Greater Good

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Chapter 15

Chapter 15

The two men sat at the table drinking coffee. It had been many years since they last had planned an operation together. Technology had moved on significantly since the days in the jungles of Central America. On the screen of the laptop the google maps image of the target was clear and in colour. This technology enabled the men to plan in a way that they could only have dreamed of previously.

“There can be no killing in this” Pol said quietly.

“No of course not. Just a straight in and out extraction”. Hicks replied.

“The thing is I am a cop now, not a soldier. We aren’t soldiering now. We could go to prison for an awfully long time if we do any killing”.

“Mate, these people are villains, we need to go tooled up in case it goes out of shape, I hope it doesn’t but we need to be ready”. Pol suspected that Stu was talking them into turning this into a Special Forces operation.

“I am really worried that we are going to end up with this all going to rat shit.” Pol voiced his concerns.

Stu lifted a black canvas holdall on to the table and unzipped it. He slid his hand into the bag and pulled out the contents one item at a time.

The first item out was the Browning Hipower that Hicks had taken from Tariq.

“For fuck sake, Stu. Where is that from?”

“You don’t need to know where it came from. But I also have a few spare rounds for it.” He placed two boxes of fifty rounds on the table. The rounds were the superbly efficient man stoppers. The Hornady hollow point bullet was designed to expand explosively on impact. It is unlikely that the rounds would shoot all the way through a human torso making them ideal for close work where shoot through casualties were a real risk.

Hicks pulled the next item out and for Pol things went from bad to worse. The Beretta 9mm pistol was the standard issue for the American forces for years. Superbly reliable, relatively accurate. “Lovely piece, brought it home from a job in the Middle East.” Hicks spoke lovingly as he placed the pistol on the table.

Pol leaned back in his chair and sipped his coffee. He looked at his old friend closely and thought about the ops they had in the jungle. He remembered what had happened to the little boy and the old man at Tanjoc. His memories had been flavoured and sanitised by the passing of the years. The years had passed and he had forgotten the horror of the killings. The horror of the relaxed attitude that Hicks had to the taking of the life back then came flooding back to him. The loving voice in which Stu spoke about the weapons and ammunition gave Pol a deep and strong feeling of uneasiness.

“Ok so what time shall I pick you up tonight?” Pol asked.

“Well let’s get in the bushes behind the unit at about seven. That way all the office people will be home and we will be in situ for when they turn up with Rhianna so we need to be across there for about half past six. Set off from here about five?” Hicks ran the clock backwards in his head as he worked out the timings.

“Yeah ok, Pick up point at Asda?”

“No, let’s meet up outside the scrap yard over the road. There is no CCTV there and we will be invisible”. Suggested Hicks.

“Ok, no problem”

Pol rode home on his 1200. His mind was a confused turmoil of thoughts and emotions. He was excited by the prospect of going to collect Rhianna. In the dark side of his history was the memory of the adrenaline thrills of military operations. Try as he might he could not put the anticipation of this thrill back in its box.

As he parked his machine in the yard, Fleur opened the back door of the house when she heard the rumble of the big Suzuki pulling in. “Hey, Winchester, the kettle is on”.

“Thanks, Fleur.”

“What have you been up to, Pol?”

“I have got myself into something that I have to see through.” Pol spoke slowly.

“What is it?” Fleur asked.

“Well, I am going with Sticks tonight to get Rhianna back”. Pol had spoken to fleur about Rhianna. He told her everything. He knew that there were some things that she shouldn’t know. But he trusted her implicitly.

“The thing is Fleur this has got the potential to really go fucking wrong. If it goes that way it could get seriously ugly”.

“Pol, you know this is the right thing to do. The cops won’t touch it so someone has to and that person has to be you, I am right behind you, this kid is more important than the policies of the cops”.

“Thank you sweetie. Right I have to go and try and get an hour or so in bed.”

“Ok, I will bring you up a coffee in a couple of hours.”

Sleep came to Pol far easier than he thought it would. It was deep and dreamless sleep. So when, a couple of hours later Fleur slipped into bed with him he was refreshed and ready to head to Rotherham. Fleur had other ideas for him, he was quite happy to oblige her.

