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© 1999


Anthony Vincent Bruno


Thriller by Anthony Vincent Bruno

©1999 & 2011 by Anthony Vincent Bruno

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission, except for brief quotations to books and critical reviews. This story is a work of fiction. Characters and events are a product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.


AK-47 – Kalashnikov gas-operated, 7.62 × 39mm assault rifle

APC - Armoured Personnel Carrier

AQT - al Qaeda Taleban

Bootneck - Royal Marine Commando

Browning 9mm – Hi power single action semi-automatic handgun

Casevac - Casualty Evacuation

COBRA – Cabinet Office briefing room A. UK crisis committee

CFT - Combat Fitness Test

Claymore - Portable anti-personnel mine

CO - Commanding Officer

C019 - Metropolitan Police Specialist Firearm Unit

Det cord - Detonating cord

FOB - Forward Operating Base

Flash bang - Stun grenade

GCHQ - Government Communications HQ

Gimpy or GPMG - General Purpose Machine Gun

GPS - Global Positioning System

HK MP5 - Heckler and Koch counter-terrorist sub machine gun

Icom - Intelligence communication

IED - Improvised explosive device

IR - Infrared

Klick - Kilometre

L109A1 - Fragmentation Grenade with a fuse delay of 3.4 seconds

L96A1 - Long range sniper rifle

LZ - Landing zone

MI5 – Secret Service, UK domestic counter-intelligence service

MI6 – Secret Intelligence Service, UK foreign intelligence service

MoD - Ministry of Defence

NOK - Next of Kin

Op - Observation post

PE - Plastic explosive

PIRA - Provisional IRA

RPG - Rocket propelled grenade

ROE - Rules of Engagement

RTU - Returned or Return to Unit

Remington 870 - Pump-action shotgun

Rupert - Officer

SOCO - Scene of crime officer

SOP - Standard operating procedure

Sig Sauer P226 - Handgun used by SAS and other military units.

Stinger - Shoulder-fired Surface-To Air missile (SAM)

TAB - Tactical Advance to Battle, a long march.

Tubes - Mortars

UAV - Unmanned aerial vehicle such as a Predator Drone




Two men sat in silence in a stolen Ford saloon, awaiting their comrade who was about to kill a man in front of hundreds of early morning commuters. The hum of the nearby London Underground station, accompanied by its distinctive smell journeyed through their opened windows.

A Chinese youth approached their car from the pavement. ‘I sell you DVD?’

Fuck off,’ grunted the uneasy driver. ‘Chinks everywhere you look Sarge!’

Get used to it mate, we’re just three months away from the new millennium and China is the next big thing.’

I sell you lots of lighters for one pound?’ The Asian youngster persisted, flicking a disposable lighter as though he were Thomas Edison.

Not interested kid,’ answered the more amicable, relaxed passenger.

Light cigarette every time,’ the youth persisted. ‘See, it says flammable?’

Well, I’d say flammable is fucking essential,’ the irritable driver remarked as he wound up his window. ‘What a cunt!’

The Reverend Martin Love stood amongst the early morning Archway throng awaiting the discomfort of a Northern Line train. The information board's schedule informed them of a tube approaching. The platform was becoming crowded; weary eyed strangers brushing against each other in their haste to get to a workplace they had no great desire to reach. Martin manoeuvred himself through the anxious bustle to the far right tunnel entrance. He stood next to a young office type who acknowledged his dog collar with the faintest of smiles.

'Sister,' he drawled in a heavy Louisiana tongue. And aren't you just the sweetest little thing!

A man arrived beside them, his Yankees baseball cap casting a shadow over his handsome, thirtyish face. His eyes joined Martin's, feasting on the girl's rippling blouse; the whoosh from the oncoming train coating their urbanite faces with that familiar underground smell. A sea of expectant hope edged forward in prey of an empty seat. The handsome baseball fan looked at the reverend who he had been trailing for over a week, wondering if the affable girl knew him, or had just smiled from the crowd to a man of the cloth. Man of the cloth . . . yeah. Sure! The tracks rattled, the heaving platform got on their marks. Conscious of the overhead CCTV cameras he pulled his cap lower and readied the stun gun's trigger, camouflaged within the handle of his Gap shopping bag. It charged just as the lights of the train shone into view, the tip protruding against the leg of the Reverend Martin Love.

The girl shrieked in horror as the dog-collared commuter lurched forward under the train. He was there and then gone, the steel tonnage devouring him, its wheels dismembering. The nearest bystanders who had been craning their necks at the tunnel turned away in horror, their faces suddenly ashen. Shock reigned to the accompaniment of braking, screeching wheels. The Yankee fan looked down at the grisly sight of the reverend's severed bejewelled hand. Tones of moving steel, it’ll get flesh and bone every time.

No one remembered how it happened or whom he had been standing adjacent to. The pretty secretary sat with British transport police for an hour, explaining that he must have jumped; her trauma matched by numerous underground staff and shaken paramedics. The unfortunate train driver went home to his wife via a two-hour stop off in his local bar.

Within minutes the platform had emptied, an elevator of frustrated flesh climbed up from the sullen depth to hail a cab or catch a bus, some just phoned in sick. The Northern line was disrupted until noon, just about the same time as the Holloway Police buzzed on the Reverend Martin's doorbell at the Temple of Liberty. A constable informed his docile flock that their leader had been in a tragic, underground accident and had died at the scene. It would normally be a dreadful task but the constable's voice carried with it a sense of irony. The police had visited the secretive sect on various occasions at the bequest of distraught relatives who claimed that the good reverend and his brother, Reverend Jordan Love, were coercing their eighty strong flock into drugs and prostitution.

