Powderfinger by Keller Yeats

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Chapter 29

You’ve got two external calls waiting for a response,” said Ronnie, as he walked through the door of the office and then, before he could make any coherent response, she added, “One of them is from the new chief.”

He balked at those words, Christ they’d only just seen the back of one arrogant supremo and the thought of a new Commander, filled him with dread.

“I think you’re really going to like this one,” she added. “I wrote his new office number down for you.” Then, in passing it on to him, she stated, “I’ve dealt with the rest. None of them, appeared to be all that important, just the usual garbage. Insurance, subscriptions to various periodicals and that fucking annoying guy, from Policing Today, who’s always looking for a story. You know the one?”

Alex Findlay, nodded and smiling at Ronnie’s acute observations, picked up the neatly written list she had prepared for him and took a look, to see who the other call was from that required his attention.

“Hmm, Nick Swann,” he read them out loud, while deliberating over the order, in which he would phone them back.” Also, there was the other one, from the New Super. “Just as a matter of interest, how do you know what Connor Metcalfe is going to tell me?” Alex enquired.

“He just, plain old told me,” Ronnie said. “He’ll tell you the same thing, when you call him.”

Alex, found Ronnie’s edgy badinage intriguing on most days but he wasn’t in the mood this morning. He’d had a terrible night last night and felt as if he’d been awake for almost all of it, frankly he was peeved that Ronnie knew something important about him from the Super, before he did. It offended his sense of protocol.

“I’ll call Connor, first and get that one out of the way, then maybe, I’ll get to know, what you say you are already aware of. So, we can begin today, on the right note.”

Connor Metcalfe, had just been given his position, after the retirement of Briscombe Sykes and he was, as the ‘Uber Bosses’ in London had hoped, a clean broom. Sykes, on the other hand, was known to head office for being the petty minded jobs-worth, who had been chosen for the senior position, because at the time the force had been under intense scrutiny and they were seeking a safe pair of hands, to sail those choppy waters smoothly.

Alex had met Connor Metcalfe once, or twice previously and had found him to be someone who would listen, before he jumped to an ill thought out conclusion. As he sat down behind his desk and reached for the telephone, he was just a little apprehensive as he dialed the number for Head Office.

When he had bumped into Connor Metcalfe previously, he had still been in charge of the Wigan Office but now, he was a bigger cheese and he may no longer be the easy going, sharp witted character he once was. On that occasion, they had discussed subjects that varied from ‘Modern policing,’ to ’Youth Culture’ and Drugs. They had hedged around the thorny problem of superiors, who made decisions without sufficient knowledge of their subject. In fact, it had been a perfect first meeting, between distant colleagues. Nothing, had been committed to and even less, had been revealed.

“Peep, peep, peep. Click.” Went the phone on the other end of the line. “Peep, peep, peep,” it went again and Alex was now considering the possibility, that there was nobody available on the dialed number’s side of the fence. “How bloody annoying,” he cursed. “As though, I’ve not got enough to do?” Then, just as he was about to put the phone down and try again later, it was answered.

“Hello, you have reached the office of, Chief Superintendent Metcalfe, how may I be of assistance,” said a disembodied female voice.

“Oh, hello. This is DCI. Alex Findlay and I’m returning a call to Chief Superintendent Connor Metcalfe. Is he available?”

There was a moment’s silence and then, the secretary said, “Just putting you through Sir. Please hold.” He hardly had many options, so he prepared himself for a lengthy delay, before another human voice could be heard down the wires.

“Alex, you old dog, it’s good to hear from you again.” The enthusiasm of this voice, made Alex, jump a little. He was used to hearing the sour tones of Briscombe Sykes and Connor Metcalfe’s ebullience, caught him off guard. “I’m glad, that you phoned me back so quickly. First, let me just tell you that I’ve been reviewing some of the more questionable actions taken by Briscombe Sykes, towards the end of his tenure as Chief Superintendent.Quite honestly, I can see no logic in many of the things that he did, so I’ve set about repairing the damage.”

