https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-change-evidence-causes/

https://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-intermediate.htm

The three above links represent just the tip of (an ever-shrinking one, if this carries on) iceberg from experts and scientists from around the world, who all agree that man-made climate change is real. From the NASA link:

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.1

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.3

From Skeptical Science:

That humans are causing global warming is the position of the Academies of Science from 80 countries plus many scientific organizations that study climate science. More specifically, around 95% of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position.

Trump has decided to ignore the decades of carefully compiled research and evidence in favour of… ‘Murica. It doesn’t matter that clean energy is actually a fast-expanding sector, it doesn’t matter that fossil fuels are a finite resource and that we’ll need to move away from them eventually. He ought to heed the words of a fellow Republican politician, one who has made some keen observations: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Clean energy technology will become a huge business, and people like Trump will get left behind. His narrow-minded approach will not be permitted to doom the rest of us.

There was something that London did very well. It did opulence, finery and elegance in a way few other cities could match, and tied it all together in a setting that brimmed with a rich history. Looking out from the huge bay windows of the master bedroom, Mr Lanker savoured his glass of whisky, poured out of a diamond decanter. His tie had been discarded and was strewn upon the bed, as was his shirt and the remainder of his clothing. A female hand was wrapped around his torso, and he turned to look at his latest conquest. The pretty young brunette had been eager to go to bed with him, and he had decided to reward himself for closing off one side of the worrying leak. The young woman was an employee, but a low-level one, who wanted to impress her boss, and impress she had. Lanker could never be interested beyond sex, but if it transpired she was good at her job, she might get a promotion, one that kept her closer to him.

“Drink my dear?” He asked, before emptying the contents of his own glass. The liquid burned smoothly – he savoured it.

“Mmm, sure, what do you have?” She all but purred.

“Anything you like, though the red wine is particularly good, some form of vintage, I don’t know the label.”

“Sounds good to me.”

He got up, slipping on his boxers as he did. The drinks cabinet in the master bedroom was an extravagance he had afforded himself, and he poured out two glasses of red from a bottle stored within it, kept nice and chilled. The modern square-style chandelier provided a warm glow that wasn’t too bright, and made the wine seem a deeper shade than it actually was. He grinned as he handed over one of the glasses. “So how long have you been with One Touch?”

“About six weeks. I never thought, I mean, I wouldn’t normally…”

“Hush. It’s quite alright. You are single, I am single. We are two consenting adults no? Does it matter what our respective positions are? Does it matter if I am dominant…” He inwardly smiled at the little flutter of her eyelids that comment provoked. “and you are submissive, in a business sense of course? As long as we are hurting no one, then it doesn’t matter.”

“So, does this mean I’m not a one-time thing?” She asked cautiously.

“You are not a one-time thing Melanie.” She seemed pleased he knew her name. “But, I am not proposing anything other than the physical, and at work it is strictly business.”

“Oh, for sure, I’m not looking for anything serious anyway.”

“Good. You will have the second bedroom tonight, there are too many people who would wish to make a scandal of this, so discretion, we must always be discrete.” Young Melanie appeared crestfallen, so he cupped her chin in his hand. “But first, shall we finalise our arrangement with another round?”

She grinned again, and as his boxers came back off, his thoughts moved away from phase two…

****

Eric had desperately wanted to speak to Mary, to let her know he was alright, but instead Rob had dropped Fiona outside and she had knocked on the door, before a brief yet animated chat. Fiona had gone inside, and then Rob and Eric were off, heading toward a secret rendezvous. Rob hadn’t questioned Eric’s insistence on public phone boxes and landlines only, and now they sped down dark London streets to find the other person they were prepared to involve. They found themselves in Hampstead, thankful for the good luck that meant he was off duty.

As per their plan, the man was walking down the street. Dressed in a black button-up coat, he looked like he’d just stepped out of the nearby pub. As Rob pulled up, he and Eric made a show of a friendly greeting. The man smiled and laughed with them, and took them up on their offer of a ride. He climbed into the back, and his demeanour changed.

“Didn’t think I’d ever hear from you two again.” He said gruffly.

“Good to see you too Peter.” Replied Rob, matching Peter’s tone.

“It actually is good to see you Pete.” Added Eric.

“Hmm. So you said this was serious, as serious as it gets. What is it?”

The car started moving. Eric craned his neck to look Peter in the eye. “It’s serious enough that someone killed Andrew and tried to kill me.”

“Fuck! Harper’s dead? Never did like him, ran me too hard, but still… Who killed him?”

“I don’t know his name, but I took care of him. He was after this…” Eric pulled the silver USB drive from his pocket. “Someone wanted me to find what’s on this drive, and someone else thinks it’s important enough to kill for.”

“What’s on it?”

