Nearly a week had passed since the excursion to Rotherham. In the first hours after his return home Pol had expected the knock at the door of the local police. He had burned his clothing, showered and scrubbed his fingernails and hair. There were no forensics, no gunshot residue to be found by the scenes of crimes officers, no matter how well they looked. The following morning he sat and watched to local news. The story was shown. He had been amazed to see the local Detective Chief Inspector had stood in front of the cameras and informed the media that there had been a tragic accident at the unit where a business meeting had been taking place. Twelve people had died in a fire. Leading lights of the South Yorkshire business communities and a great loss to the inclusive community of Rotherham. Pol knew it would only be a couple of days until the pathologist found evidence of the gun shots. Then it would be ramped up and the media circus would start, the murder of twelve people would be a huge story and some fucker would have to pay for this. Someone would have to carry the can and go to gaol, there would need to be a scapegoat. Every morning of the week Pol got up to watch the Sky news before work.
As the week progressed Fleur began to notice this more and more. On the Thursday morning she came down stairs to speak to him. He sat on the leather sofa with just his boxer shorts and a tee shirt on. Curled up beside him on the sofa was his Labrador gun dog. Fleur walked into the room and shooed the dog off the sofa.
No mention on the local news of the fire. By now it would be out. By now the pathologist would have recovered the bullets and they would be at the ballistics lab in Wetherby.
“What is it, Pol?” Fleur snuggled in closely to her man, she rested her head on his shoulder.
“You know I went for Rhianna?” he spoke softly, he did not avert his eyes from the screen as he spoke. As if removal of eye contact equated to removal of culpability.
“Yeah, sure, I know you got her back.”
“Yeah, we did, you know the fire that’s been on the news?” Pol continued to watch the screen
“I saw it on the news, was it you?”
“Yes it was,” pol turned and looked at her he searched her deep brown eyes with his. She saw the sadness and pain in his eyes. “Twelve people died, Fleur.”
“I know.” She stroked his face with the back of her left hand.
“I shot and killed two of them.” Pol spoke quietly.
“They wanted to rape and abuse that little girl.” Fleur spoke.
“He had a gun and I shot him twice”. Pol continued as if Fleur had not spoken.
“The bullet shot through and hit another bloke, it split his gut. I could smell it, his stomach was ripped”. Pol’s voice shrank, he struggled to contain his emotions. “The fire was an accident. I think Styx killed more of them as we went. He isn’t stable”
“Well when this is over don’t have anything to do with him” Fleur said.
“When this is over I might have to go to prison for fucking twenty years”. Pol said.
“Good looking boy like you will be popular in there.” Fleur got up to walk to the door and as she did she gave Pol a wink. “Best get ready for work, home boy,” and blew him a kiss.
Pol climbed in the shower and got himself together.
Pol was only in the station for a few minutes when his boss came into his office with two mugs of coffee. “Morning Sergeant”
“Morning Inspector, how are you this morning?”
“I am well thanks, Pol. Are you alright? You have been really quiet this week”
“Yeah, I am a bit tired, Phil”. What did the inspector know or want?
“Seen that job on the news, about that business meeting?” The Inspector asked.
“Yeah, for sure. Since that we have lost a couple of our prominent players. Kharon Khan and Tariq have disappeared.” Pol continued.
“I wonder if they were there. South Yorks are telling us that lots of the people in the fire were shit bags of the highest order”.
“Who knows, Guv’, it is difficult to know. No one has been reported missing from this side”. Pol continued the chat.
“No and I suspect that they won’t ever be reported. Hey Pol, have you fitted a new light to your bike?” Pol had not fitted a new light to his bike, it was a weird thing for Phil to say.
“Do you want to come out and have a look?” Pol said.
“Yeah for sure, can do” the inspector winked and nodded.
Pol was unsure of where he stood with his boss. He didn’t know where he stood at all. The sand shifted under his feet all of the time. Hicks seemed to have support in what he was doing in Rotherham. There was the information that Black had given him about the corruption ring. Pol could only trust Fleur. The two men walked into the car park and the mutual distrust was clear to both men.