Alex, was dumbstruck. They had a new Chief who seemed to be a man of action and that could only be good. “Alex, I contacted you so early this morning, in order to ask you for your opinion on this idea, that I’ve had.” Alex, was about to thank Connor, for his consideration, when he just continued anyway. “I wouldn’t like to simply go ahead with it, until I have got your view, on what I’m about to say.”

Alex, felt a rush of apprehension, mixed with dose of optimism run down his spine, as he waited for Chief Metcalfe to continue. “First off, I want you back on Serious Crime and secondly, what would you say, if I asked you to put your old team back together again?”

Alex, was stunned. He had thought, after so many months working in the 'Fiscal Irregularity and Fraud Department,’ and Arch and Kayleigh Western, having been transferred to different departments at Peel Park, his old team, seemed like it was broken up forever. When all the dust had settled, he seriously thought, that the “Powderfinger” investigation team, had seen their last hurrah. Once or twice, in his bleaker moments, he had even started to consider the possibility, that once the last remnants of this surreptitious investigation were over, the participants would break up and go their separate ways, never to co-operate in unison ever again.

Gathering himself he replied, “I’d say thank you, Sir. Would you like me, to contact Peel Park and inform them of the new arrangements?”

Connor Metcalfe, was smiling at the other end of the conversation. “No, no that’s all in hand, I expect, that you’ll be receiving two familiar callers very shortly” and with the sound of that bombshell still ringing in his disbelieving ears, Alex put the receiver down. He clenched both of his fists tightly, punched the air with both of his arms and let out a yell of pure delight, that could be heard all over The Station,

“Yessssssss!”

In her room, Ronnie just smiled, she knew roughly what Chief Superintendent Metcalfe was going to say to Alex but she wasn’t going to spoil it for him. Lately, things had not been running too smoothly at The Station and she knew he needed a lift like this, to put him back onto his feet and get his enthusiasm for the job, going again. Alex was beaming to himself. He couldn’t believe it, no longer would he have to fight tooth and claw, to get anything done. The oppressive regime of Briscombe Sykes was no more.

Now, there was a new kid in the room and Alex, could envisage himself working well with Connor Metcalfe, if this first conversation was anything to go by. However, there was the other call on Alex’s list that needed his response and he was nothing, if not diligent. On a high he dialed the second number,

“Hi,” said the voice on the other end. “Nick, by name. Swann by nature. How may I help you?” That level of joviality, coming from Nick at this time of the morning, was unusual but he responded in kind.

“Alex Findlay here.” He stated. “You requested, a call. So here I am. Now how can I help, Mr. Swann?” This, was a particularly chirpy response from DCI. Findlay and it threw Nick, off his stride a little but he quickly gathered himself again.

“You sound like the man who won the canteen raffle. Have you had a good morning, or are you just pleased to hear from me?” He enquired of the DCI.

“Distinctly the former, what have you got for me today, Nick?” Asked Alex.

Nick couldn’t help but smile inside. His relationship with the DCI, had become much easier since the meal at altorro’s place and invention of the Powderfinger moniker, which had been tagged on to this investigation. He could hear, that Alex was in an amiable mood, so he took his chance. “Alan Turnbull and I, had a meeting in The Black Dog last night, after work and we think, that another get together, round at his place, would be beneficial to this enquiry.” Nick, held it there, looking for some indication, as to how the suggestion had gone down at Green Lane. When he heard, no instantly negative responses coming down the wire, he pressed on.

“A meal, would provide a great opportunity, for all the conspirators, to collate any evidence, that we may have individually uncovered. How does next Saturday, at the same time sound to you?”

He waited for a reply to his proposition, thinking this later date would give them more time to gather all the information from Peel Park. When no reply came, he carried on.

“What do you think?” At the station Alex Findley, juggled his diary around in his head and hurriedly flicked through his desk ledger, to see if, and when, he would be free.

“Sorry, just checking my diaries. Yes, a week on Saturday would be fine.”

Nick was relieved. “Excellent. I’ll get hold of Mr. Turnbull and confirm it with him.” Then, almost as he was replacing the receiver, Nick remembered one more detail, that above all else, needed to be finalised. “Just one more thing, how many places will Sir, be requiring at the table?”

