“Aye right then, looks like that’s that, and we’ve maybe five minutes tops ‘til the cops are all over the show like a gaggle of Blackpool slappers. Here you lot, hand over anything dead incriminating and I’ll hide it. Meantime let’s have our story straight.”
Hardly pausing to ask for a translation into English, Hitch’s comrades all chipped in with their 2cents-worth. All save Shen Lu, who mused “Skill represents preparedness at the lower level, whilst Virtue represents preparedness at the higher level” as he ensured that the ornamental knot on his Katana was well-tied and his bag packed.
Paul rushed over to the window, peering out and checking that his wallet and PDA were in place. “I think our time to part ways has come. We’ll meet up as best we may… damn! I think I see SWAT out there. Well on balance then, Hitchcock, your plan has some merit.”
“But exactly what are we saying, and when?” queried Cliff, rubbing his temples nervously.
“I volunteer to do the talking,” Dan offered, “we can be sure that the Truth will set us free.”
“Uh, like, isn’t it SOP to like, totally keep quiet?” Sandi piped up, snapping down the locks on the gun safe and tucking her mesh vest with its various “camping tools” well away in her backpack.
“As best I recall none of us fired a shot, apart from those mace things. So we have a body, and two prisoners, but the SOCOs, sorry, forensics will back us up” Hitch pondered. Sandi, who had blasted Williams unsuccessfully with a “hornet’s nest” charge from the Benelli, kept quiet at this point.
“What about the window? What about the tattooed skin? What about the weapons?” asked Paul Cliff and Dan, over the top of each other.
“I’m more naffed about that grenade you touched Cliff, what’d you want to go doing that for?” responded Hitch testily.
“Like, the big perp could still of set it off?” Sandi reasoned ungrammatically.
“Hey, I didn’t touch it, more like squeezed it out of his hand,” Cliff mumbled.
“Anyhow!!! I’ve made a plan, and it’s a goodie,” continued Hitch with slightly raised voice, “What I think is, we’ll say that three goons kicked in our door and sprayed the room, not hitting anyone. We don’t know why. Then we’ll say that they started to leave. We don’t know why. Then we’ll say the tall one killed the hairy one. We don’t know why. All this is information they will pick up anyway, we just speed it up, to speed up our time in the holding cells. Once we fall into the hands of the homicide cops, we say ‘We told the patrolman all we know. And we are not repeating our statement.’ So let’s be having those weapons, eh and the skin too Dan, I’ll hide them. And remember, once we make that short statement to the first cops on the scene, who likely will be uniforms, we keep schtumm.”
“I was going to explain that it was forensic evidence we need to bring a great crime home to its perpetrator,” Dan protested. “The flesh sculpture will prove that we are investigating a cult of devil worshippers and account for the break-in.”
“So I guess we’re saying we’re private investigators?” Cliff responded, almost as though he had not been listening to Hitch at all.
“Now I like the sound of that!” Paul exclaimed, eyes sparkling uncharacteristically, “We could be Investigators! Is it likely to cause Elliot any problems if we identify ourselves as Academy investigators sent to find out who is behind this attack on one of our offices?”
At this point a brief and uneasy silence fell. Sandi sighed heavily and rolled her eyes, teen-style. Shen fingered his katana knot thoughtfully.
“Hmm eh well Birkby, I think the statement I’ll make may involve my paper’s assignment, and not mention our secret assignment,” Hitch countered tactfully. “That would make Dan my paper’s specialist consultant in the psychology of terrorism, and hmm, you would be a security consultant, which might cover off your gear there” – here Hitch gestured to the various laptops, interceptor kit and other surveillance gear packed into cases – “and I suppose Shen could be security… Cliff could be what he is, a bodyguard…” “…and I can be Paul’s assistant! Way cool!” Sandi finished.
“Well…OK then Sandi,” Hitch replied, doubt filling his voice. It was Paul’s turn to roll his eyes, but being above that sort of thing he merely sneered.
“So who’s calling Mr Elliot?” asked Sandi. “Or Lena? And if we only get one phone call in the slammer, who are we each gonna call?” She broke off to attempt a Gaga-esque lyric about a telephone, poorly.
Cliff manfully pulled out his mobile. “Elliot? Trouble. We were attacked in a hotel by Rieker’s people, one dead by their own hands. Non-lethal resistance on our part but a bit of a mess and a lot of noise. We’ll be picked up by the police in a few if they’re not totally stupid. We’re planning to mention as little as possible, so you’ll need to do the usual. What angle should we play if we get really cornered, investigators?” He turned confidently to the team. “KISS principle. Best to leave it to Chicago to get us out of trouble. They’re way more experienced at it.”
“It’s also basic procedural not to take human life,” Dan declaimed, apropos of nothing.