1. Judgements

Monday 24th October 2005

Courtroom 3

The Old Bailey

London

Jason was seated on the left side of the public gallery. The three accused were seated to the left of the gallery, and this suited Jason’s purpose. He was a detective sergeant with the Metropolitan Police and the case in question was the murder of his boss, Detective Inspector Paul Gallagher.

Why did he want to sit close to the defendants? He knew from experience that friends and associates of the murderers would be in the public gallery. Such people invariably turned to nod or give positive thumbs-up signals to those in the dock. The idea paid off and the young DS recognised four faces sitting in the gallery to his right. Not willing to leave it to memory he pulled out his notebook and wrote the four names, each with a brief description.

It was the final day of the trial and Jason had been less than impressed by the case for the prosecution. For all the good he was doing on the dead officer’s behalf, the prosecuting counsel might as well hand the case notes over to one of the security men at the doorway.

In sharp contrast, during cross-examination, the defence counsel had used minor technicalities and skirted around what should have been straightforward and damning testimony. His manner was intimidating and witnesses were throwing the case wide open as they were tripped by the ruthless man’s observations.

A question to one witness. “Madam, you’ve told the court that you recognise all three of the accused men as the perpetrators of the crime, yet you’ve also admitted that you were recently prescribed new lenses for your glasses—are you absolutely positive of your identification?”

A question to another. “You, sir, have told the court that the blue-eyed man on the left was one of the gunmen, but the accused you’ve identified has brown eyes—you’re not certain are you?”

A third witness was asked. “You’ve told the court that you fished out your mobile phone to take pictures of the scene, but as you set up the camera app the gunshots sounded. Are you saying that you set up your phone without looking at the screen, or did you look away from the incident—therefore not seeing what you think you saw?”

In keeping with his confrontational methods, the defence counsel hardly paused for breath between questions. This left the witnesses harried and made to look unsure. It was all it took to affect the judge and the twelve people of the jury.

At the same time, certain jurors were avoiding the gaze of one or two men in the public gallery. Jason spotted the nervous people on the jury, and though it took him several attempts he was satisfied that he could see two men in the gallery staring at the jury benches. Intimidation was hard to prove at any time. On the final day of a high profile trial such as this, if it worked, and the defence counsel knew his job, the guilty men might walk free.

Jason flicked his notebook open and sure enough, two of the names he’d written earlier were the men gazing at the jury. He was getting a bad feeling about the proceedings and what made it hurt more was that he was powerless. Anything he said would be labelled as conjecture from a bias ex-colleague. The dead man had been his boss after all.

A guidance statement by the judge hardly helped. “Members of the jury.” He paused and looked over the rim of his glasses. “The three men accused of the murder of Detective Inspector Gallagher are known to the Metropolitan Police and were in the vicinity at the time of the shooting. While this may be the case, it does not automatically mean that they should be found guilty. This is a court of law, and without sufficient irrefutable evidence to support a case, any jury would be ill-advised to put forward a finding of guilt. Today, we’ve seen three supposed eye-witnesses changing their statements. This does not bode well for a satisfactory guilty verdict.”

The man in the big chair had stared at the twelve members of the jury as he delivered the statement. He instructed them that any verdict was to be unanimous in the case of all three of the accused. The case was adjourned to allow the jury to retire and consider their verdicts. It was fairly obvious that the judge had already made up his mind about the result.

During the final stages of the trial, Jason had felt a headache building, but after the judge’s summary, a fiery rage burned within the young policeman. He left the courtroom with everyone else and hoped to find a corner where he could be alone to calm himself.

*

The Old Bailey was not a place with quiet corners—it was a building with numerous courtrooms and was always bustling with legal eagles, criminals, police officers and everything in between. Jason went outside and found a place where he could take deep breaths of fresh air away from those who’d come outside for a smoke.

