A Stab in the Dark

A detective. A forensic scientist. A journalist.
Three lives drawn together by a murder.
When evidence lies and the case evolves, who can you trust in a city full of lies?
---- Updated every Wednesday ----

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11. Dear Diary

​Lloyd

Staring determinedly into the darkness of my bedroom ceiling, I no longer had any idea if my eyes were open or closed. Nor did I care. I wasn’t normally in the habit of staying up late, but on the nights when I couldn’t wipe my mind clean, I was lucky for half an hour of peaceful sleep.

Every time I tried to find a calming dream, my thoughts found their way back to her.

“Screw it,” I muttered to myself, sitting up to turn on the light. Right now, with a mind full of blood and chaos and misery, sleep wasn’t what I needed. Sleep would only make it worse. What I needed, to keep myself from falling back into the fractured disarray of a guilt-stricken nightmare, was a distraction. Anything would do.

Fingers brittle and shaking with fatigue, I strode across the room and snatched up my phone from the windowsill. I didn’t realise what a toll the nightmare had taken until I paused, listening to my own shallow panting ruining the silence.

I froze, just as I was about to dial a number. What was I doing? The clock on the wall read three-thirty. It was three-thirty, and I was about to call Jackie. Why? I had no idea. Perhaps it was because, as my focus shifted sporadically between my wrongfully taken fiancée and my brutally murdered colleague, I needed to hear the voice of the only person I was sure still cared about me. I couldn’t do that to her, though. She’d felt the burden of too many problems because of me; the least I could do was let her sleep.

Then, the phone started to vibrate in my hand. It was Jackie. I managed to smack the accept button before the dark silence of my bedroom was ravaged by the Sherlock theme tune.

“Jackie.”

“Lloyd. S-sorry, did I wake you?”

I sighed. “Nope. Of course not.”

Her tone softened. “I didn’t think so.”

I wasn’t really listening to the words that came out of the phone. The only thing that mattered to me was hearing her voice. The wave of relief was so potent that it took me a minute to reply.

“Lloyd? You still there?”

“Yeah. Uh… anyway, what’s the problem?”

“Um… look. I just finished with the diary. I was just wondering… did you read it?”

“No. Well, yeah. Bits of it. Only to do the analysis. Why? Did you find anything?”

“I’m not sure,” Jackie admitted. “But I think you might want to read this with me. I suppose I did find something, yeah. I think we ought to meet up before work tomorrow.”

“Oh, yeah, sure. I’ll be there by seven. What is it?”

“It’s… well, the whole thing, really. I don’t know whether it’ll help or not, but one thing’s for sure.”

“What?”

“Martha Kane had one hell of a lot of enemies.”

*            *            *            *            *

Even though I got to the police station at six-twenty instead of seven, Jackie was already there. The small green book was clutched in her hand.

“Hi, Jackie. So what’s wrong?”

“Hey, Lloyd.” She laughed nervously. “Sorry about calling you last night.”

“It’s okay. I was actually…” I trailed off.

“What?”

“Oh, nothing. Never mind,” I said hurriedly. “What’s in the diary?”

“Well,” she said, opening the book. “I already did most of the work.”

From the space left by the missing pages, she pulled out a large stack of plastic evidence wallets. Each wallet held a single sheet of paper and several post-it notes, scribbled all over with Jackie’s miniscule biro printing.

I raised one eyebrow as she looked up at me. “Jackie, are you serious?”

“What?”

“You work yourself too hard. How long did this all take you? You know, you are allowed to have a life outside of work!”

Jackie sighed. “Lloyd, work is my life, and you know it.”

“Yeah. I do.”

“Anyway!” Her blue eyes brightened, but her smile was strained. “Let’s go up to your lab. You need to see this.”

*            *            *            *            *

“It’s weird,” I said, tapping one stack of notebook pages against the desk before replacing them. “Lots of them are about her son, aren’t they?”

Stepson,” Jackie corrected, squinting at another page before carefully tearing it out. “Charles. And yeah, I noticed that too.”

I picked out a sentence from the topmost page to read it.

I’m starting to get kind of worried about Charlie. He’s got a severe bloody bad attitude with James and me, and today he told me to get stuffed, because I wasn’t his real mum and didn’t give a shit about him. That was the final straw. I told him he was right, and that if he didn’t want to live with us any more he could get the fuck out of my house.

“Wow. So I guess this was before the divorce?”

“Yeah,” said Jackie, “and it got worse.”

I picked up another page.

Today, I was threatened with death. Not by one of the druggies I arrested in Soho this morning. No, I received a death threat from my own stepson, after I got home. He’d had one too many beers again. I told him to clear up all his crap, because there were beer cans and bloody bits of paper everywhere, but he started chucking it at me and saying he wished I was dead. I’m a hardworking woman, providing for two deadbeats at once, and that’s what I get in return.

I turned to Jackie. “I didn’t know Charlie had a drinking problem.”

She nodded. “You wouldn’t have known if you saw him at the interview.”

I replaced the page on the pile and picked up another, running my eyes over it quickly.

