Like I said, he’s lived and loved in my head for years…
I have no idea where this very shot one shot came from – top of my head, need to write something, and yes, she was always trouble.
Daniel sits, head in one hand, looking up to where the peeling paint of the wall meets the ceiling. It’s been three hours and forty- two minutes and he wants to exit the room that’s hotter than a Bikram yoga studio. He’s sure the paint’s changed colour since he sat down here, letting Ryan do the talking, interrupting whenever he could stir up enough motivation. Maybe the paint’s the same, it’s the words that have creates this haze, and Ryan’s temper.
His mind wanders away from the fractured paint job and outside of the room. Tessa’s a few rooms down the corridor, sitting with some pock-skinned adolescent with bad breath who’s been brought in again on another shoplifting charge. Daniel wonders if she’s as bored as he is, thinking about getting out of here, like he is. Thinking about the bed that’s just become theirs, like he is.
A bead of sweat drops into his eyelashes and he wipes it away, the sensation of the liquid reminding him of the room he’s in, the situation that’s not for ending. The bloke opposite is sitting defiantly pretty, his arms folded, lips sealed tighter than a miser’s purse. He’s too hot as well, Daniel can tell, can see the soft twitch of his thumbs that signify discomfort causing red patches against the flaccid skin of his arms.
But Ryan’s having no luck in breaking him, and neither is the heat. At some point, Daniel wants to home, find Tessa on the way and pick up out a takeaway, maybe. Or just go home, get into bed with no sheets. “Look, mate,” he says, feeling Ryan’s glare against the stubble of his cheek that seems to have appeared because of the stifling heat, growing like grass. “I want to get out of here. Just tell us where she is.”
Thomas Ginder looks at him, his eyes laughing. “Why the fuck would I be arsed about you wanting to go home? Shouldn’t have joined the scum if you didn’t want this.” He looks about the room with humour, as if he has seen it all before, which he has. Charges that haven’t stuck lie like stones around his feet, forever weighing him down. They just need one thing, one thing to get him off the streets and out of the way for a few years and this could have been it. A missing girlfriend. A missing fifteen year old girlfriend.
It was rumour. Tessa had told him when he’d found out about the disappearance. Nikita Angela Mone, pupil at the local high school, last seen three days ago. Tommy Ginder, she’d said, one of the girls in Nikki’s class had mentioned she’d been going out with him, gone on about his car and the money he’d flashed about.
It’d taken two days to find him, staying at a mate’s, hiding in the cellars with a pool table and PS3, drugged up on something they hadn’t bothered to identify yet. He’d laughed as they’d dragged him in, drove him round for a couple of hours, waiting for a room to come free. “You’re not saying you weren’t sleeping with her then?” Daniel says, taking the rest of his accent out of his voice.
“We didn’t do much sleeping,” comes the reply, a chuckle punctuates the sentence. “But I ain’t saying we did anything wrong. She was a minor, mate, and I don’t break the law.” He laughs again, a laughed weighted with those stones they all know he’s kicking around.
“She was going out with your mate Andy, I hear.” There is a flicker of a memory; a conversation from before Tessa’s lips had sunk onto his. “She was into older men with cars.”
“Whoever told you that’s a fucking noob,” Tommy says. “She wouldn’t have looked twice at Andy; he was a retard. Besides, he was never around when she needed him.”
“When was that? To pick her up after school?” That was when Nikki had gone missing. Immediately after escaping detention, walking down the wrong corridor and slipping out of a door that should have been locked. “You helped her miss her DT?”
Tommy looks away, his eyes cast onto a poster spelling out the rights he has declined. “No. She needed an education, didn’t she?”
Daniel sits up, a chord connecting in his head, tying things together. He stands up, a shiver waving down his spine like cold water, suddenly chilled. Detective Sergeant Ryan looks at him, annoyance soaking his face, lemons at his lips. “She needed teaching.” His accent returns, the northern lilt of the Pennines widens out his vowels. “Keep him here.”
Her skin is moving when they find her, the strange early spring heat having pushed decomposition into a hundred metre sprint, leaving them its wriggling aftermath to find. Daniel fights the urge to heave, the sight not one he is yet used to. Ryan’s taken control now, barking orders until the boss gets there, credit for the one who shouts the loudest. Nikita is round behind the disused bike sheds, in the wooden hut abandoned by smoking teachers long before the ban came into force. The dyed blonde hair that she defined herself with is reddened with her blood, the colour of dried love.
“Well done, Kid,” he hears the boss says. “Scene of crime will sort in now. Go home, get some rest for a couple of hours. It’ll be good for you to see this through.”
Daniel nods, not wanting to go now. Then he sees Tommy, standing with his back to the hut, defiant and smiling still, his hands bound behind him, flanked by two of Daniel’s colleagues. Daniel feels his own heart pound. They’ve brought Tommy here to see his work, to spook a confession that might never trip off his tongue.
“Still don’t want to tell us?” Daniel says as he passes, pulling off the blue plastic overshoes.
“Nothing to tell. You got an eduaction, you work it out, Sherlock, with your fake-arse posh accent,” Tommy gives him another smile, this one hiding more than Daniel is asking for.
He ignores it, begins to walk away.
“You’re the copper who’s doing that social worker bird, aren’t you?” Tommy says it loud enough to create a silence Daniel finds wrapped around him, strangling. Only the thumping of his heart cuts it. He turns around, looks at Tommy.
Tommy laughs. “It doesn’t matter. She’ll never tell you.”
Something inside Daniel turns to stone and he lets it drop around his feet, kicking it away, even though he knows it’ll always find its way back, back to trip him up.