Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
The explosive fourth instalment in the DCI Jones Casebook series of crime thrillers—this is CRYER’S VIEW.
For more than five years police operations in the southeast of England have been failing. Chief Superintendent Knightly, a senior member of the National Crime Agency, suspects that someone is selling police intelligence. When one of his junior officers dies before he can attend clandestine meeting with him, Knightly is certain—there’s a dirty cop inside his organisation.
Unable to trust anyone under his command, Knightly turns to an old friend for help—Detective Chief Inspector David Jones.
When Detective Sergeant Phil Cryer, answers his doorbell to find CS Knightly and DCI Jones on his doorstep, he knows things are about to get interesting—and dangerous.
Phil Cryer, on sick leave after suffering an injury in the line of duty, soon finds himself deep undercover inside the NCA hunting the dirty cop, codename Alpine. He faces his most difficult and dangerous assignment.
Alone, injured, and armed only with his phenomenal memory, Phil must identify the rogue cop before he escapes … or kills again.
Friday 6th September
The early afternoon sun toasted the air inside Richie Juno’s Ford Mondeo. He removed his tie, rolled it into a coil, and dropped it on the passenger’s seat. Despite lowering all four windows, no air circulated. He couldn’t fire up the engine to use the aircon, and the temperature inside the cabin rose to pizza oven intensity. A glug of water helped, but he needed to conserve his supply. No telling how long he’d be watching the house or tailing his man.READ MORE
Richie yawned and checked his watch: 13:55. Time for his first report. He pressed the button on his Bluetooth earpiece. The communications system’s voice recognition software would add a time stamp, his details, and store it in audio and auto-print files. On his return to the office, he’d only have to read the transcript and sign the bottom of each page to confirm its accuracy. No need for today’s police officer to type field reports or witness statements by hand. Comms software took care of the grunt work and prevented typist’s repetitive strain injury—the curse of the old-time plod.
The system bleeped in readiness.
“Detective Sergeant Richard Juno. Badge number 3-6-8-8-2-D. I’m parked outside the subject’s house. Nothing to report since my arrival. That’s twenty-five minutes of my life I won’t get back. Wait … there’s movement at the front door. Yes, I see him. The subject is wearing blue jeans and a dark grey polo shirt, and is carrying a canvas backpack. His face is hidden by a baseball cap, but it looks like the target. I’m taking shots for the family album.”
He hefted the digital SLR, drew in the focus, and held down the button. The camera’s motor whirred and the shutter clicked. The subject, Sunil Pradeep, slid behind the wheel of the car parked on the drive, reversed into the road, and turned left, away from Richie.
“Subject is driving a midnight blue Renault Clio. Index number matches the one on file. Tinted windows all around, including the windscreen. Dark enough to be illegal. Hope a uniform doesn’t pull him over or I’ll never find out where he’s going or who he’s meeting.”
He followed the Renault along the North Circular Road and tuned into Radio 2—low background music wouldn’t interfere with the recording software. As was his style, he kept the system open and sang along to the music—deliberately off-key in case any of the minions at Eavesdropper Central decided to earwig him in real time. They hated his voice and kept telling him to stop, but he needed to appear normal. He needed to be Richie Juno, the upbeat family man who couldn’t sing for crap, not Richie Juno, the suspicious cop, who searched for and found dark secrets.
Fuck it all to hell. Why did it have to fall on him? Suspicion was a crushing weight to carry alone—one he hated. He’d considered telling Billy, but his brother-in-law would have laughed and told him to cut the conspiracy theory bullshit.
Too bloody right it was a conspiracy, but how deep did it run?
He had no hard evidence, not yet, only suspicions and gut instinct, but he did have enough to take to the governor. Yes, Chief Superintendent Knightly would know what to do—after all, it was his bloody job to know—and it would take a load off.
He’d lay it all out to the big man first thing Monday morning. Meanwhile, he’d carry on with the grunt work. That, he could handle—grunt work was his speciality.
Traffic slowed to a stop-start crawl, and they didn’t reach the Chiswick Flyover until 16:15. He lowered the volume on the radio and spoke again.
