Croonford Detectives Case 16: Operations and Considerations
This story continues from the previous case.
Author's further note: This story is entirely fictional. No offence to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) or Royal Air Force (RAF). The story is entirely fictional.
Please comment on the story here.
Jenn Thompson had in fact headed down to where she suspected the RAF aircraft had crashed. She deduced the location easily from various news reports although they were vague. Jenn knew she should have informed the others yet the feeling for her distant cousin pushed her to continue. Hailing a taxi from the local train station, the journey was delayed by traffic jams and she finally got there at 3:54 pm. Walking down a hillock, she was spot on, there were plastic gates with signs reading 'Crash site, do not enter!' and uniformed Military and MOD police patrolling.
Jenn rushed down but was stopped immediately by several officers. "No, we still won't release any more details, definitely not to student reporters.” She protested she was not and named her cousin along with his rank, Squadron Leader Phil Thompson. "No details to be released, now leave." One officer tried to drag her but Jenn shrugged off the grip. Even as she headed back up the hillock, she couldn't see much of the crash as the gates were high and there was waterproof covering everywhere. Strange for an aircraft crash, she thought, turning to notice vehicles exiting from one part of the site. They were all military-style vehicles roughly the same size exiting through the same exit. She suddenly noticed a new vehicle without military markings taking a different route from the others. Jenn ran as fast as she could but definitely couldn't catch up. Stopping, she pulled out her mobile phone that was full of messages from her detective friends, other friends and even her mum. She knew she had to answer the last to calm her mum down, instead she snapped photos of the odd one out. Maybe Lin Ling or someone can help enhance this, she thought. The odd vehicle was definitely a case to investigate.
The sun unusually broke from the light cirrus clouds and bathed the path ahead as Jenn took a shortcut through the nearby botanic gardens to get to the main road. She tightened her scarf as the weather was now chilly and stopped in mid stride as four men and a lady stepped out from five different points out of the shrubbery. The group spread out and converged upon her, the men all ruffians. They appeared to represent mixed ethnic origins. The first three men were an East Asian Chinese, a South American or Mexican and an Arab-looking man or was he North African? The Asian sported a grey jacket black leather trousers and an equally black shirt unbuttoned to the navel to reveal a rich profusion of body hair. The second had a gold gewgaw of some sort hung from a chain, glinting intermittently in the afternoon sun when not obscured by the mat of hair. The Middle Eastern wore plain clothes as did a fourth man either French or German. The woman was wearing a slanted black hat and a dress that appeared more suitable for warm weather. It was definitely Parisian style.
"Excuse me, please..." Jenn started, though she expected they won't.
"Good afternoon, Miss Thompson. We would like to take you to see your cousin," The French lady stated with no trace of an accent.
"How do you know who I am and how do you know him?" She did not wish to reveal Phil's name although she suspected this gang did.
"Just follow us," She curtly replied.
"Answer my question," Jenn fired back, louder. The group closed in on her and she desperately looked about her, seeking an avenue of escape. The botanic gardens were almost empty at this time of day, and the sector where they now stood was screened from the street and the rest of the park by rows of thick shrubbery and several even thicker oak trees. Simultaneously, the four men raised covered tasers. With armed men around her, there was no ready means of escape. Why on earth did I choose to walk to this area?!
"What do you really want from me?" asked Jenn with a pleading tone, though she suspected their motives well enough. "Are you abducting me?"
"That's a nasty word. Let us say that we are detaining you. It would be convenient for all if you were to come quietly. My men have orders to stun you at the slightest provocation."
Jenn canvassed her options. They were few, under the circumstances, yet wondering how far a yell would carry before one of the men cut it off.
"I'm afraid that you have no option," was the woman's reply. "But first, please place your bag on the ground," The French lady ordered.
Jenn reluctantly complied and raised her hands slowly. If someone catches a glimpse of a teen with her hands raised, they might help her or call of help. But her ploy was short-lived.
"No," said the French lady, shaking her head. "Arms down please."
Jenn heard a ripping sound.
"No, you don't have to g…"
Michelle Summers managed to get Lin back inside their converted caravan lest she act solely. Along with Mark Cadvish, they intensely search and judged where Jenn may have gone to. "Alright, let's go down there before Jenn disappears for good," Lin remarked.