“Phil, what is it?”
“The mayor, Ranjit Quereshi is missing.”
“Right, when was he last seen?” Pol’s stomach lurched.
“He saw the Superintendent on Tuesday. He was alright then”. The Inspector said.
“Ok, maybe he has gone away on business?” Pol asked.
“Yeah, maybe. But his family contacted us. He didn’t go home last night.”
“Is he reported as a misper? Is he just out shagging somewhere?” Pol asked.
“No he is not a misper, we don’t know where he is. We need to find out where he is.”
“Yeah, ok, I will get some guys on it.” Pol said.
“No Pol, this must be only you. You must report only to me on this. It is confidential.”
“For fuck sake Phil! It’s all fucking shit.” Pol turned on the Inspector.
“What’s up Pol?” The Phil had been taken aback.
“Secrets this… report only to me that… I don’t know what to do, who to trust.” Pol was on the edge.
“Look Pol, the deal is simple, those people that died in the fire were all villains and all associates of our lawfully elected town mayor”.
“Phil, let’s go out for a coffee, plain clothes, no radios. Man to man”
Both men returned to their offices and took off their uniforms. Mobile phones and radios were left locked in desk drawers.
They went to Frankie and Benny’s diner. They sat down at a table and ordered a coffee each.
“Phil, we have known each other a long time. Do you trust me? Put aside what people may have told you recently. Do you trust me? It is a simple question.”
“Yes Pol, I trust you implicitly. I would take you to war”.
“Ok, Phil, I am going to talk to you about stuff now that you can never repeat. If it ever came out the damage to the force would be crushing”. Pol’s stomach fluttered with nerves.
“Ok, go on” Phil encouraged Pol to speak.
It was over an hour later they emerged from the diner. They returned to the station together.
As they drew into the station Phil turned to Pol. “You know, you can trust me, I won’t say anything”.
Pol looked over at his mate. “I know, you can trust me too.”
Pol put on his kit and headed to the Mayor’s house. When he stopped the patrol car outside of the mayors house he text Hicks.
Pol: Have you got him
Hicks: Ok. Normal place 6 tonight.
Pol had a sinking feeling, the weight on his shoulders seemed to increase and drive down on him harder and heavier. He took a deep breath, cleared the messages from his phone and went to the house to go through the pretence of investigating a missing person.
Two days earlier the world as Ranjit Quereshi knew it had fallen down around him. He was used to a comfortable life of civic receptions and free lunches. He was held in high esteem by many and treated with sycophantic deference within the town. He had left the police station where the Chief Superintendent had served him a coffee and biscuits. Slowly he had walked down Corporation Road to the car park. He basked in the attention that he received. People passed him in the street. “Hello, Councillor” … “Good afternoon Mr Mayor” he heard all of the greetings and replied with an arrogant assurance. Business acumen had made him what he was. Given him the resources to buy the Audi. The foundations of his business, the suffering and the exploitation, the drugs and the whores, the squalor and the rivers of tears of loss meant nothing to Quereshi. To him business was business. After all his community was not hurt by the ripples of his business interests.
The Audi A8 was a sleek black car, wide, low, powerful, black. The windows were tinted black. The powerful engine was quiet and refined when driving around the town. The car moved with the effortless quiet grace of a big cat. The narrow streets and alleys were a challenge to manoeuvre the car through, but Ranjit knew that. He didn’t care for him it was all about showing what he had achieved and the prohibitive price label of the A8 had guaranteed its exclusivity.
There had been an option of a keyless opening but Ranjit had not gone with that option. He liked the Audi key. He liked to be able to put it on a table and make it clear that he owned the big Audi outside.
As he walked towards his car he pulled the key from his pocket and unlocked the car. A drunk sat on the ground near the car. There was a puddle of fluid on the ground around the drunk and his grey trousers were wet. He pissed himself. Ranjit could not see the face of the drunk because of the hood of his top. He could guess this was just another homeless white trash waster. Ranjit reached and opened the door of the car and the drunk staggered to his feet. As the drunk got to his feet he lurched and fell against the Audi.
