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Signature Four



Bill Hadley was an investment advisor, but not a very successful one. The problem was finding the clients. If they wanted to work with him, they did not seem to have enough money, and if they had money, it always seemed to be tied up elsewhere. Apart from that, since his divorce, he had been looking for a bit of excitement.


Planning bank raids in his spare time at the office had amused him. It was just a game he played to fill time. One day going over a plan with Bob Mitchell, he had thought Bob was joking when he said he would join the gang to get an opportunity to try out his weapons for real. It had become serious with Jim Duggan. Bill had known Jim for years, a weird guy, well known as a kind of local historian. Jim knew all the old stories about the town, where the saloons were, the brothels, which families feuded and so on. When Jim joined him and Bob for a poker game one evening and heard them running over the plans for a bank raid, Jim did not for a moment doubt they were serious. When he realised they weren't serious, Jim became angry, telling them it was a recent phenomenon not to raid banks and they should get back to their roots.


The discussion developed and the truth became clear: the truth was that none of them had any qualms about robbing banks. In fact, they wanted to do it. They would plan meticulously, arm themselves to the hilt and execute ruthlessly. This would be their trademark. Any casualties would be collateral damage as far as they were concerned. As Bob put it, weapons weren't built for pussycats.


Bill did not often get calls from prospective clients, but neither was it completely out of the ordinary. When Jean Galloway called up, he said he could squeeze her in the next day in the afternoon for an introductory meeting, if that suited her, which it did. Now he sat there waiting. She was not on time, but that did not matter. He was reliving last Tuesday's success.


Jenny, under the alias of Jean Galloway, was on time, but she was outside in her Buick, suffering a last minute attack of nerves. Back in her kitchen it had all seemed so easy, and it probably was for John, a trained police officer. Now she was about to enter the office of someone she believed to be a brutal, merciless, ruthless killer. She was about to embark on a game of cat-and-mouse with him, and he was supposed to be the mouse. This man who gunned down innocent bystanders, police officers and shot a fire-fighter in the belly, was supposed to be the mouse, and she innocent, bouncy, friendly Jenny, the cat. She was not sure she could do this, and her hand trembled as she read through her scripts yet again. Finally, she focused on the friends they had lost, pulled herself together and stepped out of the car.


"Mrs Galloway, do come in. Please have a seat. It is my pleasure to greet you here today." She could not have been more shocked, as the melodious voice of Hadley washed gently around her. She took a place opposite his desk and was involuntarily finding she liked him. Gone were her nerves, gone was the sharp edge of her tension, and she relaxed into his gentle questioning. But she was still aware of the tape running in her handbag, seeking every now and then to elicit the responses from him that she needed, the words of the man at the warehouse. At least he had no suspicions, she thought, as the meeting progressed. She glanced at her watch. More than an hour had elapsed, although it seemed much less. The meeting wound to an end. She left a phone number and promised to call him, after she had had time to consider her financial position, and thanked him for his advice. As soon as he had shown her to the door, Hadley moved back to his desk and picked up the phone.

"Bob, its Bill. Get Duggan and come over right now. I'm worried."


Ross joined John and Jenny that evening, as usual in the kitchen. She told them about the meeting with Hadley that she had taped. She talked about her struggle to prompt him to say the right words, the key words they had heard at the warehouse. There was an hour's worth of tape in which to find the individual words that made up: We want to negotiate. One false move and the first of these two workers gets his brains blown out. If I go down they both go down. It took forty-five minutes of the tape before they had been able to tick off each of the words on the list, but they were not sure how it would work out with the intonation once they had strung all the words together. Ross said he would drop the tape off to Chris on the way back, and see if Chris could do something with it, by recording it onto their computer and editing it. In the meantime, both he and John were pretty well convinced that this was there man. The voice just sounded exactly right.


Duggan had not been available that afternoon, so it was not until the evening that Hadley, Mitchell and Duggan met together at Hadley's farmhouse.

"So what made me suspicious," Hadley was saying, "is that she would be following the conversation normally, and then every now and then it was like she was reading her lines and she would ask me a question. Towards the end of the meeting, it struck me that whenever this happened, she would glance down at her handbag."

"So what could she want?" Duggan squawked.

"You tell me," Hadley replied. He fixed them both with a steady eye. "Anything strange happen to you two guys." Silence. They shook their heads. "Any strange calls? Any calls from strangers?"

