The screwfix shop was only a twenty minute walk for Hicks. Since he had made the decision he needed to be properly prepared. Previously when he had done this sort of thing he had not needed to be at all forensically aware. This time was different. He wasn’t in uniform or in a foreign land fighting an enemy of the British people. He was in the town centre of his home town fighting, he believed, an equally insidious threat. This time he didn’t have the law on his side. He knew that if he was caught he would go to court. No amount of previous heroism would save him from prosecution if he beat up an Asian kid. They would jump on the racism bandwagon and throw the key away. He had purchased what he needed to. A pair of navy blue overalls and a box of latex protective gloves.
The late summer sunshine was warm on his face as he walked along Normanby road. The road was busy as people had started to leave work and head out of town for the weekend. He hummed quietly to himself as he walked easily swinging the white carrier bag in his left hand. He felt a bit of purpose starting to develop. Hicks was a man who liked to know what his mission was. He had always known what he had to do when he was in the service. Not having that shape and that direction in his life had proved to be one of the most difficult transitions into his new civilian life. Previously he had been following the directions of those in air-conditioned, comfortable offices far away. The killing had been impersonal and professional. This mission was self-imposed. This was a personal battle that he had taken on. The weather forecast was overcast for the evening. That was ideal. The darkness was his friend, he seemed to fit comfortably in to the shadows, away from the casual observer and hidden away from his quarry coiled and ready to strike.
“Di, I have something to do tonight.”
“Oh, right, Stu. Would you please pass the vinegar over?” They did not often have fish and chips for supper but Stu had bought these in. Di thought that Stu seemed really positive and have some purpose tonight. Maybe he had found himself a job. She hoped he had, he needed it.
“What is it?” She asked.
“I am going to sort out one of these little shits around here.” They continued to eat.
“Which one?” she asked hoping he would say Kharon was his target.
“The drug dealer one. I know where he keeps his drugs and tonight I am going to persuade him to stop his drug dealing.”
“Ok, is there anything I can do to help you?” She looked up at him over a fork full of chips.
“Yeah, I will be doing it just up the street, if you could sit in our upstairs window and watch out for the police coming?”
“Yeah sure, no problem. When are you going out?”
“Not for a bit, until it is nearly dark, about half past nine I would think. Can you make sure the washing machine is empty and when I come in I will strip straight down and go in the shower? If you put my kit straight through the washer with plenty of bleach.”
They finished their food and Di took the plates into the kitchen. Stu took out the overalls and removed all of the labels. He placed them, and their small plastic ties into an ashtray on the coffee table. Opening the drawer in the table he took out a box of Swan matches struck one and watched the flame grow on the match stick before he ignited the small fire that consumed the labels he fed it one at a time.
Pol: My people are working the other end of the town. I have changed the patrol matrix.
Stu: Ok it will be about ten
Pol: make sure you clean up.
Stu: Yeah, I will
The message stream was, as the others had been, sent directly to the email inbox of DC Dom Watson. Dc Watson sent the email directly to DI Day
The evening drew on and at eight o’clock Stu Hicks, slid into his new blue overalls. He stood in the kitchen near the open door as he dressed. He was determined to leave the smallest possible forensic footprint. He slowly and deliberately pulled on his rubber examination gloves. The gloves were tight and hot on his hands. He knew he would be in them for a couple of hours and he hated the way that they made his hands sweat but he knew he must wear them. He did not want to be exposed to any of the scum bag’s blood. He didn’t want to leave a fibre or a piece of hair from his hand on him.
He stepped out into the grey growing gloom of the evening and slid into the alleyway. He kept his gloved hands pushed hard into his pockets. He made his way through the alley way behind the remaining houses of West Street. Several were derelict now. Due for a large ‘urban regeneration’ project. Or at least that’s what the town council spun it as. Streets of the Victorian terraces had been demolished and then gardens planted on the site. First it was half of Gurnell Street now it was to be a block of West Street. The empty houses had spawned galvanised steel shutters over the windows in a vain attempt to keep out thieves and vagrants. Hicks looked at the house he was headed for. The steel shutters had been pulled off. In the growing dusk the black, dark emptiness of the missing windows gave the empty house a deeper feeling of malevolence than their surroundings. An inky blackness that concealed all within.
