“Do you want to grab a sandwich before we go back for the meeting?” asked Hawkins.

Barrington told Hawkins that he’d arranged to meet someone for lunch and would see him later at the meeting. He really wanted to read Sandra’s note in private.

He made sure that Hawkins was well on his way before he pulled out the note.

Meet me at 1:15 this afternoon at Costa’s Coffee on Gresham Street. Please come alone and keep this confidential. It’s important. Thanks, Sandra.

It doesn’t seem that she just wants to get to know me. It looks serious, he thought. He looked at his watch — 12:45. He decided to walk to Costa’s and wait there for her. 

Costa Coffee Houses were all over London, but he’d never been inside one before, mainly because he didn’t drink coffee — tea was his beverage of choice. It had started to rain heavily and people were crowding in to shelter. There were no tables available so it was a good thing he arrived early, someone would be sure to vacate a table before she arrived.

He looked at the menu — must be twenty kinds of coffee, but they also offered a selection of teas — English Breakfast or Earl Grey. He ordered a mug of English Breakfast with milk, no sugar. What to eat? This was usually easy for him too, eliminate everything with meat or seafood and see what’s left. For vegetarians, there was a choice of three or four. He picked out an Emmental and Mushroom Toastie.

Before his order was ready, he saw a couple looking as if they were preparing to leave. A business type in a three-piece suit had also spotted the potential table, but Barrington stepped in front of him and asked the couple at the table if they were leaving. They didn’t answer, they just got up and left. The businessman stared at him with a scowl on his face. Barrington just smiled and waited for his toastie.

He had just finished his sandwich when he saw Sandra at the entrance. She was scanning the crowd, not only to look or him, but also to check that there was no one she knew among the diners. He gave her a wave and she smiled briefly when she saw him. On her way to his table, she said something to the girl behind the counter, who gave a brief wave of recognition.

She looked very nervous. She took off her coat and hat and sat down opposite him.

“Thank you for coming,” she said. “I’m sorry, I was afraid to give you my phone number. Here’s my card.” She handed him a business card which he put into his wallet.

“I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing, but I don’t know what else to do. I wasn't going say anything but you coming to the office made me realise that I had to say something. I just didn´t know who to trust. It's been bothering me but I would have felt stupid walking into a police station and telling them about my suspicions. You must swear that you won’t say anything to anyone about what I’m about to tell you.”

“Well, as a police officer, I can’t guarantee that. What if you tell me that you murdered Sir Jonathan? I wouldn’t be able to keep quiet about that. It depends upon what you have got to say,” was his reply.

She looked as if she was about to break out into tears. She stood up and started to put on her coat.

“Wait,” he said, “That was a bad joke about Sir Jonathan. I’m sure we can work this out. Sit down. Let’s talk about it.”

She regained her composure and sat down again.

“I promise you that I will keep what you tell me secret and if I do need to act on any of the information, I will keep your name out of it. Absolutely! This meeting never took place. Many police officers have anonymous informers. Not that I consider you an informer.” He decided he’d better keep quiet as she seemed to be ready to talk.

“I don’t know where to start,” she said.

“Why don’t you start by telling me a bit about yourself,“ he said, knowing he had to slowly gain her confidence.

“As you know, my name is Sandra — Sandra Sidney. You can probably tell by my accent that I had a privileged upbringing. People say I sound like one of the royal family,” she said with a scowl. “I recently graduated with a Masters degree in Corporate Law from Cambridge. I did my law degree at LSE Law.”

Barrington could see that she was calming down.

“I got my first job as an intern at the Bank about six months ago. I was a kind of assistant to the Governor’s assistant. Then I got a lucky break a couple of months ago when the assistant got pregnant and left to go back to Scotland. Nobody else knew what was going on with the files and stuff, so I became the assistant to the Governor of the Bank of England. My parents were thrilled, even though I told them that all I am is a secretary.”

She stopped and looked around the room to check if anyone was paying any attention to them. They weren’t.

“Don’t worry. I’m keeping my eyes open. Nobody’s even looked this way, except the guy who I battled with for a table.”   

“Yes, I know. No one on the top floor at the Bank would consider lowering themselves by coming into a Costa’s Coffee. That’s why I picked it. I’m just so nervous.”

“Tell me why,” said Barrington.

“It has to do with Sir Jonathan’s murder, of course, and Nick Styles. I knew Nick — he came to see Sir Jonathan quite a lot, almost every week, I think. Actually, Nick invited me to dinner once — we went to Gordon Ramsey’s place in Chelsea. Great food but the company was not so good. When he wasn’t talking about himself, he wanted to talk about the Bank and banking procedures. So boring!” 

She stopped talking when a waiter approached to deliver her coffee. After the waiter had left, she took a sip of coffee and remained silent, looking down at her cup. He just waited.

After a couple of minutes, she looked up at him. “You know, I’m not really comfortable talking here. We could be overheard. It’s stopped raining, let’s go.”

He followed her into the street. “Where are we off to?” He asked.

“How long have you lived in London?” She said.

