A Rick Shore Mystery
© 2004 by Peter Thwaites. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.
ISBN: 1-4140-3667-1 (e-book)
ISBN: 1-4140-3668-X (Paperback)
ISBN: 1-4140-3669-8 (Dust Jacket)
1stBooks - rev. 01/26/04
‘Debits’ is the first in a series of mystery stories based on the diaries of Rick Shore. Rick is alive and well and lives in his much- loved bungalow in Worthing, West Sussex, on the South Coast of England. As well as enjoying the quiet solitude of his garden, Rick still enjoys the adventure of fishing from the local pier, but has yet to land anything heavier than a one hundred gram Bullhead which somehow became entwined on his line when reeling in one wet Sunday morning. Rick began his working life as a Police Cadet, easing his way gently up through the ranks to Detective Inspector, when he was selected for a transfer to the Flying Squad. Here he remained for several years before taking early retirement and settling down for a quiet life and some good fishing. He now spends his retirement as a Private Detective working on mysteries that confound the local police force, more as a hobby than a job. Rick was married for almost thirteen years, when regrettably he was divorced, leaving him to bring up three sons single-handed. The youngest of whom has only recently left home. Rick is a deep thinking, quiet man with simple tastes and an easy manner, and loves to spend a quiet evening philosophizing over some of life’s adventures.
This story is dedicated to my three great sons, Jez, Jon, and Tom who will, no doubt, recognize their dad within the book.
‘One man’s credit is another man’s debit’
Life is beautiful and exciting. It should be explored to the greatest depth possible within every waking moment. It should be shared with the people you love, the people you work or play with, and the strangers today that will be your friends tomorrow.
Every new day heralded by the waking dawn is a precursor to new adventures, experiences and meetings, and is only ended by the setting of our sun.
Our home, Earth, is spinning in a vast universe of stars and moons and we share our existence with a million other homes spread as far as the most powerful telescope can see and far beyond. It is our duty and God given responsibility to sanction the development and growth of our home, not in practical capitalistic terms, but as a meeting of thoughts, ideologies, and cultures. Blindly we use the freedom bestowed upon us by our ‘maker’ to disturb the intricate balance that exists within our home, and seemingly take delight in death, destruction and disease as we watch from the sidelines as our appointed leaders march ever forward into instability and uncertainty.
We are all human. At least this is something that we all share. We are all conceived as one. We are all entitled to a fair and equal share of this life, and all have a place reserved for us in this our home. From the moment of conception, however, the equality ends and the human race takes over.
Your destiny is determined by your place of birth, your parents, your religion, or race, and in spite of your God given right to a fair and equitable share, this is denied you. We all have aspirations of a good life, whether on the basis of the number of possessions we own, the opportunities we experience, or the happiness that we bring to others. We set our goals, plan out our route and the journey begins. We encounter obstacles, heartache, and despair, but the goals are clearly defined and we continue onward. We share our experiences with friends and draw strength from those around us. Many of our goals are common, and together we achieve.
Ever since the dawn of civilization, however, there has been a faction of the population who will strive to achieve the very most by doing the absolute least. Generally these men, (and let’s not forget the women, for whom the record is little better) inevitably have to resort to criminal acts in some form or another. Technological advances are being created at a formidable rate and with them the increased ingenuity of the crime and crime fighter. Complex and dedicated computer applications can analyses thousands of separate pieces of evidence in the same time that Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr. Watson would have taken to peruse the local newspaper.
Unfortunately alongside the inspired plot, there is always the injured party and in many cases the scene quickly turns to murder and destruction. Violence follows greed just as positively as night follows day. The offences may have changed. The once only too regular sheep and cattle rustling; the dastardly stage coach hold-up; or the local highwayman with his pistol and black facemask. We now experience the more sophisticated computer based crimes, but the process is always the same. The villain, the plot, the caper, and then the victim. Maybe in conclusion, the capture.
It is often said that Switzerland lies at the heart of Europe. Geographically speaking, that’s not quite true. However, the main route linking northern and southern Europe does run through the Alps. And three important European cultures meet in Switzerland: German; French; Italian.
It was once said in 1823 “No country in Europe is more interesting than Switzerland.
To the admirer of nature it offers scenes of grandeur almost unrivalled; to the observer of national manners, a people of great simplicity and firmness of character; while to the statesman it displays in a striking light the salutary effects of religion, freedom, and security of property; nor can the poet or painter find scenes more calculated to exalt the imagination.”
Unfortunately Switzerland has also been recognized as the money laundering center of the world, with many secret bank accounts and locked vaults lying deep below the ground. The country, however, has changed and is now much more open with its banking activities, much to the satisfaction of the European
Union, that to which it is committed to join.
It is here, in this praise-worthy country that the story really begins. Even surrounded by such wondrous beauty and friendship, an embittered, desolate and materialistic man was planning a fraud so clever it was breathtaking. He worked for one of the leading banks in Switzerland as the assistant to the much younger, and well respected manager. Although having worked for the bank for well over thirty years, he had seen this young university taught man promoted over him. This respected and coveted position within the banking fraternity was to have been the final stage before retirement. He had felt his life shatter and he was angry, very angry. He had dedicated his whole working life to the banking institution only to be passed over by a much younger, university trained brat who was not even worthy to make his coffee. The bank would be sorry.
Switzerland is a wealthy country. Many of the Swiss citizens have considerable incomes and are extremely astute. This bank was no different to any other and maintained a very high quota of wealthy customers looking for long term investments. As assistant manager, he had control of the investment and equity side of the bank’s activities and it was his role to advise these particular customers on investments to ensure a comfortable retirement with a secure pension. Funds were also being set aside for family inheritances and future business developments. It was not difficult, therefore, to manipulate these very same funds in such a way that he could cream off enough to produce a good side income for himself and his own retirement. After all, he deserved it.
The scheme entailed that a number of bogus companies should be set up, many of which had their headquarters outside of Switzerland. One such company, ‘Hansell Exports’ was based in Bracknell, South London and was ostensibly a warehouse distribution organization moving goods around the world. In reality it was one of a number of empty warehouses situated on one of the many industrial estates developed over the last few years on brown field land adjacent to the River Thames. Through his position at the bank, he managed to convince his wealthier clients to invest huge sums of money in this company with promises of high returns over the longer term. In reality he was simply transferring the funds into a private Swiss account held by his very own bank.
His activities went unnoticed for a while until one morning, purely by accident; a sharp computer hacker discovered what he was doing. The hacker, employed by a clandestine property company as one of a small team of men working on the plans for a major computer scam, was scanning the Internet for bank and investment transactions. During one of the scans he noticed that a regular sum of money was being transferred firstly to a UK company account here in London, and then almost immediately being transferred back to the same originating bank in Switzerland, this time under a different account name.
With a sense of pure logic (not usually found among computer experts), he determined the name and bank details associated with these transactions and passed them on to his client. The planned scam would require a safe and untraceable bank account established outside of the United Kingdom. This would prolong the discovering of the stolen funds. Now that an account already established in a leading Swiss bank had been located, and if the owner could be persuaded to co-operate this would indeed solve a great deal of the preliminary issues that had been delaying the start of the scam.
The ‘Cock and Ferret’ is a public house dating back to the late eighteen hundreds, and still retains some of its old charm. With its urine stained brickwork, (and smell to match), broken and rotted window and door frames that appear to exhibit a disliking for glass in any form, and a bent and twisted sign, probably reflecting the minds of all who dare to enter within. The building would not have seemed out of place in a remake of Oliver Twist, or Jack the ‘Ripper’.
This haven of delight was an ideal location for any clandestine meeting with the interior endeavoring to keep pace with the passing of time, and obviously failing dismally. The dingy tobacco stained walls, tatty well-worn carpets, an excuse for a jukebox dating back to the late sixties, and a barman with the face of a bulldog chewing a wasp welcomed the intrepid visitor. Situated deep in the East End of London, with a lighting scheme designed by a one eyed miner, it was the meeting place for many crime syndicates recruiting temporary help, or the services of specialist technical staff. Forgers, locksmiths, and drivers, were just a few of the latest vacancies available for a quick ‘no questions’ cash payment. Tonight, in one corner of the cynically named ‘Saloon Bar’ four men were discussing the report given them by their computer expert. To get a contact in one of the leading banks in Switzerland was indeed a real and unexpected bonus, and someone that they could control into the bargain. This was a real boost to their plan and meant that now things could move forward. In fact it was such a boost to their morale that an extra round of drinks was called for. The next move would be for a member of the team to fly to Switzerland, make the acquaintance of their new team member and finalize the necessary arrangements for transfers, etc.
This was a major role, so the team leader’s right hand man, known only as Sharp (he had a well-deserved reputation for being blunt and getting straight to the point), was selected as the most suitable member to make the journey. It was further agreed that this should be planned for the following Wednesday morning.
It was now getting very close to the ‘off’ and there was a real and distinct danger that if any of the team were seen to be travelling abroad at this time, their intentions may be discovered. Booking a last minute undetectable flight to Switzerland using the talents of their computer expert was of no difficulty, and scanning through both the booked flights to Geneva for Wednesday, and the Passport Office records for a close match for ‘Sharp’, they came up with the name Stephen Gorss.
Stephen Gorss lived in the picturesque village of Chiddingfold situated in the heart of rural Surrey. He owned a delightful detached thatched cottage where he lived with his wife of fourteen years, two young sons aged ten and six, and a rather daft dog, ‘Biscuit’. Stephen was, by birth, a German, born in Munich during the late Nineteen fifties. He later qualified as a Chemist, and now working for a large pharmaceutical company here in the UK, travelled extensively throughout the world. His wife, Ingrid, also a fellow German by birth, held a very rewarding position as Head Mistress of the small village school and was well respected by the community.