The lead flashing had been stolen from the roof and, he suspected, the rain had got into the structure and rotted the timbers of the floors. But he didn’t intend to go too far in, just in deep enough to tuck himself into the darkness. To merge with the darkness and gloom. To disappear from sight.
The garden of the house was a rubbish dump. Black sacks of household refuse covered the ground, many torn open by stray dogs and foxes, spewing their foul smelling contents across the ground. Empty beer cans and cider bottles strewn all around over the ground.
This was a very long way away from the pristine and smart vegetable garden that once this would have been. The steel workers of a century before took great pride in their gardens and the vegetables they produced supplemented their income. But that was in the days when the Lysaghts foundry was working and the town boasted near full employment.
Now the steel works was a fraction of what once it was. Immigrants that flooded in from all around the commonwealth to feed the furnaces hunger for man power had joined the ranks of the unemployed. Those communities closed ranks and formed enclaves within the town. Housing had changed and this was the result. Hypodermic syringes littered the doorway and ground floor of the house.
Hicks tucked himself into the kitchen and took a moment or two to let his eyes become accustomed to the dark. The ceiling hung down where the rain had come in. Floor boards had been torn up where the copper water pipes had been stolen and weighed in for scrap. Hicks took a couple of steps back into the shadows and stood still in the darkness, he waited. It was lighter outside and he knew he would be invisible to the people on the street or to anyone in the garden of the house.
From his vantage point he could see the back bedroom window of his house. The window was in darkness and the net curtains drawn. He knew that behind those curtains his wife would be watching. He sent her a text message telling her he was in position.
He did not have to wait long before he heard the clamour of a group of youths making their way down the alley way. He watched them pass. It was the Acheron Street Crew. His target for the night, New Mo, was with them. They walked passed and further down the street and away. He knew that Mo would not want the other members of the gang to know where the drugs were kept. Sure enough a few minutes later a solitary figure emerged from the alley way. Hicks controlled his breathing and mentally prepared himself. When he emerged from the door way he knew he would have to cover the ground to Mo quickly and soundlessly. The youth walked into the garden and looked around as he came in.
Hicks recognised him immediately. It was Mohammed Nuelleh, aka New Mo. This tall slim lad of Somali origin was the man in charge of the drug supply in this part of town. He was a distinctive kid with closely cropped hair and very East African appearance. He was wearing a quilted jacket and black jeans. He did not appear to have any weapons. But Hicks couldn’t see what he had under his jacket. Pol had told him that there had been information that suggested that members of this gang had access to a gun. There was nothing to say that was not tucked into the waistband of Mo’s jeans.
Nuelleh took a couple of steps into the garden and stood still. He looked around and looked directly at the doorway Hicks was concealed in. Mo did not see Hicks. Mo stepped towards the house and was now within five meters of the back door. Again he stopped, looked around himself and looked directly towards the shadow that was Hicks. Hicks could hear the boy breathing. Hicks had controlled his breathing and heart rate. He was calm and relaxed. He knew this feeling well. He had practised it many times in the past.
Mo then raised a hand to his mouth, he placed his thumb and forefinger in his mouth and let out a shrill and loud whistle. This was quickly replied by two other whistles from either direction in the alleyway.
So he was not alone. The other lads were not far away. Hicks quickly re-evaluated his plan. The whistles sounded quite a distance from the garden. What hicks had planned would only take a few seconds. Hicks had an alternative route out planned. He would hop over two garden walls, into the alley way and on to a side alley directly onto the street. He could still do it and be away without being seen.
Nuelleh bent down and pushed a brick aside with his hand, he carefully lifted a small glass jar out of a hollow in the ground under the brick. Hicks could not see what was in the jar from where he was concealed. He knew this would be the stash of drugs. Nuelleh emptied the jars contents into the palm of his left hand. Hicks saw that it was a plastic zip lock bag containing foil packages. Hicks knew each of these packages would contain a ‘deal’ worth of heroin or crack cocaine.