“I lived in Neasden near the police college for a few months but grew up in Hertfordshire,” he replied.

“Well, I’m going to take you somewhere really interesting, I think so anyway. Not many people know about it and it’s quiet there, we’ll be able to talk without any risk of being overheard. It’s just five minutes away.”

“Okay, sounds good,” he said. He was beginning to find this young woman quite intriguing and very interesting.

They made small talk while they walked along the busy street and eventually they stopped in front of The Guildhall Art Gallery.

“Oh, an art gallery. No I haven’t been here," Barrington sounded a little disappointed.

“No, we’re not going to the Art Gallery. Wait until you see what’s in the basement,” she said.

They got out of the lift and he was astounded to see the remains of London's Roman amphitheatre.

“Wow,” was his response. “This is fantastic.”

She excitedly told him that in 1988, when they were digging up Guildhall Yard for a new Art Gallery building, they found London's only Roman amphitheatre. 

“The amphitheatre was opened to the public in 2002 for the first time in nearly 2,000 years,” she said. "Just imagine gladiators used to battle right here, and there was animal fighting and public executions."

The place was quiet, the only others there were two small groups of foreign tourists. They sat down on a bench and she continued her story. 

“What I really wanted to talk about is the gold bars that Chris Burrows told you about today. Firstly, when she told you that she was against allowing a private party to pick up the gold, that’s not true. Her signature of approval was required and she had no qualms about signing. 

Secondly, I thought it was really unusual for a payment to be made in gold bars instead of an electronic payment. Then a private individual was to be allowed to pick it up. It all seemed very fishy to me. Gloria, in security, couldn't remember it ever happening before and she's been at the Bank ten years."

And the third thing —  I looked for the confirmation of the transfer of funds from the sale of the securities and couldn't find anything. It's usually posted before the funds can be released.”

When she stopped as a couple of Japanese tourists passed by, Barrington asked, “I'm not sure I understand all that, so why was the gold being paid out anyway and to whom?”

“I was getting to that. The fishiest part of all. The gold was being paid to Nick Styles. It’s all to do with Exchange control — a way of controlling sterling going in and out of the country. It’s meant to discourage investors buying foreign securities and depleting the country´s funds by sending money abroad. The regulation’s main purpose was to help conserve gold and foreign currency reserves and maintain the UK’s balance of payment positions. Investors have to pay a kind of deposit of 40% when they send money overseas. When the securities are sold and the money comes back into the country they get the 40% back. 

I was suspicious as Nick was the lawyer involved in the transaction. According to the paperwork, twenty million pounds was invested overseas and the refund was more than eight million pounds. Now, there’s no way that Nick Styles had millions to invest, in my opinion, so who was he acting for?

Then why on earth wouldn’t Chris Burrows raise red flags when the news of Nick’s murder was in the papers yesterday. I just don’t trust anyone at the Bank, and I don’t want to officially go to the police — I know you are the police, but I had the feeling with you and me being about the same age and both beginning our careers, you’d help without getting me involved.”

Barrington let out a sigh. He was beginning to realise what a predicament he was in. “Who picked up the gold then. Burrows said it was collected this morning.”

“Oh yes, I checked on the receipt. Here’s a copy.”

“She handed him a sheet of paper that she pulled from her briefcase.”

Printed underneath the illegible signature was the name Anthony Cascarini.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 12”

  1. Tuesday, 22 February 2022 13:17

    This seems to be rather a lot of bald sentences, one after another.  I think you need to put more detail in.

    Interestingly, the section on his arriving at Costa's and the struggle to get a table I thought was very good.  It's little additional extras like this (I don't want to use the term "padding"), but it's the sort of thing needed to enrich the dialogue/story.

    For example: when Sandra is explaining about Exchange Control, and procedures about transferring monies and bullion from the B of E.  A bit of background history would be useful here, eg on the difficulties that the UK has had trying to be both a major financial power, and at the same time having an unsuccessful economy that cannot support its exchange rate.  Which is why the Exchange Control rigmarole is pursued by the Treasury and the Bank.  It's not as if Barrington has been shown to have a background in economics or finance (or does he?)

    And more explanation about the payment of the gold bars - why it was unusual for it to be made in gold bars and why it was unusual for it to be collected by a private individual.  I can see why it would be, but perhaps it needs to be amplified.

    Sandra's explanation of why she chose to give the note to Barrington seems a bit weak.  Such a major thing to someone she had never even met before needs a stronger rationale, I think.

    How Sandra became the assistant to the Governor of the Bank of England after only six months is a bit flimsy.  It's hard to imagine that no one else at the Bank "knew what was going on with the files and stuff".

    Line 2:  asked instead of Asked?

    I do like the way you leave us in suspense in the last sentence of each chapter.  It certainly makes my mind spin about what will be coming next.


    Francis, you can give me a call if you like and I can explain in a bit more detail.  Punching my kindle with just one finger takes a very long time.

  2. Wednesday, 23 February 2022 17:36

    Sorry to tire your fingers, Jeff, but thanks for the comments. We are working to address them. FGM.