Blast from the Past Hour on Radio City. So what do they start with? Ferry Cross the Mersey. Gerry and The Pacemakers. As far as Jack Gordon was concerned, a lot of those bands from the sixties—Freddie and the Dreamers and Herman’s Hermits and the rest of them—should have been consigned to the dustbin of history where they belonged, not constantly resurrected. To the poets and philosophers, Liverpool was the pool of life. To Jack Gordon at this moment, it was a pool of shite.
He turned off the radio, put his road CD on for a bit, yawned and leaned back in the car seat. Everything But The Girl; I need you, like the desert needs the rain. Tracy Thorn’s sultry voice. Now that was good music. From the 80s when he was a teenager.
Forty-eighth day without rain. The streets had been eerily quiet, people hiding from the sun. His underpants were sticky and twisted around his tackle. He squirmed until he freed himself, cursing at his stupidity. He’d bought the wrong ones in M&S—slips, thongs really—rather than the substantial boxers or trunks he preferred. Someone must have put them on the wrong rack.
Needing air, he turned off the CD and edged the car window down. Festival Park by the river. On surveillance. Prime dogging spot. A wood pigeon cooed at its partner in a nearby tree. Barry White and his sexy little lady friend, know what I’m saying? Pool of shite? No, that was unfair to Liverpool. It was the insomnia talking. Now that the dream had returned, he couldn’t sleep and was grumpy all the time as a result. It must have been triggered by reading about that incident in the Echo.
The red and white tapes had still been there when he’d driven past. He’d stopped for a moment to take in the view of the river; yellow brown water heaved and surged where the strong, freshwater flow met an irresistible incoming tide in a display of incredible power, as if it were the Amazon or the Congo in flood. If you went in, you’d had it. Powerful enough to take the life of another innocent, this time a thirty-year-old woman who’d been jilted in love. It had been on the radio news that morning.
He hated how he always wore his heart on his sleeve like this. In his line of work, you were supposed to be the tough guy. It wasn’t as if this kind of stuff didn’t happen all the time in a city with a waterfront like Liverpool. The going gets tough? No, you don’t get going, you jump in the water. Like that other girl all those years ago.
Splattered insects, bird droppings and a fine red dust—probably from the fires on the moors or carried over from the Sahara—covered the windscreen. Someone had written SS Snoopers in the dust on the car’s rear window, but that was unfair. Jack’s firm didn’t get involved in that line of work. It was no use trying to take photos through the dirty car windows, so he lowered the one on the driver’s side and poked the telephoto lens of the camera out. It was no use. He couldn’t get the right angle. The big silver Merc at the other end of the car park bounced up and down on its springs, the occupants having a great time, but he couldn’t get any shots of what was going on from where he was. He’d have to leave his car and creep up on them. Safe n’ Secure usually used a special van for surveillance, where you could sit in air-conditioned comfort in the back and watch through one-way windows, but it was in the garage for repairs.
Take the car to the garage? Chance would be a fine thing. The air con on this car wasn’t working properly, and he didn’t have the time to get it fixed. So he’d had to drive with the windows open and suffer the foul air rammed with impurities, pollen and traffic fumes.
Lucy had informed him as he arrived at the office that morning that his two key operatives hadn’t turned in. So he had to take up the urgent work himself. The CEO. So-called gaffer, big boss man.
So here he was, sitting in a car park in his best duds—cream cotton suit, white shirt and pointy-toed brown brogues—trying to get pictures of a cheating husband. Like in a film from the fifties. Pool of shite.
He put the camera on the floor and leaned back in the seat. Problems, problems and more fucking problems. He needed this malarkey like he needed a neat three-inch hole in the head. Two key operatives off on the sick. On the skive more likely. Or shagging each other. He laughed out loud. That would be something. Investigate that one. Watching the watchers. And what if he could prove they were swinging the lead? He could hardly sack them. He needed them. You couldn’t just put an advert in the local paper for experienced surveillance operatives,could you? All sorts of dickheads, smackheads, and knobheads would apply. He needed to beef up the HR. And sort out the bad debts. Cope with all the changes in technology. Get new clients.
He moved across into the passenger seat, opened the door and slid out, the camera with its telephoto lens in one hand, then crept around the car and walked quickly into the trees. He worked his way round to the Merc, dodging from tree to tree. Carry on spying. There had to be a better way than this. Eventually he drew close to the car. Everything was still. Must’ve stopped for a breather. They were in the back seat. Inflagrante delicto. Window so steamed up you couldn’t work out what was going on inside.
He brought up the camera, edged forward and crouched down. Now he could see both faces. Got it. With the registration number, clear proof. He jogged back through the trees to his car, opened the passenger door, threw the camera in the back and squirmed into the driver’s seat.
Well at least he’d accomplished something on this pool of shite day. He started up the engine and wound down the window. Sweat ran into his eyes. His head hurt.
A big, angry, pink-red face appeared only a foot away. The man from the Merc. Where had he come from! In his surprise, Jack let the window go all the way down.
‘Fucking pervert snooper!’ The man’s face was as pink as a ham hanging in a butcher’s shop. Jack could clearly see the big pores on his nose. ‘Why don’t you get a proper job? Picking up dog turds in this car park would be about your level. You people are the lowest of the low. In fact,’ the face moved closer, ‘you’re like a big turd left steaming on the grass over there. How does it feel to be a big shitty dog turd?’
Jack opened his mouth to say something, point out that the ‘shitty’ adjective wasn’t needed, but the man lowered his head and butted Jack hard on the bridge of his nose, striking with a loud thunk of bone on gristle. Pain. Blood. Silly thought: he’d let his guard down and fallen for a textbook ‘Kirkby Kiss’. An experienced private investigator wouldn’t have been caught out like this.