The Spanish Grand Prix
Guy accelerated into the fast lane, joining the race day traffic. Henrietta had discarded her leathers for vintage Ralph Lauren slim jeans and a cream zip-front, fleeced hoodie. She had a red ribbon round her neck with an accreditation pass reading POLICE - PIT LANE, just like Guy’s. It was tucked into the top pouch of her jacket.
In bright sunshine they joined the busy motorway directly from Barcelona’s El Pratt airport. Acres of orange orchards and grapevines spread out on both sides of the Autopista de la Mediterránea as they raced down the AP7 trunk road. The smell of orange blossom was sweet in the car. She was still hungry, despite the croissant served out of Heathrow. She asked. “Where is this place, Guy?”
The Curcuito de Catalunya was carved into the rolling, green hills. Verdant countryside scarred in parts by single-storey brick and tile factories with tall chimneys. There was an abattoir that tainted the air with the wind coming from the east. Guy indicated the blue motorway sign for Montmelo. “We’re here. Get your pass ready.”
“What are you going to say to Jack Holborne? You’ve no jurisdiction here. He might have us thrown out.”
Guy showed his accreditation at the gate. “I’m going to tell Holborne what we suspect. He can’t ignore it. Whatever he does tells us a lot. Something’s got to happen.”
Their hire car plunged out of the dazzling sun into the dark tunnel beneath the track. They emerged to a babble of noise. Eighty thousand spectators ranged under a cloudless sky in open-decked stands that lined the black tarmac. The crowds filled the air with their shouts, dust and sweat, their expectation palpable on the wind.
The Main Stand was the only covered spectator area. It was fashioned like a horseshoe on its side, running the length of the starting grid opposite the pit lane and it was filled to capacity.
Rows of ten-wheeler pantechnicons, each fifty feet long, were spaced out to form a motor city in splashes of garish trade colours.
“Every team has three of these trucks, Henri. It takes five Jumbo jets just to carry them.”
Henrietta studied the transporters. “Is it any wonder Tolman found it easy to move his money inside these?”
“Scope for creative smuggling. Each car has three thousand parts and every part a spare. This is the same TV audience as the Olympics, only every two weeks.”
“Surely the mechanics would know?”
“Forty crew per team. More in a team like Ferrari. Everything’s transported. Only the team owners know the full story.”
They passed the flame-red Ferrari transporters, marked with the black, prancing horses. The Ferrari staff moved between their trucks and the pit garages.
Guy said. “We must find Holborne quickly. One hour to race time. Engines start in thirty minutes.”
A television crew backed up before a driver who strode in fireproof overalls, never slackening his pace.
Guy pointed. “There’s Holborne´s transporters. Over there.”
Henrietta held his arm. “This time I get my pictures early, before you spook him out.”
They reached the three Holborne Grand Prix pantechnicons, painted in black with a pink, green and yellow stripe, all linked by rigid awnings.
“Can’t see Holborne. Go through the garages. We must find him.”
Mechanics in matching black shirts with the Holborne logo across their backs worked around two race cars that stood silently on jacks. The drivers watched flat screens that rested on the polished bodywork. Wide race tyres were shrouded in tyre heating blankets that fitted like gloves. An air gun whizzed briefly and Henrietta jumped. They moved out onto the pit lane.
“We must get to him before they start engines, Henri. Quickly!”
She followed him, dodging the fuel rigs and air hoses laid out on the tarmac. The mechanics gathered equipment on a travel trolley to go to the start line. Guy tapped her arm.
“There’s Holborne! Far left seat on the pit wall.”
She was already focusing. She hoisted the heavy, 500mm lens she carried on a neck strap, pausing for Holborne to turn his head before firing the Nikon.
“Wait, Guy. Let me get one in the bag. Who knows what’ll happen once you start.”
Guy let her work. “Get a shot of me interviewing him.”
She sniggered. “Don’t worry, sleuth, your place in this year’s Police awards is safe. I’ll get you both.”
Guy sniffed. “Don’t know what you mean, Henrietta.”
She prodded him in the back. “Yeah, yeah. Go on, do your stuff.”
Jack Holborne sat stiffly, directing the four men beside him through earphone radio links, his team manager beside him pointing at a bank of monitors. Guy thought Holborne looked older than his forty-two years. He sat hunched, not the athletic, trim man of his days as a racing driver. His windcheater, in team colours, bulged at the waist. Fine, white hairs, laced with the black at his temple, ran into sideburns that Guy thought were much too long. Deep folds of wrinkles gave him the stone face of a cathedral effigy. Guy decided this was no time for caution. Better to meet him head on and shake his resolve. He strolled across the yellow line bordering the pit lane and stood below Holborne´s seat at the pit wall. Across the pit lane Henrietta raised her Nikon to eye level.
