'Can I help you?' The police officer behind the desk gave me a friendly smile.
'Yes, er, we're here to see Jude McGregor. Please.'
His smile fizzled out like a candle doused in water. 'And you are?'
I didn't want to give my name. What the hell was I doing here anyway? 'I'm Sephy. And this is Jude's mother, Meggie McGregor.'
'I see. Sephy who?' The officer was trying to pin me to the far wall with the expression on his face. 'I need your full name for our visitors record.'
'Persephone Mira Hadley,' I replied, raising my chin.
Meggie moved to stand before me. 'Can we see my son, please?'
'Take a seat and I'll see what I can do,' said the officer.
The officer made a great show of writing our names down as we sat down on one of the two hard benches in the reception area and waited. After writing, the police officer behind the reception desk didn't move for a good thirty minutes. Then he disappeared for less than two minutes before coming back to the desk. Meggie and I watched as he dealt with other people's problems and complaints and queries. And we waited. And we waited. After two hours of waiting, I was ready to tear someone's head off. I'd had to go through the same crap when Callum was in prison. They'd tell me to cool my heels for hours at a time on the off-chance that I might get to see him, before sending me home after a fruitless day's waiting at the gate. I marched up to the reception desk.
'Are you going to let us see Jude McGregor or not?' I asked.
'We have procedures to follow,' the officer told me.
Meggie came up behind me and put a warning hand on my arm.
'It's OK, Meggie. You have a sit down. I just want to ask a couple of questions.' I smiled at Meggie.
She went to sit back down on the hard-as-nails bench.
'We'd like to see Jude McGregor and we'd like to see him now. I think you've kept us waiting long enough,' I said quietly.
'Jude McGregor is pond slime,' the officer told me, adding sotto voce, 'but any Cross paying him a social visit is worse.'
'Now you listen here, Sergeant . . .' I scrutinized the numbers on his shoulder epaulettes and made sure he knew I was doing so. 'Sergeant 2985 . . .'
'Sergeant Duvon, ma'am. D-U-V-O-N,' he supplied.
'If you don't let us see Jude McGregor right now, I promise I'll have your job — and I've got the family connections to do it. So stop pissing us about and let us in.'
Sergeant Duvon drew himself up, straightening his shoulders and lifting his chin as he studied me. But I didn't flinch. If he thought I was bluffing he was in for a shock.
'Follow me, please,' he said, his voice hard and cracked like falling icicles.
'Meggie, we can see Jude now.' I forced a smile onto my face before turning round to her.
Meggie came over to me and briefly placed a hand on my shoulder. Sergeant Duvon opened the security door to let us in before leading us down the corridor.
'Wait in there, please,' he told us, indicating an interview room.
My eyes narrowed.
'Jude McGregor is in a cell,' said Duvon. 'He'll have to be escorted up here and an officer will have to stay in this room at all times.'
'That's fine,' Meggie said sombrely before I could argue.
When Sergeant Duvon left, I said, 'Meggie, I'll wait for you out in the reception area — OK?'
Meggie nodded. I walked out of the room and headed back the way we'd come. Outside I was walking. Inside I was running. My hands were actually shaking. It surprised me how afraid I was of seeing Jude again.
Surprised and, worse still, frightened.