A short story of crime and passion, The guardians of law and order being shown in a new light. An unlikely duo !
The old moon is reflected off the wet slates, like banks of lunar panels atop the grimy ranks of back to back houses. The old hamlet of Harehills has long since lost its identity amongst the sprawling metropolis of Leeds. The old Wesleyan chapel –cum- Muhammad’s mini market nestles uncomfortably against ‘full body massage over eighteens only’. In-between these two places of worship she stands, protected against the worst of the autumn rain blowing horizontally across Compton road, waiting and watching. Not a good night for business; she hugs herself; the faded cotton dress barely covering her fragile body, is no defence against the bitter cold.
The swish of tyres is the only sound she hears, the window slides down, a manicured hand beckons, a ring glittering its false promise catches her eye. Climbing into the warm interior she sinks into the perfumed leather.
The room stinks of stale beer, urine and dust; Charlie moans, turns over, and awakes. His head throbbing, he reaches for a glass, but its crusted rim offers no relief. Rolling out of bed he heads for the bathroom, grabbing for the tap he gulps water from his hands in a frenzy of relief. He went to bed fully dressed, apart from his shoes. Charlie stumbles down the steep stairway, catching his toes on the exposed gripper rail; ignoring the pain, he slips his blooded feet into a pair of decrepit trainers. Slamming the front door on his sanctuary, Harehills washes over him, his senses are accosted from every direction; the stink of diesel fumes compete with the aromatic kebabs sizzling across the road, the barking dog looses out to the screaming ambulance. Charlie turns towards Harehills lane; he needs to catch the bus to the Jobcentre.
Its Charlie’s day to sign on, every second Tuesday, he always arrives promptly at nine o’clock. Charlie had never been able to hold down a job, though happy to try anything that is offered. He normally only lasts a day or two before the invariable excuses, he’s not quite what we want, he’s a bit clumsy , not very good with his reading is he?
‘Morning Charlie’ beams Fiona, the receptionist at Harehills Jobcentre.
‘Morning Fiona, I’ve got a headache, not feeling very well’.
Fiona is a temp; she has a soft spot for Charlie, and though she is concerned about his welfare, she does not really know what to do, after having mentioned it to colleagues who just shrug and say oh he’s alright.
‘Charlie have you hurt yourself, there’s blood on your shirt’, said Fiona.
Charlie hesitates not sure how to answer, apart from the headache he does not feel hurt; and then he remembers, he starts shaking uncontrollably, the tears roll down his big foolish face. Fiona comes from behind her desk, takes his arm and guides him into a seat. She fetches him a cone of refrigerated water and asks him what is wrong.
Charlie rubs his eyes then wipes his nose on his sleeve;
‘Its Lisa, she’s hurt, I tried to help but she wouldn’t wake up, I had to go home’
‘It’s OK Charlie, just stay there I’ll be back in a minute’ Said Fiona, ‘
Leaving Charlie to slurp his water, she goes across to her supervisor, and whispers that they had better call the Police.
Inspector Linda Jones preens herself in the bedroom mirror, she is almost overwhelmed by the sight of such perfection; but the ringing of the phone destroys this moment of reverie.
‘Jones here’ she barks in the ear of the unfortunate constable.
‘Sorry to disturb you ma’am but we have a possible murder in Harehills Lane, Compton road area’
‘Pick me up in ten minutes constable?’
‘Banks Ma’am Constable David Banks’
Inspector Jones goes back to the mirror, making sure that her meticulous appearance has not been ruffled by the unexpected call. Not a hair out of place, she slips her engagement ring back on, one last glance in the mirror, she goes down stairs and awaits the arrival of her lift.
The crime tape flutters in the breeze, more effective at frightening the pigeons than the old scarecrow leaning drunkenly against the chicken wire fence. A white marquee has been erected around one of the rickety wooden allotment sheds; inside of which is the body of a young woman. In spite of the bitter wind a group of onlookers has gathered round the area, kept at bay only by the determined efforts of a young constable.
Inspector Jones arrives, and marches briskly towards the marquee, she fails to acknowledge the greetings from the young constable; so he relaxes his efforts at crowd control as soon as she is out of view.
‘Do we know who she is?’ Jones asks a white suited figure crouched by the body.
‘Good morning to you inspector, and no not at the moment, but I would guess she’s a street girl by the condition of her body’, replies the suit.
‘You are not paid to make guesses Adams, give me some facts,’ retorts Inspector Jones.
‘Unfortunately I’m just a mere SOCO; we’ll be able to fill you in with some facts, when and if the forensics turns up. Meanwhile, the photo’s may well jog a few memories with the local beat officers, I’ll also circulate them to Vice, and if she’s on the ‘job’ there’s a good chance one of them will recognise her. Poor bitch she certainly didn’t deserve this; oh, there was one odd thing, it looks like she was brought here by vehicle then dumped behind that clump of trees over there near the entrance to the allotment. Somebody then carried her into this shed, seems strange why not just drive up to the shed ? Unless of course, we are looking for involvement by more than one person? Will there be anything else, inspector?’ says Adams.
The inspector does not reply, but leans over the body, seemingly transfixed by some feature she has identified, the moment passes, and then she stands up her face impassive, brushes a stray hair from her sleeve, and straightens her tie, then walks stiffly passed the bemused Adams.
Charlie had run out of the jobcentre as soon as Fiona, turned her back. He knew that he was in trouble by the look on Fiona’s face. Where could he go? He couldn’t go back to the allotment: they would think he had hurt her! That’s where he had left Lisa last night, but she would be alright, he had tucked her up with his old gardening coat, and rested her head on that roll of pea netting, it was nice and soft. I might as well go home thought Charlie, and have a cup of tea.