That was a question, that would require some thinking about and Alex, could supply Nick with no answer, just yet. He needed more information to provide his co-conspiritor, with an accurate number, to give to Alan.

“How many people can he cater for?” He asked.

“Well, he did say he wanted everybody involved, to be present and you weren’t to concern yourself with numbers” replied Nick.

There was a brief silence, while Alex attempted to gather his thoughts. “You’ll have to leave that with me, I’ll need to do a little checking on that score. Tell you what, I’ll get onto it today and then I’ll get back to you with the details. If that’s O.K. with you?” Now, it was Alex’s turn to remember something, just as he was about to conclude the call. “Oh yes, one more thing. Could you thank him again, for the invitation and do you think, that you could use your influence and ask him, if we could have a fish dish this time? The last meal was delicious and I am more than willing, to be amazed again?”

Nick, smiled to himself. “It’s a pity that you didn’t request a Pork Pie, he’d have been transported. Certainly, I will mention fish to him when I next give him a bell,” and with that note, he put the phone down.

Alex crossed out the two names and numbers on the piece of paper that Ronnie had given him and started to phone “Jinx,” to invite her out for a meal. As usual, she answered the call promptly and almost demanded to know, what it was he wanted. Alex never ceased to wonder, just how this ‘crispy attitude,’ that she often displayed, sounded to other callers, who maybe didn’t know her as well as he did.

“Good morning, Jinx, Alex Findlay here.” At the sound of his voice, her mood music lightened a little and her tone noticeably relaxed. “Just calling to see if anything has come back on the autopsy front yet, regarding the ‘Coach Party’ and is there anything else, that I should know?”

Jinx, cradled the telephone in her hands and cast a quick glance, towards the refrigerated area of the lab. Even though there was nobody else within earshot, she still felt a tiny bit dubious, about all this sneaking around that was going on. Mason, had no problem with it, he even seemed to thrive on the clandestine nature, of much of this investigation. Melissa, for all her mask of seriousness, was little better. Jinx, had never seen her so invigorated by a room full of dead bodies, as she had observed in the deep freeze the other day. So, why didn’t she experience the same thrill as her colleagues, when she stood face to face, with the six bizarrely desiccated corpses and number seven, who was in itself a mystery to unravel, with it’s coronet of felt Roses?

“Good grief Alex, you’re in a hurry did your mother never tell you, that wishing for something, will not make it happen any quicker.” He suddenly, felt about ten years old. It was, as if he’d just been admonished by a teacher.

“I’ll have the six preliminary autopsy findings for you in a few days but the Carbon Dating results, won’t be back for about another ten, even though Mason, is holding two bottles of expensive Scottish Island Single Malt Whiskey, ready to pay a friend of his, for an express service. I’m afraid that’s the best I can do.”

Truthfully, Alex knew that there would be nothing coming back from Jinx so quickly, he was fully aware these things took time, but he was feeling elated right now and wanted to tell someone about his good news and who better than Jinx? “Listen, what would you say to a fantastic meal, cooked by an excellent chef and fine company to boot, at a rather exclusive venue, by the canal bank?”

Jinx, wasn’t sure how she should respond to this rather tempting offer. “When, is this gastronomic delight supposed to take place?” she asked.

“A week on Saturday, at around seven thirty in the evening. You won’t need to concern yourself with transport, I will be happy to act as Madam’s chauffeur for the evening and remember, this is a door, to door service, so you will be able to indulge yourself.”

This seemed too good to be true, “What’s the catch,” she asked suspiciously, while fervently hoping, it really was a personal invitation.

“There’s no catch, honestly. In truth, it’s an opportune chance, for a meeting of those involved in the Powderfinger investigation, to exchange information and it afforded me, the chance to invite you out.”

She felt her cheeks redden, as Alex spoke those words, Jinx suddenly felt all her abilities to form words, into a coherent pattern deserting her, so she just remained silent.

