CHAPTER 12.

Today was the morning of Monday, the twenty-third.

I was parked further down East Road from Wheelan's industrial unit. I wasn't in my Audi A5 as that was too well known round here by now. Instead I was in a DAF tractor cab-over, the obligatory hi-viz coat covering my suit, pulled up by the side of the road as if waiting for my tachograph to give me permission to start driving again.

Where's the best place to hide? In plain sight. Although my cab-over was huge; on an industrial estate it was totally inconspicuous. The cab's heater was on and a paper beaker of Starbuck's skinny latte steamed in the cup holder next to a half eaten low-cal muffin.

A red truck drove down the road leading to the complex of industrial units. I stirred in my seat. The truck was marked up with the logo of a furniture hire company. Must be a regular as the driver bantered with the security guard leaning out of his hut before the guard raised the barrier. It was a different guard than the man I'd tied up months before. I guess that first guard had got the sack.

Eventually the truck swung into the forecourt shared by the units. I watched as the truck turned into the sixth unit. This truck wasn't for Wheelan.

I settled back in my seat and carried on waiting. Another truck turned into the complex but this time I didn't even bother stirring in my seat. It was just a flat-bed come to collect for recycling a load of blue plastic drums filled with dirty kitchen oils.

There was a long gap before the next lorry arrived during which I listened to John Humphrys on Radio 4's Today show tell me all about failed breast implants. As if he knew anything about them. My eyelids drooped so I wound the cab's window down a few inches allowing fingers of cold air to keep me awake.

Another goods vehicle turned in, also pausing at the barrier. This seemed more likely. It was a battered white Luton box truck with no markings on the side. The old van looked like it had been round the world and back. The security guard raised the barrier and I watched the Luton turn left and pull up in front of Wheelan's depot. The driver beeped his horn once, twice before the pedestrian door inset in the main gate opened.

Two men stepped out. I recognised Riordan and his friend. The man I'd once slammed into a brick wall. The second man's face looked like he had recently lost a bout in a bare knuckle prize-fight so he wasn't having much luck recently.

The two men asked the driver to step down from his cab. The driver did so, walked to the back of the truck and then unlocked the doors. Riordan climbed up into the back and disappeared from my sight. Battered-Face kept his eye on the driver. Eventually Riordan re-emerged from the back. He nodded to the driver and they shook hands.

Up in my cab-over, I felt a little like the guy the Greeks left behind with their Trojan Horse. But that guy had much the harder job as he'd had to persuade the suspicious Trojans to unlock the gates and let the hollow wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers into their city. Me, all I'd had to do was watch and wait. Which was just as well as my presence would've made Riordan and his mate more suspicious rather than less.

I smiled to myself. McTeague's plan had worked perfectly. Finally, the large vehicular gate slid up. Even from my high up position in the road outside, I couldn't see the inside of the unit. I wondered how Wheelan's men had got on with the clear-up after my fire-bombing.

After all, although the industrial unit would have had a modern sprinkler system I must have done a lot of damage to the distillery equipment. In spite of the breeze blowing in, I thought I could smell the black stench of old smoke but really I knew it was only my imagination running away with me. All the same, my nostrils twitched at the well remembered smell of burning.

As soon as the Luton was inside the metal unit, the vehicular gate rattled down. The industrial estate once again became a haven of peace, broken only by a group of smokers so desperate to satisfy their needs that they were prepared to stand outside in the wind tunnel between two of the metal units. Their laughter floated over to me as they looked at something in the fluttering pages of the Daily Star. A brown UPS courier van made a delivery but other than that, the place was as quiet as it had been at three in the morning.

I watched and waited. Maybe twenty, certainly no more than twenty five minutes later, the Luton box truck emerged from the unit and the gate slid down in its tracks immediately after. The Luton drove out past my parked cab-over and the driver gave me a little nod but without slowing down. Excellent. I took Mulhearn's mobile phone from my pocket.

How come I had Mulhearn's new phone? Too easy. For relaxation, the ex-squaddie liked to visit that massage parlour above the scruffy salon with the tacky poster of a bikini-babe and Polish signs in the window. Regular as clockwork, he was. Did he take advantage of the 'extras' on offer? What do you think? So, the other day I slipped back into Sleazeford and had a word with the Ukrainian masseuse who provided much of these services.

