Bean was indignant. ‘When Charles gets to hear of my wrongful arrest, he’ll flip. Whatever was DS Steel thinking of?’
Charles was the Chief Constable. They were sitting on wooden chairs in the “Tomb”, the name given to the less than spacious interview room. Coffee and Danish provided set up on a small folding table. Jim Bean had declined the pastries. Said they were unhealthy, so Orson scoffed both.
Orson didn’t want to talk about what Charles would or would not do. He tried pacification instead. ‘I’m really sorry. She should have spoken to me first,’ he said between mouthfuls of fatty calories.
‘You’re lucky I’m not taking this further. I hope she gets a reprimand. Can’t have law-abiding citizens being incarcerated.’
Orson couldn’t decide if the Doctor was for real. ‘Quite right, doctor. Public protection is our priority.’
Jim Bean took a sip of coffee. He grimaced, and put the cup back down on its saucer. He made a point to stare at his Timex. ‘If there’s nothing else ...’
Orson leant back in his chair. It creaked. He shifted forward again. ‘Well actually, there is the small matter of your patient’s identity and address.’
A crease appeared on Doctor Bean’s forehead. ‘I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at. Patients’ medical information is confidential.’
Orson went into plead mode. ‘Doctor, I’m heading up a murder enquiry. This information is crucial. It’s in the public interest.’
Dr. Bean waved it aside. ‘I’ve already explained. It’s policy. Our hospital Board will not release any medical information without a court order.’
Despite the calming effect of sugar coursing through his veins, Orson felt his blood pressure rise. ‘So you won‘t tell me, then?’
Jim Bean nodded. ‘Correct.’ He shifted in his chair. ‘Now I’ve got patients to attend to, so let’s clear the paperwork.’
That’s when the discussion got heated.
Detective Chief Superintendent, Adam Forsyth, and the Deputy Chief Constable, Avril Postlewaite were in agreement. Orson had over-reacted. In a classic case of protecting her ample ass, Avril distanced herself. Adam was responsible for Orson’s behaviour. Crime and punishment. “Up the line management,” she’d said.
Suspended for allegedly assaulting a member of the public, pending a disciplinary.
DCS Adam Forsyth, smartly dressed in casual clothes, appeared puzzled. He scratched his head but didn’t ruffle the short-cropped black hair. Rumour had it he used Grecian Grey-remover. ‘So why didn’t you ask me to get a court order?’
Orson heaved his shoulders up from his chest. ‘Look Sir, this case is sensitive. We’re trying to keep a lid on it, we don’t want to raise the profile.’
Adam Forsyth gestured impatiently. ‘So low key means you just beat the shit out of Jim Bean?’
‘It wasn’t like that, Sir.’
‘What was it like then?’
‘My chair tipped forward. I tried to stop myself, but the table folded and went tits up. So did the coffee and Doctor Bean.’
‘That’s not what he said. He said you were swearing, and then you pushed the table into him.’ He picked a piece of fluff off his sleeve. ‘The dry-cleaning bill is the least of your worries.’
‘There’s another reason.’
Adam Forsyth paused. He looked at Orson and waited. So did Avril.
Orson knew the DCS had been so wrapped up in the missing schoolgirls’ case that he’d taken only a token interest in this murder. He waved a podgy finger at them both. ‘Someone has been leaking inside information to the Evening Argus.’ That stopped them. Looks of surprise. ‘I found out that Tania Simpson has an informant. Of course, Simpson wasn’t going to reveal who it was, but I took the view that any court order could place us in an awkward situation with the press.’
At this point Avril pushed her buttocks off her chair and waddled like a duck over to the door. ‘Okay Adam, I’ve heard enough. You can take this forward now.’
Passing the buck.
Adam Forsyth contemplated, or so it looked. ‘Well the bottom line is it’s your word against Doctor Bean. I’ll see if he’ll accept an apology from you. Then you’re off the hook.’
Orson screwed up his face. His voice raised a few decibels. ‘Apologise to that self-righteous prick? Sir, you’ve got to be kidding me.’
Adam Forsyth leant up close and painted the picture. ‘If you want to save your career, you’ll do it. Otherwise, Charles will see to it that you’re history.’
Orson partly capitulated. Pushing a pea uphill with his nose wasn’t worth his career. And it wouldn’t help his kid sister who was having expensive treatment in a private clinic. Waiting for a suitable kidney, was the latest. He drew on his energy reserves. ‘What about this patient of Bean’s?’
Adam Forsyth tapped his nose. ‘Leave that to me. I’ll ask Charles to call in a favour. There’s more than one Director on the hospital board.’