"I got one woman," Duggan said, "asking for some woman I don't know, but I cut her off pretty quick."

"OK, Duggan, you try this number. See if it's her." Hadley passed Jean Galloway's number across. Duggan entered the number. The number did not go through. It did not exist.

"Let's think about this," Hadley said. "She gives me a dud number. That means she can't ever come back to me. Right?"

Bob Mitchell had been sitting back. Intellectual activity was not his great strength, but this seemed so obvious to him, that he explained: "She's probably made a teeny weeny mistake, reversed a digit. Anyone can. That way, if she wants to come back to you and you query the number, she takes a look and says, ooh, I'm so sorry and so on."

"Good one, Bob," Bill thanked him. " I like it, so let's take a look."

After a good deal of examination and comparison with numbers in the area, they came up with five options. Duggan set about trying the numbers. On the second attempt, a female voice answered, and it sounded right to Duggan. Duggan put the phone down and whistled. "That's her." Again the solution was easy for Mitchell.

"She's on to you both, but not me, yet. I'll take her out tomorrow. Let's just match the number and name and address, and boom." This was Mitchell's clean-cut pragmatic solution, and it had its merits.

"I have a concern," Hadley said. "Who is she? what does she know? and why is she doing this? As soon as we know that we'll take her out or whatever."

"Waiting is risky," Mitchell objected. "That's what the cops did at the warehouse. If they had pulled the trigger, as they should have, we wouldn't be here."

"We're not going to wait," Hadley replied. "We'll get a fix on her first thing tomorrow morning. If it looks bad, we'll take her in for questioning, as they say in the police. Then if she's guilty, we'll prosecute and pass judgement and then, pardon the expression, execute that judgement." This satisfied Mitchell, and they launched into what-if scenarios.


The assumption was that they would need to bring her in for questioning, after which it was unlikely that she could be considered innocent. For one thing she would be guilty of knowing about her own abduction. The outline plan was that Duggan would pick up a suitable vehicle anyway. The vehicle would be available for Mitchell to perform any necessary abduction. Duggan would call Hadley the moment the abduction was effected. Hadley would then call and leave a message on her answer phone for Jean Galloway to say he had an investment opportunity and he was glad he had managed to get her as he must have taken her number down wrong. With the call coming through at the time of the abduction, this would be his alibi.




 "I think we're getting it together," John said to Jenny, as they breakfasted in the kitchen of their apartment. Even as he spoke, Duggan was passing the message to Hadley, twenty miles to the north: she's the wife of a police lieutenant, John Ralphs. Mitchell was given the green light.

"I'm going to give Chris a call as soon as he gets in at nine, and suggest I go over there. What are your movements today?" John asked.

"I guess it's back to work for me, after the excitement. I couldn't do that again. But I still can't believe it's that guy, even though I know it must be. I guess I'll head out about nine thirty. I'm going to walk in today. I need the exercise, even if no one else does." It always amused her that she was virtually the only pedestrian in town outside a radius of forty yards from the shopping malls.

"You know, Jenny, even when we've put our bit together, it still gets us nowhere evidence-wise. They have to do something else: make some mistake; provide some lead; give us some hard evidence; and I don't know what that's going to be, unless they do another bank. That's the last thing I want these trigger-happy bastards to do. It's lethal."

"That's why I say, rather my job then yours," Jenny answered. "You have to take crazy risks, and then you're still out in the cold. Yesterday's interview with Hadley was more than enough for me, much more than enough, never again." She smiled at him. Her understanding of his position was a huge boost to his confidence in this difficult situation. She stood up and busied herself around the apartment. It was not even eight o'clock.


Having arrived at six a.m., Hadley sat in his office, anticipating with eagerness the day ahead. This is my command and control centre, he thought. Today I am free to take control. So far I always had to combine this with the role of field officer. Today I'm George W. Bush sending forces into Afghanistan. I'm the Director of the CIA. He chuckled at the notion, and thought about his forces, his field officers. Duggan is a sly little devil, he thought, but he's weak. He'll carry out his orders to the letter, because he relies on me. And as for Mitchell, well, he's one of the few guys I know these days who likes to watch cowboy movies. He just loves gunning Red Indians down, and failing them whatever else he can get, and that's it for him. He sees no further than that. Still, he seemed to buy into the damsel in distress bit about Ralphs alias Galloway, so she should survive for the time being in his protective custody. I need to interrogate her, to ensure our plans are tailored to the situation. Again, he thought, this is me: command and control; conducting the whole operation from behind the scenes. I'm smart. Even when things went against us and we were trapped in the warehouse, I managed to get us out. Mitchell would have just blasted his way to an early grave, and Duggan would have panicked himself to the same underground destination. I got them out of there. Once we fix this situation, I'm going for a really big heist. I need a bigger organisation. I need a number two to handle execution while I set strategy. I need operatives in the field. The phone rang. It was eight thirty.

