After (chapter 8)
by Writer 3
Detective Chief Inspector Eddie Smith looked out on Hackney from the third floor walkway of Herbert Court.
As the sun tricked across the asphalt laying between Herbert Court and Martin Court, Eddie saw himself as a ten year old.
His steps were confident as they cut through a pleasant day.
The weight of his life separated him from that child and he knew that the moments when things had been simple and he had been gloriously cocksure had become unrecoverable.
There were different ways of being in the world, thought Eddie.
Next to him, Kate adjusted her position.
Eddie swung his head to flat 36 of Herbert Court. Danny Blake’s flat.
DCS Cox had her fist raised to pound on Danny Blake’s front door.
Eddie and Kate were positioned with two uniformed officers at the east stairwell of the third floor walkway.
Sam and Justin with their two uniforms were stationed at the west stairwell.
Behind Sam and Justin a fashionably dressed woman regarded the gathering of police questioningly. A word from one of the uniformed officers sent her on her way.
Eddie and Kate had been yanked back from St Thomas’ before they were able to put their questions to Nurse Reyes.
When the DCS led an arrest team there was a formality to the event. Her subordinate officers were expected to be on-site to back her.
So they could share in the success, thought Eddie. Or the failure.
DCS Cox thumped on the door of Danny Blake’s flat.
“I think that I’d like to strangle him,” said Kate.
It took Eddie a moment to put it together in his head. “Justin,” he said. “I thought you were over him.”
“This is me getting over him,” said Kate.
“Police,” sounded from DCS Cox, loud but controlled, the word scattering off the concrete of Herbert Court in the April sunshine.
“So you see what we have done for Kenny and other visibly challenged children and staff.”
Mrs McCormack was pencil thin in a grey pants suit. Her enthusiastic tone edged toward the joyous.
There were no blind members of staff at St Marys and see was one thing Kenny did not do, thought Danny, but Mrs McCormack’s happy tone invited no opposition.
Mrs McCormack’s voice was used to instruction.
Danny and Lil and Kenny were arrayed on hard backed chairs before Mrs McCormack’s desk on which pens and pencils and a tablet were set in careful disarray to hide the tidiness of the mind that had arranged them.
Mrs McCormack was Head of St Marys school which Kenny attended. They were still on Easter break but Mrs McCormack had asked Danny and Kenny to pop in and take a look at work St Marys had carried out over Easter.
“Large letters and braille,” said Mrs McCormack.
Next to Danny, Kenny was trying to get through this.
Kenny could read braille but he preferred audio.
If Kenny had sight, thought Danny, his eyes would be fixed forward.
On the other side of Kenny, Lil was enjoying Mrs McCormack’s performance.
In control, thought Danny, unflappable and dominating the meeting. Perhaps it was something that Lil would go for, or perhaps she was just enjoying the show.
They had been cold called by St Marys.
Could they provide feedback on the upgrades St Marys had made for the visually challenged?
Kenny had been keen to be a judge.
Lil had counselled Danny about moving around with his wound still healing but Danny had suggested taking Lil’s car for the 100 metre journey to school and had arranged with St Marys that a parking space would be made available.
“We had a couple of blind kids in our school,” popped from Lil.
Mrs McCormack turned to Lil.
A flicker of doubt troubled Mrs McCormack’s sunny visage.
Danny thought: Mrs McCormack doesn’t know how to fit Lil in.
The Head knew that Danny was gay and was supportive of his guardianship of Kenny – look at the braille, the big lettered signs – but he had turned up to the meeting with a female companion who wore a red cardigan over a white shirt, blue jeans and DMs. Her cropped hair had recently been dyed white.
Glad to be gay, thought Danny.
Mrs McCormack choose to go with professional courtesy. She asked: “And what accommodations did the school make for visually challenged children?”
“We talked to them a lot,” said Lil. “What with them not being able to see.”
Alongside Lil, Kenny stifled a giggle.
Danny’s phone pinged. A text message.
“I am sure they did their best,” allowed Mrs McCormack. “But we have more choices available nowadays.”
Even for the blind, thought Danny, and glanced at his message.
“How do I know you’re the police? You could just be saying you’re the police.”
The voice was male.
Encouraged DCS Cox repeated: “Police.”
The four armed officers placed around her were tense.
DCS Cox added: “Open the door, Mr Blake.”
“You can’t even get the fucking name right,” came from the other side of the door.
DCS Cox felt the tension in the arrest team shift.
Fuck, thought DCS Cox but forced herself to remain focused. It could be an attempt to deliberately mislead.
The front door of flat 36, Herbert Court opened a crack.
A pair of blue eyes peered out.
“Fucking gang of you, is there?” said the man behind the door.
The uniforms around DCS Cox redeployed for a suspect exiting the premises.
The front door of flat 36 swung open.
The man standing in the doorway was dressed in yellow. His hair was dyed red.
And his skin was olive.
Not Danny Blake, thought DCS Cox.
Carla had sold her a line.
“Sir,” said Kate at the eastern stairwell on the walkway of the third floor of Herbert Court. “Isn’t that your mate?”
Kate’s green eyes were pinned on the yellow dressed man in the doorway of flat 36.
“From this morning?” said Kate.
Eddie blinked but the yellow clad block of Lou stubbornly remained in the doorway of flat 36.
For a moment Lou’s eyes wandered off the officers surrounding him, found Eddie and in an instant understood that Eddie was the other side.
Police at your place.
The text message on Danny’s phone was from Joanne.
Danny clipped back: OK.
The Head of St Marys School was saying that St Marys would encourage unique, individual contributions from each of their students.
Her face sang of the wonder of it all.
“What about bullies?” asked Lil.
Mrs McCormack hesitated but took the question. “We’d try to help them to see how they hurt others,” said Mrs McCormack.
“But isn’t that the point: hurting others? And what if they’re really into bullying, like committed?” Lil kept at it.
