DCS Adam Forsyth, as the Senior Investigating Officer, presided over “Operation Venus” at the initial meeting. The MIR was packed.
‘From now on,’ he intoned, ‘we will all follow standard procedure.’ He looked around the room, eyes briefly lingering on Jackie. ‘That means no unconventional methods to get a result.’ He banged his fist on the meeting-room table. ‘And we will get a result.’
Jackie had felt a little uncomfortable. Mike’s mobile phone was in her pocket. Many of the calls matched a number that Paul had found on Marty’s mobile. Mike was in hospital, in a coma. It would be touch and go according to the hospital bulletin and, even if he regained consciousness, he could have suffered brain damage. She half-listened to Adam Forsyth preaching good police practice. The sort that results in a huge backlog of unsolved cases and all drowned in a sea of paperwork and political correctness.
But she woke up when the DCS asked for any new information, and Marty put up his hand.
‘I’ve filed a statement following my interview yesterday with a known tom, Georgina Okoro, who had suffered a violent assault from an unknown punter calling himself Danny Boy. He could be a possible suspect.’
Jackie tensed-up. Danny Boy? What had Carol said? Serena had a punter named Danny Boy the night she was killed.
The DCS looked impressed. ‘That’s just the impetus this case needs. DCI Angers will make this a priority.’
Not that the DCI looked very happy about the extra caseload. Which means I could be on the streets again, thought Jackie. But she had to marvel at Marty’s luck. She would read his report straight after the meeting; even if she could link him to Candice, it would be water under the bridge, but not for her – she had to know what happened.
Then there was Councillor Winter-bollocks. He was another possible but unlikely suspect. Now that Angers was going to be up to his neck in comforting chocolate bars, she might persuade him to let her interview the tosser.
All in all, very frustrating.
Later, still in the MIR, Jackie felt sick as she read about the assault on Georgina and her daughter Jasmine. How anyone could rape an innocent child. Danny Boy was truly evil.
Would he have killed Serena?
She noted that Marty had arranged for Georgina and Jasmine to be examined at Bridleton hospital, just in case there was any DNA evidence. Also, there now was a regular police patrol along her street, which wouldn’t go down too well with her neighbours...
‘Jackie, got a minute?’ DCI Angers beckoned her to follow him into his office.
‘I just got the hospital report back on this Georgina tom.’ He chewed a toffee while he skimmed over the details; gave an abridged version. ‘She was beaten up; no DNA, but there’s an extensive list of damages to the face and upper body.’ He held up a finger, pointing to the relevant section. ‘But here’s the good news ... and bad news ... her daughter Jasmine. Her hymen is intact, no evidence of a forced entry into her anus ... she wasn’t raped.’ He slung the report on top of his pile. ‘You know what that means. Georgina wouldn’t be a reliable witness.’
Jackie groaned. The defence counsel, if it ever got to that, would place doubt on whether the attack had actually taken place, or could it have been just a lover’s tiff?
DCI Angers scrabbled around for another toffee. ‘Go and talk to this woman. Get a new statement. And while you’re at it, also get one from Councillor Winterbotham.’
Jackie glanced upwards, questioning. ‘You told me he was off-limits.’
Angers pointed to his desk, overflowing with mini-mountains of files and sweet wrappers. ‘Things have moved on. The DCS wants results, and I’m snowed under. But for God’s sake, don’t antagonise the man.’
Angers voice rose. ‘What?’
‘I mean, no guv.’
Angers waved a paw at her. ‘Chop-chop, then.’
Jackie felt a warm glow of satisfaction. Winter-bollocks would suffer.
By mid-morning, Jackie had updated her report on the Harmony estate operation. She decided to walk into town. It was cold but dry, and she needed the exercise. First stop, town-hall to book an appointment with Winter-bollocks.
‘Have to be this afternoon,’ his helpful PA said, returning Jackie’s ID card. ‘He’s at an important meeting at Bristol this morning, he’s back after lunch.’
Jackie took in the surroundings. The PA not appointed for her good looks, scuffed magnolia walls, grey metal cabinets, second-hand furniture, and a vase of wilting chrysanthemums on a sideboard. Dusty files were strewn everywhere; on tops of cabinets, on chairs, and in the overflowing in-tray on top of the desktop workstation. A smell of decay permeated everywhere.
