Finders Keepers (50)

Chapter Sixteen 

Six weeks after discovering that the car had been rented to Jake Sawyer, the BMW was found abandoned in France.

It had been dumped in an old run down barn near Poitiers and only discovered by the landowner who, quite by chance, was considering selling the derelict building to developers.

DCI Coyle arrived in Poitiers on a Ryanair flight from Stansted a day later. At the airport he took a cab to the local Gendarmerie to introduce himself. From there, the officer in charge escorted him to the barn where the BMW had been found.

He spent an hour having a thorough look around but found nothing. He was then escorted to the depot where the abandoned vehicle had been taken, but the car was empty, offering no clues as to where the driver might have gone. The French police could not offer anything new either. As far as they were concerned, this was just an abandoned vehicle of very little importance.

DCI Coyle then thanked the officer for his help and took a cab back to the airport to catch the evening flight home.

The next day the real DCI Coyle arrived in Poitiers only to discover that an impostor had been there the day before asking the exact same questions.
Roper could not believe it. Someone had been there, in France, posing as him, asking questions about what had previously appeared to be such a trifling matter as an abandoned car.

This, however, proved to Roper that his gut was right. There was more to this case. Much more. But where to go now? There were no further leads to pursue, no clues that the car had revealed and Jake Sawyer was still missing without trace. Vanished, it seemed, into the ether.

After a day posing as DCI Roper Coyle, Aaron Sumpter arrived back from France only slightly wiser than when he had left. Knowing only that the BMW was of no further use to him and that Jake Sawyer was now the person to find. But unlike the real Coyle, Sumpter had knowledge that could lead him further in the investigation, he knew of the diamonds, of how many there were, of their value and of the likely places someone might try to sell them. He also now knew, with near certainty, who it was who would no doubt be keen to find a buyer for them.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here


Finders Keepers (49)

The meeting the next morning was not at all like the one Jake had with Gerhardt. On the contrary, this time he met with the buyer in broad daylight in a prestigious, very impressive building in the heart of the Antwerp Diamond District and the buyer was a much more well-heeled individual; tailored suit, Italian shoes and a Monte Carlo tan. He also had two extremely large bodyguards stationed outside the double smoked glass doors of his luxurious office.

Hugo van Elst was separated from Jake by a huge desk made entirely of glass. He reclined nonchalantly in a white leather chair, his legs crossed and his fingers casually entwined on his lap.

Sitting there with snowy white hair and matching goatee, wearing a crisp suit and silk cravat, he and Gerhardt could not have been more different, even though they were in the same trade.

Yet it was clear to Jake that the pair had done business many times in the past, indeed, when Jake first entered his office, van Elst had enquired after Gerhardt’s health and was obviously pleased to hear he was well.

The meeting reminded Jake of one he had had with his bank manager in the days when he was still worthy of his time – good natured yet financially motivated and, as in that meeting, he felt more than a little intimidated. But Gerhardt had been as good as his word and had laid the groundwork for him.
Van Elst knew why he was there, what he had to sell and that the merchandise in question was not of a legitimate nature and, even though his demeanour was pleasant enough, he was all business.

“You have the stones?” he asked.

“I do,” Jake replied, pulling out a small velvet bag from the inside pocket of his jacket. “Is it okay to show you them here?” He asked, unsure of accepted protocol in the transaction of illicit merchandise.

“Please.” Replied van Elst, waving a hand casually across the desk, clearly unperturbed by the thought of having the stolen stones scattered across it, confident in the knowledge that they would not be disturbed.

Jake opened the drawstring seal and poured ten diamonds, slightly larger than the ones he had given to Gerhardt, onto the desk in front of him.

“Ah, so beautiful, don’t you think?” Remarked van Elst. “They never cease to delight me. You will permit me to take a closer look?”

“Please. Of course.” Said Jake.

Just as Gerhardt had, van Elst produced an eyeglass and tweezers and proceeded to make a thorough inspection of each of the diamonds, Jake looking on in silence as he did so. He knew the stones were good, the very fact that Gerhardt had given him fifteen thousand euros so readily for the first one told him as much, but he did not know how much this ten would be worth, maybe a hundred thousand euros, perhaps a bit more. Gerhardt had told him that stolen gems changed hands at a fraction of their actual worth.

