Lifeline 17

We spent two more days in our little place in the woods, which sat on a very quiet road in a corner of Kent that somehow seemed to escape the hurry and bustle of the outside world despite sitting so close to three main roads. Years later, I would read of the man who lived secretly in his tent, hidden away in the bushes of the central reservation of the dual carriageway leading past Southampton’s railway station, his life passing in parallel with that of the commuters streaming past each day.

Lifeline 16

Morning was damper, with another low mist leaving the tents wet with dew. The campers were up before us, and already looking to be on their way when Lorraine shouted about the kettle, which brought both grins and nods. The three had apparently already breakfasted, but the lure of one last cup of Proper Tea seemed irresistible, before they set off along the path leading to the East.

Lifeline 15

“What’s a diddycoy, Loz?”

“Ah, love, it’s one of those words that has two meanings. Two uses, really. See, Ken’s Romany, mother and father. Me, it’s just my Dad, so that makes me a sort of mongrel, and the old Romany word means mixed blood. That’s one meaning, and one use of the word. If you were ours by blood, that is what you would be. The other meaning is also tied in with how it gets used, and it’s just another insult. They throw the same thing at the tinkers, and most of them have got big houses in Ireland as well as bloody big caravans.

Lifeline 14

I put those thoughts behind me as we moved on once more. It hadn’t been so very long since I had clambered out of that window and over the barbs topping the boundary wall, and my head was still spinning with the changes that had ensued.

For good or bad, but obviously the former in my view, Lorraine and Ken had both accepted me as what I felt I had always been, despite the physical reality. There was no way they could ever have been in doubt about that, considering how much of my body they had seen. Seen and healed, in Lorraine’s case.

Lifeline 13

The ‘pernackity’ turned out to be a sort of hotpot, sliced potatoes in a rich gravy; the ‘stotty’ was a flat, round piece of bread. In later years, the closest equivalent I could find was ciabatta. It had the same dense texture and weight to it, and I was profoundly disappointed to discover that many ‘stotties’ sold in chain stores were actually just a flatter version of sliced white bread.

Lifeline 11

I was officially no longer a Rally Virgin, with the badge to prove it, so I was feeling ten feet tall as we rolled into the site entrance, which was in a field next to a motorway. There was the usual collection of hairy people at the gate, all with the badges and patches now so familiar to me, many in the woolly hats that were almost a membership badge in their own right.


“Yes, love?”

“Is this an MC thing?”

Lifeline 10

Sunday morning made its way through the curtains, and I wriggled out from the bed, leaving Ken asleep and snoring. I tried to make as little noise as I could opening the sliding door, but from his snores I needn’t have bothered.

“Morning, Debbie!”

“Morning, Loz”

“Cuppa, love? Kettle’s just boiling”

“Please! What are we doing today?”

Lifeline 9

I didn’t sleep that well, as there was music until very late in the morning. I couldn’t call it ‘early’ as it had passed beyond that. We were still up and out by eight o’clock, though, and after Loz had inspected my injuries, I dressed, in the longer skirt this time. I went to fill the kettle, but she stopped me.

“Time for a little lesson in manners, love. Don’t worry, you’ve done nothing wrong! It is just that we have a few ways of doing things you need to learn. Grab three mugs for us”

Lifeline 7

Gandalf put a couple of fingers into his mouth and gave a piercing two-not whistle, something I had seen on screens large and small but thus far never in real life. A couple of children of around my age came running up, grinning with excitement.

“Rosie, Sam: We want two pints for Badger and his missus, and a hot choc for Debbie here”

The boy laughed.

“Two pints of what, Dad?”

Lifeline 5

We were still naked when Ken came back in, his figure shadowy through the shower curtain.

“Got you this, duck. Clean clothes are on the table. Pair of flip-flops in her size as well, as long as those were her shoes”

He handed a safety razor and a pair of scissors over the top of the curtain rail, then blurred again as he moved away, calling back, “I can change the filter tomorrow, so don’t worry unless it clogs”

Lifeline 3

As discussed following the first two parts, I am slicing away a chunk of the early part of the book to avoid distress. There is a huge story I want to write, but it has to start somewhere, and that place involves Charlie Cooper. This offering bypasses that with a summary, and then leads into the story at a later date.