Even I could see what Mulhearn and her other clients saw in her. She had long blonde hair and legs up to her chin, her ass barely covered by the shortest tunic I'd ever seen. I handed her a foil wrapped pack of strong sleeping tablets and told her to spike Mulhearn's drink on Sunday night and to let me know when the man was asleep. I had to explain it a few times as her English wasn't that good but she soon grasped what I wanted. The small wedge of twenties I also gave her helped her English improve.

"Call me," I said miming a phone call. Then all I had to do was wait for Mulhearn to visit.

First I made a call to the massage parlour. A tired voice with a strong east European accent told me that yes, Mulhearn was still fast asleep. No surprises there. The amount of ketamine in his veins would've knocked out the entire field at Market Rasen races. With some left over for Doncaster the next day. Wheelan's man was going to sleep until Tuesday week.

Using Mulhearn's phone, I sent a text to Wheelan. Like I said earlier, Wheelan had learned enough from McTeague to keep himself a couple of steps removed from anything incriminating. Let the small fry and middlemen take all the risks whilst you make the big bucks. Never get caught in the same building with anything that could get you in any trouble.

If the cops do come for you, look wide eyed and innocent and deny everything – make the Crown Prosecution Service put in the night shifts proving you knew anything about it. Even if they know you're involved, they still have to prove it before a jury. And if it comes to trial, there you stand in the dock in a good suit – but not too expensive as you don't want to get the jurors' backs up – whilst your brief paints a picture of an innocent businessman who was so time-pressed he had no idea what his associates were up to behind his back.

And if even that doesn't work, you send someone like me to have a quiet word with some of the jurors in their own time. Like late at night on their doorstep or outside their kid's school. But sometimes there are emergencies when you have to break that cardinal, numero uno rule. And the text I sent from Mulhearn's phone would have Wheelan flying down here. The cigarettes had been partly paid for on Wheelan's cloned credit card and a transaction slip had been left for the men to find. Wheelan was linked to the hooky cigs now. That's what my text said, anyway.

A moment later, Mulhearn's phone beeped. I looked at the answering text. Wheelan had risen to the bait. As he had to. He was on his way over. I smiled, but it lasted only for a fleeting second. I didn't like what McTeague had asked me to do. It went against the grain, against every fibre of my being. But the way McTeague explained it, I had to agree this was the best way forward. Then I made my next call. To Superintendent Donelan of the Lincolnshire Police.

"It's all ready for you. Wheelan's on his way. I'll call when he actually lands, okay?"

Donelan said something but I closed the call before he started talking cricket. I hate talking to the cops – they make me feel dirty. I knew that, if the circs were different, if Wheelan had played his cards more cleverly, Donelan would have no hesitation in dragging myself and McTeague down the fun factory for a couple of days solid interrogation.

Sleazeford's only a small place after all and not long after my first call, Wheelan came bombing down the road. He was driving Claire McTeague's – sorry, I keep forgetting her name's Wheelan now – yellow Porsche 911. On the dull blackish-grey road, in the dull greenish-grey industrial estate, under the dull whitish-grey sky the sports car stood out like the sun. No way could Superintendent Donelan and his boys in blue miss that.

The Porsche made a hard left, Wheelan jammed on the brakes which blazed red hot and the security guard raised the barrier. As soon as the barrier was high enough, Wheelan shot forward and jerked to a stop just outside his own unit. He threw open the Porsche's door and an instant later, he was inside.

I made that second call.

"Wheelan's on-site. You want him; he's yours," I said before ending the connection. That's it. My job done.

I don't know where the cops had been hiding, although I guessed it was probably behind the abandoned paper mill on the other side of the estate, because only a few minutes later, they arrived in force. Their black and yellow chopper swooped down and then clattered in the air above the unit. A fleet of pale grey Operational Support Unit carriers with mesh window shields swung past my parked DAF cab-over and into the industrial complex.

From my cab's high up vantage point I saw their identifying rooftop numbers and letters. They were closely followed by some cop cruisers and even one or two on powerful motorbikes. Their blue lights bounced off the metal sidings of the industrial units. The group of smokers stood open mouthed, their nicotine addiction forgotten for the moment. The security guard leaned out the hut's window and stared at the fast approaching carriers.

