Mason came to our cell that evening. He handed cheese sandwiches and two bottles of water through the hatch.
“So, the great escape tonight then, is it, lads?” He stared at my lumps and bruises and grinned. “Hardly Steve McQueen are you?”
“What you going on about?” Dexy asked through mouthfuls of stale bread and cheese.
“YThe youth of today, oblivious to the classics,” he ignored Dexy and saidkept his gaze firmly locked on me. “Isn'’t that right, William Daniels?”
“What'’s the plan?” I asked.
I wasn'’t hungry, so offered my sandwich to Dexy, whohe snatched it out of my hand and set right to work on it.
“Straight to business is it?” Mason wagged his finger at mein my direction. “Are you the the William Daniels, writes kids’ books about that Knight; what'’s his name again?” He furrowed his thick brows as he tried to recall the name. “Peacock?”
“Knight Pleasant,” I put him out of his misery and then took a sip of water, the liquid dribbled across my bruised, swollen lips and down my chin.
“That'’s it!” He smiled, happy that I really was, the William Daniels. “I'’ve got a seven-year old nephew, he loves those books. He'’s got all of them.”
“Oh,” Was all I could say. I wondered if his nephew was dead, or worse, one of those things. Either way, I would bet money that the books I wrote about ‘'The Great Knight Pleasant, Hero of Snow-top Fortressess’', were not high on his list of priorities anymore.
I miss writing stories. I was Wwriting athis diary of events, but that just remindeds me of how terrible things are. My stories made me happy. They, transported me into a world full of wonder and magic where anything was possible. They made me feel young again, like a wide-eyed little boy, amazed by tales of dragons, knights and wizards.
Holly loved my stories. She was
pregnant with Gemma when I started to write my first book. We lived in a tiny
flat back then. I usedsat at a
small two-person dining table in the kitchen and typed away on an
old laptop computer that we'’d
bought for a good price in a second-hand electrical store.
I can still see her now, coming into the kitchen at the end of each day.
“Let me see!” She would grab at the mouse, trying to re-open the document that after I'’d finished on for the day.
“It'’s not ready yet,” I always told her, trying my best to look stern but always cracking into a smile.
smile always cracked my face within seconds, makingde
it obvious that I would always give in to her demands.
SheHolly would sit on my lap and read, always laughing, gasping or nodding her head at the right moments.
“Oh, this is good!” She would
tell me. “This is really good.”
I was always my own worst critic,
never truly believing in what I wrote. Holly though, HollyShe
always believed in me. She would
cocame up with ideas for the story too,
making it more of a joint effort,
even if it was just my name on the covers. TOne
of the most popular characters in the
Snow-Top series, a bumbling, comically evil Prince by the name of Colby
Creepington, was entirely her invention.
I sent the manuscript to several different publishers and waited. After the birth of our beautiful baby Gemma, the first book was on the shelves just before Christmas. It sold well.
Really, really well.
I became a full-time writer. We bought a house and turned one of the rooms into an actual, real-life real, honest to goodness, office where I could work in comfort. It was a far crylong way from the small table and uncomfortable, rickety wooden chair.
I owed so much to HHolly everything; I was nothing without her, am nothing without her. A debt that I repaid by dragging her from the back of a Ford Explorer and stamping on her head until it caved in.
“Do your people have a safe place?” Mason'’s voice dragged me away from my thoughts.
“Yes,” I hoped that Gemma and the rest of them had made it back to the shop. Hoped that they were safe. A warm trickle of blood seeped from the wound above my eye.
“Very safe,” I wiped the blood away with the sleeve of my sweater.
“Harry had a proper go at you, didn'’t he?” Mason eyed my wounds and grimaced. “I knew he was a nutter, but this...”
“Yeah, and your mental-as-fuck Chief Inspector sat and watched,” Dexy used what was left of the cheese sandwich to pointed angrily at D.I. Mason with a half-eaten sandwich. “Probably got off on it while she fantasiseddreamed aboutof feeding me to her fucked-up, cannibal husband.”
“That'’s why we want out,.” Mason said.. ““Only a matter of time Before she turns on us.”
Dexy half sighed, half laughed. It sounded like a kid blowing a raspberry at a schoolmate.
“You know that,.” hHe stuffed the last of the sandwich in his mouth. “Init?” He added.
“Don'’t be an arsehole, Dexy,” Mason rubbed his nose with the palm of his hand. “To be clear, I don'’t like you, you'’re a lowlife little thug. ” He narrowed his eyes. “Even so, feeding you to this lot ” He waved a hand toward the other cells, the cells teeming with sickness. “Ddoes seem a bit harsh.”
