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.

Dancing to a New Beat 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

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

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

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

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

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

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



“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

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?”


Dancing to a New Beat 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

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

“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

“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

“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

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

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

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

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

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

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?”


Dancing to a New Beat 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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