- Page count: 416 pages
- Publication date: 7 Feb. 2001
- Publisher: iUniverse
- ISBN-10: 0595165435
- ISBN-13: 978-0595165438
At the end of an alleyway in London, a dark blue Jaguar is found neatly parked into an inconveniently placed brick wall. There is no sign of the driver or any clue as to who they were.
Meanwhile, a group of cynics who are fed up with how futile the world has become decide to payback society in a series of the most bizarre and pointless terrorist attacks ever.
The world’s media attempt to discover if there is any link between these two incidents, or a link between any of a number of random incidents they overheard being discussed down the pub at lunchtime.
It started in a pub.
That, in itself, was probably the most significant fact about the situation – the whole ‘pubness’ of it all. Pubs, often mistaken as just social venues where alcohol is consumed, also serve as the philosophical powerhouses of the world. Pubs are the central collective points where most of the world’s population gathers to exchange views and thoughts with other such ‘illuminated’ thinkers.
If science and psychology had ever bothered to make an accurate study of the cause and effect of pub interaction then they would have stumbled upon some very important information, in fact, dangerous information. The very sort of information that evil scientists and dictators had been seeking since year dot.
The following results are from a psychological study that never happened. If it had happened, and a long in-depth pub study had been carried out, then the psychologists would have found that there were two levels to pub interaction. There was the reflection and revelation level and a much deeper level that would have been given some large and ridiculous name. A name so stupidly scientific, it would have young psychology students stuck on that particular paragraph for long enough to give up their revision and raise the volume on the TV back up to a level where the textbook was no longer a distraction.
For the sake of the statistics of psychology student success rates, we will call this deeper second level ‘Other Pub Thoughts’. This is a need that of course does not exist, as the study has never happened and the information is therefore safely unknown. Should the study ever happen, then rather than the information appearing in a textbook for psychology students, the researcher would invariably become the world’s most successful dictator or evil scientist that ever lived.
The need for authors to invent non-existent psychological reports is also a condition that after careful research would receive its own long scientific name. A name that would have psychology students closing the book, switching off the TV and continuing the rest of their revision along with all their fellow students… down the pub.
If any brave students actually battled through the sections on Psychareportoinventology (the study of the needs of authors to invent psychological reports) and decided to actually start the chapter on PubVocalextendogy (Other Pub thoughts), then they would learn the following illuminating information.
Almost 95% of talk amongst adults in pubs concerns the stresses of life, their failed plans, their hopes for the future, why they could run the world better than the UN etc. etc. Interestingly enough, in the pubs where the UN gather to drink they discuss the stresses of life, their failed plans, their hopes for the future and how it was becoming increasingly obvious that most of the rest of the world could do the job much better than they could.
This normal talk is completely harmless, futile, everyday chatter and serves no purpose other than to stop people having a sudden urge to go back home and read that chapter of the textbook that starts with “Psychareportoinventology is a condition that is unrecognised by most Western studies and its origin is reported to have been the ‘Institute of banal futility in New Mexico’ where several studies blah blah blah…” and quickly loses the reader by inducing hallucinations of the TV volume control, or in extreme conditions, visions of the pub.
The other 5% of chatter in pubs is far more interesting. The problem of recognising ‘Other Pub Thoughts’ is that they could easily be mistaken for jokes, general banter, or just plain stupidity. In fact, most of it is. A phrase in this category would typically start with “Imagine if you actually…” or “Wouldn’t it be funny if you really did…” and so on. What keeps the world safe from the potential devastation is that most of these ‘Other Pub Thoughts’ remain as just private jokes or just get forgotten. In some cases, they might re-emerge on a birthday card or even get re-enacted at the odd office party, but no-one ever has the notion to turn the ‘Other Pub Thought’ into its more dangerous form: A ‘Definite Significant Action’.
Hangovers and common sense keep most people from venturing beyond the speculative fantasy of ‘Other Pub Thoughts’ into the dark reality of ‘Definite Significant Action’. What this of course all boils down to is that despite all the idle talk and crazy ideas you hear in a pub, no-one ever has the wisdom or stupidity (and there is arguably a case for both) to actually go and do any of it. That would just be stupid.
But if time travel were possible and a researcher were to go back to any significant historical event, where would they find himself? What if we were to travel back to when Hannibal decided to get the elephants out, as the mountains would be a cracking route to form a sneak attack. Would we find ourselves in a large ornate forum where the great leader was planning his campaign alongside his most trusted captains? Or would we find ourselves down Hannibal’s local pub with the team of strategists slowly slipping into despair at the utter lack of sound military ideas?
Then after another round of drinks and a long silence one person suddenly pipes up with, “elephants, my lord. We could sneak at them over yonder mountains upon great elephantine beasts.”
“You stupid prat!”
“Can someone else please come up with something even slightly sensible?”
“All day, ‘n’ all we have is boiling oil, longer spears and flamin’ elephants.”
Several giggles are stifled.
But Hannibal, who has been sitting in silence, suddenly allows his thoughts to wander into the realms of actuality. Elephants – strong animals, unstoppable. The mountains – surprise attack, the perfect assault. Elephants over the mountains. Huge great elephants right over the huge great mountains. As an ‘Other Pub Thought’ it was a stupid comment, the sort of plan that caused warlords to giggle into their pints of ale. But as a ‘Definite Significant Action’ it was brilliant, a devastating rampage of victorious power. All that had to be done to turn the one into the other was to actually do it. It was that simple and he, Hannibal, was going to be the one to set this up and actually go and do it. For real. On huge great real elephants over huge great real mountains. No more pussyfooting around with hotter oil and longer spears. Elephants. Mountains. Wham! Brilliant.
Of course, if a researcher was intelligent enough to invent a time machine, they would hardly go back and sip pints with Hannibal and his cronies. They would more likely travel back to the point in time when the psychology lecturer had been about to write the chapter on PubVocalextendogy and had suddenly realised they were about to become the most evil ruler of the planet ever. The time travelling historian would then bludgeon the psychology lecturer to a pulp and use the manuscript of an unfinished psychology textbook to become the most evil and successful scientist the world had ever known.
Despite the claims of some of the more outlandish brochures of today’s travel industry, the Antarctic is a rather boring place. Yes, the rolling sculptures and dunes of the wind swept wastelands are breathtaking and truly a natural wonder, but it isn’t long before the complete desolate whiteness of it all really starts to bug you. And long before that occurs, there is of course the entire freezing cold routine that becomes a rather obvious distraction from the whole romantic ‘white’ notion. And then all your extremities begin to fall off and that just about kills off the whole romance notion, once and for all.