“Well, that was handled immensely ham fistedly, even if I say so myself but it got the point out in the open,” mumbled Alex, like a silly schoolboy. “It’ll be an informal exchange of information, alongside some good food and interesting company.”

She was going to butt in at this juncture but he was on a roll, so she let him continue uninterrupted.

“Plus, I would be so very proud, if you’d just say yes.” Alex, by this juncture, was so nervously enthusiastic, that he almost missed her response to his pleading.

Jinx, for her part, looked around to check she was sufficiently alone and once satisfied this would not instantly become public knowledge, she whispered, “Yes.” Then, she purposefully walked over to her desk and sat down again. Alex, on the other hand, begun pacing around his room, almost repeating himself.

“Remember, you’ll be in the company, of some very interesting people, who will be able to fill in many of the blanks about all this, that you must have going around in your head. On top of that, I believe, that you will find the whole evening quite intriguing.”

Jinx, was confused, on the one hand she was proud to be included in the Powderfinger conspirators meeting, on the other she really wanted to have been asked out on a private date. She sighed to herself, she had given him the answer he’d been seeking and now, it was time to get back to work, on these new bodies,

“You’ve got a date, Mr. Findlay, I just need to know a few further details, but I’m sure we can sort out those minor questions later.” Then, as she was about to close the call, she thought about it again and quickly put the phone back, close to her lips and said, “I’m really looking forward to it and I should have your results back, by then.”

This was all going rather swimmingly and Alex wished there were more days as fortunate as this one. Then, he heard the tell tale sound of a distinct click, which was followed swiftly, by a burring sound, that came from her end of the line, as Jinx, hung up.

No sooner, had he stopped pacing and sat down again, whilst continuously rubbing his hands in a kind of subconscious gesture of self congratulation, than the door opened and Arch walked in, with a broad grin on his face, followed closely by Kayleigh Western.

Today’s good fortune just kept on happening. “My God, it’s good to see you two coming through that door again,” he said with a reciprocal grin on his face. “It just didn’t quite seem right not to have you here.” He hadn’t quite realised before now, just how much he’d actually missed Arch and Kayleigh but now, here they were back at The Station and this day just continued to be on the up and up.

“Perfect,” said Alex. “Just fucking perfect.” His team, was back together again and now they could get down to some real business. He, reached out for Arch’s hand, heartily shook it and then gave Kayleigh a big hug.

“It’s great to be back, Sir and to be honest with you, we were both going quietly mad down there, at Peel Park. You wouldn’t believe that place, nobody wants to step on any toes and to act on your own initiative, well, it’s unthinkable. It’s incredible to say this but I don’t know, how they ever get anything done, it’s a totally impossible position to find yourself in.”

Kayleigh said, as he released his clinch a little and allowed her to breath more easily. Arch, stood there grinning at his old DCI and simply said, “God Sir, I was beginning to think this day would never come” and then, he innocently dropped a small bombshell into the proceedings. “I’ve heard that County handed the ’Canal Cutter’ murders to the cold case guys, at headquarters.”

Alex, had feared this outcome. “They said, that it was due to a lack of credible evidence. So that’s blown it.”

Alex looked at Arch, who appeared to be somewhat crest fallen because he thought, that such information, was the last thing that the DCI,wanted to hear.

“Well, it could be worse,” said Findlay, “at least now, they will cast their gaze, elsewhere and we may be able to get on with a real investigation, free from any of the inter department rivalries, that Commander Sykes set in motion.” Arch, nodded his head slowly, as he considered the mild unattributable chaos that Sykes liked to instigate, in the pursuit of some distorted dream of never ending competition.

Then responded “He thought, that if we were all keeping something out of the ’public’ spotlight, there could be no recriminations later. He was a consummate dodger, of all the real, ugly truths that crop up when you do this job.”

Now, it was DCI. Findlay, who was slowly nodding his head in agreement with his DS.

Kayleigh looked at her two colleagues and couldn’t help but smile inside. It was entirely due to the fact, that she was just pleased Arch was so obviously happy, to be back with Alex Findlay again. She hadn’t seen him, this happy and enthusiastic in months. It was as if he had come back to life, after being in a coma, for the majority of the time they’d both been posted to Peel Park.

