State of Emergency – Chapter 20

March 22, 2011


“I… need your help.”

Carlyle’s voice sounded different. Cracked. Broken somehow. As the story unfolded, Chris understood why. Here he was, with all his money, his rep, his guns and all the muscle and reflexes in the world couldn’t help him find the one thing he needed.

The blow to his ego must have been staggering.

He was helpless, a child pulled out of his safe little playground and dumped into the adult world, where every action had consequences.

Except he wasn’t the one paying the price. Chris stared into empty space for a long moment, then nodded to himself. “You’ll have to get me out of here, then.” He glanced round at the plain, slightly dingy office of the police station. Someone had tried to brighten it up with posters and pictures of cats around their little cubicle; he stared for a long moment into the pleading eyes of a black-and-white moggy that plaintively requested a “cheezburger.”

Lady officer, he’d bet. Overweight. Didn’t quite fit in, with her homely sense of humor, her yearning for fluff and cuddles. Within a year, he’d bet, she’d be off the streets, vanishing into Human Resources to become the woman who brought the morning doughnuts and the retirement cakes, begging for acceptance with a tray full of food and the power to fire you with one bad psych report.

“I’ll be there as soon as they open,” Carlyle rasped. Chris nodded again, hanging up the phone, then turned to the waiting officer with his best smile and signaled that he was ready to return to his cell.

The waiting was nearly over. Time for the grown-ups to take charge.

***

The two men were sitting in a corner table in a nearby pub. The light slanted fustily in through warped, nicotine-stained windows, highlighting the slow swirls of dust circling above a group of breakfasters clustered at a table at the other end of the room. They were more or less alone, barring the occasional delivery of a free pint for Carlyle and an early-drunken demand for a handshake, a photo or an autograph.

Local celebrity. On top of everything else, the tool was a fucking hero to these people, all because he could kick a ball.

Briefly, Chris thought of San Paro. All the cops hurt, crippled or killed in the line of duty. He’d known a few of them; good men. Honest men like him. Then the CSA had come with its concept of “enforcement.” Hundreds of cops had been laid off, with more facing redundancy every day. Yet enforcement had turned San Paro from a quiet, middle-class burg into a war zone, and the people charged with its protection were, to a large extent, exactly the same as the people they were protecting it from. People who got innocent bystanders killed.

People like Ian Carlyle.

Chris set his glass of whiskey back on the table with a snap that made the ice cubes chink against the sides of the glass, and threw a challenging glare at the man facing him. The sunglasses turned Carlyle’s eyes into blank mirrors; he stared into them for a long moment, then dropped his eyes back to his whiskey. Iridescent ripples formed in the liquor as the ice melted, slowly lightening its amber hue. “Alright, so… Whatever game Derek is playing, he’s still an enforcer. All of this…” He swallowed, remembering what he’d been told of the events in London, the attacks on Carlyle’s family. His own imagination provided the rest in gory technicolor. “It’s all aimed at punishing you. For hurting him, maybe, but most of all, for defying him.”

He lifted his head to look back into the twin mirrors. “You’re supposed to be afraid, you know? You’re supposed to beg, to bribe, to plead… to give him that little power buzz of acknowledging that he can take you. But you didn’t. You walked into Detention Center 14 like you owned the place. You put him down, took what you came for and left, and you did it all like he didn’t matter at all.”

“So what?” Carlyle’s face didn’t change, his voice didn’t waver. Just a low, calm, even tone. “I pricked this cunt’s ego, so I should fucking let him…” His jaw snapped firmly shut on the end of the sentence but Chris heard it anyway.

…kill my wife?

“Don’t be stupid.” Carlyle’s hand curled into a fist and Chris was surprised to find himself smiling inwardly and continuing regardless. “I’m not saying anything of the sort. What I’m telling you is that he wants that power back, so he’s not going to hurt Peo…”

“Dolly.” Carlyle cut over him.

Chris sighed and pushed on. “He’s not going to kill her if he can use her to control and intimidate you.”

Probably. He probably won’t kill her. But the girl, as far as Derek was concerned, was just a crim. She couldn’t claim the innocence Jacob Carlyle had. Chris kept his mouth shut about that and stuck to his point. “But he’s clever – he’s got to know that you’ll count on that and that’ll be part of his plan. He wants you to find him, that’s for sure.”

The Liverpudlian’s fingers clenched again, the knuckles flushing white. “Well, we have something in common then. But there’s nothing to follow, no trail. Tracing her phone went nowhere and he’s got it switched off now. ”

“No.” Chris thought about it for a moment. “He won’t lead you to him, not yet. He wants you to sweat, to suffer… While you don’t know what’s happening to her, your own imagination is probably seeing worse than he could even think of doing.”

Chris pictured Jacob Carlyle again, held and tortured with drills, screwdrivers, saws. Thought of their father, Robert Carlyle, still in intensive care in London, and wondered if he was lying.

Ian just thought of that photograph, his wife lying bound, limp and bloody, tangled in plastic sheeting, dumped in a car boot like so much refuse.

Congratulations on the birth of your baby boy.

Consciously, he steadied his breathing, ignoring the sudden tightness in his chest. Forced each muscle to relax. Kept his face still. “I’m not prepared to wait for his schedule. I need you to find her and then you need to get the hell out of my way.”

“The man should be in prison, Carlyle. Or in a secure hospital. That doesn’t mean you can just walk in there shooting…”

Carlyle lifted a hand, palm towards Chris, the quiet gesture stopping him in his tracks.

“Just find her.”

Chris swallowed hard, then nodded. “I need to contact some people. He had help in London… someone back in San Paro has to know who they were, how he found them.”

Carlyle nodded curtly. Chris carried on. “And… uh… I need your… uh… debit card. I can’t… I’ve run out of money and I might need to…”

The footballer snorted, pulling out his wallet and flipping a card onto the table. “Bunch of corrupt fuckers. By all means, pay them as much as you need to stop one of their mates mutilating a 19 year-old girl.”

The old cop couldn’t bring himself to meet his eyes, even through the sunglasses. He just stared down at the card, then took it, nodding as he swallowed again.

“I’ll… I’ll be in touch.”

“Be in touch soon.”

The two men left the pub by separate doors and walked in different directions, heads down and hands in their pockets. And the specter of Derek Fitzpatrick walked with them both.

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