Jackie was sitting in Hillock’s office the following morning, giving him the bad news. For the last week or two he seemed to have a perpetual frown etched on his forehead, and at times he seemed to be lost in his thoughts - about Marty Hemming, perhaps?
Jackie kept quiet. It was all in her report he was reading, along with Helga’s revised conclusions.
He glanced up. ‘What’s to say she got it right this time?’
He was clutching at straws; she knew it, so did he. Waste of time telling him Helga was a respected pathologist. Without knowing the background, even Archie could have considered minor marks as being normal wear and tear.
Jackie shrugged, it was not the time to pick an argument. Let him make the decision; that’s what he was paid to do.
And he did. ‘I’ll talk it over with Forsyth. Damage limitation, seeing we’ve involved the media.’
The front page of the Argus had announced that the police were holding a man in custody, and would soon be making charges in connection with the murders. Tania Simpson again; ace crime reporter who escalated the story to serial killing levels; sensationalism, to sell newspapers and frighten Joe public.
Jackie guessed he was waiting for her to say something. ‘And Georgina Okoro?’
He was ready; had thought it through. ‘Add it to Operation Venus, but keep it low-key.’ He pointed a thin finger at her. The nail was chewed. ‘Discrete investigation; do not step out of line, or ...’
He tailed off. The meaning was clear.
Jackie got up to go. He didn’t stop her, turned back to his computer screen and seemed to be making notes. She couldn’t quite work it out. No bollocking; seemingly, a complete disinterest.
What was his game?
She walked back to the MIR, poured out a coffee from the machine, and took the cup back to her desk. File notes from Forensics were sitting on top of her pile - contents of personal effects removed from Georgina’s house. One list contained a record of Georgina’s phone calls. Hurriedly, she flicked through the contacts; not that she expected to see “Plum Mouth” – but male names could be traced – so could the calls.
But nothing jumped out – no Danny Boy, no Plum Mouth – but she took a photo-copy and stuffed it in her bag.
She sighed. Another pile of reports was waiting. She leafed through them; a few were relevant to Operation Venus; the majority weren’t. That was a relief; no more brutal murders, just mundane incidents. That’s if a Pitbull terrier attacking a child could be regarded as mundane. Not for the child or the mother.
Jackie rubbed her eyes, continued to flip through the files. Trouble was, she was becoming immune to violence; the never-ending tidal wave of human jetsam - yobs mugging an old lady, domestic disturbance in Harmony Estate, fight outside “the Vatican” Palais, red Escort abandoned at the multi-story – she frowned - what was that doing in this pile? Ah - congealed liquid on the back seat, possibly blood?
She put the file down, sipped her coffee, and thought about Georgina. It was up to her to keep it discreet. She could restrict access; no problem, Albert held the house keys. Maybe she could find something on Plum Mouth. Visit the house, identify PM – locate Danny Boy. Match his DNA to the killer. Operation Venus solved - case closed...
...A red Escort - Jackie sat up. She waded back through the slush pile. There it was – the “missing couple” file. Escort registration numbers matched.
But not on her caseload that day – Georgina’s investigation was priority. She’d get one of the other officers to pick it up. Coat on, change of footwear, bag on shoulder; and then she picked up the two files and walked to the front desk.
Albert was filling in the Sun crossword. She placed the files on top of the newspaper. ‘Busy?’
He pulled a face. ‘It’s been hectic. First break, today.’
Jackie glanced around. It didn’t look hectic. The area was empty apart from a middle-aged woman in a green overcoat and matching woolly hat, who was sitting on the scruffy sofa reading a magazine.
She pointed. ‘What about her?’
Albert smiled. ‘Agnes Angers - she’s waiting for Forsyth.’
Albert spoke out of the side of his mouth. ‘Ex ...’
Jackie wasn’t going to get involved; but then she remembered. ‘Orson’s “get well” card. Where is it?’
His face went a bit red. He opened his desk drawer and rummaged inside. ‘Ah ... there it is.’
She took it from him, and opened it.
She swore. ‘For god’s sake...’
She flung it back. ‘Start it off with Forsyth when he condescends to turn up.’ She reached over and picked up the two files from his desk. ‘These match up ... it could be important. Make sure you give them to the first BECS officer you see.’
She could see Albert wasn’t too impressed with being ordered around, but she put on a winning smile to placate him. ‘Please, Albert ... help me out ... and I need Georgina Okoro’s house keys.’
He grumbled a bit under his breath, but seemed to accept her plea – if a little reluctantly. He fished out the keys and handed them over. Now, it was his turn to order her about. ‘Sign in the book.’
She decided against asking for a vehicle; it would only irritate him. Besides, the fresh air would be invigorating.
It wasn’t. It was bloody cold outside and more snow was forecast. The bookies were offering “Evens” on it being a white Christmas. She pulled the coat tightly around her, glad that her feet were snug in her fur-lined boots. She could do with a woolly hat just like that worn by Agnes Angers – what a mouthful of a name – she chuckled; wondered if that was the final straw that caused the split.
Jackie side-stepped the yob. She had been wrapped up in her thoughts and nearly barged into him as he came out of the off licence.
‘Sorry’, she mumbled.
He shouted at her back as she strode on. ‘You will be, you stupid cow.’
Number 17 was quiet. No nosy neighbours gawking. This time, her entrance to Georgina’s property was conventional; using the key to open the front door. She went straight upstairs to the bathroom. Stood there a while, trying to imagine what had happened. Why didn’t Georgina struggle? Did she know she had AIDS? Was it an assisted suicide? Why was Jasmine left on the bathmat?
Who was the killer...?
Plum Mouth? Danny Boy? Someone else?
The bath tap was dripping into the tub. It could have been eerie, but it wasn’t. There was no unearthly presence sending shivers down her spine; no cold breath on her neck; and no ghostly answers materialising in the ether.
She backed out and walked into the main bedroom; apart from bagging up Georgina’s personal effects, the forensic team had left it just as it was. Nothing was out of place; robbery hadn’t been the motive.
She searched for any other clues to the identity of PM. First, Georgina’s dresser and bedside cabinet. Inside one of the drawers, she found a well-leafed bible and flicked through the chapters.
And then she saw it.
Christ will look after me, sugah...