“Hannibal, something’s coming.”
Hannibal didn’t look up from where he was working on the padlock on the gates. “What is it, Murdock?”
“Well, I’m not certain, but at first glance, I’d say it was the Hound of the Baskervilles.”
Hannibal remembered the “Beware of Dog” sign they’d seen when they climbed into the construction site. “Guard dog?”
“If you don’t get that open in the next five seconds I’m climbing the fence.” Murdock warned him. Hannibal could hear the dog barking now.
“You’re going to climb the fence carrying a pneumatic drill?” Hannibal asked.
“Forget the drill,” Murdock said, his voice getting panicky. “Hannibal!” The gate shuddered as Murdock grabbed the wire and started pulling himself up. Hannibal turned. The dog, a Doberman, was only yards away. Hannibal took a deep breath.
“Lie down!” The authority in Hannibal’s voice was so strong that Murdock almost followed the animal to the ground.
“Murdock,” Hannibal said, staring the dog down. “You have to finish getting the gate open, if I break eye contact it’ll go for me.” Murdock took the lock picks from Hannibal’s hand. “Slowly.” Hannibal said
The prone dog whined a little, put its head down on its front paws. Murdock worked on the lock. The padlock came loose with a loud click that made the dog raise its head and made Murdock flinch. Carefully Murdock got hold of the pneumatic drill they were “borrowing”.
“On three, Colonel.” Murdock said quietly. The gate opened outward, he began to push it slowly. “One.” He edged through, struggling with the drill. “Two.” Murdock was on the other side of the gate. “Back and then left, Hannibal.”
Hannibal threw himself backwards then dodged left. Murdock slammed the gate shut. The dog hit it like a furious, hairy missile
“Jesus!” Murdock was actually shaking a little. He managed to padlock the gates as they both leaned against them.
“What happened to your very special way with dogs, Murdock?” Hannibal asked, grinning, as they loaded the drill into the trunk of Chris’s car.
“I think I prefer yours,” Murdock said. “Anyway mine only works on normal human dogs.”
“You know what I mean. Dogs from Earth, not hellhounds like that. Look at it! It’s trying to chew through the fence! What do they feed it on? Barbed wire?”
Hannibal slammed the trunk closed. “Come on, it’s getting light, let’s get this back and speed things up a bit.
Back at the warehouse Hannibal and Murdock proudly carried their prize across the floor to where BA was pounding the concrete with a pickaxe. Chris and Jenny followed them, looking a little dubious.
“Isn’t this stealing?” Jenny asked.
“Just a temporary loan.” Hannibal said. “We’ll give it back as good as new.” Of course he’d said the same thing about the shotguns, so he didn’t dwell on that. Anyway he was sure they would get the Remington back. Eventually.
“BA, you can take a break now.” Hannibal said. BA, stripped to the waist and sweating, looked very grateful. He took off his safety goggles. “Go get some breakfast.”
BA went off with Chris and Jenny. Hannibal and Murdock turned to the pneumatic drill. They both looked it over for a while, then stood up and looked at each other.
“You have any clue how to operate this?” Hannibal asked.
Murdock shrugged, spread his hands and blew out a “pffft” sound.
As dawn broke Hannibal was standing outside on guard. He tensed a little as a vehicle approached. It was a VW camper van. He gripped his shotgun then relaxed as Face got out of the van. Murdock appeared at Hannibal’s side, a large grin on his face.
“Thanks, Tom, real nice meeting you.” Face was saying to the driver. “Yeah, I’ll call you before I go home, we’ll get together. Good luck with your gig tonight.” He slammed the door and the van turned in the yard and left.
“Morning, Face.” Hannibal said as Face approached them. “Making new friends?”
“I just can’t help myself.” Face said.
Murdock’s smile faltered a little as he took in Face’s cuts and bruising and the blood on his clothes.
“Oh my god!” Jenny had just come out of the warehouse and seen Face. “Come here, let’s get you sat down. You look as if you should be in a hospital!” She led him away. Face didn’t protest at all, quite liked the idea of being ministered to at the moment.
