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Authors: Gillian Galbraith

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‘Like I said,’ Donny retorted, still stroking the back of his head, ‘because you’re a woman.’

Sipping from the chipped mug, Alice stared at the screen in front of her. On it was a seemingly endless list of names and transactions carried out at Cash 4 U branches the previous day. As she
scrolled down it the words began to merge into each other until her eyes glazed over in boredom, lost in a sea of now meaningless typescript.

‘How do you do it? How can you tell what’s dodgy and what’s not, simply from that?’ she asked Donny.

‘Well,’ he replied, ‘see that entry? Number 313?’

‘Yes. The Blackberry. Sorry, Blackberry Bold 9.’

‘Never mind the type for now. Look at the name opposite it. It says Catherine Simpson, right?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, she’s no business having a phone like that. Know why?’

‘No.’

‘Easy,’ Fergus butted in. ‘She’s at an address in Craigmillar. Blackberries don’t grow in Craigmillar, now do they? And she’s Kevin Thomson’s
girlfriend. That’s what he does, see? He takes the stuff from someone else’s house over in the New Town or wherever, then he uses his girlfriend, his mum, his cousin, someone he thinks
we don’t know about, to sell the stuff in the pawns for him.’

‘So this isn’t the first time he’s used her, then? Doesn’t he ever learn?’

‘Nope,’ said Donny smugly, ‘none of them do. We get their photos from the CCTV, sometimes their prints or DNA from the stuff and still they come back for more. They’re
half-witted junkies, most of them.’

‘See, in this op we’re like ghosts. We don’t exist. They see us,’ Fergus explained, ‘in the pawns with them. We’re checking up, but they think we’re
selling something like they are. They think we’re just another punter. And out on the streets we’ve been taken for all sorts. A couple of days ago it was as a
Big Issue
seller,
seriously.’

‘Speak for yourself,’ Donny retorted, stirring another spoonful of white sugar into his tea, then adding, ‘and that was the day you were wearing your best clothes,
too.’

Glancing up at the clock on the wall, Alice said, ‘I’ve got to go. Time for my trial.’

‘Break a leg,’ Donny said wanly, holding up his hands for her to see, the index and middle fingers crossed on both of them.

 
2

The sight of the Fettes HQ building made Alice feel queasy. Its spare design was silhouetted against the leaden sky, and its bulk cast her into the shade, temporarily blotting
out the insipid winter sun. Passing through the glass double doors, she noticed on the right-hand wall a mass of brightly-coloured, child-friendly pictures each bearing its own caption. All of them
depicted a simple, straightforward world in which policemen in their smart uniforms were doing good, busily apprehending law-breakers and making the world a safer, better place. If only life was so
simple, she thought ruefully.

‘You’re here for the hearing?’ the burly man on the reception desk asked her as she approached. She nodded, her mouth dry and all inclination to speak having vanished.

‘Rice or Stevenson?’

‘Rice,’ she replied faintly, noticing a former colleague and giving him a wave. But he did not return it, passing quickly by as if any longer in her presence might contaminate
him.

‘You DS Rice, then?’ the receptionist demanded with unconcealed curiosity, viewing her, she thought, with the sort of interest he might once have shown in a condemned man.

‘Yes. How d’you know?’

‘By the colour of your face, love. You’re as pale as a sheet. You’re the options-in, eh?’ She nodded again, wishing the expression still remained a mystery to her. Until
six months earlier it would have been meaningless, but no longer. ‘Options-in’ or ‘options-out’ described the two possible types of disciplinary hearings. The first,
reserved for trying more serious offences, allowed the panel to return any of six possible verdicts: a warning, a fine, an increment fine, reduction in rank, a requirement to resign or dismissal.
Only the first three verdicts could be returned in the ‘options-out’ hearing and no lawyers were involved in them. They were kept in the family, as purely internal police matters. Now,
she thought with regret, she could answer an exam question on disciplinary hearings and the procedures associated with them. Give a lecture on the subject if the need arose.

As she entered the Force Conference Room she had no idea what to expect. She had never before been admitted to this holy of holies. Striding through the doorway, trying to look as confident as
an innocent person would, she immediately recognised Alec Norton, the lawyer appointed by the Police Federation to represent her. He was a lanky, unsmiling man with an excessively reserved manner,
and at their first meeting she had not taken to him. On that occasion he had made her more frightened, not less, with his incessant note-taking and his uncompromising legal jargon. He crooked a
long white finger at her and, as if in a trance, she came and sat beside him at his small table.

Seated opposite them at another small table, on the other side of the central table, sat a couple of women. One, a peroxide blonde, was dressed snappily in a black suit and crisp white blouse,
and she was busily sticking Post-it notes onto various of the papers in the pile in front of her. Her bright red nail varnish glinted in the strip-lighting and she glanced up, briefly, on
Alice’s entry. Her companion, clad in sombre grey, was absorbed in making bold horizontal strokes with a luminous marker on the paper in front of her. She was highlighting key passages in the
document, completing her last-minute preparations. Looking at the two lawyers, Alice decided that the one in the black suit must be her adversary, the Presenting Officer – the prosecutor, in
ordinary parlance.

In front of the large, south-facing window was a long table at which the panel was seated. The Chairman, Chief Superintendent Jim McLay, sat in the centre, and his assessors, Superintendents
Docker and Scrafe, were arranged on either side of him like bookends. Decades ago, McLay had played rugby for Scotland, but his prodigious muscle had long since turned to fat and a single seat no
longer contained him adequately. By chance, his companions were both unusually small, looking like a couple of pet monkeys beside him. This odd trio were huddled together in conversation, with the
two superintendents leaning inwards towards the big man as if to catch his every word, now being imparted in a low resonating rumble. The clerk, another lawyer, sat alone at a table to their left
and he appeared alert, like a sprinter hunched on his blocks, ready for the proceedings to begin. His eyes were fixed on the Presenting Officer.

