Staying Power: A Kate Power Mysteryby Judith Cutler
Detective Sergeant Kate Power of Birmingham CID has had bad luck with romance, so when a polite stranger flirts with her on an airline trip home from Florence, she's more than a little suspicious. She gives the man her business card and forgets all about him. Two days later he's found hanging from a canal bridge-with Kate's card in his pocket the only means of
Detective Sergeant Kate Power of Birmingham CID has had bad luck with romance, so when a polite stranger flirts with her on an airline trip home from Florence, she's more than a little suspicious. She gives the man her business card and forgets all about him. Two days later he's found hanging from a canal bridge-with Kate's card in his pocket the only means of identification.
The easy conclusion for the investigating officers is suicide, but Kate isn't convinced. As her subsequent investigations prove, the cause of Alan Grafton's death-and it's consequences-are more serious than she and her colleagues could have imagined. Still regarded as a newcomer in the Birmingham police force, still battling against prejudice and intimidation among the ranks, still fighting to prove that she's got what it takes, Kate is determined to stick to her guns until she finally uncovers the shocking truth.
Judith Cutler's keen insight into the contemporary police force and her winning sleuth Kate Power are a recipe for excellent crime fiction, and Staying Power is the second compelling novel in a gritty modern cop series that's been praised by critics and fans alike.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One‘Look what the cat brought in! Buenos noches, DS Power. God Almighty – keep your distance, woman. I don’t want the whole bleeding squad infected. It’s bad enough with young Fatima, here, giving us all the willies not eating. DC Khalid doesn’t let anything past her lips on account of it’s Lent or whatever these people have. And then you come in here looking like a death’s head on speed.’
‘Morning, Gaffer,’ Kate said equably. ‘Always nice to have a warm welcome home.’ There was nothing new about DI Cope’s wet-Monday, bad-traffic mode. She dumped her bag and case and leaned over to the new woman’s desk. What had the Gaffer said her name was. Ah, that was it. ‘Hi, Fatima! I’m Kate Power.’
The new constable – probably, like Kate, in her late twenties – stood up, embarrassing Kate by her formality. Her handshake was firm and pleasant, and if she’d been irritated by Cope she showed no signs of it. She had to look up to Kate, who felt that even at five foot five she was towering over her. And she was so slightly built Kate wondered how her frame stood up to the month of Ramadan dawn-to-dusk fasting.
‘I’ve put her with Selby,’ Cope announced. ‘Now you and Colin seem to have become partners and Sally’s gone back to Wales, there’s no two ways about it.’
Kate thought there might have been several ways. There’d be other new people coming into the squad. One at least. A replacement for Reg. Surely it would have been better to wait. This was the worst case scenario. Sure, she liked working with Colin, and he with her, but she was sure that either of them would have been prepared to partner Selby – temporarily at least – simply to spare Fatima. Not that Selby would have wanted to work with Kate. There were unsettled scores, weren’t there?
‘I’m sorry it’s Ramadan,’ she said to Fatima. ‘I’d have asked you out for a coffee at lunchtime.’
‘So long as you don’t mind me watching you drinking—’
‘Done.’ Kate smiled and returned to the tip that hid most of her desk. She could tell which paperwork had been left by Colin – it came in files and stood in a neat stack. The rest had been apparently dumped by a mechanical digger.
She stripped off her coat and slung it on the back of the chair. She wouldn’t be sitting for some time, the pile was so high. She opened the top drawers on either side of her desk to act as further filing space and picked the first item from the pile. It looked ominous. An internal mail envelope. Sealed.
Slitting the Sellotape, she found a sheet of memo paper.
My office. Before you even think about starting on this lot.
She grabbed her bag, cramming in extra tissues.
‘Ah, not staying long, I see, Power. Before you go, the boss might like to see you.’
She nodded to Cope and headed down the corridor. She stopped and looked around her. Somewhere the police authority had found enough money to fit new name plates on senior officers’ doors, white lettering on apparently removable blue metal strips. Someone could have a wonderful malicious time, changing them around. Where did managers get these ideas?