"It is quite near the area where the rogue caravan was previously," Chelle noted.
"Well, you rescued me and Jenn then and we have a strong rugby guy," She nodded to Mark. "We've never ignored any case or adventure, come on!"
Back around the crash site area
Jenn's voice was stopped with a wide piece of transparent medical tape over her mouth. With the French captor walking in front and the European and Middle Eastern men flanking her, she was escorted past the trees and along the short path to the curb side where a black limousine stood, its motor purring. The other gang members trailed loosely behind, slipping into the limousine at the last instant after Jenn was safely pushed in the back seat between the two henchmen. The other men had screened the sight of her from the eyes of any curious passers-by. Some onlookers from a distance probably thought how lucky a teenage girl was to be riding in such luxurious style.
It was as efficient and effective an abduction as any that Jenn had known. Her hands were quickly bound with a different kind of tape - she could tell the difference by now. Her tape gag was torn off and replaced with that new tape and it was a wider strip. The captors further taped her sock-covered ankles and covered her head with a really black hood -not that that mattered since the limo's side windows were tinted black and the front window was darkened.
She had just begun to take note of where the vehicle was heading, however it was increasingly not possible with the hood and the bumpy ride, throwing her against the men to the side. The situation was becoming progressively worse by the minute. She had been captured by various criminals before and tried to focus on the men around her. Given then different ethnicities, they might be hired mercenaries or low-ranking private soldiers. The limo sped up and she tried to think positive: at least it's a limo this time, yet the painful tape bonds and gag, and the almost suffocating hood were unpleasantly redolent of previous captures she had experienced.
By the time the vehicle came to a halt and she was immediately half dragged, half lifted from it, then carried by the thugs out and she smelt smells of first an unclean area then wood. She was roughly placed on the ground Then Jenn heard the French lady speak. "I hope you enjoyed your ride. You'll soon see your cousin soon Miss Thompson," she announced louder again without a trace of a French accent. “Rest now as you'll be required later. Your restraints, gag and hood are unfortunately necessary. Do not try anything silly and you'll see your cousin shortly."
Jenn stayed silent in response, in any case, the gag was starting to dry out her mouth. She tensed then heard their retreating footsteps. She waited a few seconds more then started trying to remove the hood. After nearly three minutes, she failed to shake it off and the darkness sent shivers of apprehension through her. The inability to see and the lack of any sounds partly increased her fear and she knew it was pertinent to get free of the tape bonds before the captors return. Jenn didn't bring along all of Lin's gadget creations, nevertheless she reached for the most favoured gadget: the fake foundation powder kit. That item was actually in the right pocket of her jeans and after several attempts, she also failed to reach it. She had the laser pen but that might work like a water hose putting out a small fire and it could burn her skin. It's the old fashion way then she thought, beginning to work the tapes securing her wrists. That actually came loose and soon her hands were free.
Trying to stay silent, she worked at the edges of the hood and finally that came off in a longer time. Quickly her gag and ankle bonds were off and she found herself surrounded by dark dirtied wooden walls, grey ceiling, grey floor. No other item of furniture was present. Was I...no I'm in some old shed...she worked her around the floor she was on and felt the nearest wall. It was a carriage of a train! Definitely, not for passengers, the kind for goods. Jenn quickly wondered that if they moved away there had to be a door. Getting up at her second attempt, she silently walked, feeling along the walls and found the edges of a hatch or door. That was locked so she continued following the walls and found another larger hatch. It was also locked then she shook her head and used the laser pen to cut away the locks. She was naturally elated to see terrain through the gap, slowly yanked the door and stepped out.
It certainly was an old train carriage, a model which Jenn couldn't identify. Where was my...she found her mobile phone but they had removed the SIM card. It was slightly dented but the apps were working so she snapped a few pictures of the carriage and moved away, determined to escape. Naturally, there were train tracks and she didn't want to run after a speeding train or worse, get crushed by it. She therefore kept to the side of the tracks and hurriedly moved against the chilly weather - they had taken her coat. She kept on walking then increasing speed as dark clouds hid the sun.