Nuelleh looked closely at the small packages in his hand. He lifted his hand to close to his nose. He examined the contents of the bag like jewels. He was entranced by the wraps. He knew that for him those wraps represented prestige and power and an opportunity to gain credibility in the community. Each of these bags contained either crack cocaine or street heroin.
Both of his hands were full, his attention rapt in the drugs. This was the time. Hicks exploded from the doorway. Nuelleh had enough time to look up and see the darkness leap towards him, his eyes wide with terror. He had no time to shout before the shadow fell upon him.
Hicks punched him on the right of his neck, hard. This blow caused instant concussion and dazed Nuelleh. As he fell to the ground, semi-conscious, Hicks struck again, against Nuelleh’s momentum by striking with the knee hard under his ribs. This broke the lower ribs in Nuelleh’s chest. It forced the breath to gush from his body. He lay motionless on the ground. He was conscious but dazed. Wracked with the pain of fractured ribs. Hicks took the packages still clenched in Nuelleh’s left hand and thrust them into his pocket. He rolled the boy onto his back and crouched over him. He searched Nuelleh as he lay motionless. From the inside pocket of the boys coat he removed a roll of cash. The roll was ten centimetres thick. Twenty and ten pound notes rolled together, the proceeds of so much drug dealing, harvested from the misery of prostitutes and victims of muggings. He pushed the cash into his overalls pocket and bent over so his face was inches from Nuelleh’s.
“Can you hear me?” Hicks said to him in a quiet and relaxed voice.
“Please don’t kill me” the boy whimpered.
“If you tell anyone who I am or what happened here I want you to know I will kill you and I will kill your family. I will come to them from the darkness and take their souls to hell”.
“I won’t say, I won’t.” Nuelleh was crying now.
Hicks placed one hand on the throat of the boy. He felt the boys pulse from his carotid artery in his finger tip. He moved his thumb so it was equidistant from the lads wind pipe and then squeezed his finger and thumb towards each other. He was careful not to crush Mo’s windpipe but he cut the blood supply to his brain just enough to render him unconscious. As Nuelleh’s body relaxed his right leg rolled outwards away from his left. The leg rolled onto a discarded hypodermic needle. The needle penetrated the boy’s jeans and his calf. The tiny pinprick in the leg carried the HIV virus from some unknown junky that would, in the fullness of time, prove fatal for the drug dealer.
The following morning the manager of the Red Cross shop on Cole Street was somewhat surprised to find a little over five thousand pounds in the donations box.
The latest intelligence from special branch about the situation in Scunthorpe caused some concern to Mr. White. It had become quite clear that the reports submitted by the sergeant had been correct. The local force had chosen not to pursue the mayor of the town and a key member of the local liaison committee. The information from the phone intel had shown a degree of collusion between the sergeant and a former military colleague of his. Hicks, the former SBS commando appeared to be on a vigilante mission in the town and it seemed that this was being supported by Winchester.
The danger was becoming clear to Mr. White that should the local police get involved with investigating the sergeant the situation would not be resolved and, more dangerously, the sergeant might go public. If the sergeant went public then the worst fears of the local force and of the agency could be realised. It would be exposed that senior members of the police force had been at best reticent and at worst colluding with a child abusing network headed by the local mayor.
It was time to remove the risk and start to pull these ends together a little. The situation in Scunthorpe could resolve itself quite nicely if all of the pieces fell together.
Mr White sat in his office and pondered the direction to take over a cup of coffee. His massive and heavily engraved oak desk crouched like a monument to the past. A monument to the victories his predecessors had enjoyed. The deep green leather top had been selected to match the aged two seat chesterfield sofa and his heavy oak framed leather chair. The walls of his office were oak panelled. This timeless feel surrounded him and added gravity to the situation. The laptop on the desk was the only link back into the twenty first century.
It was time for him to earn his substantial salary and make the most difficult of decisions. He hoped if he allowed this situation to develop in the direction that he wanted the two key players Hicks and Sgt Winchester would, without their knowledge, become powerful assets for him to use.
Deliberately he placed the bone china coffee cup back on the saucer and he opened his laptop and started to compose an email;
To: Mr Green, Mr Black.
Cc: Ms X
Subject: Developing situation Scunthorpe.
