The following day was a Saturday and one that he wasn’t scheduled to be working. There’d been no breaks in any of the cases he was dealing with, so he saw no reason to change that. He spent the day doing a variety of household chores, slipping out mid morning to restock his depleted freezer and larder. He usually did a big monthly shop using an online service that delivered to his door. Is trip as really a break rather than a necessity and he could purchase anything that he’d forgotten to buy on the last one or had run out of unexpectedly. He still took is two dourly calls from Riaz’s safe house and from the hotel, but the information they imparted didn’t change. Everything was still going smoothly and there were no signs of Gomez.
The Sunday started in pretty much the same way. He’d completed most of his chores by now, and was reading is Sunday paper in a pub near to where he lived while sipping the pint of ale he’d asked for. It was a specialist brew, one he’d had before and liked. Later, he’d order a meal to eat at the same venue. He had plenty of food at home now but liked the atmosphere of the place and felt comfortable relaxing here.
It was about the time that he was expecting a call from the safe house that his mobile rang, so he didn’t bother looking at the display to see who it might be from. He was a little surprised when he realised that the call wasn’t from the safe house but from another police station. Gomez hadn’t been spotted, but they did have new information that might lead the D.I. to him.
It wasn’t really luck that had brought this about, more good police work by the uniformed officer responsible.
In short, the voice at the other end of the phone informed him, the system had flagged up two instances of the same ID being used at about the same time. The timings weren’t identical , but they’d been far enough apart for the same person not to have been able to travel the distance involved and to have carried out both transactions. The second, later, transaction had been that of a vagrant obtaining drugs from one of the High Street pharmacies. Two uniformed officers nearby at the time had been sent to investigate and had arrived in time to apprehend the vagrant. He’d been taken to the station and questioned and had eventually admitted that he’d sold his ID details to someone. His description of the man and the fact he’d had a foreign accent had sounded familiar to one of the officers and the vagrant had identified Gomez when shown his photo.
Jon eagerly scribbled down the man’s name and ID number on the margin of the open newspaper in front of him, asking the caller if he knew when this had occurred.
“He was a bit vague on that, sir,” the officer at the other end of the phone informed him, “but he thought it was about a fortnight ago.”
Jon thanked the officer, and asked the name and number of the person responsible for this break. He scribbled the details onto another open space on the newspaper and asked for his thanks for a job very well done be passed on. He’d email this more formally later. He ended the call by pressing the red button, finished the glass of ale that he’d been drinking and clutching his newspaper, now folded so that the handwritten notes remained visible, left the pub. He’d log on from home rather than go to the station. It would be much quicker and he’d be able to access pretty much the same information from there. He’d done so many times in the past, wherever he’d had occasion to.
He called the Control Centre as he briskly walked, almost ran, back to his apartment, repeating the ID process he’d used before, then reading off the name and ID number of the man whose records he wanted. He asked that these go back one month. Better to have too much information than not enough. He stressed that the details were needed urgently, but that they could all be emailed rather than he be phoned back with the highlights. He expected the details to be waiting for him when he logged on. He also asked that a flag be set on the same ID so that any new activity would be highlighted. Again, he stressed any data that showed up would be required urgently and should be telephoned to him as soon as it occurred. He hoped that this would be noted next to his request and that any instances of the ID being used would be dealt with swiftly.
After ending the call to the Control Centre he called his own station, asking that a car be sent round for him and that it be assigned for the rest of that day, along with a driver. If he was lucky enough to get another lead on Gomez he didn’t want to waste time with public transport, nor in finding a vacant taxi to take him wherever he needed to go. The lights and sirens of a police car, if they proved necessary, would get him quickly through London’s traffic which would be heavy even on a Sunday, and having a driver would ensure he didn’t have to worry about parking the vehicle when he arrived at his destination. He also asked that the driver be armed, explaining his reasons. He’d like to be carrying a gun himself now, he was sure Gomez would be, but he’d have to go into the station himself to sign for one. He’d do this later, when time allowed.
By the time he’d returned to his flat, booted up his laptop, and logged on to the station’s server, the message he was expecting was already there. He knew it would be of course. His phone had bleeped a few seconds before as well as vibrating to tell him of its arrival. He’d resisted the urge to open it up though. He hoped there would be quite a bit of data. Too much to look at properly on the phone’s small screen.
It wasn’t difficult to distinguish the movements of the real Johnson from those of Gomez, nor even to pinpoint when Johnson had first sold his ID. Everything more or less tallied with what Jon already knew or guessed about both men and he was very used to reading these reports, though deciphering two different people using the same ID was new to him.
Neither man had used the ID very often. The real Adam Johnson had used it twice at the same employment office in the east of London, no doubt when claiming benefits, and every couple of days at a variety of pharmacies. Some of these appeared two or three times, some just once. From what he was picked up doing, Jon assumed these visits were for drugs. There were one or two other instances of its use recorded, including one of being read by the police when he was picked up.
