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Signature Eleven


Bill Hadley sat in his office, perplexed, awaiting the arrival of Mitchell and Duggan. It did not make sense to him that the jeweller, who was ready to deal, should have struck out at Bob Mitchell, not at this stage. He was going to have to press Bob to make a clear identification of the three intruders who had attacked him. Bill was very aware of the significance of escalation. The point was that you never knew where it would lead. It wasn’t the same thing as using violence during a raid. If Bob had shared Bill’s view on escalation, he would never have drawn the blade and then the gun against Diane. Ultimately, this is what led to his wrong conclusions about who she was. It all happened so fast that he had no time to get any information about her.

It was clear from the moment Bob arrived that he was after retribution, that he felt humiliated. The three of them sat around Bill’s conference table. Bill rose to make coffee, but also to create space for him to think, away from Bob’s constant haranguing. He determined that without specifics, they would be wrong to make a move. He returned with the coffee.
“OK, Bob, we’re all in this together. You’ve got to give me something more to make a decision. What did these guys look like? What did they say? How did they get in?”
No answer.
Jim, who had revelled in the opportunity of taunting Bob earlier, also fell silent.
“Come on, Bob. Just describe one guy.” Bill tried to encourage him.
“OK, there was only one,” Bob admitted.
“Just one guy?” Bill was surprised by this sudden admission.
“No. One gal.” Bob looked very embarrassed.
“So you let her in and she tickled you too hard,” Jim screeched.
“Yes, I let her in. Anyone would have. Even you, with your minute pecker, Duggan.” Bob was resigned to declaring the facts. “She caught me off guard. Like we’re just sitting there and suddenly, crunch, and there’s broken glass everywhere.”
“Spare us the detail, Bob.” Bill was keen to defuse this and just get the facts. “No one can protect themselves against sudden unprovoked violence, that’s why we use it. Stop giggling like a schoolgirl, Jim. What’d she look like?”
“Five eight, elegant, blonde. Not your street fighting type.”
“No idea who she was. What’d she call herself?” Bill asked.
“Nothing. Not a word. She could have been the Swedish ambassador’s daughter for all I know.” Bob tried to delve into his memory for any clues.
“The silent type, huh.” Still smirking, Jim eyed Bob up.
“Clothes? Jewellery? Vehicle?” Bill asked.
“Nothing, Bill. I got a pretty serious crack on the head. Franky, it’s all a bit confused. Bill reached for the phone.
“You know what, Bob? I’m going to call the jeweller right now to ask if it was him?”

The reaction of the jeweller as to whether he was behind the attack on Bob was one of such abject terror that Bill was confident the jeweller’s denials were true. Anyway, there was no logic to it. They were about to conclude a first class business deal together. The meeting closed with the knowledge that they had a very serious problem that they had not begun to understand. Was someone probing their defences? Who and why? 


The next morning, over breakfast with Diane, Giles revised his position. She was suitably contrite, unable to believe she had been so stupid, so full of her own ego, to have tackled Bob Mitchell, as she euphemistically put it. The idea had seemed almost playful to her. She had seen herself upsetting Mitchell, having him back off from her and her wagging a warning finger as she left. But when the coffee table had smashed, everything had spun out of control. She felt guilty to the core.
“Forget it, Diane,” Giles said, “What’s done is done. But we’ve got to come clean with John, and Jenny.”
“I’ll call her now.” Diane got up and moved over to the phone. She could get Jenny before work, if she called now. She suggested they meet for lunch at Juanita’s.

The first to arrive at Juanita’s were John and Giles. They had a couple of drinks at the bar, before moving to a table. Diane and Jenny arrived together. At lunch they all had one overriding interest: what to do about this crazy situation. Diane described to them her visit to Mitchell and how extreme Mitchell’s reaction had been, to the extent of jamming a gun in her mouth. The least shocked by this was Diane herself, who had regained her confidence by now, and was just glad she had not lost any teeth or split a lip. She had never doubted that she had had the advantage of surprise.

