Dying Day – Stephen Edger

I push him away with all my might, and he topples from the bed. This was a huge mistake. I never should have asked him to come into the bedroom. I should have seen him watching me. I should have recognised the look of lust. But I thought he was just being friendly. I dive off the bed, keen to put distance between us, but he’s on his feet again and chasing me. He grabs my arm, spinning me round. He’s still aroused, and that look is still in his eyes, but I don’t want him here anymore. I try to push him away, but he squeezes my arms tighter, pulling me closer. ‘Don’t fight me, Amy,’ he growls, and I can smell the wine on his breath. I need to get away, so I charge at him, and we slam into the shelving units by the wall. I scream, but this only spurs him on. I have no other choice; I drive my knee into his groin and he doubles over in pain. Now is my chance.

I have to escape. I turn to run, but he lunges forwards, and grabs my ankle with an outstretched hand. I lose my footing, and my body twists in the air as I fall to one side. There’s a sharp pain in the back of my neck as I crash into the corner of the table. I land on the carpet and everything goes black. 1 WEDNESDAY The Audi bounced out of the industrial estate as Kate took the speed bump without slowing. Two hundred yards in front of her she could see her suspect hightailing it along the slip road leading to the M3. She held the radio to her face. ‘This is Charlie-Victor-Two-Zero-Zero-Five in high-speed pursuit of suspect Niall Renshaw. He’s driving a 2012 red Porsche Boxster, registration is Kilo-Yankee-Six-Two-Mike-Romeo-Kilo.

I am pursuing in a grey Audi TT, registration Hotel-November-One-Five-Hotel-Papa-Papa. I need backup to intercept him. Over.’ The Boxster joined the motorway and cut across two lanes, disappearing from view behind a supermarket lorry. Kate dumped the radio into her lap, dropped a gear, and shot down the hard shoulder of the slip road, cutting back onto the motorway and almost clipping a caravan crawling along the inside lane. The blue lights built into the grille at the front of the car were all the warning she could offer. Her radio burst back into life. ‘Charlie-Victor-Two-Zero-Zero-Five received. I have two units joining you at junction 11, ma’am. Over.

’ Kate lifted the radio, almost losing control of the wheel. ‘Received.’ The dashboard display flashed with the supe’s ID and she tapped her Bluetooth. ‘Matthews, what the hell is going on?’ ‘He deserted the scene and I’m on his tail.’ ‘Where?’ Kate pulled around a supermarket lorry, and could just make out the Boxster a quarter of a mile ahead. He had to be doing over a hundred to be pulling away from her that fast. She darted into the outside lane and floored the accelerator. ‘M3, sir. Joined at Eastleigh, heading East towards—’ ‘Jesus! On whose authority?’ ‘Sir, there wasn’t time to—’ ‘Pull over now! There’s too much at stake here. I don’t want him panicked into doing something stupid.

There’ll be other chances.’ ‘But sir—’ ‘I don’t want you causing an incident. End the pursuit.’ She flashed her lights at the Range Rover directly in front and gesticulated for him to move as she charged up behind him. ‘Sir, I wouldn’t do anything to risk—’ ‘Desist, Matthews. That’s an order. You can’t keep pushing yourself like this.’ The Porsche was still eating up road, but she was finally gaining on him, her hands clammy against the leather strapping of the wheel. ‘Sir, I’ve got two support vehicles on the way. I need to keep him in sight until they can intercept.

’ There was a pause. ‘Where will they join?’ ‘At Winchester. I still have eyes on him.’ She was still gaining. ‘I want you to leave the pursuit when the patrol cars join. We need you back at the crime scene straight away, they need the SIO on-site.’ There was no point in arguing with him. ‘Understood, sir,’ she said through gritted teeth. ‘Do not engage with him, Matthews. I mean it.

I want to hear you say it.’ They’d now passed the next junction, and the signs at the side of the road showed there was a mile until the Winchester turn-off. ‘Matthews? I want you to respond,’ he repeated, louder this time. ‘I’ll leave at Winchester, sir.’ She cut the call, and pushed the speedometer on. Now she was only four car lengths behind Renshaw. Suddenly he jerked into the middle lane to the sound of blaring horns. Kate couldn’t copy the move as an SUV was blocking her path. She forged forwards, cutting in front of the SUV and then over again as she saw the Porsche dart up the slip road. He must have spotted the patrol cars on the road ahead.

‘Shit!’ she shouted, before jabbering into the radio. ‘This is Charlie-Victor-Two-ZeroZero-Five, the suspect has left the motorway at junction 12. Are there any other cars in the area?’ ‘Negative, Charlie-Victor-Two-Zero-Zero-Five.’ ‘He’s heading north towards Winchester. I’m in pursuit, but I need backup. Over.’ ‘Received. Over.’ She hadn’t lied; the supe had told her to exit at Winchester, to maintain eye contact until backup could intercept, which is exactly what she was doing. The Porsche raced through a red light, narrowly avoiding a collision with a doubledecker bus.

