Team Spirit (Special Crime Unit Book 1) (3 page)

BOOK: Team Spirit (Special Crime Unit Book 1)
10.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

‘She’s
still got My Little Pony wallpaper.’

‘Press
cuttings then. For a project or something.’

‘Maybe.’
Kim wavered, then a new resolve slipped into her eyes. ‘There
were
cuttings taken out of one or
two, I’m sure.’

‘Gut
feeling?’

She
thought for a moment. ‘First thing we should do, go back to the house and get
them papers; then we can find out... Library’ll have a back file, won’t they?’

‘Just
look online.’

‘Hard
copy. Online edition ain’t gonna tell us what she cut out.’

‘Long
shot,’ Marie said.

‘Got
any other ideas?’

‘Finish
my cereal first.’ She dipped into it. By now it was soggy.

They
returned to their notes and their breakfast.

‘Hey,’
Marie said suddenly. ‘There’s a really peculiar one here. What’s this,
“thrall”? Can you read that?’ She pushed the diary across, finger on the page.

‘Looks
like “thrall”,’ Kim agreed. ‘Her writing ain’t that desperate. Looks like there
was a number, but it’s been scribbled out.’ She held it up to the light and
shook her head. ‘Pretty thoroughly and all.’

‘Like
she didn’t want anybody to be able to read it.’

‘Maybe
Forensic can do summink.’ Kim was still squinting at it.

‘What
does thrall mean anyway?’

‘You
say Thrall?’

They
turned. Gary Harper was standing behind them, plate of eggs and bacon in hand,
a look of keen interest directed at the diary.

Kim
said, ‘You know what this is?’

‘Not
a what,’ Gary said, ‘so much as a who. Name came up in connection with a job I
worked a few years back. Your Sandra Jones was on the investigation as well, I
seem to recall.’

‘And?’

‘They’re
an extremist neo-Nazi group.’ He saw Kim’s expression and added, ‘That’s to say
extremist even by those standards. It’s an acronym: stands for - let me think
– something something Racial Action.’

Marie
wrinkled her nose. ‘See what you mean,’ she said. ‘How were they involved?’

Gary
hesitated. ‘Young black guy knifed and kicked to death outside his parents’
house in Battersea. Word on the street was this Thrall lot did the deed, but
the one bloke we collared was peripheral at best. He never put his hands up to
it, never named names, case was about as watertight as a rusty bucket, and the
jury acquitted.’

There
was a long silence.

‘Doesn’t
make Debbie look too good, does it?’ Marie tapped the name on the page.

‘Your
guv’nor should know about this.’ Gary glanced ruefully down at his breakfast.
‘Better get Gloria to stick this on a warming plate. Finish your Weetabix and
let’s go.’

‘Wait
a minute,’ Kim said, hand on his arm. Beside her, Marie saw it trembling. ‘What
else can you remember?’

‘Kim?’

‘This
was Mark Watkins, right?’

‘You
remember it?’ Gary sounded surprised.

‘I’m
black,’ she retorted with sudden vehemence. ‘Course I fucking remember it, and
Carruth. The slag what got off.’ She was shaking all over now. ‘And I tell you
another thing I remember. Mark Watkins was tarred and feathered.’

‘Oh...’
Gary said quietly.

Marie
asked, ‘What’s tarred and - ’

‘Summink
else they used to do to black men in the American South,’ Kim cut her off. ‘The
ones they weren’t putting burning crosses outside their houses. Gary,’ she
said, after pausing for some deep breaths, ‘you’re brilliant. I love you.’

He
looked at her. She was ashen-faced, but there was a glint in her eye. He picked
up the mood shift and grinned. ‘That mean you’re buying me lunch?’

‘If
this ain’t a coincidence,’ Kim said, grabbing the diary, leaping up and taking
his arm, ‘I’ll get you a seat at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. Come on.’

 

Slowly, Larissa
Stephenson raised a hand. A polite, not diffident hand.