Giles was disturbed when John related to them how suspicion was falling on him, and far from his suspension being lifted, it looked rather as if the investigation was about to intensify. Diane held to her position that Hadley and Mitchell had to be the prime suspects, given that they had no evidence for the supposed brother, except Hadley’s word. Hadley was now tainted by the weapon touting Mitchell, rather than exonerated by him as his alibi – at least, we have a bit of a turn around there, she suggested.

Then Giles grabbed the reins. He repeated his earlier warning to John and to Jenny, that if they were the focus of a psychopath, they should seriously consider getting the hell out of there, and now, without delay. If John had known about the anonymous letters, he might have agreed. As it was, he recognised the threat to their personal safety, but felt they had a duty, as he had expressed to the Captain, to stay with this one. There was too much history, too much personal grief involved. He could not just walk away, and live with that afterwards. They debated courses of action, what they could do. In the end John prevailed. He felt that they had already exposed themselves to too much personal risk. This was a police matter, and should stay such, exclusively. He, John, would again request to be allowed back to work on the case, and maybe Giles would be invited to provide some support with psychological profiling.

Three hours later John was in an interrogation room with two special agents handling the investigation. They questioned him aggressively, and he was baffled as to why they kept reverting to a raid on a jewellery store which had taken place a hundred miles distant. He knew nothing about this, but somehow they seemed to be tying this into the bank raids here and the scene at the warehouse. He was outraged when they implied that he might have deliberately allowed the fire truck to escape, finally breaking down in tears as he was forced, yet again, to relive that moment when his friend Captain Kinley died beside him, shot in cold blood in the line of duty.
“Kinley died believing what I believed,” he screamed, “that there were heavily armed men in the warehouse.”
“Others saw the supposed hostages draw their weapons,” they insisted.
“I repeat. When I saw a weapon in the hand of a hostage, I believed he had overpowered the other man. I issued instructions and raced for the hotspot, the warehouse.”
“It wasn’t the hotspot.” The same point over and over again.
“It was to my knowledge,” John was growing weary. “I was wrong. I still believe my actions at the time were right. I took over seamlessly from Kinley and did exactly what he would have done, not one second lost.” The logic of this was not lost on his investigators, and each time John’s answers conformed to the same pattern. They could not establish any weaknesses. They were doing their duty diligently, and were swayed in his favour by his testimony. Had they known about the anonymous letters, their position might have been different. It was a gruelling evening for John, but as he left, a reassuring clap on the shoulder raised his spirits more than words could have. On his return home that evening, Jenny noted a renewed vigour in his manner and revived spirits.

Giles was pleased to hear John on the line first thing next morning, suggesting they get together and he agreed. Giles assessment of John was that he was a very focused policeman, smart and on the ball. Giles felt that he had been dragged into this whole thing, and if he wanted to work with anyone, it was with John. John wanted Giles to call the Captain, informally, to capitalise on what John felt had been a good meeting with the investigators the day before. The problem was, as the Captain explained to Giles, that it was out of his hands. The Captain told Giles that he intended to stand up for John, and added, in confidence, that he had reason for his own serious concerns, but would give John the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Giles did not communicate the latter part to John, but made a mental note to himself.
“We’ve gotta do something, but we’ve gotta keep the girls out of it,” John said.
“True but difficult,” Giles replied.
“That was on hell of a thing Diane did. I’ve seen that guy. He’s huge.” John whistled.
“I caught the tail end of Vietnam, John. We were taught to do crazy things. But that was different. I still can’t believe Diane flipped like that.”
“Maybe that’s it, Giles. She did it all here. She never went to the Gulf. She never lived it, and her training was never put into its proper context.” John was thinking of some of the police trainees who would sometimes come up with off-the-wall ideas, entirely inappropriate to the situation.”
“Yeah, well, I guess we’ve got it in us somewhere. Maybe the training just drew it closer to the surface. We’re all tense. Friends gunned down. Jenny kidnapped.” Giles looked up at John, decided to move on. “I’ve drawn up a list John. We are all on it, except me…and Diane.”
“What list, Giles?”
“Suspects.” Giles began to explain how he had worked on the list last night, writing all the pertinent facts beneath each name in a column. He gave John a copy.
“Your column looks very bad, John.” John looked up at him.
“What do you mean?” John asked.
“I mean it could look like you’re involved with them, from what we know.” Giles looked meaningfully at John. “Show it to Ross. Ask him.”
“It doesn’t work if you don’t trust me, Giles.” John looked rueful.
“That’s not what I said. We’ve got to live in the real world. Face it. You’re being investigated. You’ve got to know what it looks like, to an outsider,” Giles explained.
“The Captain?” John began to wonder what he might have said.
“Consider him an outsider, John. He’s new.” Giles’ words reminded John of his awkward position. He had to do something.
“Diane dropped a rock in the pool, Giles. Let’s see what the turbulence throws up. I’ve got to find a way to get to Hadley, a way to get evidence.” 

