They reconvened in the “Tomb.”
Jackie saw the wet stains under his armpits. ‘Got the adrenalin going, then? Shit scared were you, detective?’
If looks could kill, she would have been dead. He pumped out his chest. ‘Pocketphone. Piece of piss, actually.’
Jackie grinned. ‘Yeah, right.’
‘Look, do you want the good news or bad news?’
Jackie sighed. ‘I’m not into guessing games, that’s for kids. Just fucking tell me what you got.’
Paul glared at her. ‘I’ve listed the calls received.’ He looked at the ink marks on his wrist and recited the numbers. ‘Now what?’
Jackie jotted the numbers down. ‘We go the transcript route. There would be a record of all calls made on these numbers. Someone must be missing Candice. If one of these is her number and if it’s confirmed by her partner, family, or whoever, we can open up with a clear conscience.’
He sighed. ‘And I suppose I’m the chosen one to contact the network company.’
Jackie reached out a hand and gently stroked his arm. He didn’t move away. She looked into his dark brown eyes; deep sexy pools.
‘And then the Blacksmith Arms. I fancy a heavy session.’
‘It’s “Manic Depression” tonight, replied Paul. ‘One of your favourites.’
Later, Jackie was called into DCI Angers’ office. He was chewing on a long liquorice stick, a concerned look on his face. Angers passed over Helga’s report.
‘Gilbert’s positive. Resistance mutation strain.’
Fucking A One.
‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ she said, with her poker face. ‘Has he been told?’
Angers stared at her, as if trying to make up his mind whether she was serious. But he gave up, and shrugged.
He made a face, like he had piles scratching up his backside. ‘You’re a qualified first-aider, you can have that pleasure. Find out who he’s shagged. Discretely, that is. Then we’ll haul them in.’
Jackie’s voice rose. ‘Discretely, guv? Gilbert might be just the tip of a bloody great Titanic tragedy.’
Angers ripped off another piece of liquorice and stuffed it in his mouth. He finally made room for the words. ‘DS Steel. Just do your job. Leave the politics to me.’
Outside, Jackie fumed. Her mood wasn’t improved when Gilbert came swearing and cursing his way down the corridor and into the interview room.
‘Now fucking what?’ he said, as he slumped in a chair.
Jackie sat down opposite him; her pocketbook and report on the table next to a canteen tray with a water jug and glasses on it. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of stale sweat. ‘Gilbert, you made a will yet?’
‘Eh? What’s that supposed to mean?’
She gave him Helga’s report. ‘Hot off the press.’
He grimaced at it, scratched his head, and then scratched his protruding belly. ‘I don’t understand. What do all these bleeding figures mean?’
Jackie brushed away a little black thing that crawled across the table. ‘In a nutshell, you’ve fucked-up big time. You’re AIDS positive.’
Gilbert aged ten years. His face went chalky-white; his body seemed to heave, and he started gasping like a fish out of water. Jackie could sense a panic attack in the making.
Bring it on, you fat, old pervert. Choke to death. I couldn’t give a toss.
‘Are you all right, Gilbert?’
Gilbert sputtered; beads of sweat formed on his brow. He wiped them with the back of a dirt-engrained hand. ‘Does it look as if I’m all right?’
Jackie didn’t answer; she doodled on her pocketbook while Gilbert made up his mind whether he was going to die or not.
Yes, guv. Of course I tried to resuscitate him. Laid his body in the recovery position.
Gilbert didn’t die. He didn’t fall off his chair. He didn’t have a panic attack, not even a mild one. He just started to whimper; head resting on the table, like he was feeling sorry for himself. Which he probably was.
Jackie poured a glass of water from the jug into a glass, and sipped it.
‘I need names, Gilbert.’
He raised his head off the table, and stared at her with bleary eyes. His voice sounded like gravel being crushed underfoot.
‘What you talking about?’
‘Names of women that you’ve shagged recently. Apart from Molly Butler.’
‘I never touched her.’
Jackie pointed at Helga’s report. ‘Not what this says. Your AIDS infection is ... unusual. It’s an exact match to hers.’
‘Fucking bitch. If she’s done this to me.’ He tailed off, probably remembering she was in the morgue. His eyes glistened, as if a light had come on. ‘Unusual … what you mean?’
‘It means as soon as you give me the names, you can piss off and get treatment from the hospital VD unit.’
‘Just like that?’
‘Just like that. Now stop fucking me around. Spill. How many are we talking about?’
Gilbert shifted on his seat and avoided eye contact. Words filtered slowly out of his mouth. ‘One or two.’
Jackie followed DCI Anger’s example, and whacked her fist on the table. ‘How many?’
Gilbert jumped in his seat. ‘A few.’
Jackie lost patience. She stood up and towered over him. Spittle rained on him.
‘Earth to Gilbert. I-want-names. Cough them up.’
Perhaps it was Jackie’s compassionate approach, but Gilbert came up with a definite three and four maybe’s.
‘Well, it wasn’t full on.’
Jackie gritted her teeth. ‘What was it, then?’
‘More or less everything else, but I didn’t do it ... you know ... inside them.’
Jackie closed her eyes; clenched her fists and counted to ten - then to twenty. She unclenched her fists, opened her eyes and focused on him.
‘I’m going to say this once. You collect rent, full stop. Try it on with any of these women again, I’ll fucking bury you.’
That’s if AIDS doesn’t do it for me.
Gilbert snarled like a hungry caged up animal. ‘I don’t need any reminding. Get off my back.’
Jackie felt her pulse slow. Then she had a thought. ‘Wait here. I want to show you some pictures. Help yourself to Bridleton spa water. It’s good for your health.’
Jackie came back five minutes later. Gilbert was tiddly-winking with his fingers; flicking black things off the table into a wastebasket.
She grimaced, but slid the photos over and avoiding any physical contact. He shuffled through them, and then looked up.
He passed two back. ‘Yeah, I’ve seen these fuckers hanging around Carol’s sister. Serena was popular.’
DI Marty Hemming and Councillor Dixon Winter-bollocks.