Authors: Denzil Meyrick
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Crime
Daley wasn’t sure how many times he had heard that trotted out. Every generation throughout history must have looked upon the behaviour of their progeny with a leery eye. Things weren’t perfect by any means, yet the town had a kind of bonhomie, surely extinct in many communities in the twenty-first century.
‘Having said all that, I wouldn’t like to live anywhere else in Scotland.’ Bain drained his whisky. ‘Aye, and it’ll be even better when you get this little mess cleared up, eh? It’s all people are talking about at the airport. I even heard that the army were on their way to sort things out. Anyway, folks, I’ve enjoyed your company, and I hope I’ll see you again.’ He got up slowly. ‘The best of luck to you tonight,
Inspector.’ He winked at Daley, gave Liz a big smile and then left, assuring them that ‘mince and tatties would wait for no man’.
Later, in the dining room, Liz asked her husband what was happening that evening. Daley paused. ‘I can’t really talk about it, Liz. I’m not trying to be difficult’ – he shrugged – ‘but it’s nothing you’re not used to.’ He raised his eyebrows in contrition.
‘All I’m concerned about is you.’ Liz looked earnest. ‘I don’t know what it is, I’ve just got a weird feeling in my stomach. Know what I mean?’
Daley did, but decided that reassurance was the best
policy. ‘You know me – belt and braces – and I’ve got Brian with me. What could possibly go wrong?’
She smiled, but the strain on her face was clear. The rest of the meal was a quiet affair.
Tick. Tick. Tick. The wall clock in the CID room seemed especially loud, or maybe the tense atmosphere just made it appear so. Representatives from all the agencies involved in the imminent raid on
had gathered to discuss their strategy.
Representing Strathclyde Police were Superintendent Donald, DCI Daley and DI Paterson, who was in charge of the Tactical Firearms Unit to be deployed at the raid. HM Customs was represented by a wispy-haired Ulsterman called Tommy Shanks, whose angular face bore a permanently disgruntled expression, as though being in the Kinloch CID office in the early hours of the morning was absolutely the last place in the world he wanted to be. Lieutenant Philip Carter had just arrived via helicopter from the Royal Navy frigate
; the warship was still trailing the Latvian vessel at a discreet distance. Harbour master Flynn sat nervously at the end of the table.
Donald, as chairman, was the first to speak. ‘Welcome, gentlemen, and my apologies for dragging you all here at such an uncivilised hour. However, as you no doubt appreciate, we are facing a tricky set of circumstances.’
Here we go, thought Daley, watching his boss consult an impressively large pile of typed notes. ‘We know from our
friends in the Royal Navy’ – he smiled at Lieutenant Carter – ‘that the
is heading for Kinloch, and on current estimates should arrive at the harbour between three thirty and four. We will, of course, be in position well in advance of this time.’ He discarded the top sheet of notes. ‘Now, we all know the challenge. We are reliably informed that this fishing boat is a regular visitor to the port, and that her crew is involved with the supply and distribution of illegal drugs.’
At this, Shanks sighed. ‘I think we’re all aware why we’re here, Superintendent. I think it would be more appropriate at this time to discuss who should be leading this operation. This is clearly a matter where HM Customs should take precedence.’ He waved his hand at Donald in an imperious way that Daley reckoned he might regret. Vain, posturing and arrogant, Donald undoubtedly was: ill prepared, easily dominated, malleable he was not.
‘I had hoped we could run this operation in an adult, non-partisan fashion. I see that’s not going to be the case.’ Donald removed his spectacles and glowered at Shanks. ‘While I do not deny Customs have every right to be involved in the due process of the operation, the non-availability of support personnel, combined with lack of infrastructure in this area, excludes the possibility of command.’ Shanks cleared his throat to speak, but Donald carried on. ‘We came by the information about this boat as part of an inquiry which now concerns the brutal murder of three individuals. We have good reason to believe that an individual, or individuals, aboard
could well be involved with these events, if not directly responsible. Therefore, this operation will proceed as it began: police led.’ He slapped the palm of his hand on the table to emphasise the point.
Shanks, though, was not to be put off. ‘First, I find it highly irregular that you’ve chosen not to inform us from whom and from where this information came, and also, perhaps more crucially, when? We were only contacted in the late afternoon. However, it has been brought to my attention that you received the tip-off this morning. Had we been contacted then, we would now be in a position to have the correct infrastructure in place. Do you follow, Superintendent?’
