Private Investigator Joe Malone has discovered a body, crushed in the basement of his office building. The body is identifiable as missing Lord, Politician. Campaigner, remainer and husband, Marmon-Herrington Bixby. As Malone pondered what to do, there was a commotion from above.
There was an almighty thump. Then a loud crack. Like the splintering of wood. A crash of glass. Then another tremendous bang and the building security entrance alarm, went off.
Ch 27 – The Raid.
I moved over to the stairs. I head a thunder of hob nailed boots. It was all came from upstairs in the lobby.
I knew the sound. The one that had made the first crash. I just hadn’t associated it with what must be happening. As it seemed so unlikely. A swing battering ram had taken the building’s door off its hinges. Two hits. It wasn’t a sturdy security door. Just strong enough to pass basic insurance requirements and deter casual opportunists. It would have come off straight away.
This was a raid.
I could hear some faint radio chatter, muffled through helmets. It sounded like orders.
The boots moved off, heading upstairs. Away from my location in the basement.
I moved away from Bixby’s corpse and over to the bottom of the stairwell. I hit the light switches for the basement. The feeble fluorescents shut off and the basement was black again. I waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. If this was simply a drugs bust on my hard working Turkish office neighbour, that would be fine by me. But it would also be some coincidence. The drug squad turning up at the same time as Lord Bixby.
I hesitantly, and as quietly as I could, made my way back up the stairs. Wanting to get a view of ground level. To see what was going on.
I moved to the first space landing. Standing on tip toe I peered up. My head was now level with the entrance hall floor. There was less noise now. The intruders had gone up to the higher levels. But not all of them. I could hear some voices. But the words were muffled by helmets and I couldn’t make them out.
Peering over the lower step I could some people there. Dressed in combat gear. I counted three. This was the backup and secure part of the assault team that had stayed behind in the lobby. Standard procedure. One covers the door. One the stairs. One in command.
It was dark. Only the illumination from the lamps outside. Plus some light from upstairs, leaking down. That would be my office. I hadn’t turned the lights off when I’d come down here. Hadn’t been intending to come down here. I thought I was going to greet Vanessa Bixby. I hadn’t even closed my office door.
The upstairs team would know I was still here or only very recently gone. They would see the analyser running. Working on Bixby’s letter. When the saw I wasn’t up there, in the office, they’d organise a search of the whole building. So I needed to get out, before they did.
As my eyes adjusted I saw the lobby squad better. The three raiders wore helmets.
And had carried shields. But they had put these down now. Leaning against the wall.
The shields were really heavy, I knew. I’d had to carry them on a few emergency occasions.
Some purchasing idiot at the Home Office had decided to go carbon neutral on some equipment. Carbon Free – So no carbon fibre or plastic composites. They were basically a lead block with a hole to peer through. Unless they were urgently required, no one carried them for long.
The one closest to me, I noticed had the eco-unfreindly poly armour, that protected the entire arm. This came in after the shield fiasco. This armour was only usually issued if there was likely to be serious trouble. Raiding a terror suspect’s bomb making flat. Armed robbery gang’s hideout. Maybe if there was a BBC, former children’s television presenter, Paedo suspect. And the investigating force wanted the sky Chopper to get some action pictures of them going in and looking tough,
At least one of them had a weapon. I could make out a blue metal short barrel. Too short for an assault rifle, so possibly a sub-machine gun. I couldn’t see any specific uniform markings on the officers. Just a generic ‘POLICE’ identification.
It was too dark to see the identity number sequences they would have on their breast pockets. The first three of their serial number would identify which police agency they worked for.
099 for The Met. 096 for Cybercrimes. 033 Drone Squad. 211 for The Department,
One of the squad in the lobby was considerably smaller than the others. So was either a woman or a midget. Depending on which force it was, having one of those people on an arrest raid, would be compulsory.
This looked very bad. There was a lot of hardware on the three I could see. The upstairs team would probably have even more.
