After (chapter 4)
by Writer 3

4

Danny was thirteen years old, skinny, tall, bundled in a red parka that mum had got cheap in Kingsland Discount Store a year back. He was growing out of it, his wrists showing beyond the cuffs but his mum had said that it would do for one more winter.

He was standing in Boyles Chemist on Church Street in Hackney. His mum”s small, square form was advancing on the counter toward the back of the shop. Danny looked at himself in a mirror above a display of reading glasses. Dark eyes, big nose around which his face was set, hair clipped short.

He was black and mum was white. His mum had told him that he had got had colour from his dad. In the mirror above the reading glasses his face carried a preoccupied look and he wondered if that also was dad.

Mum reached the back of the shop.

Outside the December morning hung clear and blue over the shops of Church Street.

Danny positioned himself next to a stand of Christmas themed watches and observed as Mum began to execute her plan.

She had four brands of tampon in front of her. “It’s sometimes uncomfortable, you know,” she said.

Jimmy Boyle, gawkily teenage, behind the counter of his family owned Chemist did not know.

The watches were pre-loaded with festive tunes and priced at nine ninety-five.

Mum had noticed them a couple of days back when one of the watches displayed out of its packaging had played We Three Kings.

She had been charmed and had decided: “They”ll do for presents.”

It had taken her a day to come up with a plan.

For the first time the plan had included him. He had to grab six watches while she distracted Jimmy Boyle.

Mum was declaring: “And the cramps.”

As Jimmy blushed red 1, 2, 3 came off the stand and into Danny’s pocket.

One for Auntie May, one for Sarah downstairs, one for Uncle Dan although he wasn’t around so much nowadays.

Mum occupied Jimmy with: “What’s the absorption like ’cause I really bleed.”

Jimmy gaped.

4, 5, 6 were gathered up.

Four for bent Tony and five for his partner Flo. The sixth was a spare to cover anything extra.

“They all do what they’re meant to,” the words bumbled from Jimmy.

Danny turned to the exit, his pockets full of time.

“Which would you use?” mum asked Jimmy.

Danny walked out of the shop.

Outside Danny’s heart was thumping like he had run a mile.

He drew out one of the watches. The watch face was a Ho-Ho Santa with moving arms marking out the time.

Danny could see that they would make a Christmas gift.

Mum emerged from Boyles The Chemist carrying her normal brand of tampons.

“That’s Christmas done,” she said.

She gave no sign of a raised heart rate, she had been in this situation before, it was his first go.

Maybe over time, thought Danny, his heart would become like hers.

They began to walk along Church Street, up Stamford Hill, Abney Park to their left.

At the entrance to Abney Park Cemetery, Clive the dosser was huddled around a litre bottle of Morrison’s vodka.

“It’s all true,” said Clive.

“Sure, Clive,” said mum stepping past him. “I’ve got eyes.”

They walked amid the graves of non-conformists and atheists, sat together on a bench close to the vault containing William Booth.

“Let’s see the watches.”

He took them out of his pocket.

“Quite a handful,” and took one from him. “How do you get it to play a tune?”

“Set the alarm.”

“Show me.”

The watch told him it was 10:15, he set the alarm for 10:17.

“Well?” said mum.

“A minute.”

10:16.

“Clive’s mental,” he said to fill the time.

She shrugged. “He sticks in there like a man should, you could learn from that.”

“Become a drunk?”

She grabbed him, pushed his head against hers. “If only I could give you everything in here,” and released him with a laugh.

It was 10:17. The watch played We Three Kings.

In the morning sun Abney Park Cemetery was a tangle of trees and tombstones, the tinny watch version of We Three Kings floating over it.

Next to him mum was saying: “There are no accidents, not really.”

She had been right.

*

A knocking at the front door placed Danny in the here and now.

He turned his head to the digital clock on the chest of drawers.

21:00 hours.

*

Eddie sat in room 333 in the Metropolitan Police building in Victoria.

Also in the room was Sam Daley who was on his mobile phone talking to police constables rattling the bushes for Trevor Isles.

Justin Battle was out pursuing links to ex-cons.

Eddie holding the photo of Vincent Sullivan provided by PCDB was looking at the clock fixed to the east wall of Room 333.

9:29 p.m.

He and Kate had arranged to meet at 9:30 before travelling to St. Thomas’ to interview the nurse who had checked in Vincent Sullivan. It was a courtesy to the senor officer to show up a few minutes before the deadline.

“No need to get aggressive during interviews,” Sam was saying. “You get aggressive it’s hard to listen.”

