It’s hard to arrest a man who owns a time travel device; if he sees you coming he can press a couple of buttons and be sometime else. For this reason, Jace had been in favour of a honey trap. Kayla could have picked him up, no problem; one wide-eyed gaze from her violet eyes, a flutter of dark lashes, and McGuire would have followed her anywhere, tongue hanging out. But at the briefing in the deserted IEMA headquarters that Saturday evening, as they sat round Quinn’s desk in a pool of light, Quinn overruled this.
“He’s dangerous. If he smells a rat Kayla would be vulnerable.”
“She can handle him,” Jace said. “The guy’s a stick insect. A child could push him over with one finger.”
“Thank you,” said Kayla.
“Let alone Kayla with her superb combat skills,” he added, too late. She gave him a look.
Quinn shook his head decisively. “We’ll do this by the book. A raid at first light, surprise him while he’s asleep. You and me at the front, Kayla and the others round the back in case he runs for it.” He turned to Kayla. “Bring Scott.”
“Is that a good idea? He’s had no experience.”
“He won’t get experience sitting in the office. I’ll keep an eye on him. We’ll meet here tomorrow at zero five hundred hours.”
Kayla emailed Scott, then Quinn got to his feet. The meeting was over. In the lift Jace put his arm around Kayla’s waist. “Stay at my place tonight.”
“Hmm. Not sure you deserve it.”
“I’m thinking of you! It’s nearer for tomorrow.”
“I suppose that’s true . . .”
Jace pressed her against the elevator wall and kissed her, drinking in her perfume, feeling the muscles beneath delectable curves. He murmured, “Why don’t we get married?”
She gave him a slow smile. “Now that’s a novel idea. Never been asked that before. I’ll give it some thought.”
The lift doors parted and they walked hand in hand through the warm spring night towards Jace’s flat.
In the pale Sunday light of a May dawn, Jace, Quinn and Scott stood outside the derelict warehouse, dressed in dark trousers and hoodies. The day was colder than it looked.
Though he must have been on a dozen IEMA raids by now, Jace still got the adrenaline rush, the sensation of being extra alive, every sound, sight and smell heightened. Going by Scott’s trembling hands, bright eyes and flushed face, their new recruit evidently felt the same. Jace’s doubts about him resurfaced. Not that he wasn’t intelligent. He was. He was also enthusiastic – if anything, too enthusiastic. Scott was young, had only been on the team three weeks, and tended to be impulsive. To Jace’s mind, he should be with Kayla, not here at the sharp end where he was likely to get in the way. Still, at least he wasn’t lumbered with him.
Quinn nodded to Jace. Silently they moved in opposite directions, hugging the wall in case McGuire glanced out of one of the huge windows. He had no reason to expect them, but most likely he’d have the TiTrav on his wrist and they weren’t taking chances. Funny that Quinn thought him dangerous; had told them to shoot if necessary. Jace was the only one of the team to have encountered McGuire before, and he didn’t think the man clever enough to be dangerous – he was a loser, a drifter, a jackal hovering round others’ prey, easily scared. He wondered how someone as useless as him had managed to get hold of a TiTrav in the first place. They’d only been on the open market for six days in 2032 before the World Government passed a hasty bill to outlaw their sale, possession and use. No one knew how many illicit TiTravs were still in circulation, but the number probably wasn’t in double figures.
Jace picked his way over fallen masonry and scrubby plants till he reached the small door within the big one and slipped inside, careful to avoid crunching the broken plaster that littered the floor. He waited for his eyesight to adjust so he could check for tripwires, though he couldn’t imagine McGuire setting traps. Pale shafts of sunlight from high windows traversed a vast dim space dotted with pillars. He couldn’t see Kayla and Farouk, but they’d be there, concealed in the shadows at the back. Above him was a low mezzanine, reached by spiral staircases at each end.
Quinn, followed by Scott, appeared beside the far staircase. Quinn got out his weapon and lifted his thumb to signal Go. They began to climb the stairs, stealthily, making no sound.
Jace slowed as his head levelled with the mezzanine’s dusty floorboards. Staying at the side, he gradually moved upwards until he could see the long narrow space bordered by a scabby white wall on the left, a metal railing on the right. Sunshine streamed through the window, illuminating a sleeping bag curled like a grub on a mattress on the floor. Someone was inside the sleeping bag. At the top of the second staircase, two faces appeared. Jace frowned. He had assumed Scott would be left at the bottom of the staircase. They moved slowly towards each other, closing in on the mattress. The floorboards creaked beneath their feet and they stopped. Quinn nodded.
