After (chapter 6)
by Writer 3

6

Deborah was eight years old and her mother was unwell and Deborah knew that mum was sad as mum’s quick fingers worked her hair into cornrows.

The digital clock on the kitchen wall showed 9:15.

It was a school day and mum was almost done.

Although there were no signs of bottles in the tidy kitchen, among the breakfast smells of mum’s coffee and Deborah’s milky cereal, and underneath them yesterday’s baked beans and rice and chicken, Deborah’s nose picked out the trace of Babycham.

Mum’s friend Mr Davis hadn’t been around for a while.

Mr Tun, Deborah’s white-bearded, primary school teacher, would be taken with Deborah’s new look. Her mum had told her that and had added: Who wouldn’t be as pleased as Punch?

Mum was making lovely patterns with her hair.

It would be special.

Even Mr Tun would see that.

But Mr Tun, his bewhiskered face mournful, had pointed out that Deborah was once again late for school.

Mr Tun had not seen what mum had said he would. He did not understand that Deborah was special.

DCS Cox was sitting in a Portacabin on Old Oak Common.

The morning sun laced through the Portacabin’s plastic windows, hung in threads on DCS Cox’s dark jacket and dark skin.

Mr Tun had not seen Deborah as special. Vanessa had seen the opposite, toward the end of their time together complaining that Deborah acted as though she didn’t need anyone, that she was bloody unique. Mind you, considered Deborah, that was from a woman who framed every conversation as being about her.

Vanessa could be: Me, me, me which was bloody ridiculous.

Could she not see herself?

DCS Cox had given her team orders and sent them away.

*

Carla was sitting in an armchair in Adam’s flat, number 212 of Martin Court. The late morning light speckled the fear and suspicion that lay around Adam’s place.

Adam had been sent home along with all the other workers at Old Oak Common after being interviewed by the police.

Now the police were in his home for another chat and Adam, whose wife Joanne couldn’t get away from an urgent task at Hackney Council, had called Lil who had bumped into Carla and Carla had tagged along for support.

Adam may be a prat, thought Carla, but the police were the police.

The boys in blue were dressed in suits and one of the pair sported an open necked shirt but they may as well have been in uniform.

The younger of the two, DS Battle, had suggested that he and the older officer DI Daley should question Adam in private.

“Just questions are they, then why can’t we be staying,” Carla had objected and placed herself in an armchair.

DS Battle had started to object but DI Daley had silenced him with a glance.

Adam’s chubby body dressed in a blue shirt, grey cardigan and black slacks was arranged on a worn, yellow sofa.

Sitting opposite Adam in an armchair of a similar yellow was the homely bulk of DI Sam Daley. Standing behind the armchair occupied by DI Daley was DS Justin Battle.

Carla watched from an armchair off to one side. Alongside her, Lil was perched on a hard-backed chair dragged in from the kitchen.

DI Daley asked Adam: “Can you confirm your whereabouts at six a.m. this morning?”

“Joanne can confirm them,” said Adam.

Adam’s pale face was drawn, his small, blue eyes moving nervously across the genial expression of DI Daley and the blankness that DS Battle had assumed.

“Joanne being your wife?” said Sam.

“My partner,” corrected Sam.

“Anyone else can confirm your whereabouts around six a.m. sir, other than your partner.” Sam’s West Country burr layered the words at Adam.

“I saw Bill Kendell from flat 513 at the lifts around 7:00. But he’s a close mouthed bugger,” said Adam.

“We will speak to Mr Kendell,” said Sam.

Carla sitting in Adam’s armchair thought: Danny had turned up and left bloody tissues all over his kitchen that morning.

Carla kept her mouth shut and kept watching.

*

DCI Eddie Smith and DC Kate Fowler were travelling from Old Oak Common to the Ministry of Health to complete the interviews of the cleaners who had been present at the Ministry of Health when George Osborne had been killed. The DCS had reckoned they could complete the interviews and manage the Zip request.

The Zip request was more immediate, thought Eddie, but the cleaners’ interviews were necessary work. They could not let the second killing unsight them from the first.

Kate’s dashboard clock showed 10:55. Through the passenger window, above Edgware Road and Kate’s Ford, blue sky spattered amid streaks of cloud.

Kate’s mobile cheeped. Kate checked the sender but did not bother with the message.

“Not Zip?” asked Eddie.

“No, sir,” said Kate manoeuvring her Ford in front of a single decker bus which had to slow pulling away from a bus-stop.

“A couple of seconds saved,” said Eddie commenting on Kate’s manoeuvre. He decided against mentioning the inconvenience of the passengers.

“They add up, sir,” said Kate advancing on a hybrid BMW.

Kate was still a little put-out about the DCS assigning the blood work to Sam and Justin, thought Eddie. She needed to be clear, to be there with the cleaners. “We need to be focused on the cleaners, not let the second killing distract us,” said Eddie.

Kate looked for a way around the BMW.

“It was our blood, sir,” said Kate.