9:31. Kate was definitely late.

“Glad you agree,” said Sam. The sarcasm in his round face did not carry into his West Country burr.

Kate walked quickly into room 333.

She seemed a little breathless as if she had been hurrying.

Which was good, Eddie allowed.

Eddie looked pointedly at his watch.

“I apologise,” said Kate. “I put my head down in sub-level 2, just for an hour.”

Sub-level 2 had bunk beds for officers who needed them. Kate’s hair was muzzed and her clothes were arranged a little haphazardly.

“We’re already a couple of minutes late, so let’s get moving,” said Eddie.

“You’ve got it,” said Kate.

For Kate, she seemed positive.

Sam was on the phone trying to contact another constable.

“Dinner,” said Sam’s West Country burr. “There’s nice. Interrupt his fucking dinner.”

The London night that Eddie and Kate stepped into was dappled with cars and street lights.

Kate peeped her Ford open and headed along the Embankment toward St Thomas. Eddie was strapped in beside her, his eyes catching on the pleasure boats plying their trade on the Thames. He turned back to the road.

Kate had a tendency to dart in her driving even at night, Eddie noticed. When she saw an opening she took it.

When Kate’s sudden moving to what she perceived as a gap in front of a Lexus caused the Lexus driver to slow sharply and raise his finger in disgust, Eddie said: “Lewis bloody Hamilton.”

“Get us there quicker,” responded Kate manoeuvring from in front of the Lexus to lead a Volkswagen Jetta.

Eddie said: “As long as we get there in one piece.”

“One piece. Got it,” said Kate.

Eddie remembered being at St. Thomas’ with Clare. It had been the first time she had taken a turn. They had been about to board a pleasure boat at Waterloo Pier. St Thomas’ had been close.

Eddie did not want to return to St. Thomas’ but the demands of the job: he concentrated on that. It was necessary.

Kate hopped in front of a 169 bus.

“You’ll get us killed,” said Eddie.

Kate grinned: “Almost there,” as she headed onto Waterloo Bridge.

The Filipino’s nurse’s badge read Jasmine Reyes. She had her arms folded and her small, determined form stood five metres to the right of the Reception Desk.

In front of her stood Eddie and Kate,

Behind Eddie and Kate were the A&E patients.

They were between Nurse Reyes and her work, thought Eddie.

Kate had shown Nurse Reyes the photo of Vincent Sullivan.

“There are so many,” said Nurse Reyes.

“Anything you can remember would be helpful,” said Kate.

Nurse Reyes took two steps to her right and slid behind the Reception Desk.

The young, black male nurse manning the Reception Desk looked at her.

“I’ve places to be, Jasmine,” he said.

Jasmine smiled at him, gestured at Eddie and Kate as she positioned herself in front of the Reception’s computer.

“Just need to look someone up,” said Jasmine as her fingers rattled the keypad. “Hold your horses. You’ll soon be relieved.”

Jasmine read the screen, stepped back to Eddie and Kate.

“Vincent Sullivan arrived at 07:27,” said Jasmine.

Before the Prime Minister was shot, thought Eddie. “You are sure about the time?” he asked.

“It’s on the computer,” said Jasmine. “Is there a problem?”

“Just eliminating him from an investigation,” said Eddie.

Eddie’s mobile chirped. Eddie nodded a curt apology to Nurse Reyes.

“The PM murder,” Kate expanded as Eddie took the call. “Everyone who was in the Whitehall area has to be eliminated. Anything you could add?”

A trickle of doubt crossed Jasmine’s determined face.

Eddie hung up his mobile. “DCS Cox, we have to go,” he said to Kate.

Then to Nurse Reyes: “Thank you for your time. You have been a help.”

Eddie led Kate out of St. Thomas’s A&E.

Nurse Reyes watched them leave.

“What’s up?” asked Kate.

“Been summoned by the DCS,” Eddie answered as they exited St. Thomas’. The night folded around them. “Justin picked up a discrepancy with his ex-con.”

They reached Kay’s Ford.

Kate seemed taken aback by the news.

“Just luck, Kate,” said Eddie.

Kate nodded: of course and she unlocked the car.

“DCS Cox wants to set up for an interview with the ex-con in question tomorrow. All hands to the pump,” Eddie explained.

Kate looked for the car-park exit in the dark.

*

Danny stood to the left of his front door. Kenny was in bed with his headphones. Danny had checked on his way through.

Danny covered the peep-hole of the front door with his left hand.

No response.

“Who’s there?” he barked and moved from the left to the right of the front door.

