'I'm sorry I was late, it was unavoidable, there was somewhere I had to be-'
'Mendrick's not here Alannah,' Randall said from his unusually laidback position in his chair. 'He's had to go out with Charlie so you don't need to make up an excuse as to why you are late. He'll want to talk to you when he gets back though. Where were you anyway?'
'Shopping,' I said, taking my jacket off and putting it on the back of my chair. 'The fridge was empty and I fancy eating tonight. How do you do it? Managing to balance work with chores. I just can't do it.'
'It's called being organised. You should try it sometime.'
'You are being wonderfully helpful, as always Randall,' I said sarcastically as I sat at my desk. 'So what's the case?'
'Mother and daughter kidnapped, we've got to find them. I wouldn't get too comfortable though. You and I are about to go out to question the only possible witness, the agoraphobic little old lady next door.'
'You are kidding me?' I said, eyes wide. 'She's going to be next to useless.'
'Unfortunately it's very true and we are off to see her now.' Randall stood up, putting on his jacket and walking out of the office.
'Thanks for telling me before I sat down,' I mumbled, grabbing my jacket and running after him.
'So he's a big lawyer,' I said from the passenger seat. 'Surely there must be someone with an obvious motive we can look into. Someone he's sent to prison or something like that.'
'There are probably a lot of people like that,' Randall said, pulling up outside a tiny house on a quiet street. 'I'm not sure Mr Lawrence is a nice guy.'
This unusual amount of perceptiveness from Randall shocked me, making me take a step back. Metaphorically speaking you understand, one can't step back when they are sitting down, not without some difficulty.
'So this is it?' I said, looking out onto the street. 'It seems like a nice place.' We both got out of the car and as Randall moved towards one of the houses, I followed him. 'Nice tie by the way,' I commented as we waited for someone to answer the door.
'It's a tie,' Randall said blankly, not looking at me. 'It's nothing special.'
OK then, note to self. Don't offer Randall compliments, it's a waste of time.
I immediately put on my happy, smily face as the door edged open a crack and I saw an eye peaking around the corner.
'Mrs Parker?' I said carefully. 'We were wondering if we could speak to you for a moment. We have some questions about Mr and Mrs Lawrence.' The face disappeared from the door, which edged open a little more. I looked at Randall who shrugged his shoulders and headed straight in. I followed, acting a little less like a bull in a china shop and closing the door carefully behind me.
'Mrs Parker?' I called. 'Are you alright Mrs Parker?'
'I'm in here,' a small voice responded from another room. Randall and I followed it into a tiny living room with a sofa stuffed into one corner and the curtains pulled across the window. 'Are you with the police?' The voice asked from somewhere in the gloom.
'Yes we are. We're investigating the kidnap of Mrs Lawrence and her daughter. We were wondering if you might have seen anything.' My eyes searched the room, desperately trying to find where the old lady could be hiding. There were hardly a lot of options.
'I knew something bad would happen,' the lady said, her voice becoming high pitched and panicky. 'I just knew it.'
'If you could tell us anything that might be useful in finding the whereabouts of Mrs Lawrence and her daughter we would be very grateful. Did you notice anyone behaving strangely over the last few days? Anything out of the ordinary?'
As I was looking I caught a glimpse of a snowy white head appear from behind the sofa. I went over carefully to try and coax Mrs Parker out of her hiding place.
'I don't go outside,' she said, shaking her head violently. 'You never know what might happen. It's so dangerous outside these days with the youths and knives and guns and...'
'You're safe here Mrs Parker,' I reassured her as she descended into tears.
'And actually the rate of gun and knife crime in this area has dropped significantly over the last five years,' Randall said, trying to be helpful but only succeeding in making Mrs Parker sob more. 'You know what, I don't think we're going to to get anything out of her.'