This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 1350 words.
Disgruntled cops, and Melissa is found
Ronnie Knight took all the stuff into the CCTV viewing room, and closed the door behind him. He had been a good copper, as far as he was concerned, but he was no good at exams and studying. Despite trying a few times, and securing recommendations from various superior officers, he had never made sergeant. For the last eight years, he had settled into remaining a constable for the rest of his career, and his job of being the dogsbody in the General Office of the detective branch. But that didn’t mean he was happy about it.
He could remember when John Meacham had been a new boy in uniform. Now he was in charge of cases, and ordering him around. The fast-track entrants with their university degrees looked down on him, and spoke to him in a patronising way. Yes, he was old-school. In his day, all that mattered was that you knew your ground, and could handle yourself in a scrap. Now it was all about protecting the offender, playing by the rules. Everyone ignored the fact that nine out of ten crimes reported in the country resulted in nobody being charged, and that the conviction rate was getting lower every year. Forget the victims, they were little more than collateral damage.
Opening the paperwork that had arrived with the memory sticks containing the CCTV footage, Ronnie sat back and shook his head. Ten cameras, over a twenty-four hour period. Two hundred and forty hours of footage to examine would take him more than two weeks, and leave time for nothing else at all. Even if he watched it at double speed, it would still take too long. He walked back along the corridor, and tapped on the Inspector’s open door.
Meacham waved him in.
Trying to sound positive, Ronnie spoke in a matter-of-fact way. “Sir, this CCTV stuff. There’s a lot of it, and it might take weeks to go through. Should I concentrate on anything in particular?” Ronnie knew that everyone was already working on the shooting. The murder of Mrs Watson had quickly been slid well onto the back burner. But Meacham was a stickler, one of those instinct blokes who thought they knew better. “Do your best, Ronnie. We are looking for a car that will keep popping up around the area. If you find anything possible, zoom in to see who is driving it. I know it’s a mission mate, but it has to be done. Fast-forward the footage by all means, but make sure you watch it all”. With that, he went back to his files, and Ronnie considered himself dismissed. A car that kept popping up around the area? Christ on a bike, there would be hundreds of those. What was the boss thinking?
In the canteen, Ronnie bought two sausage rolls and a big mug of tea. Finding a daily paper left on one of the tables he tucked it under his arm. Back in the airless CCTV room, he plugged in the first stick. As it started to play, he hit the fast forward button three times. Eight times speed should be about right. He opened the newspaper, and reached for the first sausage roll. As a gesture of ultimate defiance, he turned his chair, and sat with his back to the screen. If nothing else, it would buy him at least three days of rest.
He might even bring a book in tomorrow.
After the tearful chat in the empty Maths classroom, things got a little easier for Jenny at school. The gang of bullies still glared at her, but that was all. She was convinced that Miss Silletoe had said something to the ringleader, though that worried her even more. When they weren’t doing anything, they might be planning something worse.
Then there was the surprising phone call one evening. Mum answered, and from her tone, Jenny guessed it wasn’t a friend she was talking to. After a few moments, she gave out the address, then said “Thank you, thank you very much”, before hanging up. Smiling across at her daughter, she looked happy about something. “That was your Maths teacher, Melissa Silletoe. She says that you have a real talent for the subject, and she is prepared to give you extra tuition here, free of charge. Isn’t that great? It will be on the quiet though, as she doesn’t want other families to find out, and claim that you are getting preferential treatment.”
Jenny wasn’t sure what to think, but she wasn’t about to turn it down. Miss Silletoe was very good at her job, and those extra lessons might help get her an A in the exam. She was nice too. Kind as well, and affectionate. Mum was checking her diary. “She’s going to come round on the Tuesday of half-term to start with. With you both being on holiday it will give her a lot of time to concentrate. I will be out at work, so you won’t be disturbed. Nine days time, Jenny worked it out in her head. Mum was really on it. “I will get some nice cakes and biscuits in, and some stuff so you can make her a sandwich for lunch too. We will have to have a good clean up on the Monday. I want the place looking spotless”.
When Melissa arrived on the Tuesday, Mum had already left for work. She looked very different out of school. More normal, younger, and much prettier. She was relaxed too. “When I am here, I think you should call me Mel. After all, this isn’t the school environment, and I am here as a good friend”. Jenny wanted to ask her if she had said anything to the bullies, but decided to wait and see if it was mentioned. Mel just chatted, and didn’t mention Maths at all. She accepted a cup of tea, served in one of the best cups, as Mum had instructed. The general chit-chat felt weird. When someone you only know as a teacher comes on like a best mate, it takes some getting used to.
Lunch was declined, and by then she had started to talk about the bullying, and how cruel kids could be to each other. She wanted to know why Jenny thought they were doing it, and refused to accept the shrug she received in reply. Eventually, despite feeling incredibly self-conscious about it, Jenny opened up. “Well, they say I am ugly. My nose is snubby, my arms are too hairy, and my hair is frizzy. Plus, I wear glasses that are cheap, because it’s all Mum can afford. The other girls who wear glasses have designer ones. Some even have contact lenses”. Mel nodded, and patted Jenny’s leg gently. “Anything else?” Jenny took a deep breath before continuing.
“My boobs of course. They are too big, and they say they are like a cow’s udders”. Suppressing a smile at that, Mel shook her head. “Don’t you believe a word of all that, Jenny. You are a lovely young woman, and your breasts are magnificent. You have to learn to be proud of your assets, and ignore their cruelty”. She edged closer on the sofa, and stroked Jenny’s face, looking straight into her eyes. Jenny felt a tingle in her belly. Mel was wonderful.
Shaking her head to remove the next train of thought, Jenny checked a bookmark on her laptop. It had been so easy to find her. Still teaching Maths, but no longer at any school. She worked from home, and even had a website. ‘Miss M. Silletoe. Private Tuition In Mathematics and Computing’. There was a photo of her, hardly aged, and even one of her house. There was the address, postcode, two telephone numbers, a list of available appointment times, and a breakdown of her fees. Jenny whistled. She charged fifty pounds an hour, and claimed to deliver ‘guaranteed exam results’.
Ignoring the ache under her arm, Jenny straightened up, jotting down some notes on the paper.
Mel was definitely next on the list.