Authors: Kerry Wilkinson
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Crime, #Kerry Wilkinson, #Jessica Daniel, #Manchester
AS IF BY MAGIC
A Jessica Daniel interlude
by KERRY WILKINSON
After finding an abandoned package at Manchester’s Piccadilly Station, Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel has two choices. One option leads to the entire north west transport network grinding to a halt – and more importantly Jessica missing her train – while the other involves her opening the box.
For Jessica, the choice is clear – but what’s in the box, who left it, and how will it affect her weekend away?
This 50,000-word "half-book" is being released to celebrate the one-year anniversary of UK no.1 bestselling novel Locked In being released.
It can be read standalone, or as part of the rest of the Jessica Daniel series.
This story occurs between Vigilante and The Woman In Black
Copyright © 2012 Kerry Wilkinson
All rights reserved.
Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel leaned back on to the bench and elbowed her colleague in the ribs.
‘What is it with kids these days?’ she asked.
Detective Constable David Rowlands elbowed her back. ‘What is it with co-workers flapping their elbows around?’
‘Grow up,’ she said.
‘You grow up,’ Dave replied, before he saw what she had been pointing at. ‘That is very... pink,’ he concluded.
Jessica wriggled to try to get comfortable but there was little chance of that. She thought whoever designed the hard plastic seats inside Manchester Piccadilly railway station must be a fan of standing up, considering the miniscule amount of knowledge they had in regards to comfort.
The girl she had been indicating exited the escalator from the tram station and then walked across the concourse. She was in her mid-teens, thin with pale white skin and bright pink hair and wearing a tight leather jacket, short denim skirt and matching pink leggings with grey army boots that had definitely seen better days.
Jessica watched her scuff her way towards the exit, wondering when it was mirrors had gone out of fashion before Dave interrupted her thoughts. ‘There was a girl at my school who dressed like that,’ he said, then paused as if trying to remember the exact details. ‘She was a bit of a cow actually...’
‘Why?’ Jessica asked, feeling suspicious.
‘I don’t know, she was just a bit snooty and into herself.’
‘What did she do specifically?’
Dave ummed and ruffled a hand through his short spiky hair. ‘Oh, she spent ages going on about how the government were in the pockets of big business and that we were all puppets for watching television. She thought she was better than us because she didn’t own a TV.’
Jessica paused for a moment, watching a man in a suit typing frantically on his phone before stumbling at the top of the escalator. He looked around sheepishly, hoping no-one had seen.
‘It’s because she wouldn’t go out with you, isn’t it?’ Jessica asked.
Dave shifted awkwardly in his seat. ‘Not just that.’
Jessica laughed and then looked up towards the departures board, where every train listed had “on time” written next to it with the exception of one: theirs.
‘I need a scapegoat for this,’ she declared quietly.
‘Not me then?’
‘If I could link the inordinate amount of wind which escapes your body each morning to an increase in leaves on the train line in Yorkshire, then believe me, this would have already been pinned on you.’
‘Leaves on the bloody line,’ Dave said shaking his head.
‘It’s all right for you,’ Jessica replied. ‘You would have only spent the weekend playing computer games and watching questionable material on the Internet. I’ve actually got a life.’
‘Bollocks have you, what were you going to do?’
Jessica tugged at her dark blonde ponytail, absent-mindedly untying it. ‘I was going to spend a relaxing weekend consuming the best food and drink Europe has to offer, while enjoying a feast of cultural entertainment.’
Dave paused for a moment. ‘So your fit mate was coming over and you were going to spend the evening getting pissed on cheap wine and watching singing competitions on the telly?’
Before replying, Jessica re-tied her hair, tighter this time. ‘Yeah, all right smart arse and don’t go calling Caroline “fit”.’
‘She is though.’
‘She’s also getting married and out of your league.’
Caroline and Jessica had been best friends since school and had lived together for the best part of a decade before getting their own places. They had drifted apart for a while before Caroline had asked her to become a bridesmaid at her upcoming wedding.
