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The helicopter set down. 'From the ordinance maps, I'd say your estate's that way,' the pilot pointed out the windscreen. 'Maybe ten miles from here.' He turned back to Trell. 'I don't envy you, Sergeant,' he said as Shep unbuckled himself beside him. 'I know this lady and she's always right for me, but you're going out in a situation that's nothing if it's not bloody dangerous.'
Trell smiled back at the man. 'If I were honest, I'd tell you that I'd take your lady over what's ahead myself.'
The pilot laughed as he opened the bay and set the steps down to the unmowed grass. He saw the uniformed officer trotting across the field towards them. 'I'll wait around to hear your war story. You can decide if you want to sit up front on the flight back -- I'll teach you how to treat this lady with the respect she deserves.'
Trell nodded, and he and the American quickly crossed under the still rotating blade to the man waiting for them. 'You Detective Sergeant Trell from London?' the Chichester policeman called as soon as they were out from under the rotor blade.
Trell nodded. 'The Chief Constable is waiting for you down at the estate,' the officer told him and started back towards the macadamed roadway.
Ian Trell forced his thoughts to what lay ahead as he followed after the man. He hoped he was doing the right thing. Not even Inspector Goodson could save his arse if he'd guessed wrong this time. He'd gone out of his department and involved too many people to keep it quiet.
Shep's hand grasped his arm. 'You're doing what you've got to do, Ian,' he told him quietly.
Trell instantly relaxed. For the briefest moment, his body remembered this man beside him holding him. Moving against him. His prick sliding in and out of him. He smiled back at Shep.
The inspector was almost assuredly inside the Russian estate. It was just not normal for Goodson simply to go off by himself whilst on a case and not tell someone. And the file he'd left on his desk had made it clear that he had come here.
If Goodson was inside with the two lads just out of Hendon whom he'd requested, then things were going to be hairy. Whoever had answered the phone had said Goodson wasn't there. If he was, it meant things had already become uncomfortable. If they hadn't gone further. Trell didn't like that thought and forced it from his mind.
The estate was Russian property -- like their embassy in London was. The thought stuck in his brain and wouldn't let go. There was no search warrant, nothing legal at all, that could get him in to look for Goodson. At the worst, if the inspector wasn't there, he'd be kicked off the force -- and lose his pension.
The old fear began to creep over him as he accepted that possibility. He could feel it moving through him, paralysing him. He is in there! he told himself, willing himself to believe it with no doubt whatever. He and those two lads he brought up from patrol. And the students. He relaxed, the fear retreating everywhere inside him.
Even so, he couldn't lead the Chichester constabulary into a diplomatic incident, no matter how sure he was. That meant it was going to be him alone going in. It wasn't a pretty picture, that was for sure. For the briefest moment, he felt as if he were in one of those American cowboy films -- the good guy strapping on his weapons to go face the bad guys. He allowed himself another moment to wonder how the real men in that lawless America had felt as they prepared to face possible death. At least, his dear old mum would receive a stipend in her dotage if he got killed at this.
He pulled his thoughts roughly back from that track. He grinned as he told himself he had watched too many John Wayne films as a lad. This was England. There were not 250 million guns to make the country into a nation of outlaws at a moment's notice. He and Shep would enter the manor at the end of their ride and find Inspector Goodson. Hopefully -- otherwise, he was out of a job for precipitating an international incident. No-one was going to behave like those men in those American films.
Their car approached two police cars blocking the country lane. Across the roadway was a brick wall that extended as far as he could see. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw it continued as far as he could see in the other direction as well. Just beyond the roadblock was an entrance gate that was closed.
'This must be it then,' he said to Shep as he stepped onto the macadam.
'Looks like it. Awesome place your bad boys have -- nice and secluded.' The American chuckled. 'Just the sort of place where the baddest things happen in the movies.' Shep grabbed his arm. 'I'm going with you.'
Trell thought to argue. 'You...' he started. He studied Shep over the roof of the car, however, and saw the determination in the American's face. He accepted then that he stood the best chance of coming out of this caper with a back up. And Shep was a man he would trust his life to anywhere. 'Be careful and don't do anything foolish,' he finished and started towards the men waiting for him at the other car.
