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Crossing Lines Chapter 3 | Jacqueline Dyer


The buzzing of my phone cut through the strange dream I was having. There was a dull pounding in my head and my mouth was dry with a foul taste. I rolled over and squinted at the screen. 6.10 am. I groaned. What time did I go to bed?

The name DC Childs flashed up on the screen. “Lisa”, I croaked, coughing to clear the mucus from my throat.

“Sounds like a rough night, boss. Sorry to disturb your slumbers but we have another body. Dobson has called us in because it looks like Philip Crawford.”

“Oh, bad news! OK Lisa where are you?”

“Well, not far from Northolt actually. We’ll have to alert DI Redmond. This is right on the borderline between the two boroughs.”

“OK leave DI Redmond to me, I’ll get her or Lane to join. Text me the coordinates and see you in about 45 minutes.”

I collapsed back onto the pillows, recollections of the previous night filtering through the fug. Two strong beers and many of those delicious whiskies? and I felt like crap. Move it, Bec, I told myself, tossing back the duvet and regretfully leaving my very comfortable bed.  I needed to alert Jo, and as I had left my car at her place last night, I had to taxi over there and pick it up before we could go to the scene. 

“You do know you left your car keys here, don’t you?” was the first thing Jo said after I had given her the news. “So, I’ll take your car to the scene, and Lane can drive me afterwards”.

Once I was in the Uber with a silent Eastern European driver and low music on the stereo, I switched my brain to work mode and thought about the previous night. Jo had rightly suspected I had ulterior motives when I had set off in pursuit of Gabrielle du Toit the previous day. When I worked Vice, we had a lot of crossovers with the Drugs Squad, and I had become friendly with a cop who was my liaison for a while. DS Justin Delgado gave me a periodic heads up when anything on his radar looked as though it was heading my way, and he had tipped me off about suspicions around Northolt some weeks ago. As RAF Northolt was technically in Hillingdon, and since it was a just a low level rumour, I had stored the information but not paid much attention until Andrea Crawford turned up dead. She worked at Northolt, her family were in Ealing –this was my business, and the first thing I did was bang it back to Justin and ask him to check his database for any information about Philip Crawford or Gabrielle du Toit.

It was Justin I had gone to meet in the café. He was shadowing a major drugs dealer, looking for the link to Northolt. With the Jamaican lilt he could put on to order, the scruffy hoodie, torn, black jeans and white hi-tops, he fitted right in. The narrative called for him to greet me as if I was his girlfriend, so I had to let him kiss me. I could have done without the Juicy Fruit chewing gum and 2 days’ growth of prickly beard.  We sat together in a corner, his arm round me as we talked quietly, discreetly observing the targets. Justin gave me the information he had got from the South Africans on du Toit, but he couldn’t make the link to Northolt except through Andrea. It seemed bizarre to me that there could be any link between the two women since they were basically in competition for the same man. There had to be someone else involved. My theory was that Andrea had somehow got in the way.

When I had reported all this to Jo, she had looked thoughtful. Then she had told me about the senior RAF Military Policeman who knew her father, and who might give her more information off the record than we could gain on the record. I felt frustrated- I wanted to get into that base and go poking around, but I could see I would have to concede first try to Jo. Meanwhile, Justin and his colleagues were preparing a warrant for a wiretap on du Toit, so it was becoming a race to see who could find the link first. And now Philip was dead. This put du Toit even more firmly in the frame in my view. As the driver followed the GPS instructions to turn left, I saw the crime scene tape and white-suited CSIs, police cars and vans parked all around. I called Lisa, “I’m here”.


I gave Rebecca a ten- minute head start while I briefed Lane and arranged to meet him there. The body had been found in a Tesco car park off the Ruislip road, just south of RAF Northolt. It had been called in first to Ealing Met station, who, on being told the assumed identity of the corpse, from the car number plate traced back to him, tied it into our joint case. Although I had surprised myself by socialising so early on with a colleague from another district, I was glad to have Rebecca on board. It wouldn’t do to admit it publicly, but having a sympathetic colleague, a “mate” in the testosterone-fuelled jungle of the Metropolitan Police could serve both of us well.

On arrival, I saw that the crime scene tape surrounded a car, so I wandered over and peered inside. The body was slumped back in the driver’s seat, a neat bullet hole drilled through the forehead. There was blood splatter on the headrest behind the victim’s head, which told me we were dealing with a shot at close range and possibly a high velocity weapon. As I stood there, I became aware of the tyvek-suited CSI at my side.

“Is that what killed him? The bullet?” I asked.

The CSI, one I had not seen before, stepped forward.

“DI Redmond? I’m Stefan Bartulis, the Crime Scene Co-ordinator. We’re still waiting for the pathologist, but I can tell you that the bullet entered through the forehead and exited the back of the skull. It would certainly have done the job, but until we have the post-mortem results, we can’t tell whether he was drugged first before being dumped here. We’re doing a fingertip search of the car and the area to see what else comes up.

