The first two chapters of Joanne Green’s crime novel, Mummy’s Boy
DS Harriet Chapman took another deep breath and folded her hands in her lap under the table. She didn’t want the tremble in her fingers to give away her fears to those gathered.
She sat poker straight and looked ahead of her, her eyes catching on the cuff of ACC Lucas Cavendish’s shirt, poking out from the sleeve of his jacket. He was always impeccably dressed, but today there was a button missing and a tiny forlorn thread was wobbling back and forth as he spoke.
‘As you are aware, DS Chapman, we are here to discuss an allegation of gross misconduct that has been made against you.’
Harry felt sick as she listened to details of the charges being read out.
She’d been accused of providing her brother, Patrick, with an alibi. He’d been spotted frequently outside their father’s house — too frequently.
After someone spray-painted ‘nonce’ on the side of their father’s car, he was the obvious suspect. Harry had heard the call come in over the radio and had instantly formulated her plan.
Patrick was homeless but she was listed as his next of kin, so when her colleagues came looking for him, she said he’d been with her.
The next day she’d been in the CCTV suite reviewing evidence for a case she was working. By a stroke of luck, the officer beside her was looking at Patrick’s case, not realising who Harry was. When the officer left the room to take a call, Harry deleted the CCTV file the officer had been looking at. They didn’t know she’d done that. Not yet. And she didn’t think the officer who left the room would fess-up to leaving evidence unattended. It didn’t matter anyway. The next-door neighbour had a camera doorbell and it had caught everything. The spray-painting and the watching.
Patrick had been keeping an eye on Nigel. Stalking they were calling it. Protection was what it really was. Protection for Nigel’s new family. And that was what Harry would do for Patrick. Even if it meant losing her job. She’d always looked out for him, kept him safe. Even when they were children. She couldn’t, wouldn’t, stop now.
She shouldn’t have done it, but she also knew that if it came down to it, she’d do it again.
She was worried, though. It was no secret that the ACC didn’t like her. He always made her working life difficult, and she knew he’d relish any chance to rid himself of the thorn she’d become in his side.
Harry really didn’t want to lose her job.
If she wasn’t there, who would look after the victims? No one cared about the vulnerable like she did. No one. For her colleagues, the thrill of the job was locking away the bad guys. That was part of it for Harry, too. It was secondary, though, to making sure the public didn’t just feel safe but were safe.
The ACC was still talking. ‘The complaint has been referred to the IOPC and they will be investigating alongside our Professional Standards Department. While the investigation is ongoing you will be suspended from all duties. You will receive full pay and benefits. The suspension will last until the conclusion of the investigation. As I’m sure you will already have guessed, your promotion to DI will be withdrawn…’
He paused for full effect.
‘…regardless of the outcome of the investigation.’
Harry’s stomach lurched at this revelation, even though she had anticipated it might be the case. However, nothing in her expression had given away her disappointment at this news. Her childhood had been excellent training in hiding her emotions, so she was sure the others around the table wouldn’t have realised how much the situation bothered her.
‘I don’t need to tell you, Harry, that this is a very serious allegation.’ Cavendish’s voice softened a little, and the use of her first name told Harry the formalities had been dealt with and the meeting was nearing the end.
‘It could result in your dismissal. You do realise that, don’t you?’
Normally the ACC’s voice was sharp and abrupt when talking to Harry; his kindness unnerved her. She said nothing.
‘We are all aware of the circumstances and none of us are happy that your father is back on the streets. It was a…. terrible business.’
Terrible didn’t go anywhere near describing the pain Harry and her bother endured both before and after their father had murdered their mum. Harry’s jaw tightened at the comment and the ACC coloured slightly, perhaps realising his words were inadequate.
A voice cut into the awkward atmosphere. ‘I’ll be leading the investigation on behalf of the IOPC.’
Harry looked towards the woman who had spoken, Susan Tremain.
‘You have an impeccable record and I have no doubt we can deal with this matter swiftly. I will ask ACC Cavendish to appoint someone from Professional Standards and we’ll work as efficiently as possible. I’m sure we’ll have this wrapped up in no time. Clearly there are extenuating circumstances. In the intervening period, we would ask you to have as little contact as possible with those involved in the case.’
Harry had no intention of staying away from her brother. She didn’t know where he was — he moved from place to place, drifting, unable to settle. He’d distanced himself after recent allegations, but she knew he would still be close, keeping an eye on their father, making sure he wasn’t up to his old tricks. She would have no problem staying away from Nigel, though. As far as she was concerned, he was dead to her.
