The Job 51

CHAPTER 51
I won’t belittle the real pain and suffering we were told about, but it became routine after a while. I don’t mean that we got blasé, rather that each case Paul brought us went through what was becoming a very smooth and practised system.

Each one was, in the end, similar, and as the similarities piled up, so did the list of ‘further to’ charges awaiting Dai Pritchard, Bob Evans, one call-centre worker and two civilian employees in Cardiff and Swansea’s control rooms.

Similarities. That bastard clearly liked his victims young, and I found myself shuddering at how we had referred to John and the other new chums, as ‘fresh meat’. I remember Rob’s report on one of the victims, a prostitute working the back streets around Splott, and as Rob put it, only slowly getting what was left of her life back together after a long time on heroin and then methadone.

“Di, I just kept remembering what you said, about fucking people up. She was seventeen, that’s all. One bastard, and that’s her life down the toilet. How in hell have you managed?”

“Good people about me, mate. A bloody good friend, right at the start, and, well, focus. Did you know I met Bob and Dai again on a shout, once?”

“No, I didn’t. Did they clock you?”

“No, not at all, but one of the lads I was with, he warned me off them, sharpish like. That’s the thing with these women, if you get me. Everyone knew the two bent bastards were rotten, but they thought they were untouchable. Get away with it enough times, and you get a reputation for being able to, well, get away with it. People give up. Ashley Evans is the same., untouchable. Then, bang, he’s inside, serving time for rape, and that’s followed by two more charges, and women start to think. Perhaps he’s not untouchable after all”

He grimaced. “Aye, girl, but he’s ruined everything about her”

“I know, but he did leave her something, and that’s courage, so let’s give her some hope to go with it, yeah?”

“Cuppa?”

“Please”

He sat down again a minute later, our urn being a godsend on office days, and at that I realised how much I missed Elaine’s sharp focus. Rob had done a good job with the woman, though.

“Di?”

“Uh? Sorry, thinking, yeah?”

“Aye, I do that. This job takes over sometimes. Anyway, what do you think they’ll do? Plea-wise?”

“Ah, I think Bob and Dai will fold. Ashley, well, I think he’s just so bloody arrogant we might get a trial. Your girl up to that?”

He suddenly grinned. “I do, girl, and I tell you what, she’s not daft. Already preparing a VIS, and I suspect it will skin him alive”

I hadn’t felt up to giving a Victim Impact Statement myself, as apart from the fact that I would appear to the jury as having fully recovered, most of the actual impact had been in my inability to form relationships, and that was laundry far too private to wash in public.

“Rob?”

“Aye?”

“Are we starting to get callous about all this?”

“Really?”

“I was just thinking about how quick this is all going”

“Ah. No, love, I do believe we are simply getting efficient at it. Doesn’t mean we care less, just that we know what we’re trying to do. So, what Sammy said, aye? We give these women, these victims, our best efforts, and then we go out and do a proper night’s team bonding”

“You mean get pissed?”

“Not necessarily. Just give ourselves some fresh air. Anyway, change the subject. My missus was really taken with that cake shop you found. Wants to know if they can cater for a works do”

“I’ll ask. Don’t know how wide their range goes. I’m sure they’ll be interested. Anyway, got a meeting in twenty minutes, so ta for the tea, and the update”

He started to move away, and I called after him.

“For what it’s worth, mate, as long as Charlie can cope, I would love to see that bastard opt for a trial. Let the world see exactly what a shit he is”

He grinned. “Nothing personal at all there then, Detective Constable!”

I smiled to myself as I closed down the work I had been doing. No, nothing personal, which was why I was still being kept at arm’s length. He knew I was there, though, waiting and smiling.

My meeting was with Bevan Williams, and he had a tray of coffee prepared, and with it, to my astonishment, was one of the cardboard boxes from Gemma’s shop. He caught my raised eyebrows.

“Yes, DC Owens, word has got around the station. A remarkably good little find, and it has been shared throughout the Force. Now…”

He turned to another Super, who stood to shake my hand as Bev made the introductions.

“DC Diane Owens, Superintendent Andrew Sedgewick, Cheshire Constabulary. We are seeking to arrange a little mutual cooperation. Do sit, Di. Milk? Sugar?”

