Andy had a dilemma. He was working at a school crossing, lollipop outstretched, with a seemingly endless queue of children passing him. He could hear the sound of an approaching siren and needed to clear the road of the children and all the cars lined up. Then the siren passed by, and he woke up in a sweat.
He could hear the ambulance going away, up the road, and he tried to calm his rapid breathing. It had been a dream, not the reality that it seemed. Lollipop duty was behind him, now. He laid quietly, trying not to wake Maria, and thought about the previous night.
It had been something that he had never experienced, well, not all in one session. They had been intimate in so many ways it made his head spin. He could still taste her, making him smile. There was one point, early in the night, when he had tasted himself, as they kissed.
As he stayed quiet, he thought about the events of the last few days. The build-up to the raid had been intense, and the sting after was almost a performance in itself. He wondered what the rest of the team were thinking about it. Was it just ho-hum, business as usual, or did they still get that tingle of exhilaration when they hit the home run? He thought about what Sky had said, in the hospital. Had there really been a spook, or was it just delusional, brought on by strong painkillers?
He, finally, needed to use the bathroom, so slid out of the bed and padded towards the toilet. Washing his hands, he looked in the mirror and wondered what Maria saw in him; he didn’t think that he was much of a catch, even if he did own a dress shop. As he stood there, Maria came in and squatted on the toilet.
“What’s up, lover, admiring your strong jaw and wonderful eyes?”
“Actually, my precious, I was wondering what you saw in me.”
“Other than the handsome man, with a good mind, stamina in bed, and a dress shop to die for. With your distinct insight into the feminine, you, my love, are the complete package.”
He mentally shook himself.
“All right, I suppose we’ll have to look good when we go to the office. What do you think they’ll say, this afternoon?”
“I suppose that it will be a bit of breast-thumping and bluster about how wonderful we all are, then letting us know that we don’t get a bonus because of it. Been there before, a couple of times when my old team, at Harborne, actually pulled something off.”
“That lot are going to be in a bit of a muddle, this week. No DCI Nicholas to tell them all how wonderful they are.”
“A bit more than that, I suspect. One of the sergeants was as thick as thieves with him and led the others in their wild ways. I’ve seen some drinkers, in the force, but that lot could represent the country in the drinking Olympics. They’re going to find it hard going when they get a new DCI.”
They showered, dressed, and had breakfast. In the office, the whole team was spruced up. Andy wondered how many of these meetings that they had been to but decided not to ask. They spent the morning putting together a working timeline to get the case ready for the prosecution. There would be more to come out of the prisoners, yet. Sue told Andy that it would be likely that Quincey would blame Parks and the Algerian, then the two would point fingers at Quincey.
“In a week, Andy, they will have argued themselves silly, through their legal representatives, and would have given us a complete history of how it evolved, notwithstanding the scrapbook that FSI will have finished with, by now. There will be a team from the tax department going through the books, and they’ll let us know if there’s anything there that relates to the crime. I expect that all of the diners, and what they paid, will be in there, somewhere.”
“I was wondering this morning, boss, if you and the team get the sort of tingle that I have when I think of what we achieved.”
“Oh, Andy! That never goes away. You wouldn’t be human if you become stone-like to success. We may not be jumping up and down, but you can see that everyone in this office has a smile on their face. What you may not realise, having only been here a month, is that solving a serial killing case only comes up once, or twice, in a career. All of this team have been in a single murder case, a couple have been in one that involved two or three bodies, but nine bodies over a little over two years is highly unusual. Add to that the two girls who no-one knew were linked, and you have a case that will be on your record with a star beside it.”
They all went off to the pub for lunch, staying off the alcohol. When they arrived at the conference room, the team was surprised to see the Chief Superintendent, flanked by the Assistant Commissioner on one side, and the local politician who had lost his son on the other.
They all sat down, facing the trio. The Assistant Commissioner took the floor.
“Ladies and gentlemen. This meeting is to pay homage to your hard work and dedication in solving the string of murders that had been glossed over in the past. I ordered the CS of Harborne to hand the files over to the CS of this station, in the hope that some movement could be made to find out who killed the son of my friend, here. A young man who had the world at his feet and who will be sorely missed, along with those other young men, and women, who had been brutally slain to feed some high rollers. Now, I can tell you that every member of this CID team, including DC Walker, will be getting a commendation added to their record.”
The team all smiled, broadly, and Sue said “Thank you, Sir” on behalf of them all.
