Resident fear, p.1
Resident Fear, p.1Hylton Smith
Hylton H Smith
Published by Promethean
Copyright by Hylton H Smith 2012
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the publisher,
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.
Monday November 5th 2018
Jack Renton checked his watch and reflected on the absurdity of the situation. The smell of fireworks was still in the air from Sunday night. He was looking at potential fireworks of a different kind. The Angel of the North was once a revered iconic landmark, a welcome to the world from the Northeast of England. It was no longer a safe location, even in daylight. Today, at 5.47 am, it was unusually crowded, particularly with police vehicles and personnel. Renton was never at his best in the early hours, but this incident had already ascended to the top of his Monday morning workload, and would likely remain there for many Mondays to come. His resigned demeanour wasn’t directly linked to the process of identification of the body. Everyone knew Alistair Banks, a wealthy industrialist who had continually sought confrontation with the purveyors of institutional red-tape. He was seen by the populace as a vigilante for the cause of the individual, whereas the establishment was openly hostile toward him, and would not be disappointed to see his empire crumble. As Renton waited impatiently for the Medical Examiner, he was already pretty sure the location of the body had been carefully selected, and that the killing had taken place elsewhere. The Angel would answer the prayers of the killer, ensuring that discovery would be quick and act as some kind of announcement.
In the years immediately after the break-up of the Eurozone and its single currency in 2015, events had gathered pace. As Britain pushed for the repatriation of more powers, the government drastically underestimated the antagonism toward their new genetic mapping system, which became the detonator for massive civil unrest. The European Union harnessed the public protest, and threatened expulsion of the United Kingdom, unless all intent to implement the database, and its potentially manipulative social engineering capability, was abandoned. 2016 ended without resolution of the issue. The threat of expulsion had been considered by the British government to be no different to the years of bankrupt dogma which characterised the Brussels administration. The shock which reverberated throughout the world, when the axe fell, brought the word ‘abandoned’ into sharp focus. The British Prime Minister was forced to declare that the offending implementation had indeed been abandoned, albeit after the deadline. This was dissected by the media and re-spun as having achieved the government desire to actually force the expulsion. The soap opera split public opinion so radically that riots became commonplace. By 2018 the landscape in the United Kingdom had altered beyond recognition, thus providing scope for the Genetic Profile Directory to disappear.
The incident scene continued to attract officials, journalists, and members of the public. The hastily erected exclusion zone was not going to work, and Jack Renton conceded to calling for assistance from headquarters in Durham. With the top brass still in slumber he had to convince the duty officer of his identity by asking him to call his boss.
“You’ll regret your ‘rule book’ attitude if the media decide to crucify the force because your tardiness results in compromise of the crime scene. I’ve sent you a message to confirm you were alerted at 6.23. Check it for yourself Thompson, but for Christ’s sake get back-up out here now.” He turned to Ben Adams, his detective sergeant, and discharged a tirade of profanities in the general direction of the Three Rivers Force. Adams had heard it all before and drew Renton’s attention to a young uniformed officer who had cordoned off a section of the site behind the towering sculpture. The lightest of snow coverings had made it easy to see the tyre tracks in the half-light. All of the other fresh marks were to the front and side of the Angel, and were accounted for by the vehicles currently assembled. It was important to get photographic records of these tracks before the approaching sunrise melted them. Renton glanced in the direction of approach the vehicle should have taken, but there was no evidence of any further tread marks. He told Adams to surround the immediate area with the police cars until back-up arrived, and then he spoke to the young officer.
“This is important. What’s your name son?”
“Harrison Sir.” Renton tapped his temple with his forefinger and whispered, “Good work, now keep everyone away from here until I tell you otherwise.”
As D.C.I. Renton raged about the Medical Examiner’s non-appearance, he gazed skyward and contemplated the silhouette of the rear of the iconic yet foreboding creation – an angel whose guardian wings were disproportionately elegant, and strangely complemented the subtlety of the accumulated rust. He recalled the unveiling all those years ago, when many questioned the concept of not painting the gigantic steel structure. He could not visualise the new hierarchy of law enforcement, imposed after the EU exit, enjoying the same growth of respect in the future. Centralisation of policy had been deemed necessary after the failure to quell organised rioting. This was reflected in the major regions of the UK, and the distillate in the northeast was that Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria forces were steamrollered into one unit, which was tagged as ‘Three Rivers’ – Tees, Tyne and Wear. Concessions to local decision-making saw a division in city and rural autonomy. He had no doubts that dual standards would be the legacy of such ill-considered policy. The slow homogenous growth of the rusty dermis of the Angel seemed to grate with the dichotomous policing structure in which he was now marooned. He snapped out of his self-indulgence with a shake of the head as the Medical Examiner arrived.
