Revenge and Retribution
Every age has its own defining philosophical speculations, often best expressed in terms which may at a glance appear overpersonalized and tainted with self-interest.
It was, for example, in relation to her prospects of professional advancement that Shirley Novello first asked herself the question, was being treated like a man a form of sexual discrimination?
Things had seemed pretty straightforward the first time she had attended a CID gathering in the Black Bull with the Holy Trinity and found she was expected to go to the bar and collect the drinks no matter who was actually buying the round. She was disappointed without being surprised, as this chimed perfectly with the expectation at all levels in the Force that if tea or coffee were to be fetched, any woman present would be the fetcher. Novello had worked out various nonconfrontational stratagems to avoid doing this, but she had not been afraid to fall back on confrontation.
Confrontation with Andy Dalziel, however, felt as futile as confrontation with Uranus. (Or any planet, but Uranus somehow seemed most fitting.) Hit it hard as you could, you weren't going to jolt it out of its orbit.
The other two, however, gave the impression that they might in their better moments be susceptible to the nudge of right reason.
But before she could nerve herself to put this to the test, she had discovered by distant observation that if the group consisted of the Trinity alone, it was usually Wield who did the fetching and carrying, while if the three became a pair, it was Pascoe.
So now right reason asked, if a male sergeant and a male chief inspector could accept this as the natural order of things, was it reasonable for a female constable to cry discrimination?
Or, to put it another way, what should a woman do who fought for equal treatment and then found that the equal treatment she fought for was in fact unequal?
These were the speculations thronging her mind as she returned from the bar at eleven o'clock on the morning after the attempted kidnapping of Ellie Pascoe bearing a tray loaded with a pint of best, a half of the same, a fizzy mineral water, and a Coke.
Pascoe's request for the mineral water had emboldened her to buy the Coke.
They were in the Black Bull to discuss possible ramifications of yesterday's events. The chief inspector had arrived late at the station, having spent the morning ensuring that his house and Edengrove school were being watched over to his satisfaction. He looked worn out, and it was this wan-ness which the Fat Man had used as an excuse to retire instantly to the pub where, he averred, he had his best thoughts, and they would be free from interruption. Novello's inclusion had had all the appearance of a throwaway afterthought, coming as Dalziel led the trio out of the CID room. But Novello had long since concluded that most of the Fat Man's apparent afterthoughts were carefully planned. The wise thing was to be neither flattered by his attention nor offended by the lack of it.
She placed the tray on the table, noting with some satisfaction that she'd managed to slop a little beer over Dalziel's change (the seriousness of the occasion was marked by the fact that Dalziel had actually bought a round), and then put all personal and philosophical considerations out of her mind to focus on the debate in progress.
The on-the-table theory was that the attempted abduction had something to do with Pascoe's work.
"Wieldy, you were trawling that mind of thine for folk Pete's put away who were nutty enough to take it personally."
Dalziel's natural Luddism was expressed in his boast "Who needs great ugly lumps of hi-tech equipment cluttering the place when we've got Wieldy who's twice as efficient and three times as ugly?" but Novello had noticed that the sergeant's computer skills were state-of-the-art.
Whatever its source, the list of perps who'd gone down threatening the DCI with personal injury was impressively long. For a nice quiet guy, Pascoe seemed to have got up a lot of criminal noses.
But Wield's conclusion was that in most cases the threats had just been empty if overheated air.
"You need a special kind of twist to nurse a grievance and plan revenge," said Wield.
"Is that right, Sigmund?" said Dalziel. "So what you're saying is you've dug deep and ended up with nowt but an empty hole?"
"No," said Wield. "In fact, I struck a root. Franny Roote."
Dalziel looked blank for a moment, then let his jaw drop in the mock amazement he had taken to affecting if Wield essayed a joke.
"You mean that weird student at yon college? My memory serves me right, we couldn't do him for owt but being an accessory."
"That's right," said Wield. "But after listening to what had gone on there, the judge ordered a psycho evaluation before sentencing. And after getting an earful of that, he decided best place for Roote was a secure hospital. To start with the lad refused all treatment, and during this period he seems to have fixed on the DCI, or sergeant as he was then, as the man responsible for putting him there. He seemed to think you had something personal against him."
"I know it's silly, but I do tend to feel strongly about people who try to kill me," said Pascoe. "I recall I got a weird letter from him while he was waiting trial. I passed it on to the court, so in a way he was right about me helping to get him certified. But there's been nothing since. I haven't thought about him for years."
"Doesn't mean he's not been thinking about you," said Dalziel. "Wieldy, I take it there's summat else."
