Before the shooting in Lincoln, he’d always walked into work half-humming Caught By The Fuzz under his breath. And, for the first time since he’d returned to full duty, the tune got caught in his head again and he knew that he was starting to be truly, properly, back. Paul Quinn blasted through the doors to the Major Crime Unit suite with half a strut, nodding greetings to all the various DCs and DSs at their desks as he made his way over to the office he shared with two other Inspectors.
Four weeks back and a caseload already, ops against drug dealers on the sink estates in north Nottingham, three assaults in Worksop that local CID thought were linked to a loan shark operating out of a local betting shop and passed over to Major Crimes, and a murder in Mansfield, a woman beaten, raped, and strangled outside a nightclub by a man she’d turned down inside. Charged and remanded, he was currently still denying the crime, and Paul was managing the case through the pre-trial phase for Nottinghamshire CID.
Of the two Inspectors Paul shared with, neither was in yet. Both were about five years older than he was, and with more service as well. Charlie Dennis was affable and genial, the kind of copper who made few waves and enemies, who got on with the job and expected everyone around him to as well. Adam Turner was quietly racist and loudly ambitious, and seemed to view Paul as a threat to the further advancement he’d set his eyes on. Never mind that Paul was eighteen months away from going back to his parent force in North Wales, or that he was still only an Acting Inspector. Turner had made his feelings towards Paul quite plain, and Paul honestly couldn’t be bothered trying to change them.
He’d been settled in for five minutes when his phone started ringing, the voice of his boss’ secretary Pearl asking him to pop into his office. He made his way across the main office, nodded a greeting to Pearl at her desk, and knocked on his boss’ door.
Detective Chief Inspector Callum Dale ran one of MCU’s four teams, MCU3. He spoke with a Scouse rasp that years of smoking had only made worse, and even though he now had to go outside to light up, the smell of cigarettes still clung to him. Paul found him sat behind his desk, clutching a strong-smelling coffee in one hand, a computer mouse in the other, frowning at his screen.
‘Morning, Paul, have a seat won’t you?’ Dale spoke at his usual machine-gun pace, rolled hard C’s whenever they cropped up. He scowled at his computer once more and then appeared to give up, swinging his chair around to face Paul. ‘How much do you know about Queen Mary’s University?’
Paul blinked, having not expected the DCI to open with that at all. ‘Up near Sherwood Forest, few miles outside Newark? Like, next level down from Oxbridge type thing?’
‘That’s the one,’ Dale nodded. ‘There’s been an allegation of rape made by one student against another, and B Division have asked us to step in and help investigate.’
No, this conversation was not going anywhere Paul would have predicted at all.
‘Is it a serial thing?’ he asked as his mouth ran away from his brain. No, almost certainly not, that would have been a job for the whole of MCU3.
‘No, one complainant. Prime suspect already identified.’ Dale said.
Paul couldn’t help it. He stared at Dale, felt his jaw slackening.
‘We’ve been asked in by a local CID unit for reinforcements in a rape case? With a suspect already identified? And the brass have signed off on this?’
Dale shot Paul a very filthy look. He pulled himself upright in his chair and straightened his tie before answering. ‘They have.’
‘Sir, please don’t get me wrong here, I’m… I completely approve of putting more resources into rape cases, and I’m glad to see local CID, and the brass, taking this incident so seriously.’ For once, he managed to bite off. Having been at the force’s HQ at Sherwood Lodge for six months, Paul sometimes almost forgot he wasn’t really a Nottinghamshire officer – but anyone who wanted to use it against him had a real talent for remembering. Dale was his reason for being there, an old friend of his DCI back in North Wales from their days together in the Royal Military Police, but there were probably limits to how much criticism of his superiors he would accept from an officer from another force. ‘But…’
‘You’re wondering what’s different this time?’ Dale asked.
‘Yes, boss,’ Paul said frankly. Actually, he was amazed that what was increasingly sounding like a ‘he-said, she-said,’ case was causing any ripples at Sherwood Lodge at all. Paul knew the statistics on rape. Fewer than one in five reported to the police, fewer than one in four of those resulting in convictions, and it was probably the only crime where the police questioned the victim more thoroughly than the suspects. And yet, fewer than five per cent of allegations were false ones.
Probably fewer than that, actually.
‘The victim in this case a girl called Sandra Hendriks, has been accepted into Bruche College. She is, or she will be, a police cadet.’
And there it was. Nothing to do with a sudden outbreak of feminism within the top ranks of the Nottinghamshire Police Force. Everything to do with the Thin Blue Line closing ranks to become the Impenetrable Blue Wall.
‘B Division have a suspect who admits to having sex with the Hendriks girl, but maintains it was consensual. CPS won’t take their case forward as it is, but I had the Assistant Chief Constable and the Detective Chief Super in here last night making it clear that as far as they’re concerned it’s intolerable, that the word of a police cadet is questioned and that there’s anything other than a conviction,’ Dale wheezed. He passed Paul a manila folder, which although not empty, wasn’t exactly bulging. Paul had a quick look through.
‘They’d had sex previously,’ he observed, groaning inwardly. That was the other thing about rape, the victims had to be perfect. They had to be virgins, preferably, or if not then good girls who only did the deed with their committed long term boyfriends. They had to scream, or to fight. They had to call the police the second the rapist was finished. And, whatever the law said about consent needing to be explicit, if they didn’t shout, ‘No!’ loud enough to wake everyone for three postcodes, then they must have wanted it really.
The idea that a woman might want to have sex with a man one week and not the next was one that the legal system, and the people in it, was still struggling to accept.
Paul turned to the notes that the Senior Investigating Officer from Newark, Detective Sergeant Sanders, had gathered on the suspect. Harvey Denison, 20, second year Politics, Philosophy and Economics student, father a stockbroker, mother a civil serpent in the Ministry of Justice, grandfather had been Bishop of Wakefield and now, in his retirement, sat on… the Queen Mary’s University Senate. ‘Character reference from the Pro-Vice Chancellor for students, who’s handling the case for the university, I see. Well, this just gets better and better.’
‘The issue that that might be a conflict of interest has been raised with the university by War,’ said Dale, using the Assistant Chief Constable’s nickname. Nottinghamshire Police had two of them, Plague and War. The Deputy Chief Constable was Famine; Death, of course, was reserved for the Chief himself. ‘He’s been assured by the university that the Pro-Vice Chancellor’s the man to handle this and they don’t see a problem with it.’
Paul sighed through gritted teeth, flipping back and forth between the two interviews, one with Sandra Hendriks, one with Harvey Denison. The one with Hendriks was over twice as long.
‘They met both times at the SU bar on campus?’
‘Yeah,’ Dale nodded. ‘Denison states that, after a few drinks, the Hendriks girl invited him back to her room, like she had during their first encounter, and that the sex which followed was consensual.’
‘I see,’ said Paul, nodding back. ‘Of course, if Denison believed that this girl was too drunk to consent, that would still be rape.’
‘Realistically, please Paul.’ Yes, realistically juries didn’t convict of rape when the victim was stone-cold sober. One swig of a WKD bottle and suddenly they were wanton harlots who had really, truly had it coming. Denison would probably maintain that the girl, Sandra, had been right bang on some kind of thin line between being not too drunk to consent, but too drunk to remember giving it, and the jury would look at the well-presented posh boy and agree that no one who looked so nice could possibly be a rapist.
A line so thin that in reality it didn’t even exist.
‘Paul we can’t have this,’ Dale said. ‘Miss Hendriks isn’t a serving police officer yet but she soon will be. We can’t allow a gang of chinless toffee-nosed wankers to undermine our people and we have to look after our own when they’re victimised. Queen Mary’s are doing everything they can to stall the investigation, hoping we’ll give up, and DS Sanders is too junior to do much about it. I want an Inspector-level officer up there now, and I want him to smack some heads together.
‘Paul, it comes down to this. Our people have to know that we’ll look after them if they’re ever victims themselves, and this young lady is one of our own. So you’re going up there and you’re going to nail this smug public school tosser to the wall,’ Dale said firmly. Paul nodded, thinking that that was precisely the wrong reason to pull out all the stops when a woman was raped.
There was nothing wrong with the case DS Sanders had prepared. He’d interviewed Sandra Hendriks, Harvey Denison, two friends who’d been out with Sandra, three who’d been out with Denison, and one of the barmen, who thought he’d seen Sandra give Denison a brush-off when he approached her, but hadn’t actually heard the conversation. Paul read through the file on the drive to Queen Mary’s, whilst PC Lewin drove and sang along to Nine in the Afternoon.
There was nothing wrong with it, but it could be improved upon. Paul had ideas about where to start.
‘You didn’t go to uni, did you, Lewin?’ he asked when they turned to skirt past Newark, heading for Sherwood Forest. Lewin shook her head.
