The hostility travelled faster than her journey back to Bridleton, again delayed by the road works which didn’t improve her mood. She hardly had time to sign in when she was ordered into Hillock’s office: once inside, he slammed the door closed. She could smell the atmosphere; one of pure disgust, reciprocated “in spades”. A purple vein in his neck was pulsating. He wasted no time, she felt the full wrath hurled like a gale force ten at her face. ‘What the fuck were you playing at? Don’t you have any brain cells?’
She countered with a similar sarcasm. ‘I’m carrying out a murder enquiry, not having a picnic in the park.’
He sneered. ‘You were.’ he paused; let the tension hang in the air like an unexploded bomb. ‘I’ve spoken to Forsyth ... and the Personnel Manager.’ The bomb exploded. ‘You’re now off the case, officially on sick-leave, pending a psychiatrist’s report.’
Jackie jumped up from her chair and eyeballed him. ‘Do what?
She could see pure evil in his. ‘I’ve allocated your desk to DC James. He’ll be acting Sergeant.’ His smirk turned into a sneer. ‘Now get the fuck out of my sight.’
Sod the lot of them. Bloody conspiracy.
She stormed into Kathy Carmichael’s office after Hillock had kicked her out; demanded to know her rights. The Personnel Manager gave her a look that seemed to justify their decision, but pointed to a chair. ‘Sit down.’
It was an order – or the tone of voice suggested it.
Carmichael shook her head; didn’t seem to care one way or the other. ‘Suit yourself.’
‘You can’t put me on sick leave.’
Carmichael sat back and folded her arms. ‘In certain circumstances, we can stand you down from duty.’
Jackie was defiant. ‘Like what?’
The bitch gave a long sigh. ‘Jackie, you know why. Your behaviour is ... how shall I put it? Erratic ... disrespectful ... intolerable, some would say.’ She put a finger to her lips – a clear indication to keep quiet. ‘Apart from DCI Hillock’s compilation of your transgressions, the Chief Constable spent a good half an hour on the phone getting an earful from the Deputy Governor at Leyhill ... it was the last straw. We had to address this ... we’re a caring employer.’
Like fuck you are.
‘So that’s it then? I’m shafted?’
‘We’re arranging for you to see one of our doctors...’
Jackie felt like a fly on the wall, an unwanted observer to the unfolding drama. Dead bodies had been located in the woods near the railway station. CID and uniforms were out in force. Jackie cast a wistful eye at the activity, took a deep breath. Not her problem anymore; kicked out the back door by Hillock.
She signed-out, maybe for the last time; Anger’s “get well” card in her bag and her medical appointment as her only mementos for six years of dedicated service. Maybe she’d be getting a card; most probably not if Hillock had anything to do with it. She’d be on the heap: pushed aside; a burnt-out nobody.
Why? What had happened?
It was still cold outside in the evening gloom. She meandered up the high street without concentrating. She’d heard about other officers; fine upstanding men and women who had been chewed up and spat out by the unrelenting pressures of the job. Long-term, stress related, illnesses that anti-depressants couldn’t resolve. She hadn’t seen it coming: hadn’t thought about her acute mood swings; put it down to hormones. Perhaps the prison officer at Leyhill had done her a favour; dragged her off the roller coaster before it was too late...
She passed a line of shops without pausing to look in the windows; to relish the Xmas decorations and the coloured, flashing lights inside. Now she had to see the quack. Have her life dissected under a microscope of meaningless mumbo-jumbo: her relationship with Paul; with Hillock; with the general public; with...
Jackie tried to side-step the yob. ‘Sorry’, she mumbled.
‘You will be, you stupid cow.’
She was outside the off-licence. Focused on the yob; recognised him, or one of his mates; they all looked alike in their stonewashed jeans and jackets.
‘Zip it, sunshine ... or else.’
He leered at her. ‘Or else what, you fucking cunt?’
Adrenalin surged. She moved in close and kneed him in the groin with as much force as she could muster. All her pent-up rage and frustration channelled into the strike. He yelled in pain, doubled over, and dropped his carrier bag. She heard a bottle smash. He was on his knees, tears streaming.
She stepped back out of range. ‘Any more lip, sunshine, and bang goes your chance of being a father.’
He snarled, winced as he tried to stagger up. ‘Now you’re fucking asking for it ...’
She gave him the finger. ‘Do me a favour, and piss off home to mummy.’
She stood still; watching and faced him down. No way was she going to back-off. The fight or flight syndrome – she was in a hostile mood. She could see him thinking about it; a glance of uncertainty. He took one tentative step towards her, grimaced, hesitated and turned away. He petulantly kicked his bag into touch, into the gutter.
She mocked his shambling retreat. ‘Cry-baby.’
Of course, no witnesses – when trouble erupted, Joe public became invisible.
She felt a lot better. A whole lot better.
Psychiatrist...? - bring it on.