Say the word "Manchester" to anyone in England and one of two things will come to their mind.
The first is football.
The second is rain.
There may be people so dead to the glorious game of soccer that they cannot care two new pence for the toothy grin of Nobby Styles, the dribbling skills of Mike Summerbee, the penalty taking ferocity of Francis Lee, the all-around genius of George Best.
But even those people will know that if you go to Manchester, you must expect it to rain on you. The rain clouds come sailing in from the Pennines, along the M62 motorway, over the moors where Ian Brady and Myra Hindley buried their victims, and come to rest, nestled cheerfully over Manchester, ready to drop a grey curtain of drizzle over the city day in, day out, every season of the year.
Most of the time, anyway.
"Bloody hell," Chris Skelton commented as he pulled the Venetian blind apart and peeked out of the window through the gap. "It's still a belter of a day out there. Cor… there's a bird down in the street wearing hot pants."
Ray Carling joined him at the window to ogle the object of Skelton's desire. The sun came spilling into the gloomy room as though it couldn't wait to grab such a rare chance to illuminate it. Carling squinted as its rays got in his eyes.
"Down there! Corrrr!"
"Sister Anne! Sister Anne! Do you see anyone coming?"
Skelton and Carling both span around at the familiar voice, and almost bumped into each other as they did so. Gene Hunt stood behind them, his tie askew and his cigarette in one hand pointing at them like an offensive weapon.
"Nice to see that crime in this city's dropped to the level that my officers can spend their time gawping out of the window," remarked Hunt with feigned delight. "Carling! You typed up those reports on the Eccles stabbing yet?"
"No, guv –"
Carling broke off and slunk back to his desk, where he lit a cigarette of his own and selected three forms and two sheets of carbon paper. Interlacing them, he rolled them into the typewriter and began to bash at the keyboard, occasionally growling as he hit a wrong key and had to backspace.
"And you, Skelton! I know it would be wonderful if we had officers on every tall building all day, watching the streets below for signs of crime, but strangely enough, we have better uses for CID officers, even twonks like you. Get your notebook out and get your arse along with me. Uniform have hauled in Stevie Deacon and he was tooled up."
Skelton blinked. "Stevie Deacon tooled up?"
"Yes," snapped Hunt. "Guns are not Stevie Deacon's style. Not normally. So we're going to go and find out just why he was waving one around on Daybury Street like Charles Bronson. Chop chop!"
Skelton let the window blind snap shut and the sun's rays vanished, returning the CID room to its usual state of gloom, cigarette smoke and dinginess.
"Coming, guv." He fished his notebook and pen out of his inside pocket. Hunt was already halfway to the door, with the confident stride of a man who only has to give his underlings a command once to know it will be obeyed.