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by A.W. Lambert

Category: Mainstream
Description: While investigating what appears to be a series of tit for tat racial attacks in the back streets of Norwich, Theo Stern is asked to help in the search for gangster, Benny Lyle, said to have been kidnapped from his London home. But there is something cynically methodical about the Norwich attacks and Lyle is recently reported to have been seen in Norfolk's tiny Georgian town of Holt. So are the Norwich attacks simply retaliatory and has Lyle really been abducted? Stern has his doubts about both and when his investigations reveal that the two cases are inextricably linked in the most macabre way, his belief in the rule of law is tested to the extreme
eBook Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc., 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: November 2009


Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [412 KB]
Words: 86166
Reading time: 246-344 min.

The light came on suddenly. It was dim, only just enough to see by, but it was light and for that Benny Lyle was grateful. Nobody had been near him for what seemed an eternity and every muscle in his body was screaming. His hands and feet were numb; the bindings, now in place for so long, were restricting the circulation to every corner of his body. It was agony, added to by a terrible thirst that made his mouth and throat raw to the extreme.

Listening for any sound or movement, he scanned the area, his eyes taking in the rough brick walls, the single, naked bulb hanging from the ceiling. In the darkness he'd had a feeling of space, a feeling he was in a large area. Now, as he looked around, he saw he was lying in the corner of an area no larger than ten or twelve foot square. Then, as his eyes became even more accustomed to the light, he realised only three of the walls were made of rough brick. The other wall was grey coloured, a smoother material, but somehow uneven, not flat. He studied it closely, finally understanding.

The fourth wall was not a wall at all, it was a tarpaulin sheet hung from one side of the area to the other. He was, therefore, he guessed, in a larger area with his particular prison cordoned off by the hanging sheet.

He again scanned the ceiling, this time noting the large steel hook, secured a foot or so away from the hanging light bulb. Attached to the hook was a steel wire, which hung to the ground. His eyes followed the path of the wire down from the ceiling until he realised that, running across the floor, it was attached to a steel band clamped around one ankle.

He heard the sound, footsteps, someone descending stairs. He waited, his eyes automatically focussing onto the sheet, the only way he could see for anyone to enter his space. He was right. The sheet was pulled to one side and a figure emerged carrying a tray. It would be one of his two captors, a face he was familiar with, he was sure. But as the figure emerged from the gloom he realised this time he was wrong. Or was he? He couldn't tell because the individual's face was completely covered, a balaclava, a ski mask. Only dark expressionless eyes were visible to him.

But one thing was the same; the individual placed the tray on the floor alongside him and slid the pistol from his pocket. Benny Lyle noticed the silencer was still screwed in place.

"Rules the same as before," the figure said quietly. "I release you so you can eat and do whatever else is necessary. You make one sound and I blow your brains out. How does that sound?"

Lyle nodded. He knew the rules by now.

The figure unwound the tape from around his head, Lyle grimacing as the tape pulled sore scabs from his cheeks and lips. But the relief at being able to breath through his mouth was almost worth the pain. He took several gulps of air. His captor continued to release bindings from his hands and feet, saying nothing as he did so. Then, pulling a stool from out of the shadows, he sat, elbows resting on his knees, the pistol levelled at Lyle's head. "Don't rush," he said, watching Lyle massage his wrists and ankles. "It'll take a while for the circulation to return, and I've got all the time in the world."

It was a long fifteen minutes before Lyle was able to lift the large glass of water from the tray and quench the raging thirst. He sighed with relief and reached for the spoon, the only utensil on the tray. The food was a mixture of minced beef and mashed potato, a sort of Sheppard's pie, and it tasted good, very good. Another long swig at the water and he spooned more into his mouth.

"It's Lyle, right? Benny Lyle?" The words were soft, but Lyle realised instantly not those of his previous captors. Definitely English, maybe even London. He nodded. "Yes."

"Bit of a slime ball, from what I hear."

Lyle froze, the filled spoon halfway to his mouth. "What did you say?"

"I said from what I've heard you are one nasty piece of shit."

Lyle bristled. "Who the hell do you think...?"

"Who do I think I am?" his captor interrupted, his voice still low, totally under control. "I'm just a guy who knows quite a bit about you, and let me tell you, none of it is good."

"You know nothing about me," Lyle spat.

The man eased himself forward on the stool, the piercing dark eyes staring from the slits in the balaclava. "I don't? Well let's see, shall we. Tell me, have you any idea why you're sitting here trussed up like a turkey?"