Pol stood under the hot stream of the shower, he allowed the water to wash away the gloom that had washed over him after Fleur had gone back downstairs singing to herself. He cleared his mind and once that gloom had departed he started to focus on the task ahead of him. Started to mentally rehearse various scenarios. It was a technique he had been taught whilst playing rugby. The mental preparation and mental rehearsals were crucial when trying to perform to the highest level. In his mind he was remembering and running through the drills for clearing the Browning of jammed cartridges. He hoped that he would not have to reach for the pistol at any time.

Fleur had cooked Pol a large bowl of pasta, he sat quietly at the table and ate it in silence. He was not hungry. He felt nervous and a little shaky with tension but he knew he would need the energy later on in the evening and he needed to replenish his tanks before he left.

Pol put his holdall in the boot of the car and set off to collect Hicks.

Their journey to Rotherham was quiet. They did not speak much to each other. Both of them submerged in the unknown depths of their own individual worlds and doing their own preparation.

As they got closer to the South Yorkshire industrial town Hicks broke the quite oppressive silence in the car.

“Ok, Apollo, nearly there now, are you ready?”

“Yes Stuart, getting towards it. Sunday names for this job?” Pol glanced across to Stu and they laughed together as old brothers in arms. They had easily assumed the roles they had left twenty years behind them and fell comfortably n to where they left off in the filth and heat of the Central American jungles.

“I have a car on the other side of the target address so we have a different egress and extraction. We will leave your car in a mate’s garage just round the block.” Hicks continued.

“Ok, you are on top of this little job, aren’t you mate?” Pol continued to laugh.

“Yeah, for sure, you know me. Proper Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. The eight P’s. I still roll with that”. Hicks was able to reel off the old mantra easily.

Hicks directed Pol to an industrial estate and onto Cornish Way. This was a shabby light industrial complex of small lock up units. Pol slowed his car down to a crawl and awaited further instructions from his passenger.

“Ok mate, it is the third unit on the left” Pol drove up to the unit and Hicks stepped up to the roller door.

“We can come back and pick it up tomorrow or the next day, I can use the other car to bring you back and I will drop it back in the garage.”

“Ok Mate, got the gear?” Pol asked.

“Yeah, come on, you know me.” They walked from the garage closing the door behind them, both men wore baseball caps pulled well down and navy overalls. They could have been from any unit on the estate, both men dropped into an easy slouch that was foreign to them.

The walked down Cornish way and to the car park of the unit that stretched the whole length of the road on the right. At the end of the car park Pol saw there was a line of trees. The trees would mark the edges of a water course as shown on Google maps, they extended both north and south of his view point.

“Keep your head down, there are cameras on this unit.” Said Hicks.

Pol thought that the extraction of this girl had taken more planning than one man could have achieved in one day, especially as Hicks had spent the morning with him drinking coffee and chatting.

“I hope the water is not too deep, I don’t fancy sitting in wet boots for the next three hours”.

“Yeah for sure, we will see. I don’t want to sit listening to you moaning for the next three hours either”.

Again the easy laugh of the old comrades. To Pol this felt more like a good day out with an old mate at the moment. A stark contrast to what would happen.

The wire at the end of the unit’s car park had been cut and the two men in their overalls slipped through, they could be any two men looking for a shortcut home or seeking some privacy to smoke a joint. Stepping under the trees Pol saw there was a large plank across the small stream, he would not, after all, have to sit in the bushes in wet clothes.

“Right mate, the unit we are looking at is on the left as we look at it, the third one up. It used to be a washing machine repair place, not any more. One of them uses it for storing smuggled in drugs and whatever else he is pedalling at the time.” Hicks spoke in hushed tones, they had left the slovenly posture and gait as soon as they had stepped out of view. Both men had returned to the fluid stealth that they were most comfortable with.

Pol crouched and moved forward towards the edge of the bushes. The front of the unit was quite easily visible to him. It was a two story building of concrete and steel construction. The ground floor had a steel roller door, a pedestrian door and a set of steel stairs ran up to the first floor offices. At this time the unit was in darkness, no cars were parked nearby and all of the doors looked locked.

“On the map there is no exit to the rear, is that right Sticks?”

