2011 Unit 21 Kings Cliffe Industrial Estate, Peterborough.
The pleasant early summer morning sunshine washed over the industrial estate. The small unit was in an ideal spot, tucked away in the back of a fairly innocuous industrial estate. Peterborough was ideal equidistant for both of the men.
The plain black Ford Mondeo pulled into the car park and stopped adjacent to the silver Vauxhall insignia. The car only carried the driver.
The driver got out of the car and picked up his brief case from the passenger seat. The car was sterile. It contained nothing but the driver and his case. No CDs or even an empty coffee cup. There were no receipts for diesel nothing to identify the driver of the car. Even in the sunlight and warmth the driver wore a pair of light kid leather gloves. He strode across the car park towards the unit door. As he got to the door he punched the combination into the pad and entered. He was white, slightly under six feet tall. He had short, dark side parted hair. He was clean shaven and had no distinguishing features. It was difficult to tell his age but he looked like he was in his mid-forties. He wore a decent quality but not tailored pinstripe grey suit, a pale grey shirt and a blue narrow tie. His plain lace up black shoes could be bought at any larger branch of Tesco. He was instantly forgettable. The brief case was plain black leather, the same as so many thousand other brief cases in the hand of so many other grey men.
He knew that the Vauxhall would be the same; sterile, empty. The unit had a small lobby area and another key pad into a small meeting room. The room contained a pale wood table and six chairs around it. There wasn’t room for anything more in the room. The walls were magnolia and the carpet a neutral beige. There were no pictures.
Sat at the table was another man. He was dressed very similarly. He was a little older, and he carried more weight. The younger man was athletic and proportionate. The older man stood up and spoke.
“The sun is warm for June”, he said coolly.
“Not so wet as last June”, the younger man replied.
This greeting was a prearranged code with a built in duress indicator. Had either men mentioned May then the other would know that their security had been compromised. The younger man spoke next. “I am Mr Green.”
“Yes, I know, I am Mr White”
Mr Green opened his brief case and removed a Dell laptop. From his inside pocket he took a Kingston DT6000 BlockMaster flash drive.
“We are starting to have a problem in Scunthorpe.” He said as he started the computer and plugged in the drive. He tapped in the first, then second password to enable him to open the securely encrypted data.
“What’s happening up there, surely not much?” Replied Mr White.
“This man,” Mr Green indicated at a face on the screen, “is going to cause us problems.”
“Ok, let’s break it down and see what we can do about it”. Mr White, the senior man, seemed to be very calm.
Mr Green explained that in Scunthorpe some leading members of the Asian community were involved in the procurement of vulnerable young girls for sexual exploitation.
Mr White nodded and said “Like many other places,”
Mr Green continued, “The real issue is that several of these men are involved with the Humberside Police equality board. One of them is the Mayor. This can’t come out.”
Mr White asked, “Well, why should it?”
Mr Green moved to the next slide. This slide showed an unconscious girl laying in an alleyway with a police officer squatting beside her. Mr Green touched the play icon. The image showed the officer take his jacket off, cover the girl and wait with her for the ambulance to arrive. Whilst he waited he stroked the girl’s hair”.
“How touching,” Mr White said.
“That officer is going to become an issue. His name is Pol Winchester, I’ve done my homework on the man and he is not going to just go away”
“What sort of a name is Pol? Can we just have the policing priorities for the area changed?” Asked Mr White.
“I have already done that but his line manager does not think he will stick to it.” Replied Mr Green.
“Ok, can he be neutralized?”
“That is an option, I can look into it. I don’t know the origins of Pol. Maybe some foreign way of saying Paul”
“So for now, Mr Green, I would like you to monitor the situation. I would like you to develop the intelligence on both Winchester and on this exploitation thing. Please look to employ any assets that we might have in the area.”
“Thanks for the direction on this, would you like a weekly report?” Asked Mr Green.
“No thank you, I would like a weekly meeting.”
Mr Green was a little surprised by this. Normally his work was delivered electronically and he had not met anyone else at his or a more senior level within the department.
Mr Green removed the flash drive from the computer. As he did so a small program, invisible to most users, that was concealed within the system files cleansed away any electronic footprint that the data might have left.
They stood up and said goodbye. Mr Green headed north to his area. Mr White headed south towards London.
