Joe Malone was arranging his exit from the UK via a People Smuggler he’d met in the cafe.
I was just about to seal the deal, when a deep voice from just behind me exclaimed loudly,
“Well, well. Look who we have here. If it isn’t the man everyone’s been looking for.
Ch 38 – SCD9.
“Well, well. Look who we have here. If it isn’t the man everyone’s been looking for.
Before I could even begin to think of making a run for it, I felt a very firm, very heavy hand clamp down hard on my shoulder. The shoulder was bruised and the little squeeze the hand also gave, almost made me cry out.
I had been making some rookie mistakes. Making sure really amateur attempts to avoid the surveillance cameras and drones of the authorities.
I knew that now. Now this muscular hand had dropped onto my shoulder. Pinning me in my seat in the booth.
My pitiful attempts to escape the forces of the state by adopting a fancy dress Sherlock Holmes cape and a big hat, were always going to be doomed. I should have known. Should have tried harder to avoid them.
The police didn’t just random search. Street after street. They target searched. I knew this. I’d done it enough times myself.
From the moment they had the call they would have entered the name into the computer files and ran an SKLA, ‘Search Known Locations and Associates’ for Joe Malone. Then they would scour the list of names and addresses. Decide on the most likely and focus resources on those.
I’d got my assistant Dacia to run for cover and stay hidden the moment I was able.
I’d avoided going to my apartment or any relative or other friend’s place. Because I knew this was how the system worked.
But then I’d got desperate. Had gone to Nina’s place, The Sapphire Mermaid. And also come here. Both locations that would be known-frequent locations in my files.
My files contained more data than the average citizen. They had all my case files.
Personnel files and expense claims for all my work for them over many years.
The police hadn’t needed to rely on facial recognition from crowds of thousands. Or a chance encounter with a Police-Bot at an intersection. They had just needed to focus real time monitoring on places I was most likely to visit. Places like this. The Cantina.
I had been foolish to think they might do otherwise.
“Joe Malone. Hiding in here, of all places,” said the deep voice, from the someone standing right behind my seat in the booth.
It sounded vaguely familiar. The voice. The hand continued to press down, with considerable force. It pinned me firmly in my place. I turned my head a fraction so I could see the hand on my shoulder.
It was a large, black, hand. With firm fingers and surprisingly pink, well manicured nails. A gold ring in the design of a crown was on the middle finger. The imperial crown had a sizeable ruby in the centre of the orb. The hand’s wrist was encased in a dark grey, pinstripe suit.
I twisted my head over my shoulder and let my gaze travel up the arm, to rest on the face of the large, bald, Jamaican man who was holding me.
He was tall. I could tell. Even when sitting down as I was, I could see he was well over six foot. And very well built. His powerful frame visible. Even encased as it was in the Hugo Boss suit and very shimmery fabric, pale purple vest. His frame looked extraordinary muscular. He might possibly be wearing a light-alloy armoured vest.
Orange waistcoat buttons. Orange pocket handkerchief and a flash orange bow tie.
Snappy dresser this character.
The stern face was looking down, into mine. And it asked, “So where have you been hiding yourself, Malone? We’ve been looking all over for you, haven’t we, Angel?”
He addressed the second question to a woman sitting behind and across from us.
There were two drinks on their table. They must have both been sat there when he’d seen me. And recognised me. And come across.
“Sure.” The woman said. “You talked about him just a little while ago.”
But she didn’t seem that interested. Not as interested as she should be if she was looking at the discovery of manhunt man of the moment, Joe Malone.
The big, round face looking down at me broke into a wide grin. Revealing very white teeth and a very gold incisor. With a small, sparkling diamond embedded in the gold tooth. The hand squeezed my shoulder hard, then released, And the man said,
“How you doing, Joe?”
“I’m doing .. just fine,” I replied. Surprised I wasn’t under arrest.
I knew this man. Knew him quite well. He was Ex-Department too. We’d been on assignment together at least a half dozen times. Gordon. Gordon Raynes was his name. And although, like me, he wasn’t with The Department any more, he was still in Law Enforcement.
“What are you doing here, Gordon?” I asked him in a friendly, hello there buddy tone, I didn’t feel at all.
“I’m with SCD9. We’re here about some Syrians. Boating in hookers by the ferry load. Ain’t that right, Angel?”
