Daniel Tusons was Jack of all sorts and financial wonder boy at AMTADEK, but that Friday, of all days, he felt more like Fred the flop.
He'd been hired only 18 months, and he was already second in charge in the Acquisitions Team. He was Nelson Park's right-hand man, entrusted with the most crucial project, the Verdama bid, worth more than 25milion pounds. It was the one that could make or break AMTADEK Holdings Ltd. The whole deal rested firmly on the proposal package that Daniel had been putting together for the past two weeks and was due on Monday. According to Daniel's expertly souped up CV, Assets Backed Securities were his ultimate specialization, and everyone looked up eagerly at him, trusting him to deliver.
But, on a day when he should have been fully focused, his mind was in as state of flux, and it was a lot more than the usual Friday blues. With unwelcome prospect of prematurely giving up his current guise and going back underground, he just could not concentrate. All because of a blackmailing bitch he'd never met, he was about to blow the cover he'd taken so long to build and nurture.
At 12pm Daniel unexpectedly stood up and headed for the door, 'I'm having an early lunch today... got a little errand to attend to. I'll be back in an hour.'
Nelson eyed him uneasily over his gold-rimmed D&G spectacles. 'I want that proposal by close of play. Any slip up on this one, we may not have a job to come back to at the end of this month.' from the look in his eye it was clear that he wasn’t joking.
'It’s OK. I will be right back. I will be putting finishing touches to it this afternoon. It should all be done and dusted by 5pm today.'
* * * * * * * * * *
Pleased that his shift had been wholly uneventful, PC James Elias was beginning to wind down for the day. In fact, he’d already mentally completely wound down, and he’d been staring for 15 minutes at the wall-mounted clock on the other end of the reception at the Hextable Police post. By now, PC Dellis Hilton should be there to take over from him. He wondered what was keeping her, since she was aware that he had to leave in time for the 10th Anniversary dinner that Laura, his wife, had arranged. He simply could not afford to be late. He’d stretched Laura’s patience over the years, and it had gotten worse since he embarked on a delayed career as a police officer. A candle-lit, three course dinner at Chapmans was probably the final gesture to patch up their already fragile marriage.
Where the hell was Dellis? When he found that she was the one to take over from him that day, he’d called her, and she’d assured him that she would be there on time. Although she was a nonchalant young officer, who got away with far too much on account of her looks, she was normally good at keeping her word.
It was exactly 7pm when the front door to the police post finally burst open. But it was not PC Dellis that entered; it was a pregnant woman in her mid thirties. She was small and slim, and she carried herself with some sort of style, despite her 6-month old bump. Her face was tight with anxiety and she looked around as she approached.
‘Have you got a female officer on duty?’ she asked
‘If you are looking for a female officer, then perhaps you’d better wait for my colleague who should be here shortly.’
But twenty minutes passed, and there still was no sign of PC Hilton. The pregnant woman sat on the hardback chair in the small foyer, in front of the counter. Her hands and feet became increasingly agitated, and her face was drawn, even tighter, into a curiously ghostlike countenance.
James, now resigning himself to the worst, put a call through to Laura to say he might be late. He squeezed his eyes shut and braced himself in reaction for the inevitable barrage that was sure to erupt at the other end of the line. When he’d recovered sufficiently, he turned to the woman.
‘Is there any particular reason why you want to talk to a female police officer?’
She only became more agitated, and then shrugging she said ‘I want to report that my husband has gone missing.’
Still unsure why she neededa female officer, and sceptical about her concerns over a missing man, James thought he should at least try to put her at ease.
‘Tell me about your husband, is he ill, disabled or with any limiting condition?’
‘He’s not disabled, or anything, he went to work, and he’s not been back for three days.’
James was doodling on a small piece of paper on the table. He was still not sure whether the woman was just going through a phase of premature panic. Husbands disappeared all the time, only to re-appear up in the bosom of other women.
‘How come you're only just reporting it, if he’s been missing for three days?’
‘I wasn’t sure until this evening.’
PC James scowled.
‘I was away at my sister’s in Birmingham for three days. I called his mobile and it kept going to his voice mail, I thought he hadn’t bothered to charge it, he was always forgetting...’
‘So what makes you think he’s been missing for three days if you, yourself, have been away? He could have been to the house during the time.’
‘No, he has not been home since Friday; he did not go back home that night. His Lasagne is still in the microwave where I put it; the bed has not been slept in. When I called his work I found that they haven’t seen him there today.’
