Batman, you just killed the Joker
The Blueprint - Stage 1 cont.
Let me tell you about a notorious British drugs Baron. He was, at one time, so wealthy and so untouchable that he featured in The Sunday Times Rich List. Neither of his parents was British and his criminal associates were almost all black and mixed race. He was a killer and was responsible for importing more narcotics into this country than anyone else before or since. Despite all of this, he was, for much of life, living here free as a bird, with between £85,000,000 and £185,000,000 or more at his disposal. Despite his track record, when he was jailed the time before last, the powers-that-be let him out way too early.
If a just and kind God got to choose who to give £185,000,000 to, him or us, he’d choose us. I feel sure the Almighty would be pleased if some of this dreadful creature’s assets were to find it’s way into the wallets of a whole lot of nice British lads, who intended to use it to win back their world. If we were to apprehend such a man and identify the whereabouts of a quarter of his ill-gotten gains, we would have a very substantial bankroll with which to wrest our country back from its captors. Four last points:
i) If what had occurred were to become public knowledge, it ought to sit very well with the general public (the bad guy, for once, gets his). ii) Kidnapping, robbing and sorting out someone who patently deserved such treatment should be good practice for the less savoury stuff down the line. By the time we are dishing out the punishment to the higher-ups our hearts would have been hardened to the matter. iii) The fact that those we would be persuading to contribute belonged to the criminal fraternity ought to make it a lot less likely that the police would be informed of their losses. iv) The process described above would not, necessarily, need a thousand determined souls. It might only need twenty.
“Good morning, modom. As you knows, the Member of Parliament for this ‘ere constituency has met a sad end. As a result of which, there will be an election ‘eld around here. I was wondering if you might consider voting for the Independent candidate?”
“Are you the candidate?”
“Me? Good gracious me no. In case you ‘ad not noticed, most politicians are ugly, I wouldn’t fit in.” He cringed when Steve cracked the joke. To his surprise, however, Mrs Adams giggled and he heard the chain rattle.
“Would you like to come in?”
“Thank you very much, milady.” He followed quickly, closing the door behind him. Steve was gently shushing her as he held her up against the wall with his hand over her mouth. The man put his face close to hers and she shrank back away from him.
“We aren’t going to hurt you. Try hard not to be frightened.” Steve took his hand slowly from her mouth.
“Sorry, love. You OK?” She nodded but was obviously terrified.
“Two of my children are here. They’re only small.” He assured her they would not be harmed if she did as she was told. She led them into the living room and they sat down. He asked her what time her husband would be home. “If he comes straight home, about 6.30. If he doesn’t it could be late. Perhaps not at all.”
Something about the way she said it made him think the man of the house might be playing away. If she contacted him, saying that one of his children was ill, would he return? She thought about it.
“I wouldn’t bother him, usually. I’m not that fussed when he stays away to be honest.” Now he was certain. “But if I phoned him and said what you said, I think he’d be round in twenty minutes.” The marriage-wrecker was a near neighbour then. “He dotes on the children.”
He asked her if there was a chance of a cup of tea. She rose from the chair. Steve followed.
“I’ve done you some sandwiches and two teas. Would it be all right if I went and checked on the children? They’ve been quiet for too long.”
“OK by me but you’ll have to ask, Mister Grumpy.” Steve saw her eyes twinkle momentarily and immediately felt less fed up. “Always moanin’ at me, he is. Can’t do anythin’ right sometimes.” She followed him through to the living room. The man had hooked himself up to the Internet and was tapping something out on his laptop.
“Can Mrs Adams check on the kids, boss?” He said it wouldn’t be a problem but told Steve to go with her. She put the sandwiches down and Steve left a tea before following her out. A few seconds later he was back. “I’ll just have a few of these, boss,” he said apologetically, commandeering half the sandwiches.
He could see they were beginning to develop a bit of a relationship and that was fine by him. Let her be wary of him and his face and best friends with the Page 3 boy. Things would run smoother if Mrs Adams and the kids didn’t get scared.
He was still at the computer when Steve appeared at the door.
“Scuse me, boss. You might not like this but it’s not my fault.” He asked him what he’d done. “Nothin.’ Like I said.” After a while Steve told him she was giving him the eye. He stopped what he was doing and looked up.
“She keeps looking at me like I was a pork chop. It’s me baby-blues, boss. They fall for ‘em every time. They say ‘the eyes are the mirror of the soul,’ you know. I must have lots of soul, I suppose. That’s what they fall for, I guess.” He stood up, brushed past Steve without saying anything and mounted the stairs. She was sitting on the bed.
“Is he bothering you, Mrs Adams?”
“No, he’s been nice. We were just talking.” He looked at her.
“Do you mind if I ask you a personal question.” She shook her head. “Do you like him?” She couldn’t meet his eyes and looked down at her slippered feet. He swore under his breath and made to leave the room but she called him back.
“It’s been nice talking to a man again. My husband and I haven’t been getting on.” He nodded. She looked up at him. “It’s been a long time.” This time he looked away first. He returned to the living room.
“I wasn’t making it up, was I?”
Once again he took her through the reasons why they were there, this time spelling out the negative possibilities in rather more detail. He asked her to tell him, frankly, what Roland meant to her. She looked down at the children, who were both still asleep.
“He’s the father of my children.” She paused. “If he wasn’t I’d be off like a shot. I don’t care for him any more and he’s not keen on me either. Hasn’t been for some time now.” She hesitated again and he could see she was wondering whether to tell him something. “He’s got a lover. He’s there at least once a week. We don’t speak about it.”
Sally had been well in the closet but now she was eager to show them the favourites menu on her computer. It turned out she was a bit of an Internet warrior on the sly. Saucy Sally was well known in a whole host of dodgy forums and, unbelievably, she had actually swapped the odd anti-establishment opinion with both of her guests.
“Small world, ain’t it?” said Steve, who thought it was hilarious that he and his latest conquest had had a cyber shag before getting it together for real.
