Horsemen

By Stewart Giles

Thriller, Crime & mystery

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513
37 mins

 

ONE

Jason Smith stopped at the reception desk. The man with the peculiar piercing in his left cheek was talking on the telephone. Smith smiled at him and waited. The man shrugged his shoulders to indicate that he would gladly end the awkward phone call but it was out of his control.
“Ok,” he said eventually, “I’ll let Doctor Grace know as soon as he gets in.”
“Morning,” he said to Smith, “you know the drill.”
“Morning Joe,” Smith took out his phone and placed it on the tray Joe had put in front of him.
“Do you mind if I ask you something?” Joe said, “You know she’s a real whack job don’t you?”
“That’s a matter of opinion,” Smith said.
“It’s been four weeks now,” Joe said, “and you still keep coming back. Why?”
“I have my reasons,” Smith said, “can I go through?”
“You know the way,” Joe said as the telephone started to ring again.
Smith walked down the corridor and nodded to the stocky woman standing by the first security door. She opened it and let him pass without saying a word. Smith continued down a long corridor that was badly in need of a coat of paint. The sound of singing could be heard from inside one of the rooms. Smith stopped to listen and smiled. The old woman who had shaved off half her hair was singing in a low voice. She was singing something about talking to the bees in the forest. Smith walked through the second security door and stopped outside a blue door. He knocked and waited. There was no answer. He opened the door and looked inside. The room was empty. A pencil drawing of a cat in profile was pinned to the wall.
That wasn’t there before, Smith thought.
Jessica Blakemore was sitting by herself in the day room. She was reading a huge book. She stopped reading and turned to face Smith before he had even approached her. Smith thought that she looked a lot healthier than she had done the last time he saw her; her cheeks had more colour in them and the bags under her eyes were less obvious.
“What are you reading?” Smith said, “The complete works of everybody who’s ever written something? That book is enormous.”
“It’s a new bible of dreams,” Jessica said, “most of it is complete hogwash but there are a few interesting observations. Are you going to sit down?”
Jessica Blakemore was a psychiatrist Smith had only known for a few months. She had helped him and his team on a baffling investigation but she had paid the price for it; she had suffered a complete mental breakdown halfway through and had committed herself to the Crownside psychiatric hospital just outside York city centre. She had committed herself for an initial period of three months and those three months were almost finished. Smith had started visiting her four weeks earlier and the visits had proved to be mutually beneficial; Jessica had come to realize that her condition was not as overwhelming as she first thought and Smith had opened up about his own demons.
“How are you?” Smith said, “You’re looking much better than you did last week.”
“Is that a compliment?” Jessica smiled, “or does it merely imply that I don’t look as ghastly as I did last time?”
“You’ll be getting out of here soon,” Smith ignored her, “next week if I’m not mistaken.”
“I’m thinking of sticking around,” Jessica said, “I like it here.”
“What about your job?”
“I like to think of it as work experience,” Jessica said, “do you know the doctors here are starting to come to me for advice? What a crazy world we live in. The shrinks are getting advice from a loonie.”
“You’re not a loonie,” Smith said, “what about your husband?”
“Ian?” Jessica said and rolled her eyes, “He’s been to see me once. Nearly three months and he’s been here once. He reckons the people here freak him out. At least I have you. What’s on the agenda today?”
“Agenda?”
“You’re not here out of concern for me,” Jessica said, “what’s bothering you?”
A young man with a shaved head entered the room and sat down opposite them. He stared blankly into Smith’s eyes.
“Brian,” Jessica said to him, “we’re busy here.”
The young man did not move. He continued to glare at Smith.
“Brian,” Jessica said, “I said we’re busy. We can speak later. Go back to your room.”
The man stood up and left the room.
“I’m impressed,” Smith said, “they should be paying you a salary here.”
Jessica stood up and looked out of the huge window that looked out onto a small cluster of trees.
“I’m thinking about a change,” Smith said, “I’m thinking about doing something else. I’ve had enough.”
“There you go,” Jessica sat back down, “there’s the rub, and what’s brought this on all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know,” Smith said, “I’m not sure how much more I can take. What I do isn’t exactly normal is it?”
“No,” Jessica said, “normal it isn’t but essential it is. You’re not a normal detective sergeant. You never will be. Come on, look at this scenario; you’re asking advice from a shrink who’s been committed to a mental institution.”
“I’m sick and tired of death,” Smith sighed.
Jessica Blakemore appeared to be lost in thought for a moment.
“Are you still having the dreams?” She asked.
“Not as often as I used to,” Smith said, “I seem to get them when I’m working on something nasty.”
“They’ll never stop you know.”
“I’m getting used to them,” Smith said, “the double awakenings are not freaking me out so much anymore.”
“What about you and Miss Whitton?” Blakemore said, “How’s that all going?”
“Fine,” Smith said, “I think.”
“Hmm.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Smith said.
“Well,” Jessica said, “the way I see it you have three choices.”
“Three?”
“Choice one,” Jessica said, “is to quit the job you’re so brilliant at and do something else. I can promise you this, if you do that you’ll be joining me in here before you know it. Choice two is to carry on like before. Who knows, people may even stop killing each other.”
“I doubt it,” Smith said.
“Me too,” Jessica said, “you carry on solving murders and sooner or later you’ll probably end up losing your sanity anyway.”
“Great,” Smith said, “and what’s the third choice?”
“Take some time off,” Jessica said, “when was the last time you had any time off?”
Smith had to think hard. Each time he had tried to take some leave, it had been interrupted by work.
“I haven’t had any real time off,” he admitted, “I always seem to end up thinking about work.”
“What are you working on at the moment?”
“Not much,” Smith said, “there’s a syndicate that keeps hitting the McDonalds in the city. It’s obviously an inside job. It’s not going to take a genius to crack that one.”
“No murders?”
“Nothing,” Smith said, “we haven’t had a murder in the city since that Selene Lupei thing.”
“Then what are you waiting for?” Jessica said, “I have a group therapy session in half an hour. If that’s all, I’d quite like to do a bit of preparation for it.”
Smith looked at Jessica Blakemore and shook her hand. It was very cold.
“What’s it like in here?” He asked.
“Peaceful,” she said, “sometimes I think that all the wackos are locked out there.”
She pointed to the window.
“Not the other way round,” she added, “good bye detective.”