As we have discussed in recent meetings we have a situation starting to develop in the town of Scunthorpe. The latest information that I am receiving from other sources and from Special Branch suggests that Winchester actively diverted police units away from the area in which Hicks subsequently carried out a vigilante beating of a seventeen year old Asian youth.
I have considered the way forward with this and pondered whether we need any active involvement in this. We are currently at a point in the development of this situation whereby the local police and Special Branch are showing some interest. It is crucially important that we prevent them from interfering with this rapidly moving scenario.
The following actions are to be applied
Mr Green. Please have the recipient of the telephone intelligence changed from DC Watson to Mr Black.
Mr Black. Please contact DC Watson and assume the role of handling both Hicks and liaising with Winchester. Please use the name of DC Black. This will prevent the subjects becoming suspicious of our activity.
Mr Black. Please report directly and immediately to Mr Green.
Mr Green. Please report to me as a matter of your discretion.
Mr Black. Inform both Winchester and Hicks that you are assuming this investigation because there is a suspicion of corruption and the intelligence that they are giving may not be secure. They are to submit all intelligence to yourself and not divulge any information in relation to the operation to any other person.
I will brief Ms. X and she will ensure local Special Branch and Humberside Police Force keep their difference and do not compromise the operation.
If there are any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. We will look to arrange a meeting within the next few weeks to fully update. Venue TBA.
Kharon spoke easily to Sarah, he hid his revulsion.
“Sarah, I want you to meet someone”.
“Who Kazzy?” Sarah was eager to please, as always.
“This woman works for me and she is going to help to look after you.” He spoke softly and gently.
“I don’t need to be looked after, Kazzy. Me and Bran, we have been through some shit times together and we have always been ok”. She was not sure what Kharon was getting at.
“Listen to Kazzy, he is the man”. Asserted her brother, Brandon.
Sarah looked back at Kharon, “I didn’t mean to show you any disrespect, I am sorry”.
Kharon nodded to Mikhail who turned away from the group in the basketball court and spoke into his phone. A moment later Sarah saw the tall and glamorously dressed Nadia walk round the corner. Nadia looked at Kharon, there was no disguising the pure hatred in her eyes. Sarah did not see it. Nadia’s visage changed as Sarah looked at her. She threw a smile on like a coat. Her gloss red lips parted and she showed her near perfect smile. Sarah beamed in admiration at her.
“Hello, you must be Sarah?” Said Nadia.
“I am, who are you?” asked Sarah in awe of this tall and beautiful Eastern European woman.
“I am Nadia, I work for Mr Khan, and I am going to help you when you start to work for him”
“What do you do for him?” Sarah gushed.
“All sorts of things, really whatever he wants.” Nadia didn’t lie and she gave no inclination of the disdain she felt for Kharon or for the things that she did for him. She would never have thought as a girl in a rural Romanian village that she would be here whoring for a youth. She dreamed the western dream of making a good living and having wealth. She dreamed of designer jeans and i-players. She had been a bright girl and had done well at school. She came to England in a container on a truck. In exchange for a doing some work the passage to England she thought she would have had access to her dream. She had no idea what that work would be. She stood in the wreckage of her broken dreams and looked at this little girl who had all of this in front of her. In her turn young Sarah’s dreams would be smashed, stolen, destroyed, torn, raped and discarded in the alley ways by these bastards.
She had been told by Kharon what was to happen to this girl in just a few days. She was to look after her when she came back, make sure she didn’t OD and die. They wanted to safeguard their investment and make sure she had a log and profitable future for them as a resource. Her brother knew what was going to happen but had done a deal and allowed her to go. He had sold his sister in exchange for acceptance into the gang. Another bastard trading in the misery of the girl as an asset.
“Sarah, why don’t you go for a walk with Nadia, she will show you round our streets and then you can see what we do here”. When Kharon made a suggestion it was not a request it was a directive.
“Come on, my darling let me take you back to my place and we will talk about what work you can do.” Nadia smiled at Sarah.
