(6) Hawthorns

‘What’s that then?’

Sandi, startled, half-jumped from her seat and tried to stuff the photo out of sight at the same time. It was embarrassing enough in the first place, pure cheese and nothing else going for it.

And she wasn’t sure she even belonged in the uniform anymore anyway.

Paul Quinn slid into the seat opposite her, clutching two bottles of beer, one of which he pushed across the table to her. Sandi took a long drink from it.

‘Just a picture,’ she said. She knew Quinn well enough to know that he wouldn’t believe nothing as an answer. Although not well enough that they’d ever been drinking together before. She looked at the bottles. 330ml, rather than full pints, Budweiser Lite, nice and neutral from a man who didn’t know what she preferred.

Quinn was North Wales Police, like her, but he was currently on secondment in Nottinghamshire. He was back in North Wales for the birthday of some DCI or other on the Force Major Incident Team he was apparently close to, and while he was passing through Sandi’s Sergeant had asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking her out for a chat. Try to talk some sense into her.

‘Let me see,’ he said, gently. Sandi looked at the photo through pursed lips. The Sandi in the picture was beaming widely, perched on the bonnet of a patrol car. Look at me, Mum, I’m a real police officer.

‘I’d rather not,’ she said.

‘Ok,’ Quinn said. He rooted around in his wallet for a moment, and then pushed an old photo across the table at her, creased from years of folding. It looked like it had been taken to a shop to be developed, back when such things happened. ‘Although I think we’ve all got one like it…’

Sandi almost laughed, bit it off just in time. Quinn looked younger in the picture than Sandi had ever felt in uniform, and the uniform he was wearing… Sandi could, just about, remember when North Wales Police had worn those old blue jumpers, but apparently when Quinn had first joined they’d all been carrying full-on New York nightsticks instead of the extendable Asps. He even had a clip-on tie. North Wales had changed to black Wicking T-shirts and combats in the early 2000s – so much more practical. Although the jumper itself was a huge leap forward over the tunics they’d worn way back when. Quinn had missed those, it seemed.

And the car…

‘Is that a Sierra Cosworth?’

‘In jam sandwich livery,’ Quinn nodded. ‘They were still called Marathon bars and Opal Fruits when that was taken.’

‘When?’

‘Summer ’95,’ Quinn smiled, his eyes going a little misty. ‘I was nineteen.’

‘Weren’t you still at Uni?’

Quinn’s smiled turned a little mysterious, as though he was expecting her to spot something else. Sandi frowned and examined the photo more closely. It all seemed as in order as far as she could tell, bearing in mind that she didn’t remember 1995 that well. Jonah Lomu had scored a few tries…

‘Were our cap badges green back then?’

‘Well spotted,’ Quinn said. ‘It’s a Staffordshire Police Force uniform. I was a Special there for two years before I came back here.’

‘You were a Special Constable at university?’

‘I was also rather unpopular at university,’ Quinn laughed again, this time ruefully. ‘Not many students want to hang around with the Law. I remember policing a demo in Hanley once, CND I think, and this politics student I knew accused me of sinking the General Belgrano.’

‘Who’s he?’

‘Argentinian cruiser, sunk in the Falklands War,’ Quinn clarified. ‘I don’t know how I’d’ve sunk her since I was six…’

‘You get some very confused people at demos,’ Sandi observed. She’d policed a couple of small ones herself, English Defence League. Or as they were known when in Wales, Lost.

Quinn took the photo back but didn’t fold it up. Sandi checked her bottle – somewhere in the middle of that conversation she’d drunk most of it. ‘So, DS Hunt tells me you feel like a fuck-up,’ Quinn said.

‘I did fuck up.’

‘Ok.’

‘Someone could have been hurt.’

‘But they weren’t. Your Sergeant caught your mistake. Everything was sorted before anything went wrong.’

Sandi pushed her own photo into her handbag and finished her bottle. Decided on something stronger for the next round. Pure ethanol, if they had it. ‘It’s not what did happen, sir, it’s what could have happened.’

‘Ok.’

‘I look at that picture now, and I wonder if… what business I have wearing that uniform. I just…’

‘Sandi,’ said Quinn, holding up a hand. ‘Let me tell you a story. The story of my first-ever case. Then you can tell me if your near fuck-up was anything like as bad as my near fuck-up. Who has the worse could have happened…’

 

If Paul had seen himself in the uniform, he’d have probably burst out laughing.

A skinny black kid with too-big ears that stuck out from under his peaked cap at odd angles, looking like his stab vest was about to swallow him whole. His jumper was the right size for someone his height but was intended for a bulkier man – the sleeves and waist hung too low.

A bulkier man.

Paul closed his eyes, forcefully reminded that he was nineteen. A boy in every sense except the eyes of the law, which saw him as old enough to wear the uniform of a police officer.

Special Constable 2419 Paul Quinn, Staffordshire Police Force, at your service.

How the hell had he got himself into this?

His was the only black face in the briefing room at Hanley Police Station, which wasn’t a great shock. A year ago, he would never have seen himself in this room, with these people, because a year ago he’d still been seeing photos of Stephen Lawrence on the news and thinking that that face could easily be his own. But then, a year ago, he’d had a sister.

He’d been introduced to his partner earlier that week, a man called Nolan who had bulk enough for both of them, most of it fat. But Nolan had smiled at Paul and had offered his hand with a genuine smile and no jokes about whether blackness rubbed off, winked and promised to look after him. Their Inspector had told Paul that PC Nolan was ok. Paul took that to mean that there were racists on their Relief, but the Inspector had kept him away from them. He supposed he was grateful for that.

‘…second ram-raiding incident in Newcastle in three weeks,’ the Inspector was saying. ‘Both times it’s been stolen vans with a second vehicle nearby acting as a getaway car. CID don’t have a good description of the vehicle, but they’re asking us to watch out for any car and van that seem to be forming a convoy and acting suspiciously. Yes, yes, all right!’ he waved down a tide of groans. ‘Assigned patrol routes…’

Paul and PC Nolan ended up doing a circuit of the villages north-west of Newcastle-under-Lyme, from Knutton out to Balterley, and then back through Madeley on the A525, skirting Keele on the north side.

And within an hour, Paul was very, very bored.

He’d known that it wouldn’t be all serial killers and car chases and saving the girl at the last minute. But he hadn’t pictured spending an evening getting poked in the ribs by his baton whenever Nolan went around a bend too fast whilst the car gradually became imbued with the smell of his cheese and onion crisps. The radio squawked into life every now and then, but the callouts were all for Newcastle or Stoke.

‘Did they give us a quiet route –’

Never use the Q word!’ Nolan snapped. He sighed heavily. ‘Yes, we got a more tranquil patrol route because you’re a new Special and we have to baby Specials.’ Paul opened his mouth to object to that, but Nolan held up a placating hand. ‘I do ten times as much in a month as you do. Specials don’t go out alone for a reason.’