‘No, boss. Matter of fact my Dad was surprised I wasn’t pregnant by fifteen. And a bit disappointed. He nearly stopped speaking to me altogether when I became a copper.’
‘What’s he think now?’
‘Still think he’d rather I had five kids from four dads and a good benefits claim,’ Lewin said with a laugh. ‘He’s made his peace with it a bit though. Why?’
‘Just wondered,’ Paul shrugged. When he’d joined, graduates had still been the exception rather than the rule – enough that he’d raised almost as many eyes for that as he had for being black. That was changing rapidly, though. When Sandra Hendriks turned up at training college no one would blink twice at her degree.
Paul wondered if their unmarked cars would melt with embarrassment when they parked it in between the Jaguars, Mercedes, Bentleys and Aston-Martins of the Queen Mary’s faculty. He and Lewin had a silver Astra, so common people’s eyes just slid right off it. DC Brookes and DC Knowles, who he’d brought with him from Sherwood Lodge, had a black Mondeo – again, common as dirt. And looking like it.
Queen Mary’s University. Only a little less prestigious than Oxbridge, named for Mary as in William and Mary, nestled in the countryside just west of Newark. It made Paul’s old alma mater at Keele look almost urban. The main hall – named after some knight or another – was big, imposing, Gothic in design, looking almost like a cathedral. Paul took a seat on one of a number of leather chairs arrayed against one wall underneath an enormous portrait of someone in an old Army uniform dripping in gold lace, whilst DC Knowles checked them in with the receptionist.
It only took a few seconds for the funny looks to start. Paul rolled his eyes and started laying mental odds with himself how long it would take before a staff member came and challenged him. He was almost surprised it took nearly five minutes before a balding man with a paunch, a waistcoat, and one of the breathiest Southern accents he’d ever heard came over and asked him to explain his business at the university. Knowles, Brookes, and Lewin, who had all sat next to him in a line, were completely ignored of course.
Paul considered his options for a moment. Shove his warrant card in the man’s face, or see what happened if he was given enough rope to hang himself. After a moment, the second option won out. ‘Free country innit blud?’ Paul said in the best London accent he could manage when the officious twit had finished. The officious twit’s eyes widened in horror.
‘If you don’t leave the police will be called,’ he managed to gasp after a moment. Paul pulled out his warrant card and held it under the man’s nose, imaging a student sprinting up to his office screaming, ‘Please sir, there’s a black man on campus!’
‘Yes sir, how can I be of assistance?’ he said, dropping the accent.
‘You, um, could do with explaining why you’ve chosen to challenge me and not any of these other officers,’ Paul nodded at Knowles, Brookes, and Lewin. The officious twit stuttered a bit, going increasingly red when he realised that Paul wasn’t going to say anything to help him out or let him know that it was all right really. ‘Was there anything else?’ Paul said when he’d decided that he’d taken enough from the encounter.
‘Thank you for your time,’ Paul smiled blandly and pretended to be interested in a university prospectus that had been left on a table next to the chairs. The officious twit made another couple of awkward noises, and decided to leave.
‘Twat,’ said Brookes, rather too loudly. The secretary manning the reception desk looked scandalised. A couple of students sniggered.
Things got no better when another officious twit in a waistcoat with a breathy southern accent appeared to take Paul to his meeting with the Vice Chancellor; whilst Paul was trying to decide if he was the same pale stale male as the first one, he’d gravitated to DC Knowles.
‘Detective Inspector Quinn?’
‘That’d be me,’ Paul stood up with a roll of his eyes, holding out his warrant card.
‘Yes,’ the second officious twit drawled, drawing the word out. ‘If you’ll follow me, Inspector.’
‘One moment,’ Paul turned to the others. ‘Check in with DS Sanders, then start a canvas outside the SU bar. Ask for anyone present on the night of the rape –’
‘Alleged rape,’ the New Twit cut in.
Paul slowly turned his head to fix him with his best Probationer-freezing look. ‘Do police officers routinely appear in your university and tell you how to conduct lectures?’
‘Well… no…’ the New Twit said. Paul held the look for a few seconds longer.
‘Ok then,’ he said after a moment. ‘Start looking for anyone drinking in the SU bar on the night of the rape, and get statements. Anyone who saw Denison with the victim.’
The New Twit looked like he wanted to say something, but Paul sent the others on their way before he could. He was new, Paul decided – he had more hair than the first one, and it was mostly brown, rather than grey and brown. ‘You were showing me to the Vice Chancellor’s office?’
‘Yes,’ said the New Twit, not even bothering to try and sound friendly anymore. He gestured for Paul to follow him and led him up a couple of flights of stairs and along a corridor. Paul ran an investigator’s eye over the place; oak panelled walls, busts of various Chancellors and Vice Chancellors, oil portraits of grey-haired white men looming down from the walls. It was all designed to convey a sense of Queen Mary’s University’s age and timelessness, a place that had existed before Paul and would exist after him.
And, to remind him of all the Great and Good who had passed through its halls, and would want the institution protected.
Upon arriving in the Vice Chancellor’s office, the New Twit revealed himself to be none other than the Pro-Vice Chancellor for students, the very same one who had apparently given DS Sanders a statement saying what a great bloke accused rapist Harvey Denison was. The Vice Chancellor’s handshake was cool, limp, and nothing more than professionally cordial. He offered Paul a seat and a glass of port, which Paul declined. The Vice Chancellor raised an eyebrow when Paul clarified that he was on duty, as if to ask if that wasn’t a little cliché.
Not really, as drinking on duty was a sackable offence.
‘You’ll understand, Inspector, that we hope now that you’ve taken over the inquiry a line will be swiftly drawn under this torrid affair,’ the Vice Chancellor said, taking a seat behind his desk – a suitably enormous and weathered-looking timber one, in one corner of a room lined on three sides by an immense collection of academic monographs and tomes. Paul knew enough about university management to guess that the Vice Chancellor had maybe read half of them. He gestured to the array of brown leather armchairs facing his desk; the Pro-Vice Chancellor then manoeuvred into the seat nearest the desk, so that Paul had to sit ten feet away.
Any more obvious hinting and he’d begin to think he wasn’t wanted.
‘I can’t say that I do, sir,’ he said, deciding not to play any games. ‘An allegation of serious crime has been made. I would have thought your institution’s focus would be on supporting the student affected, and on supporting police enquiries.’
‘The student… ah yes, Sandra Hendriks,’ said the Vice Chancellor, drawing out the ‘a,’ so that her first name became Sarndra. ‘Hardly a model student, I think you’ll find.’
‘I’m uncertain how that’s relevant, sir,’ Paul said. ‘But maybe I should be clear about what’s going on. I’m not here to make this situation go away. I’m here to investigate Harvey Denison for rape and see if a case can be built against him and sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. “Drawing a line under things,” would be if we are able to charge Mr Denison with the offence.’
The Vice Chancellor’s gaze had turned from an icily cordial stare to a glare of outright hostility in the meantime. He had poured himself a glass of the port that Paul had declined and he half-raised it to his lips now.
‘I hope you’re not suggesting that you intend to ruin a promising young man’s life over a spurious allegation made by a silly girl who regretted her promiscuity the next morning?’ he asked. He managed to keep his tone politely inquisitorial, but Paul could hear the strain underneath.
‘Not at all, sir,’ he said reassuringly. ‘I’m intending to question the victim, suspect, and witnesses, examine the evidence, and then present it to the CPS to let them decide if there’s a reasonable prospect of a conviction.’ He smiled and stood up. ‘Frankly, sir, I’m surprised at the stance your institution appears to be taking. Isn’t support of the victim supposed to be your first priority?’
‘Alleged victim,’ the Pro-Vice Chancellor piped up sternly.
‘We start by believing the victim,’ Paul rejoined. ‘It’s interesting isn’t it, that in cases of actual, and or grievous bodily harm, the victim’s word that they were attacked and that a said individual is their attacker is generally accepted and is enough to convict an attacker, but that in cases of sexual assault, and or rape, the victim’s word that they were attacked and that a said individual is their attacker is generally not accepted, and is often not enough to convict an attacker,’ Paul said. ‘Maybe something for your law or criminology faculties to research at some point.’
Both men looked surprised, although Paul wasn’t sure if that was because he’d strung such a long yet still coherent sentence together, or because they couldn’t believe a black police officer would casually suggest research to a university that dated back to the 17th century and had oak-panelled walls and oil paintings, for goodness’ sake.
‘Perhaps,’ the Vice Chancellor said after a pause.
‘It’s certainly about time somebody looked into it,’ Paul said evenly, although he suspected he already knew that answer to that particular paradox. ‘Now, if you’d like to have someone take me to Miss Hendriks?’
