Murder at the Royal Wedding

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

White Hart Lane

Tottenham

London

Guy Royce sat in an aisle seat. He was trying to get Commissioner Chambers’ attention. The crowd around them groaned as a Tottenham Hotspur midfielder slammed into a challenge, only to lose the ball.

“Oh, look at that! Typical! No bloody bottle. Ledley King wouldn’t have pulled out like that!”

Guy laughed at him.

“Calm yourself, Jeremy. It’s only a game.”

“Shows what you know, Guy,”

Chambers snorted.

“Oh, look. He’s lost it again. Come on, you useless bastards!”

His yell brought a flurry of nods all around him. He tugged his greatcoat tighter to conceal his uniform. The crowd bayed for a crunching tackle and Guy had to shout to be heard.

“Where are you with the Camilla threat letter?”

Chambers became solemn, peering around him.

“Careful, Guy. Not in public.”

“They can’t hear us. What have you got now?”

Chambers expression spoke his anguish.

“Nothing. To be frank I don’t expect anything, either. Just not enough to go on. We need a break.”

“What about Cat Strangler One?”

“Milton? We’ve checked him out. It’s not him. Sad little bugger. Lives alone. Wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Mental age of a Labrador.”

“I told you.”

“Yes, you did. Had to be cleared, though.”

He covered his eyes with a hand and turned away from the pitch.

“Oh, go on, ref. Put us out of our misery!”

As the whistle blew the crowd rose as one to seek the exits. Chambers’ mobile shrilled out. He stood aside in the aisle, trying hard to hear.

“That you, Commander? Better speak up.”

Megan Stone’s voice rose in volume to match his.

“Sorry to interrupt your game, Commissioner, but you better get back here. I’ve got something for you.”

“What? I can’t hear you!”

He bellowed into the handset.

“What did you say?”

“It’s about your car. Get back here, sir.”

Chambers shrugged, his greatcoat rearing like a woolly bear.

“Sorry, Guy. I have to go to the Yard. Something’s come up. Can I drop you somewhere?”

Guy shook his head. He felt the need to walk alone and think. He had told Chambers all he knew and now felt like going home.

“No problem, Jerry. I’ll get a cab to my hotel. Which you’re still paying for, by the way.”

Chambers smiled.

“Part of the deal, Guy. You can have it until the royal wedding’s over. Enjoy your stay.”

His chauffeur waited for their farewells to end then Chambers was gone, the black limousine whispering into the traffic.

Guy moved along with the crowd, pleased he would soon be in the warmth of his new home in Costa Blanca again. London once excited him. Perhaps he was getting old.

His mobile rang. He scrambled it out of his overcoat.

“Yes. Guy Royce here.”

The voice was indistinct. Soft and without accent.

“Mr Royce?”

The crowd jostled him when he slowed.

“Yes, I just said so. Who is this?”

“An old friend, brave Mr Royce.”

“What? Look, I’m a bit busy right now. Who are you? What do you want?”

He pulled aside, letting the crowds push on past him.

“I know you, Guy Royce. I want you to do something for me.”

He felt his anger rise.

“You go to hell. If you can’t tell me your name then goodbye.”

He flicked the handset shut but it rang immediately, the voice enraged.

“Don’t do that! I’m serious, Royce. This is important! Ask the Commissioner about the letter. Ask him about Cat Strangler One.”

Guy froze, instantly changing his tone.

“What about the letter? You wrote it?”

“Oh yes, Guy. The royal wedding is two days away. Camilla won’t survive it, you know.”

Now Guy spoke as calmly as he could, trying to hold on to every word, imprinting it on his memory. He concentrated hard on the voice.

“Why do you want to do this? What is your reason? Can you tell me?”

“It’s simple. There’s been a great injustice, Mr Royce. Now it must be put right, for my Princess.”

Guy searched his pockets for a scrap of paper to write on but found nothing.

“For your Princess? What do you mean? Is she the victim of something?”

“In a way, yes.”

“What about you? How are you involved?”

The voice hardened and he heard the anguish in it.

“It was her who had to suffer and me who had to watch.”

Guy screwed up his face, trying hard to decipher the code in the man’s conversation.

“You talk of suffering. Is it mental or physical?”

“Oh, very much all of it, Mr Royce. More than you could possibly imagine.”

“Where did you get my mobile number?”

“Never mind that. There’s not much time. I won’t survive the royal wedding, Mr Royce, it’s too late for me. It’s important the world knows the truth. We will talk again on Thursday at three. Be at the Yard when I call. Don’t let me down, Guy. It has to be you.”

SO14

New Scotland Yard

Commander Megan Stone and her squad stood when the Commissioner arrived. Royce accompanied Chambers and he felt her hostile eyes on him. The Commissioner nodded curtly and took his place at the head of the table.