“Lou,” came the bass response from the other side of the door.

“Always passwords with you,” said a lighter voice.

Danny recognised Adam.

He opened the door.

Lou was in yellow and green this evening.

Next to Lou, Adam was a round, white, cheery face on a chubby body clad in black trousers, white shirt with GWR on the shirt pocket and grey cardigan. Adam was an enthusiastic trainspotter.

Danny thought that Adam, at thirty-five years old, should be wearing slippers. He always did when first seeing him.

“It’s late. What’s this about?” asked Danny.

Danny did not move from the door.

“Those fucking property tossers,” said Lou. “Lil and Joanne will join us.” His head swung to the left. “Speak of the fucking devil.”

Lil and Joanne had stepped onto the fourth floor of Herbert Block.

Lil’s angled form was in black jeans and a black hoodie over a white tee-shirt.

Next to Lil, the smaller form of Joanne could seem to be without corners.

Joanne wore a simple, blue dress and short heels. Her blonde hair framed a pretty face that looked at the world through amused, blue eyes.

Joanne was an attractive woman, thought Danny and then thought: then why Adam. But he backed away from that thought as ungracious.

“Who you calling a devil?” said Joanne.

Joanna had been Adam’s partner for five years. She worked at the Hackney Council offices on Mare Street when she wasn’t sick. And she was sick a lot.

She had the doctor’s certificates to prove it.

“Could we keep the noise down,” said Danny. “It’s just that Kenny’s in his bedroom.”

Lil raised a finger to her lips.

“Shhh,” said Lil.

“Better,” said Danny.

Adam was a contract office worker. An eight week contract had taken him to Mare Street and Joanna. The job had moved on but Adam and Joanna had stuck.

Adam currently had his dream job working for National Rail outside Paddington.

“Glands is it, Joanne,” said Lou as Lil took a seat next to him at one side of the kitchen table.

Joanne touched her neck. “Giving me trouble, terrible,” she said.

Adam pulled out a chair.

Joanne explained: “A sort of sick pain.”

Adam sat next to Joanne and opposite Lou and Lil.

Adam’s affable face arranged to loving concern.

“What’s your sick note end date?” asked Lou.

“A week Friday,” answered Joanne. “It being glands.”

Lou showed admiration.

“The doctor said to go back to see him if she had any issues, anything at all,” Adam nodded his head in affirmation as he spoke.

“The property people?” said Danny trying to focus the conversation.

Adam looked at Joanne.

Joanne sat back a little in her chair and said: “I was at home this afternoon when the property people came round.”

“So what happened, from the start?” asked Lou.

Joanne considered. “Well, I got dressed . . .”

“The property people came around in the afternoon and you got dressed?” queried Lou.

“I was ill. I was not sitting round in formal attire. I just threw on a top and a skirt and tied my hair into a ponytail.”

“I’m thinking of growing my hair out,” said Lil.

“The property people,” said Lou.

Joanne looked at Lil: we’ll talk when this nonsense is out of the way, and turned to Lou.

“They were a nice looking couple,” said Joanne. “Although the woman: those trousers, those shoes – what was she thinking?” and Joanne’s head moved: No.

“Anything other than fashion tips?” asked Danny.

Joanne looked at Danny: do not pretend fashion does not matter to you.

“They added £20,000 to the offer.”

Danny sat straighter.

The property people’s strategy had been to offer tenants the difference between the price of the flat and the amount available under right to buy. All the flats qualified for a discount of £108,000. But that still left £200,000 to find. The property people supplied the £200,000. You pocketed the £108,000 and walked away.

There had been several takers.

“That’s £128,000,” said Lil.

“We can all add up,” shrugged Lou.

“I ummed and ahhed and got them up to £25,000,” said Joanne.

“£133,000,” said Lil.

“And what was your response?” asked Danny.

“I said I’d talk it over with Adam and get back to them if we were interested,” said Joanne.

“And were you?” asked Danny.

Adam shook his straight, white head: No.

“They said they’d space the extra payments over time,” said Joanne.

“You don’t get them up front?” Lil was shocked.

“Bits and pieces from the property people when they feel like it. We’d be at their beck and call,” said Adam.

Lou shook his head and said: “We’re poor, they’re rich. We’re nothing to them,” as though no other behaviour was to be expected.

“Not so much of the nothing,” said Joanne. “How many of the property people get to meet the PM. It’s coming up for Adam.”

Danny looked at Adam: what?