I intend to include a fuller beginning when I publish commercially, but just not here, not now.

Anyone familiar with my work will know exactly what Cooper is, and how he likes to spend his quality personal time. I left Billy about to meet him and Don, and I need not spell out what happens over the next three years of care home life. A summary:

Much abuse. Much of what you read in ‘Job’ and ‘New Beat’. Two escape attempts by Billy, in both of which they meet a friendly police sergeant. I have described the bars on the windows. Billy marks his shirt cuff with the width of the bolt, and when he is awaiting return from the police station again, he finds he is left in a storeroom for once, rather than a cell: there is a prison visitor inspection in full flow, and Sgt Friendly does NOT want him seen or spoken to. There is a lost/stolen bicycle in the room awaiting disposal. It has a saddle bag, and a flat cycle spanner slips into his underpants after a quick check against his shirt cuff…

Now read on.

Dancing to a New Beat 86

The wall was almost as warm against my back as the sun was in my face, but the ground remained unforgiving. I felt my rump aching slightly, and when I stood up it was with some definite awkwardness, as the required muscles had all gone to sleep. It was the first time in ages I actually heard a Charlie sniff, but this one came with a twinkle.

“Numb bum, Di? Should’ve brought a rubber ring! Some of us know these things!”

Dancing to a New Beat 85

I left Chester with a real sense of hope, while wondering what else DI Mulready had in the way of evidence against Linehan or O’Sullivan. I suspected that my team had not been the only ones digging for things other than gold. There would still be a long way to go for Ben and Peter, but I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to end badly.

Dancing to a New Beat 84

Just the slightest of twitches in reaction to Mam’s deliberate stressing of the boy’s middle name, and of course I understood her purpose. My son turned his wide-eyed gaze to Mam.

“This is Aunty Annie and she lives in England by a church with aeroplanes and she plays a flute and she doesn’t speak Welsh but Aunty Steph Mrs Woodruff does!”

Dancing to a New Beat 83

Chris had really worked hard at his planning, I realised, as our ‘two tribes’ crossed paths at the halfway point. Annie had been sent off with Darius, so I had Eric with me for the first part of the evening. I decided as we started our walk that I wouldn’t pump him for info, but me and good intentions have never been the firmest of friends.

“When did you decide this trip, Eric?”

Dancing to a New Beat 82

The next few weeks passed far too quickly, as I rarely experienced them as individual days. The files managed something new, delivering a sensation I had thought burnt out of me by Evans, Cooper, Pig and all the rest: shock.

I found myself reliving Peter Nicol-Clements comments about experiences with the police, “Back then”, and I finally understood what a different world they had inhabited.

Dancing to a New Beat 81

Rhod may have been glad to see me, but he had an odd way of showing it, which consisted of dumping the cat into my lap after I had slumped into the settee, followed by recounting what seemed like a century of playground gossip, largely involving children I had never heard of. Blake was at work, so Dad and Mam had driven boy and beast back to our place, together with a big pot of cawl. My larger boy was home at six, and after we had worked our way through a chip supper (I was willing neither to cook nor let Mam do so), the three of us were alone. Three, plus Fritz, who was snoring. Blake set a video going, something about climbing in North Wales he had picked up on our trip, and left boy and cat to their own devices.

Dancing to a New Beat 80

She announced her return with a series of groans, a flutter of eyelashes, and unfortunately a grab for something, anything, to catch the few drops of vomit she brought up. Shan was quicker than me, taking one of the papier-mâché bowls from the side cabinet and holding it to Charlie’s mouth until she was finished.


“Yes, Shan?”

