This is the twentieth part of a fiction serial, in 1091 words.
**Two parts today, so please read Part 19 first**
Tom made a decision as he walked across the yard to where his car was parked, at the back of the police station. He had pretty much expected that response from Mullins, so was left with two choices. Do nothing, and let Conroy get away, or make a phone call. He sat in the car, and got his phone out. Scrolling down the contact list to ‘F’, he called Derek Farley, the chief reporter of the best-selling Sunday paper in the city. It was a respected broadsheet, and had national syndication under other titles. “Hello, Derek, Tom Henderson here. I have something for you. Can we meet halfway, the Little Chef on the trunk road?” Farley knew Tom from old, and knew that if he was leaking information, it must be good. “OK, Tom. Give me thirty minutes”.
Alex watched his wife and the sergeant leave the shop. He had stood there for almost an hour, but the photos he got of them laughing and linking arms were worth the wait. Lucy was carrying a large bag, and they were heading in the direction of Cathedral Street. He gave it a minute, and set off after them. As he turned into the cobbled street, he spotted the pair entering Zizzi, part of a chain of restaurants specialising in Italian food. When they didn’t reappear, he guessed they must have got a table, and headed back to Blake’s, the sportswear shop on the main road. Once inside, he purchased a new lightweight waterproof suit intended for golfers, and a sports bag that doubled as a rucksack, with extending straps.
Lucy and Sally had been lucky. A young couple had just been leaving as they arrived, so they got their table in the otherwise full restaurant. It was in the front behind the door, and close to the window. They ordered two glasses of white wine, and both chose a pasta dish from the menu. Lucy peeked into the bag, looking again at the suit she had bought. “I don’t know when I am ever going to get to wear this, but I do love it. And red too. That’s not usually my colour. I don’t like to stand out, if I can help it”. Sally sipped her wine, and smiled. “You shouldn’t sell yourself short, Lucy. Look, if you don’t mind my saying, perhaps you should lose those glasses. The thick lenses aren’t so flattering, but if you had contact lenses, your face is fine. Pretty in fact. And maybe get your hair style changed. I think you would really suit a short bob, I honestly do”. Lucy stretched out both hands, and clasped Sally’s hand as she put down her wine glass. “That’s so sweet of you to say so. I wanted contacts years ago, but Alex said I looked fine in my glasses. And a new hairstyle might be just what I need too”.
Outside the window, shielded by a big rucksack, and slightly obscured by the door, neither of them noticed Alex snapping away with his phone as he walked past quickly.
Derek ordered coffee from the waitress. The girl checked her watch. Just past the time when customers had to order food if they sat at a table. “OK, just coffee”. She walked away, looking as if she had taken the cheap order personally. Tom had ordered a plain burger, and a cup of tea. He didn’t even bother to eat the food, and had only bought it to qualify for a table. Farley took out a notebook, getting straight down to it. Once the grumpy girl had brought the coffee, he looked across at Tom. “I presume it’s about the murder in Waterloo Close? I will tell you now that story is already old, Tom. In fact, it has got grey hairs growing on it”. Tom gave him a weak grin. “I have something that will rejuvenate it, Derek. But you didn’t get it from me. No direct quotes, and definitely no use of my name or rank”. Derek nodded. “No problem old mate. It will come from the usual ‘Reliable Source at Police Headquarters’. Fire away”.
Tom gave him the outline of his suspicions about the neighbour, Alexander Conroy. How he didn’t believe it was a burglary gone wrong, as the official line still maintained. He added some facts about the lack of CCTV evidence, no witnesses, and no comings and goings, before telling Derek that his request for a search warrant had been refused. Because it would play well in the paper, he also included the bit about the fresh digging in Conroy’s garden, and how his bosses refused to investigate the man because of his social status. Derek checked over his notes. Looking up at Tom, he whistled softly. “This is great stuff, Tom, but it puts you right in the frame as the informant, even though we won’t use your name. Especially as you have been the only one inside Conroy’s house and garden. Are you sure you want me to go with this? It will be tomorrow’s headline, you realise that? You are going to be in deep shit with your boss, whether he has proof or not”. Tom stood up, ready to leave. He shook Derek’s hand, a determined look on his face. “Let me worry about that. Just run the story”.
After lunch, Sally walked back to the car park with Lucy. When they got to the third floor where Lucy had parked, Sally told her, “I’m on five, the roof. One of the last spaces by the time I got here”. Lucy put the shopping bag into the car, and turned. “That was so nice, I really hope we can do it again sometime”. Sally nodded. “Of course, once all the stuff going on has calmed down, we might make it a regular thing, don’t you think?” Lucy embraced her, and Sally kissed her fondly on the cheek, their faces close.
At the back of the third floor of the car park, Alex grinned as he shot the scene with the video mode of his phone. He was grateful for the new low light feature, as it was quite gloomy, despite the occasional strip-light. From his position, the women’s heads were firmly together, and Lucy’s arms could be clearly seen wrapped around the policewoman’s waist. He waited until Lucy started the car, and the other woman walked up the ramp to the higher floors. Then he left, using the stairs.
To be continued…