Tariq answered his mobile phone. “Hello”. His caller was Ranjit Quereshi.
“The girl, last week was very good,” Ranjit complimented Tariq.
“Thank you uncle, I hope that your associates were pleased with her?”
“Indeed they were, she was exactly what they wanted”.
“Thank you uncle and thank you for the prompt recognition of that with the bank.” Tariq continued.
As he spoke on the phone he sat in his lounge. He was watching a video on the large flat screen television on the wall. The video was the final edit for release of the previous weekend with Sarah. The addition of the two well hung Somali guys was a master stroke. The video would make him a fortune.
“I hear there is a video of the evening, Tariq”, Tariq laughed to himself. Ranjit was a shrewd old fucker. Nothing got past him.
“Yes uncle, there is a video, I was hoping you might be good enough to accept a token of my esteem once we have sold some?”
“Thank you Tariq, what a lovely idea.” Ranjit laughed to himself. His days of worrying about collecting money from businesses and running whores were long gone. Now people just gave him money for allowing them to do business in his town.
Ranjit continued in his oily smooth voice. “Tariq, we want another girl, not this weekend but in a couple of weeks for a meeting of important businessmen. Do you think you can help?”
“Yes, uncle I am sure we can, especially if these gentlemen are prepared to show us the same degree of respect as the others did”.
“Well, Tariq that is the thing, these gents are very respectful, but they want something more special this time, you have been telling me you have a girl in mind for some months now, I think it is time to show her.”
“Yes Uncle, I do have the ideal girl for you and I am sure that your associates will be pleased”. Tariq assured the older man.
“Yes, I am sure you will do us proud Tariq. Good night”
“Good night Uncle, I shall see you at prayers tomorrow to sort the other matters out”.
Ranjit terminated the call.
On the large screen on the wall the picture showed a close up of Sarah’s face. The fear was painted, like a mask onto her young face. Tears streamed from her eyes as she cried out in pain. The shot cut to a full screen image of penetration, her cries were audible as she was forced.
“Good,” thought Tariq, they will love this, this is money for old rope.
He sent a text message to Kharon.
Tariq: Come to mine.
Kharon: Yes uncle. 5 min.
Tariq: Bring Nadia
Kharon: Yes Uncle.
Five minutes passed before Tariq heard a subdued knock at the back door.
Tariq paused the DVD and slowly, smoothly and silently slid in to the kitchen and opened the back door.
“Hello uncle,” Kharon said to Tariq.
Behind Kharon in the shadow and away from the light of the kitchen stood Nadia. Tariq smiled a little. He thought he saw fear in Nadia’s eyes. Her blue eyes were wide and cold, but what he mistook for fear was a deep and pure hatred. A hatred bred from the pain that Tariq had subjected her to and distilled by the suffering she saw all around her. Further aggravated by the hell that he had put Sarah, and others just like her through.
“Come in, Kharon, can you go through to the lounge.” He turned to Nadia, “You go up and undress”
Nadia turned and left the room without saying a word. She didn’t need to say anything. She knew her role here, she knew what was in store for her. She prepared herself mentally for the ordeal she was about to endure. As she stood in the middle of the room that Tariq called his ‘playroom’ she undressed. She slid off her boots, slowly, deliberately. Placed them together in a pair by the door. She unzipped her fleece, and again, slowly with ritual like deliberation folded it and put it on the top of her boots. She undressed and stood in the centre of the room naked. There were no more rituals to undertake. There could be no more distractions to come. Her mind focussed on what was to come. This would be the last time.
In the lounge the men sat on the sofa. Tariq opened a beer and gave it Kharon.
“What do you think of the video?” He asked Kharon.
“It is well edited and put together”. Kharon answered with a matter of fact business mind.
“I think it will sell very well.” Tariq continued, he motioned to the screen with his hand.
“You see her crying? Well they will love that.” The image on the large flat screen television was of the young girl crying in fear and in pain. Tariq enthused “This video will make a fortune for us.”
