He had no news of Riaz waiting for him the next day when he returned to the station. He busied himself instead with the other cases on his desk. The visit by officers on the burglary case he’d arranged after being notified that the suspected perpetrator had surfaced had been successful. They’d caught him trying to climb out of a window at the rear of the house he lived in when they’d called.

When Jon interviewed him that morning, he confessed to his crime almost straight away, having been shown the evidence they had. He was too old a hand to admit to anything else, even though Jon was sure that one of the other cases he was handling was also the work of the man. The M.O. was the same. In fact everything about the case was, with one exception. They hadn’t got any DNA evidence to link him to the scene. The man would go down for the first crime, both he and Jon had no doubts about that. Adding a second offence would probably lengthen the period of time he had to serve, but not by much.

The prisons weren’t as crowded as they once were. The ID system was achieving more arrests and more convictions but this was more than outweighed by the fall in drug related crime – burglary and petty theft mainly – that the addicts had used to fund their dubious pleasures. Most drugs were now freely available at doctor’s surgeries and pharmacies. Even a watered down version of heroin. The real stuff was still available on the streets, but recent efforts to reduce the flow had been even more successful than first hoped, so what did get through commanded a premium price.

You didn’t even need to commit to giving up to get the government supplied stuff. It was heavily encouraged but not a condition. Many people had afforded themselves of this opportunity though there was still a hard core that either couldn’t or wouldn’t try. You still had to pay for some drugs – cocaine, ecstasy, speed – but these could be purchased legally and considerably more cheaply than the price asked by illegal sources. Legally supplied drugs were of better quality too. They were produced to high standards and while there was still now and then a case of someone overdosing, deaths caused by impurities or bad manufacturing processes had been completely eliminated. Drug stores were returning to just that! The extra taxes their sale brought in were increasingly replacing the revenue lost from the sale of cigarettes. Tobacco was still used of course. There were not only a gradually reducing group of smokers – mostly older people now, Jon had noticed – but also it was still used to supplement cannabis leaves or to mix with resin, when people rolled joints.

Jon had seen a definite drop in the number of cases coming across his desk, meaning he and the other investigators could spend longer on those that there were. He’d noticed too that the offenders, more easily caught as their database of DNA grew, were less and less the junkies he’d picked up in the past. It wasn’t a war they’d quite won yet, but it had certainly turned things in their favour.

There were still other crimes being committed of course, often quite violently. Many of the criminals seemed to be carrying guns nowadays. It hadn’t got so bad that police officers routinely were too. As far as Jon knew this hadn’t even been suggested, though it had been discussed at higher levels in the force and with the politicians who had the final say. Their Armed Response Team had grown though in answer to this rising threat and many ordinary officers, including Jon himself, were fully trained and licensed to carry a gun when the need arose.

In Jon’s case, this hadn’t been very often. He maintained his skills though, practising regularly at the central range provided. He still hoped to be reassigned to one of the protection squads though this was becoming increasingly unlikely. His age was against him for a start. Also, this part of the force had shrunk considerably. There was only one ambassador stationed here now, representing the World Alliance. Her offices were large, of course, dealing with the many enquiries about all of the countries that made up the Alliance. The Embassy was supplemented by smaller Consulates at several of the larger cities around the UK, making it easier for people to visit in person if they needed to.

Tracing criminals once they’d been identified was far easier too since everyone had to carry ID with them, and since its use for other things had become so widespread. In many cases it was simply a matter of waiting until alerted by the Control Centre that the person they were seeking had been recorded somewhere.

The civil liberties groups had of course been up in arms about what they saw as a further infringement of privacy. Jon, though, was a firm believer in the adage that if you did nothing wrong, you had nothing to fear. There were many checks and balances to ensure that information could only be obtained by those with legitimate reasons and the necessary authority to do so. You could after all get pretty much a whole life story now that all of a person’s records were centralised, though the number of people with that sort of access was very small indeed. After a while the civil liberties groups had more or less stopped complaining. The advantages were seen to greatly outnumber any disadvantages the system had, and for law abiding folk this was the key. No-one really thought that Big Brother would come to Britain.

