A couple of short passages to tempt those of you who have yet to read Gamekeeper Turned poacher:
As she walked into town she could feel her resolve gradually crumbling. Defiant, she convinced herself that it was her strength that was preventing her wanting to be driven out of her favourite café. When she passed the station car park and turned from Queen’s Street into Carrington Road, the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre was firmly in view. She knew then that she would go and listen to what Josh had to say. However, in order to keep the last of her dignity she would pick up a couple of items on the way so it wouldn’t seem that she had gone into town specifically to meet him.
From the main entrance of the station a large group of people suddenly appeared. Sarah professed to know little about football and didn’t recognise which team the blue shirts belonged to. However, the sheer number of them suggested they were probably here to play Nottingham Forest rather than their lower league local rivals, Notts County. Clearly this was a team who had played here regularly because few stopped to get their bearings and most were heading in the same direction as her towards Castle Wharf’s waterfront bars.
Sarah was swallowed up by the crowd, only to feel herself being nudged by someone overtaking on her left, swiftly followed by contact with the lower right of her abdomen. Concerned that was where her handbag hung, she instinctively moved her hand to the area to check it had not been snatched. As she padded the region she could feel moisture. Holding up her hand to the sunlight revealed blood. Almost simultaneously she felt an excruciating pain rise from her side, and her legs crumbled. As Sarah sunk to the floor she was accidentally kicked from the person directly behind as he attempted not to trip over. Looking up at the blue sky from the cold concrete, the edges of her vision began to narrow. Concerned shouting could be heard accompanied by a woman screaming, but the noise seemed distant and muffled to Sarah. Darkness gradually crept in and it was with gratitude she observed that the pain was now fading.
‘Can you confirm your whereabouts at approximately 11.45am yesterday?’
‘I was most likely on Market Street on the way to the coffee shop.’
‘So nowhere near the station then?’
‘No, it’s the other side of town. I guess there must be CCTV there which can confirm it?’
‘We’ll see,’ said Johnson standing up, again impressed that McNeil understood that he should too. ‘Thank you for your time Mr Ramage,’ she smiled warmly.
‘Am I free to go?’ Josh asked, unable to hide his delight.
‘As you always have been,’ Johnson replied in a friendly manner, moving in the direction of the door. She stopped and turned. Josh shuddered as he witnessed her face become stony once more. ‘Just one last thing.’ In the silence that followed Josh could hear his pulse throbbing in his head. ‘When we told you what had happened to Miss Donovan…’ Johnson’s voice was barely above a whisper. ‘…why did you pretend that you didn’t know?’
His mouth flapped open and closed. He was almost relieved to see her index finger rise once more to indicate he wasn’t to speak. ‘Tell you what, don’t answer that now. I’m sure we’ll be talking again soon.’ She turned and opened the door. As she strode through she called over her shoulder: ‘PC McNeil, would you be so kind as to show Mr Ramage out.’
When McNeil returned to the duty area, he couldn’t hide his surprise when Johnson offered him cup of coffee. She was pouring herself one from the percolator in the corner. He chose to decline, believing that he would be dismissed long before it would cool sufficiently to him to drink it comfortably. He would rather risk offence turning down the offer than to demonstrate ingratitude by leaving the mug untouched.
‘So Ma’am, do you fancy him for it then?’
‘How about you?’
The ambiguity of her response didn’t come as a surprise. ‘Nah. He’s too much of a pussy.’ McNeil immediately regretted using a word most women, in his experience, took offence to.
‘I entirely agree,’ she replied with a smile.
‘So why did you sweat him so hard Ma’am?’
‘His type make me sick. What I suspected of him, having read his misogynistic and narcissistic messages to Sarah, were confirmed the moment he opened the door. He couldn’t give a shit about what happened to her, only how it might inconvenience him. I bet he’s never seen the inside of a police station and yet he walked in here thinking he could dick us around. That’s why I gave him that little parting gift. I want him to think it’s us back to arrest him every time he hears the doorbell.’ Johnson gently shook her head: ‘No. I want him to think it’s us every time a car pulls up in the street.’
‘Remind me not to get on the wrong side of you Ma’am,’ McNeil said with smile. When it was reciprocated he noticed for the first time that, despite being fifteen years his senior, there was something quite attractive about DCI Stella Johnson.