Steve was upstairs loudly acting out some made-up bed time story for the kids. Just the ticket for getting them off to sleep before the action starts, he thought irritably. He was watching News 24 with Sally.
“When this is all over, will you do me a favour?” She nodded. “If they offer you the chance of a press conference, you know, to expose what evil villains we are, will you take it?”
“If you want me to.” She didn’t understand.
“If you went on national television live, said that we weren’t so terrible and told everyone what the authorities had done to John, it wouldn’t half do some good.”
“I see. Yes, I’ll do that. I will.” She was keen. It wasn’t a put on.
“Failing that, the papers are bound to want your story. There’ll be a lot of cash on offer.”
“I don’t care about money. I went for it once and it got me eight years of this. I’ve had more proper life today than I have since the day I got married,” she added determinedly. He was grateful and said so.
“You’re a good girl,” he added, after a while.
“Not that good, mister,” she replied, quick as a flash. They laughed.
The television was on when Roland came home at 6.45. He parked his car in the garage and unlocked the front door, hanging up his coat in the hall before climbing the stairs and entering the bathroom. The children weren’t awake. Back downstairs he entered the kitchen where a man he didn’t know was waiting.
“Hi Roland,” he said.
“Where is my wife?”
“She’s safe,” said another man, appearing out of nowhere. “She’s safe as long as you do precisely as you’re told.” Roland didn’t grasp what was happening. One thing his captor was certain of straightaway, there wasn’t going to be any trouble.
He adjusted the video camera so that his head and shoulders fitted snugly within the viewfinder.
“I must see my wife.”
“Quiet, Roland, there’s good chap. Now then, I’m going to ask you a series of questions. The important thing to remember is this: the answers you give me must be 100 per cent truthful.” Roland didn’t respond. “Say something, Roland.” Suddenly, he was in tears. “If you don’t give me an answer, I’m afraid I’m going to have to punish you.” When he still didn’t reply, he strode over to the chair, drew his head back and pushed one of his own socks into his mouth.
“Do you know what this is?” Roland’s eyes widened as a long, thin, wicked-looking object appeared before him. “This is a cattle prod. It’s used for prodding cattle. It’s also used for encouraging fat wankers when they can’t be bothered to join in the fun. You ready to talk now?” Roland nodded vigorously. The man pulled the sock out of his mouth. Roland coughed and sucked in air greedily.
“What is your name? Where do you work and what is your job?”
“Roland Adams. I’m the governor of Bruton prison.”
“Why did you put John Carter, a white man, in the same cell as a homosexual psychopath?”
“I didn’t. The allocation of prison cells is Terence Bevan’s responsibility.”
“Bevan took it upon himself to put John Carter in with Mobuto without you knowing about it?” Roland managed to shake his head and nod at the same time. “You are unaware that, in your prison, prisoners, who will almost certainly not get along, are routinely put in the same cell, just for the fun of it?”
“It’s not routine.”
“But you know it goes on.”
“I can’t be everywhere at once.” He moved in front of the camera and was, once again, seen pushing the sock into Roland’s mouth. He then picked up the prod and began lightly introducing it to various parts of his anatomy. Steve arrived and wanted to know if he’d missed anything good.
“Roland’s been bad and I had to give him a bit of a prod.”
“Quite right too. In my opinion they should bring back the cattle prod for all naughty Governors.”
“Look up at the camera, Roland. And do stop blubbering, no one likes a crybaby. Were you aware that Carter was going to be put in with Ernest Mobuto?” He nodded. “Were you aware that what took place was being filmed?”
“I know such things have been filmed in the past.”
“Have you ever seen such a videotape yourself?” He nodded.
“Have you ever asked that such a videotape be made?”
“But you believed one might be made on this occasion?” He nodded. “And you did nothing to prevent this happening?”
“No, I didn’t. I’m very sorry.”
“What happened when the prisoners were put in the same cell.”
“Mobuto propositioned Carter.”
“How big is Mobuto?”
“How big is Carter?”
“What happened next?”
“Mobuto became more persistent. Carter was trying to evade him. Then Mobuto grabbed him and tried to force his head downwards.”
“Then what happened?”
“Carter hit Mobuto in the testicles. He savaged him from that point on and, a few seconds later, the staff went in and pulled him off.”
“The officers filming the event?” He nodded. “What were their names?”
“Cedric Turner and Henry Frogg.”
“What happened next?”
“Carter was taken to the gymnasium by officers Turner, Frogg, Williams and Lawrence.”
“All four witnessed what happened next and they left Carter to his fate after filming the first part?” He nodded. “How many times did they bugger him, according to the official report of the incident.”
“Nice prison you run there, governor,” said Steve.
“What are the names of the perverts who mistreated John Carter?”
“Dwaine Butler, Charles Olukun, Ajax Adimorah and Magic Zeus.”
“Do you still have the film of Carter being buggered?”
“It’s here in my desk.”
“Why did you bring it back here?”
“I didn’t want anyone else finding it.”
“He wanted to whack himself off whilst he was watching Johnny get done more like,” opined Steve.
“How did you come to know of the videotape’s existence?”
“A member of staff told me. I asked the senior about it and he admitted there was such a film.”
“Did you receive instruction from higher up the chain to mistreat this particular prisoner?” He shook his head. “So the suffering John Carter was forced to endure is down to you then?” He didn’t reply. “The buck stops with you, Roland. What’s the verdict, Mr Smith?”
“Cattle prod up the arsehole, boss. See how he likes it.”
Roland was given the sock treatment once again, dragged out of the chair, debagged and, whilst Steve sat on him, the man eased the prod into his rectum. “Any last words, governor?” Roland nodded frantically. The sock was removed.
“In my desk at the prison. There’s a document suggesting that ‘the boundaries might be pushed,’ in order to get information on the serial killer. Carter is a known associate. I should have shredded it but it’s still there. I wanted the proof if anything went wrong.”
“I think we should tell his wife what kind of a man he is, don’t you, Stephen?” Steve agreed, suggesting also that the prod be left on whilst they retired to the kitchen for a glass of milk.
