It was the beginning of another day. Cain was at his desk early. In front of him was a report sent through by Nigel Kemp.
The report was very thorough and focused in-depth on the key fifteen bars. It detailed each of the bar’s construction plans, fire and safety certificates, and the initial license applications from the owners. Also included were all documents that were held on file at the time of the application and license renewals, minutes taken during all court appearances, and any situations or license violations where a council officer had been called. Kemp had also included details of the council officer responsible for each application. Cain noticed that at one point or another Kemp had been involved in all the bars but over time had delegated them to other members of his team.
Flicking through the pages, nothing seemed to jump out. Due to the upcoming interview, he turned to Tania’s bar, Viber. The two owners Sam Dunn and Howie Gilbertson were listed on all the bar’s license applications. The bar had been run well by all accounts. On the annual re-applications for the license, the local council officer had made no remarks or made reference to any violations in the previous twelve months. Through Rigby’s internal checks, the police had only been called once to the bar and that was at the request of the door staff for an altercation between two customers who had left earlier and were fighting in the street. The bar was not highlighted anywhere on the police watch list for drug use or dealing. That had to be a first he thought in the City with all its coke head traders.
Rigby had set up the interviews in separate rooms for Sam Dunn and Howie Gilbertson. It was standard procedure. Cain had flipped between the two interview rooms. Nothing new was learned but at least the men could be taken off their list. They both had alibis which placed them in Bristol for the times of the previous two attacks. Due to their long arm management of the business, neither of the men knew Tania personally but were aware of her name on the payroll list. As for Zach Holden, they had never heard of him. They did not know any of the new crowd that frequented their bar since the refurbishment. To them it was a business and a cash cow that they managed from afar and never visited during opening hours.
In another part of the station at the general enquiry desk, a situation was arising. A man had come into the station requesting to see Chief Superintendent Critchley. When asked for the reason of his request he stated that he wanted to make a complaint of harassment against Detective Chief Inspector Rod Cain. The man’s name was taken and he was asked to take a seat. The desk sergeant put a call through to the Chief Superintendent’s office passing on the man’s name and asked how he should proceed. The reply was for the sergeant to take a written statement and pass this to the Chief Superintendent’s office for immediate action.
Half an hour later Chief Superintendent Critchley read through the statement for a second time. His first thought was Cain, you fucking idiot. But he knew the pain that Cain was going through and still felt a vein of sympathy. If what was written proved to be true, Cain was clearly harassing him. There was no law in sitting in your car on a street close to your house. But the law was the law and it could be seen that Cain was abusing his role as a public servant as he had no legitimate reason to be following Ratner. Due to his high ranking position, Critchley thought he should know better.
A message was passed down to the sergeant’s desk to tell the man that his complaint was been taken seriously. Due to the nature of his complaint, it would need to be investigated by Internal Affairs and someone would be in touch with him soon. Chief Superintendent Critchley then asked his secretary to put a call through to internal affairs and set up a meeting. The next thing he needed to do now was to go and speak with Cain and ask him what the hell he had been doing even after his express request that he drop this insane behaviour. It could spell the end of his career.
As Critchley walked downstairs he received a text message on his Blackberry. A suspect bomb package had been identified in Paternoster Square. Then came through another email that stated that the four suspects under surveillance were still located in Leicester although it was noted that one of the men had not gone to work today. He had subsequently not been seen since entering his house the previous evening but was assumed to be still inside. Efforts were now being made to verify this.
On reaching Cain’s office Chief Superintendent Critchley asked for Cain and was informed that he was on his way to Chloe Goodhall’s flat with DS Rigby.
Cain was checking through his emails on his Blackberry with Rigby driving when the suspect package alert came through. He told Rigby to alter her destination to Paternoster Square.
’Put your foot down. If this is real then there may be no warning.’ Cain said. All information collected so far on the suspects pointed to the fact that their beliefs were aligned with the hard-line clerics in Afghanistan. So in their mind, inflicting maximum casualties onto Western Infidels who were sponsoring the war aligned with their beliefs. It had been the initial email chains from Pakistan and then the teachings from Afghanistan to this small group that had been picked up by the security services. They probably had all innocently joined a social website at first and were chosen when they answered positively to a few carefully structured questions. Then they unwittingly would have been tutored and indoctrinated from that day going forward.
Arriving at the top of Ludgate Hill by St Paul’s Cathedral Cain was out of the car, radio in hand, and running in the direction of the central statue even before Rigby had stopped the car. Uniformed Police had already sealed off the area around the suspect package. They were now starting to evacuate everyone to a 150m exclusion zone. It was possible that it would be pushed back further once the Gold Incident Commander arrived on the scene. Cain observed that the buildings in the area seemed to be mostly made of tempered glass. Any major explosion would have the whole area raining fractured window panes accompanied by a million glass splinters.
The suspect package had been left by the cenotaph at the center of the square. A call came across the radio stating that the bomb squad was still seven minutes away. The voice then requested any information on the package that could be passed to the approaching team. Cain made a quick check with the constable closest to the package and ascertained that only scant details had been passed back so far. The bomb squad needed more.
