It wasn't the first time Sykes had been down to the docks, especially this section that had been scheduled for reclamation for at least 10 years, but a series of setbacks had seen it put on hold or the subject of lawsuits, takeovers, and government red tape.
But that was only part of the story.
There were a plethora of ownership claims, from gangsters to allegedly crooked businessmen, to multinational companies whose origins were wrapped up in so many trusts and shell companies that the owners were all but completely obscured.
Sykes' forensic accountant was only two levels back in the tangled web, and not likely to find much in a hurry. Perhaps a little old-fashioned police work might yield results quicker.
He made sure that he left his destination with the desk officer in case of running into trouble. He was also given the benefit of the colleague's advice, take someone with him, or get eyes on the back of his head.
It appeared everyone had a bad story about the docks.
Even in daylight, the disused docklands were eerie, and the place sent shivers down Sykes's spine. It was still reputedly the burial ground for a long list of missing persons, sometimes gangsters who got caught in the crossfire, informants who all lived on a precarious edge, or people just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He walked the half-mile main frontage, feeling that there was more than one set of eyes watching him, and took in the details.
There were old warehouses on one side of a wide street some all but falling. On the other, there were large signs posted everywhere about the hazards of venturing past the chain wire fences, highlighting the fact the wharf was rotting and very dangerous, and the buildings near the wharves were equally subject to imminent collapse.
Back to the street and the fencing, five gates were all secured with new chains and locks over rusting metal fencing. It may have looked old and decrepit, but when Sykes tested it, it felt extraordinarily strong and sturdy. A closer inspection of parts of the fence showed signs of recent repairs. What was intriguing was that someone had gone to great effort to make the whole structure look like something it wasn't.
He crossed the road and walked alongside the more sturdily constructed warehouse buildings made of brick, with mesh-covered windows and thick locked doors that would withstand to the pounding of a ram. He knocked on a few, discovering they were very thick and the locks on the doors were new too.
A glance at the step showed under some of the doors, showed the door hadn't been opened in a long time, because of the lack of scrape marks. Except for one, two buildings from the end where the door showed signs of being recently opened.
This had to be the one where Felicity had run into Theo. Sykes conducted a methodical search within 50 yards of that doorway, and it led him to the point where Theo Blines had died. Felicity had told him she had accidentally shot Ned close to the doorway. There were still drops of blood on the steps, but none on the ground heading away from the doorway, showing that Theo Blines had been carried from the doorway and the building as if to remove an association from it.
That had been either mistakenly or intentionally omitted in the report Sykes had received. So, a new fact, Theo Blines had been moved and likely killed in that spot. He would have to check the medical examiner's report again.
He went back to the doorway and pounded on the door. He was not expecting anyone to answer, but it would be remiss of him if didn't try.
Back out on the street, he could hear a car coming, slow down as it approached the building, then stop. It sat there for a minute before he heard a door open and close, then nothing. Still in the doorway, it would be difficult form the car occupant to see Sykes, but poking his head out from the wall Sykes could see the occupant was standing beside their car, not looking in his direction, but instead smoking a cigarette and infrequently looking in one direction, then the other.
Even from that distance, he could recognize the form. Ned Blines, taller and meaner looking than his younger brother Theo, a man with the gift of belligerence. First to start a fight, and usually, the last man to leave with the least amount of damage. Not someone to take on alone, not unless he had a gun, which, by a quirk of fate he was carrying.
He waited until Ned finished his cigarette, then stepped out from behind the wall.
Sykes had covered 50 yards before Ned saw him, turned, and stood waiting for him. The fact Ned hadn't jumped in his car and fled meant he thought he was not doing anything wrong.
Technically, he wasn't.
© Charles Heath 2020