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.”
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