As she moved further, she heard noise in her ears, initially thinking it was her captors, then heard her first name and garbled sentences mentioning 'where can she be?' It was radio messages from the special earrings Lin invented. Scanning the horizon wildly, she saw figures ahead towards her left. She cautiously then joyfully ran towards Chelle, Lin and Mark, the first two still in their school uniforms while Mark in the school's sport shirt and jeans.
"Jenn! We thought you were missing again!" Chelle cried as she hugged the shorter girl.
"Never at all. I'll explain further. Let’s..." Jenn's reply was cut off as they all heard a vehicle's roar and saw a dune buggy or something of that sort stop near them and Jenn gave a distressful cry as the French woman and her minions stepped out.
"So, there you are," the woman snapped, gesturing four the men to secure the teen detectives. Mark was the first to strike the approaching South American. His kick struck the torso of the thug, however, he received a shot from the thug's taser, cried out loud and collapsed.
"Mark!" Chelle also cried, kneeling down but before she could check if her boyfriend was alright she heard the lead captor growl. "Up and hands behind you." She saw the Middle Eastern thug had and arm lock around Lin's neck with Lin's discarded ink or pepper spray pen on the ground. Jenn was similarly grabbed by the East Asian thug and hand-gagged. With the other man pointing his taser at her, she surrendered and the French Lady called them to 'secure the schoolgirls tightly, the Thompson girl as before.' Tightly meant Chelle and Lin's wrists were bound with skin-cutting cable ties as well as their ankles. Not-so-clean cloth was forced inside their mouths and sealed with wrapped around black electrical tape. All three girls were hand-carried into the new vehicle and after a really bumpy ride, Jenn smelt she was back in the old carriage and was dropped again on the wooden ground. She expected that would be all until her hood was roughly removed.
Chelle and Lin were sitting at the far ends opposite of each other, hoods also removed, still bound and gagged. The East Asian and South American were towering over them, tasers still in their hands. The Middle Eastern thug and the French Lady stood, shew now smoking a small cheroot. Jenn immediately wondered where the fourth guy was.
She started to speak now but naturally her words were muffled and the Arab started raising his weapon. He received a loud slap in return and retreated back, shocked. The woman chuckled. "Ah, I'm in charge and naturally Miss Thompson you are not required to speak, just to listen, you two as well." She paused and gazed reflectively at the tip of her cheroot. She flicked and a small stream of ash dropped from it to the grimy cement floor then passed the small cigar to the minion.
"I shall first introduce myself. Well, just call me Madame, so simple eh? I said you were going to see your cousin and for you not to try anything silly yet you did. Ah, so typical of you British girls these days. Your move still gave me two more of your kind, very nice." Chelle's mind was on Mark's condition while Lin gave her the angriest glare with her eyes.
The woman paused then continued, "I wanted the whole issue to be resolved quickly yet your stupidity caused much delay. You will thus get a punishment,"
Punishment? Fear ran through Jenn's mind.
"Nod if you understand me oui?"
Jenn nodded fervently, still wondering what she'll get.
"Good…Strip those two down to their culottes or what you call knickers and their brassieres," she snapped. The three men moved across to do so but she clicked her fingers. "Miss Thompson will perform that task on her friends." She herself bent down and cut away the tape around Jenn's wrists and ankles. Jenn suddenly hesitated
"My minions will perform the stripping tasks if you do not cooperate …"
Jenn hurriedly half-crawled, half-walked first towards Chelle. The thug near her had already also cut away Chelle's bonds. Jenn sighed silently and easily removed her friend’s blazer, jumper and skirt. She paused, then unbuttoned her school blouse and gently removed the 50 denier tights, revealing high-leg pink knickers. It was only then Chelle snapped out of her worries and shivered due to the semi-nakedness. The female captor tossed her fresh cable ties but Jenn tried to plead that her friend was shivering.
"Shut up, pick up those cable ties and bind your friend!'' the French captor yelled. Jenn picked up the cable ties and Chelle reluctantly re-crossed her hands behind her. Jenn quickly bound her and patted Chelle as a form of encouragement and crawled over to Lin. Her tights were 40 denier and somehow hard to take out. That revealed her skimpy bikini-style dark blue knickers and the men couldn't help staring at Lin's exposed undies.