"Only that he finally accepted the treatment and settled down to being a model patient cum prisoner. Did an Open University degree in English literature, and went on to start a research course for a Ph.D. or some such thing. Finally he convinced them he wasn't a menace to society anymore and got himself discharged. Last month."
There was a moment's silence, then the Fat Man said, "That it?"
"Except . . .,
"He'd know Ellie, she was teaching at the college then, wasn't she? When you met her."
"So?" said Dalziel.
"Nothing. Just a connection," said Wield. "Also, probably means nowt, but this research he's doing. His topic is, I made a note of it, aye, here it is . . . 'Revenge and Retribution in English Drama.'"
Another silence, then Dalziel said, "Beats sewing mail bags and breaking rocks, I suppose. Got an address?"
"Not so far then. Set up liaison with South Yorkshire, then pop down there in the morning and check him out."
"Can't do it tomorrow, sir. Day off."
"Oh aye? And what are you doing that's more important than finding out who's threatening your colleague's family, Sergeant?" demanded Dalziel in that tone of high moral dudgeon he saved for underlings who dared suggest they had a private life.
Wield glanced at Pascoe, who said, "Actually, Wieldy is very kindly entertaining that same colleague's family. He's invited Ellie and Rosie out to Enscombe to look round the children's zoo at the Hall."
"Oh," said Dalziel, slightly flummoxed. "Right. That's fine. Only don't try putting it down as overtime. Best go to check Roote out yourself then, Pete. If you feel up to it."
"It'll be a pleasure," said Pascoe. "I'm in court with Kelly Cornelius at twelve but that should give me plenty of time."
Shirley Novello listened and learned. These three had a pretty cozy relationship, she thought. Though perhaps cozy was not a word that fitted well on anything to do with Andy Dalziel. But they meshed easily together, like well-oiled cog wheels. It was a piece of machinery she'd like to get herself linked up with, but she recognized the dangers in trying to poke yourself too brutally among moving cogs.
She'd noted with interest the reference to Ellie Pascoe's job way back in the dark ages when they'd met. A college lecturer. Queen of the kids in never-never land. That figured.
"Right," said Dalziel. "That's revenge took care of. Let's move on. Cases in progress where your involvement in the prosecution could make it seem worthwhile to some no-brain wanker to get you by the goolies. How's that look?"
Pascoe winced at the language, then sent an irritatingly apologetic glance to Novello, who winced, less obviously, in her turn. Hadn't marriage to the Nutcracker Fairy taught him anything?
Wield shrugged and said, "Nothing obvious. Any road, I'd have thought they saved threats for civilians. Cops they'd offer a bung."
"Yeah, you and me, mebbe, Wieldy. But every sod knows fancypants here's incorruptible. So, tell us, Mother Teresa, is there owt you're working on that gives you that funny feeling you're famous for?"
Pascoe with more than his customary diffidence said, "Well, it is just a feeling, but for some reason I keep on thinking Kelly Cornelius."
"Her!" cried Dalziel in derision. "She's a lass, not to mention a sodding accountant."
Putting aside this touchstone of timidity for future deconstruction, Pascoe said, "She is actually being charged with assault on a police officer, don't forget."
"Oh aye, but that were Hector, and usually they give you a medal for thumping him," said Dalziel. "Any road, why should she want to frighten you off? You're just keeping her on ice on this assault charge while the Fraud boys get their act together, isn't that the arrangement? They're the ones who are going to send her down for ten years when they finally get their fingers out. What's going off there, anyway, Pete? I don't mind helping out, but won't tomorrow be the third time you've had to go along and ask for a further remand in custody? And what's Desperate Dan know that we don't?"
Desperate Dan was Dan Trimble, Mid-Yorkshire's chief constable, who in Dalziel's eyes didn't need to know anything other than how to pour single malt without missing the glass whenever the head of CID graced him with his presence.
"If I knew that, then he wouldn't," said Pascoe. "Okay, I'm just concerned with the assault charge but that's what's keeping her remanded in custody. Two possibilities. One, some accomplice wants her loose so that she can do a runner. Someone at the bank maybe who's afraid if this goes on much longer, she's going to start pointing the finger."
"Someone like who?"
"Well, I gather Fraud are looking very closely at her immediate boss, George Ollershaw. They've got nothing definite yet, but you can tell they're sniffing the air."
"Ollershaw? Him? Nay, he's a right banker, and like most on 'em can probably play a fair tune on the fiddle, but I can't see him getting mixed up with owt violent."
"Know him, do you,' sir?"
"I've seen him down the Gents. And heard him too, sounding off to his mates. Big I Am, but a long way off Mr. Big, I'd say."
