فصل 18

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فصل 18

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Operation Wasp

‘OK, Pete,’ Jane said urgently. ‘Listen very carefully. I vitally important that we get this right. I don’t have time explain right now. You’ll just have to trust me. I’ll explain on the way back to the station.’ Pete looked at her surprise, impressed by the sudden note of seriousness in her voice.

‘Yes, ma’am,’ he said, dropping his Texan accent now, they walked back to the car.

‘First, the factory has to be sealed off. No-one, repeat, no-one, is to be allowed in. We need to set up road block on all the roads out of Pilton. What we have to do is find Jo Keane and Jack Peck, before they have a chance to leave Pilton. We can get Operation Wasp up and running right now, with whatever staff we’ve got available. You arrange that. Then I want you to go to Jack Peck’s house and, if he there, arrest him.’

‘What for?’ Pete asked, his eyes wide with astonishment.

‘The murder of his brother,’ Jane replied.

‘But… I thought it was supposed to be a woman who did it?’

‘It was, in a way.’

‘Keane’s house to bring her in as well. We’ll just have to hope that they haven’t decided to disappear already.’

‘But wouldn’t they want to come here, to look at the damage to their factory?’ Pete asked.

‘Well, if I’m right, they won’t bother. They’ll want to get right away as fast as they possibly can,’ Jane replied.

As soon as they arrived back at Pilton Police Station, Jane placed an urgent call to MI6 in London. She had just finished when Pete came back to say that he had set up some road blocks, and that he was now going to pick up Jack Peck. Tony Reilly and Maggie were going to get Jo Keane.

A few moments after Pete had disappeared, a police constable on duty at the factory rang. Oh no, now what? Jane asked herself pessimistically. What could have gone wrong so quickly? The constable informed her that two people, a man and a woman, had arrived and demanded to go inside. He had told them no-one was to be allowed into the factory and they had become rather angry.

‘What did they do?’ Jane asked him. ‘Have they gone?’

‘Yes, ma’am. They went off in something of a hurry.’

‘Did you get the car registration?’

‘Yes, ma’am. An MG sports car, P registration.’

‘Good lad,’ Jane told him. She went quickly to the radio room to send out an order to all the road blocks to stop the MG if it appeared and arrest the occupants on sight. No sooner had she had finished than another message came in.

‘PC di@k Plumb speaking, ma’am. I’m on the South Heasley road out of Pilton. I’m afraid we’ve got a slightly awkward situation here.’ PC Plumb’s voice sounded nervous.

‘What situation, di@k?’

‘Er… well, we stopped a man who then pulled out a gun. He’s taken WPC Morgan, the new officer. He says he’s going to shoot her if we don’t let him through. I presume it’s Mr Peck.’

‘OK, I’m on my way. Try and keep him talking will you? Whatever happens, don’t let him drive off, you hear?’

She picked up the microphone to send out another message instructing all the road block units to head for the South Heasley road. Then, having phoned Pete, Tony and Maggie and told them to cover the road from South Heasley to Buxton, she ran down to the garage, found a car and drove as fast as she could out to where PC Plumb and WPC Morgan had been stationed.

Arriving at the road block, halfway between South Heasley and Pilton, Jane was horrified to see, in the lights of her car, that PC Plumb was sitting on the ground, leaning against his car, holding his head. Blood seemed to be pouring down his face.

‘di@k,’ Jane shouted from her open window. ‘Where are they? Are you all right?’

‘I’m OK, ma’am. It’s just a surface wound. But he’s got WPC Morgan, ma’am. Mr Peck dragged her into his car and attacked me when I tried to stop him. They’ve gone off that way.’ di@k Plumb pointed towards South Heasley. In the dark, Jane made out the glow of car headlights moving towards the sleeping village of South Heasley. She might just be able to catch them.

The powerful police Volvo roared along the country road, its siren screaming. Somehow Jane did not care about anything that might be in her path. The only thought in her head was to reach the disappearing MG. As the lights of the village drew nearer, she thought she was gaining ground. She remembered that the village streets were extremely narrow coming in from this side and there was a tight corner just before the village square. Jack Peck would have to slow down through the village.

She called Pete on her mobile phone. ‘Pete, where are you? Jack Peck’s making a run for it. He’s got WPC Morgan.’

‘I’m between Buxton and South Heasley.’ Pete’s voice sounded faint in the speaker.