Shep followed him. 'Get me a shotgun from one of these guys -- and enough shells to do some damage if I have to,' he said.
Before he could answer, an older man detached himself from the group of constables at the roadblock and asked: 'Detective Sergeant Trell?'
'I'm Chief Constable Crimmins -- do you realise this place is Russian territory?'
'I do,' Ian Trell answered. 'That's one reason why your men are going to stay on this side of that fence.'
The man studied him closely. 'Inspector Goodson called Thursday and said he and members of his team were going to be involved in an undercover operation at the weekend,' he said. What's the situation now?'
'Members of the Russian Trade Commission have been bringing heroin into the country under diplomatic cover. Inspector Goodson and two young officers attached to our detail were able to get themselves invited out here for the weekend -- along with two civilians.' He looked at the Chief Constable and saw that he had his full attention.
'After they left on Friday, we lost touch with them. I called before I left London and someone in that house pretended Goodson and his men weren't here.'
Crimmins nodded, his mouth turning slowly into a frown. 'I have an armed response team placed at the out buildings in the back, Sergeant. A ruckus will have them in the house in three minutes or less. But their orders are to stay put unless there is a ruckus.' He shook his head and shrugged. 'We just don't need Whitehall down on our backs out here.'
'Thank you for the back up, Chief Constable. I hope that we don't need it.' Trell forced a smile to his lips. 'I wouldn't want you or your men to get into trouble.'
Moments later, they stood at the foot entrance into the estate. Trell looked around. It was his last chance to pull out of what would surely cause a diplomatic incident.
Several constables from Chichester stood across the lane and perhaps twenty feet from him. The sky was an amazing blue and he realised that there were no clouds. Birds flitted from limb to limb in the small oak copse just inside the fence, their calls reinforcing the normalcy that was apparent all around him.
Shep stood beside him, ready to follow him into the house. He did not look happy. 'You're actually going in there unarmed?' he growled, nodding towards the walls and the manor beyond.
Trell studied him for a moment, trying to understand the American's concern. 'Why shouldn't I?' he asked finally.
'You could get shot for one thing. For another, you're fucking useless if those Russians in there have guns and point them at you.'
'No sane man would shoot a police officer.'
'No sane man -- those are the operative words, Ian.'
He felt doubt creeping over him again, paralysing him. He looked to the house and imagined Inspector Goodson lying on a floor inside, a bullet in his brain. 'I hope I'm doing the right thing,' he mumbled.
'You have to take your best guess, Ian,' Shep told him. 'This is it. And you've got the balls to follow through on it.'
'Let's go,' he told Shep and pushed the gate open wide.
'You're one gutsy guy,' the American chuckled as he fell in behind him.
* * *
'Tie him down!' Ilyich shouted to the other two Russians, finally breaking the spell. He chuckled then and looked over at us. 'He can join the others when they leave this world.'
'You won't get away with it,' I told him and wished that I could do something to add meaning to my threat.
Myransky tucked his pistol in his trousers and moved from behind Maxim. He started towards Richard. 'Bastard!' the Irishman yelled at him. His head turned and he was looking at Mick. 'You know what's going to happen, mate. It's been all a bit of fun up to now.' He shook his head. 'Only, now, you're going to be murderers too -- just like these guys.'
'No,' Mick breathed. His eyes focused on Ilyich for a moment before moving to Myransky. 'No!' he growled and stepped in front of the Russian. 'It's been like he said -- a bloody lark,' he growled in Myransky's face. 'It was fun -- sex and money both. Free and easy. But I don't kill people. I'll go to prison before I do that.'
Myransky smiled back at the lad in his face, his bent elbow pushing back behind him, his hand becoming a fist. 'Bastard!' he hissed as his fist punched forward to slam into Mick's belly.
The English lad's face took on a surprised look and then he was bending over, holding himself where the Russian had hit him.
Myransky shoved him towards us and glanced to Yorstovitch. 'Better bind this one too. He doesn't want to go to prison,' he chuckled as Mick lost his footing and fell in front of me. 'So, let him join these others -- no prison for them.'
