Monday, 6 August 2012

Bitter Together - 8. McCavity's not there ....

Dinwoodie found Grindstone's house with little or no trouble at around four am. He was not expecting lights and a fanfare when he arrived but five minutes of door bell ringing, banging on the door and shouting through the letter box left him exhausted and frustrated. He was about to leave when the lights went on next door and Ms Price twitched her nets to see what was going on. At that point Dinwoodie gestured for Angela to come out of the car as he popped next door and rang Ms Price's doorbell. Ms Price was standing in full view in the window with the sort of winceyette dressing gown and fluffy, pinkish, flannelette, teddy bear covered pyjamas he thought had died with ’Are you being Served’ in the 70's. The pussycat in her arms completed his mental image of Mrs Slocum going on about her ’poor pussy’ in a series of running gags in the sitcom. This lady should have simply had 'spinster' tattooed on her forehead and made it simpler for all. Angela managed to get her to come to the door where, with a lot of assurance and a little cajoling, they discovered Mr Grindstone was away taking a trip down the Rhine, from Basle, starting Monday. Angela left her card with Ms Price and asked her to call Angela if she heard from Mr Grindstone, as it was important they got in touch with him.

At ten to seven Ms Price was eating her bowl of muesli, prior to her morning shower, looking out on her backyard when a person in a black military style uniform, carrying an armed weapon and festooned - in a Tom Hank’s, Private Ryan manner - with what she supposed were hand grenades, jumped her wall, landed in her precious Lupins, startled Mr Grindstone’s cat then took up position behind her wheelie bin with their weapon pointing up at Mr Grindstone’s bathroom window. Twitching her front bay window curtains revealed another six similarly accoutred people rushing up Mr Grindstone’s front path where they proceeded to break the door down and rush inside shouting, ‘Armed Police do not move‘ at the top of their voices. One of the ‘secret policemen’, as she now assumed them to be, standing on the path covering the upper windows saw her and waved her back from the window. Ms Price pondered for a bit and wondered why they had not simply knocked on her door, like that nice couple earlier this morning, she could have told them he was away on his holidays down the Rhine and saved a lot of energy and down right, unnecessary vandalism. It was at this point Ms Price decided she would not tell these nasty secret police people anything about Mr Grindstone’s whereabouts, even if they asked politely. There were limits and by crushing her Lupins and scaring the cat, the police had just crossed hers.

Constable Stanhope looked around Grindstone's front room with a level of awe. He thought of himself as a 'Trekkie' but compared to Grindstone he was a rank amateur as signed photographs of, he presumed, Grindstone with George Takei, Leonard Nimmoy and the rest of the first series stars were in pride of place above the fire. The bookshelves contained the first video releases (VCR and Betamax) and box sets of Star Trek DVD’s along with the complete set of all the spin offs plus the movies. There was the memorabilia collected from 'Trekkie' conventions from all over the world and here in a drawer some original scripts signed by Gene Rodenberry himself. There was, to Stanhope's mind, something incompatible between being such a clear 'Trekkie' nut and the 'terrorist' who was supposed to live here. If Grindstone had been in deep cover he must have been waiting a long time for his chance. Stanhope completed his careful and thorough search and moved out into the hall just in time to see the 'techie' coming down stairs with a computer tower in her hands. Stanhope nodded at the SOCCO 'techie' (the petite and adorable but married Helen) to have a look and watched as the woman's eyes went wide with amazement and mouthed ‘I'll be back for a better look’ to Stanhope. Stanhope remembered seeing a lady next door twitching her ‘nets’ so crossed the fence and knocked on the door. Ms Price came to the door in her slacks and cardigan with that shiny just showered look that said 'fluffy pink'. He explained what had happened, asked her name and if she knew anything about Mr Grindstone and his current whereabouts? Ms Price was quite short with him and asked was it necessary for the UK's security that secret policemen could jump into her garden, destroy her Lupins and scare her cat. If that was the case then neither Ms Price nor her cat thought much about the secret police. Stanhope apologised again for any inconvenience to Ms Price, no he was not a secret policeman, his usual beat was as a community police officer around Alton and this role as a Hampshire Armed Response officer was, if she liked, a side line; about Mr Grindstone? About Mr Grindstone Stanhope found out very little other than he worked in London and, pointedly, he liked Ms Price's Lupins and her pussy, otherwise he kept himself to himself and had been no trouble in the ten years since she had moved in next door to him. Stanhope was left with a sense of unrequited love and a longing from Ms Price that Mr Grindstone could have been just a little more demonstrative, from time to time, in her general direction.