Mrs McCormack wasn’t going to let her vision of the school being fully inclusive go down but before she could respond Danny interrupted with: “Thank you, Mrs. McCormack. That was helpful.”
Mrs McCormack accepted Danny’s closure of the topic but her look directed at Lil let her know that there was a lot more to offer.
Lil seemed to want to keep going.
“We have to be making a move,” said Danny.
“We were just having a discussion,” said Lil. “Thrashing things out,” and Lil grinned.
Mrs McCormack’s face showed a moment’s confusion at Lil’s phrasing. Her face settled back to bonhomie but carried the sense that she may have somewhere lost the thread of the discussion.
Danny looked at Lil: Now
Lil raised her palms.
“Okay, don’t go all Genghis on me,” said Lil as Danny got to his feet.
Mrs McCormack interjected: “They are an interesting culture. Lovely jewellery, the Mongols. Intricate. I saw it once at an exhibition at the British Museum.”
“They slaughtered a ton of people was my point,” said Lil and stood. “Millions dead.”
Danny put his hand on Kenny’s shoulder: time to go.
Danny tried to keep his actions deliberate, he did not want to give Mrs McCormack the impression that he was rushing.
Kenny quickly rose.
With a kid, thought Danny, speed was acceptable and Kenny’s quickness in those parts of the world that were familiar to him could still impress.
If you were blind then you had to be nervous about walking into things. Or banging your head on something. Or tripping on the world’s rough edges. Those dangers in the world that Danny saw for Kenny but was careful not to share with him in case he dented his confidence.
With your eyes wide open it could be hard enough, thought Danny.
“How did they do that?” asked Kenny. “Genghis. They only had swords and bows and arrows. Not guns and stuff.”
“We can carry on the chat in the car,” said Danny and aware of time passing, extended a hand to Mrs McCormack.
Don’t show panic. Don’t attract attention to yourself.
The police would have immediately realised that he was not at home. Lou had come over after a night’s kip at work at Woodberry Down and had settled in for the morning. They had left Lou in the flat, which could work to their advantage. The unexpected presence of Lou would have to be processed by the police and that might buy them a little time. Danny went over the flat as he had left it: had there been any indication of their being at St Marys? None sprung to mind and he moved on: egress. He plotted a route as Mrs McCormack shook his proffered hand.
“It’s good that you’re thinking of Kenny, the large lettering, the braille,” said Danny. “We do appreciate it.”
Danny’s voice did not carry his nervousness at being unexpectedly in the open.
Mrs McCormack beamed.
Danny gave them twenty minutes to get clear. Even if they had left no indication in the flat Danny knew that they would be traced here.
Where they were heading would make the police’s job more difficult. That was their first objective. Attain that and they could reassess
Danny, like any good sniper, had a fallback position.
“What’s caught your arse on fire?” asked Lil as they crossed to her Subaru in the St Marys car-park.
That I killed two Prime Ministers, thought Danny.
Above them the sky was the uncaring blue it had been when they arrived but under it Danny knew that things had shifted.
Kenny manoeuvred himself into the back of the Subaru, belted himself in.
Danny signalled Lil to stay out of the car.
“The police are at my flat,” said Danny. “We need to go to 310 Kingsland Road.”
Lil looked at Danny: what the fuck?
She asked: “What the fuck’s at 310 Kingsland Road?”
Not the police, thought Danny. He said: “It’s a bolthole. Until we get a bearing.”
“A bearing?” Lil’s tone was dismayed. “The police know who you are, Danny. They know where you live.”
They needed to take a breath, thought Danny and not get caught up in the other side’s pace.
He had a number of properties where they could do that. One was 310 Kingsland Road.
Danny said: “You can drop me and Kenny at 310 Kingsland Road and walk away. No one would be any the wiser.”
“Walk-a-fucking way,” said Lil. Her tone had switched from dismayed to unbelieving. “I’ve got your rifle on my flat,” she said and opened the car door.
She did, thought Danny, but she could break up and dump the rifle. That was a way out for her, not one without its menaces but the path was there.
Danny got into the passenger seat.
Kenny in the rear of the Subaru was plugged into his headphones.
“I’m not walking away from anything,” said Lil from the driving seat.
Lil started the Subaru and pulled out of the St Marys car-park.
Danny reached back, tapped Kenny’s shoulder.
Kenny slipped off the headphones.
“Change of plan,” said Danny. “We’re going to a place on Kingsland Road.”
“Why?” asked Kenny.
“We’ll be there for a few hours, maybe longer.” said Danny edging past Kenny’s question,
“A few hours?” said Kenny.
“Or so,” said Danny. “Maybe a little longer.”
Kenny shrugged back into his headphones.
“Take a right,” said Danny as they broached Church Street.
The quickest way to Kingsland Road was left along Church Street but where the grounds of Herbert Court backed onto Church Street was also more likely to be busy with police officers. That was to their left. So they would go right.
“I’m not a half-wit,” said Lil and took the right toward Green Lanes.
“Green Lanes, Seven Sisters Road, Kingsland Road,” instructed Danny.
Lil looked as if she might hit him.
People dealt with stress in different ways, thought Danny, but in conflict clear, simple instructions were what was needed,
Another thing he had taken from the Army: at base things were simple.
The trick in confused circumstances was not to lose sight of that.
Lil was muttering to herself as she picked their way along Green Lanes.
Behind them Kenny was zoned out on an audio book.
“Speak up,” said Danny to Lil. “We don’t need things bottled up.”
“More me than you,” said Lil. “I mean you are a crazy fuck but I swore I’d never be in this position again.”
Again, thought Danny.
“Where is Danny Blake?” demanded DCS Cox.
The man dressed in yellow standing in the doorway of flat 36 of Herbert Court said: “You are way off fucking base. I’ve got nothing to say to you without a lawyer.”
“We have a warrant to search flat 36 of Herbert Court,” said DCS Cox.
The yellow dressed man reached out a square shaped hand. “Let me see it, then.”