Jace switched on his vidcam and shouted, “McGuire! On your feet! Hands in the air where I can see them.”
The sleeping bag writhed and a pale face appeared, topped with chaotic hair. Hands emerged, then shoulders and torso clad in a thick over-sized sweater. McGuire wriggled his scrawny limbs out of the sleeping bag, eyes on Jace, hands above his head. The baggy sleeves slipped a little. Not seeing a TiTrav on either of his wrists, Jace relaxed, put his gun away and got out flexicuffs. Hardly worth cuffing this pathetic figure, but Quinn had said to do things by the book.
McGuire made an effort to sound affronted. “What d’you want me for?”
“Peter William McGuire, acting as an officer of the International Event Modification Authority I am arresting you on suspicion of committing timecrime and being in illegal possession of a TiTrav. You will be given the opportunity to contact a lawyer in due course. You do not have to answer our questions. Everything you do and say is being filmed and may be used as evidence against you.”
“I haven’t done anything! I’m innocent! You’ve got no proof.”
“Then you have nothing to worry about. After a few unproductive but cordial hours with the time team at IEMA you can go back to bed. I don’t expect you’ve much else on this morning – urgent appointments, people to see, things like that? Nah. I’ll buy you breakfast.” He lifted the cuffs. “Turn around.”
Grudgingly, McGuire turned. He saw Quinn and Scott for the first time, and it was as if an electric shock went through his body. Before Jace could react, he had leaped for the railing and vaulted over. As they all rushed to the rail, they heard the thump when he landed. For a moment, seeing McGuire motionless in a heap on the floor, Jace thought he was dead. Then McGuire jumped to his feet and ran.
Quinn said, “Jace, after him.”
As Jace sprinted for the spiral stairs, a sound made him swivel. Quinn and Scott both had their guns out. He yelled, “Don’t shoot! He’s not got it!” but his voice was obliterated by gunfire. Jace raced to the foot of the stairs.
Alone in the middle of the wide space McGuire lay face down on the gritty boards like a pile of old rags, as ruined as the building. Jace ran to him and turned his limp bony frame over. Faded blue eyes stared unblinking at the ceiling. One bullet had hit his right arm below the elbow in textbook style, the other gone straight through his heart. Jace pulled up his left sleeve. As he’d thought, no TiTrav. He tried his right wrist, then his pockets; a packet of grey-market legal highs, a dataphone, a couple of thousand pound notes. Nothing of importance. No weapon. His death had been a stupid, unnecessary mishap. He got slowly to his feet as the others gathered round. Scott’s face was drained of colour and he was shaking.
Jace said to Quinn, “Why did you shoot? Didn’t you see his wrists were bare?”
“No. You were closer than we were. You should have told us.”
“I thought you knew! You saw me put my gun away because I didn’t need it. I was talking to the guy!”
“He’s dead. This discussion is irrelevant. Get the body collected and taken to the pathologist. Tell him I want the autopsy done straight away.” As Jace got out his phone Quinn turned to Scott. “Don’t take it to heart. These things happen. It’s hard to shoot a moving target accurately in the heat of the moment. And McGuire’s no great loss to humanity.” Scott stared dumbly at him. Quinn put a hand on his arm and said, his voice sympathetic, “I take full responsibility for bringing you on this mission. You have nothing to answer for.” He turned to the others, who looked shaken and sombre. “Now find the TiTrav. We know he had one. It has to be here.”
McGuire’s death cast a pall over the day. The atmosphere was subdued, lacking the usual light-hearted jokes and banter. As the light faded that evening, Quinn gathered his team together. They had carried out an inch by inch search of the entire warehouse with barely a break. After this proved fruitless they had scanned the building and surrounding area with metal detectors. The TiTrav hadn’t been found. Everyone was getting tired and tetchy, except Scott who was tired and silent. Quinn looked round the group.
Scott stared at his boots. Farouk rubbed his hands over his grimy face, making it grimier. “Are we sure he even had it to begin with?”
“The alert came from his house.”
