"Get those bloody bells switched off will you Bob," Detective Burke called out. "The police are here now, no need to annoy the neighbours any further!"
He looked round the jewellery shop yet again, hoping his eye might fall on some vital piece of evidence that the robber had left behind, even though he knew it was futile. The job had all the hallmarks of a professional, and he already had strong suspicions about which one.
"I don`t get it boss," Bob Childs said when he returned. "The robber could have gotten away easily enough without letting the alarm off. How come he made such a stupid mistake?"
"No mistake Bob. If I`m right, the bastard only did it to show off."
"They did it on purpose?"
"Possibly. We`ll just have to wait and see if forensics come up with anything. So, there`s nothing more we can do here for now. I`ll see you later, I`m off back to the station." He walked off with a slight frown of concentration on his face. "I`ve got a little research to do," he muttered.
Bob tapped on his door. It was four days since the robbery at the jewellers. "We`ve brought that Jones guy in for questioning boss. He`s in cell four. Not a happy man, I can tell you. Came out with some very interesting language."
Burke looked up from some notes he`d been pouring over. "Bob, to be honest I couldn`t give a toss if he spoke pure Latin. Do you know how many of these robberies have been conducted lately? Not just in our vicinity, but across the board?"
Bob shrugged. "I wasn`t even aware there were any other similar jobs. Shoot!"
"Twelve! Exactly the same. In each case the thief left all the gold, diamonds and other jewels. Only took platinum. What does that make you think?"
Bob shifted uncomfortably. He hated questions like this from his boss. He was sure Burke already had his own conclusions, and wasn`t sure if he was being asked so that he could confirm those suspicions, or whether there was some hope of extra insight.
"Well the guy must have a buyer for platinum. Maybe the other stuff makes him nervous - he`s afraid he can`t shift it?"
"Exactly what I was thinking. But that leads to another question..."
Bob had tuned himself in now. "Who would not want to buy gold as well as platinum?"
Burke seemed pleased, but he was also still thinking. "Go and find out whatever you can about platinum. To be honest, I wouldn`t know what it was if you hit me with it. I`m off to see our friend in the cells."
In fact Burke waited over an hour before going to see Phil Jones. He knew Bob would need some time to find out some information, and he was equally sure that Phil, with three previous convictions for burglary, would have an alibi for each occasion that these robberies had taken place. The danger was that when he ran out of questions, and therefore suitable reason to hold his man, Jones`s solicitor would demand his release.
When he eventually entered the interview room, both Jones and the solicitor were clearly angry.
"What the hell may I ask is the excuse for arresting my client, bringing him to the station, and then leaving us both waiting for this length of time?"
Burke extended his hand. "Detective Colin Burke. I don`t think I`ve made your acquaintance Sir!"
The solicitor was quite young, and his initial outburst clearly having failed to ruffle the policeman, he was suddenly put on his back foot.
"Er... Jeffery Davies." He stammered. "But I really must protest..."
"I`m sure that you can appreciate that the police are very busy nowadays Mr Davies. Now that`s obviously no excuse for keeping you waiting, and I do apologise, but I`m also sure that you would also insist that we pay the up most attention to each and every case. Beside which, Mr Jones is not under arrest."
Burke helped himself to a seat and looked at Jones. The man had relaxed now, and genuinely seemed amused at the situation Burke had defused. He was also very confident, almost as if he knew that the police had nothing, not a shred of evidence on him.
"Want a cigarette Burke?" Jones asked, offering him one from a cigarette case full of fancy designer cigarettes. Burke wondered if the man new that he had recently quit. With effort he declined, and Jones put the case away untouched.
The usual game of cat and mouse ensued. Burke asked the questions. The easy ones were answered right away, whilst the more difficult ones were interrupted by the ever more annoying Davies, with protests such as "I really cannot see what this has to do with this case!"
"A police investigation must follow all avenues of enquiry Mr Davies!" Burke would reply. To the solicitors utter despair, the policeman had used this very statement no less than four times.