Detective
Chief Inspector Matthew Summerfield regarded her with a mixture of approval and
weariness. So many new aides started out timid as mice, so afraid even to
twitch that they’d sit on what might - sometimes, not often - be a vital
contribution. Not this one, though. Trouble was, this one was Special Crime and
that, in his estimation, meant lippy cows. Summerfield’s view of women in the
police was not an emancipated one. He yearned for the not so long gone days
when he’d been able to reach for a WPC to deal with a child, or a difficult
female witness or suspect, or a difficult
any
kind of witness or suspect.
Now they’d even dropped the W from WPC and what was
that
all about? Equality? That was a
laugh. Catch a woman kicking in the door of a crack house or bringing down a
scrote with a running tackle;
real
policework. Support. Making the tea. That, as far as
Summerfield was concerned, was a plonk’s place, not shuffling in as a CID
bloody aide, if you please. The addition of this one meant Special Crime now
had eight of the bitches. He wouldn’t mind except that they had a tendency to
nick investigations right when they got interesting, and for some god-unknown
reason Heighway almost always went along with it. As a result, Special Crime
weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms at the CID morning briefing and
generally stood at the back out of glaring range.

He
picked her out in the shadows and said, ‘Yes, constable?’

‘Doesn’t
make sense, sir.’

Summerfield
resisted the temptation to make a crushing remark, largely because of DI
Schneider’s presence. Special Crime usually sent two people to the briefing,
one being the on-call officer from the previous night and the other either
Schneider or DCI Beadle. He was relieved Beadle wasn’t there but on the other
hand, Zoltan Schneider had a way with his tongue, when he wished, that was the
verbal equivalent of a deep paper cut. With him were Detective Sergeant Wallace
and this new plonk. Summerfield had forgotten her name already.

‘Can
we enlighten you?’ he asked her, regretting the sarcasm as he sensed Schneider
staring at him from behind his glasses.

She
stood up straighter and his gaze shifted automatically to her bust. Bit young
for him, this one, but a nice pair of tits on it. She said, ‘Chomba lives on
the other side of the estate, right?’

‘So
we’re told.’

‘And
he was in his flat when it was raided five minutes after the exchange?’

‘Yes,
he was.’

‘That’s
what I can’t understand, sir. We’re charging him with dealing based on what’s
on the CCTV. I’ve done car patrols on Shrublands, so I reckon with these
timings he could just about’ve made it if he was driving, but he’d’ve had to go
past the cameras. How come they didn’t see him?’ She shrugged. ‘Doesn’t add
up.’

‘I
don’t know, constable,’ Summerfield said. ‘Maybe the clock’s off. There
was
crack found in his rubbish bin
is all I’m saying. As we speak, minds greater than yours are pondering this same
mystery. If they resolve it, I’ll make sure you’re among the first to know.’

For
a moment, as her eyes flicked downwards, he thought he’d achieved the
demolition without Schneider’s intervention. But she recovered quickly. She
looked him in the eye, said, ‘Thank you, sir,’ and looked down at her notes,
indicating she’d said her piece.

Schneider
remained impassive, but Summerfield was annoyed to catch the surreptitious wink
shot to the young plonk by DS Wallace. An annoyance dwarfed by the horrid
realisation that the low buzz of conversation among the assembled detectives
had been triggered by her contribution. Coppers don’t exactly appreciate it
when one of their own gives their favoured suspect a free alibi, but neither do
they want a case that won’t stand up in court.

Hardly
daring to look, he cast his eye towards the back of the room, where Zoltan
Schneider stood smiling humourlessly at him.

 

‘Sorry if I spoke
out of turn in there, sir,’ Lucky said to Zoltan as they waited for the lift.

The
DI tilted his head. ‘Out of turn, Larissa?’

‘CID
briefing’s like an up-market version of parade, am I right?’ She looked away.
‘It’s not meant to be a debating society. I should’ve realised.’

‘On
the contrary,’ he said. ‘If we didn’t say what we thought, we’d never get
anywhere.’ He put his hands in his pockets. ‘I think Mr Summerfield will have
taken your remarks on board.’

Lucky,
not reassured, gulped.

‘Don’t
worry.’ The hand on her shoulder belonged to Detective Sergeant Helen Wallace.
‘What Zoltan’s trying to say, and won’t because he’s a DI, is sod Summerfield.
You did well.’

They
exchanged grins. ‘I didn’t hear that,’ Zoltan said.