“When will it hit the distribution network, Uncle?” Kharon could sense a good pay day coming from the video sales.
“This week, we have to ensure we get enough burned before the release because demand will be very high.” Tariq sipped his cold lager.
“Kharon, we need another girl soon”.
“Yes uncle, when?”
“Not for a fortnight, but this girl needs to be very special. She is for some important businessmen.” Tariq, was looking directly at the younger man.
“I can get one for you, no problem.” Kharon assured.
Kharon thought for a moment. Rhianna would be perfect for this one.
“I have one in mind that I have been working on for a while, she is a bit stronger than the others. I think she is just the one we want.” Kharon continued.
“Okay, that sounds good. I need to keep me in the loop with this. It is a big deal.” Tariq reminded him who the boss was.
Tariq stood and Kharon followed suit.
“Thanks, Kazzy”. Kharon left the house from the back door.
“Morning all” Charlie Jackman walked into his workshop in the college. It was the confident and easy walk of a man confident in his ability and comfortable in his area. Not to be mistaken for the arrogant swagger of some of the students, students who knew too little to know how much they didn’t know. Lecturing had been an unexpected career route for Charlie. He had spent the majority of his working life in ‘Serious’, as he would term it engineering. Years working with the research and development team at British Aerospace had come to an abrupt close when the, much vaunted, Eurofighter Typhoon failed to win its export orders and the R & D team was halved. Charlie’s skills in the workshop were soon snapped up and he had found himself working on the circuit of professional motorsport. Motorbikes had been an enduring passion for him. His aerospace engineering skills and competence in the use of lightweight and strong alloys shone through as he worked in the superbike racing paddock. Leading projects on weight saving whilst strengthening crucial components he had been able to shave crucial kilograms from the Aprilia RSV that had romped to so many victories in the 2008 campaign. At the end of 2008 the regulations for the bikes changed and once again Charlie found himself in the market for work. Aprilia had made him a Euro generous offer to relocate and work with their factory in the crucible of world superbikes. It wasn’t for him, long flights, no security, the relationship with, his then new girlfriend, Jemima had just started. She saw through him, she could see the dark shadow of his depression as it hid behind the success and confidence. No one else had ever seen that side to him. He could not let her go. In time she would become his beacon through the darkest of times and the wife he was absorbed in, the line between them blurred.
In his hand he carried a mug of Gunpowder Green, a strong green tea. He looked around at his group. When he entered teaching he thought he would be passing his hard earned expertise onto gifted students, cutting and turning them from the raw billets of high school kids and preparing them for polishing at the universities.
No, that had not happened. The engineering students in the college were academically challenged. They had been streamed into the ‘vocational’ bracket as the schools had tried to achieve their targets. Very occasionally a student would come through that genuinely showed promise – but how could they succeed whilst their peers where so poor?
The first period was to cover measuring. Charlie had completed this lesson twice with this group previously.
“Ok guys, if you could all collect a steel ruler, a Vernier gauge and a micro meter from the tool boxes”. He spoke quietly and assuredly. Several of the group made their way to the boxes and collected what they needed, the other ten or so sat at the benches chatting or playing games on their mobile phones.
“Today we are going to look at the basics of measurements. Why?”
“I don’t know, Charlie. You fucking tell us”. A shabby spotty youth looked at him with a challenge.
“Ok, Ryan, please be civil. I always speak to you with respect and courtesy, I expect the same level of respect please.”
“Yeah, whatever” Ryan replied. Ryan lived in the chaotic nightmare of heroin addicted parents. During his tutorial last month he cried. Charlie looked at him and saw the hopelessness and vanity of the boy.
“We are doing this because in engineering accuracy is everything. We are also doing this because in a recent test you guys really struggled with this area” Charlie stepped over Ryan’s planned confrontation.
