The Job 14

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We bit the bullet that evening, and the Inspector sent us all home after a wash-up followed by a lock-up. I got the impression she didn’t exactly trust all of her colleagues, at least not all of the ones outside our little group.

It had indeed been a long one, and she was in our faces from the off.

“Right, then boys and girls, we need to have a bit of a brainstorm here. We’ve got a bit of a lead from that camera footage, but unless Alun can pull off a match it gives us nothing more than evidence we can use after we catch the gentleman in question.
Now, what we have so far is nine assaults we can definitely link, plus five other possibles. They all involve three or more assailants, and apart from our rape they all take place in public toilets or nearby. None of the victims has admitted to cottaging, but in the immortal words of Saint Mandy, well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?”

That was something that was warming me towards her, an absolutely irreverent sense of humour, even though there was so often a dark tinge to it. She carried on with her briefing.

“More importantly, none of the victims has described their new friends as cottaging themselves. What it has been is instant nastiness. As soon as opportunity presents itself, our villains pile straight in. The footage from the Smuggler’s shows they are picking their target and tailing it, so if we ever catch up with them I want phones lifted immediately. I am open to suggestions here, but there is one thing staring us right in the face: the assaults, at least the ones that fit this pattern, have all taken place in either Caerdydd’s pink corner or the equivalent area of Abertawe. That’s Cardiff and Swansea for you foreign speakers, aye? There’s been sod all in any of the towns in between, and that gives me thoughts and ideas”

I had my own ideas about that, still fermenting but slowly starting to make sense.

“The two cities do concentrate the pink punters a bit, ma’am, but I see your point. Are we looking at someone who lives in between, or are we looking at mates split between the two?”

Blake was starting to surprise me, and I realised that while he dropped in the occasional bit of stupidity he was not, in fact, as stupid as he looked and so often sounded. Note to self: people were selected for this team on ability. Remember that fact, PC Owens.

“Split between, I think. What’s happened so far shows a lot of local knowledge, and you don’t get that by living in Porthcawl or Bridgend”

Alun was on form though, muttering “No, you just get inbred”

Our leader smirked a little, but stayed on track.

“Right, then. I think you’re on the money there, Blake. What I’m wondering now is work. If these lads are living so far apart, they won’t be working together, and if one or two are on shifts, that will limit the number of occasions when they are all off at once. Just a thought, aye, but Blake, can you look at the intervals between attacks, see if there is any pattern? Might come to nothing, but it’s a way in. Besides, if there is a pattern, it should let us know the best night to leave our goat outside”

I sneaked a look at our fairy queen, and he did indeed wince a little. I had got the idea from his earlier comment that we would be running some sort of baited trap, and I really didn’t know if he would be up to it. There was cheek there, and bravado, but underneath it all I could smell the fear. I resolved to be as nice to him as I could, and made a little vow not to hang around if things went badly for him.

The Inspector looked round the room, clearly weighing up faces and jobs.

“Alun, want to start on those files? Ta! Chris, this is not being reverse sexist or anything like that, but we’ve got the makings over there, and, well, if you want to hang around…”

He laughed. “Nothing else I can do to help! I could do a food run if you want. Your cakes have almost evaporated. I don’t know much about this stuff apart from what I see on the telly, but I suspect it’s going to be a long one. Oh, you DO keep going on about sexism, don’t you? Too much equality and diversity”

Blake called out from my right.

“I could get to like this one, ma’am! Just not in that way!”

Chris became so camp I had to hold my jaw up to stop it hitting my chest.

“Oh, you’re just playing hard to get, big boy!”

Off he went as Blake and I started the tea-making. I whispered to him, so as not to show out to the others.

“Sorry for jumping down your throat earlier, mate”

He looked at me, head tilted to one side.

“What happened to you, girl?”

I just looked down, and he asked the killer question.

“How old were you, Di?”

I sighed. “Not now, Blake. One day, maybe. Work now”

He nodded. “No worries. I’m a good listener; might surprise you”

I was just collecting the empty mugs again when Chris came mincing back in with a heap of shopping bags.

