Ros Marnie walked from the kitchen into Trent's living room clutching her mobile phone, and sat on the rug in front of the sofa on which he was sprawled.
‘I’ve got some information for you about Ricky Parr, if you’re interested,’ she said, stretching out her long legs and leaning back.
‘What’s that, then?’ he muttered, half-asleep and not really caring.
With the Fiat off the road, he’d been practicing riding the Fireblade. He’d returned home suffering the stresses and strains of riding the superbike in his stiff and weakened state, but happy to be back on two wheels again.
‘My friend, Jane mentioned the rumpus in the newspapers about Ricky Parr,’ said Ros, unzipping Trent’s motorcycle boots for him. ‘She works for a letting agency and they’ve been desperate to find a long-term tenant for a beautiful thatched cottage in Studland, which belongs to Parr.’
Trent slumped back on to the cushions of the sofa, flexing his toes and fighting off the drowsiness brought on by the extra painkillers he'd taken. Ros nudged him and he sat up again and opened his eyes.
‘Sorry, Ros, what about this cottage?’
‘It’d been empty for about a while after the previous tenants moved out and Jane’s shown a few people round since, but no takers.’
‘Probably too expensive in Studland?’ said Trent, stifling a yawn.
‘Am I boring you, DS Trent?’ she said poking him in the ribs playfully. ‘So anyway, Jane cycled over to Studland earlier today as she often goes to the nudist beach there and rode by Parr’s cottage, and guess what?’
‘Amaze me,’ said Trent.
‘Someone’s living there already,’ she said dramatically. ‘Jane saw a man putting his car away in the garage, then he opened the front door and went inside the cottage.’
‘Perhaps it had been let out through another agency,’ Trent suggested.
‘Jane’s is the only agency handling the property, and she'd spoken to Parr only last week about lowering the rent to attract more interest.’
‘And did he?’
‘He agreed to it so he was obviously still keen to let the place. All the time it's lying empty it’s costing him money.’
‘Interesting,’ said Trent, sounding more enthusiastic. ‘Did your friend get a look at the new tenant?’
‘The man she saw was mid-forties, dark lank hair and rather scruffy,’ Ros replied, pausing to light a cigarette, ‘His car was big, navy blue or black, quite old and very dirty.’
‘Did she get the make or registration?’
‘No, but I’ve got a fairly good idea who owns a car like that, who is also a scruffbag in his forties.’
‘Sorry, Ros I’m getting a bit brain dead in my old age,’ said Trent looked puzzled.
‘Detective Inspector Colin Scotter of course,’ she said, leaning forward to kiss him on the lips. ‘He’s got a rather knackered old dark blue Rover.’
‘Brilliant,’ said Trent, suddenly feeling wide awake. ‘We’d better tell Westbrook.’
‘Not just yet,’ whispered Ros, her eyes lighting up into a mischievous sparkle.
‘I suddenly feel the urge to take all my clothes off.’
After a very early morning interview with remand prisoner, Ricky Parr in Dorchester Prison, Westbrook telephoned Trent to confirm that DI Scotter was hiding out in the Studland cottage. He was lying low waiting to arrange a meeting with Petro Gobek, to secure funds to aid his escape.
Trent sat astride his motorcycle at the head of the cars and camper vans, as the Sandbanks chain ferry rumbled its way across to Shell Bay. It was just after eight, and the bright morning sunshine danced gloriously across the quiet calm sea way.
Trent was in good spirits and felt a little more relaxed on the powerful motorcycle. After crawling from Ros’s clutches at five- thirty, he’d enjoyed a reviving hot bath and a steaming mug of tea to set him up for the start of the new day.
As one of the ferry crew opened the first gate to let the vehicles disembark, Trent accelerated gently away and headed for the toll booth a few hundred yards ahead. With the correct change in his gloved hand he dropped the coins into the receptacle under the kiosk window, and the attendant pressed the button to raise the barrier.
Within a few seconds the motorcycle was up to ninety miles per hour along the narrow straight heading towards Studland village, much to the annoyance of early morning hikers and cyclists who waved fists of anger in his wake. Once Trent reached the pretty little village, he slowed the bike down to the required thirty miles per hour. As he reached the small corner shop, he turned into the narrow lane running alongside it and headed towards the beach.
Parr’s property was an eighteenth century Grade II listed thatched cottage located a hundred yards down the lane. Its front garden was bordered by huge Rhododendron bushes, and on the right-hand side was a crumbling brick outbuilding.