‘If that’s all?’ Harry rose from her seat. The decision was made, no point hanging around.
‘Sit down until you’re formally dismissed.’ ACC Cavendish hissed the words at Harry, a drop of spit landing on the table between them. Any trace of his previous kindness disappeared.
Harry didn’t sit. Sitting wasn’t going to change her situation and she wanted to get out of the stuffy room and uncomfortable uniform and into her jeans for a muddy walk in the woods with Cal, her large, scruffy German Shepherd.
Anyway, what was he going to do if she didn’t sit? Fire her? She allowed herself a little smirk.
‘I’m glad you’re finding the situation amusing, DS Chapman.’ Cavendish was back to the formalities. It didn’t take long. It never did.
She was already on his wrong side and had been since before she’d even joined the force. She didn’t much care about that. She did care about losing her job. She wouldn’t show the ACC that of course.
‘Sir, with the greatest of respect, I won’t be sitting down. I’ve listened to everything you have to say. I understand, and now I’ll be leaving. Thank you all for your time.’ Harry nodded in the general direction of the others sat at the table and turned towards the door.
The ACC’s voice sounded behind her. ‘Usually, sentences that start that way imply no respect at all.’
Harry didn’t turn back, she merely gave a slight shrug of the shoulders and headed out of the door.
Harry was escorted to her office to collect her belongings, and as she reached the room she shared with the rest of her team, the hubbub from within fell quiet. Just for a moment, until DC Ahmed Best broke the tension.
‘Here she comes, our very own Dirty Harry!’
Christ, Harry thought. That’ll be the headline when the local press get hold of this. She supposed it would go nicely beside the most recent one about her father:
Doctor Death. Local GP jailed for killing wife to wear ankle tag on his release.
The noise in the office resumed as Ahmed wandered over and gave Harry a hug, said he had no doubt she’d be back soon. She was grateful for that. The rest of the team followed his cue and they took turns wishing her well. DS Aiden Kidd was on the phone, but he motioned that he would call her later.
Aiden, his wife Tilly, and their children were the only reason Harry ever ate properly. They regularly invited her to dinner. Without them, she would definitely starve. She wasn’t sure that she was feeling particularly sociable at the moment though, and she already knew she would be ignoring his calls.
As Harry lifted her small box of personal belongings, she saw movement in the corner of her eye and glanced across to see DCI Bob Duckett leaning against the doorway to his separate office in the corner of the room, a small smile playing at the edge of his mouth. The team had affectionately called the tiny office the broom cupboard until recently, and a sign to that effect had been stuck on the door. The first thing Bob had done when he’d moved in was take it down. Now there were only greasy marks where the Blu-Tack had once been.
Bob wasn’t Harry’s biggest fan. He was a huge fan of Cavendish, though. They’d joined Northamptonshire Police together as young men. Cavendish rose quickly through the ranks but never forgot his old friend, who could always be found trailing two steps behind. No doubt Cavendish had shared his views on Harry, and Bob was too much of a follower to have his own opinion.
Harry knew Bob would be straight round to Cavendish’s office to celebrate the moment she left the building.
As soon as Harry reached the sanctuary of home, she stripped off her dress uniform and threw on her jeans, jumper and boots — the uniform she preferred when she wasn’t at work.
She allowed herself a brief moment of self-pity. She hung her head and a lone tear dribbled down her cheek. She wasn’t quite sure how she’d survive if she didn’t have her job. It was the only thing that got her out of bed every day.
A wet nose nudged Harry’s hand. The other thing she got out of bed for and another police outcast. Cal.
‘C’mon, boy,’ she said, grabbing his lead from a hook by the back door. ‘Let’s go get muddy.’
The next few days of Harry’s life became a routine of getting up early after sleeping badly, sitting on the sofa flicking from channel to channel on the TV but not actually watching anything, avoiding Aiden’s phone calls and taking Cal for long walks to their regular haunts.
Today was Tuesday, which meant one of their favourite places, St. Barnabas Lake.
The air was warm with a gentle breeze rustling through the trees and the lake was glittering where it reflected the early-morning sunshine. The combination of sun and dappled shade created a magical glow on the water that Harry knew on any other day would be green and murky.