TWO

“Two weeks?” DI Bryony Brownhill said, “I don’t think I can spare you for two weeks.”
Brownhill sat opposite Smith in her office.
“I need a break,” Smith said, “with respect, the city of York isn’t exactly a hub of crime at the moment.”
“These robberies at the McDonalds are causing us quite a problem,” Brownhill said.
“Boss,” Smith said, “my dog could figure that one out. It’s an inside job. They know exactly when the cash gets removed from the premises and then they strike. They’re out of there within two minutes. It’s an inside job.”
“How do you suggest we catch them then?”
“Set a trap,” Smith said, “it’s obvious. There are only five McDonalds in York. Speak with the managers and get them to change the cash drop times.”
“And how will that help?”
“If these scumbags strike again,” Smith said, “we’ll know they’ve been tipped off by someone on the inside. That’s how we catch them.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” Brownhill said, “the Super is breathing down my neck. He’s of the opinion that the McDonalds are an integral part of the city’s heart and he’s taking it personally.”
“That moron would,” Smith said.
“You clear up the robberies and you’ve got your two weeks,” Brownhill said.
“Boss,” Smith said, “you do realize that I’m entitled to twenty seven days paid leave each year. I checked. Since I joined up I’ve always ended up losing most of my holidays. I want two weeks off.”
“Detective sergeant,” Brownhill stood up.
Smith had almost forgotten how imposing her bulk was. Even without the facial hair, she was a scary woman.
“You do realize,” she said, “that I am your superior officer and as such, I am the one who approves your leave. At this moment, we have a gang of thugs who are intent on stealing the takings from the McDonalds in the city. So far, they have managed to get away with almost half a million pounds. As you have already pointed out, you have a plan to stop them. Bring them in and you’ve got your two weeks. End of conversation.”
Smith was about to say something but he realized that any further argument would be futile. He stood up.
“Do we need to shake on it?” He offered Brownhill his hand.
Brownhill shook her head. Smith detected a slight smile on her face.
“Get out,” she said.
The three DC’s, Whitton, Bridge and Yang Chu were sitting in the canteen when Smith walked in. Whitton stood up and kissed Smith on the cheek.
“You two,” Yang Chu said, “could you please not do that at work?”
“What’s wrong?” Whitton asked Smith.
Smith was obviously not happy.
“Haven’t you lot got work to do?” He said, “The Super is breathing down Brownhill’s neck about these McDonalds robberies and you know what he’s like when he gets a bee in his bonnet. We all end up suffering.”
“What’s the big deal?” Bridge said, “Who cares if they steal money from McDonalds? Nobody has been hurt.”
“They’re breaking the law,” Smith said, “and it’s our job to stop them.”
“I say let them get away with it,” Yang Chu said, “they’re only robbing from the Yanks.”
“They’re heroes,” Bridge said, “we should be pinning a medal on every one of them. There’s even a Facebook page been set up for them. They have over two thousand likes. They’re modern day Robin Hoods.”
“They’re still armed robbers,” Smith said, “and we’re going to stop them. The future of my sanity rests on it.”
He put his hand on Whitton’s shoulder.
“Can I have a word?” He said.
He walked out of the canteen. Whitton followed him.
“Looks like the day has finally arrived,” Bridge said, “he’s breaking up with her. I knew it wouldn’t last. The gospel according to DS Smith ‘thou shalt not have relationships in the job’.”
Smith and Whitton stood in the car park outside the station. Smith took out a cigarette, lit it and inhaled deeply. A cloud of smoke flowed out of his nose.
“I knew there was something wrong back there,” Whitton said, “I could see it on your face.”
“There’s nothing wrong,” Smith said.
He did not know how to begin. He and Whitton had been in a relationship for a few months. It was still early days but things seemed to be going well for them.
“I went to see Jessica Blakemore again yesterday,” Smith said.
“I see,” Whitton said.
“She gave me an idea,” Smith said.
“Why do you keep going to see her?” Whitton said, “She’s a complete psycho.”
“She’s not,” Smith said, “she was sick, she got help and now she’s getting better. She suggested that I take some time off.”
Whitton breathed a sigh of relief.
“How long have I been telling you that?” She said, “It’s just what we both need. We could do some island hopping in Greece. You could take me to Australia; I’d love to see the places where you grew up. We could…”
“Time off by myself,” Smith said.
Whitton stared at him with her mouth wide open.
“By yourself?” She said, “I thought we were doing ok.”
“We were,” Smith said, “I mean we are. I need to get away from this city. This job. I need a break away from everything.”
Whitton did not say anything. She looked at Smith with a mixture of anger and bewilderment.
“I made a deal with the DI,” Smith said, “if we clear up these McDonalds robberies I can have two weeks off.”
“Two weeks?” Whitton said, “Where are you going to go for two weeks?”
“I don’t know,” Smith said, “somewhere I’ve never been before. Somewhere with no memories and somewhere as far away from the sea as possible. It’s got nothing to do with you.”
“Thanks a lot,” Whitton said and marched back inside the station.
Maybe that came out wrong, Smith thought.

THREE

Smith parked his car outside the McDonalds on the High Street and turned off the engine. Whitton and Yang Chu had gone to one of the smaller McDonalds just outside the city centre.
“Have you and Whitton broken up?” Bridge asked.
Bridge was not known for his tact.
“That’s none of your business,” Smith said, “besides, your taste in women is hardly anything to brag about.”
Bridge had found himself involved with a woman who killed three men a few months earlier.
“Selene Lupei,” Bridge mused, “it still doesn’t seem real somehow. I’m thinking of going to visit her.”
“Don’t,” Smith said, “it’ll only end badly. What happened to her kid?”
“Maggie?” Bridge said, “Foster family. Her father gets killed and her mother get’s locked up in a loonie bin. Life is shitty sometimes.”
“She’ll be fine,” Smith opened the car door, “from what I remember, she was a tough one.”
The McDonalds was surprisingly busy considering it was not yet lunch time. Smith and Bridge walked past the students who were busy putting away copious amounts of burgers and fries to soak up the previous night’s alcohol. Smith pushed to the front of the queue and stood in front of a young man with the most pathetic excuse for a beard Smith had ever seen.
“Get to the back of the queue,” the man said.
Smith saw from his name tag that his name was Steven Williams. He was the assistant manager.
“Police,” Smith ignored him, “can we speak to a proper manager?”
He showed Williams his ID.
“He’s on a break,” Williams said.
“Go and get him then,” Smith turned to look at the people behind him in the queue, “these people can wait.”
Williams sighed and walked towards a small door at the back of the counter. He returned shortly afterwards with another young man. The man eyed Smith and Bridge with obvious suspicion.
“John Burke,” he said, “I’m the manager here. What can I do for you?”
“Not here,” Smith said, “is there somewhere we can talk in private? Somewhere away from these morons?”
He said it loud enough for most of the people in the place to hear. Bridge started to laugh.
“We can go outside,” Burke said, “I was about to go out for a smoke anyway.”
Burke led Smith and Bridge outside onto the street. A crowd of tourists carrying cameras shuffled past.
“Is this about the robberies?” Burke took out a packet of cigarettes.
He offered the pack to Smith.
Smith shook his head. Burke took out a cigarette and lit the end.
“They’ve hit us twice now,” he exhaled a huge cloud of smoke, “I wasn’t here the first time but the second time was terrifying. They were so calm about the whole thing.”
“Do you have any idea who might be behind it?” Smith said.
“No,” Burke said straight away, “why would I?”
Smith stared at Burke’s face.
“Just thinking out loud,” he said, “it’s a terrible habit of mine. Tell me what happened.”
“I’ve already spoken to the police,” Burke threw his cigarette to the ground and lit another one.
“You haven’t spoken to me,” Smith said, “what happened?”
“It was Tuesday last week,” Burke said, “we’d had a really busy weekend what with the bank holiday. We normally do the cash drop on Monday but because of the bank holiday it was moved to Tuesday.”
“How much cash are we talking about?” Smith said.
“About eighty thousand,” Burke said, “give or take a few hundred.”
“Eighty grand?” Bridge said, “Eighty grand’s worth of burgers in one weekend?”
“Like I said it was a busy weekend,” Burke said.
“When is the cash drop normally made?” Smith said, “Just once a week?”
“Mondays and Thursdays,” Burke said.
“Can you run through the whole procedure,” Smith said, “where the cash is collected, everything.”
“The money is kept in the safe in the back,” Burke said, “only me and the other manager have the combination and it changes once a month for security reasons. Once an hour the takings are deposited in the safe.”
“The people who collect the cash on Mondays and Thursdays,” Smith said, “Who are they?”
“A private security company,” Burke said, “AMG security. They do a lot of the big stores in the city.”
“Ok,” Smith said, “the money is kept in the safe. What does the security company do?”
“They come and collect it,” Burke said, “they use the door at the back. Two of them stay outside by the van and two more come in to collect the money.”
“Are these men armed?” Bridge asked.
“Of course not,” Burke said, “why would they be armed?”
“Because people with guns are stealing money,” Smith said, “how was the robbery carried out?”
“They’re good,” Burke said, “I have to give them that and they’re brazen.”
“Brazen?” Bridge said.
“I opened the safe when the security company arrived,” Burke said, “those thugs were already inside waiting. They had guns. They told me to hand over the money. They were so calm and very polite. They said there was no need for anybody to get hurt as long as nobody did anything foolish. They walked out through the restaurant. There were loads of people eating at the tables but these people just calmly walked past them.”
“Did you recognize any of these men?” Bridge said.
“They wore balaclavas,” Burke said.
“How many of them were there?” Smith said.
“Three,” Burke said.
“So they walked out through the restaurant,” Smith said, “if you can call McDonalds a restaurant. What did you do then?”
“The one who did the talking told us to wait in the back for five minutes,” Burke said, “so I didn’t see what happened inside the restaurant but one of the customers told me what happened as they walked through.”
“Go on,” Smith said.
“They had a full blown conversation with the customers,” Burke said, “they pretty much bragged about the whole thing.”
“How do you mean?”
“According to the woman who saw it all, one of them stopped in the middle of the restaurant and told everybody what they’d done.”
“Do you have the name of this woman?” Smith said.
“I can do one better,” Burke said, “she’s inside right now. She comes here most days; sit’s there for hours with her lap top and drinks one coffee after another.”