‘Fair enough,’ Paul shrugged. He watched Madeley pass by out the window.

‘So, what is it that you’re studying? The Inspector said you’re a student at Keele,’ Nolan said.

‘Psychology and criminology.’

‘Oh aye? Going to tell us all how to do our jobs?’ Nolan asked with a raised eyebrow.

‘Actually, I was thinking of forensic psych, until…’ Paul trailed off, not wanting to discuss Trisha with PC Nolan. Nolan, to his surprise, seemed to realise that, because he shrugged and turned his eyes back to the road.

Yankee 4-2 from Yankee-Zulu, over,’ the radio burbled into life.

‘That’s us,’ Nolan nodded at it.

‘Yankee 4-2 receiving, over,’ Paul keyed the handset onto transmit. Felt a little frisson of excitement run up his spine despite himself.

Yankee 4-2, we’ve had a report of a female in distress near the Hawthorns residential block at Keele University. You free to deal, over?’

‘Don’t look at me,’ Nolan nodded at the radio again.

‘Yankee 4-2 free to deal, over.’

All received. You need us to have campus security show you where the block is, over?’

‘No need Yankee-Zulu, I can find it… I mean, I’m familiar with the address, over,’ Paul replied, cringing. The dispatcher chuckled indulgently when he came back on the radio.

All right, Special Constable Quinn. Tell me to show you dealing and off you go, over.’

‘Yankee 4-2, show us dealing, over,’ Paul said.

‘Well, that wasn’t a total disaster,’ Nolan said, flooring the accelerator. ‘Ok then, college boy. Start the drama.’

There were two orange switches next to the fan and radio controls. Paul flipped them both, and as silly as it was he couldn’t help but grin as the blues and twos kicked in.

Nolan brought the panda car roaring down Station Road into Keele Village itself and then swung a hard left onto Quarry Bank Road.

‘Female in distress couldn’t be vaguer, so keep your truncheon handy,’ he said, suddenly grim and focussed as he parked the panda car.

Paul was ten feet away with his torch up at shoulder height and scanning by the time Nolan had hauled himself out, and he saw her first – clutching at her stomach, a light pink dress stained with something dark spreading across it…

Nolan!’ He ran over to her, caught her under both shoulders, surprised at how heavy she was. She sagged into his arms, sighing softly, and for a moment Paul just held her there like that, not sure whether to lower her to the ground or help her stand, not sure what he should say.

Not sure how this could be real.

Then Nolan appeared and started steering her gently to the floor, murmuring that she was ok, they were the police and they’d look after her, somehow managing that at the same time as radioing to the control room that they needed an ambulance and at least one additional panda car, someone should call the Duty Sergeant at CID and let them know that there’d been a stabbing.

Ah, Paul thought to himself. So that’s how you do it.

‘Quinn, there’s a first-aid kit in the back, can you get it?’ Nolan asked calmly. Paul shook his head to clear it, darted back to the panda car, and came back with the small green plastic box, tried to dredge up the part of the three-day first aid course that had talked about puncture wounds. Nolan pulled on his latex gloves and started stuffing bandages into the stab wounds – Paul could see at least two. ‘Help me get her feet up,’ he told Paul softly. Paul knelt by the woman’s feet and lifted them onto his shoulders.

‘What’s going on?’

‘What’s happening?’

Shapes and faces in the dark; students filtering out of the accommodation blocks, most in dressing gowns and slippers.

‘All right, everybody stay back please, we’re police!’ called Nolan. ‘Who made the 999 call?’ When no one answered, he asked, ‘Does anyone know who she is?’

‘Carly? Carly!?’ a man’s voice shouted. No, not a man, a boy Paul’s own age, pale and terrified, running towards them. Someone really needed to stop him, it was a crime scene… then Paul remembered that that was his job. He held up his hand and put every ounce of authority he could into his voice.

‘Sir, please stay back. We’re police officers, it’s all under control.’

‘Her name’s Carly?’ Nolan asked. The boy nodded. Nolan started speaking to Carly, softly and gently, asking her to stay with him and try not to go to sleep.

Sirens in the distance, coming up from Newcastle. A scabby Ford Cortina with an orange light rolled up, two old, fat white men got out. Paul recognised them as campus security. Nolan directed them onto crowd control.

He looked back at Carly again. Even with just the light from the patrol car’s headlamps he could see that she was alarmingly pale. Blood had soaked the front of her dress, and Nolan’s efforts to stop it with the bandages from the first-aid kit didn’t seem to be even slowing it down.

Paul swallowed and tried not to be sick.

The ambulance beat the second patrol car. The paramedics came darting forwards with their own kits, one of them taking Carly’s legs from Paul. He stood up, stretching his shoulders – the weight of Carly’s legs had knotted them. The crowd had swollen to about twenty or so, clumping together in groups, staring, pointing and whispering. A couple of people from his Statistics group pointed at him and frowned. Paul realised suddenly that he’d left his cap back in the panda car.

Nolan and the paramedics were still working on Carly. Paul heard another siren that seemed to be coming from Madeley way – probably the next patrol car. The two from Stats were still staring at him confused, because Paul was wearing a police uniform, and it suddenly occurred to him that a real policeman wouldn’t be standing around a stabbing victim trying to work out what to do next.

Thing was, he didn’t know what to do next.

Start looking for witnesses? Search for clues?

If he was going to search for clues, he’d need his torch. He pulled it from his belt and clicked it on. He swept it around – blood droplets, a few feet from Carly’s body, a more a few feet further on.

‘Nolan! I think I’ve got a blood trail.’

‘All right, follow it and keep your PR on!’ Nolan shouted back. Paul shone his torch on, finding the next droplets, tried to think what his PR might be.

Personal Radio. Of course. And it was turned off.

He clicked the switch and it crackled into life. Paul left his hand on it, finger on the transmit button. It gave him a sense of security.

And he was suddenly, horribly aware that he was moving away from the relative safety of Hawthorns, and the crowds, and PC Nolan. Station Road was dark and foreboding, the branches of the trees now fingers that threatened to reach out and grab him in the night.

I am a well-trained, fully sworn police officer. I am not a frightened student playing at police officers. He took his left hand off his PR to hold the torch and pulled his baton out and up into the first strike position at his shoulder with his right anyway. It had a good bit of heft to it. He felt the better for it.

The blood spots became thicker and more frequent across the road. Paul followed them with the torchlight. Down the pavement, beads of sweat on his forehead as he remembered that murderers often hung around their murder scenes to see the reactions… right turn into Three Mile Lane. The blood drops had turned into a stream now. Paul swept the torch down towards the university and back up towards the Sneyd Arms. It was dark, cold and lifeless, its doors locked for the evening. No mad axeman or axemen loitering around it.

He followed the blood trail again, but only had to go another few feet.