He had the faintest hint of a foreign accent, something in the vowels, and a slight clip to his articulation.

“Right, OK, carry on.”

I turned away. There was something in the man’s open, boyish face that seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t think where from. At that moment, a gloved hand appeared on the white shoulder of his overall and Rebecca came into view.

“Steve! They called you out even earlier than me!  I thought you were still in bed! Where’s Ryan?”

The penny dropped. Stefan Bartulis was Ryan’s father.

“No worries, Bec. Michelle will drop him at school on her way to work.”

Her shoulders relaxed. “Ah, I see you’ve met my opposite number?”

He looked at me and back at her. “Ah yes, DI Redmond. Are you both fighting over this one?” His eyes twinkled.

“Hardly”, I said, popping an extra strong mint into my mouth and putting my hands back into my trouser pockets. “I think the term is ‘cooperating’.”

“That’s right”, Rebecca nodded. “We’re working together”.

Bartulis grinned as if not quite believing us, then, shooting a glance over my left shoulder, quickly changed his demeanour. “OK, ladies, I can see the pathologist heading our way. Party time.”

Once Dr. Halloran, the on-duty Home Office pathologist, had finished his examination and authorised removal of the body, we were not a great deal wiser. He resolutely declined to offer any speculation as to time or cause of death until the post-mortem, which wouldn’t be until at least three in the afternoon. Rebecca turned away in disgust and rolled her eyes at me.

“It is what it is”, I said quietly. “We’ve recognised him, but we should arrange for a relative to identify the body as quickly as possible.”

Rebecca turned and waved to Lisa Childs and Quint Lane, who were standing a little way off.

“Lisa, I want you and Lane to give Andrea’s parents the news. Watch their reaction carefully and check their alibis. We need to eliminate them as suspects as fast as possible.  Try to contact Philip’s next of kin, if any can be found, and arrange for someone to identify the body. Work in tandem with Lane on this.”

“Yes, guv”, replied Lisa.

I turned to Rebecca, not exactly sure of whose jurisdiction this was in.

“Let’s get a couple of uniforms to go door to door all around this street and the next to see if anyone heard anything.? This is a supermarket car park, there may be homeless people in the vicinity or kids doing a paper round or whatever.”

“Yes, right”, she answered, snapping her fingers at a uniformed constable standing in the background and giving the instruction.

“Lisa, Lane, follow up with them. DI Redmond and I have other things to attend to. We’ll catch up with you later.”

She jerked her head and drew me away, towards her car.

“I need to get back to Justin and see if he’s heard anything or has tracked Gabrielle. Do you want to come with me?”

I was nodding my head, keen to keep the momentum going, when my phone buzzed with a message. I reached into my pocket –

“Well, here’s progress. The RAF policeman I told you about is going to visit my father at 10 this morning. I have to go, this is a chance to get into Northolt. I’ll call you later. Don’t forget we need to be at the PM at three. “

She smiled briefly. “Sounds good. Let’s see how we go. Oh and…Jo?”


“Thanks for last night. It’s good to talk to someone outside my own station.”

I inclined my head. “A pleasure, DI Sadler.”

By 9.45, I was pulling up outside my father’s retirement bungalow in St Albans. As usual, he was in his greenhouse conservatory tending to his plants.

“Hi Dad,” I kissed him on the cheek. “How did you arrange that so quickly?”

“He seemed quite keen, actually, when he heard you wanted to talk to him.”

I looked at my father for a long moment. Was that a twitch of his cheek? A sparkle in his eye? He might be 84 but he was still a pro. I let it go and went to put the kettle on. Within ten minutes I heard a car pull into the drive and then another tap on the door.

“Arthur! Good to see you, you’re looking well?!” came the deep voice of the man I was waiting to intercept.

“Martin, always a pleasure. Do go into the lounge, I believe my daughter is preparing refreshments.”

They entered the room as I put down my tray of coffee and biscuits. Wing Commander Martin Hewson, head of his section of the RAF Police at Northolt, was out of uniform, in navy chinos and a plaid shirt under a Harrington jacket. He was around my own age, early 50’s. He looked trim and fit.

“Martin, this is my daughter, Jo”, my father said. “I don’t think you’ve met”.

Hewson looked at me steadily. “I believe I may have seen you at Paddy’s funeral, but not since.”

“Detective Inspector Jo Redmond,” I said. “Hillingdon Met. Good to meet you, Wing Commander.”

I removed my coat and sat in an armchair. Hewson did the same. I poured coffee and offered biscuits. We made small talk with my father until he insisted he had to return to his plants and suggested we take a turn around his very well kept garden. Hewson acted not in the least surprised, so I assumed my father had given him the gist of what I wanted. I had expected resistance, even threats to keep out of their business. What I hadn’t expected was an invitation to join their enquiry.

