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   Chapter 15 THE TALL MAN OF LOS BOLICHES

Dead Centre By Owen Jones Characters: 27310

Updated: 2018-02-09 19:01


Bob was actually in Hampshire, England, delivering Billy's wages when Gareg phoned. Billy had settled for $500, 000, but it didn't split easily between his three children, so Gareg and Bob had decided to make it $200, 000 each, a twenty percent bonus, because he had done such a good job on Mrs. Wainwright.

Not that they were children any longer. Bob was standing outside the door of the last one, a thirty-year-old mother of two. It was a good job he had remembered to switch his mobile to mute, but then that would have been standard practice on a mission and he was. He posted the envelope, answered the call and hurried down the drive.

"Bob, I've just had a call from one of the others. They want me to go up to London tomorrow to meet with them. I have already agreed to go and talk, but can you be there to be my back-up? I don't like the sound of these guys. I'm not expecting any trouble tomorrow, but I want someone to know where they hang out in case we have trouble collecting afterwards.

"I want you to meet me on Hyde Park Corner at one p.m. tomorrow. Don't make contact with me, don't say hello, nothing, but keep me in sight. It would be wise to have some form of transport ready, because I think they're going to blindfold me and take me to some undisclosed address. You know what I mean."

"Yes, sure, Gareg, I'll be there. I've just delivered the last envelope, so I'll get a taxi up as soon as I can find one. I should be there by two a.m."

"Good, I'm in Cardiff right now and will get the 125 train up tomorrow morning, so I should be there by nine."

"See you for a beer when I'm done."

"Take care, Gareg."

"As always."

Bob arrived at Hyde Park at noon, before Gareg. He had devised a plan during the seventy-seven-mile taxi ride up from Portsmouth, slept in a small hotel near the park, and walked over after a late breakfast and a shower. He was dressed in jeans, T-shirt and trainers, but then he often was anyway.

At twelve thirty, he took out his mobile phone and rang a number that he had copied from a poster near the hotel that morning.

"Hello, Jim here. Could you deliver five giant seafood pizzas to Hyde Park Corner at twelve fifty-five, please? It is very important that the order is on time. I will be standing in the gateway to the park wearing a blue 'Save The Whale' T-shirt."

"Yes, I am aware of the cost. £120. I have the cash in my hand. I am ordering for myself and several of the speakers. I imagine that this could become a regular order, and will probably increase, if things go right. Do you understand? Good, twelve fifty-five on the dot. I'll be waiting for your guy right here then. Bye."

Bob saw Gareg arrive at eleven forty-five and used a hand signal to advise him to stay in the area nearby, if he could.

The pizza delivery boy arrived next on a motorcycle. Bob played for time by rummaging in his pockets for the money and talking about the weather. He wanted to see what would happen next.

"Thanks for being on time. Now. I have one more favour to ask of you. I need your bike. Stay calm! Just look at me as if we were talking about pizzas."

Bob took out his wallet and the boy's eyes opened wide, because it was stuffed with £20 and £50 notes.

"Here's the £120 for the pizzas and I'll give you £200 for the use of your bike and jacket."

"I can't, sir, I'll get the sack!"

"No, you won't, I'm Special Branch. Look!" and he flashed a warrant card. "I'm on a case and I need transport right now. Here's £300, but there's no need to tell your boss that I gave you that, just tell him that I requisitioned your bike and poncho in the name of the Crown…

"Now! Quickly!" Bob could see Gareg walking towards a car that had pulled up and opened a door for him to get in.

"Now! Or I take the bike and you get bugger all, sunshine!" Bob jumped astride the bike and turned the key.

"The poncho, now!" The boy obeyed and handed Bob the poncho with the firm's name on it. Bob held out £300 to him. "Try to give me ten to fifteen minutes before you call your boss, please, kid and thanks. You have done your country a great service. Give this card to your boss, it will explain everything."

He sat on the bike watching as Gareg leaned into the car's interior, looked at him and then got it. A minute later, the car drove off at normal traffic speed.

Bob followed with the poncho more resembling a child's bib on his huge chest.

The teenager looked after his bike as it disappeared into traffic and then examined the card. It read:

'You have just helped a member of Her Majesty's Secret Service. Thank you. Please ring the following number for details of compensation'.

The other side was blank, so he tucked it proudly into his pocket and looked at his watch. One-oh-five. It was ten minutes before he could phone in and report what had happened.

Bob had had hundreds of the cards made up the year before and always carried three or four in his wallet for occasions such as this. They had helped him out of tight spots dozens of times. His private joke was that the phone number was genuine private number, which he knew must really upset Special Branch when it was called by a member of the public.

He hoped that the boy would not lose his job, but he didn't see why he should. Older men than he had been taken in and being outsmarted sometimes was just part of the process of growing up.

Bob did not have any trouble following the Mercedes through London's streets and then back streets, until it swept off the road, crossed the pavement and disappeared into a subterranean car park.

Bob stopped well before the car park, turned the engine and the fuel off and took a map out of his back pocket, as if he were lost. The building, above where they had gone in, appeared to be occupied by a firm of solicitors. There was also Arabic writing on the brass plate on the wall, which Bob could not read.

He turned the motor over, but starved of petrol, it would not start, so he pushed it down to a gap in the parked cars nearer the solicitor's and made as if to call his boss. He was actually taking photos of the brass plate, the building and the street sign, then he emailed them to Gareg's private email address and his own.

At that point there was no more that he could do, so he lifted the bike's seat, dropped the keys and the poncho inside and closed it again, then took one of the pizzas and went to look for a park nearby to eat it in, until Gareg phoned to say where to meet him, which did not happen for two-and-a-half hours.

