Note: This is another in the series of Leipfold short stories that I’ve been writing about the detective’s past. This one features a younger Jack Cholmondeley, too! Let’s go.
CHOLMONDELEY WAS WORRIED.
There had been accusations of corruption in the ranks, and it was his job to look into it. Unfortunately, he had to carry out an investigation without attracting attention. His superiors would have to find out at some point, but he had no desire to bring them into it until he had some proof.
“Besides,” Cholmondeley said. “I don’t know how deep the corruption goes. For all I know, it goes all of the way to the top.”
“I see,” Leipfold replied. The two of them were sitting in his office again, drinking coffee from the I LOVE LONDON mugs that Leipfold had bought from a shady guy in the back of the Rose and Crown. Leipfold hadn’t told Cholmondeley that he was in possession of stolen property, and Cholmondeley hadn’t asked.
“So what do you think?” Cholmondeley asked. “Can you help me?”
“I can,” Leipfold said, “but it’ll cost you. Some of us have to make a living.”
“I can pay,” Cholmondeley said. “But it’ll have to come out of my savings. There’s no way I’m putting you on the books back at the station. No offence.”
“None taken,” Leipfold said. “I guess I’m still just an ex-con in your eyes.”
“Not in my eyes,” Cholmondeley said. “But in the eyes of the law, perhaps. You’ve served your time. Let’s hope you don’t reoffend.”
“How could I?” Leipfold asked. He looked sad, remorseful. “I don’t drink anymore. I don’t drive, come to think of it.”
“Perhaps you should get yourself a motorbike,” Cholmondeley suggested. Leipfold’s eyes lit up as he considered the idea. Then they died again when he thought about how much it would cost to buy and run a vehicle.
“All right,” Leipfold said, after giving the matter some thought. “I’ll help you, as much as I can at least. I’ll need a list of names, of course. Everything you can tell me about the people that you suspect.”
“Way ahead of you.” Cholmondeley reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. He opened it up and reached inside, then withdrew a half-dozen sheets of paper that were covered with handwritten notes. “Here you go, here’s a list that I worked on. Start at the top and work your way down.”
“Gary Mogford,” Leipfold read, glancing over Cholmondeley’s notes for the first cop on the list. “Who’s he?”
“A new recruit,” Cholmondeley explained. “Only been with us for a couple of months. Everyone loves him, but I’ve been getting a bad vibe from him. I don’t think everything is as it seems.”
“All right then,” Leipfold said. “Just leave it with me.”
Leipfold took Cholmondeley through the motions, printed off a copy of his standard agreement and then got the policeman to sign it. Then he showed him to the door and promised that he’d be in touch.
The first stage of the investigation was to secure a little help. The only problem with that was that money was scarce, so Leipfold took some inspiration from Sherlock Holmes and paid some of the local kids a few quid to carry out some surveillance. They should have been in school, but Leipfold reasoned that it wasn’t his job to make sure that they had an education and besides – if they were going to skive, it’d be better off for them to be engaged in something productive, even if it was just to carry out some clandestine surveillance on men of the law. They were the type of kids who liked to taunt coppers anyway, and Leipfold was just giving them an excuse to do what they normally did.
He called them ‘the rabble’ and asked them to report back to him in his office. In exchange, he paid each of them up front with a £100 bonus for anyone who found evidence that could prove a cop’s corruption. And with this arrangement in place, he was able to spearhead the campaign from the office while he developed his second plan of attack.
He met with Cholmondeley the following day and updated him on his progress – which didn’t take long because there wasn’t much to say. Then he hit him with phase two, which would need his participation if it was to be a success.
“Here’s the deal,” Leipfold said. “I need you to leak some information.”
“I can’t do that, James,” Cholmondeley replied. “It’s more than my job’s worth.”
“Let me clarify.” Leipfold grinned at Cholmondeley and took a swig of his coffee, then shuffled in his seat to get comfortable. “I’m not asking you to leak anything that could cause any trouble. Just start a few rumours, and here’s the clever part – tell different things to different people.”
“And then what?”
“Then see what happens,” Leipfold said. “See if anyone breaks cover – and if they do, see what happens. You said that your officers could be corrupt. How? Are they talking to the press? Taking payoffs?”
“A little bit of both,” Cholmondeley said. “Or possibly neither.”
Leipfold groaned. “Oh no,” he said. “Is this another one of your hunches?”
“Let’s not talk about that,” Cholmondeley replied. “Let’s just say that I have my reasons. What kind of stuff should I leak?”
“I don’t know,” Leipfold said. “Make something up.”
So Cholmondeley did, and he took Leipfold along for the ride with him. It started when an informant provided him with some information on a lockup by the docks where a gangster was said to be storing something, although no one seemed to know whether it was drugs, guns or goods. Still, all he needed was the address, and that was enough to spread the rumour of a raid to a superior, a detective inspector who had a reputation for being a hard man, and not the type of man that it’s a good idea to cross.
But Cholmondeley crossed him anyway, and the fake information must have had some sort of effect because the shit started to hit the proverbial fan. Leipfold, along with a half dozen of the street kids, was keeping watch on the lock-up from a distance, and they got a front row seat to the whole performance.
The heavies arrived first, the fat-faced guys who wielded weaponry and beat men senseless on their bosses’ orders. They were there to look good, to turn people away who maybe didn’t have their crooked best interests at heart. They were followed by a thin-faced Eastern European man in a smart, black suit. He was clearly the man who ran the show – you could tell from his body language and the swagger he displayed that he was the guvnor.
