With only the amber glow of urban light pollution to guide them, the three policemen had picked their way along uneven dirt-tracks and through a disused railway yard. They were just a mile from a densely-populated West London borough, but the bleakness of their surroundings and the wind-chill smacked more of some far-flung outpost of the former Soviet Union.
Detective Sergeant Rob Trent clambered out of the thicket of frost-coated brambles and stumbled into the chain-linked fence. Seconds later two detective constables emerged from the same undergrowth, with gloved-hands thrust into deep warm pockets. Stamping Doc Marten-booted feet almost rhythmically on the crinkly crisp white grass, they looked at Trent, then up at the fence and back at Trent again, accusingly.
‘What the fuck is this, sarge?’ said Farrow.
‘It’s a fence, what’s it look like?’ said Trent, picking thorns from his sleeve.
‘I know it’s a fence, but what’s it doing here?’
‘It shouldn’t be according to the A-to-Z,’ said Jindle, retrieving his dog-eared copy.
‘Perhaps not in your ancient edition,’ said Farrow. ‘But the good sergeant here was supposed to bring a proper detailed map.’
Trent had ordered an Ordnance Survey Explorer from Central Registry and it duly arrived marked; “URGENT-FAO DS TRENT”. But like his other correspondence both at work and on his doormat at home, it had remained unopened.
Trent knew he’d be crucified for his incompetence but he was tired and past caring. Nightshift often disrupted the body-clock, but he’d not slept properly since Sarah left.
‘Another thing, why leave the car behind?’ said Farrow. ‘We could all die of hypothermia out here.’
‘Standard procedure,’ said Trent, with a look colder than the night. ‘Approach cautiously on foot undetected, or arrive in a nice warm Mondeo and get fucking shot.’
'What about digging underneath it?' suggested Jindle. 'It's got to be better than walking all the way round. It must be at least a quarter of a mile to the main gates.’
Farrow dropped to his haunches and tapped at the bare earth with his gloved knuckles.
‘No chance, Ajay, it’s rock-hard so we’d need a spade,’ he said, standing up again. ‘We’ve got one in the boot, oh, almost forgot the car’s half a mile away.’
‘Somehow I don’t think a plastic snow shovel would be much use,’ replied Jindle, leaping to Trent’s defence. ‘Had you said a pneumatic drill, well, now you’re talking tools.’
Almost simultaneously they turned their heads in the direction of the warehouse, its huge black profile jutting up into the night sky. It was at least fifty yards away, but it looked close enough to reach out and touch.
‘There’s a hole in the wire over here,’ said Farrow, walking towards it. ‘Probably kids breaking in to vandalise the place. We should be able unravel it a bit more to make it copper-sized.’
‘Thank goodness for that,’ said Trent, relieved to be off the hook.
Once through the gap they stayed close to the perimeter in case they set off an alarm or triggered security lights. They made slow progress towards the nearest corner of the building, using their minilite torches sparingly to identify rabbit-holes and other hazards of the darkness.
Just a few feet from the building, Trent’s torch beam danced along the blank wall until it came to rest upon a tiny half-open window twelve feet from the ground.
‘What d’you reckon, Ajay?’ asked Trent.
‘Why me?’ protested Jindle.
‘You’re the youngest, the fittest and the smallest,’ suggested Farrow.
‘And don’t forget the best looking,’ added Jindle, ‘But what you really mean is that I’m the new boy and consequently I have to do all the crap jobs.’
‘On your Future Leader training you’re supposed to learn things from the ground-up,’ said Farrow. ‘You can’t get more ground-up than climbing up to that window.’
‘I thought we were only supposed to observe the place and report back,’ the young man replied.
‘How can we observe anything when we can’t see fuck all,’ said Farrow.
The men were silent as they looked up at the window, almost as if each was trying to work out a way of climbing up to reach it.
‘Apart from having to do the Edmund Hilary bit,’ whispered Jindle. ‘Is breaking into someone’s warehouse strictly legal and above board, sarge?’
‘Of course, Ajay,’ Trent reassured him. ‘You’re seconded to The Bloc-Busters squad now. Everything we do is a hundred per cent kosher.’
‘Yeah, right,’ said Jindle, nodding. ‘I suppose that sawn-off shotgun in the boot of the car is Metropolitan Police standard issue is it?’
‘Not exactly, I found it at a crime scene,’ said Farrow. ‘I just haven’t got round to handing it in yet.’