“Please don’t.” Roland’s cries were stifled once again and the offending instrument removed from his behind. His right and left buttocks were then electrified. Roland fainted. Hunter wiped his brow.
“Definitely. Oh, and Steve!” He turned at the doorway. “Good job.” Steve swaggered off, smiling.
Eventually, Steve told her that, at one point they’d stuck something nasty up his behind. Sally nodded, a thoughtful expression on her face.
“He would have liked that.”
“How do you mean, Sal”?
“His lover, it’s a twenty-year-old toy boy.” Steve sprayed the bedroom with lager, some of it went down the wrong way and she spent the next few minutes patting him hard on the back. Later, when he told him about Roland’s paramour, the boss looked up and said:
“There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” Steve nodded knowingly without having the least clue what he was on about. By the time he’d gotten curious enough to ask him about it, he was back on the laptop tapping away and Steve thought better of disturbing him.
After Steve’s performance the previous evening, he was less anxious about letting him accompany Roland. If anything went wrong and the cops surrounded the building, he would hide in the attic and Sally would tell them he’d gone. He had been awake most of the night creating a set of identity cards for Steve. He hoped he wouldn’t have to display any of them but, as long as those demanding to see his ID didn’t know what the real thing looked like, the documentation was pretty convincing. Roland was asked to name the occupation of ‘Major Drake’.
“MI5 Intelligence Officer.”
“Why is he accompanying you today?”
“In order to pick up the prisoner and escort him from the premises.”
“OK. Listen up, Roland. I don’t kill for no reason. If you get this right, your wife and children will be here waiting for you, safe and unharmed, when you return.” He patted the governor on the shoulder and wished him good luck before escorting them both through the kitchen to the garage. Neatening Steve’s tie fractionally, he told him he was looking good.
““Piece of piss, boss,” he whispered.
“You do realise that everything changes now? There’s no turning back, you’ll be a wanted man from this point on.”
“I’m a soldier, boss. I’ve spent my whole life building up to this. I’ll take what comes. I just hope I don’t fuck up.”
“You won’t. Let Roland do the talking and say as little as possible.” Steve nodded. They shook hands one last time and he climbed in beside the governor of Bruton Prison.
He was sick to death of her. He had tried to be civil but she wouldn’t even go through the motions. Did she think it wasn’t difficult for him as well? She didn’t even bother to make an effort in front of the children, for goodness sake! No, the situation was intolerable and he wouldn’t miss her one bit. And the children would get over it. They were a different matter, of course. He couldn’t risk losing them. He would have to go along for their sake. His career would be over. They might forgive him setting free a convicted felon for the sake of his family but they wouldn’t forgive the documents in his desk falling into the wrong hands.
He could pretend they had disappeared. Taken by persons unknown. One of his staff. Or perhaps he would sit down and refuse to get Carter up from the cells if the dimwit didn’t let him shred the document there and then! Roland glanced at Steve in the mirror. No, he wouldn’t do that. He’d get him to ring Scarface, saying he wanted to talk to him. Yes, he’d put the ultimatum to him. He’d say he would lose his job if he gave him the document. He was happy to fetch the prisoner out but not the documents. Surely he’d be happy with that? He hadn’t known such a document existed until yesterday night, after all. The Governor brightened considerably. There was a way out and he’d found it. That’s what he’d do.
In the event, Roland didn’t do anything of the sort.
They got in with no problems, Steve didn’t have to show his ID and he just looked straight ahead as they passed a variety of prison staff. On their way to Roland’s office he had to stop a couple of times when somebody had something that needed discussing but no one spoke to him. The boss had told him to stand up straight and act like a colonel in the army and, if he felt someone staring, he should just slowly turn in their direction and gaze back until they looked away or acknowledged his presence. He should nod politely in their direction if they did but no smiles.
He was pleased when they got to Roland’s office. He thought he’d be enjoying himself by now but the butterflies were still there. Roland said he’d got to deal with a few things before he got John out of the infirmary and he asked what they were. Just routine. He could do what he needed to do from the office.
“No funny business, Roland, remember this,” he said, patting the revolver underneath his arm. Roland did his thing and Steve opened his briefcase, hefting the CZ to give himself a bit of confidence. After ten minutes or so he was starting to get a bit fidgety and Roland was told to get a move on. He blinked, thought better of whatever he was thinking, picked up the phone and called the hospital wing.
“Governor Adams here. Could you send prisoner 34727, John Carter, to my office immediately please. Thank you, Jones.”
Roland was looking at him like he was a plonker again. Steve did the gaze thing on him and he looked away. The boss had made him practice staring that morning. He’d looked at him for more than a minute without blinking. The boss cracked up first. Steve smiled at the memory. There was a knock on the door. Before the Governor had a chance to say ‘come in’ the rude bleeder was in the office with John behind him. Steve stood up and got over to the window just in time. He didn’t turn around until the screw had left the office so all him and John got was a back view of a suit. He could tell the screw was a bit put out at being asked to leave.
“Highly unusual, sir,” he’d said.
“Don’t worry, Frogg, Major Drake will protect me from this one. The Major needs to ask him a few questions of the need-to-know variety if you know what I mean.” Frogg had no idea what he meant but Steve half-turned at that point and gave him a bit of a gaze. The gaze worked and Frogg toddled off scowling. Steve walked around the room keeping his face turned away from John until he got behind him. Then he bent down and whispered:
“Me, you and the governor are going to take a walk shortly right out of them prison gates.”
“Is that…?” Steve put his hand over John’s mouth. Still whispering he said:
“Don’t get out of the chair, don’t give me a kiss and don’t shout out whatever you do.” He moved around in front of him and knelt down.
“‘Ow you feelin’, Tiger?”
“A lot better for seeing you, mate. What’s the story then?”
“Don’t ‘ave time to explain. All you need to know for now is that me, you and Roland ‘ere are all leavin’ together. Ain’t that right, Governor?” Roland nodded.
As he was making the arrangements for the transfer, Steve fished a pair of handcuffs out of his briefcase and manacled himself to prisoner 34737. Frogg knocked and came straight in again.
