After (chapter 2)
by Writer 3
In the Metropolitan Police building in Victoria, DI Eddie Smith walked alongside DCS Cox with DS Battle close behind. They were heading from Room 711 to the lift that would ferry them to the third floor where the Central Murder Team was based.
DCS Cox had bossed room 711 but that was already behind her. Her face, her whole body was set to forward motion. Eddie kept step with her but the idea of forward motion was no longer an attitude that he could readily inhabit.
The walls were dabbed with photographs of decorated officers.
Eddie’s eye caught on the photo of William Fry medalled for confronting and disarming two robbers in a jewellers off Holborn. William Fry stared at the camera amazed.
The caption alongside the photo stated it had been taken in 1935.
A moment in time but for Eddie and the rest of the current officers of the Metropolitan Police it was what remained of William.
Like what remained of me, thought Eddie. The photo and the remains could both deceive. Neither changed so onlookers could come to believe they were seeing the whole of the man. And there was a moment’s truth captured. But just a moment.
DCS Cox’s runner’s body had moved on.
Get over yourself, thought Eddie. At least take on the pattern of moving forward. It was the professional thing to do.
As was to acknowledge DCS Cox’s performance in Room 711. “That seemed to go well,” said Eddie.
Behind Eddie, DS Battle made a noise of agreement.
“It was necessary,” said DCS Cox and turned her face to Eddie.
“You’re on that Gospel Oak thing today,” said DCS Cox.
Eddie wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement.
He provided a response: “The Royal Free’s passed the train driver as fit to give a formal statement.”
“Two days, no more,” said DCS Cox arranging the days she was advancing on. “If it’s suicide call it.”
Eddie nodded: “You know I will.”
DCS Cox held Eddie’s gaze for a moment. Her phone peeped.
DCS looked at the phone and broke stride.
“There’s a meeting with the Chief Constable,” said DCS Cox. “That’s sudden.”
Called from on high. Eddie knew it was pointless to ask why. You were called to meet with Chief Constable Sully you would come out of it well or ill. The Chief Constable would always come out good.
Eddie asked: “When?”
“Now,” said DCS Cox as her attitude once more pivoted forward.
Coming toward the lifts from the other end of the corridor was Detective Chief Constable John Selwyn.
DCC Selwyn headed up Human Resources and Logistics for the Metropolitan Police. His narrow face was pricked with two blue eyes and divided by a long nose. Big ears were stuck each side of the narrow face which was topped by thick, grey hair. His gaunt form occupied a trim blue uniform.
DCC Selwyn thin lips said: “Stand by your bed, lass.”
DCC Selwyn was a northerner and thirty years in the Met had not worn the northerness from him.
Quick, blue eyes watched DCS Cox pocket her phone.
“Real police officers being notified, must be serious,” said DCS Selwyn and his thin lips smiled.
Logistics in DCC Selwyn’s telling were not real policing. DCS Cox and the Central Murder team were.
You either sort of loved DCC Selwyn or you sort of hated him.
DCS Cox, despite herself Eddie knew, was in the sort of love camp. Mostly.
“I heard a pol got topped,” said DCC Selwyn. “Might be the big one.”
DCS Cox’s face became a query.
DCC Selwyn tapped one of his jug ears.
“Heard with these very ears,” said DCC Selwyn.
“Fuck,” said DCS Cox.
“Indeed, lass, indeed. But it’s only hearsay at the moment so keep it under your hat.”
He looked at Eddie and Justin and for a moment his face hardened.
Eddie knew that you didn’t get to DCC by asking nicely.
“All of you,” said DCC Selwyn.
“You’ve also been called in by the Chief Constable?” asked DCS Cox.
“Of course. All the top people to put their hands to the pump.”
DCC Selwyn pressed the button to call the lift.
DCS Cox turned to Eddie and Justin.
“Get back down to Sam and Kate. Not a word to them yet, you tell them to wait . . .”
“Hold you horses, love,” said DCC Selwyn.