“Not me,” smiled Adam. “The Prime Minister is visiting Old Oak Common to be shown around the new Crossrail trains and the plans for HS2. There is as you can imagine now a ton of security around her so we have all been screened and issued special passes for the Prime Minister’s visit.”

“That’s taxpayers’ money, that is,” said Lil.

“Like you pay tax,” said Lou.

“Just saying,” said Lil as Adam fished out a laminated pass.

“It’s digital and everything,” said Lou. “Gets you in and out.”

“Like an Arsenal season ticket,” said Lou.

“Big football fan, are you?” There was a little tease in Joanne’s voice.

“I get by,” said Lou.

Danny looked at the pass that Adam had placed on the table.

He got to his feet.

“Anyone for a drink?” he asked.

*

“I want your input on this,” said DCS Cox. Her dark eyes moved over the detectives of Central Murder.

DCI Eddie Smith leant forward. Habit, he thought, to show enthusiasm.

DCI Eddie Smith, DI Sam Daley, DS Justin Battle and DC Kate Fowler sat at the main table in room 333 of the Metropolitan Police building in Victoria.

It could be anytime in windowless room 333 but Eddie could hear the night in the sounds of the building around him.

DCS Cox was holding a packet. The packet showed a moustached man with fair hair and a chunky face.

“Peter Young,” explained DCS Cox and nodded to DS Battle. “It was Justin’s catch. I’ll let him explain.”

DS Battle’s face was set to serious as he tapped his iPad and said: “Peter Young works for a cleaning crew which has the contract for Defra on Marsham Street in Westminster. He was not at his job on the morning of the PM’s killing. The rota for the crew that cleaned the Defra offices states he was there.”

That alone would make Peter Young a person of interest, thought Eddie. That he was an ex-con had pulled Eddie and Kate from their line of investigation and had the team gathered together at 10 p.m.

DI Sam Daley had a hardback notebook open in front of him.

“How did you discover Peter Young wasn’t at work?” asked Eddie.

“As you know Peter Young had been identified as someone we should take a look at. So I looked at him and those around him. In this case the other members of the cleaning crew. One of them stated than Pete Young was not at work that morning.”

“And the other members of the cleaning crew, what did they say?” asked Eddie.

“The others made no statement either way. A second taken on the condition of anonymity confirmed that Peter Young was not at work that morning.”

“You didn’t promise anonymity?” said Eddie. It wasn’t something coppers should do.

“No,” said Justin. “But he thought I did.”

Eddie saw Kate inhale and blink.

DI Sam Daley’s mobile played the theme from Rocky. Sam looked as the DCS.

“Take it,” said DCS Cox.

Sam walked to the south end of the room, took the call under the clock.

“What we want to do before morning is to dig into Peter Young’s contacts,” said DCS Cox.

DCS Cox gave a work package to each Detective.

Eddie opened his packet. The front page was a history of Peter Young and the Law, Peter had form: burglary, an assault. There were four other sheets in Eddie’s pack. Two crew members, a family member, one possible criminal acquittance.

“I don’t want to know how you do it, but if anybody sticks out let me know. We’ll convene again at 4 a.m.”

Kate looked at DCS Cox.

“The cleaners are on site by 5:30. Sam and Justin will talk to Peter Young in situ.”

Under the clock Sam hung up his mobile. He pocketed it on his way back to the table.

“That was about the Trevor Isles case,” said Sam and sat. “There may be a lead breaking and I’m the lead officer.”

“How solid a lead?” asked the DCS.

“The constables turned up something. Called me,” said Sam.

“They need you now?” asked DCS Cox.

DCI Sam Daley looked at DCS Cox. “That would be best ma’am,” said Sam.

The PM killing was the big case but Sam was going to walk away from it at least for a while to pursue the Trevor Isles lead. Eddie knew that it was the professional thing to do and looked around the table. Who else would make the choice that Sam was making?

Eddie thought back to his disappeared pomp, how he would have weighed the opportunity of landing the PM’s killer against a Gospel Oak suicide. He knew what the outcome of that balance would have been.

“Very well,” said DCS Cox to Sam.

Then to the rest of the table: “DI Daley is following up a lead in the Trevor Isles case. DCI Smith and DC Fowler, I want you on site tomorrow morning to assist with DS Battle’s questioning of Peter Young.”

*

Danny was on the fourth floor of Portcullis House. He was a little heavy with what he had put away last night but it had been necessary and he had arrived at Portcullis House in time to check on Vinny.

Vinny had shown for work on time.

Danny had not made a fuss of checking but he had let Vinny know that he was there.

His phone sounded: Green, Green Grass of Home.