FOUR

“Can we have a word?” Smith said to the blonde haired woman typing frantically on a lap top computer.
“Of course,” she smiled at Smith.
One of her top teeth was missing.
“Katie Young,” she said, “who are you?”
“Police,” Smith sat down, “I’m DS Smith and this is DC Bridge.”
“This is about the armed robberies isn’t it?”
“I believe you were here on Tuesday,” Smith said.
“I’m here just about every day,” Young said, “it was awesome.”
“Awesome?” Smith could not believe his ears.
“It was like something out of the movies,” Young said, “nothing like that ever happens in this dreary city.”
“Go on,” Smith said, “what happened?”
“The three of them walked through from the back,” Young said, “the one in the front was carrying the bag of money. He looked around and stopped. Everyone in the place was terrified. We didn’t know what they were going to do to us. But then something happened. Even though the man was wearing a balaclava you got the feeling that he was smiling. You could just sense it.”
“What did they do then?” Smith said.
“The one carrying the money told everyone to keep quiet. He told us to stay calm. He had something he wanted to say to us. He said that nobody was going to get hurt if we stayed in our seats. He told us they had just robbed the place; he said they had taken money from the greedy Americans and they no doubt had the money insured. It was surreal. He had such a calming voice. I shouldn’t be saying this but I could fall in love with that voice.”
“What then?” Smith said.
“Then he thanked us for our understanding,” Young said, “and then the weirdest thing happened. Somebody at the front started to clap and pretty soon everybody had joined in. It was addictive. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. The man carrying the money lifted the bag into the air, took a bow and left.”
“This is quite disturbing,” Smith said, “you applauded them for stealing money?”
“Modern day Robin Hoods,” Bridge said.
Smith glared at him.
“Was there anything distinctive about the three robbers?” he asked Young.
“Distinctive?” Young said, “They were wearing balaclavas.”
“Distinctive builds,” Smith said, “unusual accents. Things like that.”
“The man who spoke had a posh accent,” Young said, “he was definitely not from York. He spoke like he went to a public school or something. All three of them were average height but one of them was definitely a woman.”
“A woman?” Smith said, “Are you sure?”
“Positive,” Young said, “the hips don’t lie. Isn’t that what they say?”
“Thank you Miss Young,” Smith said.
He turned to Bridge.
“We need to get going,” he stood up.
“Have you seen this?” Young opened up her lap top and turned it so Smith and Bridge could see the screen.
“There’s a Facebook page been set up for them,” she said, “they have over three thousand likes already. There are hundreds of comments. People are encouraging them to keep up the good work.”
“Great,” Smith said, “that’s all we need. I’m starting to really dislike this Facebook thing.”
He was beginning to think that his two weeks off were getting further and further away.
“I still think it’s amazing,” Bridge said as they drove away from the McDonalds.
“What’s amazing?” Smith turned right onto Dene Street.
“They’re not really doing any harm are they?” Bridge said, “They’re stealing from a huge corporation. It’s not like they’re banging old ladies on the head and nicking their pension money.”
“Bridge,” Smith slammed on the brakes so hard that Bridge shot forward and almost hit his head on the windscreen, “these scumbags are armed robbers. Who they steal from is irrelevant.”
“Look at the Facebook page Sarge,” Bridge sat back in his seat, “you can’t argue with public sentiment.”
“I’ve been going against public opinion my whole life,” Smith said, “It happens to be our job to stop bastards like them. Don’t you forget that.”
“You’re getting really boring in your old age Sarge,” Bridge said.
“Maybe.”
“I still think it’s quite romantic,” Bridge said, “robbing the rich to give to the poor.”
“These idiots are not giving it to the poor,” Smith said, “they’re pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes and this so called public opinion isn’t going to make our jobs any easier.”
“This is it here,” Bridge pointed to the McDonalds on Glebe Street.
It was much smaller than the branch on the High Street.
“Why rob this one?” Smith parked outside, “they can’t make much money in this part of town.”
He stopped the engine and got out of the car.
“You’d better lock the door Sarge,” Bridge said, “I don’t trust the people around here.”
Smith locked his car door and they walked inside the McDonalds. The place was empty. An extremely bored looking woman was busy putting sachets of tomato sauce into a tray behind the counter.
“Morning,” she said, “what can I get you?”
Smith took out his ID.
“I know that already,” the woman said, “I’ve seen your photo in all the papers. I haven’t seen you in there though.”
She smiled at Bridge.
“Is this about the robbery?” She said, “I don’t know why they bothered to knock over this place. The branch in the city centre turns over ten times what we do here. The people around here aren’t exactly loaded.”
“Were you here when the robbery took place?” Bridge decided to take the initiative.
“It’s still a bit of a blur,” the woman said, “there’s plenty of crime in this neck of the woods but an armed robbery? That you don’t expect.”
“Can you tell us what happened?” Smith said.
“It was over so quickly,” she said, “they somehow managed to get in the back. They were waiting when the security company arrived for the cash drop. They took the money and scarpered. Like I said before, I don’t know why they bothered. There was only around two grand in the box. That’s only a thousand pounds each. Hardly worth risking your freedom for is it?”
“There were only two of them?” Smith said.
“That’s right,” she said.
“And this was on Tuesday?”
“I’ve already told your lot all of this?” She said.
“I’m just trying to get all the facts,” Smith said, “can you describe these two people?”
“They were wearing balaclavas,” she said, “but one of them was a real tub.”
“A what?”
“Lard arse,” she said, “and short with it. He’d stand no chance if he was chased.”
“That’s interesting,” Smith said.
“You won’t catch them.”
Smith smiled.
“What’s so funny?” the woman asked him.
“Sorry,” Smith said, “but if I had a hundred pounds for every time somebody’s said that to me I wouldn’t be standing here now. Is it always so quiet in here? It’s almost lunch time and the place is dead.”
“Sign of the times,” the woman said, “the word around here is that old Phoenix might be closing the place down.”
“Phoenix?” Bridge said.
“Jimmy Phoenix,” she said, “real bastard. He owns the franchises to all the McDonalds in York.”
“Jimmy Phoenix,” Smith repeated.
“I don’t know what you think of me,” the woman said, “but I’m not going to be working behind the counter in a dump like this forever. I only do it to help pay for my University fees. Some of us weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths you know.”
“What are you studying?” Bridge said.
“Economics. Third year. I know exactly what Jimmy Phoenix is playing at. Have you ever played Monopoly?”
“Never quite got to the end of a game,” Bridge admitted.
“You never will,” the woman said, “anyway, Phoenix has the monopoly on every McDonalds in this city. To put it in terms of the game with York as the board, sooner or later you’re bound to land up on one of the arrogant bastard’s McDonalds. Phoenix makes an absolute fortune out of it.”
“So he has no reason to have someone steal the money to claim the insurance money?” Smith said.
“Excuse me?”
“Just thinking out loud,” Smith said, “thank you for your time.”

