Dancing to a New Beat 33

CHAPTER 33
I couldn’t fault Ellen in regard to her sentiments, and that served even more than before to show me how strongly the team held me in its collective arms. Candice had commented on my persona at the beginning: “Don’t touch me!”

Now, it was a case of the team saying exactly that, but as a communal body, and the subtext was clear: if you touch one of ours, we will do far more than touch you. Unfortunately, I didn’t think that would make any difference to Shovel Face, as Lexie called him. Pig would do as he wanted, and we would be hard put to stop him.

It would be so easy to say that I felt conflicted, as the Yanks say, but it wasn’t really the term. What he had done with the three shits had gratified the part of me that rejected the values I had espoused, and sat cheering in a corner of my soul. I saw a part of myself I really wished I hadn’t spotted.

After the briefing, I followed Ellen down to the ladies’, where she stood at the mirror repairing the face that certainly hadn’t been fighting tears. I simply leant against one of the pillars between cubicles as she sorted her eyes, saying nothing until I finally saw her staring at me by way of the mirror.

“What?”

“Sorry, Ellen. It’s just that it wasn’t you back there. I have never seen you so wound up”

“It happens”

“Not to you, girl. Not like that. I know it’s not a nice one, but we’ve had a few of those”

She was leaning on one hand as she worked on her lashes, and I saw her head drop, her right hand going down as she took the weight of centuries on her arms.

“Di?”

“Yeah?”

“You know Jon talks, don’t you? To Lexie, in particular?”

I tried to make it into a joke about Jon and women, but Ellen shushed me.

“No, Di. Don’t take the piss. It’s a fresh meat thing, isn’t it? They all came into the team after the gay-bashing result, and it’s star-struck they were, thinking they’d never live up to expectations, or at least to you, Alun, Blake, Lainey. Shooting stars is what you are”

“Bollocks!”

“No, Di. See it from their point of view. Do you have any idea of the stories that went round the force after that hard stop? Elaine wasn’t the only one who left a mark on the force and the punter all at the same time, and as I said, Jonny Boy talks. Those visits you did, that children’s home filth, you do know he was thinking of quitting? That he didn’t feel he could cut it?”

I sighed.

“Yes, girl, I did. I sort of understand, yeah, but he was so, so good in those sessions!”

She stood up, screwing her mascara brush back into its holder before turning to look at me directly rather than through the mirror’s filter.

“He had to be, Di. He couldn’t let you down. Then there was that gay couple, and he couldn’t let them down, and then there was that family, the Cumbrian one. Just so strong together, weren’t they?”

I found myself nodding.

“Bloody hell yes. Elliott senior was, well, he looks like a woman, yeah? Then he speaks, and you find yourself checking for broken bones. Bloody driven, that man; so much hatred, same thing came off his family in waves, innit?”

“Yes, Di. That’s part of what he said, but the other bit was about love. That family was so solid in its affection, its mutual support. I mean, he was a little star-struck with the pig-fart kicker, but that’s beside the point”

A joke, at last.

“You don’t like football, then?”

“Where the hell are we from, woman? Anyway, off topic. I know for a fact that he wanted out, but Sammy, the team, aye? He felt he would be letting us down if he quit, and that Elliott was one of the reasons he stayed. He came into the team to serve, Di, but you didn’t. You wanted to get payback”

I felt my mouth twisting, but I held myself together.

“I rather think I got it, Ellen”

She suddenly grinned, and it was feral Sammy there before me, just for an instant.

“Oh bloody hell, aye! You and Lainey both! But it’s not just that, is it? You joined up, took The Job to get those bastards, am I right?”

I grinned.

“Oh, absolutely, in the beginning”

A sharp nod.

“Yes, and Paula, she’s someone you see yourself in, her and Jazz and Nell, isn’t it?”

Once again, I felt my face tighten.

“I won’t deny that one”

“Yup. You couldn’t, not in all honesty. Just realise, just for a bit, that you are not the only one on the team with baggage, and for me…”

She looked past me to where the walls and ceiling joined, and there were tears.

