Now she was wallowing in an emotional turmoil of self-pity; embarrassment, shame, and guilt. All because she cared about Georgina, cared about Jasmine, cared about being a cop, cared about justice, cared about ... who was she kidding?
Like Hillock had said. Because she had put food before duty, she’d fucked up. Full stop. And a killer was on the loose.
She had to sound out Paul; get his take on it and a fresh approach if she was going to catch this monster. Paul was in for an ear-bashing; she tried not to heap more guilt on herself – he would understand.
She busied herself getting ready on auto-pilot; tried to compose herself, think rationally. Freshened up at the bathroom basin, she couldn’t face the tub – not that night.
What to wear? Just keep it simple; anything that comes to hand.
Black flared trousers? Nothing red with them; it would shatter her aura – as if it wasn’t ruined enough. She rummaged through the coat hangers; the turquoise woollen sweater beckoned – perfect match with her underwear.
Hair – brushed; natural.
Make-up – minimalist, touch of colour.
Feet – calf-length boots.
Knee length, gun-metal coat.
She was ready at 7:30 - half an hour to wait with a nail-file, and a glass of Chardonnay, which quickly became two. She was on her third and feeling a little tipsy when Paul arrived.
She opened the door.
‘You look good,’ he said.
So do you.
She paused. ‘I’ve changed my mind. Come in.’
Afterwards, Jackie plucked at hairs on his chest, and spilled out her woes; words tumbled from her lips like raindrops.
He listened, hugged her close, let it all flow away.
Like water under a bridge.
She smiled up at him. ‘Thanks.’
‘Jackie ...’ he started to say, but she cuddled up close, and whispered in his ear.
‘Don’t spoil the moment, okay?’
He kissed her...
...The alarm woke her from a fitful sleep. She scrabbled to pick it up.
She pulled at his arm. ‘Come on sleepy head. Duty calls; postmortem.’
He yawned, opened a bleary eye. ‘Morning already?’
‘No, it’s still night time in paradise ... but right now it’s the real world. Get up.’
The real world. Suspension.
She washed and dressed in silence. Breakfast coffee and a couple of slices of toast - not looking at him as if it had never happened.
He tried. Gently. ‘Jackie ... it’s okay, honestly.’
She looked up. ‘It’s not okay, and you know it. I was using you.’
He took his time thinking; frowned, before answering. ‘I’m not a kid anymore. I wanted you ... still want you. If that’s using me, I want more of the same.’
She tried to interrupt, but he put a hand across her mouth. ‘This time, shut your kisser and listen. We’re in this together. After the PM, why not visit Angers at his clinic; see if you can get him onside?’
She smiled and gave him a hug. ‘Okay officer. If that what you want, you’re on.’
A new day, a new beginning.
Paul didn’t feel used. Quite the opposite. Jackie was now off his goddess pedestal; suffering the same frailties and insecurities as any real woman. Sure she needed a shoulder, sure she felt vulnerable, and sure she needed comfort – that would be natural after Hillock’s bollocking. More than a bollocking – it was bullying.
Only one way to deal with a bully – a united front. If Hillock picked on her, he’d have him to deal with as well. Hillock might think twice about that.
If only he could get Jackie to buy-in – she was so independent – so headstrong.
But now he had a foot in the door...