Lyle dropped the spoon back on the tray and took another long pull of water. "No I haven't," he growled. "But let me tell you, whoever you are, you will pay big time for this."

The man shook his head sadly, the gun never wavering. "Well there, you see, that's precisely what I mean. It's because we know about you, about what you do, that you're here."

Lyle held the other man's eyes, wary now. "Okay, so what do you think you know about me?"

"Well now, let me see. For a start we know you make shed loads of money."

Lyle tentatively fingered his soar lips. "So that's it, is it? That's why you've kidnapped me? Because I have money."

The man gave a derisive chuckle. "No, you still don't understand, do you? No it's not the fact you have the money, it's the way you acquire it that concerns us. Like when you import little girls into the country. Innocent little girls, mostly from Eastern Europe. That's right, isn't it?"

A cold fear suddenly crawled into Lyle's heart. It felt as if all oxygen had been sucked from the room. "How dare you," he wheezed, almost unable to speak. "How dare you accuse me of such a thing."

Lyle's tormenter ignored the protest. "Those little girl's parents pay large sums of money, don't they, Lyle? Money they can't afford. They pay that money because they think their little girl is being taken to a better life. What they don't know, of course, is their little darlings will end up in some filthy inner city slum being abused and butchered by sick perverts, ten, twelve, maybe even twenty times a day." His voice, louder now, the final words spat viciously.

Lyle sucked in breath. "You must be mad," he spluttered. "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Oh, now come on, of course you do." The words were softer now, more measured, but the bitter menace was still there. "You ensure there is no link to you, of course. You're very clever. But you're not that clever. You see it's precisely because we do know all about you we can make the connection. Take it from me we have enough information about you and your little syndicate to send you down for a very long time."

"Rubbish. That's not possible... You can't prove any of this."

"'Fraid we can, old son." The tone was mocking now. "Would you like me to quote a few names; your contacts, the people who front the operation, the buffers between you and the law? Let's see now..."

Lyle's mouth dropped open as the names were rattled out. Names that prior to this time would never have been spoken outside a very select group of people.

"Surprised?" The man taunted. "If you're really interested I could also give you places, safe houses, distribution routes." He laughed. "What was it you said: we didn't know anything about you?"

Lyle was shaking now. "You can't prove..." he spluttered again.

"You keep saying that," the man countered. "But you see we don't have to. You may not have noticed, but like I said before, you're the one trussed up like a turkey. You're the one who I think is the lowest form of gutter life." He raised the pistol pushing it close to Lyle's temple. "In fact I'm just asking myself why I shouldn't simply blow your foul brains out right here and now. You tell me. Tell me why I shouldn't do just that?"

Eyes wide Lyle's mouth again fell open. The shaking became violent and in that second any resolve he may have had collapsed right there on the cellar floor. He buried his head in his hands. "No don't, please," he whined through his fingers. "Please don't. Just tell me what you want. I'll do anything." He looked up, the silencer now only an inch from his face, staring directly between his eye. "Is it money?" he whimpered. "I have money. I can give you money, just don't..."

The man shook his head, pushing the cold metal of the pistol's silencer hard against his shaking victim's forehead. "I don't want your stinking, contaminated money," he growled menacingly. "I just want to know why. Just tell me why. Why do you do it?"

Lyle slowly raised his head, spreading shaking hands, a quizzical look of confusion crossing his ravaged features. "Don't you understand?" he blurted out, his voice harsh and raw. "I'm a business man; it's as simple as that. It's just another business, a trade, a case of supply and demand. There's a need out there and I supply that need." He stared, waiting for a reaction of understanding, but it never came. "Those girls are more useful over here, doing what they do and getting paid for it, than they are sitting on their arses in some shit hole over there doing nothing, wasting their lives."

The man in the balaclava shook his head. "And you believe that?"

"Of course I believe it," Lyle spat. "They're a commodity, like everything else in life. They have a price, a worth, they make me money like every other business deal I do, that's all there is to it."

"And that's why you import young girls into the country?"

Lyle's shoulders slumped; his eyes were dead, defeated. "Isn't that what I've just told you?" he whispered. "It's a business, that's all there is to it."

* * * *

Less than twenty minutes later the man, red faced from having his head enclosed in a hot balaclava for more than an hour, sat with others and watched the DVD taken from the CCTV camera mounted out of sight in the cellar being loaded into the laptop. They watched the images and listened to the dialogue between the two men on the screen until the recording came to a close. As the picture eventually died the man looked at the others alongside him.

"Okay you've got what you wanted," he growled. "Now get that piece of shit out of here."

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