DCS Cox stopped herself cursing the man out.
She fished the warrant from her jacket, passed it to the man blocking their entry to flat 36.
With an extravagance of motion the man accepted the warrant, took out a pair of glasses and placed them on his nose.
His eyes made large by the lenses of his spectacles fixed on the DCS. For the moment he was in charge.
“For fuck’s sake,” said one of the armed and uniformed officers behind and to the left of DCS Cox.
DC Nolan would be put on report.
DCS Cox fixed her gaze to impassive as the man in yellow turned to the warrant.
“Sir, you have a reasonable time to inspect the warrant,” said DCS Cox.
The rule meant that they could not be unduly delayed carrying out the actions specified on an unchallenged warrant.
“Reasonable?” said the man, his bespectacled eyes pecking at each word of the warrant. “You are the ones with the guns, officer.”
DCS Cox moved her head slightly left to right to let the uniforms know she was watching them.
The man in yellow went unhurriedly through the warrant as sunlight from the April sky scampered along walkway three of Herbert Court.
The wind swayed to the south, moving the morning in puffs and gasps around them.
The assault team and the detective teams at the east and west stairwell remained fixed and silent. A show of support for a citizen exercising their right, thought DCS Cox, and for one or two that might be the case but DCS Cox knew but mostly what kept the officers disciplined was their training. It was something you learnt how to do.
DCS Cox adjudged that a reasonable time had passed to review the warrant and said: “The warrant is for the flat, not an individual.”
The man raised his eyes from the warrant.
“Still, I’ll stay on-site. To prevent any mischief,” he said.
DCS Cox considered the arguments she could make and how they would play out in any future court setting.
“You will not obstruct our search,” DCS Cox stated.
The yellow clad man smiled at his small victory. “Last thing on my mind,” he said and stepped back into 36.
DCS Cox led the arrest team forward. Setting up the raid had involved the flat laid out of paper and each officer had been assigned a target room in that model.
The model would not fit the world, DCS Cox knew that they never did.
Danny had his hand on Kenny’s shoulder. In front of them was a shabby block of flats, 310 Kingsland Road.
Most of the flat were short term rent and the block had high throughput of renters. Which was what Danny wanted.
His flat which he owned outright was on the top floor. It was not tenanted.
Kenny had his white cane in his right hand. In a new place Kenny used his cane.
Lil was a step behind them as Danny steered Kenny into 310 Kingsland Road.
Danny watched Kenny tap out his surroundings, put that map into his mind.
“Stairs to our left,” said Danny.
The adjustment of pressure on his shoulder told Kenny how far left.
“how many floors?” asked Kenny as his cane tapped out the way ahead.
“Five floors. We’re on the top,” said Danny.
“We’ll get a view,” said Lil.
“Some of us will,” said Kenny and began to mount the stairs.
“My God, I’m sorry,” said Lil. “I didn’t mean . . .”
Kenny laughed over her apology.
“It’s a joke Lil,” he said as his cane tapped out the confines of a new place.
Deborah’s mum had explained Steve James: “He’s a devil.”
Deborah was thirteen years old and was allowed to be amused by her mother’s phrasing: “Mum.”
“He takes pleasure in untruths.” Mum was certain. “He’d tell you the colour of a bus was blue when it was red right in front of you.”
Deborah was sitting at the kitchen table of her and mum’s Wandsworth flat.
Deborah was in a black skirt and a blue sweat top of Wandsworth High.
Mum was moving about the kitchen with practised ease, preparing their second course.
“No one should believe that boy. If they had eyes they would see right through him,” said Deborah’s mum.
Steve James was seeing Angela Bright and some whispered about Fanny Brown.
Steve had form.
But Steven had called Deborah fine.
Deborah had let it slip to mum.
Who opened the oven releasing a blast of heat. She took out a bread and butter pudding to cool.
“Some tell themselves they might like,” said mum regarding the bread and butter pudding, nodding her head at a great truth. “Some believe the things he says. Can’t help themselves, I suppose.”
The remains of a chicken dinner were stacked on the draining board next to the metal sink.
Her mum ferried two side plates and the cooling bread and butter pudding to the table.
“Steven James just loves to lie. Some people do,” said Deborah’s mum.
She sat at the table with Deborah, touched the bread and putter pudding with her left hand.
“Give it five minute and it will be just right,” said Deborah’s mum.
Two of them for afters.
Some people like to lie, thought DCS Cox as she stood in Carla’s living room on the fifth floor of Martin Court.
“Where’s my money?” demanded Carla.
Carla was dressed in Firetrap jeans and a green, No Fear sweat top.
Where’s my fucking suspect, thought DCS Cox but said: “Danny Blake was not at his flat. Any idea where he could be, what with his being bedridden and all?”
That Danny Blake was confined to bed was a detail that Carla had provided.
DCS Cox had slid it easily into a picture of Danny Blake being the shooter carrying a gun shot wound from Old Oak Common. And she had allowed Carla’s tale in her mind to gain a veneer of evidentiary support.
“I’m not his fucking keeper. I gave you a name. That’s what was wanted for the reward.”
Carla’s left hand slapped out each point made.
That wasn’t what Dylan Morgan had announced on Live tv, thought DCS Cox.
The stipulation had been that the reward was offered to information that led to an arrest.
Had Carla heard that?
“We did not recover a suspect nor any obvious evidence criminal activity,” said DCS Cox.
“I told you there was blood.” Carla was adamant.
In which case the flat had been cleaned prior to the arrival of the arrest team, thought DCS Cox.
And even if forensic pulled any traces of blood from the flat taking that blood as being Danny’s would require access to Danny.
If that could be established they could make a match of blood from flat 36 with blood from Old Oak Common.
They just required Danny.
It was why DCS Cox had not dumped Carla. She was still a possible way forward.
“Think of where he might be,” said DCS Cox.
“He’s hurt and he’s with a blind kid, that should be easy for you to find,” said Carla.