Murdock went to follow them but Hannibal stopped him. “Captain, get back in there and keep working. I don’t know how long we have, we need to be ready.” Murdock nodded and though he looked disappointed he did as he was told. Hannibal glanced inside. A wall of telephone boxes met his eye. It was funny, however much he studied military strategy sometimes he found it was best to just cut out all the complicated stuff and go right back to basics.
It was a very long time since he’d built a fort.
Hannibal and Chris stood in the break room watching Jenny dressing Face’s wounds.
“How long do you think it’ll be before Tate shows up here?” Hannibal asked Face.
“Well, he’s probably getting a few more guys together. I think he’ll have realised by now that he’s got more of a fight on his hands than he figured. But he seems like the sort of guy who prefers the cover of darkness so I think he’ll wait until this evening to come after us.”
“Okay, once you’re fixed up I want you to go find out what you can about this guy.” Hannibal said. Face sipped a reviving cup of tea and nodded.
“That could take a while though, Hannibal.”
“Actually,” Jenny said, “I might have a way to speed that up. There’s this policeman I know, he’d probably know all about Tate.”
“That prat Keithley?” Chris exclaimed, frowning. Hannibal raised his eyebrows.
“Yes, I know he’s a prat,” Jenny said, “but he’ll do anything for me.”
“That’s what bothers me,” Chris muttered. .
“Sounds good, Jen. Can you go call him now?”
She did and returned a few minutes later.
“I’ve arranged to meet him for a coffee later this morning.”
“Okay, great, but I think one of us should go with you.” Hannibal said.
“Good idea.” Chris agreed.
Face didn’t seem enamoured of the idea.
“Aw, Hannibal, the guys a cop. You want me to go have a friendly chat with a cop?”
“Face, we aren’t wanted in this country.” Hannibal pointed out.
“No, but there’s such a thing as an extradition treaty.”
“Decker probably can’t even spell extradition.” Hannibal patted him reassuringly on the shoulder and Face winced. “You’ll be fine.”
Face grumbled some more, but didn’t raise any further objections. Once he’d got some breakfast inside him he and Jenny set off back to Finchley. Face got cleaned up and changed. He put on a tweed jacket and a pair of spectacles. He decided Dr Dwight Pepper could do with another outing.
Jenny had arranged to meet her policeman friend in a café near Scotland Yard. They arrived early and waited in silence. Face was a little nervous at being so close to the police headquarters and Jenny seemed rather preoccupied with something. Eventually she spoke.
“Face.” She hesitated. He looked at her expectantly. Finally she went on. “Is Murdock okay?”
“Murdock? Sure. I expect he was a little worried when I was grabbed, but I’m sure he’s fine now.”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean, well… you know, he lives in a psychiatric ward.”
“Oh that.” Face said.
“Don’t worry about it, It’s not a big deal,” Face said, reassuringly. She looked highly dubious at that.
“Not a big deal? He’s been there for ten years.”
“It’s a long story. No time for it now, is this your friend?” A slightly paunchy man about their age had come into the café.
“How could you tell?” Jenny asked frowning.
“I have a kind of radar for law enforcement.” Face grinned. “Okay, you remember the details I told you?” She nodded. The man came over to their table. To say he wasn’t overly thrilled to see Jenny wasn’t alone was an understatement.
“Who’s this?” He asked Jenny.
“Hello to you too, Eric,” she said. “This is a friend from America, Dr Dwight Pepper. Dr Pepper, Detective Sergeant Eric Keithley.” The two men shook hands and they all sat down.
“Dr Pepper is writing a book about London criminal gangs,” Jen explained. Face saw Keithley’s expression change to contempt.
“More of that ‘true crimes’ rubbish?” He asked.
“Actually,” Face said, quickly. “It’s more on how the police have combated those gangs and brought them to justice, though their excellent detective work.” The effect was instant. Keithley almost preened.
“Oh well, yeah, that sounds very interesting.”
“I’m currently looking into the subject of a man named Harry Tate. Jennifer thought you might be able to give me some more information on him.”
“The Tates? Yeah I remember that case. I was still in uniform back then.”
“Do you mind if I make some notes?” Face said, bringing out a notepad.
“Okay, but this has to be off the record, you know.” Keithley put several sugars into his tea.
“Tates? Plural?” Jenny prompted.