Even from my distance, I heard the driver of the lead carrier as he bellowed at the guard to, "open up, now! now!" The security guard must have leaned on the open button as I'm sure the barrier lifted quicker than usual and the police armada was barely delayed. Most of them sped to the front of the unit but a couple of OSU carriers raced around to the rear as well. Wheelan and his crew were caught like rats in a trap. No way out.

The OSU could have knocked politely on the door of Wheelan's unit but that's never been their style. Instead a heavily armoured lead pair holding a two-man enforcer battering ram leaped out of the first carrier. They took aim and swung the ram at the inset pedestrian door. No way could it withstand that blow. With a metallic crash, the stoved in door smashed open. The two with the ram stepped to one side and instantly more heavily armoured OSU cops stepped over the threshold and into the unit. These carried vicious looking Heckler & Koch sub-machine guns.

I almost felt sorry for Wheelan. Almost but not quite. I would have heard shouting coming from inside the unit as the OSU cops raided the place but the chopper had descended to a few hundred feet and its rotors drowned out everything else. Superintendent Donelan himself stepped out from the back of one of the cruisers. He rubbed his hands in the cool air and he looked pleased with the result. He too walked into the chaos inside the unit.

Some time later, Wheelan and his men emerged into the daylight each with an armoured cop by their side. The prisoners' hands were bound behind their backs with lengths of cable ties, the plastic ends sticking out into the cold air. None of them were smiling. Other cops followed clutching evidence bags. One, grinning like a Cheshire cat, held a bin bag. They'd found McTeague's little extra gift. I knew they would.

The cops bundled the prisoners into the back of the OSU carriers, pulled out of the yard and accelerated out of the industrial estate. Maybe they thought their prisoners' mobster mates would make a rescue attempt; maybe they'd just watched way too many of those 'Police, Camera, Action' type shows that litter the high numbered satellite channels. Or both.

The chopper hung about a bit longer until it too was summoned back to base and in the sudden silence I could hear myself think. A few cops were left on guard and told to wait for the forensics teams to show. As they waited, they unspooled blue and white crime scene tape over everything they could see.

Superintendent Donelan was one of the last to leave. He spoke to those cops remaining and clapped them on the back. A job well done. He had his driver stop near my cab. I pulled off my hi-viz jacket and then swung down from the warm interior. Donelan lowered his window.

"Hennessy," he said. "I know civic duty isn't your or McTeague's strong suit but thanks for the tip-off. No way is Wheelan walking free from that lot."

"Always a pleasure to help," I said.

"We also found two thousand yellow tablets in with those hooky cigarettes," he told me.

My eyebrows lifted as I remembered to look surprised.

"I don't know what they are but one of my sergeants, who between you and me likes to go clubbing in Ibiza, she tells me they're most likely mandies – ecstasy in other words. And of a particularly high quality. They're knocked out by some Romanian outfit in Constanta, I believe. I don't suppose you know anything about the E?" Donelan shot me a look from under his bushy eyebrows.

"Me? I wouldn't know; I don't deal in drugs. You know that, Donelan," I lied. He let my lack of respect to his rank slide.

"We've got Wheelan's prints all over the bags," Donelan said his finger hovering over the button to raise his electric window.

"How's that?" I blurted out before shutting up.

Donelan shot me a look. "Yes, got some nice prints on the drugs. His brief will claim in court we pressed the bags into his hands but what chance has a man like Wheelan got of a jury believing such palpable nonsense?" Donelan smiled like a fox.

"Not much – sounds thin to me," I said, returning his grin.

"Oh. Before I go, Hennessy. Do yourself a favour and leave Claire Wheelan alone," he said just before raising his window. "Just go home to McTeague and leave it at that."

We discussed our prospects in the forthcoming Test match for a few minutes and then I touched my fingers to my forehead in a brief salute as Donelan's cruiser pulled away. Now Wheelan was off the scene, I still had to deal with Claire. I locked the cab and walked out of the estate to pick up Mulhearn's Jeep Cherokee. It's not like he would be using it in the near future.