‘Nolan… Special Constable 2419 to PC 187, over.’

PC 187 receiving, go ahead, over.’

‘I think I’ve found something,’ Paul said, wondering how stupid he sounded. The approaching siren had grown extremely loud, and now it cut out. A couple of upstairs lights came on in the Sneyd Arms. ‘There’s some disturbed bushes, and a large quantity of blood, just on Three Mile Lane on the right-hand side heading south. The blood trail I followed from Hawthorns appears to end here.’

Ok, stay put, I’ll make my way over to you. Keep any rubberneckers away,’ Nolan instructed. Paul heard him on his radio to the control room again, requesting additional SOCOs to a possible primary crime scene in Keele village.

The door to the Sneyd swung open. Paul bobbed his torch up, recognised the man – the landlord, he was sure. Blond-brown hair that was thinning and turning to white, surprisingly slim and trim for a landlord.

‘Everything ok there, mate?’ he called out.

‘It’s ok sir, we’re the police!’ Paul called back. ‘There’s just been an incident at the university but it’s all under control. Can I ask you to remain indoors please?’

The landlord nodded. ‘All right mate. Ta.’ And the door swung shut.

Paul realised he still had his baton out and up in the first strike position. He put it back in its sling before Nolan could arrive.

We’re the police.

When push had come to shove, it hadn’t sounded strange coming from him at all.

 

He and Nolan stayed at the scene until four a.m., when they were pulled back onto their route around Madeley again. Paul watched the dawn break over the rolling fields of Staffordshire from the panda car window, but there were no more call-outs. Forty minutes spent back at the station after his shift writing up his duty statement, and he was on the bus home fighting sleep the whole way, wondering which of the cars passing them by were CID on their way to the university.

There were whispers in his flat kitchen, rumours of murder and mayhem, but Paul was beyond exhausted. He flopped into his bed fully clothed and was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

He came to groggy, aware that time had passed because the sun had moved through the gap in his blinds, and that he had a horrible, pounding hangover.

‘Paul? You in there, mate?’

No, not a hangover. Someone at the door.

‘There’s a policewoman on the phone for you!’

Paul groaned and pulled himself upright. His clock said about two and a half hours’ sleep. He shuffled over to the door – Leo Aldridge knocking. The other Flintshire boy in his flat and on his course. Between them they knew just about enough Welsh to convince the others that they could have entire, secret, conversations.

‘Someone called the flat. Said she’s a Detective Sergeant or something,’ Leo said. Paul nodded. This would be about last night then.

‘Cheers mate.’

The communal phone was located in the kitchen. Paul scooped the receiver off the table, ignored the stares from History Harriet and English Edward, neither of whose last names he was sure of, and who were still denying being an item no matter how many times they ended up snogging and then going home together after a night out. ‘Hello… Special Constable Quinn speaking.’

Quinn, hi, this is Detective Sergeant Hook from Hanley CID speaking,’ said the voice. Paul didn’t recognise it. He didn’t know any of the CID officers. ‘I’m calling about the stabbing at Keele University last night. You were one of the first on the scene?’

‘Yes ma – that’s right, Sarge,’ Paul said. Sergeants were never called ‘Ma’am.’ ‘How’s she doing?’

She’s dead, Constable,’ said Hook. Paul blinked to hear it said so flatly, so matter-of-factly. ‘Hospital told us about forty minutes ago. It’s a murder enquiry now.’

‘Ok,’ Paul said. He was pretty sure that real police officers didn’t say ‘Ok,’ when the Sergeant rang up to tell them that there’d been a murder, but he wasn’t quite sure what the appropriate response would be.

Force HQ are sending up a DCI to take charge. I was going to suggest to him that, since you’re a student at Keele University yourself, it might be handy to bring you in. What do you think?’

‘Ok sure,’ Paul said, the words tumbling out of his mouth before he’d had time to properly process what Hook was saying. But without any following twinge of regret.

So he’d be stood at the very, very back, and the DCI from Force HQ probably wouldn’t even know his name. It didn’t matter. Five minutes on the force and he was already a murder detective. Sort of.

Nice one, duck,’ said Hook. ‘Get yourself down to Hanley then, see if you can beat the DCI here…’

 

Paul was able to beat the DCI to Hanley by dint of taking a taxi. The force paid its Specials ‘reasonable transport costs,’ as expenses, which was usually interpreted to mean the bus, but Paul was confident that in a murder case, he could get away with a taxi or two.

Detective Sergeant Hook met him in reception. Paul had seen her around a couple of times during his inductions, and had not taken her for a detective – she was in her late forties and at least three stone overweight. Detectives, he’d assumed, were all men at the peak of fitness, in leather jackets – Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect being the exception.

‘Hiya Quinn, thanks for coming back in,’ she said, holding out a hand for him to shake. She led him into the main CID office, explaining that because Carly Summers had died, the investigation was automatically transferred to Force Headquarters in Stafford. They would send up a Senior Investigating Officer. Local CID were supplying a few detectives who knew the local area, of which Hook was the most senior. Then she paused.

‘Know what? You should probably get your uniform on. I don’t know the rules on Specials being in plainclothes, but it’s probably not allowed,’ she said.

By the time Paul had clipped on his tie and decided that his stab vest would be overkill in the station, the DCI had arrived. He found himself squeezed in at the back of the CID office as the briefing began. Detective Chief Inspector Eric Paxman, like the newsreader, and his deputy Detective Inspector Mike Vine, smoking like a pair of chimney stacks, explaining that Carly had probably been attacked at the top of Three Mile Lane, where a long-bladed flathead screwdriver covered in blood had been found by the forensics team.

‘Hanley CID made some initial enquiries last night,’ Paxman said, nodding at DS Hook. ‘We know that Carly was out with friends at the Students’ Union bar for a party. Her friends think she left at about one thirty. According to one of her flatmates, Carly had just broken up with her boyfriend, so finding him and alibiing him is a priority. Her friends gave his first name as Nick, last name as something like Garrett, Garner, or Gardner.’

Paul frowned, thought for a moment, and then decided what the hell and stuck his hand up. ‘Yes, Constable?’ Paxman asked, sounding like he was restraining irritation with some effort.

‘Sorry sir, it’s just that… well, if you were waiting for someone to get back to the Hawthorns block from the SU, they’d have to walk past the Sneyd Arms, so it would… I mean, I’d wait there for them,’ Paul said, growing increasingly aware of every eye turning towards him as he spoke. ‘If, um, if Carly’s ex-boyfriend was another Keele student he’d probably, well, you’d expect that… I’d think that he’d know that.’

‘Ok then,’ said Paxman when Paul had stammered to a stop. ‘So, we’d better make sure that we speak to whichever bar staff were working last night.’

