Authors: Angela Marsons
This book is dedicated to my mum and dad – Gill and Frank Marsons – whose pride and encouragement continues to inspire me.
Thank you for sharing this journey and for helping to make it fun.
I love you both.
before I touched her she was dead. And yet I touched her anyway.
The skin was cool to my touch as my finger trailed along her forearm. It paused at the mole beneath her elbow. Never again would it enlarge with her movement. Never again would I see it as her arms came towards me, encasing me in her warmth.
I caressed the side of her face gently. There was no response so I stroked the skin more forcefully, but her eyes remained fixed on the ceiling.
‘Don’t leave me,’ I said, shaking my head as though my denial would make it untrue.
I couldn’t imagine my life without her. It had been only us for such a long time.
To be sure I held my breath and watched her chest to see if it would rise. I counted to twenty-three before the breath burst out of me. Her chest hadn’t moved – not once.
‘How about if I put the kettle on, Mummy? We could go and play our favourite game. I’ll get everything ready,’ I said as the tears began to fall. ‘Mummy, wake up,’ I cried, shaking her arm hard. ‘Please, Mummy, I don’t want you to go. I thought I did but I don’t.’
Her whole body rocked with the force of my pushing. Her head thrashed about on the pillow, and for a moment I thought she was saying no. But as soon as I stopped so did she. Her bobbing head was the last thing to fall still.
I dropped to my knees sobbing into her hand, hoping my tears were made of magic. I willed the muscles to flex, ached for the palm to engage. To feel those fingers combing through my hair.
I grabbed her lifeless hand and placed it on top of my head. ‘Go on, Mummy, say it,’ I said, rolling my head beneath her still fingers. ‘Tell me… tell me that I’m your best little girl in the world.’
Black Country – Present Day
behind the wheelie bin. After fifteen minutes in the same position the feeling was leaving her thighs.
She spoke down into her jacket. ‘Stace, anything on the warrant?’
‘Not yet, boss,’ she heard in her earpiece.
Kim growled. ‘I’m not gonna wait for ever, folks.’
From the corner of her eye she saw Bryant shake his head.
His body was hunched over an open bonnet, positioned directly opposite the target property.
Trust Bryant to be the voice of reason. His cautious nature dictated they do everything by the book and she agreed. To a point. But they all knew what was going on in that house. And it had to end today.
‘Want me to come closer, boss?’ Dawson asked eagerly into her ear.
She was poised to respond in the negative when his voice sounded in her ear again.
‘Boss, IC2 male approaching from the other end of the street.’ A brief pause. ‘Five foot seven, black trousers and grey T-shirt.’
Kim edged back even further. She was two properties away from the target house, wedged between a wheelie bin and a hydrangea bush, but she couldn’t risk being seen. Presently they held the element of surprise and she didn’t want that to change.
‘Any ID, Kev?’ she asked into her jacket. Was it someone they knew?
She closed her eyes and wished for the figure to pass. They didn’t need a third male in the property. Currently the numbers were on their side.
‘He’s entered, guv,’ Bryant said from across the road.
Damn it – that could mean only one thing. He was a customer.
She hit the microphone button. Where was that damn warrant? ‘Stace?’
‘Nothing yet, boss.’
She heard the greetings between the two men as the door of the target property opened.
Kim felt the blood surging around her body. Every muscle she could name ached to sprint for the front door, barge in, cuff the occupants, caution them and worry about the paperwork later.
‘Guv, just give it a minute,’ Bryant said from beneath the bonnet.
Only he would know exactly what she was thinking.
She keyed the radio without speaking to acknowledge his words.
If she entered the premises without a warrant, the case would probably never get to court.
‘Stace?’ she asked again.
Kim heard the desperation in her ear and knew Stacey was as eager to offer the right answer as she was to hear it.
‘Okay, guys, I’m going to plan B,’ she said into the microphone.
‘What’s plan B?’ Dawson asked in her ear.
She really had no idea.
‘Just play along,’ she said, straightening.
She escaped the clutches of the hydrangea bush and stamped life back into her lower limbs. She smoothed her hands over her black canvas jeans in case any flower sap had attached itself to her clothes.
She strode purposefully to the front of the house and along the pavement, as though she hadn’t just crept out from a neighbouring garden. As she walked she pushed the wire from her earpiece into her hair.
Yes, the warrant was imminent but that man was most likely a customer and that was a thought she couldn’t stomach.
She positioned herself slightly turned so that her earpiece faced the road.
She knocked on the door and pasted a smile on her lips. Bryant hissed into the earpiece, which was still audible in her hair.
‘Guv, what the hell…?’
She raised her finger to her lips to signal silence as she heard steps from inside heading down the hall.
The door was opened by Ashraf Nadir.
Kim kept her face neutral as though they had not been watching his every move for the last six weeks.
His face instantly creased into a frown.
‘Hello there, I wonder if you could help me? We’ve broken down over there,’ she said, nodding towards Bryant. ‘My husband thinks it’s really complicated, but I think it might just be the battery.’
He glanced over her shoulder and Kim glanced over his. The other two occupants were talking in the kitchen. A wad of notes was passed between them.
Ashraf began to shake his head.
‘No… I’m sorry…’ The voice was thick with accent. Ashraf Nadir had arrived from Iraq only six months earlier.
‘Do you have any jump leads we could try?’
Again he shook his head. He stepped back, and Kim saw the front door moving towards her.
‘Sir, are you sure…?’
The door continued to close.
‘Got it, boss,’ Stacey screamed into her ear.
Kim thrust her right foot into the opening and launched her weight against the door. She felt a rush of air as Bryant materialised.
