Part Two

 

2004

Chapter Twenty-Two

You can tell by the year that time has passed. Too many years to go into detail about … too many years and events to dissect and analyse.

One thing is certain through it all … I had spent the last nineteen years growing embittered. Relationship after relationship came and went, and the time in between was spent reflecting on how shit life truly was.

Stop.

Hold your horses. More to the point … I should hold my literary horses and just try and put you in the picture about a few things. You know … clarify a few things, and put these things into some kind of perspective … box them … undo the files and spill the proverbial beans. How else can you understand me or my life?

Well … the first few months in Great Yarmouth (whomever thought of Great must have been tripping) were no picnic to say the least. They were, in a word, bollocks. And if you want more than one word they were big fat hairy camel bollocks.

As I said earlier, Jo didn’t seem bothered about the move, and after two months in Norfolk, told me why.

She was leaving.

Leaving me there … on my own.

Logic and reasoning told me this was okay; it was the pain in my chest that argued otherwise. Jo’s counter argument was she had only agreed to move to make sure I settled in okay. Very noble and sisterly.

Bollocks to that.

She went on to tell me her life was with Craig, her boyfriend, who had been setting up a flat for the both of them whilst she was babysitting me.

I know … I know. Years have told me that this is what people do when they love each other. They step aside from family … not ‘fucking desert’ them as had I screamed at her. I also know that I was unreasonable …

To say I blew my stack would be putting it mildly, almost euphemistically. My exact words were along the lines of ‘I don’t need you to fucking baby sit me!’ and I’m too much of a lady to tell you the rest.

After my tirade, I watched her. Really watched her. Watched her face crumple and the tears well up behind her eyes. Watched her nod her head, sharply. Watched her rapidly swallow and sit back on the bed and wait.

The comments I made were cruel, and like the injured animal after the attack, I withdrew into the corner to lick my wounds, wounds that for the most part I had inflicted on myself.

Emotionally I was a mess. The two people I loved most in the world had deserted me … left me there to rot and wallow in self-pity. I couldn’t see past it … couldn’t see past that point in my life.

It was too black.

The day she went I just gave her a hug, secretly inhaled her scent believing this would be the last time I would ever see her (how dramatic!), and gave a quick wave to her and Craig and then went inside the house, leaving my parents outside to wave the van off. The van that took Jo away from me.

I cried so hard I had a nose bleed. A cracker too. My dad found me curled up on my bedroom floor covered in blood and went into panic mode thinking I had tried to top myself.

Death by nosebleed. Just my luck.

After the initial discovery, and realisation I hadn’t sliced open my nasal veins with a penknife, my dad put something cold behind my neck and told me to sit up straight, all the while I was performing those little hiccupping noises that people get when they have cried too long and too hard. Like kids, really.

I fumbled around the back of my head and fingered the ice pack, shuddering sobs escaping, bits of dribble escaping my mouth. I was confused. It didn’t feel like ice, crushed or otherwise.

I pulled the pack around and stared at the tea towel that held the cold mystery parcel. He wouldn’t … would he?

He had.

A medium sized bag of frozen peas greeted me, the obnoxious green packaging lying limply after performing its duty.

Well … that was the icebreaker … literally. I threw back my head and laughed … loud and long. Laughed until I felt the dribble of blood trickle down my face once again.

Ah fuck.

Peas to the ready, and I was in position again, little spurts of laughter slipping out.

What a sight! Face smeared with blood and tears, sitting like I had a pole up my arse, clasping a bag of frozen peas to the nape of my neck like my life depended on it.

Maybe in a way it did.

                        ***************************************************************

Weeks blurred. Months flew. Years screamed by. Obviously I still saw Jo … she ended up moving to Norwich with Craig and their little boy, Simon … or as his Aunty Lou called him … Simple Simon.

I went to Uni and I think I shagged half the girls on my course. Don’t get me wrong, there weren’t that many … grin … just enough. As I said before, well … nearly said … I couldn’t commit to one person. Not wouldn’t … couldn’t.

You see, there was only one person for me and I hadn’t heard a dickie bird from her in years. But I still had her red jumper and book.