“A backdoor program to nearly every phone, computer and tablet in the world.”

“Fuck. You sure?” Peter’s tone was slightly disparaging.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Replied Eric curtly. “I worked for the company that designed this. You’re not the only computer bod.”

“Alright, keep your hair on. Any idea what they want it for?”

“No.” Admitted Eric. “But it will give them access to major government departments, military bases, major infrastructure and big businesses. Not just here either, but all over the world.”

Peter was silent for a moment. “Something like that is impossible.” He said slowly.

“Yeah, well, this USB says otherwise. We need a computer that’s isolated, completely off the grid.” Eric replied. “And we need one with military-grade anti-virus and decryption software.”

“I can’t just waltz into the base and take a computer. They do search us you know.”

“But you can get us inside.” Rob spoke up. “We can take out any… what was it, network cards? And do what we need to do.”

Peter rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Let me get this straight. You want me to invite you onto the barracks, then let you have access to a computer, unsupervised, because of some wild stupid story? Fuck me that’s good.”

“We’re serious. Do we think we’d make up someone murdering the Captain?” There was heat in Rob’s voice.

“I don’t know what you two would make up, but fuck it, even if I wanted to help, you two would need all sorts of clearance.”

“Well, we’re all ex-SAS, that will count for something.” Remarked Eric.

Peter sighed. “Yeah, I suppose. I’ll try to get you in, for old time’s sake, when do you wanna go?”

Eric and Rob both looked at him.

“Fuck, you want to go right now?” Peter sighed again. “Ok, fine. You two are gonna be the death of me.”

The car sped off, toward a military facility of non-descript appearance.

****

Lanker had not yet fallen asleep; the hour was only 11pm and he did not tend to sleep much. Melanie had ‘retired’ to the guest bedroom, as he preferred to complete one or private rituals in the evening. Another glass of red wine, one final peruse of work emails, and a few checks on other projects, to make sure everything was proceeding as it should – it all took place from the privacy of his bed. Fatigue was slowly claiming him, but he was not yet finished – too much needed doing. He was however, winding down for the night when his phone starting buzzing upon his sleek gloss-white bedside cabinet. The caller ID was blank.

Lanker pressed the green accept call button and scoope the phone to his ear. “Hello.”

“We have a major problem.” Came the non-descript voice of his contact. “”Have you seen the local news? My agent has not completed his scheduled check in – I believe he is dead.”

Lanker’s blood suddenly ran very cold. “How can that be? He was sent to kill an old man.”

“An older man with military training. Someone who probably suspected he was going to be hunted.”

“Your agent underestimated him.” Lanker allowed a little anger to creep into his voice.

“And Mr Cooper has failed to understand the lengths to which we will protect our plans. Right now the agent’s phone is moving out of the Hampstead region of London. He doesn’t know we can track it even with GPS turned off. I have people who will ensure he is silenced. Trust me.”

“I hope you are right. There is no telling who he has spoken to. Can you retrieve the agent’s body? That alone is a security breach.”

“Again, I am taking care of it. Do not concern yourself with my end of the task. Phase two is your only worry.”

Chapter 10

Back to Techno Fail

 

 

 

The tea grew cold as Eric recounted his story to Rob and Fiona. His old friend could barely contain his shock at learning of Andrew’s death. With each word the weight on Eric’s shoulders seemed to shift – it was a relief to get everything off his chest, but he was already tying Rob, and Fiona, to something that could potentially get them killed.

“So, the people behind Andrew’s murder think you’re dead?” Rob asked as Eric reached the end of his tale. Eric nodded. “Well, at least they won’t be lookin’ for ya eh?”

“That’s about the only good thing to come out of all this. I can’t go home to Mary, I don’t know how paranoid these people are. I am truly sorry mate, for getting you involved…” Eric was stopped by Rob’s raised hand.

“Don’t apologise mate. Some serious shit has happened and one of the best blokes I’ve ever known has been gunned down in his own home. I know where some of the rest of our squad live, I’ll rope them in, and we’ll find a way to stop these bastards.”

Eric smiled weakly. Even now, in his (suspected) sixties, Rob would be a force to be reckoned with. The mad fool had overcome so much in his life, from racist idiots (even some in the Army), to being tortured, and being shot, and even now he would do it all over again to help Eric and avenge Andrew. “I don’t know what to say. I owe you, big time.”

Rob put a hand on Eric’s knee. “Mate, you’re the one who got me out of that Colombian camp. I owe you, and I’ll repay my debt. My car is out front. Fiona babe…” He looked up at his wife, who was looking back at him with a mix of pride and worry in her brown eyes. “Can you check in on Mary for us? Make sure she’s alright yeah?”

“Not a problem.” Replied Fiona. She had accepted her husband’s choices a long time ago.

