"I see we've had another visit from the fuck-up fairy."
Joe Cahill looked up from the case file in front of him. Detective
Superintendent Diane Carter was leaning over him, one hand on the desk,
the other holding two sheets of typed paper by their corners. She was
tall, auburn, and athletically slim. Her nickname of razor derived from
a reputation for having the sharpest tongue, the sharpest suits, and
the sharpest mind in the division. Consequently every male officer from
the Chief Constable to the lowliest probationer had fantasies about
getting her alone in a cell with handcuffs and a truncheon. The only
variation was who was wearing the cuffs. Joe braced himself for the
"Who was evidence officer for the K Club drug raid?"
Joe hesitated for a moment. "Andy, boss".
"And the break-ins at the chemist in Epping last week - no let me
guess. Andy Payne as well?"
"Yes boss, what's the problem?"
" The problem, Inspector, is that I've just had a phone call from
forensics. They want to know why this division wants fingerprints taken
on an evidence bag full of cocaine, and a chemical analysis on twenty
boxes of condoms. Maybe you can tell me?"
"O.K. boss, I'll have a word with him about mixing up the paperwork. It
won't happen again." Joe tried to strike the right balance between
annoyance and contrition.
"It had better not. I don't like egg on my face, its bad for my
complexion. Make sure Sergeant Payne gets the message."
She dropped the papers on his desk, turned and strode from the office.
Joe watched her disappear, then glanced up at the clock; 7:45. He
didn't like eating shit for breakfast, especially when it should have
been served to someone else. So Andy was going to chew on large
helpings for lunch, dinner and tea.
Joe comforted himself with the thought, then returned his attention to
the file on his desk.
Three car thefts in a month were hardly a crime wave, and certainly not
enough of a priority to waste a Detective Inspectors time. Uniform
should be dealing with this, thought Joe, but he knew he was stuck with
it. The thefts had taken place from the head office of Atlantic
Finance. Their chief executive played golf with the Chief Constable, so
here he was, investigating the loss of one Fiat, one Ford, and one
Skoda, total value just in excess of bugger all.
Atlantic had moved out to Essex from central London five years before,
into a new office complex set in its own grounds. They employed 2,000
staff there, and almost all commuted by car from London, Essex, and
Hertfordshire. The grounds and car park were well lit, but the security
gates were open from 8.00am to 8.00pm. Joe considered it to be a
joyriders supermarket, with no one on the checkouts.
"This is going to be a complete waste of time" he said to no one in
particular. "A long day sat in a car from the pool, waiting for a
couple of teenage road racers to turn up with a brick and a
screwdriver." He picked up the phone and started to dial the contact
number for Atlantic that was printed on the first sheet in the file.
Then he chuckled, stopped, and placed the receiver back in the cradle;
time for Andy to start chewing, he thought, and this was going to be
his first course.
Joe shelved the file for Andys' return and went back to the rest of his
caseload. The raid on the K club had been part of a larger operation,
focused on the increasing level of drug related crime in the area.
Dealers from Londons' east end estates had been moving out to the Essex
suburbs and commuter towns, attracted by the well padded pockets of
middle class kids. Parents who had thought that their money was being
healthily wasted on video games and designer jeans were starting to
find small silver foil packets tucked into sock drawers. So a joint
operation had been set up with the Met. CID targetted the pushers and
suppliers, while uniform ran a drug awareness campaign in schools and
colleges. Joe thought it was the most worthwhile thing he had worked on
in the past year. If he ever caught one of the bastards trying to sell
the stuff to his kids there wouldn't be any need for a trial.
The office door swung open and Andy Payne tottered in with two plastic
cups full of a brown liquid that was nothing like tea.
"Good of you to show up" said Joe dryly, " Now my day's
"Sorry boss, there's a six car shunt on the A13. It must be Tuesday."
Even at twenty six, Andy still looked and sounded like a first year
college student. A baggy brown shirt and faded jeans were draped round
a thin six foot frame, topped with a corpse-white face and black gelled
"I've got a question for you."
"Fire away boss."
"Do you know the difference between a condom and a packet of
"Yeah. You stick one up your nose, and the other...."
"Don't get too smart. Not today. You cocked up the evidence sheets
again, and I caught the flak for it. So now I've got a nice little job
Joe managed to keep the smile from his face but not from his
"You're going to be watching a car park. A nice big open gray one.
Eight till eight. With constable Ferris. And there's no toilets." Joe
spaced out the statements, watching Andy's mouth droop lower with each
pause. Praise and punishment were both more effective when delivered
"Not Ferris boss. He eats egg and garlic sandwiches, and keeps the
window shut." Andy wasn't arguing, he was begging.
"Here's the file, Alliance Finance, contact their security people and
arrange a start date for next week."
Andy picked up the file and trudged across to his desk. Joe smiled the
inner smile of a manager who had just delegated the top of his crap
pile to a deserving subordinate. He knew that Andy would get the
message, and that the mistake would not be repeated. If Andy drew a
blank, the boredom would have served its purpose. If anything did
happen, the kid was well equipped to deal with it. After all, they were
only joy riders.