Why? What had happened?
She had noted the Estate Agent’s details from the flyer in the Bridleton flat: Hunters, in Whiteladies road, close to Bristol University. Next stop, but first, change into a smart business suit. Look the part, oozing money.
The man was attentive, almost flirtatious, despite the presence of two other agents and a young receptionist. Outdated office, could do with a make-over. Business appeared slack, pictures of properties adorning the walls, but no other customers seated on chairs, no phone calls, and no sense of urgency, apart from a coffee jug briskly percolating on a hostess trolley.
He brushed a hand across his cropped hair in an easy manner, a sure sign he fancied himself. Jackie remembered that Paul had joked about Estate Agents and Driving Instructors, all the young ones were randy sods. So were young Detective Constables, she had replied, laughing. Rick Graham fitted the profile. But it wouldn’t hurt to encourage him, until she had an address.
‘A friend of a friend recommended your Agency,’ she said.
His eyes glinted. ‘Oh? Who was that?’
‘Sonja ... Sonja Borski.’
His face whitened, but the colour quickly came back into his cheeks. He seemed anxious — or was it embarrassment? ‘Ah,’ he said.
‘So you know her?’
He looked around the room. The other agents were gossiping about last Saturday’s rugby match, but he seemed a bit wary that the receptionist would overhear. He opened up his contact box, flipped through the cards. He stopped, cheeky grin. ‘Yes, Sonja Borski. One of our recent clients.’
Now she had to play it carefully; an open-ended statement could work. ‘Seems she moved out of her Bridleton flat...’ Stopped, hoping he’d break the silence.
He frowned. ‘That’s strange. We’re talking about 22 Block D, Harmony Estate, right?’
Jackie could sense bad news. ‘Right...’
‘That’s the address she gave us.’ He sounded like he was trying to convince himself. ‘It all checked out on the electoral roll and our credit search.’
The office phone rang. The receptionist picked it up and started to engage into a lengthy discussion. Sounded more personal than business.
‘Perhaps I was mistaken. The phone was disconnected.’
He shrugged. ‘It happens. People on the move prefer using cell-phones, nowadays.’
Jackie shrugged back. ‘You said she was a client.’
He moved into sales mode. ‘Charming period residence in Clifton with a view over the downs, shag-pile carpet throughout — she couldn’t resist,’ he said, with a smirk on his face. He leafed through a pile of flyers on his desk, extracted one and handed it over. ‘What do you think?’
‘Very nice.’ And it was. Out of her league; it cost more than five years salary. ‘When is she moving in?’
He shrugged again. ‘Early days.’
Could she rely on this man, if she broke cover and produced a warrant card? On a scale of one to ten, he rated a three, probably not worth the gamble. He would let something slip next time he saw Sonja and that would be that.
‘I would like to take a look ... you know ... get a feel for the area. She smiled, arched her back to encourage him. ‘That’s if you can spare the time.’
Ten minutes later, Jackie was peering out of the windows of Sonja’s new apartment while Rick Graham was trying to impress her with his rustic charm.
‘Nice view,’ he said.
She turned round to see him appraising her, a broad smile and an appreciative look in his eye. It was time to pull the plug on him.
‘I’ll have to see what my boyfriend thinks,’ she said, a smile on her lips. ‘He’s on a rugby tour this week-end. Next week, suit you?’
Rick made a pantomime of looking at his watch, and shuffling towards the door. ‘Look I’m sorry ... got another appointment soon. Busy week ahead, but give me a call when you’re ready ... one of my colleagues can show you both around.’
That was an idea. A couple of honeymooners on holiday wouldn’t spook Sonja if they happened to find her. She would have a quiet word with Angers. See if the budget could be stretched.
She held out her hand. ‘Thank you, Mr. Graham, you’ve been most helpful.’
Maybe Paul could come in useful, after all.