‘What crime scene?’
‘Takings robbery in Ealing,’ he said. ‘We were sat in the pub watching Euro 2004 when we got the shout.’
‘That’s only like nine years ago,’ said Jindle, shaking his head slowly. ‘What happened anyway?’
‘We beat Croatia 4-2.’
‘You’re unbelievable,’ he replied, shaking his head slowly. ‘I didn’t mean the football.’
‘It was down to three Polish plumbers. They’d only been in the EU five minutes and thought they get rich quick. There was less than five grand in the security case.’
‘They’d probably have made more as plumbers,’ remarked Trent. ‘Especially in Ealing.’
Trent switched off his torch and stepped towards the wall, crouching down slightly and putting both hands against it for support.
‘Right, Ajay, you climb aboard my back, gently mind. Then when I straighten-up steady yourself against the wall, reach up and grab the window sill.’
‘Do I have to?’ he said. ‘It’s so undignified, sarge, I’m supposed to be a fast-track graduate not a common housebreaker.’
‘Always good to have a trade to fall back on,’ suggested Farrow. ‘There’s always the slim chance you won’t make it to Metropolitan Police Commissioner by the age of twenty-five.’
‘Stop taking the piss,’ said Jindle. ‘Or if I do make it I might sack you.’
They stopped talking as they heard the muffled sounds of explosions, whizzes and electronic music. All three dropped to the ground and stared towards the corner of the warehouse.
The silhouette of a large man appeared from around the side of the building, and the unusual sounds appeared to be coming from the palm of his hand. A small bright light illuminated his man’s neck and the lower part of his bearded face as he walked.
‘He’s playing computer games on his mobile,’ hissed Jindle.
Before the man had covered another ten feet he let out a shriek as he was slammed violently into the wall, the device falling to the ground.
‘Police,’ said Trent, forcibly cupping his hand over the man’s mouth. ‘Don’t make a sound.’
The detective sergeant shone his torch from the man’s dirty designer-trainered feet, soiled grey track suit bottoms up to his bearded chubby face and squinting watery eyes. As Trent frisked him, Jindle scooped up the man’s mobile and checked the display.
‘He’s got Space Invaders,’ he exclaimed, turning to face the man. ‘Is it a one-off or did you download the retro pub games bundle?’
‘Never mind his apps,’ said Trent. ‘Here, take his keys and try them in the side door, but check it’s not alarmed before you open it.’
Trent handed the bunch over to his colleague, and continued searching the man’s pockets.
‘What’s that, another mobile?’ said Trent, examining the small, cheap Nokia before shining his torch beam into the captive’s face again. ‘Why have you got two phones?’
‘Bet you a pound to a penny he doesn’t speak English,’ said Farrow. ‘They usually forget when we want to question them,’
Jindle turned a key slowly into the side door lock, opening it very slightly and shining his torch inside. He pushed his hand through the small gap, running his fingertips gently along the inside of the frame.
‘Did they learn you to do that at Hendon?’ asked Farrow, sounding impressed.
‘No, I was taughted it from a Bruce Willis film,’ he replied. ‘Come on, sarge, we’re in.’
Using the captive as a human shield, Trent held on to the back of the man’s hooded top and pushing him through the open door. Jindle and Farrow were close behind, and silently they sought refuge behind an abandoned fork-lift truck a few yards away in the poorly-lit gloom.
‘You’d better sit down,’ Trent instructed the prisoner. ‘We don’t want you legging it to warn your mates.’
The man looked at the policeman blankly but appeared to understand the instruction. He sank to his knees before shuffling his bulk into a more comfortable position on the grimy floor.
As the policemen’s eyes adjusted to the poor light, they could see the rear of a container lorry. The vehicle had been reversed up to the internal loading bay ramp, its rear doors wide-open. Huddled together inside the grimy freight container were a group of about sixteen young men and women. One or two were weeping but most were silent, as if already hopelessly resigned to their fate.
What horrors lay in store for the human cargo were well known to Trent and his team from Scotland Yard’s Organised Crime Task Force. Better known as, The Bloc-Busters, the elite squad had been formed in 2004 to curb the activities of powerful criminal gangs flocking in from Eastern Europe for rich pickings in the UK.
They plied their lucrative and violent trade of human trafficking, prostitution and illegal arms throughout the country. Most of the gang members had slipped into England under the radar, and so identifying them was almost as impossible as trying to track them down.