Eric felt tears sting his eyes. “Thank you, both of you.”

“Don’t get all mushy on me. Come on, let’s round up the old gang.”

****

Stephen’s phone on the desk went off with an annoying jangle that he’d never been able to change. He grabbed the handset and nearly dropped it – the caffeine had kicked in, but not nearly enough.

“Hi… yeah, yeah…. ok, we’ll be there soon.” He looked over at Adjoa, who was scribbling notes on a piece of paper. “Coroner’s office. They’ve finished their preliminary look, we can go down there if we want.”

Adjoa was already standing and grabbing her coat. “Well then, what are we waiting for?”

The Coroner’s Court was in Walthamstow, a short drive away. A tired-looking security guard waved them into the car park as they arrived, and another guard escorted them to the mortuary. The thick metal door swung open and the pair stepped into a bright room with a couple of examination tables and a work top of gleaming steel with several cupboards above it and under it. Medical instruments of various kinds were in containers on the bench, and a few more were soaking in sterilising alcohol in beakers. There was a strange odour, one of cleaning fluids, that made both of them scrunch up their noses. The body of the deceased lay upon one of the tables, cut open in several places where the doctor had performed the autopsy.

“Hi, welcome.” An older man, with thinning and greying hair, had opened the door. His face was somewhat thin and his surgical gown was spattered with blood. Narrow blue eyes gave both Stephen and Adjoa searching looks. Then the man smiled. “Apologies for the state of me, but it’s hard to not get messy doing this sort of work. I’m Doctor Lewinson, and you are…?”

“Detective Inspector Idowu and Detective Inspector Barrett.” Replied Adjoa. “What do you have for us Doctor?”

“Well…” The doctor gestured at the body. “This man is, judging from what I can gather, no older than forty, and was in generally good health. No signs of any abnormalities. The only issues of note are a few injuries sustained around the time of death, possibly before. Both ankles are badly bruised, as though kicked or stamped on. The left knee is fractured. There’s bruising on the ribcage. This man was assaulted before he was killed. There’s more…” Doctor Lewinson walked to the body. “I can’t be certain, but most of the bullet wounds appear to be post-mortem.”

“The plot thickens…” Muttered Adjoa to herself. “Have you been able to ID him?”

Doctor Lewinson gave a sympathetic smile. “I’m afraid not. I’ve sent off blood samples and taken finger prints, they might turn up something if he’s in the database. The placement of the shots from the killer were very good, designed to make it nearly impossible to ID, at least not quickly. One thing of interest did come up when examining his hands…” Lewinson peered at them. “There are fibres from two different articles of clothing. He didn’t die in what he was wearing when you found him.”

Adjoa and Stephen exchanged a glance.

“I’m not a detective, but your killer knew how to cover himself. However, I’ve got possible skin samples that would have carried over from his clothes to the victim. They’re also off for analysis.”

“How long will that take?” Asked Stephen.

“Oh, several hours yet. I’m due to clock out soon, but one of my colleagues will let you know when they’re ready.”

“Thank you Doctor.” Said Adjoa. You’ve given us a lot to go on already.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Thank you for your help.” Replied Adjoa with a tight smile.

“If there’s anything else you need, don’t hesitate to ask.”

The police officers bade the doctor goodbye, and headed back into the night.

“So now what?” Enquired Stephen as they climbed into the car. “This case is getting weirder and weirder.”

“Yeah. I don’t think that body is our mystery man. He’s still out there. We need to find out what links him to Andrew Harper.”

“Harper was ex-Army, maybe they served together?”

“You know, that’s a good call. I’d put money on it. So, shall we get a few hours sleep? I can drop you home.”

Stephen smiled. “Adjoa, you are a star.”

To Chapter 9

Back to Techno Fail

Eric walked as briskly as he could in the clothes that didn’t quite fit, acutely aware of the police vans that had raced past him a few moments earlier. They hadn’t suddenly stopped and come back for him, so it seemed that, for the moment, he had gotten away. He wasn’t prepared to ride his luck too hard though.

His thoughts turned to Mary. She would be in danger, even now, but would she be in even more danger if he returned home? One Touch Security would have his address on record; should he call her, warn her, or would that tip off anyone who was listening in? Then again, he had the advantage, the assassin’s employer thought he was dead. How long would it take for that news to reach Mary, if at all? Eric was leaving her in limbo.