Pol sat at his terminal. It was a hot and sticky afternoon. The new stations had metal roofs double glazing and no air conditioning. Since he had sent out his email about the vulnerable girls turning up on Frodingham Road he had been overwhelmed by the response of the team. In front of him was a pile of intelligence reports. His officers had clearly been touched by the plight of these kids. He knew his contemporaries on other areas did not read all of these reports, they just sent them in to the great paper eating monster that was the Divisional Intel Bureau. Pol read them, all of them. He wanted to know everything about his area. He wanted to know who was doing what to whom. When he had worked his way through the reports he entered the numbers per officer onto the database he was required to maintain. This would enable him to monitor the performance of the officers. Some thought they could outsmart the system by submitting stacks of poor quality reports when Pol first used the data in supervision checks. Those days had passed now and the quality of the reports were now good. The team had shaped well under his leadership and the management of Inspector Robinson.
The reports made grim reading. The Acheron Crew were busy. It seemed that they were involved in the supply of heroin and cocaine on the streets. They had a constant stream of young girls running with them and they held themselves to be some kind of gangster group. Pol knew that if that was what they aspired to be then that’s how they would act. Once they started to act in the way of the American gangster then that is what they would become. Then the town would start to feel the consequences of the police inaction. Surely with this weight of intelligence the DCI could not help but be swayed and seek to take them down. The sergeant gathered the sheaf of yellow papers up in his hand and took them upstairs. He wanted to show the inspector what the staff had produced.
“Hey, Guv, how are you doing?” Pol tapped on the inspector’s open door.
“Come in mate” the Phil replied.
“Look at all these int reps. Pol put them down on the desk in front of his boss.
“Fuck me, the guys have been busy.”
“You better believe it, boss. Do you know what the majority are about?”
“I reckon I can guess.”
The inspector leafed through the first few. His face was worried. He looked Pol straight in the eye. Pol saw a he was uncomfortable.
“Pol, shut the door”. The sergeant got up from his chair and shut the inspector’s office door. He did not sit back down. He stood beside the chair.
“Sit down, you tough old fucker” Pol respected the Phil and knew he meant no offence. This banter kept them together in their unique positions of huge pressure and stress.
Pol sat down.
“Last week how many int reps did our team submit?” Phil asked.
“It was about eighty, Phil.”
“How many were about the Acheron mob?”
“I can’t remember off hand maybe thirty or forty” the sergeant looked at the young inspector quizzically.
“My guess is it was about forty four.” As he spoke the inspector slid a piece of paper across the table showing all of the teams and their relative performance. Against the int rep column the figure thirty six was printed.
“I have had an email from the DCI.” He read from the screen:
“Dear Inspector Robinson, It has come to my attention that your team is not following the policing plan as developed in accordance with the National Intelligence Model. Please ensure that all of your staff follow this direction. The divisional policy is to follow this direction. Should any of your staff fail to follow divisional policy disciplinary action may be instigated”
The inspector looked up at his sergeant.
“Pol, that’s about you. He wants to fuck you up”
“He wants me to leave Acheron Crew alone, that’s for sure” Pol replied.
Both men sat and looked at each other.
“Sergeant, let’s have a brew and think about it then.”
“Boss, now you are talking sense”
They sat quietly and enjoyed their tea.
“You know I am not going to stop, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I know Pol. Be careful though, they will take you down”
Pol walked back downstairs to his office in a daze. He was being directed to turn a blind eye to crime. Not just any crime but, he suspected crimes where children were being exploited and abused. He couldn’t understand it. He was not a cynical politician. He was just a cop who liked to help people and put crooks in gaol, where they belonged.
He walked across the big open plan constables’ office. The office was stiflingly hot. The civilian office manager, George sat on the terminal nearest to the open fire door. He had removed the fire extinguisher from its wall bracket and held the door open with it.
“George, remember to bring that in when you go home mate”
“You think just because I am old enough to be your dad I have gone senile.” The retired inspector had retained his sharp wit and sense of humour.
“That’s right, old timer.” Pol replied.
Pol smiled on the outside but he felt very uneasy, the conversation he had just had with the boss had left him quite shaken. He went into his office and closed the door behind him. He would rather cook in the stifling heat of the office than talk to the team right now. Standing for his principles had always been a source of great pride for Pol. Now he was as good as being told to make a choice between pursuing the criminals or his career. He had never been in this situation before.
There was a tap on his office door and George stepped in. “There is someone here to see you Pol.”
“He gave his name as Charlie Jackman, says you don’t know him. But he wants to talk to you about the Acheron Gang”. George replied.
“Ok mate let him in” Pol’s interest was immediately sparked
The sergeant put two dirty coffee cups in his desk drawer and turned over the yellow int reps that covered the desk. The information on the reports was sensitive. The door opened and George showed the man in.
