Copyright © 2011 Angharad
All Rights Reserved.
Penelope Crush had only ever wanted to be a policewoman, and after a couple of years as a Special Constable, they took her on as a regular–that was ten years ago, and half way to her pension. She never disagreed about any of the jobs she had to do–the women officers were in the minority and usually got sent to do the dirty jobs with women punters–taking notice of sudden death to wives and girlfriends, that sort of thing. However, this latest detail was one that she wasn’t so sure about.
Penny was in a good relationship with Ed, who was so laid back, she accused him of being dead a few times. He didn’t drink or smoke, chase other women or lie about money–he was an all round good egg, when he wasn’t working. That was his only downside–he was computer whizz and got sent all over the place sorting out other people’s mistakes and problems. It was ‘his’ fault she’d taken on the latest detail, because he’d been away up in Scotland somewhere–sorting out a supermarket system which had gone tits up and charged customers too much or too little–pretty well anything but the correct amount.
Ed did some forensic work–forensic as in relating to the courts–and it was through this that he met Penny and they dated a few times over a couple of months, then moved in together. Neither had time for children being engrossed in their respective careers, and although they had plenty of friends and family, they were essentially home-birds when they got the chance.
Penny accepted an attachment to work with the vice squad, picking up tarts and sex workers, mostly in the evenings–helping to prosecute the pimps and gangs who traded in their misery–the people traffickers, whom she disliked the most–usually men who saw women as a commodity to be bought and sold as goods. She especially hated those who traded juveniles–often from Eastern Europe–the girls thinking they were going to work as nursery maids or general helps to wealthy British families, only to find too late that they were fodder for perverts who liked young virgins to defile. When they got a conviction of those venal scum, they all felt they were doing something worthwhile.
She’d liaised with case workers who acted as translators, as some of the girls spoke little English, or made out they did to the police–the legacy of state tyranny being in the backgrounds of many of them, so they didn’t trust the police. Occasionally, it took a while to form a relationship with the victims–some of whom were addicted to the drugs the gangs gave them, heroin particularly. Penny had never done drugs, she’d never smoked and had only been the worse for wear from drink twice in her life–some saw her as a control freak–until they met Ed–and realised she could relax, especially with him.
Ed was home the night she got the call–a street girl had been badly assaulted and possibly raped–could she attend at the local general hospital. They’d just finished dinner, so they’d had part of the special evening she’d planned for them–had he remembered it was their anniversary–five years since she conned him into asking her out on their first date. She was delighted when he had remembered and bought her some of her favourite perfume, Givenchy. She in turn had cooked his favourite meal, egg and chips–but with free range organic eggs, fried in organic virgin olive oil and the chips–from organic spuds, deep fried in sunflower oil with top of the range baked beans and a strawberry cheesecake to follow with clotted cream which claimed to be from Cornwall. They’d even had a glass of Chablis each with their feast–Penny laughed–it had cost as much as a roast dinner would and she knew when they asked her in work what they did for their anniversary, they’d rag her dreadfully. Such was life on the force–but Ed was delighted with his meal and she with her perfume–so who cared what others thought.
“I’ve been drinking, Sarge,” she said when he’d phoned her to go to the hospital.
“What? You never drink,” he retorted.
“I do, just not like you load of piss-heads.”
“Charmin’, bloody charmin’–better get a cab then–so get yer arse down to casualty–this one’s in a bad way apparently–need a statement, see if we can put away the bastard who done it, for a long time.”
“Not the same one who did that Bosnian girl a few months back, is it?”
“Could be–do what yer can, but ’urry up, they wanna take her down for surgery.”
“On my way, Sarge.” Ed agreed to take her to the hospital, and she went as she was in a green and pink skirt and top–it sounded revolting, but the pink flowers on the green background caught her eye and she’d worn it for the first time at their anniversary meal–that the shade of pink matched some shoes she had confirmed her choice.
Her heels clacked on the tiled corridors of the hospital in contrast to the squeaks coming from the soles of the shoes of the nurse who bustled ahead of her. “You look smart tonight,” she commented to Penny.
“Yeah, my anniversary.”
“What? They dragged you in from that?”
“Yeah, we’ve got a few off on sick or holidays.”
