Thursday, 1 March 2007

Chapter 19: Short Cut

Within half an hour, the forensic team arrived at Doctor Owen’s house so we left them tagging and bagging everything that looked like it might hold some evidence that would lead us to who was doing this. There was so much stuff to go through and so many rooms in the doctor’s house, they would be there for hours.

We were in the car, heading back to the police station to talk to Doctor Owen’s wife Emily. She had been staying with a relative and it was only a matter of time before she was found and taken into police custody for the sake of her safety. So far she hadn’t said a word on the subject of her husband’s whereabouts but I was hoping to break her down.

I looked in the mirror and noticed a black saloon hovering about fifty metres behind us. I hit the brakes and turned the car down a street to the left. I’d been followed enough times to be able to spot a vehicle on my tail.

‘What are you doing, Detective?’ Agent Simpson asked, clearly rattled by my impulsive driving.

‘It’s a short cut,’ I lied.

We turned off the main road and the black saloon followed us. I swung the car to the left again and, as expected, the saloon followed.

‘But we’re going back on ourselves,’ Agent Simpson protested.

‘Trust me,’ I said, and heard her sigh, like she knew I wasn’t going to tell her what was going on. She looked in the wing mirror and started to turn round to look through the back windscreen.

‘Don’t turn around,’ I said, ‘there’s a car on our tail.’

Agent Simpson looked in the wing mirror again. ‘The black one?’

‘That’s right.’ I picked up the radio and kept an eye on the registration plate of the following car as I spoke.

‘This is Detective Tom Ryder. I need a name and address check on the following registration plate: Whisky Seven Four Seven Bravo X-ray Charlie.’

‘Okay Detective, I’m on it,’ was the reply on the radio.

‘Detective!’ Agent Simpson shouted.

‘What?’ I asked. I took my eyes off the rear view mirror and looked at the road ahead, immediately realising what Agent Simpson wanted me to notice. I’d been looking in the mirror at the car behind for so long, I hadn’t noticed the traffic was slowing down in front of us. I slammed on the brakes and we both lurched forward, the seatbelts just holding us in our seats. The car screeched to halt just behind the car in front. ‘Sorry about that,’ I said.

I looked in the mirror and the car tailing us had disappeared. Damn. I just hoped the address check came back with a useful lead. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence in the car, a reply came on the radio: ‘The car is registered to a Doctor Forrest at one-two-four Castle Crescent.’

‘That’s at the other end of the city,’ I said, ‘is there a black and white that can stop by that address? A missing person may be at that address. Proceed with caution and do not approach the target until we get there, target is a possible abduction victim.’

‘Understood. I will get back to you when a patrol car is on site.’

I turned the car around in the middle of the road, narrowly missing some of the traffic, rolled down the window and stuck the portable siren on the roof. I found the ramp onto the ring road and jammed the accelerator to the floor, dodging in and out of the vehicles and onto the freeway.

‘Do you really think he’s been abducted?’ Agent Simpson asked.

‘I think we have two options,’ I said, ‘Either Doctor Owen blew up his own lab and did a runner or someone else did it and abducted him. Which one do you think is more likely?’

‘I see. Is that what’s called a cop’s hunch?’

‘Not really. This is about playing the odds. We need to proceed as if Doctor Owen and Doctor Forrest are both in danger and we have to assume we can get to them first.’


‘Because if we don’t we’ll probably have four homicides to investigate rather than the two we’ve had so far today.’ A thought occurred to me. ‘Do you want me to drop you off? You work for the World Health Organisation, not the police. This is probably going to get dangerous from now on.’

‘No, don’t worry about me, Detective,’ she replied very quickly, ‘I’ve been in worse situations.’

‘The World Health Organisation must be more exciting than I thought,’ I said. To be honest, I had no opinion on the WHO at all. For all I knew, they sat around in offices all day long, reading reports and deciding which rat-infested restaurants to close down next.

‘You’ve no idea,’ she said cryptically with a sly smile in the corner of her mouth.

‘The patrol unit has arrived at the address,’ said the voice from the radio, ‘please advise.’

‘Do not approach the house, we’re nearly there,’ I said as our car bounced down the off-ramp. ‘Only observe for now and do not take any action unless there is a life in danger.’

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