Kay had taken a tea towel from the hook by the sink, left the flat and headed downstairs. It was unlikely the kidnappers had known the override code Irwin had used, so they had to have entered some other way. On inspection there were tool marks around the lock of the fire doors. They’d been forced open somehow.
With the tea towel over her hand she pushed the bar across the doors until it clicked and opened. This, she decided, was how the kidnappers had entered. They’d been a touch more subtle with these doors than those of the apartment, but had still deformed them so they no longer hung properly in the frame. Kay pushed the doors open and stared at the canal towpath just outside the door. There was half a bootprint and the scuff mark left by someone on one knee in the lichen growing on the sandstone paving. That, sadly, was only circumstantial trial level evidence, it didn’t give any pointers to who the kidnappers were.
There was a knock on the street side door. Kay looked round to see Gloria, everyone’s favourite scene of crime investigator. Gloria was six foot two in flat heels with skin the colour of coffee with a hint of cream and slim build. She wasn’t exactly inconspicuous, but in a biker’s jacket and jeans and with an open face helmet in her hand she didn’t look much like Police either.
“This is all quite exciting.” Gloria announced when Kay let her in. “Are you allowed to tell me what’s really going on?
“Somebody thinks they’re James Bond but they’ve messed up and got some innocent people into a dangerous place. There’s a woman and her son who’ve been kidnapped and we need to find them soon.”
“Should I start with those doors?”
“Please. That looks like where they came in.”
Kay stood guard at the foot of the stairs whilst Gloria dusted the door for prints and photographed the bootprint quickly. Gloria started hooking up her camera to a smart phone even as she walked back from the fire door. “Okay,” she said, “I’ll send these on now. There’s another scene?”
“Upstairs.” Kay called the lift. Gloria tapped commands on her phone’s screen. By the time they reached the second floor images of the prints she’d found had been delivered to a colleague with access to some powerful databases.
In the apartment Irwin was studying the carpet in the living room. “I’ve found some blood here. Don’t think it can tell us much about our kidnappers, but it’s something.”
“Good morning Mister Irwin.” They’d met when Irwin had helped on an earlier investigation. Gloria had a great ability with names and faces. Irwin looked at her a second time and nodded recognition. “So, does this involve gun smuggling?” Gloria asked. “Kay told me this was some sort of cloak and dagger thing.”
“It is, but we’ve got a kidnapping to solve.”
“Okay. I saw the door. I’ll start there.”
Kay filled Irwin in on the fire door while Gloria dusted the lock and frame. He told her about the kidnappers’ hourly check ins. Kay sat on the arm of one of the chairs and considered this. “Fifty minutes until their next call. And how long until anything we do is no good?”
“Not quite three hours.”
“There’s nothing useful around the door.” Gloria called. “They must have been wearing gloves. I’ll come and….”
Kay and Irwin looked down the corridor. Gloria had disappeared “Bathroom?” suggested Irwin.
When they reached the bathroom Gloria was lifting some prints from the tap on the sink. “Sorry, I got distracted. I just thought that even the toughest crook could get nervous when doing a kidnapping. They may have worn gloves the rest of the time, but they’d take them off to wash their hands after going to the toilet.”
“Have you found anything?” asked Kay.
“Let me get these scanned in and we’ll see.”
Gloria put her phone on the breakfast bar and sent another batch of prints back to base. “I guess I’ll do the rest of the flat. I’ll start with the toilet, for the same reason as the bathroom.”
Kay twitched the edge of a curtain aside and looked down at the street. She quickly dropped the material back. “Do you think they’d put a watch on the flat?”
“It’s not impossible, but I doubt it. Did you see something?”
“There’s a blue Mondeo down there with two men in it, right across from here. I should have spotted it when we got here.”
“Any chance they saw you open the curtain?”
“Shall we go and talk to them?”
“I guess we could.” Gloria was finished in the toilet and looking at the living room, deciding where to start. “We’re going to check something outside ” Kay told her, “We’ll be be back as soon as possible.”
They used the emergency exit and headed quickly along the canal to the nearest alley back to the street. “There.” Kay pointed out the car. It sat in a parking space across from the apartment’s front door, its two occupants sipping coffee from stainless steel travel mugs.
“Shall we do this quickly?” Irwin suggested.
Much as she felt she shouldn’t, Kay found herself saying “Lead on.”
They crossed the road and tried to appear casual as they approached the car. Kay pulled out her warrant card and cupped it in her left hand. As the neared the car her right hand sneaked into her jacket and eased her gun from its holster. When they were next to the Mondeo’s front passenger door Irwin made a quick move, dipping and pulling the door handle with his left hand whilst his right went for his gun. As he crouched and levelled his gun at the car’s occupants Key extended her card and gun. “Police. Hands where we can see them.”
The driver had spilled hot coffee on his lap. Despite the pain the fear of guns was enough to keep his hands in the air. The passenger was more composed. “What’s going on officer?” he asked, with only the slightest of tremors in his voice.
“It’s in my wallet, in my trouser pocket. Can I get it?”
The passenger shuffled as he reached for his wallet. He flipped it open and pulled out a thick plastic identity card. “We’re with the Department for Work and Pensions. This is a stakeout for a benefit fraud investigation. What are you doing here?”