DCS Cox looked at him: What?
“Read the message on your phone,” said DCC Selwyn.
DCS Cox fished out the phone, read the message.
“The Chief Constable wants us mob-handed,” said DCC Selwyn.
“Right, change of plan. Eddie you’re with me,” said DCS Cox. “Justin get back to the third floor. Your instructions stand.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Justin.
Eddie heard the slightest of delays as Justin overrode his ambition.
The lift pinged open.
“Where’s your DCS and DCI?” asked DCS Cox as they stepped in.
“Logistics only get a DCS. You’re Murder,” said DCC Selwyn and smiled. “Carol’s already there. She’s quicker than me. Younger. You’d have thought childbirth would have slowed her.”
Three months ago DCS Carol Cormack had given birth to a daughter. Within two weeks of the birth she was dealing with work from her Tottenham home.
Eddie felt a spark of jealousy at Carol Cormack’s parenthood. He quickly snuffed it out. It wasn’t Carol’s fault.
It wasn’t anyone’s, he told himself.
The lift door closed.
“The Prime Minister?” said DCS Cox.
“If I had to take a bet that would be the one,” said DCC Selwyn.
The information ran off Eddie. It was another job. It was what he did.
He heard DCS Cox inhale.
Eddie knew that she was thinking of how to navigate the mess that was to come.
The dangers there.
Dangers and opportunities were things he now knew only in the head. They were there with the rest of the junk, he could see them but he couldn’t care about them.
See yourself. Know yourself.
The important thing was not to rush from the scene. A running man attracted attention.
Danny broke down the Nemesis Vanquish, placed the pieces into the carrying case.
People were sounding off below. Traffic had halted on Whitehall backing up to Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square.
Drivers leant on their horns.
It was a cacophony that would buy Danny time.
Danny reviewed the roof of the old Ministry of Health.
Concrete cover, air conditioning vents, two pigeons alighting on the east facing wall.
Nothing had changed.
Danny stepped back into the old Ministry of Health building.
Beige coloured walls, blue carpeted floor. The carpet was old and thick which made it a bugger to clean.
Danny turned to his left.
Things would be disturbed for a few days and then they would settle.
Some things might settle differently but most would be the same - the carpet of this hall would still be a difficult clean.
He would still be a cleaner.
Danny moved left where Vinny’s cleaning trolley was parked outside the cleaning cupboard.
Danny added the Nemesis Vanquish carrying case to the cleaning trolley. One thing among the mops, buckets, boxes of tissues, dusters and bin bags.
He ran a check. He was fine. The trolley was set up fine. Vinny when last seem was leathered and so fine.
Outside was still a din so no-one had yet established control.
Danny had the opportunity to exit while control was established. He also had an alibi.
He opened the cleaning cupboard.
Vinny was spread-eagled on boxes of paper towels.
A small line of dribble was falling into the bucket Danny had left for Vinny to throw up in.
Danny checked the bucket.
Danny could hear the rest of the cleaning crew in the building preparing to leave.
They would be drawn to the Whitehall side of the building by the commotion.
“Time to go, Vinny. Cleaning’s over.”
Danny kept his face friendly, his words distinct.
A motion from Vinny.
“Time to go, Vinny. Cleaning’s over,” repeated Danny.
Vinny opened bloodshot eyes.
Danny said: “Office workers will be here.”
Danny bent to Vinny, managed to get him upright.
“Let’s get you clear before any questions.”
Vinny stunk of beer and cider and the good time last night.
“I’ve still got a job?” said Vinny.
“This stays between us,” said Danny half carrying Vinny from the cleaning cupboard. “One time only.”
Vinny nodded, looked like he was going to throw up but held it.
“Grab the trolley. I’ll get you down to the van,” said Danny.
“I didn’t mean . . .” said Vinny.
“Just don’t do it again.”
They were moving, Danny pushing the trolley with Vinny along for the ride.
“I owe you,” said Vinny.
“We cover for each other. But one time,” said Danny.
They reached the lifts.