DCS Cox looked at Carla: blind kid?
“Kenny,” said Carla. Her tone was exasperated: did she have to spell every little thing out for the police?
“He has a kid?” asked DCS Cox.
“It’s his sister’s but she’s never here. Spain or somewhere. All this information I should be getting paid for it,” said Carla.
“It’s your public duty,” said DCS Cox and held up a hand to prevent the explosion. “The more you tell me the better the chance that we will apprehend him. Then we can talk reward.”
Carla smiled. That was more like it. “Kenny’s ten. Been blind since birth. Not saying that’s the reason his mum cut and run but you know.”
“Do you have a photograph of Kenny?” asked DCS Cox.
“We can’t pay for the photo but it will all build toward talking about the reward,” said DCS Cox.
Carla nodded her understanding. “I got a photo of Kenny on my phone, somewhere,” she said and slid a mobile out of her jeans.
It was not the one she had used to call the reward line, DCS Cox noted. Wrong make.
“Here,” said Carla holding up her phone.
The photo showed Danny Blake with a young, black boy. Kenny, guessed DCS Cox. Danny and Kenny were standing in a park, each bundled in thick winter clothing and smiling at the photographer. It wasn’t obvious from the photograph that the boy was blind but then a photograph could not capture everything, not even for a moment in time.
“A couple of months back,” said Carla.
“Could you send it to me,” said DCS Cox and spelt out a Metropolitan Police email address.
Carla’s quick fingers dispatched the photo.
“And anything else you happen to remember, especially in the last 48 hours,” said DCS Cox.
“And then we talk reward?” suggested Carla.
Carla’s focus on the reward made her an unreliable witness at best, thought DCS Cox.
But beggars could not be choosers.
“I’ll be in touch,” said DCS Cox.
“About the cash, right?” said Carla.
“About that,” said DCS Cox.
Outside above the walkway of Martin Court the sky was patched up blue.
DCS Cox had spent twenty minutes talking to Carla who had been keen to sell a friend for money.
DCS Cox walked quickly away, took out her phone and dialled Lil
“So we’ve bid for a small, south London cleaning firm,” said Danny.
Danny and Kenny and Lil were sitting around a collapsible table in the kitchen of Flat 51 of 19 Kingsland Road.
The kitchen area ran into a main room off which were a bedroom and a bathroom.
Kenny was alert, taking in Danny’s explanation.
“As a purely defensive move the firm we are bidding on have bid back,” said Danny.
“For PCDB Cleaning,” Kenny nodded.
“Their bid is to scare us off but they will find that we do not scare easily,” declared Danny.
Kevin lapped up the declaration.
“But best if we’re not at the flat for the moment. They will courier legal letters seeking a delay to our bid to that address but we will not be there to receive them. Part of how the game is played,” said Danny.
The adult tone was something that Kenny enjoyed, Danny knew.
Kenny nodded like he had an old head on young shoulders.
Lil looked at the words coming out of Danny’s mouth but Danny had argued in a couple of rapid sentences while Kenny was using the bathroom that the story was to help Kenny through the next few days.
A soldier did not need to know every aspect of the plan to complete his mission.
“As we might be here for a while you’ll need to know your way around,” said Danny.
“Let’s do that now,” said Kenny.
They would circumnavigate each room twice, once with Kenny and his cane, once without. Those two circumnavigations were enough to put a map of how things were into Kenny’s mind.
Kenny would embellish each map as necessary.
Danny and Kenny were tapping out the bath room when Lil’s mobile sounded from the main room.
“Deborah. Yeah. I’m in the middle of something,” said Lil.
Danny placed his hand flat of Kenny’s right shoulder: Stop.
“So are you? You’re what?” said Lil and stepped into the bathroom.
“A moment,” said Lil and covered the mouthpiece.
“I met a woman this morning at Omar’s,” Lil said to Danny. “We hit it off. She’s ringing to see if I want to take it further, get a bite to eat. Thing is she’s a cop, working the incident in Herbert Court.”
The facts marched from Lil.
Good, thought Danny, clean and without adornment.
“Keep the date,” said Danny. “Casual.”
Lil looked at Danny: Casual?
A moment’s pause, then Lil said into her phone: “I haven’t got long. An hour or so. Where do you want to meet up?” said Lil,
She waited for the reply. “What about the place we were this morning. Omar’s an all day place,” she said.
Lil came back with: “Thirty minutes. See you there.”
Lil hung up and turned to Danny: “What the fuck was that about?”
Danny told her.
“You want me to be a spy?” said Lil.
“You know the guy?”
DCS Cox tried to keep accusation out of her voice but she did not quite succeed.
“As a kid, ma’am. I was brought up in the area.”
DCI Eddie Smith stood on the third floor walkway of Herbert Court.
DCS Cox had made herself scarce for twenty minutes. When she had resurfaced, she had ordered pairs of officers to go door to door through Herbert Court.
She suggested a series of questions to put to the occupants of Herbert Court: Do you know Danny Blake? Have you seen Danny Blake today? When was the last time you saw Danny Blake?
A fishing expedition, thought Danny, but sometimes fish did bite.
When the teams were being sent out Eddie had asked for a moment of the DCS’s time.
The DCS had looked at Kate.
“She’s good,” Eddie had confirmed.
Above Eddie and DCS Cox the April sun traced its predetermined course through a Hackney sky.
“So you haven’t seen him since you were kids?”
The DCS’s question could have been a statement.
“Not quite, ma’am. We bumped into each other this morning while we were recceing a possible pick up point for the Old Oak Common Zip van on Neville Road.”
Eddie’s report was delivered as matter of fact.
DCS Cox’s face said: for fuck’s sake as her mind worked through the possibilities.
“Does he have a name? He wouldn’t give us even that without clearing it through a bloody lawyer,” said DCS Cox.
“Lou. Lou Stevens,” said Eddie. “Last I heard he lived in Martin Court.”