As Charlie walked around the room he passed out pieces of brass for the students to practise measuring upon. As preparation for the lesson he had written on the whiteboard
“10mm = 1 cm
This was the level he was working with.
“Has anyone seen Rhianna this morning?” he asked the group loudly, she was one of the rare students. She was very bright indeed, academically she had achieved very little but her eye for precision was exceptional, as good as any that Charlie had seen, in all of his jobs.
“She was out with Kazzy last night, I saw her up town” Ryan shouted. The inference was that Ryan had started to hang around with the Acheron Street Crew. So Ryan would live to his preordained destiny, follow his script.
“Ok, thanks Ryan”
Rhianna did come in to the workshop, she was twenty minutes late. Charlie went over to speak to her.
“Evening, Rhianna,” He spoke in a playful way. He understood the delicacy of the tight rope she balanced on.
“Hello Charlie.” The respect was now gone from her voice, she openly flirted with him. He felt this was to undermine him and to reinforce the change in her power dynamic. He stood beside her. As they spoke. He could smell cannabis on her clothing and her hair. The drug mixed with the smell of sweat and dirt. Her face, previously clear, pretty was dirty and had broken out in spots around her nose. She had a sore near her nostril
“Rhianna, we spoke previously about your ability in this subject. If you apply yourself my offer still stands, you have to choose.” He had remained friends with several engineers in the race bike scene, he had offered her the chance of working on race weekends with one of these old friends.
Rhianna grinned and stepped away from the bench, “You only want to fuck me, is that what I have to do?” She didn’t speak quietly, every member of the group heard her.
“Rhianna, don’t bother please. Start to do the measuring exercise. Let’s talk about chances later”. She stood on the edge, on the precipice. College was the only shape to her existence. If Charlie reported this, together with her attendance she would be nudged and take the step. There is only freefall for into oblivion for her.
Lunch time could not come quick enough for Charlie. Jemima would drive in and meet him for lunch. The oasis in the centre of the barren day. He had to finish this session, a ten minute break and then the same group before lunch. Then dinner break, an hour with Jemima, he called her his Jem. The weather was bright and clear, he would get rid of the kids a few minutes early and wait at the picnic bench for her with a cup of coffee and a kiss. He looked at the clock in the workshop, 09:50, ages to go yet. He resolved not to look at it again until it was time to go.
In the run up to his little moment of sanity in the day, only ten minutes before he could see Jem the door to his workshop crashed open.
Framed and immobile in the door way was Kharon Khan. Kharon’s eyes moved from Charlie and on to Rhianna, her bench was against the wall. She looked up and smiled.
Kharon walked into the room towards her, he swaggered across the room with an arrogance he had not earned.
Charlie walked quickly to the door. He stood in the door as Kharon got to Rhianna. Without saying a thing Kharon grabbed Rhianna and kissed her hard on the mouth.
“Come on, baby girl, let’s get out of this shit hole” Kharon grabbed her arm above the elbow and walked towards the door.
Charlie and Kharon made eye contact. Charlie felt he recognised the spark of decency still within Kharon. A split second of apology crossed the boy’s dark eyes.
“Hello Kharon, I wish you would come back to the class, you are really good at this. We are doing technical drawing.” Charlie spoke quietly and reasonably.
The spark of humility resurfaced.
“I can’t ever come back Mr”, then anger flared hot “Jackcunt, you white honkey bastard”.
“Ok, but don’t take Rhianna, she is doing well too.” Charlie’s tone was cool and measured, he did not react to the provocation that Khan poured onto him.
Khan squared up to Jackman. He was taller but slimmer. Jackman was strong and fit, he looked after himself, and he climbed and cycled. His frame was solid.
“Do the cunt, Kazzy!” Ryan was stood behind Khan.
With no warning Khan pulled his head around to the right as if looking over his right shoulder.
In that instant Charlie knew what was coming.
Khan whipped his head back around and head-butted Charlie. The impact caught him under the left eye, later he would learn he had a compressed fracture of the cheekbone. Charlie did not react, he felt the hot blood running down his face.