But that wasn’t Paul’s job. He ended up paired with DS Hook and a Detective Constable called Matthews, paying a visit to campus security to see if Carly had filed any complaints with them. Paul had seen a few of them around on campus but had never had any cause to speak to them himself. He was surprised that the man they spoke to seemed to know DS Hook by name, but supposed he shouldn’t be. The bloke looked to be in his mid-fifties and was probably a retired cop, topping up his pension with a cushy gig looking after drunk teenagers.

‘Retired cop,’ unfortunately didn’t seem to mean that he was particularly bothered about his job.

‘Name doesn’t ring a bell,’ he said when Hook explained that they were after any complaints filed by Carly Summers.

‘We spoke to her friends last night, Bill; they said she’d spoken to campus security several times in the last few weeks. There was another student following her around.’

‘Oh aye?’ asked Security Guard Bill, not bothering to hide a yawn.

‘Could you find your records of that?’ Hook asked.

‘Why would we have records of that?’

‘You need me to explain why you should record a woman reporting her stalker to you?’

‘No law against following a pretty girl around, Mary,’ said Security Guard Bill.

‘I suppose not. Good thing they didn’t pass the General Stupidity Act either or you’d be public enemy number one,’ Hook retorted. ‘We also know Carly reported several threats made by her recent ex-boyfriend to you. I don’t suppose you have records of those either?’

‘That’s a private matter – not something we’d intervene in,’ Security Guard Bill said, slurping at his tea.

‘Is there anything you do do, Bill?’ asked Hook. ‘Never mind, probably the same answer as it used to be. Mind if we check your records anyway? Make sure no one suffered a sudden attack of professionalism when Carly came in?’

‘Knock yourself out,’ said Bill, slurping his tea again, unfolding his Daily Mail and spinning his chair away from them. Hook didn’t say another word to him as she led them through into the small campus security office.

And Paul got his first taste of real detective work, trudging through campus security’s chaotic filing system looking for Carly’s name.

Nothing blew up while he was doing it. No one even made them a cup of tea.

After about two hours, Paul found something. Someone had scribbled down that a ‘Carly Sumner,’ was being followed around by a boy from her seminar group called Adam, last name unknown. Adam was loitering outside her current classes and had been seen by friends near her Halls of Residence. It was on a loose bit of paper clipped to another report on a TV stolen from Holly Cross two years previously.

Paul passed it to Hook, who pulled out her mobile phone and called DCI Paxman. There was a muffled conversation, followed by an instruction to check all of Carly’s seminar groups and find Adam, then interview him and get his alibi.

‘Right Quinn, make yourself useful,’ Hook said as she pushed the aerial back in her phone. ‘Where’s the Music Department?’

Paul had to think about that one for a moment – students didn’t generally mingle with people from other courses unless they met through a society or in Halls, and he didn’t know any Music students. He hadn’t recognised Carly Summers’ name. Eventually he came up with the Clock House, on the basis that he couldn’t think of anywhere else on campus it would logically be.

Fortunately for his budding reputation as a detective he was right, and the staff at the Music Department were far more helpful than campus security had been, cheerfully providing them with their records of all their seminar groups for First Years that term, hoping that they’d catch Carly’s killer soon, and providing not only tea but chocolate digestives. This time it was DC Matthews who found it; a seminar that had finished before Easter in which Carly had been with not one, but two Adams – Adam Foster and Adam Tyson.

So that meant a trip to Student Services, which Paul confidently assured Hook was in the Students’ Union building, before dropping back as unobtrusively as possible to check a map when they had reached University Road, and then appearing to suddenly remember that it was actually in the Tawney Building.

‘Sorry Sarge, not been there very often,’ he said by way of an apology when Hook scowled at him. In fact, he’d never been to the Tawney Building at all and led Hook and Matthews by what was probably an extremely roundabout route, all the while developing a nagging sense that the Detective Sergeant might be regretting her decision to second him to the inquiry. Once at Student Services it was more hurry up and wait whilst they looked through their records for two First Year music students. It was still all paper files in Student Services’ office – their two computers were so old that they still had black screens and blinking green cursors. Staffordshire Police had recently finished upgrading to Windows 3.0.

Adam Foster lived in Holly Cross; Adam Tyson in Barnes. Hook sent Matthews to Barnes to speak to Tyson – close and easy to find from where they were. She and Paul would speak to Foster, Hook still placing some faith in Paul’s ability to direct her around campus. Paul trudged on ahead of her, wondering how it was possible for his feet to be aching so much. He’d done hikes up Snowdon and Tryfan; even run up Moel Famau for a bet.

But of course, he hadn’t been wearing poorly-fitting police regulation shoes.

Paul had expected Adam Foster to appear drenched in piercings, with a Mohawk some garish shade of God-knew-what. That was his impression of the Music department, anyway. But Foster, when he opened the door to his room, looked pretty square and safe to Paul at first glance – an office shirt over jeans, nice and conservative with a small c. It was only on third or fourth glance that Paul noted his too-long hair, and the funny smell in his room – by which time Hook had already ascertained that someone had been smoking pot in Foster’s room, but no, Foster couldn’t remember who. Paul expected her to turn the thumbscrews, but instead she shrugged.

‘Well, if you do remember, you’ll be sure to let us know,’ she said. ‘That’s not really why we’re here anyway, Mr Foster.’

‘Anything I can do to help, Sergeant,’ Foster said. Paul couldn’t help himself, he raised an eyebrow that people said that when they weren’t on the telly.

‘I don’t know if you’re aware, but there was a serious incident at a university residential block last night,’ Hook said. Her voice had slowed right down, and she was playing up her Yam-Yam accent. ‘A young woman was stabbed and has subsequently died of her injuries.’

Foster blinked. ‘Oh. That’s… um… that’s terrible.’

Paul felt his eyes narrow, thinking that Foster hardly looked bothered at all.

‘Quite. Obviously, we’re making some routine enquiries into the matter,’ said Hook. ‘Does the name Carly Summers mean anything to you?’

‘No.’

Paul thought that the answer, delivered flatly and solidly, had come far too fast. The colour was draining from Adam Foster’s face. But Hook had told him not to ask any questions this time, just take notes.

Then he remembered that he hadn’t taken any notes. He furiously reached for his notebook and pen.

‘You’ve never heard the name at all?’

‘Don’t think so,’ Foster shrugged.

‘Ok. Only, you were in a class with Carly Summers last term,’ said Hook.

‘Was I?’

Paul wanted, he really wanted to jump in and say something, but Hook had already moved on without pressing Foster on the point at all.

‘So we’re told. Did you see her again outside of that group?’

‘Nope,’ Foster said.

‘Not at all? You didn’t bump into her in the campus shop?’

‘I wouldn’t, would I?’

‘Why not?’

‘She lived in Hawthorns. It’s bloody miles away,’ said Foster.

‘I suppose it is at that,’ Hook said. Paul was scribbling fast, trying to catch up, but Foster had just said something, and Hook was ignoring it and he wanted to say something… ‘Just for routine purposes now, but can you account for your whereabouts between twelve a.m. and four a.m. last night?’