"I've given the vehicle to Mitchell," Duggan said. "He's outside the apartment block on foot."

"Thanks." Hadley clicked the phone off. The instruction was to phone in minimal but regular reports, so that he could track progress.


Jenny left the apartment soon after nine. It was just by chance that John glanced out of the window and saw her step onto the street. A large man emerged from a doorway and fell in behind her. At first it did not strike John, but then he thought there was something odd. He looked again, but they were already around the corner. I am being paranoid, he thought, but what the hell. He opened the door and ran down the steps. He raced along the sidewalk, turned the corner and looked up the street. As far as he could see, no man, no Jenny, and she should be on that street. He ran up the street and saw not a sign, not a soul. He ran back. Around the corner a smallish fellow came out of a telephone booth. John screamed the question: had he seen a woman about thirty. The man looked shocked and pointed around the corner where John had seen her go, and moved away fast from this apparent maniac. John rushed back up to the apartment. A message had just been left on the answer phone. He ignored it and called Ross.


Ross alerted his boss and a message went out instantly to all patrol cars. Ross was sent to pick up John and head straight for Hadley's office, even while an action plan was developed. Within three minutes Ross had picked up John, and with sirens blaring and lights flashing, they made it to Hadley's office, twenty miles to the north, in fourteen minutes. They burst in on Hadley, who was reading a stockbroker's circular, and showed him their ID.

"Gentlemen," Hadley said, perfectly calm and motioning to the two chairs in front of his desk, "do have a seat. What can I do for you?" John and Ross looked at one another. The voice, their looks said, it's uncanny.

"When did you get here?" John started, but looking at the blotter on Hadley's desk, saw his own phone number. "What's this?" he asked, pointing to the number.

"A Mrs Galloway," Hadley responded. "I've just called her about an investment opportunity. She was in yesterday. A new client. Unfortunately she was out, so I left a message on the answer phone."

"Excuse me," John said. He stepped outside the office and pressed the shortdial for home on his cell phone. When the answer phone came on, he punched in his security code, and sure enough Hadley's voice came on the line, very proper, very courteous, not a trace of tension. For security reasons John had instructed Jenny not to use their name in the answer phone message, so Hadley could fairly claim to believe that he had recognised Jean Galloway's voice and left a message. John went back into the office, but he let Ross complete the routine questions. Outside John said to Ross that Hadley must be in the clear, otherwise he was one hell of a cool customer. They had not expected to see him sitting in his office, let alone making a call to John's number. She wasn't supposed to give him our number, he said to Ross. Why did she do that? Much later it would occur to them that maybe she had not.


Back in the patrol car John turned to Ross.

"They've got to take me off suspension," he said. He reached for the radio.

"This is Ralphs here, I need to speak to the captain."

A few seconds later: "Ralphs?"

"We've drawn a blank up here, Sir. They have my wife. I request to be taken off suspension." John spoke evenly, without showing his emotion.

"Maybe that's why you should stay on suspension, Ralphs."

"No, Sir. If ever my expertise can be of use, let that be now," he persisted.

"Come and see me, Ralphs."

"It's looking good," Ross said, squeezing John's arm.


Jenny had left the apartment in good spirits, happy to have the unpleasant experience of yesterday behind her. As she turned the corner, she sensed a movement behind her. A hand came over her nose and mouth, and she felt the click of a handcuff around the left wrist. She was pulled back a fraction as the man's left hand reached past her and pulled open the car door. She was thrust into the back seat, felt the click of the other cuff on her right wrist and a hood came down over her head. The front door opened and closed. She was lying on her right side, but could not change her position, as the handcuffs were attached to something behind her. Breathing was difficult under the hood. She heard the car start and it moved off, swinging immediately into a road on the left. Side roads, she thought, but very soon lost any sense of direction, and terror set in.