This particular piece of Antarctic wasteland was particularly dull. Even amongst the plain whiteness of it all, this bit was mind-numbingly boring. Scott and Amundsen had never set foot anywhere near it on their treks to the South Pole and not even the bravest of penguins would ever bother to venture here. It wasn’t that the penguins feared the treacherous conditions, it was just that even penguins recognise that some things are just plain stupid. There were no pure crisp white mountains to make you go ‘Wow,’ no smooth untouched drifts to make you go ‘Ooooh,’ and no hidden deep crevices to make you go ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!’
For the sake of the true enthusiast, a few mind-numbingly futile facts can be revealed about its location and contents. It lay near to the edge of French claimed territory within Australian claimed territory. It was at an approximate location of 130° Latitude, 75° Longitude. But none of this is either interesting or relevant. All that needs to be said is that it was cold, empty and an insomnia-curing plain white.
The explosion ripped a large gaping hole in the boredom and sent a huge tower of white spray thousands of feet into the air. For several hours afterwards icy debris rained gently down upon a steaming crater that had previously been smooth white desolate landscape. But it was all over rather too quickly; the steam soon died down and the raining debris was rapidly swallowed up by a blizzard that had turned up to see what all the fuss was about.
No-one had seen or heard any of it. No human had witnessed this fleeting excitement and not even a brave or incredibly stupid penguin was close enough to hear the faint echoes of the blast roller coasting over the snowy dunes. The land returned to being a dull piece of white boredom, albeit with an interesting new crater in the middle of it. But even the writers of outlandish travel brochures would need an extra strong coffee to sell that in a snappy list of bullet points.
Tuesday 11th May 1999. Four days after the event. Time- 00:23 GMT.
A million miles away from the South Pole, a tramp staggered through the streets of Clerkenwell, attempting to remember what a large dose of methylated spirits had deprived him of recalling, which was pretty much everything. It wasn’t that the tramp thought he had something significant to recall, it was more that he wanted the choice of knowing whether or not he knew anything significant at all.
The issue was finally resolved when the tramp fell over flat on his face and, if he had been conscious enough to experience the event, he would have to admit that this was what he had been attempting to achieve for the last half a mile or so. All the staggering and grunting had been vain efforts to hit the floor, but on each try, the tramp had somehow managed to wave gravity aside with a dismissive, if shaky, hand and miss the ground entirely. Now he was happily face down in a puddle and the cold pavement was busy plumping itself around his spinning head, welcoming him back home.
The tramp didn’t move.
Fortunately, for the sake of any form of plot throughout the rest of chapter one, the tramp began to recall the events of the past few days. In order for this to happen, we have to skip over two very important facts; firstly, that as much of the past few days had been spent consuming a cocktail of alcohol, drugs and various other chemicals, there really wasn’t much to remember that made a great deal of sense. And secondly, there was the fact that the tramp had actually lost his memory completely.
In truth, the tramp’s long term memory was not actually lost, it was hiding. When the first suspect substances had started to enter the body, the memory had noticed that most of the real nasty effects had gone straight to the head area and had shown every sign of taking over the running and control of the whole show. The problem the memory had with all this, was that this new supposed ‘control’ that had come in didn’t bring much overall control to the body or seem to produce anything that was worth remembering. With these new substances dancing amok in the cranium, the memory could clearly see that an alternative place of residence was called for, and rather rapidly.
It was currently in the liver.
The liver may seem a rather stupid place to escape the ravaging onset of extreme drug and alcohol abuse, but at least it was nowhere near the head area which was clearly getting the full brunt of the pre-emptive strike. The tramp had made several attempts to restore his memory by knocking his head against large, rather hard and uncompromising objects. These had included a wall, a small van, the odd lamppost and even an overweight cat. In the memory’s mind (huge ability to brush aside obviously stupid concepts required here) this new phase of self-inflicted head damage was even more reason to stay put in the liver, as it was clear that the whole cranial neighbourhood was going seriously downhill. So, all medical fact to one side, the memory took up permanent residence in the liver and decided that this is where it would stay, until such circumstances arose to suggest that maybe a further change of venue was required.
These two concepts notwithstanding, the tramp was now free to unconsciously ponder and reflect upon the past few days’ unconsciousness (by this point all medical students are either turning up the volume on the TV or are off to their local pub).
In its new state of illuminated thinking, the tramp’s mind was free to assort and categorise the past few days, in order to understand what actual events had occurred and find appropriate slots for everything else. This was actually a far more challenging task than one would first imagine, as the tramp’s head seemed to contain an awful lot of things that were strange, surreal or just plain stupid. Even the very idea of attempting to think about these thoughts seemed nonsensical. It was rather like placing a small exhausted hedgehog in a room full of marbles and requesting it to vacuum the wardrobes.
The word ‘eyebrows’ drifted into the forefront of the battle-scarred brain and was immediately broadsided by the phrase ‘penguins don’t eat chutney’ skidding in from another angle. There was definitely some form of undergarments in there somewhere hiding at the back but this could have just been a few thoughts from the fantasy room coming in from next door to complain about the noise.
A car; there was definitely a car in there at some point. Now this seemed significant, amongst all the other bizarre concepts (including the one about the shrew with a suggestive tin opener), the car seemed to take on a certain solidity. It donned an overcoat of sense as if to disassociate itself from the other concepts about it and threaten to leave. The car thought, taking such a rigid stance, persuaded some of the other factual recollections to step forward and testify. The suit, of course! The new suit. If the tramp had been conscious at this point he would have been able to look down to see that he was in fact wearing a rather nice Armani suit. Whose suit was this and why was he wearing it? There was some vague recollection of picking up the suit jacket from a puddle and… hang on… ah yes. That was it. The person who had previously owned the suit didn’t need it anymore; he was dead.
The tramp’s brain was on a roll now; there was definitely an abandoned car, a rather nice car at that. There was a dead man’s suit. There was also a lot of blood at various points. And then there were all the penguins, chutney, eyebrows and undergarments that were rapidly displaying the same solid realism as the car. Then there was just blackness, a void of empty nothingness. The brain had certainly done more thinking and recollecting than the usual unconscious kind and so it was time to give up, join the realms of medical fact, and truly flake out.
Still Tuesday 11th May 1999. Four days after the event. Time- 02:57 GMT.
Not a million miles away, a large moving mass of fear was strutting through the wet streets of London without any real purpose or reason. Well, in fact there was a very real purpose and reason for its journey but acknowledging that would be so terrifying that it was best, for the moment, to view this whole journey as a complete random waste of time. At least that is how the fear viewed it. But that was its job – to be fearful.
The fear was attached to a fat American in an ill-fitting business suit and overcoat, weaving his way silently through the alleyways and dark cold streets. Well, as silently as he could manage, there was a lot of heavy breathing and wheezing but the usual shouts at passing children or the disdainful looks at other peoples’ lack of BMWs had completely vanished. In his left hand hung a heavy nondescript black briefcase.
