Monday 25th July 2005
Monday 25th July 2005
DS Jason Knight concentrated on driving, but with a short distance to go, he was aware of his passenger’s regular deep breathing. Jason knew that procrastination by the top brass infuriated DI Paul Gallagher, but ranting wasn’t the DI’s style. This operation would be the culmination of months of hard work by the detectives. Though they needed support, Paul’s motto was ‘adapt and overcome’.
The senior detective lifted the radio handset. “Control, this is One Three Alpha—we’re two minutes from the target. Where is our armed support?”
“They’re in the parking bays downstairs, on standby, One Three Alpha.”
“Being on standby a mile away across London is no good to us.”
“They’re waiting for clearance from upstairs and won’t leave without it.”
“What a bag of bollocks.” He slammed the handset on the dash, breaking the clip.
“One Three Alpha, I didn’t get your last message … hello, One Three Alpha.”
Paul ignored the radio. “I’d love to get Bellingham into a boxing ring, so I could knock some fucking sense into him.”
“As the Chief Constable, he has to give authorisation, but has he got much experience in firearms operations?”
“Jason, the angriest person with a gun he’s ever faced, was made of paper and hanging from a frame twenty yards away.”
Jason grinned as he slowed and parked the black Vauxhall Omega. “It doesn’t help us that this is a dead zone for hand-held radios.”
“That’s not our fault.” Paul checked the time. “We’ll give the backup five more minutes.”
Jason killed the engine. “What if there’s no backup in five minutes?”
“We’ll improvise.” Paul unclipped his seatbelt. “We need to watch who leaves from the front door.”
“You don’t think our mystery man would sneak out of the fire exit or back door?”
“It’s a possibility if he’s a high-ranking figure. I’ll go around the corner into Danby Place and stand near the front entrance. You go into the lane and watch the back door.”
“Boss, your snout said Tennent had arranged people with weapons to protect his guest’s identity. We can only do so much if we’re not armed.”
“Covering both entrances will give the armed response team time to get here.”
“It doesn’t feel good. The judge who signs warrants has delayed. No warrant, and no armed backup… it feels wrong.”
“Jason, when I wore the green stuff, I went into firefights when it felt wrong, and I never lost any men.”
“I hate to sound selfish, but you’ve got one man with you now, and he doesn’t want to bloody lose you.”
Paul grinned and checked his watch. “God protects the righteous, Jason.” He opened the door and paused. “According to my source, we’ve got a thirty-minute window. If I’m at the front and you’re at the back, Tennent’s guest has to pass one of us.” He climbed out.
Jason climbed out, closed the door, and looked up at The London Executives Club over the wall. “If half an hour passes, we miss our chance, and it’s back to the drawing board?”
“Don’t worry; they won’t let us down.” Paul strode around the corner.
Their callsign blasted from the car radio. Jason opened the driver’s door and scrambled around for the handset, its dash clip now broken.
“Hello, Control, this is One Three Alpha.”
“Your requested search warrant has been delayed. The armed response team have orders to wait thirty minutes.”
“Jesus H Christ—”
A fusillade of shots rung out.
Jason paused momentarily, holding his breath before dropping the handset and running around the corner. He stopped and froze, staring at the scene before him. The DI was lying on the pavement with multiple gunshot wounds in his chest. Blood stained the ground around him and the wall behind him.
Three men nearby, their backs against a large parcel delivery truck, were putting away handguns. They watched casually as Jason sprinted to kneel at his partner’s side. Detective Inspector Paul Gallagher lay with his sightless eyes wide open.
Craig Anderson, a tall, muscular thug, said, “Oops.” His left eye twitched involuntarily.
Matthew Fellowes, a short, stocky man, grinned. “Shouldn’t you call an ambulance before someone slips in that blood?” He shook his head.
The third gunman was Gordon Curtis, a short, wiry individual who, like Jason, was a Scotsman. “Maybe you should fuck off back up the road to Glasgow—they don’t use so many guns up there—so I’ve been told.”
When Jason reached for his phone, the three men opened their jackets and gripped their guns. If he did anything rash, Jason would die beside his boss.
Anderson said, “Drop the Tennent investigation.”
Jason looked up. “You’re all fucking dead men walking, and so is your boss.”
