Facts and Fictions

Tiger- Part Ten

Jeremy Simpson nodded approval at Irwin’s memory. A call to MI6’s headquarters on the banks of the Thames- the striking building known as Legoland to many of its occupants- had returned sparse electronic notes which fleshed out Irwin’s recall. There had been, in the late nineties to mid noughties, a series of disappearances amongst the world’s disreputable club of arms dealers. Rumours had abounded, including one that they had all been victims of a gang of thieves.

With so many of the transactions conducted in cash, and occasionally diamonds or other easily transportable valuables, it was hard to track them. If anyone off the watch list came into possession of such booty, and were disciplined enough, the trail could go cold very quickly. So there was little to back up any of the theories about the retirement of any gun smugglers and it was generally notched up as one less bad guy. The disappearances had tailed off in the last few years. Until a report from January of an arms dealer and his family found in a bullet riddled Range Rover in Miami after rumours that an associate had ripped off a major client and promptly disappeared.

If the associate had been hijacked and killed then a large deal would have fallen through. There was no arbitration on the darker edges of the arms trade. The client wasn’t likely to sit down and try to work out a deal, they’d most often draw a gun.

So, were the pair next door part, or all, of a gang which had targeted arms dealers and stolen from them and their clients? In one way it was a dangerous trade to be in, the dead family in Miami was evidence of what happened to people who found they’d upset warlords or terrorists. In another way it was quite safe- who was going to tell the authorities that they’d been robbed whilst carrying out an illegal trade. So long as their victims remained in the dark about the identity of their robbers the gang could move relatively safely.

If this gang was able to target big deals, and they certainly had today, they must have access to some high level intelligence. If they could be made to talk they would be one hell of an asset. The gain would be so much more than Jed had hoped to get from the deal they had crashed. He was already working out how to get them out of the country- it wouldn’t do to give the French intelligence this valuable- and what sort of deals or threats would get the best information out of them. Jed wondered whether it might be worth abandoning the planned deal just to sweep these guys up quickly. The dark part of him started calculating the intelligence benefits against the loss of Williams’ wife and child.

Jed had a conscience, but he sometimes asked it to look the other way. This wasn’t yet one of those times. Irwin was good, he might recover Karen and Simon Williams. But even if he didn’t the two men holding Gerry Williams weren’t leaving the hotel free. Jed smiled. He was trying, by proxy, to do the right thing and save two innocent lives. But even if he failed at that he’d still come out of the day with far more than he’d expected going in.

Other fiction by Ian Pattinson

Ruby Red– available as an ebook through Lulu.com or for the Kindle.

So Much to Answer For– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Global Weirding– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Sounds of Soldiers– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Tiger- Part Nine

The vans took longer than expected to give up any secrets. After another couple of minutes waiting for the call back about the number plates Irwin walked over o the main counter of the kitchen and studied the chrome and black coffee maker which at on it. “Are you done with dusting?” he asked Gloria.


“Who else wants a coffee?”

Kay wanted to glare at him, but she had to admit that, now there was nothing to do, she really could do with a drink. She nodded assent just after Gloria. Irwin set about deducing how the machine worked and tracking down coffee. He tapped the previous load into the pedal bin and opened the fridge. There was a jar of coffee beans in one of the door shelves. This cued more searching as he looked for a grinder. He was very noisily reducing beans to powder and flakes when Kay’s phone rang.

She cradled the phone on her shoulder and pulled the netbook to her. Opening a text window she began tapping notes as she listened and nodded. “Okay, we’ll be on our way.” she finally said before hanging up. “Okay,” she announced, “we may well have a result. One of those vans has the registration number of a completely different vehicle. Better still, it was just spotted heading into Salford. The other has just been spotted in Ancoats heading back into town. They’re going to keep tabs on it just in case.”

“Can we get to Salford?”

“Not quickly. My car’s back at the station.”

“Take my scooter.” offered Gloria, “It’s just outside.”

“I can’t ride a scooter.” Kay shrugged.

“But I can.” said Irwin, “If that’s okay.”

Gloria considered this for a moment. “Okay, but you’re paying for any damages.” She picked up her helmet and gave it to Gloria. “This will Bluetooth sync with your phone so you can talk hands free as you ride. There’s a spare in the luggage box.” She gave Irwin her keys. “Go and catch some bad guys. I’ll secure the scene and then walk back.”