“Two hours to cover thirteen bloody miles. I ask you. Why would anyone choose to drive through London on a Friday afternoon? Bloody idiot. Where’s he heading? The target’s a city boy. Nothing in his file about him ever straying into bandit country.”
To pass the time and entertain the minions, should they be listening, he started a running commentary.
“We’re on the M4 heading west, repeat, west, towards Welsh-Wales, boyo. Here’s a thought. If we cross the border, will I need a passport?” He winced as the Renault bullied its way into an impossibly small gap between a petrol tanker and an old Bedford panel van. The Bedford’s driver blared his horn and flashed his lights. Pradeep gave him the finger and the Bedford closed to within a couple of centimetres of the Renault’s bumper.
“Whoa. The target’s driving like he’s got a death wish. He’d better take it easy or I’ll be scraping him out of a wreck. He’s either spotted me, or he’s as pissed as I am about the queues. I’m guessing the latter.”
The nose-to-tail traffic, as far ahead as Richie could see, crawled along at less than ten miles per hour. He settled down to continue the long, boring drive, anticipating mile after mile of traffic jams and drivers with shortening tempers and overheating radiators, all going nowhere fast. The sun burned low through the side window on its rush to meet the western horizon. He dropped the aircon a couple more degrees, turned up the radio, and prepared for an excruciating evening.
Richie pushed his left foot into the floor pan beneath the brake and clutch pedals and pressed his backside into the base of the seat. A quick rotation at the waist, a shrug of tight shoulders, and the sciatic ache subsided a little. He relaxed his leg and rolled his ankle to ease the cramp in his calf. Scrabbling around on the floor playing with his boys was fun, but didn’t do his back any favours.
He shot a glance at his spreading belly. With a crappy, all-hours job and a sprouting family, the time available for exercise had shrunk to the occasional jog around the park and the even more infrequent gym session. He regretted the loss of fitness and muscle tone, but wouldn’t give up what he’d gained for anything.
The tense night he’d spent holding Laurel’s hand in the maternity ward didn’t seem all that long ago, but tomorrow the twins would turn four. Four! Bloody hell, where had the time gone? The little tykes would be leaving for university in no time.
Mile after mile, the M4 curved westwards and brought the evening sun full into Richie’s face. The sun visor didn’t help. He raised the seatback, stretched his neck, and found the welcome shadow. Blinking tired eyes, he tried to rub life back into his face.
He perked up when the DJ played Golden Earring’s Radar Love, a song his father used to sing along to at the top of his voice. He smiled at the memory. Good times.
Ten miles ahead of Junction 15, the traffic thinned enough for Pradeep to bullet his Renault into the outside lane and tailgate a Mr Sales Rep in a Vauxhall Insignia. Juno had to react quickly to keep the Renault in sight and maintain his surreptitious tail.
David Byrne’s superb Road to Nowhere segued into Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Juno hit the mute button on the steering wheel.
“Pretentious overblown drivel.”
He eased into the overtaking lane as the traffic thinned further and their speed climbed into the eighties and then the nineties.
“Naughty boy, breaking the speed limit. Watch you aren’t pulled over, little man.”
Richie returned to the middle lane and kept at least five vehicles between his car and the Renault. They reached, and passed, Junction 15. With London a long, long way behind them, he needed to check in with Billy.
He double-tapped the button on his earpiece to break into the auto recording, said, “Base One, are you receiving me?” and only had to wait a couple of seconds for the reply.
“This is Base One. Call sign, please.”
The voice was female and young. Richie struggled to attach a face to the voice.
“Call sign, Tinkerbelle,” he growled. “Don’t laugh.”
“Hold please, Tinkerbelle.”
The woman didn’t laugh, but a smile lifted her voice and Richie finally remembered the slim brunette who’d given him the eye the last time he visited Eavesdropper Central. Nice-looking girl, fit, come-get-me smile. Back in his single days, he’d have made a move, but not anymore. Those times were long gone.
Ten seconds of buzzing and clicking followed before the system’s encryption cycle allowed further conversation.
“Hello Tinkerbelle.” Billy’s snicker bubbled through the connection in a calculated wind-up. “So nice to hear from you at long last. Please make your report.”