Kayla said, “Yes, but it didn’t have to be him flicking the switch. We made the assumption his landlady was telling the truth. Perhaps she wasn’t. Perhaps there was someone else in the house.”
“She seemed okay to me,” Jace said. “Why would she lie?”
“Covering up for someone?”
“I suppose it’s possible . . .”
Farouk said, “Here’s another idea; he could have hidden it somewhere we can’t get at, like buried six feet down where the detectors won’t reach.”
Jace shook his head. “Can’t see McGuire doing that. Too much work. And the ground’s not disturbed.”
“He could have hidden it somewhere else entirely.”
Kayla said, “I think his instinct would have been to keep it close. Maybe he sold it on. We could check out places he might do that.”
Jace was already scrolling through the contacts list on McGuire’s dataphone. He looked up. “I might have guessed. Ryker. This could be the time we pin something on the slippery bastard.”
The team made a brief stop at a pizza restaurant to refuel, with the exception of Scott, whom they dropped off at his home. While they ate, Quinn filled out, filed and printed a search warrant; not the first for Ryker’s premises. They’d pulled him in a couple of times too, but had failed to get anywhere on either occasion. Officially, the man remained as clean as a whistle.
Ryker’s workshop was under a railway arch south of the river. In contravention of the terms of his commercial lease he lived there too, so was likely to be in, though it was now eight forty-five on a Sunday evening. When they emerged on to the pavement the pod they had ordered waited for them, glowing in the dark, blue light on to show it was picking up. They stepped inside, Jace told it the name of a street round the corner from Ryker’s and the pod glided off. Rain spattered against its curved glass windows; Jace stared out, yawning. It had been a long discouraging day, and wasn’t over yet.
As they neared their destination the streets got less like anywhere you’d want to live; rundown, neglected and looking their worst in the rain and the streetlights’ harsh glare. The pod let them out in a main road with mean brick buildings on either side, ripe for redevelopment. They followed the pavement under a railway bridge, and turned right into an unlit dead end lined with Victorian railway arches, each housing a small business. Only one had light shining through high up windows in the bricked-in arch; above the door bell a cracked plastic plate offered:
BEWARE OF THE DOG
Quinn pressed the bell push. Immediately a frenzied barking started up the other side of the door. Jace pounded the wooden panels, making as much noise as the dog, playing the role of hard cop. “Open up, Ryker, or we’ll break the fucking door down.”
Kayla murmured, “There’s nothing quite like a charm offensive to win friends and influence people.”
Jace grinned at her as the grating sound of heavy bolts being moved replaced the barking. The door opened and Ryker stood on the threshold, lean, scruffy and hostile, a big German Shepherd beside him. Muffled shots sounded from a film playing on the computer in front of an upholstered swivel chair; on the desk stood three bottles of beer and a half-eaten carton of fast food, the accoutrements of his interrupted cosy evening.
Quinn handed him the search warrant. Ryker read it sourly then stood aside to let them in. Though things being worked on lay about, the place was organized, with no extraneous clutter. More workshop than home, the workbenches, a small forge, lathes, a pillar drill and a milling machine occupied most of the area. The computer desk was at the back, and bed and kitchen units fitted in where they could round the edges of the space, jostled by racks and shelves. The benches were littered with tools and electronic bits and pieces. Damp and crusted lime discoloured the brick-built arch of the ceiling.
Quinn sat in the one comfortable chair as if it were his, switched off the computer’s sound, and helped himself to a chip. Like Jace, Quinn was over six foot, but a little heavier, his neck nearly as wide as his close-cropped head. This might have given him an air of menace, but for the intelligence and humour in his eyes. He swivelled gently to and fro, watched by everyone in the room. Jace wondered how he managed to exude authority so effortlessly.
Finally Quinn said pleasantly, “We arrested a friend of yours today, Mr Ryker. Peter McGuire. Have you seen him lately?”
Ryker’s eyes were stony. “As it happens, he dropped by yesterday. What of it?”
“Why did he come to see you?”
Ryker shrugged. “He was in the area. We had a bit of a chat.”
“This and that.”
“Did he have a TiTrav with him?”
“If he did, I didn’t see it.”
“Our information suggests he may have left one here with you, maybe for repair.”
Ryker said piously, “Repairing a TiTrav would be timecrime. Unless it was for you lot, obviously, when I’d be pleased to help, and do keep me in mind should you have the need. Otherwise I wouldn’t touch it. I’m strictly legit.”
