Authors: Bill Carson
“Thanks, on the rocks please, mate.”
“Hey, Phil, what do you think of these?” Nick flipped open a small silver business card holder which was like a miniature cigarette case, and handed Phil one of his new flamboyant gold-embossed cards.
“Pretty fucking cool, mate, no expense spared there. These must have cost you an arm and a leg.”
“Well, I have always been a quality over quantity person, Phil, you know that.”
“OK, Nick, on the phone you said that you might need a hand with an investigation?”
“It’s a bit complicated Phil, so let’s take a seat here and we’ll fill you in,” Nick said as he opened the door to his office.
Nick, Anna and Phil sat in the office for three hours and Nick told him all about the job offer from Simon Macintyre but held back the details of the bonus, as that was definitely on a ‘need to know’ basis. Nick gave Phil enough info to get him started, and told him about some of the information that he’d acquired the day before. Phil was all ears and seemed extremely interested. He immediately offered his services on his days off for a fee of three hundred pounds a day, cash in hand, of course. He also said that he would be able to take some leave that was owed to him, which would enable him to start almost at once.
“That’s great, Phil. Welcome on board, pal, it’ll be just like old times. Now, mate, the first thing I want you to do is to run a check on a name for me.” Phil reached inside his jacket, grabbed his pocket book, and flicked it open to a fresh page. “John Kane, he’s the bloke that I fancied for all of those vigilante murders in West London a while back, and also the one at Leicester Square. You remember that one, when the two drug dealers were carved up in broad daylight? I also reckon him for the murders at that knocking shop. You know, the one in north London, the night that Tony Costa and his crew got slaughtered.”
“Yeah, I remember. Tony Costa, the gangster, right? It was called Vamps. And you reckon this John Kane fella had something to do with all that? OK, I’ll run a check and see if the name has surfaced anywhere,” Phil said. He looked somewhat disconcerted as he stood and just stared into space for a moment. His face seemed to go a shade paler and his eyes widened a fraction, and all enthusiasm seemed to suddenly drain from him like water being sucked down the plug hole now that the name of Costa had been mentioned.
An icy atmosphere had been created within the space of a few seconds. The problem was that Phil genuinely liked Nick and Anna, and always had done, but business was business. Phil was a bent copper and had been for years. However, he only had one benefactor and was only answerable to one man – and his name was Harold Harper.
“You OK, Phil?” Anna asked, as she noted his mood change.
“Yeah, course, I’m fine. Bit busy at the moment – they’ve got us all running around looking for that bloody judge, well, you know how it is? Look, it’s been great seeing you both again and all that, but I’m afraid I’ve really got to shoot off, and don’t worry, Nick, I’ll get onto that name as soon as I can, OK? I’ll give you a bell if I find anything,” Phil said, as he was going out of the door.
Nick and Anna turned in unison and stared at each other in bewilderment as Phil disappeared. Something wasn’t right. They were both ex-coppers and, no matter how much he tried to disguise it, they’d seen a look on his face that they had seen a hundred times before on every villain they had ever questioned. They knew when someone was trying to hide something or, even worse, was lying. It was all too plain to see, he was terrified.
“What the bloody hell was all that about?” Anna said.
“I don’t know, but what I do know is that I didn’t like the look on his mug. One minute he was all involved and as excited as a kid at Christmas, and the next minute he couldn’t wait to get out of the fucking door.”
“It’s getting stranger, Nick,” Anna sighed.
“Yeah, and I’m only glad we didn’t tell him everything, Anna. I have a feeling that we’ve just dropped our first bollock.”
Phil Smith took a quick glance over his shoulder and looked back toward Nick’s office as he scarpered up the high street, and then hastily ducked into an abandoned bookshop doorway. He pulled out his mobile phone, and put a call through to a contact on the other end, who, in turn, would leave the message for Harold Harper.
“Hello, please tell Mr H that I need to see him urgently, and that I’ll meet him in the usual place at midnight tomorrow.”
As Phil finished speaking the line went dead on the other end, which was usual as there was never any reply to his messages.
Phil hated these strange encounters as he knew that Harold was one very dangerous man. But that wasn’t what was bothering him. It was the strange meeting place that put the wind up him. It was quite possibly one of the most chilling, disturbing and downright petrifying places on earth and would no doubt scare the shit out of the devil himself.