“Here she is,” the nurse pulled back a curtain and lying before her on a hospital bed lay the remains of what might once have been a pretty girl. Her face was bruised and battered turning all shades of black, blue, purple and green. She had contusions and lacerations on her face, hands and arms where she’d tried to fend off her attacker who had some sort of knife.
“Jesus,” Penny exclaimed when she saw the young woman. “Who did this to you?”
The victim simply groaned back.
“Sorry, even after all these years I’m still shocked when I see what these bastards do to us.”
“Us?” croaked the girl.
“Yeah, us women.”
“Oh,” sighed the girl.
“Look, I’m Penny, I’m with the police.”
“Go away, pig.”
“I know you don’t want to talk to me, but you have to–before he does this to someone else.”
“You deaf? Go away.”
“You’ve been the victim of a nasty attack, he might kill someone next time.”
“He told you that, did he?”
“Get lost, pig.”
“I came away from my anniversary to help you–you might show some gratitude.”
“Well fuck off back to it, then and leave me in peace.”
“It’s my job to help prevent this happening to you girls.”
“Not much good at it, are you?”
“Only because you, won’t cooperate.”
“I need a statement.”
“Help me to stop this happening to someone else.”
“He won’t do it to no one else.”
“You know him, don’t you?”
“How do you know he won’t do it to anyone else?”
“Just go,” the girl began to cry and Penny passed her some tissues although her hands were so bandaged up, she could hardly hold them.
“Let me,” she dabbed the bruised eyelids with great gentleness and care.
“Is there anyone you want us to notify?”
“Did your pimp do this to you?”
“No–’aven’t got one.”
“Somebody else’s what?”
“Pimp,” Penny sighed, it was like pulling teeth.
“Told you, ’aven’t got one.
“What’s your name?”
“Been done before have we?”
“Just piss off, Miss Marple.”
“You’re underage, aren’t you?”
“Go fuck yourself.”
“I gave that up when I discovered boys–how old are you?” She regarded the girl with pity, the remains of her garish makeup and bruised face looked bizarre.
“I will, don’t worry, we’ll take finger prints if necessary, because I think you’ve got form–if you have, you realise we’ll denounce you as a common prostitute–it’ll be in all the local papers–is that what you want?”
“What about your family, what will they think?”
“I can’t believe someone as young as you doesn’t have a mother and father worried to death about you.”
“Ha ha–don’t make me laugh–it hurts too much.”
“Let me talk to them–please?”
“Go away–I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’.”
“I’ll be back–don’t go away?”
“’Urry then, I’m gonna scarper in a minute.”
“Don’t forget to take your drip with you.”
Penny walked up to the nurse’s station. “Did you get a name?”
“Only from her phone.”
“Can I see?” In reply the nurse gave her the mobile. There were a list of names but she called the station and asked them to get a name of the number holder. She looked at the photos on the card of the smart phone, there were several of young women on it, mostly laughing or drinking–was that one of her? Peroxide blonde–it certainly looked as if it could be. She sent a copy to her email account at the office.
“I’m going to get a cuppa–are they taking her down to surgery?”
“Probably not tonight–got a couple of car smashes in–they’ll take the rest of the night–so go and get your tea, she’ll wait.”
Penny handed her back the phone after copying the numbers from her address book–loads of men’s names–punters? Time would tell, they’d check everyone of them. This was the second time a girl had been half killed, it had to stop.
She was drinking her tea when the call came back, “Jo-Anne Potts,”
“Good, it tends to make them talk a bit more when we know who they are, I wonder if I can make her sing.”
“Um–Pen–there’s a slight problem.”
“What’s that, Sarge, she’s underage?”
“Could be, but we ran some checks.”
“She a druggy?”
“Dunno, don’t say so.”
“Um–she’s a he.”
“No I’m not–used to be called Jonathon Pallister.”
“Has a record then?”
“Yeah, shoplifting–cosmetics, aged ten; bras and knickers about the same time; oh and some shoes from New Look.”
“A right hardened criminal,” teased Penny.
“One for importuning–sent to juvie for that.”
“How old is she?”
“He–fifteen next month.”
“Sarge, I’m dealing with a victim who’s presenting as a female...”
“Charge ’em with the misrepresentation of goods act,” he laughed back down the phone.