Tiger- Part Eight

Gloria was sat at the breakfast bar with a digital camera plugged into a netbook and that connected to her phone. She was studying fingerprints and flipping back and forth to a rough schematic of the flat. “Was there any excitement?” she asked when Kay and Irwin returned.

“More like embarrassment.” Irwin admitted, “Do you have anything interesting?”

“Prints from four people- one child and three adults. They’re being run for me now. This one,” she tapped an image of smudged whorls and ridges, “is the one I’m most interested in. I found it on the tap in the bathroom and nowhere else.”

“We’ve got a couple of number plates being run.” Kay said as she pulled up a stool “Now I guess we just wait and see if any of this stuff tells us anything useful.”

The fingerprint result came back first. Gloria’s netbook pinged and they crowded around it to see what it said. When the file opened they all made little groans of disappointment. The print had been pulled from what was left of three stolen and stripped cars, but no name had been attached to it. Further details of each theft were included and, because whoever was on the other end of the message was thorough, a number of similar thefts. Before Irwin even had to suggest it Gloria was mapping the thefts to see if they were centred on any particular area.

“It’s quite a step from car theft to kidnapping.” Irwin noted, “And it looks like whoever’s organising this has subcontracted some of the work out to local talent.”

“But that doesn’t get us any closer to finding the wife and kid, does it.” Kay fretted.

“No, I guess not. Do you have anything for us Gloria?”

“I’m afraid not.” Gloria pushed the netbook away from her so they could all see the screen more clearly. The various car thefts were marked on the map as little stars, with the three which had donated prints in red with the rest in yellow. They were spread almost evenly over the map, the only pattern that could be discerned was clustering in the sort of area where more expensive cars would be more common. “Sorry.”

“Hey, it’s not your fault the thief goes where the best hauls are.” Irwin leant against the breakfast bar and crossed his arms, “Now I guess we have to hope that the vans can tell us something.”

Tiger- Part Seven

The identity cards had checked out. The two mystery men watching the apartment block were on the lookout for a group they suspected of claiming benefits under various names. Kay and Irwin had holstered their guns and taken up residence on the rear seat whilst they waited for the confirmation to come through.

“Well I don’t think anyone saw you waving your guns around.” the passenger, Paul, deadpanned. “We may still be able to carry on the watch.”

“What are you recording?” Kay asked.

“Comings and goings. It’s just about ascertaining who visits who could be worth further investigation.”

“Do you keep a log? People and vehicles in and out, that sort of thing.”

“That we do. Jim.”

Jim, the driver, was still brooding over a wet- and overheated if not burnt- crotch, so he wasn’t so talkative. He handed a notepad back to Kay.

There were three pages of notes. Starting at the end Kay found Gloria and then, up the page, Irwin and herself. She flipped to the second page and paused to tap a couple of likely notes- two vans, twenty minutes apart, which had parked in the side alley beside the apartments. The occupants of each vehicle had headed for the canal towpath and returned within ten minutes to put something into the rear of the vehicle then drive off.

Kay phoned the DI. “How’s it going on getting us some uniform?” she asked.

“We’ve got a couple of cars at our disposal, the chopper’s going to do a few circuits of the centre in case we need eyes in the sky and Armed Response are sitting in their Range Rover just waiting to play with guns. If we don’t get a result that can go on the clearup stats I’m going to owe some big favours. What have you got?”

“We’ve got a couple of number plates which might be worth running. Both white Transits.” Kay read the numbers off.

“Okay. Those should take five minutes at most. I’ll put out a call for them to be looked for but not stopped yet. I imagine we’ll want to angle weapons onto them just in case.”

“We’ll go and see if Gloria’s turned anything up.”

“Gloria eh? Say hello to her from me.”

“No sir, I won’t. You’re a married man.”

The Detective Inspector chuckled. “You exist to spoil my fun. Later.” He hung up.

Kay handed the notepad back. “Thanks for your help. And sorry about the guns, but this is that sort of case.” Irwin and she exited the car and walked back to the apartment building as inconspicuously as they could manage.

Other fiction by Ian Pattinson

Ruby Red– available as an ebook through Lulu.com or for the Kindle.