“As you know, this case has created a lot of publicity. I’m afraid that the high rollers will be on the outer for a while, but will, eventually, bounce back to their place in society. They will plead not guilty, all saying that they thought it was a performance and not the real thing. I’m pretty sure that any judge we put in that court will let them off with a caution, or, at most, community service which they will pay to get out of. Their main sentence will be from the press, who will give them nasty nicknames for years to come. The main players, though, will be hard pressed to wriggle out of it, seeing how much evidence you have on them, as well as a scrapbook that FSI has told me is pure dynamite. I congratulate you all.”
The three men clapped, as the team took it all in. Then the AC carried on.
“This all leaves us with a problem, and that is the Harborne CID. Obviously, ex-DCI Nicholas will never be going back, and there are, so I’ve been told, a few problems with one of the sergeants, as well. To put things right, we are going to make some changes. Detective Inspector Gardiner, you now have the rank of Detective Chief Inspector, effective immediately, and are posted to Harborne, to start Monday, to lead their team, hopefully to improve their performance. Is that a problem?”
“No sir, definitely not.”
“Now, you will need a DS that you can trust, so I’ve looked at the records and Detective Constable William Piggott has the service and the experience to join you there as a Detective Sergeant, also effective immediately. Is that all right for you, William?”
“Oh, yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“DCI Cousins, I am promoting DS Skinner to be your second-in-command with the rank of Inspector, and also promoting DC Brownlee to sergeant, giving you back a DI and two DS ranks. Is that good for you?”
“Oh, yes sir, they both deserve the promotion.”
“Good. That will leave you with three constables and a Probationer, although we can shorten that probation period to six months. That means that you, young Barton, will be a fully-fledged detective in another five months. An outstanding achievement, young man, and fully deserved. DC Holdcroft, we will give you the option of staying here, or going back to Harborne with DCI Gardiner, what do you want to do?”
“I’m staying here, sir. It’s going to take Terry a year or more to knock some sense into those Neanderthals at Harborne, I wish him luck with that lot.”
“Good, I think that we’ve covered the main points. Now, we can open the drinks cupboard and have a little while as I get to know you all better.”
They were another half an hour, talking to the AC and the politician. By the time they went back to the office, none of them could think much about work. Once the door was shut, congratulations on promotions took a while longer, then the CS popped his head in to offer his own congratulations, telling them that it had all been the AC’s ideas, as he was going to be sad to lose two good detectives. Sue laughed.
“You won’t be losing two detectives, sir, you’ll be gaining another team, across town, who will be happy to work with us, not against us, in the future. If they knew what was coming their way, the criminals would be quaking in their boots.”
After a while, and some socialising, the CS left them with orders to call it a day, but be ready, tomorrow, to get started on putting things together for the prosecution. He told Terry and Porky to see him, in his office, in the morning, so that he could take them over to Harborne to officially hand them over to the CS there.
“We’ll take you to meet your new team and give you their records so that you have some idea who you’ll be working with. Any problems, and the AC has given the CS at Harborne orders to listen to you, should you want to make changes.”
The team helped their friends to put their personal things into boxes. Sue gave the two of them a hug and told them not to be strangers. After handshakes and a few hugs from Maria, the whole team went downstairs to go home. It had been a good afternoon for everyone.
Out in the carpark, Sue turned to Andy and Maria.
“You two didn’t get much out of all that, except a great deal of respect. I want to go and see Sky, to tell him he has a commendation on his record, and to let him know that he’ll be coming back to a slightly smaller team. Would you drive me, Andy? I’ll spring us dinner, somewhere nice. It’s the least I can do, considering that it was the two of you that cracked the case. Never fear, neither I, nor Terry will ever forget that.”
When they arrived at the hospital, they found Sky with a woman sitting beside him, holding his hand. When she saw Sue, she stood and came to hug her.
“Sue, it’s good to see you. Lucas has told me that you have been in to see him, more than once. Not every boss on the force is so caring.”
Sky spoke, his voice a bit stronger.
“Helen, the other two are Maria and Andy, they were the ones to crack the case. Andy was beside me when I was attacked, then he knocked the guy into next week with an arm jab, before bringing me here in a rush.”
Helen pulled Andy into a bearhug, telling him that she was forever grateful that he had saved her Lucas.
“The doctor came by, while I was here this afternoon. He told me that if it wasn’t for you, I’d be in black now and organising a funeral. How on earth did you think of taping my man with chef tape, that’s off the wall!”
“I just thought about what you have in a kitchen when the cooks cut their fingers. I think that I might have seen it on a cooking show. The wounds weren’t big, but they were bubbling, so I knew that he had holes in his lung. I can’t even remember exactly what happened, everything I did was on automatic.”
“Automatic, or not, young man, I owe you my future with my husband. Have you got anything to go to, after you leave here?”
Sue smiled. “I promised them a good dinner, seeing that they’re my star officers.”
