The police station was busier in the morning as Adjoa and Stephen stepped into their office. They smiled and said their hellos to the other officers, who were getting themselves teas, coffees, and the energy drinks that Adjoa privately thought ranked among the most disgusting things ever invented. The two friends took to their chairs – Stephen yawned, and clasped a hand to his mouth, before smiling meekly. “Another rough night.”
“And morning too – mate, you have a stain on your tie.” Adjoa pointed to the dark patch on his blue and grey-striped tie.
“Ah, bugger, that would be Cassandra’s banana and strawberry puree. I’m running out of ties.” He slumped in his chair, spinning it around for a second. “She just refused point-blank to sleep through last night, kept wanting daddy cuddles. I feel completely shattered.”
Adjoa stifled a laugh. “You look it too.”
“Cheers!” Stephen did laugh, then logged onto his computer. “So, what will today bring?”
“A result on our autopsy hopefully.” Adjoa tapped at her own keyboard, getting herself logged in and set up.
“Whoa, what the hell?” Stephen muttered as he scrolled through his emails. “Have you got the message from the Coroner’s Office?”
Adjoa ran her eyes over the monitor, found one from Doctor Lewinson. As she started to read it, she wasn’t sure whether to be dismayed or not.
“No ID on our mystery man. Doctor Lewinson managed to get skin cells, enough to check the ID for the other man – one ‘Eric Cooper’.
“I guess we’d better do some research into Eric.” Replied Stephen. He logged a request for access to the Police National Computer.
“Wait, that’s odd…” Adjoa leaned in closer to the screen, making sure she was reading what she thought she was reading. “No ID on the mystery man, yet a request came in from ‘high-ranking sources’ to turn the body over to the ‘correct authorities’.”
“Whoa, that’s not right – that body is evidence in a murder investigation!”
Adjoa nodded. “It seems that the request was from very high up – they actually sent people to the morgue to take the body. Lewinson was ordered to comply.”
Stephen looked stunned. “According to this he quoted legal statutes and they just ignored them. Took the body.”
“Any clue as to who took the body?” Asked Adjoa.
“Wow! Um, MI5 did.”
As Stephen finished his sentence his computer pinged with the sound of an incoming email. A moment later Adjoa’s did likewise. They shared a wry glance.
“Someone’s leaned on the chief…” Began Adjoa. “We’re to close the case. National security!”
“Damn. Just when it was getting interesting.” Stephen failed to suppress yet another yawn. “Ah well, I guess it’s back to mundane police work.”
“Yeah.” Adjoa’s muted reaction caught Stephen’s attention.
“I know that ‘yeah’.” He replied.
“Yeah?” Answered Adjoa with a trace of mischief.
“Yeah! It’s the ‘yeah’ that means ‘I’m annoyed at not solving this one, and I want to dig deeper’.”
Adjoa grinned. “Oh come on! MI5, you have to be curious.”
“Not curious enough to stick my nose into it!”
Adjoa faked a harrumph. “Spoil sport.”
The desk had been replaced when Lanker walked back into his office, with a like-for-like swap. As always he was quietly impressed at how efficiently people would work when good money was dangled at them – the black glass was polished, matching his shoes, and the integrated computer panel and screen had been seamlessly transferred as well. Behind him his assistant fell into lockstep, and then stood, waiting as Lanker eased himself into his chair.
“What is your progress on the breach?”
“We thi… we have a lead. The person who breached our systems was good, but we’ve traced the original terminal to someone in C Division. A ‘Sarah Whitfield’. She didn’t clock in this morning.”
“Interesting. I take it you have already prepared a file on her?”
“Yes sir, it’s in your private email. Sir… according to what we could find out, she’s a plant.” The man waited to be scolded, his eyes filled with worry.
Lanker stood slowly, and turned to look out over the Docks, recalling his conversation with the assistant the other day. He wanted to hit the desk, but it simply wouldn’t do to suffer another embarrassing loss of control. Instead, he took a deep breath.
“So, somehow, someone penetrated our security measures, to get inside our organisation. What makes you sure she is a plant?”
“Her record is too clean sir. Absolutely perfect records in her previous jobs, nothing out of the ordinary in her personal life, and as far as we can tell, her school and university records were inserted into databases for us to find. It was done very professionally, so a cursory glance wouldn’t pick it up.”
Lanker span around on his heel, facing his assistant. “When this matter is finally resolved, we will need to sit down and discuss these lapses in security.” He said neutrally. “For the moment, I want you to use every resource available to finding this, ‘Sarah Whitfield’. We must seal this breach.”
“Yessir, I will get on it right away.” The assistant hastily nodded, backing away as fast as he could. Lanker withheld his disappointed grimace until after the other man had left the office. After waiting a few moments, he sat down at his desk and stabbed a button with his finger.
