The response had, as Jon had asked, been discreet. When he arrived there were only two unmarked vehicles outside the house. The front door was closed when he approached it. He rang the bell and it was immediately opened by a W.P.C. Unusually his warrant card, held up to identify himself, was properly examined before the policewoman stepped aside and let him enter.
He didn’t need to be shown through to the lounge. He remembered the house’s layout from his earlier visit. Nor did he need to be led out to the garden to see the body. It was plainly visible through the now open patio door. Sally had her mobile phone to her ear as he entered. She was obviously doing more listening than talking. She saw him enter, spoke quickly into it, then lowered it. When he spoke to her she seemed more distraught at having lost Riaz on her watch than at the man’s actual death. She had already detailed events leading up to the shooting when she’d called him a second time.
D.C. Jones, who had been working the same shift as Sally, was helping another uniformed policeman erect a plastic sheet on the lawn to ensure that no-one who wasn’t inside the house could see the body. Between them they could probably put up something good enough for the forensics team, when they arrived, to not need anything more while they carried out their tasks.
The calibre of the weapon used had been too small for the two shots to pass all the way through Jon noticed when he moved across to the body and gave it a quick visual examination. This would be good news for recovering the bullets. No need to dig around for them in the brickwork surrounding the doorway, though this wasn’t a task Jon would have had to complete himself. It did mean it would be harder to tell for sure where they’d been fired from, but from what Sally had told him that too wasn’t really very doubtful.
It seemed very unlikely the shots could have come from anywhere else except one of the houses at the rear overlooking the garden. Sally had already sent detectives to see if they could identify exactly where. All of the houses were occupied, from what they’d learned so far legitimately so, except one. The owner of that one had given permission over the phone for their investigations to proceed, having been assured no damage had thus far been caused and none expected. She was on her way down now to see for herself.
At least Jon now had the answer to why Gomez had checked out of his hotel that morning. He’d simply not needed the room any longer, having located his victim. Jon had no doubt who had been responsible for Riaz’s death, though he did wonder how the man had been found so quickly. It might be a question that was never answered, but then again he might be able to get an answer from Gomez or be able to puzzle it out for himself over the coming days.
There was, at least, no point in continuing the operation back at the hotel in Kings Cross he thought, getting practical matters back into his head. He called D.S. Halligan to end the operation. He didn’t much feel like explaining his reasons. The D.S. would learn of events here soon enough.
The house’s cover was probably blown. He didn’t think his colleagues in the Service would want to use it again now. Even though Jon had tried to keep things discreet, he was sure that neighbours would soon know what had happened and any future use attract their unwanted attention.
He left Sally to await forensics then clean up, her penance for her failure to keep Riaz alive. He’d go round to the house they believed the shots to have been fired from. His experiences at Rose’s house and in the hotel room meant he had little expectation of finding anything there but he might at least get a picture in his head of how events had unfolded. He could talk too to the detectives who had called at the other houses, to see if they’d turned up anything else that he might be interested in. He took the car round to the next street. He wasn’t being lazy but practical. He wanted it to be handy if needed.
By the time he arrived there, the owner had too and had already opened the front door to let two officers in. They were conscious of wanting to not risk contaminating any evidence that might be there so though more officers could have gone inside, they didn’t. Instead, they’d been instructed to continue house-to-house questioning. As he’d expected, the house revealed nothing other than confirming that the shots certainly could have come from there. Like Sally, he thought it very unlikely anything other than a house overlooking the rear garden would have provided both the opportunity and the cover Gomez would have needed. He’d have to wait until the science confirmed the theory of course, but it was a hypothesis he was happy to accept unless and until it was proved wrong.
He did though have a break when he was talking to the officers who had been going from house to house before getting access to this one. Several of the houses had been visited by someone not long before the incident. But it was only something mentioned by people on one side of the house. The side that would have been passed if approaching from the main road. No-one further up the cul-de-sac had mentioned it. They’d gone back and specifically asked there when this fact had come to light, but the householders they’d asked had all been adamant there had been no callers. They hadn’t been able to confirm whether the caller had been Gomez though. None of the detectives had his photo.
Jon hurried round to the first house where this caller had been mentioned, with the officer who had conducted the first interview in tow. The man who answered the knock from a large brass affair that banged loudly on the metal plate it was fixed to was very pleased at this second chance to answer questions and invited them inside. They sat in the lounge, which wasn’t quite the spitting image of the one next door but was the same size and shape, and were joined by the man’s wife. She offered them tea or coffee and hovered behind her husband’s chair when this was declined. Jon asked about their visitor earlier that day. The man had been in the back garden when he’d called so hadn’t seen him. The door had been answered by his wife. Jon looked enquiringly at the woman and she gave the same short story she’d first given to the officer. Jon leant across, taking the printed photo from his pocket, opening it up and offering it to her. She gazed at the image for several seconds, then said that it could well be the same man but that that she only really remembered the ugly black spectacles he’d been wearing. With further prompting she remembered that he’d been carrying a briefcase, black or brown, or maybe silver, again she couldn’t quite be sure. The visit had been short and not one she’d felt at the time needed committing to memory. She didn’t add that she would do so in future, but thought it. Jon thanked her and left her with the D.C. to add the new information, and anything else she remembered about the man or his visit, to the earlier statement she’d given.