The difference between John Ralphs and Bill Hadley was that John Ralphs believed he had to search for evidence, while Bill Hadley believed he could manufacture it, or rather counterfeit it, and that was what he was doing right now.

Her first day back, Jenny had left for work at the usual time. Hadley saw her go, and as soon as John Ralphs left the apartment block, Hadley, accompanied by Duggan, moved in. John had been called out to enough break-ins to know that there was only so much you could do for security. He decided he would prefer to have a broken lock than a broken door, so he just had the one five lever lock. Not that the number of locks would have made much difference to Duggan, who required little more than a minute to work out what he needed to crack this lock.

They were looking for an innocuous, but incriminating item to leave at a future crime scene. Seeing photos of Jenny on the mantelpiece reminded Bill of the walks with her in the woods, and he felt a pang. He should keep her sweet. Maybe he could make a move once her husband was in jail. A photo, that would be good, he thought. Immediately identifiable as Ralph’s wife, and with his prints on it. Was it plausible that you could lose a photo on a raid? What about in a wallet? On a neck chain, like a locket? In the pocket of a jacket, pulled off or ripped in the action? No, John would not be in the raid. He would be outside. Standing lookout? Or maybe we set him up to disturb us on the raid, but then they find evidence of his presence where it could not have been, that implicates him.

“Jim, we need some brainstorming here.” Hadley continued to look around, while Duggan worked on a floor safe in a cupboard off the hall.
“I was thinking of shoe prints. That kind of stuff,” Duggan responded.
“Difficult in a marble banking hall, Jim. What about leaving something in the getaway car? In the heat of the moment.”
“I’ve got his police identity badge here in the safe, Bill.” Jim’s shrill voice intoned. A police badge, now that was something.
“What about his gun?” Bill asked.
“And his gun.”
“Wow.” Bill gave a soft low whistle. He pulled out his cell phone and called Bob, whispering hurried instructions. Ten minutes later Bob arrived with a very fat suitcase loaded with mineral water bottles filled with gasoline. Jim smelled the gasoline and gave Bill a questioning look.
“The problem is,” Hadley said, “that if we take the gun and the badge, he will know as soon as he opens the safe. So we’ve got to burn down the apartment.”
“That means the whole apartment block, Bill.” Jim was not enthused by this idea. Bob sat there flicking his lighter expectantly. “I don’t see us getting clear, Bill,” Jim continued.
“So what’s the alternative?” Bill also began to feel he was behaving precipitously.
It was Bob who answered. “Have Duggan unscrew the bolts holding the safe to the floor. I’ll carry it out.”
“How does that help?” Bill asked.
Bob again: “We do the raid before he realises. After the event no one will believe him. Two: even if he does report it, it’s suspicious. Burglars steal the contents of safes, not safes, and this one’s fifty kilos, at a guess.”
“I buy that, Bob.” Jim was quick to assent. “He had stuff piled on top to hide the safe. He won’t know it’s gone unless he goes to get something from the safe.” Bill thought about this and agreed that it was a safer plan, if not as final as burning the place to the ground. He slipped one of the framed photos of Jenny into his pocket. Jim soon had the bolts free. He stood lookout while Bob carried the safe down the stairs and Bill carried the suitcase of gasoline, no longer required. Jim then set about leaving the apartment exactly as they had found it.

When John came home later the only thing that would strike him was an inexplicable smell of gasoline. He opened the windows to air the apartment.