King stood in the doorway with a double-barrelled shotgun levelled at my face.
He was a tall, wiry man with black, greasy hair that was receding in the front, forming a widows peak. His nose was flat and leaned to the left, a sure sign that he had taken one too many hits to the face. A thick, angry-looking scar ran from just below his right ear straight across his cheek and ending at the corner of his mouth.
“Now then, Sunshine. The Chief Inspector wants a word with you.”
“What about me?” Dexy asked.
“You get to stay here and wait,” King turned his attention back to me. “Come on then, I haven'’t got all day.”
Crestfallen, I plodded towards him.
King rushed me through the Police station. The cold barrels of his shotgun shoved between my shoulder blades to make sure I kept moving. We passed the open door of an office and I managed to slow down and catch a glimpse inside.
There was a large table sat in the middle of the otherwise bare office. Piled on top of the table were guns. Lots of guns. Guns of all shapes and sizes. Underneath the table were stacks of ammo boxes. These Police officers were readying themselves for war. I remembered what P.C. Berry had said whilst feeding the infected families.
We’’ve already gone through all the people with gun licenses.
It all started to make sense. They had worked their way through the gun license register, visited those people and confiscated the weapons. I was shocked that there was so much firepower in this area and instead of being a means of protection to the original owners; these guns were stolen and hidden away by scared, selfish Police officers.
The unforgiving shotgun steel dug into my flesh, pushing me past the open door and further down the long hallway.
“Right here, Sunshine.”
We stopped in front of a heavy looking blue door. A big brass plate sat at eye level with the words,
Engraved into it.
King lowered the shotgun and rapped on the heavy wooden door with the knuckles of his free hand.
“Come in,” the Chief Inspector’’s stern voice came from the other side of the door.
King twisted the brass doorknob and pushed the door open.
“Go on then,” he said. “We’’re not waiting for Christmas.”
I hesitated for the briefest of moments; King stepped behind me, gave an impatient sigh and used all his weight to bulldoze me into the room. I lost my footing and landed face down on the dark brown-carpeted floor.
“Need me to stay, Ma’’am?” King asked.
I looked up to see a large, well-decorated office. In stark contrast to the dingy cell I had been in, light flooded through a big window that looked over the Police station car park. The far wall was full of expensively framed photographs depicting The Chief Inspector with various important people. In one, she was standing beside Prince Charles, both of them beaming the well-practised smile of people used to living in the public eye. Evidently, she was a well-connected woman.
“Yes, please, Sergeant.”
She was sitting on a leather chair behind a massive oak desk that stood before the wall of photographs.
King leaned over me, put his hand under my arm and hoisted me to my feet.
“You sit over there,” he pointed at one of the two-cushioned leather armchairs that sat in front of The Chief Inspector’’s desk.
I did as he said. King sat on a less impressive moulded plastic chair with metal legs, the kind you find stacked away in the waiting rooms of Hell. When I had settled myself, The Chief Inspector fixed her winter blue gaze on me. She leaned forward with her hands clasped together on the desktop.
“Well now,” her voice reduced me back to childhood, sitting in the office of the Headmistress at school, dreading punishment. “Who are you?”
I wanted to rebel. I saw it all so clearly in my mind’’s eye. Standing up and spitting in her face, giving her the Bowman’’s salute as I did so, then running up to King and giving him a swift, sharp kick between the legs. Tearing her photographs from the wall and stamping on them all, glass cracking and frames splintering beneath my feet. Taking the shotgun and smashing the butt of it into King’’s face, repeatedly, until there was no more scar, no more receding hairline, no more flat nose, nothing but bloody pulp and crushed bone. Using the same shotgun to blast The Chief Inspector’’s smug, self-righteous bitch of a face. Running back to the cells and freeing Dexy. Then stealing a Police car and escaping this nightmare.
“William,” I told her. “Daniels.”
“May I call you William, Mister Daniels?” She asked.
No, you may fucking not.
“Sure,” I shrugged my shoulders like a contrary teenager.
“Good,” her thin lips twisted into an ugly grin. “William, why did you kill your wife?”
I shifted nervously in my seat, silently admonishing the creak of leather that betrayed my every move.
“She was dangerous,” I said. “She might have bitten one of us.”
“You seem like a nice, normal man, William,” the words may have been complimentary, but they dripped with thick gobs of derision.
“Who told you to do it? Was it…” She peered at King.
“Dexter Roland, Ma’’am.” King told her.
“There was a video,” my voice cracked and the ant colony sent ambassadors of fear to scurry around my belly. “Timothy something-or-other, NHS spokesman.”
“I see,” she didn’’t look convinced. “And what did Timothy something-or-other say?”
“That they aren’’t people anymore, he said to destroy their brains.”
Waves of emotion rolled across me like tanks and I fought to choke back the tears.
“I just want to get back to my daughter,” I looked up at her, my eyes full of sadness and regret. “Just let us go, please.”
