Debi smiled, passed over the agenda. ‘Two days on an intensive HGV course with an accompanying licence to drive the big buggers, plus a new passport. It could all come in useful. Another day’s training and bringing you up to speed on our investigation to date.’
‘And then, you find Sonja Borski.’
‘Just like that?’
Debi gave her a hard stare. ‘You got a better idea?’
Jackie kept a straight face. ‘Well you could haul in a few suspects and give them the rubber truncheon treatment.’
Debi looked alarmed. ‘You’re having me on?’
Jackie chuckled. ‘Gone soft now you’re marching up the promotion ladder?’ Debi was going to say something, but Jackie held up her hand. ‘It’s a wind-up. Once we start digging at the edges the main players scarper to their rat holes. For all they care, scum’s expendable, right?’
Debi nodded; grimaced. ‘Same as you, Jackie. It’s hard-ball we’re playing.’
The words hit home.
Hard Ball. Expendable.
‘It’s about Paul.’
Later at dinner, Jackie raised the subject that had been lurking at the edge of her mind. She and Debi had taken a walk to a Thai restaurant near the hotel; a cosy, cosseting atmosphere and a warm welcome dispelled some of the earlier feelings of nausea. The chicken curry with coconut rice, Paul’s favourite dish, reminded her she had one loose end to resolve. Of course, Debi knew the background; copper for a boyfriend. Younger one at that, but he had been there when she needed him the most last Christmas. Captured a serial killer and rescued her from a similar fate.
‘I’ve been thinking about that,’ said Debi as she sipped her glass of rice wine. ‘You’re in London for a few more days … why not see if you can wangle a night together. You know, talk it through, and really cement your relationship.’
Or another bust up.
Paul had been thinking of her when his mobile buzzed. Jackie. Must be psychic. He had been ready with an apology. Jumped the gun -- again. But he didn’t have time, she came straight in with “get your arse up to London — we’ve got a lot to talk about” -- a dirty chuckle -- “in bed.”
That was last night, and he was on a promise. She did care after all, and he was ready to compromise. He rearranged his shifts to clock off mid afternoon and at seven o’clock he presented himself in the Londoner pub at Paddington with a cold beer in his hand. When she arrived fifteen minutes later she fell into his arms -- actually she caught her shoe in a hole in the vinyl tiles -- but the effect was the same. Spilt beer that frothed onto the bar, but a big hug and a long, slow kiss to the mutterings of fellow travellers as they side stepped past.
When he came up for air, he shot an apologetic look around, and then made up for lost time. ‘I’ve missed you.’
She was hanging on every word, trying to move her foot. ‘Bloody heel, last time I wear stilettos; cost me a packet in Oxford Street.’
It didn’t look like the only thing she’d bought. Dressed to please him; halter neck black dress that showed cleavage, plenty of it, with his pendant nestling between.
She hauled him to a new table and hitched herself sideways on a stool; legs on show up to her thigh. So he could see. She licked her lips, gave him one of those looks. ‘Chardonnay … large one, I’m famished.’
‘Been trucking all day, makes a girl appreciate a bit of rough.’ She squeezed his hand, gave him a big smile. ‘But I’ll make do with you, big boy.’
He laughed, she was just taking the piss, and the look in her eye told him he was in for an all-night session. He wasn’t going to complain, but he was going to set her straight. ‘I want our relationship to work, that’s why I’m here. It’s your job ... I can accept that.’ He shot her a warning glance. ‘But if it’s longer term, it could be a different story.’
Jackie quietened down, a thoughtful look on her face. ‘You want me to choose ... my career or our relationship?’
She surprised him; gave him another big hug, whispered in his ear. ‘Not now, Paul. Enjoy the moment. Anything could happen.’
It sounded as if she was putting on a cheerful act. His copper’s nose sensed danger.
What was she getting into?
More worrying thoughts crossed his mind. He decided to back-off -- she would need to fully concentrate on the assignment, and his being around would only complicate matters.
‘Okay,’ he said. ‘One day at a time, right?’
She kissed him.
The orgy aftermath was a different reality, but plenty of tender moments pacified him. Told him their relationship was back on firm ground -- if on hold until these perverts were locked up.
Next morning, he skipped breakfast and caught the early train back to Bridleton.