Authors: Judith Cutler
Table of Contents
The Kate Power Mysteries
POWER ON HER OWN
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First published in Great Britain in 1998
by Hodder and Stoughton
A division of Hodder Headline PLC
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
This eBook first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital an imprint of Severn House Publishers Ltd.
Copyright Â© 1998 by Judith Cutler
The right of Judith Cutler to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
ISBN-13 978-1-4483-0107-2 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
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I would like to thank Keith Bassett, who told me to write this book; Sarah Bookey, who freely gave of her expertise; Maureen Carter, Frances Lally and Edwina Van Boolen, who have collectively and separately been towers of strength. I am also grateful to the following for their help: the Baptist Union; the Boys' Brigade; West Midlands Police.
âListen, Kate. There's mistakes and mistakes. Some are little, spur-of-the-moment mistakes, like shooting traffic lights you could have stopped at. And there are the sort you think about and still make. And it seems to me you're specialising in those at the moment.' Tom dropped his voice, big and booming after all those years of yelling at young constables, and glanced at the other mourners in the church. âFor a start, why on earth did you come here today? I mean, I know you were both in the squad, but there's his wife and all his family, for goodness' sake.'
Kate turned her face away. He was right. She and Robin had been live-in lovers but he was still very much married. Spent three or four evenings with his kids. Did all the right fatherly things: parents' evenings and swimming lessons. She'd never asked otherwise. It had been part of their relationship. Like her forays up to Birmingham to keep an eye on Cassie, her father's aunt. Family ties. You had them and there was no point in making a song and dance about it.
But there was no denying that she wasn't wanted here. Oh, her mates from the Met, they were solid beside her, like Tom and Mike, silently reading the order of service. But his family had preferred to ignore her. Not just his wife and kids â and who could blame them? â but his parents, who'd seemed so fond of her. She should have said her last goodbyes in the chapel of rest and left the ritual of mourning to those who were entitled to it.
Tom gave her shoulders a quick squeeze. She turned back to him, managing a smile.
âAnd then there's all this business of going to fucking Birmingham,' he began.
She touched her lips; they were in a church, for goodness' sake. The elderly couple in the pew in front of them had obviously heard: you could see their necks stiffening.
âSorry. But why the â why on earth leave the Met? And London?'
âIt's â Oh, God!'
Everyone was standing. They were carrying in his body. Cramming her knuckles against her mouth, she stood too. The coffin. Six policemen, shoulder to shoulder, carrying it. A symbolic helmet â Robin had always been a man for a flat-topped cap â stood proudly on top.
There were so many in the church that the hymns, familiar tunes with familiar words of faith and comfort, sounded convincing. Just at this moment she wasn't so sure she could ever believe in anything again. All these monuments: other people had kept going in the face of death and loss. She stared at the memorial tablet nearest her. Anno Domini 1783. Henry and Charlotte Cavendish and their seven children, none of them older than four. How had they dealt with all that grief?
No, there were no answers in the stained-glass window behind the altar, although the summer light made it blaze with reds and blues. And she was afraid the clergyman wouldn't have any answers either. They sat down to listen to him.
He'd done his homework, tried to make it sound as if he'd known Robin all his life, whereas he'd really only known Kathleen's parents, bastions of his comfortable suburban parish. He spoke of the devoted family man, the honourable police officer, the keen sportsman. Everything except Kate, come to think of it. The widow â Kathleen, never abbreviated â sobbed audibly. The children wailed.
Kate took Tom's hand and held it tightly. Fellow officers were entitled to look grim. And she was here as a fellow officer. Full stop. If she forgot that she'd howl. She forced herself to listen to the rest of the eulogy.
ââ¦ Called on to make the Ultimate Sacrifice â¦ Dying in the name of Law and Order â¦'
He sounded as plummy as a Home Secretary.
Tom's mouth breathed warm against her ear. âNot so much a sacrifice, more a cock-up, I'd say.'
Robin had been hit by a police car, smashed into a wall when someone had shot out the driver's windscreen and he'd lost control.
And then they all stood to pray.
Robin had wanted to donate his organs and to be cremated. He'd always said so: been one of the first on the squad to wave a donor card around and press others to sign up. Kathleen had refused to give consent until it was too late, and she was having him buried. Even from where she stood, at the back of the little knot by the open grave, she could hear the thud of the earth as Kathleen threw her handful on to the coffin.
âAshes to ashes, dust to dust â¦'
She heard no more. All she could think of was the worms that would consume his dear body. No. She wouldn't disgrace him by being sick. Swallow hard and breathe through your open mouth. That's what they told you. She looked at the flowers on other graves; that was a mistake: they were dying fast on the sun-bleached grass. In fact the greenest thing in the churchyard was the artificial turf around the new grave. Even the birds had stopped singing in the heat of the late morning. Maybe they felt they couldn't compete with the constant roar of traffic and now â God help her! â an ice-cream van chiming âThe Happy Wanderer.' All she could do was hang on.
âYou never told me: why Birmingham?' Tom turned to face her, his bulk between her and the family. One by one, they were leaving the grave to go back for ham sandwiches and tea at the family home. A couple of senior officers would put in a token appearance there. The rest of them would hold their own wake: the landlord had been warned.
âAunt Cassie,' she said, âfor one thing. I'm the only family she's got.'
âEven so â hell, Katie, when you were with Robin you managed to go and see her at weekends: why not do that now?'
âIt's not as if I don't know the place. Two years on that undercover stuff.'
âEven so â No, you don't want to leave all your mates.'
âMy mates aren't going to be in London anyway.' She stretched her fingers, counting. âYou're off to the Sierra Leone police; Mike's being invalided out; Moira and Ted are so wrapped up in each other they won't want an old misery like me around.'
âOld? Misery you may be, but you're only a kid!'
âWell, then. Anyway, there's the others. Andy. Griff.' Tom unclipped his black tie, and, stuffing it into his pocket, turned away from the grave. âWhat's up?'
No one would notice now, and she didn't care if they did. Like Kathleen, she stooped to pick up a handful of warm, dry earth, and scattered it on his coffin. It made the same hollow rattle. Nothing to say goodbye to.
And then Tom was at her side, arm round her shoulders, turning her towards the waiting car. âCome on, sweetheart. We'll all be there for you. Time to get pissed.'
Kate strode down the endless corridors. OK, they'd scored a hit. They'd sent her to the back of beyond to collect a set of files. She'd bet no such files had ever existed. Everyone must have been in on it â whoever she spoke to referred her to someone else on a far distant floor. She grinned even as she cursed herself for falling for the trick: the sort of thing you'd do to anyone new to the squad, just to test them.