Their victims would be cleaned up, photographed and either be sold online or auctioned off at private parties held in secluded country houses, the outbuildings of isolated farms and disused factory units. The lucky ones would either escape or be rescued by the authorities, but most were destined to spend the rest of their short miserable lives doing unthinkable things with unspeakable bastards.
Trent reached down and prodded the fat man’s shoulder gently.
‘How many men in here?’ he demanded in an anxious whisper.
The man shrugged, his bottom lip pouting in an expression of either not knowing, or not really caring.
‘My English, I speak it not very good.’
‘You’ll speak it even worse with a broken jaw,’ said Trent. ‘Now stop messing me about, how many men?’
‘I don’t know, three, maybe four,’ the man mumbled, before attempting to stand up.
‘Stay where you are, I haven’t told you to move. Now is it three or four?’
The man slumped down again and shook his head slowly. He looked as if he had better things to do than talk to this policeman in the early hours.
‘I tell you, I don’t know,’ he insisted. ‘A man in the pub he pay me forty pounds to patrol outside building. You know, keep watch, in case any bugger come.’
‘Forty pounds?’ replied Trent. ‘You’ve got yourself involved in serious crime for forty quid?’
‘In my country it’s a great deal of money.’
‘Yes, but we’re not in your country are we? It’s not a lot of money in London, is it?’
Trent looked across at the two detective constables.
‘Hey, Ajay,’ he said, almost in a whisper. ‘What can you but these days for forty quid?’
Jindle looked thoughtful for a few moments.
‘I bought my gran a DVD boxed-set of Dad’s Army for Christmas; £39.99.’
‘A DVD boxed-set,’ Trent repeated, looking down at the fat man. ‘You mean to tell me you’ve sold your soul for the price of a DVD boxed-set?’
‘I have other income streams,’ the man replied. ‘A few odd-jobs here and there, it all adds to a tidy sum up each week.’
‘There’s nothing tidy about taking money from these bastards.’
DC Farrow had been in the job for so long now that his tolerance level had slipped into minus figures.
‘Don’t you realise its selfish twats like you who keep scum like this in business?’ he said, his face contorted with an inner rage.
The fat man looked shamefacedly into the faces of his captors.
‘I am a poor man, I needed money.’
‘You didn’t need it at all,’ Farrow snapped. ‘You just wanted it.’
Tears were now forming in the corners of the man’s dark eyes, and he wiped them way with his stubby, bear-like hand.
‘All for the price of a DVD boxed-set,’ said Trent.
The fat man looked agitated, his tearful gaze darting between the three pairs of eyes staring down at him. It was as if he were searching for a shred of compassion and understanding of his economic plight, but he was disappointed.
‘I didn’t know about no crime, I swear it. Like I tell you before, a man in the pub asked me. I am just the lookout.’
‘Lookout, my cock,’ said Farrow. ‘Who do you think those poor sods are in the back of that truck, eh, fuckin’ X-Factor contestants?’
‘You should give that bloke his money back anyway,’ added Jindle. ‘A herd of elephants carrying flaming torches could have got by you unnoticed.’
‘You’re not even worth a single DVD,’ said Trent. ‘Never mind a whole boxed-set.’
The fat man stared at the floor like an admonished child for a few moments before raising his head slowly. He drew in a deep breath and his nostrils flared defiantly.
'I was a captain in Rumanian army,' he said, stretching his neck and pushing out his chin. ‘I served my countrymen for seventeen years.’
‘How lucky they must be,’ remarked Trent.
Farrow looked towards the truck again and spotted a young woman dressed in a grubby night-dress squatting over a plastic washing-up bowl to urinate. She was in full view of her travelling companions, none of whom seemed bothered about looking away to give her some privacy.
‘If we were armed, I’d save the tax-payer a fortune in court costs and barristers,’ said Farrow, grinding his teeth.
‘It’s one thing making idle threats, Farrow,’ said Jindle. ‘But killing someone in cold blood, well, I don’t think you’d be able to do it.’
‘If these bastards get put inside they’ll be out again in just a few months. They’re hardly likely to settle down to a steady nine-to-five with a rented flat and an ‘R’ reg fuckin’ Astra are they?’
‘No, of course not,’ replied Jindle. ‘But it’s not down to us.’
‘But they’re totally fuckin’ un-rehabilitationable, if there is such a word.’
Trent crouched down next to the fat man, clamping his hand firmly on his shoulder.