“Buzz the nurse? She got something for me”

Dancing to a New Beat 79

The dining room in the hotel was pretty shabby, and the choice not the greatest, but they had chilled apple juice on tap and as much tea as I could drink, which helped with the beer-mouth. I loaded up on carbs and grease, before sorting out some odds and sods for a morning of wandering along the front while waiting until it was time to head over to the little hospital for my friend’s return from theatre.

I suppose I should have been there for her departure for surgery, but I was so terrified at the possible dangers I hid in the city instead, and played tourist. There was, after all, plenty to see, even if I didn’t go up on the ‘i360’, a viewing platform on the sea front.

Dancing to a New Beat 78

I was back with the others after a surprisingly short conversation, followed by a longer one, with Simon, who was looking positively secular in a checked shirt and jeans, not a whistle of a dog collar in sight. That thought brought back others, of course, and he noticed. After we had finished our negotiations, he asked outright what had disturbed me.

“Nothing here, Simon. Just been a rather heavy time at work”

“Ah. Annie told me about the shootings”

Dancing to a New Beat 77

Annie was smirking, and although Eric was doing his best, his own mouth was twitching. I gave him a by-now-well-practised Mother Look, and he shrugged.

“They did it to us, Di, years ago”

Annie slapped his arm.

“You mean me, love! Di, first time I went to that music day event, and they had video of the whole sodding thing!”

Dancing to a New Beat 76

Annie had been apologetic.

“Sorry to mess you around, Di, but we just haven’t got the room for both of you. Steph’s place isn’t that far away from us, honest”

“Are you apologising, girl? What the hell for?”

“Well, I sort of said I’d put you up, aye? And now I’m turfing you out. It doesn’t feel right”

“Annie, who is it that’s going to be putting her up for so many weeks?”

Dancing to a New Beat 75

It was a wrench leaving our little home from home. It had been a delight, locals and Brenin staff full of smiles and welcome, the experience made immeasurably better as I watched the strain drop from people’s faces and posture. It had been a release for all of us, and I am sure my own tells had been just as overwhelming. Bless you, boss.

Dancing to a New Beat 74

I succumbed on Saturday morning, spending a few hours getting wet along with Candice, followed by a memorably graceless display of utter inability on the Centre’s little dry-skiing slope, where I was made to look even worse by the effortless performance of Lisa and Lexie, the little sods. The sun was out again, and Barry just sat on the terrace, headphones on and eyes closed, recovering his life in his own fashion.

Dancing to a New Beat 73

Once again, I should have seen that one coming.

“By any chance, reasons that might be blonde?”

The younger woman turned sharply, fixing me with quite an intense gaze.

“You still manage to surprise me, Di. I get so used to you seeing things so clearly it throws me when you miss something in plain sight. Sammy hasn’t”

Dancing to a New Beat 71

Afterwards, as so often in my life, I was able to talk with my lover. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever be able to cope without him there to take the load at least partly from my shoulders, but I was certain he felt the same way about the support I offered him.



“Might need some help A few cracks showing”

Dancing to a New Beat 70

We made our way back to Central in convoy, some of the vehicles peeling off to deposit their prisoners at other nicks, the numbers being rather too big for one Custody Suite to hold. I was glad to be able to get rid of all the Personal Protective Equipment that had been weighing me down. I am not a small girl, nor exactly chest-heavy, but I am sure the designers of the ballistic vest were either misogynists playing a nasty joke, or simply nerds with no concept of what a woman’s body actually looked like. Bloody uncomfortable things.

Dancing to a New Beat 69

Barry was out of the blocks before I could strap in, and as he drove the short distance to the gates, I felt as if I was back in my days riding with him and Traffic. He could drive almost as smoothly as my man when he wanted to, but this was so different. There was venom in his cornering, and I am sure that without ABS the car would have slid to a stop rather than lurch. The boys had already armed up, and once again I was left behind as they burst from the front seats, eyes everywhere. Bryn waved to me.

“Di! On us! Now!

