Excerpt: Tennison by Lynda La Plante - Chapter two

Lynda La Plante

From the creator of the award-winning ITV series Prime Suspect comes the fascinating story of the iconic DCI Jane Tennison in her early years. Read chapter two here!

Read chapter one here

‘Right everyone, listen up,’ Bradfield said assertively as he strode into the incident room, which was a hive of activity.

‘Thanks to DC Hudson we have a possible name and some background details for our victim. Julie Ann Maynard, aged seventeen. Criminal records show one arrest and previous conviction for prostitution earlier this year. She was a heroin addict, as is her boyfriend Eddie Phillips, aged nineteen, both patients at the Homerton Drug Dependency Unit. When was their last attendance, Hudson?’

‘Two weeks ago, sir, and neither of them have turned up for their appointments since.’

Bradfield frowned. ‘She’s seventeen, a junkie, and the hospital didn’t bother  to report  her missing? Did you ask them why, Hudson?’

‘The hospital said they attended the drug unit on a voluntary basis and assumed that Julie Ann and Eddie had decided to just up and leave.’

Bradfield lit a cigarette. ‘Did they have addresses for them?’

‘Yes, sir, the same one for both Eddie and Julie Ann.’ Hudson nervously flicked through his notebook.

‘Which was?’ Bradfield asked impatiently.

‘Uh, it was… 32 Edgar House on the Pembridge, sir.’

‘It’s important Eddie is traced and arrested for questioning without delay.’ Bradfield gestured towards Detective Sergeant Gibbs.

‘Spencer, you and two detectives go to Edgar House after the meeting. Kick the door in, search it and nick Eddie Phillips if he’s there. If he ain’t, get a surveillance unit to keep an eye on the address in case he returns.’

‘Yes, guvnor, be a pleasure, and I take it you will be authorizing any overtime we may just happen to incur?’

Bradfield smiled and nodded. ‘Even if it means you have to work through the night, Spence. We have to consider Eddie Phillips might have been Julie Ann’s pimp and maybe murdered her after an argument over money.  He may even be on the run by now, so, Sally, I want Phillips’ name and description circulated via the teleprinter to all police stations across London and—’

‘Yes, sir,’ Sally the indexer said, frantically taking notes as Bradfield continued.

‘Circulate Julie Ann Maynard’s details as well. I want an address for her parents, or any next of kin, asap, so that a formal identification can be made at the mortuary.’ Sally nodded.

‘Right, get out there, keep knocking on doors and asking questions on and around the Kingsmead. Hold off on the Pembridge until DS Gibbs searches Edgar House and hopefully brings in the little shit Eddie Phillips.’

DS Spencer Gibbs was a tough and often unruly officer, tall and gaunt with thick, brushed-back hair on top of his head and an almost crew cut to the sides. He had a keen eye for fashion and when off duty liked to wear skinny trousers and winkle-picker shoes, which Kath Morgan loved to tease him about. Gibbs enjoyed being part of a rock band, but his commitment and loyalty to his day job made him a popular member of the team.

Gibbs went to 32 Edgar House accompanied by two young DCs, Ashton and Edwards. They were all wearing heavy raincoats due to the continuing downpour. The young officers were surprised to find the address was a boarded-up squat. Gibbs wasn’t.

‘It’s what you’d expect from junkies – they sleep rough cos no one’s stupid enough to take ’em in. Nip back to the car, Edwards, and get a couple of torches out the kit bag in the boot.’

Gibbs found a loose piece of wood on the landing and used it to prise open enough of the boarded-up door to the squat so he and his colleagues could get in.

‘Are you following all this Watergate and President Nixon stuff on the news, Sarge?’

‘No!’ Gibbs answered tersely as he led the way inside, shining his torch around the rooms and booting old drinks crates out of his way. The place stank of urine and dirty blankets, and amidst the numerous crushed cans of lager and broken bottles of cider, torn sleeping bags lay beside rotting  food. They searched the bedrooms where used hypodermic needles littered the bare boards. Gibbs swore and kicked out at the disgusting mess and then straightened, gesturing for them to keep quiet. They could hear shrieks and laughs coming from the stairwell outside. Gibbs went out the front door onto the landing and picked up the bit of wood he’d used earlier.