“Yeah! Yeah!” Screamed Ryan.
“You can’t take her past me.” Charlie spoke in the same way as previously.
The alarm in the workshop sounded, it was the fire door alarm. Rhianna had run out of the fire door and left it open.
Kharon walked out of the workshop through the normal door and stepped outside into the sunshine. He walked as if he owned the place. He was proud of what he had done. He swaggered and strutted. Ryan trotted along behind him.
At that point Charlie made a huge decision. The girl was in danger from this boy. Not some trivial issue that she would get over. A real insidious creeping danger that threatened to plunge her into a world of confusion, pain and death. Charlie was not going to let her go and step into that world. If that meant he needed to physically stop her then he would. If that meant he would have to restrain Khan then he would. The taste of his blood cemented that decision. This decision could cost him his job, but at least he would sleep at night.
He followed them into the bright sunlight.
Ryan was stood in the car park with Kharon and another two lads that Charlie didn’t know. Rhianna was with the boys. They laughed as Kharon obviously re-enacted the assault on Charlie. The tall white boy laughed and the other lad, he looked like an East African to Charlie with his arm in a sling shouted “Show that old white pussy man!”
The car park was edged with a broad lawned area and a hornbeam hedge. On this lawned area were the picnic benches. Jemima had tucked herself around the corner from the engineering block so that she could surprise Charlie when he came out to look for her at lunch time. She had spread out a table cloth and a hamper on the table top. She was very proud of the hamper she had put together. As soon as Charlie had left for work she started to prepare it. His favourite cheese, a strong cheddar called Lincolnshire Poacher was cut into wedges. Jacobs’s biscuits were spread with butter. In the centre of the table was a bowl filled with melon balls, raspberries and strawberries. She felt that this would refresh his pallet before he stepped back into the class room. The flask was filled with a rich Columbian coffee. Everything was made and prepared for Charlie. She had started to notice his decline the previous week. Charlie was a good man, a really good man. But the shadow of depression surfaced sometimes. When she first met him she thought he was paranoid or possessive sometimes. This was how the depression would manifest itself in this way. The plan was hatched in her head in the night. Try to break the cycle.
She watched the three young men and the girl in the car park talking about some fight that the Asian lad was involved in, she felt that it was like watching them through a window into their social world. A world she was so far removed from. They were not aware of her.
She saw Charlie appear from his workshop. He was wearing his fawn coloured storemen’s jacket, she always laughed at this. For Jemima it was a throwback to the 1960’s television shows she watched as a girl. He had something red spilled all down the front of the jacket. As she started to pour the coffee she saw Charlie walk purposefully towards the group.
“Kharon, you can’t take her” Charlie spoke clearly and easily.
“I can do what I want” He replied. Kharon pointed his index finger on his right hand at Charlie’s face.
“I will stop you if I have to.” Charlie’s tone had not changed.
As she watched quietly, not wanting to interfere in his work she saw the four young people start to split up. She initially thought they were going to leave and continued to pour the coffee.
As she looked back up at the group the lad confronting Charlie shouted in his face. “I am gonna fuck you up and smash your face in, cunt.”
Reaching into her handbag she reached for her i-phone and started to video the group. Charlie spoke to the group but she could not hear what he said.
The lad raised his clenched fists.
“Don’t do it Kharon, you don’t need to do this” Charlie said loudly. Kharon Khan had no choice. He needed to keep his reputation building he needed this girl.
He pulled back his right fist and threw a long swinging punch towards Charlie. Charlie was nearly fifty years old but was fit and agile. With his open left hand he parried the punch away.
“Don’t be so stupid Kharon” she heard Charlie say.
Charlie could handle this boy. She was confident of that. She carried on filming. The last thing Charlie would want is his wife getting in the way.