For Gomez there were only three transactions recorded, two at cash points, the second of these occurring only a few minutes before the real Johnson was recorded getting the drugs which led to his arrest. Both were at ‘hole in the wall’ machines outside or at small shops. It was unlikely either would be able to provide a photographic image. It would have been nice to get one to be absolutely sure that the man he was tracking was indeed Gomez. The other transaction recorded him booking into a hotel shortly after he’d first got the ID. With luck he’d still be there. It was, anyway, the only lead they’d got on the man, and as good a one as Jon was likely to get. Gomez had either been playing an extremely clever game or had been remarkably lucky. He’d not been picked up by any cameras nor left any other clue as to his whereabouts.
Jon had just about finished reading through the information when he took a call to tell him that the car he’d asked for was downstairs waiting for him. He printed out the message and took it with him.
The hotel was in a road that neither he nor the driver was familiar with, so they had to look it up. There was a large street atlas in the car’s glove box which would make finding it a little easier than using the small one he carried, so they used that. They located it on the map, finding that the street was in an area the D.C. driving the vehicle was familiar with. He pulled out and made his way in that direction, while Jon finalised the route in his head. It wasn’t necessary of course. They could have just entered a post code or co-ordinates in the vehicle’s satnav. Not being a regular driver though it wasn’t a piece of kit that Jon was overly familiar with. Both also knew that even its detailed knowledge and linkage to the latest roadwork and traffic jam information was probably not a match for personally knowing the area. It didn’t take him long to realise that the hotel lay very close to Riaz’s flat, something he was sure couldn’t be mere coincidence.
The car moved quickly through the streets towards their destination, speeding up still more when the D.C. turned on the lights and siren at Jon’s request. He had no particular reason to think that his trip was urgent, but wanted to reach his goal as soon as he could. When they were on the final approach to the hotel the D.C. turned them all off again, again at Jon’s request. Life would just be made a little harder if Gomez thought his presence may have been detected.
They turned into the street to find it was much like any of the others in the area. Houses had mostly been converted into flats. A few had been turned into hotels, each with a sign announcing a grandiose sounding name. Every now and then one appeared to have remained as the single unit it would have originally been built as. All were set back from the road they were on, with parking in front, though the road itself was still lined with parked cars. There were several spaces among them, something it would have been unlikely to find if it were a weekday. They pulled in to one of these, to await the arrival of the back-up team Jon had requested. They didn’t have to wait long before another police car arrived, this one carrying three men and a woman, all armed and all plain clothed. He sent one pair to make sure there was no way out at the rear of the building and gave them a couple of minutes head start before walking down to the hotel himself, then turning up its driveway, accompanied by his driver and the second pair.
He stepped through the front door into a well lit lobby. It was much grander than the one Riaz had checked into, though nowhere near as opulent as their bigger ‘chain’ brothers that lay on the main roads that criss-crossed the nation’s capitol.
The lobby was empty apart from the Receptionist behind the desk. She had been busy with some paperwork, but looked up enquiringly as soon as the D.I. had come through the door, the D.C. a few steps behind him and the other pair bringing up the rear. One stayed near the entrance as soon as they’d stepped inside while the other marched purposefully across the Reception area to find and secure the rear exit. He introduced himself, flashing his warrant card to back up his assertion. The D.C. flashed his too, though this was done very perfunctorily, the leather case which held it not really staying open long enough for someone to have actually been able to read anything on the card it held.
Now that he had her attention he showed her the printout he was carrying of Gomez’s photo. She was pleased to confirm that Mr. Johnson had been a guest there for two weeks. He was more than a little disappointed when she continued that she’d checked him out herself earlier that morning. Se looked up the details on the screen in front of her. He’d originally paid in cash rather than with a debit or credit card, which was unusual but not unprecented. Then a week later he had presented them with a MasterCard for any balance to be charged to. He’d taken breakfast at the hotel every day and sometimes evening meals too. Jon wasn’t hopeful of finding anything but asked to look in is room, which the Receptionist assured him hadn’t yet been visited by the maid who would get it ready for its next occupant. Se typed a number into a machine on the counter top, then asked him to insert is ID. He held his little finger against the pad and the machine bleeped when it had read it.
“It’s room seventeen on the first floor,” she said. “There is a lift,” pointing around the corner of the Reception area, “but as it’s only on the first floor and you don’t have any luggage it’ll be quicker to use the staircase.”
The wide staircase dominated the lobby, standing at its centre and splitting to run up both walls when it hit the back. It was a rich polished dark brown laid with a thick red and black carpet. Where fittings were necessary, these were of a solid looking brass.
Jon climbed the staircase slowly, the D.C. a little way behind. Now that he’d learned he’d missed his quarry the excitement he’d felt earlier had soon disappeared. He followed the brass signs that led him to room seventeen and pressed the card reader on the door with his little finger. There was hardly a delay as a light flashed green and he heard the door unlock. It swung inward slightly and he pushed it further open and stepped in, holding it ajar for the D.C. to follow.
It didn’t take more than a cursory look around the room to know that he’d find nothing there to help him in his search for the man. Even the small bin by a desk at one side of the room was empty. He picked up the small writing pad that lay next to the telephone and holding it up level with his eye line turned it so that any impressions left on the top white page would be visible. There were none. He had, it seemed, drawn a blank. The D.C. had been standing in the middle of the room, not moving around but looking about to see if there was anything to spot.
“Come on,” said Jon, somewhat gruffly and left the room. The D.C. followed, pulling the door shut as he left.