Danny selected the basement.
“I’ll go on the wagon,” said Vinny.
“Just not drunk at work again,” said Danny and set Vinny’s goal to achievable.
The PCDB badged van was in the Ministry of Health car-park. The agreement was that they would be out by eight freeing up space for those who ran the Ministry of Health.
Danny peeped open the PCDB van.
“Get in the passenger side,” he instructed Vinny. “I’ll load the stuff into the back.”
Vinny with a drunk’s confidence got into the passenger seat.
Danny emptied the cleaning trolley’s buckets of water onto the car-park floor, lifted the trolley into the back of the van.
When he climbed into the driving seat Vinny was still working his seat belt.
Danny leant over and clicked it closed.
“Better safe than sorry,” said Danny.
They exited the Ministry of Health car-park onto the Embankment.
Traffic crossing the Embankment was jammed north.
Nothing was coming south onto Westminster Bridge.
Danny took the bridge.
The lift doors opened on the top floor of the Metropolitan Police building on Victoria Embankment.
DCC Selwyn, DCS Cox and DCI Smith stepped out.
In front of them was a desk manned by a thirty-something Asian woman.
“A northern lad, a lesbian and her oppo to see the Chief Constable, Ms. Sengupta,” said DCC Selwyn.
Eddie almost shook his head but stopped himself.
Everybody was aware of the DCS’ sexuality. She had made sure of that. She had also let it be known that she didn’t consider it a topic for casual discussion. People tended to avoid the matter, some calculating what advantages promotion-wise would accrue to the DCS.
All accept DCC Selwyn who brought up the matter at inopportune moments.
Ms. Sengupta looked at DCC Selwyn. And smiled.
Ms. Sengupta was definitely on the love-him side when it came to DCC Selwyn.
“Get away with you, John Selwyn,” said Ms Sengupta.
Ms. Sengupta was even beginning to use DCC Selwyn’s phrases back at him, thought Eddie, but a south London accent clung to each of her words.
“The Chief Constable is waiting,” said Ms. Sengupta
DCC Selwyn pointed to himself: for me?
Ms Sengupta pointed to the door behind her. The Chief Constable’s office.
“All the crew here?” asked DCC Selwyn.
Ms Sengupta tutted and said: “DCC Brown, DCC Patient. DCS’ Collins, Williams, McAntric and Wick. And Carol Cormack of course. And Mr Muir.”
Carol Cormack was DSS Selwyn’s advance party. Mr. Muir was Brian Dexter’s boss.
David Muir was a civilian like Ms Sengupta, thought Eddie, but of much less use.
“Well, let’s not keep those straight, southern boys waiting,” said DCS Selwyn and stepped around Ms Sengupta’s desk toward the Chief Constable’s office.
“Phones on silent during the meeting,” called Ms Sengupta.
DCC Selwyn gave a thumbs up: he understood.
Danny pulled the PCDB van into the staff car-pack of St. Thomas’ Hospital, across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament.
“There’s a job here?” said Vinny slumped on the passenger seat.
PCDB also held the cleaning contract for the Urgent Care wards as St Thomas’.
It was PCDB first foray into the NHS. Professional Cleaning Danny Blake was running the Urgent Care contract at break even. But beyond the Urgent Care contact was the chance of the general cleaning contract and an associated boosted income for PCDB.
If it happened Danny already had the business expansion plan mapped out.
“The main crew’s finished for the day,” Danny answered Vinny. “A small standby on call in case of an emergency clean.”
It was the standby that ate up the profit on the Urgent Care contract. A necessary sacrifice.
Danny undid his seat-belt.
“Just wanted A&E to have a look at you,” said Danny.
A helicopter thumped overhead.
Vinny said: “I’m okay boss. Just one too many last night.” His words bumped up against one another.
Danny opened the van door. “In case the insurance come nosing around. They won’t but in case.”
“Bloody insurance,” said Vinny managing to undo the seat belt.
“Don’t come to work drunk,” said Danny.
