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Driving north with the three of them in the front of the pick-up, Bill Hadley kept a steady banter going with the aim of relieving Bob’s morose mood. Eventually he took the bull by the horns. “You nearly had me there, Bob.” He turned towards Bob, grinning. “If you’d shot her, two days of my work on the laptop would have gone out of the window. All my planning. But I woke up at four and suddenly realised I hadn’t planned you in right.”
“Screw your plans,” Bob retorted. “She’s at large and I’m at risk.”
“Come on, Bob,” Bill cajoled him. “You’ll get to shoot someone else. Right now I’ve got it sorted. She’s our safety valve. Just sit tight and wait.” Bob brightened up a bit. He knew from the past that Bill generally had smart ideas that worked. Well, what was done was done. He could not change it now, and go back and shoot her, so he had better make the best of it.
“Give me another beer, Jim,” he ordered, “and think about evolution, right.”

As the road ahead came to meet them interminably mile after mile at fifty-five miles per hour, Bill began to think about those walks in the woods. He could feel it was happening again. He knew it would do him no good, but he was drawn to her. It would be just like all the other times, in the end, he knew, when rage would overtake him. Again the thought came to him that he should seek professional help. One of his clients was a psychiatrist locally, very eminent. They were quite good friends. Can he not see it for himself, see into my head, Bill thought? Can he not tell me why this is happening again? Then he rationalised it to himself. No, this time I am completely in control. I can take her or leave her. I do not need help. Bob needs help. Jim needs help. They are both psychotic. You just have to look at them to know that.

In his seat Jim was dozing dreamily. He had half listened to the banter between Bill and Bob, but it did not interest him. How come I get hooked up with these weirdoes? he asked himself. I guess it’s the money. Who else has asked me to rob a bank with them? And we do split our shares evenly. Bill plans, Bob shoots and I do whatever they tell me to do. I guess it’s OK. When it comes down to it, we do a pretty good job, make a good team. The kind of ultra-violence we use seems to work quite well around here, where the cops prefer to pussyfoot around like ballet dancers. I can’t believe they let us just walk out of that warehouse and jump in a fire truck. I guess Bill worked that one out well – when the shit hit the fan, he reversed thrust. Those guys got splattered, well and truly splattered, in all senses of the word. He laughed to himself.

“Well boys, it’s been a fun holiday,” Bill was saying, as Jim awakened from his reverie.
“Good fishing, if no shooting,” Bob added.
“It’s back to work tomorrow,” Bill continued. “Leave it with me. I’ll fix the situation with the cops. Give me three days. Bob, you just tell them you took off scared, if they ask. Just like you said you would, if they didn’t call you back. Then say you’ve spoken to me and you don’t believe them. Say it’s a load of utter bullshit. The tape must be a fake. It doesn’t make sense.”
“OK,” Bob agreed.
“And Jim, you just tell the cops to go to hell. You’re not a nice guy, so don’t pretend to be. I think you’re a jerk. What do you think, Bob?”
“My mum doesn’t like me to use the words that would describe him,” Bob replied.
“So your mum told you to wash your hands after you’d been to the bathroom, but that didn’t make any difference.” Jim wrinkled up his nose, in indication of the source of smell. However, the conversation quickly moved on to professional matters connected with banks and jewellery stores, the latter being an as yet untested business proposition for this little group. 

Over the next couple of days the police left the trio in peace. As Ross explained it to John that evening, they were stymied. They quite simply did not know which way to go. Every lead resulted in a dead-end. John had waited to call Ross until they were back at the apartment. He needed to be settled and so did Jenny. She had assured him that she had not been harmed or molested in any way; in fact they had shown her more courtesy than he did. He was about to offer to drive her around in the trunk of the car in the future, handcuffed, but she disappeared into the bathroom with the evident intention of a relaxing morning in the bath. Ross came straight round. They talked the whole thing through, but Jenny had not been able to give John anything on the drive back, other than that there seemed to be just one kidnapper. It had to be connected with Hadley, but then why did he let her go? Why were there no demands? It did not make sense. So maybe it wasn’t Hadley. They would have the cabin at the lake, or what was left of it, checked out, but they both knew that that would yield nothing. What next?