So Much to Answer For– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Global Weirding– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Sounds of Soldiers– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Tiger- Part Six

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?”

Kay shrugged.

“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?”

“Very carefully.”

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?”

Tiger- Part Five

Whilst Irwin stood in the middle of the living room soaking up details, Kay made a call. “There’s a SOCO on the way in civvies,” she announced when she hung up, “we should be able to buzz her in.” Irwin nodded. He pulled out his work phone and redialled the number from earlier. “The DI told me not to be surprised if you were carrying. It would be nice if he’d tell me these things before I find them out.”

Irwin tried to look apologetic, then dipped his head as the call was answered. “Yeah. They’re not here. It looks like a middling hard entrance- ripped the lock to shreds- and then they hustled the hostages out.”

“That’s not good. Did you go in heavy?”

“Light, but with firepower. I was going to improv the Jehovah routine if there’d been anyone here.”

“That would have been a show. Any clues?”

“Scene of crime are on their way. Maybe they can lift a print. How are things at your end?”

“We’ve still got three hours until the meet. They’re sitting on our guy and we’re in the room next door. We could just strong arm them, but that would probably get the hostages killed. We’re…. hold on a minute.” There was a rattle as the phone at the other end was put down, then a minute of quiet. “Just as I expected,” Jed the Jedi said when he picked the phone up again, “that was a check in call to next door. They’re making them at quarter past the hour. If the hostage takers don’t get a response they clear things up at their end and get gone. If they don’t make the call I guess the same thing happens here.”

“But you won’t let them.”

“Of course not. But the hard job is stopping it at your end.”

“So I’m grasping the shitty end of the stick again. Thanks for that.”

“Any time.”

Irwin’s head snapped up, but he wasn’t really looking at the wall in front of him or the picture on it. As the conversation had strayed from mission specifics into what passed for banter under the circumstances a few pieces had fallen into place and his memory flagged something for his attention. “Before you hang up, one thing. Five years ago there was a rash of disappearances of people on my watch list and their families The official take was that even arms dealers retire eventually, and these guys were of the generation that supplied the sort of bush war that was going out of fashion. However, in amongst all the chatter about them there was a rumour of a crew who were turning over deals. Taking the money and stiffing the customer. If they didn’t kill the dealer then the customer probably did. Urban myths for gun runners we thought, so it was knocked on the head as an investigation. There’s a file on it somewhere, but it’s little more than a few dates and a bit of ‘He said, she said’.”

“You’re a damn fine database. I’ll call Legoland and see what they can drag up. You get out there and burn some shoe leather, or whatever the phrase is, and see if you can’t rescue the wife and son.”

“Will do.” Jed the Jedi hung up. Irwin turned to talk to Kay, but she wasn’t there.

Notes “Legoland” is the occupants’ name for MI6/SIS headquarters, according to this page.

Tiger- Part Four

Irwin was sat on the top step of the Albert memorial on the eponymous square. Rather than looking at the gothic majesty of Manchester town hall he was staring down a side street which opened onto the north west corner of the square. Bootle Street Police station was off this street and Kay Woods was going to appear out of it at any moment.

Irwin ran his hand around the back of his chinos until he found the gun in its holster. He checked the grip for the fifth time, just to be sure he could draw it quickly if he needed, then adjusted his shirt to conceal it again. The security briefing he’d had on his exit review had said he should be armed at all times. Lately he’d become lax, locking the Glock in the gun safe under the bedside cabinet.

The only times Irwin had been injured, indeed the only times he’d been in danger, had been ones when he was carrying a gun. And only once had a firearm saved his life, compared to dozens when brains, and occasionally fists or improvised weapons, had sufficed. Carrying a gun didn’t make him feel safer. Today, however, it might be a necessity.

When she appeared, Kay looked as uncomfortable as Irwin felt. Even from a distance he could tell she was wearing a bulletproof vest under her blouse. There was something about the unconscious roll of her shoulders that said she was still getting it to sit right. And she was wearing a jacket which was too heavy for the warmth of the day, no doubt to hide the gun she would have been given as well as covering the extra weight the vest would give her. She wore flat, sensible, crook taking shoes. If he ever caught her in heels she’d be nearly his height. Her expression gave away the anger she felt at having this job thrust on her.