First things first, get away from the crime scene… Eric had dumped the gun in a hedge, having taken care to wipe his prints off it. Up ahead was the familiar roundel logo of the London Underground, and Fairlop station. Within a few minutes he was walking under the bridge and turning right to head to the station entrance, only to be greeted by a throng of unhappy, cold Londoners milling about outside the station. Staff in orange hi-vis jackets were trying to address the various loud voices that were expressing their dissatisfaction in colourful terms. Eric watched, and listened briefly to the staff members explaining that the police had shut down the local section of the line temporarily. That had to be because of him. There wasn’t much he could do, so Eric considered his options. It was a long walk to another line, and despite his pride in staying fit he wasn’t getting any younger. The chilly December air was biting harder as night settled in.

A deep breath, a moment of composed thought, and Eric had an idea. He didn’t trust the assassin’s phone, so he had to rely on the map on the wall in front of the station. Sure enough, a possible safe haven wasn’t too far away…

****

With the body on the way to the mortuary, Adjoa and Stephen headed back for Barkingside. There was little conversation; both of them were wrapped up in their thoughts. As their car pulled into the car park Stephen stifled a yawn.

“Sorry, just dreading the all-nighter.” He said sheepishly as they both got out the car.

“No worries, I’ll grab us some coffee.” Adjoa replied. She actually felt a bit of a buzz – the case was rapidly developing into something quite interesting, it definitely wasn’t gang-related, of that she was sure.

“Three sugars in mine.” Stephen said as they started walking toward the brick-coloured building. Adjoa gave him a faux-steely glare. “What? I need the energy.”

She laughed as they stepped through the doors and waved their badges at the desk sergeant, who smiled pleasantly, before returning his attention to the computer screen in front of him. They started up the stairs, to the second floor of the building, that housed their desks. Adjoa’s was nearest the window, and the plain plastic desk was quite clear, with a couple of case files and a few notes spread out upon it. Stephen’s was just on the wrong side of chaotic, with multi-coloured folders and files everywhere. Somehow (though Adjoa would never understand how) he managed to keep track of everything.

No other officers were on duty in CID, so the pair had the office to themselves. Adjoa grabbed their mugs and headed into the small kitchen, focusing only on the caffeine. She’d worry about the case once she’d had a drink. Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she scooped it out and into her right hand. Jenna’s smiling face, with her hair freed to flow over her shoulders, appeared on the caller ID. Adjoa smiled as she answered. “Hey.”

“Hi. Just wanted to see how you were.”

“All good, looking after a very tired Stephen.”

Jenna chuckled. “He wanted to be a dad, it’s self-inflicted. Do you know when you’ll be home?”

“No idea, sorry, this case is gonna take up a bit of time I think. Still, overtime and all that.”

“Yeah, never hurts! Let me know when you’re on the way home. I love you.”

“Love you too.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Adjoa thumbed the red ‘end call’ sign and sighed. She couldn’t remember the last time she and Jenna had been able to enjoy some free time together. Dinner booked for our anniversary though… given the restaurant’s prices, she wasn’t cancelling that for love nor money.

With two mugs of milky coffee (and the scandalous extra sugar for Stephen!) Adjoa walked across the dreary grey carpet that seemed a requirement for the station, past the information posters on the cork boards, and back into the office. Stephen was typing something on the keyboard, eyes intent upon the screen in front of him. He smiled at the welcome sight (and smell) of the coffee.

“Cheers.” He said as she put the mug down. “So, I went back to the beginning. Specifically, the victims. Liam and Andrew.”

Adjoa sat down at the desk opposite and took a sip of her drink. “Let me guess, no links?”

“Right. I checked Liam’s name against the PNC, nothing in there, he’d never been in any sort of trouble, not even minor. Andrew Harper… Wow.” He stopped, peering at the screen.

“Well, don’t leave me in suspense!” Adjoa said sardonically. “What is it?”

“He wasn’t just a war veteran…” Stephen tapped a few more buttons. “He was ex-SAS. No records of what he did, naturally, but after he left the forces he did get into a bit of trouble here and there. A couple of bar fights, drunk and disorderly stuff, but nothing that would explain why he was murdered.”

“Maybe he picked a fight with someone who could hold a long grudge?” Adjoa queried. “There’s enough petty thugs out there who would do that.”

“Maybe.” Stephen rubbed his nose. “I don’t believe that though.”

Adjoa took another swig of her coffee. “Me neither. This mystery man that actually kidnapped the attacker – that’s the missing piece here. He was at Andrew’s home at the time of the attack, and took it upon himself to take the car and force a guy in a balaclava into the boot. We need to know who he is.”

Stephen looked up, his eyes lighting up a little. He took a quick, hot gulp of his coffee. “It just occurred to me… the body we found was wearing the clothes this mystery visitor was wearing, as described by witnesses…”

“But this guy had the advantage. Unless the attacker got free and tied off the loose end.”

They looked at each other. Somehow, Adjoa couldn’t quite believe that, and she suspected Stephen didn’t either.