Sirens were sounding from police cars, from the ambulances dispatched from the ambulance station south of Waterloo.
The cars and buses on Whitehall were jammed in, they along with people walking in the road would have to be negotiated.
Order was returning but Danny still had a few minutes.
It was all he needed.
They headed into St Thomas’.
St Thomas’ A&E was an airy space. Boldly lettered signs clung to white-washed walls into which the small smells of the sick were embedded.
Clean but could be cleaner, thought Danny. He would have portioned out the space and allocated a cleaner to each partition.
Any complaints, you could readily identify the cleaner responsible but mostly assigning a cleaner a particular area of care engendered a sense of ownership in the cleaner. You could see the difference that you made and that gave you a pride in your work.
He could make things better, each cleaner could make things better.
Danny advanced, guiding a wavering Vinny as though he was a cleaner’s trolley.
The A&E was spotted with patients.
Most of the staff was turned from the patients to a large TV screen hung to the front of A&E.
The screen was showing a muted version of BBC News 24 with subtitles. The news was presented by a white man and a black woman at a desk.
Both seemed a little ruffled but excitement showed in the way they held their bodies.
Danny knew why.
As the news was Live the subtitles did not quite fit with the movement of the presenters’ mouths.
The presenters were detailing a report of an incident in Westminster.
Staff and most of the patients were watching news of events less than 500 metres away mouthed at them with out of sync subtitles.
Danny and Vinny reached the registration desk.
A sign recorded the desk as continuously manned for 1276 days.
There was no one at the desk.
Danny waited a minute.
A further block lettered notice announced that Everyone Will Be Seen By A Medical Practitioner Within 15 Mins.
Depending On The Outcome Of The First Assessment There May Be A Longer Wait.
“I want to sit,” announced Vinny.
“Register first. Get you a slot,” said Danny and leant across the desk.
“Excuse me,” Danny declaimed.
A trim, middle-aged Filipino nurse turned from the screen.
“I’m sorry,” said the nurse. “Did you see?” and gestured at the TV screen.
“My friend needs to be seen by A&E,” said Danny. “We’ve been here for ten minutes, maybe longer.”
The nurse looked a little nonplussed but recovered with: “They’re saying the Prime Minister’s been shot. Some of the tv crew may have been injured.”
Which was why there was no reporting from the scene, Danny realised.
The first sign of the scene at Downing Street coming under control.
Danny knew no tv crew had been hit.
“My friend,” said Danny. “Or, rather, my employee.”
“Of course. Sorry for the delay. You can imagine.” And the Filipino nurse was in action.
“You arrived ten minutes ago? We normally record the time you present but . . .” and wafted a hand at the tv screen.
“No worries. More like fifteen,” said Danny.
The Filipino nurse knocked fifteen minutes off the time and entered it onto the computer.
“Name?” he asked.
“Vinny Sullivan,” said Vinny. “Vincent.”
The nurse leant forward and sniffed.
“Bit early to be tying one on,” she said.
“Last night and he tried to come to work,” said Danny.
“Work being?” asked the nurse.
“Cleaning. We have contracts at lots of government places. Professional Cleaning Danny Blake. I’m Danny Blake, the owner.”
The nurse looked at Danny.
“Nice to see an employer concerned for his employees.”
He didn’t mention insurance.
Or the alibi.
Danny and Vinny had been at St. Thomas’ for fifteen minutes. The medical record stated it.
The Filipino nurse called for a doctor.
There were more bodies than chairs in the Chief Constable’s meeting.
The Chief Constable was small for a police officer, his body rounded as though for cheerfulness. He would watch what happened.
The Chief Constable never offered a comment so you were left guessing as to what was the correct strategy.
Even under tension the Chief Constable played the game with chairs and people.
Under pressure you stuck with the familiar, thought DCS Cox, you did not allow your routine to fall apart.
All the DCS were standing, waiting for the DCC’s to be seated.
DCC Selwyn was the last.
He took his seat.
There were more DCS than chairs.