“I like you, William,” she seemed genuine. “I can tell that this is tearing you apart.”
I nodded, afraid to speak for fear of blubbering all over her nice leather chair.
“So I’’m going to help you,” she stood and leaned towards me, her hands palm down on the desk. “But first, you have to help me.”
I eyed her suspiciously, “how?”
“Your friend, the young Mister Roland,” she opened the top drawer of her desk and rummaged inside. “I want you to tell me that he forced you to kill your wife.”
She pulled my car key from the drawer and dangled it in front of me. The key rotated slowly in shallow, taunting circles.
“What?” I asked. “Why?”
The Chief Inspector slammed my car key down on the desk and loomed over me. Fear tightened its uncomfortable grip, my belly flipped and I gasped.
“Yes, Ma’’am?” King stood and rested the shotgun against his chair. He was taking off his uniform jacket while he walked over to me.
“Help William become more,” she paused, searching for the right word. “Amenable to my request.”
“With pleasure, Ma’’am,” King carefully placed his jacket across the back of the armchair to my left. With a hideous grin and eyes gleaming with dark pleasure, he stood over me with fists clenched so tightly that I could see the whites of his knuckles.
“Wait,” I raised my arms. “Please. Don’’t hit me.”
“Tell me that your lowlife, scumbag friend forced you to murder your wife,” the Chief Inspector spoke in a gentle, almost soothing voice that belied her true character.
King unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt and rolled up the sleeves to reveal powerful forearms covered in thick black hairs.
“I can’’t,” I told her. “It’’s not true.”
King smiled, raised his right fist and smashed it into my gut with the momentum of a truck careening down a mountain. Pain ripped through my body and I doubled over, winded and spluttering with my head between my knees.
“I don’’t want to hurt you, William.” The Chief Inspector assured me.
“Please,” I gasped for air, the wind still refusing to return. “Stop.”
King wrapped his long, bony fingers in my hair and pulled until I was looking up at him. I protested and pleaded but he was just starting to enjoy himself. The next punch landed square in my face. My nostrils exploded with blood and black spots danced in front of my eyes, obfuscating the faces of my tormentors.
“Don’’t protect him, William,” the Chief Inspector said. “He’’s nothing but a thug, a gangster, a killer.”
“Why?” I asked through blood and tears. “Why do you want me to do this?”
She exhaled an exasperated sigh. The sharp metallic taste of blood filled my mouth.
“The rest of my team need to know that in these,” she looked across at the window, surveying her kingdom. “Troubled times, pond life such as Dexter Roland are even more dangerous.”
She slid the car key across the desk, “help me to prove that, and you walk away.”
“Scot-fucking-free,” King added.
Realisation is a strange event of the mind. Sometimes it can be the crashing cymbals of genius, while other times it’’s a simple case of mentally kicking one’s self. This was neither of those. This realisation swept across me like a hurricane, drenching me with facts that I would rather not know, facts that tightened around my neck like a noose, waiting for me to take that jump into sweet oblivion, sweet ignorance, sweet bliss. I would have welcomed that oblivion right now, but I was stuck here, in the cold, hard reality of realisation.
These ‘‘Police officers’’ had been feeding their infected family members with criminals. They had gone crazy. The image of Dexy tapping the side of his head and saying, “Mental.” flashed through my mind’’s eye. I chuckled to myself. The Chief Inspector narrowed her eyes.
“Share the joke, William?” She insisted. “We could all do with a good laugh.”
Blood dripped down onto my sweater and I tenderly fingered my nose, relieved to find that it hadn’’t been broken. I was slowly realising that while the pain did hurt, it was starting to numb me. My fear of pain was greater than the reality. Fear crippled me, turned me into a quivering wreck that nobody would ever respect. I wasn’’t about to turn into Superman, fighting wasn’’t something I had ever done, but I wasn’’t scared anymore.
“I pity you,” I looked her straight in the eye and smiled through blood and snot. “If you want to feed Dexy to your husband,” I nodded toward King. “His wife and kids. Then do it,” I spat blood that had been pooling in my mouth onto the carpet. “I won’’t help. He’’s worth ten of you psychopaths.”
The ant colony retreated into some dark bunker of my mind and a raging fire filled my belly and burned behind my eyes. I’ had been a slave to my fears, my cowardice, for too long. It was time to take a stand.
“That’’s very disappointing, William,” the Chief Inspector said. “Very disappointing.”
I didn’’t see King’’s fists coming at me, but I felt them.
He pounded my face with a flurry of heavy blows; they came so fast that I felt like a pinball stuck between two bumpers. Each powerful wallop resounded in my ears and brought me one-step closer to darkness. I didn’’t want to feel that comforting blanket of unconsciousness. I fought against it. This time, I wanted, needed, to feel everything. I smiled through every second of the severe beating that King doled out.
Pain became numb and the numbness gave me freedom.
“Not… scared… of… you…”