It’s been a warm week here in Wales which is very nice for my bones and vitamin D levels. Ferb has been sunbathing himself between cooling off in the shade and having a dip in his paddling pool to ease his hot paws.
Although currently, the local police are not my favourite people at the moment and I do need to blog to explain why in detail but, for now, hate crime sucks and we need laws allowing wooden stocks and the use rotten fruit for throwing at mean people… although that may be a waste of rotten fruit and wood.
I’m fairly certain that Nikki, my main character in C.H.I.S would agree with my thoughts on the police and, I’m fairly certain, that she would have a more effective way of dealing with mean people and sorting out hate crimes. It would be nice to have her walk in and fix our problems, that’s for certain.
Anyhow, on a nicer note, here is C.H.I.S chapter 3… and if you do enjoy it, you’ll be happy to know that Nikki is now ready to waltz onto your eReader or lighten up your bookcase! Yup, C.H.I.S is out now!
And… well… wherever you live, choose your local Amazon store and you’ll find Nikki there! (and although I’ve picked these three sites, I promise it isn’t because I dislike your site at all. It would just take all sorts of room to list every one. Your country is very cool too and Nikki is excited to visit there… just type in my name and you should be able to find it. If not, let me know!
Anyway, without waffling on, here is Nikki’s chapter 3… enjoy!
(Covert Human Intelligence Source)
Copyright © 2020 Jody Klaire.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the author and publisher.
Please note: all scenes are the intellectual property of the author and that online exclusive scenes may differ from the published version.
Like I said, Swansea was a city of two faces and ACC Gemma Freshwater was supposed to be the good side. She was supposed to be an upstanding citizen, a pillar of the community and a straight-laced honest face you could trust.
She sat enthroned in her ivory mega station on the outskirts of the city next to a colossal Amazon warehouse and within a handcuff’s distance of the polluted estuary. In other words, enemy territory and I was twitchy looking at it. Police stations tended to have that effect on me so I stood, rooted to the spot, next to my car.
Several officers, staff and other people in suits strolled up the spotless steps without so much as a shudder at the huge bilingual Glamorgan Police Force badge. I didn’t know a lot of Welsh but I knew that when you saw ‘Heddlu’ plastered on a car, you needed to ditch whatever you’d nicked and run for it.
My personal phone that always sat in my left trouser pocket buzzed at me so I checked it, smiled and swiped to answer. ‘Have you sweated out the vinegar yet?’
‘Mostly,’ Sam said with a grumpy tone but her educated English accent was still soothing. ‘Are you going to ground for your task?’
‘No, I’ll be home after work.’ I smiled as I heard her breath of relief. ‘I’m sorry you had to eat dinner alone.’
‘You don’t usually say sorry,’ she said still with a grumpy tone then something beeped in the background. ‘I have to go, I have a client… call me?’
I grinned only for one of the uniformed officers walking by to grin back. ‘I always call you.’
‘Do you?’ Sam muttered.
‘You don’t think I do?’ I asked trying to hold onto Sam’s voice enough not to get in the car and flee before any officers saw through my disguise.
‘No,’ Sam said, hung up, and I thunked the phone to my chin. I wasn’t grinning now but at least that meant no one was grinning back. Officers had never grinned at me as a kid unless it was when they were slapping the handcuffs on.
What was I doing? I dropped my hand to my car door. I couldn’t go through with it. I might have been able to pull off being a police officer in a town thirty miles away; Yes, Glamorgan was a huge force that spanned the entire south coast and Swansea was a big city but… I couldn’t pull this off. Someone would recognize me. It was a stupid idea. A really stupid idea.
The phone in my right pocket buzzed against my thigh. I kept my cover phone, Michelle’s phone, in that pocket.
‘Alright?’ a community support officer fired at me as he strolled past like a blue banana. They were lucky they hadn’t been around when I was growing up because I would have really enjoyed taunting them. ‘You need any help?’
‘Waiting for a phone call,’ I said with a nod and pulled out my ringing phone to avoid an interrogation. ‘Taylor?’
‘Michelle?’ a groggy sounding man asked.