“Yeah, seems to be there is a staircase in side to the right of the roller door which will go up to the offices. I suspect they will set up the ground floor for their fucking show.” Pol detected a sniff of emotion and anger in Hick’s voice. He was crossing the line. He was dangerous, this wasn’t the calm and clinical Stu Hicks he had known all those years ago, in Pol’s darkest hour. Maybe he would be able to control himself when it really mattered and it was time to go in there and get the girl.

“Are you going to be ok to do this tonight, Sticks?” Pol asked.

“Yeah,” Hicks turned to face Pol, he knew his feelings had been compromised and he knew that Pol recognised the potential weakness that this could expose them too.

“Its fuck all, of course I can do it. It’s just that the kid is Rhianna and I really want to get her home safely” Hicks reassured Pol.

“I don’t want to be involved in a punishment beating, we are not the fucking IRA.” Pol pressed his point.

“Well what the fuck do you think we are?” Hicks had been angered by Pol’s answer. “Look at yourself, you are wearing a set of overalls, in this bag I have pistols and daggers. We are not Mary fucking Poppins are we?”

“I guess not.”

“We need to get her out and keep her safe, if some of them get hurt, then fuck them, it is collateral damage. If they had not abducted her to fuck her and hurt her then we wouldn’t be here would we?”

Both men sat quietly, watched the place quietly through binoculars. Pol reflected on what Hicks had said to him, ‘who the fuck do you think we are’ burned into his brain cells. He certainly wasn’t a cop when he was sat watching this unit knowing that in just a couple of hours he would be going through the front door with a loaded automatic pistol on his thigh. He wasn’t a soldier, the enemy on this were British people. There was no mission to follow. No orders that they could hang a killing on.

After a quiet hour Pol put his hand into the hold all and pulled out a stainless steel flask.

“Mate, we are soon going to have to get ourselves in the zone, let’s have a quick brewski before we really start fucking things up for them.” Pol passed the steaming cup of coffee to Hicks. They would have not have had a coffee in the jungle, the smell could be detected for hundreds of meters. Here, in Rotherham the chemical smells of industry would mask the subtle scent of the Gold Blend.

“The power cable runs in at the back, it has been prepped so that I can knock the mains off as we go in, we will go in in the dark. They won’t know what has hit them. In and out, grab Rhianna and gone, by the time they realise that they have been done she will be in a car and gone.” It was the first time that Hicks had spoken for some time. The anger he was showing earlier had seemed to subside.

“Yeah of course” Pol felt a little reassured by the seeming change in Hicks’ attitude.

Hicks put his hand in his pocket and pulled out two small camouflage face paint compacts. He tossed one over to Pol.

“Here bro, time to put on our make-up, we are on stage soon”

“Cheer mate”. Pol had not worn this stuff for many years, some of his hunting buddies used it when they went deer hunting. Pol always thought that was bull shit.

He opened the compact and looked into the mirror, he looked at himself, at his eyes, into himself. Pol covered his face in a light layer of grey, this would stop the reflection from his skin and take away the bright white disco of his face. He built up layers of darker cream over the higher points of his face. And in vertical lines, this had the effect of flattening his face out and breaking it up into shadow and light.

Hicks had done his. Pol thought it dehumanised him.

The evening was starting to draw in now. The industrial estate was empty a few beacons of light shone out where a unit might have been working shifts or just staying late. The street lights were illuminated around the estate except for Stadium Court, the street lights in the court stubbornly remained off in spite of the increasing gloom. The pleasant afternoon had turned cloudy and the autumn evening air was starting to chill a little. A light breeze had started to pick up and there was a feeling in the air of dampness. It wasn’t raining but mist blew in on the breeze as the dampness grew over the town.

By eight o’clock it was dark, the two men in their black clothing, merged and joined the shadows around them. The edges of the darker shadows blurred the outlines of the men. They were experienced and skilled in fighting in the dark and they each carried a small head torch and hand torch. Their lights had red lenses to make them as inconspicuous as possible. The light mist had now drenched both of them to the bone and they were starting to feel the cold.

Pol became aware of headlights moving slowly down the road towards the unit. The driver moved slowly as if lost, or looking for something. The car was the small BMW that both Hicks and Pol had seen Tariq driving but recently had been driven by Kharon. It swung onto the concrete hard standing in front of the unit. Pol and Hicks were in the bushes only twenty meters away and when the car stopped they clearly recognised Kharon as he got out of the car. The passenger also got out and walked towards the unit. He was another Asian man, “Do you know him?” Whispered Hicks.