It had been a long time since Daley had seen Donald go red in the face with anger, not since his makeover from being a crude, gruff, overweight shift sergeant, in fact.
‘You listen to me.’ Donald pointed his Mont Blanc fountain pen at the Customs Officer. ‘I’m overseeing a triple murder investigation a hundred and fifty miles from my headquarters, an investigation which contains much sensitive and restricted information, as well as the possibility of a number of serious crimes. Too many cooks spoil the broth, in my experience. Do you really think I am about to hand over the reins at this crucial phase to an organisation more at home creeping about bonded warehouses, or getting my taxes wrong? If you’re not prepared to go along with the command structure of this operation, you can fuck off. It’s going ahead with or without you – is that clear?’
Daley saw the young lieutenant lower his gaze to the table in an effort to conceal his obvious amusement, while Shanks managed to look more waspish than ever. After a moment’s pause, he made a dismissive gesture with his hand, then folded his arms as a silent indication that he reluctantly accepted.
From then on, the meeting progressed in the way Daley expected, with Donald firmly in charge and making all the
decisions. The plan was simple: the Navy would track the fishing boat by radar into the harbour, while keeping an open communication link with the land-based authorities, who would be in position around Kinloch’s second pier. The two access roads there would be closed, just in case any of the good citizens of the town was out for an early-morning stroll. The Navy would then send an armed security team in a RIB to seal off the loch, should the Latvians somehow get wind of what was going on and try to make a break by sea.
Lieutenant Carter spoke up. ‘We’ll have ten marines on the RIB, Superintendent, just in case things get a bit heated on the ground – nothing your men can’t handle, I’m sure.’ He smiled at Donald. ‘We don’t have any intel on this particular vessel, but some of these ex-Soviet gangs can be ruthless. If required, we should be able to deploy in three to four minutes. It’ll mean revealing our position, but that won’t matter once the trap’s sprung, eh, gentlemen?’
He reached down, picked up a blue holdall from his feet and lifted it onto the table. He unzipped it and took out what looked like a pair of large two-way radios. ‘These are satellite-enabled comms devices.’ He looked around the table. ‘They’re intuitive – if the radio signal goes down or is blocked by defensive tactics and so on, they’ll open up a local satellite channel with the command unit. In this case,
. I suggest that the ground ops commander’ – he handed one of the devices to Daley – ‘and the overall commander retain these units.’ The assembled police officers nodded in agreement. ‘Of course, I’ll be shadowing you closely, Chief Inspector Daley, so you might choose to give me control of comms – for naval communication at least.’
Daley was impressed with the competence shown by the young naval officer. He hadn’t really appreciated just how often the Navy was now involved with crime enforcement issues, especially those involving drugs or armaments. Carter reminded everyone that international terrorism sourced a huge proportion of their funding from the sale of narcotics, the well-worn drugs route from Afghanistan overland into the former Soviet Caucasus region being a favourite. The defence of the UK coastline was the historic role of the Royal Navy; to them, the trade embodied the Armada of the twenty-first century.
Scott was in the car park smoking a cigarette. Daley gave him a brief summary of the meeting, while the pair stared up at the night sky. The weather had taken a turn for the better, though the temperature was only four or five degrees. Being city boys, they weren’t used to seeing the firmament because of the amber glare of light pollution. Daley remembered his grandfather’s passion for the heavens. On their trips away from Glasgow, he had shown him the different constellations, explaining how they moved across the sky. Daley had now forgotten most of it, though he thought he recognised certain patterns. ‘I think that’s Taurus, Bri. Just there, to the left.’
‘Nah, nah, that’s the Bear, Jim. Or maybe the Plough? Och, I’m no’ sure. I wis brought up in Maryhill fir fuck’s sake. The nearest we got tae stars wiz when Thistle were playing the Gers at hame – ye know whit I’m sayin’ – or some bastard stuck wan on ye at the dancin’.’
Nevertheless, they stood, silently rooted to the spot for a few more minutes, with only the click-flare-click of Scott’s
gas lighter to break the spell. This was done more effectively when the security door swung open to reveal Superintendent Donald, swathed in an expensive black overcoat.
