Between Cuppas and Coppers; THE WAY IT IS
Byline: JOHN EDWARDS
A GOOD look at a face you could understand, but this was only a voice at the other end of the cafe and it made the detective stop mid-sentence and turn around.
Do you know her? he was asked. 'I've heard her before somewhere,' the cop said. He lifted himself and fixed the voice to the redhead sitting behind him, in front of the day's menu stuck in the street windows. A touch of Ireland was in the voice.
He was lucky to be one of many in his business who could turn a voice and a face into a file, pull it from his memory and have a case history laid out in his mind.
This place was on the Edgware Road in London, which was a good cafe to drop into and turned even better when sudden rain wiped the street until it was empty.
The policeman made a point of catching the woman's eye. She got him in her sights at the same time and shifted to his table.
'It was something to do with one of her kids, I'm sure,' he said quietly; but she was right up next to him now and he couldn't go on.
'I remember you,' the woman, maybe 30, said.
'You had a go at my Michael about that thing at Safeway.' The incident came back to the cop slowly. Afterwards, he said it was about some serious shoplifting.
'Is he behaving himself these days?' he said to the woman, who was called Tootsie all the time by her blonde girlfriend.
'Tootsie, come and have your tea.' 'Tootsie, have you got a light?'
Tootsie said Michael should have been around Shoe Express at 3pm to get new trainers for school. But he didn't show. He hadn't shown anywhere she knew of since yesterday. Not even in his bed at the flat off the Harrow Road. And this was a boy who was going to be 15 next week.
Is this worrying? she was asked.
Tootsie reached across and laid a cigarette on the edge of an ashtray.
She said it wasn't the first time.
That was nearly a year ago and she called the police.
Someone went over from Paddington Green. Michael turned up about breakfast time and said he had stayed with a friend.
The policeman was back later and waved a finger at him. He should think of his mother being concerned and waiting up all night. The cop's words bounced off him.
'Well, you should take him in hand,' the cop in the cafe said.
'I can't be with him all the time,' she said, 'I have to work. …