Victoria was more than surprised to find Alex at the prison.
"DCI Woods told me. He wasn't sure if Hilton was on his way out so I thought I'd better get out here incase you didn 't make it."
"Well I did make it. Is he still alive?" Victoria said irritably.
"Only just. He wouldn't even speak to me." Alex shrugged. Victoria turned to look at him and she was close to apoplexy. "Er ... what?"
"You shouldn't have even tried!" Victoria erupted. "He asked for me! He always asks for me! Understand?"
"Hey, OK. Keep you badge on." Alex said in surprise. "I told him who I was. I told him you were on your way ..."
"I don' care!" Victoria shouted. "Seven years I've been in his head. I know how it works. Anything he wanted to tell me could be gone now because he didn't get 'the real deal'. Yes he really is like that. Damn and blast it!" She pushed past Alex and the guard opened the door.
"Shame on you, DI Lowry." Hilton's voice was little more than a croaking whisper. He hadn't even the strength to open his eyes. "You know I only deal with the organ grinder, not the monkey."
"I wasn't in the area and I got here as soon as I could. DS McKenzie was here to tell you that I was coming." Victoria tried to keep the anger out of her voice.
"Horse shit. You lose Lowry. I'll be dead and you lose. Emily Jones stays with me. What will you tell her parents?"
"Nothing. I don't need to. Was it an achievement keeping Emily to yourself for five years?" Victoria saw a sick smile twitch across Hilton's lips. "You're a piss poor amature, Hilton. I have one now who's been off the hook for thirty years." Hilton dragged his eyelids open to look at Victoria. "Thirty years, Hilton. Imagine how that feels. Now that's control. You're just a weak old man, shackled to a bed, and riddled with cancer. You fail because the Jones' don't need you. You're nothing." Victoria left the cell and took a few deep breaths. She had to support herself against the wall to stop herself from shaking. "Bastard."
"The Jones family has you, boss." Alex said gently. "You're right, they don't need him. Let the bastard die knowing he's worthless."
"You know much about the case?" Victoria sat down and Alex noticed how pale she looked.
"Some. I know that arsehole has made sure you've done nothing else for seven years. He's of no value, boss, not anymore. Sod him." Alex said. "I'm sorry for going in there. I was out of order and all this is way out of my depth. I'm sorry."
"I doubt he'd have told me where Emily is. He just wanted me to know that he wasn't going to tell me. I'd better go and show face at the station." Victoria rubbed her eyes and stood up.
"Leave your car and I'll drive. You look knackered and he hasn't helped. Seriously, boss, you need to slow down a bit." Alex said in concern.
"Thanks." Victoria managed a weak smile.
Victoria told Alex what she'd found out and Alex confirmed that Phillip Moore did have a class photograph in his box of belongings.
"It's quite an old picture so the lab lads are trying to clean it up a bit. It has markings on it and we're thinking it's the ones who are dead."
"I'd like to get a look at it." Victoria said.
"Well there's a copy of it on the computer. There's one on Moore's laptop too. I wonder if I could clean it up a bit on the computer?" Alex mused.
"Could you?" Victoria was quite impressed.
"Well I've done it with my own snapshots. Want me to try?"
"I certainly do. The labs could have that one for ages." Victoria nodded.
"OK. I'll have to call in at my flat for the editing software. It's on disc. Is that OK?" Alex asked.
"Absolutely. I could do with a bathroom break, if you wouldn't mind?"
"Of course not." Alex turned the car into the street where he lived.
"Nice area. Have you lived here long?"
"About six years. I bought the place with my ex. Well she wasn't an ex then, obviously. She's been out of the picture for two years." Alex explained.
"Oh I see. I'm sorry." Victoria apologised.
"I'm not." Alex laughed. "It all got a bit sour towards the end. Here we are." They pulled up infront of a ground floor flat and got out of the car.
"Doesn't it look better with the lights on? I'm always going home to a dark house and it's miserable." Victoria sighed.
"I have those automatic random switches." Alex opened the door. "Straight down the hall, second left."
"Thank you." Victoria turned round and bumped into a woman coming out of, presumably, a bedroom, seeing as the sitting room door was open.
"Mum!" Alex yelped. "Oh no. What are you doing here?"