Dave sighed loudly, which Jessica wouldn’t have minded if it wasn’t for the fact he had already showed his displeasure in the same way a dozen times already. ‘Will you stop annoying me?’ she said.
Jessica breathed in sharply in shock and then slapped him hard on the legs, leading him to double over in pain. ‘You better sleep with one eye open this weekend,’ she warned him.
‘That hurt,’ Dave protested, while rubbing his thigh.
‘It was meant to.’
‘I can’t believe I have to spend a weekend with a sociopath on the brink of a nervous breakdown.’
‘It’s you, me and a bunch of Yorkies, so I’m the normal one,’ Jessica said. ‘I thought our budgets were supposed to be tight, so quite why we’re wasting a three-day weekend away in a stately home on some bonding, training bollocks I have no idea.’
‘I take it you’re not the PR person for corporate teaching?’
Jessica laughed. ‘I bloody should be. Have you got the schedule?’
Dave reached into the front pocket of his suitcase and pulled out an envelope. ‘Where’s yours?’ he asked.
‘I filed it.’
‘The bin in my office.’
Dave unfolded the front sheet and smoothed it out on his knee. ‘Friday, 11am, coffee and registration,’ he read.
‘We’re going to miss that.’
‘Friday, midday, how to manage your time effectively.’
‘Maybe we should send the train managers to that and hit the bar?’
‘Hang on,’ Jessica interrupted. ‘Of the first three hours we’re there, two of them are taken up with coffee and then lunch, while the middle one is time-management? Isn’t that the worst management of time going?’
‘2pm,’ Dave repeated, ‘Knowing your attributes and successfully utilising them.’
‘3.15pm, coffee and biscuits.’
‘Another break? And they’re teaching us time-management?’
‘Does it specify which biscuits?’
Dave looked up from the page as an older woman hurried across the front of them swerving her suitcase around Jessica’s outstretched legs in an exaggerated manner with a marked tut. ‘Surprisingly it doesn’t,’ he said.
‘I’m not going all the way out to Yorkshire for custard creams. A hobnob, maybe, but we should really be holding out for something with chocolate on. If it’s just Rich Tea, I’m walking out.’
‘3.30pm,’ Dave continued, ignoring her, ‘Technological advances and what they mean for you.’
‘I hope they talk about the effects of wet leaves on multimillion-pound transport networks.’
‘5pm, end of day one.’
Jessica sighed, wondering how she was going to get through it. ‘And we’ve got three days of this?’
Dave flicked through the pages. ‘It gets worse. On Saturday afternoon, we’ve got “workplace hazards, how to spot them and what to do about them”.’
‘This is such a waste of our time.’
‘I was supposed to be going on a date this weekend,’ Dave complained.
‘Cheating on your own hand, are we?’
Jessica slumped back into the seat, thinking incorrectly that sitting lower might somehow help her be more comfortable. She looked back at the board and then gave a small shriek of relief. ‘We’re up,’ she said. ‘Half hour and we’re leaving.’
‘Great,’ Dave replied, although he didn’t sound too enthusiastic.
Jessica was about to stand to find their platform when her eyes spotted something. ‘What’s that?’ she said nodding towards the wall opposite them.
Dave lifted his neck up as if peering over something. ‘It’s a coffee shop.’
Jessica stood and stepped away from the bench. ‘Idiot – I mean that brown square thing on the ground.’
The constable raised himself so he was standing next to her. ‘It looks like some kind of box.’
Jessica didn’t reply, instead reaching around and picking up her small suitcase, before striding to the other side of the station shaking her head. The package was around thirty centimetres square and wrapped tidily in brown paper, with wide clear tape holding it together. Jessica crouched to get a closer look before hearing voices behind her. “Whoa there, whoa...” a man’s voice said.