There was a pause. “If I hit him,” Jace suggested to Quinn, “he might get a bit more cooperative. Shall I?”
“No need for that,” Quinn said, getting to his feet. “Mr Ryker, would you open that safe for me?”
Ryker’s safe was so old it opened with a key. Inside were a dozen dataphones and a small bundle of bank notes. Quinn counted them before putting them back and letting Ryker shut the safe.
“Most honest citizens don’t have a use for cash,” Quinn remarked. He turned to his team. “Search him. Then take the place apart. Remember we could be looking for a dismantled TiTrav.”
The search that followed went on into the small hours, and Jace’s conviction right from the start that they were wasting their time didn’t make it any more fun. Not that he believed in Ryker’s innocence; he didn’t. But the man’s demeanour was the giveaway. Ryker wasn’t anxious. He sat impassively throughout and watched them, waiting for them to finish and go. The dog watched them too. So did Quinn, between bouts of trawling through the computer; but while he watched he wandered around, picking things up and putting them down again.
Jace took photographs while Farouk summoned the van with the equipment. When it arrived, they unloaded ladders and a platform, put on vinyl gloves and systematically examined every inch of the ceiling, looking for a concealed hiding place behind a loose brick. Grit fell in their eyes as they worked and the dust made them sneeze. Finding nothing, they moved on to the machines and workbenches.
There was only one small piece of excitement all evening. Jace was testing hand power tools on one of the benches to make sure the TiTrav wasn’t hidden in the casing when Farouk, on his knees behind the kitchen units, jumped up and used an expression that had not been heard to pass his lips before.
Jace said, “Fuck me, that’s a first. I thought swearing was haram?”
“He got it from you,” Kayla said. “You’re a terrible influence. Are you okay, Farouk?”
Farouk kicked the cabinet. His foot went straight through the flimsy panel. “A bastard mousetrap got my fingers!”
Quinn looked up from the computer screen and told him to calm down. Ryker cracked his only smile of the evening, which drew Quinn’s attention to him.
“I’m finding a surprising number of TiTrav resources in your files. Technical stuff, service software, updates, diagrams, coding . . . I doubt our own technicians have as much. I’m wondering why anyone without a TiTrav would need this.”
“It’s interesting,” Ryker said. “It’s my hobby.”
They applied stickers as they went, a different colour for each operative, so that nowhere would be missed or gone over twice. These were left in situ. By the time they’d exhausted every possible hiding place – and many impossible ones – it looked as if a hurricane en route from a giant’s wedding had spread confetti through the workshop. The team communicated in monosyllables, working mechanically, longing to get home. Two unproductive searches in one day was two too many. When they ran out of places to search, they stood in a disconsolate group, tacitly admitting defeat.
“We’re done here,” said Quinn.
“Happy now?” said Ryker, standing up. “I suppose there’s no chance of an apology for time wasted and nuisance caused. If you lot will bugger off I’ll tidy up and go to bed.”
“Mr Ryker, on behalf of IEMA I apologize,” said Quinn. “Once again you emerge without a stain on your character. Few people have been so frequently subjected to repeated scrutiny and found to be blameless. I can only congratulate you on your record and hope you retain it.”
They were halfway to the door when Quinn turned. “Perhaps I should tell you, as you were his friend, that Peter McGuire resisted arrest this morning. So we shot him. Dead. Goodnight.”
The elevator reached the tenth floor and Jace opened the door to his rented studio flat, three hundred square feet and a balcony in Hoxton. Fleetingly, he considered having a shower, then decided in favour of immediate sleep. He pressed the button to lower the bed out of the wall and took off his jacket.
The doorbell rang.
Cursing, he walked to the entry phone. Scott’s face filled the screen.
“What is it?”
“Can I come up and talk to you?”
“At this hour? What about? Can’t it wait till Monday?”
“I’d really rather talk to you now, if you don’t mind.”
Jace pressed the lock release, then went to the kitchen area and put the kettle on. He heard the clunk of the lift doors and went to let Scott in.
“No thanks. I’ve been in the bar over the road all evening waiting for you to come back.” He smiled nervously. “Too much coffee.”