"Just a bit of hoovering." Mrs. Sally McKenzie smiled and here eyes smiled too. She was only he same height as Victoria bit she was almost round. Her greying hair was tied up in a bun, and had clearly been the same colour as Alex's at one time. She looked at Victoria. "Hello sweety."
"S ... sweety! Mum this is DI Lowry. Feel free to use the bathroom, boss." Alex stammered in embarrassment. Victoria smiled in amusement and set off down the hall.
"That's a boss? Bosses didn't look like that in my day!" Sally's lovely Irish accent extended to her happy laugh.
"Keep your voice down mum! She's only in there!" Alex said desperately. "I called in for some computer stuff. I didn't expect you here."
"Aw! Am I in the way?" Sally chuckled and waddled into the sitting room. Alex cringed and hoped Victoria had developed spontaneous deafness. Victoria found all this very funny indeed. Poor Alex was embarrassed into a crimson hue. She'd never stopped to think about what her colleagues were like at home, probably because she was he same in both environments. This reminded her on that most people had two separate lives.
"Here you go sweety!" Sally deposited a tea tray on the coffee table and Alex looked round from the drawer he was rifling. He was absolutely mortified. "What's up with you? It's only tea."
"Mum we're actually work ..."
"Thank you, Mrs. McKenzie. I'd love one." Victoria came to the rescue.
Outside in the car, Alex was still cringing.
"I had no idea she was there." He said and Victoria smiled and nodded. "She doesn't always go around doing my housework and such." Victoria nodded again. "In fact, she hardly ever goes to my flat." Another nod. "OK but please don't mention this to the lads, I beg you." Victoria started to laugh, so did Alex. "Ah she's great is my mum and I love her to bits. She crops up in the most inconvenient places, though, and presumes everyone's up for a tea party."
"She's very nice. You look like her." Victoria complimented.
"Except I'm a foot and a half taller. She thinks I'm socially retarded and she also thinks I'm ten." Alex said flatly and Victoria laughed even more. "Not a word of this to this lot in here." He parked the car in the station carpark.
In the incident room, Victoria asked Brian to put Gavin Harrison though the computer. It returned a blank.
"We have this." Charlie handed her a letter. It was purposely badly written, possibly using the opposite hand.
'I have you fucker. I know you fucker. Watch your back. Your back. - G.F.'
"Get it down to the labs Charlie, see if they can lift any prints." Victoria said. "Anything else mentioning G.F?"
"Not as such. There's this though." Don handed her another letter. The writing was so bad that it was almost illegible. The lines were jittering and the words were jumping off the lines on the paper.
'Phillip. I got one too. He's on to us and has been for months. We're going to die. We're going to be killed off like the others and that bastard up at the yard doesn't care. He threatened to set the dogs on me. He's close. I hear him and I know he's here. Who will he go for first? Me or You? Tell me what to do! ! ! - Helen.'
"It's a solid link between the two of them." Alex pointed out.
"Just what I need for the DCI." Victoria nodded.
"He has pages and pages of notes he'd written himself and they were similar to that letter." Brian told her. "He was shit scared and as paranoid as hell."
"Helen Walby still will be." Victoria said bluntly. "Put Jenny Harrison in the computer, Brian. We need to know where the hell Gavin is. We'll plough through the boxes while Alex works on that photo."
"It's been ploughed through." Charlie said flatly. "We do know how to check evidence."
"I didn't say differently." Victoria looked at Charlie. "I'd like to go through it with you."
"So you couldn't do that when we went through it the first time? Some of us do have homes to go to." Charlie stuck his hands in his pockets.
"Charlie, enough man." Alex spoke up. "We're working a case, remember?"
"Chasing ghosts and looking for non existent links!" Charlie snapped. "You look through it if you like. I'm going to see my granddaughter." He headed for the door.
"Oi!" Alex got to his feet. "Just you hang on a ..."
"It's fine, Alex." Victoria said. Charlie turned round and looked challengingly at her. "Congratulations, Charlie."
"You being funny?" Charlie asked suspiciously.
"Do I strike you as having a sense of humour? Go and see your granddaughter." Victoria turned her attention to the box of evidence. Charlie looked at Alex who just shrugged his shoulders. Charlie left and closed the door.