While Jason spoke to the emergency help desk, the three gunmen got into a car, laughing, and drove off. A small crowd assembled, and a few minutes later, three patrol cars and a handful of uniformed officers arrived. Jason ordered a cordon to be set up and told officers to take statements.
The three criminals must have known about the unmarked car and flaunted their deed while passing on their message. The scenario had been choreographed.
Jason would have been armed in other countries and taken immediate action, but not in the United Kingdom. He’d been left impotent, and when he rallied and asked for people to come forward as witnesses, the majority said they didn’t see anything.
Three Months Later
Monday 24th October
The Old Bailey
The case in question was the murder of Detective Inspector Paul Gallagher of the London Met. Detective Sergeant Jason Knight was seated in the public gallery for the closing remarks of the prosecution and defence counsels. The three accused were seated forward to the left of the gallery.
Jason was keen to view the maximum number of people because friends and associates of the defendants would be in the public gallery. Such people invariably supported with a nod or gave thumbs-up signals to those in the dock. The young detective recognised four faces sitting in the gallery, pulled out his notebook and listed names with brief descriptions.
On the previous day, thirty-year-old Jason had been less than impressed by the prosecution. For all the good he was doing on the dead officer’s behalf, the prosecutor might as well hand the case notes to one of the security men. Another name went into Jason’s notebook.
Unlike his adversary, the defence counsel performed his role well. His manner was intimidating, ruthless, and overbearing, and witnesses were tripped by his observations. During cross-examination, the man had used minor technicalities to negate damning testimony.
A question to one witness. “Madam, you’ve told the court that you recognise all three accused as the perpetrators, yet you were recently prescribed new glasses—are you positive of your identification?”
A question to another. “You, sir, have told the court that the blue-eyed man on the left was one of the gunmen. The man you identified has brown eyes—you’re not certain, are you?”
A third witness was prompted. “You’ve said that you used your digital camera to photograph what happened. It would be impossible without looking at the device occasionally, so you didn’t witness the entire episode, did you?”
The defence counsel hardly paused for breath between confrontational questions. He left witnesses harried and appearing unsure. It affected the judge and the jury.
Certain jurors were nervous and avoided the smirks of two men in the public gallery. Jason had spotted the anxious people and noted the thugs staring at the jury benches. The two men in question were associates of the gang leader under investigation by Jason and his now-deceased partner.
Intimidation was hard to prove. On this final day of a high-profile trial, the guilty men might walk free if such a tactic worked and the defence counsel did his job efficiently.
Jason flicked his notebook open. Grainger and Jones, the pair intimidating the jury, were listed for investigation. He had a bad feeling about these final proceedings, which hurt him more because he was powerless. Jason had already given evidence, so anything he said now would be conjecture. He’d be viewed as a biased ex-colleague because the dead man had been his partner.
A guidance statement by the judge hardly helped. The man in the white wig looked over the rim of his glasses.
“Members of the jury, the three men accused of the murder of Detective Inspector Gallagher, are known to the Metropolitan Police and were in the vicinity at the time of the shooting. While this may be the case, without irrefutable evidence, this does not suggest a guilty verdict.
The man in the big chair eyeballed each of the twelve members of the jury.
“This is a court of law. We’ve seen three supposed eyewitnesses changing their statements. This does not bode well for a satisfactory guilty verdict.” He paused. “I instruct you to consider your decision carefully. I do not intend this case to be reopened later.”
He instructed them that any verdict should be unanimous in the case of all three accused. The case was adjourned to allow the jury to retire and make a decision. It was obvious that the judge had decided on the result.
Unlike the prosecution, the defence counsel had done a sterling job of probing. Hence, things looked bleak regarding justice under the law. Throughout the final hours of the trial, Jason had a headache. During the judge’s summary, he sat with clenched fists as a rage burned within him. During the jury’s deliberation, he left the courtroom with everyone else, hoping to calm himself.
* * *
The Old Bailey is not a single courtroom nor a place with quiet corners. It is a building with numerous courtrooms and is continually bustling with legal eagles, criminals, police officers, prison officers, spectators, media, and more.
Jason wanted fresh air, away from those who’d come outside to smoke. He stood to one side of the main entrance, stared at the passing traffic, and thought back to the cases in which he’d been involved with Paul Gallagher.