“The DCS made a decision as to her best allocation of resources to solve the crime,” said Eddie. “That’s what this is about Kate, it’s not a competition.”

“If we’re all agreed on that,” said Kate and took the BMW on its left.

In doing do she forced a cyclist off the road and onto the pavement.

“For fuck’s sake,” said Eddie.

*

In the portacabin on the Old Oak Common site DCS Cox reviewed the initial contact reports from the teams she had sent out around Old Oak Common.

There were plenty of complaints about the local Council, roadworks, noisy neighbours, even the passage of planes over West London heading for Heathrow but no positive sightings of the shooter.

Apart from Mr. Edritch.

And he had been half-cut at 8:30 in the morning.

The teams were still out knocking on doors, talking to people but as they got further away from Old Oak Common the chances of their turning up anything decreased.

DCS Cox’s mobile pinged.

The text from Forensics reported that no match had been found for the blood recovered from the scene on the police database.

Even when the shooter left traces they could not be used, thought DCS Cox.

And the lack of a match would mean that Sergeant James McMannon who had taken a shot at someone he could not identify would be in deep shit.

If there had been a match on the blood Sergeant James McMannon would be a hero, as it was he was the villain.

Funny, thought Deborah, how things could turn.

DCS Cox stood, parked Sergeant McMannon. Her head refocused the investigation of the second killing on Adam Parson and the Zip van.

*

DI Eddie Smith was interviewing cleaner Alice Oppong. Morning was turning into afternoon outside the Ministry of Health.

Eddie and Kate had divvied up the cleaners between them. Eddie was interviewing in Conference Room 217 of the Ministry of Health. Kate had taken Room 221.

The white walls of Conference Room 217 were hung with photographs of GP Surgeries. Most of the Surgeries, Eddie noted, were rurally set.

Alice Oppong had disarmed Eddie at the start of the interview by offering him a chocolate button. Eddie had shook his head then remembered to say: ”No, thank you.”

During the rest of the interview it became clear that for Alice Oppong the day had been normal up until the killing of George Osborne.

“So you saw nothing, Ms. Oppong?” said Eddie.

“Mrs,” corrected Mrs. Oppong. “And I saw lots of things but you said you are looking for something out of the ordinary.”

“Yes,” admitted Eddie.

“Then, nothing,” said Alice and smiled cherubically.

There was a knock on the Conference Room door.

Eddie’s face made an apology for Mrs. Oppong as he answered the knock: “Come.”

Kate’s freckled face popped around the door. “When you have a moment, sir,” said Kate.

Eddie nodded: of course. “A few minutes,” he said.

Kate closed the door.

Eddie took out a card with a telephone number.

“If you remember anything about that day,” said Eddie and passed Alice the card. “Please don’t hesitate to call that number.”

Alice took the card and stood.

“I will rack my brain,” said Mrs. Oppong cheerfully.

A happy smile for Eddie and Alice left Conference Room 217.

Kate stepped in.

She sat where Alice had been sitting.

Whereas Alice had projected happiness, Kate looked excited.

“We may have a discrepancy , sir,” said Kate.

Eddie remembered that excitement. It was a long way from him now.

“What is it?” asked Eddie.

“One of the cleaners,” said Kate and consulted her iPad. “Elijah Morgan was taking a morning smoke. To smoke he has to be outside Ministry of Health property. Elijah is a by the rules guy and he was standing just outside the exit of the Ministry of Health underground car-park at 7:36 on the day PM Osborne was shot when he saw a van exit.”

7:36 was too late for Danny Blake and Vinny Sullivan, thought Eddie.

“Did he recognise any logo on the van? The driver?” asked Eddie.

“He wasn’t paying attention, sir. He was listening to the radio and was focused on that,” said Kate.

“But there was a van?” said Eddie.

“There was, sir,” said Kate.

“And he is certain as to the time?” said Eddie.

“Yes, sir. He was listening to Premier Radio on his headphones, Premier is a Christian station and they had given a time check as the van exited, 7:36. It stuck in Elijah’s mind,” said Kate.

Eddie offered a silent, partial hallelujah. They had a van where there should not be a van. They could not identify the van occupants but it was something to work with.

Eddie stood. “Let’s have a chat with Elijah Morgan,” he said. “Nail things down.”

“He’s waiting in room 221,” said Kate.

*

DS Justin Battle rapped on the door of flat 513.

They were here to check on Adam Parson’s story, thought DI Sam Daley and turned his head to the sun whose light seemed to be tangled between Martin Court and Herbert Court.

The registered tenant of flat 513 was Bill Kendell.

The door was opened by a large man run to fat.

The man looked between DS Justin Battle and DI Sam Daley as DS Justin Battle produced his warrant card.

The man’s form strained against a blue denim shirt and black jeans. His greying hair was growing out of being cut short and hung around a small nose and pin-prick brown eyes.

He showed no interest in DS Battle’s warrant card.

“Bill Kendell?” asked Justin.

The man allowed his attention to drift to the warrant card and then to Justin.

“Mr. Kendell?” prompted Justin.

The man inclined his head.