‘The men in here, are they armed?’ he said softly. ‘You know, guns, bang-bang?’
‘How would I know?’ the man replied, sounding aggravated. ‘I am just the lookout.’
He trying to rise to his feet again but Trent tightened his grip, forcing him to sit still.
‘If I have to tell you to sit down again one of us will end up getting hurt, and it won't be me.’
‘Look can I go home now?’ he asked. ‘I want no trouble with police.’
‘Too late for that,’ replied Trent.
For the first time the man appeared frightened as Trent stood up and retrieved a pair of handcuffs from his belt.
‘What you need those for? I don’t do nothing,’ he pleaded, his hands gesturing like a Moroccan market trader reaching his rock-bottom price. 'I just want to go home, get my supper.'
Trent squatted down again and secured the man's wrists.
‘If you behave yourself I'll get you a home-made Cornish pasty from the police canteen,’ he said cheerfully. ‘If you don’t, I’ll make you eat two. Now give that mouth of yours a rest for a few minutes and sit still.’
‘I am not a criminal.’
‘Shut the fuck up,’ snapped Jindle. ‘You boxed-set bastard.’
Trent smirked and retrieved the confiscated Nokia, waggling it in front of the man’s face.
‘The man who pays you, did he give you this?’
‘If I saw anyone coming I supposed to ring man on phone,’ replied the fat man with a shameful nod. ‘He put number in for me; it is the only entry in list of contacts.’
Trent navigated through the menu and found the list and the solitary number under the entry name of ‘Boss’.
‘Hey, sarge, what if the good captain here called them up and told them he’d seen something?’ suggested Farrow. ‘They’d all go outside then, and we can nab the lot of them.’
‘We’re supposed to quietly observe before reporting in,’ protested Jindle. ‘I don’t remember any senior officer at the briefing telling us to act like complete tossers and get ourselves killed.’
‘I know, Ajay, but if we can take them all out we can secure the building and help those poor sods in the truck,’ said Farrow.
‘How do you suggest we tackle them, stick our hands in our jacket pockets and pretend we’ve got guns?’ said Jindle. ‘Even if we had your dodgy sawn-off here it wouldn’t do any good. They’ve probably got automatic weapons.’
Two weeks previously police marksmen had shot dead a suspect after mistaking the metal pipe he’d been carrying for a rifle. Subsequently, a directive from on high had tightened-up procedures for issuing firearms. Had they applied, Trent’s team would have been lucky to get so much as a water pistol and a bottle of Evian.
A high-pitched scream rang out and all four men turned their heads in the direction of the darkened corridor. Trent crept towards the front of forklift, looking for any sign of the cargo’s captors.
‘You two watch Eagle Eyes here, while I take a closer look’ he said. ‘Ajay, get on your mobile and get a back-up team here.’
‘Why go in at all, sarge?’ said Farrow. ‘You may be on a death-wish, but I’ve got three young kids who’d quite like to see their daddy arrive home in one piece after his shift,’
‘Without back-up you’ll be putting us all at risk if you get caught,’ added Jindle.
‘I’m only going to see if the main man’s here that’s all,’ Trent reassured them. ‘If there’s any trouble get the good captain here to make that phone call. It might cause enough of a diversion to save both your arses.’
Trent handed the mobile to Jindle.
‘Just don’t do anything stupid and they won’t need saving,’ barked Farrow.
Trent moved quietly along the passage, and an involuntary shiver ran down the back of his neck. He didn’t want to be there, he never wanted to be anywhere these days. He just wanted be stay at home.
As he crept along the poorly-lit corridor the subdued hum of the warehouse’s portable heating units was interrupted by another scream. This time it was higher-pitched and lasted for several seconds longer.
It came from inside a room several yards ahead of him, and he quickened his pace towards the light spilling from the open doorway.
With his back to the wall he peered cautiously around the door frame. A stocky well-built man was standing sideways on to him, holding a digital camera. He was leaning over a small blonde-haired girl seated naked on a plain wooden chair. She couldn’t have been much older than her mid-teens, and her terrified eyes were drowning in tears as she tried to shield her nudity from the man’s gaze with her thin pale arms.
‘You want me stop hurting you?’ the photographer said, his accent sounding to Trent like a Russian thug in a James Bond movie. ‘Then get your arms down, push your titties out and smile for the camera.’
