The Devil's Interval
was tempted to reach across the table, but she didn’t. What would be the point? Mike was totally on his own, just like she was. She got up, rinsed out her coffee cup, and left it upside down on the draining board. He just left his on the table. She had to resist the urge to wash it out.
    ‘You’re sure about Dai, then?’ she asked, as he picked up his bag.
    ‘A hundred percent, aye. And when I get out I’ll bloody find him, and I’ll kill him, Pepper.’
    ‘No, you won’t.’
    ‘What makes you so sure?’
    ‘Because he’d kill you first, Mike. You talk like that inside, and it just might happen while you’re still there.’
    ‘Bollocks. Porter will have him, no problem. I’ll probably still be on remand when that happens.’
    ‘No, you’re wrong. He’s a survivor, is Dai, and he’s more than a match for the likes of you. So don’t bloody kid yourself on, love. It could get you into some really serious trouble.’
    When Pepper got home she started on tea, then sat with her son on the sofa. He was trying to watch a cartoon, but she still asked him about school, and football club. He looked up at her, just for a second.
    ‘I didn’t score.’
    ‘Never mind.’
    ‘I wanted to score.’
    ‘I bet you will next time, love.’
    ‘No, I won’t.’ He spoke patiently, as if it was obvious. ‘You don’t know, mum, you’re never there.’
    ‘I have to work, you know that.’
    ‘That’s all right. But I won’t score next time, either. I never do.’
    It was almost nine o’clock when Copeland rang, and Pepper was tempted not to answer. But she knew that if she let him leave a message she’d just end up calling straight back anyway.
    ‘Who am I bloody kidding?’, she said, picking her phone up off the coffee table.
    ‘All right, boss?’
    ‘I was, Rex. What is it?’
    ‘Our friend Farmer wants a meet, and he wants you there this time, and all.’
    ‘When? Tonight?’
    ‘Yeah. He said in an hour, to give you time to get a sitter.’
    ‘He said that?’
    ‘Something like it, yeah.’
    ‘What did he say then, exactly?’
    ‘He said he’d give us an hour, so you could get one of your boyfriends round.’
    ‘Cheeky bugger. And why does he want me there, all of a sudden?’
    ‘I asked him that. He says it’s so he can convince you that his information is straight. He seems to have got it into his pretty little head that you might not quite believe him, what with him being a working villain and all that.’
    ‘All right. Where and when?’
    ‘That club on West Walls. He said you’d know it.’
    ‘I do, worse luck. We won’t be able to hear a bloody word in that place. Christ, I sound like I’m about fifty.’
    ‘Can you be there?’
    ‘Have to be, won’t I? I’ll meet you outside, OK?’
    When she’d rung off Pepper thought about what Copeland had relayed from Farmer, grimaced, and dialled Justin’s number. It went to voicemail. Of course, he was away. Then she tried Adam.
    ‘Sorry, love, but I’m up to my ears in work.’
    ‘You could do it round here.’
    There was a pause, and Pepper was sure that he was as good as on her sofa, his marking in his lap.
    ‘Sorry, love, but no. I just can’t.’
    ‘Can’t be arsed, you mean.’
    ‘If you like, aye. I’m sorry, Pepper, but I spend all day with kids, you know.’
    ‘Aye, all right. See you soon, yeah?’
    ‘Aye, sure.’
    She looked at the phone for a moment, after she’d rung off. ‘So much for my bloody boyfriends’ she said, and went looking for her shoes. Young Tracy from two doors down would sit for an hour for her, if the price was right. Tracy’s mum was forever saying that the cash was for the kid’s university fund, and Pepper was forever not believing her.
    She didn’t bother getting changed, and she was glad she hadn’t. The wind was funnelling down the street, and even though she only arrived a minute or so before Copeland she still felt like a bag lady who’d seen better days, and

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