WPC Jane Thompson was enjoying the early afternoon sun as she and her beat partner, PC Dave Brackley, started their shift at Bow Street and walked towards Convent Garden. Jane still found London an intriguing place; so much going on compared to her previous life near Weymouth on the Dorset coast.
‘Jane, don’t look so pleased with life. A policewoman’s lot is not a happy one.’
Dave, a member of the police choral group paraphrased W.S.Gilbert’s words to her. Twelve years a London policeman, born in Hackney, he had few illusions about the city.
‘Cheer up Dave, it’s a lovely day and so far Tilly hasn’t said a word.’
Jane insisted on humanising the communication system fixed to one of the many pockets of her knife proof vest. Dave smiled back at her. He knew that a sunny Sunday would bring the tourists out and where there were crowds there would be trouble. In previous years pickpocket gangs had been the major nuisance, but the improved surveillance systems in the most popular tourist haunts had forced them out. Over the past two years there had been a growth in threatening behaviour, largely from addicts seeking money to feed their habit, who were so desperate that they ignored the CCTV.
‘Sorry Dave, I spoke too soon. Security Camera team reports an incident. Corner of Floral Street and the Garden.’
The phone call, early on Sunday morning, caught Hal James as he got out of the shower. He stood drying his strong square hands before picking up the phone. The dressing gown thrown over his broad shoulder slipped onto the floor leaving his slightly overweight body reflecting in the full length mirror fixed to the main door of his small Chelsea embankment flat.
‘Hal, Kenneth and I want to see you today. Something has come up.’
‘Clive, I‘ve only just got in from New York and I’ve arranged to see my kids today. Can’t it wait until tomorrow? I can be in the office by seven.’ Hal’s voice was tinged with irritation. It was unusual for the Gordon brothers to work on Sundays as they still clung to their Scottish Presbyterian upbringing.
‘Sorry Hal, this can’t wait. Kenneth and I will expect you at Convent Garden by eleven o’clock. I’ll send a car for you.’
The phone went dead in Hal’s hand. As the junior partner in Gordon, Gordon and James Limited, now called GGJ and Associates, he knew that he would be ready when the car arrived.
Twelve years earlier, when Hal was thirty, the Gordon brothers offered him a ten percent share in their new marketing agency business. He would bring the contacts and they would put up all the capital. Kenneth, a Scottish Advocate, and his brother Clive, an Accountant, held the remaining shares. Since that time the business had grown by acquisition, mergers and joint ventures with Hal’s percentage of the larger business declining. His trip to New York was another fire fighting exercise as the constant business growth outstripped the organisation’s necessary expertise to manage a dynamic international business.
The phone call to his estranged wife was even worse than he anticipated when she refused to let him tell the two boys why he had to cancel their arranged outing. Unfortunately she had every justification as his cancellations came more frequently than the outings.
Clive and Kenneth were already seated around the board room table when Hal arrived. Whenever the two brothers were at the same meeting it was always Clive who acted as spokesman. Today was different. Kenneth handed Hal a single sheet summary of the organisation’s assets, their respective share values and an offer document from Interbusiness Incorporated, one of the joint venture companies.
‘Hal this may come as shock but we have been in negotiation for some three months and wish to accept their offer, but as you can see there is a condition to the offer that they require over seventy percent of all shareholding. This, together with their existing shares, will allow them to make an outright purchase. Consequently we wish to buy your shares and will pay you a ten percent premium over the sale price of our own shares. You will also notice that the offer is specific in that they have no wish to offer you a role should they be successful in their bid, and there will be the usual restrictions on your short term operations.’
There was complete silence around the table as Hal read and tried to absorb the documents.
‘Kenneth, I’m still too jetted out to take all this in. I’ll need some time to think about it and I’ll need to talk to someone about the tax and legal implications.’
‘Sorry Hal, we need a decision today, by two o’clock. They want to make an announcement before the markets open tomorrow. Be assured that Clive and I have taken your best interests to heart and I hope you will trust us in the same way we have always trusted you. Our calculations on what the final offer price will come in at will net you just over five million, twenty percent immediate cash and the remainder in shares in the new business. Not a bad return for twelve years work!’
Hal sat in the early afternoon sun in one of the many restaurants that made Convent Garden one of London’s best tourist traps. Drinking his third coffee, watching the free show, he realised that this was the first time in eight years, since GG&J had moved into their Floral Street offices that he had the time to pause and take in the street scene.
“Not a bad return for twelve years work.” The phrase stuck in his mind. What about the loss of his family and friends? The disastrous separation? Was it really the job or had he not cared enough? Two fine sons, no credit to him, but their mother’s efforts. So he paid the bills, but that couldn’t make up for the times he should have been there instead of seeking self gratification in chasing business ventures around the world.
