The Hammer

      Roger Busby
The Hammer

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but here’s a free lunchtime read to whet your appetite. Whether you prefer pie or salad, lunch with The Hammer will leave you satisfied. In another bite-size crime story, Roger Busby reveals the hierarchical power games of London’s Metropolitan Police with devastating effect. The new short story is a must to read.Prologue:The new Borough Commander had a hard-man reputation to live up to and he didn’t care who got hurt in the process. So when he planned to hit a crime ridden South London estate with Operation Iron Fist, it was up to a pair of ex Royal Marines to do something fast or the summer riots would seem like a picnic, the Met would take casualties…and someone was going to get killed. The HammerSooner or later The Hammer was going to get someone killed. Who said so? Pretty well every uniform in The Borough from the PCSOs and hobby bobbies to the response car jockeys and unit beat PCs all the way up to “Jacko” Jackson who ran the reliefs.“We’ve got to do something about this clown before it’s too late,” Doyle voiced the lament which crackled around the factory like wild fire, “last night we only just got out of the farm by the skin of our teeth.”“By clown,” Jackson said, “I presume you are referring to our esteemed leader, Commander Robert Douglas McGee, scourge of The Gorbals.”“None other,” Doyle said, “And that’s another thing, I don’t understand why we got saddled with a Strathclyde nutter. I was talking to our friends up there on the Zatopec team and they said they were glad to see the back of him.”“Ah, that’s why you’re still a DS rooting around in the weeds,” Jackson said, smiling, “Met politics, pure and simple.”“Oh and you’d know all about that eh, Jacko, you being a Chief Super and all, wheeling and dealing with the guv’nors up at the dream factory. Back in the old days when we were booties, you’d’ve gone in there and knocked some sense into him when the dumb foot soldiers were about to get their arses kicked on the farm.”

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    The Villain

      Roger Busby
The Villain

When you’re a career criminal there’s nothing like a police dragnet on your doorstep to spoil your day. So what to do when the burka bandit pulls a diabolical stroke? Well if the Old Bill can’t sort it, better sort it yourself!The day the burka bandit hit the King Kebab mini mosque and sparked an international incident, Detective Constable “Metal” Mike Malloy was raiding his brother in law’s scrap yard. It was good solid CID work, the sort he enjoyed, so whenever the stats needed a boost he would borrow a couple of PCs from the relief, a handful of PCSOs and a dog handler for good measure and they would roar down the Old Kent Road in unmarked cars and a couple of vans blues-and-two’s going full blast and turn the place over in fine old style.Over his twenty years in the job “Metal” Mike had become a past master in the technique of raiding premises, and every time he would burst into the office, scowl menacingly and announce: “OK, everybody stay put – this is a police raid!” And Alex Donnelly, his brother-in-law would look up from his desk with tired, patient eyes and reply: “You got a warrant this time, Michael?” To which Malloy would invariably respond: “Since when did I need a warrant, Alex, this is family business.” With a sigh Donnelly would push his work aside, produce a concertina print out of his scrap register for official scrutiny, and exchange pleasantries on family affairs while the raiding party, suitably equipped in loaned hard hats and steel toe caps to avoid infringing Health and Safety scrambled over the acres of junk in the yard outside.When it was all over “Metal” Mike would return to the station, de-brief his team, crank up the system and input the “dynamic intel” in meticulous detail. The Borough had never had a more conscientious crime intelligence analyst than DC Malloy and nobody seemed unduly concerned that the monthly crime profiles uploaded to The Yard’s number crunchers appeared to relate exclusively to the activities of Southside Ferrous Factors, Alex Donnelly’s scrap metal business. Malloy could be relied upon for big number crime stats which kept the dream factory happy, and that was all that mattered.Of course “Metal” Mike’s preoccupation with his brother in law’s scrap yard was not as simple as might appear at face value. For one thing, Detective Constable Malloy was blissfully ignorant of the fact that Donnelly really was a high-class villain and that was why he never complained to the brass about the seemingly unwarranted intrusion into his business. Similarly Alex Donnelly, who felt quite confident in his ability to hoodwink his numbskull brother-in-law was unaware of the fact that the Borough’s glowing crime stats had risen through the system and had impressed NSY’s Serious and Organised Crime Command. So much so that unbeknown to him, Donnelly had been elevated to the rarefied status of a Zatopec target and circulated to all London-wide crime squads.