Quereshi stepped around the open door and towards the drunk. “Get off my car, this is worth more than your life”. He spat at the drunk. Before he turned to move away the drunk was transformed. The drunk’s weight transferred onto the balls of his feet. His left arm shot out and slid under Quereshi’s right arm with the forearm hard against the older man’s elbow. Quereshi looked down to see the latex glove on the drunk’s left hand and in the right hand of the drunk he saw a flat black object. He recognised it as the blade of a knife, sharpened on both sides this was a dagger.
“Get in your car and move over to the passenger seat”. Hicks spoke for the first time.
“Do you know who I am?” Quereshi asked.
“Of course I do, that is why I am here”. Hicks replied in his matter of fact tone.
Hicks applied pressure to Quereshi’s elbow and pushed against the joint. The sharp pain scalded up his arm.
“Ok, I am going.”
The old man sat in the driver’s seat and then shuffled over into the passenger side of the car.
Hicks slid into the car beside him and shut the door.
As Hicks sat in the car he pulled his hood down. He turned to face Quereshi.
“Do you know my face?” He asked Quereshi.
“I have seen you in the town, I have seen you out jogging.” The mayor looked at Hicks.
“Yeah that’s right. Now pass me your phone”. Quereshi did as he was asked. “I saw you on Saturday, ok hold your hands out like a Christian prays”, again the older man complied immediately. Hicks used a plasticuff and bound him tightly at the wrist. “Do you know why I am here?” Hicks asked Quereshi.
“Do you want money?” Quereshi asked.
“It’s funny, that’s what Tariq said, just before he died. No your money won’t help you.”
“What do you want?” Quereshi asked.
“It’s a funny thing. How this all has come to be. Now we have to pay our dues and payback is a motherfucker”
The keys to the Audi were still grasped in Quereshi’s hand. Hicks reached forward and took them from his fingertips.
As Hicks drove out of town and towards his lock up in Santon he spoke to Quereshi. “This is a nice car, I bet it is pretty thirsty though”.
“Yes, I think it only does about twenty to the gallon. But that doesn’t really bother me much”.
“Oh listen to your arrogance, you can’t help yourself even now when your life is sliding away”. Hicks shook his head. “I wonder if you can learn some sort of humility before this is over”
Hicks took the Audi straight into the lock up. He closed the door behind him.
“Ok, old man, we are here. This is the end of your journey”. Hicks laughed at his own joke.
“I am an important person, you know? The police will be looking for me. They will want to know where I am. They will come looking and they will find you”.
“Yeah for sure, let’s just wait and see shall we? I don’t think they will be so bothered, they know that you are a child abusing bastard and they know that you are in the drugs supply company. They won’t mind if you disappear. To them it will be worth it. It will be for the greater good.” Hicks climbed out of the Audi and walked to the passenger side opened the door and grabbed the small, slim, old man by the shoulder. He pulled the old man to his feet.
“This is a very nice suit, old man. I bet it makes you irresistible to women. Especially the younger ones”. Hicks stood in front of Quereshi and lifted his right hand. Quereshi shied away, he thought that Hicks was about to hit him. “It’s ok, why would I hit you?”
Hicks stroked the creases out of the tailored suit and straightened it out.
Quereshi looked around himself. He stood on plastic sheeting, the walls were lined with plastic sheeting. A single wooden chair stood in the centre of the plastic sheet under the harsh, bright white, two meters in front of the chair was a tripod and a small video camera. “What is this all about?” Quereshi said to Hicks.
“We are going to spend a couple of days together and during our little man break together we are going to chat about a few things. When we chat we will video it so that the world can see you for what you are.”
“I will not tell you a thing”.
“Well that’s funny, because that is what Tariq said, anyway, please take a seat.” Hicks motioned for Quereshi to take a seat in the single wooden chair. As the old man sat down in the wooden chair. Hicks turned his back on his captive and made his way to the large plastic box. He returned with a reel of silver duct tape and walked back across the sheeting.