“These are of remarkable quality. Truly excellent. Gerhardt was right to send you to me.” Van Elst said at last, setting down the eyeglass and tweezers.

“Thank you.”

“So, that just brings us to the price,” continued van Elst.

“It does. Yes.”

“I am not a man to haggle, I believe Gerhardt may have told you that.”

“He did.”

“But the price I give will always be fair. These stones are stolen, their quality ensures that they will not be forgotten and, if I were the original owner, I would most certainly want them back. All these things I must consider before making you an offer. Indeed, all these things you must consider before accepting my offer. If I possessed these stones, they would not be traced back to you, this I guarantee. Other buyers may offer you a better price but I cannot speak for their integrity. However, the choice is yours.”

“I understand and appreciate your honesty.”

“Very well. In that case, my offer is two hundred and fifty thousand euros. Cash. Take it or leave it.”

Jake very nearly fell off his chair with surprise. He could not believe it, he knew the diamonds were of a good quality but two hundred and fifty thousand euros worth? What on earth would they be worth if they were not stolen? And that was just for ten of the smaller stones – the whole case would be worth millions.

“I see from your reaction that was a pleasant surprise,” said van Elst, “I should have offered less, perhaps?”

“Maybe,” said Jake honestly, still reeling.

“But as I said,” continued van Elst, “The price I give will always be fair. My offer stands. Do you accept?”

“Yes. Yes I do, thank you,” said Jake now smiling.

“Good. Then I will get you your money.” Van Elst picked up the phone and immediately spoke to someone on the other end in Dutch. When he replaced the receiver he addressed Jake once more. “Will you permit me to offer you some advice?”

Jake nodded, uncertain of what he was about to hear.

“It is none of my business, I understand, but I get the sense that you are new to this – would I be correct?”

Jake smiled cautiously, “Is it so obvious?”

“I’m afraid so, yes. Forgive me for being so blunt.”

“Of course.”

“You strike me as a pleasant young man of good character and Gerhardt speaks well of you. But I must warn you, this is not a business to take lightly. You are fortunate to have met men such as myself and Gerhardt. We are men of integrity and honour but there are many others who are not so honourable and you risk much by seeking to sell stones such as these. Possibly your life. I do not know if you have any more in your possession but I suspect you do. If that is the case, my advice to you, for what it is worth, is to store them somewhere extremely safe. Ideally a bank vault. And then exercise extreme caution before discussing them with anyone. That is my advice. Take it, leave it, it makes no difference to me.”

“Thank you,” Jake said. “You’re very kind. I didn’t know what to expect but—”

“Please,” van Elst interjected, “I am a businessman, my clients’ wellbeing is of prime importance to me. Needless to say, if you ever wish to sell any more diamonds, you know where to find me.”

“Yes. Thanks.” Jake said.

At that moment there was a gentle knock on the office door and an assistant entered the room carrying a metal briefcase. He placed it on the table in front of Jake and opened it.

“Please,” said van Elst, rising from his chair, “Take your time to count it. The case is yours, with my compliments. I will return in a few minutes.” He and the assistant then slipped silently out of the room leaving Jake alone.

He opened the case and stared at the contents in wonder. Two hundred and fifty thousand euros. More money than he had ever seen in his life in any currency. It was staggering and he was till trying to come to terms with it but van Elst’s words of warning were also ringing in his ears. He had to be careful. Very careful indeed and so far he had been anything but. He had been foolhardy and naive but fortunately very lucky, although he knew his luck would not last forever.

At present, the remainder of the diamonds were in a hotel room down the road, in a backpack, unguarded, unsecured. A gift for any opportunist thief. It was incredibly stupid of him to leave them there like that but he did not know what else to do. The hotel safe deposit box was far too small and he did not want to invite any undue attention. But now he realised that he had to take much more care.

He had to stash the diamonds somewhere safe, somewhere no one could easily get at them. A bank vault, van Elst had recommended and in that moment Jake made the decision to travel onto Switzerland where he would find a bank and store the diamonds securely in its vault.

Ten minutes later van Elst returned to the office and Jake, satisfied that he had been paid the agreed amount, shook his hand, thanked him again for his advice and left the building a much wealthier man than when he had entered.

