The elation of having found such a vital piece of evidence had soon faded after Bridge’s bollocking from Fran. After five minutes spent arguing with, trying to calm down and then arguing again with an enraged Fran, Bridge gave up and left before any more damage could be done to either himself or the office around them. Desk Sergeant Paul tried in vain to conceal a half grin at Bridge’s left cheek. Bridge now equally red in the ears said nothing and hastily exited the building.
It was getting dark by the time Bridge stepped onto the pavement outside. The rain from the morning still lingered but fluctuated intermittently like a low pressured shower head. Bridge hated weather of this type, it gave him the sensation of being trapped inside a large fish-bowl. Feeling his fingers begin to twitch in that all familiar way, he searched his pockets and discovered the crumpled, half bent roll-up tucked in one corner. He removed it, straightened it out and popped it between his lips. Again he returned his hands to his pockets, this time in search of a lighter, preferably a working one. Three lighters Bridge managed to acquire, every one of which failed to catch. There had been a moment when a hint of fire had flickered into life but by the time he had raised it to light the roll-up it had disappeared. Frustrated, he tore the blasted thing up and threw it into a nearby bin. Giving up was something Bridge had been trying on and off for quite a while now. There was always something, some reason that gave him an excuse to start up again. The most recent of course being the upheaval, travelling and stress surrounding his new case. Thirty seconds ago, he had convinced himself that today was a particularly stressful and demanding day and as such his efforts should be rewarded with an obligatory smoke. However on failure to light, it had become quite clear that this was just another excuse in a long line of excuses to have a fag.
Pulling up his coat collar, he glanced around for Gethin. The young lad was nowhere to be seen. Neither was Maggie Owen. Perhaps the two had eloped together and Bridge had stumbled in on the farmer’s wife’s confession. Bridge allowed himself the slightest of grins. That would certainly bring some drama to this dead town. He toyed with one of the toggles on his coat agitatedly. This case was starting to get him. No correction, not the case, more so the way it was being handled. Nothing was happening. The way he saw it, the evidence was staring them right in the face and yet all Fran was interested in was interviewing more people. I mean granted, there was a chance both Gareth’s and Fran’s technique of extracting information from the locals may prove fruitful but just how long would it take. And from what he had seen so far it wasn’t likely that they were going to confess off the bat.
Bridge paced up and down the rain flecked pavement in front of the police station, playing with a loose thread in his coat pocket. His hand drifted over the evidence bag and the fragment of torn tracksuit inside. He wasn’t entirely sure why but holding it in his hand relaxed him slightly. In the same way a slightly paranoid individual might cradle their keys or clutch on to their phone, Bridge took solace in the small piece of case evidence. Part of him felt slightly guilty about having it about his person but excitement had compelled him to bring it straight to Fran’s desk. A poor decision on reflection. However even now after just having a conversation with Fran, whereby she had instructed him to take it to evidence, he had decided to leave the station with it still in his pocket. He told himself that it was necessary to ensure the job was done properly, as it was clearly evident that it would take about three weeks to analyse in these backwards valleys. Despite some of this being true, the real reason he held on to it was because he needed it. Without this case there would be nothing to do. The reality that he was alone, forced to face himself and his thoughts frightened him. So he filled all these dark realities with case files.
Aware that Gethin had obviously ditched him and clocked off early, Bridge shook the light hazing of droplets from his hair and wiped his gel covered sticky hand on his trouser leg. Usually, this slovenly behaviour would have perturbed Bridge. He took great pride in his clothes and appearance, so much so that he had won a smartest dressed detective award at his precinct back in London. But right now, after the day he had just had, he couldn’t give a sheep’s shit what he looked like. A great melancholy had come over the detective. He felt totally dead in the water. Unsure why he was still stood in the rain, Bridge set off down the street in which he hoped was the right direction. At the high street he went to cross over the road and inadvertently sunk his foot into an overflowing drain. The dirty cold water filled his shoes, quickly spreading itself around his foot and permeating through the porous thin layer of sock. If only the rivulet of water streaming beside the pavement would sweep him up and carry him down the drain to drown his woes or at the very least erode away his never ceasing brain.
The pub was loud with the sound of voices and laughter, which spilled out of the open doorway with the orange evening light from within. A small voice in Bridge’s head ordered he mingle with the punters to get a little more local knowledge. Despite this he made straight for the stairs up to his room, his legs burning with a deep ache on the narrow carpeted incline of doom. He cursed under his breath as he pushed open the door and it banged nosily against the bed. I mean seriously if you are going to rent out rooms to visitors then at least measure the bed to see if it fits. He flung his briefcase down on the recently made bed, (which was a nice surprise), part of him was expecting to find it the way he had left it. The dull thud of the music vibrated through the carpeted floor beneath him. The window opposite was open wide and the sill was slicked with rain, some of which had dripped down the peeling wallpaper. Bridge sighed. This place really was a dive. A car engine rumbled through the window and several loud shouts travelled up to him. Hastily he moved over and stuck his head out. A group of young men and women were huddled on the corner of the pavement, smoking and singing drunkenly. Bridge thrust his neck out further, in a pathetic attempt to inhale the fumes but he was too high up. One of the women, dressed in neon pink and wearing leggings far too tight for her thighs and belly caught sight of him.