Today I moved the last of James’ stuff out of the house. By my bloody self, of course. Charlie was supposed to help, but obviously he was out drinking with his mates again. He came home in a right state, yelling and screaming that I was throwing him out on the streets because he had nowhere in London to live. I told him that until he was sober, I’d refuse to talk to him. Now that I’m a free woman, I finally feel free to say this: I really, REALLY hate kids. Especially Charlie.

“Jesus. They really hated each other.”

Jackie sighed. “Yet another thing he didn’t tell me.”

“He clearly can’t be trusted, then. Jackie, this could be a massive lead.”

“Pretty good, huh?” Jackie said, sifting through yet another stack of pages.

“Yeah…” I said thoughtfully. “Is there any more?”

Jackie brought her eyes up to meet mine, and in her gaze I could see sadness and pride.

“Of course there’s more. Read the one on the bottom.”

I slid out the last page, being careful not to upset the perfect pile. Once it was free, I immediately noticed something; there was a huge difference in handwriting between this one and the last. It was still unmistakeably Martha’s- I’d read enough of her passive-aggressive police reports to know for sure- but it was much bigger, and the letters sprawled randomly between and on the lines as if they’d been thrown down onto the page. She’d clearly been distressed when she wrote this entry, and whatever it contained, Jackie’s gaze as she watched me told me it must be pretty important.

I’ve never been so angry in my life. Today, I got a call from the Superintendent asking me to check out reports of a drunken fight near the church. To start with, I had to go down there with none other than Sergeant fucking Chesterfield, who’s the biggest arsehole on the force if you’re female. I swear, that man needs to grow a pair and realise men don’t rule the world any more, and especially men like him. I’ve told him several times I’ve a good mind to slip bloody disinfectant into his coffee if he doesn’t stop being such a dickhead. He always told me he’d drink disinfectant willingly if it got rid of me.

I glanced up at Jackie. “Who’s Chesterfield? Anyone we should know about?”

Jackie’s eyes went stormy when she heard the name, and she scribbled something in her notebook before turning back. “For once, I agree with Martha. Harry Chesterfield’s the biggest arsehole on the force if you’re a woman.”

“Is that the important bit?”

“God no. Keep reading.”

Anyway, even the frustration of being partnered with the most misogynistic bloody idiot the police has ever seen paled in comparison to reaching the scene of the fight, only to find none other than Charlie lying against the wall with another kid’s blood on his knuckles.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

I swear, I nearly beat his drunk ass right then and there and called his father, but I had to take him to the station. Chesterfield didn’t even seem to understand how fucking furious I was; he kept telling me to ‘lighten up, they’re only kids’ and ‘boys will be boys’ and all that other bloody bullshit. The boy I used to call my son had just gotten completely shitfaced and beaten someone bloody, and I had no intention of letting him get away with it.

“Oh my god.”

Jackie looked up. “What?”

“Did you read the case file on this assault?”

“No, I couldn’t.”

“Why?”

“Because there was no case file. The other kid didn’t press charges.”

I shook my head. “How badly was he hurt?”

“It didn’t say. Bruised up, I think. Nothing too serious.”

“But if that proves nothing else, it does prove one thing.”

“Yeah, I know.” Jackie closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. “I feel like an idiot. That kid looked so innocent when we brought him in. I should have checked his criminal record. I should have brought in more relatives, more witnesses, more people that knew Charlie. I—”

She stopped in mid-sentence, eyes wide.

I looked up from reading another page. “What’s wrong, Jackie?”

She didn’t reply.

“Jackie!”

Jackie turned her head. “I can’t believe I forgot to tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

“You know Martha said Charlie got a roommate?”

“He did, did he? After hurting his friend, I can’t believe anyone let him live in their house.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think the guy who took him has a lot of dignity either.”

“What do you mean? Who is it?”

“Max Castello.”

I was confused for a second, then I remembered. “The Chronicle guy?”

“Yeah. The bloody idiot from the Chronicle. I only found out yesterday, when he was harassing me outside the station. He recognised Charlie, told me they lived together. I’m not sure how it all connects…” Jackie trailed off. “But I know it does.”

“I told you yesterday… I told you he was here to mess with the evidence. He was asking me all kinds of questions—”

She sat up. “You didn’t answer?”

“No, no, of course not. But I swear he’s involved. He knows something, I’m sure of it.”

“I don’t know…” said Jackie. “But I missed something with Charlie, and I don’t want to miss anything else. We’ll check out everything, including Castello.”

“So, what? You think Charlie did it? You think Max did it?”

“I have no idea,” she admitted. “It could just as easily have been both.”

Even as I helped Jackie pack up her myriad diary pages and watched her leave with a sense of regret, my mind was still spinning. We’d had several revelations that morning, but the most important ones were doubtlessly still to come, and after all, it wasn’t just the case causing a riot in my thoughts. I was still reeling from the blood and chaos in my nightmares, and until I managed to find a way to dull the pain of grief, I doubted it would ever leave me alone.

Nonetheless, I had to be grateful for Jackie; I’d needed a distraction, and that’s exactly what she’d given me.

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