At a crossroads, Tompkins allowed another vehicle, a white Transit van, to push in front of him, placing much needed camouflage between himself and the police. The road now headed into the countryside and Tompkins wondered when the Stark vehicle would make their move. He knew the road well. There was a lay-by in about three miles, where Filly and the driver would swap seats for the last part of the journey. Tompkins decided this was where the Starks would make their kidnap attempt. The hedges and trees passed slowly as the road approached a section of dual carriageway.
Esther Stark zoomed past Filly’s vehicle and continued ahead, almost as though she knew where the planned swap would take place. The police car also overtook and pulled in front of the minibus. Tompkins stayed where he was because if he pulled in close behind Filly, the element of surprise would be his.
After two minutes, the lay-by came in to view. Tompkins saw the Stark car parked already and thought that the minibus would just about fit behind it, making it a tight squeeze for the Jaguar. He wasn’t too interested in where the police car would fit in. Sure enough the vehicle’s left-hand indicator started to wink, and the vehicle slowed down to pull into the lay-by. The doors of the Stark vehicle stayed closed. The police car parked at the far end. Tompkins pulled in behind the minibus. He leaned out of the window, cupped his hands and hooted three times – the finest owl impression he ever gave he thought later – and waited for the reply. Three hoots floated on the wind. Filly was letting him know she knew he was there. Tompkins hooted back five times. He wanted to know whether she could make it to where he was and whether her co-driver, Alex, would come too.
Two hoots were returned and then after a gap of 10 seconds, a further single hoot. In one minute, Filly and Alex would head his way. Tompkins opened the doors on his car and looked around the side of the minibus at the Stark car. There was no sign of any movement – presumably there were waiting for the driver and co-driver to swap. The police remained in their car, doubtless looking in their mirrors. Tompkins realised he would have to reverse out of the lay-by as both the Stark and police vehicles could block his path. He was thankful he had the Jaguar XJ as its four doors would make departure easier than his previous car, the XJ220. He was so thankful Pater had a good garage of cars to choose from.
There was a hoot. Filly and Alex dropped out of the minibus and ran towards Tompkins. One of the Stark henchmen opened the back door of his vehicle and sprinted after Alex rugby tackling him to the ground. Filly opened the passenger door and got in.
“Hello Tomcat, how are you, darling?” she asked, “I like your outfit.”
“Thank you, I’m fine, Filly, it’s good to see you,” he replied, giving her a slight peck on the lips, “I’ll just help Alex, I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
Tompkins opened the Jaguar door and strode to where Alex and the henchman were struggling on the ground. Tompkins picked the henchman up in one hand and thumped him in the stomach with the other, deflating the man more swiftly than a puncture in an inner tube.
“Hold it there,” said a female voice. Mrs. Stark, flanked by her other two henchmen, was pointing a gun at Tompkins. He vaguely recognised one of them from The Glitz Bar the previous evening. Tompkins noticed the two policemen creeping towards the assembled group. He held the wheezing henchman in both hands.
“There are two policemen behind you, Esther,” said Tompkins.