Two hours later, Jake was on a train headed for Switzerland and by the following morning he was in Zurich.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here

Finders Keepers (48)

Chapter Fifteen 

Gerhardt had been as good as his word and had given Jake the address of a diamond buyer in Antwerp. He had also phoned ahead and made the necessary introductions, smoothing the way for a meeting and offering his own personal guarantee that Jake was trustworthy.

Gerhardt had also introduced Jake to a forger who, for the cost of another diamond, had made up four new passports for him. Jake thought it prudent to have more than one, just in case he should need them. The workmanship was excellent and sitting next to the genuine one the counterfeit versions looked identical.

In possession of his new passports after an insufferable three week wait for them, Jake finally left Amsterdam taking the train to Antwerp where he had an appointment with Gerhardt’s diamond buyer.

Jake had spent most of the previous three weeks holed up in his hotel room awaiting word from both Gerhardt and the forger. Three weeks with nothing but guilt and regret for company but it was too late to go back now and he resolved to push on with his plan, convinced that ultimately it would be for the best.

However, as Jake stepped off the train at Antwerp Central station he felt a great burden of culpability upon his shoulders. Whatever else had happened in his past, he had always been honest. But now he was a thief with a criminal agenda. He did not know to whom the diamonds belonged but they were certainly not his and now he bitterly regretted taking them. But that was of very little relevance now.

He looked around at the magnificent architecture of the historical station building but was immune to its beauty today. Glancing up at the metal and glass dome, where in a previous life, he would have been impressed by the sheer scale of design, he saw only dark clouds above and heavy rain lashing against the window panes. The weather matched his mood.

Outside, in the pouring rain, keeping his backpack close, he hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take him to a reasonably priced hotel somewhere near to the Diamond District, which he duly did.

The Rubens Antwerpen Continental was comfortable enough for an overnight stay and just a short taxi ride away from where Jake was due to meet the buyer Gerhardt had laid on.

For the moment though, Jake was wet, tired and hungry. After a long shower, he sat on the bed in a towel and ordered a sandwich from room service, then raided the mini bar for a beer and a bag of nuts – pretty much the same diet he had lived on for the last three weeks.

He clicked on the TV and watched a pay-per-view movie – ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ – but turned it off halfway through as its depiction of prison life did little to ease Jake’s guilt and conjured up images of what might happen to him should he ever be arrested for his crime.

Jake opted for an early night as he had to be up bright and early for his meeting the next day but guilt and nerves prevented him from getting much sleep. He really did not know what to expect in the morning, only that the outcome of the meeting would determine what his plans might be afterwards.

So far, he had been operating on a day to day basis, but depending on what the buyer offered him for the ten diamonds he intended to sell he may well be able to plan possibly weeks, maybe months ahead.

However, the thing of most importance was to send money back to Angie and the kids and to pay the debts that had piled up which had set him on this reckless path in the first place.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here

Finders Keepers (47)

A man who had been driving along the same stretch of road shortly before Charles Khan’s accident had come forward. He was the driver of a Volvo who, a week ago, had apparently swerved to avoid a BMW 4×4 that had pulled up abruptly at the side of the road.

The man recalled the car being a rental as he distinctly remembered seeing a sticker on the back, but he could not quite remember which one, Hertz maybe or Eurofleet, possibly Avis. He was also foggy on the driver of the BMW; long hair and glasses he thought, but he could not be sure.

Roper wondered if that same BMW, parked so badly, had been the cause of Charles Khan’s accident and, if so, where was it and the driver now?

After speaking with the driver of the Volvo, it took Roper a further two weeks and dozens of phone calls to discover that the BMW had been hired by Easyrent to a Mr. Jake Sawyer.

The car, it turned out, had never been returned and Mr. Sawyer had been missing ever since the night of the crash.

When Coyle spoke to Mr. Sawyer’s estranged wife, Angela, on the phone, she was baffled by his disappearance and was concerned for his safety. She and her two children were now living with her lover, Richard Maddox, and from what Coyle could ascertain, she had left Jake because he had been drowning in debt.

Aaron Sumpter had learned and logged all these things, monitoring the investigation from his home in Hampstead, thanks to the devices he had installed on Coyle’s phone and computer.

He had also dutifully reported his findings to Peter Bearing and Arthur Khan, once again stressing that it could be a long-winded investigation and not to expect immediate results.

