Framed: A Ryan Parish PI Short Story-scene four

When I stepped onto the stairs to head down to the ground, a woman dressed in a business suit appeared at the bottom of the staircase. ‘Can I help you, young man?’

I bounded down the stairs and introduced myself. I showed her my PI licence and told her I was working for the lawyer defending the man charged with the murder of Ellen Ford. She told me her name was Heather Knight and that she managed the brothel. I gave her one of my business cards.

‘What are you doing here, Ryan?’ she asked.

‘Having a look to see how many ways someone could get into your building.’

‘Why?’

‘Our client reckons he’s been framed.’

Heather raised an eyebrow. ‘The police think he did it.’

‘I know, and they might very well be right.’

‘But?’ said Heather.

‘This place has a lot of doors, doesn’t it?

She nodded.

‘How many of them are covered by a security camera?’

‘Is that why you were up there?’ She pointed towards the balcony.

‘I was looking to see if there were any cameras on the balcony.’

‘We keep those doors locked.’

‘Any cameras?’ I asked.

‘We only have a camera covering the front of house in case we have to call the police,’ said Heather.

‘Could you show me where that camera is?’ I asked.

Heather led me across the back of the building to the rear entrance. ’Ever been into a brothel before, Ryan?’ she asked, as she opened the door.

‘This is my first visit.’

‘I hope you’re not disappointed.’

I followed Heather into the bowels of the building. The interior looked nothing like how I had imagined a brothel. In fact, it looked like an old hotel desperately in need of a facelift.

When we reached the hallway inside the front door, Heather pointed out the security camera above the reception desk and then took me into an office back along the corridor, where a monitor on the wall displayed a black and white image of the reception area.

‘Which entrance do your clients use?’ I asked.

‘We only open the back door you came through and that front door,’ said Heather. ‘Either way, they have to come through reception and pay before we let them upstairs, unless they’re coming to the bistro.’

‘Bistro? I didn’t know guys came here to eat.’

Heather laughed. ’Not everyone’s after sex, Ryan. A lot of older men just want to spend time with a woman in a safe setting. It can get pretty lonely living on your own, you know.’

I filed that for later and got back on task.

‘What about the doors upstairs that open onto the balcony?’

‘We keep them locked at all times.’

‘So, if anybody was to come in through a door off the balcony, someone inside the building would have to let them in?’

‘All those doors have sensors on them,’ said Heather.

‘Are those sensors active all the time?’

‘Only when the alarm is turned on.’ Heather’s eyes widen as she realized the implication of what she’d just told me. ‘That would mean one of the girls could let someone in from the balcony without anyone knowing, wouldn’t it?’

‘Did you tell the police that?’

‘They didn’t ask,’ said Heather.

Obviously, the police didn’t think the possibility of someone coming through one of those doors was relevant. After all, they had their man, and a pile of statements from the other women who had been working in the brothel that night claiming they hadn’t seen or heard anybody besides Clive.

‘What can you tell me about Ellen Ford?’ I asked.

‘What do you want to know?’

‘How long had she worked here?’

‘A couple of years.’

‘Was she any trouble?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Was there any friction between Ellen and the other girls that work here?’

’Not that I know of,’ said Heather.

‘Do you think they’d talk to me?’

‘I’ll ask them, if you like.’

I gave her a few more of my business cards.

‘Thanks for showing me around.’

‘Come back and see us sometime, Ryan. I’m sure we can do something special for you.’

To be continued…


Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

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