The PA rummaged around the desk and found an appointments diary. She opened it, and ran a sore-looking finger down a page. Her nails were bitten to the quick.
‘Three o’clock suit you?’
After lunch. Three o’clock?
‘I can book you in for thirty minutes. Is that ok?’
Thirty minutes of interrogation and torture.
The PA smiled. She poked around her handbag; pulled out a Catherine Cookson paperback, and went back to work. ‘See you, then.’
Too right, you will.
Outside the town hall, Jackie breathed in cold, fresh air. She made her way down to the station. Railway Road ran alongside the track, and grimy-looking houses were backed up to the pavement. Number 17 stood out from the rest. It appeared cleaner, almost presentable. Jackie rang the door-bell. An upstairs window opened; a swollen black face with sticking plasters across the nose, peered out. It was definitely the right house.
‘What you want, sugah?’
Sugah. Ughh. Jackie extracted her warrant card and held it up. She kept her voice low. ‘Georgina, I need to talk to you about your hospital visit.’
The woman squinted at the card. One eye was closed; the other had a purple bruise around it. She seemed to have difficulty in focusing.
‘Who are you?’
‘It’ll be easier if you open the door.’
The woman hesitated, looked up and down the road, seemed to be considering it.
‘Wait there, sugah.’
Jackie waited. She heard the sounds of door bolts being pulled open and chains being removed. The door opened.
‘Quick, get inside.’
All very dramatic, or maybe Georgina was scared shitless. Jackie stepped inside and Georgina relocked the door, and pulled all the bolts shut. Fortress Okoro.
Georgina pointed. ‘Kitchen is along the corridor. Make yourself at home, sugah.’
Jackie waited until they were settled on chairs in the kitchen by the small dining table. She unzipped her jacket and removed her notebook, the hospital report, and Georgina’s statement; laid them all on the table in plain view. She gave Georgina her warrant card. ‘Mrs. Okoro ... I’m on official police business, but please call me Jackie if you prefer.’
Not sugah - please.
Mrs. Okoro blinked at the card. ‘OK sugah…Jackie ... I’m Georgina.’
Uphill, all the way.
Jackie got the “dreadful attack commiserations” and “hope you feel better soon” out of the way quickly, there were more important things to discuss.
She showed Georgina the signed statement. ‘This is yours, yes?’
Georgina took it, looked at it, and nodded.
‘You told the officer that your daughter had been raped. Is that correct?’
Georgina started to shake. ‘Yes. He hurt Jasmine.’
Jackie pointed to the hospital report, made sure her voice was quiet and non-threatening. ‘The hospital doctor said that there was no evidence of rape or violence.’
Jackie kept quiet. Eventually Georgina would break the silence. That was the accepted technique. But Georgina didn’t speak. She started to cradle herself and moan softly.
So much for the physco-babble.
Jackie gave up. ‘Georgina … do you want to tell me?’
Georgina started to sob out her story. ‘It was my fault ... I should never have let him anywhere near her. But he scared me ... told me he’d hurt her if I didn’t do what he wanted.’
‘So what happened?’
‘He told me to stay put while he went to give Jasmine a present from Uncle Danny Boy. He told me they had fun.’
Jackie felt sick. She could guess what happened.
Georgina lowered her gaze. ‘When he left, I had to clean his mess off my baby.’ She then blinked, and looked up. ‘That’s as good as rape, isn’t it Jackie?’
Yes, but not medically.
Jackie nodded in agreement. ‘I would feel the same.’
One more thing she had to mention. ‘Georgina, since the attack, have you been tested for any sexual disease?’
Georgina smiled, cupped the silver crucifix around her neck. ‘Christ will look after me, sugah ...’
Jackie sighed, but didn’t say anything. Clearly, Georgina had more faith in the almighty than humanity. She had tried; couldn’t force a test, not yet anyway. So it was back to business. She got Georgina to sign an amended statement; reassured her that the police patrols would keep an eye on her, and made her promise to call immediately if Danny Boy came back.
Jackie had time to snatch a tuna salad sandwich and orange juice from a nearby deli. The interview with Georgina had affected her more than it should have. And her disgust over the twisted mind of Danny Boy meant that her meeting with Winter-bollocks could be volatile. She knew if he made one sexual innuendo, she would blow.
She sighed. Sipped her orange juice, yawned, and tried to relax.