Cain, without thinking of the risk, pulled out his Blackberry, turned his phone to “flight mode” and then switched on the camera. He walked slowly towards the package and started clicking. He knew that this was against all protocol, but the general public’s lives were at risk.
He continued to click as he approached. Four pictures taken so far.
Even though it was a cold November morning, he felt the sweat rolling down the back of his neck. Every sense across his body was working in overdrive. He seemed to be able to hear every sound as if it were magnified through huge speakers. He could smell the fumes from exhaust pipes of the nearby traffic, the aroma floating across from the nearby coffee shop, and the pre-lunch preparations from a grill restaurant. His eyes were locked on the bag. But the closer he got the chances of reacting quick enough to save himself lessened. Most of all he could feel his heart pumping loudly in his ears, the blood coursing through his veins and the muscles controlling his limbs.
He needed to get closer and take pictures of the zips, locks, and clasps. He did this taking with five additional pictures.
The bag was a simple conference computer bag. One that you see given free to delegates. The bag was around 40cm long, 30cm tall, and 14cm wide. It was made from black Gortex material with the main flap to cover the access to the inside of the bag. Normally under the flap, the main compartment was secured with a zip. On this bag, the flap was fastened with two plastic clips at the front. It had the name of “IT Solutions Seminar 2012, London” printed along the front flap.
He then did the unthinkable. He reached forward and released the main bag clasps and slowly lifted the flap to reveal the inside of the bag. The main zip was already open.
He had no idea what he expected to see, but what he did see was not good. It was a spaghetti of wires, batteries, and grey packages taped together, which looked like they contained putty. He didn’t know if he was looking at a hoax or the real thing. He slowly levelled his blackberry and took another three pictures. He then turned and walked slowly away preparing an email for the bomb squad. He stopped and turned back on his SIM. Selecting the required email address, attached the pictures, and pressed send.
Cain started to signal that the suspect package was probably real and for the exclusion zone to be pushed further back. The police manning the cordon immediately started to move the barriers further away. Frantic messages were being relayed across the radio that the suspect package was now to be viewed as a live package and not suspect anymore.
As he walked away he could see Rigby standing at the edge of the exclusion area. Her face was a picture of pure anger, pain, and desperation.
’Rod, what the fuck did you just do?’Rigby demanded. Cain noted that this was the first time she had ever used his first name in the workplace.
’We needed to know if the threat was real. It was the first thing that came to my mind. Now we need to make sure these offices are cleared,’ he reasoned.
’I cannot believe you used an electronic device and sent an email standing near to a suspect package. It’s against all protocol. You could lose your badge for this, have you thought about that?’ Rigby said leading him by his elbow. She looked at Cain and saw that he seemed to be in a sort of trance as he stared back at the package.
’Putting yourself in danger won’t stop the pain,’ she scoffed as she turned and stormed away.
Before he could answer the bomb squad arrived on the scene. The lead sergeant went across to Cain and took his phone to study the photographs.
’Thanks for this. You’re brave but completely fucking reckless. Colleagues of mine have died doing a lot less. Clicking something electronic close to the package goes beyond stupidity. If these offices were not clear you could have killed hundreds. Someone could also have been watching you and remotely detonated the device. Anyway one question I do have to ask. Did you notice any specific smell?’ asked the sergeant.
Cain shook his head
’Fine, so now step back and let us get on with it. I am sure your divisional commander will be speaking with you. I’ll get your statement later when this is done.’
Already busy behind him, his team was unloading their equipment and setting up screens to mask their operations from the press.
Rigby led Cain away back to their car. At this time the station was their best destination. As she drove away from the scene, police cars and emergency vehicles were streaming in the other direction, mainly down the wrong side of the road.
She looked across at Cain. Earlier that morning she had wanted him more than she had before and this time with no wine involved. But after what she had just seen she was afraid to allow herself to have those types of feelings again. The man had a death wish. Was the pain he felt for his wife that great that he felt the need to roll the dice with his own life? What about his kids? His total lack of protocol, the danger to the public, lack of self-preservation, and stupidity would be questioned at the highest levels.
She turned on the radio to try and dissolve the stifling atmosphere that enveloped the inside of the car and found herself listening to an account of Cain’s heroics as the newsreader described in detail his approach and photographing of the bag. She flicked off the radio and concentrated on driving.
Cain and Rigby arrived back at the station as the situation in Paternoster Square was unfolding further. The exclusion zone had been pushed out to 600m, which in the center of London was a monumental task when you considered the buildings, offices, shops, and underground areas.
As Cain entered the station he was informed that he needed to go straight to the office of Chief Superintendent Critchley. Rigby headed back to the operations room not knowing if she would have a change of boss in the next fifteen minutes.
Cain was ushered straight in. Critchley was sitting at his desk with the television on in the corner that had a live feed via the BBC World News to Paternoster Square. Critchley had always been a great believer in looking at events through the eyes of the public. He was still receiving incident updates from the Yard, but this was what the rest of the world was seeing. Cain and the City of London Police would be either commended for their courage in the future or castigated for putting so many people at risk.