The light went amber as Kate mounted the kerb, shot across the grass and back onto the road, only two car lengths behind him now. ‘I’ve got you, you son-of-a-bitch,’ she yelled at the windscreen. She followed him onto the single carriageway and thumped the steering wheel in elation as she saw a tractor pull into view just beyond the bend in the road. With the stream of traffic coming the opposite way, there was no way he was overtaking. But she was wrong. Suddenly, he shot out and accelerated into an opening. It was an insane move, but if she didn’t replicate it, she’d lose him. She pulled the wheel right and tucked in behind him, praying that he would hurry so they could both get past the tractor before the bend that was hurtling towards them. As the nose of her Audi crept past the tractor, Renshaw slowed, trapping her in. She pressed harder on the accelerator, nudging his bumper.

She saw him glance up into the rear-view mirror and give her a sickening grin. She bumped him again, but he remained where he was. What was he playing at? He swung left. The breath caught in Kate’s throat as sunlight reflected off the windscreen of the 4×4 approaching. A second later, she was flying through the air. 2 The glare of bright light. Incessant pounding behind her eyes. And then suddenly, the sensation of tumbling; her body held fast by the sheets that swaddled her as her head rolled through the darkness. Kate fought the urge to retch as she tried to focus on a single thought: where am I? But the synapses of memory were singed in the heat of the headache that raged behind her eyes. Opening her mouth to call for help released little more than a whimper.

Somewhere in the distance a banging sound, followed by beeping horns and scraping metal. A flashback of her car flying through the air. The accident. Glimpses of foliage and a chainsaw. Then the dense fog returned. ‘Matthews? You awake?’ The supe’s voice. Had he come to save her? A cool hand was grabbing at her arm and shaking her. ‘Matthews? Wake up. I need to talk to you.’ Kate strained her eyelids apart, suddenly aware of the pillow behind her head and the firm mattress pressing against her aching body.

‘Sir?’ she choked, her voice little more than a whisper. She cleared her throat, the taste of blood clinging to the roof of her mouth. She heard movement, the clatter of blinds being pulled closed. ‘Is that better?’ It was. Opening her eyes wider, Kate’s surroundings came into focus; a private room; her bed against one wall; machinery beeping and whirring behind her; to the left a door was ajar, revealing a small bathroom. ‘Hospital?’ she croaked. The supe passed her a beaker and straw, and she sucked the warm water in. ‘I should have brought some grapes,’ he muttered dismissively. She cleared her throat. ‘I’d prefer wine.

’ Some of the tautness in his face evaporated as he smiled, but his smile was shortlived. ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Like I’ve been in a car accident.’ ‘You’re lucky to be alive.’ ‘Renshaw, sir… did we—’ ‘He’s in a room down the hall, with a police guard.’ She sighed, some of her tension easing. ‘We got him.’ The chair screeched against the floor as he leaned in. She could smell the tang of coffee on his breath. ‘But at what cost, Matthews? Your car is a write-off and you… what if he’d driven into someone? A family? Would that have been enough?’ ‘Enough?’ ‘Enough for you to stop this one-woman campaign to put away every criminal who crosses your path? You think I haven’t noticed all the extra hours you’ve been putting in? First in, last out, you’re in danger of burning yourself out. I thought you were smarter than that.

’ She bristled as the pain in her head intensified. ‘We caught him. It’s over.’ He stood, aggravated. ‘But for how long? Until the next case? I gave you a team for a reason. You don’t have to do everything on your own.’ ‘Sir, I give Patel and Laura plenty to do.’ He raised a cynical eyebrow, but didn’t break pace. ‘You are supposed to lead by example. But your relentless determination to put yourself in the line of fire is going to bring nothing but pain to you, and those around you.

You’re out of control and it’s dangerous.’ ‘I wouldn’t do anything to endanger the lives of my team, or the public,’ Kate said, meaning it. He continued, unconvinced. ‘I’m not the only one who’s worried about how hard you’ve been pushing yourself.’ ‘I learned my lesson in London.’ She gritted her teeth against the pain, against the memory. ‘I hope you did… Don’t think I haven’t realised that this weekend marks the anniversary of DC Spencer’s murder. There’s nothing you can do about that. It happened, and you need to move on.’ The memory of Amy’s lifeless face assaulted her; that cold stare from the gutter, her bruised and lacerated body abandoned like yesterday’s rubbish.

Kate fought to clear her mind as her head dissolved further into the pillow. Not now. Not now. The supe’s eyes trailed across the end of the bed where her foot poked out from beneath the sheets, bandaged and elevated slightly. ‘Have they said how long you’ll be out of action for?’ She frowned, registering her injured foot for the first time and not daring to move it. ‘It’s fine. I’ll get some painkillers, maybe some crutches.’ He looked at her sceptically. ‘You have holiday. I suggest you take it now, before you make me do something we might both regret.

’ ‘But, sir, the case. We need to secure the evidence against—’ ‘Underhill will take control in your absence.’ She groaned. ‘I know the two of you don’t see eye to eye, but he is one of the best and it’s time for you to take a step back.’ She fought against the rising emotion in her throat. ‘Don’t do this, sir. Please.’ ‘It’s out of my hands. Professional Standards will have questions for you; if you’re lucky, you’ll come out the other side unscathed, but you’ll benefit from being out of the light for a bit. We all will.