Pol stood up and extended his hand “Mr Jackman, come in, do take a seat”
Pol indicated to a chair opposite his desk. Jackman shook Pol’s hand.
“Thank you,” he said.
Jackman sat down in the chair opposite Pol and Pol said to him, “How can I help you today?”
George left the office and shut the door behind him on his way out.
“I am a lecturer at North Lindsey College. I am having some problems with some lads there”
Charlie was not how Pol imagined a lecturer to be. He did not wear a nice dog tooth check jacket. He was in his late forties. He had short but spiked iron grey hair a goatee beard and a profusion of facial piercings. His nose was pierced, his lip, eyebrow and he had a large stretcher through each ear lobe. He wore a motorhead t shirt and jeans.
“What do you lecture in Mr Jackman?”
“Motor vehicle engineering and also engineering. Please, call me Charlie”
“Thanks, I am Pol.”
“Yeah, I know who you are, that’s why I have come to see you, I know the college is not on your patch but I think you might do something about the problem”
There was a gentle tap on the door and George brought in two cups of tea and some chocolate biscuits. “Sarge, get them biscuits quick, they are just out of the fridge” he said.
“Thanks, George, be sure I will” Pol replied.
“So what’s happening, Charlie?”
“I take this one group and in the group is this Girl called Rhianna. Now this girl is pretty bright but she has quite a difficult family life”
“Ok, please go on.” Pol encouraged.
“Over the past couple of weeks we have had trouble with the Acheron gang coming into the college. They just strut about the place like they own it. They are trying to get to this
“How do you know they are the Acheron street gang?”
“Last year I taught a kid called Kharon Khan, he left before the course finished. He talked all the time about how he was the top boy in the Acheron Street crew. When I first started to teach him when he first left school he was a nice lad. He would show respect, complete work and be punctual. But, I don’t know, something changed”
“Grab a biscuit, Charlie, if you don’t I will eat them all. What happened?”
“Well it just came apart. He started to turn up late all of the time. He would seek out confrontation, initially with other students, but then with me as well”.
The experienced sergeant looked at him and said nothing. He knew that if he kept quiet the lecturer would fill the space in the conversation.
The experienced lecturer smiled as he filled the space in the conversation that he knew the sergeant had left for him. Both men recognised the others’ skill and intellect.
“He started to hang around with a Somali lad called New Mo, I don’t know what his real name is and they would spent time in the games room surrounded by a group of other lads. The word was that he was selling drugs in the college.”
“Do you think he was?” Asked Pol simply.
“Yeah, I reckon so”.
“One morning he was dropped off by a bloke in a bullshitted up beamer and his entourage seemed to expand. I don’t know who that bloke in the beamer was but it certainly increased his credibility.”
“What was it, the car?” asked Pol.
“It was a red 3 series probably about a 2003. With big wheels body kit and tinted windows. I have seen it a few times here”
Pol recognised the description of the car. One of the int reps that he had read related to a car like this. When he had checked the police national computer it had come back as belonging to a Tariq Hasni. Hasni had been seen with Khan and the girl Peters had been seen to get into the BMW by one of the community support officers on the area.
“Alright so he left?”
“Yeah, as a part of the contract with the college there is a clause that allows the college to request a piss test for drugs. One morning he came to college particularly anti and I thought that he was on something. I gave the testing agency a call and low and behold after lunch they agency decided that it would be a good time to do a random test on my group”
“Gosh, really? You do surprise me”. Both men had a laugh.
“So when the students finally turned up after lunch break the testers came in and Khan made a big scene. Saying that the test was only going to be done on him because he was an Asian and that the college hated Asians. He stormed out of the room. He didn’t come to another lecture. To be honest, I couldn’t care less about him. He was just a toerag trying to big himself up.”
“Hmmm”, the policeman sipped his mug of tea and thought to himself. There was no more ‘pause for effect’.
“What’s the story with this girl, then?”
“I don’t know, the lads from the gang have been coming onto college premises and trying to get her to go with them. She seems to possess a special fascination for Kharon. When he was in the course she would not faun around him as the others would. She is a bit of a loner, I guess she may have learned to depend on her own company.”
“Right, why?” Asked Pol.
“There is a government initiative called Pupil Premium where some kids are identified at being at risk of under achieving and additional resources are put into them to try to get them to do well.”
“Yeah, we call it the troubled families’ initiative.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Pol, I think it is a really great thing. For years we could watch the kids of certain families follow the script that had been written for them over the generations before them”.