“I’m afraid to make another move, Ross.” John looked at Ross, pain showing in his face. “We were stuck, so we tried to force them into the open, to make a mistake, and then this awful thing happened, this kidnapping. Then we tried to force the issue again with the tape and Mitchell, and everything went dead. Then I get phone calls from Jenny and she resurfaces. It baffles me. What’s it all about? I daren’t take another step, for fear of the whole thing spiralling out of control again.”
Ross sat there and said nothing. He too felt it was beyond him. Finally he spoke. “They got nothing on the first raid, John. On the second raid they got just under thirty grand. They’re going to have to strike again. Let’s hope it’s not here, but wherever it is we’ve got to get them. That’s all there is to it. There’s a debt there, John, a very big debt.”

 If the financial advisory business had been tedious before, now it was beyond Bill Hadley to focus on it. Most of the time in his office was spent on his laptop, honing his plans. Jewellery was the new project. The raid was easy. What he was working on was a safe way to turn it into cash. What Jim called their ultra-violence was effective on one side of the deal, so why not on the other. If they took a jewellery fence out in a very unpleasant way, then maybe the other receivers of stolen jewels would be more amenable in negotiations. He thought about this and decided he would like to put in place a process. He would start with simple threats, escalate to a bit of minor assault, followed by full-scale torture and execution, with plenty of evidence left behind. They would need some kind of alias, some kind of cover, and he was beginning to think a dirty cop might be the answer. Maybe he could tie two things together, and use as his alias (or more probably Bob’s alias in this case), the name of Lieutenant John Ralphs. After all, if things turned really bad, they could always stick a bogus abduction of his wife on him. In fact, the more he thought about it, the better it looked. What it could be made to look like was dirty cop Lieutenant John Ralphs trying, with his devious scheming wife, to frame Bill Hadley, law abiding financial consultant. He smiled and picked up the phone to Jim Duggan.


The bell rang at the apartment door. Jenny opened it to see Bill Hadley. Bill Hadley stepped back in surprise.
“Mrs Galloway! I’m here to see John Ralphs. I had no idea you knew him. Is he in? If not, I shall come back later.” Jenny was stunned, but did not show it. He was not threatening.
“Do come in,” she said. “I’m sure he will be here in a few minutes. Do wait in the lounge. We’re in the kitchen, if you need anything.” He might as well believe she was with Mrs Ralphs. It was easier than trying to explain what she had been doing in his office. They moved through into the lounge.
“Jenny, I know it was you.” His soft voice surrounded her, but there was no menace. “That’s why I’m here. To clear the air. I bear no grudge. I know your husband must do his job. If suspicion has fallen upon me, I must be investigated, as any other citizen.” He smiled at her and sat down. She sat across from him. Then the door opened and John came into the apartment. He walked into the lounge and looked at them, baffled. They both rose and Hadley repeated to John his earlier words to Jenny. John motioned for him to sit, taking the centre of the sofa opposite. Jenny was obliged to sit next to Hadley.
“I really wanted to clear the air.” His melodious voice continued. “I also felt deeply for Jenny when she was taken away by force. I could not help thinking how brave she must have been when she came to my office, to interview a callous killer, a thief who would stop at nothing. And that is also why I am here.” John was embarrassed, not least because his suspicions of Hadley were still there, and now the man was his guest in his lounge.
“I had to do that, Mr Hadley. Our friends died. I had to help find these evil people. I had to help John.” Jenny was visibly distressed.
“I accept that.” He smiled at John and added, “Someone such as your wife may investigate me any time, Mr Ralphs.” Silence fell, and Hadley broke it. “Evil is a medieval word, not appropriate for modern police practice. I would say they are not evil but psychopathic.”
“What’s the difference? Evil is evil.” This was clear to Jenny.
“I think there may be a difference, one which is important for police work. Lieutenant Ralphs may agree. A psychopath may be acting in a very rational manner, just with a little less emotion.”
“You mean as in gunning down police officers in cold blood,” John cut in, willing the discussion to end.
“Consider this. A beautiful woman such as Jenny is kidnapped.” He took her hand. “And it pains us.” He gently released her hand. “And you, John. You are in love with Jenny. You would risk your life for her. Is that rational? I would feel the same, John, but in this case she is not my Jenny. But if she were and if she loved me, then I too would be ruled by emotion like you, in this particular case. The psychopath experiences less emotion, John. That is all. He wants money. Someone is in his way. He shoots him. This is what mankind does anyway, John, in wars. It is what the psychopath is prepared to do within his own community, and this is what we object to.” The words washed around Jenny and she sank back in the sofa next to him. He wanted to draw this out as long as he could as he sat there with her. She could see John as if he were on a distant shore willing her to come back to him, and then the spell was broken. Hadley stood, reluctantly, to leave. He had achieved the first step of what he termed reconciliation, but not as well as he had hoped.