‘You don’t wish to consult with Harvey first?’ Vice Chancellor or not, Paul was starting to wonder if the man had eaten the Thesaurus. It was a little bit like talking to an Inspectorate of Constabulary civil servant, only even more annoying.
‘It’s good police practice to speak to the complainant first, sir,’ he said.
‘Will that not bias you against Harvey’s story?’ the Pro-Vice Chancellor said.
‘Not really sir, given as how Miss Hendriks is the victim, and Mr Denison is suspect,’ Paul said. ‘Speaking to him first would rather be letting the tail wag the dog, don’t you think? Now, will you arrange for someone to show me to… St Mark’s Halls?’ he checked his notes.
‘I’m afraid my staff are busy. I’m sure a top detective such as yourself can find the way.’ the Vice Chancellor said acidly, turning top detective into a sneer.
‘No doubt,’ Paul said. ‘Thank you for your time.’ The Vice Chancellor managed a brief, curt nod as he showed himself out. Paul decided that he had probably made a good start.
Barely fifteen minutes into the enquiry and they hated him already.
Paul detected his way to Sandra Hendriks’ accommodation block without too much trouble; he grabbed the first student he found, jammed his warrant card in the poor boy’s face and demanded to be taken to St Mark’s Hall.
Sandra Hendriks’ door was closed when Paul made his way up to her floor, but a plump middle-aged woman stood outside it. He recognised her from the file – the Specially Trained Officer that B Division had sent to work with Sandra.
‘Inspector Quinn? DC Kimberly Lyons,’ she said in a warm Brummie accent, holding out her hand. ‘You’re from Colwyn Bay I hear?’
‘North Wales Force Major Incident Team,’ Paul confirmed for her. ‘Colwyn Bay is our HQ.’
‘I might be joining you up there soon,’ Lyons said, smiling. ‘My husband’s a lecturer at Loughborough University, but he’s thinking of transferring to Chester.’
‘Why not the Cheshire Constabulary? It’s bigger.’ Paul asked.
‘North Wales is a quieter force and I’ve twenty years in the police, eighteen in West Mids. I want a quieter life before I retire. What about you, DI at 29? How come you’re not with Merseyside or GMP?’
‘Grew up in Clwyd, it’s my local force,’ Paul grinned. ‘Besides, quiet forces need talented detectives too.’
‘You don’t need to be bloody talented to get a result in a rape case, you need to be bloody Batman,’ Lyons said, suddenly lowering her voice so that Sandra couldn’t hear them through the door. ‘I spoke to my husband and he said at Loughborough the victim would come first and the faculty would assist the police in every way possible. These people… I don’t know.’
‘It’s the Old Boy Network,’ Paul said. ‘Daddy and Granddaddy came here, and from what I’ve seen of the staff, they see this as a case of looking after their own. They don’t exactly see Sandra Hendriks as the Right Sort.’ Whatever that meant he thought sourly. DS Sanders had included Sandra’s academic transcripts as part of the case notes. Whatever the Vice Chancellor had said about her hardly being a model student, she was expected to get a First in her criminology degree. Whatever they said about academic meritocracy, it was never really what you knew in a place like this.
‘Joke’s on them then isn’t it, cause Sandra’s as tough as any I’ve ever met,’ Lyons said. ‘She’s been… well really strong through this, all the questions I’ve had to ask her. She’ll be a good copper. You’ll like her.’
‘I’ll speak to her now,’ Paul confirmed. Lyons knocked on the door.
‘Sandra? DI Quinn’s here to speak to you!’
‘I heard. He can come in,’ Sandra called back. Paul nodded at Lyons and walked in. Sandra Hendriks sat on her bed with her knees drawn up to her chest, frowning at a book. She’d arranged her duvet into a fort around her. Paul didn’t need the psychology part of his degree to work out what that was about, so he went and sat on her swivel chair, a good few feet away from her.
‘Hi,’ he said. ‘First off, can I call you Sandra, or would you prefer Miss Hendriks?’
‘Sandra’s fine,’ she said after a pause. Paul looked around her room, couldn’t see anything he wouldn’t have seen in a hundred other student rooms. A couple of posters for bands he’d never heard of made him start to feel a bit middle-aged. The CD case on the desk next to him showed a picture of a teenage girl with a mountain of curly blonde hair. Taylor Swift would be the singer’s name, Paul guessed – either that, or an extremely whimsical album title.
‘What’re you reading?’ he after a moment.
‘You ever heard of Twilight?’
‘Nope,’ said Paul. ‘Should I have?’
‘My big sister said I should read it, it’s all the rage for kids at the moment. First time most of them have read a book, I think. But it’s about a smouldering teenage vampire type who falls for the plain boring girl, so I’m not sure it’d be your thing. It isn’t mine.’
‘You’d be surprised, I quite like a good romance novel myself,’ Paul laughed.
‘I don’t like crime novels, they remind me too much of real life,’ Paul said. That wasn’t entirely true – he saw enough crime not to need to see it on screen too, but he also found himself nitpicking every little inaccuracy. It had driven his ex up the wall. Somehow, his favourite film was Hot Fuzz, which had paid a painful amount of detail to realistic police procedure until the final shootout had thrown it all out the window.
‘Get enough at work, I guess?’ Sandra said, and she laughed harshly. ‘I fucking hate real life too. Real life’s just shit.’
‘It can be,’ Paul said, seeing a chance to segue into why he was there. ‘You understand that I’m taking charge of the enquiry into the rape?’
‘Yes,’ Sandra said. She put the book down on her bedside table and breathed in slowly. ‘You need to go through it again with me, don’t you?’
‘No,’ Paul reassured her. ‘I’ve read the transcript of your ABE interview with DC Lyons, she was thorough and comprehensive. I don’t… you don’t need to go into any more detail, at this stage, than you already have. At trial, however…’
‘You think this’ll go to trial then?’ Sandra laughed harshly. ‘I’m a criminology student, Detective Inspector, I know the stats on rape. You get convictions in one out of four cases reported to the police, which is itself one of five rapes that actually takes place. I’m still not sure I wouldn’t prefer to be in the other four.’
‘And over ninety-five per cent of reports are true,’ Paul added, thinking that Sandra didn’t just sound like a police officer, she sounded like a detective presenting a case. ‘Sandra, I won’t lie to you, this case has been transferred to the Major Crimes Unit because of your place at police college. The brass think it’s important that we make a statement about looking after our own, and that the word of a police officer, even a baby one, still means something. But, I’m here now, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you get justice.’
‘To make sure I get to discuss what colour thongs I own and whether I like it rough in front of a whole courtroom of people, you mean?’ Sandra asked, not even trying to meet his eyes. Those had both been questions in her Achieving Best Evidence interview, which had followed on from DS Sanders’ initial questioning of Harvey Denison. ‘Yeah. Sounds like a wonderful opportunity, Inspector, thank you.’ Tears suddenly brightened her eyes. Paul had to quash an urge to reach out and squeeze a knee or a shoulder. However supportively he’d have meant it, it would have destroyed any trust Sandra Hendriks might have in him. He’d become just another pervy old man to her. ‘On top of everything else I’ll get kicked out for even reporting this, probably. Getting all these pesky police officers crawling all over the Vice Chancellor’s pet student. Then I won’t even graduate and I won’t get to be a police officer.’
Paul thought of the Vice Chancellor and his toady – not exactly in her corner. ‘It won’t come to that,’ he promised her, thinking that the only way he could make sure it didn’t was to charge Denison. Then Queen Mary’s would have no grounds to boot Sandra Hendriks out however much they wanted to.
Harvey Denison’s digs were in Ollerton, one of the villages that hovered around Newark and had radically inflated populations between September and July with all the second and third year students. Paul drove over, using the time to go over Sandra Hendriks’ story in his mind.
She’d met Harvey Denison twelve days previously at the SU bar, Zone Out. They’d bumped into each other at the bar. He was good looking, and he’d seemed nice enough, and Sandra was open about looking to pull one more time before graduating and entering the real world, so she’d taken him back to her room for casual sex which she’d described as ‘Average. He was too rough, and tried to insist on oral sex after I had declined,’ although on that occasion Denison hadn’t pushed the issue. Sandra hadn’t seen her first encounter with Denison as anything other than a one-night stand.
When asked by DC Lyons if she’d have sex with him again, she’d said no, she wouldn’t.
She’d gone out to Zone Out again twelve days later accompanied by her friend Michelle Strachan, and again encountered Denison. Denison made another pass at her, but this time Sandra had said no, and when Denison had persisted she’d said that she didn’t want to stay up late as she had an early seminar the next day.
She had actually left Zone Out early, before eleven, and walked back to St Mark’s Halls alone. She’d unlocked her room when she was grabbed from behind and pushed through the door. She recognised Harvey Denison when he pushed her onto her bed and started trying to kiss her. When she didn’t respond, Denison bit her shoulder, then pulled her dress up and her knickers down and raped her. Sandra had frozen, too afraid to either fight back or scream.