“I don’t want you to go for a stroll, do I?” Hicks taped Quereshi’s legs to the chair. Hicks took hold of Quereshi’s arms he pulled them straight down and taped his wrists onto the back legs of the chair.
Hicks left Quereshi taped to the chair. He left the light on. Quereshi sat on the chair and waited. He watched the door of the lock up and waited for Hicks to come back. He had no concept of what the time was. There was no natural light in the garage. There was no reference for him. The fear had started to creep into him. The more he had time to dwell upon his fate the more the shadow of fear spread its wings. Quereshi waited on the chair. He needed to urinate. He had sat and held it. As the unknown passage of time continued to run the need grew higher and higher and Quereshi became desperate. Finally there was no choice for Quereshi, he let his bladder go. The urine ran from him and pooled on the seat. The urine stained his trousers dark. He was a proud man and he felt ashamed as he sat in a pool of his own urine.
It was Wednesday morning before the door opened in to the unit and Hicks came back into the lock up. As he walked into the unit the smell of urine hit him. “Smells in here, Ranjit.” Quereshi did not reply to Hicks. “Like some old vagrant has been here.” Hicks continued. He walked up to the chair and to the old man. “Did you get caught short?”
“What time is it?” Quereshi asked.
“I bet you must be getting peckish now, well that’s ok, I have bought you a snack”. Ranjit was hungry and thirsty now.
“Yes I am and a little bit thirsty”
“Ok, that’s cool, I have bought us a bit of a snack, after all we are in this together. Well you are in it anyway. In the piss puddle”. Hicks reached into his bag and pulled out a pop bottle.
“Here you go, Ranjit. Have a drink” Hicks unscrewed the lid of the large plastic bottle and offered it up to Quereshi’s lips. Quereshi drank deeply. The black currant juice was stronger than he would normally make it but it quenched his thirst.
“Here, have some nuts,” Quereshi opened his mouth and Hicks poured in salted peanuts. Quereshi chewed and swallowed the nuts and more were offered to him, which he also ate. “They are a little bit salty, have some more drink.” Hicks placed the bottle back to Quereshi’s lips and again he drank deeply.
“Right I will see you a little later, maybe today or maybe tomorrow.” Hicks picked up the peanuts and bottle of juice and placed them back in the carrier bag.
Hicks turned the chair away from the door. Quereshi would no longer be able to see the door. Now he would only see the concrete of the wall.
“Are you going to talk to me about things?” Quereshi spoke to Hicks, he wanted some sort of contact. Hicks smiled to himself.
“We can talk another time. But what I want you to do is to think about what you have done. I want you to think about what you have done to those girls, to my niece Rhianna and all of the others.”
“I didn’t know she was your niece, I wouldn’t have done it”. Quereshi begged.
Hicks turned his back and walked away from Quereshi.
The blackcurrant squash that Hicks had given to Quereshi was heavily laced with salt. Hicks had made the squash so strong to disguise the taste of the brine.
Quereshi sat in his chair and stared at the wall in front of him. As the minutes and hours passed by the salt in Quereshi had worked upon his system. He had initially become very thirsty and this had turned to desperation. He dozed as he sat on the chair, the dehydration took control of his mind. The dreams came lurid and powerfully to him. He had not dreamed for many years and now the dreams were flooding over him in bright lurid torrent of awareness. He dreamed of a girl, he didn’t know her name, he had never known her name. She was dead now. He would never know that her name was Jasmine. He dreamed of jasmine dancing. In his dream she started as the girl he had seen in the film, dressed as a white whore with make-up and wearing the underclothes of a whore. She danced like one of the women on a western pop video. As he looked at her she changed. Her face melted and morphed and moved and changed into the face of her mother. It was the face of his mother when she was a young woman, when Quereshi was just a little boy. In the dream he cried and he called for his mother, called for her like a child calling for his mother. She had been dead for many years and now he could see her drifting in and out of the dream dancing girl’s body and face. The transformation was complete and the dancing girl had become his mother, she listened to his call and turned to him. When she got close to him she bent down to him, he was looking up to her from his small boy’s perspective. Her beautiful face was only inches from his beaming with the happiness and pride of a mother. He looked at her eyes, but there was something wrong with them. He looked closely into her eyes. They were the eyes of the dancing girl. They were the eyes of the nameless lost girl, Jasmine. She spoke. “Ranjit, wake up now. Ranjit, you have been sleeping” as she spoke he could see something in her mouth. When she said his name the second time he was entrapped by the movement in her mouth. He saw it move and two long hinged legs appeared from the corner of her mouth. As she completed her sentence a huge dark spider pulled itself free from her mouth. Quereshi awoke.