“Why do I have the feeling that the body is the attacker, and the mystery man is still out there?” Asked Adjoa.

“We’ll get the chance to find out soon. Just had an email, the body is being examined now, we can go and take a look at what they’ve found in a couple of hours.” Stephen wrinkled his nose. “I hate dead bodies.”

“What’s worse, them or dirty nappies?” Adjoa asked teasingly.

Stephen shot her a look. “I haven’t decided.”

****

Standing before the terraced house, Eric felt a strong pang of guilt, and for the first time, grief for the death of his friend hit him. Andrew had died because of him, there was no doubt of that. Now he was about to involve another friend, putting them in the same danger. Was that fair? I don’t have a choice… Eric snorted derisively at himself. How often had that been used to justify actions? Still, he was here, he needed help, and he was thankful that his some of his former squaddies had settled in London. Things would be a lot tougher for him otherwise. Stepping up to the red windowed door, Eric took a deep breath then pressed the doorbell.

There was the sound of shuffling, and footsteps, and a couple of voices. A light came on, and he could see figures moving behind the glass. The door opened inward.

“Eric? Jesus man, what…?” The other man wrapped his arms around Eric in a bear hug, and Eric both smiled and grimaced. He’d forgotten how strong his old friend was, even now. Rob still had muscle – back in the day he’d embraced the racially charged nickname of ‘the Dark Destroyer’, turning it from a slur to a warning to anyone who might threaten his friends or himself. Even at what had to be sixty, he’d kept in good trim.

“How ya been Rob?” Eric returned the other man’s hug, patting him on the back.

“Not too bad mate, not too bad!” Rob clasped Eric by the shoulders. Jeez, time’s not been your friend has it?”

“Ha, speak for yourself, more silver on your head than mine.” Eric ribbed.

“True, but that’s fatherhood for ya! Come in, come in!” Rob ushered Eric inside, and herded him through the door at the end of the landing, that opened into a combined kitchen/living room. Standing in the kitchen was a woman, wearing a dark blue cardigan, and blue jeans.

“Hi Eric, been a long time.” She smiled radiantly.

“Hi Fiona, you keeping Rob in check?”

“Ha, he knows I’ll kick his arse otherwise.”

Despite himself Eric laughed. Rob and Fiona were terrific and always had been.

“Lemme get you something…” Fiona turned and pulled a couple of cups down from a gloss-white cupboard on the wall. “Tea, coffee?”

“Tea, please.”

“Have a seat, have a seat!” Rob implored, steering Eric to the three-piece cream-leather sofa. The TV was on, but muted – BBC News was carrying a story about Leicester City’s remarkable season so far. Rob sat down on the matching one-piece to Eric’s left. “So what brings you here out of the blue?”

“I need your help Rob, and I don’t know how I’m going to explain this… You know what, this was a mistake, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come here…” Eric got up to leave, but Rob’s earnest expression as he stood froze him to the sofa.

“What’s wrong mate? You know we’re like brothers right? I’ll do anything to help you, you know that.”

Taking a breath, Eric steeled himself to deliver bad news.

“It’s Andrew… Rob, he’s gone. He’s dead.” As he spoke the words, the bitter truth of them hit home. “And it’s my fault.”

To Chapter 8

Back to Techno Fail

Eric knew the shot would have been heard, though it would also take a while for anyone to place it. Staring down at the now lifeless body of his attacker, he knew what he had to do next. Moving quickly, Eric unbuttoned the dead man’s tatty jacket (once he had donned his gloves), and next came the man’s jeans. With difficulty, Eric then squeezed himself into the same pair of jeans and, once he had made sure to remove all his personal belongings from his own pockets, transferred them to the jacket, slipping it on. Carefully, he placed his own trousers onto the man, then fired three more shots – one to the face, to render it difficult to ID the body, and two to the chest. This had to look like a crime of anger and malice, rather than business. It was quite easy to present it as such, given his mood.

The man’s phone was curiously absent of texts or a call log, save for two numbers, neither of which were named. The first number contained only details of money transfers, but the second was more interesting.

Inform me once it is done, read the latest message, from earlier that evening.

Ok, I’ll inform you… for good measure, Eric took a picture of the corpse, and sent it over, with a brief message advising that it had been a surprising struggle, but that it was over. Before he pocketed the phone, Eric disabled the GPS, and the mobile data, and the Wi-Fi, and anything else that would be likely to give away his movements.

The next problem presented itself in short order. Eric could hardly get back in the taxi – it was being looked for by the police, and would flag up on every traffic camera. If he took another vehicle, the same thing would happen. He did however, need to get away, and quickly. Walking back out of the woods, he looked for a marker, trying to get his bearings.

