‘Wasn’t Guy Fawkes a terrorist?’ asked a tall thin officer with a boyish face who had both hands tucked under his stab vest.
‘Do you want a warning?’ snapped Yale. ‘Now get this out of here!’
They turned the trolley and sloped off, the tall officer muttering, ‘Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, didn’t he?’
‘Good morning, Sir,’ said Erika trying to keep a straight face.
‘Is it?’ he snapped.
‘No. It bloody isn’t. Jason Tyler’s legal team are tying us and the CPS in knots. He’s now going back on a deal to reveal the location of computer records unless we press for a recommended suspended sentence.’
‘I know. Fucking drug dealers…’
Erika wanted to remind him that this is what you get when you start to negotiate with drug dealers, but she didn’t. He shook his head and went off down the corridor muttering.
She took the stairs up to the incident room on the top floor. She was impressed to see that much of her team were already in. It was a Friday, and she was conscious that it was now two weeks since they had discovered Jessica’s body, and that they had been working flat out for seven days. Phones rang and nearly every desk was full. DC Knight was updating a corner of the whiteboard containing all the information, and a profile of Amanda Baker.
‘Morning, Boss, can I have a word?’ asked Peterson, jumping up from his desk and intercepting her on the way to her glass office. He followed her in shoving a piece of a doughnut in his mouth and washing it down with a gulp of coffee. She put her bag on the desk noticing another pile of case files had been prepared for her. ‘I’ve had Laura Collins on the phone for the fifth time in two days. She wants to know when they can start making arrangements for a funeral?’
‘I haven’t heard anything from Isaac. I thought he’d have been in touch about this. Chase him up, don’t rush him, but find out.’
‘She also asked when her dad can go back to Spain… is there any reason he shouldn’t?’
Erika sat at her desk.
‘Well, no, but I thought he’d be staying here? I’d told them that they could start arranging a funeral.’
‘You think there’s something fishy going on?’
‘I don’t know. But thinking something fishy is going on isn’t good enough. Find out if he can give us a date when he’s coming back, but say it’s because we want to arrange an appeal with the family. See what he says.’
Peterson nodded. Erika went on to tell him about wanting to speak to Trevor Marksman and he agreed it was a good idea. John appeared at the door.
‘Just the person,’ said Erika. ‘Can you put out some feelers, I want to meet with Trevor Marksman, and talk to him as a witness. It needs discretion though, I don’t want the press finding out we’re talking to him, it might scare him off.’
‘Okay, Boss. I was just coming to see you because we’ve had a call from the secretary of an Oscar Browne QC. He wants to meet with you in his chambers.’
‘Hang on, is this Laura Collins’s ex-boyfriend?’
‘Why is he calling me?’
‘He wants to talk.’
‘He’s asked to talk to you face to face, it’s about the case. I pressed him but he wouldn’t say anymore. Can you do today?’ Erika looked at Peterson who raised an eyebrow.
‘Two o’clock this afternoon. Get the address and get me the file on him. He must have made a statement at the time. He had an alibi though?’
‘Ok, oh and let me know the second you hear something from Trevor Marksman.’
John went off to fetch the file as she logged onto her computer and saw she had seventy emails about the case.
‘Oscar Browne was away camping in Wales with Laura?’ said Erika.
‘Yeah. Marianne waved them off on the day before Jessica went missing. There’s a statement from a bloke who worked at the site who said they arrived and were staying there. I seem to remember him saying that he was the only black guy…’
‘I suppose people would have remembered him in Wales back in 1990…’ Erika clicked on one of her emails, ‘I’ve got details here on Bob Jennings, the man who had lived in the cottage next to Hayes Quarry. Says he’d lived in the area all his life, and had spent time in and out of various mental institutions in Kent. He had a criminal record, mostly for petty theft, but no history of violence. The council had tried to house him on three occasions but every time he had refused… So that’s why he ended up squatting.’
‘So that’s our main suspect, a dead guy?’ said Peterson.
John came back to the door.
‘You’re booked in to meet Oscar Browne at 2pm.’
‘Look on the bright side, he might confess to it all,’ said Peterson toasting her with his coffee cup on his way out.
Erika sat back and rubbed her eyes. This case seemed to be blossoming out of control in all directions.
The Omnia Legal Chambers were close to Victoria Station, so Erika took the fast train from Bromley, arriving half an hour later. It was a red brick building a few minutes walk from the train station, a few doors down from the Apollo Theatre.
It felt serious. The stern woman on the front desk, the imposing opulence of the reception area of carved stone and moulded high ceilings. She was shown to his office on the top floor, which had a sweeping view of the London skyline. Oscar Browne was eighteen at the time of Jessica’s disappearance. He was now 44 years old, a tall distinguished black man with the beginnings of salt and pepper in his hair. He wore an expensive tailored suit and shoes. It was the office of an expensive lawyer, thick rugs, dark polished wood and the all-seeing secretary. Erika imagined she had been carefully chosen, she was not too easy on the eye to distract the male partners, but attractive enough to show the company was young and dynamic.
‘Detective Chief Inspector,’ he said rising from his desk to welcome her. They shook hands. “Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee, some water?’
‘No thank you,’ said Erika. She sat on the comfortable armchair in front of his desk and he waited until the secretary had left to speak.