“Sarge, she looks like someone put her through a blender.”
“Okay, I’ll respect your feminist sensibilities.”
“Bugger off,” she said and switched off her phone. She looked at her pad Jo-Anne Potts previously Jonathon Pallister, aged fourteen. She shook her head–this is a child–where are her parents? Back to casualty.
Which is where she headed, she pointed to the cubicle and the sister nodded her agreement. She slipped through the curtain, “Right, Jo-Anne, are you going to tell me who did this or shall I go through your phone list of punters and ask them?”
“That’s private property.”
“Sue me–do they know you’re only fourteen.”
“Know–? A bit a slap an’ they can’t tell.”
“They all gay, are they?”
“No–what’s that supposed to mean?”
“I know about Jonathon, Jo-Anne.”
“Yeah–so, it’s not a crime to change sex.”
“You’re supposed to have your parent’s consent under sixteen.”
“Yeah, well that didn’t ’appen, nor was likely to, so I pushed off–I’ll get there, don’t you worry.”
“If you don’t contract some nasty disease first or end up dead–how many more nutters are there out there? He found out–you had a certain extra–is that it?”
“I want my lawyer.”
“I can contact your mum or dad if you like, or someone from social services to sit in if you’d prefer?”
“Did he know, or is that what set him off?”
“He didn’t know.”
“Yeah–positive–I told him I was on the rag and would only take it up the arse–he seemed okay with that–then he musta felt something he wasn’t expectin’ and he went crazy–began slapping me around–offered to cut it off for me–pulled out this penknife and began slashing me. I screamed and he ran off. Another girl found me and called the ambulance.”
“Do they know you’re only a kid?”
“The other girls?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Do they know you’re a boy?”
“Some do–they got me some pills.”
“What sort of pills?”
“Birth pills–been takin’ ’em since I was twelve.”
“I see–would you recognise him if you saw him again?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“That’s your problem.”
“We’ll have to tell your parents.”
“Don’t, please don’t.”
“We have to–it’s the law–they have a legal obligation for your welfare.”
“Do they know you’re living as a girl?”
“No–they know I want to be one.”
“Just a bit.”
“Sorry for what–that they refuse to understand or care how I feel or want to do with my life.”
“Become a female prostitute–not much of an ambition is it? I might be able to see their feelings too.”
“No–they just want me to be a boy just like my brother–a right twat, he is.”
“And you’re not?”
“No–oh fuck off.”
“That’s the third time you’ve told me to do that–it isn’t becoming in a young woman.”
“But I’m not one am I?”
“I’m trying to accept you as one, as are the hospital–they didn’t even tell me your original gender–we’re trying to accept you as you feel you are–help us to maintain that acceptance–don’t piss us off with your rudeness–you’re not some pisshead or druggy who has to work the streets to pay for their smack or fix. Get a life and let the system help you.”
“The system doesn’t want people like me–we complicate things, cross too many boundaries.”
“So–what are you going to do about it?”
“What can I do?”
“Yeah, sure–they’ll send me back to a home–make me wear boy’s clothes–I’ll do a runner or kill meself–back on the street–either way I’m dead–who cares.” Jo-Anne began to sob.
“Some of us care–kiddo–help me to put this guy away and I promise to do what I can to help you.”
“I mean it.”
“Sure–you all mean it until you get what you want–then I’m back in shit.”
“I’m going to call the duty social worker and I’m going to stay while they talk to you. Then I’m going home. Tomorrow, I’ll be back to take a statement and to see how I can help you. What size are you?”
“Yeah, size–I’ll bring you in a nightdress tomorrow and some toiletries.”
“Yeah, sure you will–why should you help me?”
“Okay, I’ll tell you–about twenty years ago, there was a boy like you in school. They bullied him to death–quite literally–he killed himself. I didn’t do anything to stop them–he hadn’t done anything to me or anyone else for that matter–but if I’d stood up for him he might still be alive today. Perhaps I’ve got a second chance to do the right thing this time round. Okay–let’s get the SS here, so I can get off home and you can get some rest.
“What did you say your name was?”
“A copper called Penny and not a bent one,” the girl chuckled.
“No, regular coin of the realm, this one.”
(Title image from Google images).
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