He repeated the exercise at the next three houses heading back towards the main street. At the first he got a similar reply. At the second they repeated what they’d said earlier. They’d had no visitor, but had been out most of the time making their regular Sunday pilgrimage to the local church so might not have been home if there had been a caller. The third was the old lady that had answered her door on the Friday. She hadn’t received a visit that day, but had recognised the man as he passed as being the same one that had called and made an appointment the previous Friday. She readily identified him from the photo she was shown, though she commented that he’d worn glasses and looked somewhat older. Perhaps that was just an affect caused by the glasses? He thanked her, retrieved the photo, and told her that another officer would call back round in a few minutes to write down everything she’d told him. She saw him out of the front door then hurried off to put the kettle on, to have a pot of tea ready and waiting when the officer called round.
Jon walked to the two houses on the other side of the safe house. Despite prompting and leading questions both households were sure that they’d had no visitors either that day or on the previous Friday, though at the second house the occupants would both have been working on the Friday so not in if anyone had called.
Jon was sure from what he’d learned that the caller had indeed been Gomez, and that he’d been at the address on at least two occasions. Quite why he’d chosen to make his presence known Jon wasn’t so sure of, but felt it may have been a ruse to approach the house he was really interested in. Some physical evidence to prove Gomez had been there would be nice but at least he now had something solid to link Gomez to the property. What he needed now was the man himself.
It was logical to think that now Gomez had completed his mission, there would be nothing to keep him in the country and that he’d want to leave … probably as quickly as possible. There were lots of ways out, but he’d arrived at LHR. It seemed probable that he’d exit the same way. Especially if he had no reason to think he had been identified and was being looked for. He’d put out a more general alert to all of the airports and ports when he got back to the station. In the meantime, a direct phone call to the team down at LHR wouldn’t hurt!
When he arrived back at the station he asked his driver to stay with him. He wanted to be ready to leave again immediately if any sign of Gomez was detected. Once he’d started his computer, it took only minutes to create and send a message to Central Control asking them to recirculate Gomez’ details to all of those places he might try to leave through and to let them know a departure might be imminent. He glanced frequently at the list of messages once done, almost willing there to be a new item of mail about Gomez.
The phone call that he took wasn’t from Central Control but from LHR. Gomez’ face had been recognised by the system as he’d gone through the security checks leading to the Departures lounge. By the time the system had finished processing the image, had matched it with a photo of one of the many people the authorities wanted to keep track of, had alerted the team monitoring the system, and the alert had been picked up and acted upon, Gomez had passed through the check point so hadn’t been picked up. He was now thought to be somewhere in the lounge awaiting a flight out of the country. He could have left again of course. There were exits back out into the main terminal and these weren’t monitored but there was no reason to think this was the case. They’d sent people to watch the exits as soon as the alert had come in and they’d realised it was too late to pick him up there and then, so he’d have to have left the area within a few minutes of arriving there to have been able to leave again unseen.
Jon was moving as he was taking the call, signalling for his driver to follow. He almost ran down the staircase. He waited impatiently by the passenger door for the D.C. to unlock the vehicle. He held one hand over the mobile when he told him to head for LHR. He agreed with the officer on the phone that finding Gomez in the Departures lounge would be a difficult task. Even on a Sunday it would be very busy, and Gomez might spot officers looking for him and get spooked.
The system had already identified which flight Gomez had a ticket for. Jon suggested they should check again, to see if there was also a ticket booked in the name of Adam Johnson. Of course, there was no reason to discount the possibility Gomez had a third, unknown, ID and that he actually intended flying out on this one. With the technology and its power it would probably have been possible to verify the legitimacy of every single passenger, but not in the time available. Gomez might, even as he spoke, be boarding a plane. He suggested that as an extra precaution, cameras showing gates that were boarding should be monitored. It wouldn’t be that difficult for this to be directed through the same system that had identified his progress through Departures security, but as then there might be a delay in finding and flagging him, and that delay might be enough for the flight to depart. Better that human eyes be used for the purpose. Jon was a great believer in the benefits of technology. That didn’t mean that he didn’t also think there were times when there was no substitute for people power. Jon thought of these suggestions as instructions. He had no real power to ‘instruct’ the team down there but if his suggestions weren’t followed for some reason, it would be somewhat embarrassing to have to explain why not. He hung up the phone.
“Might as well use the lights and bells,” he instructed the D.C., who reached forward, pressing a button to do so.