The Hidden Assassins


Page 42 of 53



Zorrita finished his beer. Falcón walked him to the door. Ramírez called again. Zorrita walked off into the night with a wave.

‘OK, César Benito is the Chief Executive of a construction company called Construcciones PLM S.A. He is on the board of directors of Horizonte, in charge of their property services division, which includes companies like Mejorvista and Playadoro. The other guy, Agustín Cárdenas, is a bit more interesting. He’s a qualified surgeon who runs his own cosmetic surgery clinics in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. He is also on the board of Horizonte, in charge of their medical services division, which runs Quirúrgicalidad, Ecográficalidad and Optivisión.’

‘It looks like a gathering of the conspiracy to plan their next move now that the first phase has been successfully completed,’ said Falcón.

‘But I’m not convinced that we’ve got the full picture,’ said Ramírez. ‘I can see Rivero, Zarrías, Alarcón and Cárdenas poisoning Hassani, and probably Cárdenas did the work on the corpse, but none of these guys fits the descriptions of any of the men in the Mercedes E500 who dumped the body.’

‘And who planted the bomb, or gave orders for it to be planted?’

‘There’s a missing element,’ said Ramírez. ‘I can see the money and the power and a certain amount of ruthlessness to deal with Tateb Hassani. But how could you get somebody to do the work in the mosque and rely on them to keep their mouths shut?’

‘The only way to find that out is to put them under pressure in the Jefatura,’ said Falcón, hearing the doorbell. ‘Give Elvira an update. I’ve got a meeting with the CNI here. And tell Cristina she has to get a sighting of Tateb Hassani, as late on Saturday evening as possible. It’s important that we have that before we talk to Rivero.’

Pablo and Gregorio went straight to the computer. Gregorio set to work, booting up the computer and getting access to the CNI’s encrypted site, through which they would ‘chat’ to Yacoub Diouri.

‘We’ve arranged for you to talk to Yacoub at 23.00 hours every night, unless you agree not to beforehand. That’s 23.00 Spanish time, which is 21.00 Moroccan time,’ said Pablo. ‘Obviously you have to be on your own to do this, nobody even in the house with you. The way in which you recognize each other is that each time you make contact you will start with a paragraph of incidental chat in which you will include a phrase from this book—’

Pablo handed him a copy of Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me by Javier Marías.

‘On the first day he will choose a phrase from the opening paragraph of page one, and you will respond with a phrase from the closing paragraph of page one,’ said Pablo. ‘Once you’ve recognized each other you can talk freely.’

‘What if he doesn’t use the phrase?’

‘The most important thing is that you do not remind him and you don’t respond with any classified information. You include your introductory phrase in your opening paragraph and if he still doesn’t rectify the situation you log off. You must then not communicate with him until we’ve checked out his status,’ said Pablo. ‘The other thing is: no printouts. We will have a record on our website, which you will not be able to access unless we are here with you.’

‘I still don’t understand how you know that Yacoub will be accepted so easily into the GICM,’ said Falcón.

‘We didn’t say that,’ said Pablo. ‘We said that he would be accepted into the radical element of the mosque in Salé. You have to remember Yacoub’s history; what his real father, Raúl Jiménez, did and how his surrogate father, Abdullah Diouri, retaliated. That did not happen in a bubble. The whole family knew about it. That is the source of a certain amount of sympathy with some of the more radical elements of Islam. Don’t ask any more…let’s just see whether Yacoub has made contact with the radical element in the mosque and, if he has, how quickly he’ll be put in touch with the high command of the GICM.’

‘So what is the purpose of my conversation with him?’

‘At this stage, to let him know that you’re here,’ said Pablo. ‘Ultimately, we want to find out what was supposed to happen here in Seville and whether they still have the capability to make it happen, but we might have to be satisfied with confirmation of the history at this stage.’

The communication started at 23.03. They made their introductions and Falcón asked his first question.

‘How’s your first day been back at school?’

