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Frost waved this to one side and told Wells about the off-the-record conversation. ‘He admitted killing the kids and he’d have put his hand up for Emily Roberts if he’d killed her as well. He had nothing to lose.’ He yawned. After the high of the arrests, he now felt drained. He had pinned everything on Allen and Leigh having abducted Jan O’Brien, but now he would have to start from scratch.

His phone rang. He signalled to Wells to answer it. He was too tired.

‘It’s Mullett for you,’ said Wells, handing the phone over.

‘Mullett?’ gasped Frost, shooting a glance at the wall clock. ‘Four o’clock in the bleeding morning. What woke him up?’ He took the phone.

‘I’ve had the Denton Echo on the phone. Have you made an arrest in the Debbie Clark case?’

‘Yes, Super,’ said Frost. ‘I’ve just come from questioning them. I’m charging them for the two murders and taking them to court tomorrow.’

‘What sort of case have you got?’

‘Watertight, Super. Fingerprints, DNA, photographs, videos, the lot.’

‘Good. What about their statements?’

‘ “No comment” to the lot, but the forensics are more than strong enough.’

‘Excellent. Leave all the details on my desk. I’m calling a press conference tomorrow. We might as well trumpet our success. Oh – no need for you to attend, Frost. You’ve had a busy night.’

‘You’re too kind, Super,’ said Frost with all the insincerity he could muster.

‘And – er – this was DCI Skinner’s case, wasn’t it?’

‘It was,’ agreed Frost.

‘He had obviously done most of the hard work. It would be a tribute to his memory, don’t you think, if we attributed the successful outcome to him?’

‘Yes, he did do all the hard work,’ agreed Frost. ‘He actually handed me the file and told me to get on with it, but if you want him to have the credit…’

‘Excellent. I understand there’s still the other girl’s death and that missing teenager outstanding?’

‘Yes. We’re nowhere with them yet.’

‘Well, your successor will probably spot some thing you’ve missed.’

‘Not without the benefit of Skinner’s unselfish help,’ grunted Frost, banging the phone down.

‘The Denton Echo woke him up,’ he told Bill Wells. ‘How the hell did they know we’d made the arrests?’

‘They listen in on police radio frequencies, Jack, you know that.’

Frost nodded. ‘Anyway, the case has been posthumously solved by DCI Skinner and Hornrim Harry is holding a press conference tomorrow to which Cinderella is not invited.’

‘My heart bleeds for you, Jack,’ sniffed Wells, looking up as PC Collier came in.

‘The woman wants to see you right away, Inspector. She wants to make another statement.’

‘Another statement? She said sod all in her first one,’ said Frost, heaving himself out of his chair. ‘Ah, well, let’s see what Fanny wants. It’s not as if I wanted to go to bed early.’

WPC Kate Holby brought Janet Leigh into the Interview Room. Frost stubbed out his cigarette and pointed to the chair. ‘Take a seat. I understand you want to make a statement?’

She nodded and dabbed a handkerchief at dry eyes. ‘I’m going to tell you everything. He made me do it. I didn’t want to. He forced me. I was terrified of him. He made me watch. I had nothing to do with it.’

Frost nodded for Kate to start the cassette recorder. ‘Right. Tell us about how you are the innocent victim. Make my heart bleed for you.’

As Kate Holby led Janet Leigh back to her cell, Wells came into the Interview Room and sat in her vacated chair. Frost rolled a cigarette across the table for him.

‘Well?’ the sergeant asked.

‘She’s coughed the lot,’ said Frost. ‘She had nothing at all to do with it. It was all him. She took no part in the killings, she was just an innocent bystander. He dragged her along for the ride and he’s a lousy bastard making her watch the disgusting things he did to poor Debbie Clark. Allen was prepared to take all the rap as long as she, was left out of it, and the lousy cow can’t wait to drop him in it.’

‘Do you believe her?’ asked Wells.

Frost shook his head. ‘Do me a favour. She enjoyed it. She bloody well loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she took the lead in all this. It was she who told Debbie her friend was a photographer and might be able to get her a modelling contract…’

‘I suppose there’s always a chance, if Allen still wants to take all the blame, she’ll get away with it.’

Again Frost shook his head. ‘I’ll make certain the jury see the tape with Debbie pleading for Miss Leigh to make Allen stop it, while the cow just pointed the video camera. They’ll find her as guilty as hell.’ He yawned. ‘I’m too shagged out to drive home. Have you got an empty cell I can kip in? Preferably one not stinking of stale pee?’

Chapter 21

It seemed as if he had just shut his eyes when some silly sod was calling his name.

‘Jack. Wake up!’

He opened his eyes and blinked at the light. Bill Wells was bending over him, shaking him.

He yawned and checked his wristwatch, stared at it in disbelief and checked again. ‘Five to six? Flaming heck, Bill, I’ve only been asleep five minutes. What do you want?’

Wells waved a mobile phone. ‘Taffy Morgan’s on the blower, Jack.’

‘Then tell the Welsh prat to phone at a more convenient time – and switch off that bleeding light.’ He turned over, but Wells shook him again.

‘Taffy’s doing the surveillance at Fielding’s house, Jack. Fielding’s on the move.’

Frost sat up. ‘At five to six in the morning? He’s doing a bunk. The sod’s doing a bunk.’ He snatched the phone from the sergeant. ‘What’s happening, Taff?’

‘It’s Fielding, Guv. He’s just left in his white van. I’m on his tail.’

‘Don’t lose him, for Pete’s sake.’

‘You can rely on me, Guv.’

‘I can rely on you to sod things up. Don’t let him see you.’

‘Don’t worry, I’m well behind him.’

‘Where are you?’

‘I’m on Felwick Road. He’s heading north out of Denton. Shit!. ..’

‘What the hell is it?’ yelled Frost.

‘He’s spotted me, Guv. He looked back. He recognised me.’

‘You prat. I told you not to get too close.’

‘Bloody hell, Guv, he’s roaring off like the clappers.’

‘Then get after him like the clappers, you silly sod. Put the bleeding phone down. Drive with both hands.’

For a while Frost listened to the drone of engine noises down the mobile, then there was a scrabbling noise as Morgan picked up the phone again. ‘I’ve lost him, Guv.’

‘What do you mean, you’ve bloody lost him? You were supposed to be on his tail.’

‘Not my fault, Guv. He swerved ahead in front of two articulated lorries and jumped the lights at the crossroads. I didn’t see which way he turned. I must have gone the wrong way.’

‘You prat,’ said Frost. ‘If he’s trying to get away the bastard’s got something to hide. Where the hell are you now?’

‘Three miles west of the Denton bypass.’

Frost slammed the phone down and dashed into his office to study the wall map, closely followed by Sergeant Wells. He banged his palm on the bypass area and yelled to Wells, ‘Bill, I want every car, motorbike bobby, even foot patrols, to stop what they’re doing and get there to look for the sod. Now… do it bloody now!’

‘County won’t let you have the helicopter, Jack, not without Superintendent Mullett’s authority.’

‘Mullett’s not bloody here… I could phone them in my Mullett voice.’

‘You bloody dare, Jack!’ gasped Wells. ‘All right, forget it. By the time they get the damn thing off the ground he’ll be miles away anyway.’

He snatched up the phone on the first ring. ‘Yes?’

‘Jordan here, Inspector. I’m after him. He’s on the Lexton Road, heading north. He’s going to crash that bloody van the speed he’s going.’

Frost spun in his chair and again checked the wall map.

‘I’ll try and set up a roadblock.’

He dialled Lambert in Control, jabbing the wall map and giving instructions.