Irwin stood and headed to meet Kay, holding himself straight and putting on the game face. There was no way he could let Kay see any of his worries. This was going to be a full-on job, she needed to see his seasoned and blase persona.

“What’s going on?” Kay opened with, trying to put him on the back foot from the off.


“And you’ve been called in?”

“We should walk and talk. That way.” Irwin headed for the central library, making her follow him. When she had stopped fuming and sprinted to catch up with him he started. “Six are running an op in Paris.” he held up a hand to cut off the obvious question. “They found a middling arms dealer on the verge of a big sell and turned him with threats and offers of a new life. He’s set up the deal so that it’ll let them sneak some maguffin’d guns into circulation and trap a few bad guys. Problem is, there’s a third party they hadn’t bargained on who’ve gone and stuck their noses in. They’re running a tiger kidnapping to get the cash from the deal. They’re holding the stooge’s wife and son. Somewhere here, in Manchester.”

“And MI6 called you and asked you to help out. Why not come straight to us?”

“Snobbery. Bad blood. I don’t know. They may not have called your top brass, but they did sort of go straight to you. Your DI’s in good with them, that’s how I got my consulting gig in the first place. So once they knew I was on board they gave him a call and asked for a favour.”

They had rounded the library and crossed the tram tracks and now they were heading south on Oxford Road. “Six’s man’s got an apartment on Whitworth Street West, down near the Hacienda. We should check there first. Luckily the main door’s key code entry and I now know the code.”

They crossed the road by the Palace Theatre and headed down Whitworth Street West. On their left, across the road, the railway ran along brick elevated track. The arches housed a theatre, restaurants, shops and clubs. On their side of the road new apartment blocks mingled with older landmark buildings such as the Ritz nightclub. Beyond the buildings ran a canal.

Irwin began piecing together escape routes from the road. There was one footbridge and a lock gate along the stretch of canal they were paralleling. Unless you were n the right place that probably wasn’t the best way out. At the eastern end of the street the railway side was little better. There were two street tunnels under the tracks,the longest of which offered no cover or hiding place in its length. The western end of the road was better. The last few arches before the next junction were open, even if they only opened onto the wide open space of car parking and landscaping around and office building. Irwin decided not to get chased down Whitworth Street West if he could help it.

The apartments weren’t in the block that marked the end of this stretch of the street- built where the Hacienda nightclub had once ruled- but the one before it. Irwin pulled out his work phone and brought up a message. He tapped the override keycode into the pad by the door then pushed it open when it buzzed. “Do you have a code for the apartment as well?” Kay asked.

“I may have to pick the lock.”

Kay wanted to call Irwin out on that statement, but he showed no sign that he might be mocking her. They were in a foyer which ran through the building to fire doors onto the canal towpath. On one side of the fire doors was a lift, on the other stairs. Irwin considered the options then led the way up the stairs.

“Seriously?” Kay asked when she caught him up, “You can pick locks?”

“I’m no master thief, but I’ve got the tools and a bit of training. Every month or so I’ll buy a lock and practice on it.”

“I thought you were just an analyst.”

“Everyone needs hobbies. Lockpicking is one of mine.” Kay obviously didn’t believe him. “The desk jockeys at Six had a sort of informal field craft club. We’d teach ourselves stuff like that and get together every so often to do challenges.” And there had been more formal training, including armed and unarmed combat, which Irwin had signed up for. Adrenaline training with an ex-SAS man was one of the reasons he was still alive.

They were approaching the second floor. Irwin signaled for quiet. Kay bristled at being told what to do by a civilian, but hushed her next question nonetheless.

Irwin stood before the door to the second floor corridor and considered his next move. He started talking as he pushed the door open. “Which apartment did you say Sue’s was?” As he spoke he stepped into the hallway and looked left and right as if confused. The glances up and down the hallway told him it was empty and his ruse was unnecessary. Kay, momentarily confused, followed him.

“That way.” Irwin announced after further orientation. The apartment was at the end of the corridor on their left. They were halfway to it when they noticed the door was ajar. Not fully open, but more like someone hadn’t pulled it all the way closed.