“No mate, never seen him before”. Pol replied.

Pol heard Kharon speak quite clearly. “Go and get the place ready”

“Ok Kazzy, aren’t you coming in?” the other lad said.

“Are you scared of the shadows, Ibby?” Kharon laughed at his friend.

“Fuck off man, I was going to get a beer before we started man”

“No drinking, you need to be sober and clean, no booze and no weed. If it goes wrong you have to be with me to do whatever we need to do.” Kharon stopped laughing in an instant.

“Ok, Kazzy, you are the man”

“Go in and get sorted, get the cameras ready and check we have enough beers in for them. I have to pop and get our investment”

Pol heard hicks murmur when Khan said ‘investment’ “Fucking investment, she is a little girl”. Pol knew he wanted out of this. But he had come too far along the line now. He could not go back and leave Hicks here on his own. The BMW backed out and left its passenger stood outside the unit. The young man was short and stocky, he was dressed in a pair of black slacks, a white shirt, and a waist coat. He could have stepped out of any restaurant’s waiting staff. The lad took a bunch of keys from his pocket and as Kharon reversed the BMW of the front of the unit he unlocked the door and stepped inside. A moment later the lights on the first floor flickered into life.

From their vantage point in the bushes the two watchers were able to see quite a large proportion of the first floor. The venetian blinds were still up and they could see the top of the lad in the waiters’ clothes moving around the place, making it and himself ready.

As the time crept on and the darkness fell Pol started to feel that old and familiar comfort of his adrenaline starting to circulate. Earlier in the evening he had regretted coming with Sticks to do this, now he could not wait to go in there and get on with their job. As he stood, in the shadows, he went round the mental checklist, he reached down with his right hand and patted the pistol in the thigh holster. He ran his hand up to the small of his back and felt the dagger clipped onto his belt centrally in the small of his back. The dagger was far shorter than the Sykes-Fairbairn dagger that he had been trained to use long ago. This dagger’s blade was shorter and broader. Double edged like the Sykes but only five inches in blade length and thick through the centre section and the blade was wider. Made of a tough and super sharp carbon steel the blade had been blacked in the same way that a gun is blacked. This meant that there could be no flash of light from the blade when it was drawn. The thick tang was simply wrapped in a single covering of paracord. The nylon cord gave texture and a solid grip so that even if the knife was covered in blood the user would be able to grip it strongly.

Several other cars had drawn up to the unit now, a Mercedes and large BMW saloon, long low and dark. Their occupants had gone straight into the building.

“I am counting them in, I think there are five in there now.”

“Yeah,” agreed Pol, “the waiter and two from each of those two cars,”

As they looked up at the first floor windows they hoped to establish where in the building the people were the blinds on the first floor windows were closed.

Pol glanced at his watch. Time was getting close. It was 21:33hrs, soon they would all be here. Soon they would bring Rhianna in and soon the two ex-soldiers would burst in there and fall upon them from the shadows.

More cars drew up and more Asian men went into the unit. The large wide shape of the black Audi seemingly silently drew up on the frontage. The windows were darkly tinted but both men had seen the car before in Scunthorpe. The door open and they both recognised the mayor of Scunthorpe, Ranjit Quereshi. Quereshi was well dressed in an expensive suit and moved with a self-assured confidence that could easily be described as arrogance. Quereshi opened the unit door and light from the unit flooded out into the increasing evening gloom.

“I don’t think it will be long now, mate”. Pol whispered to Hicks.

“No, how many have you counted in there?”

“I am up to nineteen now.” Replied Pol.

“Yeah me too, once she gets here we will give it ten minutes or so for things to settle down then I will cut the power and we will go in.” Hicks spoke quietly.

“Yeah, ok mate. The same as we discussed at your place?”

“Yeah. Exactly what I said.”

At a few minutes after ten Kharon’s old BMW pulled back into the frontage of the unit.

“She’s on plot” Pol whispered to Hicks. He could see a girl in the front of the BMW. As soon as Kharon opened the driver’s door of the car the interior light came on and illuminated the girl. He recognised her straight away.