Eddie Phillips was walking up the stairs with his friend Billy Myers. The two nineteen-year-olds looked manky: they both had dirty long hair and wore filthy stained T-shirts,  flared jeans and Cuban-heeled boots. Gibbs and the two DCs approached them.  They resembled three thugs with their coat collars turned up and Gibbs swung the stick like a golf club as he shouted.

‘Which one o’ you is Eddie Phillips?’

Billy looked terrified and pointed to Eddie who tried to make a run for it, but Gibbs was quick on his feet and caught him by his hair, then kicked his legs from under him.  Eddie cowered as he lay on the floor and Gibbs pushed the piece of wood into his chest.

‘We found your girlfriend, Eddie, but she looks a lot worse than you do!’

Jane sat by herself in the canteen eating a cheese and mushroom omelette. The canteen was buzzing and everyone was talking about the murder investigation, including the four detectives at the table opposite  her, who she couldn’t help overhearing. One said how frustrating it was that they still hadn’t been able to locate Julie Ann Maynard’s family, but now that  her boyfriend  had been brought in for questioning the case might be solved quicker than expected. She listened intently as Edwards, who’d accompanied DS Gibbs, described the arrest and then what had happened in the CID car on the way back to the station.

‘Gibbs gave him a good dig in the ribs and forced him to look at a picture of the dead girl’s body. The little wanker burst into tears and said it was Julie Ann but her real surname was Collins.’

‘Why’d she use a false name?’ the youngest detective asked.

His colleague slapped him across the back of the head.

‘Because she’s a tom, thicko, and they use false names if they get arrested for soliciting.’

The detective rubbed his head. ‘Did he say anything else?’

‘Not really, but you could see he was bricking it. Gibbs tried to get him to cough, but he was such a blubbering emotional wreck that we couldn’t get anything  out of him.’ DC Edwards then gave his opinion. ‘Bradfield’s taken Phillips to his office for an interview with him and DS Gibbs. If he did it, believe me those two will break him.’

‘Or fit him up,’ his colleague said, and they all burst into laughter.

Having finished her meal Jane started to hurry down the stairs: Harris wanted her back on the duty desk, probably so he could return to the snooker room. But, hearing raised voices, she stopped on the first floor by DCI Bradfield’s office. She moved a bit closer to his door to listen and could hear a person she presumed to be Eddie Phillips sobbing profusely.

‘Don’t bloody lie to me, son,’ Bradfield shouted.

‘I swear on my life I’m not lying,’ came the response.

‘You bloody well are – we both know you strangled  her to death.’

‘No… No, I would  never hurt Julie Ann, I loved her.’

‘That’s it, that’s why you killed her, because you loved her.’

Eddie was snivelling. ‘I don’t understand what  you mean.’

‘You found out she was getting shagged for money and drugs and you didn’t like it. You had a fit of jealous rage and squeezed the life out of her.’

In floods of tears Eddie still protested his innocence. Then there was the sound of a hand banging repeatedly on a desk, followed by the gravelly toned voice of DS Spencer Gibbs.

‘Stop lying! It’ll be a lot easier for you if you tell us the truth.’

‘I am, I am! The last time I saw her she was getting into a red car… a Jaguar, I think, and it looked newish. I was high on heroin so it’s hard to remember.’

‘When was this?’

‘What?’

‘When did you see Julie Ann getting into a fucking red Jaguar, Eddie?’ Gibbs asked.

‘The last time I saw her.’

‘When was that, Eddie?’

‘How do you mean?’

Bradfield’s calmer voice took over.

‘Come on now, son, you are saying that  the last time you saw Julie Ann she was getting into a red Jaguar.’

‘Yeah, yeah, that’s right. I’ve not seen her since then, I swear before God.’

‘So when exactly was it?’

‘I dunno, maybe  a week or so ago. I don’t  remember exactly.’

‘Keep lying and you’ll find a slap round the head might help you remember,’ Gibbs said.

