DETECTIVE SERGEANT MALCOLM MCKARN of the Metropolitan police serious crime squad had no sooner arrived home after working deep into the night on paperwork that should have been completed days ago by his boss than the telephone started to ring.
His first reaction was to pray to whatever deity was listening to make it some far off Asian call centre, they could be told to piss off without taking offence and even if they did, they were too far away to do anything about it. His second was to ignore it, but sadly, logic stepped in to suggest that at this time in the morning it was certainly not going to be a call centre trying to sell him one of Russia’s left over nukes; it had to be something work related. He lifted the phone out of its cradle and put it to his ear, “McKarn?”
“Didn’t wake you Malc, did I?”
Malcolm’s reply became badly distorted as he began a long yawn which seemed to want to go on for eternity. “Harry mate, if this is some sort of joke I’m going to rip your lungs out the minute I clap eyes on you tomorrow…” he checked his watch, “…Correction, today!”
He and Harry went back a long way, to their training days at Hendon in fact and the one thing he knew for sure about the man was that he totally lacked a sense of humour, one look at his missus proved that much. So when he said, “No joke sunshine,” Malcolm was satisfied that this was no wind-up.
Malcolm realised he was shivering and remembered that as part of his latest economy drive he had re-timed the central heating to be off at this time of night which even in early January would have been fine providing he’d been tucked up in bed, but he wasn’t. He was standing in the hall talking to Harry.
He tried to urge his friend along, “Come on then, out with it. I have a lot in common with brass monkeys at the moment.”
“I’ve been ordered to tell you that you and that miserable bleeder you work for have been ordered away on an away mission starting right now. You’re going travelling you lucky sod.”
“To a faraway forgotten part of the Empire, Newcastle to be precise and a word of warning old son, the locals or ‘lercals’ as they are known ‘lercally’ seem to think that it’s God’s country. Although I was up there for a few months one Tuesday afternoon and I have my doubts as to whether such an eminent figure would ever want to take a slash up there, let alone admit to it being part of his handiwork. The chances of him catching pneumonia would be very high for one thing and I’m not sure his daddy would have allowed him to use one of his miracle cures on himself.”
Not for the first time since working with Inspector David Charles had Malcolm felt like giving up and becoming a shelf stacker at the local Ann Summers sex shop. It was bad enough having to suffer the man through a policeman’s normal 27 hour day, the thought of having to spend his ‘down time’ with him as well filled him with dread.
Malcolm was just starting to wonder if it was too late to transfer to the Mounties when Harry called down the line, “I know you’re still there mate, I can hear you crying!”
“Sorry mate, I was just wondering if I had any rope hanging about the place.”
“I wouldn’t do that sunshine, you’d lose your pension and besides this has come from the very top, the Commissioner himself, and I don’t have to tell you that that could mean promotion away from you-know-who if all goes well.
“Anyway the details I’ve been handed are no better than scratchy. The body of a youngish female has been found in a ditch in the middle of nowhere by all accounts—which pretty much describes everywhere north of Birmingham actually. I remember when I was up there people didn’t call them towns or cities, they referred to them as settlements. Anyway, the nearest village to where the body was found is a place called Wendesly. I did the usual check and there are a couple of places where you and Charlie boy can bed down, a small hotel come guesthouse come crap hole and a pub which if I were you I’d steer clear of, once in there you’ll never get Charlie out again.”