Be professional. Remain objective.
When Jackie was escorted into his office by the friendly PA, Dixon - call me Dixon, in an attempt to portray a friendly asshole – seemed to be wrapped-up in his own cocoon of misery. He had also lost weight, but when he saw her, he switched on a politician’s smile, assuming a posture of attentiveness.
His office was a lot smarter than his PA’s pit, and tidier. No files overflowing his in-tray; just a pile in his out-tray, probably to show how competent he had been in spending tax-payers money.
He relaxed in his IKEA executive armchair, stocking feet up on the mahogany desk, and rubbed his smarmy hands together. ‘How can I help you, Jackie?’
So it was first names, now.
He raised an eyebrow almost theatrically. ‘Who?’
Jackie tried not to spit out the words. ‘The coloured prostitute who was murdered. She used to ply her trade around the town hall car-park at night.’
He vaguely waved a lazy arm in her direction. ‘What’s this got to do with me?’
Jackie wished she could jump out of her chair, lean across the table, and drag a confession out of the asshole. ‘Dixon … we both know what happened there, the night I arrested you, or do I need to remind you?’
His neck took on a reddish tinge. ‘Well it was foolish and immature; most unlike me to accost a lady. Anyway, it’s immaterial, I never saw her there.’
Which was probably half-true?
Jackie persisted. ‘So you’re telling me that you never met Serena Naringa and never had sex with her?’
He acted like a politician by avoiding a direct answer. ‘Why do you want to know?’
Jackie felt her fists clench. She took a deep breath and forced herself to keep calm. ‘We need to eliminate you from our enquiries.’
He shrugged. ‘That’s easy. I don’t know her.’
Jackie made a point to open her notebook at the relevant page and read out the slightly abridged statement from Gilbert. “Yes, I’ve seen this fucker. He used to hang around Serena.” Jackie put the book down. ‘In other words, Dixon, you have been fingered by a Harmony estate resident.’
Winter-bollocks slid his feet off the table. ‘It’s all lies.’
‘Is it?’ Jackie extracted the police photo and showed it to him. ‘This is the picture we showed our witness. It is you. Right?’
Dixon blinked. Shot her a menacing stare. ‘You’ve got no right…’
Jackie banged her fist on the table. ‘I’ve got every right. This is a murder enquiry, not a naughty “slap and tickle”.’
Dixon recovered his composure and put on his politician’s smile again. ‘Jackie, it’s a big mistake. It’s my job to hear the concerns of my constituents. Maybe your witness got the wrong idea.’
Jackie let that one slide. It wouldn’t hold up in court. The defence counsel would be able to demonstrate that Councillor Winterbotham was a fine upstanding representative, etcetera, etcetera.
Jackie consulted her notes again. An approximate time of Serena’s death had been established. ‘Where were you on the night of the fifteenth of November?’
Dixon opened a drawer and took out a diary. He consulted it, and smiled. ‘My wife and I were fund-raising at Marling school. All evening, then we went to the pub with the headmaster.’
Sod it. If it checked out, there would be no reason to treat him as a suspect.
Jackie tried again. ‘Our lab tests show that Serena had HIV.’
‘Is that right? What’s it to do with me?’
‘Off the record, councillor, it’s a highly infectious strain.’
He leaned forwards, seemed interested. ‘And?’
‘If it gets passed on, it might trigger an epidemic in Bridleton.’
He seemed to consider this. He arched his fingers together against his face. ‘I see.’
Jackie glared at him. ‘Councillor, as I said before, it’s imperative that we eliminate everyone that had an association with Serena, however unlikely it might be. Do I have your support on this?’
He nodded. ‘I can see your point. But what do you want from me?’
DNA would be a start, but that would mean lawyers and red-tape.
‘Dixon ... stop beating around the bush. I know, and you know, the score. All I’m saying is ... it could be prudent for you to take a test.’
Dixon lowered his voice. ‘Is this still off the record?’
‘Yes, I had a HIV test. Negative.’
Negative? Not what his body language said.
‘When was that, sir? ... I mean Dixon.’
‘Two weeks ago. At Clinic Expressway, Bristol.’
Jackie stood up, better to let DCI Angers take over. ‘That’s all my questions for now. Thank you for sparing me the time, sir.’
All she needed was a warrant to access Clinic Expressway’s medical records.
Could she persuade the DCI?