‘OK’ James said, pulling the computer keyboard towards himself, ‘I’ll take down some details and log an initial missing persons entry in the database, But my main feeling is that there is nothing to be too worried about. ’
* * * * * * * * * *
Daniel's rendezvous with Mandy was in front of the D’Alberto Bookshop in Covent Garden. It took him only 20 minutes - a 15 min Tube ride and a brisk walk from Lester Square tube station. He'd already built up a mental picture from Mandy's voice when she called his mobile earlier that morning. He put her down as a mousy blonde in her early to late twenties, with the physique of an Air hostess. 'Daniel Tusons,' she'd said in a voice he initially thought to be a child’s, 'I have some information of serious interest to you.' She did not pause to give him any chance to recover, 'It will be to your best advantage if you meet me before the information gets into other hands'. It sounded like a well practised recital, and it left Daniel in no doubt that it was the opening gambit for a vicious blackmail squeeze.
As far as Daniel was concerned, there was only one way of dealing with blackmailers, and he knew what he had to do as soon as the opportunity presented itself, and as soon as he had ascertained that she was acting on her own. He regretted that it was too soon after his last run of underground engagements to be involved in this sort of thing. He'd hoped to settle down in his current identity for at least eight years. He was getting quite attached to Yasmeen, and looking forward to be a dad again for a while. This one was supposed to be a long and sustained family life until this evil cow turned up.
His mental picture was not entirely accurate. The only thing he got wrong was her age - she was in her late thirties. Although her little blue eyes glittered, they did not light up her sullen pale face, and her mouth was rather too firm. She handed Daniel a large envelope without saying anything. He took a casual peep that told him all he needed to know. The envelope contained a set of photographs which he immediately recognised to be different wedding pictures of himself and his many brides. The pictures did not flood his mind with any happy memories.
‘What do you want?’ He asked finally.
‘You have only four hours to get ten grand, or these pictures go, first to your wife, and then to the police.’
There was no point bluffing with her, Daniel thought. He’d just play along until he got his chance. He was at least partly relived because she was only thinking of her wife and the police. She had no idea about his real enemies. He knew it the moment he laid eyes on her that she was just some hacker who'd gotten hold of the data by scouring the Web and putting two and two together. It was called ‘Cyberdredging’. Well, this cyberdredger had dredged up her own demise, he thought.
‘Ok, let’s say I give you ten grand, then, what's to stop you from coming again for more?’
She smiled a wry smile and shrugged.
‘Look, I can get you the money, you'll just have to come and pick it up from my flat - 46 Grosvenor Road in Blackheath.’
That was it. She'd bought it hook line and sinker. Daniel smiled as he walked away, he knew a hundred and one ways of making a person disappear.
* * * * * * * * * *
On Tuesday, when PC James Elias arrived at the station to be assigned to his day’s beat, he was surprised to find a message for him to report at the headquarters on Cannon street mmediately. He was to see Superintendent Dick Watson who was in charge of the district units. James could not help the sudden pang of foreboding that threatened to overwhelm him. He had no idea what to expect; he was aware of regional restructuring and reorganization rumours swirling about in the force. At this time, a summon to the headquarters was unlikely to be for a recommendation. On the contrary, his entire unit was plagued by disincentives and de-motivation, so that only a few of the officers could be considered to be performing to their best ability. Perhaps it was time to make a scapegoat out of someone, and maybe that person was him.
On the whole, there shouldn’t have been any reason for him to be disciplined, though. After all, he worked long hours when it was required, even at a cost to his personal life. The previous day, he carried on working when PC Delis failed to turn up. He attended to the deranged pregnant woman whose husband had gone AWOL, patching her up and sending her on her way. He did not leave until an alternative cover was arranged, which was close to 9pm. Fortunately he was still able to attend the dinner, and he hoped Laura believed him when he said he would make it up to her.
In all his three years in the force, PC James had only been to the headquarters three times, apart from the beginning, when he was in training. The Super was a burly Scotsman in his fifties, with the gruff voice of a perpetual pipe smoker, and one bloodshot eye. James stood stiffly once he’d cleared the doorway.
‘Come in PC Elias’ he said, ‘Don’t just stand there.’
James went in further and was surprised to find that the same pregnant woman, who had reported her husband missing, was also sitting in the office. Oh dear, he thought, perhaps she’d gone there to complain about his handling of the matter. But when he looked at her, and she greeted him with a weak smile, he began to relax a little.
‘PC Elias, I’m officially putting you in charge of the case of Mrs Tusons’ missing husband. I want you to perform all necessary enquiries. You may call on any resource from the district pool.’
‘Thank sir’ was all James could say. He was pleased that he’d been given his own case and was convinced that the Superintendent was testing him. If he handled this one right, who knew what it could lead to?