Bugger. If anyone actually went in the box in the spare room they would think I had the tendency for paedophilia.

How many people do you know that have a tattered red jumper that hasn’t been washed for nearly thirty years hidden away, and with that a tattered children’s book? Not many I guess, unless … nope … not going to mention Michael Jackson.

And do you also know, that on the days it rains, you know, really rains, I still get that jumper out and hold it close to me.

Images of blue eyes, concerned blue eyes… Ash’s twinkling blue eyes … would fill me and leave my heart breaking all over again. Echoes of ‘Here. Put it on … you’ll catch your death …’ would resonate around my head, making me believe she was actually standing before me.

And if I try hard enough … believe hard enough … I can still smell her. Smell her scent enfolded in the fibres of that old red jumper.

                        *******************************************************

Chapter Twenty-Three

Now you need a very brief description of what I do now. I’m what you call and Educational Psychologist … or Ed Psyche. My job is to help troubled teens, and, for the most part, try to bring some order to the havoc that the troublesome teens bring to school.

I work mainly for Norfolk County Council, and my job is to go into schools where and when needed. I enjoy my job most of the time, and like all jobs there is also a shit side to it.

I like talking to teenagers, more so than people of my own age group. I didn’t have to pretend to be something I wasn’t … I was just Ms Turner, or Lou, the person that was there to help them through a sticky part of their lives. I wasn’t just the person who was gay and single … the person who was cold and detached … the person who never spoke about her private life.

These kids were not bad … on the whole that is, as there is always one bad apple yadda yadda yadda. What they had to go through at home was enough to make anybody weep. Abusive parents … physically, emotionally and sexually. And not just their parents either. Siblings, ‘friends’ of the family … other family members. But there were also other factors to consider … alcohol and drug abuse for starters, then illness. I’ve seen kids wail and rant about how unfair life was when they found out someone they loved was terminally ill. One girl actually got home from school and found her mother dead on the stairs … another witnessed his father OD in front of her.

Now. Whatever people tell you, kids are not as resilient as you may believe. Their problems do not stop at the school gates, however much the teachers would like the lessons to carry on as usual. No. Kids try, for the most part. They have to, as other kids smell the weakness and attack.

True. Have you ever heard kids taunt another one because his mother is dying of cancer?

I have.

So, as I was saying, kids, however much we love them … can be little shits. Vulnerable little shits … but little shits all the same.

Consequently, when everything uproots itself … there I am, and although for the most part my hands are tied, I try.

My ambition was to help kids adapt and accept. I think it stemmed from my own upbringing … you know … the broken home thing … the feeling of displacement … the not fitting in that made me want to do this job. Divorce and separation were becoming all too common, and as I said before … kids could only take so much before the dam bursts and their world goes down the pan.

So what do they do?

Loads of things, actually.

They can withdraw, react or attack. Eating disorders are rife … social phobia, school refusing, sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, aggression, depression, some even become elective mutes. I could go on … but then I would detract from what I want to tell you next.

Some of them become evil little fuckers who terrorise, vandalise, steal, antagonise, joyride, drink to excess, take drugs whilst stealing to feed their habit, intimidate and assault people.

One of these gems was Sam Read.

God did I hate that boy.

Hated him with a vengeance unprecedented … hated him and his cock sure grin … wanted to slap the little git senseless, which, in my opinion, he didn’t have the sense of an earthworm … and at least earthworms are good for something …

He had a string of antisocial behaviour writs against him starting from the tender age of nine, and had a curfew, which he was forever breaking … a curfew that entailed an ankle bracelet that alerted the authorities if he was out of his house after eight o’clock.

Do you think that would stop him? No way. It just egged him on. There wasn’t a damned thing the police could do except take him down to the station and give him a warning. He wasn’t old enough, and this he played to his advantage.

But I didn’t get involved until he took his behaviour through the school gates.

And then that’s where I stepped in.

                        ******************************************************

As I said before, he wasn’t a nice boy. Trouble was he thought the world owed him a living and it was my job to show him that it didn’t.