FIVE

“Jimmy Phoenix,” Smith said, “he owns all the McDonalds in the city.
Smith, Whitton, Bridge, Yang Chu and Brownhill sat in the small conference room at the station.
“He doesn’t own them,” Bridge said, “he owns the franchises. McDonalds still own the brand.”
“He controls every McDonalds in York,” Smith said, “we need to have a word with him.”
“What for?” Brownhill said, “The way I see it, he’s a victim in all of this. His businesses were robbed.”
“He’s just as bad as the McDonalds,” Bridge said, “he’s a part of these corporate thieves these people are trying to get at.”
“We need to speak to him,” Smith was adamant.
“Absolutely not,” Brownhill said, “and I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that we are to leave him alone.”
“By who?” Smith said.
“Top brass,” Brownhill said.
“Top brass?” Smith said, “By that I assume you mean Smyth. Don’t tell me that public school piece of plankton actually knows this guy.”
“They play golf together,” Brownhill said, “he’s off limits. Have you got that?”
“This is bullshit,” Smith said, “Phoenix is in the middle of all of this. We need to speak to the man.”
“I agree,” Whitton said.
“Me too,” Bridge and Yang Chu said at the same time.
“This line of conversation is over,” Brownhill said, “what did we find out from speaking with the people at the McDonalds?”
“The one on the High Street and the one on Glebe Street were hit by different gangs,” Smith said, “the descriptions of the robbers were different.”
“I thought there wore balaclavas,” Brownhill said.
“They did,” Smith said, “but the woman at the Glebe street branch described one of the men. He said he was obese. The robbers on the High Street were of average build.”
“And one of them was a woman,” Bridge added.
“Good,” Brownhill said, “anything else?”
“The one who spoke had a posh accent,” Bridge said, “a public school accent.”
“Not unlike our retarded Superintendant,” Smith said.
“That’s enough,” Brownhill said, “Whitton, what did you and Yang Chu find?”
“Pretty much the same,” Whitton said, “all of them were of average build. The leader of the gang; the one who spoke to the customers also had a rather posh accent. There was no mention of a woman though.”
“Maybe there’s a whole bunch of them,” Bridge suggested, “Robin Hood and his merry men.”
Brownhill scowled at him and shook her head. She turned to look at Smith.
“What next?” She said.
“It’s an inside job,” Smith said, “there’s no doubt about that. We seem to have eliminated the managers at the McDonalds so that leaves just two more options.”
“Two?” Brownhill said.
“Jimmy Phoenix,” Smith said, “and seeing as though he’s been granted temporary immunity that leaves the security company. AMG Security. Apparently they collect the cash from most of the shops in the city.”
“That’s our next move then,” Brownhill said.
“Hold on,” Smith said, “I want to go over the chain of events first. Do we have the dates and times of all the armed robberies?”
“I’ve got them here,” Yang Chu produced a sheet of paper and placed it on the table in front of them, “the first one was hit on the Thursday before last. That was the branch on the High Street. Twelve thirty two. Two more were hit the same day at two fifteen and three forty five.”
“Ok,” Smith said, “what about the other three?”
“Tuesday this week,” Yang Chu said, “after the bank holiday. The High Street branch was robbed again, the one down the road from the football stadium and then the one on Glebe Street. The High Street branch and the Glebe Street branch were hit at roughly the same time.”
“So it was different people,” Brownhill said, “that’s going to make things a bit more complicated.”
“On the contrary,” Smith said, “I reckon it’ll help us. The more people involved, the greater the odds that one of them will slip up and lead us to the others. Whitton, let’s go and have a cup of crap coffee and then we’re going to take a trip to this so called security company.”
“They’ve changed the machine again,” Bridge said, “the coffee machine in the canteen. You can get all sorts of fancy cappuccinos now.”
“God help us all,” Smith said.
“I thought you were heading up to the canteen,” Whitton said as they left the conference room.
Smith had turned off towards the row of offices.
“I just need to speak to Chalmers,” Smith said, “I’ll see you there in five minutes.”
Smith knocked on Chalmers’ office door and went inside. The smell of cigarette smoke hit him straight away. Chalmers was standing by the window smoking a cigarette. He was gazing out over the car park.
“Afternoon boss,” Smith said, “beautiful day.”
“I’m beginning to really hate this place,” Chalmers said, “smoke?”
He handed Smith a packet of Marlboroughs. Smith took one and lit it. Smoking had been banned in the station for years now but Chalmers always seemed to get away with it.
“Stand by the window,” Chalmers said, “what can I do for you?”
“Is Smyth in today?” Smith said.
“He was,” Chalmers threw his cigarette butt out of the window and lit another one, “but I think he has a meeting with the Chief Constable. Something about bloody immigrants again I think. This city is going to the dogs.”
“Do you know what golf club Smyth is a member of?” Smith said.
“This is about Jimmy Phoenix isn’t it?” Chalmers said, “You’re going to talk to him aren’t you?”
“I’ve been told not to,” Smith said, “and it’s bullshit. It’s hindering the investigation. No, I’m going to follow orders for a change and leave Phoenix well alone but there’s no harm in speaking to a few of his fellow golf buddies is there?”
“You’re playing with fire,” Chalmers said.
“Are you going to tell me or not?” Smith said.
“Sandburn Hall,” Chalmers said, “it’s off the A64 on the way to Malton. Be very careful. Phoenix is going to know you’ve been snooping around. Jimmy Phoenix isn’t someone you want to get on the wrong side of.”
“Thanks boss,” Smith stubbed his cigarette out on a small plate on Chalmers’ desk.
“Smith,” Chalmers said, “you didn’t hear that from me ok?”
“Of course,” Smith said.
Smith realized he was smiling as he walked up to the canteen.
The two weeks off are getting closer, he thought, I can feel it.
He went inside the canteen. Whitton, Bridge and Yang Chu were standing next to the biggest coffee machine Smith had ever seen. They appeared to be having a serious debate about something.
“What the hell is that thing?” Smith said.
“It’s the new coffee machine,” Bridge said, “I’m still trying to decide what to have.”
“We can’t seem to figure out how it works,” Yang Chu said, “the instructions might as well be printed in Swahili.”
Whitton stepped forwards, pressed a few buttons and a low gurgling sound could be heard. A plastic cup dropped out of a slot and was quickly filled with a dark brown liquid.
“It doesn’t smell too bad,” she said.
She picked up the cup and took a sip.
“I think you’ll like this one,” she handed the cup to Smith and pressed the buttons on the machine again.
“Let’s sit by the window,” Smith said.
Whitton took her coffee and followed Smith to the table. Bridge and Yang Chu seemed to get the hint and stayed where they were.
“I’m sorry,” Smith said, “sometimes my mouth works way before my brain has a chance to stop it.”
“Sometimes?” Whitton said, “What exactly is going on with us?”
“I like what we have,” Smith said, “but I really need to get away for a while. What I said before just came out all wrong. I didn’t mean it was nothing to do with you, I meant it’s nothing to do with anything you’ve done.”
“I know,” Whitton said, “I just thought it would be nice for the two of us to get away together.”
“It would,” Smith said, “and we will but right now if I don’t get away from all of this I’m afraid I might just lose my mind completely and then I’ll be no use to anybody.”
He smiled at her.
Whitton shook her head.
“Two weeks?” She said, “I suppose that’s not too long. I’m sure we can all benefit from not having you around for two weeks.”
“Thanks,” Smith said, “I need to ask a favour.”
“Go on.”
“Could you look after Theakston for me?” He said, “I can’t take him away for two weeks. He likes you.”
“Where are you going to go?”
“I have no idea,” Smith said, “not far. Maybe somewhere in The Dales. Who knows, I’ll probably get bored after a few days and come back.”
Whitton finished her coffee and stood up.
“What’s wrong?” Smith said.
“This McDonalds mess isn’t going to sort itself out with us sitting around drinking coffee,” Whitton said, “the sooner we crack this one, the sooner you can go off on your crazy sabbatical and the sooner we can all get back to normal.”