“I insist that it’s on me. There’s a nice pub, in Burton, that I’ve been to, my treat.”
“All right, Helen. First things first, though. Sky, you, along with the whole team, now have a commendation from the Assistant Commissioner on your record. When you come back to work, you’ll find a few changes. Terry and Porky are starting at Harborne on Monday, as DCI and DS. We will be running a little light for a while, but I’ll be looking around for a couple of extra bodies.”
“That Sally has been in to see me, a couple of times. She’s keen to join CID, she’s a bright girl and very cool in a crisis, I can vouch for that. She’s working this station, and is a Burton girl, but lives closer to the city, where her husband works at a legal office. Saturday, she said, has opened her eyes to a part of policing that isn’t big in Burton.”
They talked some more and left Sky with a big smile on his face. He expected to be transferred closer to home in a couple of days and hoped that the police doctor will allow him to come back to work on light duties, so that he can help with the paperwork.
Over a good dinner, Helen kept putting her hand on Andy’s arm and smiling. He understood why; that he was a person who had saved her from widowhood, someone like that is not someone you meet every day. She gave all three of them a hug when they parted.
Back at home, Andy was quiet. Maria asked him what was wrong.
“Nothing’s wrong, sweetheart. It’s just that I’m not used to being idolised. It’s truly humbling to know that I did something to change somebodies life. I know that I saved Sky, but that was part of the job. It’s the knock-on effects that are getting to me. When you start thinking that way, you can start feeling sorry for others, whose lives we’ve affected. People like Butt’s wife, who’ll be without her husband for some years to come.”
“You stop that, right now, Andrew Barton! You do your job; you arrest the ones that have done wrong. The people around them are not your responsibility, they take their own paths in life. You’re a detective, Andy, and you detect, you do not act as an amateur psychiatrist, nor do you become their clergyman. You keep a clear mind, and you keep that mind on your job, and you will be one of the good ones. If you get maudlin, you may as well become a dress shop manager. I’d be happy to be the model wife,”
“You would? Model, wife, or both?”
“Both, my darling. I know it hasn’t been very long, but I know that you’re my world.”
“That’s ---- wonderful! Will you marry me, Maria?”
“Didn’t I just say yes, darling?”
“We’ll have to keep it quiet, for a while. We can shop for a ring next weekend. I don’t think they take it too kindly to have a married couple in the one team.”
“You’re right, Andy, love. It could lead to feelings getting in the way in a sticky situation. I can wait to make it official, perhaps after you make it past the probation period. That’s only five months away. In the meantime, is your place leased?”
“No, my folks had bought it as an investment property, to rent out. I moved in when the last tenants left. I could sell it and we could see if we can find somewhere with garaging on site, or close by. I can put the shop up as collateral.”
Wednesday, the remaining team decided who would be doing what. Andy and Maria were tasked with working through the Singh case with the prosecution, much of the evidence based on recordings that were made at the time of the arrests, on top of the evidence that Entwhistle had promised. The rest of the team would be working on the Hyp-Nouvelle case, seeing the status of some of the accused, it was thought that it needed the upper ranks to front it.
“We know it was your work that cracked it, but the sort of defence that will be put up needs a DI or above presenting the evidence. Your turn will come later when you’re both more experienced.”
‘It’s all right, Sue,” smiled Maria. “We know how it works. It will need all we can throw at it to send them down for long stretches.”
The prosecution of the diners happened first, headquarters wanting to get some complaining businessmen off their backs. They all went as the AC had predicted. Although they had all been at previous dinners, they all pleaded that they had thought that it had been a performance. The fact that Quincey was a hypnotist was mentioned, several times. In the end, all the diners ended up being ordered to do community service, but with a caution that they would be closely watched in the future.
The Singh case was also as expected. The wife pleaded guilty to a crime of passion, which didn’t hold water. She was given ten years inside; the husband divorced her and promptly opened another supermarket. A couple of weeks later, he sent Andy and Maria a loyalty card, each, with a good discount. They took them to a refuge for victims of domestic violence, who welcomed them in and thanked them for the generosity. Entwhistle had given evidence for the prosecution and was allowed to return home with a suspended sentence.
For a few weeks, Andy and Maria helped out with the main cases, especially the case against Parks, seeing that they had been the ones to link him with Mary’s death. When that case went to court, there was a compelling case against Parks, with extra evidence of the DNA found in Mary’s body, that matched the fluids taken from the girl who had taken to the stand to swear that it had been Parks who had raped her. They couldn’t prove that he had killed the Swedish girl, but a guilty verdict of one count of rape, plus one of rape and murder, saw him sent down for a long time.
