Team Spirit (Special Crime Unit Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: Team Spirit (Special Crime Unit Book 1)
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‘You’ve
only been on the team six months. You can’t be
that
attached to us.’

‘Special
Crime’s the best job I’ve ever had,’ she said earnestly. ‘I must be mad to
leave. Still, a promotion...’

‘You
said it.’ He squeezed her shoulder. ‘Besides, Film Unit, a lot of PR, just like
most of what we do.’

‘I
suppose.’ She sighed. ‘But it’s been like a family.’

‘The
Met’s a family,’ Zoltan said. ‘And you’ve still got me.’

She
said nothing for a while, content to nestle in his embrace. Then suddenly she
asked, ‘Why don’t you move in?’

‘Move...?’

‘No
reason why not, now, is there?’

‘No.’

‘I
love you.’

‘And
I love you.’

‘Two
good reasons.’ She waited, studying the expression on his face. She decided she
didn’t like it. She said, ‘What’re you looking like that for?’

‘Looking
like what?’

‘Like
you’re expecting something horrible to happen.’

‘Was
I?’

‘Yes.’
She poked him in the stomach with a finger.

‘Force
of habit, I suppose,’ he admitted. ‘I’m Jewish. It’s in the genes.’

‘Bollocks,’
Anne said succinctly.

Zoltan,
with no ready answer to this, sighed.

‘Give
me a day or two,’ he suggested.

‘To
work out whether the only reason I asked you is to cling onto the team?’ she
said, only half joking.

‘To
work out,’ he said, ‘whether I can fit all my stuff in your cupboards.’

‘Pig,’
she said.

‘Please.’
He made a face. ‘Something kosher.’

‘Another
thing about Jews,’ Anne said.

‘Mm-hmm?’

‘Well,
one particular Jew anyway.’ She ran her fingernails across his chest.

‘What’s
that?’ He felt himself stir.

‘He’s
got such an awfully sexy body.’

Zoltan
considered himself with mock puzzlement. ‘Are you sure that’s not bollocks as
well?’

‘Not
all of it,’ she breathed, caressing the items under debate, her hair brushing
his nipples as she kissed his shoulders. ‘Who did you think I meant?’

‘Oh,
someone I reckon you’ve been seeing rather a lot of lately.’

‘It’s
a lie.’

‘Someone,’
he said, ‘who’s rather good at doing this, for instance?’ He ran his hands down
her neck, down to the small of her back and along the cleft of her buttocks, a
technique of which she was very fond.

‘Ah,’
she whispered. ‘Oh,
him
. That policeman.’

‘Got
a thing for policemen, have you?’

‘Only
one particular policeman.’

‘You
know, that’s an astonishing coincidence.’

‘Why?’

‘Because
I find a certain police
woman
of my acquaintance,’ he said, still caressing, ‘makes
me feel like doing certain things that definitely aren’t incorporated in the
constable’s oath.’

‘Certain
things like what?’

‘Show
you,’ he said.

‘Oh,
officer...’

They
slid deeper under the covers.

Friday

 

‘Mum?’

‘Mmm?’

‘Would
it be all right, d’you think, if I moved into Julia’s room?’

‘Would
you like some more toast?’

‘Would
it?’

‘What
is wrong with yours?’

‘Nothing,
I just don’t... It’s a bit small.’

‘I don’t know. Supposing - ’

‘Julia’s
not coming back, Mum. She’s married now... Well, good as.’

‘That
is the point.’

‘Oh,
Jesus.’

‘Don’t
blaspheme, child.’

‘Sorry.
Look, I just need a bit more space, that’s all.’

‘Then
get yourself husband, your own place.’

‘Mum...’

‘Look
at you, you are twenty-two years old, you are beautiful. It is only matter of
time. You will go to all the trouble of changing rooms and then you will find
someone and move out.’

‘Just
because Julia moved out when she was nineteen, that doesn’t - ’

‘In
fact I don’t understand you at all. You are gorgeous girl, yet you don’t have
boyfriend, you hardly see your friends. It is not natural. I’m frightened for
you. You will grow into lonely old maid.’

‘Fine
one to talk.’

‘What?’

‘Nothing.
Look, I’m a copper. It’s not the greatest job if you want a social life.’

‘Then
get new job.’

‘I
don’t
want
to. I love what I do and besides, I’ve only just started with this new posting.
Some of us have a career to plan, you know.’

‘Career,
career! Look at you, Larissa, so tired. It doesn’t suit you.’

‘Oh,
yeah? Four years in the Job and you’ve only just noticed? ...Oh, look, I’m
sorry. Actually it’s better in Special Crime; the hours are almost normal. You
might even get to see me occasionally.’

‘Ha.’

‘Mum?’

‘Very
well. You may have Julia’s room. I think it’s just waste of time, though.’

‘Thanks.
Really.’

‘But
if Julia comes home ever...’

‘’Course,
Mum. Thanks.’

‘You
know what I think.’

‘I’d
better get going.’

‘Do
I have a kiss?’

‘Sure.’