“Why wasn’t I informed about this, sir?”
“I only found out about it myself this morning. They rang me at home.” As Frogg wasn’t satisfied with that, the governor stood up and taking him into a corner, explained.
“This is government business. MI5 wish to talk to the prisoner in a rather more effective kind of way than we are able to. Now don’t make a fuss, Frogg, we don’t want the prisoner to realise where he’s off to.”
“Where is he off to, sir?”
“Some airfield in Hampshire, I’m told. They didn’t tell me precisely where. Hush-hush, you see.” Steve, who didn’t much like Roland having a heart-to-heart with Frogg which he wasn’t privy to, coughed at that point and Roland jumped.
“Oh, sorry Major, that was rude of me. So, if you could bring up the prisoner’s effects. I’ll sign everything off and you can escort us to the gates. Come along Frogg, time is of the essence.” Frogg was still looking dubious and gave the Major a surly look as he passed him and went out of the door.
“Don’t like that geezer,” Steve said quietly.
“He’s a twat,” said John.
“What was you two mumblin’ about then?”
“I wanted him to think that I wasn’t saying much because I didn’t want Mr Carter to know MI5 were taking him away to be interrogated.” It was Steve’s turn to look dubious.
“Remember Roland. No funny business,” he said, patting himself again. “While we’re at it. Let’s ‘ave the Home Office bollocks.” Roland’s heart sank. He’d been keeping his fingers crossed the berk would forget the documents. But he hadn’t. He looked down at the drawer where they were kept but couldn’t bring himself to open it. Suddenly Steve was by his side and reaching down for the handle.
“Please don’t,” said Roland, plaintively.
“Sorry, mate. I’ve got me orders.” Steve opened the drawer and extracted the various papers. He didn’t know which was which and wasn’t certain Roland would tell him straight so he stuffed the lot in his briefcase. A few minutes later Frogg came back with a cardboard box full of John’s things.
“You’ll want your coat on, Carter.”
“I’m not bothered, Mr Frogg. It’s a nice day.”
“Nice day? It’s freezing. You’ll catch your death.” Steve held up their handcuffed hands, turned to Roland and said, in his poshest voice:
“We should be getting along, Governor. Please instruct your man to lead the way.” John grinned and looked down at his feet.
Frogg made a ‘highly irregular’ fuss about the Governor leaving with the prisoner in his own car but Roland told him that was how ‘the big boys’ had wanted it and he had to accept it at that point. Except that he didn’t accept it and asked to see the Major’s ID. Steve gave him a bit of a gaze before reaching into his pocket and fishing out his wallet. Frogg studied the MI5 Intelligence Officer: Grade 10 card for a full twenty seconds before handing it back. Steve let him get an eyeful of the holstered revolver as he put it away and Frogg backed off. Two minutes later they were away down the road.
Steve unfastened the handcuffs and dragged a pair of binoculars out of the briefcase, spilling some of the documents as he did so.
“There’s a car back there. I’m not sure but I think it’s followin’ us.” He passed the binoculars over to John, who was in the back seat. “See if you can see who that is?” He looked. It was Frogg. “Fuck me. Are they all as suspicious as ‘im, Roland?”
“He’s always been a bit over the top. Takes his job very seriously.”
“When we get to the next side street on the left I want you to turn in and stop at the first ‘ouse. So laughin’ boy behind us can’t see we’ve stopped.” Roland swallowed hard as he saw Steve unholster his revolver and asked if he was going to shoot his senior officer. “‘Course not, Roland, what do you think I am, an MI5 man?” John sniggered.
“Turnin’ comin’ up, Roland.” Steve opened the car door and, as soon as the car came to a halt, pulled the keys out of the ignition, instructed John to watch the Governor and leapt out. Stuffing the pistol down his trousers and buttoning his jacket over it, he marched up the middle of the road. When Frogg came round the corner he was met my a seriously pissed off Intelligence Officer waving his arms and beckoning for him to pull over. He really wanted to put his foot down and scarper but he was afraid he might be in worse trouble if he did so he stopped just short of the Governor’s car. The Major, who didn’t appear too friendly, knocked on the driver’s side window.
“Are you following us, Froggie?”
“No sir. Something’s come up. I happened to be driving the same way, that’s all.” Steve leaned into the car and commandeered another set of car keys. “What are you doing? You can’t…” Suddenly, Frogg was staring at the wrong end of a .38.
“You want to live, Froggie?” He nodded. “Get out of the car.” Steve opened the rear door. “Get down on the floor between the seats and keep your fuckin’ ‘ead down. You move and I’ll put a bullet right up your arse’ole.” He headed back to Roland’s car and gave him the keys. “Me and your boy are ridin’ back together. We’ll be right behind you. Now my mate ‘ere will cut your throat as soon as look at you if you give him ‘alf a chance so mind ‘ow you go.” Steve handed his knife to John, went back to Frogg’s Mercedes and got in.
‘Nice machine,’ he thought. ‘Wonder how he can afford this on a screw’s wages?’
He wanted to know if Frogg had told anyone where he was going. When he shook his head, Hunter told Steve and John that Frogg and the Governor would be coming with them.
“I’ll go and untie the Mrs and the kids then, shall I? asked Steve, winking. He nodded. Luckily for Steve and Sally, it was sixteen minutes before there was a knock on the door and they managed to fit one in before he had to go. Roland was allowed to give her a formal hug and the boss asked her to remember the press conference before they left in Frogg’s Merc.
“Where are the children?” Roland was told that the good did not make war upon the innocent. They pulled up next to the van and transferred from the Mercedes. He left the keys in the ignition and the door ajar for the chancers before they set off.
Police interview - 13.40 hours - 29 September…
Detective: Why did you shoot some and torture and behead others?