“Sure,” the pretty blonde girl said. She must be police too. She still seemed disinterested. Certainly not as interested as she should be, as she was about to receive a commendation and promotion for arresting the suspected killer of Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby, of Remain. Gordon was being ridiculously amicable too. He should have had me on the floor by now. Hands tied with cable tie handcuffs while he called in support teams. Instead he was telling me about his conversation.
I realised, I wasn’t under arrest. The slow dawning of it was wondrously euphoric. I had to strain to keep my face neutral and not pound the table in joy. Not only was I immediately under arrest. They weren’t really interested in me at all.
They were both carefully scanning the room as they spoke. Keeping an eye out for someone or something. That, I now realised, fortunately, wasn’t me.
“We had a hot tip. The Al-Mhenda gang is here. Looking for fresh flesh. I’m going to sell them D.S. Angel, here. If I can get a good enough price.” And he laughed very loudly.
I looked across and saw her smile. But, I thought, only because he was her boss.
She looked a little annoyed behind that smile.
“What are you doing in here? Gordon asked me. “You aren’t ‘Department’ no more.”
“I’m working a real case.” I replied. “Not some SCD9 Immie illegals crap, that will never get to trial. Like you are,” I said to Gordon. SCD9 made thousands upon thousands of arrests each year. Most, resulting in slap on the wrist or community service sentences.
He smiled. “Oh yeah? This one will get to trial. I’ve made sure. It’s tight.”
“I have a client whose husband is believed to be trying to leave with their two daughters to Pakistan,” I continued to explain. Making it up on the fly. “She has the passports. He has the girls for next weekend, as per the courts decree. I wanted to see if there was a people smuggler here. Someone who could trap the husband in a sting, as he tried to flee.”
“Really?” said Gordon. “How thoroughly uninteresting.” And he laughed again. Still scanning the tables. The tip must be hot, as Gordon liked a good drink and company and would normally have sat straight down with us.
He liked women too. And they liked him. The woman at his table, Detective Sergeant Angel, was exactly his type. Platinum Blonde and very pale. I’d never known him to have less than two girlfriends on the go at once. As well as his regular, long term partner.
His trick in keeping it all secret, apart from having the sort of job where odd hours were the norm, was to ensure the mistresses were aware that they were the ‘other woman.’ And make sure they knew he would have to spend time with his family, more than them. For now.
That allowed him to come and go as he pleased. And as long as all the ‘other women’ thought they were the only ‘other women,’ he could spend as much, or as little time with any of them as he wished. Which he did. Judging by the lines around his eyes It must have been exhausting for him.
“What’s your story?” he suddenly asked of Gill, my table companion.
Gill didn’t know what to say. He’d heard us talking, and he knew that the black guy I was talking to was police. Worse than just police. He was SCD9. Specialist Crime Directorate Nine. That was Human Exploitation.
The old name was The Vice Squad. Gill would know that SCD9 was prostitution.
But their main focus since even before the never ending semi-Brexit was People Smuggling and Slavery.
Gill didn’t say anything. Just let the question hang. So before his silence became a problem I said, “This is Gill. He’s a people smuggler.”
Gill’s brown face went white when I said that. He looked like Justin Trudeau. I was dropping him right in it. But he recovered quickly and had the sense to say only, “Ohh…Aye…tha’s right. I’m…helpin’ oot, like.”
“OK. Well, look, Joe, fascinating as all this, we got our people here. So I’m going to leave you to your business. But listen. Why I wanted to get in touch with you. There’s a get together. Next week. Hockley got promoted. Remember him?”
“That kid? That freckled face, ginger kid?” And for a moment I was so surprised and piqued, I forgot the danger I was in. I felt my voice raise as I asked incredulously, “He got promoted? To what?.. DA.?”
D.A. was Department slang for Desk Attendant.
“He’s in social media enforcement. He’s now a damn Captain! I told you we should have transferred there, years ago. Didn’t I tell you?” said Gordon, removing his firm hand from my shoulder, and slapping me admonishingly across the back of the head.
“Yes. Yes, you did.” And he had. He had told me often that we should both get an easy life in 9-5 crime. Policing hurty feelz. Gordon had been right.
“Hockley has a bunch coming already. Me and Estrada. Erm..Solizchezc And..
Angel will be there, won’t you?”