“Glad you could make it; did you find a suitable place to park your bicycle?” Gregory Watson had grown resistant to the abrasive nature of Renton, and did not rise to the bait, merely replying by answering all of the usual questions with one statement.
“All will be revealed as it becomes known Jack, why the two tents?” Renton pointed to the nearest and said, “That one has the body and is for both you and forensics. The other is covering simple tyre tracks and is only for forensics. We don’t want you to muddy the water any more than you have to.”
Watson had already been informed of the deceased’s identity and was unusually apprehensive. They were both members of Concord golf club, and had sometimes played for the team in competitive matches.
On exiting the first tent Watson hailed Renton and quietly suggested that they should talk in his car.
“I hope I’m not going to regret saying this Jack, as I need to back it up with tests in the mortuary, but I am almost certain the wounds he suffered to the head were inflicted after he died.” Renton was unusually quiet, and Watson shrugged his shoulders.
“Very well then, forget I said it, you will get the full report as soon as I can get through the post-mortem.” Renton eventually reacted.
“No, no, er sorry Greg, I was just thinking how your hunch fits with mine and the isolated tyre marks over there. There’s something about this scene which seems to be delivering a statement, or a message, or a threat – but to whom?” Watson said he would return to science and leave the guesswork to those best equipped for the task. Renton’s years of experience overtook his early speculation and he wanted
Vivienne Banks was verging on hysteria and Renton failed to reason with her.
“Mrs Banks you must understand that we have to protect the crime scene, so that our investigation is not hampered by loss of salient information. Forensic experts must declare the situation clear before anyone, including me, can be allowed into the restricted area. Once the body is transported to the morgue I’ll personally accompany you to identify your husband. I do realise how difficult this must be for you, but it is being treated as homicide, and we must protect the integrity of the evidence. I’m very sorry for your loss and assure you that we will move things along with as much urgency as possible.”
She stared blankly at him as she used her mobile to contact the family solicitor. It was as if she had heard nothing Renton had said. She got even more frustrated when Richard Doyle reiterated most of Renton’s plea. She insisted that he get to the scene and ‘sort out’ the over-officious people who were denying her right to see her husband. She ended the call before Doyle could respond.
Vivienne Banks had a somewhat mysterious past. The daughter of one of the barons of the Colony, she had been spirited away to a Swiss education early in life. This considerable undertaking by her parents, in both organisational and financial terms had not prevented her from courting notoriety, thus negating the primary objective of her father. Peter Beresford had subsequently acquired his fortune, and had been in prime position to take advantage of the riot culture. The stretching of police resources during that period left an opening for all manner of activity, including assisting the authorities by organised but unlawful intervention. Many rioters were injured, killed or simply went missing. The government and police had to condemn this counter-riot campaign, but privately were relieved, as they would not have otherwise prevailed. The general population reflected the fear which accompanied these riots, as they mutated from protest to indiscriminate anarchical brutality, with no concern for the many innocent casualties of their actions. Beresford had been the head of a national security organisation, which was outsourced by government to help plug a gaping hole in the policing of ‘street crime’. The police force was straitjacketed by political correctness and human rights of the criminals. Beresford surrendered his government contracts and gradually morphed his business into a modified form of protection – this sceptered isle’s version of the Mafia.
As his technology was increasingly complemented by capability to issue threat, the riots began to subside. He was however not alone. All over the country the police were thought to be complicit with their blind-eye stance, and Whitehall promised that with the exit from the EU, that political correctness would at last begin to wither on the vine, and the human rights act would become as anonymous as other casualties, such as rioters. It was easy to say this but time would tell. The titanic struggle, or ‘turf war’ was utterly ruthless, but was eventually settled by Beresford and two other barons, who displaced their London equivalents from the apex of power.
The regions controlled by Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham prevailed and became the singular entity known as the Colony. The Three Rivers region was typical of many others around the country, in their tenuous, unofficial association with the Colony. The police force and local government managed to forge ‘understandings’ with one another, and further extended these to the regional arm of the Colony. All such ‘handshakes’ were underpinned by the declaration of a desire to restore society to its former democratic foundation. They also knew this would never happen.
It had been a suitably ostentatious celebrity wedding, even though Alistair Banks apparently operated outside the influence of the Colony. Beresford attended the wedding despite the fact that he did not approve of his daughter’s matrimonial choice. This was a meticulously planned operation in itself, as he had survived numerous attempts of erasure. Since those days he lived permanently on a ludicrously expensive and technically equipped ocean-going yacht. The wedding ceremony was conducted on the island of Santorini, and the final leg of his journey was appropriately dramatic, being lowered from his private helicopter. As he was paying for the extravaganza, he had considerable input on the where, when and who variables in the equation of risk. He tolerated Alistair Banks, no more.