Pol nodded in agreement. He had the same thoughts about the troubled families’ initiative, he had seen three generations of some families come and go. Seen them start into crime, seen them start drugs young, have their kids when they were fourteen and fifteen. He watched them get into more serious crime and the kids go to the same care homes as their parents before them as their parents went to the same gaol as their parents before them. He saw them die in stinking bedsits as drug addicts; over dosed on heroin, wasted with AIDS or hepatitis. Anything was worth a shot. The cycle could not go on any more.
“So Rhianna came to us on a pupil premium, she would have made it onto this course anyway. I had a look at the files on her. Her mum came from a terrible upbringing and statistically Rhianna was likely to end in the same circles.”
“Ok, is it looking like she is going that way?”
“Not really” Charlie continued, “she has some pretty good support from her auntie and her husband or it didn’t look that way until she started to get wrapped up in the Acheron street crew, her work has gone to pot. Her attitude has changed. She has started to wear a few bits of nice jewellery, I think that Kharon is getting them for her”.
“Ok, but hardly really a police thing”, the extensive notes he had made tended to show that it really was a police thing.
“I was lecturing today when Khan came into the building. He came into my workshop. I asked him to leave. He said ‘I have come for my bitch’ he called over to Rhianna and tried to get her to leave the lecture”.
“What did you do?”
“I told him to clear off, which after a bit of posturing and shouting he did. He threatened to slash my face”.
“Ok, will you give a statement about that?”
“Well I can, but I then told him to fuck off or I would smash his face in, so maybe I better not”
“I would say that is pretty reasonable considering what he threatened you with.” Pol said.
“Yeah, the college governors wouldn’t see it that way and I would rather not make myself an easy target in their regime of cutbacks”
“No I guess not.”
“Something has to be done about them, they need sorting out”
Pol had to agree with that.
When Jackman had left Pol sat in his chair. The door of his small office was closed. George had gone home. Pol should have gone home by now. His mind was buzzing. He had previously resigned himself to follow the DCI’s instructions and leave the Acheron street crew alone. He did think he might try to slowly influence the decision of the senior managers by the weight of intelligence that was being generated by the staff. The conversation with Jackman had changed that for him. He had made his decision. There could only be one outcome. He would put them in gaol, he would build a case and get them all one at a time. If the DCI didn’t like it he would go to the divisional commander and show him what he had.
He stood undid his boots, took them off and put them under his desk. He put his epaulettes in the top drawer of his desk. Locked his papers away. He pulled on the leathers and his biking boots. Walking out of his office and into the main constables’ office he said goodnight to the two community support officers that were sharing a pizza.
“Good night, Sarge, ride safely” one of them said, he didn’t know which one because his helmet blurred the voice a little.
The Suzuki Bandit was his counselling at the end of the day. It was an old bike now, over ten years. He loved it. He didn’t polish it much, but he rode it a lot. Twelve hundred cc, about a hundred horse power and with the exhausts he had fitted he could hear every one of those horses roar.
Pol was soon home.
His wife, Fleur had just got home from work and when he went upstairs to get changed she was in the bedroom getting changed after her shift. He walked in whilst she was in her bra and panties.
“Hey sexy, nice arse”. He greeted her.
“Hey horny, nice lunch”. She laughed as he changed out of his police trousers.
“How was your day?” She asked.
“You know, pretty steady away really.” Pol didn’t want to tell her about the decision he had made to go against the DCI.
“Fleur, can I take you out for tea tonight?”
“Yes, Pol, that would be rather nice”, she replied laughing.
As Pol walked past her to his dressing table he slapped her playfully across the buttocks.
“Cheeky!” She said.
It didn’t take Pol very long to get ready to go out to for tea. He only wanted to go to the local pub for a steak. Fleur had a different plan. She wanted to go to the very nice Italian restaurant in Barton.
Whilst she got ready to go out he sat at the kitchen table and enjoyed a strong filter coffee and opened his laptop. He checked the spam emails he had received through the day. He opened Facebook and looked at his notifications.
He had a friend request.
He checked it. It was from Stu Hicks.
He stared at the screen. He almost forgot to breathe. He had last seen or heard from Sticks the day they came out of the jungle.
He was rocked to the core.
His stomach lurched and he felt cold.
He accepted the request.
“Ready Pol?” Fleur said.
He turned and faced her. “Are you ok, Pol, you look like you have seen a ghost”.