As looks were exchanged DCS Cox took a seat next to DCC Patient the head of Homicide.
She had made a decision and acted on it was what she wanted the Chief Constable to see.
The Chief Constable’s green eyes touched on her for a moment as other DCS awkwardly sat leaving colleagues standing.
She had been decisive, the others indecisive.
The DCCs and their DCS were seated or standing around an old, wooden table from the original Scotland yard according to DCC Selwyn.
Chief Constable Selby was at one end, to his left was Mr Muir who headed media relations for the Met. Mr Muir’s thin, still body was topped by a jowled knot of a head that was trained to see how everything could be portrayed to advance the interests of the Met.
DCS Cox was next to DCC Patient a large, bald headed man out of Essex who ran homicide. Seven murder teams covered London. DCC Patient coordinated all of them. DCS Cox and DCC Patient sat on the right of the table along with DCC Brown, a solid, square of a man who headed Robbery. Next to him was DCS Williams who specialised in financial crime. DCS Williams was Asian, his dark eyes constantly moving from one thing to the next. DCC Brown was looking to expand his financial profile which would step on City of London toes. DCS Williams would drive that effort.
Opposite was DCC Young who headed Traffic. DCC Young looked like everyone’s kindly uncle. He had worked murder before shifting to traffic. Standing behind DCC Young was DCS McAntric. DCS McAntric was ginger haired, pale skinned and young for a DCS. He had been brought up the ranks following the Uber debacle.
Next to them was DCC Selwyn and DCS Carol Cormack. DCS Cormack, blonde, blue eyes, shoulders like a wardrobe regarded the others at the table as though they were a logistical problem and if you didn’t see that it was your loss.
Most of them were good cops, each in their own way, thought DCS Cox, but each would be looking for a way forward. As was she.
She had made the first decision, given herself visibility and she was the only black woman in the room.
Do the job but if an opportunity presented be prepared to take it.
There was a hum around the table as the DCS passed their DCC snippets of information.
“A pol,” said DCS Cox to DCC Patient.
DCC Patient blinked slowly.
The Chief Constable started to speak into the hubbub. The other conversations immediately halted. The Chief Constable’s voice was low, the tone unhurried but his body was held in tension.
“We have a report that the Prime Minister has been shot on Downing Street. I have authorised Operation Longbow. We last ran a practise in November and you are all familiar with your roles.”
The Chief Constable let that sink in.
The silence was broken by DCC Selwyn: “So Terry’s running the job.”
“The Counter Terror team is the initial lead, as set out in Longbow,” said the Chief Constable.
Deborah knew that Terry Ted headed up Counter Terrorism. But it was a murder in central London. The only reason Counter Terror was the lead was the political angle.
Terry fucking Ted on my turf.
DCS Cox said: “We’re sure this is political?”
The Chief Constable adjusted to snap back but DCC Selwyn got in first.
“A politician got shot, lass. Keep up,” said DCC Selwyn his face perfectly serious.
The Chief Constable relaxed a little.
He said: “It’s what Longbow calls for. We’ve all practised this. It’s good to see initiative DCS Cox but best if we stick to the plan.”
Perhaps initiative meant the Chief Constable understood her fighting her corner, thought Dorothy. Along with the decisiveness it all added up.
“And you want all officers available,” said DCC Brown.
“As Longbow sets out,” said Chief Constable Sully.
DCS Cox understood that not everything could be delineated by Longbow. She said: “We have an arrest planned overnight. The gay killing from a couple of nights back.”
Chief Constable Sully asked: “Can it be put off?”
“That would entail a risk,” said DCS Cox carefully. And the Chief Constable would have been the one to have taken it. In front of witnesses.
“It’s the bloody Prime Minister. Longbow calls for Central Murder being available,” said Chief Constable Sully.
“Counter Terror have the lead in Longbow and the arrest will only tie up two of my officers for a few hours,” said DCS Cox.
“Them and the uniforms,” said the Chief Constable and pressed his lips together. “If it is set then push on. We may have to draw down the numbers.”