If the girl understood his instructions she didn’t show it. Instead she slid off the chair and using her bare feet, slid backwards along the floor until she was pressed firmly against the unpainted breeze-block wall. She raised her knees up to her chest, pulling them tightly towards her and burying her puffed-up face behind her skinny thighs.
The photographer moved forward and raised the flat of his right hand just above her head. Before he could strike, Trent burst into the room and planted the sole of his boot into the man’s midriff like a half-hearted karate kick. The blow sent the man stumbling across the room and clattering into a grey metal filing cabinet, the small camera falling from his grasp and shattering on the quarry-tiled floor.
The girl squealed like a piglet and brought her hands up to cover her head, as Trent hauled the photographer back to his feet. He spun him around, pulling him close to his unshaven face, the policeman’s stubble more derelict than designer.
A look shrouded in menace escaped from Trent’s tired blue and bloodshot eyes, and the man looked away and tried to wriggle free. The detective sergeant’s left hand grabbed the lapel of the man’s Levi jacket, pressing against his throat. He retrieved his warrant card and held it a few inches from a worried-looking face.
‘Police, and don’t even think about coming quietly. I’d hate to see you get out of here unscathed.’
The man started to panic, struggling violently to free himself from Trent’s grip. He managed to throw a token punch into the policeman’s upper body, but before he could land a second Trent’s hand slapped him hard across his face.
‘Hurts doesn’t it?’ said Trent. ‘But don’t worry, by the time I’ve finished you won’t feel a fucking thing.’
He struck the man’s face repeatedly, each slap hitting home harder than the previous one making the inside of Trent’s fingers sting. The photographer made almost childlike whimpers as he jerked his head from side to side, unable to escape the onslaught.
Two pairs of powerful arms seized Trent from behind. Wrenching him away from the man, he was forced to relinquish his hold and the photographer dropped to his knees clutching his face.
Trent shrugged himself free and stooped down on his haunches. Fists at the ready he looked like a washed-up boxer ready to take on all-comers.
‘Take it easy, sarge, for fuck’s sake it’s only us,’ said Farrow in a frantic whisper. ‘We could hear you right down the corridor. What the hell do you think you’re playing at?’
‘If the rest of his mates heard the commotion we’ll be right in the shit,’ said Jindle. ‘The back-up team’s at least fifteen minutes away.’
Trent nodded curtly and breathed-in deeply. He felt nauseous, thirsty and incredibly tired and it took a few minutes for the adrenalin pumping around his veins to slow down to a relative crawl.
The terrified young girl was now crouching behind a desk in the corner of the room. Trent removed his ski jacket and walked over to hand it to her. Her eyes softened slightly, and he looked away as she covered herself up.
Jindle knelt down to check on the condition of the photographer before handcuffing the man’s wrists behind his back.
Two men walked into the room and stopped dead when they saw the three intruders facing them. Trent recognised the pock-marked features of Kolia Janko, a local small-time villain and thug-for-hire from nearby Shepherd’s Bush. But he was far more interested in the man standing behind in the open doorway.
Vladimir Gobek was the leader of one of the largest gangs in the south, and The Bloc-Busters had been trying to find the Ukrainian for eighteen months. Without hesitation the detective sergeant strode purposefully towards them, his eyes ablaze and his right fist clenched.
‘Police, don’t move you’re under a-fucking rest.’
Gobek rushed forwards pushing Janko firmly in the back, sending him into the arms of the advancing Trent before running from the room and slamming the door behind him.
The detective sergeant struggled to push the giant Janko out of his way, and after a brief scuffle he despatched him into the arms of Jindle who manhandled him to the floor. Trent almost wrenched the door off its hinges before giving chase towards the rear of the building.
At the far end of the corridor Gobek was struggling to open the little-used bar lever of a fire exit door. He stopped as the sound of heavy footsteps could be heard echoing towards him.
Trent had broken into a sprint and sixteen stones of stroppy detective sergeant with no brakes were on collision course with the Ukrainian. Both men crashed against the stubborn fire exit, freeing the bar-lever mechanism instantly. The door sprang open, slamming loudly against the exterior brickwork as the two men were deposited on to the concrete in the cold night air of Acton.
Trent fell heavily on to his knees but Gobek quickly scrambled to his feet. He planted a solid kick into the policeman’s thigh before running over to a Range Rover, parked twenty yards away by the perimeter fence.
