A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 15

A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 15

As Peter shouted, John slammed his foot down hard on the accelerator, making the car surge forward. At the same time, he wrenched the steering wheel to the right, then applied the brakes. There was a loud bang and the driver's side rear passenger window shattered. Then a loud crunch as the motorcycle impacted with the front wing of the car. The bike flew up into the air, landing across the bonnet. The two riders landed in the road, some distance away. Between them lay what looked like a sawn-off shotgun. Edward got out of the car. 

Two Indian men got out of the car that had been behind them. Edward nodded to them. "Daneesh, you better check if you can do anything for either of them," he said, indicating the two bodies in the road. "And you better call Kutrum and report in."

"He's not going to be pleased," the second Indian man said.

"I'm not pleased either," stated Edward as Carol and Ann came running up from their car.

"I've called police and ambulance," John stated, as he got out. He looked at the damage to the car. "I better let Michael know we need a new car."

It seemed an eternity before the police and ambulance arrived. In that time Daneesh confirmed that one of the motorcyclists appeared to be dead. Not that anyone there was surprised seeing the strange angle his head was to his body. Daneesh confirmed the other one was unconscious but still breathing. As there were no immediate signs of bleeding or obstruction, Daneesh said it was best to leave him as he was and let the paramedics deal with him.

What seemed another eternity was the amount of time it took dealing with the police when they finally arrived. Their first instinct was to arrest and breath-test John, who had admitted he was the driver of the car. It seemed that they intended to treat the whole thing as a road traffic accident until Edward drew their attention to the shotgun lying in the road and the blast damage to the side of the car. Then the young traffic officer who was apparently in charge turned white and got on his radio calling for backup and forensics.

It was some four and a half hours later that Edward and Ben were finally home; they had DS Conner and DS Jones with them.

"Thanks for mucking up my Sunday," Mark said to them.

"It was not my idea to get shot at," Edward protested.

"Whether it was your idea or not, Edward, somebody decided to do it, and that's messed up my weekend off."

"Sorry about that," Edward said, not sounding the least bit sympathetic. "Though we can always do this tomorrow if you like?"

"Don't you dare," Mark said. "This weekend was our weekend to have dinner at Janet's mother. Chris was begging that I let him come along with me when I got called out."

"Did you?" Edward asked.

"Did I what?" Mark replied.

"Let him tag along with you?" Edward responded.

"Of course I did, dropped him off in the town centre so he could go to his mate's," replied Mark. "I was not going to let the kid suffer his grandmother on his own.

"Now down to business. Somebody it seems is out to kill you, and this time they have a couple of thugs take a pot shot at you from the back of a motorcycle."

"Are they though?" asked Edward.

"Are they what?" responded Mark, now back in his Detective Sargent mode.

"Out to kill me," stated Edward. "One failed attempt I can understand, two failed attempts seems a bit strange."

"Maybe you're lucky," commented DS Jones.

"I very much doubt it," Edward replied.

"Are you saying what I think you're saying?" Mark asked.

"I probably am," replied Edward. "That was a sawn-off twelve bore that was in the road. Even allowing for the fact that the car had laminated windows and that John was able to perform an extremely effective evasive manoeuvre, there should have been more damage to the car. Some of the shot should have got through."

"Unless it was short charged or undershot," commented DS Conner.

"My guess would be undershot," replied Edward. "Either much smaller gauge shot than would be expected, or filled with something other than shot."

"I'll get forensics to check that," Mark said, indicating to DS Jones that he should make a note to do so. "But why should somebody try to make out that they were trying to kill you twice?"

"To make me think that Kutrum was after me," suggested Edward. "They probably want me to go after Kutrum."

"Are you going to go after Kutrum?" Mark asked.

"Yes, but not because of this and not in the way they want," Edward replied. "If you will excuse me for a moment, I need to get something from the office."

Edward left, returning a few minutes later with a folder. He handed the folder to Mark, who opened it and looked inside.

"What the hell?" he asked.

"They were on a CD that Amir left to be handed to me if anything happened to him," Edward said. He handed a magnifying glass over to Mark. "Look at the image reflected in the mirror."

"It's Kutrum Bhat, taking the photos!" exclaimed Mark. "How long have you had these and why haven't you let me have them before."