 “He’s slimy,” John said.
“He’s not slimy, John. He’s a ladies’ man. That’s why he makes you uncomfortable. His soft voice makes us feel warm inside. He is appealing to us, rather than speaking to us. I felt the same in his office.”
“That stuff about psychopaths was weird.” John did not want to hear about Hadley’s charms.
“It was weird. I’m seeing my counsellor tomorrow.” A psychiatrist had been assigned to help Jenny over her ordeal. “I’d like to ask him about this.”
“I’ll come with you, Jenny. I have my own questions.” 

Giles Marshall was in his mid fifties, and had practised psychiatry in both hospitals and private practice. As his profession demanded, he had a good listening manner. He had a sleepy look with drooping eyelids that set his patients at ease. He greying hair and lined face added a fatherly impression. He saw little point in seeing Jenny. It was a duty for him and for her. Clearly she was totally together and had no adverse effects from the kidnapping, but they would both go through the motions of counselling as was expected of them. However, he livened up when they addressed the question of psychopaths.

“This is my special draw,” he said, opening a locked steel cabinet. Mostly people display a mix of symptoms that make up their particular case. But every now and then I have a patient who brings together all the fragments of the condition in one case, like a full house in poker. These cases I collect for reference. This man – let’s call him Al Capone – mirrors what you have just been describing to me.” He pulled a file out of the draw of the cabinet.

“Giles, let’s do a role-play here,” John proposed. “Let’s assume that the man we mentioned who told us about the psychopaths yesterday is a psychopath. Describe the situation to us. We’ll sit back and listen to your lecture.”
“John, Jenny, your man was right. We do now believe that part of the brain is physically smaller in subjects with psychopathic conditions. I won’t be technical, so think of it as the seat of the emotions that is undeveloped in a classical psychopath. Your man will appear normal, because in most senses he is normal. If he is highly intelligent, his very rationality may be heightened and dangerous. Because he does not live in our emotional world, at least not in the sense of the rest of us, he may devote considerable energy to planning things that we would never even consider doing. He may establish an objective and then eliminate what stands between him and his objective remorselessly.”
“So he’s a rational man then?” Jenny asked.
“Don’t think of if like that,” Giles continued. “He will have desires like you or I, but he will do things to satisfy those desires that we cannot do. He may fall in love, but there he will be thwarted. He may have a well-honed social veneer, but underneath his veneer the person he hopes to love, the object of his affections, will eventually encounter ice, cold steel, call it what you will. In most things he can take what he wants. In love he cannot: it must be reciprocated. This is one classic situation in which he gets dangerous. He may be good looking with exceptional social graces on the surface, which he has learnt, but his emotionally retarded nature will always come through. He may have been rejected many times in the past, and may or may not have controlled his violent reaction, but ultimately it will out, as they say. ”
“So if we encountered such a person, what should we do?” John asked.
“What I would do,” Giles turned very serious, “is pack my bags and start again elsewhere, if my ties here were not too strong. Speaking as a psychiatrist, I do not believe a healthy man or woman can escape from a determined psychopath of the type you describe.”
“Can’t he be arrested and imprisoned?” Jenny asked.
“Jenny, he is a very hard man to catch. He is devious, manipulative and very, very aware of what he is doing. He will take care of the last little detail if he is like the man in my file.” Giles waved the file and looked very unhappy. John also felt unnerved. He knew what Giles meant. He knew how difficult it was to collect evidence that would stand up in court. The rule of law did not make it easy to catch psychopathic killers, and psychopathic killers seemed the best way to describe the men who had so recently come among them. But who were they?
Jenny persisted. “Can we oblige someone to take a psychiatric assessment, or even get them to volunteer.”
“It’s very difficult, Jenny,” Giles responded. “It’s like when you have an intermittent fault in a mechanical device. It’s like your washing machine works fine when the repairman arrives, and then cuts out again as soon as he’s gone. The human mind is very complex, and this man may be very clever.” With this the discussion reached a close. What Giles was unaware of was that John and Jenny were thinking of Bill Hadley, and what John and Jenny were unaware of was that Bill Hadley had been Giles’ financial advisor for the last three years, and he and Bill would often meet for a friendly drink, but then it was a small town, and Giles had said psychopaths were hard to spot.

