Second base covered.
Winter-bollocks looked in worse shape than Angers. Jackie gasped and took a deep breath; a complete transformation since she last visited him at the town-hall. His face was gaunt, his dark-blue pyjamas hung loosely; seemed plenty of room for another person inside them.
He was lying on top of his pristine bed, listlessly twitching as though he was about to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Perhaps he was.
He didn’t seem to acknowledge her; he was wrapped up in his world. Jackie took a seat by his bed, avoiding the stand that was dripping a clear solution into his wrist. The room looked a lot like the ones in the Medical Clinic – although this one was typically NHS funded; in need of a lick of paint, plus a few odds and ends to make it more inviting.
While she waited for Dixon to surface, she turned and glanced out of the window behind her. From that height, she could see the snow-capped countryside, virgin swathes of white handkerchiefs all the way up to the Welsh mountains on the horizon...
... He coughed.
Jackie turned back. The corner of his mouth was creased. He was trying to smile. It seemed an effort to open his lips. But his gaze was firm and his voice steady.
‘Jackie my dear ... how good of you to visit ...’
What do I say?
‘What’s wrong with you?’ It sounded lame, but there was no point beating around the bush; he was too professional to be fooled.
He was as sharp as ever; a real politician. ‘Is this official?’
Jackie shook her head. ‘Off the record, Dixon.’
‘Ah, I see.’ He went quiet; seemingly thinking about it, which boded well. A politician’s response would be off-pat, diplomatic and vote-catching. He seemed to make up his mind – or maybe he was tired of politics. ‘I might as well tell you, I’ve got AIDS ... not your common or garden infection ... this one’s unstoppable.’ He tried to sit up to make it sound more compelling. ‘I’m on the way out unless they find a miracle drug.’ He sank back down again.
One more jigsaw piece in place.
The direct approach was working. She decided to push it. ‘Who gave it to you?’
‘Ah, there’s the rub. I couldn’t be one hundred percent ... but Serena ... your first murder victim would be a candidate.’
‘What about you?’ Have you passed it on?’
He looked at her, maybe a little guiltily. ‘Undoubtedly ... but it was all before I came down with it and took an AIDS test.’
The matter of fact way he said it sent a shiver down her spine. ‘And your wife ...?’
He choked back a laugh. ‘It’s ironic. I only went elsewhere because she wasn’t up for it. That’s what I told Marty Hemming when he caught me in a compromising situation. Taped pictures. That was also ironic ... I didn’t touch the girl.’
Jackie tried to hide her excitement. Dixon’s evidence added to hers would finish Marty. ‘Tell me what happened.’
He paused, frowning. ‘Is this still off the record?’
‘Marty asked me to cover for him. I couldn’t give a damn, but I didn’t want my family ... especially my sons ... dragged into it. The press have a nasty way of sensationalising the lurid details.’
Jackie was on the edge of her seat. ‘So what did you do?’
‘Hillock ... I couldn’t take to him ... came to interview me. He asked where I was on the night of Candice’s murder ... I read about it in the Argus.’
‘I told him I was with Marty all night ... that I deleted his phone calls when he fell asleep at the massage parlour. That I did it because I didn’t want Marty to get into trouble.’
‘And what did Hillock say to that?’
Dixon grunted. ‘He more or less insinuated I was lying. Told me if I came clean, he’d sort it ... and protect my family from media attention.’
‘But you didn’t?’
‘I said I’d think about it ... but a few days later he contacted me and said it had all been resolved internally.’
Jackie wanted more. Needed more. The whole damn cover-up. ‘You know that Marty got off?’
Dixon seemed to be getting tired. He was finding it harder to speak, but he made an effort. ‘I couldn’t care less. Marty came to see me after ... tape has been erased ... it was like a silent pact. I haven’t seen him since.’ He winced and pointed to the empty drip-bag. ‘Morphine ... can you call the nurse?’
Jackie got up and pressed the call button. ‘One final question, Dixon ... now the incriminating evidence has been destroyed, would you be willing to put this on-record?
‘Make a statement?’
He closed his eyes; heard him whisper. ‘I’ll think about it.’
What hold did Marty have over Hillock? Coercion?