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    The Betrayed

      Roger Busby
The Betrayed

How far would you go for a promotion? how important are your dreams and aspirations above others? What are you willing to sacrifice or more importantly who are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want? These are the questions and consequences that Mark Fletcher has face in his quest for a coveted Flying Squad position.“It's impossible,” Dennis Jewel said, “even if you'd got a case of JD tucked under your arm there, I'd be telling you the same thing.”Mark Fletcher placed the bottle of Jack Daniels Old No 7 he had brought along as a sweetener on the desk between them. “Dennis,” he said, “what say you lock the door there, we pull a couple of glasses out've your bottom drawer and we sip a little of this amber nectar and see if you don't change your mind.”“There's no way I'm going to do that,” Jewel replied, “not while we've got an operation running. You think I can conjure blokes up out of the air or something? I'm not a bloody magician, Fletch.” Fletcher sighed. He's come to the Borough for a favour and he'd expected to have to haggle, but here was Jewel sitting on his backside just acting stubborn. “What operation trumps a murder?”“Zatopek, you know, the lorry hi-jacking thing.”“Zatopek?”“Don't you start,” Jewel took a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and glanced wistfully at the image of a rotting lung on the packet. The only place he could light up these days was skulking in the station yard with the last of the diehards. “Some comedian up at the dream factory came up with that stupid name, something about it's got to run the distance.”“Christ,” Fletcher said, “Now I've heard everything.”“Well it don't change a thing,” Jewel insisted, turning the cigarette packet over in his hand. “I'm committed a hundred percent and if they get wind up the road that I'm even thinking of loaning blokes to you on the old pals act, they're going to have my balls, it's as simple as that.”Mark Fletcher regarded his friend for a moment as he marshalled his thoughts for a new gambit. Jewel was a heavily built man, solid with beefy shoulders which bulged under his shirt. He had a head of tight grey curls and his face wore a permanently perplexed expression. They were the same rank, detective chief inspector, only Jewel was a guv'nor on the Borough wide CID under the wing of the Metropolitan Police Major Crime Directorate with his own complement of detectives. He took his orders from New Scotland Yard. Normally the Borough would be only too happy to