This Wednesday, Stephen was due to attend a high level conference in Geneva. He had showered and prepared himself for the journey. Stephen always enjoyed sharing breakfast with his wife and children, as this was not very often possible. He enjoyed the benefits of his high position within the company, and the many opportunities that he had for visiting many different countries. He would never disguise the fact; however, that he relished the time at home and would not refuse any offers of early retirement, should he be so lucky.
Saying his goodbyes, he was set to leave his home for the airport when the telephone rang.
Ingrid took the call “Stephen, Ihr Büro ist am Apparat” For some inexplicable reason she had reverted back to her mother tongue. “Sorry Stephen” she apologized, knowing that Stephen preferred them to speak English whilst in the house “The telephone, it’s your office” Taking the call, Stephen was well aware of the time, and explained that he would call them again once he had arrived in Geneva. His short drive to Gatwick was to take him along a very pleasant route through some dreamy woodlands and wide expanses of still, cool lakes. Everywhere, he could see myriad’s of wild duck and even the occasional goose splashing around in the deep still turquoise blue water. It was to be a good day, the sun was sending down beams of warm radiant light on to all and sundry, and the whole scene appeared calm and at peace. Cocky, over trusting grey rabbits were skipping along the wide grass verges lining the shadow marked lane with their white fluffy tails held high in defiance of any potential aggressor. Crickets could be heard cheerfully clapping the start of another fine day. Slowing to round a particularly tight left-hand bend, Stephen was confronted by a car parked to the side of the lane apparently showing signs of being in trouble. The bonnet of the car was fastened open, and the driver, a tall, fair headed man in a light blue suit, was unsuccessfully trying to catch the attention of any of the passing motorists.
Feeling particularly convivial, Stephen pulled over just in front of the parked car, and began walking back towards the now agitated driver.
“Can I help in any way” enquired Stephen of the driver as he reached the car.
“I haven’t a clue as to what is wrong, the bloody thing just died on me as I got to this corner” he had obviously had enough.
“Let me have a look” Stephen said as he moved to look under the car’s bonnet “I don’t what I’m looking for, but two heads are better than one, yes?”
The hot greasy bonnet came down on the back of his neck like a kick from an irritated mule, and as his face smashed into the red hot cylinder head, Stephen felt the searing pain burn into his nose and mouth. His head began to pound as the pressure on his neck was intensified and as the pain became too intense to bear, his brain issued the instruction to shut down and his soul was released. Stephen’s spirit drifted heaven ward, leaving his torn and mutilated body draped across the warm and sun lit road. He could once again hear the soft sweet singing of the birds, smell the countryside as it was wakening to the rise of the sun, and feel the warmth of the early morning rays. Stephen was at peace with all.
Quickly bundling the lifeless body into the boot of Stephens’s own car, he drove it to the top of a long moss covered grassy bank that bordered one of the deeper sections of the lake. There was serenity in the lake that denied the terrible inhuman act that it had just witnessed and was about to shelter. Releasing the handbrake, he watched it slowly roll down the slope until it hit the clean water and then gradually disappeared into the depths. There was a climatic rush of air, streams of bubbles came to the disturbed surface breaking into ever increasing rings that rippled their way across the still surface of the whole lake, as if to spread the sense of despair at this so unnecessary taking of life, and then silence. Even the wild fowl and local bird life seemed to respect the last act and fell silent as Stephen Gorss left this world, The first stage of the plan had been completed.
Gatwick Airport was as busy as usual and boarding the flight for Geneva was straight forward enough. ‘Sharp’ was soon on his way to Geneva Airport, booked in as Stephen Gorss. He satisfactorily passed through Customs and Immigration at Geneva and was soon on his way to meet the new team member who would be the vital link in the plan.
Taking a hired car from the outside of the airport Gorss headed to the address that they had extracted, and it dropped him off just outside a small restaurant on the main street. The place was humming with customers, and it took him a while to acquire an empty table, downing a single malt whiskey and ice as he waited propped up against the doorway. Eventually a seat by the window became free and Gorss was directed to it by an attractive young woman in her early thirties wearing a smart two piece grey suit with tresses of long blond hair tousled around her shoulders. Sharp guessed that she was the restaurant proprietor.
The restaurant was traditionally decorated with low oak beams spanning the rough plastered ceiling, high paneled walls with framed prints of the many beauty spots within the area, and groups of small rounded tables and high backed chairs. The waitress, a small insignificant type of girl, dressed in the traditional Swiss national costume, came over to Gorss to take his order. He ordered the pasta dish of the day, a half bottle of the house red wine, and sat back and waited. Of all of the faults that Hans seemed to have, and he had a few, he was at least methodical. Every day, at precisely one o’clock, he would leave the bank and take his lunch in this very same restaurant. Once he had eaten the meal and downed a glass or two of white wine, he would then take an easy stroll along the bank of the River Aare before returning to the bank sharply at two.
The traffic along the main street was unusually quiet today and Hans had a spring in his step as he strolled past the attractively displayed goods on sale in the many shop fronts that he passed. His latest client, a Gustav Belltin had, on the advice of his investment manager, invested two hundred thousand Swiss francs in a fine, sound, UK company ‘Hansell Exports’ reputedly bound for great things over the next ten years or so. Crossing the street, Hans entered the small restaurant, was acknowledged by the waitress and took a small table permanently reserved for him against the rear wall. His usual order was confirmed and with a contented sigh he sipped at the glass of white wine passed to him by the wine waiter.
Sharp was not surprised by his appearance. Matching his written description almost to the tee, here was a small middle aged man, with a slightly receding forehead, a small whispery moustache that seemed like an error rather than a statement, slightly overweight, and wearing a tight fitting pin stripe grey suit, white shirt and tie. Probably from the local golf club, although Sharp would have been amazed if this rather sad looking guy could ever play a round of golf.
Almost exactly thirty minutes later and Hans made his farewells, settled his account and made for the street. Likewise did sharp maintaining a discreet fifty meters behind. The route that Hans followed took them to a set of steps at the beginning of the river bridge and led them down to a small stone flagged courtyard surrounded by fruit and ornamental trees standing in hand made wooden tubs. At the far end of the courtyard, a narrow, well kept footpath would take them along the banks of the river running behind rows of ancient river side cottages, many in the process of refurbishment and repair. As Hans entered the footpath, Sharp caught up with him and tapped him politely on the shoulder. Hans, taken completely by surprise spun round and their eyes met.
Sharp was the first to speak “Hans, I’ve been waiting for you. We need to have a chat.
You are going to help us with a small problem” “I don’t understand” taken aback by this sudden approach, “I don’t think I actually know you. You are English and I am Swiss. I am sure that we have never met”
“That is true, my friend, but we have a shared interest” Sharp was conscious that Hans may try to make a break for it, and so had grasped his arm.
“You are going to set up an untraceable account at your bank so that we can deposit some funds quickly and quietly”
Hans’ face turned a whiter shade of pale, and he could feel his hands becoming sticky with sweat. “And if I don’t?” He was afraid to ask.
Walking slowly down the path they reached a dwarf stone wall that at one time must have been part of a landing stage for small craft. Sharp sat down and indicated that Hans should sit beside him.
“Let’s just say that we are aware of what you are doing and have no intention of spoiling your party as long as you are prepared to help us” Sharp liked to get straight to the point.
“Exactly what do you mean?” Hans was beginning to feel uneasy.
“We know that you are defrauding a number of your bank’s clients by transferring some of their investments to your own account. Rather clumsily I might add.”
Hans shrugged his shoulders and looked away, towards the swiftly flowing river rushing behind them.
“In spite of your obvious naivety, we need your help in allowing us access to a bank account unlikely to attract attention here in Switzerland. In return we will not disclose to the authorities what we know of your activities” continued Sharp
“And if I don’t co-operate?” Hans was not convinced that he should have asked that question but his ego was now ruling his brain. “We would have little option but to notify the authorities of your activities. This, though, would unfortunately jeopardize our own plans”
“So you wouldn’t be willing to do that?” Hans felt slightly reassured.
“No you’re quite correct, we wouldn’t. You would just disappear”
Hans felt suddenly sick. There were so many dishonest people around. Wasn’t anything sacred anymore? For God’s sake he only wanted to rip off a few wealthy clients who had too much money anyway. Now to discuss a killing.
And his own.
Hans had absolutely no intention of closing
down his scam and if all they wanted was an account that they could transfer funds to, then that was fine by him. After all, this could well be a further nail in the coffin for the bank, and certainly for the new manager. A safe house in Switzerland where they could stay was another thing altogether and Hans decide that at this stage it would be best not to mention his new home. After all, this guy didn’t seem to know anything of it.
The arrangements made, both men parted and made their separate ways back to the main street. Hans went on back to his bank, and Sharp headed back to the airport for his return flight home.
Since the increase in drug smuggling and the continuous threat of terrorist attacks, the
Swiss guards on duty at the airport departure lounges are particularly wary of all travelers, and make regular checks on passport and immigration documentation. Sharp entered the passport control area and passed his documents to the immigration officer on duty that day. Looking through the passport, Sharp was asked “Guten Tag, mein Herr. Wie war Ihr Aufenthalt in de Schweiz?”
