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.
“I mean, I know what he looks like, but, well, that’s all illusion in the end. Dad’s always been a real man’s man. He used to take me along to watch him race, and talk about cutthroat!”
“He’s a distance runner. Middle distance, but not track stuff. Road races, cross country, fell-running. Still does the veterans stuff up home. That and bloody stupid stuff with ropes and things on rock. Took me out a few times, but it was never my thing. Don’t mind the hiking, though”
He grinned, and I liked him immediately; there was real openness there.
“Living where we do, it’s hard not to do something in the fells. Even Uncle Iain stays off the rocks, but when he gets Uncle Roger over there up for the weekend, or Uncle Tom or Aunty Tess, well, slightest hint of sunshine and they’re off being mad. My kids love it, though”
“What have you got?”
“You’ll be expecting the wallet and photos thing, right? Well, I won’t disappoint”
He did the conventional thing, and I responded with approval to pictures of two pretty young women and a serious-looking young man.
“That’s our Tom. He takes after Dad, all bookish. He’s going into teaching, like Mam and Dad. You got any bairns?”
I thought a second before adding “Not yet, but hoping. My other half, Blake, yeah? He works with me. I have to use my maiden name at work to avoid confusion when people ask for DC Sutton”
I looked at his family pictures for a little longer, almost washing my soul clean of Charlie Cooper’s stains. This was what could come out of damaged people, out of victims, victims like myself. The younger Stevie caught something in my face.
“If it’s not too personal, Diane, what happened? I can see it in your eyes, you know”
I gave him a slightly twisted smile.
“Not that much, looking at what others here have been through. I was sixteen, it was a local councillor. Pulled me into his car and, well, enough said. Got him back, though. He’s doing a very long stretch now for several attacks, including the one on me”
Stevie took my hand.
“You are so like Dad, you know. He says you should never be a victim, you should be an opponent. Life’s not a sprint, it’s a longer race, and there’s always time to catch someone, even if it’s at the tape”
He grinned. “Dad’s full of stuff like that; I’m sure he gets it from all the books he gets through”
I smiled back. “A few shelves in the house?”
“Bugger a hell aye! IKEA must think he’s their best customer. Mam’s no better, really, and with all the books for school… Thank you, by the way. Mam said it, but even with all Dad’s aggression, he’s still hurting. I believe we’re a strong family, but sometimes Dad, or Mam; well. You understand”
I nodded, just as Liam Weir returned again.
“Diane? We have a room for you, with one of our conference phones. Whenever you are ready, I’ll show you the way”
“Thank you, sir. We’ll just say our farewells”
I waved Jon over to me, and raised my hand for attention.
“Thank you all for today. Thank you for your courage, your honesty and for reminding Jon and me of why we do this job, and who we do it for. As you will have gathered, we now have another investigation to set up, but we have, I believe, enough from today to, at the very least, make a decent case for the Crown Prosecution Service to consider. I know that man won’t be around much longer, but after meeting him I would very much prefer that he remain well away from decent folk. Deb?”
“You travelling back with us?”
“If you don’t mind, Di”
“We’ll grab you when we’re done here, then”
There was a round if hugs and handshakes, and I was pleased to see some of Ben Nicol’s aspects of ‘prey’ had lifted from his shoulders, his husband standing happily by him, arm around his waist.
Cling to the positives, DC Sutton.
Jon and I followed Weir to a small room, a spiderphone sitting on a small desk. Weir went to shut the door behind the three of us.
“Mind if I listen in?”
I shook my head.
“Not at all, sir. We know this one will involve yet another Force, and as Cooper remains in your area, it makes sense”
“Thank you. If necessary, I can absent myself at any time”
Jon seemed fully recovered by then.
“Oh, sit down! Sir!”
I dialled the number, and it only rang twice.
“Hi, boss. We’re done here. You weren’t hovering by your phone all morning, by any chance?”
He guffawed. “Guilty! What have you got for us, girl?”
I looked over the table at Jon; he had done the work, let him get the credit.