Edward indicated the copy of the Sunday Times lying on the coffee table. Mark read the headlines.

"Oh shit, spooky stuff," he commented. "Let me guess. Paddy Roberts is in some of the photos."

"Yes, but not in any that you have there," Edward replied. "Those were supplied to the Garda in Dublin.

"There is one thing I have to ask you, though I doubt you will be able to do anything before Wednesday. But, don't act on anything in those photos or the associated files on the CD at the back of the folder before them.

"Why?" Mark asked.

"Because on Wednesday a lot of things are going to be wrapped up and after that, there is no chance you can upset anything. I don't think you will be in a position to act before Wednesday as you will need to identify the men in those photos. I've provided a list at the back of the folder for the few of those I have been able to identify."

Mark turned to the back of the folder and started to read the list. "Fuck, I'll need to go to the Chief Constable with these," he stated. "They are far above my pay grade."

"That bad?" asked DS Jones, who had moved so he could look over Mark's shoulder at the contents of the folder. Mark turned over one of the pages.

"Fuck!" exclaimed DS Jones. "That's the Chief Super."

Mark looked at the photo. "Bloody hell it is. No wonder Kutrum always knew when we were about to raid one of his places. He must be the bloody leak in the office. "Shit, I've just sent him the quarterly intelligence report."

"What's bad about that?" DS Jones asked.

"It identifies our new source in Kutrum's organisation. Sorry, Edward, I've got to take this directly to the Chief Constable."

"Just tell him not to act on it before Wednesday," Edward said.

"I am not sure I can promise that," Mark responded.

"Don't worry, I'll make sure he gets the message," Edward said. Mark looked at him, his puzzlement apparent.

Mark and DS Jones left, promising to return the next day to take a full statement from both of them. Ben pointed out that he would be at his office till five.

Once they had left, Ben turned to Edward and asked what was going on.

"Sorry Benny, but I really shouldn't tell you. All I can tell you is that someone is out to make me think that Kutrum is trying to kill me."

"Why would they do that?" Ben asked.

"So I would kill Kutrum," Edward replied. "They clearly do not want to do their own dirty work."  

"Who are they?" Ben inquired.

"That, Benny, is the six-four thousand dollar question. The one thing I do know is that they are inside Kutrum's organisation."

"How do you know that?"

"Come to the office, I'll show you something. Actually, your looking at it might give me more insight. You're the accountant after all."

For the next hour, Edward showed Ben the printouts of the spreadsheets and journal files he had got from Amir's CDs.

"What do you make of it?" Edward asked.

"Well, it is clear that somebody is using Kutrum's activities to launder their own money," Ben stated. "They are cleaver about it, and I doubt if anyone in Kutrum's organisation who is not in on it knows what's going on. You would only find out if you did a full forensic audit, and there would be no reason for doing one. Indeed, given Kutrum's business activities, there are a plethora for not doing one. All the funds that are supposed to come in, come in. It's just some extra is coming in and getting diverted. If you didn't know, you wouldn’t go looking for it."

"That's what I worked out," Edward replied. "I am hoping that when Lefty and Dicky get into those servers, we will be able to get a lot more information."

"But what is going on?" Ben asked.

"Can't be certain but I think someone in Kutrum's organisation is supplying drugs and weapons to the Provos. I know they approached Kutrum when he took over O'Neill's operation. That was before my time, and he turned them down. They wanted somebody to act as a pipeline, so there was no direct connection between them and the sources in Amsterdam."

"You think this is still going on?" Ben asked.

"I'm fairly certain it is," Edward replied.

"Then why do they want you to go after Kutrum?"

"Because Kutrum wants out," Edward replied. "He's closing things up. In a couple of years, maybe as soon as next year, the only things he will have running will be his legitimate businesses. Hari has never been interested in the criminal side of Kutrum's affairs. He only wants to take over legitimate businesses."

"But if Kutrum pulls out, then this won't work," Ben commented, pointing to the pile of print outs.

"No, it won't, which is why they want me to take out Kutrum before he pulls out of everything. Then, whoever the third player is can take over and run things in his place."

"What about Hari?" Ben asked.

"If I kill Kutrum, which is what they want, then Hari will feel honour-bound to kill me," Edward stated. "He would end up inside doing life."

"They get rid of two birds with one stone," observed Ben.

