The Assistant Commissioner.
The Assistant Commissioner of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, the AC, looked at his watch. Another hour and he would either send in his men or call the whole thing off. If the bomb makers were in the house, if their bomb factory was there, so many ifs.
The guy from the SIS, the Secret Intelligence Service said they were; for once MI5 were in agreement. The guys from Finance said they hadn’t drawn any funds yet; so it was unlikely they were on the move. The watchers had said the drum of peroxide had been delivered by an old market van last night. The telecoms people said that their mobile phones were switched on and therefore the suspects were at their address. A small electronics and software company specialising in such things confirmed it. They hadn‘t dared to bug the place or tap the phone. Sometimes, especially in London, the new enemy had their own bug detectors and swept their premises on a regular basis.
If all this were so then he would end the day as a celebrity. The Met Police would look good and the spooks and spies and experts could melt away into their grimy holes until the next time.
If someone had screwed up again like the last time, he would probably have to resign; or retire. Like his predecessor, Jim, who had taken the can for the S.I.S. fuck up where the boy had been shot in his own house when there was no evidence of any terrorist activity.
His predecessor who’d had to run the lefty Press gauntlet. At the same time he been cold shouldered by the same politicians who; if he had been right; would have patted his back and approved extra funding for police operations. He still felt sad the day he shook hands with Jim for the last time as a colleague at his ‘retirement’ party.
‘Nil desperandum carborundum,’ he’d said.
Now, instead of looking at his watch, he glanced at the clock on the Ops Room wall. It wouldn’t do to keep tugging his sleeve up and showing the others how nervous he felt. He thought of the young bobbies out there. Cold, out there in the December afternoon, pissed off, under informed; just waiting for the whistle to blow. All they knew was there was something up; another high profile anti terrorist job.
How would he feel? When he was a young PC there were no dangerous young immigrants making bombs. No dangerous young British citizens making bombs! There were crooks, proper crooks and the odd IRA bomb. Yes, the IRA had been British citizens but he’d never counted them as that. Even the IRA/ PIRA boys looked like gentlemen now.
In the old days the crooks ran the risks for money, in fear of prison. It was almost a game. Yes, they killed, stabbed and slashed each other according to the particular code of the day. But they didn’t do it for politics, or God, or Allah. If a villain got killed in those days, the Police were quietly pleased at the cop shop and celebrated loudly down the pub.
Back then the Police didn’t carry guns or dress like black storm troopers.
Night Sights? Helicopters overhead? Hah! His Sarge would have pointed him to a bicycle or, if he was lucky, a blue and white Panda car. A phone tap was an inverted glass against a window pane because a magistrate feared for the rights of the people. Rights of the people? F___ ’em…
The young Inspector came up to him. Inspector? Jesus! He looked about twenty years old. Some fast track university boy no doubt. The young man waited, respectful, until the big man turned to him. The eyebrow went up, he could speak.
‘We have the street’s phone numbers sir. The exchange can override any busy calls. Do you want us to start getting the people out?’
‘How are you going to stagger it?’
‘Well sir, we can get the people on the opposite side of the street to leave by their back doors and then stagger the rest on the target side, some front, some back at ten or fifteen minute intervals…’
‘And what if one of their holy brothers lives there, or is just coming round the corner to visit his bomb buddies?’
‘A lot of work has gone into this sir…I…’
‘Right, start evacuating the other side in five minutes. Don’t forget to tell the people on the ground…’
‘No sir, I won’t forget…’
The young Inspector withdrew. He was seething inside.
Patronise me would you, you old knob jockey - as if I’d just stampede them all at once and not tell the cordon! Arsehole!
He started the ball rolling, watched for a few minutes and then went for a pee. On the way back he dropped into the room where the coffee, tea and sandwiches had been laid out. His friend DCI Mick Green was there, cramming his mouth with sandwiches and filling his pockets with biscuits.
‘You fat bastard! Leave some for the rest of us!’
‘Yeahh, right! Thought you uniform boys lived off the salt in the old man’s bum crack!’
‘If this one’s a f___ up again, he’ll be living off the very same, I imagine…’
’Bollocks! He just won’t get his knighthood – I mean, who the f___ wants a knighthood anyway? ’Ain’t ’e been called ‘Sir’ enough in his life?’
The Inspector poured coffee into a polystyrene cup, debated then put extra sugar in. Long day and night ahead maybe he thought. He rooted in a box and came out with a plastic lid which he carefully seated round the lip.
No brown spills on white shirts for me today.
He followed his friend’s advice and pocketed some Bourbons. He wondered what he would say in either event to the Press boys and girls. Or rather, he wondered what he would draft and not have approved by the old man. He could write a perfect Press release and he would still change it. He wished the old man would f__ off with his - bike for you lad! And his - ’ad ter mek do wit Panda in mah day, lad!
He went back into the Ops Room. The old man was on the phone, his back turned. The residents of Pilgrim Avenue were gathering their passports, driving licenses, chequebooks, wills, insurance documents, cats, dogs and God knew what else but slowly they were rounded up by various Police PCs and WPCs in the guise of two refuse disposal men, a lollipop lady, a vicar and a Sikh.
He hoped that Sikhs were not in the bracket of ‘people most feared’ but then he remembered there were a few Indians in Pilgrim Avenue. He watched the screen for the camera showing the evacuees being taken discreetly to vehicles arriving at short intervals. There were three people carriers, an ambulance, a builder’s van and, a nice touch; a Sunny Days Retirement Home minibus. writing here…