When Falls was discharged from hospital, it was AHA — not the Scandinavian pop group, but Against Hospital Advice. Like she could care.
The doctor said, ‘Would you consider counselling?’
‘Which would do what for me exactly?’
‘Ahm … help you get over your … trauma.’
‘I lost my baby, it’s not a trauma … and no, I don’t want to “get over” that. And I don’t expect to.’
The doctor, flustered, said, ‘I’ve taken the liberty of prescribing some medication … I …
‘Might I suggest you reconsider?’
Falls took a cab home. The driver droned on about a range of topics. She neither heard nor answered him as they drove along Balham High Road. She said, ‘Here … drop me here.’
The driver saw the off licence and thought
The words lashed her but she managed to keep control and asked, ‘How much?’ She fumbled a rush of coins and pushed them at him.
Like his brethren, he wasn’t to be hurried. ‘You’ve given me too much, darlin’.’
‘Alas, the same can’t be said for you.’
But he’d triggered something and she bought a bottle of gin. The sales assistant asked, ‘A mixer?’
She thought gin ’n’ pain would mix enough. Her father hadn’t drank gin. He drank everything else, including water from the toilet bowl, but alcoholically maintained: ‘Gin makes me ill’.
He drank for no reason.
She had a reason.
Perhaps she’d uncovered a dual motive.
Entering her home was nigh unbearable. In her wardrobe were the baby things. She got a cup from the kitchen, sat, uncapped the bottle and poured. Said: ‘Here’s to Po,’ and drank.
Two hours later she put the baby stuff in the garbage.
The following morning she was as sick as a dog, but she dragged herself to the shower and readied her energies, knowing she was going to need them.
Arriving at the station, the desk sergeant exclaimed, ‘Good God!’ Then tried for composure. What was he to offer — sympathy, encouragement … what? He did the procedural thing — he passed the buck. ‘I’ll let the Super know you’re here … ahm … take a seat.’
Like Joe Public.
Various colleagues passed and seemed embarrassed. No one knew how to respond.
The Sergeant said, ‘The Super will see you now.’ He gave a dog smile as if he’d done a good turn. She felt her stomach somersault.
She wasn’t invited to sit by the Super. He asked, ‘How are you doing?’
‘Not too bad, sir, fit for duty.’
He frowned, looked down at his hands, then, ‘Perhaps it would be best if you took some time … the criminals will still be here, eh?’
He gave a police manual laugh. This has absolutely no relation to humour. Rather, it’s the signal for shafting. Falls waited and eventually he said, ‘Take a month, eh? Catch up on the ironing.’
Even he realised this was hardly PC, but she answered, ‘Thank you, sir, but I’d like to get back.’
Now he cleared his throat. ‘I’m afraid that won’t be possible … there may be an enquiry.’
Falls was astonished. ‘Why?’
‘There’s a question of … recklessness … Going after a villain alone … the powers that be … (here he paused to let her know:
She was going to argue but knew it was useless.
He said, ‘You’re suspended on half-pay pending an enquiry.’
She considered for only a moment, then said, ‘I don’t think so.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘I don’t think …
She got out her warrant card, laid it on the desk and turned to go.
He blustered, ‘I’m not quite through WPC.’
And she gave a tiny smile. ‘But I am … all through.’
Twenty minutes later she was home with a fresh bottle of gin.