Cry Me A River
Janine Lewis is a pregnant, single mother whose life has become rather hectic. As well as juggling three lively children single-handed, she has ruffled a few feathers by becoming Greater Manchester's first female Detective Chief Inspector. At last, Janine has been given her first murder enquiry to head. The body of a local deputy head teacher is found with a slashed stomach and left to die. With a suspect on the run, an elderly dying man and a seven-year-old child as the only available witnesses, Janine knows this won't be an easy case to crack.
Promotion! Detective Chief Inspector. Janine Lewis watched The Lemon’s lips move and she savoured every terse, acerbic syllable. Detective Superintendent Leonard Hackett, as he was generally known, hated giving her this but he couldn’t really put it off any longer. Not unless he wanted suing for unequal treatment: she’d got the experience, done all the training, passed the exams. First woman DCI in Greater Manchester! Certainly the first pregnant DCI the force had ever known. Enough to ruffle a few feathers among the old guard. Send the odd Polly toppling from his perch with shock.
“Thank you, sir,” she beamed, when he’d finished. “I’m delighted.”
Janine went straight to the canteen afterwards, where she knew the rest of the team would be gathered. As she went in, conversation died down and people turned her way. She made them wait a moment – though anyone with an ounce of wit could see the excitement that gleamed in her eyes.
“I got it!” she grinned.
Detective Sergeants Shap and Butchers cheered and the rest of the room gave her a round of applause.
“Drink, Detective Chief Inspector?” Shap offered. There was plenty of time to get to the bar and back.
Janine shook her head, smiling. “I want to surprise Pete – champagne breakfast!”
Shap looked at the clock. “At lunchtime?”
“He’s on nights.” Pete did shifts at the airport, air traffic control.
After accepting more congratulations Janine left the police station and picked up a bottle of bubbly on the way home. Home was in Didsbury, a family house that they’d bought years back before the prices became completely silly. Comfortable, roomy, it suited them fine.
She parked in the drive, opened the front door as quietly as she could and tiptoed through to the kitchen for glasses. Stifling the childish urge to giggle, she sneaked upstairs with the bubbly in one hand and the glasses in the other.
She kicked open the bedroom door and shock slapped the grin from her face.
Pete. Pete with Tina, Tina the cleaner for god’s sake. In their bed! Not alone, not asleep and dreaming of her. Oh, no!
“Ah, you’re up already.” Janine managed before she fled downstairs, tears spilling. Tipping the champagne down the sink. Hurt and furious, taking one defiant swig. The bastard!
Janine reared from her sleep. A dream? No, not just a dream, a bloody re-enactment. Yes – she had got promotion, yes – Pete had been found in bed with the cleaner, yes – he had left her even though she offered to take him back (after all, their fourth baby was on the way).
And here she was three months on and the feelings still raw, close to the surface.
“Mum!” Six-year-old Tom burst into the room and leapt on her. “Is it a school day?” He wriggled under the covers with her.
Janine stretched, and smiled. “Nope. It’s Saturday. And we are having a lie-in.” She lay back, arms behind her head, relishing the chance. Tom mimicked her pose and gave his own little sigh of contentment. But he could never stay still for long and his squirming prompted her to play.
“What’s this doing in my bed?” Janine pretended to be shocked and patted at the duvet. “What is it?”
Tom began to giggle.
“It’s very bouncy.” She pushed him with her hands so he bounced up and down.
“I know – it’s a kangaroo!”
“No,” Tom’s giggling grew. “Not a kangaroo, it’s me, Tom.” He turned onto his side facing her.
Janine grabbed his shoulder. “Ah, no! Here’s a bony bit. Maybe it’s a lobster. Is it a lobster?”
Tom shrieked as she tickled him, his legs kicking.
“What’s this – hair! Blimey o’riley, it’s a woolly mammoth!”
“A sabre tooth tiger!” Tom yelled breathlessly.
* * * *
Two miles away in Whalley Range, Matthew Tulley leant his pushbike against the side of his shed and surveyed his allotment. It was a crisp February morning, the sun was bright and low in the sky and mist still clung in the shadiest corners. Above, the sky was a fresh blue, here and there a wisp of cloud and a trail of jet vapour. Perfect weather for a tidy-up and sorting the spring beds, lifting some of the root vegetables and preparing the drills for later crops. Lesley could use baby carrots and turnips for their evening meal. He went into the shed to get his tools.
When he heard footsteps and the rustle of clothing he turned to see who it was, took a step to the shed doorway. A look of confusion altered his face as his visitor approached. As he saw the knife.