For the coming Saturday John decided to hold a party to celebrate the return of the rescued hostage. Somehow it seemed right to keep it an intimate event with the people who had been involved. The first to arrive were Ross and his wife Mary. In her early thirties, Mary was in the throes of recent motherhood with a son of two and a daughter of eight months, both of whom, after due admiration, would be settled in the bedroom to sleep, or not as the case may be. Still bright and youthful, recent months had wrought lines of tiredness beneath Mary’s eyes. Otherwise with her trim figure and shoulder-length blonde hair she could have been Jenny’s sister. Next came John’s bother Chris with his wife Liz. The women knew one another and John was introduced to Liz, a lively petite lady in her late twenties. Giles might have seemed out of place in this crowd, when he arrived, and maybe his wife Diane, his second wife, was in her way. Diane was a classic older man’s wife, these days in the upper echelons termed trophy wife. As she came into the lounge, she could as well have been modelling her green velvet evening gown on the catwalk. Elegant, sparkling, she introduced herself to the gathering, and underneath her exterior she revealed a true interest in each of them. The psychiatrist had chosen wisely after all.

John drew the chairs into a circle in the lounge, and they took their places while he served drinks. As the minutes dragged into double digits, the conversation remained strained. Eventually Jenny decided she had to do something.
“You know, kids, it’s like we’re teenagers invited to a disco, waiting for the parents to leave, so that we can get going.” A laugh went around the circle, nervous not hearty. “There’s a subject we’re avoiding.”
“I can’t guess what,” Chris chipped in. This time the laugh was less artificial.
“Giles, you take the chair. Let’s get it out in the open,” Jenny proposed. Giles stood up and moved out of the circle, so that they all had to turn to look at him.
“So what’s the agenda,” he opened, smiling in his relaxed fashion. “What’s the common theme?”
“Abduction?” John suggested.
“So how many of us have been abducted?” Giles asked.
“Chasing the voice,” Chris proposed enthusiastically. He had been excited by his success, and in the back of his mind was planning to find a commercial application for this software. His sparks ignited the surrounding timber. This was exactly what they wanted to do: make progress on the case that blighted their town.
“Give me a few moments to think about this,” Giles instructed them. “Talk among yourselves.” He moved to the kitchen. Immediately the conversation in the lounge developed the buzz that had been so lacking. In the kitchen Giles considered his options. There were a lot of emotions riding on this, probably a hell of a lot more than people realised. He did not want to end up with a catastrophic scene in the lounge. In the end he decided to take an academic approach, to treat it like a sort of seminar and see what came out. He went back into the lounge.
“OK, class, pay attention.” Giles struck his professor’s pose, waiting for the noise to subside.
“John, tell me what is this, this chasing the voice?” He asked.
“Well.” John thought for a moment. “It’s all we’ve got, the sound of this guy’s voice. We thought if we chase the voice, we’ll find him. That’s how we got in this mess and…”
“Stop right there,” Giles interrupted. He was going to keep tight control of this. “I’m beginning to see the makings of an intriguing proposition. Much research has gone into the voice with regard to lie detectors and so on; much research has dealt with clues to an individuals background and education sculpting the way we speak, but that’s more language than voice. We’re looking at something different.”
Ross: “So what are we looking at?”
“Let’s find out,” Giles proposed, looking around the circle. “I’m going to ask each of you what you see in a voice. Chris, you start.”
“A voice. Well I deal with a lot of voices, disembodied voices, I suppose, where all I’ve got is the voice. At work I meet people on the telephone and often only get to see them much later. I used to visualise the person from his voice. Now I deliberately keep it blank. That’s really since I met this one guy I’d been dealing with for a couple of years. I went to meet a fifty year old, balding with a paunch and smoking a pipe. In fact, I met this twenty-two year old six foot six athlete.”
Giles laughed. “I like that, Chris. You got the message.” Giles looked at Jenny. “ Jenny?”
“For me a voice tells me of an emotional state. A voice can really move you, like your favourite singer, when you feel a shiver going down your spine, or it can leave you cold, even disgust you, but mostly it affects you one way or another.” Jenny would have continued but Giles pointed at Ross.
“I guess it’s my work, but I look for what the person behind the voice is thinking and what clues the voice gives me. Is he telling the truth? Is he nervous? I guess I’m a human lie detector.” That was Ross’s contribution and it moved to Chris’s wife Liz.