Richie grinned and wound up for the usual banter. “Tinkerbelle? I ask you, Control. Tinkerbelle? What’s with the fairy call-sign? You got a problem?”
“Tinkerbelle. That’s no way to maintain radio protocol.”
“It is if you keep assigning me the codename Tinkerbelle. Arsehole.”
Billy cleared his throat loudly. “Okay, Tinkerbelle, enough of the backchat. I see you on the tracking system. You’re heading west towards Wales, yeah?”
“Yes. Unless the subject exits at Junction 20 and hits the M5. Any idea where he’s heading?”
Billy paused for a moment before answering. “None. Just finished re-reading the target’s dossier.”
“Bloody hell, Control. You’ve learned to read?”
“Tinkerbelle, this conversation is being recorded. There’s nothing in the files to suggest he has any contacts further west than the M25.”
One more jibe ought to do it. “Ah no, I get it. You had Chloe read it to you, right?”
“Tinkerbelle, maintain radio protocol.”
“Have to pass the time somehow, Control.”
Four cars ahead, the Renault’s indicator flashed a nanosecond before it dived into the inside lane a few hundred metres ahead of the sign for Junction 20.
“Hang on a minute, Control … Yes … target is heading for the M5.”
Anticipating the Renault’s next aggressive manoeuvre, Richie eased into the exit lane behind the Renault and allowed three cars to filter between them.
The sun kissed the horizon in a blaze of orange and moved out of Richie’s eyes for the first time in over two hours as they hit the M5, heading south. He blinked hard and relaxed the tense muscle around his eyes.
He imagined Billy watching the road map on the electronic whiteboard. “Control, are you following me on the big screen?”
“Still no idea where he’s heading?” Richie asked, wondering how far from home he’d end up that night. Missing the twins’ birthday party had just become a distinct possibility.
“None,” Billy answered. “Nothing out there but fields, farms, and holiday homes.”
“Exeter International Airport’s up ahead and I don’t have my passport. If he heads for Departures, I’ll have to pick him up.”
“You’re the one on the ground, Tinkerbelle. Play it as you see fit. Use airport security to help detain him, and I’ll send Clint to help you bring him back home as soon as he’s free. Happy with that?”
“That’s an affirmative, Control. The traffic’s light now. He’s picking up speed. I’ll need to concentrate for a bit. Keep following me on the big screen.”
“Will do, Tinkerbelle. Drive safe.”
Cauliflower clouds bubbled up from behind the western hills and hid the sun, making Richie’s life a little easier. The Renault’s speed hovered around the 100 mph mark and they travelled forty-five miles in the same time it had taken them to crest the one-mile long Chiswick Flyover. Wide green fields flashed past on their left and dark woods whipped by on the right. Nothing but nothingness.
“Control. You still there?”
“Where else would I be, Tinkerbelle?”
“Feeling a little agoraphobic here. I mean, where are all the buildings and what’s that bloody smell?”
“It’s called fresh air, Tinkerbelle. People are supposed to love it. Open spaces and big skies. Enjoy it while you can.”
“Give me flat grey concrete and orange bricks any day. Hang on …”
The Renault crossed three lanes, apparently ignorant of the traffic. The indicator flashed twice before turning onto a slip road.
“Target’s exiting the motorway at the Taunton Dean Services. Either he needs a piss or some petrol. Traffic’s light. I’ll have to take care.”
“Okay, Tinkerbelle, message received and understood. Keep your distance and be safe.”
“Trying to teach me my job, Control?”
“Somebody has to.”
Richie had visions of the aggressive idiot, Pradeep, careering through the Services at motorway speeds, but the Renault slowed to a crawl and negotiated the single lane road with excessive care. The car ignored the left turn into the main parking area and headed directly to the petrol station.
“Control, it’s a fuel stop. I’m running on a quarter tank. If I don’t fill up now, I might lose him later.”
Three of the six pumps were clear. Pradeep stopped next to pump number three, Richie chose pump number six, the one furthest away and on the diagonal.
“I’ll be on silent running for a couple of minutes. Don’t go away now.”
He pressed disconnect on the earpiece and opened his door.
“Tinkerbelle, report please. Where are you?”