He stole, destroyed and terrorised at any given opportunity. Ted Lawrence, his previous Ed Psyche, had washed his hands of him, mainly because of the reign of terror Sam had inflicted. Obscene words had been sprayed along Ted’s car, scratches appeared, vulgar messages had been left on his answer phone … and all this accompanied by the gradual wearing down by stalking him whenever the chance came to pass.

An out and out bastard.

An evil bastard at that.

Fourteen and knew every trick in the book when it came to the systematic breakdown of a human being.

So, after Ted said ‘No more’, Sam was passed along to me. Whoopee doo. I was not a happy bunny to say the least.

This time the police were involved on a bigger scale. Sam had broken into the school and vandalised everything and anything that got in his way. It was a mess … the Science labs were complete devastation, the computer room witnessed broken monitors and smashed hard drives. To put you in the picture, it was thousands of pounds worth of damage. And the police suspected that there were others involved, as there was too much damage for just one little pipsqueak.

The question was … who? And it was the unknown faces they wanted. Mainly because they had suspects in the pipeline and needed hard-core evidence to get them.

Sam was caught leaving the school premises at 12:36 am on the Sunday morning with a monitor under his arm, and I was called down to the station at 1:45. Pissed off. Big style.

It wasn’t the usual thing for me to do. I had only ever been called down to the station on one previous occasion, and that was for possession of a class B drug. Not mine, obviously. A young girl who was in my care had given my details as a point of contact.

So here I was again, and definitely looking worse for wear. I hadn’t even met the little … I’ll leave out that word, or replace it with twat. I had only been assigned to his growing case at the beginning of the week, and met his social worker on Wednesday … and there was no love lost between those two. Or with me for that matter. I didn’t understand why I’d been called out in the first place.

The desk sergeant was a man in his early fifties, who had the face of someone who was sick and tired of filling in forms for delinquent teenagers. When I introduced myself, I saw his eyebrows rise to signify he thought I was one of those ‘do gooders’ who would try and get the kid off.

Now. I had been woken up when I was in the middle of a dream with Jodie Foster … and we weren’t relieving a scene from Panic Room, if you get my drift. It was more like Contact … but without the aliens … and without the interest in talking to someone out of this world. It was out of this world; well it could’ve been if that bloody phone hadn’t started ringing.

‘Someone will be along to take you down to the cells in a few minutes, Miss Turner.’

Reality came back with the gruff voice of the ‘receptionist’.

A few minutes my arse. More like twenty-five minutes. I was just in mid rant about being kept hanging on by people who couldn’t find their arse with both hands when I heard my name being called behind me.

Mmmm. I said called didn’t I? It was more like a question. Mmmm … again. Question? Or statement?

‘Louise Turner (?)’

I froze. My finger pointing accusatorily at the bloke behind the counter.

‘Louise Turner. It’s you isn’t it?’

My stomach … my poor stomach didn’t know what to do. Mainly because it had been flooded with my heart. Every single hair on my body stood up to attention, and I could feel a sheen of sweat coat my top lip. I knew I should have turned round and looked into those blue eyes again, but I couldn’t. I was paralysed. Struck by Statues Disease … almost a caricature of Lord Kitchener.

‘Miss Turner?’ The desk sergeant looked at me with concern, and I probably did look weird, but I didn’t care less what anybody thought. ‘Detective Inspector Richards is here to see you.’

I know! Well … I knew it was Ash. My Ash … my Ash was standing right behind me. But what I didn’t know, or expect, was for Ash … my Ash to be standing right behind me … a Detective Inspector or otherwise.

I turned on the spot like my left foot had been nailed to the floor; my heart had left the safety of my stomach and was now sitting comfortably in my throat waiting for a peek at the person that had abandoned it for so long.

It was like a dream sequence. Everything moved painfully slowly, like when you keep pressing the skip frame button on a DVD player. All movements were jerky and mechanical to point of torture.

And then she was there.

Standing in front of me like a vision. So beautiful … so goddamn agonisingly beautiful. And still unobtainably Ash.

