[Don’t miss the Music treat at the end. This story will be posted in full after the Challenge for those of us that like to read everything in one complete telling,]
YOKE – Wednesday Mid-Evening
Yachting yarns yearn to be clues but they’re not. Njörðr Hämnaren is the decoy along with the containers. Vivian has been wasting our time. Under orders.
We are parked in the shadows at Holyhead Docks. My hunch must be correct.
“Trust me, Ffion. Three mnemonics told me to come here.”
“That mental Scrabble board is very accurate. If it wasn’t, we’d still be at Porthmadog – assessing our minimal leads.”
What happens if I’m wrong?
“And the mnemonics were?” asks Wiley. “I always trust you.”
Another voice of confidence. Fired up on his release from Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.
“If it helps DESPATCH, LARCENY, and GEMS. Our contact here in the port confirmed that the shipment of gemstones is due from Eire on the next boat. The handling agents are also taking action.”
Will that satisfy their insurers if we fail?
“G for Gnomes and Gaff. E for Elaborate and Evasive. M for Manifest and Mirrors. S for Smoke and Sailing,” says Kama, deciphering my thinking process.
“And the yacht with the containers,” asks Wiley, catching up after missing the briefing. “Are they coming here? Did Vivian know?”
I shake my head. “She was totally confused. Thought the containers were contraband. The Pilkvists promised her a cut if she helped. Part of their extensive ploy to keep our other divisions distracted –”
“– Even counter-terrorism,” says Ffion. “Vivian folded and called the Swedes manipulative zealots. Their yacht left Liverpool heading West, but Marine are following. Armed response is alerted, but they need justification to attend.”
Will our Swedish victims show? Is my hunch valid? Are the wrong resources being diverted?
The penny counters will make me pay – with my career.
Can we afford not to respond?
“Exposing me and Sparkle was personal revenge for Vivian – a fringe benefit.”
Kama squeezes my shoulder – reassurance.
Ffion glances at her watch, then checks that uniform are hidden across the arrival area.
Stefan Mikaelsson and Ivan Tjäder stroll by us, oblivious to our squad car in the darkness.
As I surmised. Deceivers not victims.
Dressed as customs officers, they wait for the courier with two colleagues. They check some cars but stay clear of the main customs area.
“Courier’s yellow Toyota Yaris approaching now,” says a uniform officer over the radio.
The four thieves spot the vehicle and obstruct its path. Stefan accosts the driver as Ivan approaches the passenger side. They draw pistols from their jackets and throw the doors open.
They pull the courier out and force him into the back seat between the two sidekicks.
“Don’t tackle them yet,” says Ffion. “We don’t want innocent bystanders shot. Or the courier killed. Tail at a distance.”
As Ffion orders uniform to follow, I keep two car lengths behind the Yaris. Stefan turns out of the port into the town centre.
My tattoos thrum. M for Marina and Y for Yacht.
“I’m contacting Uthyr,” says Kama. “If the yacht left Liverpool heading west, where is it now?”
“Good call, Kama,” says Ffion. “Wiley, see if the local force has other support they can spare. I’m advising armed response again. This is escalating. With £10 million in gems plus guns, we’re at PIP three level.”
Ffion is an experienced Senior Investigating Officer – and respected. But NWP are spread thin and these crooks know that. No thanks to Vivian. Ffyc.
The Yaris drives along the opposite side of the harbour, past the railway station, then left towards the Marina.
W for Water. S for Swim.
The marine unit updates us.
“ Njörðr Hämnaren has just dropped anchor west of The Skerries, due north of Holyhead. We will await orders to board her and we have a customs officer with us.”
“That may be necessary, Uthyr,” says Ffion. “You are our only marine unit if these thieves escape us.”
Moonlight glistens of waves and boats. The Yaris slows and I drop back.
Imminent confrontation. Adrenaline. Jeopardy.
“Local cannot spare more uniformed officers. We’ll have to depend on the two behind us.”
Ffion expels her breath hard. “And armed response is still too far away.”
Only the guns outnumber us – except in the water. Who swims best?
As the thieves park the Yaris near a sailing club slipway, I ease onto the embankment, cutting the lights.
“They’ve brought their Aberdaron boat for their escape,” says Kama. “We need to borrow a boat or –”
“– Swim, if we need to. If we drop in off the quay there, they won’t see us. Head to the breakwater.”
Ffion nods and turns to Wiley. “Two of them seem to be staying with our courier. Arrest them. The armed guys must be taking the gems to Njörðr Hämnaren.”
I sidle out of the car with Kama.
As Stefan and Ivan launch the clinker boat, we slip into the water. Fully-clothed is a routine swim – some mornings.
Night hides our smooth passage out into the Marina harbour.
Headlights stab at the Yaris. Flashing blue lights add to the distraction.
Stefan and Ivan hesitate.
They fire warning shots into the blinding beams. Offices will dive for cover as we head for a channel marker buoy.
Our fleeing thieves raise their sails – at the third attempt – then tack towards the channel.
“They’d make better progress with oars,” says Kama. “Or an outboard. We’d better intervene before they hit another boat.”
We approach underwater, pulling ourselves aboard over either side. The boat rocks and the crooks come alert. Both go for their guns.
We time our tackles to avoid capsizing.
The Swedes are strong.
My choke hold slips in the wet. Stefan’s knee jabs my stomach. Gasp for air.
But to one arm slips around his neck. He squirms, but the hold tightens. Without hesitation, I slam his head up against the boom.
“I used my fist,” says Kama. “More satisfying but painful. Next time, I’ll whip them into shape.”
Stefan and Ivan are cuffed while unconscious, and Kama retrieves the gem pouches.
We row the boat beyond the other craft and yachts, then sail out to the Breakwater Lighthouse.
Ffion and Wiley are waiting as planned.
“Guessed you’d stop them. Uniform took the other guys to the local station,” says Ffion. “Seems the courier conned these guys – risked his life.”
Kama opens the pouches – cut glass fakes. Costume jewels.
“The handler’s security agent sent a second courier. Ours is the decoy.”
“These rocks will do for the Pilkvists. We’d be remiss not delivering them.”
Ffion hands me our radios. “And arrest the zealots. We’ll ensure Uthyr knows to expect your boat off The Skerries. And take these as they’re no doubt armed – but you’ve been trained in their use.”
Tasers. Z for Zealots. A for Assault. P for Police.
ZAP. Our response must be realistic. Time to break their yoke.
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And now for something completely different.
“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve – The Mourning Bride