Back in the forensic lab the 'techie' took Grindstones tower to bits. It was clearly designed for running HD video and digital sound, with top of the range cards for both functions. There was a large amount of ram which suggested downloading big files and moving them rapidly but no hard drive and the mother board had been removed. It was clear, what ever else Mr Grindstone might be, he was computer literate to a high degree. There would be little information to be had except for a few ghosts in the machine. Her next move was to check who provided the fibre optic internet connection which turned out to be BT. BT were about as helpful to the police as they were to any of their customers and would not divulge any information they held on Mr Grindstone's account with out the production of the correct judge's warrant under the Data Protection and Control Act, in person at BT House in Basingstoke - terrorist emergency or not it was more than their job was worth. Oh, and there would not be anyone there until it opened to the public at nine am on Monday.

Next up was to check with the Border Agency to see, if by chance, they had logged Grindstone's passport outward bound over the last twenty four hours. Heathrow was nearest, so it made sense to start there. It was now midday on Sunday and they were still no further forward in tracing Grindstone's current whereabouts. So Stanhope and the rest of the team headed for Terminal one in the hope they would strike lucky.

The situation report from the Metropolitan Police Anti Terrorist Commissioner mid Sunday afternoon was less than helpful or reassuring to Cambourne. The 'Gritstone oik' had flown the coop and had taken his computer mother board and hard-drive with him. The Police Commissioner agreed with Cambourne this was indeed a suspicious action but not a fit basis for an Interpol terrorist warrant, just yet. All the forensic tests had come back negative for any explosives in the house and a thorough search had failed to find any fire arms. BT were being less than helpful but that was just par for the course. Currently officers were going through passport details at Heathrow to see if Grindstone had gone abroad, This search could take sometime because of the shortage of Border Agency Staff no official passport checks had been carried out on any EU or EFTA out bound flights to ensure they had enough people to handle the incoming Olympic Traffic through Terminals Four and Five. So his officers were having to trail through all out going flight, passenger lists for the last three days.

Stanhope arrived at the Swiss Air desk at 8pm by 1030 pm he found what they were looking for, Grindstone had flown to Zurich on the Saturday. Now all they had to do was watch for withdrawals from his Natwest bank account in Woking to get an idea where he was.

At lunchtime on Sunday Grindstone had used his Natwest debit card to pay for a trip down the Rhine, he then paid for his Zurich to Basle rail ticket (standard single) and withdrew £50 in Swiss francs in Basle all using the same Natwest card. Using his new Swiss bank card he returned to Zurich first class with a ’Gold Account’ discount. He had laid his trail of crumbs, it was now a question whether Hans and Gretel of the Swiss Police would follow it with their Interpol warrant in hand.

Monday morning, on the stroke of nine, Stanhope and Helen, the SOCCO, arrived at BT House in Basingstoke. At nine thirty the door was finally unlocked so they could get in and by eleven, after multiple ‘jobs worth’ phone calls between BT Basingstoke, BT HQ and the Data Protection Quango, Helen, finally, was allowed to down load all the data from Grindstone’s BT vault. By midday they were back in Helen’s lab looking at what appeared to be heavily encrypted document files which were in a folder entitled insurance and pension - everything else was in readable formats. It was clearly going to be a long afternoon, so they went for lunch before getting down to work. While Helen was working on breaking the encryption Stanhope contacted Grindstone’s Natwest bank branch - there was no chance of getting any details on the use of Grindstone’s debit or credit card, in effect anything to do with his account at all as the Natwest Tower server had fried in the power surge on Saturday and the Natwest folk were currently migrating the personal account ‘backed up’ data to a new server from the RBS mainframe in Edinburgh but in terms of overall importance it was down at the bottom of the Natwest IT department’s ‘things to do’ list. Current best guess is it would be Wednesday before all the personal accounts were back online and up to date.

At five pm the Metropolitan Commissioner responsible for anti-terrorism reported the lack of progress on breaking into Grindstone’s computer files to the Prime Minister but suggested they could put out a ‘missing person’ request to locate Grindstone to the Swiss Police as Grindstone was needed back in England for personal reasons. Cambourne made a ‘make it happen’ gesture and walked out. At noon (BST) on Tuesday Frau Schmitt of the Basle Police Force confirmed a Mr Grindstone did join a Rhine River Cruise at Monday Lunch time. The Chief Steward on the ‘Tannenbaum’ would pass on the message to contact the UK urgently, on Mr Grindstone’s return, as he was on a wine tasting trip to a local Riesling winery - according to the schedule.