“Take a seat.” Scott sat on the edge of the sofa. The kettle boiled and Jace made himself coffee. He put it on the table in front of the sofa, then got out the bottle of brandy and a couple of glasses.
“Oh, thanks, yes please. Did you find anything at Ryker’s?”
“Not a solitary time travelling sausage.”
There was a lengthy pause. Scott sipped his brandy. Jace glanced at the clock. Jesus, three ten. “Look, it’s been a long day, so if you could get to the point . . .”
Scott jumped. “Sorry, yes. Okay. I don’t know if you know this, but my mother married an American so I lived in the States for a while.” Jace shook his head. “I went to college there. My stepdad was a pistol shooter, very keen. I did a lot of shooting with him. I think he hoped I’d take it up professionally. He’d won the World Speed Shooting Championship in 2035, and he reckoned I was good enough to follow in his footsteps. I didn’t want to take it that seriously, I had other priorities, but I did a lot of practice.” Scott finished his brandy in one gulp and met Jace’s eyes. “Which means that when I shoot a man who’s sixty feet away intending to hit him in the lower arm, then that’s where I hit him.”
There was a pause. Jace said, “So you’re saying Quinn killed McGuire?”
“I know I didn’t.”
“What do you want me to do about it?”
Scott flushed. He looked down, then up again. “Nothing, I guess. If I’m honest I just don’t like everybody thinking it was my bad aim that killed a man, when it wasn’t.”
“Well, now I know it too.”
“Really? You believe me?”
Scott frowned, hesitated and said, “Analysis of the bullets would prove whose gun fired which shot.”
“Right. They won’t do that as a matter of course. You’d need authorization.”
“Ah well. Quinn.”
Scott’s face fell. Jace said, “Probably not the best idea, three weeks into a new job, to try to prove your boss got something wrong. Won’t improve your promotion prospects. I’ll have a think about it, but maybe don’t mention it to anyone else for now. It might be best to let it go. Quinn’s made it clear he’ll ensure you don’t get into any trouble over it.”
After Scott had left, Jace walked to the window and stared out at the city lights, wide awake again, analysing, balancing probabilities. Scott had clearly believed what he said; but on the whole, Jace was inclined to think him mistaken. He might be as good a shot as he claimed, but he had been nervous and excited, and had never fired at a human being before.
There was another reason the team had all believed Scott’s shot to be the fatal one. Quinn was good with a pistol, too; seven years before, he’d been part of the British Olympic shooting team in Detroit, and won gold.
When Jace arrived for the meeting on Monday morning, only Kayla was there before him. Quinn, sitting at his computer, glanced up and smiled. “You’re early too.”
He returned his attention to the screen, and Jace sat at the round table with Kayla to wait for the others, trying not to yawn after the short night. Quinn’s office was cool; he had a weakness for elaborate clothes – the jacket he wore was black damask, with a high collar, and rows of silver buttons – but he liked his furnishings plain. The only decoration in his office consisted of contrasting textures of marble, glass, slate and steel. A clutter of transparent plastic on one end of the big desk added an incongruous note. Always inquisitive, Jace got up again to see what it was.
Individually packed in tamper-evident bags were McGuire’s possessions that had been taken from his body. As well as the items from his pockets Jace had already seen, there was the microchip from his arm, two small bar-coded bags containing cartridges, and two similar bags each containing a bullet. The labels read:
IEMA Pathology Department1/2
NAME: Peter William McGuire
DATE OF DEATH: 14th May 2045
LOCATION: lower arm
IEMA Pathology Department 2/2
NAME: Peter William McGuire
DATE OF DEATH: 14th May 2045
NOTES: 2/2 bullets, cause of death
“His effects should have gone straight to Records,” Quinn said, seeing Jace pick over the bags. “I doubt he had family. The taxpayer will be funding his funeral.” He removed the dataphone, put everything else back into a larger bag and moved it to the top of a cabinet.
While he was doing this the door opened and Scott and Farouk walked in together. Quinn joined his team at the table, switched on the vidcam and opened the meeting.
“As you all know – with the possible exception of Scott – McGuire’s TiTrav is the first we’ve had wind of in the UK for nearly six months. I don’t need to tell you the potential consequences of having one of these things on the loose. Our absolute priority is to find it, and we need to do that within the next few days. Everyone in IEMA has their eye on us. If we fail, the Americans will send a team, and there is no way I am going to have that happen while I am running this department. So, let’s have your ideas.”