“Mr Holborne. Mr Holborne!”
The team boss scanned the ticket round his neck.
“Police? What do you want?”
“My name is Detective Inspector Guy Royce – I’m here to interview you.”
Guy stood as tall as he could but only reached Holborne´s waist on the pit wall. Holborne was dismissive. “British Police? You’ve got no power here. A bad time for questions, Royce. The race starts in thirty minutes. Lots to do.”
“I know, Mr Holborne,” Guy continued, “this is very important. It can’t wait.”
He stood his ground and held his eyes with a frank stare. Holborne spat out. “Then see my Public Relations Officer in the motor homes.”
The man wanted to turn away but was held by the force of Guy´s voice.
“Can’t do that, Mr Holborne. Only you can answer my questions. Only you.”
Holborne´s fists bunched in his windcheater pockets. “Then see me back in England. Now get out of here or I’ll have your pass revoked.”
His manager turned at the sound of raised voices. “You okay, Jack? Anything wrong?”
Holborne shrugged. “No problem, Felix. Detective Royce is just leaving.”
Below him, Guy called. “Sorry, Mr Holborne. I can’t leave it there.”
Felix tapped his arm, trying to recall his boss’s attention. “Jack, the start telemetry. We’re up on grid in five minutes. Which setting?”
A muscle in Holborne´s neck ticked. “Royce, you’re trying me. Can’t you see me after the bloody race?”
Felix was insistent. “Jack, the option tyres or not? Three minutes, Jack…”
An engine coughed then screamed in a garage down the pit lane, shattering the air, followed by a second. Guy felt the ground shiver through the soles of his shoes. He had to shout to be heard. “No, Mr Holborne. I must ask you about your wife and Ibrahim Tolman.”
Holborne stared back in silence and his lip quivered. Beside him, Felix called into a headset microphone. “Technical. Start engines. Give me an engine status as soon as you’re up. Two minutes to grid. Two minutes, everybody.”
The team boss took a breath. The anger returned to his eyes. “What the fuck are you talking about, Royce?”
“Marie and Nikki are dead, Mr Holborne. There are questions to be answered. Only you can do this, Jack.”
Felix’s voice interrupted between the two men as Holborne stared down at the policeman.
“Engines up, Jack. Do we come to the grid? One minute.”
“What?” Holborne cut him short. “Yes, Felix. Yes!”
Felix spoke into his mike. “Radio checks, one and two. Jack, the Ferraris and the McLarens are on scrubbed, option tyres. Do you want to change the fuel stops?”
Guy held his eyes now. He wanted to give him no time to think. “Mr Holborne, I know about Tolman and you. About the money you move in your transporters.”
Holborne let out a breath. “You know nothing, Royce! Now fuck off!”
His manager’s voice beside him was demanding. “Jack! We must set now…”
“Either you talk to me,” Guy responded, “or I release the full police dossier to the Spanish Police.”
The team boss grimaced. “Just what do you think you know, Detective?”
Guy pointed. “You see that girl there, Mr Holborne? Ibrahim Tolman tried to kill her. His man, Carlos, told her everything. Don’t you see? It’s finished, Jack.”
Henrietta stood photographing them through her long lens. He mouthed his reply, barely whispering and Guy had to reach up to hear him.
“Only this girl and you know these wild allegations?”
The engines growled and crackled like firecrackers as they emerged to creep down the pit lane. Then they powered away, one by one, on to the circuit. With a scream of revs then a burst of tyre smoke the two black Holborne Grand Prix cars tested their start systems at the pit lane exit. Guy shouted above the howl of engines, still pointing to Henrietta. “Jack, she pictured you with Tolman and your wife at the football match in London. It was just before Marie died. You were in London when she was murdered.”
“I deny that!”
“You can’t deny it. It’s a proven fact!”
Felix grabbed his boss’s arm, tugging at him. “Jack, Jack, for Christ’s sake. We’re on track. In or line up!”
Holborne screamed at his accuser. “Royce! You repeat a word of this and I’ll sue you for millions.”
Guy watched him wearily. He knew then he had him. “It’s gone way passed that, Jack. We’re talking murder here and money laundering.”
Felix stopped to stare. “What’s he on about, Jack?”
Holborne snapped. “It’s nothing, Felix. Get the cars onto the grid. You have to start this race without me.”
Felix protested. “What! I can’t. What about the fuel? Two stopper or one? What about the strategy!”
“Felix, you can do it. You’ve done it dozens of times with me. You decide – I have to speak to this policeman. Take over.”