‘He was sitting on my suitcase, sir. He wouldn’t get off.’

‘He was sitting on your suitcase,’ repeated Oakley, leaning back. He tapped his pen against his teeth. ‘Were you injured during this attack by a small seven-year-old boy?’

‘Yes, my hand was cut,’ said Erika.

‘Yet there is no further entry to this incident in the report. Procedure would dictate that you are examined by a doctor, who can verify this. Were you examined by a doctor?’

‘No.’

‘And why not?’

‘It wasn’t life-threatening. Unlike some people, I like to engage more in police work than pushing paper around.’

‘Not life-threatening. Yet these things can fast become career-threatening,’ said Oakley. Erika looked to Marsh but he said nothing.

Oakley flicked through the file. ‘I had CCTV images pulled from the reception area, which does indeed show the full altercation. Ivy Norris threatened you with a knife, and the situation was diffused by the desk sergeant. However, six minutes later you are seen in the car park where Ivy Norris and her three grandchildren get into your car.’

He passed a large photo across the desk that showed a remarkably sharp image of Ivy and the children outside Erika’s car. The next image showed Erika holding something out through the open window, and the next was of Ivy and the children climbing into Erika’s car.

‘It was freezing cold. I felt sorry for them, I gave them a lift.’

‘And what were are you holding out to Ivy in the photo?’

‘Cash.’

‘You gave them a lift? Where?’

‘To Catford High Street.’

‘And then what happened?’

‘I dropped them where they wanted to go.’

‘Which was?’

‘By a Ladbrokes betting shop; Ivy didn’t want me to see where she lived. They left the car and vanished in between the shops.’

‘Left the car, or fled the car? What happened when they were in your car? Was there any further physical violence, from either party?’

‘No.’

‘You were then seen again twenty-four hours later with Ivy Norris, this time harassing her at a private wake.’

‘It was a glorified lock-in, sir, and Ivy was in a public place. I wasn’t harassing her.’

‘Did you know the landlord of The Crown filed an official complaint about police harassment?’

‘Did he? Was that in-between working as a police informant? Or was that part of his work as a police informant?’

‘I would tread very lightly here, DCI Foster,’ said Oakley, icily. ‘These allegations are stacking up in quite an alarming fashion. Your phone number was found at the crime scene on Ivy Norris’s body, plus she was found with a hundred pounds in cash. You are in this photo giving her cash . . .’

‘I gave her my number, and asked if she could call me with any information.’

‘We have a transcript of the voicemail she left on your phone, where she states, I quote, “If you can give me money I’ll tell you what you need to know. A hundred minimum should do.”’

‘Hang on, you’ve already pulled my private mobile phone messages? Are you suggesting I murdered Ivy Norris?’

Erika looked at Marsh, who had the decency to look away.

‘No, we are not suggesting you murdered Ivy Norris, DCI Foster. Looking at this evidence though, it’s building a picture of an officer who is frankly a concern, perhaps a little out-of-control,’ said Oakley.

‘Sir, you know we all have our narks. Our informants who we take for a drink and a chat – a little money and a little information changes hands, but I did not give Ivy Norris one hundred pounds.’

‘DCI Foster, can I remind you that it’s not official police policy to pay for information,’ said Marsh, finally speaking up. Erika laughed at this ludicrous statement.

Marsh’s voice went up an octave. ‘You also directly defied my order with regards to the official statement we made at the press appeal. You jumped in, unapproved, unscripted. Used it as a mouthpiece for a wild hunch. Who knows what damage you have done . . .’

‘Hunch? Sir, I have a strong lead on a man who was seen with Andrea Douglas-Brown just hours before she was killed, and this was witnessed by a barmaid and Ivy Norris.’

‘Yes, the barmaid who doesn’t seem to exist, and an unreliable witness, who is now dead,’ said Assistant Commissioner Oakley, remaining irritatingly calm. He went on, ‘Do you have an agenda against Lord Douglas-Brown?’

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