Justin took that as a yes.

“We would like to ask you some questions in connection with an investigation we are pursuing,” said Justin.

Mr Kendell’s gaze moved from DS Battle to DI Daley.

The gaze was looking to catch on any irritation, thought Sam. “You are not the subject of our investigation,” said DI Daley.

Mr Kendell kept his attention on Sam.

“Did you see Mr Parson from 212 at 7:00 this morning, sir?” asked Justin.

“7:00?” said Mr Kendell.

*

The walls of room 221 were decorated with pictures of patients of different ages and different backgrounds.

Elijah had confirmed Kate’s precis of the incident.

When pressed by Eddie as to the identity of the van or the driver Elijah had said: “I can only see what God lets me see.”

Eddie had looked at him

“It is enough,” said Elijah.

How could it be, thought Eddie, but did not ask the question of Elijah.

“That’s all you remember seeing?” said Eddie.

“It is what I saw,” said Elijah.

Elijah had the sort of confidence that played well with juries, thought Eddie. It did not mean that Elijah was right or wrong but his God given confidence made juries believe.

“If you remember anything else, sir,” said Eddie handing Elijah a card with a number to call.

Elijah regarded the card seriously.

“Of course,” he said.

When Elijah had left the room Kate commented: “Sure of himself, wasn’t he?”

“If that was what he saw it was what he saw,” said Eddie and considered that faces of the patients that decorated the wall.

“Contact St Thomas’. We need to talk to Nurse Reyes, double check Danny Blake’s time of arrival at A&E,” said Eddie.

“On it,” said Kate.

You looked at the smiles on the face decorating the wall for long enough and the smiles could seem painted on, thought Eddie.

Kate made the call to St. Thomas’.

Nurse Reyes next shift would start at 7:00 tomorrow morning.

After relying the information to Eddie and getting a nod in return, Kate booked a slot with Nurse Reyes for 7:00 a.m. at St Thomas’ and hung up.

Eddie and Kate worked through the remaining cleaners. Unfortunately there were no further smokers.

Eddie and Kate travelled back to Victoria. You carried out plans, thought Eddie, moved from one thing to the next, shook things up, hoped the killer would drop out and that you would recognise him.

Kate lurched her Ford in front of a Toyota Hybrid which squealed on its brakes.

She did so while fielding a call from Zip.

Kate hung up. “Fuckers,” she said and turned to Eddie.

“Traffic,” Eddie reminded.

Kate’s head snapped forward.

“Zip are still running our request past their lawyers,” said Kate.

Kate whisked her Ford around a middle-aged motorcyclist.

“Are things coming together or are they coming apart?” asked Kate.

Eddie thought that for him there was no longer a difference between the two. You did the job. You followed the rules. And that was enough.

But he could remember when it wasn’t.

“It’s the first day of the second killing,” said Eddie. “We do the job.”

*

DCS Cox had received reports from Eddie and Sam.

Things were moving.

Only Zip was proving an obstacle.

Deborah took out her mobile.

Her tirade ended with: “You get me the head of Zip on this number in 30 minutes or I’ll issue an order for his arrest. Got that?” and hung up.

She was playing the bad cop.

DCC Patience was the good.

*

Eddie stood at a coffee machine in an alcove on the third floor of the Metropolitan Police building in Victoria. He had ordered coffee, white and the machine was thinking about it. Through a window to the left of the coffee machine he watched as the last of the afternoon light leeched out of London.

Toward the end , when she had been confined to the limits of a bed, Clair had told him: “I wish we would have had kids. To leave something behind, you know.”

He knew.

Along the Victoria Embankment a group of tourists were following a man with a flag.

The Chief Constable had called a meeting.

DCC Patience, DCS Cox and Eddie were on the attendees list.

His coffee had been delivered.

A couple of hours until the meeting start. He had to type up his notes on Old Oak Common and the follow up interviews with the Department of Health cleaners and upload them to DCS Cox.

It struck him that he had spent the day investigating the killings of two Prime Ministers. Just crimes, he thought, like any other.

He watched the flag following tourists until they were out of sight.

DI Eddie Smith stood next to DCS Cox at Ms. Sengupta’s desk outside the Chief Constable’s office.

The clock on the wall showed 19:05. The meeting had been called for 19:00

Eddie and DCS Cox had arrived at 18:55 and been held at Ms. Sengupta’s desk.

Eddie watched the image of him and DCS Cox reflected in the mirror of window, night and electric illumination. They seemed clear set against the dark, thought Eddie, like stories in a book.

“Keeping you late?” said DCS Cox to Ms. Sengupta.

Ms. Sengupta smiled wanly and said: “It comes with the job.”

“It can be difficult, last minute instructions,” sympathised DCS Cox.

Sympathy was not a tone DCS Cox often employed with her detectives, reflected Eddie.

Ms. Sengupta nodded at the DCS: “I had to get my cousin to pick up my son from after-school orchestra practice. Had to let the school know she would be picking Robby up. They give us these hoops to jump through,” she said.