At least no one had tampered with DCI Graham Harvey – yet.
She tapped and waited.
‘Come on in, Kate!’
How on earth did he know it was her?
Graham waved her to a chair – she took the comfortable one, since he was already making tea, a sign of good humour. ‘I recognised your footsteps.’ He smiled as he passed her the mug, sliding an empty envelope to use as a mat. He looked her up and down a moment before he continued, ‘And I thought a holiday would do you good!’
‘Oh, it did. I loved the place. Have you ever been, Gaffer?’
Wrong question. His face clouded. ‘My wife doesn’t like travelling. There’s her diet, for one thing. And she gets travel sick.’
‘So does my cousin. But she bought these acupuncture wrist bands.’
He grimaced. ‘Her job involves travel, doesn’t it? She doesn’t have any choice. Where’s she off to now?’ He came round her side of the desk, half-perching on it.
‘Central Africa again. Checking out the famine in the war zone. She says it’s a good way to diet. All that Italian food – she reckons she put on half a stone last week.’
‘It doesn’t look as if you did. God, don’t take that the wrong way, will you? I’ve just been on this anti-sexism course. All about not calling people ‘love’ and not making personal remarks about what people are wearing. So I mustn’t say you look extra nice – I mean smart – this morning.’
‘Present from Florence.’ She smoothed the skirt. ‘To celebrate the snow.’
He nodded. ‘I saw. On Ceefax.’
What sort of life must the poor devil lead, to have time to watch Ceefax! Or – she fought down the suspicion – he might have wanted to know how she was getting on.
‘Anything interesting been going on here? Apart from the arrival of Fatima?’
‘Whom Cope has paired with Selby. While I was away on that course. Well within his authority, of course.’
‘So it’ll be difficult to unpair them.’
‘But impossible to leave them paired. I’d like to think,’ he added, turning his attention to his tea at last, ‘that Cope hoped spending time with an intelligent, articulate woman like that would civilise the man.’
‘Oh, I’m sure they’ll find so much to talk about! What’s her degree in again?’
He consulted a file. ‘Philosophy. She got a first. And she did her doctorate at Manchester – isn’t that where you did yours?’
She nodded. ‘But I only did a master’s.’
‘No wonder you’re feeling one degree under! Oh dear, I suppose you’re too young to remember the adverts. Some cold cure or something. Anyway, young Fatima—’
She nodded. ‘Maybe we shouldn’t worry too much. She must have a hell of a lot going for her. Not just to do what I’ll bet her community disapproved of, but to rise so fast in the Service. Perhaps she’ll just lacerate him.’
‘And if she does, how will he respond? Keep an eye on things, Kate. And remember, if there’s any indication he’s started on his clever games, I’ll have him out of the squad before he can blink.’
‘Games’? Was that what they called bullying on that course of his? She nodded again, grimly. ‘Any other news?’
‘None. Everything in that last case of yours progressing nicely. Here – have a read through this at your leisure.’ He passed her a thick file.
She liked the way he’d put it. He was good at giving credit where it was due. It was one of the things that made him so well-respected in the squad.
‘Thanks. Look, Graham,’ she said, awkwardly, ‘since you couldn’t get to Florence, a bit of Florence has come to you.’
He took the package as if nervous of dropping it, and fingered the tissue paper, the ribbon. She was glad Italian shops made such a fuss over details like that.
‘Only a few sweets,’ she said. Costing about a pound each, but that wasn’t for him to know.
He opened the box. ‘They look too good to eat. Marzipan?’ He took a miniature apple and sniffed. He nibbled. ‘They’re flavoured! Well, I’m blessed. Thanks.’ He added, as if as an afterthought, ‘You shouldn’t have done.’
‘That’s what friends are for,’ she said.
Colin was just emerging from the loo as she passed it. He gave her a hug and a friendly kiss.