Two hours later, I was back on the road south. This was now bigger than Rebecca and I. I called Dobson.

“My office, thirty minutes”, she said. “I’ll try to get hold of DI Sadler”.


DS Justin Delgado was pacing the floor in Ealing Met station.

“We’ve got her, Rebecca, I’ve got her on film passing drugs to the Albanians that control a lot of the traffic in my patch. I’ve got her on tape talking to a known hit man for the Yardies. The South Africans have identified her, she has a criminal record back there, of course. If you want her for the murders, you need to find the evidence, otherwise we might just take her out of circulation first. “

“Come on Justin, you know how long all these tests take. We can’t get results in five minutes. You need to give us another 48 hours while you track her, to give us time to cover all the bases with the forensics.”

“What about your CSI boyfriend- can’t he put a rush on things?”

I glared at him and was about to fire something back when my phone rang. Dobson.

“Yes, Chief”

“DI Sadler, I need you over at Hillingdon Central immediately. Where are you?”

“Ealing, Ma’am, meeting with the Drugs Squad, DS Delgado is here briefing me on Gabrielle du Toit.”

“Bring him with you, I’ve requested assistance from the Drugs Squad, so I’ll clear it with his boss. I’ve ordered in lunch as well, we need to keep going.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I’m on my way.”

I looked at Justin, who had heard his name mentioned and had eyebrows raised.

“Seems you’re now in on this. DCS Dobson has cleared it for you to join our meeting over at Hillingdon immediately. So let’s get a move on.”

I grabbed my coat and headed for the door, not giving him time to speak. He gathered up his leather jacket and crash helmet. As we reached the car park, he touched my arm. “Sorry, shouldn’t have said that. I know he’s not your boyfriend any more, I was just winding you up.”

“Well cut it out. Just because we had a one night stand five years ago doesn’t give you the right to make personal comments, OK?”

He gave a cheeky grin. “Got that, Inspector. But what about I take you out to dinner when all this is over?”

I stopped in the middle of the car park and turned to face him. For a fleeting moment, I was surprised by a surge of affection. Justin was a handsome man under the stubble and scruffy clothes he wore for work, and I had certainly fallen for his shtick in the past, but then my professional armour clicked into place, killing any interest stone dead.

“Dream on”, I said and walked to my car.


It was after 1pm when I got back to Hillingdon, and I was glad to see that Dobson had had sandwiches and fruit cups brought in from the local Marks and Spencer. No fast food junk for her!  I put my coat on the back of a chair and sat at the long table. A moment later, Stefan Bartulis walked in, holding a plastic folder of papers. He nodded to me and held the folder up for Dobson to see.

“Good man,” she said, having obviously asked him to put a rush on the lab results.

She looked at her watch “while we’re waiting for DI Sadler and DS Delgado, let’s have something to eat,” and she indicated the spread on the side table. Bartulis and I moved towards it. I was famished, I’d been too nervous in my meeting with Hewson to eat biscuits. I could see him reading the labels so, to break the ice, I asked “Vegan or vegetarian?”

“A bit of both,” he replied, looking surprised. “Hard to be vegan in this job. Goat cheese is now a vegetable, it seems.”

My quick glance at the array of packets indicated an absence of anything purely vegan so I held up a packet bearing the label ‘Goat cheese, rocket and red pepper’. “Any good?”

“That’ll do”, he smiled. He was busy pouring something from one of the urns. “Can I get you a tea or a coffee?”

“Um, tea would be good, just black, please.”

We swapped, his sandwich for my tea cup and stood companionably by the table unwrapping our sandwiches. I liked him, he was definitely growing on me. His English was perfect- fluent and idiomatic, but the tiny hint of an accent was intriguing.

“You’re,er, Latvian, Rebecca told me.”

“That’s right. From Riga. My mum’s still there but my younger sister and I came over for studies and we stayed.”

“Yes, I’ve been to the café your sister runs. Great breakfasts, I must say.”

He smiled proudly, pausing with his sandwich halfway to his mouth.

“Katrín studied Hospitality and we thought she’d be working for a big resort or hotel, but no, she worked in kitchens for years and saved enough money to open her own café. She’s a real go-getter.”

We finished our sandwiches and were just refilling teacups when Rebecca arrived. Dobson waved to her and called “Grab some food and let’s get started. Where’s Delgado?”

“On his way”, Rebecca answered, picking up the sandwich nearest to her on the table without reading the label. Bartulis moved to the urn and poured her a coffee, adding milk, and putting it down in front of her. She smiled at him gratefully, and for some reason, I found his concern touching. I sat down next to her, and Dobson moved to the front, beckoning to Bartulis to join her. Before they could start, the door opened and a good-looking man wearing a biker’s leather jacket and holding a crash helmet entered, apologising, and sat down at the other end of the table.