“We all have different ones to jump through,” said Deborah. “You do yours for Robby.”

Ms. Sengupta smiled a little wider: you got that right.

The telephone oh her desk buzzed.

Ms. Sengupta answered. “Right away, sir,” she said,

“Go through,” Ms Sengupta said to DCS Cox and DCI Eddie Smith.

DCC Richard Patient was sitting on one of the three chairs arranged before the desk of Chief Constable John Selwyn.

DCC Patient seemed a little strained.

The Chief Constable amicably welcomed the arriving officers.

“Richard’s been keeping me up to date on the broad brush progress of the investigation. You will provide a little more detail.” The Chief Constable’s green eyes picked at them as his words came through a toothy smile.

DCC Patient tried to settle his face to calm before turning it to DCS Cox.

“Please bring us up to date on the progress you have made, Detective Chief Superintendent,” said DCC Patient.

Easy as pie, thought Eddie, as Deborah addressed the Chief Constable.

“We are following four avenues of inquiry,” said DCS Cox.

She raised a finger. “One: bloods. We have recovered blood from where we believe the shooter operated. The shooter was engaged by a member of the British Transport Police. The bloods came back negative from the Police database.”

Another finger went up. “Two,” she said. “The shooter gained entry to the Old Oak Common site at 6:05 by use of a reportedly stolen pass. The owner of that pass is being actively looked at, as is his story that he was not on site at 6:00 a.m. That story is so far holding up.”

“Old Oak Common has 24 hour security?” queried the Chief Constable.

“They do. The shooter would have passed a manned security post. We queried the security guard he came up blank.”

“The entry wasn’t on film?” asked the Chief Constable.

“No video, sir,” said Deborah. “They had guards.”

The Chief Constable pursed his lips.

Eddie could imagine the Chief Constable thinking that you could rely on cameras in ways you could not rely on people. Perhaps he was right.

“Three,” continued DCS Cox. “We have a possible witness. He stated that the shooter left the Old Oak Common area in a Zip van.”

“Reliability of the witness?” asked the Chief Constable.

“He was half-cut at 8:30 in the morning,” said DCS Cox. “But he was coherent.”

The Chief Constable’s face shadowed but he said: “The Zip van?”

“Four,” said DCS Cox. “We have calls into Zip. They are running things past their lawyers before they respond.”

“Past their lawyers? We have two dead Prime Ministers,” exploded from Chief Constable Selby. He pulled himself back. “Let me have the contacts you are using at Zip. I’m briefing a Cabinet sub-committee this evening. They may have an interest in Zip’s position.”

“I’ll forward you the contact details,” said DCC Patient.

“Okay,” said the Chief Constable. “I see movement. DCC Patient will keep me abreast of developments.”

Chief Constable Selby looked at Deborah.

“Let’s get this done,” said the Chief Constable.

“Yes, sir,” said Deborah and rose.

Eddie stood with her.

Through the Chief Constable’s window Eddie saw how the great mass of night squatted on Victoria, its dark bulk pricked by street lights.

There had been no need for him to be at the meeting.

It was a feeling that had inhabited him on and off since Clair’s death - no need for him.

Deborah was leaving the Chief Constable’s office.

He followed.

*

Danny looked at Lil.

He was laying on his bed, she was standing at his chest of drawers saying something he could not quite catch.

Danny could remember Lil’s body taking his weight as he had crossed the distance from her Skoda to Herbert Court. Once inside the flat she had laid him on the bed and gone to check on Kenny. Minutes ago that had been. In those minutes he must have drifted off. He tried to focus as her words wrapped themselves around the things of his room.

“Kenny’s fine,” repeated Lil. “Barely noticed you were gone. That’s good parenting, right there you ask me.”

Danny groggy with drugs from Dr. Graham’s surgery did not respond.

“I’ll stay over,” said Lil. “We’ll talk in the morning.”

*

DCI Eddie Smith rubbed his eyes.

It was coming up on ten p.m. and they had been over every single thing. At least, it felt like that. But Eddie knew they had not covered every single thing. They couldn’t. They had made their judgement calls.

DCS Cox had just gotten off her mobile after fifteen minutes being stroppy to a suit at Zip.

Although, thought Eddie, these days it probably wasn’t a suit, more tee-shirt, jeans and trainers.

Even dressed like that you knew they were a suit.

DCS Cox called DCC Patience.

DS Battle was discoursing on his and DI Daley’s interview with Adam Parson.

“Did you look into any Pete Young connection?” Eddie asked Justin. Pete like Adam resided in Hackney.

“We were focused on our task. There wasn’t any Pete Young connection,” said Justin.

“How do you know if you didn’t ask?” Eddie snipped. It was late and they had been at this all day.

“That wasn’t our task,” snapped back Justin.

“Our task is to find the killer. A link between Adam Parson and Pete Young would be of interest,” pointed out Eddie.

“To fucking who? You saying we didn’t conduct our interviews correctly?” Justin dared him.

“The interviews were conducted correctly,” interjected Sam Daley.