"Collect their clothes and belongings." The woman turned and grabbed Jenn, securing her wrist with cable ties then placed her back down where she originally was. Jenn wondered why her ankles were free then the answer came as the lady and the Arab yanked her jeans down, causing her to yelp as her legs felt the coldness of the planks and her white classic knickers with a bow tie were exposed. No, not again, she wailed silently.
"Ah, not exactly like your friends...no you don't touch her jumper!" she scolded the Middle Eastern minion who shrunk back. "You will have some time to think through your rash actions, Mademoiselle Thompson. You," she turned to the East Asian minion, "Stand guard. We'll be back and you might just see your cousin." The three partially naked girls shivered in the cold and the fright, with Chelle still wondering about Mark.
That rugby player had in fact regained consciousness and slowly yanked away the taser darts. Luck was upon him as a specialised railroad cleaning machine stopped up and the operator ran over to him. "Hey lad, you nearly got struck by my machine! What ya tryin to do?!"
"I..." Mark groaned. "Got to go...police..."
The worker still thought the student was playing a fool yet still sat him on his device and within the hour, Mark was checked by a duty doctor at a police station, surprisingly pronounced as healthy yet no officer understood or believed his story. When he started describing Jenn, a certain Detective Sergeant (DS) recognised the description and name. "Yes, I'll take in thought it'll be quite some resources," the attractive DS said and he then saw the nameplate A. Mason.
The train carriage jerked, then moved like a racing car, definitely throwing everyone inside around. Lin was thrown face down, luckily only bruising her right cheek. Chelle fared worse: her arms were cut from the edges of the wooden planks. Jenn's legs also suffered cuts, a distinct bruise on one of her knees and her thighs were bent so much that her crotch was more visible. The East Asian guard was also thrown around though his cuts and injuries weren't visible as he fully clothed. This constant rocking finally subsided into a constant movement of the wheels and the East Asian thug managed to settle the three girls where they originally sat.
All three naturally glared at him and shout muffled protests and their semi-nakedness and tight restraints. As the man tried to sit down, Lin started talking to him. He initially did not respond, then they started a nakedness conversation. Her two friends immediately wondered what she was trying to say - Chelle thought Lin needed her gag removed, while Jenn caught some Mandarin Chinese words.
Meanwhile, DS Alison Mason was having difficulty officiating the matter as a police case with her superiors, especially Detective Chief Inspector or DCI Mark Walker who the Senior Investigating Officer or SIO of any major case. He asked lengthy questions, especially why her report came from a young student. It was only in the late evening when she heard DCI Walker would accept it as a case worth investigating, yet if it turned out to be like a children's story tale, she might face reassignment. Typical.
Jenn then realised that Lin was trying to distract the guard and through the darkness, she signalled to Chelle with a single gag yell. Chelle caught it, and immediately worked with one of the few gadgets she had left: the watch cutter. She failed to get it right the first time and aimed to get right despite the moving carriage.
DS Mason received an internal police memo that made her heart leap. An India 99 or police slang for police helicopter returning from an escort duty noticed a solo train appearing out of a tunnel. The main front carriage was modern as were a few others while the last was rather old, almost from the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century. "One other carriage appears to house vehicles, one appearing like a dune buggy."
Immediately taking it up to DCI Walker he let her take it, "however, DI Sanders," referring to Detective Inspector Mike Sanders who just transferred in, “will control the investigation. If AFOs are needed," AFOs meaning Authorised Firearms Officers, "He will be the SFC." SFC is the highest commander for AFO operations.