“Yeah, you know, brothers,” Keithley said. “Harry and Vernon.” Face looked unhappy at the thought that there were more at home like Harry. “Early seventies they were at it. Fancied themselves as the new Krays, but never had it in them to run a decent firm. Strictly small time blaggers. Bit of minor protection, knocking over post offices and building society branches. Got caught, got sent to jail. End of.” He sipped his tea, shrugged. “You might say where the Krays had a reign of terror the Tates had a reign of being bloody annoying.”
Face was scribbling on his notepad. “Harry is out of jail now, though, isn’t he?”
“Just a few weeks ago I think. Did the full ten for armed robbery.”
Face glanced at Jenny then down at his notepad. Since he was supposed to already know at least some of this stuff he needed her to ask the questions. She saw the word ‘Vernon?’ written on the pad.
“What about Vernon, is he still in jail?” She asked, seeming to hang on Keithley’s every word.
“No, he come out about five years ago. In a box. Got his head bashed in, a fight over fags or something.”
Face raised an eyebrow and Jenny quickly said, “He died in a fight over cigarettes? That’s terrible.” Face looked slightly relieved.
“Good riddance if you ask me.” Keithley said. Face was seemingly pre-occupied with his notes for a moment, so the policeman turned to Jenny. “So that husband of yours got a proper job yet, or is he still selling all that junk?” Face glanced at Jenny to see her expression freeze. Then she put on an fixed smile.
“Still selling the junk.” She said. “Had any holidays this year, Eric?”
Keithley didn’t seem to notice that her voice was lowering the ambient temperature of the room by several degrees. “Yeah, had a week in Marbella, it was…”
“That’s nice.” Jenny’s voice was bright and brittle. “We went to New Zealand for a month last year. The kids loved it. Took the in-laws too. This year we’re going to Egypt. And Chris and I fancy a trip on our own to Rio as well.”
“Er… that sounds really nice.” Keithley said, slightly subdued. Face smiled to himself. Still selling the junk indeed.
“Sergeant,” Face said, trying to bring them back on track. “Were the Tates ever suspected of involvement in anything bigger than the crimes they were eventually convicted of?”
“Well actually.” Keithley leaned forward, his voice lowered, conspiratorially. “There was one thing, an unsolved case of bank robbery. Not the usual stick a gun in the cashier’s face and run with the money from behind the counter job, but breaking into a vault at a main branch. There was no proof the Tate’s were involved, just whispers from informants. If they were it was the biggest job they ever pulled. And if they’d have been done for it they’d have got life.”
Keithley nodded. “A security guard died. He was apparently only hit once, in the head. But it killed him. They reckon he wasn’t hit with a gun or nothing either, just a fist. And of course Harry Tate was a boxer.” Face unconsciously rubbed his bruised stomach and thought about that look in Tate’s eyes.
“Of course,” he said quietly. “How much cash did they get away with?”
“That’s the thing, Dr Pepper. It wasn’t cash…”
BA shut off the drill and took off his ear defenders.
“Hannibal!” he yelled. The Colonel hurried over, followed by Chris and Murdock. They looked into the hole BA had made. About three feet down the drill had broken through the lid of a wooden crate, which had formed a chamber inside the concrete. BA was pulling away pieces of the top of the crate, where the concrete was now broken up.
Hannibal shone a flashlight down into the space to see a metal box, roughly two feet square and a foot deep. There was some rust on it where water had seeped into the space, but it looked intact. There were handles on each side of it.
“Can you lift that out, BA?” Hannibal said. BA bent down and got hold of a handle, the box shifted a little, but then BA let go.
“It’s real heavy,” he said. Hannibal started to grin. He felt as if he had x-ray vision, he felt as if he could see inside the box now.
“Get a block and tackle set up,” he ordered. “And get some tools from the workshop to break into it.” The other men rushed to obey him, all of them excited about their find.
Within a few minutes they were hauling the box up. They swung it over and put it down on the ground and BA got to work with a cutting torch to remove the lock. The lid was also rusted closed, but more work with the torch and then BA pulled it open, flakes of rust falling away from the edges.
The glow that came from the box was almost magical. It struck most of the men dumb, but not Hannibal of course. He took out a fresh cigar and grinned.
“We’ve got your gold, Harry.”