The moment he stepped into the room, silence fell.
Making his way round the crowded desks to the front of the room, Kim right behind him, he felt as if he could read their minds. He knew the thoughts swirling around their anxious heads. Who was he, this tall, man with the military bearing taking control of their turf? Was he as bad, as demanding and unforgiving as the reputation which preceded him? How many of us will still be in a job after he’s through sorting the worthwhile from the scrap?
At the front of the room, he dropped his briefcase on the trestle table, turned and faced his audience, his eyes scanning the thirty men and women before him, each filled with that same mixture of wonder, trepidation, and no small amount of respect.
He often found it useful, especially in places like Havensby where crime levels were no higher or lower than anywhere else, but where the actual crimes were less serious, a factor which (in his opinion) contributed to the lax approach of CID.
They were trained detectives. Whether they came into the police service as a community support officer, a beat bobby, or fast-track graduate, each had taken and passed the National Investigation Examination, and undergone the basic training required of all CID officers. As constables, sergeants, inspectors, each and every one of them had put those lessons into practice on the streets of Havensby and the rural areas surrounding the town.
Mugging, burglary, low-level street dealing, domestics, drunken fighting… These were the bread-and-butter work of Havensby CID. Most cases of murder were incidents of domestic violence gone too far, often reduced to manslaughter when they came to court. To Havensby, armed robbery meant the staff of an off licence held at the point of machete while the till was emptied, and drug dealing was interpreted as Johnny junkie selling single wraps in the local bar at twenty pounds each.
He felt no disrespect for them. Their lot was the same as any other police officer in any other town in Great Britain. But his career had hardened him to the harsh realities of what lay round the corner. And for those amongst the small crew who yearned for such ‘action’, he could tell them of the dread, the terrible realisation of living so close to one’s mortality. He had been there. He had come through. He was in no hurry to go back there.
None of the faces concentrated on him knew anything of him. All they knew was a man sent from Divisional Headquarters to take control of CID, grab it by the scruff of its collective neck, and shake some life into it.
There was the usual mix of age range, from young men and women in their mid-20s to officers in their late 50s, men and women who passed their days looking forward to retirement and a bulletproof pension.
There was no dress code. Even in the big cities, he would not expect one. One could not ask undercover officers to join a drug-dealing cartel while dressed in a suit from Greenwoods. It was not an issue in Havensby, but the same carefree approach to dress applied. Most of the men wore suits, and the women formal business clothing. Some ties were fastened to the neck, others hung loose at the collar, a few blouses were on display, along with woolly jumpers. One woman wore a skirt, most wore pants, and one was clad in denim jeans.
To another officer it might have mattered, but not to him. He did not care how they looked. He cared about the way they worked.
Kim was dressed just as casually, but his rank demanded a smarter appearance, to which end he wore a dark grey business suit, his white shirt cut perfectly in half by a navy blue tie. But his shoes were loafers; plain black with a dull finish, they were comfortable, and as far as he was concerned, it was all that mattered.
He had held them in silence for almost a minute; long enough to command their respect, if only born of fear.
“Good morning everybody. For those of you who do not know, I am Detective Superintendent Wesley Deakin, the Divisional Troubleshooter. As of this morning, I am assuming command and control of Havensby and district CID.” He gestured to his left, and his sergeant. “This young lady is Detective Sergeant Kimberly Harmon. She works exclusively with me, and for those officers senior to her, while she will defer to your rank, she takes her orders only from me.”
It was his standard, opening gambit. Tell them who they were, and spell out the command hierarchy, with him at the top, the rest of them below him, and Kim off to one side, a part of but partitioned off from them.
He flipped open the lid of his metal briefcase, and retrieved copies of several tabloids. He held them up one by one, front pages facing out, and said, “This is why I’ve been sent here.”
Without exception, the newspapers carried blazing headlines. They were from the previous Friday, the day Rachel Jenner was released. RABID RACHEL FREED, screamed The Sun, while the Mirror declared, JENNER ACQUITTED. The Daily Mail vented its fury on the laxity of the Havensby police investigation, while the Express carried a front-page interview with Marc Shawforth, who insisted that had the police listened to him four years previously, she would never have been released.
After giving the crew time to absorb the tabloid hyperbole, Deakin dropped each newspaper on the table, and faced his audience again.
“A little over four years ago, Barbara Shawforth, wife of the MP for Havensby and District, was beaten to death in the Beaumont Hotel here in Havensby. Within a week, one of your colleagues, Detective Sergeant Rachel Jenner, was charged. She was later convicted and sentenced to life, with a minimum tariff of twenty-five years. Last Thursday, the Court of Appeal decided that her conviction was unsafe and quashed it. She was released on Friday morning, and as far as we’re aware, she’s back here in Havensby.”
He was not telling these people anything they did not already know. The news had been full of nothing else since Thursday evening. But a deliberate pause after telling them that Rachel Jenner was back in Havensby, would mislead a good number of them into believing that he was here to send her back to prison.
“The conviction was quashed because a piece of evidence which should have been disclosed to the defence was not. That evidence would not prove Rachel Jenner innocent, but it may have persuaded the jury to bring in a different verdict.”
“She was guilty.”
About to go on, Deakin looked to his left and the angry face of Frank Balfour, the DCI who, until this morning and Deakin’s arrival, had controlled Havensby CID. “I’ll speak with you later, Frank. In private.”
“I’m telling you, she was guilty—”
“I said I’ll speak to you later.” Deakin focused on the crew again. “That mistake, ladies and gentlemen, was down to you. You are responsible for Rachel Jenner’s shaky conviction.”
The final accusation was not entirely justified. Although he had not read more than Assistant Chief Constable Iris Mullins’ précis of the original report, he knew that most of the people in the room were not directly involved, and therefore could not be culpable. Some of the younger detectives were not in Havensby or even part of the Police Service at the time of the murder. But if he was to get this crew working as a team, it was important that they learned to accept collective responsibility.