"Yes, and it might have worked if I had not had that meeting with Kutrum," Edward stated. "As it is, I knew that Kutrum was pulling out of things, so he had no reason to want to remove me. In fact, he probably has more reason to keep me around."

"Why's that?" asked Ben.

"Kutrum has a few business activities which are just on the borderline of legit. I suspect Hari will not want to take them on, so he will be looking for a buyer. Who better than me?"

That night Edward had another nightmare. This time it was Ben who was killed. He could see him sitting in the car, his head blowing apart as the shotgun blast came through the car window. He woke screaming and found himself held tightly in Ben's arms.

"I'm here, Teddy, nothing to worry about," Ben whispered in his ear while thinking up a list of medieval tortures he planned to inflict on whoever was behind all this.

Lefty and Dicky arrived just before ten on Monday morning. It took them just over half an hour to set up the kit they had brought with them. They then connected the secure Linux laptop to the box they had just installed.

"What's that?" Edward asked.

"It's an encrypted connection," Lefty informed him. "It connects to the server in our office. From there we can send the connection through several systems before it gets to its final destination."

"So, it's untraceable?" Edward asked.

"No connection is totally untraceable if you have the time and the resources to follow it," Lefty said. "This, however, will give anyone trying to trace the connection some major problems. With a bit of luck we will be in, get what we want, and out before they can trace the connection any distance back, that is if they actually detect that we are in."

"How likely is that?" enquired Edward.

"That depends on the quality of the backdoor," Dicky replied.

"There's only one way to find out," commented Lefty. He opened a terminal window, then entered a command followed by the first IP address and port number from the list Edward had given him. A moment later, a prompt appeared,  and Lefty entered the username and password.

"Bloody hell!" he exclaimed.

"What?" asked Dicky.

"I've got root access," Lefty stated.

"Is that useful?" Edward asked.

"It bloody well is. Dicky is Andromeda running?"

"Yes, L, I started it this morning just in case," Dicky replied.

"What's Andromeda?" asked Edward.

"Probably best if you don't know, at least not in full. Let's just say it is a system we have set up by which we can send copies of files to servers which automatically copy them onto other servers, then remove all evidence they were ever there. This continues until anybody trying to trace where they have gone will get completely lost. The files will end up on a server we will give you access to."

There were twelve servers on the list, and the backdoor worked on all but two of them. In each case, Lefty ended up with root access. It took Lefty just over fifteen minutes to set each one of them up with whatever he was setting up on them. Finally, he announced that everything was finished.

"What have you done?" Edward asked.

"I have installed a daemon on each of the servers that will invoke the file transfer protocol every twenty-four hours. It'll copy any new or changed user files to one of our Andromeda servers. From there the file will, through a sequence of intermediate servers that are part of Andromeda, be forwarded to a server you will be able to access. You will be able to read all their files at your leisure," Lefty said, laughing.

"What's so funny?" Edward asked.

"There are likely to be thousands of files," Dicky informed him. "You are not going to get much leisure going through them."

Lefty showed Edward how to access the server the files were being copied onto. Also, how to copy the files from the server to his laptop. That done the two men started to pack up their kit. They declined an offer of lunch and left shortly after one.

Edward made himself a sandwich and had just finished it when the doorbell rang. Ann, who was on duty, went to answer it. A few moments later, she called out, "Your new car is here."

Edward went to the front door and found David Long standing there in front of a BMW holding a set of keys.

"Here you are, Ed," David said. "One BMW all kitted out."

"You needn't have brought it up yourself," Edward commented.

"Not much choice, as it seems one of Michael's cars got somewhat damaged, and a replacement was needed," Dave grinned. "My delivery man brought that one up for Michael's people, I brought this up for you.

"Now a bit of information about the modifications. First, the ignition. Unlike the normal key sequence, there is an extra step on this one. Turn the key to the first position and a very low current is put through the wire loom, the resistance of the loom is checked. If there is any variation to the expected resistance, an alarm will sound, telling you that something has been added to the ignition circuit, probably a bomb."

"Won't switching it on that much cause a wired-in bomb to go off?" Edward asked.

"No, whoever installed it will be expecting a much stronger current. In fact, most commercial detonators require the same level of current as is needed to start your engine. Detonators are designed that way as a safety feature.

