Monday, 21 May 2012

The choice

  “Let him go DS Hobson,” said the Chief Superintendent.
   “Sir - what? Let him go! He’s a terrorist sir. We can’t just let -…”
   “We’re letting him go, Detective Sergeant Hobson, as indeed we’re letting all of them go on the orders of the Home Secretary himself. These boot prints you can probably see on the seat of my trousers are in actual fact from the Right Honourable gentleman’s personal size nines.  Wait a few minutes for the custody sergeant to sign the others out and then take Batman here and get rid. With his property, including the gas guns and the bags of herbs. Make sure he signs for it and he leaves and gets back into his little Noddy van with the rest of the freaks and goes away forever. And make sure you forget about him. Forget the night’s operations, Sergeant; and pretend we spent the whole evening watching the nightclubs and takeaways for drugs and other unpermitted naughtiness.”
   “Sir, this gear’s evidence. How can you call it property when it’s all weapons? Top of the line crossbows, detonators and shaped charges are evidence. Machetes in Brixton aren’t used for ice sculpture, sir, and these… -“ Hobson jabbed the broken-nailed finger of a plain clothes surveillance specialist at a bundle of pointed wooden slats bound with wire to a pair of mallets “-do you suppose his mates were planning to build a really low picket fence somewhere in South London?”
   “It’s not evidence because no crime has been committed. And you’ve asked me your three questions which means as far as this particular fairy tale’s concerned you’ve had your lot. Fifteen minutes, and out he goes.”

   The ex-prisoner reached for his BlackBerry in the evidence box and tapped at it for a while; ignoring Hobson. After five minutes he looked up and smiled.
   “You have a family I see, DS Hobson,” he remarked in a Northern accent.
   “Yes. Two daughters. How did you -…”
   “Ten and seven; Hayley and Anna, and I see both are doing well at school.”
   “Don’t touch them, you bastard! If I even suspect you mean them harm you’ll never know I’m there till you hit the deck. Just you bloody leave them alone.”
   “Can we please both sit down again now? Of course I’ll leave them alone; it’s you that’s going to hurt them. I know you. I know the type.”
   “What the fuck do you mean by that? I love those girls. I’d kill for them without a moment’s thought and do the time happy they’re still alive.”
   “Then you have the precious opportunity tonight to avoid screwing up their lives forever. Problem is, I know your type. Looking at you tonight is just like seeing myself in the mirror - and I urge you to forget that not everybody walking around in London tonight can do that.” He smiled and scratched at the bags under tired eyes. “You’re that kind of copper, DS Hobson. You can’t leave well alone. You need to know what evil’s being done and where and by whom so you can chase it down - even if the courts let the scrotes walk nine times out of ten. That’s why you stay on at work after all the others head off for the pub or back to the wife, or back to someone’s wife anyway; because you can’t stand to let evil go unchallenged. Am I wrong? No? And that’s why you missed Anna’s Nativity last Christmas, (I’m guessing here), though you probably also drove the girls to the Police Federation pantomime while taking a short break from your crusade to put one more offender behind bars to make the streets just a tiny bit safer for all the little Hayleys and Annas of the world. Yes?”
    “What’s your point?”
    “You can do one of two things tonight. You can forget about me and my friends and go back to picking at the alibis and statements of ordinary villains till you find a crack and you collar them. On a lighter note, you’ll still be able to sleep at night and also know you’ll probably be available to kiss your sleeping children when you come home from all that unpaid overtime. Think about it DS Hobson; you can just let us go and still be able to go home after pulling a night shift without utter dread filling your heart. That’s Plan A.”
   “What’s Plan B?”
   The stranger sighed. “You follow our van using the tracker you probably installed tonight. And then one of two mutually exclusive things will happen.”
   Hobson didn’t confirm or deny. “What’s that, then?”
  “If my friends were lucky tonight and survived in decent numbers, a couple of the other teams – (you didn’t really think you’d nicked us all, did you?) -  will roadblock you before we’re five miles outside the M25. Then they’ll show you video footage of your children going to school and where you all holiday in summer and photos of your wife’s work and her mother’s house in Southend and you’ll let yourself believe you’re backing off because you can’t fight some kinds of organized crime.”
   “And if your friends were unlucky?”
   “Then they’ll be understaffed and in need of recruits and they’ll probably let you follow us all the way back to South Wales.”
 “What’s in South Wales?”
   “Valleys. Mountains. Forests. Abandoned coalmines full of interesting equipment. Ministry of Defence land. A thickly wooded RAF compound containing a village that sits in the middle of five circles of state-of-the-art fortifications. Go there, and that’ll ruin your family’s life.”
   “Why’s that?”
   “Because then you’ll no longer be able to convince yourself that we’re terrorists or a cult or the Russian Mafia. You’ll beg us to move your entire family to Llan Erewon and never, ever sleep soundly outside the wire again.
   It’s up to you, DC Hobson; it’s your choice entirely.”

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