Wednesday 22 March 2017
Ali Corbyn had given up on any sort of normal relationship since her last promotion to Detective Sergeant. She rarely saw her kids, who now resembled young adults more than children, and her husband was convinced that she was having a relationship with her work partner because Jack and she spent so much time together. If she was honest with herself, Ali would admit that she was beginning to forget what her family and home looked like given the amount of time she spent in the office or out chasing leads.
‘I need a holiday,’ she whined while Jack pored over the file some new PC had delivered to him.
‘You’ve just had a holiday,’ Jack replied.
‘Yes, but this new case of ours is already doing my head in.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘be prepared to have your head done in even more when you add the details that Pendleton gave us into what’s already in this file.’ He tapped the file for effect. ‘I’ll make your head spin.’
Jack handed the file over his desk to Ali.
‘Nope,’ she said as she pulled her hand back. ‘Can’t reach it over all this crap in your desk. You’ll have to read it to me. Shit, Jack, you’ve got what looks like years’ worth of files and paperwork on here. Clean it up, for God’s sake. How can you work like this?’
‘For a start, it’s not years’ worth of crap. It’s a month’s worth of paperwork and files that the rank of DCI gives me the privilege of having to go through.’ His sarcasm was not lost on Ali, and she smiled knowing she’d hit a nerve with Jack. He continued without looking at her. ‘I can’t clean it up because, quite frankly, I’ve no idea where to start, and I’m a little bit afraid of what will happen if I attempt a clean-up. I’ve heard stories of DCI’s getting crushed under the weight of the paperwork they’ve tried to clean up from their desks. Number three, a cluttered desk is the sign of an intelligent person.’
Incredulity spread across her face, Ali laughed at his excuses. ‘Just read what you want me to know.’
‘Fine. You don’t appreciate my desk predicament or my natural sense of humour. I’ll read what I want you to know.’
In six minutes, Jack rattled off the information he needed Ali to know. She sat silently absorbing and processing what she’d heard.
‘You’ve got the look on your face again.’
Ali relaxed her screwed up nose, and stretched. Only hours into the case, and it was already taking its toll on everyone involved.
‘If what Pendleton said is correct, I can’t see how any of what you just read out is possible. Somebody’s got some rubbish information.’
‘It seems that way, but I can vouch for the information in this report myself. I was first on scene after Anderson made the call, and he was the only one in the room prior to that.’
‘Could Pendleton have cocked up what he was told?’
‘Wouldn’t be the first time if he did.’ Jack considered his options and then screamed for DC Pendleton to return.
Wearing an expression of sheer terror, Pendleton scrambled into Jack’s office.
Fraser spoke with caution. Alienating his subordinates wasn’t something he enjoyed doing. ‘When you took down the details about Benjamin Rowe, is there any possibility that you might have misheard what was said?’
‘What do you mean, Guv?’
Frustration eked its way into Jack’s voice. ‘Do you think you could have got anything wrong?’
‘It’s always possible, but I doubt it. Ivan, DC Burkett, was with me when I obtained the information. Do you want me to confirm the details with him?’
‘Look, it’s not that I don’t trust what you’ve told us, Pendleton, it’s just that things aren’t adding up. Get Tweedledum in here.’
Pendleton’s shoulders slumped, but he strode out of Jack’s office, and quickly returned with DC Burkett in tow.
‘Pendleton, have you got your notebook with the information in it on you?’
‘Carry it with me everywhere on duty, Guv.’ He pulled it from his inside jacket pocket.
‘Give it to him.’ Jack flicked his hand in Burkett’s direction. ‘Your notebook, Pendleton, give it to him.’
Pendleton flipped open the police issue notebook and handed it to his partner.
‘I’m not following, boss. What do you want me to do?’ Burkett asked as he held the notebook.
‘Have a look at what Pendleton wrote down. The details he took in relation to Benjamin Rowe. Tell me if that’s what you heard as well.’
Burkett read his partner’s scrappy writing. He nodded as he examined each page containing the Rowe details. He closed the notebook and tossed it back to Pendleton, who barely managed to catch it having been caught off-guard.
‘Yep, that’s about it.’
Fraser needed specifics. ‘That’s about it, or that’s it exactly?’
‘That’s it exactly. He’s written down what we both heard from the witness.’ Burkett was confident.
‘Good, good. You two get back to Rowe’s residence, and door knock again. I want to know his movements for the last month. See if anyone around spotted him going out or coming home. Anything you can find.’ He and Ali watched as the two lumbering DC’s left his office, grabbed their coats, and headed off on their new mission for the afternoon. ‘Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit. That buggers everything up, doesn’t it?’
‘Well, it certainly throws a spanner in the works,’ Ali replied. She was as worried as Jack but remained calm so that one of them could logically go through the report again with a clear head. ‘Pass me the file. You write, I’ll read.’
As instructed, Jack handed Ali the file as he walked around his desk to the whiteboard he kept behind his filing cabinet. He pulled it free of the cabinet and set it up in front of the couch. Ali turned her chair around to face the whiteboard. She watched Jack bite the lid of a whiteboard marker and spit it onto the couch.
‘Okay, let’s start. Benjamin Rowe, forty-three years of age, professional architect and amateur magician.’ He scrawled the information on the board in handwriting that could have passed as that of a doctor.
‘You wanna write it so it’s legible?’
‘It is legible. This is my neatest writing.’
‘I know what you’re doing, Jack. You’re writing like shit in the hope that I’ll get pissed off and take over because you want to do the reading part, not the writing. I’m on to you, Poirot.’
Fraser laughed. She was on to him, he’d have to concede that fact. ‘Miss Marple, I’ll give you that one for free. But if you’d kindly stop criticising my handwriting, and continue reading the report, we’ll get through this a lot quicker.’
She sneered at him. It was a playful gesture that he would take as intended, in fun.
‘Right, continuing on. Massive trauma to the head, high doses of codeine in his bloods as per initial toxicology report, but no traces of any other drugs or alcohol. Hands and feet restrained, possibly post-mortem. Extensive bruising to the torso, appear to be two to three weeks old. Signs of cosmetic surgery on the chin and nose. And, of course, let us not overlook the small but significant detail that Pendleton and Burkett uncovered, Benjamin Rowe didn’t exist before four years ago.’
Jack’s writing deteriorated the more he wrote on the board. He struggled to keep up with Ali’s reading of the report.
‘Okay, okay, looking at that last point – what does that indicate to you? What does it tell you, Ali?’
‘I immediately go to witness protection,’ she replied.
‘Or someone who willingly changes their name because they don’t want to be found,’ Ali added.
‘Yes, that too. Exactly. So, which one do we lean towards?’
They answered Jack’s question in unison. ‘Witness protection.’
. . . To be continued . . .