He looked again at the summary that Kenneth had given him and thought about the decision by Interbusiness Incorporated not to take him as part of the business. He had talked with Jon Levy, their CEO, just two days earlier in New York and there had been no hint of either their offer or any sense of dissatisfaction with their personal relationship. Hal knew he should not take the issue personally, but whichever way he looked at the condition his pride was wounded. From a business point of view he should accept the offer, however, where would that leave the rest of his life? For the last twelve years there had been no distraction to work, no time for outside interests. At thirty Hal had looked forward to a future as a wealthy man, but now at forty-two his work had absorbed him and sucked dry his imagination to cope with wealth being thrust upon him. He signed the documents needed to take him out of the business and pushed them into his briefcase. Twelve years of meetings in board rooms, business plans, constant travel and commercial success had set him free. Free to do what? He had no idea, but the business case for selling his stake in the business could not have been stronger.
Jane and Dave pushed aside the group of Japanese tourists who surrounded a man on the floor with blood streaming from a gash on his forehead. A woman was beside the man trying to stem the flow with a white glove. Next to the man was a furled bright green umbrella with a printed yellow streamer declaring Tour 2, now stained by blood.
‘I saw what happened. I was explaining something to the group, we were just over there.’ The woman pointed with a blood stained hand. ‘This man and a young woman seemed to be arguing when another man came up from behind and tried to take his brief case. The woman pushed him, he fell, and his head hit the kerb. The young woman bent down and I thought she was going to help him. Then I saw her going through his pockets. I should have tried to stop them. It all happened so quickly. The two of them walked off into the Arcade. The man had the briefcase. So brazen!’
Jane took a dressing from one of the pockets of her vest and gently eased the tour guide’s hand and blood saturated glove from the wound. She felt for a pulse at the neck and stemmed the blood flow with the dressing. Meanwhile Dave had corralled the Japanese group just inside the arcade.
‘Jane I’ve radioed for medical assistance so it’s best not to move him.’
Dave spoke to the tour guide. ‘How can we contact you? We’ll need a formal statement.’ She pushed a blood stained hand into her shoulder bag and gave him a card. ‘Do you think any of your group saw the incident?’
‘I don’t believe they did but I will ask them.’
She picked up her furled bright green umbrella with a trickle of blood running down the streamer which flapped in a warm breeze, walked across to the arcade and Dave listened without comprehension as she spoke in Japanese.
‘No. It’s as I thought. I was the only one facing that direction.’
Dave breathed a sigh of relief as the vision of the Mikado chorus cluttering up Bow Street retreated.
‘I think it would be best if you carried on with your tour. We’ll talk later. Thank you for your help.’
‘We’ve missed the deadline. I’ll need to call Jon Levy to see if we can extend it. Hal must be aware of how crucial this is. Do you think he’s using the delay as a negotiating ploy?’
Kenneth, tall and angular, Clive, slim and dapper, sat on either side of the board room table with the remains of lunch pushed to one side.
‘No, that’s not Hal’s style, Kenneth. He’s a logical pressure point negotiator and he knows our offer is very attractive. I’ll try his mobile.’
‘There’s no response. He must have it turned off.’
‘I’ll call Jon now. Without Hal’s shares I’m sure he will try to re-negotiate the price. Will you try to contact Hal? You might like to talk to his family. I know he was supposed to see his children today.’
Jane moved away from the unconscious casualty as the paramedic and ambulance crew eased him onto a stretcher.
‘No Dave. No identification. Wallet gone! Not even a mobile. Clothes, all Savile Row, say he’s not short of a few pennies. Probably get some identification from there tomorrow if he’s not come round.’
‘Pity about the mobile. You can bet your life that the card has been dumped down a drain. Even the addicts are wise to tracking.’
‘I think there are some fragments of bone penetrating the brain. His blood pressure is too low and his reflexes are poor. To be safe get him down for a scan and I’ll see if there’s someone available to operate. Nurse, please contact his next of kin to get formal permission.’
‘Sorry Doctor, as yet he’s not been identified, but I’ll talk to the police to see what the situation is.’
The neurosurgeon pushed back his magnifying lenses and rested his hands on the side of the operating table. The sounds of a Beethoven Quintet flowed over the theatre from a portable disc player.
‘Jennifer, would you turn off the music. There’s no more we can do here. Time of death, seven thirty-five. Peter, would you close him up. Might have been different if we could have got to him earlier.’
WPC Jane Thompson and her beat partner, PC Dave Brackley, returned to Bow Street just before eight o’clock and reported to the Duty Sergeant.
‘C.I.D. wants a word about a possible murder charge. Your mystery man didn’t make it.’