Agriculture, Danny knew, and answered the phone.

“Mr. Blake.”

The voice at the other end of the phone was the thick, Romanian accent of the team leader at Agriculture, Radut Dalca.

“Radut,” said Danny.

“The police are here speaking to Pete Young. Some things were said. There were scuffles.”

Radut’s voice was hurried.

“The cleaners fought with the police?” said Danny.

“Just Pete Young. He also tried to attack some of the other cleaners but was stopped,” said Radut.

Danny looked out of the window of the fourth floor of Portcullis House. It was just after six and the night was starting to lift from Parliament Square. You could make out bits and pieces of things.

So could others.

“Keep everyone on site,” instructed Danny. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

“We can’t go anywhere,” said Radut. “Police instructions.”

Danny barrelled the PCDB badged van along Victoria Street. His mobile sounded. The screen showed Carla calling.

*

Eddie sat solidly beside Justin in room 118 of Defra that they had turned into an interview room.

Eddie and Justin were one side of the table, on the other was Pete Young.

And Pete Young was not talking.

Eddie and Kate were here to assist Justin who with Sam absent was the lead officer for this line of investigation and that, thought Eddie, was a problem.

With Sam’s absence on the Trevor Isles case, Sam had become the lead officer for this line of investigation, Eddie and Kate were there to assist and that, thought Eddie, was a problem.

Justin had been on the wrong side of the interview since walking into Defra.

Justin had started by gathering all the cleaning crews together and letting Pete Young know that his colleagues had grassed him up.

Pete had flown off the handle and had to be restrained by Eddie and a couple of uniformed officers.

Justin had marched Pete into the prepared interview room with Eddie. Kate had been left to watch the door. Inside Justin had not backed off his aggressive tone.

As Eddie saw it, Justin was leading the interview in the wrong way.

“Where were you the morning the PM was killed?” Justin demanded of Pete and leant over the table, pushed his face close to Pete.

Pete had clammed up and Justin was trying to provoke a response.

Eddie couldn’t help but notice that Pete was not biting.

*

The early morning light and dark hung uneasily on the modernity of the Ministry of Agriculture building as Danny approached it. The plaque bolted to the Marsham Street entrance proclaimed DEFRA. Agriculture was in there somewhere, thought Danny and stepped inside.

The reception was a large desk flanked by a dozen soft chairs, two long tables and one short. On the walls were pictures of fields.

Radut Dalca and the other cleaners were sitting at a large, low table with a uniformed police officer.

The officer looked up at Danny’s approach.

Danny held out his hand: “Danny Blake, head of PCDB. These people work for me. I hear there has been trouble.”

The officer took the proffered hand, gave it a perfunctory shake.

“I’ve been ordered to keep them here while investigations are on-going,” said the officer.

“I understand.” Danny’s tone was placatory. “But I need to talk to the Team Lead about timetables. Make sure we can adjust our schedule while this crew is being held.”

The officer looked at Radut. “Nowhere private. Where I can see you.”

“Absolutely officer,” agreed Danny. “Ten minutes, top. We’ll just be at another table.”

“Radut,” said the officer and nodded at Danny.

Radut’s bull form filled his PCDB boiler suit.

Danny chose the short table, furthest from the police officers and the rest of the cleaners.

“What happened?” asked Danny.

Radut’s chunky face ticked with agitation as he said: “Pete, he got angry.”

“Why?” asked Danny.

“The police. Got us all together. Said Pete hadn’t been at work.” Radut’s accent had become heavier. “Pete got aggressive.”

“On the phone you said Pete became aggressive with other cleaners,” said Danny.

Radut’s twitching increased. “The police said some of the cleaners had informed on Pete.”

Danny set his face to puzzled. “Why is Pete not being at work police business?”

“The morning the police said he wasn’t at work was the morning your Prime Minister was killed.” Radut’s voice clumped out the words.

Danny’s mind worked with the possibilities but kept his tone steady as he asked: “Was what the cleaners told the police true?”

“Yes,” said Radut.

Danny understood Radut’s twitching. “So you signed him on the rota as being at work when he wasn’t at work?”

“He’s a friend,” said Radut.

“Did he pay you?” asked Danny.

Radut shook his bull head. “I didn’t do it for that. He looked out for my son.”

“How?” asked Danny.

“Seventeen years old. He’s getting involved in gangs.” Radut’s fists clenched. “I knew Pete was an ex-con, got him to speak to my son. Someone to warn him off who’s been there, done that. My son, he’s now pulling away from the gangs, it won’t happen straightaway but we’re getting there. I owe Pete.”