‘Yes,’ I said offering a smile to a group of uniforms getting out of their riot van. ‘How can I help you?’ I managed to say it without the gritted teeth and eyed the steps up to the front entrance like it was a minefield.
‘It’s DCI Greg Leyshon,’ Greg said, his voice clogged with phlegm. ‘I’ve been told you’re stepping in to help out.’
‘Yes, I met Weatherspoon at the scene yesterday. I’m in reception.’ I dragged my reluctant heavy legs up the steps and held my breath as I headed through the doors. I half-expected alarms to sound and hundreds of armed police to charge at me but the receptionist smiled and waved and the man cleaning the floor winked at me.
‘Good, well… we’re on the fifth floor.’ He swallowed then cleared his throat.
‘Sir.’ I cut the line as a guy in uniform beamed at me from the lift and held the door. It was a packed lift full of officers. I couldn’t cope being in a confined space with that many handcuffs so I waved back and ducked into the stairwell. Michelle Taylor would have to be a fitness fanatic.
The steps up curled around like a wider, blander version of a castle tower which, no doubt, led all the way up to Freshwater’s lair. Even so, I was still a Marine and so steps gave me the urge to practice insertion manoeuvres or climb up the winding bannister to liven things up but DS Taylor was a serious professional officer and serious professionals didn’t climb.
Yes, if Daddy Dearest could see me now, he’d pass out in his cell.
‘Michelle?’ a guy with a huge pirate-style beard said as I stepped out into the corridor.
I glanced around. If I pretended I couldn’t hear, I could pick Sam up and we could run for it. I eyed the CCTV camera in the corner—Freshwater wasn’t the forgiving type—so I plastered a smile on my face and nodded. ‘Yes.’
‘Greg,’ he said and pointed to himself then motioned for me to head into the office. I focused on Michelle’s farmer walk and tried not to look like I was infiltrating hostile terrain.
It was a small office with Weatherspoon sitting at the desk nearest the door; a woman opposite him tapping a pink sparkly ruler to her computer monitor; then, across the aisle, was an empty desk with a coffee cup on it and a computer wrapped up in plastic; on the next desk sat a man with a trainset in full tootle, and opposite the empty desk sat a guy with the most immaculate hair I’d ever seen.
‘Listen up,’ Greg said, eyes worn, face ashen. ‘This is DS Michelle Taylor. She’s come off leave to help us out from Blue Team.’
The guy with immaculate hair scowled up at me. ‘Why do we need someone from Blue Team?’
‘We need all the help we can get, Ben,’ the woman said with a motherly tone and a wag of her pink ruler.
‘Not that kind of help.’ Ben’s eyes glinted but they were red and puffy and one was purpling around the edges. I was surprised he was in work at all.
Greg glared at him.
‘Current case,’ I said hoping it would stop another punch up. ‘Two victims in three weeks, both women in their mid-to-late twenties. Two shots from a 9mm to the spleen and heart areas from behind. Both women were found in the sludge sand near Mumbles. Both had shoulder length brown hair.’ May had been happy to talk through what she had. ‘Forensics haven’t given us much more because of the seawater.’ I relaxed my shoulders and tried not to look like I wanted to climb through the window. ‘DS Sarah Edmunds, twenty eight years old, blonde hair, mid-length. She was shot, twice, in Singleton Park and died at the scene.’
The team stared at me and I waited for someone to produce handcuffs and start the ‘you do not have to say anything’ spiel.
Instead the woman smiled up at me. ‘Both the victims were joggers.’
‘Was Sarah?’ I asked… and there were the daggers from Ben.
Greg’s shoulders slumped and he turned to the window. ‘Yes.’
‘She wasn’t jogging though,’ the woman said and nodded to the man with the train set before turning back to Ben. ‘Was she, Ben?’
‘I’ve answered this.’ Ben folded his arms. ‘I told you we were getting takeaway. She needed to talk.’
‘You can answer it again.’ Greg rubbed over his beard. His hand was bandaged up. Clearly he didn’t punch people often. ‘You’re working with Michelle on this. I want fresh eyes going over everything we have.’