Jane hurried back to the front  office. Harris was his usual miserable self, accusing her of taking her time on her refreshment break, when she’d actually only had half an hour. He said that he would be in the sergeants’ room writing up some reports. It irritated her that he was so lazy, but she was pleased that he would be out of her hair for a while.

Another hour passed and Jane only had a couple of incidents to deal with. Then she saw DCI Bradfield and DS Gibbs taking Eddie Phillips into the custody area. He was thin and scrawny and it was clear his heroin addiction had taken a toll on his body. He looked much older than nineteen. His face was covered in red scars and his shoulder-length black hair was dirty and matted.

A few minutes later Bradfield came out of the charge room and strode towards her. Jane started to stand to attention and winced as she felt her tights catch on the rough wooden handle of the desk drawer.

‘You ever been on a bereavement visit?’ She swallowed and coughed.

‘Pardon, sir?’

‘Obviously not. My lads have their work cut out here, so get your skates on – you’re coming with me to see the dead girl’s family. The address is 48 Church Mount, Hampstead Garden Suburb.  You know how to read  n A–Z street map, I take it?’

She didn’t dare tell him that she had only recently passed her driving test, and had only used an A–Z to find her way on her beats in Hackney. She used public transport to get around London itself, as it was free for police officers.

‘I need to tell Sergeant Harris, sir. He said I had to cover the front office until end of duty.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ll deal with him. Now get a move on, WPC…?’

‘Tennison, sir, Jane Tennison.’

Bradfield left and Jane went into the comms room. She checked her tights, only to find that  the snag had turned into a ladder.

‘Oh my God! I don’t believe it, this is the second pair in a week. Those ruddy desks need sandpapering. Look  – I’ve got a ladder on the knee now!’

Kath smiled. ‘Like I said, Jane, it always  happens to you, don’t it?’

Pulling her skirt down in the hope the ladder wouldn’t show, Jane booked out a personal radio and asked Kath for directions, which she quickly jotted down in her notebook. She hurried to the ladies’ locker room, grabbed her uniform jacket and hat and went upstairs to Bradfield’s office, only to be told by DS Gibbs that he was waiting for her in the rear yard.

‘Get a move on, he’s waiting.’

She was heading across the yard when she heard Bradfield’s voice and saw him standing by the snooker room, holding the door open and remonstrating with Sergeant Harris.

‘Covering the duty desk and front counter is your problem, Harris, not  mine.  As the DCI and your superior officer, I decide who I take with me, not you.’

He slammed the door shut and as Jane walked past she saw Harris glare at her through the window. Bradfield was wearing  a long black raincoat with the collar turned up. She could see that he had shaved and changed his shirt to meet the victim’s parents. The sooner they had the dead girl formally identified the faster they could move on to issuing press releases and appealing  to the public for information.

Bradfield got into the driving seat of an unmarked red Hillman Hunter CID car. As Jane got into the passenger seat he threw an A–Z street map onto her lap, which she thought was rather  rude of him.

‘Christ, I hate death notices, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I guarantee it won’t be pleasant, never is. When we get there, you stay quiet, but if the mother has a meltdown take her to the kitchen, or wherever, so I can chat to the father in private. Right, which way?’ he snapped as he started the engine and reversed out of the parking bay. He was such a big man his shoulder almost touched hers when he changed gear and drove out of the yard at speed.

Jane had her notebook open beside the A–Z. ‘Dalston Lane, Balls Pond Road, Holloway Road, Archway Road and er… it’s off Aylmer Road.’

‘Good knowledge. You must be a London  girl.’

‘Maida Vale, sir.’

‘Posh place,’ he remarked.

It was a nerve-wracking drive as Bradfield hurtled down the streets and swore profusely at every red light. The rain was still pouring down, making it difficult for Jane to see the road signs and street names through the windscreen wipers. The car didn’t have ‘blues and twos’, just a tinny-sounding bell, which she had to keep pressing so they could get through the heavy traffic and red lights. Clinging on to the handle of her passenger door she found it hard to concentrate enough to locate their destination, and now it was dark she had to use her pocket torch to see the street map.

