All Fall Down - Part 4
"You're kidding. Don Beech?", said a lilted Scottish voice into a telephone. The voice coming from the other end of the phone was talking in a hushed, quiet tone, as though it was under surveillance.
"Don't sound so surprised, Alan. I know they've spoken to you too."
"They? Who's they?"
"CIB. Don't bullshit me around, mate."
It was Jim Carver on the phone to his former Sun Hill CID colleague, Alan Woods. At Jim's instruction, Alan dropped his pretence.
"Okay, Jim, no need to get shirty with me. Tell you the truth, I wasnae surprised; I thought he might've been under investigation sooner. Never minded the bloke personally but... well, you know how he was. Strong-headed and full of himself."
Jim still spoke in hushed tones, almost whispering.
"And what did CIB make of you? You don't think... they'll come back for you?"
"Me? No. Don't forget, Jim, I left Sun Hill in '96. Beech had only been there a year or so. I remember you telling me you left CID what, a year, two years ago? You'll be fine."
Jim found it reassuring to be told by a former colleague, a friend, that he probably wouldn't be under further investigation by CIB. He spoke slightly more confidently as the conversation went on.
"Mmm... I suppose you're right. I had a right meltdown when I knew CIB were in. Tony Stamp tried reassuring me too. It's just that association, you know? You've done alright by being away from it now with another force but I'm still stuck in Sun Hill where Beech has left a trail of disaster."
"You know I spoke to Suzi about this too, Jim? She phoned me, actually."
"Suzi Croft? So they really are trying to cross every T and dot every I. Yeah, she's doing alright at Barnet these days. How're things with Strathclyde Police?"
"Aye, nae too bad. Nice to be on the auld stomping ground. Hoping to make DS soon."
Jim was on his mobile in the corridor at Sun Hill. He had been speaking quietly as it was a personal call whilst on duty. Unbeknownst to him, Inspector Monroe was behind him, walking down the corridor from the other end. Monroe overheard Jim on his phone taking about Strathclyde Police as he approached.
"Ah, is that a work-related call, Jim?", Monroe asked, with a sarcastically quizzical smile.
Jim turned round and his eyes lit up with trepidation.
"Oh erm... just talking to DC Woods, sir. You remember?"
"I do but I think this is the sort of call that can wait until refs, can it not?"
Jim shifted his brow in an acknowledging manner and ended the call.
"Sorry, Alan, have to go. Inspector Monroe is talking to me... Thanks a bunch, mate. Cheers."
Monroe continued towards his office, thanking Jim and instructing him to return to his duties. He had hardly sat down when his office door was being knocked.
It was Detective Inspector Deakin, looking forlorn and isolated.
"Ah, Chris, what can I do for you?", Monroe opened before correcting himself, "Are you not suspended from duty, Chris? I'm not sure what I can do for you?"
Deakin, with his shirt mildly unkempt, made his way to Monroe's desk and stood looking over Monroe.
"You can do something for me, Andrew. Now I know you're a consummate professional but I really wouldn't ask if it wasn't needed. I'm locked out of CID, my office, and all my office related apparel."
"And I've just come out of my CIB interview. Andrew, I need a drink."
Monroe had a great relationship with Deakin. He liked Deakin; he got good results and knew the score and between them, they balanced good professional dynamics with uniform and CID in a way that other Inspectors hadn't or had tried to but couldn't. And Deakin was right, Monroe was a consummate professional, and would not be the sort of officer that you would expect to keep alcohol in his own office and instead share one if Conway or Brownlow were offering. But Monroe was always the sort of person who could spring a positively interesting surprise every now and then.
"Of course, Chris, take a seat. You know me, always good in a pinch."
Monroe went to one of the big cabinets to the left of his desk. Behind some folders and excess stationery was a bottle of whiskey.
"Yellowspot okay for you, Chris? I know Mr Meadows and CID prefer Scotch but as a personal preference I've always preferred Irish whiskey myself."
"Anything, Andrew. Thanks."
Monroe poured the whiskey into one glass and handed it to Deakin, with the bottle remaining on the desk.
"Not having one yourself?"
"I can't Chris, sorry. Not when I'm on duty. How was the interview?"
Deakin took a hearty sip and let it pulsate in his mouth for a moment before swallowing.
"Not good. I'm on the hook and I'm the one they'll want to leave hanging. Between you and me, I think I'm finished. What a load of bullshit."
"Do they have anything on you?", Monroe queried.
"Nothing. I haven't done anything wrong but they'll want to crucify someone to make it seem like theyaredoing something. Me and Meadows are gone for sure."
Deakin took another sip of his drink whilst Monroe got up and went to the door. He opened it to see if any sergeants were in the corridor. Right on cue, Sergeant Cryer happened to be passing by.
"Bob, do you have a second?"
"Something slightly delicate; I'm in the middle of a private conversation with someone at the moment. Can you look after things until I'm finished?"
"Of course, sir. May I ask what the issue is, sir?", Bob asked innocently.
Monroe's face turned regretful for a brief moment. He glanced behind him before replying quietly.
"It's DI Deakin. He's just finished his interview with CIB as Don Beech's direct supervisor."
