind her was filled with the contact number and email address for the incident room. She read out the details, asking again for anyone who had information, and repeating the name of both The Glue Pot and the Rivoli Ballroom, apologising that they only had a photo of the Rivoli Ballroom.

The officers back in the incident room at Lewisham Row looked at each other uneasily, and then the phones started to ring.

27

The moment the press conference disbanded and the live camera feed was off, Erika stood up. Her heart was pounding. The journalists and photographers were crowding towards the exits. Simon turned to Marsh, a furious look in his brown eyes,

‘What were you lot fucking playing at?’ he hissed. ‘I thought we were clear about this and how it would work?’ He looked out, almost despairingly, at the press leaving.

Marsh and Sparks stood up. ‘DCI Foster, a word, now,’ said Marsh. Erika took a deep breath and left the platform, ignoring their voices behind her as she crossed the carpet, speeding up towards the doors at the back of the conference room. Once through, she found a fire exit and clattered down three flights of stairs before bursting outside onto a side street.

She stood and caught her breath, the rain pricking at her clammy skin. She knew there would be consequences for what she had just done, but didn’t she always stand by her convictions? Her convictions had told her this was the right thing to do. She had done something good, something for Andrea, who didn’t have the right to reply.

She started to walk, not noticing the rain, and joined the bumping and jostling of the crowds on Oxford Street, lost in a cocoon of thoughts. Her gut feeling, the certainty she’d felt, began to fade. She should have stayed and faced the music. In her absence, they would be discussing what she had done, reaching conclusions. They were making decisions without her, planning what they would do next.

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