‘You won’t get any answers up there, lads,’ he said through a mouthful of food. ‘We leave in an hour, so we better press on with this general briefing. Everyone’s ready.’ He stared up at the sky. ‘Ah, the Big Dipper – wonderful sight.’
Scott looked dubious. ‘It’s the Bear, is it no’?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Brian.’ Donald turned abruptly and walked back towards the door.
‘Aye, whitever you say, boss,’ Scott said in a loud whisper so Daley would hear. ‘Fuckin’ Roger Moore, noo.’
‘It’s Patrick, Brian. Patrick Moore.’ Daley enlightened his DS as they made their way to the briefing.
‘Eh?’ Scott was already disconnected, stubbing out his cigarette in a flurry of orange sparks.
The whole team now consisted of the crew of the Royal Navy RIB, a seven-strong police Tactical Firearms Unit, four armed CID officers, plus six uniforms and a DC charged with keeping the public away. Not that the townsfolk should be a problem: the plan was to keep the matter as low-key as possible, using the element of surprise as their key tactic.
Still, Daley had a heavy heart. Those involved in action on the pier were kitted out with the latest bullet-proof body armour over their civilian clothes, and had each been provided with a reinforced steel helmet by the firearms unit, which Scott was refusing to wear. The DCI though, was still not entirely happy. Sure, they had enough firepower to effect a small revolution, and had more support unit officers on their way from Glasgow to deal with any possible aftermath,
but somehow he felt there was an element out of kilter – something he had missed.
He had discussed this unease with Donald, who had immediately deployed his arm-around-the-shoulder approach, assuring Daley that everything would be fine and hinting that he felt the DCI’s fears were merely down to the added responsibility of a more senior rank. He would ‘get used to it’. But Daley had learned to trust his instincts, and he was finding it almost impossible to rid himself of the leaden feeling of impending doom.
Maybe I’m just getting too old for this, he thought, as he shouted for a bit of quiet in the room full of police officers. Body armour was being strapped on, helmets secured, weapons being checked just one last time, and the radios and secure mobile phones being used by each officer monitored for serviceable quality, battery level and the like. ‘We all know how we want things to progress. Our first priority, as always, is our own and the public’s safety – please bear that in mind at all times. I don’t want anyone to be too shy to speak up if they feel that something’s wrong or want to draw my attention to possible problems.’ At this, he looked at Donald, who seemed engrossed by something on his Blackberry. ‘We embark in five minutes, so good luck, lads. Now, Superintendent Donald will say a few words.’
Despite thinking that his boss was not concentrating, no sooner had the invitation to speak left Daley’s mouth than Donald was on his feet addressing the assembled personnel, or ‘unit’, as Donald now insisted on calling them. At his side, an expressionless Shanks looked straight ahead.
Donald having completed his hackneyed pep talk, Scott began struggling with the straps on his body armour as the
room now emptied into three personnel carriers that would transport them all to their drop-off point behind a row of buildings located in front of the harbour. ‘This fuckin’ thing reminds me o’ the ski jacket she bought me last Christmas – mind I telt ye aboot it?’ Daley always admired the
of his DS, constantly distracted as he was by some seeming triviality despite the circumstances. ‘I says tae her, fuck me, you’d need tae be Harry bastardin’ Houdini tae get intae the thing, never mind get oota it.’
‘I never knew he had a middle name.’
‘Aye, very good,
. Can ye no’ make yersel’ useful and strap me intae this contraption, in case Ivan the fuckin’ Terrible wants tae take potshots at me.’
As Daley was securing a recalcitrant strap, he saw DC Fraser making his way towards them. Not yet trained in firearms, Fraser’s job was to oversee the uniformed constables who were to be involved in sealing off the pier from the rest of Kinloch. He was wearing a dark ski jacket. ‘Tell me, Archie, did you have any bother getting into that jacket of yours?’ The young detective’s answer in the negative was obscured by a stream of invective from DS Scott.
The night was cool, and a stillness had descended upon the sleeping town as the unit emerged from three vans, now parked nose to tail behind the local marine chandlers. Daley took a deep breath that smelled and tasted of the sea, which itself looked as black as ink, reflecting only the glow of the few lights bordering the harbour. In the distance, he
recognised the pealing of the bell on the pontoons, the mournful sound adding an air of melancholy to the scene.