Authors: Dreda Say Mitchell
About the author
Dreda Say Mitchell, who grew up on a housing estate in
east London, is an award-winning novelist, broadcaster,
journalist and freelance education consultant. For more
information and news, visit Dreda’s website:
Follow Dreda on Twitter:
Also by Dreda Say Mitchell:
Dreda Say Mitchell
First published in eBook in Great Britain in 2015 by
Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Dreda Say Mitchell 2015
The right of Dreda Say Mitchell to be identified as the Author of the
Work has been asserted by her in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be
otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that
in which it is published and without a similar condition being
imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance
to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978 1 473 61797 1
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
The lead cop silently counted off the numbers on his fingers as his armed response team crouched around him.
They went into action. Stun grenades fired through the windows at the front and back. The flash and bang of the grenades boomed and flash-lit backwards into the grey dawn. Two burly officers used a battering ram to break in the elegant Victorian front door that caved, buckled, splintered and finally crashed open. Firearms officers filed in quickly, waving guns and screaming, ‘armed police – nobody move!’
They headed for the stairs towards the bedroom where they expected to find their suspect.
Further down the street, Phil Delaney, commander of the Met Police’s Office Research Unit, watched his boys go in with satisfaction. Then he emerged from his car, accompanied by Joe Pick, a liaison officer from the FBI, who was there to observe the operation. Phil wasn’t convinced that any of these fireworks were actually necessary and thought a knock on the door followed by a quiet arrest would have worked. But he wanted to prove to his American colleagues that the British police knew how to do this Hollywood stuff the same way they did over the pond.
The two men walked up the road and through the smashed front door. The lead officer was standing at the bottom of the stairs waiting for them.
Phil asked, ‘Have we got him?’
‘Yes sir. He’s in the front bedroom. He was with a young woman.’
Joe Pick whispered, ‘That figures . . .’
Delaney and the man from the FBI walked up the stairs and went into the bedroom. The woman had squeezed herself back into the ruby-red cocktail dress she’d been wearing the night before and was putting on her sky-high heels.
She was outraged. ‘No right! No right . . . You have – no right!’
She was in her twenties, looked and sounded Latino, and Delaney could see she was going to be a handful. The suspect meanwhile was standing by the bed with as much dignity as he could muster in his boxer shorts and white vest. He was elderly with a paunch, grey wispy hair and a carefully trimmed moustache. He looked rather like a professor of Spanish caught with his mistress by an angry wife.
Phil looked at Joe who in turn studied the suspect before nodding with approval. Phil stepped up to his suspect. ‘Felipe Garcia?’
The man hesitated as if trying to remember what his name really was. ‘No. My name is Carlos Carreras. I’m a Venezuelan here to do business in London in connection with the oil industry.’
The young woman shoved herself between Phil and the man claiming to be someone else. She carried on with her, ‘You have no right! You have no right!’ theme song before her former bed partner whispered gently to her in Spanish and then put his hands on her shoulders and moved her to one side.
His watery eyes fixed on Phil. ‘There seems to be some misunderstanding. I don’t know any Mr Garcia. I have all my documents with me – they are all in order.’
Standing behind them, Joe Pick was unimpressed. ‘Yeah, I bet they are . . . I hope this chick showed you a piece of heaven last night Garcia – you’re going to be in hell for the next ninety-nine years . . .’
Both Garcia and Delaney turned and looked at the young American with disapproval. Garcia showed some steel. ‘This ‘chick’ is my wife and she has her documents too.’ He turned back to Phil. ‘I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Perhaps a conversation with my lawyer would help clarify matters?’
‘We have reason to believe that you are Mr Felipe Garcia. Mr Garcia is wanted by the American authorities in connection with money laundering for organised crime syndicates. We have an extradition warrant that your lawyer is welcome to examine if he wants clarification.’
Garcia smiled with pleasure. ‘I’m sure my lawyer will look forward to it. There’s nothing he enjoys more than clarifying extradition warrants. His name is Stephen Foster. Do you know him?’