The man had been more than a boss, partner, and mentor—he’d been a friend and Jason’s hero. Paul had served in the military before joining the police and had been awarded medals for gallantry and bravery. During his police career, he demonstrated his courage and was decorated again. To be gunned down, unarmed, in a London street was unbelievable. He’d had a reputation for being tough but fair, which had been respected. Respect existed, except for the person who had sanctioned Paul’s execution and those who committed the crime. The horrific event replayed in Jason’s mind.
A man nearby laughed and was joined by his companion.
“I’ll tell you what, Charlie, if I was that dead copper’s sidekick, I’d keep my fucking head down and be very careful.”
“You’re right, Jonah—cos if he doesn’t keep his fucking head down, it might get shot to fuck.”
The two men laughed again.
Jason glared at them, knowing the pair had been staring at the witnesses and jurors.
“Well, fucking hell, Jonah,” Charlie Grainger said. “Look what’s here—a stinking fucking pig.”
“D’you know, I was sure I could smell livestock.” Jones laughed.
They flicked their cigarettes at the pigeons strutting around, and with a shake of their heads, the two men returned to the building.
* * *
Fifteen minutes after the courtroom settled again, the trial was over. The accused were told to stand, and the foreman was asked if they’d agreed unanimously on verdicts. The foreman swallowed hard as he glanced at someone in the public gallery. He passed the findings to the bailiff.
The judge accepted the note and studied it for a few seconds. He nodded to the jury before naming the three defendants individually, declaring them not guilty and free to go.
While sniggers were heard in the gallery, all three accused men grinned, turned, and eyeballed Jason Knight. The cocky Scotsman, Gordon Curtis, winked at the detective.
The three accused were escorted downstairs to be processed and released from custody. They had murdered a senior detective in cold blood and acted like they’d been given a smacked wrist.
* * *
New Scotland Yard
“Come in and sit down, Jason.” Chief Superintendent Karl Royston pulled open a desk drawer. “I’ve assured the Chief Constable that we could put this situation behind us.” He produced a bottle of single malt and poured a generous amount into two glasses.
Jason stared at the drink the senior officer had pushed across the desk. “Sir, I—”
“To Paul.” Royston stood, and raised his glass as he met the detective’s gaze.
Jason stood, and picked up the whisky. “To Paul.”
Both men took a pull of the strong liquor and placed their glasses on the desk before sitting.
Jason held his superior’s gaze. “This isn’t over, sir.”
“There is fuck all anyone can say to you, or me, that will help. I trained with Paul, and I served alongside him for years. I knew him well, and I think I know you through his praise.”
Jason clenched his fists, breathed deeply, and stared at the man, wondering if there would be something tangible he could take from this meeting.
Royston continued, “Right now, you’re asking yourself a host of questions, but right at the top of the pile, you’re contemplating vengeance.”
Reaching for his whisky didn’t camouflage the momentary narrowing of Jason’s eyes.
“Don’t worry about it; it’s natural,” Royston said. “Revenge is on everyone’s mind, but our first allegiance is to the British public. We know the risks when we go out there daily, dealing with decent people and society’s shit. In such circumstances, we cannot afford to drop our standards.”
“Sir, how can we possibly put this behind us? Paul Gallagher was let down by his own force. We were refused permission to be armed, and the backup didn’t show. After his murder, it took days to arrest those three. The CCTV footage was obscured by a parked truck shielding the bastards. Even the fucking court case was a farce. There should be an internal inquiry.”
“Jason, if you’d been killed, I’d have Paul standing there, banging his fist on this desk, telling me that he wanted a search warrant and an armed team to go and spill blood.”
“Paul Gallagher wasn’t murdered, sir; he was fucking executed. We were briefed to approach from a particular direction and wait for armed backup. Our source told us that Tennent would have armed men to put up resistance to a search. We passed on our intel and were told not to go armed personally in case of a spontaneous reaction. How could it all go so wrong?”
“I was here pushing buttons, chasing the warrant. I had the search and response teams on standby. It was put on hold from higher up the chain of command at short notice. We have to do things legally, or it all falls apart. One glitch in the process and your whole case would be fucked.” The big man inhaled deeply. “You won’t like this, Jason, but I’d like you—”
“Don’t say it, sir.” He held up a hand and shook his head. “Don’t suggest a few days off or that I should attend counselling.”