“Forest Road…” The road sign offered a clue to his whereabouts. Eric began to walk, taking care to appear calm and measured to any passersby. The ill-fitting clothes would unfortunately run the risk of unwanted attention, but hopefully he would get away with that in the dark. From memory, a tube station was somewhere along the road, and from there, he could hopefully find some form of help.

****

The text gave Lanker momentary relief as he prepared to leave his office for the evening. His aides had not yet been able to uncover how Eric Cooper had been given such sensitive information, but at least the most pressing concern was now handled. He issued no reply to the contact’s text – none was warranted.

Sooner or later, he would have cause to call upon the man’s unique services once more – for now, he would journey home and partake in that most British of pastimes – tea.

****

Two marked police cars and one unmarked car raced down Forest Road moments after Eric had stepped off the main path. Reports of a taxi heading east and reports of what sounded potentially like gun fire had provided the best lead. Something was nagging at Adjoa as her car hurtled down the road, but she hadn’t been able to figure it out.

“This might be a wild goose chase.” Stephen remarked. He looked like he was desperate for a coffee. Instead of heading to the station they’d immediately turned around.

“Yeah, uniform called them back in. Should be right behind us. We’ll hang back once we arrive, unless something happens to force our hand.”

The cars pulled into the little car park. Sure enough, a taxi was parked up, which couldn’t be a co-incidence. Stephen was out the car first, and Adjoa swiftly followed, whilst the uniformed officers were already out and shining flashlights at the taxi.

“No one in it Inspector.” Kevin said. He and the other three uniforms all cast a glance at the woods. Darkness cloaked them. In the distance, more sirens wailed.

“I don’t think our suspect will be in the area.” Adjoa remarked. “He would have fled already. When SO19 gets here we’ll get them to go in, make sure the area is safe and then investigate. Steve, radio back, get them to seal off the immediate area, my gut tells me this was recent. Shut down the Tube if we can.”

Stephen looked hesitant. “I don’t think they’ll shut down the Tube for one suspect.”

“One armed suspect, who is highly dangerous.”

“Good point. Here comes SO19.” Stephen pointed to the pair of police vans coming up the road. Their reflective blue and yellow stripes caught the light from the street lamps, and their sirens switched off as they pulled in. Their flashing blue lights added to the non-stop alternation of light and dark from the other squad cars.

An officer clad in body armour stepped out from the driver’s cab and immediately walked around the back as other officers, also armoured and clutching MP5 submachine guns burst out. They pulled out the retractable stock as they prepared to assess the scene, then one of the officers, carrying the rank of Inspector, strode over to Adjoa, holding the weapon in his left hand and offering his right. Adjoa took it and shook it.

“Inspector David Ainsworth, SO19, do we think this is the same case?” His face was weather-worn and looked weary. Sunken eyes were the mark of not enough sleep, yet he spoke in sharp, clear tones.

“Detective Inspector Adjoa Idowu. Sorry we didn’t get to meet properly earlier. Yeah, we think it’s to do with the same case.”

“We’ll sweep the woods, once they’re clear we’ll have to re-assess the situation.” Ainsworth was all business. He turned and barked orders at his officers to move cautiously into the trees, flanking one another as torches fixed to the underside of their guns lit their way. It was unlikely the suspect was literally still in the forest – not unless they were stupid, or deranged – but the possibility couldn’t be ignored. Within a few minutes the small woodland was thoroughly explored, and Ainsworth’s radio burst into life.

“No one here sir, but there’s a body.” Came a voice.

“Understood. Secure the area.” Ainsworth shot a glance at Idowu. “Your killer isn’t in the woods, but I’d bet you’re right, they’re around here somewhere.”

“Stephen…” Idowu addressed her partner. “Get on the radio, let the station know that we need patrols, then we’ll take a look at the body. Inspector…” She turned back to Ainsworth. “What do you recommend?”

“If the suspect is still around here then we need to shut down public transport, especially if they’re armed. We’ll get in touch with local stations to expand a search of the local area.”

“Very good. Stephen, let’s take a look at the body, see if we find anything.”

The two of them headed off into the woods, brushing aside low-hanging branches that tried to impede them. It was impossible to completely ignore how dark it was, and the lights from the torches up ahead served to cast an eerie glow. They moved toward the lights, shaking off any nonsense of wayward things, and came upon three members of SO19 who were standing by a body. Blood was soaking into the earth beneath the corpse, and as they drew closer it was clear someone had done a number on it.

“Jeez, someone didn’t like this guy.” Muttered Stephen. He wasn’t exactly squeamish but the killer had put a bullet right through the body’s face, mangling it completely. A couple of shots had been planted in the chest as well.