DCS Cox’s gaze pivoted to Herbert Court’s twin. “So what was he doing in Mr. Blake’s flat?” she asked.
“I don’t know, ma’am,” Eddie answered.
DCS Cox’s view swung back to Eddie. Her face said that she saw an opportunity as she said: “Do you want first shot at interviewing him?”
“That might not be helpful, ma’am,” said Eddie. “Lou does not currently have a favourable view of me.”
DCS Cox nodded. “Right. I’ll lead with Sam as my second chair,” and looked at Eddie. “Do you know anyone in Herbert Court?”
“Not as far as I am aware, ma’am,” said Eddie.
“Still, local knowledge,” said DCS Cox. “I have the other teams working up from the bottom of Herbert Court,” said DCS Cox.
A normal tactic, Eddie knew, to cut down on the chance of anyone slipping away when they realised the police were coming to call.
“You and Kate start at the top,” said DCS Cox. “We all rendezvous at the base of Herbert Court in ninety minutes.”
Eddie nodded: “Yes, ma’am.”
He and Lou along with straight laced Adam had bounced off each other around here as teenagers. After they had left school Adam had worked anything connected with trains, Lou had drifted as had Eddie for a while before joining the police and almost without noticing had started another life.
It had been his choice to make, thought Eddie. There had been no one else to make it
He watched as DCS Cox exited Herbert Court. Wherever she was going she would be back in ninety minutes.
“Let’s go,” said DCI Eddie Smith to DC Fowler. “We start up top.”
DCS Cox straddled Lil who thought: I should have taken up this spying lark years ago. I’m a natural.
They had met as arranged at Omar’s but there had been nowhere to sit.
Despite having Danny’s rifle stowed under her sink, Lil had suggested her place and one thing had led to another.
Desire could make you daring, thought Lil, and looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table. It had been fifteen minutes since Omar’s. Quick work even for her.
It turned out duty had its delights.
DCS Cox was down to her blue blouse.
It was being unbuttoned.
Think of Ireland sputtered into Lil’s mind causing her to giggle.
DCS Cox looked down. “Nervous?” she asked.
“A little,” lied Lil and reached for DCS Cox.
“DCS Cox,” said Lil. “You have me at a disadvantage.”
DCS Cox’s head turned to the sound of her mobile phone ringing in her jacket draped on a soft backed chair.
“Stay right where you are,” said DCS Cox and slipped off Lil.
From the bed Lil watched DCS Cox’s athletic figure pad across her bedroom.
“Message received and understood,” purred Lil and essayed a sloppy salute.
This spy thing was fun.
Danny hung up the phone on Max who headed up the PCDB cleaning team for the Home Office.
Max was from Pakistan, ex-Army and knew how to keep his mouth shut.
Max would oversee the day-to-day running of the cleaning operation for the rest of the week.
Danny would email him a schedule with any potential pressure points highlighted.
Kenny was sitting at the collapsible table, listening to a maths podcast he had downloaded.
As Danny watched, Kenny stopped the playback, rewound a section, played it again.
You went over a thing again and again to understand it, thought Danny. It was how the Army got things to stick in your head.
Danny dialled Sally, PCDB’s office manager.
“PCDB Cleaning,” said Sally.
Her voice was open, ready to deal with all your cleaning needs.
“Sally,” said Danny. “I’m going to be away for a few days. Let’s put Sunita into operation.”
Danny had prepared plans for various circumstances. Sunita was for when he was unavailable for a few days at short notice.
“Sunita, sure,” said Sarah. Her cheery tone couldn’t hide her surprise. “What’s up?”
“Just had a little accident on the work-site. Nothing to worry about but I thought I’d take the opportunity to get away for a few days with Kenny. It’ll do us both good,” said Danny.
“You deserve a break, boss,” said Sally. “Have a great time and we’ll talk when you get back.”
Sally’s enthusiasm for his mini-break bounced down the line.
Danny thanked her and hung up.
Lil had been gone for thirty minutes.
She had joked about being his spy on a policewoman connected to the raid on his flat.
But the police officer was working a case and dating while at work, thought Danny, was that allowed?
His next call was to one of Richard Samson’s associates. Lou would need a lawyer.
He made it clear to the associate, Amanda Peel, that she was not to reveal to Lou or the police who was paying her freight.
It might embarrass Lou to know that a mate had covered the cash for him.
Amanda understood entirely.
The door quickly closed in the face of DCI Eddie Smith and DC Kate Fowler.
They were at the eastern end of the eighth floor of Herbert Court.
“No one seems eager to talk about Danny Blake,” said Kate.
“Perhaps they have nothing to say,” Danny offered as they moved to the next front door.
Kate rapped on the door which was answered by an elderly Asian woman.
Kate displayed her warrant card and asked: “Have you seen Danny Blake of Flat 36 in the last 24 hours?”
The woman shrugged apologetically and muttered something in a language that was not English.
Behind the woman on a small table sitting to the left of the door Eddie could see today’s Daily Mail.
Kate passed the woman a card with the police numbers for her to call.
The woman took the card.
“If you think of anything be sure to call,” said Kate as the woman closed the door on them.
There could be gaps between people you never thought could be closed, thought Eddie. Like between the elderly, Asian, non-English speaking, Daily Mail reading woman they had just visited and the pair of coppers that had shown up at her door. The Asian woman might not talk English or she might not talk English to the police.
He hoped for the former but the copper in him suspected the latter.
The next door.
The sun stole down on them.
“Why didn’t the DCS just splash Danny Blake’s face and name on the news?” asked Kate.
“All we have is his name from an unproven source. Danny Blake had been in central London at the time of the Osborne shooting and the informant knew that but said nothing. She coughed up the name on the Morgan and Grieve shooting with the promise of financial reward,” said Eddie. “That’s how it could be seen,” and Eddie rapped on the next door.
The DCS would be also be cognisant of the result of associating herself with the publishing Danny’s details only for Danny to be ruled out of the investigation.
