A third visit to the MRI, this time flanked by armed Police. “This place is beginning to look familiar.” Joe said to no-one in particular. He looked around and everyone was looking back.
Tattoos was rolled into an operating theatre for immediate attention. Joe and Rachel were hustled into a cubicle, with one armed guard outside. They sat side by side on the bed. “I’m sorry for getting you into this.” Joe said after a while.
“I let myself get into this. I could have bailed at any point after you told me about identifying the body. But, you know, it was all a bit thrilling.” She added in a little voice, “Even the nearly getting killed. Is that wrong?”
“This isn’t a normal week. Normally they’re quite boring.”
“Well, we’ll just have to base our relationship on the sex then.” She laid her head on his shoulder and held his arm.
They swung their legs for a while, listening to the activity beyond the curtain. “Did you just quote Speed?”
“Yeah. What can I say, I like Keanu.”
“Don’t know if I’m talking to you any more.”
“What? You didn’t like the Matrix?”
“Well, yes. But the sequels were shit.”
Silence. And a horrible cold feeling that he’d said something wrong. Rachel cuddled in closer.
“How do you know about Kevin?”
“You mentioned him this morning. You said that Hugh hated him. I assumed ex-boyfriend.”
“Fiancée. Ex-fiancée.” That seemed to be all the information he was getting. Then, “We were together for three and a half. Nearly three and a half years. He left me, four months before the wedding.”
Joe stroked her hair, kissed the top of her head. “I guess in the end I loved him more than he loved me.” She shrugged, “I kept trying to tell myself it was for the best. But… You know how it is.”
“Yeah. Been there. It’s hard to move on. Even when. Especially when they have.”
“The romantic walking wounded. That’s us. That was a year and a half ago. I kept trying to get over him. I tried speed dating, friends of friends, all sorts of things. It might just be the group I mix with, but they all seemed to be versions of him. It felt like, anyway. So I just sort of gave up, started concentrating on work.
“It got so bad even Hugh was telling me I needed to get laid. My brother, the big over-protective would be guardian of my honour. Holly suggested a fling with one of our artists. Not very professional, but she’s the boss and I think she’s done it a few times. Then the Manchester shop came up and Hugh told me about you and, well, you know the rest.”
“I’m just a fling?”
Rachel bit his shoulder, which seemed an odd response. “I wasn’t supposed to…. to like you so much.”
The curtain was swept aside. Irwin and his sergeant entered. The inspector glared down at Joe whilst the sergeant drew the curtain closed. “You are in deep shit.”
“Deeper shit than being shot at?”
“You got away with it last time. This time we have you at the scene of the crime.”
“They were shooting at us!” Rachel exclaimed.
“Don’t try to cover for him, or you’ll go down for aiding. You’re under arrest. We found the bag with the money.”
“The bag with the money?”
“Sergeant.” The sergeant moved the curtain aside and picked up something from outside. The back pack looked a lot like Joe’s. “Is this your bag?”
Joe started to reach for the bag, then thought better of it. “That’s not my bag.”
“Take a closer look.”
“My back pack was stolen two days ago. There’s a Police report and everything. That bag’s the same type, but it’s newer, it’s not split along the zip seam. And it won’t have my fingerprints on it. Not yet and not if I don’t touch it. Isn’t that true Inspector?”
“We found it in your house.”
That revelation did bring Joe up short. He could think of no good reason for it to have been there. “So?”
The curtain swept aside again. Kay Wood and a short, balding man stepped in. “Detective Inspector Irwin. I believe you removed vital evidence before SOCO arrived to log it. That rucksack, in fact.”
“Really? You see, the evidence is contaminated now. We don’t even know if the bag was handled by Mister Wilkinson before you gave it to him.”
“I haven’t touched it.”
Irwin and the newcomer exchanged a look. “Sergeant, please take the rucksack away, bag it and present it as evidence. With a log of where it has been since being found in Mister Wilkinson’s house, if you don’t mind.” The sergeant left. “Evidence tampering is a serious offence.”
“Bollocks. He’s knee deep in this, and this time he’s not getting away with it.”
“I reviewed the case files. Mister Wilkinson was exonerated.”
“He ruined a good officer’s career and him and his slut are going to….”
Irwin was knocked over by the punch, stumbled out of the cubicle and hit the next table over. He slid down the frame to the floor and clasped at his burst nose. Rachel flexed her hand, checked she hadn’t broken the skin on her knuckles. Everyone was looking at her. “I don’t like being called a slut.” She hopped back onto the bed. “Plus he’d just admitted to framing my boyfriend.
“I guess I’m in trouble.”
“You’re unner a’est.” Irwin muttered.
“Whatever for? We all saw you trip and fall.” the bald man replied. Wood gave him a questioning look.
“You could let this go, or we would have to make statements about the reason miss…. This young lady whose name I do not know yet, hit you. She will not be the one going to prison under those circumstances.”
Irwin glared. He was proving to be quite good at glaring. “You should get that injury seen to.” the bald man told him. Irwin stomped off.
“Mister Wilkinson. I am Chief Inspector Stevenson. I run the Guns Task force. DC Wood is my most recent recruit.” They shook hands. “Miss?”
“Evans. Rachel Evans.” They too shook.
“We found your rucksack, the one that is really yours, in a car abandoned by the gunmen who turned the Albanians’ car into modern art. You can have it back when we close this investigation. Which I hope will be soon.”
“There was a Transit van as well. The shooters had a Tranny.”
“Can you describe it?”
“It was a Transit van. White.” Joe shrugged. “The other bag? The one Irwin found?”
“We believe it was left in your house by Hill. The tattooed man has been talking, explaining what should have happened. It is amazing what pain medication will do.
“It seems Hill was the go between for the deal. He would hold the money until the customers confirmed they had the merchandise then facilitate the exchange. Somehow he convinced the Albanians that you were to be trusted holding the cash whilst he waited for the goods. We believe he planned to double cross them and leave you to deal with it.”
“That sounds like him. You don’t know that I wasn’t in on this though, do you? You did find the bag at my house. Bastard must have left it there when they let him in.”
“No, we do not know that you aren’t involved. I could say that you have an honest face, but mostly I believe you because Constable Wood does. I have a lot of faith in her judgement.” Joe looked at Wood. Her expression was unreadable.
“So the Albanians really did kill him?”
“We don’t believe so, no. It may have been the buyers, in some sort of triple cross, but we don’t know for sure.”
“They said something about that. About attacking me to get the money.”
“Do you know what he might have been doing in the Science Park?” Wood asked.
“The one behind the University?”
‘s where he was killed?”
Joe wanted to lie. He really did. He stared at the floor, aware that everyone was watching him. Rachel took his hand. “Yes. I do.”
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