Public stories, Private lives
The next morning everybody drifted in later than usual. this was fairly normal on a Tuesday as this was the day that the paper was published so nobody had any outstanding work that desperately needed attention. Victoria felt more relaxed than she had done in ages. This was no doubt due to the music she'd all but consumed the night before. Most people spent the morning checking up on e-mails, sorting out stories for the papers next edition and generally finding anything to do that didn't involve too much brain activity. Nikki handed Victoria a list of the prostitutes who'd been in court yesterday, saying that they'd be visiting some of them that afternoon. One, surprisingly, was Rachel Hicks. In response to Victoria's look of shock, Nikki replied,
"Yeah, I know. I didn't expect to see her there either."
"Sorry," Said Victoria. "If I'd been more with it I'd have twigged yesterday."
"Well, we're going to visit her today, without fail. The address given in court was her mother's. I guess it was her mum who was looking after the baby while Rachel was out working on Saturday."
"Do you think she'll talk to us?" Asked Victoria, unconvinced.
"Don't know, we'll have to see. Anyway," She said pointing to the rest of the names on the list. "Could you try and see what you can find out about the rest of these. Try our own databases. It's always possible we've written about some of them before. Then try the online electoral register and anywhere else that comes to mind. We need to know as much as possible about these women before we talk to them."
"What're you going to do?"
"I've got a mate who works in the court office. She's given me a stack of info about the raids they made on Saturday. I've got that to wade through if nothing else crops up."
Victoria first started gathering together everything they had on Rachel Hicks. It was only a couple of months since they'd run the story of the arson attack on Rachel's house together with Shell Dockley's subsequent arrest and court appearance. Victoria began searching the paper's electronic archives for a mere mention of the young prostitute. What appeared on the screen astonished her. It was part of a story that had been featured after a number of drugs raids almost a year ago. Ignoring the headline, Victoria focused on the beginning of the story.
"Owing to the recent succession of raids on known drugs pushers in the area, the local police might think they have cause to feel proud of their efforts. However, it has come to light that just before these raids began, a convicted user, Tom Mills, 23, died from an overdose of heroin. He was rumoured to be a frequent user of one of the dealers recently arrested. An anonymous police source revealed that the heroin found in Tom Mills' body was of the same chemical make up as the heroin seized as part of the raids carried out on Friday and Saturday of last weekend. When asked if she thought the dealer responsible for her boyfriends death, Rachel Hicks, 18, declined to comment." Victoria didn't need to read any more. She called over to Nikki,
"Nikki, there's something here you might want to see." Nikki came over and leaned over Victoria's shoulder. After she'd read what was on the screen her only response was,
"Oh yeah, I vaguely remember that." Victoria smiled.
"So you should," She gestured to the byline. "It was you who wrote it."
"We could do with getting our hands on that issue of the paper."
"I take it we keep hard copy archives as well as the electronic ones?"
"Yeah, downstairs in the room next door to the printing press."
"Do you want me to go and look for it?"
"Yeah, trouble is if you've never used those archives before, it'll take you forever and there's something I've got to check out from the stuff I've been sent from court." Overhearing their conversation, Jasmine came over.
"I've got something to look up as well. Do you want me to show you how to find anything down there?" Victoria smiled at her.
"Thanks, that'd be great."
Victoria followed Jasmine downstairs to the large, very cluttered room at the back of the building. Jasmine switched on the light and Victoria goggled.
"How on earth does anyone find anything in here?"
"It's not quite as bad as it looks," smiled Jasmine. There was a small computer terminal in the corner which Jasmine explained was the cataloguing system.
"If you enter the issue number and the date, it should tell you which shelf to find it on. That's always assuming people have put the copies back in the right place." Victoria entered in the copy number and date and was given a shelf reference. She walked over to where she thought she should be able to find it. The paper was published twice a week which meant around a hundred copies a year to look through. She found the shelf for last year and began scanning along the copies. Eventually Victoria found the issue she was looking for and looked back down at her list of names. She started searching the catalogue which showed her where she could find the odd article referring to various criteria relating to the hopefully upcoming story plus the occasional headlines involving some of the names on her list. Armed with a stack of back issues of the paper, Victoria decided that at eleven in the morning it was definitely time for a coffee and a cigarette. Walking in to the coffee lounge, Victoria saw Nikki pinning a large sheet of paper to the notice board. Intrigued, she went over to take a look.
"Anyone who can sing, or play any instrument to a vaguely satisfactory level, and would like to make some music together, sign up here."
"I like the word satisfactory," She said grinning at Nikki.
"Yeah, well, I might have an enormous store of patience, but not where music's concerned. With music, either you have it or you don't." Yvonne appeared then and glancing at the notice commented,
"Oh, so you liked my idea then?"
"Yeah, it'll be interesting to see who signs up." As people began to drift in and make coffee, some looked at the notice and a few signed it. When Mike read it, he turned to Nikki having recognized her handwriting and grinned ruefully.
"I've been wondering when you lot would get something like this going." Danny's typical reaction of "Cool" wasn't wholly unexpected as he usually threw himself in to anything slightly different. When Karen saw it, she shuddered.
"I think I'll give that one a wide berth."
"Oh I don't know," contemplated Mike. "It could be fun."
"You wouldn't say that if you'd ever heard me sing," Said Karen. "I only ever sing when I'm plastered." A snigger followed by a smothered laugh came from Yvonne.
"Yeah, do you remember that karaoke thing we went to last year?"
"Oh god, don't remind me," Said Karen in disgust. Then Mike turned to Nikki and Victoria.
"So, what have you two got lined up for the rest of the day?" Victoria indicated the pile of back issues on the floor beside her chair.
"I've got this lot to wade through and Nikki's doing the same with some underhandedly obtained court records." Mike held up a hand at this.
"Okay, enough said, I don't want to know how you get hold of your information. What about this afternoon?"
"We're going to first pay a visit to Rachel Hicks and then to some others who were in court for soliciting yesterday." Hearing Rachel's name mentioned Denny came over.
"Did she get done for picking up blokes again?"
"Yeah, If Shell hadn't burnt her house down, she might not have too," said Nikki.
"Do you ever hear from Shell?" Asked Mike.
"I get letters from her whining at me to go and see her. If you ask me that girl's losing it big time."
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