The Ukrainian frantically searched his pockets and retrieved the keys to the vehicle, as a dead-legged Trent lumbered slowly towards him. The policeman was just a few yards from his man when the building’s security lights came on, flooding the warehouse site like an evening kick-off football match.
Trent stopped and looked across at Gobek, who was standing alongside the car casually pointing an automatic pistol at him. Stranded in no-man’s-land, Trent was totally exposed with nothing to defend himself. He raised his arms limply in a half-hearted gesture of optimistic surrender.
The two men stared across at each other, catching their breaths and exhaling plumes of carbon dioxide into the wintry night air. Trent realised that he wouldn’t be able to make up the ground between himself and the gunman without risking a bullet. But by doing nothing there was every chance that he’d get shot anyway.
He knew too well how Gobek and his cronies operated. Extreme violence was part of their daily routine, and he’d have no qualms about shooting a policeman.
‘You may have a gun but you’re still under arrest, Gobek,’ Trent heard himself saying. ‘So put that pistol down.’
Trent felt like an idiot for suggesting it, but felt the need to carry on talking. It may buy him some time, so it was worth a try.
‘You really think I’m going to surrender to an unarmed cop?’ the gangster replied.
‘If I don’t nick you there’ll be plenty here soon who will.’
‘You’re a real funny guy,’ said Gobek,
‘You may think you’re an important man, Gobek, but you’re the biggest pile of shit we’ve ever had in our records,’ he said, with an unconvincing half-smile. ‘We have to remember to wash our hands after handling your file.’
‘What’s this, childish insults now?’ Gobek replied. ‘Delaying tactics, hoping your friends will arrive and save your arse.’
‘It’s you who’ll need saving, mate,’ said Trent, his voice sounding surprisingly calm. ‘If you kill me, Gobek, my colleagues will break every bone in your head. You’ll either be dead or crippled for life before you even get to trial.
‘They’ll have to catch me first.’
Trent felt his heart pounding like an executioner’s drum, but he knew he had to keep the chat going.
‘Look, if you put the weapon down now I can at least put in a good word for you.’
‘So I’ll get twenty two years instead of twenty five, bargain. Why didn’t I think of that?’ said Gobek. ‘But then, I have an even better idea. How about I put a bullet in your head and drive away?’
Trent’s left leg started to shake involuntarily and his mouth became parchment-dry. He was expecting a shot to go off at any moment and his mind started to race, desperately searching for a way out.
‘It doesn’t have to be like this, Gobek,’ Trent said, his voice no longer sounding assertive. ‘You’ve had a good run, so you’ve be caught now. Why not just accept it?’
‘You’re living in a dream-world, my friend.’
‘Nightmare more like,’ Trent quipped.
Gobek laughed at the retort waving the pistol teasingly from side to side.
‘So why come after me at all?’ he said, looking concerned. ‘You must realise we carry guns, and we have been known to use them from time to time. Purely in self-defence I might add.’
‘Of course, you need a gun when dealing with fifteen year old girls. All drug-dependant and scared shitless,’ replied Trent, nodding in agreement. ‘You must be really proud of yourself.’
‘Bastard,’ replied Gobek, spitting in Trent’s direction.
Releasing the safety-catch on the pistol he aimed it directly at the detective but then looked away towards the rear of the car. Both men heard deep-throated growls, and a split-second later two German Shepherd dogs launched themselves at the gunman.
In the shadows Trent spotted a group of uniformed police officers crouching behind the Range Rover, and smiled.
The gunman tried to fend off the dogs with clumsy kicks and punches, fumbling for the button on the electronic key fob and unlocking the vehicle. He struggled to pull open the driver’s door as one dog sank his teeth into the sleeve of his jacket, and the second gripped at his ankle. Their powerful bodies lurched backwards, low to the ground, dragging him forcibly away from the car.
As sharp teeth made contact with soft flesh, the gunman gripped the car’s raised sill with one hand, swiping wildly at each dog’s head with the barrel of the weapon.
Trent had no choice but to keep his distance; his police warrant card meant nothing to the lethal dogs.
Whether it was just fatigue or carelessness, Trent's twenty years’ police experience deserted him. Instead of moving to safety, he stood watching and waiting for the reinforcements to move in.
He heard the deafening sound of a gunshot. At the same time the top of his right leg felt as if it had caught fire and he screamed as he dropped.