A bad look for the force.
A worse one for her.
There was no response to his knock and Eddie rapped again.
He thought he could hear a shuffling inside the flat.
He considered lifting the letterbox and calling through when he saw a group of three civilians, two men and a woman, at the western end of the walkway knock on a door and wait.
Kate had also clocked them as they moved to their next door.
“Let’s have a word,” said Eddie.
The three civilians were in their indeterminate twenties or thirties.
All were dressed impeccably casually.
They were out of place, thought Eddie, but was careful with the thought: they would have been out of place when he had been brought up but these were different times and he tried not to rush to judgement.
The trio, ringing the bell of flat 83 whose windows were hung with net curtains, looked up at Eddie and Kate’s approach.
Kate led, her raised warrant card ploughing through the April morning.
“Detective Chief Inspector Eddie Smith,” said Eddie. “And this is Detective Constable Fowler. Can I ask what you are doing here?”
They could be visiting a friend or relation but had forgotten the address.
“We’re looking for business opportunities,” said the tallest of the three and extended his hand. “Matt,” he said.
Matt was dressed in a white sweat-top and blue jeans.
Could buy them for under a tenner at Primark, thought Danny but he was betting they were far more expensive than that. Business opportunity expensive.
There were different ways of being in the world, he reminded himself.
Eddie looked along the walkway of the eighth floor of Herbert Court.
“I don’t see any business opportunities, sir,” said Eddie.
Matt’s colleagues were a slip of a man in a black shirt, black trousers and brown shoes and a girl in a blue, flowered dress whose face seemed to be crowded with smiles even as she tried to set it to serious.
Matt snapped open and closed a grin at what Eddie saw. “Investment opportunities, Detective Chief Inspector,” said Matt.
Eddie noticed that the net curtains in the investment opportunity of flat 83 twitch.
“Investment?” queried Eddie. These were people’s homes.
“We have a printable investment pack if you are thinking of coming on board. We’re always looking out for reliable investors,” said Matt.
Eddie looked at Matt. “Is that what you are doing door to door, looking for investors?”
Matt’s feral grin splashed on his face and was gone. “The other side of the equation, Detective. They are what we invest in.”
Eddie kept his voice soft as he said: “The people?”
“The property Detective Chief Inspector. The property represents the investment value,” said Matt as his face made pleased.
“Do you do this often, sir. Round these flats?” asked Eddie. A potential investor might want to know what strategies would be employed by his cash.
“Pretty systematic,” said Matt. “We have a number of opportunities right now that you might want to consider.”
“Seeing as you are around here regularly,” said Eddie and fished out the photo of Danny Blake that had been distributed to each of the door by door teams by DCS Cox. “Do you know this man?”
“I recognise him,” said Matt. “Third floor.”
Matt looked at the smile filled girl.
“Flat 36,” she confirmed.
“Have you seen him today?” asked Eddie.
“Not today,” answered Matt.
The other two of the civilian trio shook their heads in agreement: Not today.
“And when did you last see him?” said Eddie.
“A few days ago. I’m not sure,” said Matt and looked at the girl.
“Eleven days ago,” said the girl and smiled. “But he wasn’t interested in our offer,” and her smile turned down. “But perhaps he’ll change his mind,” and the smile sprang back up.
“And the offer you make, sir?” asked Eddie.
“That’s confidential, Detective Chief Inspector,” said Matt. “Unless you want to come in as an investor.”
“Could you give us a contact number, sir. In case we do need to know your investment offers.”
Eddie noticed a slight disturbance cross Matt’s face. He produced a business card. “Of course, Detective Chief Inspector,” and handed Eddie the card.
Matt tried to keep his tone bouncy but this time it took a little effort, noted Eddie.
Eddie looked at Kate who passed a card to Matt with the police contact details.
“In case something occurs to you,” said Kate. “Sir,” she added.
Matt blinked, then nodded at the stairwell.
The trio left at a pace.
“That investment he was talking about?” asked Kate.
“We don’t know, but we can speculate. All the value these people have to Matt is the cash price their homes can attract,” said Eddie. “Speaking of which we have a lot more doors to knock on.”
They turned back to the flat at the eastern end of the walkway where Eddie may have heard shuffling inside.
There was a slap of footsteps behind them.
It was the girl from Matt’s trio.
“Just to be clear,” she said her face a smile under a severe demeanour. “The last time we saw Danny at his flat was eleven days ago. The last time we were at his flat was two days ago. The door was slammed by what I took to be his son.”
“He wasn’t in?” said Eddie.
“I gained the impression he may might just not wanted to hear our improved offer. We do multiple visits to each flat to make sure they understand the opportunities.” Her smile was breaking around her serious face.
“What time was this?” asked Eddie.
“We were there 11:15 to 11:20,” said the girl.
“You are sure?” asked Eddie.
“Stuff like that? Always,” said the girl and smiled large.
She was skipping when she left them.
Different ways of being, thought Eddie.
DCS Cox had an athletic body, thought Lil laying on the bed in her flat.
It was finely muscled like the runner she had been.
Deborah had told her of her running prowess during the walk from Omar’s to her flat in Herbert Court.
Fifty metres from Herbert Court Deborah had asked Lil to go in on her own. She would follow.
“Why?” Lil had asked.
“Operational,” DCS Cox had answered.
It had turned her on a little.
Almost as much as being a spy.
Her ears pricked as Deborah said into her phone: “Clara Young’s identification didn’t work out, sir. But we had the information and we were on site. She may have been driven by the reward on offer but I judged we had to act on it.”
Lil almost sat up but the spy role stopped her.
She knew that normally she would have denounced Carla as a tosser for selling out a mate but playing a spy kept her prone on the bed and her eyes open.
She was here for information.
The sex with DCS Cox was the cherry on top.
But what a cherry.
DCS Cox hung up, dialled another number.
Lil watched as she adjusted her runner’s weight on the balls of her feet.