As Leipfold watched, they brought in a couple of lorries and parked them outside the lockup, then started to unload its contents. Leipfold watched impatiently and waited until the first of the lorries was full up and getting ready to leave, and then he dispatched one of his youths to phone in a code word to Jack Cholmondeley.
Leipfold had taken Cholmondeley’s advice and bought himself a motorcycle on credit. She was a beast, a sleek machine he’d named Camilla and fallen immediately in love with. He had some experience with motorbikes, but not as much as he would have liked, and the race through the streets put his skills to the test. Luckily, the lorries weren’t difficult to keep tabs on, and the bike could have outpaced them even on a bad day. The hard part was avoiding detection from either the driver of the lorry or the inevitable tail that any self-respecting gangster would have placed to safeguard his merchandise. Nevertheless, Leipfold was undetected and unrecognisable in his leathers, and he kept a safe enough distance to track the lorry to another lockup on the east side of town. He got the address and location. That was all he needed.
Cholmondeley was busy the following day, but he met up with Leipfold the day after and gave him a brief update.
“Thanks for being the eyes and ears, James,” Cholmondeley said, helping himself to a seat in Leipfold’s office. He nodded when the detective offered him a coffee and then tried his best to make himself comfortable.
“It’s my pleasure,” Leipfold replied. “I assume you got my message with the new address?”
“I did indeed,” Cholmondeley replied. Two raids in one day, that must be a new record. We caught all the players on the act and they’re looking at a hell of a lot of jail time between them. But it gets better.”
“You caught the copper,” Leipfold said.
“We did indeed,” Cholmondeley replied. “He was there at the second lock up, handling illegal firearms right there at the address you gave us. We brought him in with the bad guys. Silly sod tried to tell us he was working undercover, but that’s just the last roll of the dice for a desperate man. We got him.”
“Great,” Leipfold said. “One down. How many more to go?”
“There are nineteen more names on the list,” Cholmondeley said. “Let’s hope they’re all as easy as this.”
Over the next couple of weeks, Leipfold started to wonder whether Cholmondeley had jinxed it. Their investigations slowed down, although they still proved cases against a couple more cops and found reasons to suspect half a dozen more. It seemed like every name on the list was corrupt to some extent, and Leipfold had spent several days compiling a comprehensive list on the lot of them, aided by the information that the rabble had provided, and calculating the final amount owed. It wasn’t comprehensive, but it was good enough to cause some comfort within the police force and besides – Cholmondeley had been given care blanche to do what he needed by his superiors. Leipfold reflected that either they were clean and they had nothing to worry about or they were so sure that they’d get away with it that it didn’t faze them.
Leipfold called the report ‘Rotten Apple’, because the job was like bobbing for the things in a barrel of water and because the police force was rotten to the core. Cholmondeley didn’t see the funny side, but he had to admit that Leipfold’s report had been worth what he paid for it – even if his savings had taken a hit as a result of it.
The detective was re-reading the report one morning, a couple of days after he’d submitted it, when there was a knock on the office door. He peered out at the visitor through the spyhole, but he didn’t recognise the young man who was on the other side of it. He recognised the uniform, though. It was the same uniform that Jack Cholmondeley wore.
Leipfold opened the door and welcomed the policeman to his office. “Please,” he said. “Take a seat.”
“That won’t be necessary,” the man replied. “This won’t take long. Do you know who I am?”
Leipfold shook his head.
“My name is Constable Gary Mogford,” the man said. “And I expect you to remember that. You’ll be seeing my face again, I’m sure.”
“I’m sure,” Leipfold murmured.
If Mogford heard him, he didn’t react to it. Instead, he just carried on talking.
“I know what you’re up to,” Mogford said, leaning a little too close for comfort. “Don’t think I don’t. Stay away from the police force, you hear? This relationship you have with the boss. It’s not healthy.”
“I’m sure Jack Cholmondeley can make his own decisions,” Leipfold replied.
“I don’t care,” Mogford growled. “If he orders you to check up on me again, I want you to turn him down. Politely. Don’t bring my name into it. Just do it.”
“Listen,” Mogford said, raising his voice and backing away from Leipfold in a failed attempt to show that he wasn’t a threat. “I have my flaws, but I’m not a bad cop. I can’t be bought and you won’t find my name in the books of any of the city crooks. I’m good at my job and I take it seriously. I resent you for questioning my integrity.”
“Don’t blame me, pal,” Leipfold replied. “I got paid to do a job and I did it. That’s all. I didn’t put your name on the bloody list.”
“Then who did it?”
“I think you’d better speak to Jack Cholmondeley,” Leipfold said.
The arrests came a couple of weeks later. Leipfold’s report wasn’t the only evidence, of course, but it had acted as the catalyst for a formal internal investigation which had made a lot of policemen feel uncomfortable.
Leipfold had heard a little news from Cholmondeley, but it wasn’t until the story hit the front page of The Tribune that he realised just how deep the corruption actually went. The police commissioner himself had been arrested pending further investigation under suspicion of taking payoffs from the local gangs, and Leipfold chuckled when he recognised the keen, fresh face of Gary Mogford on the front page as he made the arrest.
He wondered whether Mogford was still mad at Leipfold for carrying out his investigation – and indeed whether he would’ve credited him if he’d known it. But then he realised that he didn’t much care. He’d carried out the investigation to the best of his abilities and he’d made a profit while he was at it.
One thing was for sure, though. He expected to see and hear a lot more from Cholmondeley’s new recruit in the future. Then again, Leipfold thought, there’s nothing new about me having a cop for an enemy.
And at least I have a cop for a friend.