‘At least the lights are still working,’ he muttered, while sliding past a badger that was hell-bent in committing suicide.
Jackie sniffed. ‘We might as well park it in the Estate. Joyriders are welcome to the rust-bucket.’
Paul smiled. ‘The Vic it is, then.’ He parked the car at the back under a flickering neon light. ‘Might as well illuminate it.’
They struck gold at the first ask. The domino foursome; one of them was not yet fossilised. ‘You won’t catch any of that lot in here; try the Brighton bar in town.’
They trudged back out. Carol’s flat was next. Maintenance had done a good job. New door fitted and padlocked, and a note on the front said “premises secured, key at office”. Jackie looked through the letter box. It appeared to be tidy inside.
‘It can wait,’ she said. Carol won’t be going anywhere today.’
Back to the Vic. The Astra was still there; intact. Next stop the multi-story; walk through the alley under the railway line, and “Bob’s your uncle”.
The Brighton bar was a neon-lit, cocktail lounge catering for the idle rich; plush carpet pile, metallic bar stools, black leather sofas, and acres of glass. Not that there was any idle rich, the place was empty - apart from a Tom Cruise lookalike doing his cocktail bit. All that was missing was a pianist performing on a baby grand; instead, piped music oozed from discrete wall speakers.
They walked up to the bar. Paul looked at his watch. ‘Friday evening. It’s early ... fancy a pint while we hang around?’
Jackie was reading the bar tariff. ‘What a rip-off ... I hope it’s not going to be a long wait.’
Paul looked over her shoulder. ‘It’s happy-hour. Buy two, get one half-price.’
‘No need to take out a mortgage, then?’ She reached into her jacket pocket for her purse, slapped a fiver on the counter. ‘My round ... three of whatever comes out of the cheapest tap.’ She tapped him on the arm, smiled. ‘I’ll see if I can locate an empty seat.’
The cheapest was Harp lager. ‘Dishwater tastes better,’ was her comment when Paul returned with a tray of drinks, a small china dish of salted cashew nuts, and a smattering of loose shrapnel in a saucer.
He eyed the change, wistfully. ‘Five quid doesn’t go far.’
While they waited for the Seagulls to emerge from their nests, Jackie brought Paul up to date with Dixon’s confession and her Bristol trip. ‘I’m sure we got plenty on the Pillock to warrant an internal.’
Paul wasn’t so sure. ‘All you’ve got is a snout’s say-so ... okay, a dead man’s admission as well, but it’s still pretty thin.’
Jackie. ‘You weren’t there when the Face frightened the shit out of me. The stun gun was real enough.’
He held up his hands. ‘I’m only offering an opinion.’
She wasn’t going to argue the toss. ‘I’ll see what Angers thinks...’
A sound of broken glass invaded their space. They looked up. The bartender had dropped a tumbler. An accident - or was it a nervous reaction to the pointed finger of a Seagull who had swaggered into the bar. Easy to spot – designer gear, the JC trade mark – an upmarket soccer-thug.
Money from the till went into the newcomer’s pocket, and three bottles of Stella lager were lined up on the bar. The Seagull picked up one, took a swig and looked around, stared at them and then walked over, bottle in hand.
‘You’re sitting in my seat.’
Jackie was about to leap up, but Paul put a restraining hand on her arm. He pulled out his warrant card and showed it.
‘My VIP pass.’
The Seagull screwed up his eyes; hesitated. ‘Pigs, Ehh?’
Paul was quick to take advantage. He pulled out the pictures from the envelope and spread them on the table. ‘I’ll make a deal. You look at these; tell me who they are, and you can have your seat.’
The Seagull bent over, stood back; sneered. ‘Fuck off. I don’t snitch on mates.’
Paul kept his voice reasonable and pointed to the photo-fit of Boyson. ‘This is the man we’re after ... one of your mates could identify him.’
The Seagull laughed and gave Paul the finger.
Jackie had heard – and seen - enough. She stood up, hissed in his ear. ‘Bird-brain, this is a murder enquiry. Get it? Now we can go down the nick, if you like ... or you can squawk.’
The threat seemed to work. With no mates to back him up, he was facing a two-one defeat.
He picked up the photo-fit of Boyson. ‘Never seen him.’ Flung it back on the table and stood there, staring at her, brazening it out.
‘And your mates?’ Jackie gestured to Paul to call in a patrol.
Bird-brain snorted. ‘Well you’re unlucky. Brighton’s got a league match tomorrow ... we’re going to stuff Sheffield United. This lot won’t get back here until Saturday night ... maybe Sunday, if they pull.’
‘Ox knows everyone.’ With that, Bird-brain swigged the last of his lager and put the bottle on the table. He turned, and walked back to the bar.
‘Now what?’ Paul was looking at her with his cheeky grin.
Jackie raised an eyebrow. ‘Not tonight, Paul ... I’ll call you tomorrow, when I know Carol’s okay.’
Paul shrugged his shoulders, picked out the CD from the envelope and slid it across to her.
‘If you’re sitting up all night, take a look at this. See if the man on film fits your image of Boyson.’
She frowned as she put the CD in her pocket.
Where was Boyson? What was he doing?