"Oh, I see, sir. Of course, no problem. I can handle things for now."
Sergeant Cryer turned to head towards the CAD room.
"Oh and Bob?"
He glanced back.
"If anything does require Inspector approval... take it to Mr Conway, will you?", Monroe groaned.
Sergeant Cryer nodded.
Meanwhile, Deakin swilled around the dregs in his glass. As he sat down again, Monroe gestured towards Deakin that he could have another. Deakin obliged and did so. With Cryer looking after things for the time being, Monroe unhooked his radio and balanced it upright on the desk in front of him.
"So you really think this is it, Chris?"
"Well, someone's going. I can't believe after 7 years at this station that it's all gone tits up in one fell swoop. I mean, Andrew, you know what it's like, don't you? We spend all day crossing Ts and dotting Is on our constables and sergeants to please the pen-pushers at the Yard but the second one of them makes a cock-up and we're obliged to report it, we're told to forget it because it 'reflects badly on the station and on the force'. We're supposed to keep official records but officially, not the bad records because they're so obsessed with PR."
"Until someone comes looking for them."
"Exactly. That Commander's eyes lit up when I said I had spoken to Beech about his conduct and then the knives in his eyes sharpened when I mentioned that it was a word in his ear and not on paper. I'm instructed to overlook any official discipline for the sake of PR and this obsession about the Met being a "service" and it's my fault that they then can't find anything official. What am I supposed to do?!"
"That's the life of an Inspector, Chris. PCs and Sergeants don't like us because we're their boss and Superintendents and above look down on us like doormats to enforce whatever their flavour of the month policy is. It's the ultimate rock and hard place."
Deakin took a big sip of his drink, aerating it by sucking in the air between his teeth.
"I love being a DI. I've been there, done that, seen it all. I'm good at what I do. I treat my officers fairly. Geoff, Kerry, Danny, Duncan... I've been good to every single one of them."
Monroe exhaled as he approached a difficult question.
"Chris, I've got to ask. What do you think about DS Beech? CIB are obviously here for a reason. They're scouring through this station top to bottom, uniform as well as CID."
Deakin glared straight at Monroe.
"I don't know. Don was old school, preferred to work alone and build his own environment. But it didn't clash with other people's work. Except for Geoff Daly but those two never got along. Everyone else in CID seemed happy to work around him."
"Well, he didn't play things strictly by the book, I don't think", Monroe critiqued.
"No", said Deakin, stroking his chin with increasing realisation, "No he didn't."
There was a pause as Deakin gathered his thoughts.
"This couldn't have come at a worse time, could it? I mean we're only just reeling from John Boulton's dea-"
He stopped and looked straight at Inspector Monroe. His beady eyes piercing straight through the man sitting opposite him, like bullets cutting through sheets of glass.
"Oh Andrew, I just had a horrendous thought. Beech under investigation not long after John was..."
Deakin's head fell straight into his hands and he let out a long groan, almost as though it was a death rattle of his own. Monroe was on the same wavelength and clasped his mouth with his right hand, leaning onto the right armrest of his chair.
The silence seemed to last an eternity.
"Chris... let's think about this."
Deakin didn't respond. He was still clutching his face.
"In your interview, did CIB mention Beech's current status? Did they happen to mention him being in custody, as an explanation for him not being at work?"
The whiskey Deakin had so badly desired was now creating a lump in his throat as though it was trying to return to the bottle. He felt weak, as though he'd suddenly gone limp. The chair in which he was sitting was the only thing keeping him from sinking to the floor. He looked up towards the ceiling.
"No..", he murmured, "...no they did not."
Monroe stammered as he tried in vain to comfort his friend and colleague.
"Well... there's no guarantee... it might not mean..."
Deakin shook his head.
"No. This is it. Finished. I can't believe it. I cannotbelieve it."
Suddenly, both men's hearts skipped a beat and both wanted to leap from their chair in surprise as the telephone started ringing. Monroe picked it up carefully, the helical cord wavering as he placed the receiver to his ear. His steely composure when answering belied the tension he felt.
"Inspector Monroe. [...] Yes. [...] No, to my recollection Sierra One is busy at the Elcott Arms, sir. [...] Okay, I'll be upstairs shortly. [...] Okay, Mr Conway. Bye."
As he placed the receiver back onto the telephone, Deakin had already put the whiskey back in the filing cabinet and adjusted his shirt.
"Andrew, I'm sorry for taking up your time. Really, I am. I'll... I'll... clear any misunderstandings with Conway. I just really needed someone to-"
"It's alright, Chris. I, uh... if you have the time, I'd like us to catch up for a proper drink sometime. Professional courtesy", Monroe chimed as he reattached his radio.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'd like that, Andrew. Thanks."
There was a pause before Deakin sharply injertected further.
"Oh and Andrew, let's keep this between us. This, uh... suspicion of ours. I'd rather not have my team hear this from the canteen mafia. I'd like to handle it myself, for whatever responsibilities I have left."
"Yes, Chris. Don't worry. I assure you I won't tell anyone. I'll let you know about that drink, okay?"
"Yep. Sure", Deakin zipped.
Both men left the office in different directions; Monroe to the left to head upstairs, Deakin to the right to the main exit.