That was one of the most common reactions to rape. It was also usually interpreted by the courts as consent, rather than outright fear.
St Mark’s Halls was largely occupied by third years, and many of them were out at the event at Zone Out, so no one had been around even if Sandra had screamed. It also meant that Denison was able to stay with her for some time, around half an hour according to Sandra. After raping her, he’d forced her into oral sex for several minutes, before leaving when he heard other students starting to return.
Sandra had sat on her floor crying for nearly an hour afterwards before Michelle Strachan had appeared to investigate. According to Michelle’s statement, Sandra hadn’t disclosed verbally what had happened – she’d asked if something had happened and Sandra had nodded. She asked if Sandra had been attacked, and she’d nodded again. Then she asked if Sandra had been raped. One more nod.
By the next morning, Sandra was adamant that she wasn’t reporting what had happened. After three days, Michelle reported it to her pastoral tutor. When no action had been taken five days after that, she’d marched into Newark Police Station and filed a complaint on Sandra’s behalf.
And that had all led to Paul pulling his Golf up outside Denison’s student house, a large redbrick semi that backed onto a field full of cows. Keele had at least had squirrels, which were more interesting as far as wildlife went.
Another unmarked car was parked out in front of it. DS Sanders got out as Paul pulled his handbrake. He’d met Sanders once or twice, liked him. He was a proper Viking of a man, barrel-chested with thick brownish-red hair and a great big bushy beard. He’d handled Sandra Hendriks professionally, and had been distinctly unimpressed by the university’s attitude to her and to Denison. That said, he was one of the old guard. His questioning of Denison had been less than thorough.
Paul was about to remedy that.
They shook hands briefly, Paul knocked on, and whilst they waited for someone to answer the door Sanders shared his opinion that Denison was a ‘Smarmy little twat, boss. Had bloody Mozart or something playing the whole time I questioned him.’
‘Putting you in your place,’ Paul said with an eye roll. In thirty years’ time, Denison would be more subtle and would do it with a glass of port instead.
There was a photo of Denison in the case file, pulled from his MySpace page, and the boy who opened the door wasn’t him, but, much like the First and Second Twits from the university earlier, he could have been Denison’s clone; similar expensive shirt and jeans, similar hair in a pricey cut, just long enough to be considered rebellious. Paul showed his warrant card and asked where Denison was. The clone pulled a face and pointed Denison’s room out, asking whether or not they’d had enough of harassing him yet.
‘I’ll let you know when you come up with an original-sounding complaint,’ Paul sparred back. Sanders waited outside to listen in, whilst Paul knocked on Denison’s door.
Paul walked in, found Denison sprawling on his bed with his feet propped up on a pile of pillows, and a pair of earbuds connected to an iPod nestling in his ears.
‘And you are?’ Denison asked, tilting his head up languidly. He popped one earbud out but pointedly pushed the other one further in. Paul showed his warrant card.
‘Detective Inspector Quinn, Nottinghamshire Police MCU. I’m here to speak to you regarding the sexual assault and rape of a fellow student.’
‘Oh, now they’ve sent the poster boy after me!’ Denison said airily, raising one eyebrow but declining to react further. Paul moved to one side of the bed to force Denison to turn his head, and slowly opened his notebook. He tapped it with his pen, waited for the silence to get awkward. ‘It’s Acting Inspector actually, isn’t it?’ Denison said. Paul managed not to show any reaction, but he was surprised that Denison knew his rank. ‘I tell you what, Acting Inspector; I’ll spell it out for you really slowly, dumb it down for the stupid policeman. I did not rape Sandra Hendriks. She consented to have sex with me, and it wasn’t the first time either.’
‘Well, Mr Denison, I’m not at liberty to confirm the name of your accuser, so I’ll be referring to her as Miss C throughout this interview,’ Paul said blandly. ‘I’m aware that you had a previous liaison with Miss Hendriks from your previous statement to DS Sanders, but you should understand that, if you name someone you believe to be your accuser publicly, that in itself is a crime. Further, I should add,’ he went on when Denison opened his mouth, ‘All that a previous sexual encounter between you and any other woman proves is that she’s a normal twenty-year-old with a normal twenty-year-old’s social life.’
‘It proves she’s a slag like most of the girls around here. Although you wouldn’t know that since you’ve probably never been to university.’
Paul wasn’t sure if that was supposed to racist, classist, or both. And he usually pulled people up for implying that he was the only black person in history ever to go to university, but that would go massively off-topic. ‘Ok Mr Denison, well, you’ve given your statement to DS Sanders, but I’d like to go over it with you again,’ he said.
‘Fire ahead.’ Denison waved a dismissive hand and started twirling his earbud around his finger.
‘I’ve noted what you’ve said to me just now about your previous liaison with Miss Sandra Hendriks,’ Paul waved his notebook at Denison, ‘But, given the nature of the questions I’ll be asking, it’s appropriate for me to properly caution you that you do not have to say anything, but that it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned anything you later rely on in court, and, of course, anything you do say can be taken down as evidence. Do you understand?’
Denison rolled his eyes and nodded. It wasn’t a formal interview yet, but, given that Denison could potentially incriminate himself, Paul was safer cautioning him than not. Dot all the Is and cross all the Ts.
‘The rape is alleged to have occurred in St Mark’s Halls. You’ve already confirmed that you were on the premises on the night in question; what time did you leave St Mark’s Halls?’ Denison blinked and frowned up at him. He dropped the earbud he’d been twirling.
‘Why… why do you want me to start at the end, Inspector?’
‘Humour me,’ Paul said. Denison frowned again, looking certain that he was missing something, but entirely unsure what. The ‘what,’ in this case was that it was far harder to maintain a consistent lie when asked to tell it in reverse.
‘Ok… I left at around eleven fifteen.’
‘Ok. How many times did you have sexual intercourse with Miss C?’
‘Once. We got back to her flat…’
‘Answer the questions as I ask them please. You had sex with Miss C once. Did you wear a condom?’
‘No. I didn’t have one. She said I could come on her tits,’ Denison drawled, apparently recovering some of his earlier confidence.
‘What sexual positions did you adopt?’
‘Er… doggy style… cowgirl… missionary… reverse cowgirl…’ Denison flushed slightly and a slight stutter replaced his confident drawl. Paul tapped his notebook with his pen. Sandra Hendriks had had to go through the events of that night in excruciating detail several times already. It was time to make Denison do the same. See if he could keep his story together.
‘I see,’ he said when Denison couldn’t remember anything else, thinking that that was a lot of positions for a thirty-minute drunken shag. Thinking that Denison had just named every sexual position he could think of. Thinking that this story was probably going to be extremely detailed, far more detail than Denison should be able to remember. ‘In that order?’
‘Very good Mr Denison, thank you,’ Paul said, writing it down and mentally comparing it against the statement that Sanders had taken. Denison had apparently forgotten what he’d told police when he’d given his first statement, because he’d just told Paul something entirely different.
‘So those four positions in that order. I can take it then that you were in reserve cowgirl position when you climaxed?’
‘Yes,’ said Denison, seeming more than a little relieved that Paul had suggested it to him. Paul smiled slightly, jotting that down too, and filing it away for later. Tried to remind himself that he didn’t need to feel grubby for raking through it all in as much detail as possible. The details would be what caught Denison out.
‘So you had sex, in those positions. Did you partake in any sexual activities prior to that?’
‘I took her clothes off…’
‘Right before you had sex, Mr Denison. We’ll get to the clothing in a moment.’
‘She was sucking me off,’
‘Ok. And before that, what did you do?’
‘I took her clothes off, sucked her tits and spanked her arse. She tugged me off and then started sucking.’
‘What was she wearing?’
‘Jeans and a top. A dark top,’ Denison said. ‘They were rather tight ones too.’ Both Sandra and Michelle Strachan had confirmed that she was wearing a dress. Paul might have believed it was an honest mistake, if not for the addition that Sandra’s clothes were tight. Making it sound like she was looking for sex when she went out.
‘And her underwear?’
‘I want to know what underwear Miss C was wearing when you had sex,’ Paul said. ‘The thing is, Mr Denison, police procedure is very thorough. We don’t just write down, “A bra and a pair of knickers.”’ And, if they were going to record all that, they might as well use it. If the victim had to explain what they were wearing, it seemed only fair to ask the rapist too. See how much they invented to make the victim look worse. ‘We try to get as much detail as possible in case it becomes important later. So, what underwear was Miss C wearing?’
Denison again had that look. The look that said he knew something wasn’t right but wasn’t sure what. He took his other earbud out, which Paul noted with some satisfaction.
‘A bra and some knickers.’