* * * * * * * * * *
Mandy was a woman of many identities, which was why she no longer had any close friends. If she did, it would cause the affairs of her different personalities to overlap, and that could lead to massive problems. She’d managed so far without a hitch, but all that was about to change.
She bumped into Yasmeen at the hairdressers; she was her long lost childhood friend from way back when she was in secondary school, in Birmingham - the only real friend she still remembered, with any kind of fondness. They’d both been shocked to see each other. Mandy hadn’t changed too drastically; she was a straghtfoward adult version of her old self - still blonde and still slim. Her face was harder, though, and her eyes had acquired a certain, forbidding, lustre. She was obviously still single and would probably never settle down into family life. Yas, on the other hand, was still soft and vulnerable, she was married and, of course, pregnant.
After they had exchanged the usual pleasantries and reminisces, they swapped contact details and parted ways, and that was that. But the reunion had rekindled a sense of camaraderie that Mandy had not felt for a long time. She suddenly remembered what it was like to have a friend you could confide in without any reservations. She’d found herself to be thinking about Yasmeen even during her work. She even misused the police online enquiry system to update herself about what her friend had been up to in the intervening years. That was when she stumbled on the activities of Daniel, Yasmeen’s husband. She decided that the best thing to do was to warn her friend about the situation, so they met at the Costa cafe on Hogarth Street.
‘Some awful news about your “Mr Charming”, I’m afraid.’
‘What? Has he been having an affair? I wouldn’t put it past him, really.’
‘Well, it’s worse than that, you won’t like it at all’
‘What is it, then? Plase, don’t keep me guessing.’
‘Your Daniel is an identity thief with a history of...’ Mandy cleared her throat for effect. She was surprised how coolly Yasmeen was taking all this so far. She’d always been a tough person with a deceptively vulnerable exterior; she should have been the one in the police.
‘A history of what?’
‘Serial bigamist. He has a wife in Scotland, Spain and France. You, my dear Yasmeen, are wife number four.’
This time she got a result. Yasmeen’s eyes clouded over, and her face crumpled into a tormented mask of anger and despair. ‘No, that’s not true. It can’t be true.’
‘Sorry, Yas. I can show you wedding photos and documents.’
‘But how did you know this? Where did you get it from?’
‘Benefits of working with the police, I guess.’ Mandy held her fried’s hand. ‘I know this must be extremely difficult for you at the moment, but if I were in your position, I’d see what I can get from him before turning him over to the law.’
‘How could I do that?’ She sobbed.
It could have been a lament, recoiling from the malice in Mandy’s suggestion, but Mandy took it to be a cry for revenge.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how. I’ll help you to get him.’
* * * * * * * * * *
Emboldened by the confidence that the Superintendent had placed in him, PC James Elias mapped out his course of action for tackling the case of the missing Mr Tusons. He’d looked over the details and concluded that the answer was in the missing man’s place of work. That was where he spent most of his time. He would have friends there, or at least colleagues who knew him well enough.
The amicable and pretty HR manager at AMTADEK allowed him to use one of the meeting rooms to interrogate members of Daniel’s team. First, he spoke with an angry Nelson Park, who thought Daniel had sold out to one of the competitors, and had deliberately sabotaged the bid that he was supposed to the chief negotiator of. Nelson had to blunder his way through a presentation that he’d hastily put together on Monday after Daniel failed to turn up, and he was convinced that the bid was as good as lost. ‘He wouldn’t even answer his mobile phone’ Nelson lamented.
‘Well, it’s quite serious, since even his wife hasn’t seen him either.’ PC James said, and that caused the angry man to soften up a little. ‘Did you notice anything different about him that day?’
‘Well, he seemed a bit distracted. I think he took a call on his mobile earlier, around 9:30am.’
‘Does he have any close friends here, or any colleague he spends some time with?’
‘No, Daniel was a one-man show; he was not close to anyone. He made no conversation outside work matters. He doesn’t get involved in the mundane banter that goes on in the office either.’
‘What about enemies? Has he had a run-in with anyone here?’
‘Not that I’m aware of. As I told you, the man keeps to himself.’
James questioned two other people from Daniels team, but he did not unearth anything of any real significance.
He was now convinced that whatever happened to him had nothing to do with the people he worked with, but it might still have something to do with the company, since that was where he was last seen. He wondered whether Daniel was involved in selling company information to competitors, or even if he was a plant in the company.
There was one more place James was going to check later that day. Although he did not expect to find any real leads there, since the man’s wife had said that he did not return to the flat. There was always a chance that he might stumble on some diary, letter or note with some vital information.
