‘Morning run, guv.’ Jackie shifted uncomfortably on her seat in his office. She could see DCI Angers steaming up again. Fat pig could do with a workout.
‘I don’t have to remind you, you’re a copper, not a bloody Olympic tri-athlete. This is Bridleton police station, you work here, and you’re late. Again.’
‘I mean, yes guv.’ No point in elaborating. Just sit there and wait for the storm to pass.
‘We are supposed to be team players.’
Like fuck he was. Never shifted his ass to help, but quite happy to take the credit, if they got lucky and put someone away. She watched as he pulled open his desk drawer, bulging eyes staring hungrily at his lunch-box. Tempting him.
Go on, then. Stuff yourself to an early grave.
He quivered, and looked at his watch. ‘Homicide debrief in five minutes. And I want that “missing girl” report on my desk before that.’ He waved a podgy finger at her. ‘Come on then, chop-chop.’
The debriefing in the main incident room was just that. Brief. The new mantra adopted by DCI Angers. He called it efficiency. Jackie called it dumping even more work onto her.
He consulted a piece of paper. ‘Patrol report just in. A body found at the landfill site. Naked woman. Mixed race.’ She watched as DCI Angers peered around the room looking for his victims. His gaze rested on her. ‘DS Steel, all those garbage mountains are just up your street. Go and investigate, and take DC ‘what’s his bloody name’ with you.
‘DC Iftigar, guv.’ Jackie prompted. ‘Mohammed.’
Angers was being polite with the Chief Superintendent there. He normally referred to the constable as Shifty-Mifty. ‘Yes that’s who I meant. Don’t want us to be accused of racial prejudice. Well don’t hang about, we haven’t got all day.’
With that, the debrief ended. She felt a nudge. DC James laughing. ‘Don’t women dress up to empty the garbage?’ he whispered.
Jackie was game. DC James was a bit of all right. For a cop. Fit young body too. She put on a theatrical voice, ‘Maybe this one had nothing to wear.’
‘Mifty, I hope looking at a naked woman isn’t against your religion?’ Jackie peered up from reading the women’s health magazine. She ripped off a sheet and stuffed it into her waterproof. “Ten easy steps to beat stress”. Just the job.
Mifty didn’t look amused. ‘No offence Ma’am, but I’m an English Muslim. Born and bred in Bridleton, remember.’ He turned his gaze from the victim’s breasts. I’m not a ‘Paki from Karachi’. We have catholic tastes.’
Jackie laughed. ‘I can still wind you up, though.’ She shifted her attention back to the body; it smelt putrefying and was attracting the flies. ‘Okay, you stay there on guard, and make sure she doesn’t move while I do all the work and call in the ghouls.’ She saw him brace himself against the swirling rubbish. Thin as a matchstick, with bulging eyes everywhere. She took pity on him. ‘You want a cuppa, if I can find one?’
He blew into his hands. ‘Milk and two sugars ... and a biscuit.’
‘Look I’m not your bloody mother; you’ll get what comes up, okay?’ She didn’t wait for a reply; it was friggin’ cold out there. Thank God for winter woollies.
Half an hour later, Jackie returned. ‘Didn’t the Doctor bring you one then?’ She stopped outside the cordon. The ghouls were there, playing at being medical examiners, filling little bottles and scribbling with chalk.
‘No Ma’am. Certified she was dead, and then headed back.’ His breath was steaming. Or was it a sneaky fag she could smell?
‘Okay, Mifty take a break. They got the canteen up and running now. Oh, when you finish filling your face with Danish pastries, you can talk to these people.’ Jackie wiped some stray crumbs from her face and gave him the Responding Officer’s report. She put on her best DCI Angers impression. ‘Chop-chop, we haven’t got all day.’
She watched him trot off, and then called out to the head ghoul. ‘Can I join the séance party?’
She saw Professor Archibald Deacon pulling a face, peering through horn-rimmed glasses at the obtrusion to his world. ‘How nice to see you again, Jackie. What is it? Third time this month?’
Thank God it was him under the white suit that matched the white hair and wispy beard. For pathologists, Archie wasn’t a bad sort. A bit old-fashioned perhaps, but they were on friendly terms. ‘Keeps me out of mischief and you in a job.’
‘Kit yourself up, then. All freshly laundered.’ He pulled at his white sleeve to show her. ‘Non-biological Scurf removes nasty human excretions quicker than any other washing powder.’ He pointed to the tent. ‘You know the ropes.’
Jackie did. Practice makes perfect. She followed Archie around, watched him hum and ha all knowledgeably as he carried out a quick biopsy. ‘Well?’ she asked.
Archie wasn’t going to be hurried. He bent over the body and started to scrape. ‘All in good time, my dear. Forensic science is an art.’ He picked off a maggot and examined it. ‘But I can tell you one thing. She wasn’t murdered here and ...’ he stopped, rephrased it. ‘Stating the obvious maybe, but if you want peace and quiet, this place is ideal.’