He could have taken a much safer route but John Crachet had spent his life conning people out of millions so he didn’t see why he shouldn’t just con fear itself. Besides which, Crachet had his own philosophy about ‘safe’ and ‘scary’ routes. He reasoned that if you walked down a well lit crowded street then there were certainly more people around to mug you and it was certainly light enough for them to be able to clearly see their intended victim. But in a dark deserted alleyway, who was likely to mug you? And as it was so dark who would actually be able to see you? Unfortunately he only actually believed this theory and loudly quoted it to himself when he was in those very same dark lonely alley ways where he was very likely to get mugged and so it was all too apparent that he was in fact conning himself.
Towering office blocks snarled at him from a gloomy night sky, they were now empty of the stressful shouting that people in the city use to conjure up money from thin air. The roads were empty of cars and the traffic jams of leaves and crisp packets, that only venture out at night, were now beginning to form swirling tailbacks down Holborn Viaduct. He was alone, very alone; large bustling crowds of loneliness were pushing past him and leaving him standing on the pavement. Cold, wet and beginning to feel that he should definitely be somewhere else, somewhere far away and remote and safe. The South Pole even, anywhere but here.
But he was here, he was nowhere but here. ‘Here’ was currently a bridge that lead up to Holborn Circus and he could already make out the statue of ‘some chap on a horse.’ He had never known whose image the statue was, but figured that as he wasn’t in Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly, then he could hardly be that big a character in history’s play. He found himself staring around at the various other statues that were looming from the sides of the road; there were knights and dragons, and winged lions, and also four large figures that stood and stared at him. The claustrophobic darkness was beginning to echo with the deafening silence of sheer panic. He looked closely at the statue nearest him as if to introduce himself and familiarise himself with this new environment, it read ‘FINE ART’ upon the inscription on its base. There was obviously a fine art to scaring the pants off people and this bridge was achieving it all too well. Off the side of the bridge he could see the beckoning friendly lights of Farringdon Road below. If only there were some steps down to it he could take a short cut and get off this lonely dismal road and on to the meeting place and just get it over with.
He found a short cut just past the statue.
He stared into a set of dark steps that was about as welcoming as his late mother. His mother had never liked her third son because he had “lost his moral upbringing in favour of power, money, drink and loose sex,” and all the other fancy add-ons that the international financial business threw his way. Then again, he had never liked her that much either. She had taught him about justice, freedom and compassion and he’d been left to his own devices to learn about all life’s ‘true’ values.
He suddenly shook himself back to reality, the steps were a dark uncharted void though not empty; there was definitely something alive grunting lightly somewhere in the blackness. He could either walk down these steps and end up on Farringdon Road or take the long way round. He stood there thinking. Obviously he wasn’t scared, it was probably just a sleeping tramp but he reasoned that he had better take the long way round anyway. After all, he had been given strict instructions to ensure that he took a long winding route in order to shake off any tails that might follow. The truth of the matter was that in comparison to this dark set of steps, even meeting his late mother seemed like a pleasant option, but he had his excuses and he was sticking to them.
He walked off towards Holborn Circus and the now reassuringly friendly chap on the horse.
Now his mother was gone and so was all the drink, the sex, and the money… Oh the money. The money. The money hadn’t actually gone, not all of it anyway. Some of it in fact, was very nearby, too nearby. The $300,000 in the briefcase was the part that made him feel the sickest, this was certainly not part of his plan. That money was his and now he was about to hand it over to some two bit, good for nothing punks.
The two bit punks in question were the Di Farello Family, the Mafia clan responsible for overseeing the drug and money laundering operations of the Sicilian Mafia in London. The ‘two bits’ of these ‘punks’ were estimated to be in the region of $28 billion a year and their London operation formed a key node in the global crime infrastructure. But still, this was his money and what did he have to show for it? A mess, a very messy mess at that. A very dangerously messy mess. How had he managed to stuff this one up so badly? Remember the plan, take the money, leave the mess firmly with someone else.
Perhaps he should just turn and run. Take the money and just go. But go where? Surely they would find him. The small time Italian crook who had help set this whole deal up was already missing and there was talk of a few others mysteriously disappearing too. Perhaps he was next. Then again, if he fled, he certainly would be next. No, that settled it, just do as they said. Besides, they surely wouldn’t kill him tonight, the $300,000 was only a down payment and, in all, there was a further $40 million to come. They’d at least wait till they had all the money before killing him. Yes, that was right. Nothing to worry about. Stick to the plan. He was safe.
He hated the Di Farellos; the two Italian brothers were the sort of people who made you feel uneasy even when they were pleased with you. With just a nonchalant scratch of the nose, an assassin could be signalled to turn the friendly atmosphere into your last moment on Earth. Crachet had never intended to have anything at all to do with either of the two. His plan from the start had been to work alongside the Di Farello Family’s accountant, Henri Rucaarte, and accumulate as much trust as possible with the Belgian until such time as it was necessary to grab the lot and make a run for it. He had to admit that it was a rather old and primitive formula but it was the only one that he knew and he was certainly good at it.
He had no criminal record at all anywhere on the globe as ‘John Crachet’ had only come into being some four years ago. Four years! This was the longest time that he had ever spent building up a character. But as this particular job involved getting close to Mafia-connected businessmen, he figured that an awful lot of trust would have to be built up before they would allow him to go walking around unattended with vast sums of their cash.
In all, 15 of his characters were wanted across various States in the US and it was this that had convinced Crachet that he ought to pick a new continent, pull off one last huge scam, and then retire. Well, that had been his intention but clearly things were getting out of hand and he was no longer in complete control of the situation. In fact, during most of these scams, he was rarely in control of anything but always managed to convince himself that everything was in hand, it was all going to plan, and he would surely be waltzing off with a vast amount of someone else’s money just as soon as the prize became large enough to consider concluding business.
He had now reached Holborn Circus and made a sharp right turn into Charterhouse Street and began striding at a leisurely pace towards Farringdon Road. Had it been a bright sunny afternoon with birds singing and warm friendly crowds smiling happily then his pace would indeed be leisurely, as it was with all the darkness and gloom, his leisurely pace soon quickened and adopted a more realistic panic to its step. There were no crowds here at all. Well, no friendly ones.
As he neared the junction to turn left onto Farringdon Road he froze. There were shouts and general drunken brawl type noises drifting in a violent way towards him. The brawlers in question were not quite in view yet, but it was obvious that they were in front and to the left, in a horrible type of ‘in front and to the left as in just where I am heading’ kind of way that churned in Crachet’s stomach. He tucked himself into a small crevice in the wall near some steps.
“Hey! Who’s that up there? Oi, you! You up the steps!” The shout echoed around his head. It had actually come from a second direction; his immediate left, down the steps, and it caused him to jump in shock. This was the last straw and he turned and sprinted back the way he had come.
