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They still stared back blankly.

‘September 22nd. The day that girl went missing. The girl whose body we found on the railway embankment. Fielding was in Manchester the day the girl went missing.’

‘Coincidence?’ suggested Morgan.

‘I don’t believe in flaming coincidences, especially when they don’t suit me,’ said Frost. ‘The girl was abducted on the 22nd September and we reckon she was abducted by someone from Denton. We have someone on a rape and murder charge who comes from Denton.’

‘Possible,’ conceded Collier begrudgingly.

‘Try not to be too bleeding enthusiastic,’ said Frost ‘There’s other motor offences in other towns. I want you to check back with the forces concerned and see if any girls went missing or if there were rapes or attempted rapes on the day of the offences.’

‘Right,’ nodded Collier, taking the file and picking up the phone.

Wells came in. ‘Mullett wants you again, Jack.’

‘What, again? He’s man-mad,’ said Frost.

The Superintendent was standing in Frost’s office, the bottles of whisky from Skinner’s filing cabinet on the desk before him. Mullett was glowering and pointing an accusing finger at them.

‘When I went into DCI Skinner’s office this morning there were two bottles of whisky in his drawer. When I checked just now, they had gone. I come into your office and there they are. This is outrageous, Frost. Stealing from the dead – absolutely outrageous.’

‘I thoroughly agree with you, Super,’ said Frost. ‘Sneaking into someone’s office and going down their private drawers. I expected better of you.’

‘Me?’ croaked Mullett, pointing a finger at himself in shocked outrage. ‘Me? You take whisky from a deceased colleague… a colleague in whose death you are deeply involved. This is despicable, Frost. It is nothing short of theft.’

Bloody right, thought Frost, his mind racing, trying to think of a way to get out of this one. Then he had an idea. He pulled open a desk drawer and took out the note Sandy Lane had sent with the whisky he had given him. ‘If you had looked more carefully, in DCI Skinner’s drawer, Super, you would have found this note from Sandy Lane of the Denton Echo.’ He handed Mullett the scribbled note, which read: ‘You kept asking for whisky in return for inside information, so here it is.’

‘Skinner seems to have been taking bribes from the press. I’m sure even you wouldn’t have wanted that to come out, Super.’

Mullett frowned at the ‘even you’.

‘In respect to the Detective Chief Inspector’s memory.’ said Frost, wiping away a non-existent tear, ‘I thought it best to remove the evidence. I’m sorry you found out, Super, but the last thing I expected was that you would sneak into my office and rummage in my drawers, trying to prove I was a thief. I’m afraid I thought better of you.’

Mullett’s mouth opened and closed like a gulping goldfish. ‘My dear Frost… what can I say?’

‘You’ve hurt my feelings, but your apology is enough,’ said Frost. ‘In your own way, you probably meant well.’

Mullett squeezed out a smile of gratitude. ‘What do you intend doing with the whisky?’

‘I shall take it to a charity shop,’ said Frost, putting the bottles back in the drawer. ‘I think Skinner would have wanted that.’

‘Charity shop?’ Mullett frowned. He didn’t know charity shops took whisky, but being wrong-footed by the inspector had completely thrown him. He nodded. ‘A good idea, Frost… yes, an excellent idea.’ He made a hurried exit.

Frost looked up hopefully as Collier came in. The PC shook his head. ‘Nothing on record for any of those dates, Inspector.’

‘Damn. I suppose it was too much to hope he would oblige us by getting tickets everytime he did a bird in.’ He drummed his fingers on his desk. ‘It’s him. He’s our rapist and killer. I just know it. His DNA matches that old murder and rape case, he was in Manchester when the other girl went missing and turned up dead, and his car was picked up on CCTV when that girl was raped in the car park. It’s just too much of a flaming coincidence.’

‘His DNA didn’t match the sperm sample from the girl in the car park,’ reminded Collier.

‘Don’t put bloody difficulties in my path, son. The bastard did it.’

‘But we’ve got no proof.’

‘Proof? I don’t need proof. I just know.’ He leant back in his chair and sighed. ‘OK, son. Thanks for trying.’

He opened up the next box file, which contained details of the Debbie Clark/Thomas Harris killings, as well as copies of the video tape, and the mobile phone. Skinner had dismissed Patsy Kelly and Bridget Malone as possible suspects. Skinner was probably right, but they were all that Frost had. And the mobile phone… was her mother wrong? Did Debbie leave it behind in her locker for Malone to steal? He held the phone aloft in its sealed plastic bag. ‘If only you could speak, you sod.’

The last file was on the missing teenager Jan O’Brien. They’d searched everywhere they could and found sod all. They’d reported her as a missing person. Nothing. She could have run away from home as she had done so many times before, but she’d always come back before. She had no money and, like Debbie Clark, they had found her mobile phone. Skinner had scrawled ‘Don’t waste too much time on this one’ across the main report sheet. Frost wasn’t so sure. The woman who had phoned Sandy Lane about the video of Debbie Clark had mentioned a video of the other girl. Was she talking about Jan O’Brien? If so, were they still holding her, or was she dead? Shit! Bridget and the mobile were the only leads they had got. They were not going to get anywhere until they could clear up the mystery of the phone. If Mrs Clark was right and Debbie took it with her that night, then the only way Bridget could have got it was from the girl. If the mother was wrong, then Bridget could have pinched it from Debbie’s locker. But back to Jan O’Brien. There was nothing they could do until, they either heard from the girl or found the poor kid’s body. He shuddered. They had enough young girls’ dead bodies. He didn’t want any more. What next? The flaming detailed report County wanted. Shit. He was in no mood for that.

Bill Wells poked his head round the door. He had an envelope in his hand. ‘Like to contribute to Skinner’s wreath, Jack?’

‘No,’ snapped Frost. ‘I hated the bastard.’

Wells grinned. ‘We all did, Jack, but we’re still chipping in.’

‘Because you haven’t got the courage of your flaming convictions. Now pee off. I’ve got a detailed report to write for County about the shooting. How do you spell “Good riddance”? And I want to stress that Mullett, the senior officer, was there throughout – how do you spell “slimy bastard”?’

‘Be careful how you write it, Jack,’ warned Wells. ‘They’ll be looking for a scapegoat.’

‘If I caused his death, I’d be proud to take the credit,’ said Frost. ‘The silly sod killed himself. Creeping into a house he’d never been in before, knowing that the bloke inside was round the bend and armed – he was a prat.’

‘He didn’t deserve to die in that way, Jack.’

‘No – he deserved to be eaten to death by rats. This was too good for him.’ He looked at the blank report sheet with distaste. ‘Sod it. County will have to flaming well wait.’ He tossed it into his in-tray and pulled the files towards him. ‘As a reward for killing Skinner, Mullett is moving forward my transfer. The new Inspector – a friend of Skinner’s, so he’ll be a charmer – arrives at the end of next week.’

He drummed his fingers on the files. ‘I want to get these outstanding, cases cleared before I go, but there’s little chance of that.’ He tucked the files under his arm. ‘I shall miss this bloody place.’

‘We’ll miss you, Jack,’ said Wells.

‘Bleeding car expenses,’ snorted Frost. ‘It wasn’t as if I needed the money. It was my way of jabbing two fingers up at the system. And now the bastards are jabbing two fingers up at me.’

‘You got anything black for the funeral?’ called Wells after him as he left the office.

‘Yes – black fingernails and a black look for Hornrim Harry.’