Suspect: It would have been too risky to try and apprehend those we killed at a distance. Too high profile. Too well protected. John Ball was chosen because he would indulge himself in old-fashioned soapbox oratory in Oldacre’s town square whenever he was up there. He was an easy target for a sniper. If we had tried to get near him, however, his security people would have intervened. Nevertheless, though we can’t always have them in for questioning, the very worst will realise that they, too, are now in the firing line.
On their way back, they sang ‘I’m For Ever Blowing Bubbles’ a couple of times for John’s benefit, him being a West Ham fan. Then Steve, who’d supported Chelsea since before he could walk, chipped in with ‘One Man Went to Mow’ late on. ‘I was an ‘ead’unter long before you was, boss’, he said, winking at John. The boss, who was a bit of a football dunce, didn’t have a clue as to what he was on about, which tickled the lads no end.
Once they got back, Roland and Frogg were settled in down below and Steve went to park the van somewhere safe away from the squat.
When he came back they had a little talk about the future. The van needed spraying a different colour, seeing as it was a strong possibility that the camper might be linked with a white van seen parked in Albrighton Road, Camberwell recently. Then they’d swap number plates. When that was done that they’d come back and do a bit more interrogating.
“You fancy giving Roland a bit of a seeing to, John?”
“That’d be nice.”
“Don’t kick him in the bollocks whatever you do,” said Steve, joining them. “He ain’t got any.”
“Did you hear about what happened?”
“Must’ve been ‘orrible mate.” We decided to bust you out soon as we ‘eard.” John, who was generally, pretty quiet, didn’t say any more so they left it. “You been watching West Ham in there?”
“Couple of times. They thought it might perk me up when I was off it.” The man asked if he’d mind if the fight between him and Roland was filmed.
“Yeah. Film it. No problem. Chance of me seeing my wife at all, Tom?” John had called him Tom ever since they had first corresponded on the Thunderhead forum.
“They’ll be watching ‘er place, mate,” said Steve. “We’ll get nabbed if we go within half a mile.”
“What do you want to do with Frogg?”
“Could I have a fight with him as well?”
“He’s a big bloke, mate. Almost as big as the boss ‘ere” said Steve.
“Are you strong enough yet?”
“Been exercising this past week. Doing my press ups and sit ups and what not. I’m good.”
“Wouldn’t you rather just put a bullet through his nut?”
“I’d rather fight him. He was the one doing the filming.”
That night, after spraying the van, Steve slept in the cleared room upstairs and John and the boss slept downstairs in the basement. Roland and Frogg got one of the little rooms off it. John and Steve piled a load of paint cans up against the door and, as an extra precaution, they were told that if either of them poked their head out it would get shot off.
As John was dropping off his first panic attack hit and, when the boss saw him struggling for breath with his eyes all bulgy, he slapped him hard across the face and brought him out of it. He told him that when he got the heebie-jeebies he would bang his fist or the flat of his hand on something as soon as he felt it coming on. Something like the arm of an armchair or a wall or the floor. If he did that it would bring him out of wherever he was. John thought about it.
“You had it yourself then?” He nodded. “You never struck me as the jumpy type.” He told him that a doctor once gave him some dodgy pills and he’d had panic attacks regularly for ten years or so afterwards.
“Shit. I hope I don’t have it that long. And this banging thing works for you?” He nodded. “I’ll give it a try.” He could see John was deep in thought so he held back. Sure enough, after a minute or two, he started.
“Is there any way we could get a bit of something to my wife? She’ll be struggling money-wise.” He asked if there was somewhere where they could drop a package off safely. John suggested her mum and he said they’d be watching. John thought a bit more.
“Jimmy Tree. He’s as good as gold. Proper solid citizen. Votes Tory even. They won’t know about him.” He said they would get two grand to Mr Tree the following day. Along with a hundred for himself.
“Thanks, Tom, that’s really great.” John looked as though a weight had been taken off his mind. “He won’t take anything though. He’s solid is Jim.” John woke up with a start five more times before he finally fell into a deep sleep as the dawn broke. He was banging the floor all by himself without being prompted by the fourth time.
“It works, Tom. It does. Thanks a lot, mate.” Tommy Atkins, who was ready to whack him over the head with a mallet by then, was pleased to hear it.
Steve was up with the larks, as usual, and brought them down a big breakfast. He’d had his own at a local café (wearing his bobble hat pulled right down) and bought two takeaways. Even though the boss was pleased to see a cup of tea, he was grumpy and didn’t say much but John was up for a bit of exercise and they got quite a bit done before his majesty deigned to join them. He wanted to offload the two downstairs as quick as possible so they helped him clear a space in the basement and set up the video. He sent Steve off for supplies, promising not to do anything other than interrogate Frogg before he got back. When he’d gone, he told John they’d found a DVD of his ordeal in the governor’s house and it was up to him whether he wanted it seen or not. He also said it would be dynamite if it became known that this was how they treated those who weren’t with the programme.
“You do what you think best, Tom.” He said that they could cut out the worst bits and cover his face up so nobody would be able to see it was him. John looked happier with that idea. “You do what you think will turn out best in the long run. I’ll go fix up the electrics.”
“So, that’s you laughing is it, Froggie?” Frogg said nothing. He kicked him hard in the ribs. No harm in evening things up a bit for John, he thought. After Frogg got his breath back he asked him again. “That you sniggering there, Mr Frogg?”
“Louder, please, I want your wife and kids to know what kind of man you are.”
“Yes, it’s me.”
“Who’s that saying ‘he won’t be wanting any more black pudding after this?’”
“Winston Williams?” Frogg nodded. “Black himself, isn’t he?”
“Bit racist that, wouldn’t you say?”
“If you say so.” He kicked him again. When the DVD was finished he put a new tape in the video camera, checked to see that it was still focused on Frogg, put his hood on once more and then knelt down beside him.
“How come a bloke like you gets to be an officer of the law?” Frogg didn’t answer. “Look up at the camera, Mr Frogg, I want the world to know what an arsehole looks like.” Frogg looked up. “What kind of punishment do you think the authorities should dole out to prison officers who engage in such activities?”
“He told us to do it,” said Frogg, nodding towards Roland. “Said the word had come down from on high that information on the serial killer could be got by fair means or foul.”