Trent rode slowly passed the garden gates, glancing at the front door. He pulled up further along the narrow road, out of view of the cottage windows and parked the motorcycle. Removing his crash helmet and leather jacket, he placed them on the ground alongside the front wheel and limped back towards the cottage.
He could see a dormer window visible at the front of the roof, which commanded a good view of much of the lane. He walked close to the side of a thick laurel hedge of a neighbouring house, and stopped as a car turned into the lane accelerating towards him. The driver recognised him and the car pulled up alongside him.
DC James smiled as he wound down the passenger window to greet the detective sergeant, and was surprised at the expression of anger on Trent’s face.
‘Westbrook said I might find you here,’ said James. ‘I’ve just been to Wareham.’
‘Lucky fucking Wareham,’ said Trent, as James’s police radio blurted out a routine message from under the dashboard. ‘Just drive away, now, and stay out of sight.’
A puzzled James did as instructed and pulled away. He stopped further down the lane at the National Trust car park, and parked facing the glorious sea view.
Trent waited several minutes before resuming his approach to the cottage. After a few more yards he noticed the wall of tall conifers at the side of the garden, and through the gaps he could make out the garage and a dirt track running towards a distant derelict barn.
He made his way along the track slowly and silently, before easing himself between two tall conifers close to the side wall of the garage. He peered through the side window and saw the Rover parked inside.
Moving to the back of the garage Trent looked into the landscaped rear garden, with its extensive flower borders in full bloom and immaculate lawn. White painted wrought-iron garden furniture and two steamer sun beds sat on the patio, with wooden planters crammed full of pansies added a splash of colour.
On a low wall separating the patio from the lawn Trent spotted a crystal tumbler standing next to a gold packet of Benson and Hedges cigarettes and a red disposable lighter. Keeping an eye on the rear windows for movement inside the cottage, he scurried across the patio towards a side door and looked through the small glass panes into a kitchen.
There was no sign of anyone so he turned the door knob gently, hesitating momentarily before going inside. He froze as her heard Scotter’s voice coming through the half-open door leading to the next room.
‘Yes, okay don’t worry I’ll be there,’ he said. ‘The girl, what about her? ……but I thought we’d agreed……….okay, keep your hair on, I’ll do it, leave it with me………she’s as good as dead.’
Not hearing anyone talking, Trent realised that the detective inspector was talking on the telephone. As he waited by for the conversation to end, a noise outside distracted him. It sounded like a low moan and appeared to be coming from inside the concrete coal bunker outside the kitchen door. Trent stepped outside and gently lifted the hinged wooden lid to peer inside.
A pair of terrified eyes stared up at him, and he was so shocked he almost let go of the lid. The features were barely distinguishable through the caked-on soot and grime, but Trent could see it was the bruised and battered face and body of a frightened young woman. In the cold dark bunker she was lying naked on her side, her wrists and ankles bleeding and rubbed-almost red-raw as she’d struggled to free herself from the tightly bound ropes. A crude gaffer tap gag encircled her mouth and long dark matted hair.
Trent raised a finger to his lips to warn the girl to be quiet, and smiled at her reassuringly. He waved his warrant card at her, which was all he could think of doing. He reaching inside the bunker and she struggled as he gently touched her shoulder, which was ice cold. Removing his shirt, he placed it over her as best he could before quietly lowering the lid.
He stepped back inside the cottage kitchen and heard Scotter pacing the wooden floor in the next room. He leaned up against the door and opened it further and could see Scotter moving towards the front door quickly, opening it and slamming it shut behind him. A few moments later Trent heard the sound of the up and over garage door being raised, followed by the tired old engine of the Rover firing up.
Trent moved through to the living room and concealed himself by the curtain to the side of the front window. Taking out his mobile phone, he watched as the car moved slowly out of the garage, and stopped in front of the front door of the cottage. Scotter climbed out and closed the garage door, while Trent staying out of sight.
He was just about to summon DC James, when the Rover’s engine went silent. A few moments later he heard the sound of a key in the front door lock, and Scotter walked back into the cottage and through to the living-room.
‘Where did I leave those bastard fags?’ he said to himself angrily, impatiently rattling his keys.
He stopped dead when he saw Trent standing in front of him.
‘Detective Sergeant Trent,’ said Scotter calmly. ‘I’m glad you’re here, I’ve been working on a case and the trail led me to this place. It belongs to Ricky Parr you know.’
Trent remained silent as he moved slowly towards the rogue policeman, his right fist clenching in readiness. Scotter’s eyes flitted from side to side nervously before hurling his keys at Trent, the heavy bunch hitting his forehead like a stone. Scotter ran from the cottage, glancing behind him before sprinting up the lane towards the main road.
