Undercover, page 26
Jim hadn’t taken the sexy, five-star undercover lifestyle. Jim had worked from the late 1980s in the testing world of paedophilia, a world that was new to undercover work, a thankless world, where sometimes only you as the operative recognised that you had saved the life or protected the innocence of a child. This wasn’t a world that was spoken about. I knew about the exceptional work Jim had done, and I’m sure that as he lay in his coffin, the nightmares that he had would no longer have.
I felt really emotional, which wasn’t a word that I would ever use to describe myself. I didn’t cry – to me it was a sign of weakness – instead I bottled everything inside and always had.
I turned the volume on the CD player up and the lyrics rang through my head. It was Slow Moving Millie singing, and each word hit home. I played it over and over as I fought back the tears. Had it happened to me? Had I let a good man turn bad? These were thoughts I didn’t want in my head.
The track was on repeat and was interrupted only by a knock on my window. I hadn’t remembered any of the journey, I hadn’t remembered parking the car, I was lost in my own world. I could see a man recognised, and his words brought me back to reality as he banged on my window: ‘I knew it would be you as soon as I saw the motor pull into the car park, you flash cockney. I take it you’re still working, Joe?’ It was an old DI who had run the Manchester undercover unit for many years but had been retired a while. He and I had always got on well. I was pleased to hear his voice because it brought me back – back from thoughts I didn’t want to have, emotions I wanted to hide away – he rescued me from the very place that I didn’t want to go.
‘Come on, Joe, take them daft sunglasses off and let’s have a brew.’
I climbed out of my car, and Graham put his arm round me and gave me a squeeze as we walked into the café at Morrisons. He looked well; I didn’t think he had changed. He had ruled the undercover unit from the day he’d started the job. He did things ‘Graham’s way’, and his team became accustomed to what that was. It was the right way, a tried-and-tested way, and it worked.
I had done many jobs for Graham and we had a mutual respect for each other that had grown. He trusted me and I trusted him. I’d always known that whenever I worked for him he had my back, and in over twenty years working undercover, I could count on one hand how many people I could say that about.
We drank coffee and shared memories about Jim; we laughed and it felt good remembering. We had been together the last time we had seen him. The three of us doing the things we enjoyed: betting on the horses, drinking and telling stories. Graham expressed how glad he was that we’d made the effort to meet at the races and said we must promise each other, the two of us, that we’d do it again soon. He held his hand out and gripped mine. ‘I mean it, Joe. Let’s not let life pass us by.’
I agreed, but knew the reality of our friendship. Before I’d met Graham at Doncaster, I hadn’t seen him for eight years. I knew it could be another eight years before I saw him the next time.
I decided to stroll up to St Paul’s, a big lump of a church off the Huddersfield Road. There were people gathering in the car park and outside the doors of the church. These were people that probably hadn’t seen each other since the last ‘job’ funeral they’d attended. But I didn’t want this to be just any funeral – this was Jim’s, this ought to be different. It deserved to be, we owed him that.
The hearse arrived and I took a deep gulp and pictured Jim lying inside, and I wondered what he’d be thinking. I bet there were one or two people who’d turned up that he would’ve had a few choice words for. I knew he’d be glad I was here, and I knew what I wanted to say to his wife. A lady I’d never met, a lady that had answered his mobile for him and helped him send text messages to me. A lady I often had a three-way conversation with when I rang his mobile to ask if he had any tips. Betting was a pastime they’d both enjoyed, and it’s fair to say his wife Mary enjoyed considerably more success than Jim did, though he seldom admitted that.
I stood in a rear corner of the church, lost in the moment. There were hymns being sung, but they weren’t registering in my mind. I glanced up just as an ordinary-looking lad climbed the stairs to the pulpit. He looked like he’d been raised above us. He announced himself in a broad Lancastrian accent as Jim’s nephew. He said they’d called him Captain Jim, from his days in the merchant navy. When they were boys, Jim had told them of his many adventures at sea. The lad said that Jim had taught them how to fight, how to smoke and how to gamble. He’d also lent them money when they lost at gambling, but insisted on charging them interest. This made me smile, it made me happy – this was the real Jim, the Jim I knew. He ended by saying that he missed Captain Jim, missed him so very much. He began to cry as he descended the stairs of the pulpit. I wanted to cry too. I wish I had, I should have, but of course I didn’t. I wanted to get out of the church, get away from this place.
I was the first to leave. I didn’t say any goodbyes – I just left. I had rehearsed what I’d say to Mary over and over in my head, but in the end I said nothing at all. I left before I’d told her what a great man her husband was and how he’d always told me that he loved her. That she was his rock and that without her he felt weak. But I didn’t; I turned away without saying a word.
As I walked slowly back to my car, I stopped momentarily. It was in this very second that I felt a strange clarity. I think I realised that, for me, nothing had changed. All my effort and emotion was devoted to my job as an undercover officer, as it had always been. I had lost any semblance of a work–life balance a long time ago. I’d allowed all the issues in my ‘real’ life to fester. I hadn’t been a man, hadn’t been the head of my family, had broken promises, ignored responsibility, hidden within this shell I’d invented. I hadn’t tried to sort my life out or mend my broken relationships or heal the wounds I had inflicted.
I had let it all drift. I’d let it drift because, in my head, the job I was doing was so important, because without me, ‘the job’ would crumble. I had believed that I was more important than anything else, that I was above the world, that behind my mask I was untouchable.
In a way, I realise now that it was my pre-programmed coping mechanism – I have always buried my head in the sand. I wasn’t as strong a man in my real life as I was as ‘Joe’. As Joe, I felt that I was invincible. I would take on any operation, any baddy – the more impregnable the better. I thrived on such challenges, on the imminence of danger, on an acute proximity to violence and death.
But in real life, I had let down the people I loved the most. I’d failed that challenge; in fact I hadn’t even fought the battle. In many ways I was a coward. I had run away from my issues, using my work to hide from the problems of normality. I know all these things now, and I understand it may be too late to put things right, and I suppose I have to live with that.
I reached my car and climbed in. I knew exactly what I’d do – what I did best. I’d drive the two hours back to the pub where I was deployed on my new job. I’d lose myself in the company of the people I called my ‘friends’. People I didn’t really care for, people I’d walk away from in a breath. I would sit and tell lies and drink until it was time to go to bed.
And that’s what I did.
This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Epub ISBN: 9781473536081
Published by Century 2016
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Copyright © Joe Carter 2016
Joe Carter has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be id
Although this book is based on fact and relates to numerous real people, all names, places and identifying features have been changed to preserve their anonimity and, of course, the anonimity of the author and other undercover cops.
First published in Great Britain in 2016 by Century
The Penguin Random House Group Limited
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2SA
Century is part of the Penguin Random House group of companies whose addresses can be found at global.penguinrandomhouse.com
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Joe Carter, Undercover