Four hours later and the team had dwindled to Victoria and Alex. Alex had done his best with the photograph and it did look alot more defined. There were five dots over the heads of five pupils, one of which was Alison Bell. Presumably the other four were Phillip's dead classmates. It wasn't much use for identification, they were all children, obviously, but it could be enough for Woods to see that it did need further investigaion.
"There's information galore here but no clear patterns." Victoria was on the floor among the piles of papers and statements. "We have six dead classmates. Gavin Franks is associated with at least two of them, Phillip and Alison. Phillip and Helen were troubled by the same thing so Gavin Franks is probably associated with Helen too. I really do need to talk to her."
"I can't see Woods arguing with that. You have a link to Phillip Moore. I wouldn't mention Alison Bell and Gavin's trial though." Alex advised.
"Not yet, at least." Victoria agreed. "It's going in all directions. I need to speak with Jenny Harrison and re-question Jonathan Franks. I'll need to do that quickly before the DCI hauls my arse over the spikes."
"Well you can't do it at 10 at night." Alex picked up a pile of papers.
"Want to bet?" Victoria smiled.
"I'll rephrase that. It's home time, I have the car, and if you don't go and get in it I'll dob you in to Woods." Alex laughed and helped Victoria tidy up the office.
"I forgot about Charlie's daughter." She said ruefully.
"He was out of order." Alex said. "Yes I know he was eager to see the baby and all that but he's a DC and we're working. Apart from all that he wants to watch his mouth. He's not in a position to give you lip."
"He's a family man, Alex. His new granddaughter is the most important thing in the world to him just now. He felt a bit slighted when I wasn't sharing the enthusiasm. I bet you lot all congratulated him with gusto. I had to be reminded." Victoria rubbed her eyes.
"Look, boss, that isn't the point. He has no need to snap like that and certainly no right. A few manners wouldn't go amiss." Alex said firmly. "Come on. I've had enough of this place for today."
Victoria took a phonecall at 3am. Dennis Hilton was dead. Victoria replaced he receiver and stared at the shadows on her bedroom ceiling. He'd taken Emily with him. How could anyone be so evil? "Screw you, Hilton." Vicoria said out loud. "Emily has me. You haven't taken her, you failure. I'll find her. I'll never stop until I find her. I'll find her and return her to her parents and I'll do it quietly and unnoticed. You won't even get a mention, you bastard." She gave up on sleep and headed for the shower.
Victoria took advantage of her 5am start at the station and made a few phonecalls. The task force for Emily Jones had been cropped to a bare minimum but it was still there. Victoria asked for the evidence to be re-examined and she also requested another set of searches. Woods would agree to that. He'd have to be seen doing something once the news of Hilton's death got out.
"I'll gladly see to it, ma'am. It's Sergeant Chris Green here, ma'am. The supermarket CCTV?"
"Sergeant Green! I thought the voice sounded familiar. We're still plodding along with the Phillip Moore thing. David Proctor was a great help to me. Thanks for sparing him." Victoria was actually quite pleased at this opportunity to stay in touch, as she's promised Constable Proctor.
"He's a good copper. He's on the Jones team too, with me."
"You don't know how pleased I am to hear that. At least I know you two will give it the attention in deserves." Victoria said truthfully.
"Of course we will. Thank you ma'am. Can I do anything else for you?" Sergeant Green asked.
"Finding that little girl would be nice."
"I'll see what I can do. Afternoon ma'am." Sergeant Green said affably and Victoria smiled and hung up.
Charlie was the first in, at 8am. Victoria was in the incident room with Phillip Moore's laptops.
"How are they both?" She asked.
"Who?" Charlie said gruffly.
"Your daughter and the baby." Victoria replied patiently.
"OK." Charlie shrugged. "I'd talk more if I thought you were really interested." He took of his jacket and picked up one of he boxes of notes. Victoria kept quiet. "Vikki."
"Er ... well Victoria if you like." Victoria said in surprise.
"Not you! The baby! Victoria Louise. Vikki." Charlie said in exasperation.
"Oh I see!" Victoria nodded. "Named after anyone? Double names sometimes are."
"Well not you." Charlie said rudely and Victoria bristled.