‘Well… there was a big party at the SU bar,’ said Foster. ‘I was there with a couple of mates from the Neighbours society… we were there around ten. Not sure when we left, but it was late. Sometime after two?’

‘Ok. Please give Special Constable Quinn the names of your two friends,’ Hook said. Paul wrote them down, went back up his notepad. Surely Hook must have heard it… ‘Just one more thing, Mr Foster?’

‘Yes?’

‘You don’t really remember Carly Summers from your class last term?’

Foster shrugged. ‘Not especially.’

‘Ok. Just, I was wondering, how did you know she lived in Hawthorns residential block?’

Foster frowned and narrowed his eyes. His voice stammered and faltered as he snatched at the words. ‘Did… did I say that?’

‘Yes.’

‘I… you said it. When you told me that there had been an incident.’

‘No, I didn’t state which residential block was the one in question,’ Hook sparred back. The conversation had become more confrontational, Paul realised, Foster suddenly warier and more defensive. ‘As Special Constable Quinn will have noted. So I’ll just have to ask again, how did you know Carly’s block? Since you don’t really remember her?’

‘It’s just… she mentioned it…’

‘And you remembered it? Even though you don’t really remember her?’ Hook asked. When Foster didn’t say anything, just ummed and ahhed, she directed Paul to write down that he hadn’t been able to answer that question. ‘You see, Mr Foster, we’ve been made aware that Carly felt she was being stalked by a member of her class last term…’

Her voice trailed off. Paul watched Foster become more and more uncomfortable as he waited for Hook to finish her sentence. Recalled from one of his criminology lectures that interrogators often used long periods of silence to draw a suspect into speaking to fill the vacuum and realised that he was seeing Hook do it in practice. ‘It was just… couple of misunderstandings,’ Foster said when he could stand it no longer.

‘Nine?’ Hook said, inflecting it as a question.

‘Is that what Carly said?’

‘That’s how many instances her friends recalled to us. Why, were there more?’

‘All I wanted to do was speak to her,’ Foster said. He’d recovered from being caught in the lie, Paul realised. There was some defiance in his voice now. ‘She was pretty. I liked her. Where’s the harm?’

‘The harm is in the nine, or more, times you tried again after she’d said she wasn’t interested,’ Hook said.

‘Not like there’s a law against it.’

‘For now.’

Hook questioned Foster for a few more minutes about specific instances of stalking Carly, ending by informing him that they’d be speaking to anyone who might have been at the party with him, including the door staff, to confirm that he’d left when he’d said he had.

Paul felt his revulsion for the boy grow all the time. He’d faltered briefly when Hook had pinned him down in the lie about not knowing Carly well, but otherwise seemed almost annoyed that he had to answer her. Didn’t seem to quite understand that Carly had found his behaviour threatening.

Or was actively trying not to.

‘I think he’s a little prick who’s not half as charming as he thinks he is and who might one day do something very stupid,’ said Hook when Paul asked what she thought. ‘But if he left after two, that rules him out as Carly’s killer.’

‘He was stalking her!’ Paul objected immediately.

‘But he might also have an alibi,’ Hook reminded him.

Which was also DCI Paxman’s view when Hook reported their findings at the briefing at the end of the day. Adam Foster was a low-priority suspect. The Chief Inspector was far more interested in Carly’s ex-boyfriend, who’d been identified as another music student called Nick Garner. They’d met at the start of the course in September last year, but according to the detectives who’d spoken to Carly’s friends about him their relationship had been ‘tempestuous,’ and ‘characterised by arguments.’ Paul hadn’t realised anyone used the word ‘tempestuous,’ in real life.

Carly had never had any unexplained, or poorly explained, injuries, before she and Garner had split up three weeks back. But he had called her several times since, apparently begging to be given another chance, accusing her friends of poisoning her against him, and even of cheating with ‘That bloke who keeps hanging around.’

‘Adam Foster,’ stated one of the Detective Constables, like Hook aging and slightly overweight, but male this time.

‘Seems pretty likely,’ DCI Paxman nodded. ‘First order of business tomorrow then will be confirming or otherwise Garner’s alibi, and I want people in that pub speaking to the landlords and bar staff. If he was waiting for her anywhere it was there.’

There was a chorus of murmured ‘Yes sirs.’ Paul raised his hand.

There was a rustle around the room when everyone realised. Hook tried to surreptitiously wave him down.

‘Yes, Special Constable?’ Paxman asked, looking surprised.

‘I’m sorry sir, but… what about Foster?’

‘He’s committed no crimes,’ Paxman shrugged. When he realised that Paul wasn’t satisfied, he tried an indulgent smile. ‘It was good work turning him up and we’ll keep him in mind as a suspect, but for now, Garner’s the focus.’

And that was it, class dismissed. One of the DCs told Paul he was either very brave or very stupid.

 

Paul couldn’t leave it there. He spent the night tossing and turning, thoughts of Foster dragging him back into wakefulness. Thinking of one of his forensic psychology lectures – ‘The classic pattern of sexual offence runs from harassment of women, through assaulting them, to killing them.’

Foster fit the pattern. And Paul had been in the Keele SU himself two dozen times at least on a big night. The place was so busy you could easily lose your friends for twenty minutes, half an hour, never think anything of it. Plenty of time to walk to the Sneyd Arms and back – Paul had done it himself. It was fifteen minutes if you walked it fast.

Not that anyone had asked.

And what was the point of seconding him to the enquiry anyway if no one was going to ask him about the SU?

By the morning his mind was made up. He dressed unobtrusively – a light sweater over some jeans and a pair of tatty trainers – packed his warrant card into his pocket, and headed out over to Holly Cross, which was close to his own block anyway.

His training hadn’t included surveillance techniques. They weren’t considered necessary for a Special who would mostly be used for public order events and making up the numbers on busy shifts, so he improvised a hiding spot behind some bushes without knowing if it was any good. He was going to have to rely on Foster being unobservant.

It was a lazy, warm Sunday morning, and Keele’s campus was especially pretty. Paul soon found himself sharing his surveillance location with a grey squirrel that scampered around his feet. It was getting on for eleven when he started to realise that there was no guarantee that Foster would appear at all. He might well spend the whole day in the flat common room watching daytime TV, or lounging in the sun on one of the commons dotted around between Holly Cross, Larchwood and Lindsey.

And he was getting hungry. And he needed a piss.

He was about to give it up as a bad job when Foster appeared with two girls and another boy, laughing and joking as they headed in the direction of the SU. Paul let them get fifty yards ahead, then followed them down University Road. It was doubtful, of course, that Foster was trying to hide any evidence with three friends and, when they went into the shop, Paul realised that it was probably just a milk run. He thought about where to position himself when Foster came out – Foster might just recognise him, after all.