Dancing to a New Beat 68

That was something that I really should have guessed. It was one thing, far from easy in itself, setting up such a complex and personnel-heavy operation, costing such huge sums, no doubt, that Force accountants’ sphincters would be twitching. Actually setting the whole thing in motion would bring similar lower-back problems to the Crown Prosecution Service and the Brass.

What did we have, in the end? Rather a lot of observation data about booze, plus some specific intelligence that we couldn’t possibly divulge. Not a nice place to be in; I really felt for Sammy, and wondered how well Wildcat, in her professed love of dogs, had understood what would be needed when it came to the crunch of big teeth.

Dancing to a New Beat 67

That night, as with so many others, I lay with my husband trying to sort the day out while taking so much comfort from the simple fact of his presence beside me. Sammy’s moodiness was niggling away at me, however, so my relaxation was nowhere near absolute.

“Penny for them?”

I chuckled at that one.

“Clichés now, love?”

Visiting old ghosts

Work has taken me to quite a few places over the last ten days, including Weymouth, Liverpool and York. I spent a little while in the last city looking at the spot where I sat Susie Lockwood, waiting to slide into the river, and where I once pulled an old man out in real life before writing him into my novel "A Longer War".

Dancing to a New Beat 66

We were back up in Merthyr by Monday lunchtime. Sammy had already briefed, within limits, the CCTV operators, and Jon and Lexie were tasked to spend the rest of the day sitting on folding chairs in the control room watching the screens. My aversion to a certain greasy spoon seemed rather lightweight compared to the hell of boredom that awaited them, but at least they would be in the warm. As for us, I had a flask of hot chocolate, Alun one of coffee, and I had made sure I had fitted a trip into Frank’s/Gemma’s place on the Saturday. We were well prepared.

Dancing to a New Beat 65

“St Nicholas’ church. May I help you?”

A woman’s voice, with a strong West Welsh accent. That would be the vicar’s other half then.

“Miriam Jenkins?”

“Speaking. Do I know you?”

“Diane Sutton. I was over at Christmas, with the Powells. With my husband and little boy”

“Would that be the very big man… Sorry. I sometimes fail to think properly before I speak. There are many big men in our circle. Was he the little one who slept with Elaine and Siân’s two? Um… Roderick?”

Dancing to a New Beat 64

That removed any traces of darkness from the table, Frank explaining what he had said as Deb sat chuckling.

“All I actually said, in Welsh, was that you will have to learn it. My family, or what’s left of them, are first language, so they will expect no less. Some of the courtesies, anyway. Rhod?”

“Yes, mister?”

Dancing to a New Beat 63

I grinned and nodded.

“That a problem, Frank?”

He paused for half a minute, clearly weighing his words as best he could, before looking up and smiling.

“No, not really. Depends on how well you know Deb, I suppose”

He lifted his glass, frowned, and waved at a waiter.

“Could I please have another Peroni? The large bottle? Anyone else?”

Dancing to a New Beat 62

I had to register my source, naturally, but somehow the fact that Deb was merely acting as a go-between, rather than the primary, slipped my mind. There were too many tangled threads to unravel safely, and my friend was already listed as a source as a consequence of her work with us on the Cooper case.

In reality, I wanted any possible connection to a certain couple in Reading strangled before it was born.

Dancing to a New Beat 61

There was no way I was going to survive another debauch, especially so soon after both Christmas and our team party. I really wasn’t up to another set of ambush memories biding their time to emerge at the most inopportune moments possible, thank you very much. Besides, Rhod was due his own moment with my parents, and so our New Year’s Eve was spent with family, a small boy assured he would be allowed to stay up and hear the bongs finally succumbing to slumber and falling asleep cuddled up to his Bamps.

Dancing to a New Beat 60

I looked hard at them both, and it was almost as if they had clicked into sharper focus. They both passed well as cis women, which was probably down to starting their transition at a young age, but that wasn’t the point. If I hadn’t known about them, I would never have guessed their history, unlike with Gemma, who would never manage to look like anything other than herself. Her man didn’t seem to mind, though, and that was clearly down to the personality that had attracted her from the start.


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