Even motoring offences had become quite harshly punished. Speeding was usually discovered by the plethora of camera which had sprung up, and was dealt with pretty much automatically by the computers which controlled them. Keeping people’s speed down was important to prevent accidents, though with the safety features now installed in most vehicles automatically, collisions between them usually resulted in high repair bills rather than serious injuries. Pedestrians and those on bikes weren’t so lucky of course. Without a vehicle around them for protection, injuries even at slow speeds could be quite severe. However the purpose of speed limits, on open roads at least, was as much to ensure fuel efficiency as anything else. The government was doing its best to end reliance on dwindling fossil fuels.

Parking offences too were now quite heavily punished, especially in towns and cities. This was part of the government’s attempts to get more people to use public transport and leave cars at home, or better yet not actually have one. Shops that had once migrated to out-of-town superstores, providing a weekend Mecca for car travellers, were starting to reopen in city centres. This was a double edged sword of course, hurting the smaller establishments that had grown up to replace them when they’d first left, but was generally thought to be a good thing. Smaller local stores like the one he had recently visited in his search for Riaz were thriving right now. Many felt that the few extra pence paid for purchases and the more limited choice offered were greatly outweighed by the cost, both in time and money, of driving out to one of the more difficult to reach superstores.

Jon looked at the latest case he’d been assigned to – an armed robbery at a Post Office that had happened late in the afternoon before. Compared to most of the other cases he was trying to clear up this was a big one, and he would be working with his usual partner, D.S. Sally Sullivan. She was a likeable soul. Always cheerful, no matter what life threw at her. Keen too. She’d got moved to the detective squad very early in her career and had been promoted to sergeant soon after. This was partly a reward for some clever detective work in a case she was working on and partly political correctness. The force still didn’t have a truly representative contingent of female officers, especially not among those holding a commanding rank.

He looked through the initial statements that the uniformed boys had taken. Adequate enough, though he hoped to learn more in his own questioning of the witnesses which he was planning for later that day. There’d been a spate of such crimes recently. This one sounded very similar to the others he’d heard about. He expected that it would very soon be taken out of his hands again, to be added to the other five that colleagues were investigating, if it looked like it had been committed by the same gang. Still, until it was he’d give it the proper attention it deserved.

He telephoned Sally to let her know he was in the station and free to discuss the case they’d been assigned to. She informed him that she was outside getting a ‘proper’ coffee and would join him shortly. She also asked if he’d like her to bring back one for him. He declined. The machine stuff provided in the station wasn’t as good as that obtained outside but didn’t cost anything like it either – only fifty cents instead of the W$3 or W$4 you could expect to pay for one of the larger beverages. Besides, he actually quite liked it.

By the time she returned from her expedition he was taking a call from Bolivia. Two men they suspected may have been involved in the blast that had nearly caught Riaz had left there on commercial flights to Venezuela. Both had taken the same commercial flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. He eagerly took down the flight details. With this information to hand, tracking their arrival in the UK would be easy. The Bolivians promised to send through photos of both men. He had hardly finished exchanging pleasantries with Sally and moved on to discuss the case they were to work on, when his computer beeped to announce the receipt of an email containing them. He couldn’t resist the temptation to pause his conversation with her to examine what he had received then forward the pictures, with a short covering message, to the team at LHR. Having both their images and the number of the flight they’d arrived on should make IDing them very simple. He hoped, too, that the process would be quick.

“I might have something concrete on the Riaz case,” he explained to Sally, now sat opposite him and sipping from her cardboard mug as she waited for him to finish typing. “I think I should stay here after all and see what develops.”

She assured him that she felt confident to take the lead in talking to the witnesses and would take a D.C. with her to do so. He voiced his earlier thoughts about the similarity of the case to those already being investigated.