‘Hell, Colin – you’ll be on a disciplinary if Harvey sees you!’ Cope. Did he materialise at will? His grin was the Cheshire Cat’s with malice aforethought.
‘But it’ll be worth it, Gaffer. Just for a touch of the fair Kate’s lips.’
‘Kiss of death, more like. Look at the colour of her nose. Got anything for us from Joe Public? It’s that new local TV programme, Kate. Grass on your Neighbour, or something. Punters are supposed to phone in with info.’
‘Local Crime Call,’ said Colin, parenthetically. ‘Or they could call it Crank Call. Knock and they come out of the woodwork. We’ve got car-ringing, unsolved murder, cruelty to hamsters, and wife-beating.’
‘In that order?’
‘Oh, and loads more, Gaffer. I thought I’d sift through them while Kate excavated her desk.’
‘Sounds OK. We’ll meet up one-ish to go through them.’
‘I was taking Fatima out for a phantom coffee, Sir.’
‘Well, neither of you will miss it, then. Take her out for a phantom beer tonight instead.’
Kate nodded. It might actually make more sense. Didn’t fasting end at sundown? Or were there special prayers first?
‘Get her outside half of mild and a bag of pork scratchings,’ Cope added. ‘Do her the world of good.’
Colin coughed. ‘I think Muslims are like Jews, Gaffer. No pork.’
‘Bugger it – so long as it’s kosher, it’s all right, isn’t it?’
Fatima nodded: ‘No problem. But I may have to take a rain check on the drink. My family – they – we always try to eat together unless there’s a big rush on here. They’ll be expecting me tonight. But maybe – would tomorrow night be convenient for you?’
‘Better, actually. It means I can start getting some of my holiday washing done and pop into Sainsbury’s. Whatever did we do when shops shut at five-thirty?’
‘We did what women should do,’ Fatima said, straight-faced. ‘We did the shopping when we’d taken the kids to school and before we started the housework.’
‘So we did.’ That was presumably the life Graham Harvey’s wife lived now, minus, of course, the inconvenience of children.
‘And we cooked complicated meals and ironed our husbands shirts beautifully.’
Kate grinned. ‘Now I know what I want. I want a wife.’
A smear of ketchup on his chin suggested that Cope had managed to find time for lunch before his session with Colin and Kate. She wondered why his wife didn’t produce a packed lunch for him to keep him from the cholesterol-filled temptations of the canteen. Graham’s wife did – a plastic box full of thinly cut sandwiches, their fillings neat and disciplined. One piece of fruit and a small chocolate biscuit. Every single day. And yet it would have done Graham good to pop into the canteen from time to time – a break from his endless paperwork with the bonus of a bit of company. He might have been a happier man – he might even have been a better cop – if he’d done so.
Until recently, Kate had depended on take-aways or a friend’s charity for weekend meals, but during her sick leave the long-awaited working surface had been installed in her kitchen and she was now the proud possessor of a hob and a sink. On the downside, though, the residue of her belongings had come up from London, and what would eventually become her sitting room was stacked with uniformly large cardboard boxes, full of kitchen utensils and CDs. All the appurtenances of her life with Robin. No, she mustn’t even think about him and his death. Unpacking the boxes would be more than enough reminder. That was why she must get them done as soon as possible. She must keep her fingers crossed for a quiet run up to Christmas. The bonus would be that she could have the downstairs carpets laid. At last. In fact, she’d do two boxes before she went round to see Aunt Cassie tonight.
Back to the present with a bump.
‘Where do you want to start, Gaffer? The likely or the unlikely ones?’ Colin asked, waving two bundles of message sheets.
Cope raised his eyes skyward, and reached down for the waste-bin, which he wagged under Colin’s nose. ‘You can file those here,’ he said. ‘Not so much unlikely as off the planet.’
Kate shook her head. ‘Waste not, want not. No smoke without fire. All the other clichés, too. I’ll look after them all.’