SIX

“Where are we going?” Whitton said, “the offices for AMG security are in the city centre.
Smith had turned right and was heading north up the A64 towards Malton.
“Slight detour,” Smith said, “do you feel like a round of golf?”
“You can’t be serious?” Whitton said, “Brownhill will have both our arses when she finds out. Not to mention what the Super will do.”
“Relax,” Smith said, “I’m just going to find out a bit more about this Jimmy Phoenix bloke. Nobody will even know we were there. I have a plan.”
“You’ll never change will you?”
They drove in silence for a while. Smith stopped outside the impressive entrance gate to the golf club. An elderly man dressed in a suit emerged from a small brick structure and opened the gate. Smith watched as he looked at Smith’s old Ford Sierra with obvious distaste. He approached the driver’s side and Smith wound down the window.
“G’Day,” Smith said in the most exaggerated Australian accent he could muster.
Whitton found it hard not to laugh.
“Beautiful day,” Smith continued, “me and the missus are gagging for a game of golf. We was thinking about joining the club. Can you help us?”
“Of course sir,” the man sighed, “follow the road up to the club house and speak to Lorraine in reception. She’ll be able to gauge if this club is for you or not. I have to warn you though, the fees are rather steep.”
“No worries,” Smith opened his wallet and took out a ten pound note, “thanks mate.”
He handed the money to the man.
“That’s not necessary,” the man handed the banknote back to Smith and went back inside his shed.
“What was that all about?” Whitton said as they drove towards the huge clubhouse.
“What was what all about?” Smith said, “We’re just two prospective members. We’ll ask a few questions about the place and maybe we’ll be lucky. Maybe Jimmy Phoenix’s name will crop up.”
“You’re asking for trouble.”
Smith parked his car in the car park in front of the clubhouse. His old Sierra seemed out of place with all the SUVs and shiny Mercedes and BMWs.
“This is how the other half live,” Whitton looked around.
The golf course was beautifully maintained. Elaborate water features were scattered randomly around the greens.
“This is my worst nightmare,” Smith said, “who ever came up with this stupid game?”
“They reckon that half the business deals in York are made on the golf course,” Whitton said.
“We live in a mad world,” Smith said, “let me do the talking; you’re a hopeless liar.”
They went inside the clubhouse. A huge bar dominated one of the walls. Above it hung various trophies and awards. On the wall next to the bar was a photograph board showing golfing events from the past. The main room was empty apart from a table of four men who were eating something that looked very expensive. A tall woman with black hair tied in a tight bun approached them.
“Good afternoon,” she looked Smith up and down, “can I help you?”
“Are you Lorraine?” Smith said.
“I am,” she said, “who might you be?”
“Just having a look around,” Smith said, “me and the wife were thinking of joining. Bruce McClure’s the name.”
He held out his hand.
Lorraine looked at it as if it was something the cat might have brought inside.
“And this is the missus, Shelia,” Smith said.
Whitton’s face was starting to turn red.
“This is a very exclusive club,” Lorraine did not even try to hide her contempt.
“Just what we’re looking for,” Smith said, “hey Sheila?”
He looked at Whitton.
Whitton wanted the ground to swallow her up.
“Maybe one of the golf clubs in the city centre would be more for you,” Lorraine said.
“Nah,” Smith said, “I’m getting a good vibe from this place. The golf pitch seems much bigger than the photos on the internet too. Is it alright if we just have a drink at the pub? We’ll let you know what we think after a few cold ones.”
He walked off without waiting for an answer.
“She wasn’t going to tell us anything,” Smith said to Whitton at the bar.
“She’s probably terrified that you might want to join this club,” Whitton said, “you’re terrible sometimes.”
“We might have a bit more luck with him though,” Smith pointed to the young man working behind the bar.
He did not look much older than eighteen. The barman approached them.
“Two pints of Theakstons,” Smith said, “it’s a bit quiet in here isn’t it?”
“They’re all on the golf course,” the barman said, “it’ll be packed in here in a couple of hours.”
He poured the beers and placed them on the counter.
“Eight fifty,” he said.
“How much?” Smith said.
“Eight fifty.”
Smith handed him a ten pound note.
“Drink slowly,” Smith whispered to Whitton.
“We shouldn’t be drinking at all Sarge,” Whitton said.
“Keep your voice down,” Smith said, “somebody might hear you.”
“You’re Australian aren’t you?” The barman handed Smith his change.
“There’s no flies on you,” Smith said, “the name’s Bruce. Bruce McClure.”
“Pete,” the barman said.
“How old are you Pete?”
“Nineteen,” Pete said, “I work here on the weekends. My Granddad got me the job. He works on the gate.”
“We’ve met him,” Smith said, “how long have you worked here?”
“Almost a year,” Pete said, “the people are a bit snobby but the money’s alright. You’re the first Australian I’ve seen in here.”
“Do you know many of the members here?”
“Quite a few,” Pete said, “most of them are filthy rich. They think they’re something special but they’re not.”
“What about Jimmy Phoenix?” Smith said, “does he come in here much?”
“Jimmy?” Pete said, “he comes here a few times a month. Do you know Jimmy?”
“A bit,” Smith lied, “we share some of the same interests if I can put it like that. What’s he like?”
“Jimmy’s alright, “Pete said, “he’s nothing like the others.”
“How do you mean?”
“Most of the toffs we get in here were born with money,” Pete said, “they didn’t have to do anything to get it. Jimmy’s different. He worked himself up from nothing to get to where he is today. He grew up with nothing and look how well he’s done. He owns all the McDonalds in York, he has a few successful horse breeding stables and I heard he’s looking at a few night clubs in town.”
“He breeds horses?” Smith said.
“He doesn’t breed them himself,” Pete said, “he just owns the stables. He’s had quite a few big winners out of it. Jimmy’s alright. He doesn’t treat me like the rest of them.”
“We ought to get going,” Whitton said.
She had not touched her beer.
“When was the last time Jimmy was in here?” Smith said, “Sorry about all the questions but I grew up in a small town where everybody knew everything about everybody else.”
Pete was about to answer when his whole facial expression changed.
“I have to get back to work,” he said, “Davina Phoenix has just walked in. She’s Jimmy’s wife and she’s not the most pleasant person to be around. I don’t know how Jimmy puts up with her. As fast as he’s making the money, she’s spending it.”
Smith turned round. A heavily made up woman in her late twenties was standing talking to two young men in the middle of the room.
“Come on Whitton,” he said, “let’s get out of here.”
He cast a glance at Davina Phoenix as they walked past. She was obviously quite intoxicated; her blue eyes were very bloodshot and her gait was unsteady. She did not appear to notice him staring at her.
Smith and Whitton were about to leave when Lorraine appeared as if from nowhere.
“Decided it’s not for us,” Smith said, “we were actually looking for somewhere a little more up market. No offence though.”
He walked out leaving the secretary of the golf club standing with her mouth wide open.