Bearing acknowledged this, as did Khan, but Sumpter could tell that Arthur was already growing impatient and made a mental note to keep an eye on him. In Aaron’s experience, hot-headedness often led to unnecessary complications.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here

Finders Keepers (46)

Chapter Fourteen

DCI Coyle had hit a brick wall. The investigation into the death of Charles Khan was going nowhere and he was snowed under with more pressing cases – some with leads that actually led somewhere. But he could not stop thinking about the Khan case. About the gun and the diamond, about Arthur Khan and Peter Bearing. And it irked him.

Coyle had been a detective for many years and he knew that there was a lot more to this than a simple car crash. And he knew that the big, expensive diamond found close to the scene was somehow linked but he just had nothing more to go on.

He looked across at Dave Eckhart, his Detective Sergeant who worked at the desk opposite; young, recently married, a baby on the way, but a natural copper with good instincts. “I’m going for a smoke, Dave, okay? Give me a shout if you need me.”

“Okay, boss.”

Coyle hated smoking but never seemed to have the time to quit. Besides, it helped him to relax, or at least that was his excuse. He stood out on the fire escape and tapped out a cigarette from a half empty pack, bought only that morning but he would need another one before night fall.

It was getting warmer now. Just a week after all that snow and Spring finally felt as if it was on the way. Roper was pleased, he loved the outdoors but hated the cold. Police work was miserable enough without that too.

For the first time in years he thought about his mother, she hated the cold, too. Hated most things in fact, including him, it turned out.

She was the one responsible for giving him the name, ‘Roper,’ her maiden name, and a Christian name which never failed to get him noticed at school. But it had made him tough, determined, dogged even. And he supposed he had her to thank for that.

She left when he was ten. He still did not know why. Nor did his father, but they had coped well enough without her.

Roper married his childhood sweetheart shortly after his father’s passing, and the marriage had lasted for almost ten years, but now he was alone once more.

Even though his wife had been unfaithful, it was fair to say that he had not been the most attentive husband; his job being a significant factor, but it was a job he was good at and it was now all he had left.

And when something had him beaten it bugged him.

Coyle took a long last drag of his cigarette, then flicked the butt over the railings. As he turned to go back in, Eckhart’s six foot two of blonde haired boyishness barged through the fire escape door. “Boss, I think we might finally have a lead,” he said.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here

Finders Keepers (45)

Jake was not sure what he was expecting, some burly thug perhaps, or a mean, villainous looking type, but certainly not the person standing before him now.

“I’m looking for Gerhardt,” Jake said to the short, balding gentleman who looked very much like a university professor in his knitted bow tie and tweed jacket.

“I am he,” Gerhardt said in perfect English. “How may I help you?”

“Er,” Jake began, a little taken back, “I have, er, something you might be interested in – something of value, for sale.”

Gerhardt gave Jake the once over, then said, “I see. In that case you had better come in.”

Jake followed the little man into the room which was small, dingy and sparsely furnished with just a desk, a few chairs and a filing cabinet. The carpet was threadbare and the ancient curtains were closed but the glow of a red light could be seen clearly through them. The room itself illuminated solely by a large angle-poise lamp on the desk.

“You will forgive my humble surroundings,” Gerhardt said, taking a seat behind the desk and waving Jake to a chair on the other side, “But the rent is cheap, so I cannot complain.”

“That’s fine. I understand.” Jake replied, sitting down.

“Now, my friend, you say you have something of value for sale? Please, enlighten me.”

Jake hesitated for just a moment before reaching into the front pocket of his jeans and pulling out a carefully folded piece of tissue paper. He leant forward into the full glare of the angle-poise lamp and slowly unwrapped it, finally revealing a single diamond. He had purposely chosen one of the very smallest, not wishing to set any unnecessary jackpot alarms off in Gerhardt’s head.

“Ah, I see,” said Gerhardt. “May I examine it?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Thank you.” Gerhardt picked up the diamond which was about the same size as a small pea and held it to the light between his thumb and forefinger. “Very nice,” he said. “Very pretty.” He then reached into a drawer and pulled out an eyeglass and a pair of tweezers. Fixing the glass into his eye socket and now holding the diamond with the tweezers, he gave it a more thorough examination. “Yes, very pretty indeed. Excellent colour, excellent clarity, a nice size – I assume it is stolen?”

