As Jay hauled her luggage up the path a small figure darted out of nowhere, grabbed the luggage from her and darted ahead.
“Hi. I’m Lin” she called over her shoulder. “you must be the new tenant”.
“I hope so saying you now have my luggage”.
Lin giggled, then pushed the front door open with her foot. “You are on the first floor, overlooking the garden. Can I help you carry that upstairs?”
Together the two girls walked up the stairs balancing the luggage between them. The room was indeed small, like a student’s study bedroom, just a single bed, storage and desk. But the view made up for it. A large garden enclosed by mature trees and a tennis/volleyball court. Lin put her end of the luggage down and bounced on the bed. Jay looked at her curiously. The landlords hadn’t mentioned that they had a daughter. Lin looked about 13 and full of life. She glanced round the room which she was obviously familiar with and commented. “A bit of a change from the countryside”.
Jay felt a pang of loss. Open fields, quiet, gentle neighbours, but most of all her parents. It had been hard to decide to move away, but there was no work in the countryside.
“Work or study?” Lin asked.
“Work” Jay muttered. Lin looked at her not understanding her morose response. Her face fell slightly. “Well, OK. I hope you like it here. Most people do”. With that she bounded off the bed and out of the room.
Jay found work immediately and when her first pay cheque arrived took herself out to a local restaurant to celebrate. The Head Waiter was very friendly and Jay told him she was newly arrived and celebrating getting a job. He told her he owned the restaurant and he hoped she would have many more things to celebrate in future. Jay laughed and later a complimentary bottle of wine appeared on her table. The meal was mouth watering, and for the first time since she arrived she felt relaxed and less unhappy at leaving her parents.
The weeks passed and Jay worked, dined out at the restaurant on a regular basis and soon was dating the waiter/owner. The other residents in the house were from every part of the world, some had come for work, but most were students at the nearby university. Apart from the landlords, Jay was one of the few white residents. But the house was friendly. Some evenings groups would turn out to play volley ball or hold ping pong tournaments in the basement.
One evening the landlord came home from work and took his wife aside. He looked worried.
“What’s the matter, Sam?”
“What do you know about the new tenant?”
“Jay? She works hard. Has a boyfriend. Gets on well with everyone. Why do you ask?”
“A policeman dropped in at the office today. He said he needed to talk, privately. Jay isn’t what she seems. She’s a criminal, pet. She takes drugs, and is a prostitute”.
“Oh, Lord”. Sue stand down suddenly on the sofa. She looked worried. “Can we get her out of here? What do we do?”
“The policeman said to let her stay. This way they know where she is and they can watch her. Just be careful. Watch her relationships with the other residents”.
“But what about her boyfriend? He’s a respectable businessman”.
“He’s her main customer, the policeman said. Her bread and butter. He wanted to marry her but she refused. She’s milking him for what she can get”.
Sue nodded her head. “It doesn’t make any sense. Her qualifications – “.
“All lies. She doesn’t have any qualifications. She’s taking her employers for a ride too”.
“I want her out of here. This is a respectable house. Our tenants are all honest people. And what about Lin?”
“I know. I don’t like it either. But the police said it is very important that she stays. They don’t want her to suspect she is under surveillance. They want to catch her out”.
“OK. But I still don’t like it”.
When the new term started some Muslim students came to the house. Jay found when she went into the communal kitchen they stared at her hostilely. She couldn’t figure out what she had done to anger them, but she felt uncomfortable and avoided going into the kitchen and other communal areas.
She was doing well at work but her job was only temporary and she was applying for other jobs. She attended an interview at the polytechnic. Her qualifications and experience were a perfect match. The interview seemed to being going well when one of the panel asked about periods of unemployment on her CV. She was about to explain that being unable to find work was why she had moved to the city when he said “How do we know you were not in prison?” Jay stared at him flabbergasted. Where had that come from? If they didn’t want her for the job, fair enough, but was an outrageous insult really necessary?
Then her boyfriend started to act oddly. One day he took her arm and turned it over exposing the inner joint. “Why the needle marks?”
“I’m a blood donor”.
He humphed, but after that he called to see her less often.
Even the shopkeepers were looking at her in an odd way.
She still had not found another job and the atmosphere in the house was no longer friendly. Jay decided to move to another town where the cost of living was cheaper but there was still plenty of work.
As she was struggling with her luggage Lin suddenly appeared and helped her haul her luggage to the waiting taxi.
“I’m sorry you’re going”.
Jay wondered what was in store for her in the new town, but she nodded. This place had given her a good start. Her work record was now looking respectable. Moving from home appeared to have been the right decision.
Shortly after Lin went missing. Then her parents received a ransom note for half a million pounds. Desperate to get their daughter back they paid, selling everything they owned and borrowing from relatives. Their house was bought by a property developer who demolished the historic building to build luxury high-rise flats. But Lin was never returned. They sought out some of the Muslim men who had been previous residents to see if they could suggest any contacts. They were treated with scorn. “You were running a brothel” they were told. “You had a prostitute in the house. Your daughter was a whore. You dare ask us for help?”
The northern Controller was counting his ducats. The value of a healthy, well brought up, white Virgin on the Middle Eastern market?
Worth considerably more than a few free lies.