She and Cal walked slowly, following the path and listening to the chatter of the ducks calling to each other from one bank to another. It was still quite early, and the only other people out were joggers, cyclists and parents of energetic toddlers who had no doubt been up so long they already felt like it was lunchtime.
Harry watched as Cal made his way to the water’s edge and laughed as he ran from a flock of geese whose toddler-thrown bread he’d thought about stealing, until they spread their wings and gave a collective hoot.
‘This is why you’re no longer a police dog,’ she said as she fished one of his treats from her pocket.
‘I’m with the dog. Geese are scary.’ Harry looked over to see a Lycra-clad woman smiling at her and stretching a hamstring against the back of one of the benches.
As she spoke, she leaned forwards, resting her slim body along her leg, her blonde ponytail brushing her ankle. ‘It’s why I like to run. I need to be able to make a quick exit when those beasts come anywhere close. They hunt in packs!’
Harry grinned. ‘Unless you’re dressed as a giant loaf of bread, I think you’ll be fine.’
Both the woman and Cal looked dubiously towards the lake.
‘I’m Cassie, by the way.’ The woman held out her hand for Harry to shake. It felt slim and cool in Harry’s and she wondered how this woman, who had obviously been running around the lake, looked so fresh and clean, while Harry was already feeling sticky and a little grubby. She must be warming up rather than cooling down. Harry wished she’d wiped her palm against her jeans before touching her.
‘I’m Harry. And this is Cal.’
‘I’ve seen you here before,’ said Cassie. ‘I’m here all the time. I like to run.’ She motioned at her outfit, which looked to Harry more like clothes to pose in front of the mirror at the gym rather than something to get hot and sweaty in. But what did she know? She hated running. Walking with Cal was Harry’s favourite exercise. It was like meditation. There was the ground beneath her feet, the sky above her head and her best friend at her side. Everything else disappeared. It was the only time she felt true peace.
‘I’ve just finished, actually,’ Cassie said. Well, that answers that, thought Harry.
‘I normally like to round off with a walking lap before heading home. It helps bring the heart rate back down. Would you mind if I joined you?’
Harry did mind. She’d been enjoying the solitude, but Cassie seemed pleasant enough and she didn’t want to appear rude. Anyway, a bit of company might be nice for a change. She hesitated only slightly before answering.
‘Sure. It would be nice to have someone other than the dog to talk to.’
Cassie smiled her thanks and they set off walking in companionable silence around the edge of the water.
After a few minutes Cassie spoke somewhat hesitantly. ‘Actually, I’m glad I bumped into you today.’
Harry’s hackles started to rise. Oh no, here we go.
‘Are you a journalist? I’ve got absolutely nothing to say to you.’
‘No! No, it’s not that at all. It’s —’
‘Ah, so my father sent you, did he? Well, you can piss right off. I’ve got nothing to say to you, or that man.’
Harry turned and stormed away, calling Cal as she went.
‘You misunderstand.’ Cassie called after her. ‘I’m not a journalist and I don’t know your dad.’
Harry kept walking and she heard Cassie following closely behind. ‘I’ve been looking for an excuse. To talk to you. I’m wondering if you can… help me with something.’
Harry groaned inwardly. No, absolutely no way. She didn’t want to help her. She just wanted a quiet walk with her dog then to go home and feel sorry for herself.
She exhaled loudly and stopped walking but said nothing and remained with her back to Cassie.
‘It’s just that, well, I’d like to hire you to find someone for me.’
Harry turned towards Cassie and shook her head.
‘No. No way. My career’s already on thin ice and it can’t take any more pressure. Not interested.’
‘Please.’ Cassie held her hands in front of her as if to fend off Harry’s anger. ‘Hear me out before you say anything. It’s my husband. He’s gone miss––’
‘I’m not involved with the police right now,’ Harry cut in. Saying the words aloud brought her a fresh wave of misery. ‘I can give you a number for someone who can help. You’ll bypass the switchboard, go straight to a missing persons investigator.’
Harry rummaged in her pocket hoping for a scrap of paper to scribble the number on.
‘You don’t understand. I can’t involve the police. But I know you can help me. Please, Harry,’ she begged. ‘He’s taken our son too and I just want my boy back. He’s sick and I need to look after him. Please.’ Her voice broke and her large blue eyes pleaded with Harry, who continued to shake her head.
‘Maybe it would help,’ she said, a touch of desperation in her voice, ‘if I told you my husband’s name. It’s Lucas. Lucas Cavendish. Assistant Chief Constable Lucas Cavendish.’