Lucky
blinked, glancing uncomfortably from one to the other. She was beginning to
feel overdressed. The man who’d turned out to be her DI was kitted out more
like a college lecturer, with a hairdo to match. Thick, black and unruly, with
strands of it jutting out in all directions like solar prominences, the hair
went some way towards cushioning the shock of the open-necked blue and grey cotton
shirt, brown corduroys and Hush Puppies he wore, but not far. He was small for
a copper, just clearing five eight in her estimation, and slight of build.
Zoltan Schneider didn’t even look like a policeman, much less an inspector.
With most detectives, however outlandish they looked, Lucky had always just
about been able to picture them back in uniform. Not this one.

But
the authority he sacrificed by his appearance was more than made up for by the
man himself. He had a way of looking through his thick glasses, a dry, sardonic
way with words, and a strange half-smile through his wiry beard that made Lucky
unsure whether he was laughing with or at her. The minimal research she’d been
able to do through the grapevine had revealed his reputation as a brilliant
interrogator of suspects. She guessed that to get at all close to him you
needed the thickest of skins.

Any
idea Lucky might have formed that Zoltan Schneider could only be one of a kind
was quickly dispelled.
None
of the team looked like coppers. For a start, most of
them were women. There was only one other man in the room, a tall, rangy
individual with a big nose and a set of face that suggested someone had put
cold rice pudding in his shoes. He wasn’t wearing a tie either. The women,
similarly, seemed to have dressed for comfort or according to personal whim.
They were all preoccupied. An anaemic-looking blonde in her thirties sat,
headphones in ears, hammering away two-fingered at a computer keyboard as she
transcribed an interview. At a corner desk a young black woman had her head
down, phone in one hand and flipping through what looked like an archived case
file with the other. Two women, one pale and exotic, one small and dumpy with a
sharp nosy face, were talking intently; whether about work or not it was hard
to tell. Distracted by their entrance, the pale one glanced over and held
Lucky’s gaze just long enough to make her uncomfortable.

The
woman Zoltan led them over to was short but massive, almost impossibly so even
for a copper, her rotund form stretching the material of her dark green dress.
She turned at their approach and pushed shut the drawer she’d been rummaging
in. As it had during the interview process, her smile brought Lucky up in a
more direct way than Zoltan’s sarcasm ever would. Sophia Beadle’s eyes were the
purest, deepest blue she’d ever seen that didn’t belong to a baby, but there
was nothing babyish about the way the smile stopped before it reached them.
Lucky understood, abruptly and unmistakeably, that she, not Zoltan, was the
guv’nor.

‘How’d
it go?’

‘Fine,’
her DI replied in a laconic way which conveyed that he would tell her more when
Lucky wasn’t listening. ‘Made her mark.’

Again
the smile. ‘Welcome to the team, Larissa.’

‘Ma’am.’

‘“Guv”
will do. We’re pretty informal around here, as you may have gathered.’

Before
she could stop herself Lucky blurted out, ‘At Gipsy Hill people called me
Lucky.’

‘Lucky?’

‘’Cause
I’m usually the one nearest to a 999 shout five minutes before end of shift.’
She deflated mentally. She’d had a job and a half living the nickname down, and
it seemed she wasn’t going to get away with it here either. Oh, well. Handles
had a knack of following you around in the Job; she’d merely pre-empted the
inevitable.

Reading
her discomfiture, Sophia smiled again, this time with real warmth. ‘Well, we’ll
put “Larissa” on the duty board for now. If people want to call you something
else and you’re OK with it that’s up to you. Right - Helen.’

The
DS looked up. ‘Guv?’

‘Anything
major on?’

‘I
can save the world any time.’

‘Good.’
Sophia indicated Lucky with an open palm. ‘Can you show Larissa the ropes?
Introduce everyone, take her through procedures and our current caseload, a
guided tour of the office, the building and then hop in a car and whizz round
the ground. That should occupy you both for most of the morning, barring a
crisis.’

BOOK: Team Spirit (Special Crime Unit Book 1)
10.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Meet Me Under The Ombu Tree by Santa Montefiore
The Consequences by Colette Freedman
Sister's Choice by Emilie Richards
The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman
The Beauty and the Sorrow by Peter Englund
THE COWBOY SHE COULDN'T FORGET by PATRICIA THAYER,
Slave Nation by Alfred W. Blumrosen