“Right, people”, Dobson began. “We are treating these two cases, the deaths of Andrea and Philip Crawford, as linked, and preliminary enquiries have revealed that there may be a drugs angle, hence our cooperation with the Drugs Squad, represented here by DS Delgado. I’ll let our Crime Scene Co-ordinator Stefan Bartulis start the ball rolling.”

Bartulis had unpacked his documents and also a USB which he inserted into the laptop, projecting his findings onto the screen. He took us carefully through the forensic analysis of Andrea’s crime scene, and what had so far been gleaned from Philip’s.

“The two scenes are very different. The first, as you can see, seems clumsy: manual strangulation after a blow to the head with a blunt instrument. Some scratches indicating the victim struggled. No attempt made to hide the body, she was apparently killed where she was found. The second victim, on the other hand, was shot cleanly through the head – we have details of the gun and bullets used- and blood spatter indicates he was shot where he sat, in the driver’s seat of the car, but the position of the limbs suggests that he was manoeuvred into the car either while unconscious or semi-conscious. We are still waiting on the post-mortem, and both sets of toxicology results, so this is premature, but all the signs point to this being more of a professional hit, deliberate and planned.”  He sat down.

Dobson then took us over the victims’ backgrounds and introduced the possible drugs link via Gabrielle du Toit, Philip Crawford’s apparent girlfriend. She then asked DS Delgado to outline the information the Drugs Squad held on du Toit.

“Right, well, du Toit ties into an investigation which is still ongoing into the supply and distribution of Grade A heroin into the UK from Afghanistan, or the Middle East generally. Around six months ago, we noticed a spike in supplies and have the distribution network under surveillance. But we couldn’t find out where it was coming from. Finally, about six weeks ago, surveillance picked up this woman calling herself Gabrielle du Toit, who was seen meeting with one of the key players in the distribution network, an Albanian gangster called Artan Beqiri. After her second meeting with him, we noticed that she always met someone lower down in the network. Beqiri doesn’t stick his head above the parapet too often. We tracked the woman to Ealing and logged her relationship with Crawford. We got a wiretap authorised yesterday and this morning we got her calling a number used by a certain hitman for the Yardies in North London. The content of the call didn’t reveal anything specific, but it’s suspicious in itself. Yes?”

He paused as I had raised my hand.

“Has any progress been made in identifying Gabrielle du Toit’s real identity?”

“The South Africans believe she may be Annalie Hendricks, born in Worcester,  Western Cape. Same age as Gabrielle du Toit. She got involved in drugs when she attended Stellenbosch University a decade ago, and she has a criminal record in South Africa for armed robbery among other things. Her mother, apparently, had a British passport, which may be why she chose to come here. She’s disappeared off the radar in South Africa.”

Dobson then intervened. “Thank you, DS Delgado. DI Redmond, can you fill us in on the Northolt end of things.”

I stood, hands in pockets, in my thinking stance, and tried to find the best starting point.

“We’ve had nothing so far to link Andrea’s murder to RAF Northolt other than the fact that she worked there, but through personal contacts on the base, I’ve discovered that the military police are carrying out an investigation into some sort of drugs operation which started up around six months ago. When we learned of the link between Gabrielle du Toit and the recent spike in heroin supply, from the Drugs Squad, this, together with the link to Northolt through Andrea Crawford, began to come together as two parts of the same investigation. This morning I spoke in private to Wing Commander Hewson, the most senior RAF policeman running this investigation, and he has asked for cooperation from the Met- but undercover.”

“Do we know what sort of cooperation he has in mind?” Dobson asked.

“He’d like us or the Drugs Squad to put in an undercover officer and for that person to report solely to him. No one else would know about it.”

“That would be me, then”, said Delgado, sitting up straight in his chair.

“Actually, er, no, he wants a woman, to replace Andrea and to get into her workmates’ confidence more easily.”

As I said this, I knew what Delgado and Bartulis must be thinking – that it would be me. But Hewson had been adamant that this was not possible.

“Your cover is too easily blown”, he had said, and it was true. Too many people knew my face, and in Hillingdon, I was known as a police officer. Total anonymity was impossible.

It was Dobson who spoke up. “Well, unfortunately, it can’t be Jo – she’s too well known.”

“So it has to be me”, stated Rebecca quietly.

I saw Bartulis trying not to react, but he was plainly unhappy with the idea. Delgado said nothing.

“What about DC Childs?” I suggested.

“She’s too young and inexperienced, and this could be dangerous. I can’t put her in there”, Rebecca replied. “Look, I did undercover when I was Vice, I’ve been on the Manchester MIT- it doesn’t get much nastier than that. This is fine, I can do it.”.

It made perfect sense, but I felt a sinking in my stomach nonetheless.

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