It was the same time when Helen and Stanhope made the break through. Stanhope had decided to listen more carefully to the wmp voice files. As he listened, his brain joined up the dots. It was a sort of ‘eureka’ moment when he realised he was listening to a recording in pretty good Klingon. He handed over the headset to Helen and replayed the section. Helen agreed with Stanhope, Grindstone had clearly encrypted all his important document and sound files into Klingon. They spent the afternoon trying out all the proprietary Klingon to English translators on the web but only generated snatches of readable English. As for the sound files, there was no facility. Helen and Stanhope agreed, Grindstone had clearly developed his own translator for document and sound files - no doubt because the popularly available ones were not accurate enough for a deep ‘Trekkie’ of Grindstone’s standing. They were going to have to get authorisation to allow an equally deep ‘Trekkie’ who was fluent in Klingon to listen and translate the sound files. Stanhope picked up the phone to the big boss in London. This was going to be an interesting, if slightly bizarre, telephone call.

Grindstone took an early train from Zurich to Milan on the Monday arriving just after lunch. Having seen inside the famous Milan Duomo and walked in the Milanese fashionista’s Victorian shopping mall, just off the main square, he decided to give Milan a miss. Grindstone took the next train to Venice having booked a room, half board, at the five star San Clemente Palace sitting on its own private island, with a courtesy boat which would pick him up from the station and, according to the travel agent, a shuttle which runs from the hotel to St Mark’s Square twenty four hours a day - Serrenissima.

On Tuesday afternoon Stanhope found himself knocking on the door of an eco-house in Pembrokeshire where, apparently the Home Office UK expert on Klingon lived. The lady had even done her PhD on created languages focussed around Klingon, how the language had been developed by ‘users’ until it was now very sophisticated and postulated the whole construct as a potential way all human language had developed. The Cambridge University linguistic professors who had carried out Ms Hartnell’s viva voce had little or no clue about Star Trek but clearly recognised academic brilliance when they read it. There were multiple deep barks from inside what looked to Stanhope like an Iron Age round house but with a turf roof rather than thatch. Then again he did not think Iron Age house builders went to two floors including a massive solar on the south facing side with triple layer glazing. There was a woman’s voice telling the dogs to get into the scullery, a door closed and the sound of dogs diminished slightly. There was a rustle of a door chain being removed and this very elegantly dressed woman opened the door. Somehow Stanhope had been expecting dungarees, frizzy hair, crocs and bottle glass thick John Lennon spectacles; not Chanel - he was caught in a visual dissonance. Luckily Professor Marie Hartnell had no such difficulty,

“You’ll be Police Constable Stanhope with an interesting challenge for me, please call me ‘Marie’. Do Police Constable’s have a first name when on duty?”, she smiled, Stanhope tried not to let his mouth gape too much or dribble to run down his chin.

“George - Ms Hartnell, I mean Marie”, Stanhope was blurting words out like a love sick cow.

“Do come in George, I think this is going to be fun - don’t you? Coffee or tea?”

“Coffee please, Marie”

“Chocolate Digestive Biscuit? - only plain, I’m afraid”

With that George was ushered into the living room with the massive solar window looking south over the Pembroke Peninsula - there was a hint of Ysatis lingering in the air. Stanhope felt he had died and gone to heaven as he sat down on the sofa and looked around at the minimalist yet beautiful interior of the room, dominated by a huge polished steel, 360 degree, Jotel wood burner and dashed with a few exquisite abstract water colours on the flowing, corner less walls and not a single piece of Star Trek memorabilia in sight - in a weird way this lack of memorabilia disappointed Stanhope.

Sue Barker was ensconced in the BBC's Olympic control 'Argos' gazebo speaking inanely to the experienced GB hockey international, Tricia Cullen, about her own experiences of hockey as a 'gal' (blue knickers, tucked in blouse, chapped hands, red knees and tartan thighs) when she quickly put her serious face on, switched cameras and announced they were going across to New Scotland Yard for breaking news from the Metropolitan Commissioner in charge of anti-terrorism for the games.

