A surly, thickset, old policeman shone his torch through the side window, full on Teddy's face. He made window winding signs. The other, younger cop was wandering round the minibus shining his torch in and trying to stare Frank out. Frank tried to look innocent.
Teddy wound the window down. "Hallo, sorr. Ah'm out picking up the lads. We've an early start. Is there something wrong, sorr?"
"What sort of early start would that be? It's a Saturday morning in the middle of November. A bit early in the morning for joyrides. Not a lot of overtime on the building about at the moment, Mick."
Shite! Thought Teddy, we've got a right one here. "Ah, well, sorr, we've got a bit of piece work up there on that new Euro project out by Cumbernauld, so we have. Job and finished so it is, with a bonus."
"I wouldn't know about that, paddy. I don't suppose you've given a lift to a young American, the night, by any chance?"
"I don't know about that, sorr. Just me and Sean here, off to pick up the rest of the lads. Not seen nobody on the road but an old drunk, wrestling with a bag of chips, sorr."
"See," He pulled out a smudged copy of a photo, quite obviously Johnny, "This American lad, blond, 5 foot nine, dressed in denim, he's supposed to be some sort of terrorist." He paused, stuck for a way to link the two Irishmen in the minibus with a mysterious American terrorist, who was also, according to reports, supposed to be insane. "Here, have you been drinking?"
Just at that moment the other policeman called him away. "It's the Regional Crime mob, Chick." He pointed at a Ford Granada that had just pulled up across the road. Two figures got out.
"Aw, naw!" The older cop saw the prospect of an early return to the relative warmth and comfort of Maryhill Nick, with a drunken driver and suspected terrorist, rapidly evaporating. "If it's no Chief Inspector Haiggart and his boy wonder. Bugger!" He snarled under his breath.
"Is that you, Chick? Still oot pounding the pavement, ah see." Right. Whit have ye goat fur me here."The small man, depressed looking man listened while `Chick' filled him in on his lack of details. He turned to Teddy, still sitting in the van. "I won't keep you a minute, sir. Okay, Chick, you'd better start headin' back to the station. Yon WPC McGregor Brought in five o' the McBrady bunch. They're aw gassed, they'll be needin' a hand in the cells. Apparently they'd been flingin' fish at passing caurs fae one o' the motorway bridges."
As the uniformed men drove away he turned to Teddy in the minibus. One keep you, but a moment, sir." He peered in to bus, gazing long and hard at Teddy and Frank. "Where did you say you were heading, again?"
"Cumbernauld, sorr. Once we've picked up the rest of the lads, in Maryhill, sorr."
"Right. Well we won't keep you. Sorry for the delay."
His assistant, a tall young man in the well cut overcoat started to interrupt. "Sir?" DCI Haiggart motioned him into silence.
"Okay sergeant, I'll be right with you." He turned back to Teddy. "It's a cold morning to be hanging about. If you see anything unusual on the road you'll let us know, won't you? Oh, and I'd be a bit more careful about drinking before I got behind the wheel, son. On any other night you might have been in serious shtooky. Well, cheerio then." He waved them away.
Teddy drove off with icy calm. A muffled voice from beneath tarpaulin called out, "Wid ye get yer big feet aff me, Frank! Ye're right oan ma heid!"
The young sergeant looked reprovingly at his boss. "I'm sorry sir, I fail to see why you let them go. We haven't even checked the driver's licence."
"Whit are ye waiting fur? Let's get back in the car. Ye'd better radio HQ and let them know we're following up a lead. Don't be too specific"
As they drove in the direction of the minibus he continued. "If I'd checked that lad's licence we'd huv arrested them, there an then. That's the worst Irish accent I've ever heard. Oanywye, that van's registered to the council. Ah checked wae the DVLC oan the wee computer, while you were parkin' up. That wiz some of thae archaeologists."
"Sir? We should have arrested them straight away. It's not even just Special Branch that's involved in this. This is big!"
"Aye. And you think we're out o' our depth? Well Ah'm used tae dealin' with vicious and sordid murders, and ither soarts o' similiar unpleasantness. Maistly, we're that under resourced we're lucky if we can caw' the CO-OP in tae take away the body. This time we're called in, along wae half the force as back up. There's military intelligence involved, somethin' called Z Department, ah've never even heard o' and, apparently, the Yanks. Aw fur some young lad whose either: a. Mad; or, b. a terrorist; or, c. both. And all we've got tae go on is a scruffy copy o' a picture o' this lad dressed in a zoot suit.
Well. Could be this is way out of our league, sir. You know what the superintendant said. Strictly a need to know basis."
"Aye. That's anither thing. The political map o' this country may be changing, And we've had our share o' covert operations in the past. But, I have never in aw ma years in the force seen so many senior officers wae absolutely no idea aboot whit is going on. The Old Boy's fraternal grapevine is shtoom this time. Ah bet, nobody, this side o' the Atlantic, knows whit this is aw aboot. If we'd arrested thae lads, and whoever wiz lying under that tarpaulin in the back, we'd huv hud tae huv handed them aw' ower tae the appropriate authorities, whoever they are. We'd know no more aboot it."
The young sergeant shrugged. Well sir, I'm not sure I follow your line of argument. The superintendant was quite forceful about the high priority that's been placed on tracking down this, `Johnny Fist' character.
"My argument boils doon tae two basic points, son: One, Ah'm no that desperate tae hand oanybuddy, ah've arrested, over, when ah don't what for and ah don't know who to; And, Two, There's been some pretty weird things goin' oan the night. UFO'S, balls of fire in the sky and blizzards o' fish is the least o' it. They redirected Concord tae Prestwick Airport the night `n' all. It wiz oan the news. Nobody knows why. Ah've goat a hunch whitever's goin' on is connected wae this young Yank." He paused. "Are ye no the least wee bit curious aboot it at all, Tom?"
"Where do you think they're headed, sir?"
"Ah huvnae the foggiest, son. Let's find out. Jist make sure they don't see us following."
© copyright, AndroMan 2003.