DCS Cox hung up her phone.

Sam glare at DCI Eddie Smith.

“Problems, gentlemen?” asked DCS Cox.

“Eddie was questioning our interviewing of Adam Parson. I pointed out that the interviews were conducted correctly within the parameters we were given.” Sam’s voice recited his case. The parameters had been given to Sam and Justin by DCS Cox.

“I expect my officers to carry out their orders but to use initiative,” said DCS Cox and looked at Eddie.

DCS Cox asked Eddie: “What was your criticism of DI Daley and DS Battle’s interviews?”

“It wasn’t a criticism, I just wondered whether Justin and Sam had asked Adam Parson if he had crossed paths with Pete Young.” Eddie tried to keep his tone bland. It did not quite work.

“Funny, that sounds like a criticism,” Justin smirked.

DCS Cox’s shut down Justin’s smirk with a look before she turned back to Eddie.

“We trust our officers’ judgement. So I would not expect Sam, for example, to bring up the Gospel Oak killing in connection with Adam Parson. I expect a focused and relevant interview.”

DCS Cox turned to Sam.

“Reasonable questions such as asking about a Pete Young link do not imply that the interview was conducted incorrectly. Agreed?” said DCS Cox.

Both Sam and Eddie nodded their heads: Yes, ma’am.

As they did Eddie’s peripheral vision noticed Justin flashing a smile at Kate.

Kate’s face arranged to hostile.

Competition could be healthy, thought Eddie, but it could tip into confrontation which would damage the team. He looked around the table. As the evening had drawn out each of them had become more and more dug into themselves, each looking for the breakthrough on their own. It was an easy way for a team to break. Things, he thought, could come apart unless given a direction. It was what DCS Cox had given him following Clair’s death.

He would speak to Kate about her direction. He hoped Sam would do the same with Justin.

DCS Cox’s phone rang.

DCS Cox answered, keeping her eyes on the suddenly bolshie Central Murder Team.

“That’s definite, sir?” The DCS asked the question down the phone line.

The response caused a small uptick of DCS Cox’s lips.

“We’re on it,” said DCS Cox and hung up.

“That was DCC Patient,” said DCS Cox. “Zip’s got something,” and gave them a direction.

*

A bubble of light held off the dark around a Zip van in Tesco’s Finchley Road car-park.

Zip had given two possible sites for the van at Old Oak Common. Sam had begun to question why two but DCS Cox had held up her hand to park the objection and had assigned DI Daley and DS Battle to one that had been dropped off in Barnet. Eddie and Kate had been given one in Finchley.

Zip was still balking at supplying details of the person who rented the van and that decision had left DCS Cox hurling deprecations into her phone at Zip as the detectives had vacated Room 333.

Eddie and Kate worked the Zip van in the Tesco car-park, holding off a slew of white-clad Forensic Officers.

Eddie worked the driver’s side of the Zip van, Kate the passenger’s.

“Something,” said Eddie bent over the driver’s seat, gesturing to stains on the van floor.

Kate peered. “Blood?” she queried.

Eddie stood and looked at the stains on the van floor. “If it is blood we can get Forensic to compare it to the blood recovered from Old Oak Common.”

The night was pushing at the bubble of illumination supplied by Forensic arc lights arranged around the Zip van.

The night would retake this place, thought Eddie, this and everywhere else. It couldn’t be helped but still we constructed these illuminations.

The rear doors of the van were open, Eddie and Kate had worked there first but had returned nothing.

The arc lights lapped at the interior of the van.

Weather heroic or foolish what mattered was that we made the illuminations and worked in their temporary light and that was enough. Eddie knew that It had to be.

Eddie gestured the lead Forensic Officer forward. He and Kate were done with the van.

The lead Forensic Officer’s green eyes glittered like gems in her head.

“Possible blood,” reported Eddie. “Driver’s side.”

The lead Forensic Officer nodded, impatient to get on.

“There are cameras, sir,” said Kate and indicated cameras raised on poles at the car park entrance. The cameras were positioned to cover the car-park.

“Is there security on-site?” asked Eddie.

“A night-guard,” said Kate. “He’s in the store.”

They crossed to the cameras at the entrance to the Tesco car-park. The cameras mounted ostentatiously on ten foot polls overlooked the Tesco car-park. There were two concrete, waist high columns either side of the car-park entrance. The car-park charges were printed on a white board attached to each of the columns.

The boards informed motorists that the car-park had a ticketed entry and exit system with car registration being recorded.

Eddie squatted. There were cameras set into the columns angled at the road running between them. How the registrations were recorded, thought Eddie.

Eddie straightened. Car-parking was free for two hours after that there was a charge.

“Let’s go see the night-guard,” said Eddie.

The overweight security guard for Tesco’s Finchley Road was a middle-aged Pakistani man, Mr. Hassan.

He had already called the store manager when Eddie and Kate sat with him at a formica topped table in the staff break area.

Amid the printed extortions to be nimble and pro-active was a kettle and a box of Tesco Best Buy tea-bags.