“Er, what?” Jake was suddenly caught off guard. “Er, no, I mean—”

“Please,” Gerhardt interjected. “I am not a judge. I merely ask to protect myself. You are someone who I have never met before, you could tell me anything. But if the diamond is stolen, there are certain parties I can sell it to. If it is not, then there are other, more legitimate parties I can approach. However, if you say it is not stolen and then I discover that it is, I could find myself severely compromised. In that instance I will have no hesitation in providing any interested parties with your description. On the other hand, if you are truthful with me from the outset I will take your identity to the grave.”

“I see.” Jake said. Then after a moment’s contemplation, he added, “How do I know I can trust you?”

“You don’t. All I can tell you is that this is my livelihood, I am respected within my field and to break a confidence, to reveal a source without an extremely good reason would be tantamount to both business and most possibly actual suicide. My word is my bond, that is how I operate. But betray me and that bond is broken.”

Again, Jake thought for a moment. Regardless of his surroundings, Gerhardt did seem trustworthy. Honest, almost. “Yes, it is stolen,” he said, “But not intentionally, it was more of an accident—”

“Please,” Gerhardt interjected. “It is of no importance. But thank you for your honesty, it is appreciated. Now, this diamond – I assume you know its true value?”

“I do,” Jake bluffed. After his research on the internet he estimated that the stone he had here was worth somewhere between maybe twenty and forty thousand euros but he had no real idea. It all depended on clarity and cut and colour and many other variables that could make one diamond much more valuable than another of similar size. He suspected that this was a good quality stone, that they all were, but how good was beyond his extremely limited knowledge.

“Good.” Said Gerhardt, “You know also, of course, that I cannot pay you anywhere near that amount, not for a stolen stone and I would also like to make a small profit myself.”

I bet you would, thought Jake. “Of course,” he said.

“So, how much do you want for it?” Asked Gerhardt.

Jake had to gamble, knowing it could cost him the deal but he also needed to gauge the worth of the diamonds he possessed. The internet was good for research but nothing could beat an expert’s opinion, no matter how sleazy they might seem. A dealer was a dealer and Jake could not be too choosy. With a straight face, he said rather hopefully, “Twenty-five thousand.”

“A good and fair price for a stolen item such as this,” Gerhardt said. “But sadly too rich for my blood. As you can see I am not a wealthy man. The best I could offer is ten.”

Jake could not believe it. If Gerhardt had thought twenty-five thousand to be a fair price for a stolen diamond such as this then the actual value could be two or three times as much. He was momentarily staggered, but ten thousand was far better than he had actually hoped for. He could of course go elsewhere and maybe get a better deal but he was running out of money fast and finding another buyer could prove difficult to say the least. “Fifteen,” he said. “That’s the best I can do. Take it or leave it.”

Now it was Gerhardt’s turn for contemplation as he studied the diamond again. “Very well, fifteen thousand euros. We have a deal.” He held out his hand and Jake shook it. Then Gerhardt reached into the drawer again and pulled out a wad of notes. He counted out fifteen thousand euros with the expertise of a bank teller and handed it to Jake. “Very nice to meet you,” he said.

“Likewise,” Jake said, then as a purely spontaneous afterthought he added, “Would you be interested in buying any more?” It was another gamble to reveal that he had more diamonds to sell but thought it was worth the risk. Besides he was desperate with few other options.

“Alas,” said Gerhardt, “When I said I was not a wealthy man, I meant it. Fifteen thousand euros is as much as I can afford at present. However, for a small commission, I could put you in touch with someone who would be able to buy more from you. Perhaps many more, if you have them.”

“When you say commission, what are we talking about?”

Gerhardt’s eyes glinted with anticipation as he said, “Another stone, say? My contact is worth it, I assure you.”

“I’m sure he is,” Jake smiled, knowing he was being played but nevertheless finding himself trusting Gerhardt. He was a strange little man who reminded him very much of the Donald Pleasance character in The Great Escape. An intellectual duck-out-of-water who had been forced to adapt to a life that was not necessarily of his own choosing. He guessed that Gerhardt was not a naturally dishonest man but circumstances, whatever they might have been, had forced him to become one. Jake felt strangely sorry for him – although for all he knew Gerhardt could quite easily be one of the greatest criminal masterminds of the twenty-first century, but somehow he doubted it.