“What on earth,” Matthew began to speak. His arms went up instinctively. The blade caught his left arm, the pain sudden and shocking.
“No!” Matthew grasped at his arm. The knife came again. Towards his belly and up. Stumbling forward, Matthew felt the agony explode through him, his fingers clutching across his front, felt slick warmth and weight. Fell forward, down over the threshold, his face in the mud, the sensation of grit and cold on his cheek and the smell of the dark soil in his nostril mingling with the metallic scent of blood. Matthew Tulley lost his sight, then his sense of smell, the last thing he was conscious of was the rustling sound of someone running through the plot, scraping past bushes and fencing, feet rocking the ground on which he lay dying.
* * * *
Seven-year-old Jade crouched beside the fencing prayed that she wouldn’t be seen. She wasn’t allowed to play on the allotments. If her mam knew she’d be in trouble. Big trouble. No one must ever know. The person was getting closer now, just the other side of the fence. She shut her eyes and pressed herself into the wooden slats, holding her breath. Don’t look, don’t look! When she closed her eyes the picture was like a scary movie, it made her feel sick. The footsteps went past and on. Jade waited, counted to fifty and then a hundred. Cautiously she looked about, listened, and then ran herself. Half expecting a hand on her shoulder or a figure jumping out in front of her. Coming after her next. She reached the alley and ran down to her back yard, slipped in the back door and through to the lounge. Lay down in front of the telly, her heart beating fast in her chest, like a chick’s.
* * * *
Janine loaded the washing machine and rubbed at her back where the weight was beginning to pull. Six months and counting. A May baby. Nice time of year for it – no need to bundle them up so much. But the nights! At thirty-eight she really hadn’t expected another child. Three was quite enough, thank you! Michael was fifteen, after all – technically old enough to father a child himself though she and Pete would skin him alive if he did. They’d done the sex talk, ten minutes of excruciating embarrassment for all concerned, and two weeks later Janine had brought home the pregnancy testing kit. Ironic or what? Watching in dismay as the blue spot appeared, her whole life suddenly knocked sideways by the prospect of seeing her feet disappear from view, her waist double in size, of labour, nappies, feeding, toilet training. Another eighteen years at least of full-on parenting.
Turning for the washing powder, Janine saw Tom pouring his cereal into the bowl and over the table. “Tom!” He jerked at the noise managing to spill more flakes then righted the box. Ten-year-old Eleanor wandered in, a cardboard box on her head with a hole cut out to see. She reached for the cereal.
“Eleanor,” Janine said, “take it off while you have your breakfast.”
“Why?” Eleanor said, though it was a bit muffled.
“It’ll get soggy.” Janine rescued the milk from Tom and poured some into his bowl and cup.
Tom picked up a straw and started blowing bubbles in the milk; it frothed over the top of the cup in a big ball of bubbles, like a geodesic dome. Eleanor took off her cardboard box and sat down to eat.
Tom stared fondly at his creation. “An alien world,” he breathed. Janine shot him a warning glance. Any more bubble blowing and the whole thing would collapse, making even more mess.
“What makes wind?” Tom asked thoughtfully.
Was it the moon, or the tides? Janine struggled, her mouth working. She should know this.
“Beans!” Eleanor supplied.
Janine slung two pieces of bread in the toaster and then began to clear up the lunchboxes and PE kits which had been left since the day before. Eleanor was messing about with radio – tuning into different stations. She’d not found anything she liked. Had stopped searching in fact as she’d got more involved in her impromptu mixing. The telly was on too, blaring from the next room. Janine tried to tune it all out. Tom was stalking round the kitchen in carnivore mode, hands shaped like claws, his teeth bared in a fearsome growl.
“Lunchbox.” Janine instructed her daughter like a surgeon requesting forceps.
Eleanor passed it. “Lunchbox.”
Opening it, Janine took out a sodden note. Smoke began to pour from the toaster setting off the manic bleeping of the smoke alarm. Tom dived under the table. Grabbing the brush, Janine shoved it up and hit the re-set button on the detector. She chucked the blackened toast in the overflowing bin without a second glance.
“Get dressed,” she said to Tom. He left the room like a jet fighter. Janine unfolded Eleanor’s note from school. Read the heading. Head Lice Outbreak.
“Great!” Janine said sarcastically, scratching at her own head. “Are you itchy?”
Eleanor nodded. Something else for the weekend list, thought Janine.
