فصل 03

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فصل 03

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CHAPTER THREE

Time to wake up

A week later, on Monday evening at about 11 p.m., Jane was sitting in her flat, a glass of wine in her hand, and Julian the cat curled up on the sofa next to her. The suitcases had gone from the sitting room and were piled in her bedroom, and most, though not quite all, of them contents were now in cupboards and drawers.

It had been the first flat she had looked at when she had come down for her interview and she had liked it immediately because of its river view. Unfortunately, she had been in such a rush that she had not really noticed that the yellow flowery wallpaper was not to her taste. Never mind, redecorating would give her something to do outside work.

It had become clear after a few days that the department needed a shake-up. Unlike Manchester, where the police force struggled hard to contain violent crimes and drug-related offences, her new colleagues seemed to take a more relaxed approach. When she enquired about the steadily increasing number of car thefts and house break-ins, Jane was informed that these crimes were probably being carried out by just one or two people - most likely in-comers to the area from the north, they had said pointedly.

‘You know it’s five per cent of the population that commits ninety-five per cent of the crime?’ DC Tony Reilly told her. ‘Well, round here it’s one per cent. It’s just a matter of working through the usual suspects. Easy!’

Despite the apparent simplicity of the action needed, the crimes had remained unsolved for too long, Jane thought. So, while mindful of George Ferguson’s warning about making changes, she decided that her department needed to try a different approach.

Earlier today she had asked Detective Inspector Pete Fish to come into her office. She knew she ought to discuss her ideas with him, despite the fact that, in their first meeting, he had not been especially communicative.

‘Yes, ma’am, what can I do for you?’ he had asked this morning, as he leant against the door of her office, a large man with broad shoulders and a slightly overweight stomach. He said ma’am in an American accent for a joke, and he was grinning in a way that was annoying. He had looked pleased with himself, as if he knew something that she didn’t.

Just then the phone by her elbow rang, bringing her back to the present.

‘Yes?’ she said.

‘Sorry to disturb you, ma’am,’ said a voice she thought was PC Plumb, ‘but a body has been found.’

‘What? Good grief! Who said nothing ever happened around here? OK, I’m on my way. Give me the details.’ Jane felt herself switching into a familiar routine, one that she had imagined she would not have to use very often in this rural location.

‘It’s at Chittleham Farm, up on the moor. You take the main road out of Pilton and first left after Yarde Gate Cross. If you’ve got a map, you’ll see it,’ PC Plumb told her.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll find it. Tell the rest of them to get out there, will you?’

‘The Fi… I mean… DI Fish is already out there. He was on duty this evening. He said to call you.’

Nice of him, Jane thought. She could just imagine his grinning face.

Outside, the usual south-west wind was whistling through the quiet streets and rain hammered on the roofs of the houses and parked cars. Jane found her car and, with her map open on the seat next to her, she set off a little anxiously for the moor. She would not have chosen this particular night to go driving around in the dark in an unknown part of the countryside.

While she tried to concentrate on the task of finding her way, her thoughts kept slipping back to her earlier conversation with Pete Fish.

‘OK, Pete,’ she had said. ‘Come in and shut the door.’ Standing in front of her desk, she had noticed that she was as tall as he was.

‘All these stolen cars,’ she had begun, looking him straight in the eyes. ‘We really should do something about them.’

‘I think we’re doing all we can, ma’am,’ Pete Fish replied. He stopped talking in his American accent and yawned slightly.

‘I’m afraid I don’t agree, Pete,’ Jane told him bluntly. ‘Let’s see. What do you usually do? You find someone who you know has committed one of the crimes. Then you persuade him to admit that he has done another fifteen similar jobs. Which is fine. It makes life easy for everyone. But then how do you explain the fact that the rate for these crimes is increasing?’

‘Well,’ Pete Fish explained, ‘the word on the street is that it’s criminals from up north. They come in on our nice new motorway, take a car and drive it out of the area as fast as they can. Then it goes onto the national computer and there’s nothing more for us to do.’

‘Oh come on, that’s pathetic. Do you just sit here and wait for it happen?’ Jane said. ‘How about setting up a few road checkpoints? Or some observation posts?’

‘There are not enough people to do all that,’ Pete said.

‘And why not?’

‘Well,’ Pete said, ‘as you’ll know, we’ve got a “zero tolerance” scheme on street crime operating at the moment. All the drunks, thieves and undesirables that get arrested… well, they have to be transported to prison, to court… That uses up a lot of vehicles and staff.’

‘Zero tolerance schemes don’t work,’ Jane pointed out. ‘The bad guys just move elsewhere.’

‘Possibly.’ Pete’s reply had been short, almost rude.

‘Let’s get things straight right from the beginning, Pete,’ Jane had said, realising that she had to get tough. ‘You may not like the fact that I’m your boss, but I’m here to stay, so you’ll have to get used to it. I’ll discuss zero tolerance with Superintendent Ferguson. In the meantime, I’m going to draw up plans for a major crack-down on car crime and burglaries. It seems to me that life is a bit quiet round here. In fact, it’s so quiet I think you’re all asleep. Well, it’s time to wake up now.’

‘Yes, ma’am.’ Pete had not looked happy. ‘But quite honestly, I think it’ll be a waste of time.’

‘Well, I’ll be the judge of that, thank you.’ Jane turned away to continue working.

Pete went out, shutting the door loudly. Jane could see through the internal windows that he was talking to some of the other men in the CID office. From time to time they looked towards her room, laughing.

Now, thinking about this incident as she was driving along in the dark and the rain, Jane would have preferred not to have to face Pete and the others tonight. She had not particularly wanted to come into conflict with the men she would have to work with so soon after starting her job. And now there was a serious crime to deal with, she could not afford to make any mistakes.

Oh hell! Was that Yarde Cross Gate? She would have to walk back to the signpost. She stopped the car and, taking a torch, walked back to where she thought she had seen a signpost. She reached the crossroads and found that the signpost no longer gave any useful information: one arm had fallen off and the other pointed back to where she had come from. Annoyed, she went back to her car and studied her map, though she could make no sense of it. She would just have to carry on until there was another sign. About three kilometres further on there was a left turn, and a small house on the corner where there was a light in an upstairs window. She decided to knock at the door.

‘I’m sorry to bother you,’ she said to the elderly man who looked nervously round the half-open door. ‘But I’m looking for Chittleham Farm.’ She showed him her police identity card.

He looked carefully at it, seemed satisfied, and mumbled something in a strong local accent. But with the high wind and his strange accent, Jane could hardly make out what he was saying. She understood, however, that she was going in the right direction.

‘Thanks. I’m sorry to have got you out of bed,’ she said and set off again.

To her relief, the old man was right. After a couple of minutes there were blue flashing lights ahead, and drawing nearer, she could see several police cars, their yellow stripes glowing in the dark. A black and white sheepdog appeared barking loudly as she drove down a narrow lane leading to a large farmhouse. She parked and walked towards a uniformed officer, behind whom a group of people were talking excitedly. One of the figures moved away from the group and approached her. It was Detective Inspector Pete Fish.

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