Orson consulted his watch. ‘Plan B. Go and pay your respects while I step outside and make a couple of calls.’
Jackie’s tour of the chapel consisted of touching the bouquets of flowers to see if they were real. As far as she was concerned, Dixon had only himself to blame. And he had left a legacy of possibly infecting others before he was diagnosed. She resolved to contact Helga before catching the train back to Bridleton; chase up on Carol’s result and see if any new victims had been admitted...
‘Can I help you?’
Jackie jumped. A Man of God had materialised from behind the coffin. She pointed to the coffin. ‘I was hoping to have a word ... but...’
The priest took hold of her arm. ‘Family?’
‘Not exactly. Councillor Winterbotham is ... was helping me with my enquiries.’
The priest eyes lit up. ‘And who are you?’
Jackie Steel ... that is ... was, Detective Sergeant.’
He seemed confused. ‘Was?’
‘I’m taking a break.’
‘Oh.’ He sounded disappointed. ‘That’s a pity.’
It was her turn to look puzzled. ‘Why’s that?’
‘Because Dixon left something for you. He made me swear to hand it to you in person. I was going to go down the police station, but...’
Jackie felt a touch of apprehension, or was it excitement. ‘Well I’m here now.’
The priest didn’t seem convinced. ‘Can you prove who you are? Your warrant card, perhaps?’
Maybe he’d been watching too many films; who did he think she was; a spy? Contract killer? Mistress...? She pulled at his arm. ‘Look, my senior officer is outside. He’ll verify who I am.’
Worse than getting blood out of a stone, but Orson had the necessary credentials – plus a five pound note he slipped into the contribution box. The priest excused himself and while Jackie waited with growing impatience she glanced at Dixon.
Did he wink at me?
The brown A4 envelope contained a hand-written confession of Dixon’s involvement in providing a false alibi for Marty, signed and dated – and witnessed by Father Henry. The priest nodded; it was him. More, it implicated DCI Hillock in the cover-up. Jackie was elated, the first piece of evidence.
She handed it to Orson. ‘Over to you, guv.’
He gave a sigh. ‘It’s strong ... but not enough. Without Dixon, it’s this document against their word. It could be brushed off as a dying man being vindictive.’
Jackie could see the point. Winter-bollocks had been an active campaigner - and not always pro-police if it suited his political ambitions. ‘Then we’re back to square one?’
‘Not quite.’ He stepped outside the chapel and looked around the hall. ‘There’s an empty bench in the far corner.’ He motioned to Jackie to follow him, and strode off.
When they were seated away from prying eyes and the twitching ears of Father Henry, Orson leaned close and spoke quietly. ‘I called in a favour. There’s a DCI in Bristol with his ear to the ground: Ex-Anti-corruption unit in the Met before being posted here. Let’s just say I helped him out one or two times.’
Jackie expressed surprise. ‘Guv?’
He looked around again, made sure no one was loitering. ‘He gave me a name. Allegedly this snout makes a living from coppers who don’t mind cutting corners to get a conviction. He’ll have the gen if there’s any funny business going on with Hillock or Hemming ... but he costs.’
‘I don’t see...’
Orson was shaking his head. ‘I’m too conspicuous ... but you’re off the radar. Get some hard evidence and I’ll take it to Forsyth.’
‘I’m not sure...’ she hesitated. Part of her wanted to leap in and grab the opportunity, but could she pull it off? ‘... I can afford...’
Orson was pulling out his wallet. ‘Here’s forty quid.’ He grimaced. ‘It’s what I saved not having any chocolate for a couple of weeks.’
Jackie was flabbergasted. She hadn’t really known Angers at all. Far from being an impatient Dickhead, there were hidden depths that she had never seen before.
She put the money into her jacket pocket, zipped it up, and took a deep breath. ‘Guv...Jackie Steel reporting for duty. Who is this snout, and where do I find him?’
‘Try any of the traditional pubs alongside Bristol docks. Ask for Clipper.’
Ask for Clipper. That easy, huh?
