Dancing to a New Beat 16

CHAPTER 16
I don’t know why, but for some odd reason our return home was followed by a prolonged session of rather energetic intimacy, to smother everything in euphemisms. I lay in his arms afterwards, sweat and other things drying, and discussed options.

“When are we telling your parents?”

I thought for a second or two, but the answer was an obvious one.

“I don’t think we should do, at least not right away. I want to see the doc first, just to make sure”

“Those kits not reliable?”

“Oh, they’re fine, love. I just want to see what he says about everything else. Health and stuff, yeah? Make sure I’ve got no nasties lurking round I don’t know about? Once we’ve got the green light, then it’s Mam and Dad”

“We need to make a list of who to tell and that”

I cwtched into him.

“Not Elaine just yet, love. Not sure how she’d take it”

“Eh?”

“Bloody hell, blokes! You not seen how she is? Broody as all hell!”

He lifted my head to look me in the eye.

“You sure about that? I mean, dykes and all?”

“Doesn’t mean she’s not a woman, and before you start that rubbish, no. Women aren’t all born to be mothers, spending all their lives pining. It’s just, well, most of us CAN, yeah? And sometimes that is what hurts, when you can, like, and at the same time you can’t. I mean, her and Siân they’re well-suited, innit? But they can’t have a kid together, can they?”

“And you know this how?”

Well, by bloody well being a woman, for starters, but mostly it was that time in the pub, when Lainey got smashed. I’ve had my eye on her a bit, just in case”

I paused, choosing my words.

“I wonder sometimes if she’s OK, love. Now and again I get a feeling she’s just about to break. Nothing obvious, is it, but, well, she’s always so busy looking after other people I think she’s lost sight of herself a bit”

He pulled me tighter to him.

“Not the only one, then, is she? Settle down, and we’ll give the surgery a ring on Monday”

In the end, I didn’t sleep that well, images of Lainey there whenever I shut my eyes. Blake was right about me, it seemed.

We got an appointment for Tuesday, and I managed to fit it into a working day. The doctor was brisk, almost hurried, but he still managed to make me feel safe.

“This is your first child, is it not, Mrs Sutton?”

“As far as I am aware. I’d have noticed any others, I think.

He chuckled.

“Trust me, you would most certainly have noticed! Planning for any more?”

I smiled back.

“Um, I think I’ll see how it goes for the first one before I make that choice! All clear, then?”

“Oh yes, Mrs Sutton. What I will do, if you are happy, is set up an initial appointment with the antenatal clinic. Baby is too new to tell us anything crunchy as yet, and there is just about nothing to see for a few months. After that, though, you’ll get a bit busy”

He turned back to his computer, and a printer came to life, churning out a bundle of paper, which he stapled together and handed to me.

“General instructions in there, including diet suggestions. You don’t smoke, so cut down on any boozing and keep it all balanced”

“Curries?”

He laughed, and it was a very happy one.

“No problems there! We’ve got four happy and healthy ones, and if the wife had had to avoid curry, she’d have starved the family! Just remember, for later, that, ALLEGEDLY, strongly-flavoured food can affect the taste of your milk”

I smiled back, liking his style.

“Gets them started young, then?”

“Absolutely! Now, come back in a fortnight, please, unless there are any problems. And congratulations!”

I returned to the office relieved and happy, and the latest bundle of files sitting on my desk managed to become interesting, just for once.

We seemed to have come to a lull after the storms of our ’big’ cases, which wasn’t a bad thing, but I did wonder if it was a general dying-down or merely a lull in the traditional sense as another storm gathered its venom out of sight. The files in question were for a sort of triage, one of Bev Williams’ better ideas. Rather than awaiting the call of some office or other, or the latest newspaper to declare an old conviction ‘unjust’, he had set our fresh meat trawling old files. Jon was with Lexie that day, reading old newspaper copies at the Central Library.

It was a simple recognition of reality: we needed to justify our existence, and while any investigator is proverbially only as good as their last case, we needed new ones to keep us ticking over and from being diverted to other duties. One thing we all had as team members was a liking for the work. If we ran out of assignments, then we would lose it. Fortunately, one legacy of Ashley Evans and his ‘other interests’ was dodgy contracting, and together with Blake’s lovely brother we had a possible case load to fall back on for some considerable time. Sammy had even detached Ellen and Rob to spend time with my brother-in-law to learn a few new/old tricks, and Chris was managing to keep himself involved via a crash-for-cash ring.

What all that meant, in the end, was less running to crime sites or interviewing vile specimens, and more sitting, sorting and simply allowing the associative parts of my odd brain to do the business I had started out at. Over the next few months we got enough patterns in the insurance fraudsters to hand over a case file to CPS via CID, Ellen and Rob were out more than a dozen times with HMRC to discuss business dealings with as many Evans associates (including two more councillors) and I got fatter.

We had left it until after my first antenatal clinic appointment to tell my parents.

“Mam?”

“Yes love?”

“You and Dad coming over on Sunday? Blake’s got a side of salmon in; I could do with showing the best way to prepare it”

She had laughed down the phone.

“Not help in eating it, then?”

“Weeeeeell… it might stretch to four”

“What time, love?”