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    The Sheriff of Tesco

      Roger Busby
The Sheriff of Tesco

A chance encounter in a supermarket coffee shop opens old wounds for the ex-Marine and the war widow. Soon they are reliving horrors of death and murder in the Afghan desert, duty and deceit blowing in the wind. Can an icon of crime fiction save them from themselves, or will it be just another case for the Sheriff of Tesco?A chance encounter in a supermarket coffee shop opens old wounds for the ex-Marine and the war widow. Soon they are reliving horrors of death and murder in the Afghan desert, duty and deceit blowing in the wind. Can an icon of crime fiction save them from themselves, or will it be just another case for the Sheriff of Tesco?He walked over to where she was sitting alone in the corner of the supermarket coffee shop sipping a cappuccino. Noticed, close up, that her brown hair, pulled back into a ponytail, was dashed with blonde highlights, her face young looking, probably mid thirties.“Mind if I join you?” he asked, pulling out a plastic chair.“Be my guest,” She looked up, saw this raw boned man, the angular planes of his face weather tanned, his eyes the palest blue.Although the store was busy with the usual throng of mid-week shoppers there were plenty of empty tables in the cafe. She raised a quizzical eyebrow and met his steady gaze.“Nice morning,” he began his gambit, his eyes not leaving hers. Hazel with flecks of white, like a snow-shower. He made a mental note.“That depends,” she said, “On how you define nice.” She read the ID tag clipped to the breast pocket of his dark blue shirt. John Russell. “I like this spot,” she said, nodding towards the trolley park, ”easy to keep an eye on my shopping from here,” the merest shrug, “you never know, do you.”“That’s for sure,” he replied, biding his time as he sized her up. “Always pays to be careful.”“Not that there’s much worth stealing,” she said, “Since my husband died I don’t do much in the way of fancy cooking anymore. Just convenience stuff, mostly, sort of lost my appetite.”He made another mental note: Widow.“So do you work here, John Russell?”He tilted the ID tag and she read the words under the stylised eye motif: Pinkerton Security.“Oh,” she smiled and the smile widened into a grin, “the dudes who tamed the West, railroad dicks, Dashiell Hammett.” He looked nonplussed“The Pinkertons...we never sleep!”“You’ve lost me,” he said“Don’t tell me you’ve never read Hammett, Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key?”He shook his head.“Great detective writer, oh, I’ve read ‘em all.” She smiled at the puzzled expression he was trying to disguise. “You don’t get it, do you?”“Get what?” This wasn’t the way he had intended to play it; she had thrown him off balance and he felt suddenly unsure of himself.“Why Dashiell Hammett. He was a Pinkerton agent, just like you. The immortal legend handed down from the railroads and the banks of the Wild West...” she glanced around the store, “...to Tesco’s Old Kent Road. Who would have thought it...the legend lives on.”No he didn’t get it. He’d become a 12-hour shift security guard when he left the Royal Marines. It was the only steady job he could get and legends didn’t come into it.She began quoting passages of Hammett from memory. The Maltese Falcon...The Thin Man, telling him they all celebrated the lone detective risking all in the quest for the truth. “And you’re carrying the torch now, John Russell, the Sheriff of Tesco,” she laughed, “ Or do your friends call you Jack?”“Jane, actually,” he smiled, harking back to Lima Company, “they called me Jane.”She laughed. “Jane Russell?”“A bootneck joke,” he said, slightly abashed, “but mostly they called me Colours...short for Colour Sergeant Russell.”"Royal Marines?”He nodded, wondering now if she was putting him on and the familiar stabbing ache started up in his leg. He was about to reply when the pager on his belt cheeped. Russell glanced down thankfully and read the message; looked up again, saw her watching him, and said: “Don’t go away...I’ll be right back.”

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    [email protected] with Nelson's Navy

