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Jamie Thomas, 31 Jul '12

An involuntary shiver caught Barb by surprise, and she swallowed hard. There was no offer of hot coffee, no comforting word to support her. The interrogation room was empty, but the wall to wall mirror facing her gave the impression that someone was watching her. She rubbed the sore side of her face. The night had exhausted her, and she was aching and hurting from her kidnap attempt. There was no clock, but she guessed it was about 4 in the morning. She was about to get up and tap on the one way glass, when the door to her right swung open.

The woman who entered the room carried such an authority with her that it chilled Barb to the bone. She was about 20 years older than Barb, and was a radically different kind of person. This woman was broad framed with short blonde hair and dressed like any of the male detectives that Barb had encountered in the past. She exuded a dominance that almost stretched to masculinity, and this intimidated the feminine and often sexualised Barb.

She spoke, short and snappy. "I've just finished speaking to my good friend Helen Carter. Do you know who that is?"

"Detective Carter’s wife…" said Barb, making an effort to leave out the defiant tone.

"Indeed. I thought she might like to know where her husband had been at this time of the night. Obviously I only intended to tell her that he had saved you from those men, but as a prominent detective and a good friend, I had to tell her that Carter was sleeping with a prostitute."

The frosty words cut into Barb. This woman clearly had 100 different reasons for hating any prostitute’s guts, and now Barb had added another by sleeping with Carter. This was very, very bad news. Before Barb could offer a rebuttal, the woman continued speaking.

"You don’t need to repeat your descriptions, I have them all here. I won’t keep you for long either. You clearly still need someone to see to your swollen face. Thank the lord for the NHS, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to pay for a plastic bag once they were done. Plus, I can’t find anything to charge you with, because Carter hadn’t paid you yet."

The woman managed to put the words across so unassumingly, like an aggressive business woman, or a stropping school secretary. But the venom was clearly there, and it hurt Barb so very much. Hours before, two men had tried to kidnap Barb in order to murder her. Now this woman stood before her flinging all of the subtle insults she could find. Barb felt bile and anger rising in her stomach.

"You do realise those men tried to kill me last night, don’t you?" Barb spoke, fast and furiously.

"Well it was inevitable, you are a prostitute after all. Scum of the streets." The detective fired back.

"How can you talk like that?" Barb was finally unleashing her fearless side. "Women are being murdered, and you guys haven’t caught the men doing it yet?! You didn’t even know there were two until last night!"

"Listen, darling," The detective brought her face within an inch of Barb’s, an interview technique she had seen before. "Your little boyfriend Carter failed to catch them. But now I am running the case. Carter has been put on leave, and I will do what he couldn't."

Flecks of spit landed on Barb’s face as the detective spoke. She tried to fight back, use her words to overcome this totalitarian monster, but the woman continued.

"Just remember this. I am not doing this for you. I’m not doing this for any of your little whore friends. I’m doing it for me, and all those respectable people out there who don’t want to have to live in fear of the bogeyman roaming the streets."

Barb shouted an expletive in her face, or maybe a couple of expletives. The detective looked like she was about to swing a chair at Barb, but just stormed out of the room instead. By the time Barb calmed down, a beat cop walked in and told her she was welcome to leave the station. No lift home was offered, and so Barb walked out of the double doors into the cold early hours of the morning. She was grateful for the rain, because the emptier the streets, the less people had to see this beaten and bloody prostitute crying. With this new woman on the case, there was very little hope for Barb and her girls.

~

Carter pushed open the front door slowly, hoping to just curl up on the sofa and not have to deal with his wife until morning came in a few hours. Detective Hale had no doubt called Helen and told her all about the incident, with emphasis on the sleeping with a prostitute part. He clicked the door shut behind him, and turned the key in the lock. As he turned, he heard a voice that seemed to be both quiet and shrill simultaneously.

"Thought you would get away with it?"

"Hel, I can’t. Not tonight. Not now, I just-"

"Kenneth…" She never called him Kenneth, unless she had the upper hand in one of her mind games.

"Helen."

"You know I’m not the kind of wife who will let you get away with adultery with a dirty prostitute. Probably bringing disease into the bedroom too." She half snarled, almost deriving pleasure from this whole situation.

"Trust you to be over dramatic. We have lived out the cliché of a married couple who never has sex, for at least five years now. Don’t mouth off about disease. How do I know you haven’t contracted anything from Pierre down the gym?" Carter was far too tired to be angry, but he just about managed it.

Ignoring anything Carter had said was a speciality of Helen, and so she continued her little monologue without missing a beat.

"I have been urged by Chelsea Hale to kick you out of the house and onto the street. But I don’t want to do that. I don’t want you to have to go running back to that little whore. I watch the news Kenneth. I know that the girl is probably a very high risk target, and I don’t want you protecting her. I want her dead."

Carter’s body was suddenly alight with fury and he pushed past Helen, heading upstairs. The next few minutes consisted of Helen screeching profanities into Carter’s ears, and Carter himself packing as much clothes and belongings into a suitcase as he could. As he yanked the front door open, he pushed her to the side as she screamed "Hit me! Hit me! Are you man enough!?"

The endless abuse followed Carter all the way to his car, and Helen’s nails sunk into the flesh of his biceps as he slung the suitcase into the boot. He shrugged her off and climbed into the car, starting the engine and pulling off. As he drove out of his street, he ignored his wife in the rear view mirror, illuminated by the lights of the nosy neighbours, watching the spectacle unfold.

Resigned, but somewhat triumphant, Helen turned and walked inside. She didn't notice the sleek black Audi sitting across the road from her house. Two pairs of hungry eyes watched her maliciously as she slipped back in through the front door.

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