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Authors: Maureen Carter

Dying Bad (4 page)

BOOK: Dying Bad
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‘I'll tell you this though, Sarah: the killer doesn't do half measures. That's a hell of a savage attack back there.' He slid his case across, climbed in effortlessly after it. ‘The facial injuries were caused by some sort of blunt instrument. And there are stab wounds to the chest and neck. The knife'll have a serrated blade.'
Make that two murder weapons.
‘As to cause of death? Take your pick. Trauma injury? Blood loss? Shock? Could even be cardiac arrest.' Winking, he clicked on the ignition. ‘Catch you in the morning.'

Arms crossed, she watched the tail lights disappear, murmuring, ‘There y'go . . . I said I was delirious—'

‘You will be, boss.' Harries joined the farewell party rocking on his heels, looking like a kid in a sweet shop. ‘Rumour has it Jas Ram's just been nicked.'

FOUR

J
as Ram, in rude good health, was laying down the law in the custody suite at Lloyd House. ‘I'm not being fobbed off with some fucking drongo – I want my own brief.' Maybe he thought thwacking the booking-in desk added weight to the argument.

The custody sergeant gave a one-shoulder shrug and what might have been a tight smile. Dick Klein was as inscrutable as a Chinese poker player. ‘Beggars. Choosers, Mr Ram.' Easing back into the chair, Klein folded beefy arms over barrel chest. He had a blond crew cut and light blue eyes. Other cops called him Fritz.

‘You saying I'm a beggar, fatso?' Ram cut a contemptuous glance which extended to a traffic cop at each shoulder currently cramping his style. Neither officer possessed Klein's sphinx-like countenance. In their case, it was more Cheshire cat grin. When they'd run the Porsche number plate through the PNC and Ram's details popped out, it was like hitting pay dirt. Well, dirt.

‘Would I do that, Mr Ram?' Klein asked equably. ‘But if Mr Blunt chooses not to represent you . . .' His opened arms, one with a rose tattoo, asked: What can I do? Vincent Blunt had already made up his mind. He'd been Ram's tame lawyer during the grooming trial, but clearly had a feral streak. Or maybe it was easier on the end of a phone to tell your client to sling his hook. That was Klein's interpretation; he'd only heard Ram's side.

‘The offer's still there, Mr Ram. If you want legal representation, I can get the duty solicitor here in half an hour.' Klein checked the Tag Heuer on his wrist. ‘That'd bring us up to midnight. Calling in your own – sorry,
another
of your own – could take a while. And as we know, the clock's ticking.'

‘Tick-tock. Tick-tock.' One of the traffic cops provided helpful sound effects. ‘Tick—'

‘Shut it, dipstick,' Ram snarled. He didn't need the distraction, not when he was desperately trying to think it through. Pulled over on suspicion of drink driving, he'd refused a breath test so Arsy and Butch here had hauled him in to the station. Ram wasn't convinced he was over the limit so he'd applied delaying tactics. But, as fat pig hadn't long pointed out, if he refused to blow in the bag a second time, they'd charge him with failing to produce a sample. Either way he'd lose his licence: banned if he was, banned if he wasn't. Vinnie could've tried pulling a Mr Loophole, but the bastard had sounded pissed as a fart. Like Ram, he'd probably been celebrating the victory in court. And that's what this little performance was all about. Ram wasn't stupid: he knew full well it had nothing to do with his driving. Everything to do with his walking.

‘I know your game.' The sullen scowl said he wasn't happy to play. ‘You're a bunch of vindictive tossers.'

Unmoved, Klein lifted a pen from the desk. ‘If you'd like more time to consider, Mr Ram?'

‘Tick-tock.' The helpful cop.

Klein consulted a list like it was a hotel register. ‘I'm sure I must have
one
cell free.'

‘All the sea views gone, Fritz?' Helpful cop number two.

‘Why don't you shut it?' The pig had a point though. Ram glanced round. The Ritz it was not. Décor was grunge-grey shot through with snot green. The dive heaved with lowlife scum, losers stinking of piss and BO, shouting their mouths off, throwing their guts up, fucking health hazard wasn't in it. Sooner he was out the better.

‘I'll have the duty solicitor.'

Klein reached for a phone, didn't miss a beat. ‘Needs must when the devil drives, Mr Ram.'