"The windows in this car have all been replaced with specially laminated glass. It is not bulletproof glass; that would have made the car far too heavy. What it will do is drastically reduce the velocity of anything fired at it to such an extent that any injury to an occupant is likely to be non-lethal unless you are very unlucky.

"Underneath the car, we have lined the underflooring with a triple layer Kevlar fabric. The inside of the car is also lined with the same fabric. That does not make it bombproof. It does, however, make it more difficult for people to attach limpet-type devices to the car. If they are successful and one goes off under the car, the potential for shrapnel damage to the occupants will be massively reduced. Should be good to protect you against anything anybody is likely to place under the car. However, it won't protect you against landmines, IDEs or RPGs."

David spent a good twenty more minutes taking Edward through all the features of the car, which included front and back CCTV, which was a totally new concept to Edward.

"It's starting to get popular in Russia; not much of it around outside the Russian Federation, though. We're putting it into all our secure vehicles. It records to a hard drive in the boot and can hold up to twenty hours of driving, useful if you are in an accident or something."

David finished his briefing about the car, and the two men went inside to sort out the paperwork. They were in the middle of that when the doorbell went again. Ann answered it and a few moments later showed DS Conner and DS Jones into the kitchen, announcing them as she did so. David and Edward were at the kitchen table finishing up the paperwork.

"New car, Edward?" asked DS Conner.

"Yes, Mark. As you know someone took a dislike to the old one; it got blown up," Edward commented. Signing the final form for David

"Thank you, Mr Chapman," David said, getting very professional. "I'll leave you now; enjoy your new car." With that, he got up, shook hand with Edward and left. Edward got the distinct impression that David was not too comfortable around police.

"It's about the incident with the old car we have come to see you," Mark informed Edward. "Got the forensic report back this morning."

"Anything interesting?" Edward asked, indicating to the two men that they should take a seat at the table.

"Actually, yes," Mark replied. "Forensics have reassembled the circuit from the fragments. There is no indication of a mercury switch or an accelerometer in it."

"That's interesting," Edward commented. "What more have they found."

"It looks like the detonator was wired directly to the arm switch," stated DS Mark Conner.

"Makes sense," Edward said.

"How do you make that out? That would mean it was designed to kill whoever armed it," DS Jones stated.

"That's the point," Edward replied. "It was not meant to kill me. I suspect when you get the forensics in from yesterday's gunmen, you will find that they were not as lethal as they appeared to be."

"You are right," Mark stated. "We got the preliminaries this morning. The cartridges were filled with rock salt."

"Makes sense," Edward remarked again. "I doubt if the gunmen knew it."

"How can it make sense?" asked DS Jones.

"Because somebody wants to make me think that Kutrum is out to kill me, but don't really want me to die," Edward said.

"Why?" Mark asked, then paused. "Oh shit, you take out Kutrum, then his sons take you out, they end up in prison, and somebody else takes over."

"Yes, the third party," Edward said.

"Any idea who it is?" Mark asked.

"Not exactly, but I think I know who is involved. I hope to know the actual third party in a few days," Edward replied. "I need to look into a couple of things, and I also need to speak with someone from the old days, back when Kutrum was first starting out."

"That'd be Sid Jones," Mark stated. "Best of luck there. That old codger is one of the most uncooperative people around, and he hates your guts."

"I know," answered Edward. "By the way, it's bonfire night tomorrow. We're having a bonfire and fireworks. Why don't you and Janet come along with Chris. You and your family are also welcome to join us, DS Jones."

"Sorry, don't have a family, at least not around here. My parents and brothers are all down in Cardiff. No significant other yet."

"How come you ended up here?" Edward asked.

"Read forensic science at uni and got picked up at a graduate fair for fast-tracking in Army Intelligence. Did six years, then left for the police. My CO was a friend of the Chief Constable here, put a word in for me," DS Jones replied.

"Well, you are welcome to come along by yourself," Edward informed him.

Once DS Conner and DS Jones had left, Edward moved to the office. There he connected up his laptop to the server that he had been given access to and started to look at the files which had been downloaded. He was still at it when Ben arrived home.

"Any developments?" Ben asked as he walked into the office.

"Well, we got confirmation that whoever is behind this is not trying to kill me," Edward stated. He went on to explain about the bomb and the cartridge shot load.