That night Phil clambered over the high crumbling brick wall and lowered himself down amidst the thick undergrowth. Once he’d set foot onto the damp dirt path of the old Highgate cemetery, it truly felt as if he’d stepped into another place and time. All sound from the outside world seemed to withdraw as he skulked into the shadows of the colossal city of the dead. As the darkness folded around him, each footstep brought forth new terrors into Phil’s mind.
As he neared the rendezvous point, he raised the collar on his overcoat to shield himself against a sudden bitter gust of wind which coiled its spindly cold arms around his shoulders. The place seemed to be full of unnatural, eerie sounds which were all around him, and he could swear that he heard the fleeting, unintelligible whisper of a woman’s voice in his ear. His heart was almost pounding out of his chest and he was in a cold sweat. He swiftly passed the huge embankment of crooked jutting headstones which meant that he was almost there. His stride quickened as he ventured a little further into the heart of the God-forsaken place.
Phil had now thankfully come to the end of the peculiarly constructed circular avenue of neglected mausoleums, and as he passed by the last one, the faint beam from his torch picked out the unmistakable silhouette of a person dead ahead. Harold was sitting in the lotus position on the lid of an ancient marble tomb like some evil little black Buddha, his unmoving form bathed in the soft light of the moon.
“Punctual as ever I see, Mr Smith,” Harold said, as he slowly turned his head in the direction of the quickening crunch of Phil’s agitated footsteps on the uneven stony pathway. “Did you know that there are fifty-seven thousand graves in here, Mr Smith? Now what, pray tell, do you have for me? And it had better be something worthwhile or there might be a sudden addition to the populace here.”
Phil quickly gave Harold all the info about Nick’s theory about John Kane. Harold seemed extremely interested in the whereabouts of Nick and was pleased that Phil’s information had been spot on about him being the chief suspect in the theft of Tony Costas money. Phil begrudgingly gave him the address of the detective agency and then thankfully the meeting was over, and Phil understandably didn’t want to hang around and quickly took off back the way he came.
After a few paces he instinctively glanced over his shoulder, and out of the corner of his eye he just caught the hem of Harold’s raincoat flapping in the moonlight as he disappeared into the dense undergrowth.
Get back into your coffin, you horrible little shit,
thought Phil as he jogged toward the perimeter wall.
Harold had given Phil his usual fee of a thousand pounds and had also given him some strict instructions. He had told him that he must immediately inform his superiors at Scotland Yard about John Kane, but about John Kane only, and under no circumstances was he to divulge where he had got the information from. He was especially not to mention anything about Nick Harland. Phil didn’t understand why but he wasn’t going to argue with the
, and he did exactly as he was told. As soon as he was clear of the cemetery put a call through to the Chief Superintendent and spilled his guts.
“Hey, Anna, come here quickly and take a look at this, I can’t believe it, John Kane’s all over the headlines,” Nick shouted from the sofa as he clocked the news flash.
be down to Phil. He’s only gone straight back to the station and opened his mouth. What the hell is he up to?”
“Why, though? Why would he do that? It doesn’t make any sense?”
“Right, well I’m
ring the station and ask him.”
“No, Anna, leave it, there’s no point. The damage is done and he’s stitched us right up. I really thought I could trust him, though. Well, I suppose it’s just another thing you can add to that long ‘doesn’t make sense’ list.”
“Can you put me through to Detective Inspector Phil Smith, please, urgently,” Anna said sharply into her mobile.
“I’m sorry, the inspector doesn’t seem to be answering his phone. I’ve tried his mobile as well and he’s not picking up. He must be out on a job. Would you like to leave a message, or is there anything I could help you with?” said the helpful policeman on the other end.
“No thanks,” Anna said as she hung up.
“Out on a job? I bet he’s propping up a bar somewhere laughing his bollocks off with all his mates. He’ll be on for a promotion now with that info. I always thought he was a dodgy slimy little bastard,” Anna said.
“No, I don’t buy it, something’s not kosher here,” Nick said.
The office phone downstairs began to ring and he went down to answer it.
“Nick?” said the whispery croaky voice on the other end of the phone.
“Yeah, this is the Harland Detective Agency. Nick Harland speaking, who’s this?”
“Nick, this is Phil. There’s not much time. I’m sorry - get out now - they’re coming for you.”