He was on his way when a call came through from Cherry Clayton, who was running a check on the Mr Tusons’ CV, which he earlier faxed to the headquarters. ‘I just want you to know that we’re not dealing with an ordinary person here. Daniel Tusons is an extremely dangerous criminal with links to a Russian gang. He has been floating around under various guises for more than fifteen years, using marriages to unsuspecting women to support a false identity. ’
‘Thanks for the heads up’ James replied, beginning to wonder whether he was not already out of his depth. This new piece of information changed everything.
‘One more thing’ said Cherry, from the other end of the line, ‘There is a marker in the database logs, saying that the records have also been accessed last week by another officer from your district’
‘Who was that?’ Daniel was puzzled.
‘PC Dellis Hilton.’
* * * * * * * * * *
Mandy parked her Ford Escort two streets away from Grosvenor Rd. A brief look at her plastic digital wrist watch told her that it was 15:50. She’d set some time aside to carry out a precautionary check of the Tusons’ ground floor flat. She patted the .45 Glock 30 in the hip pocket of her stretch jeans. She had never used it outside training, but she knew that if she had to, she would do so without any hesitation. This Tusons guy could try to be troublesome, especially because he was dealing with a woman. However, she knew he had the cash ready – or at least some cash – because she had tailed him after they parted. He’d been into the NatWest Bank on Wallpole high street, where he spent a considerable amount of time, and then he’d been in the Barclays three doors down the street. She hoped that, for his own sake, he wasn’t going to try anything stupid.
Daniel was standing against the wall, in the bedroom, looking through the slightly parted blinds down the street. He stiffened when the slim, blonde figure slid into view. She walked stealthily, like an amateur bull fighter, glancing round and taking in the details of the neighbourhood. If she was trying to make sure that nobody had seen her coming towards the flat, then that was excellent because, sure as hell, nobody was ever going to see her come out either. Then he saw the bulge in her hip pocket, and he realised that she was carrying a gun. He smiled a mirthless smile, and made his way to the front door to welcome his unfortunate guest.
* * * * * * * * * *
The moment that PC James Elias entered the flat, he knew that something was amiss. To the other two police officers who accompanied him, the place looked like any other flat, but James was immediately on his guard when he noticed the tidiness of the place. He hadn’t imagined Mrs Tusons as a cleaning freak, especially in her pregnant condition.
James shared out the rooms among his colleagues, PC Wallace and PC Terry, for detailed inspection. He stayed in the lounge, initially flicking through the magazines on the centre table for any clues. He was now extremely concerned about PC Hilton. He’d immediately called to the Police post at Hextable to check if anyone had heard from her. The last time she was seen around the police station was Thursday, when she called in briefly and left in a rush, which was typical of her. She appeared to have another woman in her car, who matched the description of Mrs Tusons. James now thought he had, at least, some idea what might have happened. But what he was puzzled about was why PC Delis had not gone through the correct procedure, and involved her colleagues in whatever she’d found on Daniel Tusons. Did they both share some sort of history together?
He tried to contact Mrs Tusons who had gone back to her sister in Birmingham. When he found that he was getting nowhere, he arranged with Birmingham Police to have her brought back to London for questioning. He didn’t clear it with the superintendent, and he hoped it wasn’t the wrong move.
‘Boss, come and see this’. The urgency in PC Wallace’s voice caused James to snap to instant attention. Wallace had gone through the backdoor of the kitchen and was looking into the window of what appeared to be a small garden shed. ‘I think there is a body in there.’
Terry slammed into the shed door with his shoulder, and it gave with a loud creak and the sound of splintering timber. ‘Christ!’ he exclaimed as he stepped inside. ‘It’s Daniel Tusons, alright.’
He was lying there in the middle of the shed, among the debris and household junk, with a hole in his forehead, his dead eyes staring up into the ceiling.
* * * * * * * * * *
PC Dellis Hilton did not get far, either. She was caught at Heathrow Airport trying to board the plane to Greece with a fake passport under the name of Mandy Pollard.
Due date: 20 Jul 2011
Working Title: The Infernal Sausage
Dennis Bailey is struggling with an unexpected new problem that he is not prepared to admit even to himself, let alone confide in someone else. And it didn’t matter whether they thought worse or not. He will do anything to avoid telling his fiancee, Vanessa, about it, although she is becoming suspicious, irritated, confused and increasingly apprehensive.
Terry, his best friend, is not sure what is going on either. He is, particularly, in trouble over the matter because Vanessa thinks it is all due to his bad influence on Philip.