“Yes, boss. I will.” And she gave him a secret smile that I recognised as one for more than just work colleagues.
“Ok..Joe, “ Gordon said, reaching to pick up his coat from his seat at the booth and motioning for his partner to follow him. “I’ll call you, man. Ok?..Take it easy.”
He let his D.S. walk in front of him. He was reaching an arm around to unbutton her jacket. I could hear him as they walked away from us. “Come on Angel. And put some tits into it, will you? These are high class minge dealers we’ve got to hook.”
No way would he use language like that to a fellow public service employee, I thought. They were banging, for sure.
I saw him raise his wrist comm band to his mouth to communicate to his hidden team as they made their way to the lift. He would have at least one team deployed. He had an operation going on. And although the chances of them making arrests in this venue of villainy was slim, because of the danger from so many armed and wanted individuals in here who might panic, it could happen very close by. I needed to get out. And now.
I looked over at Gill. Some of his colour was coming back. But he’d seen the possibility of arrest looming. He’d want out, quickly, too.
It occurred to me that despite my face being all over the Vid’Screens, every fifteen minutes, Gill hadn’t recognised me.
And Gordon, who knew me, hadn’t known I’d become the most wanted man in the EU.
Neither had noticed the bulletins. Which just went to show, that despite parliament making news compulsory, and mandatory, no one much bothered with it. People watched what they wanted. As they had done before the law was changed. The news came on when the Vid’Screens came on. But people just tuned that out until what they wanted appeared.
Gordon should have known about Bixby. He’d certainly notice if he saw his old work associate pop up on the big screen with a “WANTED IN CONNECTION WITH A MURDER” caption.
The police would be co-ordinating searches and setting up joint task teams by now.
But I supposed he was on this operation. Had probably been planning all morning for the microphones and sound levels. The cameras concealed. His people getting disguised as servers and patrons and such.
I’d been lucky.
I doubt I would be again.
I needed to get out. Fast.
“So. You’re a pig?” Asked Gill, rubbing his black beard reflectively.
“No. I’m a dealer. I told you that. I WAS a pig. The Department. But I was caught up in something. Let’s just say, what I do now, was what I did then. Only it was easier then. As you can imagine. With all that .. advantage.”
“You’se got busted, then? Booted ‘oot?”
“I’ll tell you my life story on the way,” I answered. “Assuming you are still interested? Five thousand for delivering me across into Scotland. And the Vodka.
“Agreed,” he said.
We shook hands over the table.
“Are you fuelled up? You have all your documentation arranged?”
“Oh aye. Ah’m all ged.”
“And your other cargo. Is already loaded? They are on your truck”
He paused for a moment. He hadn’t mentioned to me he was carrying any other cargo. But then he realised if I had known he was a people smuggler, I’d know he was smuggling people.
“They are all in tha’ back. There’s a false wall. Behin’ tha’ cab. But youse can ride up front, wi’ me. As long as youse have some docs. Jest in case.”
“I’ll ride in the back until we are clear of the city.”
Gill looked suspiciously at me. Nobody wanted to ride in a hideaway space unless they had too. I had too. I didn’t want to be seen. But I’d told Gill I only wanted a ride.
So I explained it to him,
“I’m looking for someone to help me out with something. I need a certain type of person. Who speaks a certain language. You wouldn’t mind if I checked your wares, while we travelled, would you?”
He still looked suspicious. As if my request was strange. Which it was.
So I said, “I’ll be all done with talking with them by the time we reach the Belt. You can do a stop and water there. I’m sure you have a spot. I’ll join you up front then.”
“If yer like. Is no’ vury comfy back th’are, though.”
“I’m sure it will be just fine. Shall we go? Before it all kicks off in here?”
“Aye.” he said. “Let’s do tha’”
And we made our way through the crowds, towards the escalator that slanted the length of the whole building. It went down in a very shallow glide, to the lower floor exit doors. Allowing the riders to view down below. I scanned for Gordon and finally spotted him sitting down at a table with some other men in suits. He was smiling and nodding. Angel was standing behind him. Not talking. Just modelling. Playing the Moll. She had taken Gordon’s comments about cleavage on board. Practically busting out of her bodice.
We left the escalator and headed to the exit that led to the lorry parking bays behind the Cantina. And my escape from the United Kingdom, and everything.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file