In the background there was a strange sound like that of a small petrol engine being revved. Then there was a most appalling blood-curdling scream, and then the phone suddenly went dead.
“Phil! Phil! Are you still there?” Nick shouted, but there was nothing. “What the fuck was that? Some kind of a prank? No, no that was no wind-up.”
He knew it wasn’t but he just refused to acknowledge what it really was. His hand shook and he was genuinely alarmed by the call, which was unusual for him, as he never lost his nerve and no one or nothing could ever scare him. Usually.
“Nick, you all right?” Who’s on the phone?” Anna called out from the top of the stairs.
“It was Phil,” Nick said softly.
Anna walked into his office and could see him sitting in the chair, unmoving, staring down at the phone in his hand.
“Phil, well what did he have to say? You should have passed the phone to me and I would have had a right go at the cheeky little bastard… What’s the matter? What’s happened?” she said as she shook Nick by the shoulder.
“I think someone’s just murdered him. He was screaming like I’d never heard anything scream before, it was inhuman. I think he was being tortured, and they wanted me to hear him suffering,” Nick whispered, still glaring wide-eyed at the phone in his hand.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe it. This isn’t funny, Nick, please tell me you’re joking.”
“Do I look as if I’m joking? I need a drink, love, get us a whiskey, will you?” he said, and turned toward her, his face pale and with an expression of total confusion.
“We’re out. Phil had the last drop this afternoon. I’ll pop down to the off-licence. I’ll be back in a minute, and I think we should talk about getting the police involved right away, OK?”
Fuck me, that was the last one he’ll ever have, the poor bastard. Who the hell are they? What’s going on here?
Nick thought, as he sat motionless in the chair.
At exactly three minutes after Anna had closed the front door, the lock on it sounded as if someone had slotted in a key. Nick instinctively glanced over toward the door as it opened, thinking that she’d forgotten her purse, as she had often done before.
“Don’t fucking move, unless you want your spine blown off,” Billy Brooks ordered in a deep, coarse Cockney accent as he pointed the large calibre pistol at Nick’s midriff.
There were three men now standing in the doorway: a small chap with a black cap dressed in a long raincoat in the middle flanked by the two others, who were tough-looking men with uncultured, roughed-up faces. Harold needed a driver for the next part of this caper and so Jimmy sent Billy Brooks and Johnny Carter along as they were pretty much inseparable and always came as a pair – a bit like a buy one get one free deal.
“Nick Harland, I presume?” said the small weird character.
“Yeah, that’s right, and who the fuck are you?” Nick said defiantly.
“Oh dear, now that’s not a very good start, is it? Very well, I will indulge you. Someone we know would like to have a chat with you, that’s all. You would be helping someone with their inquiries as you wonderful policemen would say – sorry, ex-policemen. Oh, and the phone call you just received was a recording which was made earlier today. Now come along, there’s a good chap,” Harold said as he whipped his Colt 45 from his shoulder holster.
Nick could do nothing but comply, and decided to get out of there before Anna returned.
“Now, your car keys if you please, Mr Harland. We will be taking your car as ours has developed a malfunction of some sort.”
“Yeah, and we’ve got your mate in the boot, well, bits of him. We was
drop him off somewhere but thought we’d leave him outside so you could pay your last respects,” Billy Brooks said.
“Shit happens,” Nick replied.
“Shut it, Bill,” Johnnie Carter said as they frogmarched Nick outside.
“Get in, Harland. Bill, you’re driving,” Johnnie said as he threw the keys to him. Harold stayed close to Nick, and climbed in the back and stuck the Colt 45 in Nick’s ribs.
The sleek black Audi glistened under the recent shower and slowly pulled away from the front of the office. Nick spotted Anna out of the corner of his eye as she was leaving the off-licence. She looked on in horror as she had immediately clocked the car and his pale face in the back, and then the glint of gunmetal as they passed under the street lamp. Their eyes made the briefest of contacts, and his barely imperceptible shake of the head told her to keep walking, which she did.
Her every instinct was telling her to do the exact opposite. She wanted to chase after them and cry out his name, but her training had kicked in just in time, and she knew that to do nothing was in fact the right thing to do. As the distinctive sound from the high performance engine faded into the night, Anna sprinted the last few yards to the office.
