I’d expected that Jock would call me into his office a couple of hours before the meeting, to discuss strategy and to warn me off doing the things that I intended to do. But he didn’t communicate with me until half an hour before the meeting. If he’d intended to get me nervous, that part had worked. But at three-thirty he’d turned up at my office door, thrown a set of keys at me and indicated with his head that we were going to the carpark.
The keys were for the only car the probation service owned that was less than two years old. Most of my colleagues smoked, and so did their cars.
It’s a job that involves a lot of waiting for other people to arrive, followed by intense work. Nurses, cops and actors tend to smoke, for much the same reason. The probation service’s cars smoke because all the public funding goes into building more jails. Anyway, Jock got in the passenger door. Usually the man who drives has some power deriving from that. Jock wanted me to see myself as the chauffeur.
I drove silently while Jock glared at me. He was trying to keep me ill at ease. I was, so I leaned my arm on the open window and projected utter nonchalance and relaxation.
I said, “We haven’t had time to discuss the meeting. So, you should maybe do the general stuff, about communication and cooperation between the police and us. Those issues. But I’ll talk about the specific cases, Lance Holder, Dwane, Ana and so on, myself. Since I, uh, haven’t had time to brief you. Yeah?”
Jock kept staring.
He was, as I’ve said before, a physically imposing figure. He had arms like hardwood logs. He’d let the workouts and the boxing go a little since he’d remarried, but he still looked unnatural, his body tapering sharply down to a boxer’s narrow waist. He looked like a cartoon hero, a sketch with every line emphasising strength.
He had a set of white puckers in the skin above his left eye, from when he’d faced down a prison escapee who’d armed himself with an axe. Jock had guessed wrong about the axe-man – he’d thought the guy would back down – but after taking an axe swing to the face, half concussed and nearly blinded with his own blood, he’d broken the guy’s arm, punched him unconscious, and sat on his chest, bleeding onto him, while he called the cops. It was the cops who called him an ambulance.