“Got you bread, and butter, and chips! Oh, and salt, vinegar, ketchup, brown sauce, STUFF!”

Elaine looked surprised, but gratified.

“You could have picked up some dog rolls in the canteen, butt!”

“Na, proper chip butties, that’s what growing men need, and I like my men ever-so-grown. There’s a chippy round Bute Street and they had some bread in the back. I was walking round the corner and the smell just came out and pulled me in. The other bag's got some pies and battered sausages”

There was a little ripple of applause, and he blushed. “Don’t see this as a regular thing, but what I saw in that lad’s eyes, shit. If I can’t help with the real work, well, just give me a shout for brews and stuff”

Sod it, now was a good time, and I went to give him a squeeze.

“You’ll fit in just fine, Chris. Mine’s white without, just for the future”

He started on another round of drinks, and the boss called me over.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“What is it about Alun and those keys?”

Once again, sod it, so I just grinned and came out with it.

“CID gossip has it he has a young PCSO, innit? One of the lads told me he keeps a camping mat on top of the lockers, the dirty little sod, and when a night is a slow one he looks to liven it up a bit”

Ye gods she was doing her best to be super-professional, but she still slipped out a snort of suppressed laughter.

“I didn’t hear that, Detective Constable!”

“I didn’t tell you it, Inspector”

‘Detective’. Oh.

“Just tell him to keep it zipped while we’re on this one, aye?”

I needed to sort that one out sharpish.

“No need, ma’am. He’s one of the good ones, just a bit of a randy sod. Ah, my cuppa. Ta, mate”

I could get to like this one, exactly as Blake put it, but absolutely not in that way. A little flicker of memory, dark hair and a cheeky grin. I really hoped Adam had found what he needed. The more I heard about him, the more incidents I was given unpleasantly detailed descriptions of. How in hell had he ever coped?

Eventually, she called us together. The hot food was gone, and my bladder was complaining.

“Boys and girls, thank you. Good start at getting a handle on these individuals, but we have to call a halt. There is a lot to do, but we need to break on this one. Go home, get some sleep, stroke your dog, whatever. And let your minds wander. You will do some of your best work when you’re half asleep, and the free association starts. See you here at eight thirty tomorrow. Chris, you OK for that?”

He nodded. “Gave the bosses an edited idea of what’s going on, without the bait and trap stuff. Far as they are concerned, I am here to deliver sweetness and light to the victims. They’re fine”

She looked around, appraising, smiling slightly.

“Eight thirty it is then!”

I gave Chris a nod as I left, and for once went home to the family house after a quick call to Mam to let her know I was on my way. I had some scrap books I needed to check.

She was waiting in the kitchen for me, beans on toast on a plate as I walked in.

“Late night, love? Thought you were on a day shift”

“Ah, Mam, it’s this new team. We’ve got some really nasty stuff to deal with just now”

She smiled. "And you can’t talk about it, innit? Need to know, or whatever they say? If you tell me, you have to kill me?”

“Bout right with that. Look, all I will say is watch the news. Won’t be quick, but if we get this one sorted it will be a big story, aye? Now, sorry to rush off, but I am back in tomorrow early, so I need to get my head down”

She came round the table to give me a hug.

“Just promise me, love, promise me you’ll be careful? Safe?”

Can’t really do that, Mam. “I promise I’ll do my best”

She just nodded, her lips thinned, and I went off upstairs to my room, and immediately took down the scrapbook I had started on a certain set of bastards. Three of them, I realised, and the penny dropped as I pulled out the copies I had made from the archived papers.

There it was, as my traitor of a memory told me as soon as I was about to read it. One transgender woman, a savage beating, and compensation paid out by the Dyfed-Powys police for unspecified misbehaviour by two alleged policemen I knew all too well, and in the most personal of ways.

The victims name was shouting at me now: Sarah Marie Powell, and with her age…

Elaine’s sister, no doubt. Three assailants, she kept saying, and I had three of my own. Two coppers, and A.N. Other. My ‘Other’ was a certain councillor; who was her third name?

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