‘What colour were they?’
‘Er… I don’t… I don’t remember.’
‘I see, Mr Denison,’ said Paul, his tone flat and unimpressed. ‘You recall the positions in which you had sex, but not the underwear Miss C was wearing.’
‘She wasn’t wearing it for long –’
‘And yet it sounds like you recall the rest of the evening so well. How would you characterise her underwear? Sexy? Frumpy?’
‘I… sexy. She was out on the pull.’
‘Do you recall the colour?’ Pin him down on the details.
‘Yellow,’ said Denison. ‘Pale yellow.’ Paul looked at the wall next to his bed, which was also pale yellow, and wondered if it was a coincidence. Probably not. He noted down the colour of the wall.
‘Ok Mr Denison. So, Miss C was wearing a pale yellow G-string when you had sex.’ Denison’s eyes narrowed, and his expression went cold. There was a defiant sneer to his next words.
‘I don’t believe I ever said she was wearing a thong, Acting Inspector.’
‘Not to me, Mr Denison,’ Paul said. ‘It was in your original statement to Detective Sergeant Sanders, however.’
‘Are you now telling me that that was incorrect? Would you like to amend that portion of your statement?’
‘I… yes… no,’ Denison said. Paul smiled briefly, thinking of course you don’t know. You don’t know whether she has a pale yellow thong, do you?
‘Ok. So what time did you arrive at St Mark’s Halls?’
‘About ten forty, ten forty-five maybe.’
‘And when… oh, I’m sorry, I forgot to ask this. You said that, as you had no condom, Miss C invited to climax on her breasts. Is that what happened?’
‘I wanted to jizz on her face but she said no, but I could come on her tits instead, so that’s what I did. It’s what we did the first time we had sex.’ Denison said. Paul wrote that down as well, thinking appearing to respect her wishes? Very clever, Harvey, very clever. But how did you orgasm on her breasts from reverse cowgirl?
He squashed that grubby feeling again and told himself that Denison had just created a major inconsistency. Not quite the right time to ask about it yet.
‘Ok thanks for clarifying that Mr Denison. So when did you leave Zone Out?’
‘Ten thirty or so.’
‘Did you leave with Miss C?’
‘I see,’ Paul said. ‘Mr Denison, what if I put it to you that Miss Hendriks actually left five minutes before you?’
‘How would you know that?’
‘Newark CID took a statement from the barman, who remembers Miss C leaving alone, and before you.’
‘The barman is mistaken,’ said Denison, locking his gaze with Paul’s. Paul didn’t look away. He also didn’t mention that both the barman and Sandra Hendriks put her leaving time as being twenty minutes later. It could easily be an honest mistake, but he didn’t want Denison to know that he could have been seen by other students when he left St Mark’s Halls.
‘I see, Mr Denison. So, what did you drink before you left the bar?’
‘A vodka martini. I’d had two more before that, and a Mimosa to start my evening.’
‘Had you seen how much Miss C had to drink?’
‘I had not, although it must have been considerable as she was falling off her stool when I first saw her.’
‘And how much did she have to drink whilst you spoke to her?’
‘Three Malibus, neat and on the rocks,’ Denison said. ‘In ten minutes.’
‘Very well, Mr Denison,’ Paul said. ‘What did you talk about?’
‘The last time we’d met, and the sex we’d had, and how much fun it had been, and how much she wanted me to fuck her again. Obviously, if I knew what the slut was planning, I wouldn’t have touched her with a bargepole.’
‘So you went back to her halls for sex,’ Paul said. Now it was time to reverse the chronology and go forwards again. It was even harder to maintain a lie when the chronology jumped around. ‘What did you do after you’d had sex?’
‘I got dressed and left.’
‘Pretty much. I didn’t stay to cuddle afterwards, she had spunk all over her tits and she’s hardly the type of girl I’d take home to Mummy,’ Denison scoffed. He’d started to relax again, Paul noted. He was probably skirting closer to the truth now though and feeling more comfortable – Sandra had said that he’d forced her into oral sex after the rape, but that that had ended when he’d heard other students returning. That probably hadn’t taken too long.
‘So you arrived at St Mark’s Halls at ten forty-five. How much time elapsed between your arrival and sexual intercourse commencing?’
‘How long was the foreplay?’
‘About… ten minutes,’ Denison said.
‘So you were having sex from ten fifty-five to eleven ten or thereabouts?’
‘Impressive that you got through so many positions in that amount of time,’ Paul said lightly. ‘So at what point did Miss C consent to sexual intercourse with you?’
‘I’m sorry?’ There it was again; Denison’s stock response when he was asked a question that required some thought. That shouldn’t require any thought if he were telling the truth.
‘When did Miss C say she wanted to have sex with you?’
‘I wasn’t aware that I had to hear a ‘yes,’ Inspector. I believe Miss C would have to say no before it was rape.’
‘Ah well, that’s a common misconception, Mr Denison. Actually under Section One, Brackets One, of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Mens Rea required for rape is that of recklessness, not intent. You don’t have to intend to force someone; not caring either way is enough. You have to ascertain that the other party does want to have sex. So, when did Miss C satisfy you that she consented to sex with you?’
‘She invited me back, to her room, for the express purpose of having sex with me.’ Denison said, slowly and carefully. Paul could almost hear the cogs turning. ‘And even if she hadn’t, it was pretty damn clear when she started riding my dick!’
‘Was that your first sexual position?’
‘Only, a few minutes ago it was doggy style first.’ Denison opened his mouth to object and Paul held up his hand in a halt gesture. ‘And you didn’t even mention cowgirl to DS Sanders in your original statement. In fact, the only sexual position you mentioned to Detective Sergeant Sanders was missionary.’
‘Was – was it?’
‘I don’t have the exact quote Mr Denison, but when DS Sanders asked who was on top when you had sex, you said that you were. You didn’t mention any other sexual positions.’
‘I… guess I… just forgot,’ Denison said. He’d scooched away, Paul noticed, was now backing himself up against the wall of his bedroom.
‘You forgot the sexual positions you adopted with a woman two weeks ago?’
‘Yes. Why, do you remember every position you’ve ever been in with every woman, in chronological order?’ Denison snarled with a sudden burst of defiance.
‘If it was two weeks ago I probably would, and if the police were constantly asking me questions about it then yes, I certainly would,’ said Paul. Denison waved a dismissive hand and looked away. ‘Did Miss C reach a climax as well?’
‘I’m sorry?’ Denison needed to make a recording of himself saying that, Paul thought – a quick deflection to give him time to work out what the correct answer was.
‘Did Miss C achieve orgasm during your intercourse with her?’
‘Yes, she did.’
‘Ok. What position were you in when she did?’
‘Doggy style. She said she wanted it rough from behind, she said she liked it that way. I wasn’t really into that but I gave it to her anyway until she came, then I rolled her over and wanked onto her tits.’ How very reconstructed, and utterly inconsistent of you. The contradictions were drawing out, and Denison was looking more and more uncomfortable. Paul felt more than a small twinge of satisfaction at that, even if he was nowhere near as uncomfortable as Sandra Hendriks had been.
‘I see, Mr Denison,’ Paul said. ‘So you had sex with Miss C in doggy style until she came. How long did that take?’
‘I don’t know. A few minutes.’
‘Ok, try that another way. How long did it take you to come after Miss C achieved orgasm?’ He noticed Denison wince slightly when he said ‘achieved orgasm,’ and decided to keep using it. It was a po-faced phrase, but whatever bothered the suspect.
‘A few minutes. I get a lot of pussy, Inspector, I’ve got good stamina.’
‘So after Miss C achieved orgasm, you were masturbating onto her breasts for several minutes.’
‘So when did you go into reverse cowgirl?’
‘You told me that you achieved orgasm with Miss C in the reverse cowgirl position. When did that occur?’
‘After… after I’d wanked for a bit. She didn’t want me inside her straight after she came.’
‘How did you manage to orgasm onto Miss C’s breasts if you were in reverse cowgirl position?’
‘She got off and I wanked.’
‘So how long were you in reverse cowgirl for?’
‘Er… a few minutes.’ Denison said again. Paul nodded.
‘So, to summarise as best I can make out, you started out in doggy style, then you switched to cowgirl, then doggy style again until Miss C achieved orgasm which took several minutes, then you masturbated over her, again for a period of several minutes, following which you adopted the reverse cowgirl position for several minutes until she got off and you masturbated again, until you achieved orgasm onto her breasts.’
‘All in the fifteen minutes between her ceasing to provide you oral sex and the time that you have agreed you achieved orgasm?’
‘We were busy bunnies, Inspector,’ Denison said warily.
‘Where did missionary fit in again, sorry?’
‘You also mentioned missionary style to myself, and it was the only sexual position you mentioned to DS Sanders. When did you have sex in that position?’