Her hair danced just below her shoulders, raven and shining. It graced the shoulders of her black suit jacket that hugged her slender body and contrasted with the white of her shirt. Legs were encased in tailor cut black trousers, which were complimented by flat slip on leather shoes.

Serviceable. Good for running, I bet. And that’s where my focus stayed until I heard that rich voice once again.

                        

‘It is you. I knew it.’

My head snapped up so quickly I felt the muscles in the back of my neck ping into place. Blue eyes stared intently into my face, and I saw her customary crooked smile twitch around her lips.

Beauty personified. She was a vision… a vision.

‘What’s the matter with you? Cat got your tongue?’

My mouth at this point began to open and close, imitating a poor little fish hanging at the end of a line.

The smile slipped from her face, as words failed me, and she looked concerned … or was it disappointed?

I watched her shake her head, probably trying to clear it, which was shortly followed by an elaborate clearing of her throat. A hand shot out and stopped in front of me… extended in greeting. I just stared at it like a moron.

‘Ashley Richards. Detective Inspector Ashley Richards.’ The tone was curt and unfamiliar. It had lost that friendly quality of moments before. I lifted my hand to hers and slipped my fingers into hers. I can actually remember closing my eyes ever so briefly as I savoured the contact, before raising my gaze to meet hers.

She was staring at me in expectation, and for a brief moment I felt the anger and pain I had felt when she had rejected me nearly twenty years ago come bubbling up.

I told myself to ‘Get a grip. It was nearly twenty years ago.’

But it felt like yesterday.

But it wasn’t yesterday.

Shit.

Then from somewhere deep inside I dragged up a smile, and gripped her hand tighter.

‘Hello Ash. Long time no see?’

                        *****************************************************

Chapter Twenty-Four

The journey down to the cells was completed in pained silence. We had performed the expected hellos and doesn’t time fly, and then we had just stopped. That’s when things started to feel uncomfortable.

So … without further ado, we silently communicated, mainly with nodding of heads in the direction of the door that now would as good a time as any to go and see Sam. It wasn’t until we arrived outside that Ash decided to put me in the picture about a few things … clearing up the mystery of why she was actually in Norwich in the first place.

She was in charge of the team who were investigating the thugs they believed Sam was involved with, the gang who Sam thought were just like him … but he didn’t have a clue.

Now Sam was a git … but even he hadn’t done a fraction of the things the rest of his gang had. He didn’t know it … well they assumed he didn’t, because he would have been singing like a canary if he had the chance.

Petty crimes like vandalising a school with Sam just made him think they were on his side. He didn’t realise they were using him; making him feel like part of them before they showed their true colours. These included dealing, extortion and fraud. And that’s what the police knew about. They had never been able to pin it on anyone in the group … until they had introduced the new member.

Up until now, nothing had happened to allow them to step in and name names … and they had had time to ‘import’ some big wig from Manchester Metropolitan Police, as the leader of the band was a Mancunian, Danny Spencer, who had travelled to Norfolk to start a new crime wave. She, DI Richards, had been in Norwich since the beginning of last week, and she was raring to get an arrest.

So, it seemed as if we had been on Sam’s tail for about the same length of time, and the police needed me to get Sam to talk. Obviously she wasn’t too impressed when I informed her that everything Sam told me would be confidential and couldn’t be used in a court of law ... well it could, but we didn’t really like to go down that avenue if we could help it. Puts the kids off when they want to confide … not many of us would open up our soul if we thought the person we were telling would run off shouting it into the wind.

Then I had to remind her that he had to, by law, have an Advocate with him.

‘Bollocks.’

‘Excuse me?’ I couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of it before.

Ash leaned closer to me and I could feel her breath on my face. Her eyes were steely blue … the twinkle absent. ‘I said … bol …locks.’

I could feel myself cowering lower as her body imposed itself over mine. No wonder she was a DI … she could frighten the shit out of anyone. I mean … she was six feet tall and solid. Her face brooked no argument, but in my job this kind of intimation was all par for the course.

Somewhere deep inside me I grabbed hold of an iota of courage and straightened my back, pushing my face close to hers … close enough to feel her breath skit along my skin and send tremors all up and down my spine. Fuck. She was so beautiful. All I wanted to do was lean forward just another inch … and capture her soft lips …

‘I said bollocks.’

