by Crystal Jones
“I was wondering if I could have an appointment with you? Major
Titherington told me I could place myself in your hands.”
“Ah, yes I remember dear Major
Titherington. I would be happy to help you, Mr. Dobinson. Could you pop along
today - good - let’s say at four o’clock. Yes all right. On the first floor.”
Daisy was pleased at the prospect of a new client. It seemed that
nobody wanted a private detective when there were six inches of snow, and
heating her office was costing her money she didn’t have.
At four o’clock exactly Mr. Dobinson rang the door bell and Daisy
Hamilton asked him to come in and sit down.
Daisy observed this small precise-looking man, dressed in a smart
but old-fashioned winter coat and underneath a perfectly brushed three-piece
“Miss Hamilton, what I am going to tell you is of course in
complete confidence.” Daisy nodded her assent. “Well, it’s hard to put into
words, but I’m having trouble with my daughter.” Mr. Dobinson adjusted his
glasses. “My wife was against my coming here, but things are getting worse and
“What’s getting worse and worse, Mr. Dobinson?” Daisy was trying
to help this father to define his problem more quickly.
Mr. Dobinson cleared his throat and tried not to be too
emotionally involved, at least in explaining what had happened.
“My daughter Imogen is 16 years old - this is a photo of her.”
As Daisy looked at the family photograph she found it difficult
to understand how an insignificant-looking man like Mr. Dobinson could have
such a beautiful tall daughter.
“Yes, I know what you are thinking Miss Hamilton. Imogen doesn’t
look anything like me. In fact she is our adopted daughter.” Mr. Dobinson gazed
at the photograph as if he too found it difficult to believe he could have such
a beautiful daughter.
“When we adopted Imogen it was the most wonderful thing that had
ever happened to my wife and I... Of course Imogen knows we aren’t her
biological parents but loves us dearly. She is good at school - that is Highbury
High School - she’s got a pleasant nature and she is honest.” Mr. Dobinson
stopped here hesitatingly.
“So what’s wrong?” insisted Daisy.
“Well - it seems that some money is missing.” Mr. Dobinson went
red in the face and looked very uncomfortable, seemingly reluctant to continue
Daisy smiled at the obviously worried father reassuringly,
“Please go on telling me everything that will help me understand what is
happening to your daughter, Mr. Dobinson!”
Clearing his throat nervously, Mr. Dobinson forced himself to
continue. “You see, we give Imogen her pocket money every week which she never
seems to spend - or very little of it. Just the occasional lipstick or scrunchy,
I think you call them. Well, the other day just
by chance my wife picked up Imogen’s Post Office book from the floor in her
bedroom and saw that nearly all the money had been withdrawn!”
“And how much would that be?” Daisy asked.
“Actually it was about two hundred pounds! Imogen had never done
anything like this before. My wife mentioned nothing of this to her but other
strange happenings had already occurred. Just before Christmas Imogen asked me
for some additional pocket money, which I gave her.
Then she asked my wife for some more money too, looking rather vague
about it all and mumbling that it was for Christmas presents. After Christmas
Imogen again asked for money but didn’t want to explain what she wanted it for.”
“This doesn’t seem so dreadful to me,” remarked Daisy. “After
all, the Post-Office money was hers and her pocket-money is for spending - it’s
normal a girl wants to buy a few CD’s or something.”
“I don’t know Miss Hamilton. Imogen has never been a spender and
was quite used to putting her money into her Post Office account ‘for a rainy
day’ as we taught her to do. It isn’t so much the fact of the money, it’s more
the sensation or fear I’ve got that something strange is going on.”
Daisy never discounted what a client said. She respected everyone who came to
her realising that they did have a problem but it was up to her to find
out what the problem really was.
“Mr. Dobinson, I must speak frankly.” Daisy sat up in her chair,
“Have you noticed any signs Imogen might be taking drugs? Has she got a secret
boyfriend she gives money to? Have you noticed anything different about her
behaviour that you haven’t told me about?”
Mr. Dobinson shook his head. “No, absolutely nothing. She has no
particular boyfriend – but obviously she knows a lot of boys at school and
“So you are regular church-goers?” asked Daisy.
“No, not at all, we are both agnostics. In fact Imogen has never
really been brought up in the church. But it‘s funny, she seems to have been
taking a real interest in going to church meetings
in the last few weeks. Last Wednesday was the beginning of the snow and we
begged Imogen not to go out since she had a cold. Our words were of no avail and
out she went - and came back home soaking wet!”
“So there could be someone she has met at the church meetings who
has influenced her so much she is spending all her money! Mm - leave this to me
Mr. Dobinson. Just give me the name of the church and the address please.”