Phil shivered inwardly. He knew Stephen Foster. Every cop in London knew Stephen Foster. While Garcia took his time getting dressed in a stylish grey suit with a silk shirt and tie, Phil looked nervously at the FBI man and hoped Joe’s superiors had got their paperwork right before Foster got his hands on it.
He ordered his officers to redouble their search of the house in an effort to find something that would incriminate Felipe Garcia. But they found nothing. It was only as they were preparing to escort Garcia and his wife to the local police station that an excited officer upstairs called down to Delaney and asked him to come up for a moment as they’d found something ‘interesting’.
Phil found a group of his men in the large bathroom holding a sounding device and an instrument for measuring heat. The bathroom was decorated in a Victorian style with an antique bath, tongue and groove walls, and polished tiles on the floor. In niches on the wall stood various scented candles.
Baffled, Phil Delaney looked around. ‘OK. It’s a bathroom – I’ve seen one before . . .’
The cop with the devices went to the end of the room and tapped on the wooden panel. ‘There’s a space behind here boss.’ He raised his heat detection device and added, ‘We’re getting a reading from behind the wall that suggests there’s someone hiding in there.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Not unless we put a hole in the wall sir, I can’t be – no.’
Delaney hammered on the wall and called out for an answer if anyone was in the space behind. But there was no answer.
Phil went back downstairs and as soon as he saw his suspect asked, ‘What’s behind the wall upstairs?’
‘Perhaps your men have discovered the boiler?’
It was only when a crowbar was ordered to be taken upstairs that the South American’s calm broke. ‘You can’t start vandalising this house; it’s a rented property. The landlord—’
Phil Delaney took the crowbar upstairs to the bathroom. He did the job himself. One by one the tongue and groove panels came away. As light began to break in to the space behind, there was movement on the other side like a rodent was fleeing for cover. It was only when half the panels were removed and a torch shone inside that it became clear what the movement was. In what looked like a box room, a terrified middle-aged woman was backed up against a wall clasping a bundle of clothes against her chest. Delaney noticed that there was a door in the space, which led to one of the back bedrooms. When Delaney gently asked the woman whether she spoke English, he got no reply from her. And that’s when the bundle of clothes against her chest started to move.
‘Can you tell me who this little fellow is?’ Phil asked as he presented the apparently healthy boy for Garcia’s inspection.
Garcia looked at the baby, then back at Phil and carefully answered, ‘He’s my son. And this woman is his nanny.’
Delaney was unconvinced. ‘Are you sure about that? Only I would describe you as being of a typically Latino appearance while our little friend here has blue eyes.’
Garcia shrugged his shoulders. ‘
was European with the same eyes. Mother Nature can play funny tricks between the generations.’
Phil replied with a slow, uneven smile. ‘I’m glad you raised the issue of genetics, because by tonight I’ll have DNA both from you and this baby. Are you absolutely sure you don’t want to tell me who this child is?’
The other man shrugged. ‘Just arrange for me to see Stephen Foster as soon as possible.’
‘I’ll be delighted to make that call. Of course, if it turns out that you’re not the parent of this baby and don’t have legal custody, you may well be looking at a charge of child abduction. I don’t think even someone of Stephen Foster’s undoubted talents will be able to help you out with that one.’
Joe Pick, who’d been silently fascinated by the appearance of the baby, became alarmed. ‘Hey, you can forget that – our case takes precedence.’
‘We’ll let the lawyers sort that one out Joe.’
The nanny only spoke a smattering of English. She claimed to be a Mexican citizen who had been hired by an agency to look after the baby of a professional couple from Venezuela who lived in London. She admitted that when the police raid had begun, she’d hidden as previously instructed by Mr Carreras. She fled with the baby through a secret door in her bedroom to hide in the space behind. Carreras had explained when she was employed that he had ‘enemies’ who might try to make ‘trouble’ for him at his house and that if anything happened, hiding behind the bathroom would ensure her and the baby’s security.