“While we’re at it,” Jake continued, “I don’t suppose you know anyone who could supply me with a passport, do you?”

“But of course,” said Gerhardt, “As many as you need.”

“And the cost?” Jake asked.

Now it was Gerhardt’s turn to smile, “Shall we say another diamond?”

“Why not,” said Jake with a resigned shrug, now reassessing his initial appraisal.

Maybe this seemingly innocuous little man was a criminal mastermind after all.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here

Finders Keepers (44)

Chapter Thirteen 

Jake had spent two days and nights trawling the streets of Amsterdam, surreptitiously asking questions about where he might be able to sell some diamonds. He asked in cafe’s and bars and, very tentatively, in backstreet, less reputable looking jewellery stores.

He knew that Antwerp, not Amsterdam, was the diamond capital of the world, but thought he had a better chance of making a sale here. He had visited Amsterdam before and it was a beautiful city but it also had many seedy clubs and bars where someone might easily find a buyer for illegal merchandise. But it was dangerous, street crime was common so for Jake to make it known that he had something of value in his possession was not the wisest move he could make. However he had no choice but to take the risk.

On his third day in Amsterdam, Jake was given the name of a man called Gerhardt who, he was told, would possibly be interested in what he was selling.

Gerhardt could apparently be found after midnight in a room he used in the Red Light District behind a brothel so, clutching a scrap of paper with the address written on it, Jake set out to find him.

Nonetheless, he felt slightly sordid as he passed the strip clubs and the peep shows and the naked girls sitting in their windows beckoning to him, their ever-present red-lights illuminating the otherwise picturesque canal at midnight.

The streets were heaving; drunken men both young and old lining them, ogling the shameless delights on display, the faint whiff of alcohol and marijuana being carried on the cool night breeze.

Jake navigated his way through the cobbled streets and dark alleyways trying to find the address he was given until he at last stood before the building he was looking for, the obligatory red-light and naked girl in the front window.

Nervously, he opened the door and went inside. The girl, who was completely nude except for stockings, suspenders and a pair of thigh high PVC boots, closed the curtain in front of her and stepped out of the window to greet him with a fake smile. “You want fuck or suck?” she asked in heavily accented English.

“Er, neither, actually, thanks,” Jake said with a guilty smile, “I’m looking for Gerhardt, I was told I could find him here?”

The girl’s smile immediately dropped as she tutted and climbed back into the window. “Back there,” she said, indicating with her thumb over her shoulder, “Last door. Knock first.”

“Thanks,” Jake said but the girl had already re-opened the curtain and was too busy positioning herself in a provocative pose to hear him.

Jake looked about the tiny room in which he was standing, there was a small bed with dirty ruffled sheets and a nightstand next to it with a lava lamp on it as well as a basket full of assorted condoms and a box of tissues. Across from the bed there was a small hand basin and next to that was a door concealed by a beaded curtain.

Jake walked uncertainly over to it, pulled aside the beaded curtain and turned the handle to reveal a narrow corridor with several doors leading off from either side. He saw the door he needed at the far end of the passage and tentatively headed toward it.

The sound of people having sex was emanating from behind several of the other doors making Jake feel slightly embarrassed and awkward. However, when he reached the door he wanted, he paused for a moment to compose himself then knocked twice.

There was no response but Jake could hear movement, he felt anxious, suddenly fearful – this was not a world he was used to but it was too late to back out now because at that moment the door opened.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here

Finders Keepers (43)

Back in his office in Hampstead, Aaron Sumpter took a sip of his tea, flexed his fingers and pulled his keyboard closer. Then typed the words ‘Northamptonshire Police’ into his search bar. His first job was to hack into their files and find out exactly what they knew.

However, it was not long before Sumpter discovered that the bulk of the case had indeed been handed over to The Metropolitan Police, as Arthur Khan had already informed him. The detective in charge being a DCI Roper Coyle.

To gain proper access to the relevant files, The Met’s system would require a little more work than a simple hacking job. It meant knowing passwords, circumventing firewalls and working through many other security protocols and trap doors that Scotland Yard had in place.

Normally Aaron could do this with his eyes closed, but because he would be poking around in The Met’s files for more than just a brief period of time, his presence would have to be as seamless as possible. Hackers could be traced and Aaron most definitely did not want that. It was safe enough to go in, have a quick look around and then get out again, but to maintain serious long-term surveillance was very risky and the ramifications should his prying be detected were not something he wished to contemplate. So more covert tactics were called for.