“Get out of the car, if you try to run I will catch you and things will be even worse for you.”

Hicks and Pol heard the threat clearly. Pol was scared that this would cause Hicks to lose his temper and go straight in to the unit.

Rhianna got out of the car. She was stood in the light of the open car door and both of the watchers could see what she was wearing. It turned Pol’s stomach. He felt enraged. It was disgusting and only underlined that the men in the unit knew exactly what they were doing. They knew how old Rhianna was. She was wearing a school uniform. Flat black shoes and white ankle socks. Her long coltish legs bare and a short pleated grey school skirt a white blouse and a tie. Her hair was tied high on her head in pig tails.

“This is fucking sick” Rhianna spat at Kharon.

“Come on Baby, you know it’s what I want and if you do this I will know how much I respect you” Kharon replied.

“Fucking bull shit,” Rhianna replied.

“Listen to me, bitch. You go in there and perform, if you don’t go in there by choice I will drag you in there kicking and screaming and then afterwards I will make sure you go in the foundations of some motorway bridge. Do you understand me?” Kharon was cold and calm. There was no room for doubt in what he said. He was earnest and serious. Rhianna clearly sensed this and the fight went out of her, she deflated by inches.

Kharon reached into the car and from behind the driver’s seat he pulled out a small ragdoll. “Ready?” He threw the doll to her and she held it tightly in her hands as she went in.

Hicks looked at his watch. He did not say a word, he didn’t need to. Both men didn’t need to speak. In military terms they understood they would operating “with extreme prejudice”.

Pol did his checks once again. Checked his pistol, checked a round was chambered. Checked his knife. He even bent down and tightened his boot laces. He did not want to trip over his laces in the middle of this rescue.

“Ok, let’s do it.” Hicks said.

“Yeah, fucking right” Pol agreed.

Both men drew their pistols. Pol gripped the top slide of the browning and checked, again that it had a round in the chamber. It felt reassuringly heavy in his hand, solid, dependable without character or foible. Both men advanced along the tree line to the edge of the building and at a low crouch crossed the open ground to the corner of the unit. The lack of lighting in the court put them in shadow throughout their advance. Light spilled out from the bottom of the unit door and around the blinds in the first floor. Pol felt the familiar surge of adrenaline as it coursed round his system, he knew he must temper it. If he went into the building so adrenalized then he would not be as in control as he needed. He regulated his breathing and consciously slowed down his heart rate.

Hicks swiftly and silently hunched down and moving like a shadow within a shadow. He passed the ground floor door to the unit and pressed his back against the wall. Pol followed him along and pressed his back to the other side of the door. Hicks reached to the edge of the door frame. He pulled a thin piece of wire from the side of the door frame.

Pol had placed his head torch on and he looked over to Hicks. Hicks had put his on and with a nod they both switched them on. In the same second Hicks pulled on the wire. The rhythmic music from within the unit stopped and the lights went off. The unit was plunged into darkness and as the voices of protest rose from within. Both Hicks and Pol stepped into the unit and shut the door behind them.

The red beams of their head torched played across the furniture inside the unit on the ground floor.

Pol surveyed the scene. It had been set up as an arena. In the centre was a double bed but with only a dark coloured rubber sheet, in the red light of the head torch it was difficult to differentiate colour. There were a several sofas set out around. They were matching leather Chesterfields. It seemed that no expense had been spared to convert this industrial unit into a theatre to display the commodity that was Rhianna’s innocence.

The stairs at the rear of the unit were their target, they had expected to find Rhianna on the ground floor but she was not there. They would have to make their way up stairs and onto the first floor. As they approached the base of the stairs they switched off their head torches. They moved through the shadows and darkness with silent intent. Softly rolling each foot fall down to the floor silent, crouched and ready to deal with whatever they came across.

A voice; a man’s voice cut through the darkness and the silence. It was a voice they did not recognise. The man said “I will go and find the fuse box and get the power on.”

Abdul Razak was part of the network that Tariq worked for. He was a key player and had achieved progress through the organisation very quickly. He was a bright and intelligent young man. He also had a huge propensity towards extreme violence. This skill set had made him a very attractive prospect to the senior members of his network. He knew that the fuse box would be down stairs, probably near the single door. He blundered forward in the darkness. He felt for the hand rail down the stairs and as he found them he slowly started to descend into the stairwell. His footsteps audible from the steel risers of the stair well.