“Time to wake up, Ranjit.” It was Hick’s voice that spoke to him. His mother had slid away into his subconscious.
Ranjit Quereshi awoke from his slumber and was overwhelmed by pain in his kidneys and the desperation of thirst. Hs eyes slowly adjusted back to the bright white light.
“Let’s have a chat now shall we?” Hicks said.
“Yes, yes a nice chat would be nice yes.” The confusion of Quereshi was clear. He was more confused than Hicks had hoped.
“Would you like a drink of water, Ranjit?” Hicks asked.
“That would be good, please. Please can I have a drink?”
Hicks produced a small plastic bottle of mineral water. He slowly unscrewed it in front of Quereshi. He placed the bottle to the old man’s lips and poured t into his mouth. The water flushed into Quereshi’s system and he drank deeply from the bottle, he did not let any drop from his lips.
Hicks stood back and waited. The water hit Quereshi’s stomach. The cramps overwhelmed him and he cried out with pain. He leaned forward in the chair. The sudden rehydration shocked his system and the pain he suffered was intense. The shudders and the pain left Quereshi and sank forward in the chair breathing deeply.
“Ok, let’s have a chat then.” Hicks turned on the camcorder and zoomed in on Quereshi. Fortunately the camera did not record smell the old man. He was soiled and wet with urine.
“Who are you?” Hicks asked.
“I am Ranjit Quereshi, the mayor”.
“What did you do last weekend?” Hicks asked.
“What?” Ranjit asked confused.
“In Rotherham, Ranjit?” Said Hicks.
“I went there because I did a deal where I got a white girl for my friends.”
“What do you mean?”
“I got her for my friends to have sex with.”
Over the next two hours Ranjit Quereshi spoke at length about his business. Quereshi told Hicks about the exploitation of many girls, how it was videoed and how he sold the videos across the country. He spoke about his drug business. Every word he said was recorded by Hicks. When he had finished Hicks gave him two more bottles of water. Quickly his body was rehydrated and he became fully lucid again.
“What happens now?” Quereshi asked.
“Well you have just admitted all sorts of things on tape. I don’t think you will be safe. Think of the shame on your family.”
Hicks turned and walked from the unit. The memory card from the camera in his pocket.
The old man wept, his head on his chest.
Pol walked up to his meeting point, Hicks was waiting for him. They walked together away from the pool and in to the town.
“I have Quereshi” Hicks spoke quietly.
“What have you done?” Pol asked.
“I needed insurance and I wanted it to stop, there can’t be another Jasmine or Rhianna. It must stop”. Hicks was intense and focussed. Pol watched the animation in his hands and in his face. Hicks was living a mission. He was caught in the operation and seemed unable to get out of it.
“I have uploaded it in a generic server shell script.”
“In a fucking what?” Pol had never heard of this.
“I have to log in every week or an email is sent to the chief constable, the BBC, Sky news and several other agencies. That video tells the world about what has been happening in this town. Ranjit is the star and the show.”
They walked on quietly and Hicks took Pol into an alley way behind the pensioners’ flats on Thompson Street. There was a Vauxhall Astra parked in the alley with the tell-tale Enterprise car hire sticker on the bumper. Pol knew this was the car.
“Stu, where are Di and Rhianna?”
“They are safe now, I have an old buddy in the Highlands, I met him when I was in Arbroath.”
The men drove out of town and towards Santon. Hicks had not taken Pol to the unit before.