The asking was easy, but finding the snout was not. After she had touched base with Helga – no new admittances – and with Helga’s promise to chase up Carol’s AIDS test result - Angers dropped her back at her apartment. She checked on Carol – who was quietly listening to music – had a shower and changed into a new tracksuit.
She ran down to the station and caught the train to Temple Meads, and then jogged across to the docks. A few local shirkers appeared friendly enough, but were hardly forthcoming when she mentioned Clipper’s name. Any that talked shrugged, and it was “try somewhere else”, as if they were hoping to see the back of her. The Black Swan cropped up more than once, so she paid it a repeat visit, and finally got lucky.
The yokel in blue dungarees, who was sitting on the bench outside, was having a fag break. He pointed to the back in response to her question. ‘Brown coat with fur collar ... taking a leak.’
There was a side entrance to the pub back terrace, barred by a gate. It was unlocked. She nodded to the yokel and walked down the cobbled path to the toilets. All mod cons, it wasn’t; a rudimentary brick shithouse with paint flaking off the walls and scoured with graffiti. She didn’t go inside; waited outside and listened to a dripping tap, and then the sound of someone cursing before the brown coat with the fur collar appeared. The snout – his long nose resembled one - inside the coat noticed her; dismissed her as no threat. ‘Watch it darling. Bloody flush’s leaking like buggery ... again.’
‘I’m not your darling, Clipper.’ Quiet, non-threatening; business-like tone of voice.
He still jumped as though a red-hot poker had been thrust up his arse. His eyes narrowed. ‘How ... who ...?’
He stopped when Jackie showed him her wad of notes. ‘I’m asking the questions...’
He grinned, although it looked more like a leer, and then sniffed. ‘You smell like a cop.’
Maybe that’s why the local shirkers had shied away: too damn obvious. She put the notes back in her pocket and took a calculated risk. ‘If you’re not interested...’
He interrupted. ‘I didn’t say that, I’m establishing the facts.’
‘The facts are ... Clipper ... I give you cash for information ... that’s all you need to know.’
He glanced over her shoulder. ‘It’s too public here. I’ll see if the upstairs room is free. We can use that ... no interruptions.’
The landlord was happy to oblige. He unlocked the door to the upstairs room and winked at her. ‘Just give me a shout when you want refills.’
The word “when” was emphasised. A private room for the cost of a few drinks. Jackie wasn’t driving, and she reckoned a few more would loosen Clipper’s tongue. In his company, she was going to match him pint for pint – maybe also shorts if it came to it.
They made their way to a table that overlooked the street below. Jackie took a large draught of her pint while they appraised each other. He broke the silence.
‘What sort of information you looking for?’
‘The dirt on Marty Hemming and Andy Hillock ... anything that’s brushed off.’
He took a gulp of his pint. ‘I’ve heard a few things.’ It sounded non-committal – Clipper was being cagey.
Jackie eased herself in. ‘What things?’
Clipper glanced out of the window; seemed satisfied, turned back. ‘You on your own?’
She nodded. ‘This is strictly off the record.’
Clipper seemed to accept her answer – more fool him. He went straight into ATM mode. ‘Cash first.’
She breathed a sigh of relief and peeled off twenty quid. ‘Get the beers in. If I like what I hear, I’ll stay around.’
With a couple of fresh pints on the table, his taster was to assert that Marty wanted to know a few things – Clipper kept saying “things” – about Hillock. Like, money owed, favours called in, and messages. ‘If you want details...’
Jackie slapped another twenty on the table. ‘That’s it. Don’t piss me about.’
Clipper picked up his pint. ‘Cheers.’
Arrogant slime ball.
By Jackie’s third pint - and his fifth, according to him – Clipper’s tongue was well and truly lubricated. He told her plenty; more than enough to warrant an internal investigation into Hillock’s association with the Creek brothers. The interlude came to a premature end. Clipper noticed something in the street below. Something he didn’t like; his face turned white, and he was out of the room in a flash, slamming the door behind him.
She peered into the gloom; it was getting dark and the street lamps were lighting up. A man in a black coat – he looked like an undertaker – was staring up at her. A chill crept around her neck; she shuddered.
She finished her pint, stood up, moved over to the door, and opened it.
The undertaker stood there...