Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Favoured Son (part 4)

“You have no evidence!” Richard cried. “This is just ridiculous speculation.”
“On the contrary,” I said, “my friends have made quite the discovery. Robin, Rachel, if you’d like to go ahead?”
Robin grinned. The bar was silent, as our ambush had ensured, and Robin had the attention of the undercover police officers the room was littered with. She swung off her stool and took a few steps forwards. “Allow me to set the scene. A billionaire’s daughter is kidnapped, the ransom to be dropped off in an abandoned flat. A ransom note is sent out, created using the typography from the column of the man who the flat belonged to. The man? An investigative journalist who has more than enough experience in the world of law breaking to carry off such a crime perfectly.”
“Exactly!” Richard cried. “No offence Gabe, but it’s obviously him behind him.”
“Wrong.” Rachel said. “Because anybody with even an ounce of intelligence about them wouldn’t make it so blazingly obvious that they were behind it. The only conclusion, someone must be attempting to frame him.”
“But who?” Robin continued. “And why? We intend to at least answer the first question. Our first clue was the identity of the kidnapped kid. Nadeera Javid. The daughter of the owner of Celtic Rangers, a wealthy football club. The kidnapping was carried out during a private party at the Javid household, the sort of party that only two types of people would know about. The first is the selection of people who were invited, but they’re already rich enough. They don’t need to kidnap. Who are the second type, Rachel?”
Rachel grinned. “Sports reporters. They’d know when something big and expensive like that was being carried out, they’d know it was the perfect opportunity.”
“Anyone with access to the Internet could find out that party was going ahead.” Richard argued, but he didn’t sound overly confident in his words. “That’s nonsense.”
“I’m glad you mentioned the Internet.” Rachel said. “For that was our second clue. Mrs Javid, Nadeera’s mother, identified Gabriel as the kidnapper.”
“Well, of course she did!” Richard cried. “That’s because he was the kidnapper.”
“No.” Rachel continued. “It’s because she was shown this picture and told to identify him.”
Robin displayed the image she had found on her phone.
“This is the first picture that shows up when you google Gabriel’s name which makes it sound like a rather pointless clue, however we did some further digging and discovered it’s actually quite crucial. The image shows a younger Gabriel, without the grey flecked hair and the creased skin.”
“Oi!” I cried.
Rachel shrugged and continued. “Why? Because this was the image that was taken of Gabriel when he first got his job as Amelia McCardle’s assistant all those many years ago. Click on the image and who took it? Why, Amelia McCardle’s other assistant of course. Robin, what’s his name?”
“Richard Burleigh.” Robin grinned. “Remember, Gabriel and Richard both worked as photographers on film when they first began. I could quite easily imagine that Richard might have a few physical copies of this very photograph lying around at home.”
“A coincidence. Nothing more.” Richard’s eyes cut furtively towards the door through which we’d entered. One of the under cover policemen noticed and quickly stepped over to bar the way.
“Oh really? Well, how about this? The flat in which the money was to be delivered?” Robin said. “Gabriel didn’t live there alone. He flat shared with his colleague, Richard.”
Richard said nothing.
“Then,” Rachel said, “there is of course the small matter of the tickets that myself and Gabriel received the morning of his arrest. Tickets out of the country, almost as if someone was trying to make it look like Gabriel was fleeing. We phoned up the airport and asked them to check their ordering system. Two tickets were bought by a Mr G. Rathbone two weeks ago, but the bank account used could be tracked back to a Mr R. Burleigh.”
“The clinching point, however,” Robin said, “was the answer to a different investigation altogether.”
“And what clinching point was that?” Richard demanded.
“The body in the sewer.” Robin grinned. “On the morning that he was arrested, Gabriel and I were investigating a body found in the the sewer plant. It was eroded beyond recognition, however dental records have just come through. Guess who it is.”
“Who?” Richard said, but there was something about his tone that suggested he already knew the answer.
“Brian Sanders.” Robin said.
“Not Brian!” I cried. I liked Brian.
“Brian Sanders; the old Sports Reporter of the Pavilion.” Robin said. “Who, strangely, retired after over twenty years of reporting a few weeks ago without so much as a word; just there one day and gone the next. Like someone had caved his head in and then pushed him into the sewers. And Brian’s sudden retirement opened up a perfect gap at the Pavilion, a gap with which Richard could sneak back into the publication.”
“You have no proof.” Richard said. “This is nothing more than ridiculous speculation.”
“We have the tickets.” Rachel said. “And a picture of you is being taken to Mrs Javid now. As soon as we find Nadeera, she’ll be able to identify you too. Make this all a lot easier for us, Richard. Give in already.”
Part of me was proud of Rachel and Robin, impressed that their detective skills had managed to solve this case with such relative ease. Another part of me, however, was ashamed of Richard, for making the answer so obvious to those with experience. The main section of my consciousness was the most ashamed with myself. What kind of man did it make me if my old friends were so keen to frame me for kidnapping?
Richard sighed. “You’ll prove it sooner or later, but I’ll save you the time. I did it. I set Gabriel up.”
“Why?” I said. “I mean, I know I got you a couple of parking tickets ages back but this is a bit ridiculous.”
Richard looked at me and shook his head. “Me, you and Amelia, back in the day, we were the dream team. We were pals. No crime stood in the way. We were fantastic.”
“We were.” I smiled. The Old Days never failed to make me smile.
“And then there were all those cuts to the paper. Back when they got rid of Jim, y’know, Jim on the Cartoon Desk? Back when they got rid of him. Every department lost half a dozen staff members. I remember when they told us that Amelia could only have one assistant, that we had to apply for our own job. We came down here, Gabe. Do you remember? We came here and drowned our sorrows.”
I nodded. I remembered the start of the evening well.
“The thing was, the thing that got me, was that evening was a pointless gesture. We both knew which one of us was going to get the job, both knew which one of us she would choose. The favoured son. You. She always treated you better than she treated me. We can’t deny that, no matter how hard we try. She always preferred you better than me and look what that preferential treatment achieved. You’re an award winning investigative journalist with their own column and I cover the cricket results. They don’t even play cricket for half the bloody year!”
Rachel stepped forwards. “It’s not just that, Richard. Gabriel is a better man than you too. Take him away.”
The undercover police officers did just that and dragged him towards the door. There was silence for a second, except for the sound of Richard’s rights being read to him. And then, I said, “Was I the only one who expected him to say, ‘And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids!’?”
Rachel laughed and strolled over to me, sliding an arm through mine. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” I said. “Of course.”
Inside, I wasn’t. All I kept thinking was, what kind of man did it make me if my old friends were so keen to frame me for kidnapping?

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