“Where are we with this threat letter? Only one day left.”

“This is classified stuff, Commissioner. I’m not sure I should continue.”

Chambers waved her protest aside.

“Ex-Inspector Royce is here because I want him here. Please continue.”

“Commissioner, do you own a Volvo?”

Chambers´ bushy eyebrows rose.

“A Volvo? No. Is somebody parking in my spot?”

She gave him a half smile.

“S. O. Four have two sightings registered by the Automatic Number Plate Recognition Bureau. A nineteen ninety-eight Volvo crossing through the City - coming in south and out west both times.”

Chambers was short.

“Identification Service got a match for it?”

“Yes, it’s registered to you.”

She tried not to study his reaction but he noticed.

“No, Commander, it’s not mine. Nineteen ninety-eight is a bit outside my league. I can’t stand Volvos. An address mix-up?”

She pressed on.

“Number One, The Gables, Taunton.”

“That’s my Devon retreat from you lot.”

“Yes, I know. I thought maybe you had a gardener or a grandchild you had given it to?”

The Commissioner blanched.

“Not me, Megan. Where was it purchased? When?”

“DVLA says Monday. Tylerson´s Car Auctions, Mettles Island. I’ve had it checked out. Someone’s using your name.”

Chambers scowled.

“Don’t take resources off the royal wedding just for this.”

Guy asked, “Who was it, Megan?”

She turned to face him, her hostility softening.

“Man in his forties. Paid cash. Gave the Commissioner’s details.”

“It’s illegal to give a false record to the DVLA. Didn’t they check?”

“It’s not the kind of place where they check. Mostly aliens, refugees, bent punters. We bust them one week, they set up in another scrap yard the next.”

“How did he get there?”

“London taxi, the clerk said. The CCTV didn’t work. We checked the first garage on the A13. They all stop there. The auction house never puts petrol in them. He’s on the forecourt security cameras.”

She pressed the button and the monitor screen came alive.

“This is him. You see he leaves the Volvo, fills it up. Pays at the desk. The cashier remembers no conversation.”

Inspector Bullingham chipped in.

“You say he’s an I.C. one? White Caucasian? Unusual in that area.”

The Anglo-Indian VJ gave him a sideways glance.

“Unusual in most places these days, Inspector.”

Bullingham looked away and Megan Stone took the lead.

“We need enhanced video stills of this man. He drives across the City of London twice in a week. That puts him in the London area.

Guy joined in.

“Show it to the London cab companies. Stick it on their walls for the drivers.”

“It’s not much to go on, Commander,” Bullingham said.

Engaging his eyes sharply, Guy retorted. “We have one more clue, Inspector. The man we’re looking for knows the Commissioner’s country address. Now that’s not on the Internet, is it?”

Bullingham blustered.

“Isn’t this taking our eye off the royal wedding? We can’t do it all.”

Megan Stone snapped.

“Well, farm it out, Inspector! You don’t have to do it yourself. Delegate.”

The Commissioner asked.

“Where are we with the threat letter?”

Sergeant Ward sat up straight.

“We aren’t anywhere. No forensic. No suspects.”

Bullingham snapped.

“Since Royce ran us up the garden path with that bollocks about Matt Milton.”

He sniffed and his Adam’s apple bobbed.

Guy was surprised when Megan Stone replied. “That’s not entirely fair, Royce named our man. We found him. He’s no threat, as Royce said. The man’s as clean as a whistle. He’s more like a child.”

Guy offered. “We looked at him many times in the past. It’s not Milton.”

Megan Stone’s cell warbled. The table fell silent till she closed the call. She addressed the Commissioner.

“We have something major here, sir. Your car’s been spotted again.”

Chambers grimaced.

“Should that be interfering with the bigger picture, Commander? And it’s not my car.”

She ignored his reprimand.

“There are two hundred and three London Congestion Charging cameras set in the fee-paying ring around Central London. All based on automatic number-plate recognition.”

Guy sat back and watched as she talked, studying the bobbed end to her nose that he thought was too snubbed.

“We’ve had a marker out for the Commissioner’s bogus number plate. Well, it’s turned up.”

She waited for Chambers´ reaction. He looked blank.

“Well?”

A pink flush appeared on her cheeks.

“The Volvo came in from the south at Vauxhall Bridge, progressed passed Westminster Abbey, up Whitehall and into Horse guards Parade. From there it went up the Mall to the Palace–”

Chambers broke in: “–as do thousands of tourists each day.”

She was too excited to mask her contempt.

“Don’t you see, sir? This man’s following the royal wedding route. He’s reconnoitring it, just like we do.”