Detective Inspector William ‘Billy’ Hook eased away from the microphone and flexed his fingers. The high-def whiteboard attached to the wall alongside his desk flickered. Bloody thing had better not be on the fritz like so much else in this place. It was supposed to be brand new, top-of-the-range, but he’d seen better in PC World.
The screen showed an Ordinance Survey road map of southwest England. A stationary red dot, marked DSJ#1, flashed over a place west of Taunton.
“Chloe,” he called to his junior officer six desks away. “Taunton Deane Services on the M5. They’re on the motorway road-monitoring network, right? Patch into their surveillance cameras and put them up on the board. Richie pulled in for petrol a little while ago, and I don’t like him being so exposed.”
DC Chloe Holder nodded and attacked her keyboard with a speed Billy could never hope to achieve with his sausage fingers.
Richie should have called back by now. Acid reflux told Billy something bad had happened, and his gut rarely told him otherwise. He stared at the blinking red light and hit the press-to-talk button on the mic stand. “Tinkerbelle, come back. Where are you?”
Silence. The noise-cancelling electronics removed all hint of static.
“Tinkerbelle, report in please.”
Still Richie didn’t answer. Where the fuck was he?
“Chloe? Where’s that bloody surveillance footage?”
She looked up from her monitor, still typing. “Nearly there, sir. Putting it on the big screen … now.”
The OS map retreated into the top-right corner of the screen, and was replaced by a black-on-yellow Moto-Cam location template. A horizontal slide bar crawled from left to right, and the percentage numbers climbed slowly: 45%-49%-52%.
Of all the things they’d promised Hook before he joined the National Crime Agency, lightning fast broadband and state-of-the-art equipment had been high up his list. Golden promises worth fuck all.
“Come on,” Hook mumbled. “What’s taking so bloody long?”
As if in response, the numbers jumped from 84% to 100% and the template transformed into a grid of six video windows, all active. The first three showed external shots of Taunton Deane Services’ main concourse, the car parks, and the people strolling between the two. Two more showed inside the food hall complete with the obligatory shop front logos of Costa, McD, and Little Chef. Billy’s eyes flitted over the images and skipped to the sixth window, which displayed an orange and red striped filling station—six pumps, three unoccupied.
“Chloe. Bring up camera six.”
The window expanded to fill the screen. The digital index at the top right read: Tntn Dene Svcs, Moto-Cam#6, Ptrl Stn. Hook checked the time stamp below the text with that on his PC monitor. It showed a ten-minute delay from live.
Four minutes before Richie’s most recent message.
The acid in Billy’s stomach gurgled. He clenched his abs and the pain lessened. Billy pressed a different button on his desk intercom. “Bee,” he said, “better get out here.”
The office door behind him opened, and Beatrice ‘Bee’ Endicott rushed to his monitoring station, knee-length skirt swirling. She grabbed the back of a spare chair and rolled it into position at his side, bringing with her a waft of flowery soap and peppermint tea. She sat and leaned forward. “What’s wrong?”
“Richie dropped off comms”—Billy checked the time again—“eight minutes ago.”
She stared up at the big screen and frowned. “What’s he doing in Somerset?”
“Surveillance. A minion in Eavesdropper Central intercepted a telecon this morning. One of Richie’s suspects arranged an out-of-town meet. A drugs trafficking case he has on the back burner. I don’t like it. He shouldn’t have gone dark for so long. He’s only filling the tank.”
Bee leaned closer. “He’s running the tail alone?” She kept her voice down, but the steel below the surface came across clearly enough.
Billy couldn’t blame her for jumping all over him. If he’d screwed up and put Richie in danger … Fuck. What would he say to Laurel?
“Who’s the target?” Bee asked.
“Small time dealer called Sunil Pradeep. I advised Richie to cancel the tail, but he went anyway.”
Bee held his gaze. The blue eyes behind her designer glasses turned into diamond chips.
“Who’s in charge here, Billy? You or your brother-in-law? You know the protocol. A minimum of two people on all surveillance operations. Safety first. I can’t have a repeat of Basildon.”