Sharp, feeling the pressure beginning to rise throughout his entire being pretended not to hear, and reached for his passport which was efficiently passed over to him. The officer shrugged and moved on to the next passenger. As Sharp turned to leave the immigration area, he inhaled sharply and slowly let the air escape between his clenched teeth, until he heard the officer call after him. “Mein Herr! Ihr Handgepäck!” indicating a small travel bag that someone had left in front of the immigration desk.
Sharp gathered that this officer had beckoned him to collect his bag, but as it wasn’t his, he wasn’t sure what to do. If he ignored the officer completely, he may become suspicious. After all his passport stated that he was a German and should be able to understand what this officer had been saying. On the other hand it wasn’t his bag to collect.
“Kommen Sie bitte hierher, mein Herr” The officer was beginning to lose his patience. Why did this man continue to ignore him? Asking the present passenger to wait a moment, the officer left the desk and collecting the bag, walked towards Sharp, who by now was beginning to feel that he was about to be discovered and had already begun to plan his escape route. As the officer approached Sharp he was suddenly interrupted by a tall slim lady obviously considerably distressed about something.
Clutching at the travel bag, she proclaimed. “Gott sei Dank! Sie haben meine Tashe gefunden! Ich habe sie überall gesucht” and took it from the bemused officer.
Sharp shrugged his shoulders as in approval, nodded at the officer and walked quickly along the boarding corridor.
In the United Kingdom it is extremely easy to obtain long or short-term rentals of almost any kind of building. It is very rare for references to be called for and even so, there is an abundance of organizations offering safe addresses at competitive rates. The rental would often include for full secretarial duties, postal collections and various other services, some of which are never openly advertised.
Whilst the work in Switzerland was underway, back in the UK, in a small rented office housed in a new purpose built office block in the center of Crawley, close to Gatwick Airport; other members of the same team were discussing their next move. Time was getting short; patience was beginning to wear thin and a decision had to be made soon. Several members of the team were already raising suspicions within their own work places that something was afoot and if they were ever questioned the plan would have to be scrapped. The basic idea, they had all agreed, was
Sound. It had already been tested several times and it worked surprisingly well. In fact it never ceased to amaze some of the more astute members of the team that this particular scam had never been tried before. The matter that caused the greatest concern was in the establishment of a fall back plan. What if something went wrong? How could they be certain of an escape route? Nobody wanted to spend a lengthy time in jail, even if the rewards were high. What was the point of becoming extremely rich if you are then confined to a twelve-foot square prison cell for ten years?
Gradually the answer was born. Take a hostage. Somebody high profile. Ideally somebody linked to the police force, or the government. That would almost certainly guarantee their escape. The publicity would be immense if something were done detrimental to the safety of the hostage. A victim was about to be caught up in this web of deceit and developing violence.
It was Tuesday 8 June. A beautiful late spring day. The early morning pale blue sky dusted with light fair weather clouds gave all the indications of a fine, warm, and dry day ahead. There was a gentle South-westerly breeze blowing across the capital city, with small spirals of dust and fallen litter caught in tiny whirlwinds behind shop hoardings and some of the more expansive foyers.
The early morning commuter traffic was beginning to build, and thousands of city workers were making their busy way to the underground and main bus stations ready for the journey to their place of work. The dark blue BMW saloon car pulled out of the basement car park and wove a path into the stream of traffic. The driver, a large bald headed man wearing an open necked sports shirt and light blue slacks, was already raising a sweat, with beads of perspiration racing each other across his forehead. His two rear seat passengers appeared to be less concerned at their plan of action, and gazed nonchalantly at the crowds already building on the pavements. They all seemed to be heading in the same direction. Like armies of forced labor marching to their camps. It seemed almost unreal. One of the passengers had a bulge under his jacket breast pocket, and it wasn’t a tube of Smarties. To turn right at the next set of traffic lights, the car had to move across into the outer lane, but was blocked from doing so by a small grey Ford van that had stalled, and failed to be re-started. The car came to an abrupt halt, and cursing loudly, the driver moved to open his door and get out. If necessary he would push the ‘bloody’ van out of the way.
“Sit back and keep your cool” From the back of the car. “The last thing we want is to attract attention. It will sort itself. For God’s sake get a grip”
The driver shrugged, wiped his brow with the back of a shiny shirtsleeve completely erasing the ongoing Olympics, relaxed a little, and re-took his seat.
Sure enough though, a few moments later the van had been re-started and moved forward. It was now clear for them to move into the right hand lane. The filter light went to green and the traffic flow turned right and headed towards the City center. Ahead of them, and to the left, stood the local College of Further Education, priding itself on the high standards of education it promoted across all curriculum areas and declaring that it was a
‘Centre of Excellence’.
Pulling slowly into the kerb side just in front of a well-worn minibus depositing students from a nearby residential block, the car came to a stop, and the occupants studiously watched the main entrance as hundreds of students were beginning a new day.
About five minutes later and almost one hundred meters ahead of them a highly polished royal blue Audi convertible pulled into a small row of ‘dropping off’ bays and came to a rest. The driver, a tall distinguished looking man wearing a custom uniform, arose from the car and walking around to the rear near-side, opened the passenger door to allow a young, very attractive girl to leave the car, and walk slowly towards the college entrance. The driver checked his departing charge once again, and cautiously moved out into the passing traffic.
She was your typical student. Her priorities were split between her studies, her social life, and attracting the local male population. By the way she was dressed, she had already determined her order of priorities, with the attraction of the male population well out in front. She was dressed in a short sea blue cotton top that exposed the top of her well-rounded sun tanned breasts held secure and to their best advantage by a designer bra. Her midriff was exposed from just below the breast line to the top of a pair of hipster Levi’s that she could only have been poured into. Her trim sun tanned abdomen and well-formed hips were the result of a serious keep fit training program that any potential boyfriend would have difficulty in keeping up. However the prize for doing so was most certainly worth the effort.
Swiftly glancing around him, one of the men from the waiting car walked quickly and deliberately up to the girl and putting his hand on her naked shoulder whispered something in her ear. They both paused for a moment before returning together to the waiting car. Checking his mirror, the driver indicated, and they too joined the traffic flow.
The majority of the heavier traffic tended to take the dual carriageway that bypassed some of the more congested areas as they worked their way Eastwards towards the Docklands area. The car, however, kept to the tighter streets that worked their way through London Bridge, Tower Bridge, and Wapping, until it came to a stop outside a large apartment block near Surrey Docks Farm. A rather depressing looking building dating from the early nineteen fifties, the block displayed indications of gross neglect and probably hadn’t been correctly maintained since it was built. The outer façade comprising pre-cast concrete pre-finished panels was just about intact, but many of the old ‘Crittal’ style metal windows had long lost their struggle with the environment and were rusted through with many sashes missing altogether. Much of the glass that remained was cracked or missing, and some residents had resorted to sheets of plywood or even hardboard to keep out the rain and wind. As soon as they pulled up outside of the block, Susannah realized that something was dreadfully wrong and had begun complaining, only to be faced with streams of abuse and a painfully short introduction to the affects of chloroform.
Over sixty miles to the South is a very pleasant country town called Arundel. Arundel is a popular historic town in West Sussex, on the South coast. Established over many centuries along the shores of the River Arun, it is overlooked by the second largest castle in the country and is an extremely popular tourist attraction throughout most of the year.
At the locally renowned Chalk Ponds at Arundel, Rick had been trying his hand at fishing for trout. In spite of his general lack of fly fishing expertise, he managed to catch five good sized hapless trout obviously fed up with life and ready to throw themselves on any hook that happened to pass by. As luck would have it, on this particular occasion it was Rick’s. After a good day’s fishing, nothing beats a steak and chips meal, a quiet spot far away from the bubbling crowd and a glass or two of ‘Cotës De Rhone’ red wine. So booking himself for the night into a local
Hotel seemed the ideal thing to do. Storing the trout overnight was a bit of a challenge, but Rick loves a challenge and after all what is a ‘mini-bar’ really for? He would be long gone before the source of the smell was noticed and traced to his room.
Following a good full English breakfast which included fried bread, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, black pudding, and tomatoes, he was ready to head home. Extracting the trout from the ‘mini-bar’, and beginning to regret that he hadn’t gutted the fish when fresh, Rick settled his account and headed for the car park to the rear of the hotel.
The traffic was horrendous with a continual stream heading towards Chichester to the West. The only thing for it was to ease gently forward until someone gave way and allowed him to cross the flow of traffic to join the queue heading east.
Easing out across the flow of traffic to join the opposite stream was a great deal more difficult than he had imagined with every one so pre-occupied with maintaining momentum that they all refused to give way. To add five seconds to their overall journey time was without question not even worth considering. The only action that he could take was to make the decision to go and hope that the oncoming vehicle would stop. Part one of the plan worked successfully, only the difficulty now was to join the flow on the other side of the road. The longer he waited for a break in the traffic, the more irate the driver forced to a halt, became. Eventually the driver could stand it no longer, stepped out of his car and with a most unpleasant look on his face headed for Rick. Fortunately, at that same moment, an oncoming vehicle obviously aware of the impending confrontation flashed his headlights, and slowed, giving Rick the opportunity he needed to join the stream. Rick quickly sped away from the scene as fast as the traffic flow permitted, leaving the irate and now embarrassed driver standing in the middle of the road waving his fist and several separate fingers at him. Rick was completely stunned by the attitude of this particular driver, and whilst trying to clear his mind noticed through his rear view mirror that the same car had somehow joined his flow and was slowly gaining ground behind him. Tucking his car in behind a large articulated lorry carrying a load of bananas from South Africa, Rick could keep an eye on the following vehicle and wondered why it had in fact changed route. Two miles ahead and Rick would have to take a left turn into a narrow country lane and as he approached the junction he noticed that the same car had also begun indicating left, implying that he too would be taking the same turning.