Dexy smiled. “I love you too, D.I. Mason,” he blew a kiss at Mason.
“Oh, piss off,” Mason said with a grin.
The grin soon gave way to a more serious countenance, and Mason told us the plan for that night. He passed a large brass key through to Dexy. “Don’t fuck this up, Dexy,” he said.
“Sweet, Bruv,” DexyHe held the key up as reverently aswith all the reverence of a priest holding a holy relic, and beamed like a Cheshire cat. “I won’t mess up, you worry about your own part.”
“Do either of you have a 'phone?” Mason asked.
“The battery died,” I pulled the phone out of my pocket and stared at it, trying to will it back into life.
“Take this,” the Detective Inspector handed a small phone to me. “Call your people; tell them we'’ll be coming tonight.”
I took the 'phone from him and put the dead one back in my jeans pocket. I pressed the power button of the new 'phone and the screen bathed my face in a its comforting, digital glow.
Mason turned his attention to Dexy. “So, Dexy, you ready for this?” Mason asked.
Dexy still stared at the key with a mixture of disbelief and excitement. “I'’m always ready.”
“Of course you are,.” Mason lookedseemed unimpressed. “How about you, William?”
I offered a non-committal shrug.
“Well then, this should be an interesting night. ” He scratched his head. “D.C. Palmer and me will grab as much equipment as we can.” He looked up and down the hall, checking for possible eavesdroppers. “ We'’ll be leaving through the door down there,.” hHe gestured toward the opposite direction of the main gate.. “We’re aiming for a We'll come get you at 2 A.M. start. ” He closed the hatch. “Get some sleep.”
Mason closed the hatch and left.
“SHoly shit, Bruv,” Dexy offered his fist for another ‘'bump’'. “This is really going down!”
I complied with the fist bump, dourly reflecting that this was becoming a habit. Was I one of his ‘'Homeys’' now?
“Come on then,” Dexy pointed at the 'phone that I held. “Get calling.”
I searched my memory for Gemma'’s number and stabbed at the on-screen digitsnumber pad with my index finger. After pressing ‘'call’', I put the 'phone to my ear, “it'’s ringing.”
“We'’re going home, Bruv!” Dexy punched the air with glee.
“Hello?” It was Gemma.
“Gemma?” I could barely contain my excitement. It was so good to hear her voice, even if there was a strong possibility that she hated me. “It's me, it’'s Dad.”
“Dad?” Her voice was suddenly hushed. “Are you okay?”
“Who is it?” I heard Jim’'s voice barkeding in the background.
“It'’s Dad,” Gemma told him.
“Ask him where they are,” Jim said.
“Is Dexy okay?” Dodge asked, his voice was closer to Gemma than Jim'’s was.
“Tell Dodge that Dexy is fine,” I looked over at Dexy; his eyes moistglistened with tears at the mention of his little brother. “Gemma, I can'’t talk for long.”
I wished that I could talk to her for hours, but it was too risky, I didn'’t want The Chief Inspector' and hers goons getting wind of our plans.
“He said Dexy is okay,” Gemma passed the information on to Dodge.
I heard a loud, ‘“yes!’” Followed by a quieter, ‘“yes,yes,yes,yes.’”
“What'’s going on?” Gemma asked.ed me. “Where are you?”
“I'’ll tell you later,” I offered my fist to Dexy; he grinned and obligingly bumped it. “We're getting out tonightWe’ll be back tonight. ” Dexy grinned and obligingly bumped my fist. “Are you at the shop?”
“Yeah, we just got here,.” sShe said. “Dad?”
“Yes, love?” It was the happiest I'’d felt since this virus had destroyed our lives. “What is it?”
“I'’m still well pissed with you,” she burst my balloon faster than a shark tears into its prey.
“I know.” I ran the fingers of my free hand through my hair.
“I'’m glad you'’re okay, though,” just like her Mother. Letting me know that she was angry, and then throwing me a bone to tell me that she still cared.
“Me too,” I realised how that sounded and quickly added, “Glad that you'’re okay, I mean.”
She laughed. The sound filled me with warmth and for a moment, my face didn'’t hurt, but my heart ached.
“Let me talk to Dodge, Bruv,” Dexy held his hand out. expectantly.
“Dexy wants to talk to his brother,” I said. “I'’ll see you sometime tonight.”
“Dodge, .” Gemma shouted over to the young hoodie. “Dexy for ya.”
“I love you,” my voice cracked and I almost choked on the wordsas I said the words.
“Dexy?” It was Dodge.