First Daisy telephoned a friend of hers who was a teacher at
Highbury High School. “Michael? This is Daisy speaking. I wonder if you could
give me a hand.” Daisy had helped Michael a few months’ ago over a distressing
problem about a register that kept disappearing and knew she could trust him not
to repeat anything that was confidential.
“Imogen Dobinson? Yes, she’s in my French class. What would you like to know
“That’s just what I don’t know Michael, I wish I did! Has she got any problems –
with the other students or anything?” asked Daisy.
“Well no, not really. She’s a nice girl and a hard-working student, who rather
keeps herself to herself.”
there’s nothing that comes to mind, something unusual perhaps?” Daisy insisted.
“Well - there was something - but I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything important.
As you know I teach French - advanced French. One day we watched a film in the
original language. It was a very depressing but poetic story and Imogen was in
tears and quite upset at the end of it.”
“Do you remember the title of the film?”
“N… no! But I know it won the Golden Bowl in Italy a couple of
years ago. The one about an unmarried mother who has to give up her newly born
baby for adoption.” Daisy sighed, “Yes, I saw
it. And the mother becomes a homeless person!”
Daisy decided to pay the church a visit that very evening, even
though it was beginning to snow again, to try and find out why Imogen had become
suddenly interested in going there. It was freezing cold and Daisy’s boots
leaked, as she never seemed to be able to buy water-proof ones!!.
It was a Tuesday evening’s weekly meeting at St. John’s. There
were notices up about ‘Help the Lepers N O W,’ ‘Bring your cast-offs on
Wednesday Evenings at seven’, plus requests to help make tea on Saturday
“Excuse me, could someone tell me where I have to leave some
cast-offs - and if shoes are accepted?” Daisy adressed herself to a couple of
oldish ladies obviously dedicated to church matters.
“Yes dear, we accept shoes as well. Oh look! You’re drenched! Do
sit down and have some hot cocoa.”
After making up a story about a nephew having recently arrived in
the neighbourhood, Daisy became quite friendly with another two old ladies, and
was introduced to the Vicar, a tall elderly man who looked rather dreamy.
However there was no sign of Imogen, in fact there were no young people in the
church hall at all.
“And have you any kinds of activities for your teenage members?
You see, my nephew is coming to stay with me and he is very interested in
“Dear young lady...er... Miss Hamilton,” replied the vicar
happy to realize that a new helper might soon be arriving, “if your nephew is a
teenager he could come on a Wednesday evening to give out clothing to our
homeless people. It’s a very worthy cause, you know.”
As Daisy walked away from the church in the melting sloshy
blackened snow she was thinking of what the Vicar had said about giving clothing
to homeless people. Could this be a clue to Imogen’s strange behaviour?
Daisy suddenly remembered something and made a quick decision.
First she dropped into a shop in the high street which was open
twenty-four hours a day and then drove around to the railway station where she
thought she might find Natalie, another old friend of hers who was a homeless
Natalie was thirty-eight years old and slept anywhere she could,
preferring the relative wamth of an old shed where gardening tools were kept,
near the railway station. There Natalie usually settled down for the night in
her home-made sleeping bag made from an old duvet.
With the help of her torch Daisy found the shed and knocked on
the door: “Hello! Anybody there?”
A sleepy voice answered from within weakly, “I’m just sheltering
from the cold.” Then in a more wide-awake tone, “ Please let me stay here, don’t
be angry – I’m not doing any damage or harm!!!!”. Daisy recognised Natalie’s
“Natalie, it’s me - Daisy.”
“Daisy! Oh thank goodness, I thought I was going to be turned out again!”
Daisy heard Natalie shuffling towards the door and fumbling in the darkness to
unbolt it. “Sorry Daisy, you know you’re always welcome, but what are you doing
here on such a night?”
Natalie was wearing so many clothes that she looked quite plump. She continued:
“Wonderful to see you. How are you love?”
“Very well except for the cold,” said Daisy then biting her
tongue realising that people like Natalie suffered much, much more than she did.
“Look, I’ve got a pack of vegetarian sandwiches for you and some real fruit
juice, - I know that’s what you prefer.”
“Yes I do indeed. Thank you love. And what can I do for you? You
look worried, have you got a difficult case on at the moment?” Natalie pulled
some old newspapers out of a plastic bag and covered a small bench with them so
that Daisy could sit down and not dirty her coat.
“Well, I wonder if you could take a look at this photo. Have you
ever seen this girl?” Daisy shone the light from her torch onto Imogen’s photo
for Natalie to see.
“That’s a lovely looking girl. Don’t tell me she’s on to drugs or
“I don’t think so, Natalie. Please eat your sandwiches - I’m in
Natalie began to munch her nut and honey sandwiches as though she
hadn’t eaten enough for some time.