“I’m probably the reverse of what Chris said. As soon as someone opens their mouth I place them in various categories. Where do they come from, town or country? Did they go to college and so on?” Chris was going to say something but Giles stopped him and moved to John.
“Right now I’m just fixated on that one voice. I hear his words echoing in my ears. I want to nail the bastard.” John looked very grim.
“Hmm. I’m not sure you’ve quite entered the spirit of this little seminar, John, but no matter. As chairman of this convention, I now invite the last participant’s contribution, my darling wife Diane.
“Giles, I know this is a trick and that you plan to hold me hostage with your psychiatric horse-play, whatever I answer.” She grinned at the others. “But even with your fancy education, when it comes to practical psychology you’re no match for a woman. Ladies, you can see who wears the trousers in our household. Voices. There are two types of voice: voices I know, friends and family; and then there are the rest. That’s it, Giles. Do with it what you will, but you’re not getting me on your couch.” She finished to a round of applause. Looking at her, Jenny saw a toughness underneath the veneer of fashion model or society hostess. One tough lady: she could be a marine in another life, Jenny thought, smiling.
“Gentlemen” - Giles took back the reins -  “and ladies, if you are still interested, I shall sum up.” Mary came out of the bedroom where she had been quieting the kids. “Mary, motherhood excuses you of making a fool of yourself, like the rest of them, but you’re in time to hear the results.”
“Thank you, Giles.” She took a seat.
“Now then, Liz, I’m excluding your contribution. You were talking about language, not voice, which you use to size people up; very valuable but not our subject today. John, I’m excluding you for the reason you gave yourself, you just want to nail the bastard. Are we all agreed?”
“Get on with it, Giles,” said Diane.
“That leaves us with Chris, Jenny, Ross and Diane, four differing positions. Let’s look at them. Ross, you are the lie detector. You are dealing with how the voice betrays us, with a tremble, a tension, whatever. Interesting and well studied. Agreed?”
“That’s it, doc,” Ross assented.
“Now, Jenny, I’m going to deal with you and Chris together. Chris had worked out that the sound of a voice does not tell you a person’s physical characteristics, including even age. You, however, believe it communicates to you at an emotional level. Tell me, in view of what Chris said, do you really think that the emotion conveyed to you by the singer is shared by the singer? Or is it just a professional performance, just an illusion of emotion?”
“You mean I’m being duped?” Jenny asked. “Duped into believing in an emotion which isn’t there. No, I don’t agree with you. I think the performer is a performer because she feels and can display emotion, and that’s the message I get.”
“I agree with you, Jenny.” Giles looked at Chris. “So I put it to you, Chris, that you have missed something. You have trained yourself to ignore clues from a voice, false clues, to physical appearance. But you do impute other things, Chris, personality and character.”
“Yeah, I sure do that, Giles.”
“OK, so what have we got?” Giles started his summing up. “Sorry, Diane, of course, family and friends. What is this? Social cohesion? Familiarity? Like the song we grow to like because we are used to it, or the sound of our mother, soothing us as a child. Diane, I have to think about that. Anyway, what we have is that a voice is distinct from the appearance of a person but it’s bound up with things like personality, emotion and mental state, trust, truthfulness, and no one even told me that it speaks words so that we can communicate.” Giles stopped here and looked around.
“And John, I wrongly excluded you. What you told us, somewhat abstrusely, is that a voice is unique.”
“This is the heart of it, Giles. I have the voice, and Ross and I think we have the man, because he has that voice. But then we find it’s not the man.” John was agitated.
“Yes, that’s it,” Ross agreed. “How is this possible?”
“Well, I guess that concludes the seminar,” Giles said. “Now it’s down to police work.”
Diane stood up.
“What a wonderful opportunity you have given me, Giles, to make a fool of you.”
“What do you mean?” Giles could see from her sly smile that she had a party-piece lined up.
“Ladies, our men folk never listen to us - well, maybe because we never shut up - here we have an eminent psychiatrist working on a police problem. His wife, me, gives him the very clue he needs, but he’s so tied up in his psychiatry that he can’t see it.”
“My husband’s a policeman and he can’t see it either,” interjected Mary.
“He’s a man too, Mary. You’ve said it, Giles: family and friends. Every voice is unique, but when do we get confused? We call our friends on the phone. One day, in adolescence, the son’s voice breaks. We think we’re talking to the father when the son answers the phone. It’s uncanny.”