“I was hoping you would make contact. I can confirm Eric Cooper is dead, however the USB drive is still missing.” The androgynous voice said.
“That is not the only development. I am sending you all the details we have on an agent planted into the organisation. The company will devote its resources to finding her, but any further details you can provide will be appreciated.”
“I shall investigate. There is more news. I have retrieved our operative’s body, so the police cannot interfere. They have been ordered to drop the case.”
“Good. It would seem we are nearly there my friend. Phase two is ready.”
“Excellent. I look forward to seeing it in action.”
Dawn began to break and Rob yawned, briefly and blissfully unaware of the events that had led him to the little Travelodge near King’s Cross station. That moment of happy ignorance faded as he took in the simple surroundings of the hotel room, and it was further punctured by the steady wheezing sound coming from the bed next to his. Peter was still asleep, snoring quite loudly. With the waking world returning all too quickly came certain realisations – they were fugitives, hiding from some powerful people, in a city full of cameras, with his wife by this point likely scared and very much alone. Then there was the little detail that they had lost Eric.
“Shit.” He summed up his night in that one simple word and ran a hand over his face. Stubble met his fingers and he sighed, all too aware that he had no razor; he detested facial hair on himself, it made him feel itchy and dirty. Looking over at Peter, Rob marveled at how his friend could sleep so well. For Rob, his rest had been fitful and when he had finally slept properly, dreams of armed guards smashing through their hotel door had woken him again. With a small intake of breath he swung his feet out over the bed and got up to use the toilet.
“Making enough noise?” Muttered Peter, who rolled over to face Rob, his eyes still half-closed.
“I need to piss alright?” Rob snapped back. He wasn’t in the mood for Peter’s usual sour attitude.
“Hmmpf.” Murmured Peter.
Rob took care of business and rinsed his mouth out with water. He hated not being able to brush his teeth almost as much as not being able to shave. Worst two parts of active duty… When finished he emerged from the small bathroom and saw Peter was already getting dressed. Peter looked up at him. “8.45am, still time to grab breakfast.”
Rob shook his head. “You want to go and sit with all those people and all that CCTV? Might as well call up MI5 myself.”
“Don’t be stupid. Last thing they’ll expect is for us to be in plain sight. Besides, I can’t work on an empty stomach. Come on.”
Training kicked in. Rob quelled his nerves as he and Peter made their way to the little breakfast bar and handed over the cash to pay for their food. Peter immediately went for the full English, tucking in with gusto and replacing his tea almost as soon as he’d finished his first cup. Rob couldn’t help but grin as he spooned cereal into his mouth.
“What?” Asked Peter around a mouthful of bacon.
“How do you do it?” Asked Rob.
“How do I do what?” Replied Peter, a little tartly.
“How do you stay so… well, you, throughout everything?”
Peter stuck his fork into one of his sausages. “You have to don’t you? Otherwise everything catches up. When we’re back in the room I’ll take a look at that thing, see what I can do with it.”
“Sure. How do you think Eric is?”
“He can handle himself. Bet he’s given someone a black eye by now.”
There was never truly anywhere that was private in MI5 headquarters. The nature of their work meant cameras, microphones and other devices were everywhere. It was ironic to everyone in one sense – the expectation of complete transparency in a place where they were trained to conceal everything. It meant cameras picked up agent Harris’ miserable expression as the medical officer examined Eric Cooper’s body in the on-site medical centre. Bevin stood to one side, arms folded, impassive.
“I’m afraid…” The doctor began, as he looked over the paperwork in his hand. “… that the toxicology report is verified and correct. Mr Cooper was given a concentrated dose of Wolfsbane. The build-up of sodium in his blood confirms it.”
“That’s not possible.!” Harris began, but Bevin silenced him with a glare.
“Doctor, could the drug that did this be confused with any of the truth drugs we keep here?” He asked quietly.
The older man peered at Bevin over his glasses. “Definitely. Quite a few of these pills look similar. They should all be labelled correctly to avoid this sort of thing.”
Bevin stared down at Eric. “I’m sorry.” He looked back up at Harris and the doctor. “This man fought for his country and died believing he still was. He’s left behind a wife, and now someone is going to have to find a way to break this terrible news to her. All because of what, a mistake?” Anger was getting into his tone. With a deep breath Bevin forced it away. “Harris, we will be called up to give official accounts of what happened. My advice is to be calm and give them every detail.”
“Yes, of course.” The young man had gone pale.
“Doctor, thank you for your time.” Bevin gave a wan smile, shook the man’s hand, then the two agents left.
To Chapter 14