The offence wasn't serious enough to keep Ram in overnight, he was being detained in an interview room pending the lawyer's arrival. Sprawled in a chair, sipping machine coffee, he leafed through the copy of PACE he'd told Klein to provide. Ram knew the Police and Criminal Evidence Act better than his bank statements, requesting it was a pointed gesture to keep the pigs on their toes. PC Troglodyte seated opposite, didn't bat an eyelash when Ram slammed the tome shut and chucked it across the table.
Moron looked brain dead anyway.

There was only so long Ram could admire his nails. He shot to his feet and started circling the small overheated room, hands jammed in pockets of black denim drainpipes. The brown leather jacket draped carelessly over the back of his chair displayed an Armani label.

The cop – he'd told Ram his name was Graves – had less animation than a posthumous slug. Ram suspected he was only there to intimidate. A minder wasn't required by law, Ram wasn't going anywhere and he sure as hell wasn't on suicide watch. His room mate would be Klein's idea of a joke. The cop was built like a tank and ugly as sin. ‘How much longer are you lot keeping me here?'

‘Pass.' Graves gave a jaw cracking yawn, hairy arms already stretched over close-cropped scalp.

‘Says in there, you lot have to treat me with respect.' Ram jabbed a thumb at the regulations.

He tugged an imaginary forelock. ‘Pass . . . sir.'

‘Fucking comedian.' Ram continued the circular tour, trying not to breathe in the stale air and stench of despair a host of previous occupants had bequeathed. Their visible legacy was sepia stains and stripes on the walls and floors. Ram didn't bother trying to pin down the exact source, sidestepped the worst patches. The silence was broken by the chiming bells of a church clock. He was well aware of the time without counting.

More pacing. This was all about mind games, who was in control. Ram knew that but his patience, like the carpet, was wearing thin. Planting both palms on the table, he leaned into Graves' space. ‘It's gone midnight. The cop out there said . . .' He heard the door open and spun his head around, eyes narrowed, mouth flecked with saliva. ‘Where the fuck've—'

‘Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr Ram.'

You been all my life?
‘No harm done, babe. Take a seat. Let's have a little chat.' Ram smiled, licked his lips. Oh, yes. He'd definitely have the duty solicitor.

Ruby Wells had been patronised – and hit on – by bigger men than Jas Ram. And women come to that. It was one of the downsides of striking good looks. In London, where she'd studied Law, she'd been approached twice in the street by scouts for modelling agencies. Reasoning that a decent brain had a longer shelf life she'd said no. Only occasionally did she regret turning her back on the big money offers. Stepping forward to take Jas Ram's extended hand could be one of them. Not that she had any call in the matter: duty solicitors had to take the rough with the smooth and from what she knew of Ram, he was a shoo-in for the roughest category of all.

At six feet tall in kitten heels, Ruby looked down on the man in more ways than one.

Not only had lawyer colleagues acted for a couple of his victims, but until a few months back Ruby had lived next door to one of the families and still kept in touch with Alice Hemming and her daughter. The conflict of interest here wasn't legal, but – morally – they were worlds' apart. Flashing a fleeting smile, she lightly touched his fingertips with hers. ‘Mr Ram. My name's Ruby. Ruby Wells.' Shrugging off a taupe suede jacket she strode to the table, cut a glance at Graves. ‘Perhaps . . . officer?'

‘You got it.' Consultation time alone with her client. The cop hauled his bulk from the chair, paused at the door. ‘If you need anything, Miss Wells?'

Smiling her thanks, she slid out a legal pad from a black leather attaché case, placed the case on the floor. She crossed her legs, aware Ram was studying her like a degree. Ruby was taking things in, too. The calculating look on her client's face was at odds with the predictably laboured laid-back pose, ankles casually crossed, laced fingers held a few inches from his chest, head tilted knowingly.

Having spent ten minutes with Klein, Ruby was up to speed. Toying a slim gold pen between her fingers she said, ‘OK, Mr Ram, I need you to—'

‘Anyone ever told you, you look like Lily—'

‘Savage? All the time.' Sighing, adept at the game by now, her aim was to deflect the pass. She wasn't blind, she appreciated Ram was a pretty boy but seriously doubted there was much going on between the ears however streetwise he came across. Besides, Ram could be fitter than Brad Pitt's kid brother and pure as virgin snow, Ruby never mixed business with pleasure. She masked a smile. However simple the pleasure.