‘What you looking at pervert?’ She screeched.
The others glanced up, upon hearing the women shout. They joined in, the two blokes with them squaring up for confrontation. Bridge went to retract his head but moved too quickly and smacked it painfully against the base of the window pane. The group of drunken reprobates burst into laughter, drawing the attention of other pub smokers. A red faced Bridge disappeared from the window before things could get any worse and massaged the raised lump developing at the back of his head. Inadvertently, he had also bit his tongue, which hurt like hell. His eye twitched ever so slightly as he sat on the bed and stared at a patch of faded carpet in front of him. Something smacked against the window and Bridge jumped. A half eaten kebab was plastered to the window. It was the final straw. Bridge jumped to his feet and yanked the pane up angrily. But it was too late. The perpetrators had jumped in a bright yellow car and were racing down the street, exhaust pipe popping behind them. Nevertheless Bridge studied the number plate and wrote it down in his notebook. He wasn’t entirely sure what charges he could get them on. Somehow a kebab grenade didn’t seem like the most heinous of crimes.
Laying back, he closed his eyes and tried to empty his mind. It wasn’t easy work. Aside from the obvious concern about the case in hand, he also couldn’t shake the feeling that he had botched things up with his two colleagues. Fran was pissed off with him and for good reason. Well at least that’s what she thought. Okay maybe he had stumbled in at an inconvenient moment but it wasn’t as if he didn’t have a good reason for doing so. He had discovered a vital piece of evidence. Correction he and Gethin had found an important piece of evidence. Perhaps that was why Gethin was acting strange. He had taken away his spotlight. Bridge punched his pillow in a half hearted attempt at frustration, wishing he was back in London with his team. Especially his partner Detective Sergeant Justin Ward, who always had his back, no matter the situation.
After many sighs, puffs of the cheeks and mumbles of discomfort, Bridge forced himself into a seated position. This was his usual nightly routine, get home and try to sleep, only to find himself still awake two hours later. Physically he was exhausted, to the point that even lifting his arms hurt but his mind continued to whir. It was in his nature and one of the reasons he was such an accomplished detective. A factor that had resulted in many a failed relationship. He hadn’t even noticed the one before last. The door had slammed before he had even looked from his case file.
The last orders bell rang out from downstairs and Bridge breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps now he would finally get some peace and quiet. On the contrary however. The call out for last orders had obviously alerted the drunken patrons and they proceeded to rush to the bar in an angry mob, eager to get the last drips and drabs of their boozy nectar.
Half an hour later and the bar downstairs hadn’t got any quieter. Bridge had half a mind to go down and have a word with the landlord but eventually decided against it. It wasn’t worth the hassle. The landlord who often drank with the regulars would most probably be drunk, meaning it would take an age to get through to him. The wife was normally more sober but once you got talking to her she never stopped which would mean more delay. Also it was guaranteed that a couple of the punters would single him out and wind him up for being English. Something along the lines of:
‘Sorry butt, are we being too loud for Mr. Arthur Dent?’
But it wasn’t just the noise that kept him awake. The young lads and lasses outside had reminded him of something that Fran had mentioned. That was before the shouting and decision to ignore him. After her interview with Gareth Owen she had told him that a bunch of local young lads had been sneaking into his fields and setting fire to his hay bales. Nothing particularly unusual there. Bridge had seen far worse in London, especially between the various gangs and factions prowling the fag encrusted, chewing gum littered streets.
He sat up all of a sudden, an invisible light bulb illuminating over his head. Maybe that was it. He pulled himself off the sagging mattress and emptied the case file out of his briefcase onto the small wooden table next to the window. A few bangs and cracks outside made Bridge glance up. It was instinctual. Growing up in London made him wary. But it was just the backfires of boy racer cars. This momentarily distraction should have disturbed his train of thought but quite the opposite. It rather spurred him on.
He flicked through the case file of the still to be identified victim and found the photographs and relevant diagrams and notes on the injuries inflicted. When he had first picked up the case, he had been thrown by the unusual ritual carried out on the victim. It was true that none of the gangs in London had this as their trademark hits but in other countries such as South America and Africa, similar gang motifs had been left on victims. Nothing like this but alike in some ways. Perhaps one of the local Welsh outfits had created their own trademark, taking influences from other culture’s practices. That would certainly link up with the torn fragment of tracksuit Gethin had discovered. The only missing link was the victim himself. If it was gang related then why wasn’t the victim both young and a member of one of the groups. Was it possible that he was one of the father’s of the boys? It was unlikely, as Fran knew pretty much all the families and as a such would have recognized him. Bridge rubbed his tired eyes. He felt like all the answers were in his reach but he still couldn’t get to them. Leaning over he flicked on the kettle. It was going to be a long night.
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