They walked together and quietly until they got to the first floor flat in Berkeley Street. Another Victorian house lost to multi occupancy. Bedsits in the ground floor but a flat on the first floor. They woman lead the girl up the stairs and into the lounge. It was well furnished and well maintained. A large flat screen television was on the wall, a leather sofa and a rug on the wooden floor. All in the most tasteful of creams and magnolia. The open plan kitchen was just behind the lounge.
“Have a look around at my flat, I will make a coffee.” Nadia had been scripted by Kharon and as Sarah looked around Nadia started the espresso machine. Sarah thought it was so sophisticated and she wanted this, she wanted to have this life. Kharon had developed this manipulation to an expert level.
Nadia hated her part in this plan, but she also knew it was a chance to help to keep the girl safe and maybe help her get away from the growing darkness that loomed on her horizon.
“Have a look in the bedroom, Sarah” Nadia called to the girl as she made the coffee. The strong aroma pervaded the flat, “It’s where I do my business” she added , there would be a point in this meeting where she would have to tell Sarah about what was in line for her and this was the time. Nadia carried the coffee through to the, again, tastefully decorated bedroom. A flat screen TV was also on the wall in this room.
“The flat is really lovely, Nadia. It must be really expensive.” Sarah asked. Her coffee steamed from the designer espresso cup.
“No it is paid for by Kazzy and the gang”. I get to live here and earn money here.
Nadia had expected Sarah to pick this up and pursue it with questions. Sarah didn’t she just let it go.
“Sarah, do you know what I do?” she levelled with the girl.
“Yeah, of course I do. You are an escort or a hooker.” Sarah’s nonchalance shook Nadia. She had expected that Sarah would have been disgusted.
“Yes that’s right, I am. What do you think about that?”
“Nothing really. I couldn’t give a shit. Is this what they want me to do?” Nadia could not tell whether this nonchalance was real or some kind of youth powered bravado.
“Yes Sarah, it is. You will be working for them too.”
“I don’t care, it’s nothing I haven’t done before. I don’t mind getting paid to fuck”. Nadia would have suspected that Sarah was trying to big herself up in front of her but her attitude seemed too relaxed for that.
“Do all of their girls get a flat like this?” The girl asked.
“No some live in council bedsits or hovels, some live on the streets. They are the crack heads and they get treated much worse than I do. I am clean and I bring punters back here. Sometimes visiting business men that they want to impress.” Nadia said.
She handed the girl a cup of Italian blend espresso. Sarah, took a sip and turned her nose up at it. “I don’t like it much, have you got any orange?”
Two streets away on West Street Di Hicks was walking home from work. She had worked hard at the minimum wage cleaning job all afternoon. She took pride in her work, even if the work was cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors. Her hands were dry and cracked, she once enjoyed manicures and massages at the spa. But since Stu had not been working there had been no such luxuries. The idea of spending that amount of money on a manicure was repulsive when they struggled to feed the dog and themselves.
She was only fifty yards from home when it happened to her. Di passed a couple of lads on the wall of the corner shop when she turned into the alleyway. She had seen them before, they were foreign, maybe Poles or Russians. They hung around with the gang. She thought nothing of it. As she passed them they slid off the wall and followed her into the alleyway. There was another young lad in the alleyway, tall and slim with sad blue eyes. She had seen him with them before. He would not look at her, as she approached him she stepped to the side and to let him pass. He stepped the same way. He stopped straight in front of her. She couldn’t pass.
“Give me your purse” The lad said.
“I haven’t got any money”, Di replied.
“Don’t fucking lie” the lad flared up and seemed suddenly angry. His sad blue eyes lost their soft edge and became inflamed and angry.
“I haven’t got anything, but I live round the corner and my husband might come here at any time, so best get lost”. Di was not scared of these boys.
“I don’t fucking think so. Now give me your purse you fucking white trash bitch”.
He stepped closer, there were only inches between them. She should see the fear in his eyes. At the same time she heard breathing behind her. She felt fear, this boy could not lose face. He had others with him. He would have to follow this through. She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out her purse.
“Let me show you, I have got nothing.”