A lot for just a pick-up. I was assuming, probably rightly, that it was me they were here for. Because they had gone up the stairs, straight away. hadn’t come to the basement. So they probably didn’t know Bix was down here.
They’d smashed the door off the entrance and stormed in. If it was just a ‘wanted for questioning’ they would have rung the bell.
I’d seen enough.
There was no way to get past those three by the broken door. But there might be a way through the basement. Or even somewhere to hide down there.
I wasn’t hopeful of hiding. Once they found Bixby, they’d bag and tag everything in the building for the crime scene of the decade.
I thought I had seen a set of steps on the back wall of the basement. Maybe if,
There was a crash from higher up. From the upper levels of the office building. Glass breaking. The other team were definitely in my office now. That had been a smashed pane. Could have been my door. Probably by accident as I hadn’t locked, or even closed it when I’d come down here to the basement.
The cops looked up at the sound of the glass shattering. But they didn’t alter posture. Evidently they had been on raids before. Knew that a bit of window damage wasn’t a cause for alarm.
Then a burst of shots rang out. Automatic fire.
That was a cause for alarm.
The three assault cops at the entrance ducked down, by instinct. One moved over and crouched at the bottom of the stairs. The one with the machine pistol. Sighting up with his weapon. The other two looked up to the upper floor. Both went to their holsters and pulled out pistols.
They looked around for some cover, but there was none. This wasn’t some fancy bank atrium over in Canary Wharf, with a marble reception desk, Triangular, hanging Vid’Screens and real Saharan Palm trees in giant ceramic pots. This was the Swarbrick Building. And all there was, was an out of date board that listed the current and former occupants, and a wall of small mailboxes. There wasn’t even a console table to hide behind. So the police just pressed themselves against the walls.
I stayed where I was. Hoping they might go up, or be called up, to help out. That would give me the opportunity to dash out of here.
There was now a lot of shouting from upstairs. The adrenalin sounding in the voices even through the heavy helmets. A few people were all yelling at once, across each other.
Then a more authoritarian voice gave a series of barked commands and all was quiet.
Just silence. There was a long pause. No one moved.
Then the sound of some footsteps from above. Coming down the stairs. Not hurrying.
A voice from the upper floor stairway called loudly down, “Tomcat. Tomcat! Clear for safety! Its me, Ansell!” The voice was clear in the stillness.
The police in the hallway immediately relaxed and lowered their weapons. I saw boots at the top of the first floor stairs. A figure crouched down, and cautiously peered around the staircase. Checking to make sure he wasn’t going to be sprayed by sub machine gun fire from trigger happy officers as he came down.
Seeing all was clear, Officer Ansell descended to his colleagues. He had his helmet off, revealing a fashionably bearded face. And he held an HK MP5 loosely in his hand.
“For Chris’sake, Ansell!” answered the cop by the stairs, standing up from his ready for action, crouch position. “You made Sayeeda piss herself.”
“Up yours, Cooper!” the smallest cop called back. Giving a middle finger with the hand that wasn’t attempting to put her pistol back into her belt holster.
“Damned thing! Just when off.” Ansell said, coming down the final steps to the half landing of the stairway, holding up his HK in a far too casual posture. Glass crunched under his boots. Caught in their tread.
“Not my fault! Just went off. Piece of crappy, German..crap.”
Then he grinned at the others, “I shot the shit out of a Vid’Screen up there. Captain’s real mad. ‘Weapon safety, compromised,’ she said.” He blew out a breath. Tension coming out of him, as well as the others. it’s always tense when guns are involved.
“She also said Khimji is to go up in my place. And I’m to wait down here for her. But listen, it wasn’t my..”
Then he saw me. He was facing towards me, and was higher up on the stairs, while the others had had their backs to me and, from their position, couldn’t see down the stairway where I was.
But Officer Ansell could.
Before I could do anything he cried out, “There he is!”
Then he half crouched, readying his weapon in one fluid movement. He gave just the slightest of foresight aim. Then he pulled the trigger.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file