Cyclist

Dancing to a New Beat 85

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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.

“Diane?”

“Yes, Shan?”

“Buzz the nurse? She got something for me”

Dancing to a New Beat 79

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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.

“Blake?”

“Yeah?”

“Might need some help A few cracks showing”

Dancing to a New Beat 70

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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

CHAPTER 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.

Dancing to a New Beat 59

CHAPTER 59
Dad dropped me off, as requested, and I took a seat and another rehydration cuppa in the little café across the road from the safe house. Out with the mobile.

“Morning, Di! Bright and early after last night, aren’t you?”

“It wasn’t that heavy a night!”

“Says Queen Karaoke the first!”

“Shit. Was I that bad?”

Dancing to a New Beat 58

CHAPTER 58
Blake was snoring, and he did smell rather strongly of stale beer. I was fuzzy-headed, to say the least, and while I dearly wanted more sleep, there was an urgent demand from my bladder I couldn’t defer. I realised I had rather overdone it the night before, and had a sudden shiver of shame and guilt as to how Dad must have felt on seeing and hearing me in what must have been quite a state of drunkenness.

Dancing to a New Beat 57

CHAPTER 57
I felt slightly nauseous just then. I wasn’t like some women, obsessed with animal welfare to the exclusion of the people around them, but we had a cat, my men and I, and he was part of the family. Even though I hadn’t had pets before, the presence of Fritz felt utterly natural to me. The idea of using a pet animal to prove how big a dick you had disturbed me, and if this was dogs rather than that other type of cock, it could turn out a really shitty case.

Dancing to a New Beat 55

CHAPTER 55
There was no real reason to spend any more time with Elaine, and despite the fact that the Barracloughs had followed Annie’s lead in setting up a raft of tents in the back garden, the house was absolutely groaning at the seams. Blake and I still had our responsibilities to paid employment to fulfil, and to be honest, the more I watched Elaine and Siân locking soppy eyes with their children, the more I missed my own boy.

Dancing to a New Beat 54

CHAPTER 54
Both women looked drained, and Elaine was still giving little flickers of confusion to my Police, Professional eye. I remembered her apparent obsession with ‘three suspects’ when we were dangling poor Chris in front of that gang, and I flashed a glance at Sioned, who gave the slightest of headshakes.

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...

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