The newsreader looked up as Botherington approached, her face tarnished with the cracks of the solidified make-up left on from her last broadcast. Next to her was the host of an '80s dating show who hadn't been seen for 30 years. There had been a missing persons report filed for him a long time ago — police searched high and low for him, until he was eventually found doing advertorials on a shopping channel. No wonder he had been hard to find. Now, clearly, he was too old even for that, and there was nowhere lower to fall.
They both looked up as Botherington approached.
'I'm looking for Sydney Musson,' she said. The woman said nothing. Instead, she held her finger to her ear. She was still wearing an earpiece, waiting for instructions from the control room that never came.
The newsreader looked up, her face tarnished with the cracks of the solidified make-up left on from her last broadcast...
'Sydney Musson,' repeated Botherington, a little louder this time.
'This from Sydney Musson,' repeated the bewildered woman, and then her head returned to its former position, wedged between her knees. It was sad to see.
Botherington walked to the end of the corridor, glancing back briefly at the couple. The young woman's head bobbed up briefly, she sat forward and said, with perfect diction, 'and now, Wayne Wilkey with the weather', then she slumped back down against the wall.
'It's 28 minutes past 6,' said a voice behind Botherington. She turned quickly, expecting to see a destitute disc jockey still giving time checks, but no, it was Musson, standing in an open doorway. She recognised him from his TouchedUp profile, although in real life his face was decidedly craggier. He was clearly a premium member.
'She always throws to the weather at exactly 28 minutes past six,' Musson explained. 'She never says anything for the rest of the day. She just sort of hibernates.'
Botherington thought she'd be worried meeting Musson in such surroundings. He was a murderer; what if he was to kill again? And at Eton towers, screams were always ignored. But he seemed to put her at ease, although he still had that demeanour that made you fairly certain that at some point, he was going to try to sell you life insurance. Perhaps she was so preoccupied with not being talked into signing something that it escaped her mind that at any point, he could suddenly turn and kill her.
'You're Musson, aren't you?' she asked.
Musson was surprised. He very rarely received a guest, especially a stunningly attractive young woman like Trisha Botherington.
'I'm a reporter,' she explained.
'I know. I've seen you on the news.'
'Yes,' said Botherington.
Musson seemed to be fumbling for his fly with a rather too eager look on his face.
'You smell different in real life.' It was a strange thing to say, but Musson wasn't very good around women. He hadn't spent much time with them. But he assumed, from his research on the internet, that if he invited her back to his bedroom, she would instantly disrobe and perform fellatio on him. In all the videos he'd watched, that always seemed to happen.
'Come this way,' he said, motioning Botherington further down the corridor, deeper into Eton Towers.
'Take a seat,' he offered, once they were inside his bedsit, lifting a paper plate encased with week-old Chinese, only to discover that there were several other dishes of various ages resting beneath it.
'Thanks, I'll stand,' she said. She didn't want sweet and sour pork on her expensive chiffon dress.
'Please yourself.' He sat down and started picking at some chow mein.
'I'd like to understand why you have a vendetta against VastTel,' she said, taking a small voice recorder from her handbag. Normally, at this stage, she would be using her womanly charms to solicit information, but this time she couldn't. Musson's odour was overbearing. The thought of being alluring to him seemed repulsive to her, and yet she had flirted with all sorts of people before, including conservative politicians. Even more off-putting, Musson seemed to be fumbling for his fly with a rather too eager look on his face.