“I said no such thing!”
“Yes you did. Fair means or foul. Those were your exact words!”
“I didn’t mean you should sodomise him. I meant he should be roughed up a little, that’s all.” Frogg looked up at his captor.
“Is there any way I’m going to get out of this alive?”
“Depends on John. If he wants you dead it’s goodbye Kermit.”
“But if I told you something big. You could put in a good word?”
“I promised Roland his life if he co-operated and he gets to go home soon so there might be a chance that you will too, if you’re good.”
“You might not want to let him go when I say what I’ve got to say.”
“It’s a lie. Whatever he says, it’s a lie!”
“Where did you get that DVD from?”
“In his desk drawer, in the study.”
“Be quiet, Frogg! I order you not to say any more!”
“Where there any other DVDs in there?” He nodded. “Did you look at them? There might be things he wouldn’t want seen.”
“Such as what?”
“Like what happened to Carter.” He looked across.
“This what you do to all the boys, Roland.” Frogg was asked if he did the filming.
“It wasn’t always me. I wasn’t always there.” He pointed out that he appeared to be enjoying himself in the video he’d seen.
“Yeah well, you try doing my job and you’ll soon get a thick skin. Dealing with hard cases, murderers, rapists, paedophiles and perverts all day long.”
“And what you’ve been doing wasn’t perverted?”
“He told me to do it.”
“And you enjoyed doing what he told you to do?”
“When there’s four of you. You get carried away. All boys together, that sort of thing. It wasn’t as if I was getting off on it. Not like he does. I caught him playing with himself once.” The man was staring at him intently now and Frogg looked away. “He was in his office, watching one of these films and playing with himself.” He looked over at the Governor.
“Let’s have a little look then, shall we?” Roland looked up at him. “I brought everything with me. Just in case. Looks like I was right to do so, doesn’t it?” He had a quick look at half a dozen DVDs and on every one there was evidence of systematic brutality.
“This changes things a bit Roland,” he said.
He told them that it had been done to others, Roland got off on it and the government had given him the green light.
“It’s bigger than just you, John, but the final decision is yours.” Steve looked doubtful and not a little suspicious. They both knew that John would do whatever he wanted. There was a commotion from down below. Someone, it sounded like Frogg, was acting up. He went to check, leaving Steve and John alone.
“Look mate, this is a democracy. I vote you kill the fuckers. After what they done to you. It’s only right.”
“What Tom says makes sense though, doesn’t it?”
“Course it does, ‘e always makes fucking sense. But sometimes it don’t feel right, do it? Them cunts deserve the death penalty and not just because of what they done to you. They done it to others as well. I vote we look at some of it. That might make your mind up.”
“Adams disgraced himself,” said the boss, returning. “Frogg was a bit upset.”
“‘E shit ‘imself? Why didn’t ‘e use the bucket, for fuck’s sake?”
“Anyway, you get to sort them out whichever way you want. It’s up to you how you want it done.” Steve looked at John, who said nothing. “Personally, I think it would look better if John did his bit and then was seen to have mercy.” Steve was disgusted and turned away. “I think that would play well. It’d make you look saintly after what they did.”
“Not justice though, is it?” added Steve, petulant now.
“No, it’s not. It’s trying to win a world back, that’s what it is.” John told him he would do it his way as he disappeared down the stairs again. Steve snorted.
“He knows full well you always do whatever he wants. Why’s that then? It was me what got you out when all said and done”
“Yeah. Thanks. You were great. Really great.”
“Well then. Why do you always have to do what he says?” John thought for a moment.
“When you got me out, whose plan was it?”
Roland was wearing his suit and tie and sipping at a cup of tea.
“So, if you can tell us nice and calmly who said what, it would go a long way with us.” He named names, gave dates and swore blind he was encouraged to do what he did by his superiors in Whitehall and Westminster. All in all, his testimony was as damning as it was compelling. He didn’t believe a quarter of it but there were plenty out there who would. “One last thing, Roland. You are aware that Jamie Thompson, who was just seventeen when he was sodomised by Dwaine Butler and Magic Zeus, has since committed suicide?
“Yes. I’m very sorry. It’s terrible.”
“Would you care to apologise to his family?”
“I apologise from the bottom of my heart for the crimes committed on my watch. I’m very sorry. It was the government. They wanted confessions, you see. And information leading to the arrest of the serial killer. And I was supposed to get it by hook or by crook. So I left it up to the staff as to how to go about it.”
“You lying weasel! It was you! It was him all along. He told us to hand the prisoners over to the fairies. And he told us to film it!” He decided not to interview Frogg again. He had more than enough film to edit a mind-blowing series of ten-minute quickies and he still had to fit John’s get-even stuff in.
He shouted for them to come down and stood Roland up, leading him to the centre of the room.
“Right then, Roland. You and John are going to have a nice little boxing match. We think it’s only fair, after what you did to him.”
“No buts, Roland. You’re twice his size and younger than him so you should be able to put up a reasonable show. Let’s get you’re jacket and shirt off.” The boss did the undressing with Roland just standing there like a stuffed dummy.
“Jesus! Talk about lard! He’s lardier than a suet bleedin’ pud!” said Steve. “And white? He’s whiter than Moby fuckin’ Dick!” John, who almost always had a grin on his face, laughed at that. You would never hear him laugh out loud but you could always tell when he thought something was extra funny. John was thinner than ever but his hands were big and his forearms thick. And he was covered in tattoos, which wouldn’t have done much for the confidence of a bloke like Roland. Both men were offered a pair of work gloves, so their hands had a bit of protection, and everything was cleared to the side of the room, Steve began snapping away artistically with his mobile.
“You ready, John?” He nodded. “Roland? Put your hands up Roland. Like this, by the side of your face. Clench your fists, that’s it. On the count of three. One, two…” Roland pushed John away gently. His arms were by his side again.
“Tell him to put his arms up, Tom,” said John, looking baffled.