There was uproar in this little group as the realisation struck home, the false realisation, that Hadley might not be “the voice” but a very close relative of it. Later, much later, Diane would wish she had never made that point. After the guests left, as she cleared up, Jenny kept thinking, we’re just one step away, just one step. I’ve come so far; I must make it all worthwhile.

Sunday was uneventful, but Jenny was keyed up with anticipation. She left early on Monday morning without even waking John. Bill Hadley was surprised, very surprised, to see her walk into his office and very pleased. He closed the file on his computer, headed “Alias John Ralphs” and stood up to greet her courteously.
“I really wanted to thank you, Mr Hadley, for the consideration you showed, in coming round to see my husband and me.”
“I felt it was right, that some way I was implicated in this whole thing.” She already felt the warmth of his concern enveloping her. They sat in silence, as she groped for ways of broaching the question that was burning within her, and then it simply came out.
“Mr Hadley, do you have a brother?” His relaxed expression was unchanged, but his mind raced. He could see no reason for the question, but another opportunity to lay confusion opened up to him, and he improvised. A sadness came into his eyes, as he spoke.
“I didn’t know I had a brother until my mother died last year.” It was true she had died. “Well, just before she died. My father died years ago.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. In fact, he had not seen his mother for more than twenty years.
“That’s OK. She told me she had a child when she was still under age. Same father. It was adopted. When they married years later, it was too late, and then they had me.” His sad expression brightened, and another idea came to him. “He lived locally, my brother. She knew who he was. Bad type, she said. Off the rails. I never knew who he was. Found nothing in her papers.” He changed the subject. “And you? You’ve really perked up.” It was true. This new information had given Jenny a rush of excitement. So they were on target with “the voice” but it was the brother. Hadley continued on a different tack, and Jenny slipped into the embrace of his gentle tones. It was he who drew the conversation to a close, claiming to have an appointment. As Jenny left, he knew that he did not really understand what was behind her visit, but he was sure that he had taken a major step forward with the tale he had made up about his non-existent brother. He would call Bob Mitchell and they would set the next stage of the plan in motion. 

Ross stepped into the Captain’s office, a very grave Captain this morning.
“Take a seat, Ross. I didn’t want to show you this, but I’m going to.” He passed across an envelope, addressed in typeface to the Captain. Ross pulled out a single folded sheet of paper inside the envelope. The first thing he saw was the word “anonymous”, at the bottom where the signature should be. He read it. It was short. He looked at his boss.
“I can’t believe it’s him,” Ross stuttered.
“I neither. Tell no one. Watch him. Frankly, I’m not going to do my duty, and you can witness this.” He tore up the letter and threw it in the waste bin. “Just you and I know, and that’s enough. I don’t want those bastards from outside meddling.” The Captain signalled that the meeting was over. Back at his desk Ross slumped in his seat and covered his face with his hands. He saw the words of accusation as if the letter were still before him.