The boy stepped back and tried to kick Charlie. He aimed the kick like taking a penalty, it was a huge movement generating power from his legs and lower body. Had the kick landed it would have caused massive damage. But the gross motor skills he used made it easy to stop. Charlie stepped outside of the kick and it missed him harmlessly. The momentum took Kharon slightly off balance and stumbled forwards.
“This is your last warning, Kharon.”
“Fuck, you!” The lad screamed, he was angry, this old guy with the piercings had made him look clumsy and slow. Jem realised what the spill on his jacket was. It was his blood.
He rushed forwards towards Charlie swinging both fists wildly. Charlie initially protected himself by deflecting the punches onto his forearms and away from his face. The blows rained down but Charlie was more than equal. It seemed that none of the punches would get through.
The young black man with his arm in the sling shouted, “Get in there Brandon!” The tall white boy, he looked much younger than the others stepped behind Charlie. The lad swung one punch that landed squarely on the back of Charlie’s head.
The impact jarred him forward and for just a second his hands dropped. The flurry of punches increased and they found their mark on his face. Blood spread across Charlie’s face. It was difficult to tell if it was from the existing cut or new injuries. She jumped up and started to run to help her man.
Charlie felt the sharp impact on the back of his head, it stunned him for a second and allowed Kharon to land telling punches on his face. He knew that he could not withstand too many more shots like this. With an open left palm he struck Kharon in the stomach. The Strike was from his front left hand but with the power he produced in the eight inches of travel he knocked Kharon clean off his feet and left him curled on the ground.
Charlie turned to face the other boy, he held his hands high, like a boxer. The boy threw straight and powerful punches, no huge haymakers although he was younger he was more dangerous. Charlie watched his eyes as he acquired the targets for the next punch. The boy looked down towards Charlie’s genitals and aimed his kick. This was not a large swing like Kharon’s but a short sharp flick out with his foot.
Charlie stepped outside of the kick and immediately drove his right knee hard into the boy’s leg. The powerful knee strike landed in the middle of the boy’s quad muscle.
Brandon dropped onto one knee. The dead leg had incapacitated him instantly. The fight had left him and he wanted to go home. He felt physically ill. The old man could really hurt him if he wanted to.
Jemima had closed the gap to the group and as she came within a few feet she saw the flash of a knife held low in the hand of the slim boy with his arm in the sling. She saw it for just a fraction of a second before it was plunged into the thigh of her husband. One single stab in the top of the thigh, the boy pulled the knife out and turned to her.
Jemima knew she was going to be next. When she ran across the car park she had carried the steel flask with her. She was going to hit her husband’s attackers with it. But as she looked at her husband’s thigh and saw the red rose of his blood blooming fast across his thigh and running down his leg. She threw the contents of the flask over the boy with the knife.
As she did she heard the Asian boy say “Fuck, Shan, you are the man!”
With the attack stopped she crouched over Charlie. As soon as he realised what had happened and that the attack had stopped he lay on the ground and pressed his hand onto the puncture wound. He knew this was serious, he felt the shock coming on. He knew he was losing blood, his life was running from the wound in his leg and into the car park in a scarlet pool. He lay on the ground and undid his belt. Jem appeared in his dimming vision, he knew he was near death and he felt his angel had appeared. She pulled his belt out and put it above the wound. Jem pulled it as tight as she could to stem the flow. He felt it tighten and knew the tourniquet was on. His conscious started to fade. He tried to tell her he loved her but as he faded away the only voice he heard was Jem’s. “Don’t you fucking die on me. I need you with me”. As he slipped into the warm arms of unconsciousness he resolved today would not be his day to die.
Kharon had regained his feet and the pain in his abdomen was subsiding. He watched the woman put the belt around Jackman’s leg. He saw her kneeling over him asking him not to die. Jackman was laying on his back with his head towards Kharon. How fucking dare they embarrass him. He needed to make a point, he needed to show the others he took no shit. He took five running steps towards the Jackmans and kicked Jemima square in the face with the top of his foot, her head snapped back and she rolled into the puddle of her husband’s blood, her nose was smashed and fragments of her glasses were embedded in her eye.
