Cyclist

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…

Dancing to a New Beat 6

CHAPTER 6
I was called into the Super’s office two weeks later, and as I had expected Bev had Sedgewick and Weir with him. There was the usual ritual of greeting and coffee before I was asked to deliver my updates.

“Rather a lot of the former residents are no longer with us, gents. Ion and I have managed to speak to nine survivors, and I am sorry to say that six of them are not willing to cooperate”

The Job on sale

The Job is now going through Amazon's machinery and will be available in the next couple of days, assuming all goes right. It can be found by searching on Amazon (using the BCTS links) under Sussex border stories. Clicking on my author name once there (S.A.A. Calvert) brings up my author page with the rest of my books.

Dancing to a New Beat 5

CHAPTER 5
Once more, the pattern of my days was set by lists, names and club numbers, as we called criminal records. As with one nightmare of a prison visit, the pattern of offending seemed to be clear, just--- thankfully--- nowhere near as extreme. It fell into particular areas of social failure, and they all clung to the coat tails of self-destruction and lack of any sense of self-worth. Addictions of various kinds, steady theft and criminal damage habits seeming to be as much of a compulsion as drugs or alcohol.

Dancing to a New Beat 4

CHAPTER 4
I lay with Blake that night, more at ease than I had been for years. So many of my worries had been eased by the trials, and now I saw an old friend happy and safe, and so clearly loved and in love. I mumbled into my husband’s chest without realising it, and he simply hugged me closer to him as Fritz rumbled from the top of my pillow.

“We need to report properly to Lainey, love”

“I texted her, sent a picture, yeah?”

Dancing to a New Beat 3

CHAPTER 3
My life was painful for the next week, just for starters, and of all people Candice was the worst.

“Di. Love, I’ll be around, don’t worry. There are some lessons you’ll need to get sorted before you can get back to work properly, isn’t it? Now, we’ll start with this”

She held up a ballpoint from our stationery cupboard.

“This is called a ‘pen’. You use it for writing, and this is the end that makes marks—Ow!”

Dancing to a New Beat 2

CHAPTER 2
Dad, of course, was the one who gave us a hand moving, after we finally found a suitable place up by Radyr. Blake and I were both renting, so it was Dad who helped with the deposit, Dad who helped with the fees, Dad who helped with the physical moving and so on, and Mam who ensured that we had all the little things that are always forgotten for a new home. I am embarrassed to say that the last included toilet paper. I had heard stories about people finding the only acceptable use for the Daily Mail, cutting it into squares, but just ‘no’. I mentioned that thought to my new husband, and he just laughed, pointing out that the whole purpose of toilet paper is wiping stuff off, not rubbing it on.

Dancing to a New Beat 1

CHAPTER 1
That sky was so blue it hurt, but I was distracted from it by Mam’s faffing. No problem packing, none at the airport, but she was all fingers, thumbs and rambling conversation, and as those fingers held a needle I was hoping she could find her attention span extending enough to avoid me bleeding into the white of my dress.

Jobbing writer

Well, time for a decision. I was asked, quite sensibly, if that was the last chapter of The Job. It is an obvious place to end, and a scene I loved writing, but Diane still has a long way to go. So...

Do I continue writing this as one book?
Do I split it and start another book, continuing the story, as I did with 'Ride On' and 'Too Little, Too Late'?
Any sensible ideas for a title if I make the split? I have some already.

The Job 62

CHAPTER 62
We did let things lie for a little while, as there was another event looming: a wedding. Candice had made the usual and expected noises about Hen Night Armageddon, with flights and matching T-shirts, and I simply told her to get stuffed. We were already down for a long-haul flight for the wedding, and I really didn’t fancy wasting any more time or money in airports. There was also the matter of the fresh meat, for while I didn’t want to leave them out of the team-building exercise (debauch) they were still ‘stranger’ enough for a holiday together to feel uncomfortable.

The Job 60

CHAPTER 60
I spent quite a while thinking about that one, and especially tactics. I held no great hopes of producing a wave of new suspects, but what I did want was to see if I could close off past nightmares for other victims.

That was what had happened with me, in the end. I had spent so many years fixated on Ashley Evans and his corrupt running mates that it had poisoned everything I did. Walk down a street? Look over my shoulder. See a big BMW? Look to see who was behind the wheel. Think about entering a loving relationship with a decent and similarly loving human being?