Ilyich pointed his gun at the others while Yorstovitch picked his up and shoved it in his trousers. 'Anyone else want to complain about how we take care of problems?' the older Russian asked quietly.
Yorstovitch moved to Mick and pulled his hands behind his back, forcing him to his knees. He quickly tied his hands before forcing him to his feet. He shoved the English lad towards a chair beside Brett. 'Sit there.' He grinned. 'It will be considered most impolite if you move.'
Myransky reached Richard and grabbed his hair, pulling his head back as he moved around behind him. 'You should have stayed in the cellar, Irish. It would be over for you by now -- and you would not have known what was happening.' He pulled his gun from his waist with his free hand and pressed the barrel against the lad's ear.
He turned to Ilyich. 'Perhaps I should finish this one off now. A hole in the head is a good lesson to them.' He nodded to the Englishmen who hadn't moved since they watched Mick taken down.
'Too much mess,' the older Russian told him. 'Bring him over here with the others. He won't be able to move once he's tied down. And each of them will be given enough of the horse to kill the American mule...' He smiled suddenly and looked around the room at all of us. 'I make a joke,' he said. 'You should laugh at it, English.'
A movement at the door caught my attention and I turned my gaze there. The barrel of an old style revolver crept past the door jam at shoulder level. I watched spellbound as it continued to move slowly until it had come to rest in Myransky's hair. He jerked but made no sound to alert the others.
* * *
Trell blinked as his hand began to turn the knob of the service door. It opened easily. Doubt flooded over him again and, for a brief moment, he wondered how he was ever going to explain his actions to Inspector Goodson, much less to the superintendents who would sit on the board of enquiry.
'Dumb clucks,' Shep whispered in his ear. 'But then the Ivans always were pretty damned dumb.' He chuckled as he slipped into the kitchen. 'Let's see if they're smart enough at least to oil the hinges, so that we can walk in on them without them being any wiser until we have them hog-tied.'
Trell tested the door with just a slight shove. It opened silently. Crouching, he slipped into the hall. Shep was inside with him and pushing the door to much faster than Trell thought was wise. The American was looking down at him when he looked up.
'You've been watching too many police shoot-em-ups,' Shep chuckled, and Trell was glad the man's voice hadn't carried.
'Perhaps you haven't watched enough of them,' he whispered back as he stood. 'There is some truth to them, you know.'
The American didn't answer back.
Shep led them into the circular central hall and stopped, studying the doorways to the rooms on either side of the kitchen's. He motioned Trell to follow him and started towards a partially opened door to their right.
Dust motes danced in the sunlight coming from the windows as the American pushed open the door. The glass eyes of mounted animal heads stared dully at him. He took in the room with one glance and turned back to Trell with a smile on his face. Signalling continuing silence, he slipped into the room.
Ian Trell stepped into the doorway to see what Shep had found. The room seemed to have been a trophy room at one time. The mounted heads of boars and deer adorned the wall. Directly across the room from him stood a mounted Bengal tiger. Shep stood before a glassed gun cabinet, gazing happily at a Colt service revolver raised in the centre.
The doors of the cabinet groaned as the American pulled them open and Trell looked back into the central hall for anyone who might come to investigate. Shep reached in and took the revolver in his hand.
He quickly tested the drawers under the open cabinet and, opening the first one carefully, found a box of bullets. 'Yeah!' he breathed softly. 'Now, we're talking.' He quickly loaded the revolver and turned back to Trell.
In the silence between them, they both could hear the rumble of accented voices coming from deeper in the house.
'Sounds as if the voices are coming from down that wing there,' Shep mumbled a moment later when he'd reached the door, pointing towards the corridor across from them.
'Let's go,' Trell told him and, staying close to the wall, started around the hall towards that corridor. He squatted again as he reached the opening into the wing and barely looked around the corner.
He saw a man standing just outside the second door down on the left. The man stood behind a naked man who was in a crouch before him. Trell's eyes narrowed as he realised the man was holding the naked man's hair with one hand and holding a gun to his head with another. He rose silently, glanced back at Shep, put a finger to his lips, and started to slip down the corridor.