Rick’s pulse began to race and he could feel sweat building up on the palms of his hands as he gripped the steering wheel even harder. He
deaccelerated, changed down through the gears and swung left into the lane. The lane was lined with tall beech trees on both sides with small breaks where farm entrances opened on to the tarmac. There were no pavements and where vehicles had pulled off the road to allow larger vehicles to pass, or to make a temporary stop the grassy banks had been turned to areas of soft mud. Leaves and broken branches were scattered along the verges and as the sun struggled to penetrate the tree cover, shafts of bright sunlight formed dancing dust filled columns emanating from the banks.
The following car had also now entered the lane but was keeping a fixed distance behind Rick’s. Thoughts of road rage and roadside violence began to fill Rick’s brain and although not a timid man at heart, and most certainly not a coward, he was always loathe taking physical action against another person.
He much referred the diplomatic approach. Rick accelerated away, leaving clouds of dirt and leaves springing into the air as if blown by a gigantic fan, only to see that the trailing vehicle did likewise. Ahead Rick could see that a narrow bridle way left the lane and headed up a gentle incline towards a set of riding stables and he decided to take this turn. Slowing to a crawl Rick turned off the road and came to a stop some thirty meters from the lane. Switching off his engine he sat and waited.
The car behind had pulled into a small passing bay tucked neatly behind a row of distinguished Beech trees and had stopped. Rick could see slight wisps of white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe so deduced that the engine was still running.
Five minutes passed and neither vehicles moved. Several other cars entered and left the lane and a small group of horse riders cantered by his parked car. Then, without warning, the following car began to move slowly forward and back on to the lane. There was a moment when both drivers were looking at each other and Rick suddenly realized that this was not the same man who had confronted him earlier. As the car approached Rick, it gained speed and passed by the end of the bridle way and disappeared into the distance. The sound of the car fading away, until absolute silence.
It was then that Rick realized what a complete fool he had been. His imagination had taken complete control of his behavior and had led him astray. Resuming his journey home he contemplated that perhaps it was time that he retired. Before he went completely mad. Years of sorting other people’s problems, watching perfectly normal men and women destroy each other’s lives and witnessing violence on a scale not to be easily forgotten, had affected Rick and although he never discussed it with friends or family he had had enough.
Unfortunately for Rick he was a worker. He would never be content to retire from work altogether and as long as he had the strength and ability he would never say no to a difficult or unusual case that required his help and experience. He had a need to be useful. He needed to be liked and befriended and he had a zest for fairness and equality. His mobile phone whistled into life, and fumbling in the open glove compartment, Rick withdrew it and pressed ‘OK’. It was his youngest son, Tom, who had recently purchased a 1992 vintage Volkswagen Golf GTI. Did dad know where he could get some cheap insurance? No dad didn’t but given a couple of hours he would try to find one. The caller cleared, leaving Rick holding the phone and wondering if perhaps buying a mobile phone had been such a good idea after all.
Many areas within the districts of East of London are undergoing extensive and expensive redevelopment. Two such developments are Canary Wharf and St Catherines Dock, with their many high rise office blocks. The redevelopment work has opened the way for several high-class moorings for overseas visitors and Company owned leisure facilities for potential clients. Part development schement scheme has also included for the renewal of the now redundant wharf side properties. The decaying warehouse units and old tea or coffee and diamond houses established in the past centuries to handle the growing imports from markets such as the West Indies and Africa. As these markets have been extinguished the many once attractive buildings have fallen into disrepair and were, until recently, areas where crime and disorder reigned uncontrolled. The development of the entire area has brought these same buildings back to life and now includes purpose designed modern office areas and attractive new coffee bars catering for the nouveau riche. Many of these new developments have included pedestrianized areas furnished with bench style seating, attractive water fountains and picturesque flowering shrubs.
One such pedestrianized area is a small section of a much larger residential and office development close to the now famous Canary Wharf and was often frequented by office workers using the area as a shortcut to the nearest station on the Docklands Light Railway network.
This particular evening was out of the ordinary. The late spring sky was a sort of mottled grey, the sun had completely disappeared below the horizon, and through the hazy drizzle the nearby street lamps sent quivering streaks of amber light on to the wet cobbles below. There was a cold nip in the air and as he breathed out, small clouds of white steam were whisked away into the evening air. Rick shivered and pulled his old trusted trench coat up around his ears. He was really too old for this sort of caper and it was about time that he settled down to a steady nine to five job with a warm office, warm secretary, and a warm cup of tea.
Rick was your normal sort of a guy, about five foot seven in height, a little over weight due to a liking of convenience foods and good red wine (even bad red wine sometimes), a rapidly receding hairline, and a close cut beard. This was, to be brutally honest, due to an unwillingness to get up in the morning often resulting in a shortage of time to shave. According to his three sons, whom he had brought up single handily following a divorce many years in the past, and loved dearly, he had a complete lack of fashion sense and a sometimes-inconceivable love of life and all that existed around him. He was a good egg, and someone you could rely on at all times. Rick enjoyed life for what it was. A means of exploring the universe, the environment, and the relationships between people. He would never say no, even if it meant that it got him into deep water, (as it very often did).
Since Rick had officially left the force almost ten years ago, retiring on a reasonable pension, to keep the bailiffs from the door, he had accepted a number of strange assignments and this was turning out to be one of the strangest. He was not really sure why he was actually here.
That morning, whilst enjoying a relaxing spot of sea fishing from the local pier, (he very rarely caught anything), but hey, that’s not the point. It’s the fresh air, the smell of seaweed, many fish and chip shops, and the sound of the wind whistling through the pier structure and the back of your neck that counts. Rick received a call on his mobile to attend a meeting at eleven o’clock in the offices of the local police.
The whole thing was to be kept very low profile. There was a general election coming up soon and this would not help the situation at all. The government were already in a sticky mess over some overseas project that had turned ‘belly up’. A misinterpretation of security information apparently, but that was another story.
The daughter of the present Home Secretary,
Peter Thompson MP, had been taken hostage whilst arriving for college earlier this morning.
Susannah Thompson was a very high spirited teenager just about to celebrate her nineteenth birthday and did have a reputation for living the high life when out of range of her father. The past couple of years had been a nightmare for the Home Secretary with all sorts of rumors and innuendo’s about one rule for some and other rules for others but somehow he had so far managed to remain virtually unscathed. Susannah was undoubtedly a bright student with a fine future ahead of her as a lawyer, but with her film star looks and impetuous nature whether she would ever achieve her career goals was debatable, and probably not actually what Susannah had in mind.
Witnesses had stated that a dark blue saloon car being driven by three well-
dressed men had pulled up outside the college main entrance. One of the men had got out and walked towards the girl and it would appear that she got into the car of her own free will. An hour later, the Times newspaper received a note written on plain white copy paper, stating that unless five hundred thousand pounds was left in a waste paper bin at Canary Close that evening, she would not be seen again. The note was being taken very seriously and so the ransom money would be paid. Adam Doubly, a senior police detective would be in charge of the ‘hand-over’ and would, therefore handle the placement of officers as required.
Adam had asked Rick to work with him on this occasion as they had worked very well together on numerous stakeouts in the past.
It had sounded like a normal kidnapping and ransom to him when he was first asked earlier that day, but now he was not so sure. Something didn’t feel right. Years of first pounding the beat as a constable, followed by promotion to the flying squad, and now working as a private detective, Rick had developed a feeling, a sense of what was to happen, and it didn’t feel good.
He had been told to position himself on the flat roof of a small office block in the center of the new development area, where he was now standing. When the sun was low, the meagre street lamps and shuttered office windows gave the dismal courtyard below him a rather depressing feel, surrounded by various office blocks and high rise flats.
He had time to contemplate and this was dangerous. Why do we keep destroying each other? Looking skyward he could make out thousands of stars emitting their light many years earlier. By the time he could see them they would probably have been burnt out completely, and staring into the darkness between them he could only surmise at the thousands of new stars that now existed and yet were presently unseen. Surely we can’t be alone in this wondrous universe? Are the other populated planets destroying themselves as we are, or have they already learnt their lesson? What does it take to being a halt to the violence and tragedy that so many people have to live through every day?
His direct partner on this particular outing, Adam had drawn up the plans for tonight’s little party. It was of the utmost importance that the hand-
Over went as smoothly as possible. Rick had been positioned high above the square so that he could observe the entire process. If necessary he would follow the pickup man and recover the ransom money. This had to be done as discreetly as possible so that they could also trace the whereabouts of the hostage. Adam made the decision to actually place the money himself. That way he felt that he could monitor the events actually at ground level.
Adam would be carrying a light blue hold all containing five hundred thousand pounds which, according to the instructions that they had received earlier, was to be deposited in a waste bin near the fountain.
Nine o’clock was the stated pick up time, and it was almost five to. The weather had actually started clearing slightly, but there was still a nip in the air and the whole area had a heavy feel about it. Pools of water down in the courtyard were reflecting light from the one or two offices that remained occupied. Goodness knows what was going on in there at this time of night. Adam had just appeared from one of the alleys and was making his way to the drop off point. He looked particularly miserable, with his coat turned up high at the collar, walking across the square. Well, it was his tenth wedding anniversary and a celebration had been long planned. Rick imagined for a while what his wedding anniversary would have been like if things had gone well with his marriage, but soon dismissed the thought as being too depressing. Still Adam should still be able to make it to the party after this was all over. Shouldn’t be long now.