“About twelve? Eat at two; should give us enough time to cook”

“Right. You’ll need…”

She had reeled off a list of ingredients, most of which I had, and after some small talk, I had pleaded that I needed a wee, and finished the call. If I had spoken much longer, I would have slipped up, and the secret out. They were on time, and after turfing a very interested Fritz out of the kitchen, two of us got down to work while two others sat and talked about rugby. I had seriously seditious thoughts about traditional roles just then.

Mam had brought her steamer over, so the veg was a lot simpler to cook, and her idea for the fish had me salivating as the oven was opened. Dad opened some nice French white wine, Mam and I plated everything up, and for a few minutes there was nothing but the clink of cutlery and some very appreciative silence, which Blake broke as the bottle emptied.

“Di, want to go and get the other glasses?”

That was our code, and I brought four flutes as well as the wrapped package from our fridge. Dad was looking at the new glasses with his speculative face on.

“And the champagne glasses are for what, exactly?”

Mam looked at him sharply, and then, to my horror, started to cry. I left my seat to comfort her, and she waved me away.

“No, love; pass me a tissue, please?”

I found the box on the sideboard, and she smiled as she dabbed her eyes.

“I’m right, aren’t I?”

I nodded, taking my husband’s hand.

“I suspect you are, Mam”

Dad made an enquiring grunt, ever the eloquent one, and Mam rolled her eyes.

“When, love?”

“About seven months, the clinic thinks”

That was when the penny finally dropped for Dad, and just then I had never, ever been prouder of him, for there were tears from him as well, and there was no false Manly Brave Face, no apology. He was my Dad, pure and simple, and he loved me, and he was a happy man, there, at dinner, with his family, and if he chose to shed tears they were of joy, and who was there, at that table, who could condemn or scorn his emotion?

Blake unwrapped the bottle and eased the cork, and over our family dining table, after our family Sunday dinner, we celebrated that family’s coming increase with the people we loved and who loved us. Could life be any better?

I didn’t think so as I grew fatter, of course, especially when pressure started to build on my bladder. I didn’t know what exactly I was gestating in there, but at times it felt more like a baby elephant than a new human. I sought advice, of course.

“Mam, was it this bad for you?”

“In what way?”

“In what way? Look at the SIZE of it!”

“And you suppose that you were any smaller? I thought I was going to end up with a permanent bad back, thanks to you!”

She paused, smiling, and then continued in a quieter voice.

“Such a change in you there is now. We said it when we first met him, didn’t we?”

I smiled back, taking her hands in mine.

“One of the good ones, yeah?”

She drew my hands to her face and kissed one.

“One of the best ones, I think”

I couldn’t argue with that. I could, and did, argue with the sadists at the ante-natal classes. Not the clinic, for they were superb; the people at the classes were sadists. I had my man with me a lot of the time, of course, as we were drilled in what to do, and when. One day I heard him chuckling as we drove home after one of the sessions.

“And?”

“Oh, I was just thinking of that film, the one with the drill sergeant. Full Metal whatsit?”

“Jacket. And?”

“Nicknames, love. What the hell would they be for the other girls?”

“Just the other girls?”

He laughed, happily.

“I have seen you with an asp and a spray, love. I value my health too much to dare offering up my beloved darling for a nickname she might object to”

Silly, lovely man.

I was off work eventually, and it got bloody boring. I had asked Sammy if I could take stuff home to work on, and he told me to piss off. In those words, and with a straight face.

“You’ll be back, girl. I know that, don’t I just! Look: just go away, sprog, sell it for body parts and then come back rested”

“Sell it for…?”

It was cheeky Sammy, not feral, of course, when the grin appeared.

“You think anything you and Lurch are going to produce will be worth keeping? OW!”

He did us a round of cakes, though, on my last day, and there was a card, plus hugs. How could I not want to come back?

It did get boring, though. It isn’t easy to switch your brain off when your work is so absorbing, so I tried to keep it busy, with everything from a massive jigsaw puzzle that took me months to complete, to trawling the internet for advice, which led to me staying away from a very popular parenting site due to the seriously nasty hate-speech they were swamped with concerning people like Annie.

What was wrong with people?

In the end, I often found myself dozing in an armchair, Fritz rumbling away in my lap until my shrinking bladder forced me to push him off. I had the television on one morning, the BBC’s rolling news programme half-heard as our cat dribbled onto me as I rubbed him just in front of an ear, and was only half-listening when it happened.

A burned-out car in front of a damaged house. My idiot brain was already on autopilot Police, Professional as I picked up the indications. The pattern was splash rather than huddled meltdown, so it was a bomb, and…

The newsreader's words only penetrated my mind after I had spotted the footprints in what was all too obviously dried blood.

“A Sussex police officer is in intensive care this morning after what appears to have been the explosion of a bomb under his car. Sergeant Dennis Armstrong was found in his front garden by his wife and a colleague and friend of Sergeant Armstrong, Sergeant Anne Price, who is also in hospital as a result of the explosion. No information has been released regarding her injuries, but they are not believed to be life-threatening. The Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism unit are leading the investigation, and are appealing for witnesses”



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