The wall of the SU building itself seemed like the best bet – off on Foster’s left as he came out, easy to dismiss anyone loitering there. Foster probably wouldn’t even look in his direction. Paul started to walk across and was halfway there when a hand clamped around his arm.

‘I think you need to come with me, lad.’

Paul slid his warrant card out of his jeans pocket and held it up under the man’s nose. ‘Steady on there pal, I’m a police officer.’

The man holding onto him was Detective Constable 651 Harry Carter. Paul knew this because Carter was holding his own warrant card under Paul’s nose.

‘I know exactly who you are and you’re a very silly boy, Special Constable Quinn,’ he said. ‘Now come with me and don’t make a scene.’

Carter steered Paul up the hill away from the SU building, to where University Road looped back around it before heading towards Newcastle. Once they were safely out of view of Adam Foster, he let go of Paul’s arm and Paul shrugged it away angrily. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ he asked, trying to sound outraged, inwardly quaking. Specials were always outranked by Regulars.

‘I’m carrying out surveillance on a suspect in accordance with a lawful order from a superior, what’s your excuse?’ Carter said. He looked relaxed, but his voice was taut and his eyes blazed. ‘Surveillance which you’d better hope you haven’t fucked up.’

‘You… surveillance…’ Paul said. He recognised Carter, he realised – the man had been at some of the briefings. ‘No one said anything…’

‘What, you mean the DCI from Force HQ didn’t tell the newest Special in Staffordshire all his plans personally? Fancy that,’ Carter sneered. ‘Let me tell you what happens next, SC Quinn. You’re getting the next bus to Hanley, you’re reporting straight to DS Hook, and you’re hoping that she’s in a bloody good mood.’

‘Ok,’ said Paul. Then, after a second, ‘Thing is, um, I haven’t got change…’

‘Fucking unbelievable,’ Carter snapped, handing over a fiver.

 

Paul expected shouting, screaming, storming and raging. He expected Sergeant Hook to leave him in no doubt whatsoever what a total twat he was, loudly enough that everyone in postcode ST1 would know too.

The fact that she was quietly disappointed was so much worse.

‘Did it occur to you that, just maybe, detectives with twenty five years’ experience might have the first idea of what they were talking about?’ she asked when Paul had finished explaining his concerns surrounding the prioritisation of Garner over Foster.

Paul looked at the expression on her face and wished the ground would swallow him up.

‘Look, Quinn, it’s simple,’ she said. ‘We know statistically that, when a woman is murdered, her current or ex-partner is the most likely suspect. Especially when stalking, and/or harassment is involved, especially when there’s a history of violent, and/or abusive behaviour in the relationship. Nick Garner’s got so many red flags he’s basically fucking tripping over them.

‘Foster’s a stalker, and that’s never good news, but his alibi seemed good on first glance, so my advice to the DCI was that he could be treated as a lower-priority than Nick Garner. But obviously we couldn’t rule him out, so we’ve put surveillance on him, and we’re also checking his alibi,’ Hook finished. ‘Surveillance that you’d better not have blown, or the DCI might change his mind about you.’

Paul cringed again. ‘The DCI knows?’

‘Despite what you see on the telly, the police force is a disciplined body with a hierarchical structure, wherein the superior officers are in charge and junior officers who do stupid things because they think they know better get bollocked into next week.’ That certainly wasn’t how it looked on Prime Suspect, but Paul nodded. ‘So, when I was told that a brand-new Special Constable was carrying out potentially unlawful surveillance on a suspect, of course I told the Chief Inspector. It’s the kind of thing he needs to know about,’ Hook concluded.

‘What did he say?’

‘That you sounded keen and eager, and from what he was hearing you were making a decent fist of it given that you’ve had no training,’ Hook said. ‘Apparently he doesn’t consider any of that a bad thing. But he has told me to tell you that your wrist is officially slapped, and next time he won’t be indulgent. He’ll refer you to Discipline and Complaints, and ask them what the record for shortest-serving Special is.’

‘Yes, Sarge.’

‘Then the matter’s closed,’ Hook said. ‘Be a dear and see who wants tea, since you’re in?’

 

The matter wasn’t quite closed, of course. Detective Chief Inspector Paxman had spent the day interviewing the friends Nick Garner had said were his alibi, but wanted to have a quick word with Paul before Paul left.

Paul wondered if this was the roasting, but the DCI was actually wanting more of an avuncular chat, offering Paul a Snickers bar and rolling his eyes when Paul declined a cigarette on the grounds that he didn’t smoke.

‘Nobody fucking does these days.’

Did Paul want to be in CID one day? Yes, that was his ultimate goal. Then great, you’re obviously a bright lad and you’re keen as well, but don’t think that fancy degree means you know more about investigating than twenty year men. Learn to be a good beat cop first, then see about CID.

Meanwhile, Paul was obviously committed to the enquiry, so Paxman was happy for him to stay around. Thousands, he reminded Paul, wouldn’t be.

Paxman had established that Nick Garner had not wanted to go to the party at the SU, telling his flatmates that he would stay in. He wasn’t the only one in his block not going; three of them had decided to sack it off and eat pizza in front of both Terminator movies. Garner had been able to say which movies were being watched, but hadn’t joined them, saying he wanted to stay in his room, depressed about his breakup with Carly. He insisted he had been there all night. His flatmates said that they hadn’t heard him leave. But no one seemed too inclined to believe that Garner couldn’t have snuck past them. He could even have said he’d be back, if he’d timed it right.

The next confirmed sighting of him was at nine a.m. the next morning. Then Paxman’s deputy, DI Vine, shared his findings from his day in the Sneyd Arms speaking to its staff.

Garner had arrived at nine thirty and left at midnight – chucking out time.

‘Right then. That’s him,’ said Paxman. ‘Pick him up first thing tomorrow.’

Paul asked Hook if he could be in on the arrest. Hook shrugged, said she didn’t see why not. But he’d be in uniform. No sleeping in late and meeting them there.

 

Garner had a seminar in the Chancellor’s Building at nine a.m. on Monday, barbarically early in Paul’s opinion. Paxman didn’t want to make a scene by arresting him during the middle of it and didn’t see any need to bring anyone in early, not when the surveillance officers confirmed that Garner was sleeping peacefully in his halls, apart from the lengthy periods of pacing around in his room.

Instead, they’d pick him up nice and peacefully when he was done arguing about Margaret Thatcher and the unions.

Paul was stationed at the eastern end of the building with one of the DCs, from where Garner’s only escape routes if he bolted were down to the SU, or north to University Road where he’d presumably try to flag down a bus, but would be royally screwed if one didn’t happen to rumble past.

That was when Paul realised that he was looking at his campus with a police officer’s eye. When a bead of sweat ran down from the brim of his cap along the line of his nose a few seconds later he mentally cursed the heat and the uniform that was obviously designed for winter wear – and realised that he was grumbling like a real police officer too.

