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Dancing to a New Beat 53

CHAPTER 53
It was an awkward time for a few days. It wasn’t that Elaine’s family made Blake and me feel unwelcome, though. Far from it: we were enfolded in their family like something out of a bad Star Trek film. Twm had returned much later than Eric, and Sarah simply ignored him when he claimed not to be hungry, making a small dent in our breakfast supplies. I conveyed the news to my own mother after Twm had played proud grandfather. He had been adamant.

Dancing to a New Beat 52

CHAPTER 52
On a hunch, as I cuddled Sarah, I looked across at her Mam, to see her face crumpled.

“Sioned?”

“Yes?”

“Can we agree a way forward? This is… This is bloody awkward. I don’t think it would be good for Elaine, would it?”

One hand came up to rub her forehead, and I suspected to wipe a tear, so I pressed on.

Dancing to a New Beat 51

CHAPTER 51
Twm was off to the hospital as soon as he and Sioned had unpacked, which left the three of us to find our own balance in relative calm. To be honest, the more I sat with my old friend, the easier it got, and I caught Sioned smiling indulgently over her tea a couple of times, just as she caught me watching her.

“It is a revelation, isn’t it, Diane?”

“Um?”

Dancing to a New Beat 49

CHAPTER 49
We drove away as quietly as we could, and it was a few minutes of travel before I asked the obvious question.

“What about Deb?”

Paula laughed, but it was strained.

“Oh, she’ll be fine. They’ll take her back to the club. Proper bunkhouse and stuff there. One of them will see her home tomorrow. I think Rosie and her have a lot of catching up to do”

Dancing to a New Beat 48

CHAPTER 48
That night, I lay once more with my lover, safe in our home, in my family, and tried to find the words for him. I had already walked him through my interview, but that was a doddle in comparison.

“I want in to see Lexie afterwards, love”

“How is she? I haven’t had time to pop round since she woke up”

“Gemma’s taken over her diet”

Dancing to a New Beat 47

CHAPTER 47
“We have the medical reports, naturally. Why did you leave hard cover yourself?”

I found myself glaring at Noble, and had to force myself to pull the reaction back. Careful, girl; P, P, as ever.

“I made a dynamic risk assessment that as Morris had been the last known active shooter I was not at risk. I was also wearing what I assume to be bomb disposal personal protection equipment, and I have and retain a duty of care to the community of which I am part. The Peel principles, Mr Noble”

Dancing to a New Beat 46

CHAPTER 46
“Why did you agree to act as a negotiator, when you have not been trained in such work?”

I could see that the two of them weren’t interested in the easy questions. I gathered as much logic as I could find.

“I don’t think there was any real choice. We had an armed man taking shots at people he didn’t like, time was crucial to clear the roadway outside, as there was a high probability that the rallygoers would contain gang members, and we couldn’t risk moving the crowd while there were live rounds being discharged. Morris had been very specific in asking for me”

Dancing to a New Beat 43

CHAPTER 43
“You can go in now, Detective Constable”

I checked myself for any unfastened buttons, pieces of lint, anything that might distract them or make me look even worse than I felt, then turned back to the clerical officer.

“Thanks. Wish me luck”

“You’ll be fine. They’re not as bad as people think”

Dancing to a New Beat 42

CHAPTER 42
We spent a long time in bed that night as a family, Rhod deciding that he wanted a cuddle in the night, which limited the conversation a little, though Blake did steer us through it with some artful use of euphemism and long words. I wanted our little boy to sleep soundly that night, even if I couldn’t. My sleep wasn’t encouraged by the fact that Rhod’s entry had allowed a small furry buzz-machine into the room, so our bed was rather full.

Festival time

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Well, that is the Shrewsbury festival over for another year; source of so much of my inspiration. Some wonderful music, old friends popping out of the woodwork, and very sore fingertips on my left hand. Last year I played so much and so enthusiastically I snapped a plectrum; this year, I just broke a string on the last evening.

Already planning next year! I will try to remember to print off all my train tickets this time, rather than just the cycle reservations...

Dancing to a New Beat 41

CHAPTER 41
That didn’t last long, of course. While the seeming pause in hostilities held, we buckled down once again to pick up the cases we had been dealing with before the morgues started to fill with dissected bikers. Our out-of-area role meant an increasing number of cases being referred to us, so much so that Bev had insisted we appoint what he called a triage officer, a role that dropped neatly into Ellen’s lap. Sammy, feral for once in the sense of blackly humorous, gave his own definition of ‘triage’.

Dancing to a New Beat 39

CHAPTER 39
I had been suspecting something like that, of course, but it was still a lot to take in, so I sat for a few seconds listening to the grown-ups talking. Sammy cut to the crux of it.