The door had been left open, and she went inside and slammed it shut behind her. She drew the bolt across the top, and then ran into Nick’s office. There was no sign of a struggle and everything was just as it should be, clean and tidy. Nick must have gone willingly.
Maybe he knows them? No way, this was bad, as bad as it could get, and those men in the car were armed, you silly cow. But who are they? Why are they here? What the hell is going on? What’s he been up too? And what do I do now? Poor Nick, I bet they’re going to torture him like they did Phil?
she thought in desperation.
Anna’s mind started to spin, and she clasped her hands over the top of her head and began to sob as she stood alone in the middle of Nick’s office. She quickly pulled herself together and remembered that she was an ex-police officer and now a private detective. It was time to start acting and thinking like one, so she unscrewed the cap on the bottle of whiskey and took a huge glug. She then picked up the phone and punched in the digits of Nick’s mobile. She replaced the receiver as she saw that he’d left his BlackBerry on the seat of his chair. She picked it up and noticed that the red recording light was flashing. Nick had pressed the record button on the phone as the three men had entered the office, and he’d managed to capture part of the conversation. She hit the button and played back the hideous message. The sound of their menacing voices sent icy chills down her spine.
“Oh my God,” she said as she stared at the front door of the office. In her mind’s eye she pictured the three scary figures standing there.
, she thought, and then she decided to call the only person she could truly trust.
“Hello?” George said.
“George, it’s Anna, I’m at the office and you’ve got to come quickly. Nick’s in trouble.”
“Trouble? What kind of trouble?”
“Bloody hell, what, serious?”
“OK, stay put, I’m on my way.”
It took George an hour to get there. He kept remembering Anna’s words, “Big trouble”. He knew nothing of the details, of course, but he knew by the tone of her jittery voice that this was going to be a bad one. He also knew more about Nick than most, and he was aware that Nick was a real deal tough guy and could handle himself when need be.
“Anna!” George shouted as he banged on the front door.
“Thank God you’re here, George,” she cried as she unbolted the door.
She looked up at him and immediately flung her arms around him. He could see that her eyes were red and swollen and full of tears.
“Come on now, Anna, nothing is as bad as it seems. Don’t forget, Nick’s a big boy now. Look, I’ll stick the kettle on and make a cup of tea, and you can tell me all about it, OK?”
“George, there’s no time for bloody tea, I think they’re going to kill him.”
“What? Kill him? Who is? Look, you’d better sit down and tell me everything.”
Anna filled him in and told him everything that had happened that day. She told him all about the visit from Phil Smith the day before, the scary phone call, and then Nick being driven away in his own car.
“They took his car? Now that’s a bit weird. Why would they do that, I wonder?”
“They said that theirs had a dead body in the boot and they wanted to get rid of it, and I think it’s Phil.”
“Bloody hell, but look. I’ve just had a thought and I think Nick’s car might be his saving grace here. Anna, where’s the brochure for it? I know he’s got one because he was telling me all about it.”
“Bloody brochures, what do you want to look at car brochures for? Nick’s out there with these lunatics and they are
kill him at any moment, and you want to know what make of car they’re driving? Fuck!”
“OK, listen, calm down and I know you’re upset but so am I. You’re not thinking straight and that won’t get Nick back, will it? Now, this new motor of his is, I believe, fitted with a security tracking device. I’m sure he told me he had some kind of app or something, or whatever they’re called, on his phone, a bit like a sat nav.”
“That’s why he left the phone behind,” Anna realised.
“He’s a clever boy. Quick, switch it on and let’s see what we’ve got,” George said.
Anna tentatively pressed the button on Nick’s BlackBerry. The battery was almost done for, so she plugged in the charger and then scrolled through his apps store. Sure enough, George was right: there was a tracking app installed. She pressed the icon and a map suddenly appeared. They watched intently as a small, red pulsating blip was superimposed over a tiny map of London.
“There he is. Where’s the car going, Anna?”
“He’s heading east, look, it’s just there. Now it’s going north-east out of London.” She tracked it with her little finger.
“Yes, got him, come on, Anna, let’s get going before it goes out of range.”
“Wait, George. We know roughly where they’re headed now and we can track them all the way. We’ve got to charge the battery on the phone, don’t forget, and I also don’t think we should be going empty handed, do you?”
“Huh? You what?” George turned around in confusion.