Hell, it was warm under the jumper and stab vest.

His radio crackled with the news that Garner’s seminar was finishing. DI Vine and DC Tomlins were moving into position to arrest him. Paul pushed his cap back up his head to let a bit of air in and looked down the hill to the Students’ Union where a car boot sale was in full swing, La Macarena drifting around on a gentle late-spring breeze. It all seemed very peaceful, very rustic. Very Keele. It being Keele, there was probably at least one squirrel ducking around somewhere.

Ok, he’s coming out,’ the radio spat. The DC with Paul scratched under his armpit and yawned, not apparently expecting much excitement. DS Hook had said as much to Paul – most of the people involved in a major arrest never saw the suspect; they were just there in case anything went wrong.

Got him, brown jacket.’ Paul recognised that voice from the briefings, DI Vine’s. ‘Nicholas Garner! Detective Inspector Michael Vine, I am arresting you for –’

Paul heard a grunt, the sound of something falling to the floor, then some shouts and a scream. ‘He’s running, south entrance look sharp!’ over the radio.

The DC came alive, squared his shoulders and motioned Paul out of his way. ‘Stay back, Quinn.’

He held his warrant card up like a stop sign. For a moment Paul thought it would even work – Garner would see the small piece of leather and, awed by the full force of British law that it represented, would fall to his knees and wait to be arrested.

That thought lasted as long as it took Garner to charge through the double doors and shoulder charge the DC to the floor. Paul threw off his cap and took off after him.

‘Garner’s heading south towards the SU building!’ into his radio, feeling his lungs burn against the stab vest as he tried to stay on the other boy’s heels. Garner was fast and hitting the ground at a full sprint. Although Paul had the fitness of a three-times-a-week footballer, with all his kit on he was struggling to match Garner’s pace, never mind overtake him. He managed to get enough breath to shout ‘Nick, stop! Police!’ but it was so hoarse Garner might not even have heard him.

They raced across the green and past the enormous slate edifice of the chapel, looming over the car park. Paul kicked his heels over the kerb from the green to the concrete and put on an extra spurt of speed, trying to eat up some of the distance, but Garner saw him coming and added extras himself. Paul’s lungs were on fire. His baton slapped against his thigh with every stride.

Garner started to slow as they approached the SU and Paul gathered up his reserves and pushed forward again, but Garner seemed to get his second wind as they approached the steps leading down to the courtyard in front of it and he leapt down them three at a time. He veered right, and Paul veered with him, seeing his chance as the music changed to Caught By The Fuzz. People started to shout and protest as Garner tried to push his way through. Paul did a quick two step down the grass slope, jumped from it onto a table loaded with second-hand videos, took two big strides across it.

The videos scattered to the four winds, and Paul yelled and jumped, his arms outstretched.

He missed Garner completely and his left knee protested angrily as his weight landed on it disproportionately. He let it buckle and went down, managing to snag both of Garner’s shoulders as he did so. They both tumbled to the ground. Paul pulled himself up, but Garner was just as fast – he pulled out a flathead screwdriver and brandished it. Paul swung his baton out of its holder.

‘Police. Stop,’ he gasped.

‘I’ll fucking gut you like her,’ Garner snarled, and he lunged.

Maybe the stab-proof vest was actually stab-proof, maybe it wasn’t. Paul didn’t wait to find out. He side-stepped and swung the baton two-handed into Garner’s stomach.

If only my brother could see me now…’ Caught by the Fuzz played on from the Hi-Fi.

Garner folded up over the baton; Paul dragged it clear and slammed it down on the back of Garner’s knee, then braced it across his upper back and forced him down. Planting a knee on his spine, he wrestled his arms up and snapped on the cuffs.

I wish I would have stayed at home tonight…’ the chorus finished as he locked them.

‘Nick Garner, I’m Special Constable Paul Quinn, Hanley Police Station, and I’m arresting you for the murder of Carly Summers.’ He gasped for breath, and tried to think how the rest of it went. He was supposed to specify the law broken, and there was that new caution to recite. ‘Contrary to the common law. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not ques… mention when questioned, something which you may later rely on in court, and anything you do say may be taken and given in evidence.’

Sweat dripped into his eyes from his eyebrows. He blinked them clear.

‘Do you understand the caution?’

Heavy footsteps and heavy breathing approached – Paul looked up to see the Inspector, DS Hook, and a couple of DCs clatter down the steps. He hauled Garner to his feet and thought about how a Constable phrased a report to an Inspector.

‘He’s been arrested and cautioned, sir, but hasn’t said whether he understands the caution, sir.’ There, nice and succinct, everything that was said.

‘Nice one, Quinn,’ Hook nodded. The two DCs grabbed Garner in an arm each – they were sweating and blowing worse than Paul. Paul promised himself he’d never let himself go like they had. He scooped up his baton from where he’d dropped it.

‘Where’s your cap?’

‘It’s… er…’

Presumably still where he’d thrown it, up by the Chancellor’s Building.

‘Don’t you think you’d better go and get it?’

‘Er…’

Paul looked back up the hill to the Chancellor’s Building. At all the distance he’d just covered.

Shit.’

 

The tape recorder made an incredibly long and unbelievably annoying beeping noise when it was activated.

As a reward for making his first arrest, Paxman had asked Paul if he wanted to watch the interviews with Garner. Watch, not sit in – his turn would come, he was told, but not this time. Nobody got to interview a murder suspect on their first go.

Garner had asked for the duty solicitor, an ancient, dusty man whose hair had fallen out and been replaced by liver spots. They were sitting together on one side of the table; DI Vine sat across from them, and Paxman himself leant against one of the wall, puffing away on a cigarette whilst Vine announced who was present.

The whole thing went a lot slower than Paul had expected – the first ninety minutes were Vine establishing how Nick and Carly had met, getting a potted history of their relationship, and then how their break-up had come about. An argument over whether Carly should go out wearing a dress that Nick thought was too low and too high in all the wrong places had spiralled into everything that was wrong with their relationship. Carly had told Nick she was going out dressed however she damn well pleased, and that he shouldn’t bother being there when she got back.

Vine raised the phone calls from Nick to Carly in the weeks following the split. The duty solicitor creaked into life and suggested that this might be a good time for a break. For a split-second Paul expected someone to rush in and give everyone their half-time orange.

Tea-making duties were for the most junior officer, in this case Paul. A bacon sandwich was required for the DCI. The break was scheduled for fifteen minutes but was over twenty by the time Paxman had licked the ketchup from around his mouth.

‘Why haven’t they used what he said?’ Paul asked Hook, whilst Garner was led back up from the cells.

‘How do you mean?’

‘When I arrested him? He said, “I’ll gut you like her.”’