“Oh yeah, I am ready to go. Sorry I was miles away, years ago.”
In the car on the way to the restaurant there was no conversation. Over the fifteen years since it happened he had almost put it to the back of his mind. It still visited him in the night. Now it was back in front of his eyes.
Elios was the couples’ favourite restaurant. The food at the restaurant was really outstanding. The Winchesters did not eat out often, even as a police sergeant the money was a little tight. So a meal out at their favourite restaurant was not a weekly event. They would be expecting to spend three times what they might in the local Chinese restaurant.
“What will you have, Pol?”
“I don’t know really, last time I really enjoyed my steak”
“You always have a steak you are so boring!” Fleur gently teased Pol.
“Yeah, that’s right just a boring old git”. It was really unlike Pol to react like this. Fleur was upset by his moody outburst.
“What’s wrong, Pol?” She asked.
They were at the restaurant, they were tense as they walked into the bar area. The maître d was a seasoned professional and saw the atmosphere between the couple. He had seen them in the restaurant many times. Normally they laughed and drank. Not tonight, they were frosty towards each other.
“Mr and Mrs Winchester, a table for two?” He gently asked.
“Yes please, somewhere tucked away, if you can”, he turned to Fleur, “we need to talk”
Fleur felt very nervous. Pol was not a great communicator and she did not know what was coming here. He got himself a beer and a glass of tempranillo for Fleur.
The maître d showed the couple through to a table for two tucked away to the rear of the restaurant.
“Come on then, Pol” she spoke nervously. “Whatever it is let’s get it out”, she thought the problem was between them.
“When I went to Belize I did something very bad. I put it in a box at the back of my memory and left it there.”
“Right, go on”.
“Sometimes, in the night, it comes back to me in dreams. I have never told you about it before. I can tell you about it but it is a real secret…” He was nervous. He looked deeply into her eyes. She saw pain etched into his soul through his eyes. She knew that this was not about them.
“It’s alright Pol, start at the beginning”, she reached across the table and held his hands in hers. He felt vulnerable in her hands. He had never felt vulnerable to her before this.
“We were on an operation, it was me and a bloke called Stu Hicks, we were in Guatemala working on a secret operation and things went tits up”. Emotion rose in his voice and he wavered.
“Come on Winny, it’s all ok”, Fleur reassured him.
“No Fleur, it’s not ok. I killed someone. He was a boy.”
“Pol, you are proud of your service, proud of killing the IRA man.”
“When I say he was a boy, he was a kid, maybe ten years old. I broke his neck. It was a murder.” He wept quietly to himself as he looked at her and held her hands.
“What happened, Pol?”
Pol went on to explain what had happened in the jungle in 1994. He talked about the operation and how he had no choice but to kill the boy to prevent the mission being compromised. His words sounded hollow in his head, like some sort of echo of an excuse.
This secret was out and there was no putting it back in the box now. Fleur knew what sort of a man she was married to. She knew that Pol would kill a child just to keep a mission intact. She spoke quietly, “Pol, this is what you had to do. There wasn’t a choice for you.” She gripped his hands over the table and held them tight in hers.
The meal was good. Pol had his steak, Fleur had her halibut. They talked and were happy to have taken the hidden skeleton out of the cupboard so that they could both see it and deal with it.
When they got home from the restaurant Pol started up his computer and opened Facebook. He had not seen Stu for a long time. He was worried about whether he would still get on with Stu. The friendship that they had forged in the firefights of the jungle was a long time in the past now.
As he opened Facebook he saw that Sticks was online, he contacted him.
Stu: “Hello. It’s been a long, long time.”
Pol: “It has mate, it’s seventeen years since…”
Stu: “Yeah, I know.”
Pol: “Where do you live mate?”
Stu: “Scunthorpe, it’s in North Lincolnshire.”
Pol: “I fucking know where it is, I work there.”
Stu: “No way.”
The two men chatted online for what seemed like just a few minutes. Fleur came through, “Pol, It’s one in the morning, you are on days tomorrow”
“Fucking hell, time has got on a bit”. He said good night to his old mate and turned the computer off.
“We are going out to the pub with Sticks and his wife Di.”
“That sounds good, I like to meet up with your old mates”.
They went to bed and Pol slept. He did not have any dreams that night. The boy stayed away from him. The Belfast nightmare didn’t come to him as it did most nights. He awoke with his alarm. Normally he was relieved when the alarm went off in the morning because he would be able to get up and stop struggling to sleep.
Pulling his bike boots on he thought about the night at the pub he had planned with Stu.