’ There was a pause as Kate considered pushing back, but it wouldn’t help her cause. ‘They’ve reopened the case into DC Spencer’s murder. I presume you know that?’ She winced. So this was why he really wanted her to take a break. Ben had been urging her to take a holiday too. Why did they all think she couldn’t cope? She’d lived through it once, she could do it again. ‘I’d heard a rumour.’ ‘Yes, well, given what is likely to be dragged up, a few weeks away from the office is exactly what you need.’ ‘But what if they want me to discuss the case?’ ‘They don’t want you anywhere near it.’ He said it so matter-of-factly it must have been an order.

‘That’s ridiculous. I was the SIO; I know that case better than anyone—’ ‘They want fresh eyes on it, and that’s that. You’ve been instructed to stay away.’ He glanced back at the door. He’d said his bit. ‘I’ll be in touch when I’ve heard from Professional Standards. Go home, Matthews, and rest.’ He turned and disappeared out the door. 3 THURSDAY Kate handed the taxi driver a ten-pound note, and pushed the rear door open, before shuffling around so she could rest her bandaged foot on the damp pavement. The doctor had confirmed there was no fracture and that the cause of the swelling was a sprain.

She’d taken the offer of crutches but didn’t intend to use them for too long. The symptoms of her concussion could last a few days and she’d been prescribed painkillers for when the pain got too much. She’d dry-swallowed two pills the moment she left the hospital. ‘You want change?’ the driver asked. Spotting a photo hanging from the visor of the driver with two young children, she waved her hand in resignation. ‘Keep it.’ She closed the door, regained her balance on the crutches and stared up at the sevenstorey structure of the city’s police headquarters. She stifled a yawn, promising herself an enormous cup of coffee when she made it up to the third floor. Tottering forwards, she felt the strain of the crutch handles digging into her palms as she followed the wheelchair ramp up to the main entrance, deciding it was the quickest way into the building, rather than entering from below as she was supposed to. She waved her badge at the PC behind the front desk and he buzzed her through with a disapproving look.

The lift deposited her on the third floor and she made her way slowly along the corridor, until she arrived, panting, at the door to her department, only to find it deserted. She rested against the edge of her desk until her breathing steadied, and then pushed herself onwards, heading out of the office and further along the corridor. The blinds were pulled shut in Major Incident Room One. Peering through the tiny vertical strip of glass in the door, Kate could see the room was packed as DI Underhill pointed urgently to the words scribbled on the whiteboard behind him. Something big had happened and she hadn’t been called. Pressing her nose against the strip of glass as she strained to see more, Kate spotted Laura at the back of the room. Laura caught her gaze, her eyes widening with concern, shaking her head in warning. Whatever was going on inside, interrupting was not an option. The supe’s door opened behind her. ‘Matthews? I told you to stay at home.

Get in here.’ Taking one last look, Kate circled back around and followed him into his office. The fish in the bowl on top of the filing cabinet gave her a slow, cold stare. ‘I thought I made myself abundantly clear. You are on leave until further notice.’ ‘I know that, sir, but I thought if I could show you how mobile I am, you’d realise I can continue working. It’s just a sprain, and I’ll only need these things for a couple of days.’ ‘Your leave has nothing to do with your mobility and you know it, Matthews.’ ‘Sir, please. I know what you said, and I take that all on board, but I am fine.

I really am.’ He sat. ‘Go home, Matthews.’ ‘What’s going on in MIR-1?’ He fired her a warning look. ‘It’s not your concern.’ ‘You’ve called the entire team in there. It must be something major. There’s been a murder, hasn’t there?’ The supe’s head shot up, the same look of unease in his eyes. ‘I knew it! You need me, sir. I’ve got the experience.

After last time—’ ‘We’re not discussing this, Matthews.’ ‘Let me in, just for support and then I’ll take leave, I promise.’ ‘Goodbye, Matthews.’ He wasn’t usually this stubborn. There was only one reason he wouldn’t want her involved. ‘Is this… is this about Amy Spencer, sir?’ He looked at her, exasperated. ‘This is exactly why you need some time away. A woman’s body turns up, and your first thought is it’s somehow related to what happened in London. It has absolutely nothing to do with any of that.’ He closed his eyes and steadied his breathing.

‘Clearly you’re feeling the strain of the anniversary of DC Spencer’s death. You’ve been pushing yourself too hard for weeks, and if I don’t force you to take a break, you’re going to run yourself into the ground. I’m telling you this as a friend now: this is an intervention. You need to go home and rest. I don’t want to see you anywhere near this office for at least a fortnight. Go abroad somewhere while her story is raked through the press again. You don’t need that stress.’ He pointed at the door. ‘Go home, Matthews. I won’t tell you again.

’ Kate made it back to the lift and pressed the down button. She would follow the supe’s instructions and leave the building, but she wasn’t going to go home. If he wouldn’t tell her what was going on, she knew someone who would, and she could guess exactly where that person might be within the next twenty minutes.

.

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