A little after Five am, six things happened simultaneously. Already bolt awake, Jim heard four of them. As something was pushed through his letterbox, his mobile vibrated, the tablet on his desk pinged and his answerphone whirred in to life. Unbeknownst to him a note was also placed under the windscreen of his Volvo at precisely the same moment that his work phone lit up with a text. Propped up in bed and reading, if Jim felt perturbed by this then his face and body language showed nothing. Though in his fifties, save for grey-flecked hair and deep wrinkles he could have passed for a much younger man. Wiry and slight, he moved with the quick intensity of a jockey.
Within ten minutes he was dressed and downstairs, staring at the same message many times over. Words identical to the ones growled by a distorted voice on the phones. ‘123 Marine View, 8am. Come alone, Jim. Tell nobody. If you run, we will always find you’. Not exactly a summons one could ignore. Nor did it look like one to defy by informing others of its existence. He was on his own. Gripping the kitchen worktop with both hands his eyes flicked to the gun locker under the stairs. No, if his was serious then there was no point. Whoever vit was would be watching already. He would go. It was his last day on the force, and he had absolutely no intention of running.
Gunning the Volvo to life, he shivered with the chill of the December morning. A heavy frost covered everything, and the street looked beautiful in the blue glow of pre-dawn. He was used to antisocial hours, but this strange summons had rattled him. Either it was the younger lads playing a last day prank on him, or he would dead within a few hours. Though he knew it was paranoia, he felt as if he’d known something was going to happen. A feeling akin to being watched had gripped him for weeks. The same feeling he had when walking up the stairs in the dark as a child. Something following him. As the windscreen cleared, he looked up at the house in front of him. Not a lot to show for 32 years of putting his neck on the line, but Gwen had loved it. It had been three years now but every day he still expected her to walk through the door and kick her shoes off. He wondered what she would say about him going to Marine View. ‘Don’t be so fucking stupid’ probably.
Whatever happened, he was prepared. He’d had his will drawn up for ages. You just did if you worked on Serious Crime. Death was something ever-present, and often too close for comfort. A mile away from the address, he parked the car down a side street. Removing his wallet, watch and wedding ring, he slipped them in to an envelope and put them in to the glove compartment. The car would be traced eventually if he didn’t return. He locked the door then placed the keys in the spare box undertaken the front wheel arch. If the worst happened, it would go to Abe, like everything else. Having no children, he’d left everything to his teenage nephew. Rubbing his eyes, he set off to the seafront feeling as if he’d been awake for hours. It was just after 7 and the town was waking up. Groggily.
Even though he was holding out hope this was the boys at the office, he knew deep down this was something else. It was too meticulous. Too calculating. He felt slightly amused at how calm he was, but it was hardly surprising; he’d been shitting himself with fear at the prospect of retirement for months. At least this was a distraction. All to soon Marine View loomed above him. Built in the town’s pre-war hey day, the row of large detached houses had mostly gone to rack and ruin. The sea view atop the cliff was magnificent, but the sea had ravaged the wood and stone of the houses. Walking up to the street, 123 looked particularly battered. From the porch, there was no sign of anybody inside, but he smelt the sweet tang of petrol immediately. As the front door opened, it hit him like a wall, making his eyes water. A gangly man with a pitted face stood there in a boiler suit and wellington boots. He spoke with a broad, jovial Geordie accent.
‘DCI Jim Duggan, I presume?’ he rasped, sweeping his arm in to the darkened porch and standing back. ‘Come on in, or were you expecting a hug first’? A grin seeped on to the man’s face, revealing twisted, tobacco-stained teeth. His eyes were heavy-lidded, and the colour of used dishwater. Behind him, a bare bulb lit what must have once been the lounge, and Jim’s stomach dropped at what was inside. The entire room was wrapped in thick plastic sheeting and duct tape, save for a trestle table full of rusty metal tools and an iron garden chair. Coils of thin, blue nylon rope were draped over the back of it, along with a stained ball-gag. In the corner stood another man in an immaculate suit and overcoat. His chiseled, pale face was impassive, save for glinting, grey eyes. Behind him, a voice rasped ‘I’m Bill, by the way, in case you were wondering. I’ll be the one slicing bits off you today’. Jim felt a massive blow to his head, searing pain, then nothing. Bill chuckled, walked around him, and lovingly placed the battered cudgel back on the table.
© Tom Tide 2016