‘I… er… I don’t remember. Maybe we didn’t do that position.’
Paul noted that down, feeling satisfied that he’d tied Denison in knots whilst simultaneously feeling like he needed a shower. It was one hell of a fantasy sex experience that Denison had constructed for himself, on the spot like that. Unfortunately for him, there were holes in his story that Paul could drive a patrol car through.
‘Ok sir, that’s about all. And you have no idea as to why Miss C would accuse you of raping her?’
‘None whatsoever. Maybe her friends talked her into it. Maybe she was going to try to blackmail me—say she would withdraw the allegation in exchange for money. You’re the policeman; it’s your department,’
‘Thank you, Mr Denison, I know my job,’ Paul said, trying to catch up with Denison’s statement in his notebook. It was hard; he’d gotten quite incoherent there at the end. ‘Sorry, one more question: during sex with Miss C, did you bite her?’
‘God, have you ever had sex? On her tits, where else?’ Denison scoffed.
‘No! I’m not a fucking sadist, Acting Inspector,’ Denison said. Paul note the return of the sneered ‘Acting Inspector,’ and fixed him with a level look.
‘Well thank you for time, Mr Denison, that’s certainly been interesting,’ was all he said, however.
‘Well, what do you think?’ Sanders asked once they were outside, and he’d loudly and acidly thanked Denison and his housemate for the cups of tea that they hadn’t been offered.
‘How much did you hear?’
‘All of it.’
‘Ok, so, his fantasy sex story where he can remember every single sex position, apart from when he can’t, but not the colour of her underwear? He’s lying, he raped her,’ Paul said. His experience was that rapists tended towards the vague and sketchy, unwilling to provide details that they didn’t have about something that hadn’t happened. Denison had gone the other way, too far up his Establishment arse to think that the black copper could ever catch him out and going down the too much detail route.
‘We arresting him?’
‘Not at thresholds yet,’ Paul replied. Thinking: it didn’t matter that Denison couldn’t keep his story straight under questioning, he’d put on a nice suit and grow his fringe out adorably and stand in the witness box looking like the boy next door, the way every rapist ever arrested did, and there’s no way the boy next door’s a rapist.
That image would need to be punctured, and that would take time and effort, the kind of time and effort the police usually didn’t bother to put into rape cases. Unfortunately for Denison, he’d raped a police cadet. All bets were off.
Paul arrived back on campus and made his way to the Students’ Union, where he found DC Knowles and DC Brookes arguing with another pair of Harvey Denison clones – one of them even had the same haircut. Paul guessed that these were his other two housemates.
‘What’s going on here, lads?’ he asked the closest one, who glanced at him and tossed his head dismissively.
‘Job centre’s down in Newark, mate.’
Paul caught his arm and jammed his warrant card under the boy’s nose. ‘Detective Inspector Quinn, mate. Would you like to tell me why you’re accosting my officers?’
The boy shook his arm free and got right up in Paul’s face whilst his own went florid red. ‘You’re persecuting our friend and we aren’t standing for it, is what! This is harassment, it’s in breach of his human rights! My father’s a lawyer, we know all about this!’
‘Your father’s a lawyer is he, alright then, well, maybe Daddy can tell you that police canvassing for witnesses is a normal and proportionate step in any enquiry but particularly when the enquiry is into an indictable offence,’ Paul returned, squaring up to the boy and suddenly itching for him to give him a shove. So many well-spoken, well-dressed, upper crust racists today, and Paul’s patience was wearing thin.
Give me a shove, posh boy, and I’ll rearrange that pretty face of yours with my baton. But he kept his voice level and disinterested as he went on. ‘However, what I’m seeing here, from yourself and your friend, is an attempt to obstruct police officers from carrying out their duties in accordance with a lawful order from a superior officer. Would you like to continue to obstruct my officers?’ Nope, some of his temper was boiling over. ‘We could show you what reasonable force looks like, then.’
‘Come on, George, we’ve made our point,’ the other one said, tugging on George’s arm. George stared at Paul for a moment longer before they both sloped off.
‘Wankers,’ Knowles spat.
‘If Daddy thinks canvassing for witnesses might be a breach of human rights I hope he’s not CPS,’ Paul said, although his suspicion was that George’s Daddy did something far more profitable, probably in the City of London. ‘Where’s Lewin?’
‘Sandra’s friend, Michelle, came by, said she remembered seeing another friend of Sandra’s in Zone Out that night, woman called Grace McRae. McRae might have seen something, Lewin’s gone to try and find her.’
Grace McRae was a proper redheaded Celtic warrior queen missing only a windswept clifftop to stand on and some Irish bagpipes as musical accompaniment, but she also recalled seeing Sandra Hendriks with a man whose description matched Harvey Denison’s. She described the conversation as seeming cordial, but that Sandra hadn’t seemed especially interested in him. She’d meant to say hi to Sandra, but Sandra had left before she’d had chance. And McRae was adamant that she’d left alone.
Ok, so what about other witnesses? Sandra had mentioned that Denison had left because people were coming back. It was time for a more focussed canvas – Paul sent them to knock on every door in St Mark’s Halls and found three girls who’d come back at eleven thirty, about the time Sandra had said Denison had left. They remembered seeing a man, well-dressed with longish brown hair, leaving the Halls as they’d arrived, so Paul had one of the Inspectors at Newark authorise a Photo ID parade using a picture of Denison from his MySpace page – public domain, the police were entitled to use it, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act allowed covert ID parades, and Paul didn’t want Denison to know how the evidence was stacking up against him just yet. Two of them picked out Denison. The third said she thought it was Denison but wasn’t sure.
Strike one against Harvey Denison; he had definitely left later than he maintained. Strike two came from Kim Lyons; she had examined Sandra’s underwear. She owned four thongs; one was red, one was black, one was purple, one was blue. None was anything close to the pale yellow wall Denison had been staring at when he’d invented the sexy knickers she’d supposedly been wearing.
Sanders wanted to arrest him. Paul demurred.
Forensic evidence: Paul wanted forensics. The Forensic Medical Examiner had already run a sexual assault examination kit over Sandra Hendriks, but it had been too long after the incident, so there was no DNA and rape was inconclusive. But the bite mark on Sandra’s shoulder was still visible, faintly but definitely there nine days later. Sanders had ordered it photographed hoping that there would be enough definition to compare the tooth impressions to Denison’s. The Scene of Crime Officers weren’t hopeful about that, but the fact was that Sandra Hendriks had a bite mark on her shoulder, not her breasts, that hadn’t fully healed, which Paul explained to DCI Dale at close of play on the next day.
‘That’s promising Paul, very promising,’ Dale said, nodding.
‘The fact that the camera could still see her bruise indicates it was violent, not sexual in nature,’ Paul said. ‘It makes rape seem more likely.’
‘What’s the CPS say?’ Dale asked.
‘They say it’s fifty-fifty as is. Parts of Denison’s story are provable lies, and he’s inconsistent under questioning whereas Sandra’s story stays the same. But, she’d slept with him previously,’ Paul said. ‘Fifty-fifty’s as much as they ever commit to in rape cases though.’
‘I understand that, Paul, but it’s not good enough. Letting this boy get away with raping one of our cadets sends all the wrong signals,’ Dale said. ‘You don’t think he’ll confess?’
‘I think I can tie him in knots in an interview room, sir, but he’s a presentable, photogenic young man, and he’s the sort that might be a prick in private, but knows how to be personable and persuasive in public,’ Paul said. ‘Thing is, juries want rapists to be perverts in Macs who drag women into the bushes, not someone they’d invite in for tea. He doesn’t look like he’d do it.’
‘And the previous sexual encounter means that he can use the, ‘She’s a slapper,’ defence all the way,’ Dale nodded. ‘I know you’ve done your best with what you’ve got here, Paul, but this isn’t what the brass wanted to hear.’
Paul took a deep breath. He’d spent the whole day kicking this idea around in his head. The CPS caseworker had almost had a heart attack when Paul explained it to him, but once he’d calmed down and coughed up the tea he’d tried to swallow at the wrong moment, he’d agreed that it could be legal, if done right. ‘I have an idea that might help, sir, but I’d need your authorisation.’
‘Firstly, there’s an undercover role and I can’t approve that on my own authority anyway,’ Paul said. Then he added sheepishly, ‘Also, if it goes wrong it’ll blow up in our faces and I don’t want it to be just my fault.’
‘Not going to like this, am I?’ Dale asked.
And he didn’t.
