‘Yeah. I thought she was calling to introduce herself to me.’
‘I thought she’d just copy you in on a group email,’ said Erika. The second it came out of her mouth she wish she hadn’t said it. He paused, and seemed to let that one go.
‘She wants to meet you.’
‘Yes. Really. I don’t have the ear of the new Assistant Commissioner. She’s only held her position for one day. And yet she wants to meet with you about the Jessica Collins case…. Know something I don’t?’
‘No, Sir,’ she lied.
‘I’m your senior officer, and we had discussed this. I said that we don’t have the resources or time to deal with a major historical case such as this. Obviously it wasn’t the answer you wanted, and now I’m getting cold calls from the Assistant Commissioner.’
‘I haven’t approached her.’
‘Who did you approach?’
Yale sat back in his chair and laughed,
‘You seem to have nine lives, Erika. I’d assumed with the amount of begging that went on from Commander Marsh, begging me to find a place for you on my team, that you and him have a special bond…’
‘We trained together. We were officers on the beat at the same time, he was good friends with my late husband too. And he’s married.’ Erika sat back and tried to stay calm.
‘Marsh will be attending this meeting too. Did you know that?’
‘No, I didn’t, Sir. And you know that I’m very grateful for the opportunity you’ve given me,’ said Erika.
He nodded, unconvinced. ‘They’re expecting you at eleven. You need to report to her office at New Scotland Yard.’ He didn’t wait for her to answer, but she could see that the meeting was over when he turned and started working on his computer.
‘Thank you, Sir. What about Jason Tyler?’
‘I’ve got it covered.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’ She got up to leave.
‘Erika, even cats run out of lives. Use the ones you have left wisely,’ he said looking up for a moment before returning to his work.
At the New Scotland Yard building, Erika arrived twenty minutes early for her meeting. She passed the iconic revolving sign outside the front entrance, and was given an ID badge at the front desk and told to go to the fourteenth floor.
When Erika came out of the lifts a smart young receptionist welcomed her, asking if she would like a drink whilst she waited. Erika accepted some water, and sat in one of a selection of elegant armchairs.
There were a fan of magazines on a long table; the MET police’s internal magazine The Job was at the front of the fan, and the outgoing Assistant Commissioner Oakley was on the front cover. He stood in his dress uniform against a gleaming shelf of legal volumes. Erika always thought he looked like a sleek, sly fox. His hair was shiny and immaculately groomed and his braided cap tucked neatly under his arm. She picked up the magazine and peered closer. She had no doubt he wore a toupee. If he had been an officer on the beat it would have been picked up by a rogue gust of wind or yanked off by some kid on its first ASBO, she thought.
She’d never been invited to his office, when this had been his office, and it seemed any trace of him had been rapidly swept away. The chairs were new, Erika noted as a young man in a suit and a security ID lanyard started removing the plastic off a chair at the end. Fanned out, after The Job were copies of Time, The Economist, Vogue, Men’s Health and Vanity Fair.
Erika looked up at the security camera housed in a small perspex dome above the receptionists desk. She wondered if the magazines were a test. Would she be judged on which one she’d picked up? Her first choice was Vanity Fair, with Vogue a close second, but she picked up Time magazine and pretended to read it, feeling nervous, wondering just what this meeting would be about.
On the dot of 10am, a lady wearing a smart black trouser suit with glasses on a chain around her neck, appeared through the double doors of the office, and asked Erika to come through.
The office was immaculate with a thick carpet, and lined with shelves full of legal books. Behind them the Thames glinted, and the view seemed to carry on for miles. Assistant Commissioner Camilla Brace-Cosworthy sat at a large polished wood desk. She wore her dress uniform, with its white blouse and her neckerchief. Next to her sat Marsh, he too was in his official uniform.
‘Come in, do take a seat,’ said Camilla. Her posh accent emphasising the ‘do’.
‘Good afternoon, sir, marm,’ said Erika.
‘Thank you for agreeing to meet with us, Erika,’ said Marsh.
‘We’re attending an official luncheon later, so we’re all togged up in our best,’ said Camilla.
‘Congratulations on your new appointment, marm,’ said Erika. Camilla batted her away with a sidewards hand gesture, and slipped on a pair of large designer black framed glasses on a chain around her neck.
’Time will tell if I can live up to the hype,’ she said looking at her with magnified eyes. False modesty thought Erika. The woman in front of her was confident.
‘We’re here to talk about the Jessica Collins case,’ started Marsh. ‘You recovered the remains on Friday, and they’ve been officially identified?’
He knew this, of course, she’d told him when he was at home in his Homer Simpson t-shirt.
‘Yes, sir. I was working with the Marine Recovery unit for an unrelated drug case, when we found her remains…’
Erika saw she had a file on her desk, and was flipping through it. They have a file on me?
‘I see you’ve worked on several Murder Investigation Teams, both in London and in Manchester?’ asked Camilla
‘I worked for Chief Superintendent, sorry, Commander Marsh.’
She closed the file, and took off her glasses, slipping one of the stems into the corner of her mouth.
‘Your move to Bromley South was a demotion. A lower pay grade. Why?’
‘She felt she was being overlooked,’ said Marsh.
‘There was an opportunity for a promotion to Superintendent, for which I believe I was overlooked, by your predecessor Marm. This was at the time when I successfully caught Simone Matthews who…’
‘The Night Stalker killer. She went on quite the rampage,’ said Camilla. In her plummy tones, Erika couldn’t tell if she was expressing horror or admiration.