Saturday again and time for the next instalment of The Photograph.
If you read my post from Thursday, you will see that I have got to take a break for a while from blogging, but I intend to finish this story off, so if you’ve been following along, don’t panic – You’ll get to the conclusion here!
Last time, BIFF KELLER was telling police how he had spoken with his long-time friend, THORLEY LANGDON, thought missing, most recently talking about his missing son.
“No. I told you that he said he had found his son. Do you think he would have thrown away the chance to see him again?”
“Okay. Let’s proceed under the assumption that you’re telling the truth. So what did you say when he told you about George?”
“Well, what could I say?
“‘Thorley,’ I said, when I could finally speak, ‘George is gone.’
“‘No, Biff, no!’ He was angry, frustrated. We had never fought, never even raised our voices at each other. This was as close as we had ever come. I wanted to tell him he was talking crazy talk. That George was gone, dead in all likelihood. But I didn’t. Something in his voice prompted me to press further. True or not, I think he believed it. I think he actually believed it.
“‘All right then. Where is he, Thorley?’
“‘He’s here with me now.’
“‘In the room with you?’ I said.
“‘Well, not actually in the room, but he’s here with me. I can’t tell Sparrow. Please don’t tell her.’
“‘Why the devil not? You’re not making any sense old chap. Is George in the room with you or not?’
“‘Well, not so that I can touch him.’”
“Is he suggesting a ghost, Mr Keller?” Curtis smiled and shook his head. “I hope you weren’t taken in by that sir.”
“I was as sceptical as you,” Biff said, “but I let him explain himself.”
“And you’re going to tell me that Mr Langdon brought up the photo at this point, aren’t you Mr Keller?”
“He did. And I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same. Like I said before, bonzo-doodah. He told me that the photograph had George in it.
“‘So what?’ I asked Thorley. ‘Who doesn’t have photos of their children?’
“It’s a photo of the Avenger. He’s on deck.”
“The Avenger was the ship we served on in the war,” Biff said.
“I’m aware of your service record, Mr Keller, and I’ve seen the photo. There are several people in the shot. Are you sure it’s not just some photo processing error?”
“You’ve had the photo for almost a week. Have you run any tests?”
There was a moment while the two detectives conferred, before turning back to Biff.
“Well, yes, and admittedly there is no evidence of tampering. The photo looks to be genuine.”
“And it is!” Biff slapped his palms down on the table. “I can’t explain it, but it is exactly what it should be: a photo of a ship with some people on the deck; people that shouldn’t be there.”
“There has to be a rational explanation, Mr Keller. I don’t hold with the X-Files theory.”
“Neither did I,” said Biff, “which is why I went to see him.
“I knocked on the door when I arrived. The corridor was quiet, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. Thorley didn’t open the door straight away, but I heard him just on the other side.
“‘Biff? Is that you?’ Thorley said.
“‘Yes. Open the door, Thorley.’
“‘I can’t Biff. I’m afraid.’ He sounded like he’d been crying.
“‘Afraid of what? It’s me. How long have we known each other?’
“‘That’s what I’m afraid of. I don’t want you to end up like George.’
“‘George is gone, Thorley. If I could bring him back, I would, but I can’t. Now let me in.’
“He was silent or a moment, but then I heard the lock click and the door opened, just a crack. Thorley looked out at me. His eyes were red and bloodshot.
“‘Are you alone?’ I nodded, and he pulled the door open wide enough for me to get in. ‘Hurry.’
“As soon as I was in, he shut and locked the door. I moved into the room and looked around. It was a room like any other hotel room I had ever been in: single bed, television, coffee and tea facilities. I turned to look at Thorley, still standing with his back to the door. His shirt had become untucked from his trousers and his tie was not tight to his neck. It looked like he hadn’t shaved for a day or two, maybe more. His hair had not been combed and his glasses were slightly crooked. He clutched something to his chest.
“‘I want to show you something,’ he said, ‘but I must warn you first.’
“‘Warn me about what?’ I was eager to see what he had, but I didn’t want to rush him, perhaps scare him off.
“‘About the photo.’
That’s it for this week! Come back next week for more!