‘I popped into the Albion late last night. Guess who I bumped into? Tania Simpson told me you had a girly chat. All about Operation Venus ... the serial killer, the link to both toms ... the works.’
So that was it.
‘Guv … I told her sod-all.’
Angers planted both hands on his desk, leant over, and spoke in single syllables. ‘Tell-me-Miss-Marple. How-did-she-get-this-information?’
Jackie matched him. Put both her hands on his desk, leant over, and spat out the words.
‘From her insider source ... and it wasn’t me.’
They both glared. Then Angers backed-off. He sat back down in his chair and waved Jackie to take a seat.
‘So she prints this, and we’re fucked?’
Jackie didn’t answer. Just nodded.
Angers opened a desk drawer and pulled out a chocolate bar. ‘I suppose you don’t know who is leaking this stuff?’
DCI Marty Hemming?
‘Not yet, guv.’
He unwrapped the bar and took a bite. Then it registered. ‘What does “not yet” mean?’
‘It means I need to pursue certain lines of enquiry, guv. Councillor Winterbotham is one. He told me he had an AIDS test at a private Bristol clinic that was negative. I want to check this out.’
‘For one thing, if it’s not true we could have our first VIP casualty ... and if that happens, and if Tania Simpson gets hold of it, she could initiate a public panic.’
He seemed to contemplate this, he sucked on the chocolate. ‘What do you need?’
‘A warrant to examine Clinic Expressway’s medical records.’
He didn’t exactly warm to the idea. ‘It could be sensitive. All I can promise, is I’ll have a quiet word in the DCS’s ear. Anything else?’
Jackie brought him up to date with Candice’s partner – the druggie in a coma. She would be trying to trace phone calls. A long-shot – but it could help to identify the killer.
Angers waved her away, as though he now had other things on his mind. ‘That’s no problem, get one of the DC’s on the job.’
Jackie felt her adrenalin surge. She got up and moved to the door. ‘Thanks, guv.’
Outside, Jackie wandered back into the MIR, and stared. DC James was at her desk writing something on a yellow sticky. He looked up pensively when she approached.
Before she could say anything, he said. ‘Just leaving a note about your hospital visit ... want me to tag along?’
And they talk about women changing their minds.
‘Bit of a turnaround?’
He looked sheepish. ‘I did some serious thinking. You were right. It is a legit line of enquiry. That is, from now on.’
A climb down?
Jackie smiled, and punched him on the arm. ‘Come on then, DC James. Chop-chop.’
Paul had a grin on his face. ‘There’s something else.’
Jackie raised an eyebrow. ‘Oh?’
‘“Sabbatical” are playing tonight.’
‘First round’s on me.’
‘Let’s see how it goes, first.’ She pointed to the pile of reports on her desk. ‘This is Angers dumping ground.’
He nodded. ‘Okay, just a thought.’
Jackie smiled. ‘It’s a good thought, but…’ She didn’t have to finish – more likely they’d be working double shifts on Operation Venus.
Thirty minutes later, they were looking at a hospital bed surrounded by an array of plastic tubes that connected an unconscious Charlie into bleeping monitors. Jackie tapped one.
‘This monitor is registering the existence of a life form. Pond-life would be my guess. I needn’t have bothered to buy any grapes.’ She picked a juicy-looking green one out of the paper bag and offered it to Paul. ‘Can’t let them go to waste.’
Paul grunted. ‘Let’s get it over with, for god’s sake.’
One nod from Jackie and the plod who was sitting outside the room shot off for a tea-break, while they did the necessary. All phone numbers were copied into a fresh page of Paul’s pocketbook, and then the cellphone was placed into Charlie’s locker.
‘Mission accomplished,’ said Jackie.
Paul let out a deep breath, and scanned through the numbers. He pointed to one. ‘I’ll put this one on top of our search ... the one we think is Candice’s.’
‘Right, well you know what to do. Also, call all of the numbers. Try and eliminate some. Maybe someone would be willing to talk ... even confirm Candice’s number.’ For the benefit of the plod who had returned from his tea-break, she hammered home good practice. ‘Make sure you write up a report ... all by the book.’
Paul frowned, his brow puckered. ‘And when the results come back?’
Jackie smiled. ‘If we hit the jackpot, it’ll go straight to Angers ... no messing.’
But maybe not…