"Hi, Bob, where are you?"

"About two hundred yards from where your rendezvous took place. Where are you?"

"In a bar in Epsom Downs, er, The Derby Arms, near the race track. Can you get a taxi here?"

"Sure thing, are you all right?"

"Yes, no problems."

"Good. I'll be there as soon as I can."

Bob arrived at the posh, country pub an hour later to find Gareg sitting on a stool at the bar talking to one of the barmaids.

"What are you having, Jim?"

Bob took the hint.

"How about a bottle of red and something to eat, I've only had a pizza since breakfast."

"Sure. Nice chatting to you, my dear. Let's sit over there out of the way, Jim. I'm hungry too, but I've been waiting for you."

Over two seafood platters and two bottles of white Bordeaux, Gareg told Bob what had happened to him.

"It went pretty much as we had expected actually. They were too predictable to be professionals, but I suspect that this London outfit is only a front for someone else. Did you pick up any clues?"

"I'm pretty sure they didn't spot me. They didn't try to shake me off anyway. I took some photos of where they took you. Check your email. There's a photo of the building, the brass plate outside and the street sign. There is some Arabic writing on the plaque, but I can't read it."

"No, nor can I, but I can get that translated. It may be relevant. Anyway, we didn't go anywhere else, but they did get me to lie low in the seat and put a blindfold on. When we arrived, we went up four floors in a lift and I talked to a man. I told him that I needed to see his face if he expected me

problems in the capital of your country, however, we need access to the security camera footage right away. Can you get it for us? Perhaps you could phone someone in London and tell them about our group. Maybe you could impress upon them the importance of sharing their Intel as soon as possible? Please tell them to post it to Interpol as soon as they get it and not when they get around to it."

"Yes, Ali, all right. Calm down. I know how keen you are, but I can't just go stamping around, bossing people about in someone else's jurisdiction! It takes tact, finesse and diplomacy, but leave it with me. I'm sure we can find a way to get hold of their data sooner that would normally be possible."

They hung up. For Ali, the next twenty-four hours passed as if he were waiting for a kettle to boil.

When the first batch of information came through, it was disappointing, but Ali knew that he had brought it upon himself. He hadn't given the London team long enough to even collate evidence, let alone sort and order it.

He looked through what he had, pinged the other police forces and downloaded the data, which consisted of a schedule of events; transcripts of the phone calls to and from the police; the name of the driver of the train and his staff; the name of the police officer in charge on the day; the names and ranks of the two dead SPG officers; the name of the investigating officer; a scan of the advertisement placed by the Arab Unity League claiming responsibility and the security video from Chancery Lane tube station, the nearest to where the bombing had taken place.

Still, he thought, it gave him something to do and anything was better that sitting on his hands and waiting.

Ali started by emailing the London officer to introduce himself, thank her for sharing her Intel on the bombing, wish her luck and inform her about their group, which he invited her to join. D.I. Mary Johnson joined immediately.

Ali stuffed the paperwork into a folder. Hardly any of it was relevant except the schedule of events and the name of his counterpart. The rest was just the early data that a clerk had collected in the preliminary stages of the investigation. There were no opinions, no gut feelings. They still hadn't been formed yet in the aftermath of the near catastrophic bombing in the centre of London itself.

He lit a cigarette and lay back in his chair to watch the footage. He wasn't expecting much though. He wanted to see the footage from the stations before the bombing. He spooled the tape to thirty minutes before the bomb exploded and wasted thirty minutes. Then people started rushing out of the underground station and he realised his mistake.

It was likely, no, even highly likely, that the accomplice, the square man and possibly the big man too, would be in that crowd of hundreds of panicked passengers, hurrying to get into the open and safety.

He rewound to where they started coming up and paid close attention. His view was of the short escalators. There were hundreds coming up, but only police, ambulance and fire brigade officers going down.

After forty-five minutes of watching people's frightened faces, he had spotted three men that could have been the square man and one that could have been the big one. He scribbled the times on his notepad, so that his other officers could give their opinions later. He knew that he could not go on appearance alone, as these men were masters of disguise, but they could not hide their bulk.

And then Ali knew that he had seen him, the square man. He was sure. His hair was ginger and he had a full set, but he was the right size and, most telling of all, he did not look frightened.

Ali didn't know it, but he was already streets ahead of his London colleagues.

He called in his team, even though they were busy elsewhere and sought their opinion on the square man. Before he gave his recommendation, they watched the video together, then collectively identified the five possible suspects, and then on a vote, to a man and a lady, they all picked Ali's probable, the ginger haired one, because of the lack of fear in his eyes.

Every single one of the others looked terrified and half of them were crying either with fear or relief, but ginger was dead pan. As the female officer pointed out, he gave the impression of someone who was annoyed by the crush because he wanted to get home to his dinner.

Ali had the best frame of ginger captured, copied, printed, scanned and posted back to their collective Interpol file. They also pinned a copy on their day board. Ali added notes to the Interpol file that ginger was a key man in the team but that he was known to use disguises.

At just about the very same time that Ali was identifying him in the footage, Bob was driving across the Severn Bridge in his Range Rover heading for Mikey's hometown of Exeter, where Mikey's ex-wife lived. He had an envelope in his pocket that was worth $500, 000 to her. Apparently, they had been separated for nearly ten years, because Mikey had liked to play the field. She had given him dozens of chances, but each time he had backslidden. However, he had never stopped loving her, and wanted to make her happy one last time. He had written that it was his way of saying sorry.

He would be there within two hours, stay the night in a local hotel and then enjoy the leisurely drive back the following day.

He was feeling pretty good.

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