They'd received a call 20 minutes earlier from a neighbour who'd heard screaming. Two detectives, Crowle and Earnshaw entered the kitchen, guns ready. On the floor of the kitchen they observed a man struggling against the bonds that held him to an upturned chair. They recognised Colin Chesterman immediately.
Throbbing heat filled Colin's eyes. He heard a voice call out. Was it his voice in a parallel experience? In pain and confusion he attempted to move his arms. Nothing. Colin was tied firmly. His eyes could only partly focus. His right hand was raw and blistered. Everything he touched caused him to cry out.
Detective Earnshaw holstered his firearm and squatted next to the stricken man.
Hold on there son, he said in an almost paternal tone, let's get you free of this.
She just went for me, Colin said in whimpering disbelief.
Who's that? The detective inquired.
Colin regained some composure and held back his reply. He'd not yet recognised the voice behind the question.
The detective did not wait for Colin as he began to loosen the crudely tied knots: noting this small fact automatically. Crowle watched from the edge of the room, ready for the unexpected.
Colin groaned and winced as Earnshaw assisted him.
Sit here, he said, as he righted the chair for the purpose for which it was intended.
The detective continued in a thorough and rehearsed manner, ensuring all the salient facts were covered. Colin, Colin Chesterman, I am Detective Earnshaw and this is Detective Crowle. We met yesterday under different circumstances. You were with your sister in law, her son Andrew and the niece of the man who owns this property, I believe.
Can you get me to a hospital? Colin pleaded.
Yes of course Mr Chesterman, he replied politely. Before we leave this place however, I want to know what happened this morning. I also want to make sure that we understand one another very clearly. I want you to understand how much we know about what's been happening, and to put it bluntly, we want you to know how deep the shit is, in which you now find yourself.
We have been aware of Mr Dobran's activities for some time and have been following his exploits carefully both here in Arkhefield and at Mt Ismuss. We know of your association with him and we know of you're arrangement. In fact we were getting very close to moving on him before all this went down with your brother.
Colin sat motionless and in pain. Only shock kept the reality of what he'd just heard from crushing him.
Now I take it from what you've already told me: you've had an encounter with a woman. Earnshaw ensured his tone could not be conceived as mocking – however wide the opportunity. Who has done this to you? He asked directly.
Colin didn't reply.
I'm guessing it might be your brother's wife? He probed. Is that correct?
Colin only managed a nod.
Right, and she no doubt worked out your involvement, and was either seeking revenge or information or possibly both. Earnshaw flourished.
Crowle, empathy removed, leaned against the doorframe enjoying the show.
Earnshaw continued; given that you now know how much we know, what I need from you is some help in filling in a few missing pieces. Before Colin could respond, the detective, who was clearly on a roll continued: my good colleague, Detective Crowle and I would like to point out the short and medium term benefits you will achieve by assisting us. First of all, the sooner you help us the sooner we can get you some medical attention.
Colin interrupted, am I under arrest?
The detectives restrained themselves from an unprofessional display of mirth.
We'll get to that shortly, Earnshaw continued. Now as I was saying there are further benefits that we're prepared to extend, pending your capacity to assist us with our enquiries.
Colin remained silent: his eyes emitting the message of compliance joined with an emotion that could best be characterised as cold and unremitting hatred. In Earnshaw there was no pity: for Crowle, contempt. Instinct and experience had shown them often; men like Colin eventually turned 'Rat'.
We want times, places, dates and names. We want to know everything you know.
Colin went to reply.
I'm not finished, Earnshaw continued; you are going to agree to back up everything you tell us in court. But before we get to that we want to know where you're brother is and how to find him and the package. In other words, my considerably buggered friend: where's Mal and where's the dope?
Crowle moved toward Colin. He placed his hand on Colin's shoulder giving him a firm ox-like squeeze. Sooner the better, Sunshine: he menaced softly.
OK, Colin began cautiously. These cops are playing for keeps, he thought to himself. I'll tell you what I know, but you know if I get up in court I'm a dead man.
Crowle raised his eyebrows as if to acknowledge the simple truth of this statement: his voiceless expression, cruelly supported by a well-practiced and considered use of nonchalance.
Colin considered his options for a moment and decided that he didn't really have a choice.
I went… Colin began and then: can I get a glass of water? He asked plaintively.
Sure, Crowle responded as he found a glass on the kitchen counter, crudely operating the faucet, which caused most of the water to splash out of the glass.
Colin took the glass in his left hand and threw it back.
He started again. I went to Mal's place last night and found a notebook I knew he kept hidden. He kept a record of everything we were doing once he found out about the deal.
The detectives exchanged a look of surprise, perhaps tinged with a hint of concern.
Colin continued; it also had a page of coordinates that I didn't recognise. I think he might have been planning something but I'm not sure.
Where's the notebook? Earnshaw asked aggressively.
I gave it to Rocco, Colin replied.
What else? Asked Crowle.
I don't know where Mal is. But I think…he stopped himself. He was about to add an additional layer of betrayal to his black list of errors.
Go on, Crowle urged.
I think Andy has something figured, Colin offered.
Crowle cocked his head toward Earnshaw. A word, he said. And the two detectives stepped to one side of the room.
Colin was left sitting in the place of his demise like a chastened schoolboy. The adults conferred as if deciding his fate. They perceived Colin to be of no threat and had to decide their next move. They were unaware that as they talked, Colin began to rekindle some of the fire and venom that had leached out of him after his recent beating. In a feral movement he took on the demeanour of the cornered animal with nothing to lose, and within one instinctual heartbeat moved with a primal and irrational surge of force. Colin grabbed the live lead Deidre had used to shock him with and charged the two men. The detectives were incapacitated in an instant. Colin first hit Crowle on the back of the neck with the exposed end of the lead and then Earnshaw through his outstretched hand. Crowle's head snapped backward as his limbs flailed in different directions: Earnshaw spasmed and gyrated in a grotesque dance. They both fell to the ground as Colin dropped the lead, giving Crowle another jolt. He leaped over the two men and bolted for the door. The two detectives suffering Colin's short-lived reprisal gave the attacker the briefest moment of satisfaction. However this sensation passed almost before it began. He could now add the label of 'hunted man' to a growing taxonomy of shameful titles, including: family outcast, betrayer, relationship wrecker and business failure. This had turned into a very bad day for Colin.
Warning Rocco may prove counter-productive however having used up all his social credits, he had nothing and no one else to turn to. If what he'd learned from Detective Earnshaw was useful and what he'd surmised concerning Malcolm could earn Rocco's favour, he might be able to salvage something from the day.
The 'Rat' turned his animal mind to survival and scurried off to build a plan for profit, to trade information and use it as a weapon, to offer services and ultimately, to hunt his own.