A brilliant young scientist and his revolutionary discovery have disappeared. Has he been kidnapped or is he complicit in a terrorist plot to commit mass murder? SOMETHING IN THE WATER Book One: “Drowning” follows Charles Burns and a newly formed unit of the London Metropolitan Police as they search for a missing scientist, who has developed a potent new vaccine and radical mass-delivery method. Little is known about the scientist, but his work has attracted the attention of more than just the Health Ministry. The Major Crime Unit’s first mission is to find the scientist and stop his discovery from becoming a weapon against humanity.vThey must act quickly and quietly, and MCU2 has been put together to do just that: Act quickly, under the direct authority of The Home Office, and quietly, to avoid a panic spreading through the media. There is little time before that, or worse, happens.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
"Drowning" was inspired by humankind's insatiable appetite for 'making the world a better place' and our failure to do so.
Science and technology are advancing faster than we can deal with the consequences of this appetite.
Science, technology, and human overpopulation have caused catastrophic damage the Earth. What will save us from ourselves?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I created Charles Burns, the protagonist of "the Something in the Water" series with the goal of him being something between Sherlock Holmes and Jack Reacher. I wanted to create a main character of superior intelligence and skills. I also wanted him to have likeable and un-likeable traits, giving the reader the choice to like/admire, or not. Likewise, the victim and the antagonist all have elements (I believe) that are both appealing and offending.
All of them think they're going to save the world but only one will.
PART ONE: FRIDAY NIGHT
“What do you mean he’s gone, Dawson?” Detective Chief Inspector John C. Wayne had not been expecting a call from Detective Sergeant Michael Dawson, only a text message to confirm his subject was in bed. And he was not expecting that for at least another hour. Wayne had hoped to be asleep before it came.
“Gone. From the opera,” Dawson panted. “Professor Veda, and Kaia. He— they’re gone, sir.”
Wayne could tell that Dawson wasn’t his normal self but somewhere between confused and exasperated. Or drunk.
“All right, Dawson,” said Wayne. He kept his voice low and even out of habit, as the calm voice of reason. “No need to panic. They probably left early, before the fat lady sang. Purcell isn’t for everyone.” Or anyone, really, he thought.
“All right, Dawson. What happened?”
Dawson sounded slow, but even. “I fell asleep, sir. I believe I was drugged.”
“You believe?” Wayne caught his voice and offered an excuse. “It’s Purcell, Dawson.” He wanted to believe the easy explanations. But the worst-case scenario kept needling him.
“Yes, sir it was. But…”
Wayne let the silence hang as he walked back to his office, phone in hand. He put it on the desk next to his touch pad.
Wayne tapped the pad and dragged his finger diagonally to pull a 16×16 grid of camera feeds onto the left-hand screen. Each image had a small dialogue window below it with an abbreviated address and the camera’s GPS coordinates. Wayne could see the last opera-goers still filing out of the Opera House.
He sent the link in a message to Special Analyst James Tully’s phone as he continued to scan the viewers:
You up? Need you on this. More to follow. Show it to HOLMES.
Wayne knew Tully’s expertise with the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System would come in handy one day. He hadn’t expected it to be today. He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly as he continued to toggle round the camera feeds. Each highlighted image bulged out of the grid in a 3D effect as he zoomed in on his target.
Wayne saw the block of feeds from the car park off Drury Lane and highlighted and dragged it over to the right-hand screen. He watched as life played in three-second clips on each of the fourteen cameras in-and-around the three-storey car park.
He could see Dawson, dressed in a tuxedo standing next to the Peugeot assigned for ferrying Dr Veda and his date to the Royal Opera House. Wayne noticed the passenger door was slightly ajar.
“Did you open the door?”
“No sir. It was open just like this when I came up here.”
This was a crime scene now, and Wayne went into management mode. The Home Secretary had given him Dr Veda exactly thirty-five days earlier when Veda had arrived in London from Oxford University. Wayne had no idea who Veda was before he got the call, and he said so. She explained that Dr Veda was doing important work for the Health Ministry, and his personal safety was of the highest importance.
