The shooting call had landed on Adam’s desk a couple of minutes after nine am and he'd sprinted straight to his car. He hadn't even reached the crime scene when the radio DJ informed the world of a gangland style shooting outside a north side primary school. The idiot just stopped short of naming the victim. Adams slapped the steering wheel and cursed the man. There would be pandemonium at the school already without attracting the attention of every ghoul on the north side of Dublin. He found out all too soon that his fears were only the tip of the iceberg.
When he arrived at the gates of the school there were a number of uniformed officers trying to keep control and failing miserably. There were screaming children, shouting parents and worried looking teachers everywhere. As the teachers tried to keep control of the terrified kids, the officers were doing their best to keep hysterical parents out of the crime scene. Every second that passed saw the mob of mothers and fathers grow. Some parents had had enough and broke through the crime tape to storm the school and rescue their children. It was descending into a riot.
Detective Adams walked up to one of the officers and flashed his warrant card. A look of relief spread across the sweating man's face. Adams looked over the officer's shoulder and saw the cause of all the commotion, slumped against a wall in a spreading pool of blood, half covered by a sleeping bag.
“Did you cover him up?” Adams asked the officer.
“No, just checked for vitals and left him exactly as he was,” said the Guard, holding out his hand to stop an on rushing mother who had bailed out of a car without even parking it.
“There must be a side gate, send one man around to man it and let all parents enter the building that way. There is no point in trying to stop an unstoppable tide,” said Adams and the man nodded hurrying over to one of the others to get things started.
It took a few minutes but soon the crush of worried parents vanished and Adams was finally able to set up a secure perimeter. Every minute, more and more backup was arriving but he was still delighted to see Sims duck under the yellow hazard tape and make her way over.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“No idea yet, I’ve just managed to get the place locked down. I guess there is no time like the present to find out.” Both Adams and Sims delved into their pockets and took out see through plastic gloves to put on. Adams surveyed the area around the body before going near it. He didn't want to tread on any evidence such as bloody foot prints or any sort of dropped material. He carefully picked the spots to place his feet and approached the corpse. When he was close enough, he hunkered down and lifted the edge of the sleeping bag with the tip of a finger.
“Shit,” was all he said.
“Who is it?” asked Sims.
Adams dropped the material back into position carefully and stood up. “John Griffin.” Adams picked his way back from the body and began sweeping the scene, while Sims took out her notebook to record what he saw.
“No shell casings,” he mumbled and began to examine the wall behind the victim visually.
“Two possible projectile craters three and a half to four feet off the ground. They could be the result of missed shots or a through and through.” Sims scribbled his findings in her book as Adams continued to comb the area. Adams dropped to his haunches again and examined something else that caught his eye near the base of the wall.
“There are shards of something brown, plastic I think, and they have some blood splatters on them.”
“How many?” asked Sims
“A good few, twelve or more.” Sims nodded her head to say she had it recorded. After walking the grid twice more Adams found nothing else of interest so he stripped off his gloves.
“You better make a note of all vehicle registrations within sight, we might be lucky and one might belong to the shooter. Both sides and can you make a sketch of their positions while you are at it.”
As Sims busied herself, Adams walked back to one of the officers who were manning the scene when he arrived.
“Are those witnesses?” he asked, inclining his head to a group of about six people standing inside the yard being chaperoned by a loan officer.
“Yes, sir. That was all we could find who would talk. I'm sure some legged it.”
“Not much you could have done in the circumstances.”
The officer nodded his head but looked at his feet. Adams knew he was feeling guilty about letting the scene get out of hand in the beginning, but there was nothing anyone else could have done. Adams gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder and walked toward the group in the yard. As he approached they all turned their attention on him. One or two of the women were still crying.
“I’m Detective Stephen Adams. First off, I want to thank you all for co-operating with the officers, and apologise for any delay you might be suffering. I know this is extremely upsetting for you all but we will have you out of here as quickly as we can. I am going to get a room in the school so we can take an initial statement from you, while everything is fresh in your minds. Whoever did this needs to be taken off the streets and something you noticed might be the key we need to get him.” There was a round of muted nodding from the group and Adams strode away in search of the principle.
Ten minutes later they had secured three classrooms for use and Adams had divided the witnesses up, each one being singly interview by a member of the force. Adams himself was floating between the interviews, reading the statements, looking for common treads, or any substantial clue.
