• Gina Fegan

Chapter 4. Steve’s Story

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Stephen Maguire, Steve to his friends, was ‘one of the lads’ at school. He had this really strong sense of fair play. He had been physically large and strong since a baby, as his mother frequently complained, he was a classic gentle giant. He was the one to settle any rows that got physical. No one took him on willingly, probably why joining the police force had been his ambition as far back as he could remember. Although popular he had never been part of a gang, he wasn’t someone influenced by ‘the general opinion’, he liked to make up his own mind. It wasn’t a problem, people left him alone and he liked his own company. 

Surprisingly, Steve is still single. He had fallen in love with his childhood sweetheart, and back then Steve thought he was set for life. There was no one else for him except for Angela. Angela, his angel, bright and sassy, she kept him in line. They had grown up together. She was the one who made sure he had the right kind of haircut, sharp jeans, comfortable loafers; she created a style that suited him and they were a great pair. The two of them were making the best of long term plans when she killed in an accident. It was another young lad, drunk on a Saturday night, he took a corner too fast, by the time he saw her there was nothing he could do. The only vaguely positive thing anyone could say was that with that speed Angela didn’t feel a thing. Heartbroken Steve buried himself in work after she died. He didn’t want to feel that loss again in a hurry, however it would be eleven years ago this summer and he was also fed up with people feeling sorry for him. Maybe it was time to reconsider.

Steve often talked to himself. It seemed to help work things out. Maeve had intrigued him and after he left her by the cafe, as he walked back to the station he imagined telling her his backstory. Avoiding any mention of Angela of course, as he couldn’t bear seeing the pity triggered in people's eyes.

He began going through the conversation in his head: ‘Desert island discs’ would be a cinch for me, I know the soundtrack of my life. I joined the police force straight from Uni, couldn’t wait to get into uniform and do something I felt would make a difference. I can imagine the film now with my own montage, getting the job, the uniform and the gear’ playing out to the main theme for ‘Top Gun’. Then shift of tempo, to being the newby, the butt of the jokes like being sent for ‘a long stand’ or the ‘glass hammer’ or the infantile ‘wet your crotch’ pranks. That part plays to ‘What a difference a day makes’. 

I’m a good 6’6 and built to match, and not easily intimidated, but the more I saw how out of date and biased some of my senior officers' views were, I felt disillusioned, let-down by people I thought were older and knew better. I mean everyone plays jokes on people but this is a serious job and senior management in my sector seemed to think it was okay. Okay to mock people. It was a signifier of the tone of the place. There were other attitudes that I had difficulty with. It was generally accepted that officers hated going to ‘domestics’ or domestic violence call outs, as if beating your partner was an acceptable part of marriage. Then the whole problem of police dealing with people with mental health issues, internally the lads called them crazies or ‘radio rentals’ rhyming slang for ‘mental’ and made fun of them. These people need medical or social care not the police. I found myself thinking, if this is how the police force works how were we going to make the world a better place. Don’t get me wrong, not all police have these views and they are changing but when your idols come crashing down and you realise that you are not Superman, you have to reassess your values. I live in the real world, so the only thing to do was to move on.

I moved on, stopped trying to change the world and in return found one of the greatest pleasures of my life.  To get out of the office I signed up for the Road Policing Unit, riding powerful motorbikes, I didn’t know it beforehand but once I got the hang of it I loved it! Motorbikes are powerful but elegant. The speed, the control and the ultimate sense of freedom. You can imagine this montage to ‘Hear the Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac. I knew I was good and this was confirmed when I was put on the Bikesafe initiative. This is a cracker of an initiative. We teach ‘members of the public’ meaning those who already ride motorbikes but do it dangerously, how to ride a bike properly. How to corner, how to maintain control in the wet, how to manage speed. It works really well to stop young men, (and it usually is young men), from killing themselves. I reckon we are the best motorbike riders in the world, I would say that wouldn’t I? Actually, it’s a life’s ambition that I would like to prove. But I am getting ahead of myself, back to the beginning.

The first time that you do anything sticks in the mind. Writing the first case notes, getting the paperwork done correctly, is as clear as day. Then in a flash, like in no time has passed, till it all becomes a blur of getting things done in time, done before your shift ends, or done before someone is chasing you for the info. No time to stop and think, just get it done. Then down to the pub for a few pints.

But the first time you see a dead body the image never goes away. For me it is still, quiet, in full colour and crystal clear. There is no music, no backing track. Everything about that day is just like it was yesterday, hard to believe it’s nine years ago this month. I can hear the blackbird singing, which at the time seemed wrong, disrespectful to the young woman lying on the ground. Dumped, or rather rolled into the long grass under the trees at the edge of the park. At first glance she could have been asleep with her back to us, one leg rolled over in the recovery position, but her head was at an awkward angle, twisted too far back. There was no look of surprise on her face. Probably why I thought she knew her killer. Her hands were dirty. I guessed that ‘he’ had pushed her onto her hands and knees before he had broken her neck. I presumed a ‘he’ for the strength needed to move the body. Of course now I would say ‘assumption and presumption are the mother and father or all fuck-ups!’. Never assume anything, it's likely to lead you astray. 

I hoped it had been quick for her sake, for ‘Susan’s’ sake. I used her name as soon as I knew it out of respect for the dead.  

On that morning, I felt like she was there with us, close behind me, leaning over my shoulder, looking down at her own body. I thought I saw her touching her right earlobe. When I looked closer at the body, I could see the body was missing the right earring. It seemed important. 

I was the junior on the case, my job was to listen, learn, take any notes that I was told to take, and get the tea. Not to come up with ideas. Not to interrupt the detective assessing what belonged to the crime scene and what had been added after the crime had been committed.

This feeling, that she was there, and trying to tell us, or tell me something, was so strong and the earring seemed so important to Susan, I stupidly opened my gob to the boss, the detective in charge. He was responsible for the Murder Book, my notes would be added to it later. Had I kept my mouth shut or just brought it up as part of the process of gathering information it would have been fine. Too late. I had already blurted out that I had a feeling, I could sense the victim was still there with us and that she was bothered by the missing earring. Well that was that. All the other pranks and jokes played on the newby up to this point paled into insignificance. I became the ‘ghost seer’. It got so bad I thought it affected the way we managed the investigation. We never did find the missing earring, I thought it was significant but this time kept my trap shut. Equally when the press release was being written the earring was one of the key facts that we held back to use as a test for any self declared eye witnesses or friends who were out with her that night. You need that because murder cases often attract the wrong sort of people, the curious, the amateur detectives, the cranks, and the charlatans, we take statements from them all. At this stage of the investigation you just don’t know what’s going to be a dead end and what’s going to be the critical piece of information.

Now, nine years later, how could a random woman know about the earring?

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