The good-looking man with the electrifying Gap bag had trailed the nefarious American for five consecutive days, following him down to the platform each morning. Today the self-titled reverend had chosen a place near the tunnel entrance to be near a pretty face. Unfortunately, it was a location where the train would still be shifting. A killing zone.

This was the day he had always dreamed of; the fruition of all those cold early morning starts. The hard work had paid off and Cedric Boban was retiring at the age of sixty-five. He had been with Williams and Co for forty-three years; he was one of the family, respected by all. His boss, a misty-eyed Frank Williams Sr was giving him a lift home on his final day.

'I don't know what we're going to do without you, Bobs,' Frank kindly remarked, knowing that for the last few years Cedric had been more of a bystander in the firm's modernised pallet making plant. He had been kept on as a reward for his loyal years of backbreaking work, and later; his unstinting personal allegiance to the firm as a supervisor.

Frank William's brand new Volvo estate pulled out on to the main road and Cedric turned to look back at the factory, remembering that fresh, crisp morning when he had turned up for his first day’s work. Cedric had been with Frank since the beginning in 1956, just as Elvis was beginning his reign, Russia still mighty and the world a better place for an enterprising bloke with a few quid in his pocket. Goods needed pallets for transportation and it all worked out well for Williams and Co, due mainly to the sweat of Cedric Boban and others like him. Frank admired the man enormously, to come to England with nothing, not one syllable of the Queen's tongue and to settle as he did. Cedric still spoke with an East European accent, a thickset man, slightly stooped from years of lifting heavy pallets. He was okay in Frank's book. Never mind, there would be the occasional social gathering, the odd drink or two, they would stay in touch. He was no longer an employee, but he would always be a close friend, he and Maggie were always welcome at the William's house. Maggie Boban, now there was a woman. Frank smiled as he pictured his friend’s spouse in her youth; she was a looker, twelve years younger than Cedric, guaranteed to provoke a little trouser movement.

Maggie was also on her husband's mind as he waved good-bye to Frank at the end of his avenue. He had decided to walk the rest of the way home seeing as it was such a lovely day. He had a spring in his step as he ambled between the grassy verge and the red-bricked gardens of the suburbia he cherished. He was going home to be with his Maggie, going home for good. Tonight was the beginning of forever and he now had all the time in the world. Shortly there would be Israel to visit and then Egypt. He had always wanted to see the pyramids. Maggie was into the Holy Land stuff but Cedric's idea of a holiday was a few beers and the Valley of the Tombs. The world was their oyster, his and Maggie's. There was twenty-seven grand in their account and an adequate pension with the house paid off years before. Cedric had used his money well, taking advice from his employer on matters of investments to easily afford his semi-detached home in a middle class area of Kentish Town, North West London. Since his initial step on England's green and pleasant land, he had moved a couple of times. From a Camden bedsit in the fifties, then into marriage and a terraced two up-two down in Holloway, before finally affording their dream semi-detached house which they kept improving over the years. He had his own study in the attic where he kept his collection of Airfix models and where he would go to smoke the occasional panatela. This was going to be great; the hard work had been worth it! They were not blessed with kids but you cannot have it all. Maggie had told him that she was incapable of child bearing straight from the beginning, but it did not matter, she was his world and nothing else came close. No more cold mornings, no more alarm clocks. ‘Bloody magic,' he whispered to himself as a familiar delivery man greeted him with a warm smile.

'A beautiful day,' replied Cedric carrying on his way. Would he have said the same in the hell hole that was Belarus, he wondered, the Belarus of his youth that he left in 1955. Doubtful, the communists had come for him and he had narrowly escaped their vengeful clutches. In those soulless days, neighbours informed on each other for the slightest scrap, survival was everything. Survival of the fittest maybe . . . survival of the slyest, definitely. He had first seen Maggie in church eight years after he had settled into life in England, the same church he had attended ever since. The sanctuary he had walked into one balmy August day in 1964 to beg God's forgiveness and plead for a clean slate. All those years ago he had sat in a pew and tearfully asked the crucified figure above the altar to release him from an ever deteriorating malaise that ceaselessly clung to him, questioning his sanity. Moments later, he caught his first glimpse of an eighteen-year-old vision of beauty leaving the sacristy. He had followed her home, stopping at her gate to ask her the time. He loved her then and had never stopped. The demons were long gone, banished from his mind forever; he had gone to ask God for help and forgiveness and had received it by catching a glimpse of Maggie arranging flowers on the altar. Cedric was content; as the years went by he had thanked God less frequently and worshipped Maggie even more, attending mass only to please her.

He began to increase his stride, whistling Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for the world to hear. He'd made it, he’d survived. Survived Comrade Stalin, two slipped discs and the thought of losing his mind. He had worked damn hard and prospered. Now it was time to live. He even thought he might get it up tonight and surprise his gorgeous Maggie; then it was Israel and the Pharaohs. Stopping at his front door he took a deep intake of the free English air and smiled contentedly; England was home and so was he, this time for good.

He went in the front door and called out for her as he had done so many times before, 'Maggie . . . I'm home sweetheart!'

He closed the door and hesitated for an instant, she was usually in his arms by now, planting a sweet little kiss on his expectant, eager lips. She had not been her best lately, complaining of headaches and spending a lot of time down at the library; but today was different, it was retirement day. Aha! This could be a surprise, he thought hanging up his coat. Calling out again, he rubbed his hands together and started to climb the stairs to wash up before tea. This is definitely a surprise . . . no smell of any grub! His whistling stopped abruptly half way up when he saw a darkened figure appear on the landing, pointing a gun at him.

A finger tightened and the weapon jolted, sending screeching Belarusian memories echoing across his subconscious. The blast lifted him off his feet sending him to the floor below. The last image of Cedric Boban's life on earth was the flash of a sawn-off shotgun; which fired from a few feet, took his life and most of his upper torso away. The slate was clean, the screeching culled.

