Kate Grisham had a headache.
Not a mild discomfort in the temple area kind of headache, but a full-blown brass band playing next to her eardrums whilst a small industrial drill pounded a tattoo on her skull kind of headache.
The headache's name was Jeff Slade.
Granted, he was usually the cause of her headaches, but that was work related; if he'd done something wrong or his methods were a little too disruptive and he'd left a minor political/diplomatic/insert-type-here disaster in his wake.
No, this time she had a headache because she'd seen him coming into work. Twice.
The first was when she'd pulled into the secure parking – Holly Turner's Peugeot close behind – and he'd been in the passenger seat. As she'd locked her car and pushed through the doors leading into the building, she'd caught sight of the two of them leaning against the car, talking in low tones. She'd stepped into the lift and greeted her graduate, Nicky Robson, and when the doors had re-opened there was Jeff Slade. Again.
"Morning, Chief!" he'd greeted, and then disappeared round a corner. Kate had stopped, baffled. Surely he couldn't have got up two flights of stairs before her when she'd left him in the car park? Besides, she could have sworn he was wearing a bright yellow shirt – she remembered it clashing horribly with that damned mustard jacket of his. But his shirt had been a dark blue when he'd said hello.
"Are you all right, Chief?" Nicky had asked, concerned, and she'd waved it off, heading for the nearest cup of coffee.
Unfortunately for her, the day hadn't got any better. Slade had never been in one place long enough for her to corner him and when she'd asked if any of the officers had seen him they'd give conflicting stories. One had seen him in the lift and the other had seen him on the stairwell at the same moment, or he'd just been seen taking a taxi from the car park whilst simultaneously talking to Frank, the desk sergeant, in the building.
Kate was beginning to think it was one big prank, designed to celebrate the fact he'd still got his job after nearly screwing up a recent case. At least she hoped so, because otherwise Morris's wild conspiracy theories about Slade having a doppelganger were looking more and more plausible. She eyed the bottle of painkillers sat on her desk, then sighed and stuck her head out of the office door. "Robson, I want a meeting in ten to catch up with progress. I want everyone here or they'll be reporting to the Commissioner as to why they weren't present."
"Yes Chief," the curly-haired graduate replied. As she returned to her desk, she overheard Morris and Nicky discussing Slade's whereabouts and she tried to tune them out, feeling the headache returning full force.
Two minutes later, Holly stuck her head round the door, looking slightly ruffled. "Chief..." she started. "Have you seen Slade?"
Kate let out a strangled, inarticulate cry and reached for the painkillers.