She unzipped her purse, there was a few coppers in it. He looked down into the purse and with no further warning lunged his head forward. She had time to flinch and half turn away the butt landed heavily on the top of her right cheek bone. The thin skin, stretched over the bone split easily and opened a cut two centimetres long and down to the bone. She was stunned. A second later one of the boys behind her kicked her in the side of her left knee. The knee bent, the wrong way. The ligaments tore away. She collapsed to the ground. The flash of white hot pain from her knee took her breath away. She looked up at the boys from the ground and before the kick that knocked her out landed in her solar plexus she said, “He will come for you”.
The three boys laughed as they ran from the alleyway. They were still laughing when they got to the youth centre where they met up with Kazzy and New Mo.
Kazzy said “What the fuck is up with you bitches?”
Mikhail laughed loudly “We just slapped some bitch in the alley near West Street”
Kazzy, focussed as normal on business “Did you get any money?”
“No, she had fuck all, the white bitch” said Ludviks trying to act tough with his brother.
“Any gear?” Asked Mo. He turned and faced the laughing trio. He was still stiff and aching the bruise on the side of his neck had made his whole body stiff.
“No, nothing at all. But it was on your streets Kazzy.” Brandon replied.
“Was it one of the whores?” Kharon asked plainly.
“No, just some white bitch”. Brandon spoke quietly now. He felt unsure of his ground now.
The atmosphere had changed, had become chilled and both Kazzy and Mo had become more questioning. He felt them start to develop a level of hostility towards him.
“So you just beat up a woman for fuck all?” Asked Mo.
“No, we wanted to get you some money” replied Brandon.
“Who was it?” Asked Kazzy.
“That bloke that has the big dog on West Street, the one who slapped Ishan the main man. It was his white whore bitch”. Said Mikhail, “it will show him who runs these streets, bro.”
Mo shuddered. His face became ashen and grey. He was overwhelmed with fear. He knew that what the woman’s husband was capable of. He stood up violently knocking the table to one side and spilling drinks across the floor. A mug smashed on the floor, the sound of the breaking chine made everyone look at him.
“I am not your fucking brother, cunt. You fucking idiots!” He shouted.
“Do you know what you have fucking done? Do you know what you have fucking done? You fucking dickheads”. The club was silent. Mo was normally a quiet and calculating man. This type of outburst was unheard of.
Mo stormed out of the club. He had left his mobile phone on the floor amongst the cocktail of coffee and coke.
On the table at the end of the youth centre Shaizal Islam was playing pool. He waited a few moments until conversation started up again then he stepped out and went home. He hated what these boys were doing. They were not real Muslims. He called Crimestoppers again that evening.
Nadia swam every day. Fifty lengths in lanes. She knew that she needed to keep her figure good, she needed to keep working. Bide her time and wait for her chance. Towelling her strong thighs and flat stomach she planned her evening.
She pulled on her tracksuit and picked up her bag and left the cubicle. She made her way into the seating area to check her text messages. Normally Kharon will have sent her details of any special punters. She rummaged through her purse and found change for the coffee machine.
She recognised the man at the machine, it was Stu. She had been there when they had burned his shed down. He looked angry his firm jawline was set hard. He kept looking up at the door whilst sipping his coffee. The muscles in his cheek bunched and relaxed over and over.
“Hello, Stu” She said.
“Oh hello, it’s Nadia, isn’t it?” He said.
“Yes it is, are you ok? You look angry.” She said quietly she touched his forearm.
“They beat my wife up, just beat her up.” his voice strained with emotion.
“Are you waiting for someone?” She asked him.
“Yes, I swim with my friend, he is a police man but he you can trust him”. He added impatiently.
“I will swim again, with you, I have something to tell you”.
Pol walked into the room and saw them talking, he recognised Nadia. He had seen her working the street. She had clearly been in the pool, her hair was wet and her cheeks flushed.
“Pol, Nadia is going to swim with us this morning, she wants to chat”. Stu said.
“Ok, I have something for you too.” Replied Pol.
“Nadia has something for us both” Hicks said to Pol.
“I will swim again with you both”, she said as she went back into the changing room.
Pol didn’t give tell Hicks everything he wanted to. Whilst they swam together he listened but did not say much. He was not sure about Nadia. Later in the evening he sent a text message to his friend and gave him the names of the Acheron Street Gang members who had attacked Di.