Gemma had gone. My shoulders sank, and I passed the 'phone to my cellmate.
I could only hear one side of their conversation. Dexy had a huge smile on his face the whole time. I didn'’t care what the Police said he was, that was in the past and didn’t matter. None of that mattered now. I didn'’t see a low-life thug in the cell with me, I saw a caring young man who loved his brother just as much as I loved my daughter.
His past was just that…, past, donegone.
He had saved my life at our first meeting and had become my friend in the detention cell. All the past would tell me is that he', like all of us, hadd made some mistakesbad choices.
When Dexy handed the 'phone back to me I put it in my pocket and we both sat on the bench and listened to the silence. Even our infected neighbours were being quiet. Not so much as a groan sailed down the hallway.
“How is he?”
I was getting ing uncomfortable with the quiet, my mind raceding with all the '‘what if?'’ possibilities of our escape plan.
Dexy stared at the ceiling. “Yeah, he'’s good, Bruv. ” He nodded his head. “He'’s good,” his words trailed off into the quiet shadows.
“We'’ll be back there before you know it.” I patted his shoulder.
“I worry about him,” this was a rare moment; Dexy y eyed me with uncertainty. He wasn’t obviously accustomed to speaking about feelings. “Our Mum and Dad died in a car crash two years ago. ” He pulled his hood tighter across his face. “I'’m all he'’s got.”
“We'’re getting out of here tonight,” I assured him. “Even if you don'’t trust Mason, it'’s still a good plan.”
“Yeah, but what if he screws us?” He moved his head from side to side, making the bones in his neck popped loudly.
“Then you take that gun, ” I raised my hand. “aAnd you shoot him right here,” I tapped the back of my head.
Dexy smiled, “alright, Bruv. ” He said. “I'’m down with that.” He looked as though he wanted to say something else but had decided not to.
“What?” I asked.
“Ah nothing, it’s just that,” he wiped a hand across his face. “Nah Dodge would kill me if I told you.”
“Well now you have to tell me, that’s how it works.”
“Fine, but you better swear that you won’t say nothing.”
I held up my hand, “you have my word.”
“He’s a massive fan of your books,” he told me.
“Really?” I was shocked, I guess that I’d thought of Dodge as a stereotypical twelve year old that smashed bottles in the road or played video games and had never even looked at a book. “That’s great.”
“Yeah man, he was well buzzed when he realised who you were,” he wagged his index finger at me. “Don’t go saying shit though, he doesn’t like people knowing that he reads books, thinks it makes him look stupid.”
“Ironic,” I said. “Don’t worry, I won’t say anything.”
Neither of us could sleep. The butterflies in my stomach were epic. It felt like they'’d mutated into carnivorous monsters andthat were eating their way out. We tried to make small talk but it always ended in awkward silence as time marched closer and closer to our escape. I talked about books, Dexy talked about video games and we both talked about movies. I tried to act surprised that his favourite genre was the gangster movie.
what felt like an eternity, we heard the
key rattled and the main gate openeding.
It was much quieter than usual. A bump against the wall followed by a stern ‘“Shhh.’”
sounded off just outside our cell. We both
rushed to stand by the cell door. Dexy had his pistol ready.
A key turned and the lock clicked.
“Okay,” Mason pulled the door open. “We'’re on.”
Mason and Kate each held a riot shield. Kate had changed her clothes and now wore the standard police trousers and tunic instead of her plain clothes outfit. I quickly resolved that now wasn't the time to ask why. She smiled at me an Kate smiled and handed me an oversized brown leather sports bag, “take this.” She said.
I was about to ask what was in it when I noticed thewhen I saw gun barrels poking out. It was heavy but the adrenaline was already pumping through my system, adding that extra ‘oomph’ to my system.
“Make sure you keep hold of that, William,.” Mason faced the main gate, riot shield up,. “nNow get behind us.”
I crouched behind Mason and Kate as they slowly backed down the hall.
“These aren'’t bulletproof, William,.” Mason tapped the riot shield with his free hand.. “SSo if they shoot, you hit the floor. .” He looked back at me. “YesGot it?”
“YesGot it,” I saidreplied.
We heardThere was a commotion coming from beyond the main gate.
“They took a load of guns!” It was Harry King. “Ma'’am, we have a fucking situation here!”
“Shit,.” Kate said, in a hushed tone. “I thought he was asleeping.”
“Well that didn'’t take long,” Dexy shook his head and laughed.
“The key, Dexy,” Mason was spoke hurriedly, impatient for the plan to be under way. “Use the fucking key.”