Kayla said, “McGuire may have had no family – and I’ll be checking that – but he must have had associates besides Ryker. He got his drugs from someone, for one thing –”
She was cut short by a knock on the door. Quinn looked up in irritation as the door opened and a young woman entered. “Mr Quinn, I’m sorry to interrupt, but Sir Douglas would like you to come to his office now.”
Sir Douglas Calhoun was IEMA UK’s chief executive. Quinn got to his feet and looked round the table. “We’ll finish this later, by which time I’d like you to have come up with some leads.” He ripped McGuire’s dataphone out of its plastic bag and handed it to Jace. “You can start by checking out every contact on here.” He followed the young woman out of the room.
The others stayed in the office for a few minutes, discussing possibilities, then got up to go.
“If only McGuire hadn’t got himself shot. A man like that, he’d have told us anything we wanted to know if we only surrounded him and frowned a bit,” Farouk said tactlessly. “Would have saved us a lot of work.” Scott stirred but said nothing.
“At least it’s not one of the early TiTravs. If someone’s got it we’ll know the minute they turn it on. Which makes it pretty useless, really,” Jace said.
There was another knock on the door and a man’s head appeared. He looked around. “Mr Quinn not here?” He pointed to the bag of evidence. “Do you know if he’s finished with those yet so I can take them down to Records?”
“Yes, take them,” said Jace.
The rest of the day they spent attempting to trace McGuire’s contacts. It turned out he did have one living relative, a daughter. She was seventeen, and her name was Saffron McGuire. It seemed a surname was all he had given her; her parents had not been together for long, and never married. Her mother had brought her up alone. Jace sent Kayla to see Saffron, with the idea she might find a female cop more sympathetic. She’d just lost her father, after all, even if they’d had little contact.
Kayla returned an hour or so later. Jace looked up from his online search, which was not going well. The only promising lead from McGuire’s dataphone turned out to have been in prison for the past six months. “How did you get on?”
Kayla dumped her handbag on Jace’s desk and pulled up a chair. “I didn’t see her. She locked herself in her bedroom and wouldn’t come out.”
“Did she say anything through the door?”
“Yes. ‘Fuck off’.”
“Ah. What about her mother?”
“She was quite friendly. She’s got a boyfriend who lives in the flat. They’ve been together for five years.”
“Did she say anything useful?”
“No. She was happy to chat, she made me a cup of tea, but she hasn’t seen McGuire for years. Said she should never have got involved with him, he was always a waster, but she was just a teenager and didn’t know any better. He was good-looking, apparently, when he was young. She wasn’t surprised he’d come to a sticky end. Nor particularly upset, either.”
“Did you ask about the TiTrav?”
“Yes, and she tut-tutted and said he never had any sense.”
“D’you think by any remote chance he might have given it to his daughter to hide?”
“Gwen – that’s the mother – said Saffron hadn’t seen him since her birthday three weeks before.”
“As far as she knows. It’s a pity you didn’t get to talk to the girl.”
“I really doubt she’d have it. Even McGuire wouldn’t be irresponsible enough to involve his child in timecrime, surely.”
“True. I have a feeling we won’t find it. I reckon it’s just a matter of time till we’re all trying through gritted teeth to be very polite and welcoming to our American counterparts.”
Before leaving the building, Jace went down to Records to collect McGuire’s two thousand pounds. He had downloaded all the data from McGuire’s phone, and intended to deliver it and the money to the daughter on his way home. Of course, these items could just as well be handed over with the meagre belongings from his rented room, once the team had finished with them, but Jace had an ulterior motive. He’d need to log her chip to acknowledge receipt, and he couldn’t do that through a door. Maybe face to face she’d find it harder to refuse to talk.
The man in Records peeled open the big plastic bag and tipped the contents on the counter. “Just the money, sir?”
“Yes . . .” Jace picked it up. That left four bags. He frowned – surely there had been more than this when he last saw them? He rifled through them: drugs, chip, cartridge 1/2, cartridge 2/2.
“Is this everything?”
“That’s what I collected this morning from Mr Quinn’s office, sir.”
Jace hesitated, said, “Thanks,” and turned to go.
The two tamper-proof bags containing the bullets that had been removed from McGuire’s body were missing.