At the base of the stairwell he felt his foot land on the solid concrete of the ground floor. He had his lighter in his pocket and reached for it. He had become slightly disorientated and could not quite get the location of the door straight.

The small flame of the lighter gutted into life. The meagre light spread a weak slash around the unit. Razak didn’t immediately recognise the two shapes either side of him. It took his mind a second or so to process the images carved from the darkness. The blackened dehumanised faces did not easily fit into the patterns his brain would easily recognise. The eyes did. The whites of Hicks eyes were bright. But it was too late for him, he did not get the chance to make any sort of noise, call for help or say his final words. The leather gloved fist of Hicks struck hm. Hicks threw the punch in a hugely powerful but short uppercut action. It was unlike hicks to use a punch. But this had to be quick and quiet. Voices had started to rise in the room upstairs, they would not have heard the thump of the punch that connected to the point of Razak’s chin. Razak’s head snapped back he lost consciousness immediately. With an economy of movement Hicks was able to throw left arm around the throat of the unconscious and falling man. His left arm came around Razak’s lower face. Hick’s fingertips found the angle behind Razak’s jaw. With a sharp exhalation of breath he pulled Razak’s head sharply towards him and against the momentum of his fall. The skilled hand of Hicks snuffed out the life efficiently and professionally. Hicks lowered Razak to the floor of the unit. He ensured he lowered him to one side of the staircase to allow an easy escape without tripping over his prostrate form.

Neither Hicks nor Pol noticed when the impact of the punch caught Razak the zippo lighter flew from his hand. The lighter skidded across the concrete floor and slid under one of the chesterfield sofa. The sofa was old. Too old to be made of any sort of flame retardant filling. Old enough to be stuffed with horse hair and fibre. The small and weak flame of the zippo was focussed on a piece of the hessian lining underneath the sofa. Slowly the flame blackened the natural brown fibres and they started to smoulder. As Hicks and Pol started to ascend to the first floor so the fire started to lick through the sofa, at first very small and very slowly but soon gathering momentum and size. As the two men stepped foot on the first floor for the first time the fire had become established in the sofa and started to accelerate through the old piece of furniture.

“Now!” Pol whispered to Hicks. They both turned on their head lights at the same time. They were in an open space, a room, not quite as wide as the full unit and with a door at the opposite side of the room. There was a small raised platform in the middle of the floor, maybe a coffee table, Hicks could not be sure as he looked across through the red light of the torch. Chairs and sofas around the walls of the unit were lined with men. Rhianna was displayed on the small platform, she stood high yet alone amongst this group of customers. The men sat transfixed by the events unfolding in front of them. Both men stood in the traditional Weaver stance with one foot slightly forward and the pistol held in the extended right arm and pulled across the chest with the left arm. The weaver stance was side on and exposed the left shoulder to the enemy, a narrower target to engage. The left hand gripped the bottom of the right hand round the pistol grip. The left elbow bent but low making a solid platform and providing an additional barrier to an attack to the ribs and side. Hicks and Pol held their pistols high with their lights running down the sight line, where the men looked the pistols pointed. The men in the room could easily see the weapons in that eerie red light.

“We have come for the girl, if no one moves, no one gets hurt!” Pol shouted.

“Rhianna, come with us” Hicks spoke in his normal menacing calm.

She stepped down from the display platform and walked the few paces across the floor towards the men.

As Rhianna walked towards them Pol became aware of the door at the other end of the unit opening. He swung round and levelled his pistol at it. As the door opened he saw a figure step through the door and into the red light of his head torch. The figure was Kharon Khan. Kharon’s right hand went behind his back. Pol knew what he was doing “Don’t do it” he shouted at Kharon. The room watched Kharon as he pulled the old Tokarev pistol from his waist band. Pol recognised the pistol immediately, he recognised the threat that the Soviet bloc pistol represented. The door was twenty feet away from Pol. The Browning was not an accurate pistol.