“That wasn’t all Richie’s fault—” Billy cut off his defence of Richie’s error. The fuck up in Basildon was down to both of them, but Richie had taken the blame, as he always did. Billy raked fingers through his hair and concentrated on the screen.
“Bee, you don’t know him like I do. Richie’s got sommat on his mind but won’t talk to me about it. I reckon he thinks Pradeep is more than a low-level bottom feeder.” He waved his hand at the picture that showed a bright evening near Taunton. “Maybe I’m overreacting.”
“Did he sign for a weapon?” Bee asked.
“God’s sake, Billy.” Again with the diamond chips and the quiet voice. “Neither of you had any idea where Pradeep would end up or who he’d meet.”
Hook ground his teeth. Confession time and he’d have to drop Richie in the mire.
“If he drew a weapon he’d have had to return to the office to sign it back in and—”
“And he wanted to go straight home after the tail?”
Hook rubbed his stomach. “It’s the twins’ birthday tomorrow and nothing in Pradeep’s file suggested he’d end up out in the sticks.”
Shit. Now he sounded mealy-mouthed.
On the screen, a dark blue Renault Clio pulled up to the pump in the far right hand corner. Seconds later, Richie’s Ford Mondeo stopped two pumps away.
The clouds peeled back and the evening sun, half eaten by the hills, returned.
Richie leaned against the car door, arched his back, and stretched his arms to the sky. Vertebrae popped in his neck and lower back. His knees had creaked when climbing out of the car.
“Christ, Richie,” he mumbled. “How old are you, man? Forty?”
He took a deep breath of forecourt air—petrol fumes mixed with exhaust gasses—the taste of home.
The twins would be jumping up and down about now, excited for tomorrow, desperate to delay bedtime, and fighting over the bath toys. He didn’t envy Laurel’s job. Give him police duties and antisocial hours over homemaking any day.
He’d miss the boys’ bedtime again though. Damn it.
Pradeep stood with his back to Richie—bent over, face still hidden by the peaked cap—filling the Renault with Premium Unleaded.
Richie followed his target’s lead and the numbers on the petrol pump climbed fast. Twenty litres would do it and give him the chance to reach the kiosk first. He replaced the nozzle, locked the filler cap, and strode across the forecourt.
The Shell logo above the kiosk reminded him he hadn’t taken the boys to the beach for weeks. Maybe next weekend if the weather cooperated.
The Moto-Cam angle came from a high position and faced the sun, but Billy had a good view. He, Bee, and Chloe watched in silence as Richie stowed the nozzle, replaced the filler cap, and headed towards the shop.
“Why doesn’t he wait for Pradeep to finish?” Bee asked.
Hook relaxed. “It’s an old trick. There’s only one exit from the station. Richie’s gonna pay first, drive around the corner, and wait for Pradeep to pass. Taking the lead position when tailing a suspect is a good idea if—”
“What’s Pradeep doing?” Bee interrupted, pointing at the Renault.
The moment Richie showed his back to Pradeep, the suspect dropped the fuel nozzle and dived into the Renault. The car’s rear end fishtailed as it took off, heading straight at Richie.
Billy screamed, “Look out!” even though he knew it was already ten minutes too late.
Richie spun, tried to dive clear, but the Renault hit him a glancing blow that punched him backwards into the kiosk’s brick wall. He bounced forward and fell to the ground. The Renault increased speed and disappeared around the side of the building.
For Billy, the world stopped.
“Oh, God, no!”
Bee jumped to her feet. “Chloe, call it in. I want the bastard in the Clio found, now. Move girl! Move!”
The petrol shop’s door opened. A woman and two men rushed out. The woman and one of the men, both in dark trousers and yellow sweaters, knelt at Richie’s side. The other man—middle-aged, wearing a business suit—lifted a mobile phone to his ear and ran towards the exit, mouth moving in an animated conversation.
“Oh, Jesus!” Billy said, numb, senseless. “Oh Jesus Christ. What have I done?”
Chloe zoomed the camera tight.
The woman in the yellow sweater knelt and leaned close to Richie’s crumpled body. She said something to her co-worker and shook her head. Blood spread in a dark pool around Richie’s head.
“See that?” Chloe shouted, pointing at the screen. “His left hand moved!”