“What was Pete doing when he should have been at work?” asked Danny

Radut’s fists unclenched. “With a woman. That’s all I know.”

Danny drew breath. Radut had provided Pete with an alibi. An alibi that could conceivably be verified.

“How many times was Pete absent?” asked Danny.

“Not often,” said Radut. His eyes shifted away from Danny.

“Not often?” said Danny. “What are we talking here: one, ten, a hundred?”

“Several times,” said Radut.

Several times, thought Danny, he had paid a man to be at work who had not been there. “How did you cover for him?”

Radut shrugged. “I assigned other cleaners to his slot.”

Pete’s slot being a set of offices on the second floor. “So other areas went uncleaned?”

Radut shook his head: no. “I assigned the other cleaners on rotation, No one notices if an area misses cleaning for one day.”

“And you’re saying with this arrangement no money changed hands?” A little harshness had entered Danny’s tone.

“Just a little contribution for the trouble. It didn’t start that way.” Radut’s eyes were on the move landing anywhere but on Danny.

Danny could believe that Pete had helped out with Radut’s son. It would be something that would appeal to his sense of being a man.

But Pete would also see the possibilities.

If Pete could buy his slot for £30, that had been valued by Danny at £60 and get cover for nothing that translated into £30 profit and free time for Pete.

Pete could work with that.

So apparently could Radut.

“Am I finished?” asked Radut.

Danny looked at him. Putting Radut’s swindling of him to one side, Radut had provided Pete with an alibi.

That needed to be backed up.

“One thing at a time,” said Danny and pulled out his mobile phone, punched the number for PCDB’s solicitor. As well as business they also covered criminal work. Pete would be provided with a solicitor.

Danny’s call switched to the 24 hour Lawyer Line maintained by PCDB’s solicitor.

Danny entered PCDB’s solicitor PIN and was connected to an Indian operator. Danny specified Richard Samson if available.

Danny had worked with Richard before, a man of jovial meanness who you wanted on your side.

*

Justin volleyed a question at Pete Young.

Eddie noted that the question was a replica of one previously asked.

Like the previous question it elicited no response from Pete Young.

Pete, thought Eddie, had been in the system.

Eddie leant back in his chair. Room 118 was decorated with photographs of upland sheep. The weather in each of the photographs presented as good.

Eddie had his doubts about the world that the photographs purported to show.

Justin refashioned his question: Where were you the morning the Prime Minister was killed. He punched it at Pete.

The question sunk into Pete without disturbance.

Eddie thought that he had limited experience with Kate, but Kate’s approach to an interview was to build a relationship with a person of interest. With Pete, Justin’s way was in your face aggression. And with Pete, Justin’s method had come up blank.

“You have nothing to say for yourself?” demanded Justin.

Pete stared back.

“Right,” said Justin. “We’ll take him in for questioning.”

Justin bustled to his feet.

Eddie, more careful, followed.

The sheep on the wall looked dolefully at the works of man.

They took the lift to the ground floor.

“We’ll be taking you to Belgravia Police Station,” Justin informed Pete Jones as the lift doors closed.

Pete seemed uninterested as the sheep on the walls of 118 had been with the weather. It was just something that happened.

The lift doors opened to Reception. The cleaning team were on the soft chairs at the long table where Justin had left them with a police constable. But they had company.

Eddie recognised Danny Blake the head of PCDB. His photo was on the witness list. He must have been called.

Danny Blake, thought Eddie, was also on the list for a follow-up after his and Kate’s visit to St. Thomas’.

Danny was talking to a bald man in a suit.

The suit stepped toward the quartet exiting the left.

He was a well built man in a good suit beginning to run to fat, noticed Eddie.

The suit projected bonhomie.

“Richard Samson,” said the suit. “I am Pete Young’s solicitor. Where are you taking my client?”

Justin looked at Pete Young.

“This your lawyer?” asked Justin.

The three detectives were focused on Pete. Behind them Danny inclined his head.

“Sure, my lawyer,” said Pete.

“Can I have a word with the lead officer,” said Richard. “To establish ground rules.”

“We will follow Police procedure,” said Justin.

“A minute, just so we understand each other,” said Richard.

The bonhomie covered something a lot sharper, thought Eddie.

Best to stay clear. But Justin would know that they had not actually arrested Peter Young, he was coming to the station to help them with their inquiry.

If that was made clear to Pete he could refuse. Then Justin would have to arrest him or let him go. And an arrest needed clear justification or it might end up as a black mark against Justin’s career path.