The interviews weren’t even half over by the time Adams heard the sounds of fighting coming from the front of the school. He rushed out to see several of his officers trying to restrain a man and a woman who were fighting to get through them. Adams ran over and interceded. Yesterday Darren Griffins eyes had been filled with fury, today they were overflowing with anguish.
“Let me through!” he yelled and rushed forward again. This time he crashed into Adams, chest to chest, but got no further. The woman at his shoulder let loose a primal scream which dropped into gut wrenching cry as she crumpled to the floor. She point at the man’s hand extending from under the dirty sleeping bag and tried to say something, but the sobs rushing up her throat crushed any possibility of the words being intelligible.
“Is it him? IS IT HIM!” demanded Darren Griffin, nose to nose with Adams, as pregnant tears rolled down his cheeks. Adams nodded, and every ounce of pain which flooded the smaller man’s soul showed on his face. The flush of rage vanished from Darren Griffin as shock robbed his body of all its power. Adams felt the man in his arms sag, and he found he was holding him up, not holding him back.
Adams nodded again, this time the nod crushed the man in front of him completely. Adams dropped his arms away and Darren Griffin shuffled backward. He drunkenly staggered toward the woman and collapsed besides her, taking her in his arms, he held her as their grief flowed out.
At that moment the forensics team, wearing white boiler suits, flooded the scene, taking over with professional coolness. In moments, a protective enclosure was erected, shielding the world from tragedy. Suddenly, something came over Emma Griffin, her crying stopped as if it had been sliced through with an axe, her eyes grew wide and she pushed Darren Griffin violently aside and sprang upright. She rushed at Adams taking him by surprise when she grabbed his jacket with incredible strength.
“Zoey, my Zoey. Where is she?” Adam's mind reeled, he'd not even considered a kid would be involved, and he should have.
“I… I don’t know, she must be inside.” Emma Griffin bolted toward the gate of the school where a uniformed officer, unaware of who was coming, moved to block the way.
“Leave her through!” yelled Adams just in time, because if the man had not moved aside, he would have been flattened by the power of Emma’s terror. The child’s name rang through the corridors of the school as she searched. Then they just stopped and Adams knew that Zoey was in her mother’s arms.
All around the mechanics of death and investigation gathered speed while the world moved on by. By piecing together all the individual witness statements Adams was getting a fuller picture of what had happened. John Griffin had parked to drop his daughter at the gate, when returning to his car he was confronted by what appeared to be a bum. There were shots and the bum walked away and mounted a trial bike and left the scene. One witness saw the bum crossing the road holding the sleeping bag, which prompted Adams to declare a second crime scene on the far footpath.
The coroner had since arrived and they were making preparations to move John Griffins body. Every second of the operation had been observed by the stoic figure of Darren Griffin, who stood unmoving against the crime scene tape. Adams felt sorry for the man. Darren Griffin was a criminal and there was no doubt that this shooting was a tragedy of their own making but he was also a brother. John Griffin was a father, a husband, a brother and a son. The life they had chosen would do nothing to diminish the grief those people would feel. Adams walked to where Darren stood and stopped beside him watching the empty gurney vanish behind the protective enclosure.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” said Adams, but Darren kept his eyes on the unfolding action across the barrier line. After a few moments of strained silence Adams added, “We will do everything we can to catch the man that did this.” He felt the man beside him turn, and Adams swivelled his head. Darren Griffin’s face was a mask of hatred and his eyes danced with madness. “You better be quick if you want to get him before me.”
“That won’t help anyone in the long run. It won’t bring John back, will it? You’d be better off telling us what you know and let us nail this guy.”
“Like that will ever happen.”
“Stay out of this Darren, you’ve been warned.”
“Or it will be you behind bars, not the guy who pulled the trigger.”
“That fucker will never see prison, you mark my words!” spat Darren Griffin.
The flap of the protective enclosure was held back and the covered form of John Griffin was wheeled out. With practiced efficiency, he was loaded into the back of a windowless van and taken from the scene. Darren turned and walked away. Now his brother had left, nothing the authorities might do seemed to matter to him. Adams knew that the Griffin brothers would never co-operate with a police investigation and he knew that they would never let the murder of John Griffin go unanswered either. Adams didn't need to be told who ordered the hit, but the key to bringing down the Kingstons was to get the shooter.
Darren was right, this killer would be lucky to ever see the inside of a jail cell, he was more likely to end up face down in a shallow grave. It was up to him to get the guy first.