Three days later, Paul sat in Zone Out nursing what was supposed to be a JD and Coke, but the barman, the same one who’d already given them a statement, was in on the act and knew to hold the JD. Paul still considered himself young and trendy enough to pull off ‘student’ and had done so a couple of times at Nottingham Uni, but with the student body at QMU almost entirely white, he was making do by posing as a freelance journalist, who had just come from a meeting with an English lecturer if anyone asked. In reality he was watching PC Sophie Lewin. PC Lewin was one of Nottinghamshire’s brightest young sparks, which was what she was doing seconded to MCU and why she would soon be a Trainee Detective Constable. And, out of uniform and in civvies, she was very pretty.
She was out with Grace McRae. Denison knew Michelle Strachan’s face and would have been suspicious of anyone with her, but he’d never met McRae. McRae was nervous, but also wanted to help, and had given Lewin a quick crash course in her history degree, so that Lewin could convincingly pass as a student.
Paul had found a youngish, handsome PC from B Division to join their party. He and McRae had met earlier, and now they appeared to bump into each other again. This meant that McRae was separated from Lewin. She and the PC seemed to hit it off like a house on fire; it wasn’t five minutes before they staggered arm-in-arm towards the door, looking for all the world like a drunk hook up. Paul caught her eye and winked as she left, looking mightily relieved.
Now it was all on Lewin.
She’d already contrived to trip over Denison, getting his attention. Now she was by the bar, letting him buy her drinks, but definitely not suggesting that he should do that, and although she was responding to his attempts to flirt, she was saying nothing that could be construed as an explicit invitation for sex.
After five vodka and cokes that Zain the barman had withheld the vodka from, Lewin brought matters to a head.
‘So what do you want to do now?’ Denison asked her when she fell off her stool.
‘Oh God. Home, bed. I’m really going to pay for this tomorrow,’ Lewin groaned, smiling loopily. She was, of course, wired. She couldn’t wear a stab vest under her dress, it would be too obvious, but her baton, CS gas, and warrant card, were in her handbag.
‘And what are you going to do whilst in bed?’ Denison said, leaning and smiling at her.
‘You have no game,’ Paul muttered.
‘Sleep,’ Lewin said to him, decisively. ‘Sleep,’ she said again, and she staggered out of the bar, almost tripping over the table soccer set.
Denison stared after her for a long moment. Paul saw some colour rise up his neck as he thought about his next move. Then, he seemed to snap ‘Bitch,’ at nobody in particular, and shoot up off his own stool. Paul counted to ten and followed him, breathing a sigh of relief. Denison had taken the bait.
Time to reel him in.
‘All callsigns from 1337, suspect Denison is following our undercover into her accommodation block, all callsigns stand by to move in, over,’ he said into his radio. Back at the accommodation block, Paul had requisitioned four officers from Newark uniform, ready to arrest Denison, all radios switched to Channel 2 to avoid cluttering the airwaves. Denison, meanwhile, continued to follow PC Lewin. Paul could hear him muttering to himself, couldn’t hear what he was saying. It didn’t matter anyway.
‘1337 to 1438,’ Paul said, now half crouched, ‘Denison is now entering the accommodation block.’ He was saying something to the porter about leaving his coat in a girl’s room. The porter nodded boredly.
‘1438 receiving over,’ the senior uniform replied.
‘All units from 2271, on my floor now,’ PC Lewin said. The room had a recorder and web cam set up. Paul strode into the accommodation block, nodding at the porter, an apparent police groupie who had been warrant carded earlier and was thrilled by his part in the operation. All very CSI:Miami in his opinion.
Denison marched up the stairs; Paul ducked into the shadows to make sure he wasn’t seen. He wondered for a moment at the man’s chutzpah, going to rape a woman whilst still being investigated for another. But then Denison was cocky, entitled, probably thought that he’d gotten away with raping Sandra Hendriks.
Lewin had been pretty certain she knew exactly which buttons to press to make Denison think he was owed sex without ever suggesting that she was interested. Paul still didn’t know what to say to that.
‘2271, try and let him spell it out first if you can, and try to let him touch you before you nick him, over.’
‘All received 1337, entering my room now, over,’
Paul did a fast creep up the stairs behind Denison, saw Denison slam the doors from the stairway to the corridor open. Quick moment of nerves – no one in stab vests, too obvious under civvies, what if Denison had brought a knife? He darted silently up behind Denison just in time to catch the door, saw Denison put on a sprint to catch Lewin before she could quite close the door – of course, Sophie had closed it deliberately slowly.
She shouted in shock and outrage as Denison forced his way in.
‘What the hell are you doing?’
‘All callsigns go!’
‘No one says no to me you little slag ow!’
Paul slammed through the door a few seconds ahead of the uniforms, found Lewin pinning Denison to the floor with her knee in the small of his back and his arm twisted up behind his back. She was holding her warrant card in his face.
‘Harvey Denison, PC Sophie Lewin, based at Sherwood Lodge Police HQ. I am arresting you for attempted rape, contrary to Section One of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, you do not have to say anything…’
‘This is entrapment! This is fucking entrapment!’ Denison bellowed as Lewin snapped cuffs over his wrists. He was hauled to his feet, none too gently. ‘I’ll sue you bastards for every fucking penny!’
‘Finished?’ Paul asked, bunching his sleeve over his hand to wipe some of Denison’s spit from his face. Denison was sucking in great gasps of air and his face had gone an alarming shade of red. He was wrestling around in Sophie Lewin’s grip; she’d cuffed him one hand over the other behind his back and she now twisted the handcuff bar to apply some pain and induce him to behave. ‘Good. First of all, entrapment isn’t a criminal defence in UK law. Second of all, for entrapment to occur PC Lewin would have had to specifically entice you to commit an act that you would have otherwise not committed. All her conversations with you were recorded, and we will play those conversations to you and you can identify the point at which PC Lewin asks you to follow her back to her flat for sex.’
‘You can’t fucking record me! It’s a breach of my human rights!’
‘Er… yes I can, I’m a police officer,’ Paul said. ‘PC Lewin, book him in at Newark Police Station for attempted rape, actually further arrest him for the rape two weeks ago and recaution him please.’ Denison opened his mouth to say something and Paul held his hand up again. ‘Please don’t say anything further until we have you an interview room.’
‘I want a lawyer.’
‘That is of course your right. PC Lewin.’
‘Move.’ Lewin shoved Denison forward. His last words before she pushed him down the stairs were ‘My fucking Dad’s going to hear about this!’
‘Ok Mr Denison, I’ve had the chance to consult with the Crown Prosecutor about the charges we’ve sought authority to file,’ said Paul, facing Denison across the table in Interview Room Three at Newark Police Station. IR Three was very hot, which was entirely deliberate.
‘I’ve been here nearly thirty hours. You can’t hold me this long!’ Denison snapped.
‘As I and your solicitor have explained, Mr Denison, under Section Forty-Two, Brackets One, of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the Superintendent responsible for this police station has authorised a twelve-hour extension to your detention period to facilitate further questioning,’ Paul said calmly. ‘Please remain quiet whilst I inform of what charges you may face.’ Denison stared at him laser-eyed. Paul met him stare for stare.
‘On the count of rape occurring on the 7th of March 2008 at Queen Mary’s University in the area of Sherwood, you will be charged.
‘On the count of attempted rape occurring on the 25th of March 2008, also at Queen Mary’s University, you will be charged. You will be remanded in custody until you can appear before the Newark magistrates to be bound over for trial.
‘Do you have anything you’d like to say at this point, Mr Denison?’
‘Do you know who I am?’
‘Ask matron dear, I’m sure she’ll tell you,’ Paul said before Denison could continue. It was unprofessional and inappropriate but he couldn’t help himself. Denison shuddered and sucked in air loudly through his nose, swivel-eyed stares around the interview room before he could continue.
‘Do you know who my father is? Do you think you can convict me of raping that slut?’
‘I’ll see you in court, Mr Denison,’ Paul said, stopping the tape recorder.
He joined DCI Dale in the observation room.
‘How did you know he’d try to rape your UC?’ Dale asked.
‘Because he’s an entitled Establishment twit who thought he’d gotten away with it the first time,’ Paul said. ‘Doesn’t matter what mud they sling at Sandra Hendriks now, the jury’s going to see the video of him bursting through Lewin’s door and bang him straight up.’
‘That’s a good investigation, Paul, well done,’ Dale said. ‘We’ve laid down a marker to anyone thinking of messing with the uniform.’
‘Yes boss,’ Paul said.
Of course, it was all for the uniform, all for the service. God alone knew how many rapists they might catch out using this sort of honey trap, because this might be the only time Nottinghamshire ever tried it. They wouldn’t bust out all the stops, or even a few of them, for every woman who claimed to have been raped. Harvey Denison had faced the full might of the law because the woman he’d forced himself on was a future police officer herself, and when she took the stand at his trial it wouldn’t be as Sandra the student trying to get her rocks off a couple more times before she left Uni for the real world, it would be in a dark blue suit as PC Hendriks.