That was it.

‘And I said it that I cannot divulge a client’s personal details. It is confidential … all about trust. And you …’ I stepped back just a little and casually scanned her from head to toe ‘ should know it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. An Advocate is required … he’s a minor.’ I finished with a smug smile, which made her grit her teeth.

I didn’t just see her grit them … I heard it. And it made me smile wider. ‘So you see, Detective … I can’t help you. This is a waste of both our time.’ Then I turned to go.

Her hand gripped the top of my arm and held me in place like a vice.

‘Not so fast, Miss Turner.’

‘Get your hand off me.’ I attempted to prise her hand off me, but she was holding on tight. I was tempted to kick her in the shin and make a run for it, but then I remembered I wasn’t thirteen. So I relaxed my body and just gave her a bored expression.

Her face showed she had been expecting the kick, and my relaxing and looking at her like she was pond life completely threw her. That beautiful face creased into thought, and I could tell she didn’t exactly know what to do next. Blue eyes shot to her hand, and she creased her face even more before slowly prising her fingers from me, watching them with fascinated intent.

‘Thank you.’ Short and to the point.

‘Sorry … I …’

‘Apology accepted. Now … if you’ll excuse me, I have a bed calling my name.’ I turned to go, but my heart stayed facing her, shouting ‘Do you remember me? Do you remember how you left me to curl up and die?’

For some unknown reason, I felt the tears sneak up behind my eyes and threaten to expose me. I began to walk away, hoping beyond hope that I wouldn’t embarrass myself.

‘Lou …’ It was spoken so softly … and trickled through my ears and down deep inside me. ‘Please … Lou … I’m sorry … I …’

I stopped and turned to face her. I wanted to ask her what she was sorry for. Whether it was because she had tried to force me to find out information for her case. Or sorry for breaking my heart … sorry for fucking up my life …

Or sorry for making it impossible for me to forget her.

She stepped towards me, and I instinctively stepped back. I could see the hurt on her face, which she quickly masked with a cough and the straightening of her shoulders. Coldness slipped into place, and she once again became the professional.

‘Look. I’ll be straight with you.’ Weren’t you always … that was the problem. ‘We need to get the ringleader behind bars. I don’t know how long I can stay in Norwich … so we need information fast. This bloke is a nasty piece of work … very nasty.’

‘Sam?’

‘No … Danny Spencer. He is the new gang leader. The old one found himself slumped over the steering wheel of his car as he was waiting for the traffic lights to change.’ My eyebrows decided to come into action and lifted in surprise. ‘And Danny decided a nice get away to Norfolk is exactly what he needed until everything calmed down.’

‘Bugger.’

‘Exactly. We know it was him … but we also can’t prove it. Not that we miss the bloke who he disposed of … It’s just a way to get the little bastard locked up for a long time.’

‘And where exactly do I fit into all of this?’ I stepped closer to her again, feeling the aura of her body envelop me and my eyes fluttered closed and felt the vestiges of the love I felt for her try and make an appearance.

I coughed. Composed myself. Adopted the countenance of someone who is trying to pay attention.

‘You could be the link.’

‘Link? How can I be the link? I don’t even know Sam … and he doesn’t know me. I was only assigned to his case last week.’

‘All the better. Look …’ She reached out to take my arm, and I saw her stop and pull it back to her, securing it in place at her side. ‘Look … Sam is the key. Danny is a bigheaded little fucker and loves to brag about what he’s done. But he’s not stupid. We have to find out what Sam knows … and if he doesn’t know you, then maybe he will try to show off.’

‘I doubt that. He’ll close up more than anything.’

‘Maybe … but we have to try.’ Her look was softening and a smile played around her lips. I know … I know … I should have told her to shove it and walked away. But that smile … those eyes …God …

I was a goner.

And this was the start of something I can only describe as a love hate relationship. Now … I’m not going to explain that comment. You’ll have to read on if you want to find out why I loved to hate Detective Inspector Richards.

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part 8

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