Irwin’s right hand slipped round and under his shirt and came back with his Glock. Kay managed to keep herself from any exclamations. She merely scowled and reached inside her jacket. Irwin nodded when she showed him her gun.

They approached the door as casually as they could manage whilst holding guns low but ready. Kay took position on the nearside of the door whilst Irwin jumped across and flattened himself against the wall by the far side. On closer examination it became obvious why the door hadn’t shut properly. The lock was mangled from some form of brute force version of what Irwin had suggested.

They studied the door, listening for movement beyond it. After a while Irwin shrugged and and reached out with his left hand to push the door open. It swung a little way and there was no reaction from inside, so he pushed it completely open and stepped through.

Kay stood guard as Irwin opened the first door off the hallway and checked the bathroom. “Clear.”

Kay checked the next room- a child’s bedroom- and they alternated the other rooms. There was no-one in the master bedroom, guest bedroom, toilet or the main open plan kitchen cum living/dining room. On the breakfast bar which marked the boundary between kitchen and living room there was a half finished bowl of breakfast cereal- some sugary rubbish which had turned to mush in the milk. The stool the bowl had been set before had been knocked over backwards. Across from the cereal was a mug of coffee, still half full. Kay pressed the back of her hand against it, “Not that warm. They’ve been gone an hour or more.”

Irwin holstered his gun. “Of course they are. The Jedi would never give me an easy job.”

Other fiction by Ian Pattinson

Ruby Red– available as an ebook through Lulu.com or for the Kindle.

So Much to Answer For– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Global Weirding– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Sounds of Soldiers– available as print on demand or ebook from Lulu.com or for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection.

Tiger- Part Three

Paperwork was what sent the criminals to jail. Knowing this didn’t make the task any less annoying. Kay Woods was on the third day in a row of paperwork and the headache had fully settled in behind her eyes.

Two dozen witnesses all said different things about a gun which had been brandished and then fired into the ceiling at a club night. One person was still in hospital after a ricochet from the concrete roof of the basement establishment had punctured their lung. Some of the witnesses knew who had fired the shots, but were covering for them. Others were certain who it was and had tailored their statements to put the person they felt was guilty in the right spot. Still more were too scared to say what they had really seen. Even the few who were probably telling the truth gave contradicting statements, the weaknesses of human memory compounded by doses of booze, vitamins or herbs.

Kay was trying to build a case for the facts which could be relied upon. Statements corroborated by other witnesses were given more weight. Outliers went into two piles- obvious and probable. It was most likely a hopeless task, and the case was getting old anyway, but an uncommon quiet period meant she could go back and use some of the techniques Irwin had described to her. He could be annoying, obtuse about his past and far more proactive than he should be, but he was good at analysis and a fount of esoteric weaponry knowledge. Maybe she should take advantage of that enthusiasm and call him up for some help. Preferably as a charity case, she didn’t want to know what he earned per hour for official work.

The Detective Inspector was there before Kay’s desk. She didn’t know how he could sneak up like that. It was a small office, she should have seen him move in her peripheral vision. In fact, the last she’d noticed he had taken a phone call and left the office grunting and saying “Yes.”



“How well do you know Robert Irwin?”

“Did I say his name three times?” The Detective Inspector raised his eyebrows and cocked his head slightly, the ‘serious now’ look. “I was his babysit…. er liaison on that multiple in Trafford. We met up for beers a few times after. He’s been showing me some analysis tricks.”

“Do you trust him?”

The honest answer would have been nuanced. To tell her the truth about his life before he moved to Manchester? No. To keep from charging into a situation that could be dangerous? Again no. To not be running another agenda beyond whichever investigation he was helping with? Actually, probably yes. But with the safety of others, up to and including her own life? Definitely yes.

“I guess.” Kay managed.

“That will have to do. We’re working for him, or his old bosses, for a change. You should meet him on Albert Square aysap whilst Jim and I try to get some uniformed backup.” The Gun Crime Tracking department was small. DC James Knott was the junior member, currently counting bullets and taking down serial numbers on a gym bag full of trouble which had been recovered the previous night in Levenshulme. Kay nodded dumbly, waiting for the bombshell. This was the sort of conversation that usually ended with a bombshell. “You’ll need this.” The Detective Inspector had laid a holstered handgun on the desk. That was another thing about the DI, he had a magician’s ability to distract you from whatever was in his hands until he wanted you to see it. “Get your discreet vest on, you don’t want to draw too much attention.”