The Internal Affairs handled the case against Nicholas and his sergeant, who had been to the third and fourth dinners as a guest. That took place in a closed court, with both charged with aiding and abetting in the cover up of nine murders. The sergeant got five years, while Nicholas got fifteen. Both lost all rights to a pension, and both suffered badly in prison. Felons don’t like it when the police are inside, and both would have spent a lot of time in the prison hospital if they hadn’t been, eventually, put in a cell, together, and only allowed out to exercise when the yard was cleared.
That left the Algerian, Quincey, and the partner. The Algerian was fingered, by the other two, as the one who did the actual butchering, and his attempt to murder Sky didn’t help him. He got twenty-five years for multiple murders. The other two, after the evidence from the scrapbook and the takings for the meals was explained, were found guilty of aiding, and abetting in all the cases, getting twenty years each.
One day, Sue was in the office, when she got a call from Terry, over at Harborne. They had spoken, often, but this was something different. When she put the phone down, she turned to Maria.
“Maria, did you work with a guy called Leith Jamieson at Harborne?”
“Yes, boss. Lee was one of the better ones. He’d talk to me and Jenny as if we were real people, but only out of sight of the others in the team.”
“Terry is sending him over here, with some case files. He asked me if I wanted to keep the guy. Terry and Porky are about to make some significant changes over there; he did say that it included a breathalyser in the office, sessions with the physical exercise guys at the Police college with an enforced diet. He thinks that most of them have guts that could be reduced, and that this Leith was too fit to be put through the wringer.”
“What about the files, boss?”
“Terry said that we’ll know why he has sent them. Something about more old cases that Butt had belittled. We’ll wait until we look at them. When I get a call that the guy’s here, you can go down and welcome him. Oh! While we’re talking about new blood, that Sally Brown that we met in Burton has put in for a transfer to CID and I talked the CS into letting us have her, seeing that we know her. She will reporting here on Monday, along with Sky coming back. He was a lot sicker that he thought he was, had to fight off some chest infections before the doctors would allow him to come back.”
“That’s good, he’s a nice guy, I bet he’s missed the place.”
“What I’m going to do is to create a small team, just you, Andy, Sally, and this Leith. You can start with the files he’s bringing with him. It will enable you all to start with a new case from the ground up, good training for Sally. You won’t need a sergeant to lead you, both you and Andy are level-headed enough to do the right thing.”
The next day, Sue got a call from the desk sergeant.
“Maria, go on down and bring Leith up to his new home. Take the sack truck and Andy, it seems that he has brought us quite a stack of boxes.”
When they came back, Sue saw that Leith was a lot younger than she had expected. She wondered if Butt had grabbed him to make up numbers, along with Maria and Jenny, while he and his core team did whatever they did to pass the time. She knew that detecting had only been part of their day, unlike the time that the remaining team was now experiencing.
Andy had cajoled the others in the team to allow them four desks in the corner of the room, so the boxes were taken there. After Leith was introduced to the others in the office, he sat at a desk and started to take Maria and Andy through the files that he had brought with him.
“What we have here are a number of files that had been put into the ‘too hard’ or ‘don’t bother’ section. I was told, by the new boss, to look through them and pick out the ones that needed a bit of imagination to solve. When I showed them to him, he told me to box them up and be ready to move here. I’d spoken to him, several times in the pub about getting a transfer.”
“I thought that we’d start with girls whose bodies that have been found locally, over an eight-year period. All the bodies were street walkers, who had been dumped in the open. DCI Nicholas had written them off as beneath him, as they all had records for prostitution, with a few being transgender on top of that. The really odd thing about these cases, which Nicholas had refused to follow, was that most were found near, or at, old colliery sites. He thought that they were convenient and secluded sites, not part of the evidence.”
“That’s typical Butt, Lee. He wouldn’t look past his nose if there was even a hint of queer. I wonder if he’ll find out about being queer at first hand as he gets further into his sentence.”
Andy looked up from the files.
“What we need to do is take a good look at these and see if we can plot a timeline with a map of the dump sites. If these are all in our area, I wonder whether there are others that fit the modus in other jurisdictions. We should put together a short description and see if we get any more unsolved dumpings that match. Then we may have something to work with when Sally joins us, next week. Lee, the four of us will be concentrating on these, with Sally joining us as her first placement out of uniform.”
Maria smiled. “You’ll like her, she’s level-headed. I’ll say to you, now, Lee, what was said to me on my first day in this office. Our DCI is Sue, Cuz, or boss unless there’s brass about. You are allowed to ask any questions or make any suggestions you like, without any fear of being howled down. The rest of the team are your equals when were together, regardless of rank. It’s so far removed of what Harborne used to be; you’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure that you’re not dreaming.”
Marianne Gregory © 2023
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