When the questions were plainly starting to become delaying tactics, Burke was grateful when the tap on the door came. He excused himself and left the room to speak to Childs. The other policeman was out of breath, and for lack of any available cars at such short notice, he had had to run there and back to the local library.
In Burke`s office Childs read from the notes he taken at the library.
"OK. Platinum. Symbol Pt. Silvery white, malleable, ductile material. Stable in air. Atomic number 78. International atomic weight 195.0. At 90% purity it weighs 19 grams per cm cubed. Has a melting point of 1772 degrees centigrade."
"Bob, this is all very nice. What the hell does it mean?"
"Well that`s what I thought, so I also got some notes on gold to compare it to. To cut a long story short, it`s heavier than gold, rarer, which accounts for the fact that it`s far more expensive, and it has a far higher melting point. Gold melts at 1063 degrees, which means it takes another 700 degrees to melt platinum. To further put that into perspective, iron melts at just 1535 degrees. You need some fancy rig to melt this kit. Maybe even brick or stone like they use at steel factories, but I couldn`t find out for sure."
"Doesn`t really help us any though does it, unless we find that our boy has a PhD in metallurgy?"
"No, it doesn`t. But there was also one other interesting fact that might, just might," he was hesitant, "Shed some light on the buyer. I can`t pronounce all these words, so here, read my notes."
Burke took the notebook and read: Platinum ammine nitrates and perchlorates either detonate when heated or are impact sensitive.
"Explosives?" He stood and thought, that typical frown crossing his face. "Bob, do a run on the computer and check for any known contacts that have had anything to do with explosives. We`re running out of time with this boy, so do it as quick as you can. You did well with that lot, by the way."
He was right that time was running out. When he returned to the interview room Davies was agitated. "Is my client under arrest Detective?"
"I take it from this question that you no longer wish to help us with our enquiries?" Burke sometimes thought he should have been a lawyer himself, or a politician.
"My client has a plane to catch later this evening. If you are planning to make him miss the flight, I will demand a very good explanation, and as much notice as possible!"
This was all news to Burke. "Might I enquire where you are going Sir, and why?"
Jones smiled as he replied. "Canada. On holiday. Booked a long time ago, as I`m sure the travel agents can confirm."
He had nothing to hold him on. All of Jones` alibis would no doubt check out, as in each case he was with another known felon. They would back each other up just to join forces against the law.
As he watched them leave the station Burke knew, just knew that he was watching a guilty man go free. They had uncovered no platinum at his house, and though the method of entry for each case was identical to those which had put Jones inside before, this time there was no evidence, and the man had not slipped up.
"Please do not hassle my client further Detective," Davies said smugly as he left the station.
When he finished his shift that night, Burke bumped into Bob Childs on the way out of the station. "Can`t win them all boss. Fancy a beer?"
Burke grunted. He stopped walking. "Any idea what time that flight was to Canada Bob?"
"About an hour from now I think. Why, fancy watching him leave the country?"
"I wouldn`t mind being at the airport, just in case security stumble across anything."
They drove to the airport, read the departure board, and using their police ID made their way to the final departure gate. As they passed through passport control, Burke stopped and talked to one of the young security men who operated the scanning machine. He described Jones, and asked the man if there was any reason for suspicion.
"No Sir. Sorry. He did beep as he went through, but then so do half of each flight. When he`d removed his keys, coins and things, he was clear. Do you know the guy?"
"Just an acquaintance son. Thanks for your help. Mind if we go and watch them board and leave?"
"Fine by me. Oh, there was one thing that did strike me as odd!"
Burke stopped and looked at the man patiently, waiting for a ridiculous statement.
"Why would someone with a cigarette case insist on a non smoking seat on such a long haul flight?"
Recalling the full cigarette case, its dull silver colour, the smug look on Jones face, Burke was struck dumb for a second.
"Bob, call security! We`ve got the bastard now!"