DCS Cox sat back a little. She had gained her point.
And because she had each DCS had to have their say.
The comment from DCC Selwyn had shut off the Chief Constable’s admonition, realised Deborah. It had allowed her to gain her point in good odour.
She looked at DCC Selwyn’s face which appeared to be following each DCS comment.
Each officer in the room was a colleague in that they had all been tasked with working Longbow together and each had their parts in that plan but they were also competing for advancement.
Do the job, get on, thought Deborah. Both existed in her as they did in everyone else in this room. It was a question of keeping things in balance.
And each DCS would balance out the two responsibilities differently.
It was a choice, thought Deborah. You made it, you lived with it.
Her silenced phone vibrated in her pocket.
A two-beat vibration repeated three times, twice quick, once slow.
Deborah had personalised Vanessa’s vibration.
But that had been months back.
Things between them had fallen apart over the spring, eventually petering out two weeks ago.
A little vindictiveness but no blood or tears.
In the end they did not fit.
How could they?
Vanessa had always been a little appalled at Deborah’s career as a Met Detective and Vanessa, an actor and an artist, sometimes both at the same time, had done appalled well.
Deborah had encouraged her in both acting and art but over time had come to hear herself say it.
In the end Vanessa had as well.
Deborah slipped out the phone as DCS Cormack’s reasonable voice was hedging logistical support for Operation Longbow with legal and common sense.
You got it?!! read Venessa’s text.
A dead Prime Minister and your ex-lover has a role in the investigation. Deborah understood that it was normal to be excited in the circumstances – a little gross but the guy was the PM.
Not everybody was a Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Superintendent in Central Murder.
Deborah considered texting back but stopped herself.
DCS Williams threw a glance Deborah’s way.
It was done with Vanessa, thought Deborah, over. Time to start again.
Not with DCS Williams, being a bloke he wasn’t her type.
Each around the table had been allowed by the Chief Constable to have their say. Now each had to carry out the tasks set by Operation Longbow.
Each would also choose how to balance the tasks ascribed to them by Longbow with the opportunities that Longbow might offer.
Deborah knew that having a plan didn’t mean that everything would fit neatly into the plan. Look at her and Vanessa, when they had been together each had frantically made brittle plans which had splintered on first impact.
Longbow would adapt to circumstances or it would fail.
Her and Vanessa had taken failure but for Longbow that wasn’t an option. Not if Sully fancied carrying on as Chief Constable.
It was within the restraints of Longbow that Deborah knew she would do her job. Advancement would be the recognition that she had done it well.
You don’t make your own music, she thought, but you could still dance.
A doctor led Vinny and Danny to a curtained cubicle.
“I’m Doctor Sam Finn,” said the doctor.
Doctor Finn was young and appeared determined to give of his best.
He bent to Vinny and sniffed.
“You’re drunk,” said Doctor Finn.
“Was, doctor. Was,” objected Vinny.
Danny said: “Turned up to work like this. Thought it best to get him checked.”
The doctor shone a light into Vinny’s eyes, took his pulse.
“Any sweats or shakes?” asked the doctor.
“No,” answered Vinny.
Doctor Finn looked at Danny.
Danny shook his head: No.
The doctor’s phone pinged.
He studied the message, thumbed a reply.
“We’ll finish up here,” he said to Danny.
Then to Vinny: “Stand up and take off your shirt.”
The doctor considered Vinny, applied a finger to his lower back.
“Any pain here?”
He changed the position of the pointing finger.
“Or here?” he asked.
“No,” said Vinny. “Slept like a log last night. No cricks.”
“Very relaxed,” said the doctor. “Put your shirt back on.”
He reached to Vinny’s face, pulled down Vinny’s right eye.
His phone pinged again.
He checked it. No reply this time.
“Mr. Sullivan, binge drinking is not good for you. Or your colleagues you let down at work.”
Vinny was going to reply but Danny stepped in.
“The doc’s got that one right, Vinny.”