Note Ooops. I accidentally scheduled this for tomorrow. Solved that now.

Tiger- Part Two

Irwin Robert Baker, currently trading under the name of Robert Irwin, had long ago stopped being dismayed by the fascination numbers held for him. The box in the bottom right of his laptop’s screen ticked over share prices and tallied the net worth of his investments in them. It was all green, and he was earning more sipping Earl Grey in Manchester’s Northern Quarter than he could have in an office.

Of course, it had helped that he had started with a large sum to invest. Mostly he was playing low margins, staying just ahead of the rates he could get from a decent savings account. Playing it safe. Even when the training kicked in and he divined some gamble worth taking he only threw the long odds funds at it. His life was all about safety these days. Prosperous but just a little dull.

Even his side gig for the Police was low risk. They’d assigned him a handler and she sat on his shoulder like a cartoon angel, telling him to stay in the office or the car and let the armed officers do their job. Kay Woods looked good whilst she told him off, though, so he let her keep on doing it.

Several of the numbers ticked up again. He’d cash out if they peaked or at the end of the day, whichever came first. The latest gamble bounced up and down ahead of a big, and mostly secret, announcement due in the afternoon. If Irwin had read the runes correctly the news conference would cause an immediate spike in share price and fair long term value. If not, well it wasn’t as if he’d be doomed to eating instant noodles for the next few months.

A little risk, but not too much. A safe life. Irwin was contemplating taking up sky diving when his mobile rang. Not the mobile on the table by his laptop, but the one in his shirt pocket. The one he still carried and called his “work phone”, even if he was officially retired. He fished it out and looked at it, for a moment confused by the insistent device.


“We need your help.” said a vaguely familiar voice.

“Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again.” Jeremy Simpson, Jed the Jedi, had balanced his tactical genius with technical incompetence. Even knowing this was no social call Irwin couldn’t help but joke.

“Serious help. We’re running an op and….. there’s a situation.”

“And I’m the nearest thing you have to an asset in the right area. Tell me more.”

Sky diving could wait.

Tiger- Part One

Chain hotels are built to a reassuring pattern. Wherever you are in the world the rooms are laid out the same, the colour scheme is familiar and the furniture is made to the same pattern. Only the flourishes added at the end give a hint of locale. It was the paintings of can-can girls and Montmartre which reminded Gerry Williams that he was breakfasting within shuttle bus distance of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

That and the lack of a decent Full English breakfast. He liked a good croissant, and these had just the right mix of crispy shell and fluffy insides, but for the work of the day to come he felt he deserved something a touch heartier. At least the coffee was strong.

Williams sat with his back to a corner, flanked by prints of the Eiffel and Arc de Triomphe, with a good view of the whole of the restaurant area. He watched the business travellers and tourists- and those posing as business travellers or tourists- over the rim of his bowl of coffee and ran a blasphemous little prayer through his head that this would be the last time. When this deal was done he could go home and die with his family in a convenient car crash before being resurrected with a new name in a new country. Simon was young enough that the transition wouldn’t be too had for him. Karen had always known it was a possibility.

Williams spotted them as soon as they entered. Definitely fake business travellers- shirts and ties at breakfast time were a giveaway, no-one who had to do it regularly put on the noose until it was needed. They moved like thugs as well. The classier kind, but thugs nonetheless. They had businessman hair cuts, short but not crew cut, and were clean shaven but were obviously not there on a layover or between sales pitches.

The pair steered straight for Williams’ table. Most of the other patrons remained blissfully unaware of the sharks gliding past them. He let them come to him because the shorter, darker one had reached into his jacket and moved the lapel far enough back for a shoulder holstered gun to be visible. They came to a halt flanking his table and blocking his escape routes.

“Mister Williams,” said the taller of the pair, “it’s so good to meet you.”

“I’m sorry, you have the wrong man. My name’s not Wiliams.”