“You’ll want to talk to the team investigating those cases before the witnesses,” he added, “you don’t want to pre-judge this one but it might help you prod the witnesses in the right direction if you’re looking for something in particular.”

She agreed, and headed off to carry her task out. She was pleased to effectively be leading the investigation for now, though no doubt D.I. Longton would get more involved if things got interesting.

He watched her walk away, her brown dress suit very businesslike, but nonetheless quite revealing. ‘And why not,’ he thought to himself. ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it, as the saying goes.’ There was no doubt she was very attractive, though too young for his maturing years.

While he waited for a response from LHR he answered one or two of the messages in his ‘In Box’ that required a response. He should probably have gone with Sally rather than waiting by his computer he thought. It might take longer than he hoped to get the information together. The receiving team might have other more important or urgent requests to deal with and might not get round to his own enquiry till much later. Tomorrow even.

While he was thinking this his computer pinged to alert him to the arrival of a new message. He clicked eagerly on the mail icon, leaving the message he was currently replying to half answered. He was disappointed to find, from the sender and the subject line, that this was only another information message. He flicked back to the one he’d been answering before and continued his work.

He was interrupted in the same way several times over the next hour or so that he worked. Each time he checked out the new message, becoming more and more annoyed that it wasn’t the one he was anticipating. In the end, he set up an automatic trigger to play a different alert if that message arrived. It didn’t take long to do. It was something he’d played with on his own laptop at home, though the messages he got there didn’t really warrant it. He liked to know how things worked though and using any facilities provided was the best way of learning. He could lose hours fathoming out how to do things he’d never need to use ‘in anger’. Now, when the machine bleeped to announce the arrival of a new message, he didn’t need to look to know that it wasn’t the one he was waiting for, He looked nevertheless.

The message he was answering was very mundane, to do with a case he’d finished weeks earlier and one that he hadn’t since given any thought to. Once a case was completed and handed over to the District or State prosecutors to decide whether or not to pursue it – most of his cases, he was pleased to say, they did decide to – he generally didn’t think about again unless he was called to give evidence, or a new case had a ‘same as’ feel about it. He flipped back and forth to his notes filed on the computer whenever he needed to refresh his memory or get more detailed information. Once a case was no longer active, either because he’d successfully closed it or because enquiries weren’t leading anywhere so he was instructed to move on, he didn’t keep a hard copy. Those things that weren’t already on computer he scanned in where he could and then, along with anything he’d printed out for convenience, he simply shredded. Any physical evidence he sent off to a central store, where wwhere wwwere he didn’t have to worry about it.

He’d finished his reply and was at the coffee machine at the other end of his open plan office when the response he’d been waiting for arrived. He was too far away to hear the little tune that its arrival brought from the computer, evidence that his earlier efforts had been successful.

He’d exchanged pleasantries with the two others that were there but hadn’t lingered once his brew had been poured out of the metal tube into the waiting plastic cup. They were talking about the football match that had been played out the previous evening and televised. It wasn’t a game that had ever really interested him, though he did sometimes watch big games such as the FA Cup and the World Cup finals when they were on. He watched them not really for enjoyment but because he knew these games would be the main topic of conversation at the station the following day. It was one of the many things he liked about working with Sally. She rarely mentioned football so he didn’t have to pretend an interest in the subject.

He found the message because of his inability to resist looking when his computer pinged. When he flipped to the Messages screen because another unimportant missive had arrived, he saw the anticipated one from the LHR team beneath it. He clicked it immediately and eagerly.

Both men had been identified and the response included the ID numbers of the chips they’d been tagged with. He forwarded the message to Central Control, covering it with a request to be sent details of all of any recorded transactions of the two men. It took only minutes for an answer to come.

One man had booked into a hotel, had drawn cash from a nearby machine, and had visited two or three bars on his first evening in town. For each of the next few days his movements were pretty similar. Lunches at restaurants, theatre tickets one night and a transaction that though it appeared innocuous enough, Jon knew to be a service providing call girls. Everything, in fact, one would expect to see on a legitimate business traveller’s log.