Chelle continued to twist her bare arms and wrists and fingers, finally deciding the position was correct. Twisting the right crown, she felt it drop off and twisted the special watch at the presumed angle. There was a muted sound then she gratefully felt the middle of the cable tie snap. Unable to express her joy through the tight tape gag, she looked through the darkness. Lin was still distracting the thug through muffled talk and Jenn was focused on that and trying to keep her bare legs warm. Suddenly, as the carriage rocked, Lin stopped and Chelle took that signal and flung herself across the carriage, half hopping due to still bound ankles. Lin sprang, her wrists suddenly also free and also pounced and the two girls managed to tackle the East Asian guy down. Lin was the first to rub the tape off and with the cloth half spat out, she started to belt out English and Cantonese swear words at him, simultaneously yanking his arms behind him. Chelle first pushed the thug's taser away then roughly frisked him, yanking out a Glock 17. Jenn gave an elated cry and shifted over and Chelle first cut off her ankle bonds with the gadget then helped Jenn. As she tore off the tape, she yelled at the thug. "Where's my cousin?! Where are they holding him! Who is that French...."
There was a whirling noise, a flash of sirens and the carriage jerked to a halt. One hatch was struck open with a loud bang and around a dozen of armed and masked police streamed in, the lead yelling "Armed Police! Hands up!" The girls complied until a female officer also wearing a ballistic vest entered and ordered the AFOs to handcuff the East Asian guy. "You're safe! Well don't just shine your lights at them, get them clothing and to the ambulance!" DS Alison Mason ordered the officers, staring at the semi-naked girls.
As Chelle was led outside in an over-sized shirt and jogging pants, she spotted Mark behind a police barricade and attempted to run towards him, however, the escorting PC stopped her. "Let her through for a while," DS Mason called before radioing for the scenes of crime officers (SOCOs) to enter.
All the teen detectives were questioned for hours before they were let off with their original clothes and gadgets, making Lin happy she didn't have to reconstruct them. Days later, in their separate bedrooms, they chatted via Skype and WhatsApp.
"An attempt to steal technology from an experimental aircraft?" Lin questioned.
"Yes, the RAF is in the midst of building a future fighter commonly known as Tempest. This one is code-named Vanquish using material from the former Taranis demonstrator and new technology to allow the plane to fly itself often. My cousin Phil was forced to land and captured. They used that to lure me to also capture me since they knew Phil would only tell them about the technology when he saw me captive." She went on to say the odd vehicle she spotted also belonged to the gang yet that was all RAF and MOD would say and there was conflict between them and the investigation now led by DS Mason. Most of the captors were either killed or injured in a firefight with the AFOs and after more than half a day, the main French captor was picked up before she could board a ferry. She was revealed as Cherie Blanchet, and was aiming to steal the technology for a French defence procurement firm.
The teen detectives reverted back to their usual school lives, with all their parents grateful. That meant assessment tests for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) subjects. After Chelle and Lin completed torturous tests, their class teacher Mr. Lambeth and another came up to them just before the end of school.
"Miss Summers, Miss Chan just a moment. You two have scored extremely well in your assessment tests."
They thanked them, however expecting that wasn't all.
"We would like to transfer both of you to Class 9A where you will have classmates or par with your academic standards and teachers that you may even surpass with your knowledge," the other teacher added.
"I'm so flattered. What is the reason for this?" Lin asked.
"Is it compulsory?" Chelle added.
"Not at all," was Mr Lambeth's reply. "Just give me your decision by the end of the week."
"They want to yank us out of the class?! What about the compulsory great friendship we've formed with Hattie, Julia, Heather and others," Chelle exclaimed.
"Well, I won't miss that bully Art who harasses me due to my ethnicity, although it’s fun to knock him or beat him especially in PE," Lin remarked. "Transferring us would place us with Jenn."
"I don't know. Say I have to head down to the town library to copy some old archive documents. I've been behind in the Lit and Media club and Louisa is hounding me. Catch you later."
Lin also had a science club meeting and the new student Reinhard Tomas was also voted in as Vice President of the lower secondary group along with her. "Congrats," she acknowledged after the meeting broke up.
He nodded in response then remarked she had marks around her wrists and was wearing the special watch he suggested. "Yeah, it came in very handy, thanks for the idea." She wanted to leave then he continued by adding he heard much about the gadgets she invented and the detective activities she was involved in.
"I would like to..."
If he's asking me out on a date, I'm running away now, she thought.
"...Like to look at what you made and maybe help you invent new gadgets," came the shaky reply. Reinhard was a few centimetres shorter than her and looked smaller in size.
