Cassian Pewe was already seated at the conference table in Jack Skerritt’s office when Grace returned after the briefing meeting. The two men avoided eye contact.
The Chief Superintendent gestured for Grace to sit down, then he said, ‘Roy, Cassian tells me that he realizes he made an error of judgement by setting in motion what he did at your house. The team there has been instructed to leave.’
Grace shot Pewe a glance. The man was steadfastly staring at the table, like a scolded child. He did not look as if he regretted anything.
‘He explained that he was doing it to help you,’ Skerritt went on.
‘To help me?’
‘He said that he feels there is an unhealthy amount of innuendo going on behind your back, about Sandy’s disappearance. That’s correct, isn’t it, Cassian?’
Pewe nodded reluctantly. ‘Yes – er – sir.’
‘He says he felt that if he could prove, one hundred per cent, that you had nothing to do with her disappearance, it would end that once and for all.’
‘I’ve never heard any innuendo,’ Grace said.
‘With respect, Roy,’ Pewe said, ‘quite a few people think that the original investigation was a rushed job and that you had a hand in bringing it to a premature stop. They are asking why.’
‘Name one of them?’
‘That wouldn’t be fair on them. All I’m trying to do is to revisit the evidence, using the best modern techniques and technology we have, in order to totally exonerate you.’
Grace had to bite his tongue; he could not believe the man’s arrogance. But this wasn’t the moment to start a slanging match. He needed to get away from here in a few minutes and into position for Abby Dawson’s rendezvous, which had been set for 10.30.
‘Jack, can we come back to this later? I’m not at all happy about it, but I have to get going.’
‘Actually, I was thinking it might be a good idea if Cassian came with you, in your car. He could be invaluable to your team in the current situation.’ He turned to Pewe. ‘I’m correct, aren’t I, Cassian, that you are an experienced hostage negotiator?’
‘I am, yes.’
Grace could hardly believe his ears. God help any poor sodding hostage who ends up with Pewe negotiating for him, he thought.
‘I think also it would be good for him to see how we operate down in Sussex. We clearly handle some things in a different way from the Met. Might be a good learning curve for you, Cassian, I think, to observe how one of our most experienced officers handles a major operation.’ He looked at Grace and the message could not be clearer.
But Roy was in no mood for smiling.