‘What
is this? A hug?’

‘I’m
not going anywhere, Mum. Not now.’

 

Debbie Clarke’s
debit card had been used at nine-thirty the previous evening to withdraw £100 from
a Santander cash machine in Mare Street, Hackney E8. Less than twelve hours
later Kim Oliver and Marie Kirtland were knocking on the door of a flat two
minutes away in Paragon Road. They were here to look for one Philip Meredith.
Luke Benton had given this name as that of one of the militants who’d
infiltrated the Justice for Mark Watkins pressure group and had cultivated
Debbie. A PNC check revealed that a person of that name was currently the
subject of a community order for shoplifting. According to his probation
officer, he had missed his last two scheduled appointments; this was his
current residence.

They
knocked, not expecting an answer. These were hardly the most salubrious
surroundings in which to wait. They were on the third floor of a massive block
of 1950s flats, on the edge of an ugly, sprawling estate of similar buildings.
Most of the lights were smashed on the walkways, gang tags covered the
brickwork, and the fetid smell of stale piss clung to everything. Across the
street stood a row of Victorian terraced houses that had somehow escaped the
Luftwaffe and post-war urban redevelopment, but not the harsh economic
realities of the new century. Now they were smoke-blackened, boarded up,
condemned. Beyond lay more of the same, grimy concrete tenements in every
direction, the odd high rise or factory chimney thrusting up between them like
giant weeds. Away to the west, half-hidden in the haze, the glass and steel
prosperity of the City shimmered smugly on the decay it had helped to
precipitate; to the south, the gleaming blue obelisk of Canary Wharf marked
where Docklands was rubbing salt in the wound.

It
was the sort of place you could kick over a pile of litter and be surprised
not
to find a
syringe underneath.

Marie
was peering through the letterbox. ‘Nobody in. Well,’ she sighed
phlegmatically, ‘it got us out of the office.’

‘No,
wait a minute.’ Kim was in a stubborn mood. ‘We ain’t come all this way for
nothing.’

They
stood aside to let an elderly black man pass. He spared them not a glance, eyes
fixed on his feet as he shuffled by, as though they didn’t exist. In this
neighbourhood, two strangers knocking on a door could only mean bailiffs or the
law. Paying them heed was putting yourself in line for trouble.

Marie
took another cursory peep and said, ‘Well, we can’t search the place: we
haven’t got a warrant and we won’t get one, not on conjecture.’ She
straightened up again. ‘Hang about, though. If this is a squat - ’

‘Still
gotta have reasonable grounds and besides, it’s civil law, not criminal.’

‘Maybe
we don’t need a warrant,’ Marie persisted. ‘This bloke, he’s got previous,
right?’

‘Am
I blacker than Michael Jackson?’ Kim said, laughing without mirth. ‘All
piddling stuff, though. Mostly begging, petty theft, bit of public order, one
or two for Class A possession.’

‘So
we
could
go
in there right now, if we ask Hackney for - ’

Kim
frowned, shaking her head. ‘Wouldn’t wanna risk it.’

‘Come
on, Kim, where’s your bottle all of a sudden?’ Marie looked both ways along the
desolate walkway. ‘Look, if we’re going to wait,’ she said, ‘couldn’t we talk
to some of the neighbours? Least make it look as if we’ve got business here.’

‘We
can ask.’ Kim gazed towards the old man, who was just disappearing into the
stairwell. ‘Not sure what answers we’ll get.’

‘Oh,
I reckon on a few,’ Marie said wryly.

The
occupant of the adjacent flat had probably been following developments with an
ear to her front door, for she opened it almost as soon as they knocked. She
was a small, stout woman in her eighties, with fine, permed white hair like
candy floss. Kim unfurled a toothy smile and held out her warrant card.

‘Hello,
madam. Detective Sergeant Oliver; this is DC Kirtland.’

‘This
about them next door?’

‘We’re
looking for Philip Meredith,’ Kim said. ‘We were given next door as his
address.’

The
woman frowned. ‘Was you now?’

‘We
know it’s a squat,’ Kim confided. ‘But that’s by the by. We’re looking for a
missing girl, and we think Mr Meredith may know where she is.’

‘Yeah,
well,’ the woman said. ‘They may be squatters but they’re still me neighbours.
Counts for summink in my book.’

‘I
wish more people felt the same,’ Kim agreed. ‘Make our job a lot easier.’

The
woman craned out of her doorway and looked around. ‘You best come in. Ain’t
wise to be seen talking to the law round here.’

They
followed her through to a small, old-fashioned, crumbling but tidy kitchen
diner at the back. The woman, who introduced herself as Mrs Brownlie, offered
them tea. They accepted.

‘Detectives,
eh?’

‘That’s
right.’

‘I
lived in Hackney all me life,’ Mrs Brownlie said, pursuing her theme. ‘Time
was, before the war - before they put these flats up - a detective turning up
round here’d be front page news. Only copper we ever seen was the local bobby.
We was poor, but we was honest.’

‘You
had community spirit in those days,’ Marie said. ‘I think the war did for
that.’