The tremendous blast that originated from the litterbin as Adam placed the ransom money blew Rick completely off his feet and he was thrown against the wall of the fire escape staircase as if he was a small lifeless rag doll. As he crashed into the damp brickwork with a muffled thud, he felt all of the wind had been knocked out of him and he slumped to the floor. His heart beating violently and his lungs gasping for air he felt the world spin. His entire body shuddered with the force and for a moment he lost consciousness.
Clouds of thick black pungent smoke and lightning flashes of bright orange flame exploded angrily into the air with lightning cracks of thunder, and the entire square was littered with thousands of shafts of blood spattered glass. The noise was almost unbearable and Rick still pinned against the crumbling brick wall but with his senses returning, felt that his eardrums would explode at any moment. Then, just as suddenly, silence descended like a heavy lakeside fog. It was haunting. There was nothing, only a deathly silence. A second or so later, as if orchestrated for the effect, there was an immediate break in the silence. Countless fire and burglar alarms set off by the explosion, combined with falling debris still finding its way explosively back to Earth brought Rick to his senses. Crawling to the edge of the small flat roof and looking unbelievingly over the short parapet to where the litter bin had once stood only seconds earlier he was now staring into a furnace of burning tarmac. There was a hole the size of a small car and draped across the edge of the hole was a tangled mass of burning bloodstained clothes that all remained of Adam.
Absolutely stunned beyond all belief at the sight that he had just witnessed, Rick clawed his way up the face of the adjoining wall until he was on his feet, and cautiously peered back over the small brick parapet. The terrible destruction laid out below him took his breath away and for a brief moment he stared unbelievingly into the night sky. He froze with the sheer horror of it all. Almost undetectable a movement just inside his scope of vision, made him turn his head, and for only a split second he caught a glimpse of someone running from the square. Intuitively Rick spun round and headed for the fire escape door that was now reflecting in the pulsating red lights of the many alarms that had been triggered by the explosion. Making his way down the old steel staircase Rick was trying to develop a plan. First he had to get his mind around what had happened. The drop had been on time. There were no hitches at all. Everything had gone according to plan. So why kill Adam, and why destroy five hundred thousand pounds in cash? It just didn’t make any sense at all.
The emergency services had begun arriving on the scene. Blue flashing lights made the area seem even more sinister with long grey shadows moving around the devastated area. If he stayed around, very soon now, he would have to go through several unending hours of questioning by Adam’s colleagues. It was far better, Rick decided, that his time be spent trying to solve the mystery and more importantly, find Adam’s killer. After all, what could he tell them, he hadn’t seen anything from his position on the roof that could possibly help the enquiry?
Pulling his collar even higher around his ears and clutching his old coat around himself, Rick made for a well frequented bar where he could get a drink without being asked too many awkward questions. In this particular area there were many narrow back streets with rows of shops. Some quite successful antique shops serving the needs of the souvenir hunter, small intimate bars where courting couples could temporarily escape from their individual partners and pretend that they were still young and carefree, and dark, secretive book shops tucked behind blackened windows where the ‘specialist book’ could be obtained. No questions asked.
This particular bar was, however, situated in the center of a row of worn out lock-up shops, many with boarded up or white painted windows. Even those still managing to survive the tough times were in a tatty state. Paintwork was peeling and cracked, and many had broken windows that had obviously seen better days. One of the shops was trying to squeeze out an income selling fish and chips.
To think of eating anything after what Rick had seen was difficult but it was now bitingly cold and as long as you didn’t look too long at the ageing, battered fish, the thick fat soaked soggy chips warmed you up.
The explosion had obviously burst open a nearby storm cloud, and the rain was absolutely throwing it down in sympathy. A North Easterly wind was doing its very best to make things even worse and succeeding well. Great pools of water were forming in the streets. A continual torrent was finding its way down the back of Rick’s coat and he felt that if he didn’t get into the dry soon, he was going to catch a serious cold. As he neared the bar, he could hear the taped music, and begin to smell the comforting odor of warm drink and tobacco that always seems to emit from a bar or public house, no matter the standard or location.
The yellow light through the open doorway was cutting a shaft through the driving rain and every now and again, blasts of wind would drive the rain into the bar. It felt warm and safe as he entered the building, and shaking the rain off his coat he ordered a double scotch, no ice. He was cold enough, he didn’t need help.
The bar was very nearly empty save for a couple of guys talking in one corner and a lone, rather plain looking woman struggling against all odds to remain vertical at the bar.
She is slowly losing the battle, thought Rick, as he made his way to a secluded table, tucked behind a rather sad looking plant that hadn’t seen sight of natural sunlight since it had been plucked from a local graveyard several months ago.
From where he sat, leaning on his seat, his back to the wall and facing the bar, Rick could see into the street, water running down the kerns as though a nearby dam had burst, and the occasional passer-by struggling against all odds to keep dry. Why should anyone be out at this time of night, and in this weather? It was quite beyond Rick. Given the choice he would be home tucked up with a good book and a glass or two of single malt
Throwing back the scotch Rick’s mind began to clear and the realization of what he had witnessed earlier began to fill his brain. Ordering another double he removed his soggy coat, shook it, covering the table with spots of water, and clasped his glass between his cold wet hands. The meeting earlier this morning had been fairly explicit. The Home Secretary had received a note to say that his daughter had been kidnapped on her way into the college, and a ransom of five hundred thousand pounds was demanded for her release. Rick had felt at the time that this was a strange amount to demand. They could have asked for a lot more. Why didn’t they? And then to deliberately blow the whole lot up; it just didn’t make any sense at all.
These thoughts were still spinning around in his head when a short, dark haired guy, wearing a smart grey raincoat entered the bar. The rain following him into the building like a trusted dog, covering the floor with a layer of water that threatened to run into many of the dark corners of the room.
“God, what a dreadful night” he muttered as he approached the bar. “Make it a double brandy” and shook the rain from his coat before taking the glass from the sad looking guy loitering behind the bar.
Rick noticed that although this guy had a saturated coat, the rest of him appeared reasonably dry so guessed that he had run in from, maybe, a car parked fairly close outside in the street. The stranger took a drink from his glass and glanced around at the occupants of the bar, lingering slightly when he spotted
Rick. Their eyes met and for a brief moment Rick was sure that he had met this guy sometime before. Rick was also quick to notice that at this stage the woman had gone.
The smallest flash of light, a sound like a firecracker, and a sharp searing pain was all Rick was aware of as the thirty-eight bullet tore through his shirt and into his chest. He saw the smoke stained ceiling come down to meet him as he hit the sodden floor and the lights went out.
Rick could painfully feel the warm stain making its way down his chest as his eyes began to focus on the world around him. He appeared to be in the boot of a car speeding its way along the narrow winding streets that lead down to the river. He could feel the car roll drunkenly as it took the bends far too fast, and heard the whoosh of water as it ploughed its way through flooded sections of the road. The water trying desperately to get inside the boot with him. Eventually the vehicle stopped, reversed, and then silence except for a distant foghorn and siren that seemed to be miles away.
The boot lid was unlocked and flung open, and Rick was roughly manhandled onto the cold, wet granite quayside. Try as he did, he couldn’t make out the identity of the two standing over him, but he thought he smelt some expensive perfume. A swift senseless kick in the small of his back from one of the kidnappers and Rick felt himself falling into darkness and with a loud splash that echoed through his entire body, he hit the icy cold water. Then silence again. As he struggled to get back to the surface Rick saw the car, a dark blue BMW 5 series, pull quickly away from the quayside and head for the city center. The stinking river water was bitterly cold and breaking the surface between layers of flotsam and unpleasant smelling weed, Rick felt the strong ebbing tide begin to drag him along. With all of the remaining strength that he could muster, he made a desperate grab for a rusty set of landing steps barely attached to the quay side, and hung there desperately trying to get some breath, his feet still submerged and treading the filthy oil stained water.
It was now very dark; most of the lights had gone out. The rain had actually stopped and there was a bitterly cold mist that had started to roll in from the river. He could make out the shapes of numerous warehouses fronting the river, some emitting shafts of dull white light into the night air. There was the familiar sound of the mast ties flapping on many small yachts tied up in the various basins spread along the river. A raucous party was in full swing on a nearby houseboat moored not one hundred meters from where he clung for his life. He could feel himself shivering and felt the feeling going from his legs and fingers and knew that very quickly; somehow he had to get dry and warm. The bullet must have gone right through him because although there was a lot of blood, nothing appeared to have been seriously damaged as the bullet had penetrated his chest. Whether or not the gunman had been one of the two in the car, he couldn’t be sure, but he sincerely hoped that he would meet him again one day. The same guy didn’t usually catch Rick twice. In fact it was unusual for Rick to get hit at all. In the long time that he had been involved in this sort of work, he had never taken a bullet or actually fired a gun.
Suddenly, somewhere from out of the misty gloom a car rounded the end of a nearby warehouse, and drove onto the quay. The car’s headlights casting beams of bright white light that bored through the mist and out into the river beyond. It came to a halt at the top of the steel steps. A door opened and a hand reached down to Rick.
“Come on you old fool, you weren’t supposed to get involved, I heard what had happened from a mate at the Yard”.
Rick couldn’t believe his ears. Here was the guy that with his own eyes he had seen blown sky high just a few sodden hours ago.