‘Sir,’ Ben shot at him then glared at me. I could tell he was twice the size of Greg from here but sneaking off with your boss’s fiancé when she was killed would stop anyone fighting back.
‘You can use her desk,’ Greg said with a gentle tone. ‘Thanks for helping out.’
He disappeared into an office behind me and I took a seat at Sarah’s desk. Ben had built a wall of plants, coffee cups and something that had once resembled a sandwich but I could still see his immaculate hair and I eyed the coffee cup which looked to have yesterday’s coffee still in it. Weatherspoon, Ben and the other detectives all stared at it with me like they expected Sarah to walk in and finish it.
‘So… any updates?’ I mumbled and pushed the cup to the side. The computer in front had post-its stuck on it. Reminders to fill in paperwork mainly and one stuck to the screen itself saying that May had wanted to see Sarah.
‘We have another body. They recently called it in.’ the guy to my right, Train Man, said. His train set snaked all around his computer that lit up and stopped at coffee cup mountain, paper pile valley and his keyboard. His green tea stank but he seemed to enjoy it. ‘I’m John, DS Wu.’
His train set tootled. Yes, DS John Wu might just have liked trains.
‘Hi.’ I nodded. ‘Are we heading out to take a look?’ I asked because in Blue Team I’d been undercover most of the time and so I hadn’t had to make small talk. I’d gone wherever I needed to and without an escort.
‘We’re taking a look,’ Ben muttered at me and got to his feet. ‘We don’t need you there.’
‘Michelle is here to help,’ Weatherspoon shot back at him. In daylight he was even more ancient, as in ninety years past retirement ancient. His desk was full of scrunched up foil that might once have contained lunch or he was trying to draw electricity from his huge daylight lamp—about the size of a side table—which was on constantly. I was glad that I only got the whirring hum from the back of it instead of what poor Solo Woman across the desk had to live with.
Somehow, this all made me feel more comfortable. I’d joined the Navy at twenty—thanks to Freshwater—and found myself sharing confined spaces with people who made me look completely sane. All we needed was a forced roll test or a nice storm… fond memories.
‘Not to mention the fact that you really shouldn’t be at work, let alone at crime scenes?’ I smiled up at Ben trying for a professional and patient smile but Sam said that when I faked it, I looked like I had wind.
‘I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve been cleared to work.’ Ben pulled his suit jacket with brown elbow patches off the chair. ‘Wu, you come with me.’
‘Me?’ Wu asked as his train shuddered to a stop. ‘I’m supposed to be meeting the guy over in gangs to see if we have a hit on the body.’
‘Yes, I want to check out the scene then go and visit Sarah’s family.’ Ben stomped by to the door.
Wu looked at me. Yes, I was meant to be the person ‘assisting’ Ben but he was welcome to him. Grief or not, it was a hideous jacket.
‘It’s okay, I’ve inhaled enough hair products for one day.’ I tried to cover the snide undertone with a charming smile but, by the look on Ben’s reddening face, I failed.
‘Move,’ he shot at Wu who shoved his chair out and followed like a scolded child.
‘Why does he want to take him?’ Weatherspoon muttered from behind his lamp. I’m trained in family liaison.’
‘To do what?’ I got up and pushed in my chair. My jacket was dark brown leather which was disgustingly expensive and looked it— I needed some comfort while being Michelle.
‘Liaise, of course.’ Weatherspoon wrinkled up his already creased eyes. ‘What did you think?’
‘I was going for insult but I was torn between that and torturing people with bright lights.’ I nodded to Solo Woman who snorted into her coffee cup.
Weatherspoon chuckled. ‘If you don’t cut that out, I’ll insult you, Missy.’
And yeah, he really had just called me ‘missy.’
‘You got it, grandad.’ I squeezed his shoulder and ducked out into the corridor. It felt cooler even if it was as stuffy and claustrophobic. I could almost feel the handcuffs on my wrists. It didn’t help that the internal affairs team had set up an office two doors down and were dragging people in to talk about Sarah Edmunds. I fought the urge to cover my face as I sprinted by and hurried into the stairwell.
The door locked behind me.
‘Clocking off early?’ Assistant Chief Constable Gemma Freshwater strolled down the stairs with two coffees in her hands.