A couple of minutes later Crachet was back standing next to ‘FINE ART’. The friendly, if anonymous, chap on the significantly lesser-known horse was a way back and off to his left. From this commanding position he monitored the fight as it drifted down Farringdon Road and across into the realms of Smithfield Market and the Barbican beyond. It was now safe for him to walk up Farringdon road, but there was still the source of the second shout to worry about and this would involve avoiding Charterhouse Street altogether. There was only one thing for it.
Crachet found himself staring back down the dark steps. The shortcut. The very dark shortcut that would probably become infinitely long once any person chose to set foot inside its depths. But then again, at least the grunting noises had stopped; it was probably just a tramp sleeping in the little shelter that the steps offered. All he had to do was to step carefully past the tramp, who would probably be too drunk and tired to be disturbed by any noise, and sneak off into the welcoming light of Farringdon Road.
He stepped onto the first step and stopped breathing, no breath went in or out at all for the whole time he was in the dark. He slowly stepped down until he could sense that in front of him was the large floor area where the steps made a sweeping turn down onto the road below. He reasoned that anyone sleeping here would be in towards the wall and so he made a firm deliberate step onto the middle of the floor.
In the middle of the floor, a large soft tramp’s head was restfully sleeping and awaiting a pointy con man’s foot to sink into its mouth. Crachet, who wasn’t used to stepping into people’s mouths tripped and fell into a pile of boxes.
“Aaaaaaaargh, Feggov ya gurt garrenkin boosta”.
Crachet screamed, as he had never had the floor swear at him and then fell into another pile of boxes, which punched him hard in the stomach.
“Hoggat wid ya… Andee, ez et dem fagging pigs agen??”
“Nah, raggleman, jest a fagging dozy boosta wid a case a summit.”
The part of the body that takes over in these situations and automatically lifts you out of trouble failed to ever kick in and it was several punches and another fall later that Crachet found himself with his case intact on Farringdon Road. He began to walk up the road towards Clerkenwell Gardens. He hated this place so much, the Di Farellos knew how much he hated it and that’s why every meeting was always usually around the same location. They obviously did it deliberately. Still, he had already been shouted at and attacked violently, his bad experience quota for the night was well spent and things could only get better from here on in.
It had all been going so well, the amount of money moving around had been phenomenal. Huge astronomical sums of cash had been bounced across continents with all the ease of a child throwing a ball against a wall. And with each new transaction, the money was getting more and more towards the worthy sum of a final glittering prize.
There were arms deals and drugs deals spanning the globe involving all the major criminal gangs of the world and several governments too. The Di Farellos were rubbing shoulders (albeit through trusted contacts) with multi-national corporations, charity agencies, the secret services of several countries, freemasons, politicians, corrupt police officers and judges, and a long list of other mind numbingly vast and powerful contacts. The Sicilian clan had graduated beyond the mere prehistoric crime of simple drug smuggling; they were skimming money from UN and EU resources through several hundred false charities and businesses and they were involved in some of the more serious aspects of the illicit arms market. Whereas other gangs were smuggling machine guns and grenades hidden in freezer lorries, the Di Farellos were shifting warheads, tanks, planes, and stockpiling many of the world’s extremist movements, terrorists and dictatorships.
Of the two Di Farellos, it was Salvatore who was clearly the grand puppet-master of this vast global criminal empire. His brother, Luciano, was destined to be a comparatively small time hood, always living in the shadow of his infinitely more successful elder. Luciano was brash, too vocal to ever be safely discrete and generally thought of as the loose connection that would eventually send Salvatore down for good, if that ever happened.
But few people ever believed that Salvatore Di Farello would see the inside of a prison cell. It was clear that he knew that his younger brother was brash, too vocal to be discrete and generally the sort of person who could send the whole operation down the pan if he were ever to be trusted with any important task or delicate information. But being a staunch believer in the unity of the family, Salvatore would often throw small crumb operations to Luciano in order to keep him busy, but only after ensuring that the task was foolproof enough for Luciano to carry out safely.
It was for this reason that all the law enforcement groups attempting to take Salvatore down concentrated their efforts on Luciano. Salvatore was the big fish, the corner stone of the whole outfit, but there was no way that any effort to dig up any dirt on Salvatore would ever yield a usable result in court. Salvatore was infamous for his security in all things criminal; he used codes that didn’t sound anything like the obvious codes of most criminals, he ensured he was always several steps removed from any incrimination, he was well connected to the best political protection corruption could buy and he had a team of lawyers that could manipulate any judge and jury on the globe. Basically, Di Farello was untouchable, and had regularly humiliated scores of police officers and prosecutors in a string of show-trial acquittals.
But Luciano was different. Despite Salvatore’s efforts, the younger brother would insist on occasionally embarking on his own ventures and set up operations for which he had spent a number of years inside at various times. Several groups were continuously monitoring Luciano’s every move, convinced that he would make that one fatal mistake, that one careless slip that would lead them to even a scrap of evidence to get Salvatore put inside for good. Few of them actually believed that they would ever achieve this. The FBI had tried and failed, the Italian DIA had made several attempts without success, the Metropolitan police had launched various cases without even a parking ticket sticking and it was rumoured that HM Customs and Excise were about to launch their seventh major inquiry into the Di Farello’s vast import/export interests.
That was one of the main reasons that Crachet had wanted to get near to Salvatore’s vast empire, he could amass a huge amount of cash and plan the ultimate rip off without any fear of arrest, he could sit under the protection of the Don whilst safely planning his retirement on another continent paid for with stolen mob money. Now maybe that part of it was stupid, why not just work for the Mafia and live off the income? But just think of the sense of victory he could have writing his memoirs – ‘How I robbed the Mob and lived’. Now that would be something, a real legacy to leave in the criminal world, then surely even his mother would be proud and smile down on him… then again, that was maybe stretching it a bit far.
Crachet drifted back into the cold dark reality of the night ahead. He wandered across the bridge that took him over the underground tracks, the reassuring lively sounds of trains rattling below had died hours ago and there was now just silence. As he turned into Farringdon Lane, the light from a fusing neon sign smacked him in the face leaving its red and green mark reflecting off his cheek. He walked past into the square that formed Clerkenwell Gardens and he hated it once again. It was littered with the usual assortment of large dark cars and small dented rust heaps and looked so much like an Italian town square that it was obvious why the Di Farellos felt so at home here. Even when the London streets were at their busiest, Clerkenwell Gardens was a dreamy European square with its old men sleepily propping up the café tables and the white washed Church staring down on the people drifting slowly below.