The other Harvey Denisons out there would barely face the half-hearted might of a couple of detectives who probably thought they were dead-on when they talked about how short their victim’s skirt was.
‘Why’d he do it, do you think?’ Dale asked.
‘Yes, Inspector. Denison.’
‘Because he’d had sex with her a couple of weeks before and thought that entitled him to it whenever he wanted. Because she flirted with him when they met up again and let him buy her a drink. Because when he forced himself on her, she froze up and couldn’t fight back and he decided that that was consent. Because he’s a man and he thinks sex is his right, and he doesn’t really care if he gets consent or not,’ Paul said. ‘If you want my opinion boss.’
‘I don’t know Paul, we keep telling these girls to watch how they dress and mind who they go home with –’
‘Yes boss, and we keep telling car drivers to lock their doors and put their valuables out of sight, but no one ever says we should let a thief off because the Sat nav was just stuck to the windscreen begging to be nicked,’ Paul said. ‘Same principle, boss.’
‘Yeah, well,’ Dale said, looking at the floor. ‘You could be right Inspector. Think you’ll ever get a jury made up of White Van Man to see it that way?’
‘We’ll never know if we don’t try sir.’
There was one last thing Paul needed to do before he could mentally close this one. He drove back to QMU, parked in the staff car park and put a cardboard ‘Police Business,’ sign in the windscreen. Let some bastard rentacop security guard try and ticket him. Just let him try.
The staff seemed to know who he was. So did many of the students, because he got dirty looks from the moment he left the car park, but at least no one panicked and threatened to call the police at the sight of the black man this time.
Sandra Hendriks was wearing a large, baggy hoodie and tracksuit bottoms when she answered her door. Paul wasn’t sure if they were comfort clothes, or the least appealing clothes she had.
‘Can I come in, Miss Hendriks?’
‘Sure,’ she said. ‘There’s not much room to sit,’ she added, gesturing him to the swivel chair.
Paul wanted to sit by her on her bed. Actually, he wanted to reach out and give this sorely injured young woman a hug, but once again he sensed that she wouldn’t welcome that, that it would push her away.
‘So, we’ve charged Denison with rape. It’ll be a few months yet before he goes to trial, but he will.’
‘And then I’ll have to go through it,’ Sandra said. ‘All the questions about my sex life. How many boyfriends have I had? What’s my favourite position? Do you like it rough? When did I lose my virginity? At fifteen? You’re a right slapper then, aren’t you?’ she spat bitterly, tears welling up in her eyes.
‘You sound to me like a normal fifteen-year-old, with a normal fifteen-year-old’s urges and social life,’ Paul said. ‘But you know enough to know that it won’t be easy. It’ll be one of the hardest things you ever do. It’ll be easier for you than others though, because you’ll be in uniform by the time it comes to trial.’ Sandra looked at him and frowned. ‘A lawyer will be more respectful to PC Sandra Hendriks than they would be to anyone else, and the judge won’t give them as much leeway as normal,’ Paul went on. ‘And when the jury looks at you, they won’t see the daft slapper from Warrington that Denison’s going to make you out to be, they’ll see PC Sandra Hendriks. And juries still prefer to believe us to the villains.’
‘I’m not going to police college.’
‘And I’m not from bloody Warrington either,’ she finished with a heavy finality. Paul paused for a moment, trying to think of a way in. He decided to take a step back for a moment.
‘I’m sorry, I was told you were Warringtonian. Where are you from?’
‘Parents are from Warrington. I’m not. You’ve probably never heard of it.’
‘You’ve probably never heard of where I’m from either,’ Paul smiled. ‘I’m not from round here, leastways. Try me with yours.’
‘Ever hear of a place called Saltney?’
Paul grinned and fought back a laugh.
‘Hear of it? I knew a guy who lived on Boundary Lane when I was in High School. His front garden was in Wales and the pavement was in England, it was bloody mental. You’re a Saltney girl?’
‘Where are you from?’
‘I was born in Hope,’ Paul smiled. ‘So I’ll probably die in Caergwrle. It’s a good thing my mum had a home birth and didn’t go to the hospital in Wrexham, or I’d have been born beyond Hope.’
‘You’re from Flintshire?’
‘Bore da, Sandra. And yes, I can correctly pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch,’ Paul enunciated it clearly and carefully, smiling again at the look on her face. He didn’t have much of an accent, but it got very Welsh when he recited Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.
‘Bloody hell,’ said Sandra, her eyes going wide. ‘It’s been so long since I heard that.’
‘Should have seen me in the CID suite when we beat the Saes in the rugby last February,’ Paul smiled. ‘It was a very interesting emotional journey, those last twenty minutes.’ Actually, when Mike Phillips had scored he’d called Jenny Brown, put the phone on speaker and sung along to Hymns and Arias with his spiritual colleagues in Wales whilst the rest of Nottinghamshire’s Major Crimes Unit had held their heads in their hands and glared at him.
‘I felt ten feet tall for the next week,’ Sandra smiled, the first time, Paul realised, he’d ever seen her smile. ‘You know that quote by the Norwegian commentator? Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Lord Nelson, your boys took a hell of a beating? I snuck into my seminar ahead of time and wrote it on the whiteboard.’
‘Sounds about right,’ Paul smiled. He himself had worked the numbers 26 and 19 into as many conversations as possible. ‘This will almost go without saying, but which Force did you apply to?’
‘North Wales. My parents are from Warrington so I could have chosen Cheshire, but I went for North Wales because it has more castles.’
‘No shit,’ Paul said, and he dug into his trouser pocket. ‘So… come November you’ll have your very own one of these then.’
He passed her his warrant card, which because he was still rostered on the strength of the North Wales Police Force was still one of theirs, right down to the bilingual translation. This is his warrant of authority for executing the duties of his office/Mae hyn yn ei warant awdurdod ar gyfer cyflawni dyletswyddau ei swydd.
‘You’re North Wales Police?’
‘So… what’re you doing here?’
‘My DCI thought it would be beneficial for my professional development for me to gain some experience in a different environment. She had a friend in Nottinghamshire’s MCU, so she swapped me over with one of theirs for a couple of years.’
‘Small world,’ Paul agreed. ‘See, thing is, Sandra, you can’t give up on police college after this.’
‘How… how the hell… do you know any cops who were raped?’
‘Not that I know of,’ Paul said. ‘You’ll know the statistics on rape, right? So probably I do know cops who’ve been raped, but they never told anyone, because we’re bloody Medieval when it comes to rape.’
‘I don’t think I can,’ Sandra said quietly.
‘Sandra, the culture’s shifting on rape in the force, and I’m part of the change, but it’s slow going. No, it’s not even that, it’s bloody glacial, and we have to fight for every improvement, every day, because it’s scary how quickly we backslide when we don’t. You know what? We need officers like you, who’ll fight for the victim because they know what they’ve gone through. We need officers who’ll say that because this victim didn’t fight back, it doesn’t mean that they were consenting. We need officers who’ll say that it doesn’t matter what the victim was wearing, because the offender was in control of his own actions.’
‘You can’t lay all that on me,’ Sandra said, standing up.
‘We need you to be part of the change too, Sandra, for the victim after you, and the next, and the next, and all the girls and women who will be raped in the years to come and will need someone like you to fight for them. And no, I can’t lay all that on you, and I wouldn’t. Like I said, I’m part of the change too, and so are other officers. We’ll get there, eventually. We’ll get there faster with you.’
‘I can’t do it,’ Sandra said, sitting down and shaking her head. ‘I know what it’ll be like at Bruche, all the other cadets, all the harassment, innuendoes and rape jokes and… I thought I could handle it all but I can’t now.’
‘You won’t go through it alone,’ Paul said, and he pulled out his business card. He wrote another number on the back of it. ‘This is my card, the number on the back is Detective Chief Inspector Jennifer Brown, from the North Wales Force Major Incident Team. I’ll help you however I can, so will DCI Brown, and you won’t be alone. You’re one of us, Sandra, and we look after our own.’ Sandra rocked back and forth and Paul could see the tears in her eyes. He laid the business card on the bed next to her and took his warrant card back. ‘Don’t give up on your dream because of him Sandra. Beat him by being the best police officer you can be, and sending all the other pricks who hurt to women to prison right along with him.’
‘I’ll… I’ll think about it.’ Sandra said. ‘That’s all you’ll get out of me for now, Inspector. I’ll think about it.’
‘For what it’s worth, Sandra, I think you’ll make a great police officer,’ Paul said. ‘And in a year or so I’ll be back from playing Sheriff of Nottingham and we’ll be working together.’ He stood up to leave. ‘You should probably get used to calling me “Boss.”’
He had reached the door before Sandra spoke. He smiled when she did.
Her voice lilted up at the end. She was giving him the title and using it to ask him a question.
‘My friends call me Sandi.’
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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