He was well late; blamed it on the red Escort investigation, while he took off his coat and made himself comfortable on her sofa with a beer Possible murder enquiry. Forsyth, being pedantic, making him – and uniforms - interview all car owners returning to their vehicles. It went down like a proverbial lead balloon with the great British public; he was lucky to slip away when he did.
Maybe it was the day’s events taking its toll, or the alcohol coursing through her veins, but Jackie felt her blood pressure rising as he explained. Like it was all his skilled detective work; no mention that it was her that gave him the lead. The pressure blew; became a rant. He received the full blast, and the end to any relationship he thought he’d had.
He took it calmly, tried to reason. ‘Jackie ... it’s my job ... you know it takes precedence.’
She flung a badly-aimed beer can at him. It missed, and fell on the floor at his feet. ‘Precedence? So I’m at the bottom of your priority list ... right?’
He bent down reached for the can. Pulled the ring cap and sucked at the froth. He licked his lips. ‘No it’s not ... but if you’re up for an argument, I’m off to the pub.’
She glowered at him, hands on hips. ‘Fuck you.’
He laughed. ‘I like it when you get mad. Very sexy.’
Her mood changed; she began to notice the difference in him. He seemed self-assured; flattering smile on his lips, beer can in hand. Just like a movie hero. She liked that. No sweating arm-pits; casting aside the mummy’s boy image - a real man - not a toy-boy anymore. But also something else. Something she didn’t like - cocky...?
She picked up the Chardonnay and poured out the last glassful. ‘Sodding bottle’s empty.’ She slumped on the sofa beside him. ‘I suppose you don’t want to hear about my day?’
He reached over and took her glass, placed it on the coffee table. He leant over and pulled her to him. ‘Later,’ he whispered in her ear.
The following morning – early – it was all business.
‘Sodding toaster’s packed up.’
He grinned. ‘Use the frying-pan ... it’s a trick I learnt at college.’
Jackie hesitated, he took over. ‘Here ... let me.’
The toast was not a graduate from a Keith Floyd master class – but it filled a hole. She licked her lips. ‘Beats the Tikka Masala.’
She watched him glance guiltily at the microwave. Last night’s dinner they never touched. She could eat it later.
Paul caught the six o’clock bus back. His mother was in the kitchen in her dressing gown. She was pouring out two cups of tea. He cottoned on. Made it sound casual.
‘Did Daisy stay over?’
He thought he could detect a slight flush on her neck. ‘I don’t feel safe on my own.’ She gave him a hard look, as if it was his fault. Hugged her arms; shrugged. ‘You weren’t coming back last night ... Daisy offered to keep me company.’
I bet she did.
‘Well you’ll have to get used to it. Jackie and I are an item.’
She sniffed. ‘You look like the cat that’s got the cream ... smells like it too.’
He sidestepped past her. ‘No time for pleasantries ... I’m on duty soon.’
Upstairs, while he had a shower and changed, he reflected on Jackie’s discoveries: Boyson, being fingered by the sleazy priest, and Winter-bollocks accusing the two “Aitches” of a cover-up.
Whilst Jackie contended that finding Boyson was her main concern; he was more interested in Hillock and Hemming. But she told him to lay-off; it could wait. Not that he listened; he would be keeping a close watch on that pair.
Paul James – undercover agent – it sounded good.