The major obstacle to their progress was the lack of a suspect; no witnesses to the crimes, nothing tangible to follow-up, apart from Danny Boy and his assault on Georgina. The DCS had made it clear, while it was one immediate line of enquiry it was not the only one. He spouted words of wisdom.
‘Violence is abhorrent, but we all know it is an everyday occurrence: wives, husbands, lovers and children can all suffer at the hand of a perpetrator.’ He paused for effect, lowered his voice. ‘But allegedly, in this case violence was committed against a tom.’ He waved a hand in the general direction of DI Hemming. ‘Marty, work with Orson on this one. Let’s eliminate this line of enquiry as quickly as possible.’ He shot them both a glance. ‘Prioritise this today.’
She received the short straw from Angers. Reilly would be working with DI Hemming to produce a photo-fit, and then she would be leading a team in door-to-door enquiries.
Sod it. More walking the streets. And snow was forecast.
She made up her mind. No circuit training; no running, not even a light jog that night. It would be listening to Sabbatical at the Blacksmith’s Arms with DC James. She called him at his home, hoping it was game on.
He sounded surprised, but also pleased. ‘Er ... sure. Want me to pick you up?’
‘Okay, say nine?’
‘Hang on a minute, mother’s waving at me.’
She could hear raised voices in the background, sounded like a domestic. Then he came back.
‘Er ... I’ll have to meet you there, mother’s going someplace with Daisy.’
‘Er ... tell you later.’
She sighed. ‘Okay Paul, see you there.’ She would be jogging after all. Forget the heavy metal gear – just a tracksuit and trainers, and no make-up – very sexy, ha ha.
Five minutes later as she was packing up, he called her back. ‘Mother said she’d drop us off. If it’s all right, we’ll try and cadge a lift back.’
She punched the air. ‘Sounds good. See you soon.’
Sabbatical, here I come.
Despite the disapproving looks and a couple of barbed comments from Paul’s mother and Daisy, Jackie felt buoyant. She’d changed into a simple outfit in case the lift back didn’t materialise: a Primal Wear jersey with the Iron Maiden logo, black jeans, combat boots, and a studded leather jacket.
Par for the course, really.
And Paul was wearing great gear too under his greatcoat; biker’s boots, a wide sleeved, buttonless shirt, and tight black trousers with a bullet belt, which was a real turn-on for her.
Everything was going to turn out right.
When they arrived at the pub, a light flurry of snow was falling; dusting vehicles and motor bikes with a soft white layer. They quickly ducked inside and Paul kept to his promise of getting the first round in, while she made her way to where Sabbatical was playing. The room, which often accommodated wedding receptions, could hold around sixty or so comfortably. It was filling up; predominately bikers and some middle aged-men in leather gear – although she could make out several clusters of youngsters swigging lagers, stamping their feet, and shaking their heads to the music.
Sabbatical were playing at the far end, on a raised platform full of loudspeakers, electronic gear, flashing headlights, and guitar wires. They were raucous, rough, and ready; the lead singer – wearing a camouflaged combat jacket and khaki jeans - had a strident, rasping voice, and the similarly attired band was brain-numbingly loud.
She found a couple of spare seats at a shared table and listened to a crucifixion of a couple of numbers - Paranoid, followed by Raining Blood.
Loud, head banging stuff – great.
Paul cautiously edged in through the door with a drinks tray; found her, and dumped four pints and four shots of tequila, plus a couple of packets of crisps, on the table. He slung his coat over the back of his chair, bent close, and yelled in her ear. ‘It’s manic out there. Polly’s off sick; and the temp doesn’t have a clue.’
Jackie shrugged with the injustice of it all, made a thumbs-up motion at the drinks, and picked up her pint. ‘To crime.’
Paul smiled, and engaged his pint. ‘And punishment.’
And they punished a few during the following hour.
‘We’ll round off our last session, starting with Angel of Death,’ announced the lead singer after the break, ‘but no Stargazer, tonight.’ He laughed and pointed at the window. ‘Snow’s heavy outside.’
A few bikers got up, looked out the window, shook their heads, and then left the room. Jackie looked at Paul. ‘What do you think?’
‘I’ll go and see. Call mother, find out what’s happening.’
Jackie reached into her pocket, and pulled out a tenner. ‘Get another round in while you’re at it.’
She moved over to the window; the car-park was partly illuminated by the pub lights, but it was difficult to see through the falling snow. She could just make out a few bikers, with frosted goggles, pushing their Harleys around drifting snow mounds. It looked bleak.
And it got worse.According to Chris the pub grounds and lane leading up to the by-pass was impassable. The wind had drifted the snow their way.
One snowflake and the country grinds to a halt.
‘Mother’s staying at Daisy’s,’ said Paul, when he returned with the drinks. ‘And we’re snowed in, until the ploughs get here. Chris has a few spades if anyone wants to clear a path.’
‘Sod that. I’m not trudging through a foot of slush and ice tonight. You say he’s got a couple of guest rooms ...’ she stopped when Paul shook his head.
‘The band’s booked them.’
‘So it’s either digging our way out of this shit-hole, or we get to share the night with about twenty bikers. Marvellous.’
Paul picked up his tequila, and downed it. ‘Look on the bright side. The shit-hole’s a pub.’
Jackie got up and picked up her drink. ‘Come on. Let’s at least go and sit in the lounge bar by the log-fire.’
Good idea, but shared by thirty others – and they were last in line. So it was a wooden bench by the spluttering gas fire in the public bar.
Jackie was woken from her tequila hangover by the sound of heavy machinery. She glanced at her watch. The illuminated dial showed four-thirty five. It was still dark but there was plenty of activity outside. She got up and looked out the window. Clear starry sky; two snow ploughs clearing a driveway, a few 4X4’s leaving – and Chris was running a mini-bus service for the stragglers.
She nudged Paul awake. ‘Time to go, sleepy-head.’
He groaned and rubbed his head. His face had a yellow tinge. ‘I’m sick.’
She didn’t feel so good either – and there was an early meeting planned. ‘We can cadge a lift into town on the minibus.’
He frowned. ‘Minibus?’
‘Chris has one outside.’
He slumped back in his seat. ‘I’m out of it.’
She would have snarled had she felt up to it. As it was, she resigned herself to the inevitable. ‘Okay, you sit it out here until your mother rescues you.’
She left him to it.
Nothing had gone right.
Paul called in sick, and spent the rest of the day moping about the house. His mother had been a right pain, had told him that Jackie was a bit too old for him –“mutton dressed like a lamb”, she’d said.
That was one of his worries. The bloody weather, plus his over-indulgence had cost him a long-overdue love-session. He couldn’t blame Jackie for stomping off – he’d been a right jerk.
It was back to square one again. If ... and there were a lot of ifs ... the weather improved; if work shifts on Operation Venus didn’t interfere; and if Jackie was up for it, there would be another live band the following week.
Was it worth all the hassle?