All of which Richard Samson would know.

Justin said: “A couple of minutes,” nodded to the uniformed officer and stepped back toward the lifts with Richard.

The uniformed officer took a step closer to Pete.

Kate began to chat to the cleaners. Eddie wandered across to Danny Blake.

“Mr. Blake, a quick word,” said Eddie. “I understand you were at St. Thomas’ on the morning the Prime Minister was killed.”

Danny nodded. “One of our cleaners was ill. I took him in.”

“And you were seen immediately?” asked Eddie.

Danny nodded: yes. “Pretty much. No delay that time in the morning.”

“Normally,” said Eddie.

Justin broke off from Richard and moved to Pete.

Justin seemed put upon.

“This way,” Justin said to Pete.

Pete looked at Richard.

Richard nodded.

Justin, Eddie and Kate moved out of the Defra building with Pete Young.

After they had placed Pete in a police car, Eddie nodded at Richard who was already sealed in a top of the range BMW.

“He’s going to sit in?” Eddie asked Justin.

“Fucker,” said Justin.

It began to spot rain. Weather, thought Eddie, like it wasn’t shown on the photos of room 118.

*

Danny watched the police troop out the Defra building with Pete Young between officers. Richard Samson followed.

God knows he was being paid enough to do so, thought Danny. But when it came to criminal malfeasance, Richard knew his stuff.

Danny had used Richard on four other occasions, when cleaners had been caught up in some generally minor offence. Richard handled the criminal side, passing any immigration issues to Nigel Brown.

Different specialities.

It was how the world operated, Richard had once explained the separate billing of PCDB by him and Nigel as specialisation of labour.

As they were leaving the building Richard had leant in and asked: Any idea where Pete was when Osborne was topped?

God knows, Danny had lied. It was that sort of relationship, professional in its way.

Danny watched the police cars pull away, tagged by Richard’s BMW.

That specialisation of labour lark must pay, thought Danny, and turned back to reception.

The clock over reception was coming up to seven.

“Right,” said Danny to the cleaners gathered at Reception. “We’ve got an hour. Normal stations, do what you can. I’ll pick up Pete Young’s slot.”

The cleaners took off to their assigned stations. Radut held back.

“Later,” said Danny. “When we’ve finished work,” and Danny walked off to the second floor and Peter’s pitch.

Danny knew that he would have to let Peter go, along with Radut, despite Carla’s caterwauling. They has both broken faith and that could not be countenanced.

As for the cleaners who had spoken to the police about Pete, that conversation would have to be nicely weighted. Although Danny understood their complaint, and it was in his interest, he would have to find a way to show his disappointment.

You didn’t grass up your colleagues, even though this one time it was to Danny’s advantage, you didn’t do it.

You couldn’t and survive.

Pete’s area of work were two large, open plan offices and three smaller offices with lockable doors. Danny had Pete’s keycard and so access to each of the locked offices.

He started at the north end of the easternmost open-plan office.

First he cleaned the desk-tops, then emptied the bins. He left the hoovering for last.

Forty minutes in he was fetching the hoover from the cleaners cupboard on the second floor when he noticed that a pack of paper kitchen towels had been disturbed.

He reached into the pack, pulled out a mobile. The latest iPhone, too expensive to toss. It was powered down. He turned it on.

The screen wanted a PIN. He stood outside the cleaning cupboard, in a corridor than ran past both of Pete’s open plan offices.

Pete’s cleaning cupboard, Pete’s phone, he wondered and called the office.

He got Sally at home. He could hear her mum and Good Morning Britain in the background.

“Do you have Pete Young’s birthday?” asked Danny.

“Sure,” said Sally and a rattle of keys came down the line.

“Twelfth of April,” said Sally.

“Year?” asked Danny.

“1982,” said Sally. “Can I ask why?”

“Something’s come up. I’ll let you know later,” said Danny and hung up.

He tried Pete’s birthday and was granted entry.

It was Pete’s phone. Pete had stashed it but why?

Danny scrolled through the calls.

There were calls received and made on the morning the Prime Minister had been killed. Three of the call were from the same number.

Danny called the number using Pete’s phone.

“Pete, I told you never . . .”

It was a woman’s voice. Danny hung up.

The information turned in his mind, looking for a shape.

“Mr. Blake.”

Danny turned toward the voice.

A female police officer was advancing from the west end of the corridor.

Danny powered down and pocketed Pete’s phone as the officer crossed the distance between them.

“DC Fowler,” said the officer and showed her warrant card.