Chambers’ bushy brows rose.

“Where else did he go?”

“Nowhere, he returned the way he came. Disappeared off the system at Vauxhall again. By the way, you’ll be getting a penalty charge. I’m sure you’ll fix it, sir.”

The Commissioner grimaced as though a rotten egg had landed on his epaulette.

Bullingham spat out.

“So we’re nowhere. Probably a crank anyway.”

“Isn’t that the point, Bullingham?” Guy snapped. “If he’s a crank, who knows what he’ll do?”

The Commissioner announced.

“You’d better hear what Royce has to say. It’s now very relevant indeed.”

Guy placed his cell phone on the table.

“You’ll need this. Check the last number received.”

VJ handed it to a technical officer who walked off. Guy explained.

“The call I had was from an anonymous male. Softly spoken voice, no trace of accent. He told me he knew me and said, ‘ask the Commissioner about the letter… ask him about Cat Strangler One.’ He went on to say that ’she will not survive the royal wedding. His exact words were. ‘There has been a great injustice, now it must be put right, for my princess.’”

Megan Stone asked.

“It’s him, isn’t it! It’s Cat Strangler One. Anything else?”

Guy nodded.

“He said it’s too late for him. He won’t survive the royal wedding but it’s important the world knows the truth.”

Inspector Bullingham spoke up.

“How does he know you? Is he part of your chequered past, Royce? You keeping anything back?”

The Commissioner broke in.

“That’s enough, Bullingham. Keep it positive. Go on, Guy.”

“How did he get my mobile number? I lost my phone in the sea in Spain last week. This is a new replacement. I’ve only been here a few days.”

Commander Stone asked.

“Who have you given the number to? Who exactly?”

“The Commissioner here and I wrote it on my registration card at my hotel.”

Megan Stone’s pencil eyebrow rose perceptibly.

“What hotel?”

“The Conqueror.”

VJ acknowledged her nod, tapping into his laptop. Within seconds he was on the telephone.

Guy continued.

“He’s going to ring again tomorrow at three. Wants me here, at the Yard.”

Sergeant Ward spoke up.

“You’re missing a point here, folks. He says he won’t survive the attempt. That makes him a suicide bomber.”

Chambers stiffened and put his head in his hands.

“Dear Christ, I hope not. The wedding route will be packed with women and children. And Service personnel.”

Guy disagreed.

“I don’t believe he’s a suicide bomber. That’s typically a terror instrument. Political. This maniac is after personal retribution for Diana’s death. I don’t think he’s going to bomb a crowd. He’s after Camilla.”

The Commissioner sighed.

“I hope you’re wrong, Guy.”

The technical officer called to Megan Stone.

“Cell phone number’s a public call box in Charing Cross Station, Commander. You want forensic there?”

She nodded.

Guy asked. “How did he get my mobile number? That’s not public knowledge.”

Bullingham slid in.

“Maybe you’re not telling us everything, Royce?”

VJ returned to his seat and announced.

“Our suspect didn’t get it from Royce, Trevor. He got it from the Conqueror Hotel. I’ve just spoken to the girl on reception.”

Commissioner Chambers nodded. “Continue.”

“Seems a guy calling himself a taxi driver turned up there with a story. One about a guest who was going to the airport and left his passport in his cab. Could she give him the guest’s cell phone number so he could get him out of trouble..”

VJ paused, then added.

“The guest was Guy Royce. I e-mailed her the video picture from the Essex garage. She identified it. It was our suspect in the Volvo. That makes our Volvo driver the letter writer.”

Sergeant Ward asked, “Why so?”

VJ replied.

“Because Royce’s mystery caller mentioned Cat Strangler One in the letter, and the hotel girl said the Volvo driver in our picture was the bogus taxi driver. Makes them both the same person.”

“Then why did our bogus caller want us to suspect Matt Milton?”

“To put us off the scent. Keep us going round in circles.”

Bullingham scoffed.

“Well, he certainly did that. You’ve got yourself a stalker, Boyd!”

Guy wanted to wring Bullingham´s scrawny neck but Megan Stone tapped the desk sharply.

“Concentrate on the car. There must be a paper trail. Find him and quickly.”

The Commissioner announced.

“I want every copper in London looking for that Volvo. God knows what I’m going to tell the Home Office.”

He rose without another word and walked out.

Megan Stone stood up, brushing down her uniform skirt.

“I agree with Royce. We’re not doing enough. Go back to the sources. Check again. Use some initiative this time!”

She paced out after Chambers, slamming the door as she left and Sergeant Ward puffed a face.

“What’s got into her knickers, then?”

“Half the Force, I shouldn’t wonder,” Bullingham snarled.

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