" Ladies and gentlemen, I have a short statement to make on our ongoing investigation into Saturday night's terrorist attack on the Aquatic Centre and power lines from Scotland. Further to information received we are looking for two young Scotsmen aged between 19 and 25 in connection with the bombing. They failed to return for their shift as security guards on Sunday night. They are described as being of scrawny build, around six foot tall with mousy coloured hair. Both speak with a strong Glasgow accent and are believed to have been living in the Peckham area of South London for some months. They were last seen wearing their McWeiner Security Tabards, caps and armbands as they left, with T shirts, blue jeans and trainers. We believe they would have returned to their Peckham base before returning to Scotland. From the sophistication of the attack we suspect they were not acting alone and would have had accomplices. If anyone in the Peckham area has seen two young white men fitting this description and associating with others in a suspicious manner could the please contact the Metropolitan Police hotline. Later today I hope to announce a further breakthrough in the case. There will be no question session at this time due to the nature of ongoing operations."

A number of local journalists started laughing as they chatted about the announcement, after all 'acting suspiciously' was the norm for most young folk in Peckham. Chuck in a white van and you could go ahead and arrest most white youths in Peckham 'on suspicion'. One wag went as far as to suggest given the Met's usual modus operandi that it was amazing they were not blaming some 'whited up' and disguised Afro-Caribbean youths.

At the time of the Metropolitan Police statement a German Police Puma helicopter established the hover over the Tannebaum's upper sun deck. A dozen members of its elite anti-terrorist squad rappelled down ropes to the deck and, guided by ship's officers, quickly descended to Grindstone's suite on deck two, port side. When they were in position their boss gave the order and they simultaneously burst in through from the external balcony and cabin door, locating Grindstone lying on his bed dressed only in a pair of boxers, socks that were more hole than anything else watching a German soft porn channel on the 72 inch plasma screen. Before Grindstone could utter a squeak he was face down on the deck, gagged, with his arms and legs secured by plastic binders. Half an hour later after digital images were exchanged with London and passport details confirmed, it became clear to the German Police this was not the man they were looking for.

They embarrassingly cut the plastic binders, apologised over the mistaken identity and got the shaken young man a very large Schnapps while he explained how this nice man had starting talking to him when he was working out how to blag a barge trip down the Rhine from the pier head at Basle - preferably paid. The two of them went for a coffee, pastry and the man explained that he had a ticket for full board and all excursions on a Rhine trip to Rotterdam but had been contacted by his secretary and had to return to England in a hurry. Would the young man like his ticket for the fourteen day cruise? To a skint student from Wolverhampton, touring Europe on a pittance, it was manna from heaven - all his Christmases had come at once when he discovered the ticket also included a free mini-bar in his cabin.

The Metropolitan Police did not bother with their further announcement. BBC News 24, Fox, CNN Europe, Al Jezeera and Sky's coverage of the German Police's abortive raid from eye witness accounts and mobile phone videos had rendered it superfluous. Grindstone was clearly not the pathetic, stupid, little man his Civil Service bosses had pegged him for. The Metropolitan Police were now over 48 hours behind Grindstone's game but he would have to draw down more money or use his Natwest Mastercard at some point, £50 in Swiss francs would not get him very far. Then they would be back on the trail, once the Natwest had got its IT game together on Wednesday, that is.

Stanhope left Pembrokeshire with a transcript of very interesting calls between Grindstone and both his bosses which Marie had translated for him from the Klingon originals. She hoped to have all the documents transcribed by Friday if he would like to come back for them - otherwise she would E-mail them to his office. Stanhope had reacted like a typical man wondering why ask him to come back if she could E-mail them? The penny dropped when she gently touched the back of his hand with her fingers. She recognised the confusion in his eyes and his male thinking process as the penny dropped - being a professor of psychology had clear advantages in these situations. Stanhope stuttered one of those most stupid of male sentences, "But... we've only just met ..."

"I know," carried on Marie gently, "I would like to meet you some more ... why not come on Thursday night so we can have the full day on Friday to discuss the files and what they mean. Is there anything you don't like to eat?"

"No. I 'll give you a call when I am on the Severn Crossing."

"See you Thursday, then." Marie gently brushed her lips across his cheek and watched with wry amusement as he coloured. At times she could be very naughty but it had been a long time since her husband, who had been a professor of marine biology, had died in a diving accident. There was something very 'John like' in George's manner, an innate kindness and generosity even his ingrained police cynicism could not hide. She felt warm inside for the first time in five years and felt no need to analyse herself or her motives any further. There were times to switch off being a psychologist and just go with the flow.

In a solicitor's office in Woking a secretary was handed a brown envelope, by the senior partner, to post to the political editor of the Independent newspaper - registered, same day delivery.

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