The Home Secretary expressed concern that Veda might have difficulty adapting to life in London, so it was decided that he would have a plainclothes officer as his driver for an undetermined short-term transition period. Wayne accepted the Home Secretary’s explanation before considering whether the professor had value to anyone or faced any threats.
Wayne had assigned Michael Dawson to the first official posting of the MCU2. Dawson’s file was one of the first few dozen files Wayne had culled from his initial candidate search of the Met’s personnel database. One phone call to Dawson’s superior in the Intelligence Command had put him on Wayne’s short list. Still in his twenties, Michael Dawson was one of the youngest officers to earn the rank of detective. But Wayne was most intrigued by Dawson’s two failed attempts to join MI6. They met once, and Wayne revealed little about the task force he was creating before Dawson volunteered to request the transfer himself. He accepted his first assignment with few questions, and Wayne appreciated that. But it wasn’t a babysitting job anymore.
“Well, you did look, right Dawson?” Wayne didn’t wait for Dawson to reply. “What did you touch?”
“I pulled it open by the latch, but I didn’t get in. Just looked. No contamination, sir,” Dawson asserted.
“But you looked,” Wayne repeated without reproach. He was curious. “Well? Anything?”
“Yes sir. Looks to be two small drops, on the inside of the door next to the lock button. Right here.” Dawson held his phone at an angle and focused the camera on the pair of droplets.
“Looks like blood, sir.”
He used his free hand to point at them from outside the window, flexing his index finger and bending his thumb to pinpoint the spots and the small gap between. Dawson held steady and waited for the inspector to respond to his find. Wayne glanced at the screen on his phone. His eyes were busy as he pulled up a map of Greater London on the main viewer on his desk.
“Have you got a photo of them?”
“The blood stains?” asked Dawson.
“No, Veda and…”
“Kaia? Yes sir. A few,” said Dawson. “From tonight,” he added. “Shall I share them, sir?”
“Well, yes. Ms Rebane,” Wayne tapped his desk. “Send me the best one with both. Now,” he said. “I’ll send it out A-S-A-P.” He always spelled it out, like Duke Wayne would have done in one of his classic war films. Wayne disliked the way too many people had made the acronym into a single word.
He had already dragged and dropped the file photo of Dr Veda onto the centre screen and was preparing to send it out with an alert, but a photo of both of them together would make more sense. Besides, Wayne realised he hadn’t any photos of the girlfriend, despite her seeming to take up more and more space in Veda’s world since they first met a few weeks earlier.
Dawson’s message arrived and Wayne smiled at the attachment’s title as he opened it, but didn’t laugh at the irony until he saw the image of the couple standing in front of a phone box around the corner from the main entrance to the Royal Opera House.
“Dr Who, indeed,” Wayne wondered aloud.
“Sir?” asked Dawson. “Didn’t it come through?”
“It did, Dawson. I was referring to the caption you wrote. Dr Who?”
“Oh, that,” Dawson breathed heavily. “It was a joke. The lady at the box office asked Dr Veda to repeat his name when we were picking up the tickets. I took the photo just after.”
Wayne had a dossier on the young scientist. Now he regretted not performing due diligence on the woman when Dawson had first informed him about the budding romance in Veda’s life. But he had no reason to be suspicious before tonight.
After all, according to the memo from the Home Office Dr Nicholas Veda was a relatively unknown scientist from Oxford, working on a cure for typhoid or some such disease, and of little interest to anyone outside the Health Ministry.
Wayne had read the good doctor’s bio and was quietly happy to hear that spring had finally arrived for Veda when Ms Rabane entered his life.
But suspicion rang like a fire bell in Wayne’s ear as soon as he saw the photo of the stunningly beautiful Ms Rebane standing next to the meek and humble scientist. He knew full well it didn’t only happen in the movies.
“No, it’s fine, Dawson.” Wayne cornered his dubiety in the back of his mind and went on cordially, “Well, stand by, secure the scene, and I’ll get a team over there.”
“Yessir!” Dawson exclaimed, sounding relieved.
Wayne rang off, then opened his directory. He paused, his thumb hovering over the screen. His first instinct had been to request the Home Office to call in extra military, double or triple the street patrols in the vicinity of the Opera House and give them the order to detain Veda and his date on sight.