“The manager is on his way but he has to travel in from Ware,” said Mr Hassan. “In Hertfordshire,” he explained.

Mr. Hassan appeared to be a genial man, tidy in his black, Eversafe branded security clothing. His security badge was pinned to his top, left pocket.

“We notice that you have cameras on poles overlooking the car-park,” said Kate.

Mr Hassan’s face expressed sadness: “They may not be operational.”

Kate, Eddie noted, did not allow the blow to break the rhythm of her questioning.

“Can you be more specific, sir?” she asked.

“The cameras are not always switched on. Save a little money, you see, for Tesco,” said Mr. Hassan. “They are there to discourage criminal activity.”

“And were they on today?” asked Kate.

“I am afraid I do not know. We are not told when they are on, when they are off,” said Mr. Hassan.

“Will the store manager know?” said Kate.

“He would,” said Mr. Hassan.

They had nothing to do but wait. Eddie wandered back out to the Forensic team. Kate stayed to chat about Pakistan and England and children with Mr. Hassan.

Twenty minutes later Eddie got a call from a Police Constable manning the approaches to Finchley Road Tesco. A man identifying as the manger was requesting entry.

Eddie allowed it and an Audi pulled into the car-park. He watched as the manager of Finchley Road Tesco extracted himself from his Audi.

The manager was a medium sized man, thin, dressed in a black, zip top, blue jeans and trainers.

The Zip van sealed in light and attended by attentive Forensic officers was behind the manager who advanced on Eddie.

He extended his hand.

“Doug Prentis,” the man introduced himself. “Manager of Finchley Road Tesco.”

Eddie shook the proffered hand.

“How can I help?” asked Doug Prentis.

Eddie nodded him into the supermarket.

“There was a van left overnight in the car-park which we are interested in,” said DI Smith directing Mr. Prentis to the staff break area.

Mr Prentis stepped in. Mr Hassan was sitting at the Formica topped table opposite Kate. Mr Prentis looked at Mr Hassan and seemed put-out.

Eddie read it as: are we going to be talked to in the same place? Together?

It wasn’t race prejudice it was class, Eddie judged, and automatic on the part of Mr Prentis.

“Mr Hassan has been helpful to our inquiry,” said Eddie and indicated that Doug should sit at the table.

Mr Prentis sat.

Eddie leant against a wall decorated with inspirational slogans.

“The tickets you issue for car-parking, they include the car registration?” asked Kate.

“They do. To prevent arguments with customers,” said Mr. Prentis.

“Could we get access to these records?” said Kate.

“I’d have to ask permission but I don’t see why not,” answered Mr. Prentis.

It was a good answer, thought Eddie.

Kate moved on.

“You have cameras at your car-park entrance and exits,” said Kate. “But I understand that they are not always operational. Could you let me know: were they operational today?” Kate’s tone was steady.

“They were not,” said Doug.

“And who made that decision?” asked Kate.

“We have a schedule worked out for each month at the start of the month,” said Doug.

“And who works out the schedule, Mr. Prentis?” asked Kate.

“Central IT guys. Depending on footfall, any public holidays in the month, a bunch of factors,” said Mr Prentis.

“Could anyone at this store influence the decision of the central IT people?” said Kate.

“I could have a say but rarely do,” said Doug.

“This month did you have a say,” asked Kate.

“No,” answered Doug.

That would have to be checked thought Eddie standing amid printed inspiration. This was murder: everything was checked.

And you could still miss things.

*

Danny could hear himself talking, stuff about Colin spurting out of him, incoherent phrases and bits of sentences out of any kind of order laying around his bedroom, the unhinged words and their queer coupling saying things he never meant to say.

Lil was sitting in a chair pulled in from the kitchen which was backed up to Danny’s chest of drawers.

His words splashed over her, puddling at her DM clad feet.

And in the background was mum and Kenny, of course, and Kenny’s mum and Danny’s sister Sandra. All were witness to his lack of control.

It was funny what a bullet and drugs could make of you.

*

“There was blood on the driver’s seat and on the van floor.” Kate’s words marched from her, set out the findings from Finchley Road Tesco.

Beside her Eddie kept his face set to interested.

Eddie and Kate sat at the east end of the main table in room 333 of the Metropolitan Police building in Victoria. It was approaching midnight.

Opposite Eddie and Kate sat DI Sam Daley and DS Justin Battle.

Barnet had come up blank and DI Daley’s and DS Battle’s displeasure occasionally broke onto their carefully blank features.

Just chance that he and Kate had got Finchley and Sam and Justin had been assigned Barnet, thought Eddie, logically no fault could be ascribed but however much chance had played a role we could still feel let down.

At the north end of the table DCS Cox’s attention was on Kate but Eddie would bet that she was aware of Sam and Justin’s disappointment and would not be displeased. Sam and Justin had come up empty but they wanted to make the breakthrough and DCS Cox encouraged that hunger in the detectives in her squad. As long as that hunger expressed itself within the team, thought Eddie.

DCS Cox said: “So we can place the Old Oak shooter at Finchley Road Tesco?”