He stared at the passing traffic and thought back to so many jobs he’d done with Paul Gallagher. The man had been more than a boss and a mentor—he’d been a friend and Jason’s hero. Paul had served in the military before joining the police and his courage was demonstrated at every turn. For that man to be gunned down in a London street was unbelievable. He’d had a reputation for being tough but fair and this was respected by those on both sides of the line. Except for the person who had sanctioned the hit.

Jason continued to gaze at the traffic as his mind wandered back to that fateful day when his boss was murdered. Multiple shots had rung out. Jason abandoned their car in a side street and ran around the corner where DI Gallagher had just gone. When he turned into the main street, Jason had frozen for a few seconds at the scene before him. The DI’s chest had multiple gunshot wounds and a large pool of blood stained the pavement.

Three men were standing nearby and turned casually when Jason appeared.

Craig Arnold, a tall and muscular thug smiled at Jason and said, “Oops.”

Matthew Fellowes, a short stocky man grinned. “Shouldn’t you call an ambulance before someone slips in that blood?” He shook his head as he looked from the dead man to his helpless and outnumbered colleague.

The third man was Gordon Craven, who like Jason was a Scotsman. “Maybe you should fuck off back up the road to Glasgow—they don’t use so many guns up there—so I’ve been told.”

Jason had dialled his phone to get back up, but the three men in front of him made it obvious that they had guns tucked under their jackets. If he did anything rash, he’d be left to die beside his boss. This assassination was a clear message—‘let things drop on your big case’. The three thugs got into a car and drove off, and a crowd assembled. A few minutes later a handful of uniformed officers arrived and took control, cordoning the area and taking statements.

By pausing to lock the car, Detective Sergeant Jason Knight had been dragged into a living nightmare. He’d heard the shots, and run around the corner to see his superior had been shot dead. Three known criminals had stood waiting for him to arrive on the scene. They must have known about the unmarked car around the corner and they wanted to flaunt their weapons before leaving. All three had laughed as they left the scene.

In other countries, Jason would have been armed, and in those countries, he could have taken some sort of immediate action, but not in the United Kingdom. He’d been left impotent as the armed murderers left the scene. Even when Jason had rallied and asked for some of those nearby to come forward as witnesses, the majority of people had said they didn’t see anything.

All of this was playing back over in his mind when a man nearby laughed loudly and was joined by his companion.

“I’ll tell you what, Charlie, if I was that dead detective’s sidekick, I’d keep my fucking head down and be very careful.”

“You’re right, Jonah—cos if he doesn’t keep his fucking head down, it might get shot to fuck like his boss’s chest.”

The two men laughed again and Jason turned to look at them. It was the same two he’d seen staring at the witnesses and jurors. Charlie Grainger and Neil ‘Jonah’ Jones.

“Well, fucking hell, Jonah,” Grainger said. “Look who’s stood out here among us smokers—a stinking fucking pig.”

“Do you know something mate—I was sure I could smell a fucking farm animal.” He laughed.

They both flicked their unfinished cigarettes at pigeons which were strutting around nearby. Grinning, and with a slow shake of heads at Jason, the two men went back into the building.

*

In less than fifteen minutes from the courtroom settling down again, the trial was over. The accused were told to stand and the foreman of the jury asked if they’d agreed unanimously on verdicts regarding the three accused. The jury foreman swallowed hard as he looked over at the public gallery and passed the finding to the bailiff.

The judge accepted the note from the bailiff, studied it for a few seconds and then glanced at the members of the jury before informing all of those present that the three defendants had been found not guilty and were free to go.

While there were sniggers among a few in the gallery, all three of the accused men grinned, turned and eyeballed Jason Knight. The cocky Scotsman, Gordon Craven winked at the detective. In other circumstances, they might have become friends—both Glasgow men living in London. As it was, they were from opposite sides of the legal fence.