“Adam, you bastard, how on earth did you get here, and what the hell is going on?”
It was no mean effort to get Rick up and out of the river with the chest injury and his soaked clothing adding to his weight, but very carefully easing Rick up the rungs of the ladder, he helped him gently into the back of his car, Adam began to explain what had gone on.
It had been a set-Up. A member of the same gang that had kidnapped the girl had placed the ransom money. He had been discovered earlier in the day and had said during questioning that something was going to happen during the hand over. Nobody could discover what it might be, so the powers to be had decided that the money would be placed by this guy, and Adam would be very close by to watch the drop. Rick had been told to watch from the roof in case something had gone wrong. Somehow he must have been spotted and followed to the bar.
“Okay, but how did you know I was here” enquired Rick.
“We received a tip off from a woman about a couple of hours ago. The information was vague, so I have been searching the quay areas since. I’m glad that I found you”,
“Not as much as me” chipped in Rick as he slowly sank into the warm comfort of the car’s rear seat and closed his eyes.
Not unlike a lot of other folk who made their living working in London, Rick lived in a quiet town, Worthing, situated on the South coast betwixt Brighton and Littlehampton. Worthing many years ago in Victorian times was a very well frequented sea side resort. Many holidaymakers would make their way by whatever transport was available to the south coast for sun, sand, and sea. Worthing was and still is recognized as a gentle resort catering for the mainly over forties. The town is presently rapidly expanding with many new housing developments springing up around the town center. The new developments are designed not only for the young families moving into this area from the ‘darker’ northern counties but also as a means to providing affordable housing for the first time buyer and young couple starting off on their married life together. The increase in population has also resulted in an influx of commercial and industrial developments and is the base for a few multi-national companies and industries. Rick rented a small privately owned detached bungalow situated in one of the older and quieter areas of Worthing providing everything that he needed as a single guy. Unfortunately Rick was not a gardener, although he loved to sit amongst the greenery of a well-kept garden, wineglass in hand, to contemplate life and all that it kept throwing at him. Fortunately he had found a local gardener who kept the lawn and flowerbeds neat and tidy. There was certainly enough garden to separate him from the road and neighbors, and to have the occasional Bar-B-
Que for himself and every now and again his adult sons. As it was somewhere miles away from the aggravation of work and the constant hassle that his job entailed, Rick felt that the bungalow offered him sufficient solace to keep him sane (well at least to a tolerable level) and gave him some very valuable space.
Slowly opening his eyes, (dreading to find that all was not well), Rick discovered that he was, in fact, back home and lying in his own bed. His gunshot wounds had been treated and bandaged and except for the pain in his chest he actually felt a damn sight better. His tired and bloodshot eyes slowly focused on the shape of Adam sitting on the edge of his bed and he wondered what this was all about.
“You’ve had a very lucky escape Rick, Your doctor has just been and has said that you must spend a few more days in bed to get your strength back”, Adam whispered gently as he bent to puff out Rick’s pillow and straighten his covers. “Would you like something to drink, nothing alcoholic though?”
Rick stretched and painfully raised himself up on to the pillows. “What-ever, the principal thing on my mind at the moment is to sort this whole bloody episode out”.
“Well I’m afraid that’s totally out of the question old mate” replied Adam as he left to fetch the drink.
“We’ve both been taken off this case and I have instructions to warn you, that if you are seen involving yourself in this matter, your head will be for the chop. And that was from high!”
Rick was astounded. How could they just remove him from the case? He has just been shot at for God’s sake. He had to do something, if only to find the gunman who had tried to send him to his maker. He wasn’t going until he was good and ready. And it wasn’t now. He wasn’t use to be used as a human target for some nutter with a gun. He wasn’t in too good a condition to argue with Adam at the moment, but that would soon change. All he needed was a couple of day’s rest at home.
After checking that Rick was comfortable, Adam soon left, and Rick was alone to think. He still couldn’t believe that whoever was involved, they wouldn’t have destroyed five hundred thousand pounds without a very sound reason. Once he had solved this, Rick felt that he would be well on the way to finding the gunman who tried to shut him up once and for all.
Rick was never the sort of guy to just lay back and think of England. He needed to occupy his mind whilst recovering and enjoyed trying to outsmart some of the newspaper crosswords. He was pretty good at the standard word puzzles, but the cryptic clues often drove him to despair. It needed a warped mind to solve them, he thought. Thankfully, within a couple of days, Rick was up and about and ready to get back to work. He had been told by his colleague, Adam, that he must keep well out of sight, so decided that whatever he did, it would, initially at least, have to be done at night.
That coming evening there was a harvest moon, and fairly clear. There was a nip in the air, but after being indoors for the past few days, Rick felt glad to feel the fresh air. His first port of call was to the square where the explosion had occurred, so made the two-hour drive to the Docklands Area where he arrived undetected. He left his old but reliable Primera in a small back street close to the square and then made the rest of the way slowly on foot.
Rick had always treated the many cars that he had owned or borrowed as purely a means of getting from A to B as quickly and as comfortably as possible. They were a tool to be used in the execution of his work, and as long as they started first time and ran reliably without too many problems they were fine. For a while a couple of years ago, Rick had worked on the renovation of an old MG Midget. The car was purchased in running condition but gradually required more and more work to be done to keep the vehicle on the road, most of this work being body work related and corrosion prevention. As he only ever owned one car at a time, any work done on the car had to be completed over a weekend so that it was mobile again the following Monday. Eventually this became impossible so a second car, the Primera, was purchased and the MG stored in the garage.
Anyone who has ever worked on classic cars will tell you that storing a car in a lock up garage is doomed to failure as the car will eventually corrode away leaving a pile of expensive dust. Rick therefore, somewhat regretfully, decided that it made far more sense to sell the car on to someone who had the ability and time to restore it correctly, which left him with the Primera. A little like himself. Old but reliable with very few vices.
As Rick explored the precinct he was able to confirm that the buildings in this area were mainly used as offices. The vast majority had been respectfully converted and refurbished from the original Regency styled buildings that were once expensive dwellings for the wealthier population. The streets for the most part had been cobbled and turned into pedestrian precincts. Every now and again Rick would find a range of bench seating, small tables bolted to the ground, and attractive Regency styled street furniture.
As Rick approached the square itself, he noticed that the ‘Police Keep Clear’ ribbons had been removed and replaced by a series of steel mesh security fencing around the damaged area. Much of the repairs for damage caused to adjoining buildings was well underway and there was an obvious indication of the local residents and shopkeepers wanting to get back to normal.
There was not much to see in or around the hole caused by the explosive device, except several damaged cables, a temporarily repaired water pipe, and a series of optical cables probably servicing the computers and IT for the offices fronting the square. Some of the nearest buildings showed signs of blast damage with fire staining on the woodwork around openings and the occasional patch of masonry. The passageway along which Rick had seen the man run just after the explosion was to the Northeast of the square and he reckoned a look in this area might just reveal something useful and may previously have been overlooked by the ‘scenes of crime’ team.
Making his way slowly around the edge of the square, Rick could hear himself breathing and the gentle slap of his footsteps on the cobbles. Occasionally he had the disquieting notion that he was being watched from somewhere within the square. One of the corners of the paved area seemed to lead to a feeder road, which in turn would probably feed back into the main road at the beginning of the precinct. The area was considerably darker here as the lights on the square didn’t quite reach this far, and Rick felt a slight shiver as the hairs on the back of his neck began to rise.
An indistinct sound just behind him made Rick turn and in the corner of his eye he noticed the end of a shadow disappear into the darkness. His pulse began to race and he could feel his head begin to spin. Perhaps it was too soon after the shooting for him to be doing this, but he was here now and had to find out what was going on. An old wooden door tucked into the side of a building just to the front and right of him, creaked, and closed to. One of the lights in the square behind him flickered and went out, and he was for a short while plunged into complete darkness. A sound like that of rushing air made him turn in fear and as the clenched fist caught the side of his jaw, his world began to spin. Rick grasped at a nearby street sign for support, and as the words ‘Kindly place your rubbish here’ came into focus; he hit the damp cobbled street with a soft thud.
His swollen eyes were finding it extremely difficult to focus on anything. Rick’s entire world was spinning like a demented top and it made him feel sick. The pain from the side of his face completely obliterated the pain from his chest wound and he felt as though he had just gone ten rounds with a bulldozer. He was still attached to the sign with his right fist clenched around the steel pole and he was on his back staring up between two deserted office blocks. Reminiscent of the days as a young beat copper on the regular Friday night binge, usually just following an Indian takeaway with several mates.
“These cobbles were just not designed to be slept on” he muttered to himself, desperately trying to convince his legs that they should get themselves vertical. They would have to do it on their own though. He was in no condition to assist. For some reason his fist wouldn’t leave hold of the pole. It was still dark but he could just make out that the sun was reflecting on rising yet again, and he had absolutely no idea as to how long he had been lying there. His back told him that it had been for too long and was not particularly forgiving.
Eventually back on his feet, Rick made himself gingerly back to the car. Once in the driving seat he started the engine and lay there waiting for the warm air to bring him round. Although to be honest he didn’t really care. A knock on the driver’s window made him sit up with a start, and turning to the window he could see the concerned face of his mate, Adam.
“What the hell are you doing here, Rick?” He asked attempting to open the locked door.
“I just wanted a second look at the explosion site. I needed to try and get my mind clear on what may have happened”, replied Rick as he scrambled to open the door and almost fell back out of the car.