Crachet hated it for exactly those reasons, it reminded him too much that this wasn’t his world. He walked silently across the square, past the cluster of phone boxes that were bugged by virtually all of London’s Law enforcement groups and on into Sekforde Street. In fact the phone boxes in Clerkenwell Gardens were never used by either Di Farello to discuss any serious business but, like many others across parts of London, were monitored anyhow. These particular ones had so many bugs from different groups that the locals had dubbed them the PC FM radio station on account of the numerous police units you could broadcast to from there.
The past few days had brought a lot of changes, huge life-altering changes, and the worrying thing was that they could quickly become ‘life ending’ changes if he wasn’t too careful. It had all begun to go wrong when he had been working late Saturday and had received a phone call at his Queens Wall office from Salvatore Di Farello himself. That in itself was a very bad sign as Di Farello always talked to him through the accountant Rucaarte, rather than directly. As it turned out, Rucaarte was missing; the Belgian had been due to transfer a large amount of cash to an account in Moscow in order to cover a deal Di Farello was making with some bigshot in the Russian underworld. But the money had never arrived and Di Farello was caught short in Moscow without the funds to cover the deal, leaving him to use his influence and name as enough of a guarantee to secure the transaction without any money changing hands. The Russian gangster had accepted but was clearly not pleased with the whole set up of the operation.
Meanwhile, Luciano had called round to Rucaarte’s London flat and found him missing from there with no note or explanation. Rucaarte had never missed a deal, or been late in anything to do with the Di Farellos and so, after more checks, it became clear that something had gone seriously wrong. There was no evidence that Rucaarte had been arrested or taken ill, he was simply missing without any trace.
Rucaarte and Salvatore had a friendship that went back to their youth and Salvatore had always supplied his accountant with whatever he desired, there was no way that Rucaarte would ever run off with any of the money. It was inconceivable. The only possible explanation was that someone or some rival group had abducted the Belgian, either for the ransom or as a personal attack on Rucaarte himself.
That was when Salvatore had rung Crachet from Moscow. Salvatore didn’t say anything significant on the phone or ask him about Rucaarte at all, he had simply told him that he would be home soon and to video the football on satellite if he had the chance. This code had sent Crachet to a small café just south of the river, where he was given details of where to meet Luciano (this was all relayed in yet more code). In a pub a further five miles away Crachet met with Luciano who grilled him over whether or not he knew where Rucaarte was. The meeting had concluded with Luciano demanding that Crachet would have to replace the money from various resources that he and Rucaarte had access to and, in the meantime, he was to bring a $300,000 down-payment to Luciano, as a show of intent, at a location he would be given within the next few days. He was also warned that if any group or individual contacted the office concerning Rucaarte, he was to leave a message at the café straight away.
The Di Farellos certainly hadn’t wasted any time, Rucaarte had been due to wire the money on Friday but had vanished instead, Luciano had met with him on the Saturday and now he was walking to the meeting spot just two days later.
The amount of money that had gone missing with Rucaarte was phenomenal and now here he was walking across London with $300,000. Damn. Who was he trying to fool? This was no security; Di Farello could wave goodbye to that as small change. Why was he being made to walk across London with cash when Rucaarte and the Mob usually did everything electronically over computers and ISDN lines? It was obviously a test, Luciano didn’t need him to walk across London to deliver a mere $300,000, they were testing him to see if he would do it and how he would react. Just act cool. That was it, don’t act nervous, you are innocent here so act it.
Maybe they thought Rucaarte had walked off with all the money… No, he would never do that and they would never think that. Maybe they had whacked Rucaarte for some reason and were going to whack him too. Tonight. He had been one of the last people to see the Belgian after all, so maybe they thought he was one of the people responsible for kidnapping their accountant. Damn, it was all too late now anyway.
Whatever the reason for the meeting, it was that pathetic ponce Rucaarte’s fault and that’s all there was to it.
Crachet had never really liked Rucaarte; he had only befriended the Belgian in order to attempt to get his hands on the vast wealth of the Di Farello clan. Crachet found the Belgian to be far too eccentric and facetious to be likeable or trustworthy. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise him if that was what this was all about, that the Belgian’s stupid mannerisms and faddish nit-picking had somehow caused this whole disaster to come upon him. Just now, just when he was so close to pulling off the biggest fraud in history.
For a start, it wasn’t as if the stupid ponce was even a proper Belgian. Rucaarte’s late Father had been a Belgian but his mother was obviously a Londoner and despite all his claims to the contrary, Rucaarte took after his mother. His real name was Henry but he insisted that everyone called him Henri (pronounced ‘On-ray’) and if it wasn’t pronounced correctly then he would fly into a rage and complain about all the stupid common people who didn’t recognise true class when they saw it. Most people apologised, knowing who he worked for, but if it wasn’t for Salvatore and Luciano then most people would have beaten the Belgian into a senseless pulp long ago. Crachet would certainly want to be first in the queue for that, he’d had to feign genuine regard and concern for the stupid idiot for a number of years now and was looking forward to removing as much of Rucaarte’s personal fortune as he could.
He turned into Sans Walk and was nearing the point where he had agreed to meet Luciano and now he really began to feel a sense of terror that filled his entire being, to the point where he had to make a conscious effort not to scream. The only other time he had felt this nervous was when he had attempted to pull off his first con – now that had been a disaster. He was only eighteen at the time and had managed to persuade a local dope dealer that he was interested in a large haul of drugs, he had turned up to the meeting with a briefcase stuffed with newspaper and announced that he had the half a million dollars as agreed and that he had brought it all in the briefcase in used $5 bills. The room had gone silent and the dope dealer eventually laughed and pointed out that such a large amount of money in such small denomination would actually fill a small van. Crachet whimpered and wet himself, at which point the whole group gave him a severe kicking and sent him packing with a huge dent in his pride and an embarrassing mark on his criminal CV.
He hated remembering that story, it humiliated him so much to recall it, and the fear now, and the briefcase he was carrying was all too reminiscent of that first botched con. There was also the time that he had genuinely meant to pay someone but had clean forgotten to put the money in the briefcase, now that was very embarrassing too. He hated briefcases, they always seemed to bring him bad luck… forgotten the money! What an idiot, that one was even worse.
He turned into an alley and realised that he must be at the meeting point, Luciano was bound to be hovering nearby waiting for him, watching him. It would all be okay, as long as he played it cool. It wasn’t as if he had made any stupid mistakes this time like forgetting to put the money in. Damn, he had put the money in, hadn’t he? Of course he had, he remembered doing it and he could feel its reassuring weight against his side. It was in there, no doubts. Perhaps he should just check. No, that was silly, a very stupid thing to do, there could be all sorts of people watching.
He turned around and screamed as he found a large face staring at him. It was a statue on a door to a museum called the House of Detention. He attempted to calm down, if he ran into another statue that night he would probably die of a heart attack. In fact, the first thing he vowed to do when he got home was execute his gnomes, this would be a small start in the long therapy of exorcising this nightmare from his mind.