‘OK, I can see the tail lights now. I’m catching them up. He knows I’m after him and he’s going much too fast through the village. Oh my God, he’s just braked…’ Jane broke off as she could see the MG begin to slide. It came to a sudden stop, crashing against a stone wall.

‘Pete, get here as fast as you can. And turn your siren off.’

Around the square in the middle of South Heasley lights came on in several upstairs windows and astonished faces of villagers appeared, staring at the scene below them. In the dim glow of the streetlights, Jane noticed a small black shape lying still on the ground near Jack Peck’s car. A cat. He must have hit a cat. She hoped, irrelevantly, that it was not Rose’s cat.

As she moved cautiously towards the MG, the door opened and Jack got out, holding a gun pointed at someone inside the car. Then WPC Morgan climbed out.

Jack grabbed her and, holding her in front of him with his hand over her mouth, shouted, ‘She gets it if you come any closer!’

‘OK, I’ll stop here,’ Jane said. ‘Where’s Jo?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t care,’ he said desperately. ‘I need your car. You let me go or I’ll shoot this young lady here.’

Jane could see that WPC Morgan was rigid with fear and near to collapse, but Jane needed to play for time.

‘All right, Mr Peck. You win. But before I make the call, just tell me this, why did you murder your own brother?’

‘Move away from your car,’ Jack Peck screamed. Jane moved away from her car. Peck approached holding the young WPC in front of him.

‘Adopted brother,’ he corrected her, as if this somehow made it better. ‘Mervin was a fool anyway.’

‘OK, but why kill him?’ Jane insisted. Jack adjusted his hold on WPC Morgan. He was beginning to get nervous now.

‘Mervin sent me a letter from hospital… He was threatening to tell the authorities what had been going on at his farm unless I did something to get him out of the mess he was in.’

‘Did Jo tell you to do it?’

‘No. No-one tells me what to do.’ Jack Peck sounded annoyed. ‘We did it together…’ Jack was beside the police car now.

‘Together? I had a feeling Jo was the “blonde doctor”.’ Jack Peck didn’t answer.

‘Aren’t you lovers?’ asked Jane to stall for time. ‘You and Ms Keane?’ Just then she saw a movement on the other side of the square behind Jack. It was Pete, edging quietly closer.

Jack Peck walked around the car and saw the keys weren’t in the ignition.

‘Where are the keys?’ he screamed.

‘Answer my question first.’

‘We were, once upon a time. Now, no, just business partners. Now, the keys!’

‘What kind of business is it, Mr Peck, which means that two people, Rose and your brother, have to die?’

‘Chief Inspector Honeywell, you’re not stupid. If you stood to make several million dollars, you’d do the same.’

‘OK, maybe I would,’ Jane said. A few more seconds and Pete would be close enough. ‘So that’s why the sheep were sick, then, because you were testing out the Rift Valley virus on them?’

‘You’re smart, Chief Inspector, I’ll give you that. Now, would you give me those keys please?’ he said in a low voice, the gun still pointed at WPC Morgan’s head.

Keep going, keep going, Jane told herself. She held up the keys. ‘So Mervin was in it too, then?’ she continued.

‘No. He didn’t know what it was we were really doing, he was just supposed to keep visitors away. He did it for the money. Unfortunately, he always had a terrible temper.’

‘So what was the Samson project?’

‘We’d perfected a way of using bees to deliver stings that go gangrenous,’ Jack Peck said. He added proudly, ‘It was my own invention.’

Then everything happened at once. Jane threw the keys on the ground in front of Jack and Jack turned the gun away from WPC Morgan for a split second, which gave Pete Fish enough time to make his move. He came up rapidly behind Jack, grabbed his arms and held them up behind his back. The gun fell from his hands and, as it hit the ground, a bullet was fired harmlessly into the air. Jack uttered a cry of anger and frustration.

‘Jack Peck, you are under arrest,’ Jane announced, going quickly up to him and putting a pair of handcuffs on him. ‘You don’t have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if…’

As she finished reading him his rights, Tony Reilly and Maggie Pincombe drove up in a police car with Jo Keane in the back seat.

‘We found her driving out of town with her bags packed and a plane ticket to Argentina,’ said Tony Reilly.

‘Well,’ said Jane, grinning with satisfaction. ‘Operation Wasp has stung.’

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