SEVEN

The offices of AMG security occupied the whole of the top floor of the Cook building smack bang in the city centre. Bridge and Yang Chu stood by the reception desk waiting for the immaculately dressed woman behind the desk to end her phone call.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she finished on the phone and smiled, “what can I help you with?”
Bridge took out his ID. Yang Chu did the same.
“We’d like to speak with someone regarding the cash drops at the McDonalds in town,” Bridge said.
“Mr Green landed that contract personally,” the woman said, “he’s good friends with Jimmy Phoenix. Terrible business with those armed robberies. I’ll just find out if he has time to talk to you.”
She picked up the phone.
“Excuse me Miss…” Bridge said.
“Wright,” the woman said, “Mrs Joan Wright.”
“Mrs Wright,” Bridge said, “this is extremely important. We need to speak to Mr Green.”
Joan Wright stared at Bridge for much longer than he thought was appropriate and pressed a button on the phone.
“Mr Green,” she said, “there are two detectives at the front desk. They would like to talk to you.”
A deep voice could be heard on the other end of the line.
“Thank you Mr Green,” Joan said and replaced the handset.
“Mr Green is extremely busy at the moment,” she said, “but he has agreed to give you a few minutes of his time. His office is right at the end of the corridor.”
The telephone started to ring again. Bridge nodded to Yang Chu and headed off down the corridor.
The name Adam Michael Green was carved into a brass plaque attached to a very expensive looking wooden door at the end of a row of offices. Bridge knocked and waited.
“Come in,” a booming voice was heard from inside.
Bridge and Yang Chu went in. A huge man was standing by the window staring out at the impressive view over the city of York. The Minster dominated the skyline in the distance.
“Wow,” Yang Chu could not hide the fact that he was impressed.
“Not a bad view don’t you think?” Green said in a voice that any theatre troupe would be glad to get their hands on, “take a seat. Would you like something to drink?’
“No thanks,” Bridge said, “I’m sure you know why we’re here?”
“Of course,” Green sat down behind a huge desk, “I do hope you’re here to tell me you’ve caught the reprobates responsible.”
“Not yet,” Bridge said, “we just need to ask you a few questions.”
“Fire away,” Green said.
He sat with his hands clasped behind his head. He exuded the confidence of a man who was no stranger to stressful confrontations.
“Firstly,” Bridge said, “can I ask you what exactly it is that AMG security does? Sorry if I sound a bit stupid.”
“Not at all,” Green said, “we provide security; security in all shapes and forms. AMG security, no job too big or small and all that bull.”
Yang Chu smiled.
“Seriously,” Green said, “I started this company twenty years ago. Not to be too defamatory to your lot but by the early nineties in the blur of post Thatcherism, the national security services, i.e. you lot had taken a bit of a knock with regards to public opinion. The police back then did not exactly fill the law abiding citizens with confidence. That, plus the namby pamby policies of the so called Socialists who followed, meant that the power and respect you once had was all but obliterated. We filled a gap; provided a service that was lacking. We started with football matches, pop concerts, big events and then I stumbled on the cash drop business. Did you know that, only a few years ago a lot of the top businesses were still dropping off their takings at the bank in plastic envelopes? Sorry to babble on a bit; it’s a really bad habit of mine. There you have it. That’s my life. Anything else?”
Bridge was gob smacked. Yang Chu continued to stare out the window. Rain clouds were forming in the east.
“Mr Green,” Bridge said, “the people on your payroll. Where exactly do you find them from?”
“That’s a very good question,” Green said, “and I can tell you it was a tricky endeavor. The vetting processes we use are not dissimilar to your own. No criminal records of course. You’d be surprised how many of our employees are former colleagues of yours. Retired policemen looking for a bit of an extra income. They already have a wealth of experience. Ex army too. We have a highly trained crew here at AMG.”
Yang Chu was starting to get a headache.
This man certainly likes the sound of his own voice, he thought.
“Let’s talk about the McDonalds robberies,” Bridge said.
“I’m going to stop you there if I may,” Green said, “as soon as I heard about them I ordered a very thorough internal investigation. That was my main priority. After offering my condolences and sincere apologies to Mr Phoenix of course.”
“Jimmy Phoenix?” Yang Chu said.
“That’s right,” Green said, “We’ve been dealing with the McDonalds for four years now. It’s a very lucrative contract, I can tell you that.”
“And this internal investigation,” Bridge said, “what did you find out?”
“Nothing of course,” Green said, “and I didn’t really expect to find anything. My security staff acted accordingly under the circumstances. There was nothing untoward going on.”
“Your guards,” Yang Chu said, “do they carry guns?”
“Of course not,” Green looked at Yang Chu as if he were an idiot, “that would be a completely different ball game son. We’re talking all sorts of complications; firearms licenses, annual competency compliance, public liability insurance. It just isn’t viable.”
Bridge was unsure which direction to go next with the line of questioning. Green seemed to have all the answers.
“Mr Green,” he said, “five McDonalds were hit in the space of a week. One of them was robbed twice. AMG security handled all the cash drops on the days of the robberies. Don’t you think that’s a bit odd?”
“Odd?” Green stood up and walked over to an impressive teak book shelf.
He picked out a leather bound book and put it straight back again.
“I bought this book case and that desk when I landed my first contract,” he said, more to himself than the two detectives sitting in his office, “Bootham Crescent. That was twenty years ago. We provided the security at the ground twenty odd weekends a year. I don’t particularly like football but that’s what started all of this. That was the building block on which we’ve built the company we have today.”
He looked Bridge directly in the eye. For the first time, Bridge noticed he had one glass eye. He looked at Bridge as if he was waiting for him to say something.
“Sorry,” Bridge said, “I didn’t realize you’d asked me a question.”
“I didn’t,” Green sat down again, “and the answer to the question on the tip of your lips is no. Absolutely not.”
Bridge was confused. This man was talking in riddles.
“You’re wondering,” Green said, “you’re wondering if AMG were involved somehow in these robberies. That’s why you’re here isn’t it?’
“Are you?” Bridge said.
“Let me explain something to you,” Green said.
Yang Chu let out a huge sigh. His headache was getting worse.
“The money taken at the six robberies,” Green said, “was a little under half a million pounds. Now that may seem like an awful lot of money. Let me break things down for you. The contract with Mr Phoenix and the McDonalds over ten years, two drops per week is worth ten times that. We have plenty of other contracts worth the same if not more. What I’m trying to explain to you is why would I risk all of that for that kind of money?”
“With respect Mr Green,” Bridge said, “it’s not AMG or you personally we’re looking at. How well do you know the people who work for you?”
“In a company such as this,” Green said, “I make it my business to know my employees. Most of them were handpicked by myself. I have nothing to hide here.”
“Would you be able to provide us with a list of these employees?” Yang Chu said.
“Of course,” Green said, “and I’d also be happy to show you the results of the internal investigation. Like I said, I have nothing to hide. Integrity is tantamount to what we do here. Without integrity we have nothing. I’ll have Mrs Wright prepare copies of everything you need.”
He stood up again.
“Now,” he said, “if there’s nothing further, I have nine holes booked with Jimmy Phoenix. I’m sure you’ll both agree, I have a few bridges to build there with the poor man. Gentlemen.”
He gestured to the door. Bridge and Yang Chu stood up. Green put his hand in his pocket and took out a business card. He handed the card to Bridge.
“In case you ever feel like a career change,” he said, “I’ve got a feeling you’d fit right in here.”