      Roger Busby
Embedded@Trafalgar with Nelson's Navy

There's a certain intimacy about the word "embedded." I don't know who coined it embedded, part of the action, eyewitness news on the front line. Embedded became a term used by the media and military to describe correspondents who were carried to war.If you want the facts, go to the history books, but if you want to know how it felt to report Trafalgar turn the page and read the log.There's a certain intimacy about the word "embedded." I don't know who came up with it, but once it was in common usage, we talked about it endlessly in the pub. Embedded, being there, part of the action, eyewitness news on the front line. Embedded became a term shared by the media and the military to describe correspondents who were carried to war as an extra mural member of a fighting unit, journalist as warrior, and it was hoped, certainly from the military standpoint, that this symbiosis, a new quirk on the old Stockholm syndrome, would rub off on the reporters and ensure that coverage swayed towards the soldiers' point of view. Sure there was huffing and puffing over journalistic integrity and freedom of the press, but if you wanted to go to war there was no better way than embedded.You see the Vietnam War had taught the military a hard lesson. If you have newsmen running around the combat zone, left to their own devices, reporting the kill count as it happens, blood baths like Mi Li Four, then the public appetite for the conflict diminishes in direct proportion to the tv footage of body bags coming home. So if you couldn't muzzle the media, then the next best thing was to get them on board, get them embedded, in the hope that the old adage that it is better to have your critic in the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in, would pay dividends.Not that the military were less than sanguine about the prospect, Imagine how it would have been if there had been reporters embedded at The Somme filing eyeball accounts from the trenches of soldiers eating rats to stay alive, and the criminal lunacy of officers ordering troops over the top into machinegun fire.But those kind of considerations didn't cloud the judgement a couple of centuries ago when the spectre of invasion from across the Channel loomed large, and Napoleon Bonaparte summoned the combined naval strength of France and Spain into the largest battle fleet the world had ever seen; when the course of history hung by a thread. When the nation turned to one man, already hailed as a national hero, to save the day. So this is the story. With all the journalistic technique, the breakneck speed of instant communication technology and the clamour for on scene reporting; with every morsel of the action devoured to satisfy the voracious appetite of twenty four seven rolling news I can tell you what transpired when Nelson set sail for the great sea battle off Cape Trafalgar because I was there, embedded with the fleet.My name is John Pretty, naval correspondent of the Daily Chronicle, and with the benefit of hindsight I have collected all my pieces, the news columns, the features, the e-mails, the tapes and scribbled shorthand notes, into a chronological sequence, translated the arcane patois of the eighteenth century tar into the modern idiom to give you a feel of how Trafalgar played in the press. If you want the unalloyed facts, go to the history books, but if you're curious to know how it felt to report Trafalgar then as Mark Twain put it, turn the page, read the log.

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    The Chicken Suit

      Roger Busby
The Chicken Suit

When you’re about to get the chop in the dog-eat-dog motor trade and the blonde with a brace of sawn-off shotguns in her bag is eyeing up an ‘80s muscle car, there’s only one thing left to do – reach for the chicken suit! Another short story from Roger Busby which will entertain you and amuse with the pitfalls of the motor trade.Lately Jack Bowen had taken to wearing the chicken suit in the morning. He’d get to work early, before the others arrived, lock the door of his prefab office, take the suit out of the cupboard where it had hung all those years and slip it on, just for a few minutes. So where was the harm in that? The yellow plumage was a little ratty now and when he put the head on the beak sagged forlornly as he strutted up and down flapping the stubby wings. All the same, it felt good; took him back to the old days when he and John Tully were the top dogs at Lomax Ford, beating the sales target every time and picking up the cut glass decanters and all the other trinkets at the end of the month when the figures came out.Jack had bought the Wurlitzer to hang onto the same memories; picked it up caked in dirt at a junk auction, cleaned it up good as new until the chrome and plastic gleamed. When Betty finally got exasperated and threw it out, he’d brought it to the office, and in his lunch break would plug it in and watch the coloured lights flicker up and down the tubes; press one of the buttons from which the paper slips with the song titles had long since disappeared and feel the thrill of anticipation as the selector arm plucked a 45 from the stack and placed it on the turntable, the needle going down…Ricky Nelson singing “My babe”. Those were the days. When Big John Tully took the UK Ford Salesman of the Year Award for the third time running he’d put on his big confident smile and told Jack: “Jackie, kid, we’re wasting our talents busting a gut for Lomax when we could be coining it for ourselves!” Gone straight out and sweet talked the bank into a loan to buy Stan Gifford’s place on The Old Kent Road; clinched the deal on the strength of poaching a fair chunk of the Lomax trade. That was John all over, the wheeler-dealer, and Jack, who’d always played straight-arrow to this flamboyant showman, leafing through the Glass’s Guide and shaking his head whenever a punter grew over optimistic, had naturally thrown in with him. “Ha-ha Jackie boy, we’ve got it made,” John told him in his booming voice, arm thrown around his shoulder, “you and me, kiddo, we’re set up for the good life.” And so they were in those distant days before Tully went over the top, took to wearing cowboy boots and watching John Wayne DVD’s on a giant home cinema rig he’d set up in the back room, leaving Jack to run the business; before he named his only son after the Duke; before he snuffed it on the day Jack sold a blinged-up Bentley to a minor Saudi royal and Tully overdid the celebration; choked himself to death on a T-bone steak with pepper sauce.