The doctor called up Vinny’s data on a computer, printed a label, affixed it to a rectangular plastic bag.
“I want you to come back and get a blood test. Any time 9 – 5. Walk in. Third floor. Give yourself 5 days to dry out before coming in. No drink in the meantime.”
Vinny looked astonished at the request. “Five days without drinking?” He tried to understand it.
The doctor’s phone pinged again.
“I have to go. Five days no drinking. Then get your bloods done here. Hopefully that will be the end to it.”
The doctor drew back the curtains.
The first of those from the Downing Street incident had entered A&E.
Danny remembered some of them from his rifle scope.
They looked different in real life.
DCC Patient had hung behind to talk to the Chief Constable and Mr Muir when the meeting broke up. There wasn’t seniority among the DCCs but Patient headed up London’s murder teams and that was what this was, thought Deborah. A murder. The Met might need to spin it that way hence Mr. Muir.
DCS Cox and DCI Smith took the lift with DCC Selwyn.
“All hands to the pump,” said DCC Selwyn.
“In the order set out by Longbow,” said DCS Cox.
“Terry Ted gets first dibs. You have to show patience, not piss up anyone’s leg.”
“The first 24 hours,” said DCS Cox. “Every copper knows that.”
“Outside your crew Barry Young was the only one in the room to have worked murder. They think they know it here,” and DCC Selwyn tapped his grey haired head. “Don’t know it here,” and made a circling motion over his flat gut.
“You worked murder,” said Deborah.
“A long time ago for one case that was a mess.”
The Robbins murder, DCS Cox knew. Half the investigating team had been corrupt. John had spent most of his time working the linkages there. That had made him friends and enemies.
“I was never as good as you are at working murder,” he said.
DCS Cox looked at him.
DCC Selwyn shrugged: truth what could you do.
“I know Longbow calls for pulling back officers but we’ll need bodies for the gay killing arrest,” said DCS Cox.
DCS Selwyn pursed thin lips. “What time?”
“Good morning, citizen,” said DCC Selwyn imagining the arrest. “There’ll be less bodies,” he said.
“We’ll work with what you can give us.”
The lift pinged open.
DCS Cox and DCI Smith stepped out.
DCC Selwyn remained in the lift.
“Going down to the canteen, lass. That meeting’s made me starving. And DCS Cormack’s got this. She’s been well trained.”
He winked and pressed the button to close the lift door.
DCS Cox and DCI Smith walked toward Room 333.
The Prime Minister had been killed in central London but they weren’t the lead team.
Danny was heading south with Vinny in a PCDB van.
Vinny lived in Tulse Hill.
“Five fucking days,” said Vinny.
“We’re relying on you,” said Danny.
Above them the sky could not decide whether to cloud or clear.
They stopped at traffic lights outside Brixton Tube Station.
Brixton was mobile phone outlets and organic shops. For Danny who remembered a different Brixton it was like someone had thrown a switch.
Change could be like that, he thought.
The Marks And Spencer peeked out from under the railway bridge offering Easter Eggs to those that passed.
Some things endured.
“Was the fucking Prime Minister shot?” asked Vinny.
In front of them people crossed the road according to the lights.
Danny could not see the change in people he could see in the shops. But the customers must be there, there must be shoppers for the shop.
“Something like that,” said Danny answering Vinny.
Looking at the people it could seem nothing had changed. Looking at the shops everything had.
You saw mostly people or you saw mostly shops, thought Danny.
Danny turned to Vinny: “There are still buildings to clean,” said Danny. “People still need to go to work.”
The lights changed and Danny pulled away, passed Lambeth Town Hall, toward Tulse Hill.
“Then who’s Prime Minister?” asked Vinny.
They were passing blocks of council housing to the left and right.
“Still to be decided,” said Danny.
“Hurry up and wait,” said DI Sam Daley.
“We’ll be ready,” said DCS Cox. “In the meantime I want you to park whatever you had planned for today.”
There were ritual complaints.
DCS Cox raised her hand to put a stop to them.