‘Are we on the right bloody road?’ he asked impatiently.

‘Yes, sir, left here into Winnington Road, then right, and the address is the next left… Oh sorry, it was first right you wanted.’

‘Jesus Christ, get it together.’ Jane took a deep breath and tried not to react to Bradfield’s brash manner.

‘Sorry, sir, it was the first right.’

Bradfield did a fast three-point turn and at last they found Church Mount. He slowed his pace as they approached number 48 and peered from the car window.

He jerked on the handbrake. ‘Looks very upmarket… if I’ve been given the wrong fucking address somebody’s head is going to roll.’

He got out of the car then leaned back in, clicking his fingers.

‘Envelope… back seat, grab it for me.’

Whilst reaching over to the back seat Jane felt the ladder in her tights split open even further. She got out and hurried to join the DCI as he walked up the path, lighting the way with her pocket torch. Bradfield coughed repeatedly and straightened his tie before taking a deep breath and ringing the doorbell. There was the sound of a dog barking from somewhere in the house. He waited briefly and then rang the bell again. Lights came on in the hall, and through one of the glass panels beside the front door a man peered out.

Bradfield already had his black warrant card in his hand and held it up. The door was unlocked and opened by a tall, hawk-nosed man, his thinning hair standing up on end.

‘Mr Collins?’

‘Yes.’

‘Good evening. I’m DCI Leonard  Bradfield and this is WPC Tennison.  Do you mind if we come in, sir?’

The door opened wider, revealing Mr Collins wearing pyjamas under a thick dressing gown, and slippers.

‘What is this about?’

‘Is there somewhere we can sit down and talk, sir?’ George Collins closed the front door behind them, as a pale-faced woman, also wearing nightclothes and with her hair in clips, came from the lounge.

‘What is it? Has another house been broken  into?’

As they were led into the comfortable living room Jane kept tugging at the hem of her skirt. Mr Collins sat with his wife on the sofa and Bradfield sat on the armchair opposite. Jane remained standing to one side; she could see the Collinses looking very confused.

On a piano was a large photograph of a smiling, innocent-looking girl, aged about fifteen. She had glorious blonde wavy hair and wide blue eyes. With a jolt of recognition, Jane could see similarities to the murdered girl in the Polaroid pictures, although the photograph on the piano had obviously been taken before Julie Ann had become a drug addict.

After what seemed an eternal, uncomfortable silence, Bradfield cleared his throat. ‘Do you have a daughter called Julie Ann?’

After a slight pause, Mr Collins spoke. ‘Yes. Is she in trouble again?’

‘I am very sorry to have to tell you that a girl we believe to be your daughter has been found dead. She—’

‘No, no, you are wrong, it can’t be my Julie,’ wailed a distraught Mary Collins as she moved closer to her husband.

The usually brusque Bradfield now spoke softly, clearly and quietly.

‘The body of a young female was found earlier today at an adventure playground in Hackney. She was murdered and we need to have her formally identified as soon as possible.’

Jane watched as Mr Collins reached across to hold his wife’s hand, gripping it tightly.

‘But you can’t be sure it is Julie?’

‘Sadly I believe it is, sir. I don’t want to distress you by showing you photographs of her, but having seen the picture on your piano I am almost certain that the victim is your daughter.’

Mrs Collins began to cry uncontrollably and her husband put his arms round her. He gently kissed her head and stroked her hair. Bradfield said nothing for a minute or two as he let them share their grief. Eventually Mr Collins slowly released his wife, and stood up saying he would go and change. His body was taut and he clenched his hands beside him. He moved robotically to the double doors of their living room, and Bradfield rose quickly realizing what was going to happen.  He was directly behind Mr Collins when his legs gave way, and he caught him in his arms.

‘It’s all right, sir, I’m here. I’ll help you up the stairs and WPC Tennison will stay with Mrs Collins.’

The wretched man sobbed and clung to Bradfield as they left the room.

Jane was unsure what she should do, and found her eyes brimming with tears. She pulled some tissues out of her handbag and handed one to Mrs Collins, then dabbed her own eyes with another.