“Where does that leave us?”

Brad’s mouth twisted, eyebrows up, and he shrugged, palms out. It seemed to be his little habit.

Dancing to a New Beat 38

CHAPTER 38
I managed to avoid another trip to the sluice room, but only just, and not for the first time I wondered how and why I had ended up in such a job. There was more, but Matt’s summary covered it rather neatly. Discounting the possibility of an utterly bizarre and complicated accident, our man had been beaten and badly wounded with axes. Not swords; Matt went into rather too much detail about the different wounds he would have expected if someone had been channelling some Japanese ninja film.

Dancing to a New Beat 37

CHAPTER 37
We were back in the office on January 3rd, and I spent the morning going through the parish notice e-mails, or, as we called them, after the head admin woman who issued them all, ‘Weller Deletes’. Open—scan—delete. Several were attached to a read receipt system, so I then took a while longer deleting the out-of-office auto-replies to the auto-replies to…

It filled the morning for me, between sessions of team brew-ups and runs out to the local supermarket for biscuits and muffins.

Dancing to a New Beat 36

CHAPTER 36
I felt better after that, enough to talk at last to my husband. We lay in the darkness at Mam’s, our last night before we would decamp back to our old house along with the girls. Rhod was burbling away in his little pull-out bed, while I just lay wrapped around my husband, street lighting leaking enough around the curtains to see his expressions.

“Christmas, love. I had some news”

“That phone call?”

“Yeah…”

Dancing to a New Beat 35

CHAPTER 35
Dinner wasn’t just good, it was excessively so. Mam had prepared, with some help from me, a meal that consisted of just about every traditional ingredient she could fit onto the plates, and plentiful in terms of quantity as well as variety. By unspoken agreement, pudding was left for teatime. Beer and wine were not.

Dishwashers are wonderful.

Dancing to a New Beat 32

CHAPTER 32
We went into overdrive that morning, most of the team joining with CID and uniform to carry out a fingertip search of the open stretch of grass that contained the circle, but there was absolutely nothing for us. Candice and Lexie took the lead with the young couple, and then, once the search was done, Jon and Ellen, Blake and Rob, in pairs, went to the hospital. Sammy had been very clear I wasn’t to go anywhere near what we were assuming were the shooter plus two. My boss took me to an interview room once everyone was off and running.

“Just need a quiet word, mate. A few things you should be aware of. Bring your tea”

Dancing to a New Beat 31

CHAPTER 31
My safety training was kicking in, and I knew in the back of my mind that I was already firing off target acquisition glances, seeking the right place to hit first, who to attack as a priority, but the rational part of me was folding quickly in fear and certainty. I was dead.

I rose from the block I was sitting on. The pub was too far away, and there were no lights in the Norwegian church. The four huge men were too well-spaced to allow me to have any chance of making a run for it, and I had no kit with me. Dead.

Dancing to a New Beat 30

CHAPTER 30
No, life didn’t slip into slow motion, I didn’t clock the number of the bike, and Paul didn’t dive across the pavement shouting “NOOOOOOOOOO!”

They rode past, something went flash-bang, Rhod woke up with a shout, and Paula spun off her feet with a grunt. Nothing dramatic, no cinematic clichés; just a woman on some concrete flags in a spreading pool of blood, I had an immediate thought, and it was stupid, and it was “How useless am I?”

Dancing to a New Beat 29

CHAPTER 29
Routine settled back onto my life like a slightly damp raincoat. Warm, comfortable, but still a little irritating round the edges. I moved Rhod from a cot-style seat to an upright one, but, memories and nightmares tugging at me, I made bloody sure the thing was securely attached. Not in the front, either; I had read enough reports of what happened to a child seat when the passenger airbag was triggered. Wherever my little boy went, his seat went with him, and I am sure I annoyed my parents by insisting on my own inspection of how they fitted it to their own car. I didn’t care, or only a little, because my boy was going to be as safe as I could make him.

Dancing to a New Beat 28

CHAPTER 28
Ten days of an odd alphabet, odder plumbing, strange food and a sea that was visibly (and bloody tangibly) very different to that off Barry. I loved it, and of course it left me with a real dilemma.

The ‘Dom Rep’ would always be there in my heart, for we had married there. Cavallino had seen a sweet man ask me if he could make such a thing possible. Kos… Kos was our family doing a new thing as a family, setting precedents. I have read so many times in so many places that ‘you can never go back’, but that wasn’t my, our, problem. The number of places I wanted and needed to go back to was growing quickly.