The American followed behind, keeping a solid five feet between them. Trell hoped the carpeted boards along the hallway didn't creak with each new step he took. That was all he needed. To announce himself and Shep to a houseful of potential Russian murderers. He couldn't push away the image of Inspector Goodson tied up and naked in his mind, a snarling Russian holding a gun to his head. He almost hoped that he would find the man that way; because it would then be dotty old Ian Trell who saved the Met's youngest inspector.
His steps shortened as he neared the dark-haired man standing just outside the door. Trell forced the realisation from his mind that all the man had to do was glance over his shoulder to see him. He prayed that he could get another three steps in without the floor creaking. Shep came up with him and Trell almost sighed his relief out loud when the American finally reached the brunette.
Shep slowly eased the Colt revolver towards the man's head as he leant forward. Trell smiled as he realised that, at this distance, there was no way his friend could miss -- if he had to shoot the man. Shep let the barrel touch the man's scalp before he spoke and was rewarded by the man's involuntary jerk.
'Police. Don't move,' he whispered. Myransky nodded, the movement nearly imperceptible from the room beyond him, and turned enough that he could see the gunman. His eyes widened when they found Trell.
Reaching the doorway, Trell could see that the naked man was barely more than a boy. Anger spread through him at the thought that anyone would threaten someone so young. Inside the room, he saw Goodson tied up and a blond man binding another man.
Shep made sure that he focused his attention on the man holding the gun. 'Bring the weapon down,' he growled low. 'And let go of him. Now.' The revolver was still connected with Myransky's head.
Richard nearly fell to the floor when his head was released but was able to hold himself up with his grip on the door jamb.
Trell moved around Shep and the brunette, crouched as he became visible from the doorway. The American sensed his movement and saw him out of the corner of his eye as the policeman stepped into the room.
He started to turn towards Ian, to tell him to stop playing cops like they did in those god awful Hollywood movies.
Myransky turned his head suddenly to face Shep and threw his free hand up, pushing Richard away. At the same time, he brought his gun up, pointing towards Trell, and fired.
Pain hit Trell in the back and exploded across his lower torso. Both hands fell to his belly as he leant against the wall to hold himself up. Shep didn't wait. He fired inches from the Russian's head.
He stepped over the Russian. His knee pushed the naked boy forward onto the floor as he surveyed the room beyond them.
'It hurts!' Trell groaned as his knees hit the floor and he felt the room darkening around him.
Shep took in the lay of the room with just one sweep of his gaze.
It came to rest on Ilyich who was just turning around. 'Drop the gun, bozo, or you're a frigging dead man,' he growled at the swarthy, heavy-set man in front of him. 'Blondie,' he said, raising his voice so that Yorstovitch could hear him easily. 'Get your faggoty ass over here now before I blow pappa bear to kingdom come.'
I saw three things almost simultaneously. Trell leant against the wall close to the door. He was holding his belly with both hands. The door was splattered with Myransky's brains as his body collapsed. And Yorstovitch was reaching for his pistol, using Mick as a shield to do so.
I pushed to my feet, carrying the chair with me, and pushed into Brett. As I'd hoped, I was able to topple him, forcing Yorstovitch to step back from Mick. His weapon was at his waist and its barrel was moving towards the door. 'He's got a gun,' I yelled.
Yorstovitch hesitated. He glanced over at me, his weapon stopping in its movement towards the middle-aged man still in the doorway. Three quick rounds sounded from the door.
Surprise covered Yorstovitch's face as blood pumped out onto the front of his shirt. His legs began to give out from him and he reached out for the back of Mick's chair. Before his hand could reach it, he crumpled. His knees hit the floor and he toppled face forward.
I stared at the large hole in his back and shuddered. And looked back at the door and the man holding a smoking revolver. My gaze moved immediately to Trell holding onto the wall with one hand.
'Drop the fucking gun, motherfucker!' the man with the revolver bellowed at Ilyich. I recognised his accent as American and wondered when the Met had brought a Yank into the force. I dropped the thought immediately and allowed myself to be happy that he was on my side.