EIGHT

“I don’t know if that was a compliment or what,” Bridge said to Yang Chu as they headed back to the station.
“That bloke can talk the hind legs off a donkey,” Yang Chu said, “my head’s still spinning. Do you think AMG has anything to do with the robberies?”
“We’ve got plenty to go through,” Bridge said, “what with the list of employees and the results from the internal investigation but I don’t think we’ll find anything.”
“Me neither,” Yang Chu said, “I think Smith’s right again. I think this is all to do with Jimmy Phoenix.”
“Step on the gas mate,” Bridge said.
The car in front of him was driving so slowly that Bridge had to drop down two gears to avoid stalling.
“What’s his problem?” He said.
“Probably an old woman,” Yang Chu said, “or a man wearing a hat; they’re the worst.”
They were driving on a single lane road and there was nowhere for Bridge to overtake.
“Christ,” Bridge said, “if I go any slower I’ll have to stick her in reverse. Old people shouldn’t be allowed to drive on the weekends. I mean it’s not like they don’t have plenty of time on their hands is it?”
The car in front of them slowed down even more opposite the McDonalds and turned left into a side street.
“Thank God for that,” Bridge increased his speed.
He crossed the river and headed in the direction of the station.
“Looks like rain,” Yang Chu said.
Grey clouds were quickly merging above them. Rain was definitely on the way.
Bridge and Yang Chu made it inside the station just in time. The rain came down with purpose. Within minutes a small pool had formed outside the front door. They found Smith and Whitton upstairs in the canteen. They were talking to DI Brownhill at the table by the window.
“Summers on the way,” Brownhill said, “look at that rain. That’s a summer rain shower. It’ll be dry again within an hour.”
“Right,” Smith said, “down to business. We need to bring Jimmy Phoenix in right away.”
Brownhill looked confused.
“What are you talking about?” She said.
“Phoenix is the key to all this,” Smith said, “trust me.”
“Have you not been listening?” Brownhill said, “I’ve already told you that Phoenix isn’t to be bothered. Please don’t tell me you’ve already spoken to him?”
“No,” Smith said, “I actually followed an order for once but me and Whitton did do a bit of digging in one of his domains.”
“Domains?”
“His golf club,” Smith said, “gruesome place. If that’s how the rich folk like to live then let me be poor for the rest of my life.”
“I told you to leave him alone,” Brownhill said.
“Yes you did,” Smith said, “and we did leave him alone. We spoke with a rather chatty barman there. We also met Phoenix’s wife briefly. Lovely woman by the sound of things. As quickly as Phoenix makes his money, she spends it. That’s the key to all of this.”
“I don’t follow you,” Brownhill said.
“Phoenix’s wife,” Smith said, “Davina. I reckon that Phoenix couldn’t keep up with her so he arranged the robberies to earn a bit of extra cash. A lot of extra cash.”
“I’ve never heard such rubbish in my life,” Brownhill said, “do you know how much the man’s worth? He’s a millionaire many times over. I assume you have evidence to back up these preposterous insinuations?”
“Not yet,” Smith said, “but it’ll turn up and when has evidence ever stopped us from badgering a suspect before? Phoenix is a suspect; it’s time to bring him in.”
“Absolutely not,” Brownhill said, “in case you haven’t forgotten, he is a good friend of Superintendant Smyth’s. He is not to be questioned without good reason.”
“Are you telling me he has immunity?” Smith said, “just because he happens to knock a few little balls around with our sorry excuse for a boss?”
“No,” Brownhill looked for an escape route.
She turned to Bridge.
“What did you find out from the security company?” She asked him.
“I don’t think they were involved,” Bridge said, “in my opinion, they didn’t act like they had anything to hide. They also stood to lose a lot more than they gained if they were found out. They gave us all the information we asked for. It’s going to take us hours to go through the file containing the info on the staff and the results of their own internal investigation.”
“You’d better get started then,” Brownhill said.
“But it’s almost six,” Bridge looked like he was going to cry, “and I’m supposed to have a day off tomorrow. I have a sort of a date tonight.”
“Cancel it,” Brownhill said, “we’re going to get to the bottom of all this.”
“What about the insurance company?” Whitton said, “has anybody spoken to them?”
“I talked to the investigator myself,” Brownhill said, “they have their own investigators in matters such as this. They have to follow certain procedures. They employ people specifically to root out irregularities in insurance claims. It appears there was nothing untoward here. They’ve already paid out the money.”
“I still say we have a look at Jimmy Phoenix’s bank accounts,” Smith said, “that bloke is hiding something.”
“That is one of the first things the insurance investigators do in cases such as this,” Brownhill said, “Jimmy Phoenix is financially very healthy. Please remember that the man is still a victim here. Bridge, you and Yang Chu get onto the security company file. With any luck, you may be finished before your day off tomorrow.”
Bridge stood up. He looked extremely annoyed. He picked up the heavy file and stormed out of the canteen.
“I’ll see you all tomorrow,” Brownhill stood up and walked through the cloud of steam that Bridge had left in his wake.
“Poor guy,” Whitton said, “he hasn’t been on a date since that Selene Lupei thing. He told me he was looking forward to getting back on the horse.”
“Back on the horse?” Smith said, “That’s just like something Bridge would say.”
“I feel sorry for him anyway,” Whitton said.
“Come on Whitton,” Smith stood up.
“Where are we going?”
“Working supper,” Smith said, “I’ve got plenty of beers and I’m sure there’s a frozen pizza in the freezer at home. Let’s help Bridge to get back on that horse.”