‘It’s more like the first day as a new member of a club. Everybody’s sizing me up, some are friendly, others suspicious and a few are unfriendly. It’s like in any organization, I’ve come in at a certain level and been welcomed by my equals, but I’m despised as a usurper by those who thought they were becoming important. There’s a hierarchy here. There has to be. It’s an organization with a military wing. The striking difference is that the commander-in-chief is not a man, but Allah. No action by this group, or any of the others that they read about, is referred to without mention of the ultimate source of the commands. We’re constantly reminded that we’re involved in a Holy War. It is powerful and inspirational and I’ve come back feeling dazed. Home seems strange, or rather, extremely banal after a day spent with people so certain of their place and destiny in the will of Allah. I can see how powerfully this would work on a young mind. They’re also clever at depersonalizing the enemy, who are rarely specific people—unless you count Tony Blair and George Bush—but rather the decadence and godlessness that has engulfed the West. I suppose it’s easier to bomb decadence and godlessness than it is men, women and children.’

‘Any talk about what happened in Seville on 6th June?’

‘They talk about nothing else. The Spanish satellite news is avidly watched for more information, but it’s not so easy to work out the extent of their involvement.’

‘Any talk about Djamel Hammad and Smail Saoudi and what they were doing bringing 100 kilos of hexogen to Seville?’

‘I’m not sure how much is speculation and how much is hard fact. You must understand that these people are not the GICM themselves. They support the actions of the GICM, and some members have been involved in their activities, but mainly on the home front. Don’t think that I’ve walked off the street into a tent full of mujahedeen with AK-47s. At this stage, I can only tell you what has happened rather than what will happen, as that is only known by the GICM commanders, who, as far as I know, are not here.

‘My friends tell me that Hammad and Saoudi have worked for a number of groups, not just the GICM. They fund themselves through cash-machine fraud. They were only involved in recce, logistics and documents. They were not bomb makers. The hexogen came from Iraq. It was extracted from an American ammunitions cache captured at the beginning of 2005. It went via Syria into Turkey, where it was repackaged as cheap washing powder and sent to Germany in containers, for sale to the immigrant Turkish community there. Nobody knows how it got to Spain. The total quantity sent to Germany in the washing powder consignment is believed to be around 300 kilos.’

‘Any speculation about how they intended to use it?’ asked Falcón.

‘No. All they say is that everything in the Spanish press and news is total fabrication: Abdullah Azzam’s text, the MILA, the intention to attack schools and the biology faculty and the idea of bringing Andalucía back into the Islamic fold. They want to bring Andalucía back into Islam, but not yet. Making Morocco an Islamic state with Sharia law is the priority and we talked about that, which is of no interest to you. The current strategy, as far as foreign operations are concerned, is not specific, although they are still very angry with the Danish and think they should be punished. They want to weaken the European Union economically by forcing huge expenditure on antiterrorist measures. They plan to attack financial centres in Northern Europe, namely London, Frankfurt, Paris and Milan, while conducting smaller campaigns in the tourist areas of the Mediterranean.’

‘Ambitious.’

‘There’s a lot of big talk. As to their capability…who knows?’

‘The hexogen in Seville doesn’t seem to fit with their general strategy.’

‘They say the hexogen exploding was nothing to do with them.’

‘And how do they know that?’

‘Because the “hardware” for making the bombs had not arrived,’ wrote Yacoub. ‘Given that Hammad and Saoudi were recce and logistics, I assume there were others who were due to arrive with the “hardware”—the containers, plastique, detonators and timers—from some other source.’

‘How much of this do you believe?’ asked Falcón.

‘There is definitely something going on. There’s a tension and uncertainty in the air. I can’t be more specific than that. This is information that has come to me. I am not enquiring as yet. I haven’t asked about operational cells in Spain, for instance. I can only gather from the way people talk that there are operators in the field doing something.’

Falcón’s mobile vibrated on the desktop. He took the call from Ramírez while Pablo and Gregorio talked over his head.