“Listen Arch, a week on Saturday, Alan Turnbull is having another one of his get togethers round at his place and we’re going to be there. Jinx, is coming with me, would you like me to see if he wouldn’t mind if Kayleigh came also?”

Arch, glanced over at Westie, seeking a reaction from her, as to wether she desired an invite, to this shin dig. “No, you go ahead without me, I’ll use the time to good purpose. I don’t want you to concern yourselves with little old me.”

Alex, looked at her quizzically. “Are you sure. He isn’t the kind of bloke who would object, if you tagged along with Arch.”

Kayleigh, gave Alex’s question a little more thought but stuck to her guns. “No, really Sir it’s O.K, I’ve got some chocolate I need to find the time to interrogate and there’s this scented bath oil and candles.......well you know Sir, a girl needs time to herself, if you see what I mean?”

Alex, smiled at her answer, while Arch gave him that familiar “What did I tell you,” exasperated look and shrugged his shoulders.

Just then, the phone rang with it’s insistent high pitched“burrup.....burrup......burrup.”

Alex, moved back behind his desk and paused, waiting for the phone to ring again. “Burrup.....burrup,” went the phone and on the second ring, he picked it up. “DCI. Findlay here,” said Alex.

“Connor Metcalfe. Sorry, if I interrupted anything. Just one, or two things, that I neglected to mention this morning. Sorry, entirely my fault. “ Alex, didn’t have time to speak, before he carried on. “Anyway, I think you are going to like these.” He paused again, to put his thoughts into a cohesive order and then, continued uninterrupted. “Number one. Due to the involvement of the Cold Case Unit, in the murders along the canal towpath, the top brass, have given the go ahead for the development projects, to restart in that region. Your department is being given the security liaison role, to ease you back onto the horse.”

Alex, didn’t like the sound of all that proposed development. If Nick’s, somewhat fanciful speculation, was even half right, then any disturbance along the bank, near to The Raven’s Gate Bridge, would elicit a swift and deadly response from what they were now referring to as Powderfinger. Oblivious of these facts, Connor, continued with his news.

“Number two, I’m giving you, the cases of the two related police murders to continue investigations, as and when, any new evidence comes to light. I’ve overruled County on this, I don’t want their deaths to moulder, in some cold case archives and merely fade away. They were our guys and I’m sure you would agree they deserve better. Also, I probably don’t have to say this but would you keep an eye out down along the canal bank area. It’s not too late yet and you never know, what might turn up.”

The line went dead and Alex, stood there for a few moments, stunned. He thought that all redevelopment in that area, had been put on the back burner indefinitely and now unbeknown to the developers, it was entirely possible they were inadvertently giving more life to the entity he knew as Powderfinger. He could hardly mention a spectral entity to them and expect anything like a positive and reasoned response. After all, they were only in it for the money.

“Oh shit,” Alex said under his breath and turned to Arch and repeated his last phrase. “Oh shit.”

Arch, instantly noticed the worried look, that had suddenly appeared on Alex’s brow. “Connor Metcalfe?” He enquired of the DCI.

“Hmm, the very same,” replied Alex.

“What did

he want?” intruded ’Westie,’ rudely. “You do know, that he pinched my bum last year, at The Induction Ceremony, don’t you?” She asked and then looked keenly, for some kind of confirmation, or sympathy that was writ large in their eyes, but all she got back from the two tutting officers, was,

“Oh yeah, I heard about that. Didn’t he break a nail, or something on your butt?” Clearly, the words had issued from DS. Deacon’s lips and he would pay for that faux par, later.

“Oh yes indeed,” she grunted, then continued, “Sir, do you think that it would be possible for me to nip to the canteen, to get myself a drink, or something. I’m feeling very dry in the mouth, at the moment. I guess it’s all the excitement of being back together and seeing you again, Sir.”

Alex smiling, nodded his acquiescence then began informing Arch, about the news he’d just received from Chief Superintendent Metcalfe.


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