The second man showed only one transaction, a cash withdrawal made pretty much immediately after he had landed. After that there was nothing. He looked back at the message he’d received from LHR. The men were, or at least appeared to be, travelling separately. They’d not spoken or communicated in any way that the cameras had picked up. Nor, according to the flight’s records, had they been sitting together or even near to one another for the journey across from Venezuela. They certainly seemed to be travelling separately.

He sought to confirm that theory by calling the hotel the first man had been staying at. After an enthusiastic greeting from the switchboard operator he was put through to the front desk. He was lucky. The lady that answered his call was also the person who had checked Mr. Martinez in. She remembered it vividly because he’d complimented her on her eyes. His Werlderin had been correct but hesitant, sounding like he’d practised a lot but not actually used it much. He’d checked in alone, though he’d taken a double room. Yes, it was a single double bed. Most rooms had them she’d informed Jon. The number of rooms with single beds was very small. He thanked her, and followed it up with the usual statement that Mr. Martinez wasn’t in any trouble or suspected of any, then he hung up the phone.

He was as usual somewhat surprised at how easily he’d got this information, having simply identified himself verbally as a police officer. This was normally the case. Very few people took the precaution of taking his details and calling back through the station’s switchboard to check that he was who he claimed to be and that the enquiry was genuine. He thought to himself, not for the first time, that this was the kind of thing the civil liberties groups should be concerning themselves with, rather than the bigger picture stuff.

He thought a little about what he’d been told. It did seem more and more unlikely that Martinez was involved. The Bolivians must have simply been mistaken in their belief. He’d leave the trace set up on him though. You never knew – maybe Martinez was just playing a clever game.

For now though he’d concentrate on the second man, one Enrico Gomez. His activities, or actually lack of them, were much more suspicious.

He started by forwarding the information he had on Gomez, including the picture sent by the Bolivians and the still from his arrival at LHR he’d been sent, to the Control Centre from where it would be circulated along with any other characters the force was looking for to the bobbies on the beat and to other teams of investigators in case they should run across him. They’d also put the photographs through recognition software, so that his face could be compared to the many that were picked up by the security cameras around the city. It was a long shot, but did sometimes prove successful.

Apart from that he’d have to rely on good old fashioned police work. He’d make enquiries at LHR. Maybe one of the shop workers or taxi drivers would recognise his picture. He wasn’t optimistic though. It was now several days since Gomez had arrived. Even if he was lucky enough to ask the right person, they probably wouldn’t remember him. Even if they did, they probably wouldn’t know where he had gone. There were many many hotels and guest houses throughout the city he could be staying in. The chances of finding which one weren’t quite one in a million but might as well have been. He could get his photo onto one of the ‘crime’ programmes of course, but by the time that happened Gomez could well have left the country again.

He had nothing to investigate from the other end. He didn’t know how Gomez had managed to trace Riaz, or how someone else had for him. He could ask the Bolivians to investigate bank accounts of course but it was very unlikely such investigations would turn up anything. Gomez’s disappearance had shown that he wasn’t exactly an amateur at such matters and would probably have paid for information in cash, or would have used an account the Bolivians didn’t know about or couldn’t trace.

It seemed that the initial excitement was short lived. He should definitely have gone with Sally to investigate the armed robbery. That at least might have provided information worth following up. He toyed with the idea of joining her but decided against it. He’d let her lead on the case a little longer. She was probably enjoying the experience and might resent his interference so soon after handing her the case. No, he decided, better to try his luck down at LHR on the Riaz case.

He was just about to head down into the Underground to pick up the Piccadilly line train that would take him to LHR when he got the call. He listened in silence, straining to hear against the background noise of the passers-by pushing past him to make their way down the staircase that would take them to the station, as his boss told him what he knew about Rose Dawkins.