The accused were escorted downstairs to be processed officially and released from custody, and then they walked free from court. Those three men had murdered a senior detective in cold blood on a London street. They acted as if they’d been given a smacked wrist by a schoolteacher for talking in class.

*

New Scotland Yard

London

“Come in and sit down, Jason.” Detective Chief Inspector Harry Royston reached down and pulled open a drawer. He lifted out a bottle of single malt and poured a generous amount into two glasses.

Jason stared at the glass the senior officer had pushed across the desk to him. “Sir, I—”

“To Paul.” DCI Royston raised his glass and met the younger man’s troubled expression.

Jason picked up the glass of whiskey and stared across the desk. “To Paul.”

Both men took a pull of the strong liquor and placed their glasses on the desk.

“Jason, there is fuck all anyone in this station can say to you or me that will help. I trained with Paul and I served alongside him for years. I knew him well and through his praise, I think I know you pretty well, son.”

Jason remained silent and stared at the man, wondering if there would be something tangible he would take from this meeting.

Royston continued, “Right now, you’re sitting there asking yourself a host of questions, but right at the top of the pile you’re asking yourself how you can avenge your friend and colleague’s murder.”

When Jason reached for the whiskey it didn’t camouflage the momentary squint the DCI’s observation had caused.

“Don’t worry about that,” Royston said. “Revenge is on everyone’s mind at the moment but we have to remember that our first allegiance is to the British public. We all know the risks when we go out there every day among the shit of society. Even in circumstances like this, we cannot afford to drop to their level.”

“Paul Gallagher was let down, Sir. We didn’t get the back-up he requested and then after his murder, it took days to arrest those three bastards. The only CCTV footage was obscured by a truck parking in front of the camera and we know it was one of theirs who was driving. Even the fucking court case was a farce.”

“Jason, if it had been the other way around, I’d have Paul sitting where you are and we’d be having the same conversation. He’d probably be banging his fist on this desk and telling me he wanted a search warrant and an armed response team.”

“That’s my point, Sir—we only needed to stand in front of the doors of the gang’s headquarters—our source even told us that they’d be armed and put up resistance. We passed on our intelligence, so how could it all go wrong so fucking badly?”

“I was right here, chasing the warrant when we got the call. I had the search team and the response team on standby, but we have to do things legally or it all falls apart. One technical hitch in the process and our whole case would be fucked up.” The big man inhaled deeply. “You won’t like this, Jason, but I’d like you—”

“Don’t say it, Sir.” He shook his head. “Don’t suggest a few days off or that I should attend fucking counselling.”

“Look, mate—you’re a bloody good detective but if you go out there now after that fucked-up result in court, you won’t be able to do your job properly. You owe it to yourself—you owe it to Paul—”

“No, don’t lay that on me, Sir. I need to be at work. I must get back on the case and put fucking Billy Tennent away once and for all.”

“Jason, it’s the twenty-fourth of the month. Take a week, or two weeks if necessary but fuck off somewhere and try to chill out. Go back up north to Scotland for a few days. You’re a Glasgow man, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but the reason I left Glasgow was to avoid becoming a part of the problem. Throughout my education, I knew more bad guys than good, Sir. It’s a great city, full of wonderful people, but I don’t have any family or a reason to return.”

“You need a change of scenery for a week or two—it’s been proven that it helps. How about taking your girlfriend away for a few days—”

“I can’t hold onto a girlfriend and do the job properly—the job always comes first.”

Royston shook his head. “Okay, fuck it, Jason—if you report for work before next Monday, I’ll personally assign you a desk, and you’ll bloody work from there for a month. One way or another, son, you must let this go.”

Jason lifted the glass, drained the remainder of the whiskey and stood. “I’ll report back next week, Sir.”

“Good lad—and please, try to relax.”

Jason left the door open as the DCI preferred and walked through the open-plan office area, passing colleagues who either offered their condolences or turned away unsure how to approach the fiery young detective. He didn’t register anything or anyone because his focus was on the exit from the department and all around it was a red mist.