‘The
Blitz.’ Mrs Brownlie nodded. ‘We was hit hard here, ‘cause of the docks. Course
I was only a girl at the time, but I do remember everyone pulling together; we
had to. Folk as still had homes took in them what didn’t. Then after the war
everybody had to be rehoused, and all the council could afford was cheap
rubbish like this.’ She gestured out of the window. ‘Can’t build no community
when you’re all stacked up like battery hens. Milk, sugar?’

Kim
and Marie supplied their requirements.

‘I
ain’t saying everybody on the estate’s bad. Them next door, for instance.
Squatters or not, they’re nice people, got time for you. Take me washing down
the launderette when I’m bad with me arthritis, stuff like that, bless ’em.’

‘So
you know them quite well?’ Kim said.

‘Well
as you gets to know anybody these days.’ She took from a cupboard three teacups
on saucers which rattled delicately as she balanced them. Best china for
visitors, Kim guessed; her mother observed the same custom. Laboriously she
filled the kettle from the sink, plugged it in and switched it on.

‘Is
one of them called Philip Meredith?’ Marie asked.

‘Phil,
yeah. Didn’t know his last name till you told me. Him’s what went down the
launderette for me.’

‘Is
he in at the moment, d’you know?’

‘Dunno.’
She shrugged. ‘Ain’t seen him for a day or two. Always disappearing off, he is,
then popping up again. Trouble with you lot, though he won’t own to it. No idea
where he goes.’

‘Like
I said, Mrs Brownlie, it’s not actually him we’re after,’ Kim said. ‘We’re
looking for a girl; she might possibly’ve come here.’

‘Oh,
yeah?’

Kim
took the picture of Debbie Clarke from her bag and passed it to Mrs Brownlie.
‘Have you seen her?’

‘The
one on the news. The fire in Croydon. Yeah.’ She handed it back. ‘Yeah, I seen
her.’ Her visitors looked sharply at one another, not believing their luck. Mrs
Brownlie, enjoying their reaction, said, ‘Law after her and all?’

Kim
decided to evade a bit. ‘She’s a key witness, but she’s gone missing.’

‘Well,
young lady, you’re in luck. So happens she turned up next door - must’ve been
Tuesday evening, at that. Banging on the door, crying, making a shocking
racket, that’s how come I looked out the window and seen her. Mind you, the
rest of ‘em... I dunno - they was around yesterday afternoon, come to think of
it. But not since then. I
thought
there must be summink up.’

‘How
d’you mean?’

‘’Cause
you two ain’t the first has come asking.’

There
was a pause while they digested this. ‘Excuse me?’ Marie said.

‘I
assumed he was Old Bill, like you. Right nosey parker, he was.’

Kim
asked, ‘When was this, Mrs Brownlie?’

‘Yesterday
evening, round sevenish.’ She poured hot water from the kettle into the pot. ‘I
come back from the senior centre and there he was hanging around outside next
door. When he clocked me he started asking if I seen the girl.’


The
girl?’ Marie leaned forward.

‘Yeah.
Described her very precise like. Didn’t have no photo like you do, mind.’

‘What
did you tell him?’

‘Nuffink.
Well, I couldn’t, could I? Then later on when I watched the news I realized
that was the girl he was talking about. He didn’t leave no phone number so I
couldn’t call him back to tell him. Probably wouldn’t’ve anyway. Didn’t like
the bugger.’

‘Can
you describe him for us?’

‘Let’s
see now...’ She poured tea carefully through a strainer. ‘He was medium
height.’

‘How
so? About my height? Smaller? Larger?’

Mrs
Brownlie frowned at Marie. ‘Ain’t easy to tell when you’re sitting down. Bit
taller than the both of you, I’d say.’

‘Five
ten?’

‘’Bout
that.’

Kim
wrote it down, with a question mark. ‘Go on, Mrs Brownlie.’

‘Ooh,
right. Er, brown hair - light brown. Going a bit on top. Blue eyes. Quite
slim.’ She put milk in the tea.

‘Age?’

She
thought about this while she transported the tea tray over to the table and sat
down. ‘Thirties?’ she ventured. ‘I dunno, everybody looks young to me
nowadays.’

Kim
smiled.

‘His
eyes.’ Mrs Brownlie seemed to tighten up. ‘Didn’t like ‘em. They was...
whatchamacallem,
cruel
.’ She handed them their tea. ‘Help yourselves to sugar.’

‘OK,
and what was he wearing? Was he casually dressed or more formal?’

‘Oh,
casual. Brown sort of sports jacket, definitely, and... jeans, I think.’

‘Blue
jeans?’

‘Yeah,
but smart ones, not full of holes and pulled down halfway to your knees like
all them kids have ‘em. And a white button-through shirt.’ She watched Kim
scribbling all this down. ‘I think that’s about all I can give you.’

Kim
said, ‘I know you said his eyes, but did you notice anything particular,
anything strange or unusual? I mean like scars, or tattoos?’

BOOK: Team Spirit (Special Crime Unit Book 1)
3.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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