Dancing to a New Beat 27

CHAPTER 27
I really don’t know where that year went, but the school holidays were soon on us and so was our boy’s first ever trip abroad. We had taken a load of pictures of him, trying to get something suitable for his passport, and in the end the best we could manage made my son look rather like a white Malteser.

We flew from Cardiff this time, meeting the others at a coffee shop before check-in. It was slightly odd, as I remembered Vicky from the trial, but had never really got to know her husband Kevin, and then there were two hyperactive children to engage with, Tara Elaine and Kevin Twm. Bags dropped, kids supplied with amusements, queue through Security, and then sit and wait, then wait some more.

Dancing to a New Beat 26

CHAPTER 26
Paula looked round the table, her eyes lingering on Rhod, and I could read her mind. ‘Souvenirs’, Moira had said, and I had to assume she meant one or more varieties of hepatitis. I had read the briefings, spoken to enough girls; was it dirty needles, or simply taking the extra cash for bareback sex from dirty men? It wouldn’t have been HIV, because she almost certainly knew it is nowhere near as contagious as good, old-fashioned liver death.

Dancing to a New Beat 25

CHAPTER 25
Waterstone’s may be a huge and faceless chain of book shops, but I have always found the staff quirky, especially in a University town like Cardiff. I suppose a lot of jobs in what is referred to as ‘retail’ are like that, more so when the items sold are niche stuff. There is a cliché image of record shop employees, or employees in goth or hippy clothing shops, merging with the merchandise, and while I will leave the comparison there (and avoid all mention of employees in, er, ‘Adult’ shops), Cardiff Waterstone’s is absolutely in that league.

Dancing to a New Beat 24

CHAPTER 24
We left the CID and firearms boys at the Central nick after quickly putting together our statements. We may have been there to ‘observe’, but what we had observed still had to be noted.

Sammy met us in James Street, which was unusual.

“What are you doing in on a Sunday, Sammy?”

He grinned, as was his way.

“Bev Williams is in as well. Bloody good result, and he wants a word. A nice one, I believe”

Dancing to a New Beat 23

CHAPTER 23
Late Spring saw Rhod walking, after a fashion, and myself back at work, which was both a delight and a pain. A delight and a pain in both cases, I should add, for while my boy was most definitely becoming his own person, his new-found mobility was a mixed blessing indeed.

I had never lived with a cat before, so I had been most attentive when Blake had talked me through Cat Defence for Beginners.

Dancing to a New Beat 22

CHAPTER 22
It wasn’t that easy, of course, as over the next few months our boy developed from what Elaine called ‘shit machine’ (“What? Not me! A friend said it, and she’s got three”) to someone more fully human.

That sounds callous, unmaternal, evil, pick your adjective; but I have heard it said that mother-love is nature’s way of stopping the new person from being smothered at birth, or at least at the first nappy change.

Dancing to a New Beat 21

CHAPTER 21
They wheeled me off to the maternity ward, or somewhere, and all I remember is watching the lights pass overhead. I was utterly exhausted, but they got me in, after some rather painful cleaning up, and Mam had a new nighty for me, which made an amazing difference.

Hang on. Mam?

“When did you get here?”

“Three and a half hours ago, love. I stopped to get you some fresh stuff. Thought you’d want it”

“Yeah, but I only went I there… Mam, how long was I messing about? Labour?”

Dancing to a New Beat 20

CHAPTER 20
The news was astonishing, and it was clear that somebody was playing office politics in a big way, because every aspect was covered by camera crews. It was forced entry, using Big Keys to break down doors, in Crawley, Newcastle upon Tyne and Belfast.

Blake said a dew choice words before shaking his head in disbelief.

“Got to go, love, but I am going to see what I can get out of Sammy on this. It’s bloody unreal!”

Dancing to a New Beat 19

CHAPTER 19
The drive back was just as long, obviously, but it was extended by our Tesco run, and there was a new cat toy I just had to buy, but yes, the Sutton stocks of bacon and sausages were given a major boost. Most of it would end up in the chest freezer, of course, but as long as Mam gave us a little notice we would be properly prepared this time.

It is an odd thing, catering for your own parents. You feel the bar is set at a very high level and no matter how well you prepare, in your heart of hearts you just know that failure is inevitable. My parents would never say so, and objectively I realise they wouldn’t actually think it, but paranoia is a given when your mother sits at your own dining table.

Dancing to a New Beat 18

CHAPTER 18
St Fagan’s is and always has been one of my favourite places. The village is nice in itself, but what I have loved since I was a girl is the attached museum. It has changed its name several times, from Welsh Folk through History to National, but it remains, at heart, the same place where one can climb into the back of a pony trap and be taken for a ride past reconstructed old buildings from all over the country. There are tea rooms on site, serving proper Welsh dishes, gardens, singing birds, everything I needed to lift my soul.