’Sit,’ Critchley said without taking his eyes off the screen.
Critchley turned to face Cain.
’Why did you do it?’ he questioned in a calm and unemotional voice.
Cain thought for a minute.
’I had to know. After losing a loved one, I have been sentenced to a living hell. If there was a chance that that bomb was real, I couldn’t stand by and let others lose their loved ones meaninglessly and end up where I am.’
’You’re a policeman Cain, not fucking Rambo. We have rules!!’
’But it needed to be done.’
’Yes, but not by you. The bomb squad was minutes away. It’s their job. It’s what they are trained for. There are machines, not people to do what you did that minimises the loss of life.’
’Minutes mean lives, Sir. And for my wife seconds. If she had been two seconds earlier or later crossing the road she would still be alive.’
’Cain, this disregard for your own life is destroying you and your career. There will be an internal investigation. And on that point, we had Ratner in the station this morning making an official complaint about you.”
’What did he have to say?’
’He said you have been stalking him. Sitting outside his flat night after night in your car,’ Critchley growled.
’Sir, I am free to drive around my own neighbourhood. So, I parked a few streets from my house. Finding a place to park in my area is not that easy at night,’ Cain said in a mocking tone.
Critchley paused for thought. And then continued.
’Don’t play the fool with me. Look, the case you are working on is too important for me to suspend you, even though that’s what I should do right now. So I am going to make DS Rigby equal rank to you. Then, if you're not here I have a voice to talk to. You can share the workload. It will give you space to think. Internal affairs will be coming to speak with you on both the bomb situation and Ratner, be assured of that.’
Cain got up to leave. Critchley had one last comment.
’Cain, as a friend. What you did this morning was suicidal in anyone’s book. You did something this morning that I could never do. And the public. Well, they love you. They think you are a hero. And that’s maybe the only thing that will save you.’
Cain retreated out of the office and headed downstairs to join Rigby.
He found Rigby and Simmonds looking at the case boards. She was focusing on the datelines for the murders and the list of vegetables. She turned around as he entered. She smiled.
’Good chat?’ she quizzed.
’I told him how it was.’
’How did he take that?’
’I think like a kick in the nuts, so we can say, as expected. No major change to my career path yet. The main thing is we still have a job to do and a killer to catch. After that, things may change, but until then we keep going. He wants me to share the leads on this case with you. I did not disagree if it shuts him up, but you know the score sergeant,’Cain said.
And she did. She would shut up and take orders like normal, for now.
’What do you want to discuss first?’ Simmonds suggested trying to break the tension.
’The dates. There must be something that happened to start this. We need to check in the papers to see what was happening in London at the time of the first murder. Maybe, we might find a catalyst. Then there is the pattern of the dates. Are we causing it or has something else coincided with our discovery of the previous murders?’ Rigby questioned.
“I told you before Gov. Soon we will have all the ingredients for a good casserole,’ Simmonds piped up sarcastically.
Rigby looked at the board again and ran her eyes down the vegetable list. Aubergine, broccoli, carrots, garlic, kale, leeks, onions, and potatoes. ’Well, he has a point. Sorry to sound callous but add chicken and a good stock and you are there.’
Cain glared at them both. Simmonds raised his eyebrows to Rigby as if to say, that was my joke first.
’Well maybe we are looking for a disgruntled chef? I am being serious.I’m not taking the piss,’ Simmonds added with a more serious tone. ’We have only really looked at front-of-house in the bars. Maybe we need to focus more on the back-of-house. Perhaps these are women that all complained about the chef's food and he thought he would take his revenge?’
’I did check all sacked staff in the bars under investigation. No chefs. And we have been talking to all staff. Most of the staff in these places work front and back-of-house,’ Rigby explained.
’Look. We should ask the managers if any of the women murdered complained about the food or if they have a chef who receives a lot of complaints. I know it is a long shot but food, not vegetables could be the common factor,’ Simmonds reiterated.
“It’s worth asking a few questions I admit,’ Cain conceded. ’But I believe this guy is too smart for that to be his game. Vegetables are a key component in the ritual but the message is not about them, it is what they symbolise to him. Work that one out and we crack the case. And we still haven’t worked out yet how Mingle is connected either.’
“Personally, I think that Mingle is only a coincidence. If vegetables are symbols of something else, how many more symbols does he need to complete his set? Or does he just keep on going?” Rigby asked.
“That is a good question. But I believe, once you get the thirst for this I don’t think you are ever satisfied. You can’t stop. You only look for another reason to justify your actions, and time is running out before he will act again. We need to find something. We need some tangible link that will break his veil of anonymity. Go through everything again. Look for that link,’ Cain demanded. His voice sounded more exasperated as he spoke.
Rigby nodded and looked back at the board.
’How long have we got do you think?’ she queried.
’A week at tops now, not two.’ Cain offered. ’Don’t you think?’
’Yep, I agree. The clock is ticking.’ acknowledged Rigby
Cain walked back into his office. Rigby looked after him and wondered. Today that man had been stupidly brave. She was not sure if she was angry that he did it without considering her or his family or angry with him with the way it made her feel.