“So, we have a missing Russian, possibly with dodgy links back to Moscow, and a dead woman with a fake identity, who was shot by a Russian gun. Are we going to see who I think we are?” Leanne asked.
“That obvious?” Kay kept her eyes on the road.
“Well, it can’t hurt to go and talk to a spy, and see what expertise he can bring to the situation.”
“Former spy. And he’d tell you he was only ever an intelligence analyst. I don’t even know if he has any expertise on Russia. But I do know he’s still in touch with his old boss, who’s bound to be interested.” Kay pulled the car onto a side street laid with rectangular stone setts, rather than tarmac. The tyres made a rippling noise as they rolled over the ridges of the road. “And it’s on our way, so we’re hardly wasting any time.” She swung the car into a space at the end of a row of parked vehicles.
Their stop off was only on the way because they had gone the wrong way around the city centre, swinging themselves towards the area identified as the Northern Quarter. Then they’d needed to do a spiral around the one way system until they were coming back on themselves, but finally able to find parking where they wanted. It was a relatively short detour, made long by the route they ended up on.
The Northern Quarter had followed a familiar path in recent years. It started just across the road from the big, ugly box of the Arndale, a maze of attractive red brick or honeyed sandstone buildings. They had once been full of small businesses and shops, crowding around the wholesale markets on Shudehill. The markets had closed, and the area had run down, still active, but significantly less busy. For years, the streets had held a mix of older retailers, pubs and quirky, bohemian shops and cafes. Slowly but surely, the clientele had changed, becoming younger, and more of the eateries had sprung up. Now, it was busy, vacant lots were being redeveloped, and every other building seemed to contain a coffee shop with its own claims to individuality.
Their target was sat at a table in front of one such shop. He was in his mid to late thirties, dark haired, and looked to be of average height and build. His face was square, attractive, but not too distinctive. He was tapping away at a laptop, and guarding three tall cups. He had looked up at the sound of their tyres on the square cobbling, and lifted a hand in greeting as they approached.
“I don’t know how you take your coffees, so I ordered you a black filtered each, and there’s a jug of milk.” Irwin Baker told them. He gestured at the two chairs he had drawn up opposite him, and moved the disposable mugs in front of them.
“You didn’t have to do that.” Kay still lifted the lid of her mug as soon as she had sat down, checking the contents. Leanne reached across for the milk.
“Just a little something for my favourite Police officers. Am I going to get shot at this time?”
“You didn’t get shot at last time.”
“No, that is true. I nearly got knifed and caught up in a riot last time.” Irwin smiled as if they were happy memories.
“And, anyway, you came to us last time, and most of the times before. I’ve come to you, and I’m planning that no-one else gets shot at.” The coffee was good, dark, but not too bitter. And it had been waiting long enough to have cooled to a point where Kay could take a long sip without scalding herself.
“This has something to do with the shooting in Didsbury last night, obviously.”
“Obviously. One of the suspects is a Russian national. We wondered if your contacts in MI6 might be able to tell us anything about him.” Kay could already tell, from Irwin’s indulgent little smile, that he was ahead of her on that. He turned his laptop around, so that she and Leanne could see what was on the screen.
“Nikolai, Ivanovich Yasipov.” Irwin said. The same picture was on the screen as they had been shown at the briefing. “Russian businessman. Possible Mafia and government connections. Resident in the UK because, allegedly, he’d be in danger if he returned to the mother country. Lots of rumours about why he’s a marked man, he’s done several dodgy deals in the past, and pissed off his share of former business partners and rivals. Most of this is open source, but Six has collected business data that isn’t so easily found, as well as the usual gossip and rumour.”
Kay had been nodding at the details Irwin had given out, but had been more interested in scrolling through the information on screen. She had been halfway past one image of Yasipov shaking another man’s hand- both beaming and turned out in expensive suits- when she registered something familiar. She scrolled back up, and leant in to study a section of the picture.
“You know, you can open the image in a new tab and zoom in on it if you want a closer look.” Irwin told her.
She hid her scowl behind the screen, but did just what he had suggested. The picture blew up to about one and a half times its previous size. Not big enough to reveal any previously hidden details, but it allowed her to confirm what she had thought she saw. She turned the laptop screen to Leanne, who had been leaning in to get a better look anyway, and they both nodded.
Kay had shifted the enlarged image around the screen until an element of the background was more prominent. Over the right shoulder of Yasipov’s companion was a painting. It depicted a young woman, demurely dressed in a very old style. They had both seen that painting the night before, when they had looked in the Russian’s trunk after taking Joe and Rachel’s statements.
“Is the other one there?” Leanne asked, scrolling the image across and intently studying the wall behind the subjects. “I don’t see it.”
“I’m supposed to be the one with the revelations. That’s how this works.” Irwin joked. “Have you spotted something important that the great minds at Six missed?”
“Yasipov was selling some paintings. One of them is in this picture.”
“Now, that is interesting. The other chap in the photo is Arkady Belokov. He’s a minister for exports and foreign trade now, but he used to run mining and construction companies, and had quite the reputation. The dossier on him is thick, and has some proven wrongdoing, to go with the gossip and rumour. I’m going to owe favours to get you that one, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“I guess we’ll owe you favours in return.” Leanne said.
“You make it sound dirty. I suppose letting Six have a chat with Yasipov, should you bring him in for anything, will be a start. Anyway, I can email the Yasipov information to you. It may help.”
“My private email. I don’t want to explain where this came from. Not right away, anyway. It would just bog the investigation down.”
Irwin took the laptop back, and put the information into an email. He turned it back to Kay, so that she could type her email address into the ‘To:’ box. “Thank you.” she said, when he hit send.
“Don’t go playing spy catcher and running your own little investigation into this for your old bosses. We’ll catch the killer. And we’ll think about letting MI6 talk to Yasipov when we find him.” Kay and Leanne stood. Taking the coffees with them, they returned to the car.
“We’re going to see him again before this is over, aren’t we.” Leanne said as they reversed out of the space.
“I’d put money on it.”