NINE

The file that Smith and Whitton had relieved Bridge and Yang Chu of was much thicker than Smith had expected. AMG security had done a very thorough job in their investigation.
“This is going to take all night,” Whitton sighed, “is this your idea of a romantic Saturday evening?”
“It’s not that bad,” Smith said, “besides, I have an ulterior motive.”
“I didn’t bring my toothbrush.”
“Get your mind out of the gutter for once,” Smith said, “what I mean is, the sooner we sort this mess out, the sooner I get my two weeks off and sort my shit out. Then we can get back to normal. Two weeks in the middle of nowhere is getting closer. I can feel it. Let’s get started.”
He walked through to the kitchen and returned with two bottles of beer. He handed one of them to Whitton.
“There are sixteen full time employees at AMG security,” Smith read through the file, “twelve men and four women. All the security personnel are men apart from one. Petra Redshaw. Ex army according to this. Call me old fashioned but why would a woman want to join the army?”
“Probably for the same reason a woman wants to join the police,” Whitton slapped him on the shoulder, “to serve and protect and all that bull.”
“Ok,” Smith said, “you take eight and I’ll take the other half. See if anything jumps out at you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll know when you see it,” Smith turned the page in the file.
Two hours and three beers later, Smith and Whitton were none the wiser. None of the people who worked for AMG security seemed to have any reason for getting involved in the armed robberies. Most of the staff were ex armed forces or police. Smith had even worked with two of them when he had first joined up.
“Did I remember you mentioning something about a frozen pizza?” Whitton finished her beer and handed Smith the bottle, “another beer would go down well too.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Smith said, “you can make a start on AMG’s internal investigation.”
“Thanks,” Whitton said.
The secretary at AMG security had been very methodical in her chronicle of the McDonalds cash robberies. Each individual incident had been scrutinized thoroughly; no stone had been left unturned. There were step by step accounts of how the robberies had been carried out, witness statements and statements from all the personnel on duty at the time. Whitton thought they couldn’t have done a better job themselves. There was nothing to suggest that AMG were involved in any way. Whitton skimmed through the pages again. Nothing struck her as suspicious. Everyone had acted in accordance with the guidelines stipulated by AMG. These guidelines were also included in the file. Whitton sighed and stretched her arms.
What a total waste of a Saturday night, she thought.
Smith placed the pizza on the table and handed Whitton a beer.
“Anything?” He said.
“Nothing,” Whitton said, “this has been a complete waste of time.”
“Oh well,” Smith said, “at least we’ve ruled out a whole load of possible suspects. Tomorrow we can throw that file on Brownhill’s desk and tell her to organize and interview with Jimmy Phoenix.”
“I wonder how Bridge’s date is going,” Whitton took a slice of pizza from the plate, “I bet he’s having more fun than we are.”
“Come on,” Smith stood behind her and gently massaged her neck, “it’s not that bad. We haven’t spent much time alone in ages.”
“What?” Whitton said, “Beer, pizza and a case file longer than War and peace. That’s my dream of a perfect Saturday night. Don’t stop.”
Smith pressed harder on Whitton’s shoulders.
“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you,” he said.
“People in Yorkshire are born sarcastic,” Whitton said, “are we finished for the night? Can we relax for a bit now?”
“Almost,” Smith said.
He removed his hands from Whitton’s shoulders and walked over to the makeshift desk he had put up in the corner of the room. He turned on his computer.
“What are you doing now?” Whitton said.
“Just one last bit of research,” Smith said, “I want to see what my good friend Google has to say about Jimmy Phoenix.
He typed in his password and opened up the search engine.
“Then can we chill out a bit?” Whitton said.
“Yes,” Smith said, “I promise. Could you get me another beer first though?”
Smith typed in ‘Jimmy Phoenix’ and pressed ‘search’. There were not many Jimmy Phoenix’s to choose from.
“Bingo,” Smith found what he was looking for.
A Wikipedia page had been set up for Phoenix.
“Find anything?” Whitton placed a beer on the desk next to him.
“Thanks,” Smith said, “not yet.”
He looked at the Wikipedia page. Jimmy Phoenix had been born in 1960 in Foveran, a small village a few miles north of Aberdeen on the Scottish east coast. He had graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1982 with a degree in Economics. After that there was a gap until 1989 when it stated that Phoenix had made it onto the Forbes rich list in the under thirty category. He had acquired his wealth by a series of shrewd land purchases in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Phoenix had bought up dilapidated buildings for a bargain, renovated them and turned them into low cost student accommodation. By 1989, at the age of twenty nine, Phoenix was reported to have assets worth well over six million pounds.
“He likes his horses,” Whitton was standing behind Smith, “it says here he owns three top stables. Two in Scotland and one just up the road from us in Skipton.”
“Thoroughbreds,” Smith said, “whatever that means.”
“It’s big business,” Whitton said, “I read somewhere that some of these horses have bloodlines going back years. They’re like royalty. People pay huge amounts of money just for the sperm from these horses.”
“Yuk,” Smith said, “the world’s gone crazy.”
Smith carried on reading.
“Look at this,” he said, “our friend Phoenix is a bit of a philanthropist. It says here that between ninety five and two thousand and five he reportedly gave away over five million to various charities.”
“Tax write offs,” Whitton said, “all the rich people do it. It’s got nothing to do with generosity. It costs them bugger all and it makes them look like saints. What about after two thousand and five? Why did he stop giving away his cash then? What happened?”
Smith scrolled down the page.
“The donations stopped,” Smith said, “do you want to know what happened?”
“What happened?”
“Davina Cole happened,” Smith said, “poor Phoenix got married. Davina Cole. It says here that he met her while he was staying in a hotel in Edinburgh. It must have been love at first sight. She worked as a cleaner there.”
“The plot thickens,” Whitton said, “how old is she?”
“She was nineteen when they met,” Smith did some quick mental arithmetic, “that means Phoenix is twenty six years older than her. They were married within two months.”
“Love at first sight,” Whitton said, “that kind of money makes it easy to fall in love. What else does it say?”
“Not much,” Smith said, “it doesn’t mention the McDonalds franchises. This Jimmy Phoenix is a bit of an enigma.”
Whitton sat back down on the couch. Smith carried on reading. There was not much more to read. He started again from the beginning. He had missed a part about Phoenix’s children from a previous marriage in 1990. Two daughters. Charlotte, aged twenty one and Sophie who was eighteen.
His eldest daughter is not much younger than his wife, Smith thought.
He closed the Wikipedia page and switched off the computer.
“We need to talk to this man,” Smith said, “we need to find a way to get him to the station.
Whitton did not reply. Smith turned around. She was sitting on the sofa with her eyes closed. From the low breathing sounds coming from her mouth, Smith knew she was asleep.




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