‘Cristina has found a domestic who saw Tateb Hassani on Saturday evening, before dinner. His name is Mario Gómez. He says that the dinner wasn’t served but laid out as a buffet, but he saw Tateb Hassani, Eduardo Rivero and Angel Zarrías going up to the Fuerza Andalucía offices just before he left, which was around 9.45.’

‘He didn’t see anybody else?’

‘He said no cars had arrived by the time he left.’

‘I think that’s going to be good enough,’ said Falcón and hung up.

‘Ask him if he’s heard any names, anything that will give us a clue as to a network operating over here,’ said Pablo.

Falcón typed out the question.

‘They don’t use names. Their knowledge of foreign operations is vague. They are more informative about the present state of Morocco than anything abroad.’

‘Any foreigners?’ asked Pablo. ‘Afghans, Pakistanis, Saudis…?’

Falcón tapped it out.

‘One mention of some Afghans who came over earlier this year, nothing else.’

‘Context?’

‘I couldn’t say.’

‘Where does the group meet?’

‘It’s in a private house in the medina in Rabat, but I was brought here and I’m not sure I could find it again.’

‘Look for clues in your surroundings. Documents. Books. Anything that might indicate research.’

‘There’s a library which I’ve been shown, but I haven’t spent any time there.’

‘Get access and tell us what books they have.’

‘I have been told/warned that there will be an initiation rite, which is designed to show my allegiance to the gr
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oup. Everybody has to go through this, whatever your connections to the senior members may be. They have assured me that it will not require violence.’

‘Do they know about your friendship with me?’ asked Falcón.

‘Of course they do, and that worries me. I know how their minds work. They will make me show allegiance to them by forcing me to betray the confidence of someone close to me.’

The ‘chat’ was over. Falcón sat back from the computer, a little shattered by the last exchange. The CNI men looked at him to see how he’d taken this new level of involvement.

‘In case you’re wondering,’ said Falcón, ‘I didn’t like the sound of that.’

‘We can’t expect just to receive information in this game,’ said Gregorio.

‘I’m a senior policeman,’ said Falcón. ‘I can’t compromise my position by giving out confidential information.’

‘We don’t know what he’s going to be asked to do yet,’ said Pablo.

‘I didn’t like the look of that word “betray”,’ said Falcón. ‘That doesn’t sound like they’re going to be satisfied with my favourite colour, does it?’

Pablo shook his head at Gregorio.

‘Anything else?’ said Pablo.

‘If they know about me, what’s to say they don’t know about the next step we’ve taken?’ said Falcón. ‘That I came over to make Yacoub one of our spies. He employs ten or fifteen people around his house. How do you know that he’s “safe”, that he’s not going to be turned, and that they still think that I’m just a friend?’

‘We have our own people on the inside,’ said Pablo.

‘Working for Yacoub?’

‘We didn’t just think this operation up last week,’ said Gregorio. ‘We have people working in his home, at his factory, and we’ve watched him on business trips. So have the British. He’s been vetted down to his toenails. The only thing we didn’t have, which nobody had, was access. And that’s where you came in.’

‘Don’t think about it too much, Javier,’ said Pablo. ‘It’s new territory and we’ll take it one step at a time. If you feel there’s something you can’t do…then you can’t do it. Nobody’s going to force you.’

‘I’m less worried about force than I am by coercion.’

35

Seville—Thursday, 8th June 2006, 23.55 hrs

That’s what Flowers had said: ‘You don’t understand the pressure on these people.’ Alone, now, Falcón gripped the arms of his chair in front of the dead computer screen. He’d only had a glimpse of it, but now he understood what Flowers had meant. He sat in his comfortable house, in the heart of one of the least violent cities in Europe and, yes, he had a demanding job, but not one where he had to pretend every day or cope with ‘an initiation rite’ that might demand ‘betrayal’. He didn’t have to cohabit with the minds of clear-sighted fanatics who saw God’s purpose in the murder of innocents, who, in fact, didn’t see them as innocents but as ‘culpable by democracy’, or the product of ‘decadence and godlessness’, and therefore fair game. He might have to face a moral choice, but not a life-or-death situation which could result in harm done to Yacoub, his wife and children.