He reached the village shop on the corner and saw a stationary Renault Scenic complete with mountain bikes attached and its engine running. A young woman was adjusting the straps on the rear mounted cycle carrier, whilst the driver was sitting with his door open enjoying a cold drink.
Scotter dragged the man from the car, punching him hard before taking his place behind the steering wheel and accelerating away at speed. One of the mountain bikes was only half-strapped on, and was dragged along the road as the woman ran behind in futile pursuit.
Trent had been too slow to catch up with Scotter on foot, and seeing the Renault drive off he limped back down the lane towards his motorcycle. On the way he phoned DC James and told him about the girl at the cottage, and without bothering with his helmet or jacket he started up the Fireblade and rode away at speed, bare-headed and bare-chested.
After rescuing the girl from the bunker, James wrapped her up in a warm duvet and called an ambulance. Leaving her with a hot cup of tea, he drove up to the shop and showed his ID to the car-jacked couple. He telephoned Sergeant Cripps in the Control Room with registration details of the stolen car. After remembering to retrieve Trent’s expensive crash helmet and leather jacket, he headed back to the girl at Parr’s cottage.
Trent rode the Fireblade fast along the narrow twisting lanes towards Corfe Castle, but was forced to slow to a crawl when he came upon a convoy of touring caravans wallowing around the B-road bends like a procession of circus elephants.
He moved out to overtake, and the motorcycle accelerated passed the ambling pack. Trent had to cut back into his side of the road just on the apex of the bend, narrowly missing the front offside corner of an oncoming delivery lorry.
As he approached a T-junction , Trent spotted a mountain bike lying in the middle of the road. He slowed down to avoid it before taking a left turn towards the seaside resort of Swanage. He soon encountered more caravans, a coach from Germany and a combine harvester before he finally had a clear road ahead of him. As he took the motorcycle up to a hundred and twenty, insects were hitting his face and upper body like hailstones and the G-forces contorted his facial features with lips flapping, eyelids forced open and his eyes streaming.
He slowed down to a relative crawl to take the next left-hander and down the hill to the outskirts of the town, heading for the sea front. He spotted a police car ahead parked across the road in front of the stolen Renault, which had been abandoned halfway on the pavement. The remaining bicycle was hanging from the rack, its front wheel buckled and forks twisted horribly out of shape.
Trent pulled up beside the police car waved his warrant card at two traffic policemen.
‘Your fugitive’s pinched another car, sergeant,’ said the older of the two, pointing to an old man standing on the pavement looking distressed. ‘He stole this poor chap’s Honda Jazz.’
‘What colour is the car?’ Trent said impatiently.
‘Yellow, do you want the registration number?’
Trent ignored him and accelerated away, causing the other police officer to quickly step back to avoid being knocked over. Trent rode slowly through the town centre traffic, braking frequently as unpredictable holiday-maker pedestrians stepped into the road without a care in the world. Some pointed at the topless and helmetless motorcyclist, as he rode towards the far end of the High |Street.
The road leading to the pier was a dead end, and so Trent turned right up a steep hill leading away from the town centre. A youth on a skateboard shot out in front of him from the entrance of a public car park, and Trent braked hard, stalling the engine and almost losing his balance on the steep incline.
He swore at the youth, who was now long gone down the steep hill. The detective sergeant frantically clicked his left foot to find neutral, before restarting the engine. The weight of the bike was slowly giving in to gravity, rolling backwards and putting a tremendous strain on its rider’s injured hip. Trent glanced towards a car park entrance in case of further hazards before pulling away, and spotted the rear end of a yellow Honda Jazz parked haphazardly in a disabled bay.
Trent pulled into the car park and parked the bike immediately behind the car. It was unlocked with the keys still in the ignition, and the owner’s Panama hat and sunglasses resting neatly on the passenger seat. As he looked at the view from the hilltop car park, he saw a footpath running down the through public gardens leading to the sea front and pier.
Trent looked towards the pier at the masses of people dressed in summer shorts, colourful tee-shirts and bathing costumes. He spotted a man walking amongst them, wearing a dark suit and looking out of place. Retrieving his mobile, Trent called Sergeant Cripps in the Control Room.
‘Scotter abandoned a second stolen car at the main car park in Swanage,’ said Trent. ‘I’ve just spotted him walking on the pier.’