Turning to inform the person that she wasn’t actually a horse, Jessica instead broke into a grin. ‘Ollie...’
The man in front of her was wearing a fluorescent yellow vest over the top of dark clothing and a police hat. Jessica felt tiny under his towering presence as he looked down on her with a growing grin of recognition.
‘Jessica Daniel,’ he said. ‘Bloody hell....’
‘Yeah, that’s what all the lads say,’ Jessica replied with a smile.
Dave had arrived to hear the conversation and looked from one to the other quizzically. The taller man looked towards him and then back at Jessica. ‘Sorry mate, I’m not chatting up your girlfriend. We’re old mates.’ he said.
Jessica looked Dave up and down and then burst out laughing. ‘We’re not going out. He’s one of us. We’re both out at Longsight and are supposed to be going to Wakefield for a training weekend. Our train has been delayed.’
Ollie nodded an acceptance and Jessica felt a twinge of pleasure as she saw his lips curve upwards into a tiny smile before disappearing as quickly as it had arrived.
‘Does this mean you’re transport police now?’ Jessica asked, nodding towards the jacket.
‘Yes, which is why I was shouting at you not to touch that package,’ Ollie replied, looking past Jessica towards it.
‘What is it?’
Ollie stepped past her, resting a hand on Jessica’s shoulder, which she thought stayed there a fraction of a second too long. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘A passenger called in to say they had seen something suspicious.’
Jessica saw a blur of movement behind him with more officers in bright vests approaching. ‘It’s just some idiot who has either dropped it or left it behind,’ she said.
Ollie crouched to look at it, although he didn’t touch it, while Jessica hunched next to him. There didn’t seem to be any writing on it, although one of the smaller sides was facing the wall.
‘You know that’s not procedure,’ he said as Jessica suggested opening it.
‘Have you gone all corporate on me?’ Jessica said, looking at the man’s face properly for the first time now she didn’t have to look up quite so high. She could see a row of freckles across his nose, while his eyes were the same mix of green and brown they had always been. He met her gaze, before looking away quickly towards his approaching colleagues.
They stood at the same time as three more officers arrived. One of them asked what it was, before another started talking into a radio.
‘So what’s your procedure?’ Jessica asked, although she could have guessed.
‘A full evacuation and a controlled explosion,’ Ollie said.
‘Seriously? It’s just a box.’
‘Anything could be in it; a nail bomb, a pipe bomb, anthrax?’
Jessica breathed out disdainfully. ‘I bet you fifty quid it’s not anthrax.’
‘Okay, maybe not that but it could be anything.’
Jessica looked to Dave for support which, judging by his blank expression, wasn’t coming. ‘We’ve already been delayed for forty five minutes because of bloody leaves. We’re due to go in under half-an-hour and I’m not waiting any longer.’
Ollie laughed and scratched his face. ‘You never did have any patience.’
Jessica screwed up her eyes in annoyance, ignoring the questioning stare from Dave. ‘Yeah, sod off giraffe boy. Couldn’t you give us twenty five minutes and then shut the station?’
Ollie shook his head while the man behind him continued to talk into his radio. ‘Sorry, it could go off at any minute.’
‘It’s probably someone who’s bought a pair of shoes off eBay. It’s not going to go off.’
‘Sorry,’ Ollie repeated, shaking his head more forcefully.
Jessica looked at him, then at Dave, and then at the officer who was clipping the radio back on to his belt. As Ollie turned to speak to him, Jessica crouched down, picked the package up and started tearing the brown paper off.
The officer with the radio shouted “stop” but Jessica had already dropped the paper on the ground. She turned it over to double-check there was nothing written on it but, aside from the tape marks, it was unidentifiable. Under the paper was a cardboard box, which did feel heavier than she thought it should given the size. She felt a moment of uncertainty flow through her but, determined not to admit she was wrong about anything in front of Dave, she slid her fingernail along the length of tape holding the box together and opened the lid.