His assailant moved halfway down before jumping over the banister to avoid the bloody mess on the stairs. Maggie walked steadily into the hall from the living room. She gave a little smile and took the small sawn-off shotgun from the gloved hands of the assassin, beckoning him to follow her through to the back door. She opened the door and made a quick check outside. The assassin coughed and pardoned himself as though the setting were a vicar's garden tea party. He put on his dark motorcycle helmet and disappeared out the back gate after gently patting Maggie on the forearm.

There were no neighbours in for at least another thirty minutes so the loud crack of the gun firing would not have been heard. Maggie was left standing alone in her dream kitchen with the murder weapon in her hand. She eyed it curiously, went back to the hall and gazed down at the remains of her husband who she had shared a bed and hopes with for thirty-five years. Maggie stood for a while and reflected on the last few weeks of her life.

She stepped through the life-blood and leaned over to take her coat from the hallstand. Her scarf slipped and fell onto the grisly mess at her feet. As if on autopilot, she retrieved it, bloodying her hands. Unconcerned, she put on her gloves and placing the gun into a Tesco carrier bag, she left her home for the last time. In her scarf and tweed knee length coat she looked quite mumsy, pausing at the gate to look at her home, the concrete structure that echoed a lifetime’s memories. Days of laughter, weekends of lovemaking; a good life, a promising remainder of years. All too meaningless now; they need not have ever happened. She had been living with a monster, a chameleon.

Police constable Timothy Jeffries and WPC Sharon Davies were behind the reception counter in Kentish Town police station attending to the needs and enquiries of an assorted bunch of citizens when Maggie Boban entered their workplace. Jeffries nudged his colleague when he saw her come in the front entrance.

'Look out Sharon, Neighbourhood Watch has arrived.'

The WPC looked up from dealing with a burglary report to grimace at Maggie who she remembered in the past had rigorously campaigned for better street lighting to the police, instead of the dead-weights at the council. 'Shit,' whispered Sharon, 'more bloody geriatric moans, give me a break!'

Maggie walked straight up to the counter, ignoring the woman making the burglary complaint and whispered, 'I would like to report a crime.’

The complainant sighed and obtrusively moved over to block Maggie’s access to the counter. Sharon forced a smile and remarked that she would deal with her in a moment. Maggie looked across to PC Jeffries who was filling out a form for a young mother struggling to strap an attention-seeking infant into a hand-me-down buggy. The toddler looked open-mouthed at Maggie and then at the carrier bag she was holding.

Maggie stood in between the two constables and raised her voice, 'I have to report . . . a serious crime!'

A sergeant in the back office overheard her anguished plea and popped his head out to listen.

'Can one of you please listen to me?' Maggie blurted out, her nervousness beginning to take over her bodily functions.

PC Jeffries looked to his colleague and then to heaven as he stepped to the counter where Maggie was waiting.

'Yes, Madam?'

Maggie swallowed hard and trying to remain calm said, 'I have just killed my husband . . . I have just shot him!'

Timothy Jeffries looked up at the clock and sighed to Sharon's amusement. 'You did what? Mrs Boban, isn't it?' His grin turned to alarm as Maggie extracted the sawn-off shotgun from the bag. The sergeant moved up behind Jeffries to intervene but Maggie reacted by pushing the small barrel up under her chin, her forefinger wrapped around the trigger. A hush swept through the reception.

'I have just shot my husband. Don't waste your time looking for anyone else!' She closed her eyes and tugged at the trigger.

The sergeant made a vain attempt to get over the counter but he was too late. A piercing crack rang out, Maggie's head whipped backwards, collapsing like a soggy, Hogmanay balloon, her distorted shape falling to the blood splattered linoleum. The weapon fell from her sweaty grip, blood and tissue sloped from the angry smoking barrel, showering the child in the buggy.

The distressed infant's chilling cry rang out through the gun-powdered aftermath. Sergeant Grayson was now over the counter, leaning over the remainder of Maggie, 'oh my good God!'

By now, the station was in uproar; officers appeared from everywhere, the civilians present cowered down for cover as the scene became more graphically horrifying. Grayson shouted at Jeffries to escort the people into the back of the station as he covered Maggie's body with his tunic. PC Jeffries stood nearby, frozen with shock; urine trickled down to the socks he had been due to wash for a week. He could not move so the sergeant let out a deafening roar to jerk him into action. WPC Davies begins to get sick as the sergeant yelled again, 'Jeffries, move yourself man . . . get these people out of here.'

A CID officer came to his rescue and began to shepherd the disbelieving onlookers into the adjacent waiting room. Jeffries started to mumble incoherently at which his sergeant got up and shook him, telling him to get a grip of himself.

'Get DI Brannigan down here,' ordered Grayson in as calm a voice as he could betray.

'What?' replied the dithering PC, unable to divert his magnetic eyes from the bloodied scene.

'Get the Duke lad . . . hurry Jeffries. Find out where he is and get him down here.'

'Right . . . I'm on . . . my way Sarge!' stuttered Jeffries as he slid by the body.