‘He’s probably catching the tripper boat from Swanage pier back to Bournemouth,’ replied Cripps. ‘Which makes sense because he’s supposed to be meeting up with that Petro Gobek bloke, who’ll more than likely be embarking from our end.’
‘I’ll follow him, and if you’re right we can get both of them when it moors back in Bournemouth,’ said Trent.
He ended the call and put on the old man’s Panama and sunglasses from the car. Hurrying down the long steep footpath towards the sea front, he mingled with the crowds on the pier but couldn’t see Scotter. At one of the kiosks he bought a bottle of water and an extra-large sized tee-short emblazoned with ‘Swanage Pier Preservation Society’. Darting into the public toilets, he washed his face, eyes and upper body before putting it on. Re-emerging into the sunshine, he saw the bright blue and cream tourist boat making slow progress towards the pier.
It was another twenty minutes before the July Rose moored alongside, its passengers eagerly disembarking for their day out in Swanage. Trent waited inside the exit door of the pier’s museum, so he could observe people queuing to board the ferry for the return journey. He spotted Scotter near the front, and the detective inspector had removed his suit jacket revealing huge patches of sweat in the armpits of his grubby white shirt.
As soon as Scotter had walked up the boarding ramp Trent moved quickly to join the end of the queue, and a few minutes later he too had boarded the vessel. He spotted Scotter sitting on the front bench seat on the open deck facing the bow. He was soon to be joined by another man as the seats quickly filled to capacity. Trent moved astern, the Panama, tee-shirt and sunglasses doing a good job of making him look as much like a holidaymaker as possible.
It was hot and sunny when the boat departed Swanage but ten minutes into the voyage, patches of mist interrupted the blue skies and dark rain clouds formed overhead. The sea became choppy, and the swell made standing passengers cling on to the safety rails under the inky-black sky. Trent looked towards the west and could just make out the coastline around Old Harry Rocks, the landmark partially obscured by the fast moving mist. The cool breeze soon changed into a biting wind, and Trent’s new tee-shirt soon became saturated with rain and sea spray.
Passengers formed an orderly queue to move under cover into the saloon, as the light drizzle quickly turned into torrential rain. The wind was getting stronger and started to howl. Trent was cold, wet and miserable and desperately wanted to join the others in the warm and dry. He looked over at Scotter as the last of the passengers seated next to him stood up to go inside. Scotter was sitting alone on the bench wearing his jacket again and the collar turned up. His head was facing down at the deck, and he appeared to be taking the battering from the wind and rain in his stride.
Something triggered alarm bells inside Trent’s head and he walked unsteadily across the rolling deck towards Scotter, losing the Panama hat to the gale force winds. He grabbed the detective inspector’s shoulder and Scotter’s head rolled backward, his black eyes staring up at Trent and a huge gash across his throat. The blood has seeped into the front of his shirt and jacket, forming a pale red puddle mixing with the rain and sea water on the decking underneath.
Trent looked over to the saloon, its Perspex windows steamed-up with heavy condensation from the large number of passengers sheltering inside. Pulling out his mobile and selecting Westbrook’s number from his contacts list, Trent could barely hear if the call had been answered. He tried a second time and gave up, opting to send a text instead.
“Scotter dead, PG on boat send photo”
A few minutes later the incoming message tone beeped, and Trent saw the Petro Gobek’s photograph on the display. He looked very different to his elder brother, with a large red face, blonde hair and a flat top haircut with the sides of his head shaven. Trent tried to recall seeing him amongst the passengers but couldn’t, but then most people had been covered up in coats, hats and hoods against the awful weather.
By the time the ferry came alongside Bournemouth pier, the storm had subsided and it was bright sunshine again. Westbrook had already concealed some special constables in plain clothes in the queue waiting to board the ferry, and other officers were covered any potential escape routes.
The passengers stood in line to disembark, and Trent stood well back so he could get a good view of the queue. He noticed a large man wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses push his way forwards to the front, a rucksack secured on his back. A rather obese young mother carrying a toddler in her arms stepped nervously on to the gang-plank, and the large man squeezed on close behind her. The woman was making slow progress and impatiently the queue jumper waited for her to move forward, step by step.
His eyes darted around the people waiting on the pier to board. A man in shorts and a tee-shirt looked up at him, then down the display on his smart phone and back at him again. Gobek bent down and quickly snatched the toddler from the terrified mother, pushing her away hard as he squeezed passed. She lost her footing and tumbled backwards, the momentum carrying her over the safety rail and into the sea fifteen feet below. The special constable who’d given himself away immediately jumped in to rescue the young woman.
