And she would visit Georgina again; see if PM was known to her by name, or even where he worked. Georgina serviced her clientele by word of mouth; there had to be a contact number, surely?
It was still snowing outside; flurries of white blanking out the grey police buildings. She decided to have a hot lunch in the canteen before braving the elements; turkey roast was on that day’s menu. It would be a celebratory treat after her diet regime. She headed towards the canteen with high expectations. Just in time for last lunch orders.
‘Sorry, love. Turkey’s finished,’ said the cook. ‘Chicken breast, okay?’
‘With all the trimmings?’
‘Well the roasters and parsnips are a bit tough, and the stuffing’s over and done with.’ The cook raised an eyebrow. ‘Boiled ‘taters, sprouts and carrots do you?’
Oh no. Another healthy meal.
Thank heaven for small mercies.
‘Lashings of it then. I’m bloody starving.’
‘You sit down love. I’ll bring it over.’
Jackie had a choice of empty tables. She chose the closest where she could smell the Bisto aroma, and sat down; her head still brimming with optimism.
Which was as far as she got before the Pillock ruined it. He seemed in a hurry to be elsewhere. He kept looking at his watch as he approached, and he didn’t waste time on pleasantries.
‘I’ve arrested a man. Gilbert Pratt. He says that you know him?’
A bilious feeling started to gnaw at her gut. ‘What’s he done?’
Not Carol, please.
He leered. ‘How about three murders.’
Jackie’s jaw dropped, her mouth opened. ‘What?’
‘DCS Forsyth wants results; I want results. Pratt is in the frame ... he’s a known sex offender ... pervert, according to your report, remember?’ He glanced at his watch for the fourth time, and pointed down the corridor. ‘Up to the large interview room, now. I want you sitting in, and filling in the background, just in case Pratt’s brief starts playing up.’
‘I haven’t had ...’ she knew it was hopeless, by the frown on his face. So was arguing with him. She got up and motioned to the cook to hold her meal, and grabbed a Diet Coke and a Kit-Kat instead. ‘I’ll be right with you.’
Deep breath, girl. The Pillock ain’t worth it - he’d find out about Pratt soon enough.
She snapped off a piece of chocolate; wished it was the Pillock’s head instead. Pratt and Pillock; the double act she hated the most. Just her frigging luck; she knew it would all end in tears.
But it began with tears. Gilbert was a pitiful spectre; his bulbous, watery eyes staring at the barred window as he constantly scratched himself.
‘I ain’t a well man,’ he said, picking at a scab on his face, and sniffing. ‘My liver’s fucked.’
His grubby clothes hung loosely, his greasy hair was limp. He had reached the bottom of the pit.
Not that Hillock seemed to care. Nor for the matter did the brief - an old-timer plucked from legal aid - who seemed more interested in not catching a critical illness from his client. Hillock ignored the complaints. He switched on the tape, and cautioned Gilbert. Then the interrogation began.
‘Just admit it, Gilbert ... and then we can all have an early night.’
Gilbert shook his head. ‘Fuck off, I’ve done nothing wrong.’
The brief interrupted. ‘My client is willing to fully cooperate with your enquiries. He has already intimated he had no part in any of the murdered prostitutes.’
Hillock motioned to Jackie. ‘DS Steel, please remind Mr. Pratt of his association with Serena Naringa.’
Jackie took a deep breath. ‘Gilbert, you extorted sex in return for rent arrears ... and then you caught AIDS from her. You had a positive blood test, remember?’
Gilbert coughed up some phlegm, which he wiped on his sleeve. ‘Doesn’t mean I did her in.’
Hillock snapped. ‘When you provide a DNA sample, we’ll prove your guilt.’
Gilbert looked shocked. ‘What happened to the last lot you took?’
Hillock seemed surprised, and then grimaced. He scowled at Jackie, before turning back to Gilbert. ‘Interview suspended at ... he looked at his watch ... 14.30.’
Gilbert got up to go.
Hillock waved him back down. ‘Stay there.’ He beckoned to her. Almost spat out the words. ‘My office.’
She expected the worst, and she wasn’t disappointed. Angers had told her that Gilbert’s DNA was destroyed when it didn’t match the killer. At the time of Serena’s murder, the anticipated AIDS outbreak took priority – Serena’s killing could have been a domestic that had got out of hand.
Not that prevented Hillock from shouting the odds. He waved Gilbert’s file at her. ‘Bloody incompetence ... no wonder this place needed a shake-up.’
‘That’s not fair ... DCI Angers ...’
He interrupted. ‘Don’t quote Angers at me; he should have known better than to waste my time.’ He slung the file at her. ‘Why wasn’t it in the report?’
That was a good question. Maybe they had been slack; maybe the document was misfiled; maybe ... maybe. ‘Don’t know ... we were busy.’
If looks could kill, she would have been dead; a stake through her heart. He took his time and spelt out what she was going to do next. ‘Arrange for the doctor to take a fresh sample. I want chapter and verse, and I want it recorded on Pratt’s file. Got it?’
Calm down, girl.
‘Yes Mr. Hillock.’
‘And for the record, I’m issuing a verbal warning. Your actions lack the standard of performance expected.’
Easy, girl - don’t rise to it - don’t.
Her whole body tensed like a coiled spring. Waited for him to make one more move, one twitch of his sardonic smirk would be enough. They stared at each other; a million nanoseconds passed. She bit her lip; thought about throwing the file back at him. But she didn’t. Just turned, and walked out.
I’ll show the bastard.