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    The Dinosaur Tweet

      Roger Busby
The Dinosaur Tweet

Bob Bishop was scrolling his Twitter feed when the dinosaur tweet popped up. The moment he spotted the author’s name he couldn’t suppress a guffaw. "Rave from the grave,” he said, chuckling, “I can’t believe that old war horse is still alive and kicking.”Bob Bishop was scrolling his Twitter feed when the dinosaur tweet popped up. The moment he spotted the author’s name he couldn’t suppress a guffaw. “Something tickled your fancy guv’nor?” Lauren glanced up from the adjacent terminal where she was uploading the latest target package onto Crimefighter. Bishop pointed at the screen. “Rave from the grave,” he said, chuckling, “I can’t believe that old war horse is still alive and kicking.” The girl came around and stood behind him, reading the tweet over his shoulder. “Bit strong. Who’s Jack Rivers anyway, bit of a nutter?”“Job old timer,” Bishop said, “from way back when we were young and keen, Jack was the DI running the Peckham crime squad and I was a mere skipper on the relief.” Bishop wagged his head as the memories stirred, “Long long ago,” he said.Lauren smiled down at him, “You surprise me guv,” she said, “I always assumed you were a direct entrant on the graduate ticket, you’ll be telling me you walked a beat in a tall hat next.”“Oh that I did,” Bishop said, the recollection stirring the recesses of his memory, “wooden-top in a blue suit, Commissioner’s cannon fodder, we didn’t know any better.” He glanced at the photo ID dangling from the lanyard around his neck as if seeking confirmation of his ascendancy from the mean streets of South London: Under his mug shot and the crest of the Metropolitan Police his designation read: Robert Bishop, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Directorate of Public Affairs. “Must’ve had a run-in with the hobby bobbies to get him riled up like that,” Lauren mused reading the vitriolic tweet, “d’you want me to check the system?”Bishop swung his chair around to face her. Blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail, trendy jumper and designer jeans, a thirty-something DCI from the Media Ops Directorate. If Jack Rivers could’ve seen himself outranked by a girlie-girl he would have had apoplexy. “No,” he said, “You’ve got enough on your plate as it is, how’s the old man’s baby coming along, he’s bound to want a SITREP at morning prayers.”“Chip-n-nick?” it was Lauren’s turn to laugh, “Couple of hard men in the guinea pig group cut off their ear lobes with bolt cutters and ditched the implants. We’re going to have to tag ‘em somewhere else guv’nor.” She grinned, “Somewhere they won’t want to cut off.”Bishop wagged his head. “It’s pretty academic anyway, we ever get it past those bleeding hearts in Strasburg it’ll be a miracle. Infringement of human rights is a capital offence these days, the legal eagles’ll have a field day.”Lauren turned back to her terminal; she hadn’t noticed the far away look creep into Bob Bishop’s eyes as he re-read the dinosaur tweet and time shifted back to the dark ages. “Bob – you got a minute,” The Chief Super poked his head around the parade room door just as Bishop finished briefing the two-to-ten. “Step into the office, sergeant” the old man held the door open, grinning. And as Bishop did so, remarked, “That’s the last time I’ll call you that, Bob.” He waved a telex from the Yard. “You just got made up – congratulations Inspector.” He clapped Bishop on the shoulder in an avuncular gesture, “And you’ve got a posting my son, the dream factory.”As Bishop read the telex with mounting astonishment, the old man began to laugh: Bishop let it sink in for a moment and then he said: “Do I have a choice, boss? To be honest I’d rather stick with the relief.”The Divisional Commander shook his head: “Came down on a tablet of stone, Bob.” He glanced at his watch, “Oh and you’d better look sharpish; get over to the Yard and report to the fifth floor. Don’t look so shell shocked, your wagon just got hitched to a star.”

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