For this Aaron had to physically enter Scotland Yard posing as a member of the janitorial team who were contracted to clean the building at night. This was a much more straightforward task. He hacked into the files of the contractors, added an alias of himself to their list of employees, then forged an identity card, printed it out and laminated it. Then, for one night only, he reassigned the janitor who normally cleaned the particular floor he was interested in.

At 10pm the following evening, wearing a disguise and kitted out in the appropriate attire, Aaron reported for work at Scotland Yard. It was surprisingly easy to gain entrance to the building, the busy desk sergeant only giving his fake ID a cursory glance before admitting him inside. Within minutes Sumpter was on the relevant floor. Fifteen minutes after that he had fitted a tiny bug to Coyle’s phone and attached a small device to his computer that would allow Aaron to see exactly what Coyle was seeing on his screen from the comfort of his home in Hampstead.

After the real purpose of his visit had been completed, Aaron gave the offices a thorough clean so as not to arouse suspicion.

By eight the next morning he was back in the office of his small semi-detached, showered, refreshed and sitting in front of his huge monitor screen. He had a nice cup of freshly ground coffee in his hand as he watched and listened to Roper Coyle going about his investigations, Sumpter’s presence completely undetected.

Before long he would have all the information the police had on Charles Khan and the missing diamonds.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here

Finders Keepers (42)

Chapter Twelve 

Peter Bearing had called Aaron Sumpter a rottweiler but he looked more like a rat with his sharp pointed features and searching, inquisitive eyes. Bald except for an inch wide line of red hair that ran in a semi-circle from ear to ear, making him appear older than his forty-two years, but his slim, wiry frame was tight with muscle and he was in excellent physical condition.

Arriving home after his meeting with Bearing and Khan, he snapped on the lights in the hallway of his neat, perfectly maintained semi in Hampstead.

The walls of the hallway were lined with memories. Photos of him with Wendel Wallace and Teddy Bearing and both their families. Pictures of Wendel with his son and daughter, taken when they were just little kids and pictures of Teddy and his various wives. There were also several photographs of Peter Bearing and the Khan brothers, pictured during their first year at Oxford.

These memories represented Sumpter’s family. He had none of his own, no memory of his father and just the briefest recollection of his mother. With no brothers or sisters, his early years were spent in a series of foster homes and orphanages. Until the age of fifteen when he went to work for Wallace Bearing. That was when his life truly began and what he would always be eternally thankful for.

Aaron walked into the small kitchen and clicked on the kettle then crossed to the wall monitor to check the video feed from the three CCTV cameras discreetly mounted on the outside of the house. Zero intruders.

He took his cup of tea upstairs and flicked on the lights.

The biggest bedroom was used as a store room, filled with archived files, notebooks, diaries, boxes, envelopes and video cassettes all laboriously categorized and organized so that the information could be accessed in seconds. However, much of this hard copy had become obsolete, as all the data Sumpter had collected over the years could nowadays fit onto just one tiny storage device. But Aaron liked to keep back-ups. Just in case.

The second bedroom was Aaron’s office which was where he spent most of his time. It was equipped with two thirty inch monitors, a super-powerful Macintosh tower, a stand alone database and a video editing suite. There was also a coffee machine and a teasmaid as Aaron liked his caffeine.

The third bedroom had been converted into a darkroom. In here, a cabinet housed his cameras and telescopes.

Finally, the small fourth bedroom was where Sumpter slept.

Aaron took out his phone and downloaded the data stored on it to his laptop, which he kept with him at all times.

Sumpter kept records of everything, including tape recordings of secret conversations, photocopies of illicit transactions and the financial mis-dealings of people that had been or could be useful to Peter Bearing.

Aaron had it all. Evidence, leverage, ransom. But that was his job.

That was what Peter Bearing paid him for. He was not a Rottweiler but bloodhound, a tracker and he was exceptionally good at it. Bearing used Sumpter’s skills to ensure that whatever he wanted was made possible. The information he supplied was used to encourage people to bend to Peter’s will. Whether they wanted to or not.

Business was for winners and Peter always won.

The brief he had given Aaron this time was simply to find the diamonds and whoever took them as quickly as possible.