Jim 'The Duke' Brannigan held the rank of Detective Inspector in Kentish Town police station, North West London. He had the build of a light heavyweight boxer and always dressed in a smart suit, usually blue or grey with a dry cleaned shirt for every day of the week. For a hardened thirty-nine-year-old, he had the profile of a man who would fit nicely in to a middle aged Gillette shaving advert. A stressful life had surprisingly left intact a fitter physique than many of his juniors and eyes as piercing as brown could possibly attain. The well-groomed greyness that edged around what was once a full head of thick black hair served only to add to the dapper appearance of a man who liked his neat in neatness. He was an ex-military police sergeant who returned from the 1991 Gulf conflict to quit the army and join the Metropolitan Police Force. He became a plainclothes CID sergeant after five years and quickly gained promotion to DI. He was a tough copper in the politically correct days when it was no longer fashionable to be tough. He could take a punch on the chin as well as dish one out. More than one miscreant had remarked of the viciousness with which he had hit them and the dullness they had felt for a time afterwards. Brannigan had a reputation for being fair; a strict disciplinarian with the officers under him and brutal with the criminals who crossed his path. His loathsome for the criminal fraternity stemmed from the tragic, premature death of Susan, his wife. During his time in the army, she had tired of his career; his neglect of her, and so began to drink heavily. She became quarrelsome and they went through a bad patch but things improved when he left to join the police and they enjoyed a few years of relative happiness. Their brief oasis of cordiality had been brought to a shuddering halt the day Mrs Susan Brannigan met Theodore 'Teddy' Karabayro, a Jamaican drug dealer from North London. She met him at a party on the Harvist housing Estate in Hornsey and in an alcohol-induced whirl, they took off to Scotland for the weekend. She was impressed by his garish manner and easygoing lifestyle and soon became a cocaine user, moving into Teddy's flat shortly afterwards. There had been rumours at the time of Teddy encouraging her to sleep with his friends to pay for her habit but these whisperings had never been elaborated upon openly. Susan would call Jim occasionally and beg to come home but a slighted and obstinate Jim had demanded a guarantee that she would quit narcotics. It was a guarantee she could not give. By then her addictive nature had kicked in, she was smoking crack and dabbling with heroin and as a result she had died alone on an empty street one freezing November night. The coroner’s report indicated suicide caused by an overdose but it left a nasty aftertaste amongst the rank and file and a huge void in Jim's heart. Kentish Town police could not link Karabayro directly to Susan's death but they made it their business to target him and take him off the streets. The cocky Jamaican was charged with possession and intent to supply after a costly and tedious surveillance operation had caught him red handed. Karabayro had always been a party animal who liked to show off and one night he pushed the boat out too far and he and an accomplice were pulled over with a cache of pure heroin hidden within a false compartment of their glove box. Though he was not allowed to work on the case, Jim teed up information for the female detective dealing with the investigation into Karabayro's drug ring which subsequently led to his conviction and lenient five-year jail term. Brannigan had been outraged at the soft sentence maintaining he had given DS Teresa Mannion enough information to put Teddy and his sidekick Jason Clegg, away for at least ten years each. Jim blamed his colleague for the ridiculously short jail terms after she was taken to pieces on the stand by the defence team. She was transferred from Kentish Town CID soon after but left under a shadow because of the circumstances of Susan's death and the high regard in which Jim was held.

The Duke had prepared himself for a Sergio Leone evening at home with two Californian Reds and an Indian take out when police constable Jeffries phoned to tell him of the happenings in his very own front yard. He did not have much good to say about the Jeffries of the world. Hendon training centre was sending out lambs that expected the force to be something akin to the many television police dramas of the day. Jim recently heard that a street character handing out religious pamphlets had asked Jeffries to name a famous ex-carpenter who had gone on to make it big time and the cocksure PC had answered - “Harrison Ford?” What hope did the Met have? Wondered the former military copper as he corked his wine and prepared to leave his seclusion.

It was Friday evening rush hour and the bewildered detective decided to use his siren to cover the two miles to the station. Along the way, he thought of Jeffries' shaking voice and tried to imagine the horrific scene that awaited him. He had seen carnage before when the Allies had bombed the retreating Iraqis on the road to Basra in 1991. It had been a sight and smell that turned the stomach; one that made you want to hold your breath forever. He dodged through the busy Camden traffic, wondering where all the other motorists were heading whilst recollecting the shaken voice of the babbling PC whose sergeant requested his presence. Though no one ever said it to him directly, Jim knew that 'The Duke' was mostly a term of affection with regard to a character played by John Wayne. He knew that people respected him for being a hard copper as well as a very perceptive one, yet he wondered what they would have thought if they knew he still had nightmares of burned flesh sticking to the sides of scorched tanks and steel helmets melted into the skulls of young Iraqi conscripts. There was also the more personal nightmare of the Provisional IRA’s infamous bandit area of Armagh which he had strayed into as an innocent, fresh faced military policeman all those years ago.

His thoughts were interrupted by a call from his DCI to divert to the Boban's home to take charge of the crime scene. His immediate CID superior, Detective Chief Inspector Andrews was not a happy man; he too had left earlier for home expecting to spend time with his grandchildren on their weekend up from Kent. He now had a murder, and a suicide in the front office of his station as well as the high profile case of a couple of missing kids, presumed abducted three weeks earlier. The station’s Commanding officer, Chief Superintendent Linley was making plans to return immediately from Paris where he was attending a gathering of European Police Chiefs to discuss future co-operation and policing methods. DCI Andrews was handling the station scene personally and entrusted Jim to handle the house shooting. The media would soon be swarming all over the station and Andrews knew of Jim Brannigan’s unease with public speaking. Indeed, it had been Andrews who encouraged Brannigan to attend a private course on such matters when Jim had been promoted to Detective Inspector. DCI Andrews had a great deal of respect for his most productive detective; ignoring many of his tactics that cut through red-taped procedure. The Duke got results and that mattered when you dealt with people who turned their back on the conformed rules of society to get rich quickly or to do harm to one of the great unwashed.