Jackie swatted off a fly. ‘God, it stinks to high heaven. Can we bag her up then, before the whole place is swarming with these buggers?’
‘And that’s another thing. Putrefaction is just setting in. See these maggots?’ He plucked another fat juicy one out of the wriggling pile and showed it to her. ‘They’re living in luxury. You want date of death? About four or five days is my best guess.’
Back in the land-site’s works canteen, Jackie cradled her empty cup, hoping for the promised refill to warm her up. She looked at her notes, and then at the man. About forty, wiry sort, crooked nose, nicotine-stained fingers. ‘Okay, Mr. Mason, I understand you started your morning shift at 6:00, and went about your normal duties. That is, dumping mountains of stinking shit into a black hole. Then we come to the boring bit. At approximately 6:45, or three fags later, your JCB stumbles across a large package, wrapped in a blanket. Eight stone wrapped, was your estimate. Take it from there.’
The JCB driver sniffed, fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled fag packet. ‘You mind?’
‘Yes, as a matter of fact I do. And I’m still waiting for my second cuppa.’
He put the packet on the table and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. ‘I’ll go and chivvy them up.’
She shook her head. ‘No don’t bother, or we’ll be here till Christmas. I’m all ears. What happened next?’
He shrugged. ‘Nothing really. The blanket got ripped on one of my blades, and the body fell out.’
‘And, well, it’s not like you see a dead body every day of the week.’
His eyes bulged. ‘No it bloody well isn’t.’
Jackie tapped the table with her pen. ‘So what did you do?’
‘What do you think I did?’
‘Had another fag, I suppose?’
‘No I bloody didn’t.’ he coughed. One of those racking wheezes. ‘At least not until I got out of the cabin to make sure.’
‘Mr. Mason. It’s like pulling teeth. Just get on with it.’
‘Look here Miss; I’m a witness, not a bloody suspect.’
‘Is that so?’
‘Yes, it bloody well is.’
‘Well let me be the judge of that, Mr. Mason. First of all I’m Detective Sergeant Steel, not Miss Muppet, and more importantly, how do I know you didn’t dump her? Until I’m satisfied, you’re in the frame, you hear me?’
He shuddered. Went white with shock. Fingers clutching his fag packet. ‘Err ... er ... I had nothing to do with it.’
‘For the last time, will you just get on with it? You got out of your nice warm centrally-heated cabin into the cold dawn. Must have been a shock.’
Mason was glaring at her. ‘I climbed down, and took a look. It was a young girl. Half-caste, probably.’
‘Thank the Lord for that. Seems like we’re talking about the same body. And then?’
He shuddered. ‘I wasn’t going to touch her.’
Jackie grinned, winking at Mason. ‘Really? Exotic girl lying there. You sure?’
Mason slammed a fist on the table. ‘Yes, I’m bloody well sure. Had a bloody great hole in her stomach, and the smell made me feel bloody sick.’
Jackie felt like pushing the boundaries, but Mason didn’t fit a killer’s profile. ‘Okay, Mr. Mason, calm down. I’m just trying to establish the facts.’
‘Yeah well you got a funny way of doing it, that’s all I can say.’
Jackie glanced at the door, hoping. ‘Maybe you’d feel better with a hot cuppa inside you.’
He looked longingly at his fag packet, picked it up, and got to his feet. ‘You hang on there, Miss ... I mean Detective ... let me bring you one right away.’
She let him go. Get pumped up on nicotine. Unfair really. She’d wrap it up after her tea-break. Get Mifty to look at the security tapes and to carry out the background interviews.
Later, back at the nick, DCI Angers was on the warpath. ‘We had a complaint. Seems like a Mr. Mason was not too happy with your interview technique, to put it mildly.’ He pointed a chubby finger at the report. ‘Slander, accusations, taking the piss, necrophilia … necrophilia? What the hell did you say?’
‘Did you touch the body?’
Angers humphed. ‘It says here that was preceded with “nudge nudge, wink, wink” sergeant.’
‘Straight from Hendon manual, guv. Suspect should be taken out of his/her comfort zone.’
He focused his piggy eyes on her. ‘Don’t smart-ass me, Sergeant. I bloody well wrote it for them, while on secondment.’
Secondment, like fuck. Suspended, she’d heard. “For treating a suspect in a manner not conducive to the suspect’s well-being,” or in DC James’ interpretation, “kicking the shit out a black coon.” The DCS thought the manual would be good therapy. Get ‘Anger’ out of his system. ‘Yes guv.’
‘What?’ Steam coming out of his hairy ears.
‘I mean, no guv.’
‘You are a homicide detective, not a music-hall act. Procedures are there to be followed. We do not want to antagonise the public. Is that clear?’
‘Well don’t just sit there. Go down to the ops room and see if this homicide is linked to the other three this month.’ He chucked the file back and then started rummaging in his desk drawer. Pulled out the pack of honey and raisin flapjacks. ‘Or do you need me to hold your hand?’
She watched DCI Angers staring at her, while ripping the wrapper from a bar. Getting his oats. ‘I mean, no guv.’