But where was Luciano? A sickening feeling arose from deep within as he realised he was standing in the wrong alley. He quickly hurried out into the street and stared into the surrounding options of equally boding alleys and streets. His eyes came to rest on the depressing blackness of Scotswood Street – the meeting place. Another dark lair. At last it would all soon be over, providing he actually had the money to hand over. Of course he did, that was a stupid thought.
But what if he had forgotten the money? No that was too silly to think about. But what if he had actually forgotten the money? Besides, Luciano was obviously late and so a quick sly peek couldn’t hurt. Just to reassure himself that everything was going to be alright…
Still Tuesday 11th May 1999. Four days after the event. Time- 02:45 GMT.
“Do you know what I really hate about these early morning stints?” There was a slight pause but not enough to allow for an answer. “Horrid filthy tramps. I hate them, and do you know what I hate about them? Horrid filthy everything.” He sat down rather heavily in his chair and began stirring his coffee again, even though it was still spinning wildly from the last time he mixed it. He glanced across at the younger man and gave a look to signify that it was okay for him to speak now as the political rant had concluded.
The younger man was Detective Constable Ian Fern and his older, fatter, louder counterpart was Detective Sergeant Bob Stannell. When Fern had first come to join Scotland Yard he had immediately acquired a great deal of respect for the older man because despite being slightly off the wall, he was a man who had strong opinions and actually stuck to them.
Since actually working with Stannell though, Fern had decided that the canteen gossip was indeed correct. Stannell was an opinionated nutter whose theories and deductions were at best laughable and at worst a public embarrassment to the force. Especially when they appeared in newspapers, which they frequently did. In fact, a local underground satirical magazine, ‘loose clippings’, had even given Stannell his own column called ‘Stannell states’. The magazine’s editor overheard some of Stannell’s theories in a pub and decided to offer him the column due to the fact that none of her best satirists had ever come up with anything as off the wall as even the most sensible criminal conspiracy raised by Bob Stannell.
His most infamous theory concerned the local councillor who had committed suicide along with her toy-boy lover. That much of the story had actually been true, the councillor had been asked to stand down over allegations of her supposed affair with a young butcher’s assistant and the case had ended with the illicit couple driving off a cliff top in the councillor’s car. The most embarrassing aspect of the whole case had been how the councillor had somehow managed to draw out of the council’s account the entire education budget for the forthcoming year and place it in the car’s boot. What money hadn’t burned in the blaze of the wreckage was thought to have washed away in the tide.
The press came in for a lot of flak over their treatment of the affair, especially after it was revealed that the late female councillor had been in touch with a journalist a day before carrying out the suicide pact. The police force dealing with the case had strict orders from Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Marsh to be extremely cautious over what they said to any members of the media, lest the public scorn be suddenly re-diverted.
It was on the day of the controversial memorial service of the deceased couple that Stannell chose to announce to the press his theory that international terrorists had seized the money from the car and would use it to fund political attacks. He was, of course, forced to issue an immediate retraction especially when in his ‘Stannell states’ column he had gone on to suggest that winning lottery syndicates may also have comprised of terrorist groups. A dozen such groups immediately threatened court action and, knowing that they all had the money to see it through, the police force had issued an immediate apology and suspended Stannell from his job for a month. It was not long after this that ‘Stannell states’ had its last column in ‘loose clippings,’ although a column entitled ‘Mystic Charlie’s world of rumours’ has had a suspiciously similar style to its content in recent editions.
It was now 2:50 am and a silence had fallen across the coffee cups on the canteen table. Fern and Stannell sat bored rigid, bordering on actual sleep, staring at the stains on the table. They had been assigned to a specialist unit to be on standby at night and in the early hours in case of an emergency. There had been a lot of strange activity at night in the Holborn area and numerous rumours were drifting across from the National Criminal Intelligence Service concerning some major international figures in the underworld hanging around the city centre when most sensible people were asleep. Detective Chief Inspector Marsh didn’t want a major raid going down right on his doorstep with his officers being completely in the dark yet again and it was all too clear that the investigative unit of HM Customs and Excise were currently looking into something big.
The word going around Law enforcement circles was that Customs were hoping to upstage everyone and bag Salvatore Di Farello, once and for all. Not to be outdone, Marsh had set up a team of specialist officers under the guise of a new multi-district task force to clean up the inner city but everyone knew what their real assignment was. The press dubbed them the ‘Mob squad’.
Fern and Stannell had been given instructions to patrol the streets around Holborn and Islington in order to see what was happening at night as the rumours of strange nocturnal activity in the area were rising steadily. Due to the fact that Fern and Stannell didn’t think that there was much to be achieved driving around London in the early hours other than wasting a lot of petrol, the two men had decided to stake out the police canteen in case any doughnuts or cream cakes happened to need questioning. And besides which, Stannell had a phobic hatred of tramps, and although Fern did not share this view, he was certainly sick of the older officer’s continuous rants about the link between tramps and crime rates and how they should all be rounded up and shot.
The doughnuts and cream cakes seemed to be lying low for the moment, Fern was on his fifth coffee and Stannell was still complaining about how DCI Marsh never listened to his advice over the whole tramp conspiracy.
Fern was on the brink of attempting to slide his credit card down the door of the kitchen again when one of the operators from the night call room came in. She ignored Fern, who was busy sliding his credit card nonchalantly back into his wallet, and sat opposite Stannell in a manner that suggested that this was no trivial visit to check on the cream cake liberation progress.
“We have a bit of a delicate problem and I don’t know who else to ask…”
Stannell smiled back at her. “I understand…”
“No,” she interrupted. “Don’t go getting any strange ideas, look, you are the only two guys I could find…”
“Well cheers very much,” Fern chipped in as he rejoined them with a sixth coffee in hand.
She continued. “Just listen, yesterday morning someone rang in to report a car had been abandoned down some dead end road and well, it didn’t sound over serious and all that, and so it was put on a low emergency status, and well what with all the…”
“We get the picture,” Stannell smiled. “Carry on.”
“Well, this person phoned back just about five minutes ago to fill in some detail that they forgot to mention before…”
“Oh dear,” sighed Fern, he could see this was about to get rather messy and his coffee suddenly became very interesting indeed. “Do I really want to hear this?”
“Probably not,” she answered. “It turns out that there may be some blood on the car and apparently the car is a bit of a mess too… look, it’s not our fault. There was nothing in the original report to suggest any emergency; it was just another supposed abandoned car. Most of them usually turn out to be just parked.”
“But it isn’t going to look too good if there is blood on it and we turn up a day or so late,” said Stannell, his mind was already whirring into action, attempting to sort this mess into some kind of logical format.
“How long did they say it had been there?” asked Fern.
“About a day or two, so it could have been since Friday”.