'Will do Guv,' Jim replied to his boss turning the car in the direction of the Boban's Montpellier Avenue home. Jim always called his superiors 'Guv'. Respect for the higher ranks was an old military habit that he had retained and he expected his underlings to follow his lead. In Andrew's case, the title fitted a man he genuinely admired. He remembered last year when they had been together at a local community meeting and a jealous boyfriend of a pretty kindergarten teacher had burst in with a knife “to teach her a fucking lesson.” Jim had chased the thug out into the corridor where he bumped into Andrews who had been called to the phone. The panicky youth had lunged at the middle aged DCI who stood his ground and disarmed him, breaking the attacker's wrist. Despite being nine years older than Jim at forty-eight, he was still more capable than some of the brawnier, brain dead lemons the Met were recruiting.

Here we go again, thought the hardened detective on seeing the flashing blues outside a once peaceful haven. Curious neighbours stalked the scene, some cradling their hot cups, others - their morbid fascination. Here we go again, let’s see what man's inhumanity to itself has in store for me tonight. He finished off his foiled carton of Madras curry with his plastic fork and wiped his mouth. A copper's life! Who in their right mind would do it? He prepared himself. I would . . . because it's the only thing I know.


DI Brannigan ducked under the crime scene tape preparing to view another untimely death. He took in some cool evening air, acknowledged the ashen faced constable at the Boban's door and entered. He could always tell what awaited him at a fatality by looking at the PC's face outside. The forensic people were already there, huddled over the body. These guys always amazed him with their methodical indifference, casually prodding the remains of a once living being who had once loved and was once loved. What would they have thought of the Basra Road abattoir, Jim wondered as he looked around and greeted Ted Nugent from SOCO, the scene of crime boys. The sight of Cedric Boban's mutilated torso assaulted Jim's consciousness as he surveyed the crumpled corpse lying at the foot of the stairs.

'A sawn-off from up there?'

'About that Jim,' replied Ted, adding, 'I'd guess . . . the landing or the top step.'

'I suppose, the spray of lead would have got him either way.' Jim remarked looking at the banister. No escaping that kind of blast he imagined. 'For a guy his age he'd have had to jump the banister to avoid most of the impact,' observed Jim as he looked curiously around. He could smell the victim’s blood settling into his nostrils as if it was the most natural thing in the world. He wondered how this house would have smelled in normal times. 'I'm home dear . . . what's to eat?' Not anymore. Jim remembered his first smell of a corpse when a bullied squaddie had jumped off a cliff near Deal barracks in Kent and then inevitably his mind surrendered to the heart wrenching memories of seeing his woman, the wife he took for better or worse, lying in her own vomit not more than fifty yards from their home. She had collapsed on the street and died in the cold, suffocating on her own sick, the result of too much Colombian. She was on her way home to plead for help and forgiveness. He'd hoped she was. Not that he would have forgiven her then, his anger and sense of betrayal were still too vibrant. If he could turn back the clock he certainly would now, he missed her dearly. Drug dealers, they were lice that traded people’s sanity for nightmares. Scum, bloody scum the lot of them, thought DI Brannigan as he tested the strength of the stairs banister.

Ted eyed the Detective Inspector and knew that something was bothering him. He had known Brannigan a long time and knew the way his mind worked. If one tiny little thing didn't fit into place then you could be sure that this copper would delve into it, no stone would be left unturned. Lieutenant Columbo did not come near. Ted remembered five years ago when a burglar broke into a bookmaker’s Hampstead mansion. It all went wrong when the bookie discovered the intruding small-time crook, Derek Casey. After a struggle Casey had fled leaving the bookie dead from a fractured skull but neglecting to discover eighty-seven thousand pounds in cash under a dishcloth on the kitchen table. Derek Casey was eventually caught and charged with murder, but there was no sign of the money which the bookie was known to have made at Sandown racecourse earlier that day. Brannigan never let up with the investigation and three weeks after Casey was sentenced at the Old Bailey, Jim was at Heathrow waiting for Billy Nesbith, a paramedic who had been the first to arrive at the mansion on the night. Nesbith was about to jet off to a new life in Brazil to marry Maria Lopez, a beach beauty who he had enjoyed a holiday romance with three months earlier. Nesbith had discovered the cash and hidden it in his emergency medical bag. His colleague, the ambulance driver, was oblivious to this as was everyone else and so week by week, Nesbith used Western Union to send money to a dubious charity in Brazil, which had been set up by Lopez's conniving uncle. Derek Casey pleaded total innocence and the money's whereabouts was unknown but, unfortunately for the love struck paramedic, Brannigan's persistence did not let up. He repeatedly interviewed everybody who had been at the crime scene and then a chance remark about a missing medical bag from the ambulance driver led the stubborn copper to look at Nesbith. He had gone to the paramedic’s flat and been told by a neighbour about a great love affair with a Brazilian goddess. The postman arrived at the same time with a postcard from Brazil showing a beach scene with a message of love and an expectant new life together. After a few checks, Brannigan was at Terminal 3 to greet Nesbith who had left earlier in the day to say goodbye to his ageing mother. The money was eventually recovered and from that day, Brannigan was noted as a perfectionist. Peripheral insignificances ignored by other investigators went into Jim's notebook and then reflected on at length.

'What's on your mind Jim . . . you got something?' Asked the curious forensics expert. Jim scratched underneath his chin as he always did when the jigsaw refused to mould; when a tiny piece of it jumped up at him and begged attention.

'I’m not quite sure Ted. Can you see a fifty-three-year-old woman standing up there with a shooter?' he scratched again.

'That's what they're saying Jim, but if you've got . . . ' before he could finish, Jim Brannigan was tip toeing up the stairs over a plastic sheet, 'other ideas . . . then I'm sure there's a reason.'