Pol selected a chest shot instantly and pulled the pistol onto Kharon’s sternum. The browning barked twice. The concussion in the small room was deafeningly loud. The first bullet struck Kharon in the base of his rib cage. It tore through the soft cartilage of the sternum and expanded quickly into the familiar mushroom shape as the impact forced the hollow point to open and peel back. The pressure wave in the wake of the bullet opened a temporary wound cavity where all of surrounding flesh was smashed and torn. This included the bottom of Kharon’s heart, both ventricles were smashed. The bullet exited through the young man’s back and continued into the door. The second shot was ten centimetres higher than the first. Again the bullet smashed through the breast bone and ripped through the chest cavity above the heart. The wound cavity from this shot ripped open the young man’s aorta and the top of his heart was as smashed as the bottom. The second bullet struck the inside of one of his vertebrae. This caused a marked deflection of the bullet which exited from the side of Kharon’s rib cage.

The bullet, now deformed and expanded had lost its superb ballistic qualities and tumbled through the few meters until it smashed into the bloated beer gut of one of the men sat in the room. There was no deep penetration just enough to rip open his abdomen and tear his stomach open.

As Kharon Khan dropped to the ground in the darkness, red blooms of blood on his shirt front, Jarminder Begum started to scream. The pain from his stomach was excruciating.

With Rhianna pushed behind them and facing the men in the room Hicks and Pol slowly backed towards the stair case.

“It’s on fire” Rhianna shouted. Both men turned to look what Rhianna was shouting about and saw the orange glow of flames in the stair well. The smoke had started to build and they knew it would be a matter of time until they would not be able to leave by the stairs.

The young man Ibby, which Khan had dropped off earlier in the evening saw his opportunity to become a hero in front of the senior people in his network. He grasped a beer bottle by the neck and taking the second of distraction when Hicks and Winchester had looked at the stairs as an opportunity he leapt from his seat and tried to close the gap to the two armed men. As he got up he drove powerfully with his legs. He saw how smoothly Hicks turned to him. He saw the pistol come into the bottom of the red torch beam. He had taken only two strides when the Beretta’s report rung through the room. Ibrahim didn’t feel the sledgehammer blow of the pistol bullet as it smashed through his nose and through his medulla oblongata. The bullet continued through him and smashed into another watching man’s face striking him in the cheek bone. Ibrahim cashed to the ground, his chest fell hard on to the platform in the centre of the room.

The two injured men screamed out in agony. Smoke started to fill the room from the increasing inferno below them.

Pol turned, he took hold of Rhianna by the shoulder. “Let’s fucking go”.

He pulled her forcibly onto the stairs. Taking a deep breath he bounded down the stairs. Behind him he heard four further pistol shots.

When he got to the concrete he was greeted by the inferno. The sofa was well ablaze and the one adjacent to it had also ignited, both spewed clouds of black smoke. One breathe of this and he would be down, he knew it. He bounded across the floor and out of the doorway.

As they had planned before he sprinted across the car park and back to the cover of the bushes all of the time he dragged Rhianna with him.

“Thank you, thank you” she repeated over and over. Hicks crossed the ground a second later.

“Fuck man, that went pear shaped” Pol said to Hicks.

“We got her out alive. That was a success. I don’t think killing them fuckers could even be counted as collateral damage.” Hicks replied, both men stripped off and put their clothes and equipment back into Hicks’ holdall.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here” Pol said.

Looking back over to the blazing unit several men had got out and were running to their cars. The fire was quick and strong, the soft furnishings burned with a savage ferocity that send clouds of black noxious smoke through the unit.

Rhianna, Hicks and Pol made their way along the stream and to the bridge where Mangham road crossed the small water way. They climbed out of the undergrowth and got onto up onto the pavement. Behind them they heard the roar of the fire as it had grown and enveloped the whole unit and had started to ignite the cars parked outside.

The Ford was parked on Mangham road. “This is ours.” Hicks pointed at the Ford.

“Ok, what about CCTV?” Pol asked him.

“Yeah, none of that here.”

“Are you sure?” Pol asked.

“Oh yeah, quite sure” Hicks added.

Hicks crouched down and reached behind the front wheel and on the suspension arm, as arranged, he found the keys.

“Right, lets fuck off” Stu unlocked the car and they all climbed in. As they moved away a fire engine passed them in the other direction.

They drove in silence, each in the labyrinth of their own thoughts.

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