"I can make...I can show you the stuff I make but it's all locked up and I have to catch up with someone. Another time?" They exchanged phone numbers for the first time.
Chelle finished up copying the old articles she needed, wrote up the articles and emailed them to Louisa. As she exited the town library, there was a tremendous screech of car types and a police van struck a nearby pillar. Officers from the escorting vehicles rush out to check when suddenly a gun fight transpired. As smoke rose and Chelle ran to another path, strong arms grabbed and a rag was stuffed in her mouth. She was thrown on a padding she immediately figured was on the floor of a vehicle - that police van!
"So, we meet again, Chelle," She heard the voice of Ken Danson, that former bank employee who robbed the local bank, trussed up her friends at her planned party and took her hostage.
"Shut up!" This came from a second man who handcuffed one of her wrists to a bar. The van rush away and Chelle soon felt it stop. She was dragged out and pushed down on a dusty floor with hands now fully locked behind her back and she felt her ankles were locked together with handcuffs.
"Stay down," she saw it was a uniformed officer, definitely a rogue one. The hell, I'm taken hostage once more. The men were mumbling and she caught the phrase, 'dump her soon." Just as she tried to shift, there was another explosion with the familiar calls of ‘Armed Police!"
She immediately heard a muted sound and a yell of ‘Shots fired! Shots fired!' Chelle was grateful as the fetters were removed then saw one of the AFOs asking his colleagues "Who the hell fired that shot?"
On a Friday afternoon, she was with her mum in the supermarket who kept remarking how Chelle survived all her wild adventures and tried to get her to change her 'hobby.' As their cart turned the next aisle, they nearly crashed into another.
"Hello, Nikki," Chelle greeted the ever-so friendly and helpful DI Nikki Heath.
A learning who the police officer was and there was an invitation for a meeting after their groceries, her mother agreed on condition Chelle return home before dinner.
Over a shared carrot cake and tea for Chelle and coffee for Nikki, the latter summarised how she was second to other police commands in other territorial forces.
"That's interesting. But you didn't ask me for this meeting for your work," Chelle wiped off the cream from her lips.
"You're getting better as a young detective. No, I've been approved for promotion to DCI."
"Indeed. My superiors want to post me elsewhere; they feel I need to get wider experience with the rank," Chelle saw Nikki's expression change.
"Oh, what will our group do without you? You've been a gem for us and the whole of the town."
"I know. DC Ransom is up for promotion and well, you can contact her. I know, she's always dubious yet still a promising detective." Nikki paused for a while, took a sip of her drink then replied.
"Actually, I also asked the promotion board if I could stay here. I'll let you know the outcome. Come, I'll drive you home."
"Letter of commendation? That's all we get after how painful the whole binding and gagging was?" Lin threw the letter across the desk.
"And I only got one short chat with my cousin," Jenn added, continuing to rub cream around her sore wrists with Chelle also rubbing cream around her ankles as well.
"At least all of you returned safe quickly," Mark added, running his fingers through his girlfriend's hair.
Chelle's phone buzzed. After reading she excited told them Nikki Heath was formally promoted to DCI and was allowed to stay in Croonford. The two of them had decided to stay in their original class, wishing to maintain the friendships they formed.
"Yay, it’s..." Lin voice was cut off as the doorbell rang. Checking it, she allowed no other than Reinhard.
"Someone invited you here?" Mark raised his eyes.
"I did," Lin pulled out another chair. "As I mentioned last time, the laser watch idea came from Reinhard and he's been feeding me great ideas for gadgets to allow us to escape and take down villains. And, if you all don't mind, he also likes to join the group. Any objections?"
"Why not," Mark replied.
"I'm sure he'll be a great addition," came Jenn's reply.
Chelle was suddenly in deep thought. "Ok," finally came her answer and after a round of applause, Lin equipped the newest teen detective with the necessary gadgets.
"Something's bothering you?" Jenn queried Chelle who now stared out of the window.
"I was rescued from that evil hostage taker Ken by police and a shot was fired. Yet, they claimed none of them discharged their weapon. Someone did. Something's up, no someone may be back, that Cat girl."
Michelle, Lin Ling, Jennifer, Mark and Reinhard will return in a story, title not yet confirmed.