Marsh had listened intently. He was now breathing heavily, and continued to pace up and down. She could almost see the cogs turning.
‘What time is it?’ he asked.
‘It’s coming up to five,’ said Erika.
‘And when is their twenty-four hours in custody up?’
‘Nine am tomorrow.’
‘Have they had an evening meal break?’
‘Okay, and they are entitled to an uninterrupted eight hours’ rest.’
‘I know, sir. I need more time. Will you consider extending, giving me another twelve hours? I can’t authorise it and you can. I’m waiting on forensics. They took Simon’s laptop, and Linda’s too. There are also bank statements we’re going through.’
‘No. I can’t extend.’ Marsh came and sat down. ‘Look, Erika. You are a brilliant officer . . .’
‘Sir, you always say that, right before you tell me not to do something.’
Marsh paused. ‘I say it because it’s true. Also, because I can see how this is going to end. You’re going up against powerful people here, and the odds are not in your favour.’
‘Sounds very Hunger Games . . .’
‘I’m serious, Erika. Release your suspects and I will do the best I can to protect you.’
‘Protect me?’ asked Erika, incredulously.
‘Erika, are you blind to how things work? The establishment always wins. We’ve both seen it. You lack credible evidence. Please. Walk away. Save your career. Sometimes you have to let things go.’
‘No. I’m sorry, sir. That’s not good enough. Five women have died. Five. What right do people in the so-called establishment have to get away with covering it all up? So they can make more money? Keep hold of their cosy lives?’
‘You know what will happen, don’t you? You could lose your badge, your reputation.’
‘Sir, I’ve had almost everything taken from me. Mark, a life I loved up north surrounded by friends, a place I can call home. The only thing I have to hold onto is a sense of morality, and that until nine am tomorrow I might still get justice for these women.’
Marsh stared at her. The anger between them had gone. All that was between them was a messy desk, but it was as if they sat on either side of a vast canyon. And Erika was on the side that had the least stability.
‘Okay. You’ve got until nine am tomorrow to make a case. And you’ll take the consequences,’ said Marsh.
‘Thank you, sir.’
Erika got up and left his office, noting the sadness in his eyes.
Erika and her team continued to question the suspects, but as early evening slipped away, the case seemed to go with it. Igor, Simon, Giles and Linda sensed their lack of evidence and grew confident, clamming up and running circles around their questioning. Their solicitors were incredulous when Erika announced that they would be kept overnight and questioned again in the morning.
It was close to midnight, and Crane and Erika were the last two left in the incident room.
‘Is there anything else I can do, boss?’ said Crane, appearing at her shoulder. ‘We’re still waiting on the airport CCTV on Igor Kucerov. I don’t think anything will come through for the next few hours.’
Erika was reviewing the details of the case going back to Andrea’s abduction. Her computer screen blurred in front of her. ‘No. Go home and get some rest,’ she said.
‘You too. Are you back at your flat?’
‘No. The Met has sprung for a hotel room. Until I get sorted.’
‘Where are you?’
‘Park Hill Hotel.’
Crane whistled. ‘It’s nice. Had my nan’s ninetieth there. Nice golf course, too. Night.’
‘See you tomorrow, bright and early,’ said Erika as he left.
It was after midnight when she arrived at the hotel. When she came into her smart, elegant room, she felt a million miles away from the case. The distance didn’t help.
She woke at four-thirty, drenched in sweat, from the now familiar dream. Gunshots ringing around her, and Mark collapsing to the ground. She closed her eyes, the last image burned into her brain: the back of his head blown away by a shotgun.
It was sweltering. She got out of bed and went to the window, feeling the radiator underneath pumping out heat. Her room was on the sixth floor, and beyond the inky blackness of the golf course she could see houses, rows of houses packed together towards Lewisham. A few had lights on, but most were in darkness. The window only opened two inches. An anti-suicide lock stopped it.
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