“Eddie,” said DCS Cox. “I know I pulled you off the Nurse Reyes interview at St Thomas’ but with us coming up empty on Danny Blake we need to nail down his movement around the first shooting. Can you get down to St Thomas’ after you finish your sweep?”
DCS Cox listened.
“No,” she said. “It was my call. If she is not available until tomorrow morning, we’ll pick it up then.”
Her face was a jumble of emotions as she hung up.
“Worries?” asked Lil.
“You wouldn’t believe,” said DCS Cox.
“Try me,” said Lil.
DCS Cox approached the bed to do just that.
Goodie, thought Lil.
Also, she had info for Danny about Carla and St Thomas’.
But first she had to play out the spy thing.
Duty could be very pleasant.
“And this was when she was supposed to be at work?” Danny was shocked. And appalled.
And the killer of two PMs.
How could he feel anything about a woman dissing work for an hour?
His killings had become a part of their world, thought Danny. Like Lil playing Mata Hari with the DCS with his rifle stowed under her kitchen sink they adjusted to it.
“She’s been on it 24 hours. A woman needs a rest,” said Lil and dropped a copy of The Mirror onto the collapsible table.
Danny moved his view from a standing Lil to Kenny who was sitting at the table plugged into his headphones. His chunky headphones blocked out the world, allowed him to give his full attention to a podcast on the future of Space Telescopes.
Kenny’s face was rapt.
“You’re enjoying this aren’t you,” Danny said to Lil.
Lil was taking the killings in her stride. Danny knew that others would have broken. You could never be sure how people would react until it happened to them. You could grade out top in every training course but when it came to someone pulling the trigger and its aftermath there were those who could deal with it and those who could not.
It was nothing to do with bravery or courage. It was what you were. A sniper. A killer.
It was like having blue eyes or brown, just how you were wired and Danny knew that he was wired that way.
And now it seemed that Lil was.
What had Lil meant in St Marys car-park: she swore never to be in this position again?
Danny and Lil stepped into the kitchen area.
Prioritise, thought Danny. Address immediate dangers. Everything else could be got round to.
“It was definitely Carla?” Danny asked Lil.
“Yes,” said Lil. “She shopped you for the money as far as I could tell.”
“As long as it wasn’t personal,” said Danny and his mouth cracked a small smile.
“And Deborah, the DCS,” said Lil. “Made a call to one of her officers about St Thomas’. To check on your timeframe there. That will be done tomorrow.”
“I was there with Vinny, the morning of the Osborne shooting,” said Danny.
That would have to be covered. He had set up the timings to exonerate him and Vinny but it depended on the nurse who had booked Vinny not being pressed for details. She might remember.
Which meant for Danny a call to the police line on the killings to self correct the timings. Better that than to run the risk of Nurse Reyes remembering and handing the police a discovery.
It was a risk but it was the price of doing business.
He said: “If she was on the phone that much she couldn’t have had much of a break.”
“Oh, she had a break,” said Lil.
DCI Eddie Smith watched DCS Cox search for blood.
They were in the bathroom of flat 36, Herbert Court. Danny Blake’s flat.
Forensics had taken the place apart but no blood had shown up.
Eddie knew that the DCS’ source had told her that the kitchen and bathroom had been plastered with blood.
Funny, thought Eddie, what a reward could make you see.
The white tiling of the bathroom made it a prime site for blood residue and prints but those things could easily be cleaned off the surface.
The DCS was eyeing a comb on the bathroom shelf.
Any DNA could be matched with the blood recovered from the Old Oak Common site.
You could not enter a place and leave it without a trace, thought Eddie, not anymore.
DS Battle head popped around the bathroom door.
“Ma’am,” said Justin. “We have a witness placing Danny Blake at St Marys school on Church Street a few hours ago.”
“Have you approached the school?” asked DCS Cox.
“No, ma’am. We didn’t want to disturb the scene until we had run it past you,” said Justin.
“This kid with Danny, could St Marys be his school?” asked the DCS.
“From witness statements it appears he’s the right age,” said DS Battle.
“Right,” said DCS Cox. “Make sure it’s his school and if it is we will disturb the bloody scene.”
She turned to Eddie.
“Collect DNA. Some of Danny Blake’s has to be here. We’ll match everything against the blood from Old Oak Common,” instructed DCS Cox and pivoted to a new lead.
They were at the suspect’s flat, they were collecting DNA but a new line of inquiry had emerged on the suspect, his kid and the kid’s school.
Eddie thought that if this was the guy they would catch him.
It was not a belief, it had how he had observed the world to work.
Eddie bent to the shavings of DNA scattered around the bathroom and began the ritual of collection.
The killer was in what Eddie was picking up, it was making the links, the drawing of lines between this part of the case and others that understanding would come.
Eddie carefully went through the ritual.
Danny looked at the tv occupying one corner of the main room in the flat he owned on the fifth floor of 310 Kingsland Road.
The new government was to be of National Unity.
The new PM was Keir Starmer, a Labour MP who favoured Remain, his deputy Philip Hammond who had never understood why people had voted to Leave. Mr Hammond was also reinstated as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Where was Mr Corbyn, queried Danny, but his training instructed him to focus on what was in front of him.
On the tv, Mr Starmer’s eyes twitched from one thing to the next as he wrapped and unwrapped his hands. Whether this shiftiness was caused by fear of being shot or was a sign that Mr Starmer felt guilt about getting into bed with the Tories, Danny could not tell.
Next to Mr Starmer , Mr Hammond looked like the cat surprised but delighted to have got the cream.
“The fucking universe is imaginary now?” said Lil.
“Not imaginary,” said Kenny. “Dark.”
Kenny and Lil were at the collapsible table which Danny had moved to give sight of most likely ingress routes.
“Dark, imaginary what the fuck’s the difference?” laughed Lil.
Danny raised a warning eye.
Lil took in Danny’s look, shook her head and said: “But first there were imaginary numbers, Danny, now we got imaginary matter.”