‘Get back, we don’t want anybody else getting hurt do we?’ shouted Gobek to the queue of anxious looking passengers.
People moved away from the gang-plank to allow the big man through, carrying the toddler under his arm like a parcel. He ran towards the pier entrance where two plain clothes officers tried to close in on him. They saw the terrified child with its neck cradled firmly in the crook of Gobek’s arm, and stepped aside to let him pass.
Emerging on to Pier Approach, Gobek saw a Ford Transit police van parked on the pedestrian area next to a shiny black Rover 75. A grey-haired man in the smart suit was leaning against the car talking on his mobile, and Gobek walked up to him.
‘Give me your keys?’ he said, holding out his free hand.
‘Petro Gobek, I presume,’ said Westbrook casually. ‘Now don’t be silly, just let the child down gently and then we can go back to the station and sort this mess out.’
Gobek lifted the child to his chest and put his arm around its neck, oblivious to the toddler’s terrified crying.
‘Keys, now,’ he screamed. ‘I’m not fucking around with you people, I will break the kid’s neck.’
‘In the ignition,’ said Westbrook. ‘But you won’t get far, there are road blocks everywhere.’
Gobek hurled the child at Westbrook, who just managed to cling on to it as he fell backwards on to the ground. The Ukrainian climbed inside the car throwing the rucksack on to the passenger seat, and started the engine.
He accelerated sharply away, heading for the metal barrier across the entrance to the main road. He slammed the brakes on and got out of the car to raise it as two policemen in plain clothes ran towards him. The tyres screeched as the stolen Rover sped away, the open driver’s door smashing into a concrete bollard and slamming itself shut. PC Rollins was sprinting after it like a man trying to catch the last bus home, and leapt the last few feet and landed on the boot lid. After being dragged for several yards he hauled himself up on to the roof, gripping the sides tightly as the vehicle increased speed.
As the car pulled out on to the main road in front of a camper van, Gobek tried to shake the young constable off by swerving the vehicle from side to side. The car veering sharply at a mini-roundabout to go towards the West Cliff, and Rollins was almost thrown clear.
A quarter of a mile further on, the car was travelling at sixty miles per hour along the narrow streets. Gobek braked hard and swerved to avoid a pedestrian in the road in front, and a terrified Rollins lost his grip and screamed as he slid off , landing heavily on to the bonnet of a parked car before rolling painfully on to the pavement.
Gobek accelerated again, checking his rear-view mirror for any signs of pursuit. He unfastened the rucksack on the seat next to him, glancing down to retrieve an automatic pistol. As he looked at the road ahead of him again, he saw the side of a delivery lorry reversing into the narrow hotel entrance blocking the road. Gobek tried to brake but the Rover hit the steel outriggers on the side of the truck, the car wedging itself underneath the chassis.
The airbags deployed and saved Gobek from hurtling forward into the laminated windscreen, but the already mangled driver’s door had been twisted and buckled by the impact. The collapsed steering column and dashboard were pinned against his legs, and he panicked and struggled to free himself. Steam spurted from the gaps around the crushed bonnet and radiator grille, and unburned fuel splashed out of the fractured fuel lines on to the hot exhaust manifold, igniting almost immediately.
The stunned lorry driver opened his door and jumped down from the cab, clutching his injured right arm and tried to open the driver’s door of the Rover with his left hand. The frame had almost welded itself to the central pillar and roof, and it wouldn’t budge.
Moments later a breathless and limping PC Rollins rushed over to help, and the two men tried desperately to open the door with brute force. The lorry driver was tiring fast and he stepped backwards as a whoosh of tall flame darted out of the twisted engine bay, singeing his hair and eye lashes.
He reached up into his cab to retrieve a fire extinguisher, but before he could make use of it the Rover’s engine bay caught alight sending out-of-control flames in all directions. Black smoke billowed into the now cloudless afternoon sky, as the punctured front tyres succumbed to the raging fire. The unbearable heat drove the two men back and they had little choice but to stand well away from the stricken Rover.
Gobek was still wriggling in the driver’s seat, panic-stricken and screaming. The lorry driver rushed forward again to try and force open the rear door this time, but Rollins dragged him away. A small explosion in the fuel line sent more flames and smoke lapping around the doors from the underside of the vehicle, and the young constable pinned the lorry driver to the ground as he heard the sound of a gunshot. Gobek’s screaming had stopped, and a few moments later the fuel tank exploded scattering glass, burning plastic, scorched metalwork and human remains across a forty yard radius.