‘My god this is amazing. Thank you.’
‘I went shopping,’ said Lenka. ‘It’s nice round here, but lots of different people, Indian, Black, Chinese. The kids were a bit scared by everything… Your garden is nice, and we met a couple of neighbours. A woman upstairs with two little girls, Jakub went knocking on all the doors until he found them and they came and played.’
‘They did? How did you talk to them?’
‘I know a few words in English, the mother was nice. What’s her name?’ Erika shrugged through a mouthful of food. ’You’ve lived here for five months and you don’t know your neighbours?’
‘What happened today with the handsome guy, Peterson?’
‘Nothing, really. We didn’t talk about it.’
‘Do you think anything will happen? He’s lovely.’
‘You could invite him over. I’d cook something…’ Erika gave her a look chewing a mouthful of the food.
‘I know it’s crowded and I’m sorry.’
Erika swallowed, ‘Lenka, give it a rest.’
‘A man called today, to read the meter. I think that’s what he came for, I was busy with the kids in and outside, it was when the girls from upstairs were here. He left this letter,’ she said pulling it out of her pocket.
Erika scanned it and saw it was from the letting agent, confirming that the gas certificate had to be checked and updated.
‘The food here is very expensive. What kind of things do you buy?’
‘Lenka, can you just give me a minute to breathe. I’ve had a stressful day and you’re just jabbering on!’
From the buggy, Eva woke up and started to wail.
‘You woke her up,’ said Lenka squeezing past Erika and picking Eva up. ‘There, there, it’s okay. Shush, shush.’ Lenka pulled her shirt down and gave the baby her breast, but she shrieked even louder. ’Can you go and shut the living room door?’
Erika shovelled in another mouthful of food and squeezed past, juggling her plate and came out into the hallway where she closed the living room door, and then the bedroom door against the screaming of the baby. She sat on the carpet by the front door with her plate on the floor and finished eating.
* * *
What couldn’t see, above her, fixed to the inside of the housing around the electricity meter was a small listening device.
Joel Michaels was arrested early the next morning at the flat he shared with Trevor Marksman. Erika, accompanied the uniform officers, along with Moss, made the arrest. When they arrived at the penthouse flat, Marksman sat at a long table against one of the floor to ceiling windows, looking out at the foggy morning view of the Thames.
When the officers produced their ID’s and told Joel Michaels he was under arrest. Marksman rose to his feet. He was dressed immaculately in powder blue slacks and a perfectly ironed white shirt buttoned up to his neck. Joel didn’t react when Erika read him his rights, and he was handcuffed and marched out.
‘Why? He hasn’t done anything,’ said Marksman, swaying unsteadily the raw skin around his eyes creasing in pain. ‘Take me instead.’
‘We’re not arresting you,’ said Erika.
‘He didn’t kill Jessica Collins. I promise you. He didn’t do it,’ said Marksman.
As Erika drove back behind the police car, she played it over in her mind again, the pain in his eyes, his insistence. She almost believed him. This was when she realised that they were a couple.
* * *
They returned to Bromley Station, and Joel Michaels was booked and taken down to a holding cell. It soon became clear that someone had tipped off the media. A large group of press and photographers were congregating on the steps outside the main entrance of the station.
Erika was preparing to interview Michaels when Moss came up to the incident room and said she should come downstairs. When they reached the foyer of the station, they saw that a large black people carrier was parked illegally on the double yellow lines outside, and Trevor Marksman stood outside the car, and was addressing the press.
‘What the hell?’ asked Erika. ‘Can we do anything about this?’
They came to the entrance and listened.
‘This is once again a bullying tactic by the Metropolitan Police. It’s bad enough that one of their officers was on record as tipping off a vigilante group who put a petrol bomb through my door…’ At this point he pulled off the huge dark glasses he wore which showed the full extent of the skin grafts around his eyes. ‘I have to live with this face for the rest of my life! The death of Jessica Collins was a tragedy, but I maintain my innocence! I have an alibi and I was not responsible. Now the police have arrested my partner, a man who has stood by me for twenty-six years. He is also my full time carer. He is innocent, and this is a desperate plea from the police to intimidate me and punish me for successfully winning a case against them!’
A voice could be heard from amongst the crowds of people and journalists who had gathered outside, and Marianne Collins appeared wearing a long winter coat, she was flanked by her daughter Laura.
‘Child killer!’ she shouted. ‘You lying piece of shit murderer!’
There was a commotion as she pushed her way through the crowds to the front.
Erika moved quickly over to the front desk and picked up a phone, ’We’ve got a situation developing outside the front entrance of the station, all officers please make their way up to the front desk.’
When Erika came off the phone, Marianne and Trevor were engaged in a stand off. The crowd had grown and as well as the press there were several of the younger people in the crowd taking video on their phones.
‘You took my daughter and you killed her with your disgusting friends, and now you’re laughing at us!’
‘Listen to me,’ said Trevor, putting up one of his misshapen hands to try and placated her.
‘Don’t you tell me to listen you, never get to tell me anything! You evil bastard! You killed her, you killed my girl and you dumped her in the water!!!’ screamed Marianne.
Laura stood silently beside her mother, as tears rolled down her face. The atmosphere changed in the crowd and Erika saw that Marianne was now wielding a large kitchen knife. The crowd scattered, spilling out into the main road amongst the traffic which was queueing at the traffic lights.