“It’s so the universe works,” explained Kenny.
“The universe works,” stated Lil.
“There’s not enough visible matter to explain the motion of the stars and so there has to be dark matter,” argued Kenny.
It sounded like a line from a book, thought Danny. One of those books he had never looked at until Kenny and his maths had turned up.
“Not enough matter?” objected Lil.
“The sums say,” pointed out Kenny.
“So maybe someone’s got all those sums wrong,” said Lil.
Kenny looked aghast.
Lil leant back in her chair and spread her arms. “Come on, imaginary matter,” she said.
Danny looked at Kenny, a kid, and Lil his queer friend sitting at a table in a room they had never seen before today and carrying on a conversation as though they were back in the flat in Herbert Court.
They couldn’t go back there, not yet. Maybe not ever.
If the police recovered DNA from the flat and matched it with the blood they had undoubtedly found at Old Oak Common they would be able to link the shooter to someone who had been in his flat.
But not to him, thought Danny, not definitely. Not until they had DNA they could identify as his. Others who had been in and out of his flat would be in play.
“Lil,” said Danny. “Could you pop back to Herbert Court and pick a few things up?”
Lil turned to him: What things?
Danny leant forward and on the football page of The Mirror wrote: 3 Bullets.
Lil looked horrified at the request. Had he forgotten their conversation: no more killings?
Danny added: No Gun to The Mirror.
“Why has everything gone quiet,” queried Kenny.
“Your imaginary, scientific world turned us speechless,” said Danny.
“I’ve got the numbers for you to see,” said Kenny.
“The world doesn’t need made up stuff.” Lil got back into the discussion. “We got on quite well without it.”
“But you can see things in a different way,” said Kenny. “A way that adds up.”
Different ways of seeing the world, thought Danny, different understandings.
Danny nodded at Lil: Now would be good.
“Let’s take a look at these numbers,” said Danny occupying the seat that Lil had vacated.
There were many ways of seeing things.
It could be confusing.
He hoped it was a confusion he could sow with the police. At best he might mislead them entirely but at least it would buy some time.
And there was Keir Starmer and Philip Hammond. They would need time.
Both had worked for the losing side in the Referendum.
Both were now in power.
He did not want to break the promise that Lil had understood but if it came to it perhaps he could talk her around.
He could hear Colin laughing raucously in heaven.
“So show me this story,” Danny said to Kenny.
Kenny shook his head. “It’s not a story,” he said.
Eddie stepped out of flat 36, Herbert Court with four plastic evidence bags. The contents of the evidence bags would be subject to procedures inscrutable to him but which he trusted would draw out any human DNA.
DCS Cox had moved on quickly to St Marys School with DI Daley and DS Battle.
The DCS, Eddie knew, had to show velocity.
The Chief Constable and the politicians would be demanding a solution.
If the DCS could not provide it she would be swapped out and someone else put in place.
Eddie judged that the DCS had 48 hours to produce an arrest.
If she did she would be the most famous police officer in the country and her future would be assured.
How would Paddy Power price up DCS Cox’s chances, wondered Eddie, and would he take the bet?
The sun over Herbert Court skulked in and out of bullying clouds.
Eddie admonished himself. To take the bet was to think that he wasn’t part of the game. And he was. You could not be part of a game and bet on that game. Everyone knew that.
Besides, he was committed to the DCS bringing the shooter to justice.
At least for the next 48 hours.
That was not a nice thought but it was true enough. If in the next couple of days the DCS was moved sideways and he was redeployed he would accept it. He appreciated the toughness and heart the DCS had exhibited on Clare’s death but he needed to work. He would love to continue with DCS Cox but if the Met Management decided otherwise he would live with it. It was his choice.
Behind him the investigation of flat 36 was winding down.
He faced south.
His mum’s place was a few hundred metres away.
When he got the chance he might pop in.
Across the asphalt divide, Leave posters were displayed on the windows of a Martin Court flat.
Years after the vote, surely they got the message by now.
Clare had been Remain.
He had been Leave.
Clare had never imagined that Remain would win the popular vote.
Or the malignancies that would be spread trying to slide by that vote.
Leavers were uninformed.
Leavers were not bright people.
Leavers had been confused.
Leavers were the sort of people that got things wrong.
Clare had died before the vote was taken.
He hoped she would not have been like that.
Danny had called the police hot-line and had quoted the reference number he had been issued by Detective Chief Inspector Eddie Smith to a harried officer. Danny had explained that he had been upset when giving his initial report about his visit to St Thomas’ and may have confused the time. Just a few minutes.
The officer had understood. We were all a little in shock.
And made the changes.
Danny was in Martin Court. It was 9:30 at night.
Lil had gone out drinking with Carla and Pete. They all needed to blow off some steam was the message she would peddle.
Danny was outside Pete’s flat with the three bullets Lil had retrieved from his Nemesis Vanquish carrying case.
Danny knew that there was a small side table to the left of Pete’s front door. On the table was a bowl where Pete tossed his keys.
Danny earlier in the afternoon had purchased a long, thin candle snuffer from Tyzack Tools down toward Shoreditch.
He placed a bullet in the candle cover, pressed the candle snuffer through Pete’s letter box, angled it to the left and tipped the bullet onto the table.
He repeated the operation twice more.
The night had a snap about it as he left Martin Court.
Above him the stars traced out their paths indifferent to what went on below.
He made the anonymous call to the police hot line from a public call box.
He bunched his words into a Scottish accent that said: “About the killings. I’m in Hackney and I saw some bullets. At Pete Young’s flat. Martin Court,” and hung up.
The Pete Young name, Danny thought, would flag his call out from the ordinary run.
The name would raise flags and invite a response.
Which was what Danny wanted.
The distraction would open up a space in the investigation through which he could aim his Nemesis Vanquish.
With Keir Starmer and Philip Hammond there was work to do.
End of After (chapter 8) by Writer 3
Chapter 9 will appear in December 2019