“Just milk please, sir. Would this be about that children’s home?”

Sedgewick nodded. “Aha, Mersey View. What can you offer us?”

I had been expecting either a generically posh accent, or something Scouse, but he was neither. He was from somewhere a lot further north, or at least sounded like it. Focus, DC Owens.

“What we have, sir, is fall-out from a couple of investigations we have been running, as well as part of our remit as a review office”

Sedgewick laughed. “No management bullshit bingo please, Diane. I know the score with the work you’re doing now. Why Mersey View?”

“Ah. Cards on table stuff?”

“Absolutely!”

“OK, then. We are finalising a messy case involving a serial rapist, combined with corruption and perverting the course of justice. One of our sources, indeed two of our victims, are in a safe house in the city. The source is the warden, for want of a better word. She made some statements, just passing remarks, not formal stuff, about being abused in a boys’ home when she was a child”

“A boys’ home? Oh. I see”

Something lurked behind that comment, but I left it.

“So I did a little digging into her background, just in case”

Bev laughed, happily.

“Di here is very, very good at ‘just in case’, Andrew. I have learned to trust her instincts”

“Thank you, sir. Anyway, I came up with two possible, and one of them was Mersey View”

Sedgewick stared at me, face neutral.

“Would the other one have been in Carlisle, by any chance?”

“Yes. Castle Keep. You know it?”

His mouth worked, the façade cracking just a little.

“If you have read the file, you will understand. I was very, very new to the job just then. I spent many hours digging in the grounds”

“Oh”

“Yes, DC Owens, ‘oh. You will understand, then, why this case has aroused my attention. We need to know exactly how far any abuse went, how many victims, if there was any collusion and so on. I still have bad dreams from the other place, and if there is the slightest chance we harboured similar abominations in Cheshire, I want it checked out, and I do not care how many years ago it may have been”

“My informant not only said that the culprits were dead, but that she had visited and, er, refreshed their graves”

“Pissed on them, you mean?”

“Oh yes. Feisty woman”

“Well, I understand. What I am concerned about, after the welfare of any victims, naturally, is finding out whether any of my people were involved. When can you start?”

“Sorry?”

Bev passed me the box of pastries.

“You are out of the picture with the real work on Ashley Evans, Di, so I pushed along your request, and as the Review team has now been expanded, we have some man-hours available to cover another case. You won’t need to travel, not unless we get some witnesses up there, and Andrew has offered all necessary assistance. That file on my desk contains a list of all staff known to have worked there until its closure, and he has some larger files stored electronically, for which I am grateful, listing those we are aware of who passed through the place as, um, guests. I know it’s a bit arid, but it’s a starting point”

“I suppose I can start by chatting with my source, sir. Big job!”

“Well, you are the one who proposed it! Bloody good, these pastries!”

We finished up, and I gathered up the staff files for an initial sift. If Mr Sedgewick had done some of the digging at that Cumbrian hell-hole, he had my respect as well as my profound sympathy.

I rang Deb, of course, and an hour later I was sitting opposite her in a corner of the little café.

“What you got, Di? Evans giving up?”

“Not at all, so far, and that’s part of what I wanted to run past you. If it goes to trial, how will Charlie cope?

“Dunno, in all honesty, but I watched her after your trial. She worships you, girl. I said to her, ‘you’re sisters, you two’, and she sees you as the one who fought back. She was unsure, you know? Scared? Wanted to see if you could win before she jumped in”

“I know that, but she’s still got the courage to fight back”

“She has now, now she’s seen you do it. I think she’ll cope. Anyway, that’s not all you’re here for”

I covered my grin with my cup and after a sip I admitted she had me bang to rights.

“Mersey View, Deb. We’ve moved on. Got the local force’s agreement to look into it. Are you with me on this one? Charlie’s found her strength; how’s yours?”

She spent a minute staring out of the window before turning back to me.

“What the hell, girl. What’s in the folder?”

“Staff lists”

Her eyes closed as her head dropped, before she raised it once more.

“OK. Let’s see who I can remember”

As my reporter’s notebook started to fill with her memories, I almost wished I had never started the investigation and thanked god I would have Blake with me that night.



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