The Job 59

CHAPTER 59
I wasn’t great company for Blake that night, as my first act after getting into what was now clearly ‘our’ flat was to switch the computer on and start looking up news reports. I had half-heartedly started a search about the case that Woodruff woman had been involved in, but I hadn’t felt the need to know all of Adam’s pain back then. For some odd reason, that need was back, and it was hungry. I also wanted to see what he was dealing with right then.

The Job 58

CHAPTER 58
I was back to the state of mouth Dad had commented on in the bell tower. Blake was sitting opposite me, rather than kneeling, and rather than a square box he had a little paper bag from the shop by the campsite gates, which I remembered included a jeweller’s. Apart from that, and the fact that my parents were sitting with us, it was as traditional as all hell.

My mouth, very simply, would not move in any organised way. Police, professional wasn’t working, but my mind was. From the way they were sitting, Mam and Dad must have been in on the proposal from an early stage, and I wondered if Blake had engineered the whole holiday so that it would be Venice, and therefore officially As Romantic As A Romantic Thing, before I clamped down on my racing thoughts.

Was he serious? Yes, clearly. Did I want this? My mouth took over, for it knew the answer before my mind did.

The Job 57

CHAPTER 57
The water was nowhere near as warm as it had been in Cuba, but it was still delightful. The beach was clean, and both Mam and I had someone suitable for the application of sun cream. The stress of the flight, and the aftermath of the adrenalin-fuelled minibus ride, all evaporated under blue skies and on clean sand. Sparkling company that I am, I fell asleep. Dad woke me a little later.

We only spent a couple of hours there, as none of us fancied spending the whole of our holiday suffering from sunburn, so we settled back into our little chalet for a cuppa and some unpacking before setting out to explore the site.

The Job 56

CHAPTER 56
I found work a little bit of an anti-climax after that, and it took me a little while to calm down. Life had been edge of the seat for so long I was finding it difficult to relax in the office. Fortunately, or not, Jon and the New Chums had been piling up the information on Mersey View’s former staff and ‘guests’, and their computer skills were well above mine. I had expected a great pile of A4 paper, and instead received two USB memory sticks.

“Staff on the red one, Diane, and inmates on the blue. Set them up as spreadsheets, so if you get into Excel and…”

The Job 55

CHAPTER 55
Life settled down for a short while after that, but it wasn’t exactly ‘normal, as it had changed so much. I felt all the hackneyed effects of the trial, as so many weights that had hung on me fell to the ground and disappeared from my world. To be honest, life would have been immeasurably better even without those gifts, for I had my man.

The Job 54

CHAPTER 54
I caught up with Deb in one of the little patches of green around the outside of the court, where she and Kimberley were wrapped round a sobbing Charlie, Paul, Paula and Candice not too far away, as the former high-flier-to-be puffed frantically on a cigarette, and I wondered how her addiction was treating her at that exact moment. Blake was at my shoulder.

“You’ll be thinking how lightly you got off, won’t you, love? Compared to the others?”

I reached for his hand, and it was there, along with a little of my resilience.

The Job 53

CHAPTER 53
“All rise!”

Finally, our day had come. All the research on the home hadn’t stopped, for I had what Alun was calling my minions still digging away, but this day was for me and Charlie. Get this out of the way, and we’d have Tiff’s to follow. We were quite a crew, almost all of the team, including Sammy, with Deb, a girl she introduced as Kimberley, and PC Welby. The tension in the three from the house was clear, and I could see how involved Paul Welby was in his work. Another one of our sort of copper.

The Job 52

CHAPTER 52
“I was never a real boy, and that didn’t go down at all well in Connah’s Quay. Not the done thing there; men are men and sheep bloody run away to England. I am babbling, aren’t I?”

“No, Deb. You tell it your way”

We had left the café, and the airlock room was cleared for us by the girls. I had sent Blake off to look at some more properties, just to get him out of the way while the older woman gave me her potted biography.

The Job 51

CHAPTER 51
I won’t belittle the real pain and suffering we were told about, but it became routine after a while. I don’t mean that we got blasé, rather that each case Paul brought us went through what was becoming a very smooth and practised system.

Each one was, in the end, similar, and as the similarities piled up, so did the list of ‘further to’ charges awaiting Dai Pritchard, Bob Evans, one call-centre worker and two civilian employees in Cardiff and Swansea’s control rooms.

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