“You’re a bloody good detective, but if you go out there now, you won’t be able to do your job properly. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to Paul—”
“And don’t lay extra guilt on me.” He sat upright and inhaled deeply. “I need to get back on the case and put fucking Tennent away.”
“Jason, it’s the twenty-fourth of the month. Try to chill out, son. Take two weeks, or three if necessary, but fuck off somewhere. You’re a Glasgow man, so go home to Scotland for a few days.”
“I left Glasgow to avoid becoming a part of the problem. Throughout my education, I knew more bad guys than good ones. It’s a city full of wonderful people, but I have no reason to return.”
“You need a change of scenery, and it’s been proven that it helps. Take your girlfriend away—”
“I can’t have a girlfriend and do the job properly. The job always comes first.”
“Christ Almighty.” Royston briefly looked up and shook his head. “Okay, fuck it, Jason—if you report for work before Monday, the seventh of November, I’ll assign you a desk, and you’ll bloody work from there. One way or another, you must let this go.”
“My anger and frustration won’t go away, so why the big deal about me calming down?”
“I’m not supposed to tell you, but your promotion has come through. In a few weeks, you’ll be a detective inspector. You’ll put that at risk if I let you out on the streets right now.”
Jason drained his glass and stood. “Okay, I’ll take two weeks off to get my act together, sir.”
“Good lad—please, try to relax, although I know it will be difficult.”
Jason left the door open as the Chief Super preferred. He walked through the open-plan office, passing colleagues who either offered condolences or turned away, unsure how to react. He didn’t register anything or anyone because his focus was on the exit.
Jason knew how his superiors would treat him in such circumstances. He’d seen colleagues undergo the same post-traumatic stress treatment and the bland assurances.
“Try to put events behind you … take some time out … return for counselling sessions … ease back into the job with a different case. Things will work out.”
Things would work out because Detective Sergeant Jason Knight had a new agenda that didn’t involve the official justice system.
9 thoughts on “1. Judgements”
You’ve made a brilliant start here!
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Thank you, Paul. An eloquent comment from a trusted reader/writer/reviewer which gives me confidence. 🙂
Very nice Tom.. look forward to the finished product
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Thank you, Patrick. I’m taking it slow and steady, and the story will get plenty of rest between edits. 🙂
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Small world – be careful of what names you use. 😉
Chief Inspector Harry Royston was a real person in Leeds.
He was an ordinary copper when he and his family were good neighbours and friends to my parents and myself.
I knew them from about 1948-1955. His little boy and girl were my best friends. Good luck with your pursuit.
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Hi Iain. Thank you for checking out my work and leaving a comment. There are no ‘free’ names out there, which is why all of my titles carry a disclaimer regarding names, criminal activities, and geographical locations. Any author worth their salt should always use a disclaimer clearly stating that any similarity to real people is coincidental.
An example for you with reference to names is that my author name is my real name, and there are five other authors using Tom Benson. I know that at least one American is using the name as a pseudonym.
Best to you,
With a prologue like that, you wouldn’t have had a “thumbs down” beta reader, or not immmediately. 🙂
You have a great cover, a superb title, and the makings of a strong plot.
You CAN do it, and you write too well to settle for cardboard characters who even use the same obsenities… Too many of them.
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Thank you, Sarah. As you know, it’s hard to hit the right note with all the aspects of putting a good book together. I’m confident that those characters who count are more rounded, and I’ve introduce a couple of idiosyncrasies and a wider spread of obscenities. When it comes to quantity, I’ve reduced it from how it would be in the ‘real’ world. Perhaps I’m at fault, because I’m including the level of cursing that I’ve been associated with for most of my life … and I’ve never been a gangster.:)
Judging by A Life of Choice, soldiers swear twice in every sentence! It can be habit, but most people swear under stress, and that would include Jason. I shall expect all the mulled characters to be Constance standard. The only thing that bothered me about her was under-explained forgery abilities. I have a victim in my WIP who has had dreadful trouble even opening a bank account – Katya would be proud of the way she did it.