Kate took a moment before responding.

She had been surprised when Eddie had asked her to lead on the oral presentation of the report but she needed to be trained and one of the things she needed training in was presentation of reports to senior officers.

Eddie had not expected Kate’s drill sergeant tone given her empathetic interviewing technique but it worked for her and he could see how the space between Kate and her drill sergeant presentation might offer Kate an opportunity to consider her response rather than just reacting.

“We have to wait on Forensic before we can link the blood in Finchley Tesco to the blood from the shooter recovered from Old Oak Common. We should have that in a few hours,” the words marched from Kate.

“Any idea what time the Zip van arrived at Finchley Tesco?” asked DCS Cox.

“No, ma’am. On entry drivers collect a timed ticket which has their registration printed. If they exceed 2 hours in the car-park they pay on the way out. The entry ticket was not discovered in the Zip van,” said Kate.

“So the shooter, or whoever, recovered it?” said Justin.

Kate’s eyes were hard when they turned to Justin. “That would be our working assumption,” she said.

Kate’s words stumbled a little. That would be the surprise at Justin’s interjection, thought Eddie.

Kate returned her focus to DCS Cox.

“The Tesco car-park keep records of all entries and records payment for those who stayed for more than 2 hours. So if we assume that the shooter arrived in a different vehicle, then drove the Zip can to Old Oak Common, drove back to Finchley Tesco in the Zip van, abandoned it there and left in the original vehicle . . .”

“What if he walked in?” asked Justin.

A pause from Kate before: “It was an assumption.”

A little more drill sergeant, noticed Eddie, she was becoming used to Justin’s interruptions.

“Let’s go with he drove his own vehicle to Finchley Tesco, for now,” said DCS Cox.

Kate nodded and continued: “So if the shooter was in the car-park for more than 2 hours in his original vehicle there would be an entry record and a record of payment the problem is we don’t know which vehicle. The records include time of entry, time of leaving and car registration. If we can pull those entry records we can identify the vehicles entering the car-park up until say 10:00 a.m. We can expand from there. We need our IT guys on this. As we don’t know which of the cars was the shooter’s car we will be looking for anyone who saw a Zip van or its driver on the morning of the shooting. We have issued a be advised notice to the DVLA that we will be looking for car owners for all the registrations we can pull off,” said Kate.

Her tone, Eddie noted, had settled back to drill sergeant.

“What did our IT guys say?” asked DCS Cox.

“We put a request in from site but if you could get behind it,” said Kate.

“If they don’t have people working on it within the hour I’ll get the Chief Constable involved,” said DCS Cox. “The response from the DVLA?”

“Neutral,” said Kate. “But it was late, ma’am.”

DCS Cox nodded: that could also be left with her. She made a note on her iPad.

“On the bloods,” said Justin. “I know it came back negative from the Police database but couldn’t we ask for access to NHS records?”

DCS Cox looked at Justin: that would open a can of worms.

She said: “That decision is political. It has been taken. We can’t use NHS records in a police inquiry.”

Justin began to object.

DCS Cox interrupted him: “We will work with what we have not what we wish we had.”

DCS Cox’s phone sounded.

“Hello?” answered DCS Cox.

The clock on the wall had run past midnight.

Another day had begun, thought Eddie.

“Yes,” said DCS Cox into her mobile.

The small hours had been when Clair had died.

Drugged against the pain, her eyes vacant she had passed at 2:22.

Eddie had noted the time, he hadn’t been able to help himself.

It was when his world had fallen in on itself.

He had dug himself out by focusing on work, the job of banging up criminals.

He didn’t see anything else and after a while it was as though there wasn’t anything else. Not healthy, he knew, but it was what he had.

And most days he passed through 2:22 with barely a blip.

“Ok, sir, we’ll set things up at this end,” said DCS Cox and hung up.

She looked at the detectives around the table. “Zip came through. The Finchley Tesco Zip van was hired from an address in Hackney.”

*

Sipping air like a swimmer, taking only what was needed.

The sound of his own breathing broke over Danny, his head busy with how years back mum had dated a swim coach, Graham.

Graham had been a decent guy, regular for one of mum’s, straight up with a bearing that Danny now understood as military.

For a lump of February and into March his mum had dragged him aged seven to early swim mornings at Kings Hall. They had been the only occupants of a bank of spectator seats from where they had watched fit boys and girls reel off lengths.

Well, he had.

Thinking back mum had mostly watched Graham. Graham was tall, slick you could see he was a swimmer.

And Graham had been good for mum, she had cut back on her drinking to get herself out to early swim meets. For a few weeks Graham had been the real deal.

So had the ones before and after but Graham had seemed normal with a mortgage and a Ford Escort and, it turned out, an estranged wife who hadn’t been quite so estranged.

Danny hadn’t thought about Graham in years but the deliberate pattern of his breathing brought it back.

Those early mornings mum had worn a Kings Hall top, one size too small, to exhibit her support. It had hugged her curves.

