Cyclist

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...

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”

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