“Snit! Have to do it all again!”

I stood in silence until she was back in control.

“Baggage, aye? That little fucker Mahmood? I had a nephew, once”

Oh shit, I thought, as I could see where the conversation was heading. Once again, her eyes found a distant focus, past me and beyond the room.

“You know this stupid term the tabloids like, Di? County lines? Kids acting as drug runners? That was Mason. Same grooming crap, same arsehole with the booze and the drugs and the video games. Wasn’t Elmi, but in essence, yes, it was. Same MO, same mind set, same utter lack of any scruples”

I ran her words through my memory, and it was there, stinking. ‘Had’ a nephew. She shrugged, and continued.

“He met Tanveer Mahmood, or some other little fucker who was just like the Yanks, I’ve got a shooter, so my cock is, must be, HUGE, some little bastard wound up and pointed and given the tools”

The tears couldn’t hide now.

“So there he is, riding a BMX, aye? Standing up, with the saddle too low to sit on cause COOL, and the only brake he has is his foot against the back tyre, because COOL, and he’s got a rucksack full of speed and crack, because fucking COOL, and three lads, from the CCTV, three lads on mountain bikes, they come out of an alley, and they flank him, and one of them shoots Mason in the back of the fucking head, and no, they don’t sprint off, and they don’t just grab the bag of gear. They take their time, and they empty his pockets, and one of them even nicks his shoes. And I know it wasn’t Tanveer Mahmood that shot him, and I know it wasn’t Maxamed fucking Elmi that groomed him, but I do not give a flying fuck. Call it sublimation, substitution, whatever. I don’t care”

She looked directly at me.

“At least you got the actual cunts you needed to, Diane, you and Paula, Jazz, nell, that Elliott lot. I just have to make do with the three shits we were handed. Mason’s version of Elmi fucked off back to Bucharest, and the shooter, Devon Barraclough, he OD’d”

Ellen laughed, and there was a smile, but it was hollow.

“Stupid thing is, Di, I took my old job for the same reasons you took this one. I had dreams, aye? ‘Floran Ionescu, I am arresting you…’. Never going to happen. We can dream, though”

She didn’t break down, not quite, but I still held her till she found Police, Professional. We both spent some time on repairs.

It wasn’t that long till trial, as for some reason the shadow of Pig had all three aiding and assisting in all things concerning getting locked up. The Plea and Direction Hearing was surreal, as none of them was fit for a wheelchair, so we had three trolleys in court, what the yanks call gurneys, as well as three very quick and uncomplicated pleas of guilty. I felt that if someone had asked about standing on a grassy knoll in the sixties, or the death of a Disney deer’s mother, they would have held their hands up.

They got a variety of sentences ranging from five years to life, but I didn’t care. I was watching Ellen, while resolving to get the team to start digging into anything to do with that fucker Elmi. That was, after all, what we did. I didn’t want him dead, but if he never, ever sat with his wives and family again, it would at least be the start of his atonement.

Ellen was right, at least in the case of Elmi. Cunt. I found myself showering when I got home, and then holding Rhod as long as I could before he started wriggling. Find the goodness, DC Sutton, find the reasons for living.

My son did almost all I needed, and then my husband completed the set.

So lucky.

The weeks went by, and finally we were, as a family, standing by Sophia Gardens waiting for a big white bus. Rhod was excited, Mam was smiling, and Bridget and Tammy looked shattered.

“Ye gods, Di, I think the coach was worse than the plane!”

She was hugging me, and I couldn’t help remembering Kevin. Sublimation, yet again. Dad drove us all back to the old place, and once more I blessed Mam’s insistence on holding onto it. Everything in the house sang to me of home, comfort, family.

Our guests tried to sleep, and we woke them to combat jet lag, but an evening In the Eli Jenkins seemed to cure that. Christmas morning came, and there were presents under a tree, but sod that. I had everyone I loved in one place: what more did I need?



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