“What if it’s a kidnapping?” whispered Fern. “And we turn up three days late! That’s going to look rather bad in the papers.”
Stannell’s mind had stopped whirring and a plan was already unfolding. “Right,” he said to the operator, completely ignoring Fern’s last statement, “we don’t even know what we have here yet, you go and check the logs for any missing persons. Find out anything suspicious in the area, we have to make it look like we knew all about this and have been looking into it from the start. It might not turn out to be anything yet. Me and Fern here will take a drive down there and see what we discover. Where was it again?”
“At Viaduct Buildings. It’s at the bottom of Saffron Hill, it’s…”
“Ah, I know it, we’re there already,” said Stannell as he grabbed his coat and made for the door. Fern sighed and replaced his coffee on the table; the cream cakes would keep for another day.
Within a quarter of an hour, the two officers had made their way across Holborn and were pulling into the secluded dead end of Saffron Hill. As they drove into the end of the road, it was all too clear that this was no badly parked car, the red and white barrier that fell across the entrance to this part of the street was severely bent and lying next to the gutter. They drove cautiously into the area and stopped in the middle of the road.
As both men stepped out of the car they couldn’t help but notice the dark Jaguar Sovereign that had been ‘badly parked’ into a wall to the right-hand side of the road. It was clear from the skid marks that the car had entered the alley at high speed, skidded up onto the wide paved area and had come to a sudden halt upon reaching the wall. The boot of the car was wide open as were all of the doors, bar the rear left one, the front of the car was a crumpled mess and the windshield had completely shattered. The vehicle now looked cold and dead, and yet there was an ominous look to this abandoned metal carcass that caused both men to walk cautiously towards it, as if it might rear into life should they wake it.
Fern reached the car first and stuck his head into the passenger side and then quickly leapt back from the vehicle. “Uurgh, no… there’s vomit and blood all over the seat! Oh, yeargh!”
Stannell was too busy listening to the sounds of passing drunks in nearby streets, he stood staring at the steps at the end of the alley that led up to a main road, he was sure he had seen movement, as if they were being watched. “Hey! Who’s that up there? Oi, you! You up the steps!” His shout caused a man to scuffle off at a panicked pace. “Filthy, filthy vagrants everywhere,” he muttered. “What’s up with you Fern?”
“There’s blood and vomit all over the seat in there.”
Fern was sitting on the kerb with his head in his hands. Something about this made him feel rather unwell. He couldn’t quite figure out if it was the shock of how the car smelt or if it was the thought of having to report this all and try and explain the embarrassing three day gap in the response. Stannell walked past him and leant into the car.
“So, what have we here? Phew. You’re right Fernie my boy, that’s going to take a fairly severe dry clean.”
Stannell took a deep breath and blanked his mind. He had to think clearly about this, just stick to the facts. What was actually here in front of him?
The front passenger seat was indeed covered in a grotesque layer of congealed blood and vomit but this was not the first thing that Stannell noticed. All the upholstery in the car was still covered in the transparent plastic that was characteristic of any brand new vehicle. But this car was hardly untouched.
Stannell was staring hard at all the dials on the dashboard but none of them were in any mood for giving answers, this four wheeled Marie Celeste was very dead and very damp. It had obviously rained at some point, as there was a lot of water damage inside the car. Had it rained on Friday? Most of the weekend was still a blur and would take a while to decipher.
As Stannell continued to stare into the car, Fern remained squatting against a small post like an out of place gnome. He had been hoping to get some sleep in the canteen, but the wreckage of a nice dark blue car in front of him was clearly not even considering allowing any sleep for either of them that night. Fern’s eyes glazed over and Stannell remained staring at the smashed windshield and the bonnet that was now at least a foot shorter than factory specifications. Time drifted, time passed.
Stannell had moved around and was now checking the rear seats, there was a large black hole burnt into the centre of the expensive leather. Fern had now joined the car around the other side and found Stannell sniffing the scorched seating. Fern was momentarily distracted by the sound of a distant car backfiring, and then he stuck his head back inside to find his partner with his nose still stuck into the seating.
“Meths! Methylated spirits.”
“What?” asked Fern.
“Meths! There’s meths all over the seating in here.”
Fern moved around to the front again. “What do you supposed happened here then?”
“Well, tramps,” shouted Stannell. “Flamin’ tramps!”
“Methylated spirits. It’s what those filthy gits drink.”
“I don’t believe this! Could we change the record please? I mean, looks like a nasty smash. But we haven’t had any called in. Where’s the driver? Where are the victims? Looks dodgy. Well dodgy. I dunno, but it’s looking kidnapping or a gang hit or a…”
“Just a flamin’ minute! And they say I’m the one with the daft theories! How do you explain the meths? Look, calm down, will you? This car clearly skidded off the road here and crashed, end of story. That’s no mob hit”.
“Then what happened? ‘Cos it sure looks dodgy from where I’m standing.”
“It’s simple. A drunk executive has a few too many and ends up parking into the wall here after taking a serious wrong turn. He’s scared about getting busted for drink driving as he’ll probably lose his job, and so he legs it. Obviously he plans to go off and report it as stolen or something. In the meantime, a couple of tramps come along and loot the car or sleep in it or whatever they do… Anyway, so the blood comes from the accident and all the sick ‘n’ the burnt meths comes from a tramp smoking ‘n’ drinking binge a bit later. I mean, for crying out loud, it’s just so flamin’ obvious. I don’t know, a smashed up car and a bit of blood and suddenly you become Eliot Ness or something out to get Al Capone and the forty thieves! Everyone’s gone completely gangland crazy of late, what with Marsh’s new stupid initiatives. This here is just the work of some dirty homeless slags, nothing more and nothing less. Check the logs and I bet you find the half-baked chopsnider reported his own car as stolen a couple of nights back.”
“Are you serious? I suppose now the JFK assassination was tramps too was it?”
Stannell screwed up his face, attempting to avoid the stupid debate that was looming. “Well actually, if you check up on your facts, I think you will find that three suspicious tramps were arrested immediately after the shooting, so put that in your pipe Mr. Overbaked-hoorah-gang-buster!”
The two men suddenly stopped as they realised that this was hardly an appropriate venue or time for a debate on US conspiracy theories of the 1960’s. They both stood there feeling awkward and trying to figure out a way of diplomatically breaking the tense silence. Both sets of eyes couldn’t help but keep falling on the twisted wreck of the car, so motionless and quiet and yet the eerie still silence of its dark form was somehow deafening. Time drifted, time passed.
Whatever had happened, it was quite clear that this event was certainly going to be a messy investigation with a lot of flak flying in from all sides and it was clear to the two officers that they were now well and truly in it feet first.
Fern broke the silence. “So…Er, shall I radio this one in then?”
“Yeah, go on then,” Stannell resigned himself to the situation.