"No, I wouldn't have thought so seeing as I wouldn't know your daughter if I fell over her." She said testily. "Nevermind. I hope they're both doing well."
"The wife and his mother. The wife's called Victoria." Charlie muttered. Victoria persevered. This was like extracting teeth, slow and painful.
"I was named after two Queens. Victoria Elizabeth."
"I think I was named after the milkman. I never knew my dad." Charlie shrugged his shoulders. "Difference in folk, you see. I wasn't brought up, I was dragged up. Oldest of four and no bloke in sight. What were you? Only child? One of two? Two professional parents? Loads of money?"
"I was an only child, yes. I had a nanny ..."
"Nanny! Jesus wept!" Charlie snorted. "I'll never understand why rich folk have kids. Why have a kid to hand over to a bloody nanny? Pretentious shit."
"I had a nanny because my mother hung herself when I was seven." Victoria said bluntly. Charlie visibly flinched.
"Oh. Well I didn't mean that sort of nanny. That's different."
"I know." Victoria heaved a sigh. "Well I seem to have dragged that conversation into the pits of despair. I'll be in my office. Tell Alex to come in when he gets here." She took the laptop with her and closed the door.
Alex put in an appearance just before 9am. He tapped on the office door and peeped warily around it.
"Alex. Dennis Hilton died last night. I was going to drive into the town today but I'll have to postpone that. I'm going to the Jones'"
"Do you want me to send a couple of the lads for your car, or do you want me to drive you?" Alex asked.
"If you can drive me to the Jones', we'll pick it up after that." Victoria said.
"Fine by me. Boss? Have you and Charlie had words?" Alex asked carefully.
"Nothing monumental. Don't worry about it." Victoria took her jacket off the back of the chair and put it on.
Alex waited in the car while Victoria went into the Jones' house. Alex could tell that her and Charlie had had words. Charlie had been ominously quiet and had a face like thunder. The DI was so difficult to read that Alex couldn't tell if she was annoyed with Charlie or not. He saw the door open, and Victoria came out. Mr. and Mrs. Jones stood on the step and held onto each other. One thing that wasn't hard to read was exhaustion. DI Lowry was drained both physically and mentally. She was far too pale and had telltale smudges under her eyes from lack of sleep.
"How did it go?" Alex asked as Victoria got in the car.
"Pretty abysmally. They only had two hopes and I'm the only one left now." Victoria said wearily.
"Don't describe him as a hope, he never was. You're the hope boss." Alex told her.
"Thank you." Victoria smiled.
"I've got something to ask you. God I feel like a prat. Just say no if you want to. I'll understand completely." Alex babbled.
"Wouldn't it be a good idea to ask me the question first?" Victoria laughed and noticed Alex's ears had gone red. "Alex?"
"It's my mother." Alex grimaced. "I tried and better tried to tell her you were my boss, and a very busy lady. Er ... well she wants you to come round for supper. It's fine though, really it is."
Victoria just looked at Alex in surprise. "I promised her I'd ask you. I told you, she thinks I'm socially inept. Tonight."
"Well I really am socially inept." Victoria said seriously and Alex snorted a laugh. "I'd like that, Alex. Thank you." Alex almost stalled the car.
"Yeah? That's great! I've no idea what she's cooking but she's overran my kitchen. She put me out." Alex laughed in relief.
"Did you think I wouldn't go because I'm the DI?" Victoria began grappling with her professional success versus social failure.
"Partly, yes. I didn't know your views on socialising with colleagues, for a start. My mum's a bit ... old school ... boss. She has rather a flowery imagination. I did set her straight. I told her for all I know, you could have a six foot five hairy arsed bloke in the wings. That put it in perspective for her." Alex rolled his eyes. "Sorry." He smiled.
"Well it was very nice of her to ask me. I'm looking forward to it." Victoria smiled as Alex pulled into the prison carpark, next to Victoria's car. "I need to buy a few bits and pieces, then I'm going home for a nap. I didn't sleep well last night."
"I'd say not. There's nothing at the station that the lads can't handle. Go have a sleep and do not eat anything. Sally's used to catering for a full tribe." Alex said. Victoria laughed and went to her own car.
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©Alex Harvey 2011