However, Sumpter had advised Peter and Arthur that this particular task could take many months to complete as there seemed to be no obvious leads.

They agreed but were emphatic; find them no matter the cost, no matter how long it takes.

Just find them.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here

Finders Keepers (41)

Chapter 11

Jake was awoken early by the dawn chorus in the first faint light of morning. He was cold now and his limbs ached but he had slept well and felt surprisingly refreshed. He scratched his thick, sandy beard and rubbed his bleary eyes before putting on his glasses. Then he climbed out of the BMW and had a long, revitalising stretch before taking a much-needed leak behind the car.

The air smelt fresh and clean and the sound of birdsong and the gentle trickle of a nearby stream was all that could be heard in the tranquillity of the meadow. It was a new day and a new beginning for Jake.

He was shivering now in the chill of the early morning so returned to the car and pulled the heavy overcoat around him once more. Then he reached for the briefcase and snapped open the catches. It was the first time he had opened the case since taking it, the first time he had dared.

Jake noticed now that there were twenty compartments inside, ten down each side and all with clip fastening plastic lids. He unclipped one of the compartment doors and slid out the velvet bag it contained, then slowly pulled the drawstring seal open and carefully poured the contents into his hand.

Ten big diamonds fell into his palm and sparkled beguilingly up at him. They were dazzling. The only diamond Jake had seen up close before was the one in Angie’s less than modest engagement ring, but the ones he was looking at now were huge in comparison. They were also much brighter and clearer and, he realised, significantly more valuable. Indeed, the contents of his hand would be worth an absolute fortune.

He dropped the diamonds back into their velvet bag and returned it to its compartment. He then opened another compartment, then another and yet another. Each time finding diamonds of an equal or larger size than the first. It was staggering, utterly mind-blowing and he could not even begin to comprehend the enormous worth of what he possessed.

However, with the night’s rest had come some semblance of rationality and Jake at last began to realise the enormity of what he had done. For the first time he also considered the consequences.

These diamonds would undoubtedly be missed. Whoever owned them would most definitely want them back. But Jake was certain that no one knew that he had taken them. The road had been deserted and he had left no trace of his presence there so there was nothing to tie him to the accident or the diamonds.

But guilt had also crept in now along with regret. He had stolen from a dead man, rifled through his clothing and taken his money. He should have just called the police, told them what had happened and left the diamonds well alone. But no, he had absconded, taken the case, taken the money and left the country like a common criminal.

But it was almost too late to go back now. And back to what? He asked himself. Back to debt, to bankruptcy, to an empty house that would soon be repossessed? The kids were with Angie and she was with her new man. They all had a new life now and Jake was not a part of it.

For the moment at least, they were undoubtedly better off without him. Without the worry and the bills and the sleepless nights and the fear of the bailiff knocking on the door. And in that instant his mind was made up. What was done was done. Going back would not solve anything.

He had been honest his whole life, squeaky clean, whiter than white and it had got him nowhere. But two nights ago, fortune had shined on him for the first time in a very long time and he was determined not to waste it.

His intention was to sell a few of the diamonds and set things right for Angie and the kids financially. As for him, well time would tell but to be debt free would be a very good start.

Jake put the diamonds back and closed the briefcase. He then opened the large, newly purchased backpack and pushed the case into it.

It was time to get going.

Jake got out of the BMW and closed the door, leaving the keys inside. He knew the car would be found eventually, hopefully later rather than sooner but by then, with luck, he would be long gone.

Then shrugging the backpack onto his shoulders he set off on the long walk back to the main road.

Two hours later, after picking up a lift with a jovial German truck driver, Jake was back in Poitiers. Once there, he bought some new clothes; a pair of jeans, some trainers, a couple of cheap shirts and a zip-up waterproof jacket. Then he went to the public toilets and changed, dumping his old clothes in a waste bin when he had finished.

After that he found an internet cafe, bought himself a croissant and a latte and sat down to do some research on diamonds.

Three hours later, feeling much more informed, he was on a train heading for Paris. From there he caught another to Brussels. By the following evening he was in Amsterdam, holed up in the cheapest hotel he could find.

The four hundred euros he had left in his pocket was dwindling fast but at least now he had a plan, a way forward. It was going to be extremely difficult and fraught with danger but, to make a better life for him and his family, Jake was ready for the challenge.

Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here