The first witness called by the prosecution was the Sex Offender Management Officer. The man could not disguise his nervousness, although he was well acquainted with legal proceedings and had
competently given evidence in both the High Court of Justiciary and the Sheriff Court many times throughout his career. And those were intimidating settings, courtrooms decked in wooden panelling
with a colourful Royal Coat of Arms above the bench, places where black-robed macers whispered to bewigged clerks and judges in red robes sat on high, surveying their domains. But in this stuffy
little conference room he was unable to decide where to put his hands, alternately hiding them behind his back and then swinging them forwards where they hung loosely, chimp-like, in front of his
groin. His unease was because here, in the Lothian and Borders headquarters, he was giving evidence against his own colleagues and in front of very senior officers. The latter were the very sort of
men who might hold his own career in their hands. They would be judging him too, scrutinising him and his performance.

In a strong Aberdeenshire accent, he provided the panel with details of Reginald Alexander Longman, trawling through his record of previous convictions and, finally, explaining the regime
currently applicable to high-risk sex offenders such as him, released on licence. Longman, he told them, had been tagged, was subject to twice-weekly checkups and was required to remain resident at
an address in Causewayside.

Listening to him, Alice heard nothing that she had not already known on the day that fateful telephone call had come in to the St Leonard Street Station. The call that had begun it all, the
garbled ten-minute conversation reporting a sexual assault on a little boy in the Ratcliffe Terrace area. The checks she had immediately run on the intelligence database and the criminal history
system had produced precisely the sort of information that she was now hearing from the lips of this nervous constable. A catalogue of horror stretching over two decades, and for which Longman was
responsible.

As a result of that intelligence, she and DS Stevenson had gone to check up on him at his address in Grange Loan. Not a street in the well-known leafy suburb of the Grange, a sizeable reservoir
of New Club members, but its twin in name alone, a run-down place in a far less salubrious part of the capital. The street was narrow and mean, punctuated with graffiti-daubed wheelie bins, and,
crucially, led off into Ratcliffe Terrace. And the proximity of Longman’s home to the scene of the offence seemed an unlikely coincidence. From a past encounter, Alice already knew what he
looked like.

Finding the man’s home deserted, they knocked on all the neighbouring doors, trying to find out if anyone had seen or heard anything useful, anything that would help them with the
investigation. Most doorways had paint peeling and a broken or nameless doorbell. From many of the houses they got no reply, despite bright lights inside and the curtains twitching on their
approach. Curiosity alone was not enough to prompt a response, not when there was rent owing, the TV unlicensed and sheriff officers to keep at bay.

The sound of a dog barking greeted them in the common stairwell of the next tenement along. The steps themselves smelt of stale cooking, vomit and burnt plastic. Climbing them, DS Stevenson held
his nose, gagging as he reached the second-floor landing.

There, when speaking to the inhabitants of the only occupied flat on it, he had, inadvertently, prefixed Longman’s name with the word ‘paedo’. From the expression of horror on
the faces of the middle-aged couple it was immediately clear that neither of them had realised that their next-door neighbour was, as the man put it, a ‘fucking kiddy-fiddler’.

‘We’ve got bairns who come here!’ the woman had added crossly, looking outraged.

The word had soon spread. Later that very evening, reports of a rabble attacking Longman’s home and breaking down his door had come into the St Leonard’s switchboard. Nothing of the
man had been seen since. Now underground and, to date, untraceable, he had assaulted another child, this time a little girl in the Niddrie area of the city, and a live warrant had been issued for
his arrest.

After answering a number of questions from the panel, the witness was attempting to explain how vulnerable sex offenders such as Longman were while living in the community,
describing in graphic detail a previous attack on the man when his identity had been discovered by a colleague at work. He had been attacked with a broken bottle, its jagged edge gouging a hole in
his forehead the size of a two pence piece. On another occasion, and at another address, his home had been set alight and he had received second-degree burns to his arms and legs while escaping the
blaze.

None of the windows in the conference room were open, and as the hours passed, the air temperature was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Sweat was now apparent in beads on the
constable’s forehead and the clerk had removed his jacket, hanging it neatly on the back of his chair. Alice too, was feeling the heat.

‘Any further questions, Miss Howard?’ the Chief Superintendent asked.

The black-suited lawyer shook her head. ‘None, Sir,’ she replied, closing her notebook with a businesslike snap.

‘Your witness, Mr Norton,’ McLay said, addressing Alice’s lawyer.

‘No questions, Sir,’ the man replied, scratching the side of his nose with his forefinger, then bobbing up and down on his seat as if in a courtroom.

The next witness, Alice knew, was vital to her cause, and she, along with everyone else in the room, hung onto to every word of his examination-in-chief.

‘Aye,’ the man from the neighbouring tenement said, ‘I remember the police coming and asking us questions. They took my parking space.’

‘Mr Meldrum, did either of the police officers speaking to you mention the fact that Mr Longman was a sex offender – in fact, refer to him as a “paedo”?’ Miss
Howard inquired, against a backdrop of complete silence.

‘Aye.’

Alice held her breath. On the reply made to the next question by this plump, red-faced man, her whole career might hang. The Chief Super was leaning over his table, his eyes glued to the
witness’s face.

‘Which of them mentioned that fact? Was it the male or the female police officer?’

‘Em . . . I’m pretty sure it was the man. He done all the talking.’

Alice heaved a sigh of relief and caught Alan Norton’s eye. He blinked owlishly at her, smiling slightly, and then returned to his assiduous note-taking.

BOOK: The Road to Hell
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