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Staircase Daniel Shand

Day Seven

The Complex was housed in the city’s most eastern municipality, so I descended into the metro and rode it as far as possible. At that final stop, passengers could disembark and take a short length of funicular railway through a grotto of dark forest to the top of Jurinsbruck hill, where the Complex sat—a shell of smoked glass and hexagonal framework.


I introduced myself to the receptionist and he called upstairs. Soon, a young officer appeared to escort me to a higher floor and a large office with brown blinds. There, behind a desk, was the person I guessed was Inspector Blott—a fleshy individual with blonde bouffant hair. The desk was completely empty, save for a small tub of paperclips and a single elastic band.


‘Sit down, please,’ said Blott, so I did. I turned to thank the officer but he was already gone.


‘Thank you for coming,’ said Blott.


‘I’m not sure why you asked me to come at all,’ I said. ‘I only stumbled across my friend’s mail, it’s really him you’re looking for.’


‘No,’ said Blott. ‘The note went to the correct recipient. I’ve been trying to track you down for a few days now.’


I looked around the office. ‘Me? What on earth for?’


Blott slid a piece of paper across the table-top with a finger and read it. ‘It says here you are in the city to complete a body of research. Can you tell me about that please?’


A wave of unease passed through me. ‘What is that document?’ I asked.


Blott smiled. ‘It is some of my own personal research. Please do fill me in.’


‘I work in the public records bureau,’ I said, embarrassed. ‘I look at photographs.’


‘At photographs!’ said Blott. ‘That does sound like enlivening work. You clearly have an enquiring mind to carry out such research. Tell me, did you ever put that mind to work on the question of John Dempsey’s location?’


‘What do you mean? I thought—’


‘John Dempsey has been missing for some time now and my understanding is you are living in his place of residence, you are harassing his colleague Dr Axelsson. Does this gel with your understanding?’


Blott’s features wrinkled up from curiosity. I opened my mouth then closed it. Then I said, ‘I didn’t know he was missing. I assumed—’


‘He is not present, is he?’ laughed Blott. ‘If he is not present then he is missing?’


I shrugged. ‘I suppose so.’


‘You suppose so,’ said Blott. ‘But it does not benefit you to suppose any further, does it?’


‘You’re not suggesting I had anything to do with it,’ I said. ‘He was gone already when I arrived. I’ve only been in the city for a week.’


‘So you say’ said Blott and he looked at me with apparent delight.


We sat together in silence for some time, Blott’s head cocked a little, lower lip protruding, before he nodded to the area above my shoulder. I turned—the young officer. He escorted me outside and only when I was at the railway station did I let myself breathe.

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