When the door to the unit opened the smell hit Pol. He saw the old man taped to the chair.
“Jesus Christ, Sticks, what the fuck are you doing?”
“This is ok, I am stopping this fucker doing his sick thing. This is about looking after the poor kids”. Hicks said easily.
“Fucking what? This shit wants sorting out.”
“We are going to sort this out now.” Hicks said.
They walked past the Audi and onto the plastic sheet. Pol instantly understood that the plastic sheet was to overcome any forensic examination. The wooden chair could be burned. But Quereshi had seen both of the men and would recognise them again. There was no effort to conceal the identities of either Pol or Hicks. All three of them understood that this meant that Ranjit Quereshi was never going home.
“Ok, Ranjit. How will we sort this out?”
“I have been thinking about this whilst I have been here today.” Quereshi had regained his composure.
“My family can never know, I cannot go on.”
“No that’s right, you can’t”. Hicks agreed.
“I will tell my wife I have gone to do business in Pakistan. But I can’t be found.”
Hicks reached into his pocket and pulled out the black bladed dagger. He cut through the tape on Quereshi’s wrists. He rubbed his wrists and stretched out his fingers.
“I will give you your phone, but you know the deal. Do what you have to do and then give me your phone back.”
Pol stood back and watched the drama unfold. The two men had formed a sort of allegiance. Pol knew all about the Stockholm syndrome, but he had never seen it before. He didn’t realise that they would both share the identity of a joint destination. Even though they both knew that the destination is the death of Ranjit, one of the ‘team’. Ranjit took the phone from Hicks and wrote the text to his wife. Without any further direction he passed the phone to his captor, his partner in this final endeavour, Hicks read through it and pressed the send button on the phone.
“Ok, let’s go. Time is getting short now. We have to get out there?”
“Will it hurt?” Quereshi asked.
“No, I will make sure it doesn’t”
Hicks removed the bonds from Quereshi’s ankles and assisted the old man to his feet. After nearly forty eight hours tied to a chair he was unsteady on his feet.
“What day is it?” Quereshi asked.
“It is Thursday evening.” Pol replied.
“I didn’t know.” Quereshi replied.
The three men got into the Astra and left the compound. They sat quietly and eventually when the men approached the village of South Ferriby, some ten minutes later, the first person to speak was Ranjit. “It was just business.”
Pol looked over at Hicks, he could see his anger welling up. Hicks was silent.
“I was only satisfying a demand.” Quereshi continued.
“It’s time to be quiet now.” Pol said to him.
“But if I didn’t satisfy that demand, someone would.” Quereshi continued.
“Not long now Ranjit.” Hicks said to him.
Hicks drove down through Barton and to the old disused wharf on the Humber.
The Humber is a huge river, the estuary is a mile across at Barton-Upon-Humber. The brown silt laden estuary was subject to savage tides and currents. They made the river very dangerous to navigate and the ships queued up to file up the estuary to reach the industrial ports of the Trent.
Standing at the side of the estuary on the old concrete wharf the three men looked at the brown swirling tidal ebb.
Quereshi looked across at the city of Hull, the traffic on the other side of the river was just visible. He was alone in his thoughts. He wasn’t ready to go. He had made no peace with himself and his realisation had come too late for him. The hum of the traffic on the bridge was a constant droning. There was no distinction between the cars.
Whilst Quereshi watched the traffic going past Hicks put his hand in his trouser pockets and pulled out his black bladed knife. With fluid speed of movement he stepped forward and squatted behind the old man. His right hand flashed across behind the Quereshi’s feet. The blade had swept through both of Quereshi’s Achilles tendons. The cut was so sharp and so quick that Quereshi’s first awareness was as he toppled over. There was no pain from the deep slices and very little blood. As Ranjit toppled forward Hicks placed his hand in the small of the old man’s back and pushed him forward into the powerfully ebbing tide. The current took the old man and as he dropped into the water he was pulled straight under the surface and away from sight and away from the light.
“Why the cut, Styx?”
“Try swimming with floppy feet”.