“Yeah.” Idowu knelt down beside the body, looking it over. “The kidnapper stops the taxi, brings this mystery man in here, shoots him. No clue as to motive.” She slipped on a pair of blue gloves and started to search the pockets. She didn’t hold out much hope of finding anything, a fact confirmed at the absence of any wallet, ID, or anything else that might have been useful. “Nothing to identify the body, no phone, credit cards, nothing. We have to assume the killer did this and that he took any ID with him.”

“It all makes no sense, why kidnap this guy, kill him, and take anything that might identify him? There’s something very strange going on here.” Remarked Stephen. Mentally he tried to connect the dots. “Fair to assume the killer knew Andrew Harper, since he forced this guy into the taxi from that address?”

“Seems logical to me. We’ll have to get the coroner to examine the body for further evidence, but this is all utterly weird. I don’t like it, there’s something we’re missing.” Idowu stood and her lips curled in frustration. “We need to start from the beginning.”

To Chapter 7

Back to Techno Fail

One of the things I would dearly love to do is write a proper novel, be it historical, sci-fi, action, drama – I’d love to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and produce something worthy of being published. The trouble is, I know myself, and I am my own worst enemy in these circumstances – I am too easily distracted. I lose focus too easily. My mind spins around too fast sometimes, and there are too many other things to steal my attention. I need to put myself into a little box and just devote an entire day to writing whatever I can.

Nothing screams prestige and glamour quite like Monaco, and nothing manages to be both exciting and processional as the Monaco Grand Prix, that sees twenty cars hurtle at high speeds down narrow streets, through tunnels, and around sharp, snappy chicanes. There’s the thrill and drama of seeing cars skirt with barriers, with the drivers pushing to the very limit of their ability to get the best possible lap, dancing on that fine line between victory and complete disaster. It is perhaps the purest test of a racer’s focus, concentration, and above all, their skill at handling their car.

Practice sessions for the 2017 race proved fascinating. In FP1 Hamilton and Mercedes were on top, but in FP2 the situation had completely flipped – Ferrari were fastest, and Mercedes? Hamilton was 8th and Bottas 10th – they struggled to make things work for them. Both Red Bulls and both Toro Rossos (yes, you read that correctly) made it in front of the Mercedes, as did the Force India of Sergio Perez – and in FP3 things didn’t improve by much. Vettel was fastest for Ferrari, some half a second quicker than the fastest Mercedes (this time Bottas). Hamilton was nearly a second slower than Vettel, and the Red Bulls were mixing in with the Mercedes, adding a wildcard to proceedings.

Qualifying would prove even better – unless you were Lewis Hamilton. The three-time champion struggled with his car, complaining something was wrong, whilst he made it to Q2, he would go no further, only doing enough for P14 (which would become P13, owing to a penalty for Jensen Button, whose stand-in role saw him qualify in P9 for McLaren, a fantastic effort). Hamilton’s final crack at a good lap was ruined by a crash from Vandoorne in the other McLaren, that brought out yellow flags and ended any hope Hamilton had for getting into Q3.

There was more joy for his teammate Vallteri Bottas, who qualified 3rd, but the real winners in qualifying were Ferrari – but with a twist. Kimi Raikkonen took his first pole in nine years, just shading Sebastian Vettel. Completing the top four (and less than a half a second off Raikkonen’s pace) was the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, with Daniel Ricciardo nearly half a second slower in fifth. Was the stage set for intrigue?

At the start Raikkonen got away cleanly and Vettel followed, whilst Bottas cane under early pressure from Verstappen, but began to edge away. As can happen at Monaco, the cars didn’t swap places often, with the two Ferraris pulling clear, whilst Bottas would keep ahead of Verstappen, despite struggling a little with the rear of the car. Raikkonen would eke out a gap of around two seconds, but as he and Vettel started to encroach upon traffic the gap started to shrink. Once the front runners began to lap slower cars, Ferrari made the decision to bring Kimi in, where he fed back into the back markers, costing him time.

Vettel meanwhile, was like a beast unleashed. Suddenly he was pumping in much faster laps, enjoying the clean air in front of him. It was to prove crucial, as Vettel would carry on for a handful of laps and then ditch his ultra-softs for the super-soft tyres, emerging a second ahead of his teammate. Daniel Ricciardo would pull a similar stunt on not only his teammate Verstappen, but also on Bottas, a move that led to some angry expletives on the Red Bull radio from Verstappen, who was not pleased at being leapfrogged. Further back, Lewis Hamilton would do a long stint on the ultra-soft tyres and emerge from the end of it in seventh place.