While the new widow was pacing around his office, Renton had to take a call from Durham. He knew it would come. Bernard Cousins was often described by Sergeant Adams as ‘the respectable face of evil’. Cousins, as head of the Three Rivers Police Authority was extremely unsettled by the rate at which the news of Banks’ death had been churned into a media frenzy, and already posed questions about possible connections with organised crime.
“Jack, you have the back-up requested and I’ve taken appropriate action with that retard, Thompson, who obstructed your request to be put directly through to me. What I want to know now is - do you need more operational assistance? I can have people from Sunderland and Middlesbrough seconded to your command. We need to get this put to bed quickly.”
Renton had considered quitting many times, but most of these reflections had been for personal reasons. He hardly ever saw his son, and always became disoriented when he told him of another ‘boyfriend’ of his ex-wife arriving on the scene. This was different, he now saw himself as a collaborator with the new order, and he despised himself for the self-pitying inertia into which he had drifted. Someday he would do something about it. This was not the time.
“Thank you Sir, but I’d like to defer bringing in more people until we have a better informed picture from Greg Watson’s post-mortem and forensic first sweep. I know that the media are ready to pounce if we screw up, but there’s something which does not add up here. Please give me twenty-four hours to deliver a clear direction of enquiry and then re-visit the resource we need. I’m also aware of the involvement of the locals. The rural boys are challenging jurisdiction, as the location of the scene would not normally justify urban involvement. It’s fortunate that I have good relations with these boys, and I want to keep them in the loop in an appropriate manner, as opposed to having to fight with them at every turn. They trust me, and therefore my judgement that they would soon have to pass this up the line. I don’t want to let the case evidence widen any further than it has to at this stage. Can you give me twenty-four hours?” He was gambling on this being acceptable, as he believed any reinforcements from Sunderland and Middlesbrough would be moles for Cousins.
Jack Renton was too young to retire, but knew nothing other than police work. At forty-three his life was a mess. Stuck between ignoring potential corruption and leading a team of honest officers, he felt trapped. Cousins granted his one day respite. Vivienne Banks could not remain seated when he returned to his office. She continued to pace back and forth as she answered his questions.
“When did you last see your husband?”
She glared at him and shouted, “Friday, before he left for London.” Renton expressed surprise.
“He went to London on Friday?” Her exasperation heightened as she banged the desk with her fists.
“No, he left early on Saturday, with friends he had at the house when I came home on Friday evening. They were going to watch their stupid football team play down there. When he has these cretins to the house they always get hammered, doss down in the early hours, and leave for the airport after about two hours sleep. I went to bed and didn’t see them leave on Saturday.”
Renton asked which airline he had used. She almost collapsed with laughter, and her voice was laden with sarcasm. “He uses his own plane, but surely you knew that – he has been in the newspapers more than the Prime Minister. It should be easy for you to check.”
He did so and got confirmation that he was accompanied by four other men. He asked Adams to check with Arsenal Football Club to see if they h
“Yes, we had an argument – he told me he would be staying the night in the Capital because the team had played well. I lost my temper because he left me to cancel a dinner with two of our friends.”
“And when did he come back?”
“I don’t know because I got inebriated on Saturday night. I went to bed and did not wake up until Sunday afternoon. He hadn’t made contact again by then and when I rang his mobile I got the unobtainable sound. After a long day trying to keep my lunch down, I went for a walk for some fresh air. I had an early night, about nine o’clock I think, because I assumed the bastard was in town getting loaded again. The next thing I knew, one of your officers was at the door.” Her mood had turned from confrontational to tearful, and Renton’s questioning was interrupted by his phone ringing.
“Jack, Greg here, we have just got the body in and I am about to get started, but one of my assistants has confirmed by instrumentation that he’s been dead for at least thirty-six hours. I will know more by tomorrow morning.”
“Wait,” said Renton, “I need Mrs Banks to identify the body, so I’d like to come now. I want to run a timeline past you before I speak to Cousins again; he’s already on my case.”
Watson detected uncharacteristic anxiety in Renton’s voice and agreed. Before he left for the morgue he asked Adams to detail someone to check any last will and testament Alistair Banks had made, and to ask for media help to trace the mystery vehicle which left the isolated tracks.
The man who found the body had been working nightshift when he felt ill, and his supervisor had sent him home. His recollection of the scene, other than the corpse, was sketchy at best. He vaguely remembered another person walking ahead of him on a path which was peripheral to the monument. He thought the person had a dog with them, and considered it a strange time of night to walk a pet. He had a raging fever, and when he stumbled across the body he believed he was hallucinating. Without a mobile phone, he scrambled up the grassy slope and tried to run the rest of the way home. He frantically rifled through his pockets for his keys but dropped them, and he banged on the door. His wife was quite naturally alarmed to see him in such a frenzied state. It was another five minutes or so before he convinced her to call the police. Only then did she ask him how he had managed to get home from where he worked in Birtley.
Resident Fear by Hylton Smith / Mystery & Detective have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on18 votes