Jim was in the Boban's bedroom. He stood at the bottom of the double bed looking around, taking particular attention of the Boban’s nightclothes neatly folded on their pillows. He gazed at a portrait of the couple and wondered why good looking women marry uglier, older men. He caught his image in the wardrobe mirror and ruminated upon his own qualities. Susan had been the envy of many an officer’s want. What did she see in me . . . would I ever meet someone like her again? Up in Cedric's attic, neatly converted in to a hobby den, Jim found DS Peter Johnson going through letters and manuals.

'What you got Pete?'

'Nothing yet Guv, Mr and Mrs Boban, happily married until death they most definitely did part, must have been his retirement and her not wanting him under her feet all day,' Johnson joked.

Jim looked exasperated at his goatee bearded sergeant and beckoned to a few aircraft manuals and Airfix models hanging from various beams.

Everything in its place?’

Johnson nodded, 'Nothing untoward . . . an old bloke from Russia, here since the fifties,' he looked in his notebook to Jim's approval. ‘Actually, he could be East European, we're checking it out. There's nothing on file about either of them, the usual "kept themselves to themselves" effort, community spirited and well liked . . . it's a strange one! We're trying to reach his employer, doesn't look like there's any close family.'

'No last will and testament I bet, no relatives . . . another handout for the State.'

'Or the dog's home, Guv.'

Jim sighed and made for the narrow stairs.

Must be love, thought Jim, as he perused the contents of the downstairs dining room. Had to be love? Why else do good looking women marry older, uglier men who are not obscenely rich. He looked at the Boban’s travel tickets for their forthcoming trip to the Middle East. He put them back in the bureau and went out to the hall where a SOCO was taking a final picture of the deceased house owner's corpse. Poor bastard, no pyramids for you, mused Jim as he went outside to breathe in some clean air. He stretched, listening to the duty constable being harangued by a nosy neighbour.

'My Silvia is only sixteen years old officer!' she scowled at the PC while attempting to see over his shoulder and catch a glimpse of the crime scene. 'What are you people going to do about these peeping toms . . . it's not right officer.'

Jim smiled blankly at her as he passed on the way to his car, hearing her continually lecture the bewildered PC.

'With all these weirdoes on the loose it's not safe for my girls to have a shower in privacy,' she moaned as Jim reversed out onto the once peaceful avenue. Another house of horror for the macabre to include on their gory websites. The prices will plummet as usual with another unsellable property, thanks to the choice of weapon used by Mrs Boban. What am I trying to convince myself of? Maggie Boban no more killed her husband than Jack the Ripper did! He pulled up at traffic lights and scratched under his chin. Peeping toms . . . showers? What was that woman going on about?


The next morning Jim drove past the station’s front to see a pavement full of journalists, their lenses and microphones hanging on to Chief Superintendent Linley's every word. Jim shuddered at the prospect of having to face that lot. He would prefer an evening out with the Gregory's, the notorious local crime family, with all their scruffy bulldogs and associates. Since the two recent separate instances of a twelve-year-old girl and a six-year-old blond lad going missing, the media were smelling blood and now they'd got it, albeit from an unexpected quarter - the local nick. A reporter spotted him about to drive in the station's side gate and ran over.

'Any words for The London Standard, DI Brannigan?' enquired the grinning journalist.

'The usual two,' stated Jim before driving into the station’s enclosure.

'Yea, yea . . . go and give someone a kicking, why don't you,’ muttered Steven Blakely, walking back to the front of the station.

Kentish Town Police station was a purpose built nick, depressingly grey in structure and atmosphere, nestled just off Kentish Town High Road behind the McDonalds outlet. Beside it stood the larger station house, home to most of the dreamy probationers. The station itself was unremarkable in any aspect you would care to look into with the possible exception being the Chief Superintendent's office which offered a modicum of comfort in a maze of homogeneous gloom. Though nestled between arty Islington and trendy Camden Town, Kentish Town had a lugubrious reputation. Drab, for passing through, a stepping stone in an area that threw together the upper middle classes with the highest proportion of street dwellers in London. Ask a mix of Londoners what they thought of Kentish Town and they would usually inquire. 'Is that where The Forum is?' The Forum being the well known music venue with inadequate parking and plastic drinking vessels. Kick out time was to be avoided unless you were a lurking minicab driver or one of the local kebab houses that slopped up an excuse for meat hidden beneath a deluge of lettuce. The local police had frequent excuse to visit its throbbing hive but for all its reputation and colourful history, it could not equal a murder and suicide in the space of half an hour.

Within the CID incident room, a group of officers were gathered around a television set watching the reception areas closed circuit tape of Maggie Boban's suicide. Chief Linley paused for a moment and then cynically asked.

'If there are any officers here who go weak at the sight of blood, then let them be excused or better still, come and see me afterwards.' Everyone in the room looked at PC Jeffries who squirmed in his chair and looked to the equally uncomfortable WPC Davies who gave him a faint smile of support. DI Brannigan, DCI Andrews, CI Walton and Sergeant Grayson were in attendance along with other assorted CID personnel.

There was a polite knock on the door and it opened to reveal DI Teresa Mannion. She was now a Detective Inspector based at Scotland Yard, sent over to help with the investigation.