You might call me a thief but I am not a killer. I will not give you names for fear of my own safety, but there is one among you. My friends, no longer my friends since that disastrous raid, were helped by one of yours, and helped to escape, even when they had murdered his own. I despise him. Do your job.

It was John who stopped him from shooting them at the warehouse when they boarded the fire truck. John carried on investigating while he was on suspension. Was he trying to allay suspicion? John pushed the whole voice thing and fingered Bill Hadley, even though there was clearly nothing usable as evidence. To divert attention? It was John who reported Jenny abducted and who then recovered her safe and sound. Was this staged? None of it had made sense, but as soon as you slotted John in as the bad guy, then the whole pattern fell into place. Was John playing the assiduous policeman and diverting attention from himself? Even going as far as staging the abduction of Jenny? This is impossible, Ross thought. I have known this man for years. We are best friends. It cannot be. But when I ignore my personal relationship, when I act dispassionately as a police officer, then he looks guilty as hell. It even looks as if Jenny is in it with him. Is there really something I don’t know about them?

It was just an hour later that John came with Jenny to see Ross. He met them in a meeting room. John entered beaming. At first he had been angry when Jenny returned from Hadley’s office, but this was soon replaced by euphoria, once he realised they were probably right about the voice after all. It was just that they had the wrong brother. Ross listened to them and asked questions, but to John Ross seemed incredibly distant, as if untouched by this momentous news. We just have to find the brother, John was telling him, and better than that he’s local, and he’s known to be a hoodlum, at least according to Hadley. For his part, Ross’s mind was flooded with doubt. I don’t believe this, he told himself. He really is incriminating himself. Does he really expect me to believe that he would put Jenny through this after what happened to her last time. It’s simply not credible. Then standing to leave, John said, throwing Ross into total turmoil, “We have to thank, Jenny. If she had told me she was going to do this, there’s no way I would have let her. Not after what happened last time.”

 Twenty miles to the north, Bill Hadley clicked off his laptop, ending the slide show he had projected on the wall for Bill Mitchell.
“So that’s it, Bill. You’re John Ralphs for this little trip. You won’t tell them that, but I’ll make sure they find out.” They both laughed, Bob with a deep guttural booming.
“Bill, I’ve always wanted to be a cop. They expect me?”
“I’ve made an appointment Bob. They want jewels. You have access to them. It’s just that when it comes to the negotiation you’re gonna threaten the hell out of them. Frankly, I think you’re a pretty nasty piece of work anyway, so you should have no problem with that.”
“I appreciate your confidence in me, Bill, but I’ll keep my opinion of you to myself. Well, not quite. Jim knows it.” Bob’s whole body rocked with laughter at his own joke, at least he thought it was a joke. “But I’d like to modify your plan, Bill. I think it will have more impact, if I go back to the bar the same night, and, if the guy’s in there, break his fingers in front of witnesses.” Bill thought about this, and then amended his planogram.
“OK, Bob. I buy that. You’re on.” With that, the new John Ralphs set out for his rendezvous to negotiate the sale of still-to-be-stolen jewels. Things were looking up. Bob was even beginning to think it might have been right, after all, not to shoot the girl. Bill was one smart dude.

If Bob had seen Bill’s planogram, he would have seen a box with him in it, performing a minor crippling exercise on a small-time jewellery fence. He would have seen that this box led to multiple options, to cover what needed to be done next. The problem with using operatives like Bob Mitchell was that you never really knew what they would end up doing in the heat of action. On the other hand, the reason Bill liked to work with Bob was that however of-the-wall Bob’s actions may be, he would never end up exposing himself and would always spot a (usually violent) way out of a difficult situation. Bill recognised that, while his own solution had undoubtedly been better, Bob would have found a way to get out, in his own style, when they had been trapped in the warehouse. The unpredictability made it fun.