This is the twenty-first part of a fiction serial, in 1190 words.
Lack of evidence
The banging on the window woke her up with a start. For a second, Jenny was confused, wondering where she was. A scruffy man was standing by the driver’s window, and when she opened her eyes, he shouted through the glass. “You alright, lady? You look bad. You sick?” His accent was heavy, east European by the sound of it. It dawned on her that he was probably the driver of the big lorry parked in front of her, as they were the only two vehicles in the tree-screened lay-by.
She operated the electric window, allowing just enough space to just speak to him. “I’m fine, thank you. Just tired. Long journey, you know”. The smile she attempted was weak, and he shook his head, unconvinced. “You sure, lady? You look bad. You want I call doctor?” Jenny pressed the start button to fire up the engine. “Honestly, I’m fine. But thank you for being concerned”. He shrugged, and walked slowly back to his lorry, looking back twice before climbing into the cab. Jenny checked the time. She had been asleep for almost an hour, and felt awful. There was nothing for it, she was going to have to go back to her flat and sort herself out.
The search team found lots of things in Leonora’s loft, but nothing at all relevant to any of the cases under investigation. Hidden in the eaves in a large wooden box, they discovered two AK-47 assault rifles, four handguns, and almost six hundred rounds of ammunition. There was also an assortment of vicious-looking knives, two Samurai swords, and a machete. Added to that was the .45 pistol that Tarr had wiped clean, found slipped under the bed That was enough to extend the detention order for the suspects.
As Commander McDonald looked at the list from the search teams, her initial excitement faded away. None of the items listed had any fingerprints on them. Ballistic tests would be carried out, but she had a bad feeling that none of the firearms would come back as being used in a reported crime, and tests on the knives and swords had shown negative for blood traces already. Leonora and Tarr could not be linked to the house, nor to any of the weapons found inside it. Computers and phones were also clean, with nothing incriminating. Those people knew their job too well, and didn’t incriminate themselves with phone calls and Internet searches these days.
Unless either of their stories could be challenged, she was worried that the prosecutors were not going to go ahead with any charges, and she might well have to let both of them go. Confronted with the evidence found in the house, Leonora and Tarr stuck to the same story, with the solicitors speaking for them. They were just crashing at a friend’s house. They had no idea that the weapons were in the loft, and were unaware that a pistol was under the bed they had been sleeping in. The officers interrogating them became increasingly frustrated at their casual demeanour, and fought hard to keep their tempers as they repeated the same questions over and over, with nothing concrete to tie either of them to anything.
Jenny had to drive the last forty miles to her flat quite slowly. Her body was feeling incredibly hot, and at times she was having trouble fighting off the dizziness. She decided to chance parking the rental car in the block’s car park, taking a space of one of the ground floor flat occupants; an elderly woman who didn’t own a car, but was rather precious about anyone parking there. Inside, her flat felt airless, as the opening door swept away the few days of junk mail that had accumulated behind it. She didn’t bother to bend down and pick it up, just pushed it out of the way with her foot, as she took off her shoes. Staggering into the bathroom, she vomited into the toilet bowl, mostly watery bile.
Her reflection in the mirror was alarming. The lorry driver had been right. She looked bad. Her skin was a nasty grey colour, and dark circles had appeared around sunken eyes. The wound was weeping steadily through the two dressings over it, and she felt so hot that she pulled off her clothes, standing in just her panties as she splashed water over her face and head. Both her body and her instinct were telling her she didn’t have much longer.
Steve Upshaw had gone from being annoyed, to seeing an opportunity. Using an untraceable pay and go phone, he was contacting his pals on the newspapers offering lots more information. But this time, he wanted money for it. Quite a lot of money, paid in old notes, and delivered to him under his seat in a local pub. By the time he was back home and counting his cash, the media knew about Leo and Tarr, the weapons found at the house, and the fact that neither of them would probably be charged. They had mugshots of the pair, a decent back-story, and the assumption that the police were treating Leonora Quigley as the main suspect in the series of murders of her old school friends.
Steve knew a lot of people, and had called in favours owed after his many years in the detective branch.
Despite feeling so bad, Jenny knew she needed food. She ordered a pizza delivery, and had a shower while she waited for it to arrive. Washing down three tablets with a large vodka and tonic, she switched around the different news channels on the television. It was all there, everything she needed. Agata being interviewed outside the office of her publicity agent, telling the reporter that she would be attending interviews, and where they would be. Speculation that Leonora Quigley would be released from custody with no charges, based on the old chestnut, ‘insufficient evidence’. The news girl was even standing outside the very police station where Leo was being detained, and gave a very accurate estimate of the time she would be allowed to walk free. Jenny took down a few notes, and consulted some online maps. It was possible. Tight, but it could feasibly be done.
The pizza was just a four-cheese with no extra toppings, but she was surprised how ravenously she devoured it, not even leaving a crust as normal. It actually made her feel a lot better. Or maybe that was the second large vodka, she couldn’t tell. Everything was coming to a head now, and knowing it would soon end one way or the other had settled her mind, if not her body.
Deciding that a third drink would do no harm, she pondered the fate of Catherine Harris. She had seen a short report of her being taken off the investigation, as she was off sick. Jenny had wrongly concluded that meant she might well be in a protected safe house somewhere. Time to face facts. She hadn’t done bad for a beginner, better than she had hoped.
But it would only be eight of the nine, after all.