‘Not just a pretty face, eh, Ruby?' He raised what he probably imagined was a cool eyebrow. ‘I was about to say Cole, cause of the hair.' Lustrous warm-red locks that flowed halfway down her back. ‘Nah.' Ram flapped a hand. ‘On second thoughts . . . you're hotter than her.'

Surely to God the cheesy pun wasn't deliberate?
She ducked her head, bit her bottom lip.

‘Cole. Hotter. Get it?' Ram looked pleased as punch. And if he didn't button it . . .

Suppressing another sigh she said, ‘I suggest we concentrate on what you're likely to get if this incident isn't sorted.'

‘Come on, love, it's the filth trying to stitch me up.' He leaned forward, legs spread, elbows on knees. ‘You're a lawyer. You must know who I am, what happened in court today.'

Yesterday actually. She nodded. Given the saturation press coverage, even without a legal background, you'd have to have been living on a different planet not to know about the trial, events leading up to it, and have a vague idea who the main players were. ‘I'm aware of the case, Mr Ram. But it has nothing to do with why I'm here.' Easing back in the chair, she smoothed her skirt, watched Ram ogle. When he resumed eye contact, she continued, ‘Sergeant Klein tells me you were arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and you refused a breath test. Is that correct?'

‘Yeah.' He slumped back, legs still wide, crotch now centre stage. Macho body language that said, So what?

Her gaze was still on his face. ‘Is it possible you were over the limit?'

Dismissive sniff. ‘I'd had a couple a drinks.'

She tapped the pen against perfect white teeth. ‘My advice to you is to supply a blood or urine sample as soon as the police can organise it. More than likely you'll then be released without charge pending analysis of the results.' She'd known suspects drink water from the toilet bowl in the vain hope it would dilute their sample. Ram didn't look as if he'd stoop that low. And it certainly wasn't advice she'd pass on.

‘They'll let me go straight away?'

‘Almost certainly.' She could see the clogs going round in Ram's head. Ruby reckoned it was a no-brainer – and she didn't mean Ram's decision. The thought brought a slight curve to her full red lips. Bad move. Wrong message.

‘OK, Ruby. I'll do what you say.' The crooked smile oozed confidence. ‘On one condition.'

‘I hardly think—'

‘I need a lift home. How you fixed?'

It was nearly one a.m. when Sarah called it a day and headed back to her place. She could probably have made it a fraction earlier had the urge to see Jas Ram in custody not outweighed the desire to get home. As it was, she'd only caught a glimpse as he left the station looking dead pally with Ruby Wells. From what little she knew about Ruby, he'd have more chance with the Bishop of Wells. Doubtless Sarah would pick up the low-down tomorrow but whatever Ram had been nicked for, it wasn't a capital offence. Shame.

As she walked the short distance from her garage, Broad Street was still buzzing with bright lights, busy bars, revellers reluctant to return to sober reality. The only sign of life when she reached her apartment in Brindley Place was a lamp left burning in the hall – a habit she'd started since the split from lawyer boyfriend Adam. More than twelve months on, the habit was pretty ingrained.

Yawning, she dropped her bag and keys on the console table, half shucked off a long camel coat, then thought better of it. Hugging the material round her, she made a mental note to adjust the heating, timing and thermostat. Even after three years in residence the canal side pad didn't feel like home, probably because she treated it as a hotel. Ordinarily she blamed work but thinking on, maybe the single life was a factor, too. Or maybe work was also the reason she could give Bridget Jones a run for her money. Chicken and egg scenario?

God, it was all too complicated and she was too knackered and starving to think straight. Shame it wasn't a half decent hotel though. It'd be a damn sight warmer and room service would be on tap. Passing through the sitting room, her glance took in the pale woods, ivory sofas, white walls and not for the first time, she wondered if it wasn't a touch sterile. The room used to please her but she'd hardly stamped her personality on it and nowadays, thanks to a cleaner, it looked so damn pristine.

The kitchen where she spent most of her down time more than compensated. Hands jammed in coat pockets, she stood in the doorway and surveyed the wreckage: crumb trails, open boxes, sink full of unwashed crockery, surfaces ring-stained with tea, dried up milk. Was it because every other aspect of her life was so precise and well-ordered that she needed a space to slob out, let down her hair? Nice try, Sarah. She knew the theory was bollocks. She just couldn't be arsed. The place was a tip because she had zilch interest in cooking. Her skills lay in walking a grid, not handling a griddle.

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