Janine had started doing the shopping list when her eldest child Michael surfaced. Still in his pyjamas, with his headphones on, he began to hunt through the cupboards in search of food. Given the chance Michael browsed, like some sort of animal that had to eat its own body weight every day. A teenage thing. But until she’d gone to the supermarket Janine knew there was nothing much for him to find.
“There’s no cereal,” he complained
“I’m doing a list.”
Janine gestured to her own ears – take them off!
Michael ignored her. He peered in the fridge. “And there’s no cheese.”
Janine began to mime, moving her lips and throwing her arms about as though she was telling him a long and dramatic story. Michael fought to hide a grin.
* * * *
Old Eddie Vincent had woken late, barely slept if truth be told, and was drawing back the curtains when he saw the lad coming off the allotments. The lad running, stopping to recce at the alley like a fugitive, breathless and scared. Lad was obviously up to no good. Probably been caught thieving and used the allotments to get away. You could reach the old railway line from here, wasn’t only foxes that made use of that to escape notice. Eddie winced as the pain caught him again. Needed his tablets. He turned away from the window and shuffled across the room. Tired. Always tired now.
* * * *
Dean Hendrix had legged it, straight off. No messing about. He knew they’d come calling, they always came calling. Usually lads his own age with a copper’s sneer on their faces as they asked their questions in some sort of police speak that came out of the ark: on the night in question ... at the time of the aforementioned incident.
Shit. He kicked the settee and paced up and down in front of it, fists balled and his heart skipping too fast for comfort. He grabbed the video and pushed it in the machine. Flung himself down on the leather couch which made a farting sound. The tape started and he watched, frowning and uneasy as he clocked what was going on. He hit the remote, eject.
Swallowing, short of breath, he rubbed his hand round the back of his neck, gathering the hair there into a short ponytail. Should he stay or should he go? The old Clash song sprang to mind, his knee trembling in a spasm as if he was tapping his foot to the remembered beat. Hadn’t any option. They’d bang him up for years. He thought of Paula and pushed the thought away.
He leapt up and ran upstairs. Filled a holdall with clothes, slid the cover off the battery compartment of the cassette radio and pulled out the baggie containing the last of his stash.
Downstairs again he put the video and his flick-knife into a carrier bag and put that in his hold-all. He picked up his house keys, couldn’t take the Datsun, he was waiting for a new starter motor. He’d have to bus it.
Dean checked his wallet and got his passport from the drawer in the kitchen. You never knew. Flicked at the pages. Crap photo, looked like he’d just thrown up, skin the colour of porridge and one eye half-shut and his hair, that was before he grew it, a right mess like a bush stuck on top of his head. How could he have walked around looking like that?
He pushed it in the side pocket of the bag and checked round the room. Morning paper; wouldn’t do to be leaving that here. Blow his alibi. He’d go to Douggie’s. If they found him, he didn’t know if Douggie's word as to his whereabouts at the time in question would be enough but it would have to do for now. ’Cos if he had to sort anything else out his frigging brain’d melt.
He rang Paula on his mobile. Call messaging on. He began to speak as he zipped up his bag. “Paula, look, erm I’ve had to go away for a bit. Erm ...” He knew he was messing it up. “I’ll talk to yer later.” He picked up the hold-all, looked about. “Paula,” his throat felt dry, he hesitated then spoke again. “I love you, Paula.” End call.
He pocketed his mobile and made for the front door, pulled it shut, locked the mortise. Adios. He never looked back.
* * * *
The kids were squabbling about the computer again. Janine was trying to referee.
“It’s my go ... it’s not fair, “ Eleanor complained.
“Michael ...” Janine began, “come on, let Ellie have a go.”
“I’ve only just started,” he protested.
“Phone,” Tom announced.
“See who it is,” Janine sent him to answer it.
“He’s lying,” Eleanor said.
“You’re lying,” Michael retorted.
Tom wandered back in with the phone. “You’re The Lemon, aren’t you?” he said clear as a bell.
Janine horrified stopped in her tracks.
“Mum,” Tom piped at the top of his voice. “Mum, it’s The Lemon!”
Janine snatched the phone from him, she’d told him about this before. Talk about embarrassing.
“No, no!” she hissed at Tom, “Mr Hackett.”
She stepped into the hall, her face aglow, and tried to sound unruffled. “Sir?”
Ringing her at home, on a Saturday. Her own enquiry at last? A bubble of hope rose in her chest.
“DCI Lewis, can you come in?”
“Yes, sir. Right away sir.”
Try and stop me, she thought. Murder. It must be murder.