‘Ashraf Nadir, this is the police, and we have a warrant to search…’
The front door slackened to her touch. She pushed it open and saw Ashraf charging through the house, knocking over the other two occupants like bowling pins.
She tore after him, following out the back door.
The rear garden was dense with overgrown shrubs. An old sofa protruded from the vegetation against a broken-down fence to her right. Ashraf tore forwards, heading through the garden. Kim hurtled after him pushing aside the tall grass trying to entangle her ankles.
Ashraf paused for a split second and frantically looked around.
His eyes rested on a garden shed partly obscured by a wild ivy plant.
He leapt onto a bucket and scrabbled with his feet for traction against the brick. Kim lunged forwards from the ground and missed his foot by a couple of inches.
‘Damn it,’ she growled, tracing his route, step for step.
As she hauled herself onto the top of the shed Ashraf was easing himself down the other side.
Kim sensed she had lost ground and he sensed it too. A smile began to form on his thin lips as his face disappeared from view.
His look of triumph lit a fuse that led all the way to her determination.
She took a second to assess the garden into which he’d jumped and saw what he had not.
The property was open and tidy with a manicured lawn and a paved patio area. The right-hand side was adjoined to the next property.
The left was secured with a fence that rose seven feet high topped off by cat spikes. But in front of the fence stood two things that were far more interesting.
Kim sat on the shed and dangled her feet over the edge. And waited.
Two German shepherds rounded the building and Ashraf stopped dead.
Kim heard Bryant’s voice in her earpiece.
‘Guv… where are you?’
‘Take a look out back,’ she responded into the microphone.
‘Umm… guv, you’re sitting on the shed.’
Bryant’s powers of observation never ceased to amaze her.
Knowing that her number-one suspect was not going anywhere, her thoughts turned immediately to the reason for the Sunday-morning raid.
‘Have you got him?’ she asked.
‘Affirmative,’ he answered.
Kim rested her hands either side of her thighs and watched as the tan and black dogs advanced towards Ashraf, reclaiming their territory.
He began to back away from the animals, his body desperate to flee, his mind searching for other possible escape routes.
‘Need any help there, guv?’ Bryant crackled in her ear.
‘Nah, I’ll be back in a minute.’
Ashraf took another two steps backwards and turned her way.
She gave him a little wave.
The German shepherds matched his two strides.
Although moving slowly their intention showed in the focus of their eyes and the tension in their necks.
Ashraf took one more look at the dogs and decided he’d be better taking his chances with Kim.
He turned and bolted towards her. His sudden movement unleashed the pent-up aggression in the dogs, who charged after him, barking. Kim lowered her right hand and pulled him to safety.
The dogs leapt and barked, missing his heels by an inch.
The man she had grabbed bore no resemblance to the man who had opened the front door.
She could feel the trembling of his whole body through the conduit of his thin wrist.
His forehead was mottled with beads of sweat. His breathing was hard and laboured.
Kim reached into her back pocket with her left hand, securing his right wrist before he had the opportunity to gather his nerve. She wasn’t chasing him again.
‘Ashraf Nadir, I am arresting you on suspicion of the kidnap and false imprisonment of Negib Hussain. You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’
She turned him around on top of the shed so he was facing the target property.
The whole six-foot height of Bryant stood with his arms folded and his head tipped.
‘Any time you’re finished, guv?’
She moved Ashraf closer towards the edge. She would happily have pushed him forwards, head first, but the code of conduct frowned upon gratuitous violence towards apprehended suspects.
She leaned on his shoulder and forced him to a sitting position.
‘Cautioned?’ Bryant asked, easing the male down to the ground.
She nodded. On top of a garden shed was not the strangest place she’d made an arrest but it was probably top five.
Bryant took hold of Ashraf’s cuffs and pushed him ahead.
‘What stopped him running?’
‘Two German shepherds.’
Bryant looked at her sideways. ‘Yeah, I’d probably have taken my chances with the dogs.’
Kim ignored him and entered the back door first.
The second target and the customer were cuffed and under the guard of Dawson and two uniforms.
She looked at Dawson, the question in her eyes.
‘Living room, boss.’
Kim nodded and took the next door off the hallway.
Stacey sat on the sofa a good foot and a half away from the thirteen-year-old boy clad only in underpants and a T-shirt beneath Bryant’s suit jacket, which dwarfed him and made him look like a toddler playing dress up.
His head was bowed, legs together, and he was sobbing quietly.
Kim glanced down at the hands that were strangling each other.
She covered the hands with her own.
‘Negib, you’re safe now. Do you understand?’
His flesh was cold and clammy.
Kim took one hand in each of her own to stop the trembling.
‘Negib, I need you to go to the hospital and then we’ll get your father…’
The head shot up and began to shake. The shame shone from his eyes and Kim thought her heart would break.
‘Negib, your father loves you very much. If he hadn’t been so insistent we wouldn’t be here now.’ She took a deep breath and forced him to look into her eyes. ‘It is not your fault. None of this is your fault and your father knows that.’
She could see the brave effort it took for the boy to hold back his tears. Despite the pain, the humiliation, the fear this child was feeling, he did not want to break down and cry.
Kim remembered another thirteen-year-old who had felt exactly the same way.
She reached across and touched his cheek gently. She uttered the words she had longed to hear back then.
‘Sweetie, it’s going to be okay, I promise.’
The words unleashed a torrent of tears accompanied by loud, heaving sobs. Kim leaned in and pulled him close.
She stared over the top of his head thinking,
Go on, sweetheart, just let it out