Sergeant Grayson looked to Jim Brannigan for a reaction, recalling how Teddy Karabayro had made a crude gesture to Jim as he was led to the cells. There was a suspicion in everyone's mind that if the arrogant Jamaican ever met the Duke he would need a surgeon shortly afterwards. The whole station knew that Brannigan blamed Teresa for the shoddy sentence handed down to the drug dealer and now, here she was, standing before the great and the good of Kentish Town nick. She had come back to assist them with a shooting in one of Her Majesty's bastions of safety; she had made it somehow and now there was a swagger in her movement. She looked good, Grayson thought, as he watched her shaking hands with Linley and Andrews. Fuck me, did she look good! Teresa Mannion liked to dress like the busy nineties executive, plain blue jacket and knee length skirt with matching shoes that failed to hide a vulnerable sexiness especially evident from the chin up. She was a cracker, thick jet black hair neatly tied back over a face that make up would have spoilt. Her eyes flashed a greenish sexuality that made you want to cover yourself in her. Her lips invited moments of lust and intimacy. Detective Inspector Teresa Mannion was not what the public expected a modern police officer to look like; her looks conjured images of a high flying executive or the contented power behind a successful businessman. She was thirty-five now but you wouldn't think it, her bare curvy legs led up to a waifish waist topped with an ample chest that made ambient males yearn for a topless beach. Frequently, when she found herself the centre of attraction she would lose herself in humming a tune. Despite what happened in court with Karabayro's solicitor when she was reduced to tears, Mannion was a good cop and she knew it. She scanned the assembled law enforcers, knowing their thoughts. If only they knew what I went through before that shitty morning in court. Chief Superintendent Linley beckoned to Jim to greet her.

'We meet again, it seems like yesterday,' Jim offered, not knowing much else to say.

Teresa looked for a flicker of emotion on his face before deciding whether to offer a handshake.

'Hello Jim, it's strange to be back here.’ Before she could say anything else, Jim walked over and grabbed a seat beside Grayson. A short silence was broken by the hesitant knock of a PC on the glass-panelled door. He cleared his throat and addressed Chief Linley.

'Sir, Mr Chalvet would like to know if he can film the meeting?'

'Give me a break,' said a disgruntled Jim only to be glared at by Linley who looked inquiringly at DCI Andrews.

'Not this morning, tell him I'll see him in my office in fifteen minutes.'

'Yes sir' replied the sycophantic constable.

Linley addressed the group.

'For those of you who are irritated by the presence of Mr Chalvet and his television crew, let me stress again, he looked directly at Jim. ‘This decision to allow them access was taken at the highest level of the Home Office and with the exception of this meeting, they are to be afforded your entire co-operation.' Linley's eyes were fixed on Jim knowing that he had refused their requests for an interview with his most decorated and successful officer. 'Warts and all, whatever they wish to film, so long as it doesn't endanger any ongoing operations, obviously, they are not to be hindered, is that clear?

The whole room nodded in unison though Jim barely twitched his head. The visiting French documentary makers were a nuisance to the smooth running of things and were making people edgy. Jim wondered if the Home Office would agree to a 'Fly on the Wall' documentary at their place, warts and all. Doubtful, thought Jim as he eyed up Mannion. She had not aged much since he had seen her last, when he had accused her of being “a sloppy copper who'd be better off working in victim support”. In the back of his mind, he knew she was okay. She believed in doing the job right. She was a good copper or else she wouldn't have made DI at the Yard, but to hell with her, she let that scumbag’s lawyer tear her to pieces on the stand. He had seen her before under oath when she gave as good as she got, but she had chosen that morning to mess his world up and now she was back in his face. Karabayro would be back on the streets in two years because of her.

The Chief played the tape that showed Maggie Boban killing herself and the resulting chaos. Jim looked at Mannion to see her reaction but she just stared ahead more in disbelief than shock.

'Right,' said Linley, 'we've got a fifty-three-year-old woman blowing her husband away on his retirement day and then coming into my station to kill herself in front of a mother and child. Linley paused to take a sip of water as Sergeant Grayson wiped the floor with a glare at Constables Jeffries and Davies.

Davies and Jeffries were probationers nearing the end of their first two years and both hated their stints on the station’s front desk. Their indifference to Maggie Boban's shocking “I've just killed my husband” statement and then their negligence to act swiftly had caused some of the station's personnel to question their aptitude for the job.

Linley was now in full flow. 'Now, there are questions being asked from higher up as to how this can happen in a police station. My neck is on the line, so I want answers . . . I want facts. Why did this obscure middle class woman shoot her loving husband and then herself? Where did she get her hands on a sawn-off shotgun and the cartridges to commit murder? Answers, if you please!'

No one spoke until Teresa Mannion offered the obvious.

'Not knowing any of the facts yet sir, my first impression would be insanity, there are a number of cases where a spouse has shared a lifetime with someone only to end it all and decide to take others with them, I guess they just flip.'

Linley frowned. 'Maybe, DI Mannion . . . but why didn't she complete the grisly job at home, why walk half a mile with a shooter in a Tesco carrier bag and take the risk of being stopped from pulling the trigger here.'

DCI Andrews spoke. 'Maybe that's what she wanted . . . to get caught, but we weren't quick enough?'

PC's Davies and Jeffries looked sheepishly at the floor as Jim took a deep breath and strolled over to the window. He spoke as he looked out onto the industrial estate to the rear on Regis Road.

'I don't think so Guv, I don't actually think she killed him.' There was a rustling of movement; the assembly looked curiously at Jim.

'Didn't you just hear her taped admission that she acted alone?' the Chief Superintendent enquired.

'Yes Guv, but that's one of the reasons why I don't think she did it.' Everyone was perplexed by Jim's reply. Linley beckoned him to continue, 'the very fact that she came to the station to say she'd done it alone and then kill herself here tells me there is more to it, it's too neat, you know . . . she did it? So don't look for anyone else, smile . . . it’s on candid camera.'

Mannion asked. 'You said reasons, what are the others, Jim?' A number of the gathering are surprised to hear her use his first name.