Adam had taken a step back and had his hand on the roof of the car. “Rick, I explained what would happen if you were seen around here. Bugger off and keep your head down, otherwise I won’t be able to prevent something happening to you”. Saying this he put his hand on Rick’s shoulder and disappeared around the corner of the building.
Rick lowered himself back into the car and drove off in the direction of his office. Many of Rick’s colleagues as private detectives were these days employed by large agencies dealing with every aspect of private investigation and were based in large purpose designed and built office locks in the city center. They were often retained by the larger establishments to monitor employer loyalty, confidentiality issues, and the occasional case of industrial espionage. Rick would always try to refuse any assignment that would involve personal relationships and concentrated on specific inquiries usually linked to police action of some sort or another. It was generally safer that way. Rick had established himself in a small first floor lock-up just off the main High Street. Not particularly plush, but smart enough to impress the normal punter, and guarded by his long time receptionist, Cathy. Cathy had been with Rick for a long time and was always extremely loyal. She had joined the business over five years ago when Rick had decided to go it alone as it were. Cathy had been made a widow during a police raid that had gone seriously wrong leaving her husband, a police detective, fatally wounded. At the time Rick was on hand to ease her through the bad times and they came through the whole affair as good friends. Nothing more, but she would never forget what Rick had done for her and was, therefore, only to please to work
With him when he retired from the force shortly afterwards.
Parking in his allocated parking bay, Rick locked his car and climbed the old timber stairs leading to the hallway feeding the many offices on the first floor. The block had been recently built, but was sparsely decorated with magnolia painted plastered walls and ceiling, and a cheap industrial standard carpet covering the concrete floor. Many of the offices had impressive entrance ways with names engraved in gold on hardwood plaques, but Rick’s office had the standard glass entrance door with ‘Rick Shore - Private Investigator’ in black script lettering on the upper glass panel.
Cathy was collecting the morning post from the ground floor post room as he entered the office, and Rick didn’t notice the man waiting in his private office, until he entered the room throwing his dirt stained coat onto a nearby chair.
“So, Rick Shore, I presume,” said the stranger as Rick came into view.
Startled, Rick spun round to see a tall, distinguished looking man rise from his seat. “You have me at a disadvantage”, managed Rick as he gained ground once more.
“Yes, sorry if I made you jump, Let me introduce myself” and raising his hand for a shake, “I’m Jon Blake. I’m with the Fraud Squad” Rick shook his hand and returned to his desk and favorite chair. He felt more comfortable in familiar surroundings.
“So Jon, to what do I owe this pleasure?”
Jon strolled casually over to Rick’s desk, pulled out the chair from under the desk and planted himself gently down.
“Please sit down, Mr. Shore,” he said, pointing to Rick’s chair. Rick obligingly sat down, resting his elbows on the top of the desk.
Pulling a file from inside his coat, his visitor placed several typewritten sheets face up in front of Rick. Without moving his arms, Rick glanced down and scanned the data on display, to be honest, not making an awful lot of sense out of what he was seeing.
“Okay” said Rick, “What is this all supposed to mean, and more importantly, what has it to do with me?”
Raising his glaze towards Rick, Jon explained that the documents in front of them were lists of a sample of credit card transactions that had been intersected by someone, transferring the funds to an untraceable European bank account.
“I want to employ you to trace some of these transactions and discover if there is anything that tie these all together”.
Easing himself from his chair, Rick explained that he had very little knowledge of credit card fraud, and asked why he had been selected.
“I am beginning to think that this operation is being coordinated by someone or some people in reasonably high positions so to avoid unnecessary gossip or scandal I need someone who is no longer associated with the Force and, to be frank, not a threat to anyone”
Rick was not sure if this was a compliment or not, but, hey he needed the work, and it would take his mind of the reason events. “Okay Jon, I accept, but I must have complete autonomy over the way I run this case, and all expenses paid”.
“No problem”, confirmed Jon as he rose from his chair and made for the door.
“Have a look at what I have given you, and keep me up to date with any progress. If anything goes wrong though, we have never met and you’re on your own”. With that, he left the office and made his way back into the open corridor.
Spreading the papers over his desk, Rick could see a series of columns taken from a spreadsheet of some sort. The columns were headed ‘Card Issuer’, ‘Amount’, Date Authorized’, ‘Date Transferred from Payee’, and finally ‘Date Credited to Merchant’. Rick was by no means an expert in financial matters (completing his own tax returns was a challenge in itself), so he decided to pay a visit to an old contact of his.
During his long career within the police force Rick had made many contacts. His fair dealing attitude and sense of what was right led many of these contacts to keep in touch well after his retirement and were generally fairly happy to help out now and again. One of these faithful contacts was a guy called Sam. Rick never actually knew his full name, or even if Sam was actually his first name, but he could always be relied upon to help if he could. Sam was an accountant. Was, as in the past. He had been removed from the list of Chartered and Certified Accountants for a slight indiscretion a few years ago and was currently employed by a firm of Bookmakers, on an unofficial basis, to advise on their bookkeeping arrangements.
He had a large house though, on the outskirts of London, and Rick never quite understood how he ever managed to buy it, let alone maintain it. However he was a good friend from way back and Rick was sure that Sam could explain what all the figures meant.
And, importantly, keep his mouth shut. As Rick pulled into Sam’s long sweeping drive leading up to an impressive front door, he was still puzzling over the fact that the Fraud Squad had approached him at all. This was still going over in his mind when the front door opened and his friend, Sam, welcomed him in.
“Long time no see Rick”, Sam said as he ushered Rick into the lounge.
A magnificent room with wide glazed sliding doors opening onto a panorama straight from a holiday guide. Wide, beautifully tended lawns, neat flowerbeds, and a series of water features spread around the lawn and patio areas. The furniture was sparse but extremely comfortable and complimented the décor, which breathed relaxation and peace.
“Thanks for agreeing to see me Sam, “said Rick as he lowered himself into one of the very inviting armchairs.
“You’re very welcome, Rick” replied Sam, “It’s great to see you again after all this time. What do you drink?”
Rick was still suffering from his chest wound and was unsure about taking alcohol, but what the hell,
“A double scotch, please Sam, no ice” Sam disappeared into a small bar area and returned shortly with a drink for himself and Rick.
“Now then, Rick, how can I help you?”
Rick took out the various papers and spread them on to a glass coffee table in front of him.
“I can understand the various columns, and see what is happening, but could you explain the implications of all this?”
Sam took the first sheet of data and leaning back in his chair studiously looked through the contents.
Placing the document back on the table, and taking a small sip from his glass, (it looked like Sam was also partial to a tot of single malt), he commented
“Okay Rick, this is what appears to be happening, although to be honest, I can’t understand how. You could be looking at the greatest scam ever”
Sam picked up his glass from the table and sat back down in his chair
“Rick, if you purchase an item on the internet and pay for it with your debit or credit card, this amount is debited to your account immediately the transaction is completed. At the end of the month, or when you decide to transfer funds from your personal account to your credit card account to cover the latest month’s expenditure, the amount is debited against your personal account immediately, but is not credited against your credit card account for several days. This can be up to five working days after you make the transfer.
Somehow, someone is intercepting the transfers to the credit card account and relaying them to an unlisted high interest account somewhere within the EU, where it remains for five days. After this time the funds are forwarded on to your credit card account. Nobody realizes that the scam has occurred and everyone is happy. It is a very clever trick and I am surprised that nobody has done it before, but there you are”.
“But surely”, cut in Rick, not totally appreciating what he had heard,” Five days interest would not amount to much. It’s hardly worth the effort”.
“Hold on”, explained Sam, placing his glass back down on the table and lifting his calculator, “In any twenty four hour period it is estimated that one hundred and fifty million dollars is spent on the internet. The majority of this is cleared by credit or debit card. Assuming that the scam is able to generate four- percent interest on the funds this would produce an income of almost seventeen thousand dollars a day, for doing absolutely nothing. This amounts to almost six million dollars a year. And this assumes an interest rate of only four- percent. Some merchant bankers are paying considerably more”.
“That’s incredible”, concluded Rick, “I see what you mean. Thanks for the explanation.
Goodness knows where I go from here though.
In fact I am not sure why they have selected me to sort it out. Surely it is for a specialist group. I’m not in any way financially knowledgeable. Mind you, theoretically I guess nobody is actually losing money”.
“No, not quite Rick. The card issuers are the losers because they would normally have access to these funds for the three to five day period between the client transferring the funds, and the credit appearing on his card account”.
Rick gathered up the paperwork and headed towards the door. “Thanks again Sam, I shall probably be in touch again soon”
“Not so long this time, Rick. It’s been good to see you. Take care”.
Rick returned to his car and drove slowly back on to the main road. His head was spinning with all sorts of ideas and he desperately needed a meal.
Rick had had a mind-blowing day and was in no mood to prepare a meal, so against his better judgement (the diet would have to wait), he pulled up alongside his local fish and chip restaurant, locked his car doors and made his way towards the shop. Rick hadn’t noticed, but some one hundred meters back a maroon estate car had pulled into the side of the road and tucked itself neatly behind a parked van.
A local Chinese family who had moved into the area a few years ago ran this particular fish and chip shop. They very quickly established a reputation for well prepared food and the prices were reasonable. Rick had been amazed when, over a beer with a close friend a few weeks ago, discussing the local economy, just how many of the local fish and chip restaurants were now being operated by Chinese proprietors. In many respects it was a great shame, but surely a sign of the times.