*

Monday 31st October

“Good morning, Sir.” Jason stood in the DCI’s office doorway. He was in collar and tie and wearing a smart suit.

“Good morning, Jason.” Royston looked up from his desk. “Did you get away for a few days?”

“Yes, Sir. I rented a place near Bodmin Moor out in the west country. I spent five days alone and out of touch, walking, running and mountain biking. I think I’ve got my head straight now.” There was no need for the DCI to know the truth.

“I knew you were a strong character,” Royston said. “Well done. What we need to do now is allocate you a case, and I’ll give you a partner that you can guide.”

“Who did you have in mind as a partner, Sir?”

“Detective Constable Armitage.”

“I’m not familiar with the name. Is he new in the department?”

The DCI called, “DC Armitage—my office, please.”

Jason turned at the sound of heels clacking on the wooden floor.

“Yes, Sir.” An attractive auburn-haired young woman in a smart black trouser suit walked in. She glanced at Jason and turned to face the senior officer. Her heels had made a noise but they were only two-inch—at least the shoes were practical.

“Detective Constable Armitage, I’d like you to meet your partner and mentor, Detective Sergeant Jason Knight—Jason, your new partner.”

Jason’s immediate thoughts were of a Clint Eastwood movie in which ‘Dirty Harry’ Callaghan was introduced to a rookie female partner. He resisted the urge to say anything corny. He wasn’t the type of person to destroy someone else’s self-esteem because he was pissed off.

“I’m pleased to meet you, DS Knight—”

“Delighted, DC Armitage.” Jason shook her hand, surprised by the strength of her slender fingers.

DCI Royston stood, grinning. “Today is for local induction.”

DC Armitage squinted. “I completed induction last—”

“Perhaps I should have said, introduction,” Royston said. “Tomorrow, I’ll have a specific case for you two, but today, get out, walk around London and try to get comfortable with each other.”

“Right, Sir.” The new detective constable smiled, showing even white teeth. She turned to find her new partner looking at her—his expression noncommittal at best.

“Will do, Sir.” Jason turned from Royston to Armitage. “Come on … partner, let’s get comfortable.”

They went through the open-office area where several of the male detectives made no effort to disguise their longing looks at the shapely officer in the suit. Almost to a man, they devoured the new DC with their eyes and mentally undressed her. Female detectives shook their heads at such pathetic behaviour.

While they waited for the elevator, DC Armitage spoke without turning. “If that’s how they behave when I’m wearing a trouser suit, what the fuck would they have done if I’d worn a skirt?”

In that single statement, she didn’t need the elevator to go up in Jason’s opinion. The doors swished open and he stood back, indicating with an inclination of his head for her to enter first.

“Thank you, Sarge,” Armitage said in a subdued tone but was delighted to see her partner smile for the first time since they were introduced. The elevator doors closed with a whisper.

“It’s Jason unless we’re in front of superiors—what do I call you until you fuck-up?”

She grinned. “Becky … if that’s okay.”

“It’s okay—unless I find out your bloody name is Ethel.”

Becky Armitage was still laughing when the elevator doors opened on the ground floor. “Where are we going first?”

“Do you know how far it is to Marble Arch from here?”

“The northern end of Hyde Park—a little over two miles.”

“Okay, you’ve got a little over two miles to talk about yourself. Convince me that I’m right to allow first names, but before you start on the unofficial bio, I have a question.”

“Go ahead.”

“Do you have a nice pair of legs?”

Becky stopped and faced him, eyebrows raised. “Why would you want to know that?”

“I wondered if you’d like to take the piss out of those lecherous shits in the department.”

“And if I did want to, in my first week here?”

“I thought it might be fun if you wore a short skirt tomorrow morning.”

With that suggestion, DS Jason Knight went up in Becky’s opinion. She nodded and grinned as they walked on and she explained about her experience and qualifications.

***

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