In a moment he could send out an alert to every level of the Metropolitan Police Service, have the photo in the phones of every uniform in the Greater London area, including transit and airports, through the Met’s COMS system. And have thousands of eyes scanning the city for the well-dressed scientist and the knockout that must be accompanying him.
If he was sure there was foul play involved, he had to act. But he wasn’t.
Wayne’s unit had been officially active for almost three months but in fact had yet to engage in any official action. At the administrative level of the Met, all the commanding officers had received a directive to cooperate in any way requested if called upon by the Unit and DCI Wayne.
Despite being active, the unit was far from operational. No need had arisen to engage any other branch of the Metropolitan Police to date. Wayne had his core of First Officers in place but had deliberately kept the unit offline at the Met, and had remained on standby with the Home Office since St Valentine’s Day, awaiting a direct order.
The directive to supply a security escort for the Health Ministry’s virologist had appeared to be an excuse to be logging active hours until Major Crimes Unit 2 went operational. Wayne grimaced at his phone and scanned his directory for his contact in the HO. He read the time.
“Almost midnight.” He put the phone down and sighed. But the grimace refused to loosen as his eyes roamed the map.
Wayne wasn’t ready to call the Home Office until he was certain that the two young lovers hadn’t simply slipped out of the Opera House for a little snogging. Even now they might be thinking about calling Dawson to pick them up. He was hoping the blood at the scene was somebody else’s—preferably nobody’s.
Either way, putting the Met Police ground forces and surveillance branches on it seemed prudent. He quickly typed a draft alert on his desktop.
Getting his team engaged and up to speed came first, he reasoned, if only by a few seconds. Wayne dragged their mobile numbers into the address box on the message pane. Then he paused to consider exactly who else needed to see the alert. How high, and how wide do I wave this flag?
His gut told him he was facing the Unit’s Inaugural Event, but his head reminded him of the potential for political disaster.
After being introduced by the Home Secretary at her Easter Tea with the Superintendents, DCI Wayne had reached out to every commander in the Service to get a read on their reaction to the directive. Most reacted with the proper acceptance, all with varying degrees of reluctance. Wayne had restated the delicately worded article that described the position of his MCU2-cum-Task Force in the Met’s hierarchy.
He had got a good read on many Commanders in the series of face-to-face meetings which he held after the Home Secretary announced Superintendent John Wayne’s reassignment to the newly activated MCU2.
They were labelled meetings in his calendar but Wayne had tagged some as chat and some F2F discussion depending on how confrontational he anticipated them to be.
His assumptions had proved right in all cases. Most of the leadership within the Metropolitan Police Service understood and accepted that the new directive was about action not authority.
Wayne knew all of them well enough to know it would be difficult for some of these capital ‘L’ leaders to see it as anything but castration should the need arise for them to step aside and let Wayne take charge of and deploy their assets.
There were a few too many in high places with designs on climbing higher before they retired. If he had to pull rank to get things done, it would mean inaction until the Home Office reacted, leaving Wayne paralysed.
Worse yet if the two escaped lovebirds were to turn up getting it off in the bushes at Lincoln’s Inn Park, a ten-minute walk from the Opera House…
He hadn’t dismissed the public sex fantasy solution, but had to consider all eventualities, including activating Charles Burns, but only if the situation dictated.
He decided to send the notice directly to Dispatch, to engage the eyes of the Met—at street level only. IT Guy and Tully will have to find answers to the bigger questions. As they arise, he thought.
Wayne drew his hands back from the keyboard, leaving them hanging stiffly as he considered the next steps to follow the general alert. He opened another window on the left-hand viewer that displayed the location of each team member’s phone on a smaller scale map.
He noted the locations and proximities to his primary points of interest. Wayne tapped on the touch pad to send the instant message—with the photo and details—to each unit member’s phone, and also to an officer in Dispatch he knew well enough to trust to be discreet.
He watched his phone, waiting only a few moments before the message read confirmation appeared on all message tabs.
He knew that within minutes the alert would be sent out to a few thousand Met police patrols, constables and special constables across all the boroughs of London.
By Wayne’s calculation, if the two young lovers had simply slipped away from Dawson, they would be spotted and quickly reported.