Ilyich dropped his weapon and raised his hands. The American nodded and said in a more normal voice: 'One of you boys not tied up, come over here now.'
A blond broke from the others and walked slowly to the door.
'Move it, boy!' the American growled at him. 'I have a wounded cop here.'
'What should I do?' the boy asked, his attention moving from Richard struggling to push himself up to Trell sinking slowly to the floor.
'There's police beyond the gate. Run down there and tell them we have wounded up here.'
The boy disappeared into the corridor and, for a moment, I could hear the sound of his feet running towards the hall and the front entrance beyond. I wondered if he'd try to escape and hoped not. The lower half of Trell's shirt, what I could see of it, was covered in blood and his eyes seemed to have become unfocused.
The American looked back at the seven of us bound to our chairs, then to Mick's friends huddling against the wall. 'One of you damned snots start untying them,' he said, his voice dominating the room with quiet authority.
A second blond shuddered as if he were coming out of a trance and moved jerkily to the back of Maxim's chair.
Ilyich dropped his hands and slowly began to squat. The Yank turned his attention back to him. 'And you, bozo -- you stay there. If you so much as shiver, I'll put a hole in your chest big enough to drive a Mack truck through.'
Maxim was quickly untied and the blond straddled Yorstovitch's body to reach Mick. The athletic Russian rubbed his wrists, working the circulation back to them. He looked over to Trell then and stood, his brow knitting. He quickly crossed the room and knelt beside my sergeant.
'You are okay?' he asked as he gripped my man's shoulder, straightening him.
Trell groaned and slumped against him. The Russian's arm went around his shoulder, easing him down to the floor.
I felt fingers touch my hands and looked over my shoulder. Patel grinned at me. 'Have you free in a second, Inspector,' he said. 'Can't have the local bobbies find you trussed up like this, can we now?'
I turned back to study Trell and was afraid of what I saw. Trell's face looked like the underside of a fish caught out of water. 'Is he breathing?' I called to Maxim.
The Russian nodded. 'He lives, Philip. He has but lost consciousness.'
Beyond the door, I could hear voices and men running. Patel finished working the last knot and my hands were free.
'Thanks,' I told him and stood up. I picked up Ilyich's weapon and reached the open doorway just as the first of the Chichester constabulary reached us.
Pyotr rushed past me and knelt at Richard's side. Mick was a step behind him and took the Irishman's other side. 'Let's get him to his feet,' he told Pyotr. I watched as he smiled at the ginger-haired lad and said softly: 'You're going to be okay, mate.'
* * *
I had ridden to hospital with Trell and Richard. I had been at the far side of the room while a doctor cleaned Trell's wound and admitted him, standing beside Maxim.
'He's suffering shock, Inspector,' the doctor told me and smiled. 'I suspect he'll be up and about tomorrow -- as good as new.'
Trell had surpassed any expectation I had had for him. His quick thinking had saved me and the others. Relief flooded over me, even as I accepted that his initiative had almost cost him his life.
'May I sit with him until he awakens then?' Maxim asked the doctor.
The man was surprised and glanced to me as he shrugged.
'He saved me,' the Russian told both of us. 'He saved all of us. I want him to understand that Russians are not all like Ilyich.'
I nodded and smiled as Maxim started after the medical staff they wheeled Trell into the corridor.
'The ginger-haired lad?' I asked the doctor after Maxim had left us. 'Will he make it?'
'He should be dead now,' the man grumbled, a frown working across his face. 'I can't imagine that much heroin in anyone still standing on his feet.'
'They planned on him dying of an overdose -- like the rest of us.'
'It's going to be touch and go for the next few hours. It's in his blood and there's no way to remove it.' He shrugged. 'But, then, he should already be dead.' He smiled slightly. 'If I had to say though, I'd guess he'll pull through. He's a strong lad -- and apparently quite stubborn.'
