She put her zero-fat yoghourt, apple, and diet coke on his table. ‘Can I join you, guv?’
He nodded, cut a lump off a plump sausage, and grimaced at her snack. ‘Is it Lent already?’
Not for him anyway. He had really gone overboard; he must have ordered a double helping of the all-day breakfast, but it smelt good.
‘No time, guv.’ Untrue. Excessive alcohol the last few days had reached the parts that worried her; bloated stomach was one. ‘Have to be out and about this afternoon searching for Danny Boy.’
He waved a greasy fork. ‘It’s important to keep up your strength. Give the kidneys a work-out.’
She lifted an eyebrow, while peeling off the foil on her yoghourt. ‘Why’s that guv?’
He leaned close. ‘My kid sister ... well she’s sick, may need a new kidney.’ He looked a little guiltily at his plate, before forking a fried egg in his cavern. ‘I’m making sure mine are okay.’
Not like that, though.
Jackie felt a déjà vu moment coming on. ‘I’m sorry to hear that, guv.’
He shook his head. ‘I’m sure it won’t come to that. Anyway, that’s enough of my worries ... anything you want from me?’
He’s on the ball, today.
‘Well guv, it’s delicate ...’ she ate her snack and gave him a brief update while he munched his way through his mountain. ‘Charlie ... the addict. The bottom line is that we traced Candice’s number through his phone’s transcript records and, when we checked it out, it showed Candice calling Marty’s number several times.
He stopped eating. Turned grey. ‘What?’
‘Marty Hemming’s number was on Candice’s phone.’
He shook his head – could have been disbelief. ‘Have you written it up?’
She nodded. ‘Everything, guv.’
‘And this Charlie’s phone?’
Now for the bollocking.
‘It wasn’t evidence at the time, guv. And since this Charlie’s death this morning, it’s gone missing.’
He didn’t say anything, just stared at his empty plate. She didn’t know whether to apologise or sweat it out. After what seemed like a lifetime, he broke the silence.
‘It may be nothing, or it may be crucial. But either way I need to inform the DCS and Personnel.’ He stared at her. Only his lips moved. ‘Jackie ... please tell me you followed proper procedures ... there’s no hidden agenda, no unconventional methods, nothing that could backfire on you?’
He was sharp. And Paul’s 1-1 was definitely a priority now.
‘The tracking process has been legit, guv.’ Don’t gulp, girl. Keep it together. ‘PC Tony Allen was present when DC James and I recorded the phone numbers at Charlie’s bedside.’
He rubbed his stomach and relaxed He seemed satisfied. ‘Pity about the phone; but you weren’t to know.’
They went back to the MIR and Jackie handed over the file. Also, DI Hemming’s statement at Candice’s crime scene. Angers looked a little saddened; she watched him trudge slowly out of the door, his shoulders bent as though he had a lot on his mind.
She called Paul: he was still at the hospital filling in a lost property form; all other avenues had been eliminated, nobody had found the phone. She told him to stay there, she was on her way.
When she arrived, she found him waiting by reception and suggested they request a private room somewhere. Paul frowned, but Jackie told him not to worry. After a ten minute walk around, one of the porters found a small unattended rest-room on the ground floor, near the neurology unit. She settled into the leather couch and plumped up a cushion; he sat stiffly in a matching armchair.
She came straight to the point. ‘I told the DCI about the phone records implicating Marty. He asked if we followed proper procedures ... there was no hidden agenda, no unconventional methods, nothing that could backfire on us.’ She could see Paul tensing up as if every word was stabbing him in the heart. ‘I told him it was legit, that PC Tony Allen was present when you and I recorded the phone numbers at Charlie’s bedside.’ She paused while he took it in. ‘Do you have any problems with that?’
He screwed up his face, scratched his head, and flicked a lock of hair out of his right eye as though having conflicting thoughts; almost an internal struggle. Then he lounged back in his armchair, seemingly coming to terms with himself.
His voice was firm, as was his stare. ‘Why should I have a problem? As you said Sarge, it was all legit.’
Did I hear right? Better check.
‘Yes Sarge. I want it on record that this investigation was carried out by me with your permission; that I am fully accountable for the outcome ... however unpleasant it might be.’
Bloody hell. Where did that come from? Now only his mother to kick into touch.
She nodded. ‘Consider it done ... thanks.’
He wasn’t finished. ‘And another thing, the phone was my responsibility. I screwed up.’
She shook her head and waved a hand at him, as if it wasn’t important. ‘The DCI is okay with that; he said we weren’t to know.’
He smiled then chuckled. ‘I’m off the hook then?’
She threw her cushion at him. ‘And if we’re talking about other things ... why didn’t your mother like my outfit, or is it me?’
‘She says you’re too old for me.’
Jackie leant back and smiled. ‘And what do you think?’
‘I can make up my own mind who I want to be with ... I don’t see an age gap, I’m cool.’
Hold on, cowboy.
‘Yeah ... well ... I’m cool too, but now isn’t the time to go there. Operation Venus first, okay?’
Paul could see she was taken aback by his new-found assertiveness. And he felt good about it; he owed Tony a drink or two. He had a difficult five minutes at first, but if DI Hemming was corrupt or withholding evidence for whatever reason it was only right that they blew the whistle. And Jackie was quite right. The actual collating of the phone calls was legit, and he had accepted his involvement. If that’s what it took to be a mature professional, then he’d better carry on acting like one.
If he could get his shaky relationship back on course, his mother would be given short shrift; he would move out and find a flat.
Everything was going to be all right.