“You are checked in as Tony Wedgewood, I know, but let us not pretend you are not Gerry Williams. We have a proposition for you.” The shorter man had been tapping at the screen of a mobile phone and now he laid it on the table. On the screen was a photo of Simon and Karen. They both looked terrified, and with good reason. From the right of the screen the unmistakable barrel of a Desert Eagle pointed at them. Williams’ vision narrowed to the phone and the image it displayed. He could just hear the tall man say, “You are going to help us steal four million Euros. Now, if you will show us to your room, we shall discuss the details.”

Notes Starting today I bring you Irwin, my attempt at something modern yet pulpy. Fast, short adventures featuring a recurring cast of characters. Each update is a scene from the story, intended to be a few minutes’ of reading, often with a cliffhanger ending. They are also the first draft and once each tale is completed they shall be reworked and published through Kindle and other channels. For now updates are Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, but I’ll go to every weekday if I get far enough ahead.

Some of the characters in Tiger also appeared in So Much To Answer For (available in print from Lulu.com and for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection) and long, long ago in the Deputised Experts webcomic. The comic isn’t strictly canon, but I’m planning to incorporate some of the bits from So Much To Answer For into future stories.


Yes, I know these things are supposed to be weekly not fortnightly.

What has passed

There have been a few things in the last week and a half which have distracted me or taken me away from work. With the exception of a friend’s birthday celebrations none of them have been good. So productivity has been poor.

I managed to get a page of Point of Contact done for last week, but not for this. With stuff that’s coming up I don’t think there’ll be a new page for several weeks. The next page introduces some important characters and sets up part 1’s big finish, so I want to make a better job of it than I feel capable of at the moment.

One thing I did manage was getting a book onto Amazon’s Kindle platform. Post and Publish collects three novellas and four short stories for the ebook reader (and many i-devices too). No sales yet, but it’s a little more length in my long tail. I’ve just uploaded Ruby Red, with luck it should be live by the weekend.

The bike business is steady, after a particularly good week a fortnight ago. I haven’t got rid of any of the bikes I was working on, but others have left the building and given me a little more space. I’m also now the proud owner of a bike trailer, which should make carting stuff around easier.

What shall come

I may have lost any momentum I had earlier in the year. It’ll come back to me, but I’m going to take a week or three to deal with some stuff I think. Projects will be rebooted/finished as soon as possible and there’ll probably be some campaigning and political stuff to liven things up. I can’t give any definite plans for the next week or so.

Longer term I think there may be a market on the Kindle for shorter works sold cheaply- 10,000 to 40,000 word novellas, possibly as parts of a series- so I’ll kick off some ideas along those lines.

Next time I hope to bury you under news of projects nearing completion, starting up and in planning.

In memory of Jilly’s- All Stood Still 1

Note My only piece of Rockworld fiction, this was part of a parallel worlds story which never got very far. If pale blue aliens were going to materialise anywhere, the middle of Jilly’s dancefloor would be the sort of place they’d choose. Can anyone remind me which song I lifted the title from? There’s another line about “Still stood still”.

The only tan man in a world of black and denim, Sam surveyed Rockworld. There was a statuesque lady in a basque over by the pool tables, lots of large hairy rockers and more than a few of the short cute indie chicks he lusted after. One day, he really had to talk to one of them.

The beer had taken him away from the dislocated feeling that had lingered from Market Street. Now he needed to dance. Where was everyone else?

Out on the dancefloor, hiding behind one of the pillars, the gang were safe from extreme mosh. They were collecting discarded bottles, though. Another lee. Sam tapped one bottle aside, just to see where it rolled. He guessed the rhythm, matching the beat through trial and error. At this time of night everyone was too drunk to mock his geek level lack of coordination.

The playlist boiled down to six or seven songs he recognised, three he didn’t then back to familiar territory. An acceptable ratio. The DJ launched straight into Teen Spirit. Everyone on the dance floor puffed up. Lots of people off were drawn in.

Sam had once had the hair for this song. Now it was too short. It didn’t flap, let alone fly, around his head as he banged. He imagined it growing out on the down swing, swirling round and obscuring his vision on the up.

Everything slowed down, went blurry. The song was driven by a slow strong heartbeat rather than charging anger. The other dancers were dark blurs, black on black on black. All merging together, lost in the trance. Sam was moving as slow, but he could look all around, his eyes spinning in their sockets.