The whole incident had passed in less than a minute, in the next minute Kharon Khan, Ishan Hussein, Brandon Byrne and Rhianna Taylor piled into Kharon’s car and they screeched away from the scene. Hussein had blood on his hands and Khan on his feet.
The police were on the scene of this confrontation in only five minutes after the call. The general patrol officer first on scene was an experienced veteran with twenty five years of hard earned experience. The police had received a call informing them of a stabbing. The call was anonymous. PC Dowson’s experience showed as he stopped the patrol car short and ran to the couple laying on the floor, the woman was lying across the man and the blood suggested that this was a serious job. He immediately called on the radio for back up, a sergeant and scenes of crime to attend.
“What have we got, Dave?”
Pol had known Dave for ten years, he was a trusted and competent constable. Pol was the nearest sergeant in the town so volunteered to attend. By the time that Pol had arrived on the scene the paramedics had arrived and were working on the Jackmans. Pol left them to it and started to look into the police investigation.
“It’s difficult to say, Sarge. We have an adult male and female, male has a puncture wound to the thigh, looks nasty and has bled extensively but there is a tourniquet above it. The female is unconscious with nasty facial injuries, her nose is smashed and maybe her jaw.”
“Ok, any witnesses?” Pol replied.
“No one on the scene and this is as far as I have got at the minute.”
“Dave, please look after the scene.” They both looked at the pool of blood and the set of foot prints leading to the car park. “Make a big cordon mate, can you start a major crime log in your pocket book please.” Pol left Dave with these directions, he could think of no better person for the job. He knew he didn’t need to give the instructions to Dave. Dave knew he didn’t need to call Pol Sarge. But both of them respected each other enough to use formal speech in an operational situation.
As the back-up officers arrived at the college car park Pol detailed two to go to the hospital to seize the clothing from Charlie and Jemima for forensic examination.
Two further officers were detailed to talk to the students from Charlie’s group, they had all stood outside and watched.
Pol was an experienced sergeant and managing the scene of a serious crime was second nature to him. He would gather all of the evidence here in a formulaic fashion. The mental tick list exhausted.
He strode over to the officers taking details from the group of witnesses. They recorded names and addresses from all of the students that Charlie had taught for a year.
As Pol joined the group he spoke to Pc Penny Mulrane. “Got all the details Penny?”
She turned to the Sergeant “Yeah, but none of them saw anything” She was angry. One of the boys from the group looked at Pol and said “We seen not a thing five –oh”.
Pol turned his back on the lad, he could hit him.
He left the scene and made his way to the accident and emergency department of Scunthorpe General Hospital. The department was, as always, mayhem. Just before lunch and the drunks were already in residence. The paramedics and nurses fought vainly against the flooding tide of humanity at its ugliest.
Pol strode through to the cubicles and saw his two officers stood outside of the resuss room.
“Hey Chris, alright?” Pol said.
“Yeah, I haven’t got any clothing evidence bags.” Chris was embarrassed. He didn’t work for Pol directly but he knew that Pol was a professional and would challenge him over this.
“Chris, you know the score, you get the kit you need before you go on Patrol”
“Yeah, for sure Sarge” Both men were happy that they had performed their parts in the equation.
Pol stood outside of the resuss room and briefly chatted with the two officers. They reassured the sergeant that both casualties were stable and not life threatening. Pol was happy that the officers knew their brief and just took a quick peak through the window before leaving. He instantly recognised Charlie on the table.
“Fuck, he is my mate.” He said to himself. Chris overheard.
“I will keep you posted on him Sarge, I think the woman is his wife. She has some nasty facial injuries.”
“I bet this is the Acheron Street Gang”. Sarah, the female officer said.
“Yeah”. Said Pol. “Let’s get this job done well and nail the fuckers, they have got it coming”.