By now some of you would have noticed I finished my 98.5 K novel TODAY. As my title describes, there was one chapter that defined how my heroine *drum roll* DETECTIVE SERGEANT JACKIE STEEL would be cast in her leading role. From that point onwards, Jackie sat on my shoulder and directed the story.
It was fraught with conflict at every turn - Jackie TOLD ME how she would behave, what she would do, how she would react; everything I get out of this novel I owe to her sassy behaviour and dogged persistence.
Was it a rough ride? You better believe it - a roller coaster all the way to the end.
Here is that defining scene for your enjoyment (hopefully).
The initial scene is at Bridleton land fill site:
The JCB driver lit a fag, oblivious to the smoke curling up into the cabin. Third that morning. He didn’t register the small hillocks of rubbish being swirled about in the grey dawn, past his cabin window. Nor did he acknowledge the gleaming white sea-gulls swooping and diving, uttering shrill cries, as they dived into the dirty slush piles. He was immune to it all. But the body was different. He did notice that. Stripped of its covering, it lay across a pile of discarded “Women’s Health” magazines.
Jackie looked her notes, and then at the man. About forty, wiry sort, crooked nose, nicotine-stained fingers. ‘Okay, Mr. Mason, I understand you started your morning shift at 6:00, and went about your normal duties. That is, dumping mountains of stinking shit into a black hole. Then we come to the boring bit. At approximately 6:45, or three fags later, your JCB stumbles across a large package, wrapped in a blanket. Fifty kilos wrapped, was your estimate. Take it from there.’
The JCB driver sniffed, fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled fag packet. ‘You mind?’
‘Yes, as a matter of fact I do. And I’m still waiting for my second cuppa.’
He put the packet on the table and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. ‘I’ll go and chivvy them up.’
‘No don’t bother, or we’ll be here till Christmas. I’m all ears. What happened next?’
‘Nothing really. The blanket got ripped on one of my blades, and the body fell out.’
‘And, well, it’s not like you see a dead body every day of the week.’
No it bloody well isn’t.’
Jackie tapped the table with her pen. ‘So what did you do?’
‘What do you think I did?’
‘Had another fag, I suppose?’
‘No I bloody didn’t.’ he coughed. One of those racking wheezes. ‘At least not until I got out of the cabin to make sure.’
‘Mr. Mason. It’s like pulling teeth. Just get on with it.’
‘Look here Miss; I’m a witness, not a bloody suspect.’
‘Is that so?’
‘Yes, it bloody well is.’
‘Well let me be the judge of that, Mr. Mason. First of all I’m Detective Sergeant Steel, not Miss Muppet, and more importantly, how do I know you didn’t dump her? Until I’m satisfied, you’re in the frame, you hear me?’
That shook him. Went white with shock. Fingers clutching his fag packet. ‘Er ... er ... I had nothing to do with it.’
‘For the last time, will you just get on with it? You got out of your nice warm centrally-heated cabin into the cold dawn. Must have been a shock.’
Mason was glaring at her. ‘I climbed down, and took a look. It was a young girl. Half-caste, probably.’
‘Well thank the Lord for that. Seems like we’re talking about the same body. And then?’
‘Well I wasn’t going to touch her.’
Jackie grinned, winking at Mason. ‘Really? Exotic girl lying there. You sure?’
Mason slammed a fist on the table. ‘Yes, I’m bloody well sure. Had a bloody great hole in her stomach, and the smell made me feel bloody sick.’
Jackie felt like pushing the boundaries, but Mason didn’t fit a killer’s profile. ‘Okay, Mr. Mason, calm down. I’m just trying to establish the facts.’
‘Yeah well you got a funny way of doing it, that’s all I can say.’
Jackie glanced at the door, hoping. ‘Maybe you’d feel better with a hot cuppa inside you.’
That had a positive reaction. He looked nervously at his fag packet, then picked it up. ‘You hang on there, Miss ... I mean Detective ... let me bring you one right away.’
She let him go. Get pumped up on nicotine. Unfair really. She’d wrap it up after her tea-break. Get Mifty to look at the CCTV tapes and to carry out the background interviews.
‘We had a complaint. Seems like a Mr. Mason was not too happy with your interview technique, to put it mildly.’ DCI Angers pointed a chubby finger at the report. ‘Slander, accusations, taking the piss, necrophilia … necrophilia? What the hell did you say?’
‘Did you touch the body?’
Angers humphed. ‘It says here that was preceded with “nudge nudge, wink, wink” sergeant.’
‘Straight from Hendon manual, guv. Suspect should be taken out of his/her comfort zone.’
He focused his piggy eyes on her. ‘Don’t smart-ass me, Sergeant. I bloody well wrote it for them, while on secondment.’
Secondment, like fuck. Suspended, she’d heard. “For treating a suspect in a manner not conducive to the suspect’s well-being,” or in DC James’ interpretation, “kicking the shit out a black coon.” The DCS thought the manual would be good therapy. Get ‘anger’ out of his system. ‘Yes guv.’
‘What?’ Steam coming out of his hairy ears.
‘I mean, no guv.’
‘You are a homicide detective, not a music-hall act. Procedures are there to be followed. We do not want to antagonise the public. Is that clear?’
‘Well don’t just sit there. Go down to the ops room and see if this homicide is linked to the other three this month.’ He chucked the file back and then started rummaging in his desk drawer. Pulling out the pack of honey and raisin flapjacks. ‘Or do you need me to hold your hand?’
She watched DCI Angers staring at her, while ripping the wrapper from a bar. Getting his oats. ‘I mean, no guv.’