‘Er… um… no?’ I took a coffee and sat on the stairs. ‘I’m not sure how you expect me to help.’ We stared at the grey painted wall, plastic floor and the cheap door with a fire escape map on it. ‘You have internal affairs for this.’
‘And so far, they have a thin story off Ben saying that he met up with Sarah and they were walking through Singleton Park with a takeaway at eleven o’clock at night.’ Freshwater sipped on her coffee. ‘They had a thin story off Greg saying that he was in football training and didn’t find Ben meeting his fiancé at all odd.’ The stairwell held an eerie silence only punctuated with blasts of wind rattling the windows. ‘And Sarah was working on something private. She’d come to see me to ask if I would handle something confidentially if she got me evidence.’
‘You think your own officers are suspects?’ I could see the smile on Daddy Dearest’s face.
‘I suspect there is more to their involvement with Sarah.’ Freshwater stared straight ahead. ‘Maybe she told them about the private side case she was working on and I suspect that they may do something irrational like try to continue what it was and get themselves shot.’ She flicked her hand through her dark hair and I caught the scent of cherries. She always smelled of cherries or menthol gum. ‘And I don’t want anyone else getting hurt.’
‘Do you have any idea what Sarah was looking into?’ I sipped at my own coffee: hot, black, strong, exactly how I liked it.
‘Most likely, it was about her brother Gary. He went missing seven years ago. She was convinced he was still alive.’ Freshwater wiped the lipstick off the rim of her cup. ‘Greg should be at home as should Ben but I daren’t force the issue when they could be targets themselves.’
‘So, what you’re saying is that I’m babysitting pigs—er—officers.’ I rubbed at my forehead. ‘Why?’
‘Because I told you to.’ Freshwater managed a slight upturn of her lips but it faded. ‘I haven’t got the full details yet about the other body in the park but I suspect there is involvement from some faces you will find familiar.’
My stomach lurched and my coffee slopped onto the stair below me. ‘Who?’
‘Simon,’ she said with a sigh. ‘He’s been escalating for some time.’
More coffee hit the stair so I downed my cup. Good coffee. Hard coffee. Coffee so strong it almost burned like a good hard double.
‘If he’s involved, you know Dom will be.’ She held my gaze and finished her own cup. ‘Where little brother goes…’
I crushed the polystyrene. ‘I left Dom. What he does is his own business.’
‘Not if he gets on the wrong side of Harry and your father… hmm?’ She peered at me down her nose. ‘Not if Harry decides Dom needs putting back in line.’
‘Harry is behind bars.’ I threw the cup on the floor and paced around the little landing. ‘You told me he’d never get out.’
‘But you know full well Harry and your father have plenty of ways around it. He thinks he still runs this city.’ She hardened her gaze further. She might as well be holding a blade and plunging it in with every word. ‘He doesn’t. You made sure of that. Don’t you want to keep him where he belongs?’
‘No, I want to leave.’ I glared at her. She knew what she was doing to me and I was sick of it. I was sick of being played. ‘I want to tell you where to shove it.’
She smiled in a way I knew meant I’d lost some fight with her. ‘And you can leave when I’m happy the city is secure.’
‘You never said that meant secure from Harry.’ I punched my thigh. ‘I’ve done everything you asked. I left everything, everyone. Let me go.’
‘I can’t yet. Fix my problem. Find out what happened to Sarah and fix this issue with Simon. It’ll be easy for you. No one will recognise you now.’ She got to her feet, pulled a pack of chewing gums from the breast pocket of her uniform and popped one in her mouth. ‘You might be interested to know that Reese has recently been seen in the Vetch district quite often.’
There was the sucker punch. ‘Dom wouldn’t do that to her. Reese is a child… He wouldn’t do that to her.’
‘She’s twenty.’ Freshwater smiled. Her dark brown hair looked like shampoo commercial but no matter how good looking she was, the coldness underneath was clear. ‘She looks like you.’
‘Then let’s hope that’s the only way she resembles me.’ I turned and stormed down the stairs without so much as glaring back at her. She had me where she wanted me so what else could I do?