‘It’s urgent, Sir.’
‘So is Charles’ golf. I’ll catch him out on the course. You’ll have a name and address by this evening.’
How the other half live.
Earlier that afternoon, after she had written up her arrest reports, Jackie had been given explicit instructions by DCI Angers. ‘Show Carol the photos. See if she recognises Councillor Winterbotham. Do not ... repeat ... do not antagonise any member of the public; and most of all do not arrest anyone, even if they’re committing murder, unless you get the all clear from me. Understood?’
‘Crystal.’ Angers was back to his dickhead self. She preferred it that way and knew where she stood. All this recent ‘touchy-feely’ stuff was unsettling.
The route back across Harmony estate was just as depressing, although there was a sense of symmetry about the place. Still rubbish everywhere; still graffiti, still down and outs eking around dustbins and litter dumps, still addicts slumped in flat entrances, and still low-lives hanging around. The lift at the bottom of Carol’s flat had fresh graffiti sprayed across its doors.
Arbeit Macht Frei
Jackie stared. Took out her notebook and scribbled it down. She would give it to Reilly to interpret; he would enjoy “Googling” it. She stepped over the sleeping addict; she couldn’t tell if it was the same one, they all seemed grey. Grey clothes, grey pallor, grey hair. Like formative shadows.
In the apartment, Carol seemed listless. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor. Her eyes were red. Her cheeks were blotchy. Crying?
Carol sniffed. ‘Landlord…again.’
Jackie felt helpless, but she took out her notebook. ‘What’s his name?’
Carol’s eyes darted around. ‘Please Miss…Jackie…he’d kill me.’
‘No he won’t. How old are you? Fifteen? That’s against the law.’
Carol tugged at the carpet between her legs. Looked afraid. ‘He don’t do that, Jackie.’
‘So why the tears?’
He told me he had a big present planned for my birthday. I’m sixteen next month.’
‘Be brave. Just tell me his name. Don’t worry. I’ll make sure he doesn’t come near you.’
Carol cringed. ‘Gilbert.’ She whispered. ‘Don’t know his other name.’
‘Where’s Gilbert live?’
Carol pointed to her grimy window. As if it would help pinpoint his address. ‘Next to Granma Willis’ shop.’
After Jackie had made tea for herself and a diet coke for Carol, she pulled out the photos and handed them to Carol. ‘Anyone you recognise?’
Carol shuffled through the assortment. Her eyes flickered at one point, but she shook her head. She finished looking through the pack, and gave them back.
Jackie didn’t give up. She selected a photo of the councillor and one other. ‘Either of these two? Take your time.’
Carol squinted. Then she pointed, and picked one up. ‘This man, perhaps.’
DI Marty Hemming.
Jackie gulped. ‘Tell me where you saw him?’
Carol seemed to drift away. When she came back, her voice was eager. ‘Now I remember. Serena had a picture of him on her phone. She said he was a new boyfriend.’
Jackie cast her mind back to the landfill site. Frame by frame. No phone found, nor any personal effects. Just the body. Carol hadn’t mentioned a phone before. This investigation was one big cock-up; Tania Simpson would have a field day.
‘Do you have her phone?’
‘No. She always took it with her.’
‘What’s her number?’
Jackie punched it into her phone and called it. Dead.
Just like Serena.
Jackie thought a while. ‘You call her the night she didn’t come back home?’
Carol nodded. ‘Several times.’
Jackie was animated now. ‘Show me.’ Carol passed her phone over. Jackie clicked through the calls. She wrote the details down. Now she had times. Evidence of sorts.
And there were unanswered questions.
Marty Hemming was one of them: his private arrangement with the councillor; his alleged warning to the toms, Molly and Candice; his trip to a Bristol brothel; and now his alleged affair with Serena.
And his grope on her leg. Coincidence?
Jackie felt as disillusioned as a fresh shoot of grass that was forcing its new life through a pavement crack. Only to be trodden back down by a human boot. She picked her way over to the house next to Granma Willis’ shop. More upmarket than most; at least there was a fresh coat of magnolia paint on the outside walls. The door looked new too; heavy hardwood in a reinforced steel frame. She knocked on the door.
A shuffling from within. The door opened a crack, on a sturdy looking chain. She could make out his face.
She stood up close, and showed him her warrant card. ‘Just a piece of friendly advice, Gilbert.’ Keep your dirty paws off Carol Naringa, or else I’ll bust you for having sex with a minor.’
He didn’t seem troubled. Just sneered. ‘She’s sixteen soon.’ He slammed the door in her face.
Jackie clenched her fist. His card was marked.