There was the real possibility that Dr Veda and Kaia Rebane were abducted from the car park, and the reality was that Wayne had no idea why, much less who.
An Albanian prostitution ring? Racists or terrorists? He fought off the impulse to call his contact in the HO and demand some answers about Dr Veda and his work.
Instead he opened the stream linking his computer display directly to Intelligence Specialist Analyst Tully and IT Specialist Inspector Guy Tellier and pinged them both for immediate response.
As a second thought, he sent Tellier another short message with Veda’s telephone number and email address. He quickly typed in the subject line:
And their tweets etc., leaving the message blank.
Wayne closed the phone and checked his watch, then turned his attention to the maps on his monitors. He confirmed his time and distance estimates and contacted three members of his team, sending each a message with an address and a brief directive.
He sent Detective Sergeant Semi Riza to the car park on Drury Lane, informing him that a forensics team should follow his arrival. Then he sent the address and Riza’s contact details in a second message to his ally in Dispatch requesting a forensics team and directing them to follow Riza.
In a separate message he requested dispatch of a wagon to take Dawson to the infirmary for toxicology tests and monitoring.
Wayne kept an eye on the message tab and shot glances up at the computer monitor as he typed and sent another message. He placed the phone on the desk and relaxed and flexed his digits, his arthritic index finger still slightly curved, as if reluctant to relinquish its grip on the phone.
The reply came in only a few seconds. He let out a long, satisfied breath and his grimace slowly turned upward, approaching a smile, as he read it.
Detective Sergeant Martin Blennerhassett confirmed he would take his car and meet up with a second patrol at Veda’s residence in Kensington. Wayne dispatched Detective Sergeant John Aitkens directly from Scotland Yard to Veda’s laboratory, as he was the only team member on duty. He determined that Aitkens and two uniformed officers would be arriving there before the others reached their destinations.
Wayne allowed himself a sigh of relief. The Incident Response had quickly become an investigation and his unit had it under control. His first steps had been sure. He felt confident that he had ticked all the required boxes if anyone in the Home Office asked to see the protocol.
The physical teams were in place or en route and the digital intelligence was being gathered and analysed. For the time being at least, he needn’t involve any of the Higher Ups in the Met or the HO.
Either his team would find Veda and Ms Rebane in the next few hours or he would get a call from whoever snatched the professor and his girlfriend.
The possibilities swirled in his head. Violent abduction, a disappearance at least—planned or coerced? And Kaia Rebane. Wayne had to ask himself again why no due diligence when Dawson first mentioned the Estonian beauty in his daily reports. He cursed himself for not ordering Dawson to do a background check on her.
But Wayne didn’t see a security threat when the details came down from the HO about this police escort assignment. The only potential conflict he could imagine would be in London traffic, and that was Dawson’s business. He turned to the window and gazed at the endless flow of traffic on the Embankment below.
It was supposed to be…nothing.
Wayne sent another message to Tully:
Need to see everything on Veda and Kaia Rebane A.S.A.P.
Something told Wayne that adding Charles Burns to the receivers list would be advisable. His eyes wandered to the short, two-drawer mahogany filing cabinet to the right of his desk. He inherited it when he took over as Superintendent of The Specialist Branch in 2002, and it was the only furniture that had survived the move to his new office at MCU2.
He visualised the folder in the top drawer containing the transfer papers for Charles Burns. He had been holding off on signing the order to make it official.
But the current situation was expanding rapidly, and the former Major Charles Burns had front line experience in many extraction and hostage recovery missions—all with unqualified success—during his years with the Canadian Joint Task Force and British SBS.
Wayne hoped it never came to that. He reasoned that even if it didn’t, he needed more boots on the ground, pronto.
Wayne located Burns’ phone at the Alexandra Ice Palace. He pressed the dial button. Wayne knew Burns’ experience in JTF2 could be valuable if the worst came to worst.
He rang off after he heard the first ring and stared at the number display. He calculated the distance to the Opera House and sent a text message directing Burns to call in A.S.A.P. then he set his phone down on the desk again.
Wayne arched his back and stretched, feeling the late hour.
“The night’s just getting started,” he mused aloud.
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