State of Emergency – Chapter 9
January 6, 2011
She couldn’t speak, any more than she could have let go of the phone hearing the muffled sound of her first-born son screaming and sobbing in unbearable agony. She’d felt every cut, every break as though it had been her in that chair; it had put years in her eyes and a shock of her vibrant red-brown hair would be white as snow by morning.
She cast a mute look of distress to her husband, who was sitting on the sofa nearby. He rose, walking with a steady, deliberate tread and took the phone from her hand, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
“Hello? Yeah, you’ll get your address. Just bring us our boy.”
A soft click of the tongue came from the other end of the line, followed by drawled words in a deep American accent. “I knew you’d come around. Why throw away a good son for the waster of the family – a criminal, no less? I’m sure, Mr. Carlyle… May I call you Rob? I think I shall… I’m sure, Rob, that you understand what will happen if you get the police involved in this. We don’t need to go into unpleasantries, do we?”
Jacob and Ian’s father clenched his jaw for a moment, fingers tightening around the handset. “Just bring my boy home. You’ll get what’s coming to you.”
Derek smirked to himself as he slipped the phone back into his pocket.
Yeah, this was going to get messy.
He cracked his knuckles.
That was just fine with him.
5 minutes later, Robert Carlyle was in the Queen’s Head.
10 minutes after the call, Jacob was being lifted into the back of a grubby orange van, tourniquets tied tightly around the bleeding wounds on his arms and legs.
15 minutes and the Carlyles had a living room full of pool cues and not a table in sight.
After 25 minutes, the van swished into the little side road. A thin, grey rain was drizzling out of the sky as it pulled up at the curb and parked at an angle, shielding from open view the two men who climbed out of the back then turned, lifting down a drab grey wheelchair with a torn and bloody passenger. The driver leaned on the horn, issuing a single, drawn-out blast.
Blinds twitched up and down the street, but only one door swung open. In his mid-forties, Robert Carlyle was still an imposing figure of a man, despite a crown of salt-and-pepper hair. His shoulders were broad from a lifetime of manual labour; his knuckles were calloused and scarred and the thin white line of a knife-cut still marked a strong chin. He strode a few paces up the street. As his wife appeared in the doorway behind him, he jerked his head around and snapped “Sarah! Get back inside!”
Then he saw his son.
The sensation was like being hit in the stomach and Rob folded and clutched his belly in the same way. Matted blood had turned his son’s fair hair black. His face was purple with bruises, his lips and chin smeared with dried gore and he sat as limp as a rag doll in the wheelchair, canted over to one side with his eyes closed.
“Jacob!” He roared his son’s name, charging up the pavement inside the fence of parked cars, cobblestones racing by beneath his feet. One of the men beside the chair held up a hand to stop as his cohort drew a heavy-looking hammer from inside his jacket.
They never noticed the door of the house behind them slowly opening inwards. Then a pool cue smashed down on the hammer-wielder’s head and the street came to life.
The two men in the van’s cab climbed out swiftly, pulling out full-length batons from under the seats.
The handful of men pouring into the street had, until now, put their scrapping days long behind them but more than a few of them had seen action on the football terraces of the eighties. They held only three things sacrosanct, for all that time had mellowed them from their youth.
A man’s home.
Robert Carlyle’s mates were pissed and they had one battle cry.
The two groups met with solid, brutal strikes; flying teeth and broken bones. Biting, kicking, hitting below the belt – nothing was off limits, not for a father looking at the shattered body of his first-born son. Derek’s men fought with methodical precision, conserving their strength, but the weight of numbers was with the Carlyles and they bore them down, Rob in the forefront with his knuckles bruised and a stranger’s hair in his teeth.
40 minutes after the phone call, Derek took his shot.