“Jon here, boss. We managed to tie him down to time and place, and also for each witness. With his previous, and the fact we have got him to confirm contact with each of them, we should have enough for the CPS”
“Are you all right, son?”
“Not really, boss. Not just at the moment. It wasn’t just that he was trying to make friends with me, it was that he was on a different bloody planet. You know what Deb told us?”
It was a second or two before Sammy replied, and the warmth had gone out of it.
“Let me guess, son. It was all consensual. Or was it the ’little temptress’ shit?”
“Apparently they were in love and going to run off together”
Liam Weir made a strangled noise as Sammy replied.
“Jesus fucking wept. Thank fuck she got away in time. Now, you two, I know that tone of voice. What else do you have?”
I left Jon to shudder.
“Another place, boss. It was in Bradford; Meadowcroft something or other. Cooper was working there under the name of John or Johnny Kyloe. We need to get rolling with it”
“Hang fire on that one, Di. We are running out of man-hours, so it may have to be left with West Yorks. I’ll still sell our unit to them, though”
“Yes, boss, but we have all the background, isn’t it?”
Sammy laughed, and it was one of his nastier ones.
“That Cooper fellow really pissed you off, didn’t he?”
“Boss, he almost made Ashley fucking Evans look clean. Jon did all the interview, because I think I would have been too tempted to rim his head off”
“Ah. Jon, mate? How do you feel?”
“Truth? Soiled, boss. Utterly defiled, just breathing the same air as him”
“Di? How did he do?”
I looked over at my no-longer fresh meat.
“Bloody well, Sammy. Really kept it together in there. Cooper was left in no doubt about what we thought of him, but nothing oppressive, nothing nasty, and we got the other address. Smooth as a smooth thing, our boy”
“Thanks, you two. Get yourselves back, but no hurry. You’ve earned a bit of a rest. I’ll speak to West Yorks, you two sort out a briefing note when you get back”
“I can whack one out on the way back”
“No. You will leave it alone. Get home, see your blokes, and take a bloody shower. Once you’ve washed Cooper off, I’ll see you at work. Got me?”
Jon and I said the necessary, and we terminated the call. Weir looked at both of us with more than a hint of sympathy.
“What an awful job you two have”
Jon grinned back. His cheekiness restored at last.
“Looking at those people in the conference room, I will have to disagree, sir. We are allowed to make a difference, and that is why we both joined up. Di, grab Deb, some sarnies and the station?”
“Sounds good to me, mate”
Two hours later, we were once more speeding through the hills and Blake had replied to my text.
Mam and Dad coming round. Doing lamb and trimmings. Dad bringing beer and videos
I showed the text to the others, and Deb just grinned before showing me her own phone.
Meeting you at station. Got cakes for them two. XXX Gem
Jon burst out laughing, and showed us his own text.
Get back save, love
His laughter turned to blushes as we both stared, and then Deb laughed, unable to keep up the teasing.
“Oh, sod it. That’s done, at last. There’s a café thing on this train, and I am having a beer. You two?”
Jon and I nodded, and she was back in less than five minutes with three cans of Stella, which was better than nothing. I let her crack her can, and after we had all taken a mouthful, I reached for my overnight bag.
“Got something for you, Deb”
“Yeah. It was when I was in the Dom Rep, for my wedding, innit? My best mate, Bridget, she did something with me, for me. I was down on the beach, listening to the waves. Same sort of sound when Ashley Evans, you know? And the memories…”
“I know, love. It’s associations. I get the same sort of shit from some old aftershaves. Memories get linked”
“Yeah. Well, Bridget turns to me, and she hands me a stone, and I say what’s this, and she says ‘It’s Ashley fucking Evans. Do you want him?’ and of course I say no, so she flings it out into the waves, and she shouts at it to fuck off and never come back”
Deb smiled, and it was gentle and warm.
“That’s a true friend, girl. She really cares for you. Nice idea, too”
“Yeah. I thought so too. That’s why I brought you this back from the Dom Rep”
I took the small stone from my bag and passed it to her.
“When we get some time down the Bay again? Deb, meet Charlie Cooper. Do you want him?”
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