‘She hasn’t been home for over a year. We tried to help her but she kept running away, so it became pointless reporting it in the end. She broke George’s heart, you know, and we always knew the drugs might kill her, but for he  to be murdered… it’s…’ Mrs Collins couldn’t finish her sentence as she broke down again.

Bradfield returned and leaned close to Mrs Collins, who sat with her hands pressed against her knees and was rocking back and forth.

‘Your husband needs you upstairs. If you wish, you can accompany us, or if you want to stay here I can call someone to be with you.’

Mary Collins looked up at Bradfield and again Jane could see the kindness and gentleness in his face and manner. He helped Mary Collins to her feet with his arm around her, and assisted her from the room.

Jane was wiping  her eyes and blowing her nose when Bradfield walked back in.

‘What are you crying for? You didn’t know her. This is all part of the job – you need to pull yourself together. He’s getting dressed, but she’s in the bathroom and I think she’s wet herself, so go and see what you can do.’

‘I’m sorry, sir.’ Jane hurried  from the room as he opened the envelope and took out the Polaroid crime scene pictures. Finding a close-up of the victim’s face he moved to the piano and held it against the silver-framed  photograph. There was little doubt it was their daughter.

Mary Collins could not face attending the mortuary to identify the body, so Bradfield spoke with a female neighbour who was a close friend, and she agreed to stay with Mary and look after her. The drive to the mortuary was solemn and silent with Mr Collins sitting in the back seat staring out of the car window. Out of respect Bradfield drove at a steady pace, without using the police bell this time.

He broke the silence asking Mr Collins if he drove, and he said that he did, but mostly at weekends as he used the Underground to and from work. He was a chartered surveyor and owned his own company.

‘I will organize a police car to take you home after the identification.’

‘Thank you, that is very kind.’

‘What car do you drive?’ Bradfield asked casually.

‘A Bristol. It’s rather old now, but it used to belong to my father.’

Remembering Eddie mention that he’d seen Julie Ann getting into a red Jaguar, Jane noted the DCI’s subtle way of handling such an important question.

Hackney Mortuary, a dank building constructed in the late nineteenth century, was situated across the church square from the station. The head mortician, who lived in a flat above the premises, unlocked the reception doors and they were instructed to wait whilst he finished preparing the body for viewing. They sat on hard-backed chairs, under ghostly strip lighting that flickered and gave the corridor a yellowish hue.

Bradfield checked his watch and Jane could see he was getting impatient, which in turn made her apprehensive about asking any questions or speaking to the distraught Mr Collins. Bradfield stood up and, excusing himself, went off to find out what was causing the delay, striding through the swing doors into the examination area of the mortuary. She noticed that although he was a big man he moved with agility and was obviously very fit. For all his brashness and impatience with her she’d been surprised by how gently he’d handled the wretched disclosure of Julie Ann’s death.

Jane didn’t know what to say to Mr Collins. She had never been to a mortuary before, and at nearly eleven o’clock at night there was an empty, chilling feel to it. Mr Collins sat with his bony hands clenched together, the whites of his knuckles showing as he pressed his hands tighter. Jane asked if he would like a glass of water, but he shook his head and surprised her by breaking his silence.

‘She was the most beautiful little girl, never any trouble when she was younger. Clever, and she could dance, very light on her feet, spinning like a top. She wanted to be a ballet dancer one day… I have some cine film of her dancing.’

Suddenly the swing doors opened and  Bradfield gestured for them to follow him through to the examination area and the numbered refrigerated storage drawers. The room smelt of disinfectant and the young mortician was waiting by drawer 6. When he opened it Jane felt the cold air waft around the room and up her nostrils. The sliding tray was slowly pulled out and the body was covered in a white shroud.  The mortician gently pulled it down to enable Mr Collins to see the face of his daughter. Jane could see red indented welt marks around Julie Ann’s neck. The swollen bitten tongue had been pushed back in her mouth, but it caused her lips to bulge slightly, and her eyelids had been closed.