Brannigan ignored her, addressing his answer to Linley. 'You see Guv,' he took a breath, 'the blood spray on the Boban's stairs covered quite a few steps and they were untouched, they hadn't been walked in? So, seeing as the shot was fired from the top landing, how did the killer get down the only staircase?' Everyone was in deep thought as Jim reached for a large SOCO photograph of the body at the end of the stairs. He held it up and asked, 'did a woman of fifty-three jump over the banister from there,' he indicated on the photo a drop of five foot, ‘to there . . . or did someone else do it? Someone with their own sawn-off, or the ability and contacts to acquire one?'

DCI Andrews motioned to DS Peter Johnson. 'When do we get ballistics back on the shooter, Pete?'

'Another hour, sir.'

Chief Linley frowned as he got up. 'I was worried enough with the questions we already had and now it seems there is more to this than there was. Not good!' There was a gradual recognition around the room towards Jim's theory.

The weary Chief announced. 'Right Jim, you're on this with DI Mannion. See where the shooter gets you and check out the Boban's habits and the rest.' The office was generically shocked at Linley's teaming of Jim and Teresa. DCI Andrews gestured at Jim to hold his tongue. Linley continued, 'I want house to house on this and every local villain collared about the present availability of guns. Get your snouts on it, all of you.' He paused and after deep reflection added, 'we now have two missing children and a murder on our own doorstep. This station stinks at the moment . . . and you lot are gonna clean it up. You all draw wages, it's time to bloody well earn that crust . . . I want answers before I leave tonight. Understood?' No one present had ever heard Linley speak in such a forthright manner. They suspected he was under threat from above. 'Detective Brannigan, could you join me and the DCI in my office right now? You too Miss Mannion!' Jim and Teresa nodded and followed Andrews out after the Chief.

The Chief sat pensively behind his desk in his impressive, modernised office. As chief's offices went these days, his was pretty comfortable with its en-suite facilities and snack bar. His office was the only room within the station's austere walls that offered a modicum of comfort, so long as you were not called in for a “come and see me chat” as Linley termed his disciplinary meetings with his officers. The nearing sixty Chief Superintendent was not feared, the office he held was more intimidating than the man.

Andrews asked if anyone would like a coffee. Mannion accepted to calm her nerves, making herself as comfortable as possible for what was going to be a very difficult session. Jim eyed her with indifference, making herself at home. Andrews did the talking.

'Now, I know what you are thinking Jim, but, we didn't call you in here to appease you with regard to working alongside an officer you'd prefer not to work with. DI Mannion is a competent copper and you will be working with her for the duration, she was chosen to come in because of her past experience here.' Linley sat back and waited for Andrews to break the more distressing news.

'We wanted to chat about another matter.' The DCI looked directly at Jim, 'It's about Karabayro . . . he's out on parole.'

Brannigan's breath left his frame, he felt himself reeling at the mention of his tormentor’s name. He collected himself, knowing that his superiors were looking for a reaction. His stomach was a furnace, he controlled the images of the cocky Jamaican that were flooding his mind, trying desperately to block out the memory of holding his dead wife's head in his lap.

Released yesterday from Wandsworth on good behaviour,’ added Linley. He's back inside if he thinks as much as a bad thought, but you Jim, are not to get near him, understood?'

Jim composed himself and looked at Mannion who did not look surprised. 'You knew about this?' he asked.

'Yes, I knew it was coming and I asked to be kept informed, I was going to let you know anyway but with the Boban thing, I decided to wait until I got here this morning.'

'How do you feel about it?' Linley asked. Jim took a moment to respond and then addressed his Chief.

'If you’re expecting me to say it doesn't matter, I won't, it does. He's out . . . I'm getting on with my job and my life.' Jim paused and cynically added, 'I'm surprised they kept him in at all . . . we catch them and the Criminal Justice system slaps their wrists and tells them not to be naughty.' He paused, remembering the vow he had made to himself. Collect yourself Jim and bide your time. 'Let’s just hope we never have cause to hear from him again sir.'

Commendable James! You two get out there and get a hold of this situation,' said the mousy looking Chief with a flourish, but Andrews was not so convinced. He knew Jim was burning up inside, and could not understand why he did not let rip. Maybe it was because of Mannion's presence?

He caught Jim's attention as he was leaving. 'Are you okay about this Jim?'

The Duke sighed, 'It's not as if I have a choice . . . is it Guv?'

Following DI Mannion out to the car Jim remembered the promise he made to himself the very moment Karabayro was being taken down to the cells after sentencing. Karabayro had turned to face Jim, and protruded his tongue lasciviously against his cheek, as if to indicate fellatio and then swallowed while wiping his lips with his forefinger. 'Dat was a sweet little gal Jimbo!' he had said, his eyes popping bulbously within his smirking face. He had cocked his head back and had laughed, knowing he would be out in a few years. Jim interpreted it as a sign that his wife had given the Jamaican oral sex. This personal act of intimacy was something Susan had delighted in, especially when she was a little tipsy. The aftermath of her death had been a terrible time for Jim. A mixture of unadulterated hate for the dealer and his cohorts was inflamed by his own self-remorse. He should have buried his pride and taken care of her, sectioned her if necessary. Hatred, guilt and red wine occupied an empty soul and a lonely house. He would often return home and sit staring at her photographs, concocting a make believe world with the two of them cooking and tending to some kids. For a while afterwards, night time became drunk-time. The realisation that death finally prohibited her return had sunk in. Before, though she was living a hopeless drug dependent existence, she was still there, still capable of being Susan again. But now, death proved the ultimate divide. Jim would sometimes stand outside his back door looking up at the stars, wondering if she was on the other side, behind them, looking down at him. Now the smiling piece of shit was back on the streets and Jim knew what he had to do. He did not care about the consequences; he would not be restrained by the job; he would keep his vow. Theodore ‘Teddy’ Karabayro was going to pay for what he did.

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