Rick’s favorite fish meal was Haddock and Chips, so having placed an order, he took a seat backing on to the road and waited patiently for his meal to be prepared. There were not many customers this evening and he really couldn’t understand how this business ever made any money. However, with a smart new silver grey BMW parked outside, somebody obviously was. It always smelt good inside the shop and somewhat comforting, so it was of no surprise that he had to be shaken awake by the restaurant owner who exclaimed that his meal was ready. Wrapped in the latest newspaper, the meal smelt very appetizing and felt comfortably warm as he strolled back to the car.
As he headed off for the short drive home, Rick was still trying to come to terms with what he had learnt today. He was so pre- occupied that he didn’t notice the estate car pull out behind him. The lights from his car lit up the road ahead showing that it had rained fairly recently, but had now stopped.
A young couple was walking their dog, a white Spaniel, on the pavement, and a middle-aged woman was delivering the local free newspaper, with the use of a pushchair as a temporary trolley. Life here seemed very normal, and it was difficult to believe that so much had happened over the past few days. Rick’s bungalow came into view, and at first slowly driving past, he reversed into his driveway and parked just in front of his garage doors. The meal was delicious, helped down with a glass or two of ‘CECCHI, Sangiovese Di Toscani’ red wine, one of his favorites. 2001 had been a very good year. Feeling warm and very comfortable, Rick decided that enough was enough. There was nothing that he could do tonight, there was very little on the television, so an early night was decided upon and he retired to bed.
The driver of the car parked a few yards back from Rick’s house and waited until the lights in the bungalow were extinguished. He then made a quick call on his mobile and drove off. He would be back early in the morning to resume the watch and, if necessary, deal with any difficulties.
Rick always had difficulty sleeping. The initial few hours were fine. In fact he usually fell fast asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. However, inevitably, a few hours later he was wide-awake. From then on the best he could do was to ‘cat nap’ until dawn. The snatching of short periods of sleep would cause Rick to experience many short, but vivid dreams. Many of these were a conglomeration of his past, but now and again some would appear to be almost premonitions of times to come. One day he would pay a visit to a local psychologist who would perhaps help him to settle his mind somewhat.
The shrill ring of Rick’s patent white telephone shattered the quiet peace of the new dawn. Struggling to regain consciousness Rick reached out to the telephone, only to succeed in pushing a small delicate vase of roses onto the bedroom carpet. Cursing under his breath, Rick grabbed the handset and with very little grace enquired as to whom was there at this unholy hour.
“Rick, you old sod. What have you been up to?”
Rick immediately recognized the voice as belonging to Adam.
“Bloody hell, Adam, why ring me at this hour with such a stupid question. You some sort of moron?”
“Hold on, I heard a rumor that you were looking into a credit card fraud, and just wanted to check that you were okay”. “My God, word travels fast” replied Rick, not altogether clear as how Adam had found out, “but Yes, I’m fine. But why the hell ring me at this time? Couldn’t it have waited?
Rick could hear that Adam was in an office somewhere. There were several people talking in the background and he could make out telephones, and a computer keyboard being used.
“I’m being temporarily transferred to a new office some miles away, and have to move this morning so called whilst I was at the office. Sorry if I woke you. I will call you again sometime later. Cheers “The telephone went silent and he was gone. That same night, it was almost two-thirty in the morning when a small grey BMW pulled up outside the large, rather impressive detached house on the outskirts of London. The prestigious detached property, probably built in the late eighteen hundreds, was surrounded on all sides by a high flint faced wall capped with a continuous run of broken glass. The only entrance being a pair of formidable looking cast iron gates locked and bolted from inside. There were specialist CCTV cameras distributed throughout the grounds keeping a careful watch on anyone entering or leaving the premises, and high tech. Trip alarms spread randomly around the site.
The air was deathly still, with only a very slight breeze moving the nearby trees gently to and fro. The dark night sky was filled with millions of brightly shining galaxies each adding weight to the argument that we are not alone.
As the car pulled quietly up to the kerb, the engine was stopped and the passenger quietly got out and made his way to the front gate. Removing a small steel box from his inside coat pocket, he flicked a switch and a short brass pin extended from the box to a length of about fifty millimeters. A bright red light also began to glow on the side of the box. He directed the brass pin at the main lock and it sprung silently free. Repeating the operation on the side bolts rendered the gate open.
He replaced the box as he squeezed through the partly opened gates and stood looking for signs of alarms or guards.
From the other inside pocket, he removed a Siemens palm top computer and touching the screen with his finger brought up the menu. Selecting a combination of codes, the screen was soon displaying the site layout of the building in front of him, together with the location of alarms and sentry positions. Walking slowly and very carefully towards the house, he could make out a light at a first floor window just in front of him and glancing at his computer, noted that it was the master bedroom. Good, his target was readying himself for bed. This should make it easier. The original front door was a solid oak paneled door with a series of high security bolts and seemed impossible to open without disturbing the resident, so he began an inspection of the ground floor windows and remaining doors. Working his way methodically around the house he came across a small larder window that didn’t appear to have been locked correctly and was slightly ajar. He passed a short steel bar against the stay and the window sprung open. Inside was complete darkness and the only thing that he could hear was the sound of a grandfather clock coming from somewhere deep inside the house.
In fact he hardly heard the sound behind him until it was too late, and a swift and heavy blow to the back of his neck sent him reeling backwards onto the flower beds below the window. He thought that he could make out a figure climbing in through the now open window, but that was all and very soon darkness and pain took over and he was out. He must have been out cold for only a short while, and wasn’t sure if it was his colleague who had woken him, the piercing sound of the alarms, or the smell of burning. But whatever it was, he knew that he had to get away from here as fast as he could.
The house was totally ablaze. Ugly, thick dense black smoke was billowing from almost every opening and crevice, with vivid orange flame forcing itself through the smoke and escaping into the outside air. The tortured night sky was filled with falling debris that seemed to explode on impact with what remained of the house. The entire roof seemed to have been lifted from its supports exposing burning rafters, joists and a collection of twisted steel fittings. Not a single window was left intact and as he struggled back to the safety of his car, he heard, and occasionally felt, shards of broken glass singing through the cold night air.
This had to be a massive bomb. This was not a normal blast. Whoever and whatever had caused this atrocity to happen didn’t intend much of the house and occupants to survive. This had been set by someone with no respect for life or the environment and was the work of a dangerous man.
As he reached the car, and his colleague started the engine, he looked back to see what still remained of the house collapse into a hell hole of fire, and the surrounding night sky glowed a frightening shade of orange. “Let’s go, and quick” he screamed, slamming the car door shut and sinking into the warm security of his seat.
The car disappeared off into the night. Seven-thirty and Rick’s alarm clock radio announced that it was time to rise. Making a sudden move at this time of the morning was not advisable, so Rick slowly rubbed the sleep from his eyes and pumping up his pillows rose slowly to a sitting position. Terry Wolgan was welcoming the new morning with his usual Irish charm and banter and all seemed well with the world. At least for this short moment.
Minutes later and Rick had showered and was preparing his usual breakfast of a boiled egg and pitta bread. A good start to any day. The weather had brightened up considerably, and if you were very fortunate you could spot the sun desperately trying to break through the clouds which were lingering high above.
Maybe it will succeed later, Rick thought. It was while Rick was counting the three minutes for his egg, that he heard the news announcement on the radio.
“There has been a massive explosion at a property in the London area and Police searching the remains have discovered the body of the owner, a Mr. Samuel Hodgkins, a retired accountant. Foul play was suspected, and a man had been seen running from the building shortly before the blast occurred”.
Four minutes - five minutes - abruptly Rick came back to the present and realized that his egg had been well and truly boiled. But Sam, he had only just recently been talking to him. They had discussed the debit fraud; nothing seemed out of the ordinary. What could Sam have done that had provoked such an attack? What a world we live in - this is complete madness. Fraud, okay, but murder, now that is something quite different. A ring on his doorbell shattered Rick’s thoughts, and giving up with the egg once and for all, he made his way down the hallway.
“Mr. Rick Shore” asked the taller of the two men standing in front of him, “Who wants to know?” Replied Rick with that sense of something bad building up inside him. “I’m DCI Scott” showing Rick his warrant card, “and this is my colleague, DI Thompson” indicating his partner, who too showed Rick his card.
“Okay, so I’m Rick Shore. What can I do for you guys?”
“I have to ask you to come back to the station with us. We need to ask you a few questions” answered the DCI.
“Questions, about what?” Rick was beginning to feel this particular sense developing badly, and the thought of accompanying these two was worrying him considerably.
“I’m afraid that I can’t say at this stage, sir, but I am certain that it will only be for a short while. We have to clear up one or two issues that have recently come to light” “If you prefer it sir, we can obtain a warrant for your arrest, but none of us want this, do we sir?”
This time it was the other guy, DI something or other and judging by the look that he got from his boss, had not been the right thing to say. This was a lot more serious than Rick had thought.
“Okay” followed Rick, “I’ll get my coat and be with you”
Sitting in the back of a car with these two morons had not been part of Rick’s plans for the day and he still felt that something was not right here. The ID cards looked real enough, and the photographs matched each guy, but that feeling would still not go away.
“What station are we going to?” Enquired Rick of the DCI sitting next to him “Just a local nick where we can have a private chat. That okay?” replied the DCI. No this was definitely not okay. It was about time that Rick left this party of three, and quick.
Rick had noticed that the driver had locked all of the doors before starting off, so it would be impossible to escape from the car using the door.
“DI Thompson, may I open my window, please.
I need some air?”
The DI shrugged “If you must”