‘Is this your daughter, Mr Collins?’ Bradfield asked. There was hardly any pause as he looked down.

‘Yes, this is my daughter,’ he whispered.

It was over quickly and the drawer slid back into position. They returned to the reception area and Jane radioed the station asking for a panda car, on the instructions of the DCI, to take Mr Collins home.

As they waited in the corridor a terrible grief-stricken rage erupted from Mr Collins. He let out a howl like a wounded animal and gripped a chair. He then picked it up and hurled it towards the glass windows.

‘YES, THAT IS MY DAUGHTER!’ His voice rasped as he turned his fury towards Bradfield, swearing and gesticulating at him with his bony finger.

‘She was the light of our lives and you tell me she was murdered. What caused those marks on her neck? Who killed her? Who is to blame? This isn’t OUR fault! We loved her, gave her everything a young girl could want, and she rejected us, rejected all we had done for her. WHY? I need to know WHY.’

It looked as if Mr Collins was about to throw another chair, so Jane stepped back, but he crumpled and fell to his knees sobbing.

Surprised, Jane watched as Bradfield knelt down beside the broken, weeping man, speaking softly to him whilst gently rubbing his hunched shoulders. He told Mr Collins that they had arrested a suspect who was still in custody and would keep him informed of the progress of the investigation, and that detectives would visit his home in the morning to take a statement from him and his wife. Eventually Mr Collins was calm enough to be helped outside to the waiting police car.

‘I didn’t expect that,’ Bradfield said as Jane followed him back inside.

‘Thank you for taking me with you, sir. It was a good learning experience for me.’

‘You can show a couple of hours’ overtime and I’ll sign it off. Have you ever been to a post-mortem?’

‘No, sir, not yet,’ she said, not relishing the thought but excited at what she hoped he was about  to say.

‘It’s arranged for midday tomorrow, so meet me here.’

‘Yes, sir, thank you, sir.’

‘One word of advice though.’ Jane listened intently.

‘Always carry a spare pair of tights in your locker or handbag,’ he said and winked.

As it was well after midnight, and public transport sparse, a uniform night-duty patrol car gave Jane a lift home to the flat in Maida Vale. She was relieved neither her parents nor her sister were up so that she could sneak into her bedroom and crash out. She looked round the familiar room. Above her bed was a large poster of Janis Joplin which she’d bought after the concert as a reminder of how much she had admired her. She was pleased to be home after the experience in the mortuary and had just changed into her nightdress when her sister, Pam, walked in.

‘You know you should ring Mum and Dad if you are going to be so late. They were worried about you and you should have more respect. Have you tried it on?’

‘What?’

Pam turned and pointed to the large black-plastic zip bag hanging on the back of the door.

‘You can hardly miss it, but you have to make sure all the alterations have been done; she’s finished all the dresses now, and done lovely puffed sleeves. You know she used to make dresses for Alma Cogan?’

‘Sorry, I’ll try it on in the morning.’

‘Make sure you do. You seem to forget I’m getting married in a few days and you’d better not forget the rehearsal at the church either.’

‘Pam, I’m really tired out,’ Jane said as she got into bed. Pam started to walk out and then stopped and did a childish little twirl, flapping her hands. ‘Wait till you see my wedding gown – it’s amazing; and I’ve got a long veil edged with lace – it’s so beautiful.

‘Goodnight, Pam.’

As soon as the door closed Jane shut her eyes. Pam’s dance reminded her of Mr Collins’ memory of his daughter. She could see the pale white face of Julie Ann in the mortuary and suddenly her mind was filled with images from the crime scene pictures. The hot pants, the platform boots and the way her bra had been tied in a knot around her slender throat. Julie Ann wasn’t beautiful any more. Her face was bloated and her purple swollen tongue made it look as though she was wearing a grotesque mask.

As Jane thought of Mr and Mrs Collins’ loss, the soulful words of her favourite Janis Joplin song came into her head, and suddenly seemed so poignant.

Take another little piece of my heart now, baby! Oh, oh, break it!

Break another little bit of my heart now, darling…

 

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Lynda La Plante tells us about her new book, in her own words

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