“Put your mitts up, you fat slag!” yelled Steve. “Go on my son, give ‘im one!” He indicated Frogg. “Buggerlugs ‘ere says he caught him ‘avin’ a wank watchin’ you being done!” John raised Roland’s hands himself then stepped back and started bouncing around, Thai-boxer style. He tapped Roland a few times with his left, clonked him once with his right and kicked him in the stomach as he was falling but it wasn’t what you’d call entertaining. Roland was out for the count.
“Is that it?” protested Steve, feeling cheated. “Get up, you bleedin’ yellerbelly,” he added, booting the prostrate governor up the behind.
“Bit pathetic that,” added John, still looking baffled.
“Can I use the cattle prod on him, boss? That’ll wake him up! If I know Roly-Poly he’s probably pretending.”
“You want a souvenir, John?” He didn’t understand. “Steve bit an ear off the other day”.
“It was only half an ear. It wasn’t a full one.” John grinned.
“Can you wake him up first? I can’t get worked up when he’s not fighting back”. He looked over at Steve and nodded. Steve inserted the cattle prod into Roland’s bellybutton. He screamed and sat up.
“I told you he was faking it!” After he hauled the terrified governor to his feet, Steve electrified his rear end with the prod, which had the effect of propelling him straight into John’s arms. Spinning him round, John took him down to the floor in a stranglehold and began gnawing at his ear. He began to resist a little when he felt it disappearing but the resistance was more vocal than physical and there wasn’t much chance of John not getting what he wanted. John raised his head and was seen munching manfully. Steve was in hysterics.
“Go on, my son! Get it down you!” John did as he was told and swallowed it. “Fuck me! Did you see that! He’s only gone and swallowed Roly-Poly’s bleedin’ ear! Fuck me! I’ve never done that. I’ve never swallowed an ear. Talk about fucking bottle! Fair play to that super fucking hero! Come on, Johnny let’s ‘ave the other fucker off!” John repeated the process upon command. Roland fainted. John eased himself out from under and stood up.
“That OK, Tom?” He smiled and said that would do nicely.
So now it was Frogg’s turn. He was a big bloke and mean, that much was a given. He wasn’t unduly nervous and he knew what he was up against because he’d witnessed John’s performance. He was going to fight. The boss pressed a small heavy cylinder wrapped in black plastic into John’s hand.
“What’s this?” He was told that a bunch of two pence pieces would add weight to his punches and stop his knuckles from popping if he hit his opponent too hard. “Oh no, I don’t want that. That’d be cheating.”
“No it wouldn’t. It’d even things up a bit. He’s twice your size.”
“He’s flabby. I’m not worried.”
“He’s overweight but he’s no Roland.” John said nothing. “OK, it’s your baby. If it looks like he’s going to win though I’ll stop it.”
“Don’t do that. If he wins, he wins.” John wouldn’t look him in the eye and he wanted to know if there was something he wasn’t telling him. He looked down at the floor and didn’t answer. He asked him again and John blurted out that he didn’t care if I did die after what had happened. “I’m not the same bloke,” he said.
The boss got a bit irritated with that and told John he wouldn’t be doing himself in on his watch and better win because Frogg wasn’t going to. John apologised and asked him not to get pissed off. To which the boss replied that he was needed and he’d have to wait until the war was over to top himself because it wouldn’t be happening then. John was still looking at the floor. He wasn’t a touchy-feely man but he gave him a hug, patted him on the back and wished him luck. Steve did the same and told him to ‘kill the fucker.’
Frogg was limbering up. Shadow boxing. He was big, chunky, hairy, had quite a few tattoos himself and looked very capable. He also looked as though he could give John five stone. He didn’t like it. Frogg was totally unfazed. He thought being tied up, threatened, kicked around and likely to meet his maker sooner rather than later might have got on top of him but it hadn’t. If Frogg was about to breathe his last he was going to go out with a bang. Steve was looking at him.
“It’s done now, Steve. It’s what John wants.”
“That fucking thing’ll kill him!”
“Maybe not. Right then ladies, let’s get started, eh? Are we ready?” Both fighters grunted their assent.
They circled each other with John bouncing balletically about as he had earlier with Frogg crouching ominously. The roof of the cellar was low and he thought this would give John an advantage but he wasn’t so sure now. John was 5’ 10” so he had 2” clearance from the roof but the bouncing had him tickling the roof with top of his head. Frogg, on the other hand, who was about 6’ 2,” wasn’t ever going to be bothered by the roof given his current crab-like posture. John kept flicking his right foot in Frogg’s direction and caught him on the left arm a couple of times, which had no perceptible effect. Frogg rushed towards him and John danced to one side but it was a feint and Frogg had anticipated the manoeuvre. He swung his right arm towards John’s ankles and upended him. He landed lightly and was rolling away but Frogg was quick and managed to get him in a reverse bear hug. John came round with left elbow and got lucky, striking his opponent squarely on the cheekbone near the left eye socket. Frogg buried his head in John’s back away from his elbows and adjusted his grip. However, after trying to get hold of his genitals and neck, without success, and flipping him over a couple of times, it soon became obvious that he wasn’t about to make much headway from the position they were in. After a minute or so of inexpert huffing and puffing, the boss stepped in and parted them, much to Frogg’s annoyance.
John was bouncing again. Thus far, he hadn’t expended as much energy as Frogg, who now had a lump near his left eye, which was closing up. He was standing up taller now to get more air into his lungs and, every few seconds, flicked out his left towards John’s head. John easily avoided the jabs and managed to kick his opponent’s left leg several times when his left arm was extended. Frogg got fed up with the scientific approach and rushed at John again, this time carrying it through into a rugby tackle. John leapt upwards out of the way of the big man’s encircling arms and left himself drop, knees first, on Frogg’s back. He managed to get four or five punches into his kidneys before he was shrugged off. As Frogg grabbed at his right ankle he rammed his heel backwards, got lucky again and caught Frogg in the mouth. Steve, who had been pretty quiet up to this point, began to get animated and was soon dancing in time with John, fighting an invisible Frogg inside his head.