Yacoub knew ‘how their minds worked’, that they would demand betrayal, because that would sever the relationship. They weren’t interested in the low-quality information of a Sevillano detective. They wanted to cut Yacoub off from a relationship that connected him to the outside world. Yacoub had been with the group for twenty-four hours and already they were setting about the imprisonment of his mind.

The mobile vibrating on the desktop made him start.

‘Just to let you know,’ said Ramírez, ‘Arenas, Benito and Cárdenas have just left. Rivero, Zarrías and Alarcón are still there. Do we know what we’re doing yet?’

‘I have to call Elvira before we make a move,’ said Falcón. ‘What I want is for the two of us to go in there as soon as Rivero is alone and break him down so that he reveals everybody in the whole conspiracy, not just the bit players.’

‘Do you know Eduardo Rivero?’ asked Ramírez.

‘I met him once at a party,’ said Falcón. ‘He’s fantastically vain. Angel Zarrías has been trying to lever him out of the leadership of Fuerza Andalucía for years, but Rivero loved the status it conferred on him.’

‘So how did Zarrías get him out?’

‘No idea,’ said Falcón. ‘But Rivero is not a man to hand in his ego lightly.’

‘It happened on the day of the bomb, didn’t it?’

‘That’s when they announced it.’

‘But it must have been coming for a while,’ said Ramírez. ‘Zarrías never mentioned anything to you about it?’

‘Are you speaking with some inside knowledge, José Luis?’

‘Some press guys I know were telling me there was talk of a sex scandal around Rivero,’ said Ramírez. ‘Under-age girls. They’ve lost interest since the bomb, but they were very suspicious of the handover to Jesús Alarcón.’

‘So what’s your proposed strategy, José Luis?’ said Falcón. ‘You sound as if you want to make yourself unpopular again?’

‘I think I do. I’ve done a bit of work on Eduardo Rivero and I think that might be the way to make him feel uneasy,’ said Ramírez. ‘Lull him into a false sense of relief when we move away from the hint of scandal and then give him both barrels in the face with Tateb Hassani.’

‘That is your style, José Luis.’

‘He’s the type who’ll look down his nose at me,’ said Ramírez. ‘But because he knows you, and knows your sister is Zarrías’s partner, he’ll expect you to bring some dignity to the proceedings. He’ll turn to you for help. I think he’ll be devastated when you show him the shot of Tateb Hassani.’

‘We hope.’

‘Vain men are weak.’

Falcón called Comisario Elvira and gave him the update. He could almost smell the man’s sweat trickling down the phone.

‘Are you confident, Javier?’ he asked, as if begging Falcón to give him some resolve.

‘He’s the weakest of the three, the most vulnerable,’ said Falcón. ‘If we can’t break him, we’ll struggle to break the others. We can make the evidence against him sound overwhelming.’

‘Comisario Lobo thinks it’s the best way.’

Falcón pocketed his mobile and a photograph of Tateb Hassani. He used his reflection in the glass doors to the patio to knot his tie. He shrugged into his jacket. He was conscious of his shoes on the marble flagstones of the patio as he made his way to his car. He drove through the night. The silent, lamp-lit streets under the dark trees were almost empty. Ramírez called to tell him that Alarcón had left. Falcón told him to send everybody home except Serrano and Baena, who would follow Zarrías once he’d left.

It was a short drive to Rivero’s house and there was parking in the square. He joined Ramírez on the street corner. Serrano and Baena were in an unmarked car opposite Rivero’s house.

A taxi came up the street and turned round by Rivero’s oak doors. The driver got out and rang the doorbell. Within a minute Angel Zarrías came out and got into the back of the cab, which pulled away. Serrano and Baena waited until it was nearly out of sight and then took off in pursuit.


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