“I swear to you he’s trying to kill you.”
“No, not going to happen George.” DS George Wilkins winced at her using his first name, then sighed, he’d joined the police after a diet of The Sweeney. He’d never expected to spend hours trying to talk abused women into not going back to their bullying husbands. Making sure they fell down a few flights of stairs maybe, but not listening to their scared wives telling him it was ‘their fault’, that ‘he is a good man really’ and they ‘wanted to give him another chance’. He looked her straight in the eye then tried again, more for the sake of form and the benefit of the young DC who was observing the interview rather than with any real expectation of success. “Laura, he actually offered to pay one of my colleagues to kill you. This is way beyond a black eye or a cracked rib, this is a man who is looking to commission murder and may yet decide to commit it. It might not be your choice this time, I should really report this to the DPP anyway.”
She shrugged “I love him George, and he loves me. If he said that it was the beer talking. I want to take him home.”
“If you change your mind, you know my number.” He said.
“Yeah, 999.” Laura tried to smile, but he could see that it didn’t reach her eyes.
He gave her ten minutes to get out of the building then walked down to the custody suite to arrange to have Laura’s abusive husband, Jim Thicket, processed, cautioned and released without charge. Again.
In his cell two floors below Jim Thicket had been fuming for most of the night. They’d never kept him in before, Laura had usually talked them out of any charges. This time he hadn’t even touched her. Well, just a friendly slap before he’d shagged her that afternoon before he went out to the pub but that was just rough sex. She’d never complained about that before. Conspiracy to murder? Where the hell had they worked that one up from? He couldn’t remember saying that he wanted Laura killed, let alone conspiring with some stranger to do it, but then he rarely remembered anything he’d said when he was drunk, so he might have done. But by the time he was sober enough to think straight he had decided that he could talk his way out of it though, make out he just said he wished she was dead or something, exaggeration. As long as the copper who interviewed him was a bloke he’d be fine. ‘After all,’ he thought, practising his lines in his head ‘it had really come to something if a husband couldn’t slag off his missus without it leading to him being arrested’.
He’d wanted to call a lawyer when he finally grasped he’s been picked up for something more than drunk and disorderly, he knew a couple from the pub who would probably turn out for him, but they’d taken his mobile and not allowed him to make any calls. They’d told him that they couldn’t question him until the police doctor said he was sober enough, and she wasn’t even on duty until nine in the morning. He’d been arrested at closing time. They told him he’d be best off just sleeping it off. But how could he sleep? His mind was racing, and on top of everything else they were sending a woman doctor, ‘another woman. All part of the conspiracy against men’ he thought.
The cell door opened just as Jim was finally dropping off to sleep. ‘Another trick’ he thought, ‘interview me while I’m half asleep.’ Instead of the uniform Jim expected to see the copper who came in was in a suit that looked like he’d slept in it for the last week.
“James Thickett, I am DS George Wilkins. I have to give you a formal caution and slap your wrists for offering to pay my mate to kill your wife. Then I’ll de-arrest you and you’re free to go. I will pass your file to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but I don’t think they’ll want to take it any further with the limited evidence we have.”
Jim heard ‘free to go’ and ignored the rest. Within ten minutes he was in an interview room and they’d given him two paracetamol and some insipid machine tea. He asked for a bacon sandwich, but the copper just laughed at him and told him to get one on the way home. Jim ignored the usual drivel about how lucky he was to not be in front of the beak this morning and how he needed to keep his nose clean. Within the hour he was back on the street.
He was about to call Laura and get her to pick him up when she drove round the corner. He thought about getting her to let him drive, but decided he didn’t want to be spotted driving while banned right outside the cop shop so he got in the passenger side.
“They tell you what happened?” He asked.
“No, just called me to say you’d been in overnight and they were just about to release you.”
“Drop me at the pub.”
“You need a shower and a change of clothes first; anyway they’re not open yet. Let me make you a fry up and you can clean you up, then you can get out for a couple of hours this afternoon?”
Jim slumped into his armchair and flicked through Sky Sports looking for something to watch. He could hear Laura in the kitchen rattling pans and making him the fry up she’d promised. She bought him a mug of tea. He leered down the front of her top as she leant down to put it on the side table next to his chair.
“Whip your top off, there’s a good girl.” He said, making a grab for her.
She laughed, batting his hand away. “After you’ve eaten, you don’t want your food burnt.”
He grunted, and turned back to the TV. “Well make it quick then!”
Laura sighed as she heard Jim switch off the shower. She knew it wouldn’t be much longer.
“Get up here then, woman!” He shouted.
Head hanging, feet dragging, she followed him into their bedroom. He was standing, naked, with a sneer on his face.
“Do I have to rip your clothes off you?” He asked.
“It might be fun.” She replied, and winked.
He got as far as ripping open her top when he started to struggle getting his breath.
“What’s up, stud, losing interest?” She asked. He didn’t have the strength to answer.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
His face turned first red, then purple as he struggled to breathe. Finally he expelled one rattled breath, then stopped making any noise. Laura pulled her mobile from her jeans pocked, dialled 999.
“Police! She whispered, with some urgency, “ It’s Laura Thickett, Tell George Wilkins that Jim’s trying to kill me!” She threw the phone across the room, tore her clothes some more, then she allowed herself to fall backwards on to the bed making sure that she hit the bed post hard enough to leave a bump on the side of her head.
The police surgeon was comforting Laura, who was wrapped in an ambulance blanket. She caught the coroner as he wheeled Jim’s body out of the house.
“What do you think? It looks open and shut to me. He tried to beat and rape his wife, had a heart attack. Serves the bastard right.”
The coroner nodded. She knew not to commit herself before conducting an autopsy, but it didn’t take too long to draft her report which said exactly the same thing, minus the expletive in the version she actually filed. The police report to the CPP said the same.
Five weeks later DS George Wilkins sighed as he closed the cell door on another wife beater. He did the paperwork then went to the pub. He and the police doctor had arranged an unofficial meeting with Laura and the wife of the man he’d just locked up for the night. The doctor spoke first, to the cowed and bruised woman sipping lemonade through a straw to avoid irritating her split lips.
“Listen, we’ve got a fool proof plan…You do cook his meals don’t you?”
Laura smiled and nodded to the woman. “Trust him, it’s ok.”