At the start Graham had been attentive but that had come to an end and Graham had broken it off with a speech delivered on front of practising swimmers. Perhaps he had thought the crowd would stop her going for him.

Danny had watched from the spectator seats as Graham had told mum that he was going back to his wife as ripped teenagers had sliced through the pool.

Mum didn’t cry when Graham had expounded how his wife was pregnant and ‘It hadn’t been planned’. She had strode out, Danny following.

In this flat on the third floor of Herbert Court she started back in with the drink.

That had been Thursday.

It had taken until Tuesday to drink him off her.

On Wednesday she had sobbed with some nameless guy passed out alongside her.

She couldn’t help it, it was what she knew.

The real fucking deal.

One reason Danny had never learnt to swim.

*

“Zip has the hirer recorded as a Mr D Defoe,” said DCS Cox to the detectives gathered around the table in room 333 of the Metropolitan Police building in Victoria. “You know the address. What I want you doing is a quick check of databases, the internet as I organise an arrest team.”

“We’re going to arrest someone?” queried Eddie.

“The arrest team is just to secure the area. We have no case for arrest, not yet,” said DCS Cox.

“Daniel Defoe,” said Sam.

DCS Cox looked at Sam: what?

“Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe,” said Sam.

Eddie remembered as a kid at William Patten Primary School on Church Street, Hackney being told by a bespectacled Miss Watson that the author of Robinson Crusoe had been local.

He had thought: from Hackney to a desert island – how cool was that.

“Daniel Defoe was local to Hackney, ma’am,” said Eddie.

DCS Cox absorbed the information. “Could be a coincidence. D Defoe and the address. Run the checks now,” she instructed.

Three of the four detectives started to type at iPads or phones.

Sam used his phone to make a call.

“Fuck,” Kate softly swore.

Eddie looked up from his screen.

“Problem?” asked Eddie.

Kate shook her head and slid the screen out of view, got the next one up. “No,” she said.

“You’re not going to find the address,” said Sam hanging up his phone.

“Explain,” said DCS Cox who had the witness statements taken at the killing of Nicky Morgan in front of her.

“The address doesn’t exist,” said Sam and shrugged: he didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news.

“How do you know?” asked DCS Cox.

“I have a guy at the Royal Mail,” said Sam. “A friend,” he added.

“How can you get a bank card assigned to a false address?” protested Kate.

“It was pre-pay. Maybe the rules aren’t as stringent as for a normal bank card. Anyway, the address does not exist.” Sam’s West Country burr pointed out.

DCS Cox’s phone sounded.

She answered,

“Where was the Zip van picked up?” asked Eddie.

“Neville Road,” said Justin.

“And delivered back to?” said Eddie.

“Woodlea Road,” said Justin.

The shooter had picked up the Zip van in Hackney and left it in Hackney.

It could be the shooter was looking to put them off the scent with that and the Daniel Defoe moniker.

Or it could be he had not thought of getting caught.

“All of you on your screens now. BBC News,” said DCS Cox.

Eddie slid the BBC 24 hour news channel to his screen.

A twenty-something man in dark trousers and a white, open necked shirt stood in front of a group of sombrely dressed people.

The tv captioned the man Dylan Morgan.

Dylan Morgan said: “I am offering a reward of £100,000 for information leading to the arrest of the murderer of my aunt, Nicky Morgan.”

“Can he do that?” asked Kate.

“He just has,” said DCS Cox.

“We’ll get all the crazies now,” said Sam.

“Not our problem,” said DCS Cox. “We did not agree to this.”

“Still, the calls will have to be processed,” said Eddie. “And that will cost resources and be an interruption. A distraction.”

“The calls will not be answered by us,” said DCS Cox and raised the flat of her hand to stop further comment.

“Let’s focus on what we can control,” said DCS Cox. “Think of the progress we have made in less than 24 hours. We need to keep that up. And to do that we need to be focused.”

Eddie agreed. It was just that with this announcement from Dylan Morgan would they be allowed to?

“Let’s set follow up interviews with Pete Young and Adam Parson for this morning. Before the interviews I want you to visit the scenes in Hackney where the Zip van was picked up and dropped off. You do that first, I’ll follow up with uniforms going door to door asking if anyone saw the Zip van and the driver,” said DCS Cox and turned to Eddie.

“Any word from Forensics about the blood in the van?” she asked.

Before Eddie could answer DCS Cox’s phone rang.

She answered and said: “Yes, sir,” into her mobile.

Eddie mouthed DCS Cox his answer: No.

DCS Cox nodded.

Eddie wondered if the nod was for him or for whoever was on the phone.

“I’ll be right up,” DCS Cox said into her mobile.

The interruptions, thought Eddie, had already begun.

*

Carla was watching the tv through a bottle of Morrisons Vodka.

Hip-hop was playing on her Google Home speaker which Pete had wangled her at no cost.

She turned down Google when she saw Dylan Morgan on the tv.

When Dylan was finished she put away the vodka bottle.

This could work out.



End of After (chapter 6) by Writer 3
Chapter 7 will appear in July