Both fighters were on their feet now, with Frogg blowing much harder and distinctly the worse for wear. John started moving in closer now and working with his fists. After whacking Frogg in the midriff and kidneys, with little effect, he switched to the head and began picking the bigger fighter off with impressive regularity.
Frogg was bloodied and his left eye now was completely closed but he wasn’t going to be put down by John’s punches. Unfortunately, John hadn’t figured this out and, when Frogg dropped his arms to take a breath, he rushed in and landed a flurry of blows. It was a trick. Frogg knew his best hope was to get John in close where his superior strength would give him an advantage and he suddenly lurched forward, ignoring the blows, and managed to get both of his arms around John’s waist. As Frogg began to squeeze, John tried to get his thumbs in his eyes but, after he shut them tight and buried his face in his chest, there was no chance. Frogg loosened his grip momentarily as he sought for a better purchase and John managed to grab hold of his ears. Despite doing his best to twist them off, the boss could see that he was in serious trouble as Frogg was prepared to accept whatever pain this tactic could inflict.
He was about to let Steve, whose belt he had hold of, go save his mate when John somehow managed to slap both palms simultaneously against Frogg’s ears. He cried out and, when John repeated the tactic, he brought both his hands up to his head and sank to the floor.
John fell from Frogg’s grasp and lay there, with his forehead pressed to the concrete, gasping for air. After a few seconds he stood up unsteadily, moved around to the side of his stricken opponent and, with his hands on his knees, took several deep breaths. Then he stood up straight, ran towards him and launched a double-footed drop kick at Frogg’s head. One heel caught him on the back of his right hand, crushing the bones audibly, and the other fetched him a glancing blow to his neck. John’s body carried through and his behind collided with Frogg’s temple, further incapacitating his enemy.
John was up again quickly and got him in a stranglehold. Pulling the big man backwards and wrapping his legs around his body, he then went after his third ear. Frogg flailed about, trying to reach back and grab at his head but John was wrapped around him like clingfilm and his efforts were in vain. When he swallowed his third trophy Steve thrust both hands in the air and ran towards them, sliding in footballer-style. Fortunately for Frogg, he couldn’t resist landing a few punches of his own and this caused John to come back from wherever he was.
“What’s your game then?” he asked, looking at Steve like he’d just caught him pissing in his kettle.
“What do you mean?”
“Two onto one? What do you think I am?”
“Oh, right, your fight. Sorry. Got a bit carried away.”
“You all done then, John?” asked the man. Without realising it, he was still in the process of choking the Senior Prison Officer, whose face was, by this time, quite blue. His arms had fallen to his side and his eyes were staring straight ahead, seeing nothing. John looked as though he wasn’t quite sure what was happening and slowly released his grip. Frogg fell to one side and didn’t move.
“Fuck me, Batman, you just killed the Joker with your bare hands.”
John looked a bit bewildered and not a little concerned.
“I’ll give him the kiss of life.”
“Don’t be daft, you’ll catch something. Besides he deserves to die.”
John rolled Frogg over and looked as though he was about to blow in his mouth. At which point the boss asked him if he wanted the Frogg to croak. He shook his head. He was told to move out of the way as kissing a Frogg would turn him into a toad.
His witty comments tickled Steve and it stopped him getting upset with all the goodie-goodie behaviour. The boss knelt down beside John’s unconscious victim and pressed his chest three times in quick succession. Frogg coughed once and was back in the land of the living.
They were sat together at the table. The boss was making tea.
“Sorry about your ear.”
“I’ve got another one,” wheezed Frogg through grotesquely swollen lips. John grinned. After he brought two mugs through, the boss told him they would drop him and Roland off when it got dark. He was asked where he wanted to be dropped off and Frogg replied ‘Scotland Yard,’ which amused John.
“Set me down somewhere near Clapham Common.” Frogg winced as he sipped at his tea. The boss told him about the videos he’d be making and said he wouldn’t come out of it looking that good. Frogg said nothing. John asked him what his plans were.
“I’ll clear off.”
“South Africa. My wife’s from there.” The boss and John exchanged looks. “I don’t want her finding out about this. She wouldn’t understand. There’s a picture in my jacket.” John went to retrieve it and handed it to him. Frogg fumbled in the top pocket with his good hand and brought out his wallet.
“That’s her and the kids,” he said, handing the photo to John.
“Nice,” said John. The boss had a look and nodded.
“Best thing that ever happened to me,” said Frogg. “Women never thought much of me before her. Mush like a rhino’s arse. Can’t blame ‘em, can you? Maybe that’s why it didn’t bother me doing what I did. I used to be a racist myself until I met her. Now I can’t stand ‘em. Present company excepted.” John smiled and clapped him on the back.
“What about your kids? Won’t they miss out on school?”
“South Africa’s not that bad. They’ll be all right.”
“You got any savings?”
“Enough. The wife’s good with money.”
“Hope you make it.” John put out his hand. Frogg took it and they shook gingerly.
“Good fight,” mumbled Frogg. John shrugged.
“You fight better when you don’t give a fuck.”
Roland and Frogg were hooded and led to the van. Steve stayed behind and, seeing as his picture hadn’t been seen on TV yet, and he insisted he was going ‘stir crazy,’ the boss said he could pop to the local pub for a relax. He was instructed not to get into any arguments.
John was driving, despite his sore hands. He had the same opinion of Tom’s ability as Steve.
“Have a look to see if there’s anyone about.” John drove around for five minutes before he drew to a halt and gave the all clear.
“I’ll walk them up the road,” said John.
“Know where you are then?”
“Yeah. It’s up the road.”
“Be seeing you then, Henry.” They shook hands again. “If you want my advice, I’d tell your wife.” Frogg shook his head. “Kept stuff from my wife, now she don’t want to know.”
“Can’t do it. She’d leave me. Take the kids. I’d top myself.”
“Know how you feel.” They stood there not knowing what else to say. “I’ll be off then.” He squeezed Frogg’s arm, turned around and jogged back to the van.