Murder at the Royal Wedding

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CHAPTER FIVE

The Town Square

Jesus Pobre

Spain

The man with stone-grey eyes and a Savile Row suit waited in the hot sun, his companion beside him. Guy Royce counted out five euros at the fruit stall and toted his bag of Valencian oranges, strung in a net. He slid his wallet away. He knew who they were and knew he must face them. He studied both before he spoke.

“You two aren’t here looking for fruit, are you?”

The slighter of the two, with brown, slicked-back hair over a hatchet face, remained immobile. Guy detected a smile twitch the lips of the muscled, fair-haired one. He knew they were fit and in their late twenties, maybe early thirties, and he knew exactly what they did for a living. Now they were here, on his doorstep.

The angular one’s Adam’s apple bobbed in his scrawny neck to collide with his collar and Guy wondered if it hurt him to speak. Then he did.

“You know us?”

He eyed Guy, cold and still.

Guy’s mind screamed. Of course I know you. I know where you trained and how good you have to be with a gun. I know how little you make in a year and how little you see your wife.

He tried to keep his reply calm.

“How many suits do you see here? Suits tailored to take a Glock nine-millimetre holster? Do you still carry it in the small of your back?”

“Okay. Very smart, Detective Inspector Royce.”

Guy corrected him.

“Ex-Detective Inspector. That Ex is very important. Remember that!”

He caught a whiff of body odour and guessed they had waited in the sun for him all morning. Good. They were trained to wait; it’s what they did best. He’d had to wait, just like them.

The taller said.

“Can we go somewhere to talk?”

Guy cut him short.

“The sun getting to you, lads? Don’t you see it in the posh palaces you patrol? I prefer to talk here, in the open, where I can see you both.”

The blond fingered the knot of his tie in the stifling heat, pulling at it.

“You’re not making this easy, Royce.”

Guy fought an urge to shout out. Easy! Who made it easy for me, you bastards?

He struggled for calm in his reply.

“Formalities first. Who the hell are you? Warrant cards, eh?”

The gaunt one sighed, opened up his jacket and flipped a blue, Metropolitan Police card. Guy saw a patch of sweat staining the armpit of his shirt. He felt the familiar touch of the card between his fingers.

“Well, Inspector Trevor Bullingham, your picture does you no favours. At least I paid for mine and got a decent mug shot taken.”

The man snatched his card back, his eyes narrowing under thin lids.

“..and Sergeant Jamie Ward. So you’re both S. O. Fourteen, eh? Chambers´ young puppies of war. What are you, Close Protection or Back Up?”

Inspector Bullingham replied dispassionately.

“You know the game, Royce. We can’t discuss that.”

Guy inched his way left to put the sun behind him, adding to the two men’s discomfort. Sergeant Ward raised a hand to shade his eyes.

“Jeremy Chambers send you here? I only spoke with him yesterday.” For an instant, his mind went back to the cliff face. Why should Chambers assume he would return just because he called?

Bullingham squinted.

“I guess he expected you to be difficult. Well, you didn’t disappoint. He’s been unable to reach you. You turned off your mobile?”

“It’s at the bottom of the sea. A long story. What do you two want? I told Chambers I’m not coming back. Go lie on the beach for a day on your expenses. I won’t tell him.”

The Inspector exhaled. Guy noticed his ears moved as he breathed.

“Mr Royce, the Commissioner’s received a threat. He thinks you might help find the source. Perhaps an old case of yours?”

He spread his bony hands.

“What is this threat?”

“I’m sorry, Royce. I can’t reveal that.”

“Then I don’t see how I can help you.”

“The Commissioner will explain it when we get to the Yard.”

He pointed a finger in the policeman’s face.

“Listen, Inspector Bullingham. We are not going to the Yard. Tell me now or forget it and I walk away.”

The Inspector began again. “The Commissioner–”

Guy broke in, “–cut the crap and call him Chambers. It’ll save us both a lot of time.”

Bullingham nodded.

“Chambers warned us you might be hostile. Knowing your past history, Royce, I can’t say I’m surprised.”

Guy was standing tall, his hands on his hips. He felt the aggression stirring inside him like a bear in a cave.

“What the hell do you know about my past history, Bullingham? You were a kid at school then.”

The man was trying to out cool him.

“Hendon police cadet training, actually. I’ve looked at your record, Royce. You fouled up in Royal Protection.”

Guy’s jaw clenched.

“That was a pursuit! An anarchist attack aimed at the Princess of Wales. Have you never taken part in a high-speed chase?”

“I’ve never killed a family out for a day in London, if that’s what you mean,”

Bullingham sneered.

“What your record doesn’t say, Royce, is that it’s all drink related. You were a boozer, Ex Detective Inspector. A bloody lush. Why on earth Chambers wants you back is beyond me - and all of us in Specialist Operations.”

Guy wondered whether to hit him. In the face or the groin? His anger rose up like a lift from hell.

“You know nothing about it, Bullingham. Nothing!”

Sergeant Ward was edging closer, ready to counter him if he lost control. He knew his anger was showing. He must keep calm.

Bullingham continued.

“Let’s cut to the chase, Royce. The Commissioner wants you, so Sergeant Ward and I must arrange it. Here’s the deal. The Preliminary Inquiry into the deaths of those people cleared you. We got rid of you on a police disability pension. A sick note out of responsibility, as far as I’m concerned.”

Guy felt his fists tense and he found it hard when he spoke.

“The Coroner returned a misadventure verdict. It was dark and wet. Those villains were taking terrible risks.”

He felt a trickle of sweat course down his own back.

“Look, Royce, I don’t care. The verdict can change.”

Now Guy stood still. Here it comes. He hated the man’s crooked smile.

“What do you mean by that?”

Sergeant Ward looked away when the Inspector continued.

“There’s new evidence. A breathalyser result overlooked at the time. You were over the limit, Royce. Miles over.”

You bastards! Guy dropped his net of oranges to point into the man’s face.

“I took a test with the others that night. It was clear!”

Shrugging his thin shoulders, Bullingham stated.

“It’s in the records. If it were activated you’d face serious charges, Royce. Case reopened. You could be extradited for manslaughter. Maybe imprisoned. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

He felt a tightness at his chest. His stomach ached. How he needed a drink. He knew he must go cautiously.

“You mean it’s in my records now. Placed there by you?”

The Inspector shrugged again.

“I take it you’ll be coming to London?”

Guy took a long, deep breath. He tried to remember his training. Be flexible. Bend in the wind. Don’t break with the gale.

“How long will this take?”

“That’s up to the Commissioner. Life has gone on, Royce. Royalty Protection is filled with good officers. We’ve technology way above your style, Ex Detective Inspector. Have a few bevvies with your old mate, Chambers and keep the hell out of it.”

“I’ll need a few days to sort things here.”

The Inspector eyed him.

“We fly in four hours. Alicante airport is one hour from here.”

“Why the rush?”

“You’ll see. Let’s go, Royce.”

He knew there was not a reason in the world why he couldn’t leave his rented flat over the bar El Griego. Even his cat fed himself from scraps in the market, and that suited him fine. Too close and the people you loved vanished, like his wife Angela and the Princess of Wales, but he didn’t want to go back. Sometimes he got to believe the accident that night hadn’t happened at all. The funerals. The widows. The quiet, parchment faces at the Tribunal.

He fell into step beside them, forced into the sun as they walked in the shade. If he was going back to help why did he feel like a condemned man being escorted to the gallows?

“I’m not sure we’re going to get along, Bullingham.”

The Inspector stared straight ahead.

“That’s fine by me, Royce, just pack your knickers and let’s get out of this God-awful place.”

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