‘“I was panicking, Officer, not thinking straight. I didn’t mean anything by it, honest,”’ Hook said, holding her hand up and imitating Garner’s accent. ‘It’d fall apart in seconds in court, obviously, but if we lead with it and try to break him with it, we could waste an hour, hour and a half, chasing him around about it. Best to keep it back until we’re ready to get stuck into him properly.

‘You have to be patient to get this right,’ she finished. She offered Paul a cigarette from her handbag, which he declined. She lit one up herself, grumbling about how kids today thought that they were so much better than everyone else. Never had it so good…

Back in the interview room they assumed the precise positions they had been in before, the only difference being that Paxman was taking shorter and more aggressive drags on his fags, filling up the room with smoke. Vine lit up as well, holding his cigarette in front of his face and letting the ash drip onto the table.

Slow and steady remained the order of the day. Vine, still the talker, went through the phone calls from Nick to Carly, averaging two a day since their break up.

‘It’s a lot even if you were still together,’ he said. ‘But when you’ve been chucked…’

Nick struggled to answer that. After nearly a minute of thinking time, he came up with ‘I loved her. I needed her to know that.’

Paxman laughed, an ugly sound full of phlegm.

‘That’s unhelpful,’ said the solicitor lamely.

‘I think she got the fucking message the first twenty times,’ Paxman returned.

It took nearly forty minutes to get onto Friday night. Vine asked again where Nick had been. Nick repeated that he hadn’t gone out, he’d stayed in because he was depressed about his breakup.

‘Only thing is, Nick… you should have a copy of Statement 19 there – that’s from the barmaid at the Sneyd Arms last Friday. She seems to reckon that you was there from about nine, until chucking-out time at midnight.’

Nick needed another minute, eventually deciding that when he said he hadn’t gone out, he meant to the SU. He had gone to the Sneyd Arms because it would be quieter with the big event on, and he didn’t want to see Carly.

‘So, you went to the Sneyd to avoid Carly?’ asked Vine.

‘Yes. Yes, that’s why I was there.’

‘You must think we’re a pair of total fucking mugs,’ said Paxman. He propelled himself away from the wall, smoking angrily. ‘You went to a pub you knew she’d walk past to avoid her? Come off it, mate, you was waiting for her!’ And he banged the table in front of Nick. The solicitor protested feebly.

‘I… no, no, that’s not…’

‘Show him the screwdriver,’ Paxman ordered.

‘For the tape, I’m showing a picture of item PQ-1 to Mr Garner,’ said Vine. PQ for the officer who’d recovered it. Paul smiled, felt part of the circus for a moment. ‘That’s a screwdriver you used to threaten our officers with when you was arrested.’

‘And here’s a picture of item HTL-2,’ said Paxman, slapping it down in front of Garner. ‘That’s the screwdriver that was used to stab Carly to death.’

‘Funny how they seem to be from a matching set,’ said Vine.

‘Funny how when we searched your room, we found a set just like it and guess which two were missing?’ Paxman asked.

‘Whose screwdrivers are they, Nick?’

‘They could be mine… I mean, I’m not saying they are mine, they could be mine. They look like mine. I’m not saying they are mine.’

‘Well fortunately for you, we can tell if they’re your property or not, can’t we?’ asked Paxman.

Nick looked confused.

‘Fingerprints,’ said Vine. ‘Three big dabs in blood on this one,’ he tapped the photo of the screwdriver from Three Mile Lane, ‘Wonder whose they’ll turn out to be?’

‘No comment,’ said Nick.

‘Wonder what a jury’ll make of that then?’

‘Juries can’t make anything out of that,’ Nick said, panicking suddenly. Paxman leaned forward and stubbed out his cigarette.

‘Law’s changed, pal. As of a month ago, I can tell a jury that you wouldn’t answer a question and they can draw a proper inference.’ He sat down and lit up another fag. ‘What inference would you draw, Nick?’

Paul frowned, because it didn’t matter at all what Nick said or didn’t say. The prints were either his or they weren’t.

But Nick was talking to his lawyer, frantic whispers from the student and a slow shrug of his shoulders from the solicitor. The solicitor gestured to the detectives.

‘I’d…’

The colour drained from Nick’s face and was replaced by a distinctly green tinge.

The look, Paul realised, of a boy watching the life and future he’d planned for himself slide out of view and a cell door slide into view.

‘I’d like to make a short statement…’

 

‘Why’d he do it?’ Sandi asked.

Quinn shrugged. You know the answer. No one just took a screwdriver out to the pub with them. Nick had gone out that night intending to kill Carly. To punish her, to seal his possession of her, because if he couldn’t have her no one could.

Or maybe it was all of the above.

‘Illegal surveillance? You?’

‘Well, I didn’t know it was illegal,’ Quinn said with a rueful smile. ‘Not then, anyway. It wasn’t a big deal because Foster was never charged with anything.

‘But it’s not my point. The point is, everyone fucks up. That’s why I didn’t get the roasting of my life from the Chief Inspector, because he’d probably made a few stupid mistakes when he was a brand-new copper. I made loads more after that one,’ Quinn continued. ‘I learnt from them.’

‘Yeah, but… no one got hurt…’

‘No one got hurt in your case, either,’ Quinn said. ‘DS Hunt caught your mistake. That’s a Sergeant’s role, Sandi, making sure that the Constables are back-stopped.

‘Have you learnt from it?’

‘What?’

‘Your mistake. Have you learnt from it?’

Sandi thought about it. The diary she hadn’t read, what was detailed in it… because she’d thought a child couldn’t hand her evidence without parental permission. Not a child under 10, not property belonging to an adult. She’d thought she’d need a warrant to read it, and she’d had no grounds to apply for one.

Sergeant Hunt, of course, had known that they could accept evidence in good faith even if the person presenting it had almost certainly obtained illegally, such as by stealing it from their parents’ dresser when the police came around yet again for a domestic disturbance.

‘Yes.’

‘Then you belong in that uniform,’ Quinn said flatly. ‘Not least because God alone knows there are a lot of people wearing it who fuck up and don’t give a shit. If you want to use it to be a better copper, then you belong in that uniform.’

Sandi pulled out the picture again, her picture, and after a moment’s thought showed it to Quinn. He smiled.

‘I prefer the modern uniform,’ Sandi said. ‘The car’s a classic though.’

‘You should ask Detective Inspector McDowell if you can see his photo. He’s posing next to a horse and cart…’

‘My round.’

‘Good shout.’

‘Just one question, sir,’ Sandi said as she stood and started rooting around in her purse. ‘Did you really make your first arrest to Caught By The Fuzz?’

Quinn thought about it for a moment.

‘Mine’s a Carlsberg, Constable.’

 

If you’ve enjoyed this story, then please check out the other stories featuring Paul Quinn and Sandi Hendriks. They can be found by clicking on the Short Story link above, and either follwing the drop-down menu or selecting the Short Story page itself, https://attemptedmurder.uk/shortstories/. If you like this, or any other story, please help the site grow by Sharing far and wide!

 

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