“Daisy, you know I see a lot of people every day of my life as I
haven’t much else to do, but – but... wait a minute.” Natalie pulled a pair of
glasses out of an inner pocket and studied the photo. “Mm,” Natalie hesitated,
“I think I’ve seen this girl before - but maybe her hair was different... it was
shorter. Yes, in the photo she looks more babyish – but it must be her - she’s
one of the girls who distributes warm clothing at St. John’s every Wednesday
“Her name is Imogen” said Daisy.
“Imogen... that’s a beautiful name, isn’t it?” mused Natalie. “If
I had a daughter I’d call her after a Shakespearean character too! I met her
when we went along for our Christmas dinner
and found out they also give you spare blankets and clothes, which in
this snow is highly welcome. Imogen asked me about myself. Such a nice
girl! She seemed to be particularly interested in women of my age.”
Daisy commented: “That’s very interesting! Did she explain why?”
Natalie replied: “No, she didn’t but she gave me ten pounds out
of her pocket and asked me if I had any children. I replied that I hadn’t been
that lucky. I heard her asking the other women of my age the same question. The
other women told me Imogen had given them money too.”
Outside the weather clearly wasn’t getting any better. The shed
door shook with the fierce wind and some water soaked through from underneath
it. Natalie hardly seemed to notice.
“Thanks very much indeed, Natalie, you’ve been invaluable as
usual. Look after yourself, dear, and... here’s a small late Christmas present.”
Again Daisy shone her torch so that Natalie could unwrap her
present. “Daisy - it’s a wristwatch? Oh, one that shines a light? That’s really
useful, thanks a million.”
“Mr. Dobinson, I think I understand what has been going on.”
“Please tell me Miss Hamilton,” begged Mr. Dobinson now seated
rigidly on the edge of his chair in Daisy’s office.
“I assure you there is nothing ugly going on and you have nothing
to fear. Your daughter is spending all her money on things for the homeless!”
“But - but - it’s an awful lot of money for the average girl to
be spending on charity.” observed Imogen’s father. “Not that I mind really. My
wife and I are also concerned about all these people who have no homes.”
“Well I think that your daughter is far more worried about a
certain type of person...”
“What do you mean, Miss Hamilton?” Mr. Dobinson seemed completely
“Women of about thirty-six!” Daisy answered.
Mr. Dobinson stiffened and looked a little frightened. “You mean
- you mean...?” Now Mr. Dobinson’s face expressed that maybe he didn’t want to
know any more.
“Yes. Possibly the age of Imogen’s biological mother or what
Imogen imagines is the age of her birth mother. Perhaps Imogen has discovered
something about her mother and is trying to find her. I personally think she
hasn’t found out anything concrete yet but has got it into her mind that her
mother could be a poor homeless women who years ago had to give up her baby
girl. Imogen contacts homeless women, imagining that one of them just could
be her mother and gives them help and money.”
Now Mr. Dobinson adjusted his glasses. “I see,” he replied
thoughtfully. “We ourselves don’t know anything at all about who her mother or
Daisy reasoned. “She could easily have made inquiries at the
hospital where she was born and done a bit of detective work, or she could
simply have met someone by chance who told her something about her biological
mother or, as I said before, she is just searching.”
“But why didn’t she tell us about how she felt?”
“I imagine that she didn’t want to offend you and your wife as
she loves you both very much. You know that adopted people try to find out what
their biological parents are like. They want to know if they look or behave like
Mr. Dobinson sat back in the armchair not knowing whether he
felt relieved or not. “Well, I wasn’t expecting this.”
Daisy continued. “Mr. Dobinson, perhaps you should let your
daughter continue her good work at the church.”
Mr. Dobinson seemed to recover a little from their conversation.
“Yes, certainly. We have nothing against Imogen helping homeless people. Really,
I must confess, it never even entered my head Imogen should be curious about her
“Have you ever discussed with Imogen about who her mother was?”
“To tell you the truth we’ve always thought of Imogen as our
daughter - .”
“She is your daughter, Mr. Dobinson. You and your wife
brought her up!”
“I can see that I’ll have to talk the matter over with my wife,
and then...” Mr. Dobinson broke off not knowing quite
what to say. He then got up as though he had made a decision. “Thank you
Miss Hamilton for everything. Oh, I forgot. Your cheque. Here it is in this
Daisy’s client moved towards the door. “Just a thought Miss
Hamilton... could we count on you to help us if we should want to trace Imogen’s
“Only if Imogen wants me to, Mr. Dobinson!”
Mr. Dobinson nodded silently and went on his way.
Daisy picked up her handbag, turned her electric fire off and
locked her office door. As Daisy left the building the wind blew her along the
road. “Poor old vicar,” she said to herself, “he’s expecting my ‘nephew’ to come
round and help him. All right. I’ll go along myself to give him a hand.”