Vettel would start to race clear of Raikkonen, who either couldn’t – or wouldn’t – match Vettel’s pace. The gap would steadily rise whilst Ricciardo would rapidly catch Kimi – was the Finn demotivated after losing the lead? Soon events would transpire to bunch the field up, and offer Raikkonen another bite of the cherry… namely a safety car period brought about by a highly ambitious overtaking move by Jensen Button on the Sauber of Pascal Wehrlein, at the last corner before the tunnel. Button lunged down the inside at a location not famous for overtaking, and his front-left tyre caught the rear-right of Wehrlein, actually half-flipping the Sauber so that it came to a rest sideways against the barrier. Wehrlein was uninjured, but both he and Button were out. The two had nearly tangled in the pits at the start of the race, when Wehrlein was released just as Button came through, so it was in a way fitting that the two would have this incident.

The safety car bunched the pack but didn’t do anything more than that. Once it withdrew Vettel would once again prove comfortable, Bottas would only briefly threaten Ricciardo and there was no way for Verstappen to get by Bottas. For only the fourth time in the hybrid era there would be no Mercedes on the podium, whilst Ferrari won at Monaco for the first time since 2001, though Raikkonen was clearly unhappy afterward. Did Ferrari show favouritism? If so, was it justified? After all, when Vettel had clear track he was much faster than Raikkonen. Vettel has been consistently the quicker of the pair since they became teammates in 2015, and Vettel is very much in the title fight (now 25 points clear of Hamilton), whereas Raikkonen doesn’t appear to be in that battle. Still, purists might feel that manipulating a race, this early in the season, is underhanded and against the spirit of the sport. It’s a difficult question to address.

Still, the aftermath is a Ferrari one-two, a rare feat these days, and one that puts them clear of Mercedes in the constructer’s championship. With Canada and Baku up next, the concern for Mercedes will be tracks that are similar to the Monaco tarmac, and more of the ultra-soft tyres, that Mercedes have struggled with this year. Vettel and Ferrari could yet build up a sizable advantage.

Slowly but surely the spectre of the unthinkable is moving closer and closer. The Conservative Party has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn on social care policies, and they have misled us on plans for NHS and school funding. There is a slow but steady march toward privatising the NHS too – the impact of which is as yet unknown, but given the effects of the private healthcare system that the US put up with for years, do we really want to go down that road? The Tories cut police numbers a few years ago and at the start of May refused to rule out doing so again – yet claim to be the better party for providing security. The Tories ruled out providing the NHS with updated computer security, despite warnings of vulnerability.

The impact of all of this is that, despite lop-sided representations in the media (BBC, I’m looking at you, though it’s not just you), Labour have been closing the gap in the polls. YouGov had the Tories on 48 and Labour on 29 on the 3rd of May. On the 12th of May the Tories were on 49 and Labour in 31. A week later the Tories were on 44 and Labour on 35. As of yesterday? The gap was five points, as compared to 19 points on the 3rd. That’s a 15 point swing toward Labour in under a month. A lot of this would appear to be the result of younger voters, who have been registering in record numbers and tend to resonate more with Labour than with the Conservatives. One thing is becoming increasingly clear – what looked like a landslide victory for the Tories is no longer guaranteed, and by the time of the actual election, whilst a Tory win is still the most likely outcome, Labour might win back some seats and give the Tories a fright. Here’s hoping!


Welcome to F1’s crown jewel. Nothing exudes glamour like the Monaco Grand Prix. On Sunday, twenty cars will contest 78 laps round the narrow streets of the rich principality, on a circuit which is as unforgiving as it is beautiful. Monaco takes no prisoners.

To successfully traverse Monaco you will want good grip, high downforce and keen senses. Run wide at most other venues and you’ll either meet a run-off area or a gravel trap. Make a mistake here and you’ll meet a solid barrier that will end your race. Another problem is with overtaking – Monaco can be notoriously processional, with pit strategy key. It’s likely we’ll get a one-stop race, as teams won’t want to risk relying on their drivers having to pass on track. We can expect qualifying to be tense – grid position here is more vital than anywhere else.

Last year saw Lewis Hamilton pick up his second win here, at a race that he desperately wants to do well at, in order to emulate his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna. Daniel Ricciardo might have won, if not for a calamitous mistake from his pit crew, who cost him several precious seconds by failing to be ready for him. This time, it seems unlikely Red Bull will be in a position to seriously challenge Mercedes or Ferrari, though Monaco is a track that places huge importance on aerodynamics, more so than any other race, so it might be that Ricciardo and Verstappen are closer here. They certainly need to be, given that Ricciardo was 75 seconds behind Vettel’s Ferrari in Spain.

The most likely scenario will once again involve a tussle between Ferrari and Mercedes. Monaco will expose whichever team has the slightly weaker overall design, but it will also come down to a test of mettle between Hamilton and Vettel. Who will be prepared to brake just that fraction earlier, hit the power quicker, get just that tiny bit closer to the barrier? That is what will determine qualifying, and with it, the race.