Dancing to a New Beat 17

CHAPTER 17
I grabbed the phone and hammered in Blake’s number, getting it wrong four times before screaming at it. I found myself holding it in mid-air, tensed and ready to hurl it at the wall, as Fritz sprinted off into the kitchen.

Police, woman; Professional. Pull it back and breathe. I slowed my actions down as best I could, tapped in my husband’s mobile number, and got his bloody answering service.

Breathe, woman, centre yourself, and don’t look at the bloody television.

Dancing to a New Beat 16

CHAPTER 16
I don’t know why, but for some odd reason our return home was followed by a prolonged session of rather energetic intimacy, to smother everything in euphemisms. I lay in his arms afterwards, sweat and other things drying, and discussed options.

“When are we telling your parents?”

I thought for a second or two, but the answer was an obvious one.

“I don’t think we should do, at least not right away. I want to see the doc first, just to make sure”

Dancing to a New Beat 15

CHAPTER 15
Jon and I went round to the safe house early the next week, at Deb’s request, and after catching up on all the gossip over plates of meat pie and potatoes, Charlie held up her hand.

“Di?”

“Yes, love?”

“That was a great idea of yours. Deb explained it, so we all went out to Penarth together. Even Paula. We each found one, but me and Tiff, well, we had a bag of them”

Dancing to a New Beat 14

CHAPTER 14
Jon drove off smoothly, trying to draw as little attention as possible, and spoke to me from the side of his mouth.

“Stevie says they’ll drop Deb off at the station, so we can pick her up there”

“You OK, mate?”

He was silent for a minute or so, concentrating on the directions from the satnav and the road ahead.

Dancing to a New Beat 12

CHAPTER 12
There was murmuring from the jury, but His Honour stared straight at them so intently it stopped dead. He turned back to the Clerk, and nodded.

“In the matter of… How do you plead?”

Cooper shot our group a furtive glance before looking down at his hands again, then, standing in the dock he gave the first of a complete and unbroken series of almost inaudible responses. “Guilty’, ‘guilty’, ‘guilty’--- no exceptions. The only deviation was when Deb’s pain was aired again; he looked up again, over towards her, and I swear I saw his eyes wet.

Dancing to a New Beat 11

CHAPTER 11
We spent two weeks on the initial aspects of Meadowcroft, and while we were not precisely surprised at what came out from under a Bradford stone the team’s reaction was a revelation.

Reality had descended on us in a big way after the whirlwind of our original tasking, for the police drama depiction of dedicated sleuthing is utter rubbish. We don’t spend months on one case, patiently sifting evidence before moving to a conclusion, but rather take on a job, a case. Then another. And another.

Dancing to a New Beat 10

CHAPTER 10
We spent an hour or so with the others, Inspector Weir excusing himself after a few minutes, and I was pleased to see the mood lifting as the biscuits, and a couple of plates of muffins, vanished. Three older men chatted comfortably to one side while the Elliott family gradually moved from Stevie’s slow boil to Jon’s star-struck questions about a retired footballer. I ended up chatting to Stevie’s son, who seemed remarkably grounded.

He grinned at me when I commented on his calm, and after a wave at his dad’s chest, pointed out that being adaptable was a bit of a necessity.

Dancing to a New Beat 9

CHAPTER 9
“Good morning, Mr Cooper. I am Detective Constable Owens, and this is my colleague DC Philips. We will be conducting an interview, and it will be recorded on tape. I believe you are familiar with the process”

He sat opposite us with the duty brief, and my first thought on seeing him had been ‘used up’.

Dancing to a New Beat 8

CHAPTER 8
Jon and I took more than five hours to get to Carlisle, the journey including a change at Crewe. I had heard that name so many times, including in music-hall songs, and I was expecting something a little better than what we found. A mix of old train carriages sparked some interest as we came in, but the reality was simply a large warehouse affair with a lot of glass in the upper parts. It was well-kept, the correct spot to wait for our reserved places was marked on the platform and there were places to grab a snack, but we had to wait over thirty minutes before our connection, and it dragged. There were a large number of bricks in the wall the other side of the tracks, and I am sure I counted them all.

Dancing to a New Beat 7

CHAPTER 7
That first chapter was painful to read, but it had a style that drew both of us in; either Paula had real talent or she was being helped by someone else who did. The more I read, however, the more I heard her voice speaking the words. The structure was another thing, where she introduced herself in a short descriptive passage about looking for trade on a miserable February evening in a shitty part of Cardiff, before cutting to a typical school day, and then…

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