‘What, even the cruelty to hamsters one?’
‘Especially that. OK, I know you think I’m off my head, but you never know.’
‘You know you’re wasting your time with the hamster. Come on!’ Cope flourished the bin again.
‘Tell you what, Sir – I’ve got this mate in the RSPCA—’ Colin said.
‘Ah, you let them waste their time on it. What else?’
Kate held up five or six more slips of paper. ‘Allegations about vehicles with no tax discs, Sir. I’ll pass these on to the DVLA, shall I? Or their local nick for uniform to deal with? And there’s a few here – no, these are dog licence ones. Do we have dog licences, these days?’
It took Cope an apoplectic second to realise she was joking.
At the end of the hour, they’d agreed that Selby and Fatima should check an allegation that a well-known pusher of cannabis had moved up a division and was dealing in Ecstasy tablets, and another that a prominent councillor was into hard-core porn.
‘They’ll have to be discreet, mind.’
‘With respect, Gaffer, I don’t think that’s a word in Selby’s vocabulary.’
‘It’s time you got your knife out of that bloke, Power. He’ll be taking up a grievance against you if you’re not careful. And then who’ll look a right plonker, eh?’
Selby, with a bit of luck. ‘OK, Sir. But I don’t think he’s necessarily the best person for this job.’
‘Nor’s Fatima, not yet. Or rather, not with Selby,’ Colin said. ‘She lacks experience. She’s a good cop, by all accounts, but she could probably do with a bit of mentoring.’
‘For which you’re no doubt volunteering, her being a nice looking wench with big tits. Come off it, Colin. We’re short of men and you’re asking me to pussy-foot round while people learn the job! You’re off your head. Take the silly bleeder away and knock some sense into him, Power.’
‘It’s funny, you know, Colin,’ Kate said, as they walked downstairs together. ‘You have this lovely break from work and expect that somehow things will have got better. And you come in and the office is even untidier and the loos even smellier and the corridors even scruffier—’
‘And Harvey even more stressed and Cope – is he any worse? Or is he just the same old, evil-tempered, ignorant bastard he always was?’She’d bought a bottle of Tuscan wine for her neighbours, and popped round with it before she set off for Sainsbury’s. Instead of the affable natter with Zenia and Joe she’d been hoping for, she found Zenia flu-bound, so ill that, when she chased her back to bed, she found the sheets were soaked through with sweat. And so ill she let Kate strip them off and make the bed afresh. Shopping for both households then. It was, as she told Zenia, good to be able to pay back some of the favours Zenia had done her when she had first moved in. Not to mention that team of cleaners.
Meet the Author
Judith Cutler was born and raised in the city she writes about, Birmingham. She is a past secretary of the British Crime Writers' Association and taught for many years at Birmingham University. She lives in Kent, England.
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After the death of her lover and partner, Detective Sargent Kate Powers transfers from London to the Birmingham police force, but also takes a much needed vacation in Florence. On the flight back she sits next to bubbly Alan Grafton. He is exhilarated because his trip was a success buying leather goods and clothing to sell to distributors. Not long after landing, Kate investigates a suicide in a very public place................................ Kate is shocked to see that the dead man is Alan who was so excited over the money he expected to make on the goods. She is granted permission to find out if this was a murder made to look like a self-termination. She discovers that Alan was bankrupt thanks to a powerful business leader who used fraudulent means to achieve a line of credit for shell companies. To bring this man to justice, she has to have hard evidence because if he walks, his wife and son will be his next victims................................... This British police procedural is slow moving, which lets the readers to know the characters on an intimate basis. A secondary sub-plot involving sexism and racism in the police department and how it is handled makes STAYING POWER a cut above the average police procedural. The heroine is depressed after the loss of her lover and lonely because she hasn¿t made many friends in her new location but when it comes to fighting crime, she doesn¿t let her personal feelings get in the way. Fans of Patrice Hall and Ian Parker will want to read this tantalizing novel......................... Harriet Klausner