There. In the middle of the dancefloor, a fine, slim shape, the faintest hint of blue. Appearing from nowhere, with a residual glow from the journey. She looked around then walked off, the crowd parting before her. Normal speed rather than the treacle slow of the dancers.

For a moment Sam was distracted. Across the dancefloor, the only other person in focus. Short, dark hair, pale face, an indie chick from his sweetest fantasy. She was staring at him, briefly distracted from the new arrival.

And the music was back, proper speed. Sam staggered, off balanced by the shift. He considered running across the dancefloor, after the blue glowing woman. Or the dark, staring girl. It wasn’t going to work. He could skirt the dancefloor, intercept them at the door.

What he might say didn’t occur to him. He just had to catch up with either of them. The gang were staring as he took off, he didn’t have to look around to know that.

The blue woman was through the door, the people she passed oblivious to her, and turned toward the Rock room. The girl was a few steps ahead of Sam. She had a fitted top and snug jeans. Sam had just seen someone materialise on a crowded dancefloor and he was thinking of cupping a hand and feeling those arse cheeks. His priorities were still in the right place.

Through the Rock room and they still couldn’t catch their vision. Into the PVC room. It was a dead end, maybe now they could get some answers.

Except she wasn’t there. There was a woman in an all white outfit, hot pants, bustier and fishnets, dancing with herself, but no mysterious glowing lady.

The indie chick turned to Sam. She had big brown eyes, pale skin and fine features. If she talked to him he was going to fall in love.

“That’s the second time that’s happened to me today.”

Smitten, Sam could just nod. “Me too.”

Script Frenzy 1

Shall I do Script Frenzy this year? It’s run by the people behind National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to get a hundred pages of script- for play, screen or comic- done in the month of April. It doesn’t sound as hard as the 50,000 word target of NaNoWriMo, which I’ve yet to hit, and I’ve an idea for a comic.

Sounds of Soldiers is the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2008. Any script I produced would have to take less than a year and a half to get released.

A quick look at the political blogosphere

With an election due soon I thought I should start looking for good British political blogs. I had some fun, found out a lot and worked out some of the background to Sounds of Soldiers through reading US political blogs in the run up to the 2008 election. Perhaps I can do something similar for the UK. A while ago I started adding poliblogs to my Bloglines account and following their updates. Some I’ve been reading since before Christmas, others I haven’t even looked at yet. Here are my impressions of a few of them-

Worst first, I think. I’ve been reading Guy Fawkes’ blog since before Christmas, though it quickly descended into waiting for something worthwhile to read. It hasn’t arrived yet. GFB is a very popular blog, as ‘Guido’ won’t fail to tell you as often as he can. It may have done something to get into that position in the past, but nowadays it’s all about throwing out red meat for his ravenous commenters to rant about. He also has a habit of referring to himself in the third person, which is about right for an obnoxious, self important blowhard. And a dumb one at that, he jumped right on the ‘Climategate’ non-story before Christmas, pretending that the hacked emails somehow negated all the evidence about climate change. I’ll carry on following Guido, but I’m not expecting anything interesting.

And another thing…. is the blog of Tom Harris MP. Unlike Guido, Tom puts some thought into the point of his posts rather than how to score cheap points with them, even if they do occasionally read as if he’s gone through them with an eye for spin. Whilst I don’t agree with many of his points it is nice to see an attempt at communication.

Harry’s Place is full of long, dense posts that probably reward careful reading. It’s just a shame my attention span’s so

Iain Dale is what Guido might be if he wasn’t so desperately trying to impress people. He’s very obviously of the right, and has the occasional point scoring jibe at Labour or the LibDems, but does it with a much lighter touch. You get the feeling that if you were dining with him at Le Caprice the conversation would about something more interesting than how wonderful he thinks he is.

Enough for now. I shall return to this subject again soon. And probably even more until the election.

The American Right are revolting!

That’s revolting as in disgusting, nauseating and horrific. They think they mean revolting as in starting a revolution but, as usual, they’re wrong.

Sounds of Soldiers was based upon the premise that McCain/Palin stole the 2008 election then McCain keeled over and left the mad woman to play out her apocalypse fantasy with the world’s biggest military machine. Glenn Beck’s wet dreams, if realised, could plausibly lead to the same catastrophe.