“Tango Charlie, this is 412, Over”
A reply crackled back at him. “412? That’s new innit… erm, hang on, scrap of paper here somewhere… oh Bob and Ian. Hello Ian, thought it was you.”
“We have an incident here, Saffron Hill. Abandoned vehicle, possible abduction or murd…”
“Its only tramps!” bellowed Stannell. “Tramps! Tramps! Tramps! Don’t get the seventh cavalry all fired up ‘n’ all over this. That’s all we need, another volume of pointless paperwork up to our flamin’ ears.”
“Ian, you still there? What’s going on? Do you have an incident to report?”
“Look,” replied Fern uneasily, “I’ll be truthful with you, I don’t know what has happened here but we have an abandoned car and signs of serious injury but no body. It’s a midnight blue Jaguar XJ Sovereign, index number ‘Lima Uniform Charlie One Delta’. Best get an incident team down here and forensics.”
“Too late for the chemistry pupils on this one,” chuckled Stannell. “Some filthy old git has puked all over your delicate forensic samples. Just send the dry cleaners down here, I would”.
Stannell was interrupted by his own radio crackling into life. “412, this is Tango Charlie, over”.
“What’s your current whereabouts?”
“We have a reported firearms incident within your vicinity. Shots have been heard. Can you respond?”
“Yeah, will do, Where exactly?” Stannell was already getting into the car and waving at Fern to join him.
“In the vicinity of Clerkenwell Close and…”
“Good grief, that’s right nearby. When was this?”
“About ten minutes ago. Proceed with caution, suspect should still be at large in the area.”
“We’re on our way, show us as responding.”
“Fern, get in. Shooting!” bellowed Stannell as he started up the car.
“But what about here?” pleaded Fern, pointing at the smashed up Jaguar.
“Forget about it, it’s just tramps. It’s waited three days, bit longer won’t hurt and there’s a team on its way already… just get in!”
Fern knew he wasn’t getting anywhere and gave in, it didn’t really matter that they were leaving a crime scene unattended as they had already left it for three days and so no samples would be admissible as evidence against anyone anyway. Anyone could have tampered with it over the last three days, even tramps.
He jumped into the car next to Stannell and the unmarked police car screeched out of the dead end and immediately hit a man standing in the middle of the road. The man, who was wearing a long drooping coat and a floppy hat, bounced off the car and into a pile of boxes. Fern jumped in horror but Stannell just sighed and sped on.
“Oh my… my… Just stop you idiot! You just hit a bloke… You…! You knocked him down!”
“Fern, calm down. I just glanced him, it was just some scummy dosser anyway. We have more important things to be doing.”
“Oh for!… Just stop! Stop right now!”
Stannell screeched on the brakes and leant out of his window. “You deserved that you low down piece of filth!”
Before Fern could get out of the car Stannell had floored it and was racing off up Saffron Hill towards the scene of the reported shooting.
“Look,” continued Stannell, “I only clipped him. He’ll be OK. Besides which, it was clearly one of our half-cut Wino friends just standing there wobbling in the middle of the friggin’ road. Tell you what, that’s probably the git who puked all over your precious evidence.”
The car roared across the junction with Farringdon Road and up into Clerkenwell Gardens, Stannell turned left into Clerkenwell Close and then slowed the car to a crawl, with both men scanning the roadside for clues. The road twisted round to the left and then back to the right, Fern had a torch out and was probing into all the dark corners. Then, as the road bent back round to the left they noticed that the tarmac was covered with little pieces of paper, strewn across the street and blowing around in the swirling wind.
“Litter’s bad here,” commented Stannell, his mind already wandering off the case in hand, this was clearly another false alarm.
“Slow it down a bit,” said Fern as he opened his door and dropped out onto foot. Stannell brought the car to a crawl and put the headlights on full beam to keep track of his colleague. Probably just a firework or a car back firing, all this fuss and nonsense. He stopped the car and was about to radio in for more information when Fern suddenly appeared at his door with a worried and urgent look on his face.
When Stannell wound down his window it became immediately apparent that his partner had recently acquired a large fistful of US Dollars.
“Here’s your litter,” said Fern dropping the foreign cash into the car. “At least, here’s a very small part of it”.
Stannell jumped out of the car and cautiously ran round to the boot. He was soon at Fern’s side handing his partner a police issue revolver. “Take it, just in case. I keep them hidden in the boot for such a time as this.”
The two men were stood on a small junction where a myriad of alleys and back streets seemed to collide without the greatest look of any planning or scheme. They cautiously began to probe the beginnings of each dark depth in order to find the source of the dollars that were blowing around their feet.
Fern was still trying to figure out the first event that they had been called to. He certainly wasn’t subscribing to some daft theory concerning a band of vulturous tramps salvaging from the wreckage of drunk drivers. But if the wreck of the Jaguar with all its plastic covered seats and methylated spirits wasn’t strange enough then now he was stalking the world’s most extravagant litterbug. He was secretly hoping that they failed to find the source of all the money, he was happy to just leave it as a freak money dumping session that would remain unsolved. He was pretty certain that Stannell was loving all of this and he was pretty damn certain that his senior officer was probably going to ruin his night by finding something else to create stacks more paperwork.
Fern decided to slip into a small side alley next to the car; he would disappear into the darkness and just recover or hide for a bit. Anything rather than follow Stannell off on a wild goose chase after who knows what. He certainly wasn’t in the mood for finding anymore strange scenes for Stannell to invent some garbage about. But what he really wasn’t in the mood for was stepping onto the corpse of an American con man who had been recently shot through the chest and head.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what he did and he ‘calmly’ alerted his partner to the fact by screaming and falling back against the car in shock. Stannell came running back to see what all the noise was about and found Fern sitting up against the car hugging his pistol and mumbling to himself. His partner was clearly in a state of extreme shock and was also looking rather angry. Stannell’s heart was racing at the expectation of what Fern might be about to tell him, but he couldn’t help but think that his partner wasn’t at all pleased about discovering the source of all the littered bank notes.
“That,” Fern finally blurted out, pointing into the alleyway. “And so is that the work of your stupid gang of delinquent tramps then?”
Stannell picked up Fern’s torch from where it had been dropped and cautiously stepped into the alleyway, as he did so he could hear Fern already radioing in.
“This is Fern, we are at the scene of the shooting and you’d best get another team here right away. We have a stiff shot full of holes and half the Yank economy blowing about in the wind…”
Fern’s words drifted into a dull background noise as Stannell found himself face to face with the corpse of a large fat man in an ill fitting suit, an empty briefcase lying open and discarded several metres away. Separate issues, he thought to himself, don’t fall into the trap of linking these two coincidental events, the first one still had ‘tramp’ written all over it. But this one was clearly different, if his partner had been seeking a gang murder case then he had just, quite literally, stepped onto it.