The tall, thin, cadaverous inspector gazed at the mayhem below.
“What the hell do they think they’re doing, Sergeant Watts? he remarked to his short, rotund sidekick.
The pair of CID men stood looking down on Paddington Station concourse. Rush hour was in full swing but instead of the frenzied purposefulness of commuters rushing hither and yon, the scene they gazed down was eerily tranquil.
The commuters were there in their hundreds but they were not moving with their usual haste. The open area, normally overflowing with jostling and shoving people picking their way through those who were staring hopefully at the large departure board, was instead filled with people moving slowly, almost gracefully in concentric circles, waving their arms and legs in precise patterns. The area around the board seemed to be the epicentre for this explosion of calm. All around lay abandoned briefcases, laptops and handbags, together with neat piles of shoes, folded newspapers and the accumulated shopping bags that commuters mysteriously acquire on their way home from the Big Smoke.
“It’s chaos,” gasped the Sergeant.
“Organized chaos!” replied the Inspector grimly, glancing at his Rolex (a gift from a grateful felon), “But at least the trains are running on time. There goes the 17.15 to Swansea!”
“Exactly Sir!” the Sergeant pounced on his words with manic glee. “The 17.15 never, ever leaves on time on a Friday evening. That proves there’s something wrong!”
The inspector leaned on the railing, taking a closer look at the action below.
“I do believe someone’s set off another Synchro bomb. Do you remember back in September, we had a minor outbreak of something similar in Trafalgar Square?”
“How could I forget? I was in the first team to reach the square. I had to deal with the poor bastard who was on traffic detail that day!”
“Well I think that may have been a test run for this!”
BBC breaking news…London’s Paddington station has been placed under quarantine today as another terror outrage strikes at the heart of London’s transport system. News is coming in of a major outbreak of the Busby Berkeley virus, possibly spread by means of a Synchro bomb. Passengers are advised to seek another route home. This closure notice applies to all the Paddington underground stations as well, since the virus is known to sink to the lowest levels.
Inspector Locksure continued inspecting the action below. What was he looking for? Sergeant Watts didn’t know but he was happy to learn from the great man’s brilliance and bask in reflected glory when they managed to close a case.
“There, Watts, there.”
The inspector pointed at the very centre of the innermost circle of circling commuters.
“There’s our villain! Synchronised Susanna they call her. That tiny, impossibly beautiful woman in the middle there. Look, even now she’s still choreographing their moves. She sees us here and can’t resist taunting us. See how she moves her body so enticingly. Well she’s not going to get away with it this time. Anyone who strikes at London’s transport system is going to have to go through me!”
He dived down the first flight of stairs towards the concourse.
“No, Sir. Stop! You’re making a big mistake,” yelled the sergeant as he rugby tackled his inspector on the stairs. “If you go down there you’ll get infected too. That’s what she wants. That’s why she’s taunting you. We need to call in the fly boys.”
The inspector scrambled out from underneath the not inconsiderable weight of his overfed sergeant. Dusting off the knees of his Paul Smith trousers, he snatched another look at his suspect. She was still there, still posing and directing the ensnared commuters.
“You’re right, Watts. Son, you did a brave thing there, assaulting your senior officer but it was the right thing to do, even though I’ll have the bruises for a week. Let’s call in the SAS then.”
They retreated to their previous vantage point. Within minutes, they heard the throbbing roar of a heavy duty set of rotor blades as the SAS Chinook swept in towards the station.
“How’re they going to get it inside?” wondered the sergeant.
As he spoke, the roof panels of the station miraculously drew aside, opening the concourse to the sky. The chopper hovered over the crime scene dropping both gas masked SAS men on ropes and a large net neatly on target over the suspect. A pair of burly SAS men rolled the net around the woman and brought her up to the waiting policemen.
“Madam, you’re nicked,” said the inspector with some satisfaction.
“Not so fast, Locksure,” replied Susanna striking an alluring pose, the effect of which was slightly spoiled by the surrounding netting.
“If you take me down, you’ll all go down with me. The virus will spread unchecked throughout the country. You need the antidote and you won’t get it unless you agree to my terms!”
“It seems you’ve got me over a barrel. What are your terms.”
“Your sergeant will need to get the ingredients for the antidote. Here’s the recipe.” She pulled a piece of paper out from where it nestled in her cleavage, drawing all eyes to that glorious sight.
“Apart from that, a million pounds, and safe conduct out of the country should do it. Otherwise Britain will be making beautiful synchronised patterns for ever.”
Susanna looked at the sergeant, batting her eyelashes. “Hurry now, little man, time is of the essence.”
Sergeant Watts snatched the paper out of her hands and ran up the stairs to Harrods on the mezzanine. Throwing ingredients into a basket, he was stymied when he reached the last ingredient. Looking around wildly, he found a substitute. He mixed everything together following Susanna’s instructions and then brought it back to the waiting group.
“Test it, Locksure. Get your gas-masked baboons to bring a random victim here.”
She spread a little of the mixture on the palm of her hand, then sniffed it suspiciously.
“Hmm, I’m not sure this will work. Let’s try it.”
She held out her hand and the chosen victim licked it. All the other victims mirrored his action. The victim’s demeanour did not change.
“Show me what you used, sergeant,” she demanded.
Rummaging around in the basket of empty tins and packets, she came up with a small jar.
“What is this?”
“It’s the tomato ketchup you asked for.”
“You moron! Gods protect me from middle class policeman! This is not tomato ketchup.”
She stuck her finger into the jar then licked it.
“No, this is definitely tomato paste.”