The Gents, as Novello had learned after an embarrassing misunderstanding, wasn't a lavatorial reference but a popular shortening of the Borough Club for Professional Gentlemen, the Athenaeum of the North, an exclusive social and dining club, men only of course, which made Novello think that perhaps her misunderstanding wasn't. When she'd wondered to Wield why someone as anarchically unclubbable as Dalziel should have joined such an organization, the sergeant had replied, " 'Cos they didn't want him, of course."
"All the same, I think they've still got him in the frame," said Pascoe. "But there's another possibility. One way of looking at it, the prime target for intimidation is Kelly herself. Until the Fraud Squad get a line on the Nortrust Bank money, it's floating around somewhere in cyberspace, and she may be the only one who can get at it. So maybe someone wants her out so they can use methods that even Fraud draw the line at to get her to tell where it is."
It seemed to Novello that the DCI was putting forward his Cornelius hypotheses with more stubbornness than conviction.
Dalziel clearly thought so too. He said, "Doesn't make sense. Anyone serious could easily get to her in the remand center, happens all the time."
"That's fine if you want to find out is where the swag's buried, but it's not like that here," insisted Pascoe. "Okay, it's easy enough to get some prison hard case to do the job for a couple of rocks, but what's Kelly going to tell her? Nothing that makes any sense, I'd bet. No, it could be the only way to get at this loot is to sit Kelly down in front of a state-of-the-art computer and make her an offer she can't refuse. To do that, you want her out of custody. All they'd need from me is to make our opposition to her reapplication for bail tomorrow a bit feeble."
Dalziel snorted doubt and provoked Wield into a display of loyalty.
"Makes sense to me," he said. "Twisting Pete's arm to perjure himself is one thing. Bloody hard to do, and harder to get away with 'cos everyone in the job would sit up and take notice if suddenly his evidence changed. But subtly getting up some magistrate's nose so as he grants bail just to show who's in charge of the courts here, that would be dead easy. And not such a strain on the conscience either."
"Oh aye? You'd do it, would you, if that antique bookie of thine were threatened?" said Dalziel.
Antiquarian bookdealer, corrected Novello mentally, watching with the keenness of an ambitious student to see how Wield would react to this reference to his partner.
"Straight choice between Edwin and a crook, no problem," said Wield without hesitation, looking the Fat Man right in the eye.
"Well, bugger me," said Dalziel. "Thank God there's thee and me left with some moral fiber, Ivor, and I'm not so sure about thee. You're keeping very quiet for a lass. Didn't your trip to the wishing well get you any ideas?"
"Wishing well?" echoed Novello uncertainly.
"Aye, I take it that's where tha tossed my change," said Dalziel, poking at the wet coins with his forefinger. "Only, when I were young, you had to leave it there to get any results."
"I can take it back and get some more drink if you like, sir," said Novello sweetly.
"Nay, it's some other bugger's shout," said Dalziel, closing his fingers round the money, shaking it dry, and thrusting it into his pocket. "And while we're waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Alzheimer here to remember the way to their wallets, why don't you give us the benefit of female intuition, Ivor? Or are you only here for the beer?"
You tell me, Fatso! thought Novello. But even as she fought the impulse to tip the remnants of her Coke over his great grizzled head, the answer came to her in that curious admixture of gratification and indignation which was her frequent response to Dalziel.
She was here not because he fancied her or wanted someone to fetch the beer; she was here because he simply reckoned she could make a useful contribution.
She looked around. Like Mrs. Robinson, all she could see were sympathetic eyes. Well, four anyway. The Fat Man's expression was one of confident expectation, like a ringmaster watching a performing pig. Bastard.
She said, "Well, there was one thing that did occur to me about what happened yesterday. . "
"Spit it out, lass, afore I die of thirst."
"What if you, that is we, are all barking up the wrong tree? What if in fact it's got nothing whatsoever to do with the DCI and the people he's put away or is trying to put away? What if in fact it's all to do with Ellie, Mrs. Pascoe, herself?"
Silence fell and the three men looked at each other with a wild surmise, though Novello feared it had more to do with her sanity than her insight.
Then the phone behind the bar rang and Jack Mahoney, the landlord, after listening a moment, called, "Are you buggers here?"
Dalziel said, "How many times do you need telling to put your mitt over the mouthpiece first, you thick sod? Ivor."
For once Novello felt nothing but relief at being appointed gofer.
She went to the phone, identified herself, and listened.
Then she looked toward the waiting men.
"Well?" said Dalziel. "Have I won the lottery, or wha'?"
But it was to Pascoe that Novello addressed herself, trying and failing to sound neutrally official.
"Sir," she said. "It's Seymour. It's lousy reception, but there's been more trouble at your house. I'm sorry but I think he said he's following an ambulance to the hospital."
1999 Reginald Hill