“Eddie, get onto the Royal Free. Cancel the train driver interview today, say we’ll get back to them.”
“Timescale for getting back,” asked Eddie.
“There isn’t one yet.”
DCS Cox turned to Justin.
“Justin the same goes for you. The drug killings in Lewisham on hold.”
“They’ll wait,” said Justin.
DCS Cox looked at him.
Justin recovered with: “They’ll be there tomorrow,” and spread his arms. “Someone else set my priorities.”
“Soon as you can back on Lewisham,” advised DCS Cox.
“Understood,” said DS Battle.
The DCS turned to Sam.
“The arrest of Trevor Isles is going ahead,” said the DCS.
Sam allowed himself a small smile.
“There will be a reduction in support team manpower. I will let you have the details.”
“Understood,” said Sam.
“Kate, you stick with Sam as discussed,” added DCS Cox.
DC Fowler huddled further into her clothes.
The Gospel Oak case was on hold, thought Eddie. The JP mum had been trumped by the PM.
It was how things were.
The PM case offered more kudos, more opportunities for advancement.
You just had to solve it first.
“Lil’s gone for a lay on the bed.”
“Okay,” said Danny into his mobile.
Danny was passing Liverpool Street station, heading for Hackney. Looking into the bustle of the world you could not see that the Prime Minister had been shot.
It was as if no one noticed.
Some would, of course.
After dropping Vinny at Tulse Hill Danny had tracked east and taken Southwark Bridge across the Thames.
On the phone was Kenny, his sister’s ten year old.
Kenny was staying with Danny at his Hackney flat.
Had been for three years.
Kenny’s mum had decamped for a holiday in Ibiza and had never returned.
She did send the occasional postcode. Never Email or Mobile, those things could be tracked.
Sandra, Danny’s sister and Kenny’s mum, had never been daft in that way.
“She was fine most of the time but then got tired,” said Kenny.
Kenny was talking about Lil , not his mum.
For the Easter Holidays, Danny had arranged for a neighbour Lil to pop round when he was at work.
Though whether this was for Lil to keep an eye on Kenny or Kenny to keep an eye on Lil was open to debate.
Kenny had rung because Danny was running late and Kenny did not get on with lateness.
The Prime Minister had been shot and Kenny wanted Danny’s lateness explained.
Danny thought that he should have rung. He said: “I’ll be fifteen, twenty minutes top. As long as you’re both fine.”
“We had eggs for breakfast.”
Kenny’s brain had a mobility that Danny had lost, or perhaps, Danny thought, had never really possessed.
Kenny’s statement about eggs carried a triumphant tone.
“Not cereal?” said Danny incredulous.
“Eggs on toast. Scrambled eggs.”
Kenny was baiting him.
“I hope you washed up. Scrambled eggs cause such a mess.”
“Me and Lil washed up. We sang a song, it went . . .”
“Leave it until I get back,” interrupted Danny to head off a full song recital. “You can let me hear it then,” he added.
Danny had reached the south end of the Kingsland High Road.
Vietnamese restaurants were dotted between Pentecostal churches.
“x2 = -4,” said Kenny. “What’s x?”
Another shift from Kenny, this time to a Kenny perennial. Kenny liked maths, maps and science fiction stories in that order. Maps Danny understood. Maths and science fiction stories he had mostly picked up from a ten year old.
Danny pushed on past betting shops and launderettes. Less launderettes than there had been. The launderettes had been replaced by organic food shops and cafés whose names were graduate jokes.
What was x? In the three years Danny had been bringing up Kenny he had picked up enough to know that squaring a number meant multiplying it by itself and that multiplying two minuses gave a plus.
“We’ll talk about it when I get back,” said Danny.
He was passing Stoke Newington Police Station. In there they’d be noticing the Prime Minister’s shooting in ways Kenny had yet to.
X2 = -4. God knows, thought Danny.
God and blind Kenny.
End of After (chapter 2) by Writer 3
Chapter 3 will appear in November