‘With love from DS Steel,’ Albert had sniggered.
Paul was wary; Albert could sense he fancied the pants off her. Maybe he should cool it in the nick; otherwise they’d be constantly taking the piss.
He tried to sound non-committal and disinterested. ‘What’s this then?’
Albert was still sniggering. ‘Maybe she wants you to sharpen up your technique.’
He tried to back-pedal out of it. ‘Look, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m chock-a-bloc. Case loads up to my eyeballs.’
Albert wasn’t having any; ignored the protests. With a flourish he produced a large envelope and placed it on top of the files. ‘And she wants this circulated as well.’
Paul eyed it warily. ‘What’s this, then?’
Albert shook his head. ‘Call yourself an elite detective? Open your gifts, and bloody well find out.’ He waved a hand in a dismissive manner. ‘And not here ... I’m busy.’
Paul trudged along to the MIR; acknowledged the silent nods from his colleagues, found an empty desk near the in-tray and dumped his “gifts” on top. Then carried on walking to the coffee machine; filled up a cup, and returned to his workstation. He sat in thought for a while.
As expected, Jackie had spurned his offer to confront Hillock; according to her, the DCI had backed off. She couldn’t explain it; nor could he. Hillock was out to get her; what had changed?
He resolved to call her at home that night. Then his mind went back to the “gifts” he’d just dumped. He sighed, stood up, and stretched his arms. Jackie had left them for a reason, so he went and retrieved them. He opened the envelope first; “get well” card inside. One cryptic message:
Don’t rush back kiddo – DCI Forsyth
He frowned. Had to be Orson Angers; no one else had recently been taken ill - no - not ill - what was it Jackie had said - something about donating a kidney? Kiddo - oh, yeah – they’d be all taking the piss when Angers returned.
He chuckled; couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke. He added his own:
Can’t wait to see your ugly mug again – just kidding – DC James
He put the card back in the envelope, got up, and stuck it back in the in-tray. He replenished his coffee, went back to the files, and began to read...
...Thirty five minutes later, out of the freezing cold wind and into the relative shelter of the multi-story car park, he was trying to peer in through the grimy back window of the red Escort.
‘Can’t see much. Got a torch?’
The Council highways manager, going by the name of Arnie, grunted, and heaved a flashlight out of his back-pack; handed it over. Procedure had been followed. The manager of the multi-story car-park had notified the Council. The Escort had been stuck in that dark corner - give or take a couple of weeks - anyway, long enough to warrant action. While it was the Council’s responsibility to dispose of the vehicle, now officially classified as “refuse”, access to the multi-story was hampered because their recovery vehicles were too large. Then some bright spark thought he could see red stains on the back seat – and so the police were informed...
...‘That’s better.’ The torch beam pierced the grime and flickered around inside. ‘Looks pretty messy in the back ... congealed as well.’ Paul screwed up his eyes, and focused. ‘Holy shit ... it’s blood all right.’
Arnie was hovering, trying to look over his shoulder. ‘You sure? Are you going to break in?’
Good question. The doors and boot were locked, the windows closed tight. He decided to take the safe option. ‘I’ll need to report it.’
Arnie didn’t look impressed, but changed his expression to a knowing look. ‘Look, we’re all busy ...’ He started rummaging in his backpack. ‘Bloody vandals ...’
Six months ago Paul would have stopped him. But not now; the realities of fighting crime were a whole lot different - and it was results that counted. Results that gave BECS statistics a boost and put a healthy glow on the Chief Constable’s face.
He nodded, and walked over to the parapet to look down on the scurrying human morass below. Like giant beetles foraging for food, or...
The car alarm pierced his ear-drums.
Paul turned to see the “slim jim” being put back in the knapsack and a large screwdriver taken out. Arnie pulled open the driver’s door, and bent inside. The bonnet released. Ten seconds later the battery lead was disconnected.
Arnie grinned into the silence. ‘Piece of piss.’
Paul hesitated, not completely convinced. ‘Why didn’t you ... I mean ... why wasn’t it opened before?’
Arnie winked. ‘Job’s worth ... loads of awkward question from you lot ... if it is blood ...’
Paul struggled with the logic – but Arnie was right. If it came to it, his report would specify forced entry by persons unknown. Whether “turning a blind eye” was duplicity or not – he’d gone past that dewy-eyed, innocent stage.
‘Let’s have a look inside, then ...’
Twenty minutes later, the red Escort was the prize exhibit in a crime scene, and Paul was modestly accepting the plaudits. Only thing missing was a blue rosette stuck to the windscreen. Forensics was climbing all over it in a rash, while Paul completed his report – including the suspected vandalism bit.
‘I used my initiative, sir.’
The beginning of a scowl on DCS Forsyth’s face looked like he was going to question exactly what this “initiative” meant. Like – were the car doors open when you arrived? - Why was the battery disconnected? – Why hadn’t tools and other items been stolen? – Why...?
But Forsyth didn’t. His thin lips lengthened into a simile of a smile. ‘Vandalism is a serious crime, DC James.’
Paul kept a straight face. ‘So is murder, sir.’
Forsyth nodded; while he seemed to accept the logic, he was rightly cautious. ‘We haven’t established that yet.’ He made a dilatory wave in the direction of the white-suited pathologists. ‘I suppose your initiative couldn’t rustle up a body or