“I saw you downstairs,” said Danny. DC Fowler was square set, ginger hair and freckles.

“I understand you picked up Pete’s cleaning duty,” said DC Fowler.

“Someone had to and I was here,” said Danny and pulled the hoover out of the cupboard.

“Will you take action against Peter Young?” asked Kate.

“He’ll be let go,” said Danny. “Pete and the guy who signed him as being at work.”

“The guy who signed Pete as being at work, why would he do that?” asked DC Fowler.

Danny left Radut’s son out of it. “Money. He moved around cleaners to cover for Pete. He had one cleaning slot for sale for less than I paid Pete. Pete paid, didn’t have to come in. Both came out ahead.”

“No wonder the cleaners complained,” said DC Fowler. She shook her head and essayed a small smile at the criminality of the world.

“Did Mr. Young have a mobile phone?” asked DC Fowler.

“I guess. Doesn’t everyone nowadays,” said Danny.

“When we got Mr. Young to the station, it turned out he did not have one on him,” said Kate.

Clever Pete, thought Danny.

“You haven’t come across a mobile phone while cleaning?” asked DC Fowler.

“No, nothing like that,” said Danny.

“Do you have Pete Young’s number?” asked DC Fowler.

“I can get the one he has registered with us,” said Danny.

Danny took out his phone and called the office.

Sally picked up. In the background was the Antiques Roadshow.

“Do you have Pete Young’s number?” asked Danny.

“Pete again,” said Sally and there was a tap of a keyboard. “You better let me know what this is about,” and dictated he number.

“Thanks Sally,” said Danny.

Danny hung up and recited the number to DC Fowler.

“You just remembered the thing,” said DC Fowler as she noted down the number.

“I just got a head for numbers,” said Danny. “Never did anything with it.”

DC Fowler called the number.

“Direct to voicemail,” she said. “Worth a try.”

Danny gestured at the offices. “I should get on,” he said.

“Of course,” said DC Fowler and left the way she had came.

Danny turned on the hoover.

He cleaned as much as he could in the time remaining.

*

“My client does not have to prove anything, Detective Sergeant. That’s your job.”

Richard Samson’s manicured tone paraded across the table separating him and Pete Young from DS Justin Battle and DCI Eddie Smith.

They were sitting in Interview Room 3 of Belgravia Police Station.

Justin took a steadying breath and said: “I ask Peter Young again, for elimination from our inquiry where were you on the morning the Prime Minister was killed?” The question spat over the table between the two sides.

“My client has informed you that on the morning in question he was with a woman,” said Richard Samson.

“Your client has not said anything,” an aggrieved Justin pointed out.

Eddie thought that if he was the lead officer he would have pulled Justin out.

“He informed you of his actions on that morning through me,” said Richard Samson.

“He didn’t say who he was with, where this assignation took place. He’s provided no proof at all.” The words twisted from Justin.

“Proof is your area, Detective Sergeant,” said Richard Samson.

Then, sitting a little straighter: “Charge my client or release him.”

There was a single rap on the door of the interview room.

Justin looked at the door with hope.

Kate, Eddie knew, had been sent back to Defra to search for Pete’s phone.

Eddie got to his feet.

Justin just needed one thing to fall his way.

*

Danny looked out of a third floor window at the Department of Media and Culture at the north-east corner of Parliament Square.

It was a couple of days since the incident at the Ministry of Agriculture. DEFRA, he corrected himself.

Pete had been released by the police but informed that he would still be under observation.

At £200 per hour the solicitor Richard Samson had been pricey but worth it to create the possibility of confusion in the police focus.

He had let Pete go along with Radut at the end of the day he had discovered the swindle they had been working. There would be hell to pay from Carla and Danny had been careful to avoid her.

Danny was looking at the shape of Westminster Abbey picked out in the broken dark.

George Osborne’s funeral had not been announced but one of the cleaners at Portcullis House attended the Abbey each day after work.

Next Friday she would not be able to attend. No reason had been officially given but one of the Vergers was chatty and had let slip it was due to a funeral. There was lots to set up. He’d be rushed off his feet.

It was Osborne’s funeral. PM Nicky Morgan would have to attend.

The shot was difficult but do-able.

Except he was guessing where the PM would enter. And the time was a problem. And Danny had to consider the possibilities of a successful egress.

Old Oak common offered a better opportunity.

Danny had acquired Adam’s pass following their boozy evening berating the new tactic of the property people.

He would scout the place this weekend.

Easter.

He would light a candle for Colin.



End of After (chapter 4) by Writer 3
Chapter 5 will appear in March