"Whoever is behind this is pretty ruthless," Ben observed. "They were quite willing to blow up their own man when he set that bomb. Then they kill the other bomber. I dread to think what their plans were for the motorcyclists. If they are prepared to do that, why not just kill Kutrum themselves?"

"Because that would not achieve their goals," stated Edward. "Killing Kutrum just puts everything in Hari's hands. I am reasonably sure he would just kill off all the illegal stuff rather than running it down or selling it off as Kutrum is doing.

"Whoever is behind this wants to be able to do a clean takeover of Kutrum's operations and to be able to continue running things as they are."

"I know," Ben stated. "You've explained it before, but it is all a bit hard to take in.

"I've got a couple of steaks for dinner, you ok with that?"

"That's fine Benny; anything you want me to do to help?" Edward asked.

"Just stay out of the kitchen."

Half an hour later, Ben called him to say that dinner would be five minutes. Edward went to freshen up and then took his place at the kitchen table. Ben placed a bowl of salad on the table before he served the steaks, together with potato wedges and mushrooms.  He then took the seat across the table from Edward.

"Is tomorrow still on?" Ben asked.

"The bonfire?   Of course, it is. You can't have Guy Fawkes without a bonfire to burn him on," Edward stated.

"It always seemed a bit Pagan to me," Ben observed.

"It is, actually. It's all tied in with Samhain and the days of no time," Edward replied.

"Samhain, isn't that Halloween?"

"Yes, the day of death, the day the Year King was sacrificed. Then five days later, his body was cremated. Once upon a time, it was done for real; then, later, it was done symbolically. People were burning effigies on bonfires five days after Halloween for a long time before Guido Fawkes ever appeared on the scene. However, the whole thing was repressed under Edward the Sixth and the Protestants. When Elizabeth the First came to the throne, it had virtually died out except in a few places, like Lewes. Then along comes James the First of England, the Sixth of Scotland, and the gunpowder plotters tried to blow him up. Conveniently, on the 5th of November. So, the people could revive the tradition in the guise of celebrating the defeat of the plot."

"What are you doing, burning the king or celebrating the defeat of the plotters?" asked Ben.

"Probably the former," replied Edward. "I really need to organise getting some fireworks. I’ll do that after I have seen Sid Jones."

"How about building the bonfire?" Ben asked.

"I'm picking Joey and Danny up after school, and I expect they'll give me a hand in doing that."

"How many are coming?" Ben asked.

"Well, there are Joey and Danny, and I've invited Laura. She's not sure if Jack will be coming with her. There’s DS Jones, and Mark Conner, his wife and Chris, and finally the four minders. Who have you invited?"

"Just the girls from the office and their partners. Though two of the girls are a couple. So, if they all come, that's a maximum of six. To be safe I’d better put two dozen potatoes in to bake," Ben responded.

"Is there anything you need me to get from the supermarket while I'm getting the fireworks?"

"You could get six tubs of coleslaw and some tins of frankfurters. I'll pick some rolls up from the bakers by the office."

"What about drinks?" Edward asked.

"I think my wine cellar can cope, though you’d better get some pop and juices for the youngsters," Ben replied. "I'll make a trip to the Wine Warehouse at the weekend to refill once I know what has been used."

"You know that Kutrum owns that place?" Edward asked.

"So what" Ben responded. "It is all above board, and they have some bloody good wines in there."

Edward laughed. "I only mentioned it."

Their steaks finished, Ben served some melon for dessert. 

"You know, Ben, you're spoiling me with food. If I stay here, I am going to put on a ton of weight."

"If you stay here? Are you thinking about it?" Ben asked.

"Yes, it makes sense," Edward replied. "Look, Ben, I can't say how I feel about things, but it seems…" He paused. It was a long pause. "I really don't know how to say this. I loved Maria, but I was not in love with her if you can understand. I was in love with Amir. Even now, I miss him when I think about him. 

"What I feel with you is different. I can't say I am in love with you, though I can say I love you. I always have, but that is far more like I love my brother or even my sister. It is not like the love I had for Maria or for Amir.

"The thing is this, I feel comfortable with you. It's like a good fit. It just feels right being with you. Going to sleep with you by my side, then waking up in your arms, it … It makes me feel that I am in the right place."

Ben leaned forward and put his hand over Edward's. "You are, Teddy, you are."