The splintering of wood as the door crashes open wakens Charlie into a nightmare. Darkened figures push him back onto the bed, his arms are gripped, twisted behind his back, pain and fear empty his bladder and his lungs, his face forced into a pillow muffles the sound of any further protest, his arms are tightly secured.
‘Don’t fucking move fat boy’ screams a voice.
Charles Vernon, You are under arrest for the suspected murder of Lisa Staiths, anything you say’ growls one of the figures.
‘Don’t bother with that shite Sarg he ain’t gonna fucking understand, mind you when she gets hold of him that’s probably going to be a good thing’ chuckles another of the darkened figures .
Charlie is thrown into the back of the police van, which speeds off followed by a cacophony of cars and motorcycles, the streets curtains twitch back into place.
The room is sterile; the room is silent, Charlie is used to being alone, that is normal, but this is different. A beautiful woman enters the room, gives him a kindly smile, and asks him if he would like a cup of tea. Charlie feels better now he likes tea, but he would like to go home. The woman says that is not possible, as she wants to keep him safe from harm. She talks to him, touches him gently on the hand, he likes her pretty ring and the way it sparkles brightly, he agrees with everything she says, Charlie likes to please; people are always friendly when you agree with them. She asks Charlie to sign his name, he knows how to do that, he does that for Fiona every fortnight. The woman goes to the door, turns and smiles at Charles, but it is not a friendly smile anymore.
The alarm screams throughout the police station, officers run about in confusion, shouting comes from the cells.
‘sergeant, yells Constable Banks, get a doctor quick’
The sergeant calls the duty doctor, and then he runs to the cells.
Constable Banks is fighting to support the weight of Charlie, at the same time as trying to untie the boot laces from around Charlie’s throat. The sergeant pulls a pocket knife and slices through the laces, Constable Banks and Charlie collapse to the floor. Charlie has turned blue, he struggles to breathe, and his eyes roll up into his head. When he stops breathing; the sergeant makes a fumbled attempt to revive him.
‘Shit what is it three breaths two compressions?, fuck ! can’t remember’.
‘Don’t ask me sarg never did first aid’ replies Constable Banks.
When the doctor turns up, he takes a cursory look then says, ‘wasted my time he’s gone beyond any help I could have given him, looks like you boys have had a merry night; nasty bruises on your face constable been fighting with that wife of yours?’
The sergeant grabs Constable Banks by the shoulder, gives the doctor a disparaging look and escorts Constable Banks to his office.
‘Ok Banks, what’s going on? What were you doing in the cell with the prisoner, and where did the boot laces come from? You’d better have some good fucking answers boy, if not to me, then to the enquiry, oh yes there will be an enquiry!’ said the sergeant.
‘I sort of knew him sergeant; I used to have a beat in his area and used to see him hanging around with some of the girls, having a drink with them and some of the winos. They would go into the Albion for a bit and then congregate on that bit of grass outside the allotments, I thought he might remember me and open up.’ replied Constable Banks.
How very considerate of you constable, but a bit late in the day I’m afraid. He’s already ‘opened up’ and apparently admitted everything to our lovely Inspector Jones, signed sealed and delivered so to speak. But what I want to know constable, is how did he get hold of those boot laces , the problem being, I was the one who searched him when he came in, it looks like I wasn’t doing my job’, said the sergeant.
Fiona and a colleague from the jobcentre are enjoying their fish and chips, and are soaking up the welcome rays from the elusive midday sun. The small park outside St James’s hospital has become the venue for their Friday ritual; it makes a welcome change to eating boring sandwiches in a dreary staff canteen throughout the week. Lunch has come wrapped up in an old copy of the Yorkshire Post; a meagre column catches Fiona’s eye:
‘Local woman Lisa Staiths of Harehills Lane, known prostitute and drug user was tortured and murdered by an acquaintance, a local man Charles Vernon unemployed gardener of Compton Road Harehills. After his arrest Mr Vernon committed suicide and despite considerable efforts to revive him he died at the scene. In a note left by Mr Vernon he knows what he has done and expresses remorse for his actions. Neither Ms Staiths nor Mr Vernon has any surviving family.’
Fiona reads the article again; tears well up and fall, mingling with the salt and vinegar on the debris of her meal, she lets the paper fall, spilling manna for the passing pigeons.
She slaps her across the face, grabs her by the hair and they ravenously consume each other. Coming up for air Inspector Jones says:
‘You stupid bitch, if the retard hadn’t strung himself up we would be in deep trouble’
‘Yeah unlucky that, wasn’t it, dangerous place, a police cell, and it almost went wrong, but fortunately for us Constable Banks turned up just in time to save the day, I mean, where else could Charlie have possibly got the boot laces?’ replies the sergeant.
‘Yes such a pretty boy, but he’ll make lots of new friends where he’s going’ she chuckles though one thought did occur to me sergeant darling, that note, it did worry me, as we both know he couldn’t write’ said Inspector Jones.
‘ Yes, I did think that I had over done my self there, but no one else has picked up on it , the defence lawyer was about twelve, he certainly couldn’t handle you, so no worries Inspector darling’ she said
They caress and kiss.
‘I think we had better let things cool down before we have any more excitement’ says Inspector Jones
‘Cool down, you wont be able to wait, a sick bitch like you’ she laughs.
‘Sick inspector bitch to you sergeant, remember who the senior officer is ’
The new moon, glistens off the frosty pavements a few stragglers are thrown out of the Albion public house. The Landlord takes one last look around before he closes the front door; he notices her illuminated by the one street lamp that hasn’t been vandalised, she shivers in the doorway, her skimpy dress too small even for her infantile body. The car silently pulls up, a window slides down a manicured hand beckons, the glittering ring catches her eye. Climbing into the warm interior she sinks into the perfumed leather.