I walked down the corridor to where they had Richard Bell hooked up to every medical gizmo I could imagine. Brett and Pyotr were with the Irish lad, each holding one of his hands. He had lapsed back into unconsciousness, but now he had doctors working to help him wake up again. I chose not to disturb Brett and went in search of a ride to the Chichester nick.
The English lads who had distributed for Ilyich and his henchmen bothered me.
They had broken the law. Even worse in my opinion was the fact that they had distributed heroin. But Mick had risked his life for us, and I liked to think that his friends would have found a way to have become involved before they saw us all murdered. Two of them had certainly been willing to help us.
I wanted to help them.
The American stood as I entered the waiting room and crossed quickly before I realised he was there. 'How is he?' he demanded gruffly, grabbing my arm.
I whirled to face him, my fist balling at my side, adrenaline rushing through me.
I recognised him and relaxed. 'Trell?'
'He's going to recover.'
'What happened to him then?'
'I think he went into shock there at the end.'
'Will they mind if I sit with him for a while?'
'Come along,' I told him and turned back to the doors that led into the hospital. 'I'll find someone and tell them you're on police business.'
He laughed. 'Me on police business? That's funny.'
'What would you call it then? I'd hate to explain how a civilian -- and a foreigner at that -- just killed two Russians inside a diplomatically protected residence. My report is going to call it police business.' I grinned at him. 'So will that of the Chichester police.'
He nodded as we entered the corridor. 'CYA...'
I turned and studied him, puzzled. 'CYA?'
'Cover Your Ass. That's what you're doing, you know.'
'Yes. Exactly.' I laughed and called a passing nurse to us.
I had peeped into each custody suite when I entered the cells. The lads looked much like the fans at the Roman stadium had looked the last time Manchester had lost the EUFA. They were a despondent looking lot and not one had seemed to notice that someone was looking in on them. Each looked like a young lad who had lost his best friend.
I entered Mick's custody suite. I wasn't sure why I had chosen him over the others. My one excuse was that he had verbally refused to be a part to murder and had almost lost his life for it. He looked up as the door opened and pushed himself off the bed to face me. 'Philip, how is Richard?' he demanded.
'It's still touch and go, but the local doctor thinks he may make it,' I told him as I stopped in front of him. 'It depends on how things go with him tonight, I suppose.'
The lad hung his head. 'Bastards!' he muttered. He started to turn but thought better of it. 'I still can't believe they were going around killing people.'
'You knew what you were doing, though.'
'It was a lark, it was. My mates and me -- we were having fun. And making money doing it. We weren't being bad guys, Philip. We weren't!' Mick suddenly looked sheepish and smiled apologetically. 'I'm sorry, Inspector Goodson. I didn't mean to get personal, you know?'
I frowned. 'I'm going to do a very stupid thing, lad. I'm going to try to help you -- all of you without a prior conviction, that is.' I watched as hope began to dawn in his face. 'In return, you're going to tell the police everything -- and I do mean everything.'
'Everything?' Mick asked.
'How they recruited you, how they supplied you, how you paid them -- everything about their operation. Can you do that?'
'You'll be remanded in the next day or two, probably to a London prison. I'll talk to you when you're there and police officers will get everything from you then.' I took a deep breath. 'They'll be taking your statements here over the next day -- tell them the truth. Don't hold anything back.'
'I'm here alone, Inspector.'
'I'll ensure that you have a chance to tell the others.'
'You'll help us get out of this?' he asked. 'You -- a police inspector?'
'I'm not going to help you get out of anything,' I told him. 'If the Crown Prosecutor will go along with me, I'm going to give you the chance to pay your debt differently than most lads in your position. You'll have records. You'll be behind bars for a while -- as long as it takes to bring Ilyich to trial, I'd reckon. You'd be quite stupid to do anything to draw attention to yourselves after this -- if the Crown Prosecutor agrees to keep you out of the prison system in return for your testimony.'
I turned and started towards the door. I wanted him to think about what I'd offered -- all of them. 'Inspector Goodson?' Mick called.
'Tell Richard that he'd bloody well better pull out of this. I don't do cemeteries, but I'll be by Illusions the first chance I get to look in on him.'
I nodded. 'That I will, Mick. You take good care.'