A warm sensation enveloped his hip, almost as if someone was urinating on him. He twisted his body awkwardly to try to take his weight off the wound. He found the courage to reach down and touch it. He gasped in shock and fear as his fingers disappeared inside a deep hole into flesh which he could no longer feel.
He raised the hand slowly and felt the blood trickling gently down his wrist, a few drops dripping on to his face like warm clean engine oil. His temples pounded rhythmically, and he tried to sit up as a cloud of tiny grey dots flew around the back of his eyes.
Gobek was writhing on the ground on his back still trying to fight off the tenacious dogs. He was now gripping the pistol tightly in both hands and waving it erratically. A second shot went off followed by a sickening yelp from one of the dogs.
The animal lay on its side whimpering and convulsing and tried several times to stand up. Trent looked over at the car and could see the sleeve of Gobek’s jacket in tatters, his wrist and forearm a lacerated bloody mess of deep bites and ragged tears.
In his weakened state Gobek tried once more to aim the weapon at the remaining dog, but the animal’s determination paid off. The gangster loosened his grip, allowing the weapon to clatter harmlessly to the ground.
‘‘He’s dropped the gun,’ shouted Trent to his cowering colleagues.
A dog handler rushed over to gather up the firearm before calling off and restraining his canine charge, hugging it affectionately.
The handler of the stricken dog was in tears as he knelt down to check on the condition of his wounded animal. He stood up slowly, and his face was contorted with rage as hauled the injured Gobek to his feet, slamming him against the side of the Range Rover. Wrapping the chromed dog chain around his fist like a steel bandage he punched him full in the face, breaking his nose and splitting both lips like burst chipolatas.
Gobek raised his head and smiled defiantly, blood, snot and spittle running down his face.
‘That’s assault, my foolish friend,’ he said, in a mixture of broken English and broken teeth. ‘In a few hours’ time my lawyers will crucify you, and your fucking dog.’
Gobek cried out as another officer forced his wrists behind his back to handcuff them, making no allowances for the deep wounds the dogs had inflicted.
As the Ukrainian was being led away to a police van he spat out bloody saliva and pieces of gum tissue at the dog handler, who had to be restrained from launching a further attack on the injured prisoner.
The handler returned to his wounded dog, crouching down to pat him reassuringly on the head. As he examined the wound, other police officers gathered around in a semi-circle.
‘Thankfully it’s only a flesh wound by the look of it,’ he said, looking up at the faces of his colleagues with a relieved smile. ‘It must have given him a nasty sting though, the poor sod.’
Trent’s lips brushed against the ice cold concrete and he felt incredibly thirsty. He closed his eyes against the searing pain. Why doesn’t it just stop? Perhaps if I can sleep it might go away. I need sleep, but fuck its cold.
He sensed someone kneeling beside him and looked up through weighted eyelids. A fresh-faced police constable in a Hi-Viz jacket was staring at him, looking as frightened as the wounded detective felt.
‘Don’t worry son,’ said Trent. ‘Just try and remember the bits on the First Aid course when you nodded-off.’
The young man grinned sheepishly. ‘I only finished it Friday.’
‘Top of the class?’ said Trent, raising his eyebrows.
‘That’s me fucked then.’
The constable laughed, and unzipped the medical bag. He snapped on a pair of surgical gloves, and moments later Trent felt him cautiously cutting away at his trouser leg. The diligent tailoring was followed by ham-fisted probing inside the wound, and Trent screamed.
‘Sorry, but I have to stop the bleeding,’ the young man explained, looking upset.
‘How, by killing the fucking patient?’ growled Trent.
As the pain intensified Trent couldn’t help but think about Sarah. Even if he survived he knew he’d never see her again.
Would she even attend his funeral? - He wouldn’t mind if she sat at the back, as long as she came.
Would she even be told? - She wasn’t next-of-kin. Far from it.
It should make the headlines in the Evening Standard and Metro. - “Detective murdered on duty, ex-girlfriend blames herself.”
Trent sobbed as a field dressing was pushed hard against his hip, softly mouthing Sarah’s name as he felt himself slipping away.
‘Did you see that Gobek, sarge?’ the young man said, trying to distract him to keep him conscious. ‘The bastard nearly killed one of our dogs.’
It has the desired effect, and dragged the detective instantly from his melancholy. Trent felt snot dribbling on to his lips, and tried to stifle a grin.
‘Don’t waste your first-aid training on me then, constable,’ he said, snivelling into his shirt-sleeve. ‘Not if a fucking dog’s been shot.’