|Primary Characters:||Nigel, Harry, Nikki, Leo|
|Warning:||violence, non-consenting m/m sex|
|Description:||Two dead young men end up at the morgue. They were homeless, and seems to have been sexually assaulted. Nikki and the others decide to investigate.|
Nikki Alexander tossed the plastic cup containing the dregs of her coffee and started her computer. The screen lit up and the computer began to go through its typical symphony of sounds that seemed to be necessary to get everything going.
Too sleepy to think of anything else to do, she remained staring at the screen, at last lighting up. She was about to sit down, when her boss Professor Leo Dalton walked in.
“If you’re quite awake I have a body for you.”
“Lovely. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. What do you have for me this time?”
“Young white male. Early twenties. Probably homeless, possibly an addict. You’ll have to do the tox screen -”
“Yes, I know. Overdose?”
“No. He’s in there now. Go on. I’d do it myself, but I have a meeting with the board of directors in – five minutes. When our distinguished colleagues arrive, tell them I want their postmortem reports from last week printed out.”
Nikki decided to forget about the day’s spam and get straight onto the postmortem. Exactly what she liked right after breakfast.
After taking a long look at the victim, Nikki was forced to conclude that Leo had been right. Not an overdose, unless the ugly mark on his neck had been inflicted post mortem, which didn’t seem likely for a number of reasons. He’d hanged himself. What Leo had failed to mention was how attractive he must have been while still alive. Not even the manner of his death had obliterated all signs of his good looks. The body – well, he was dead and it was no use crying of spilt milk.
Nikki started the recorder and began her grisly work. Half way into the autopsy, Dr Harry Cunningham walked in.
“So you say.”
Harry blinked in confusion at Nikki’s reply.
“Someone is in a terrible mood today. Late night last night?”
“Leo said to tell you he wants your reports from last week typed out. Is Nigel around?”
“Yes. He’s checking on the blog.”
“Tell him Leo wants his reports too.”
Harry decided to leave Nikki to do her work. He’d known he was behind on the paperwork. In the past weeks or so they’d all been up to their necks in postmortems and the reports were a lower priority when the bodies were lining up.
He returned into the office and stopped behind his friend and colleague’s computer. That blog really was fascinating. Not that Harry himself had ever thought to keep one himself.
“How was she?”
“Right. Look. What do you think?”
Harry studied the gruesome images with interest.
“Impressive. And fascinating. Is that a new case?”
Nigel smiled proudly.
“Sidney entered the last of the info last night. I suggested it.”
“Fantastic. Oh, before I forget. Nikki said to tell you that Leo wants our reports from last week printed out.”
Nigel made a face, but nothing could ruin his good mood this morning. Not when he’d had breakfast with Sandra. Well, sort of. Coffee counted as breakfast, right?
“Of course he does. Well, we’d better get to it and leave Sleeping Beauty to deal with the bodies.”
“Exactly what I was thinking.”
Half an hour later, Nikki walked in, at last fully awake. She was planning on getting another coffee, but decided against it. Last week had been bad enough. This week she’d rather get to sleep once she got home.
“Did you see the body I was doing the postmortem on?”
“Yes, vaguely. Young male. Anything interesting?”
Nikki stopped to consider. After what her two colleagues had been through, before she had joined the team, she wasn’t sure if they were the right people to confide in, but since they’d find out sooner or later, she might as well tell them.
“Unusual, in any case. He’d been sexually assaulted, then hanged himself. Definitely a case for our friends the cops.”
Nigel nodded gravely.
“Definitely. Poor chap.”
Harry felt a dryness in his throat, but he forced himself to act in a detached manner. After all, this was his job. If he didn’t run into any more adult male rape victims during his career he’d be lucky. But whether he did or not, plenty of boys fell victim to sexual predators even if the number of adult victims were lower.
Nikki studied them closely, but didn’t comment further.
“I’d better get started on typing the report.”
She placed the recorder on her desk, then took a quick look at her email program.
Six days later, the second victim arrived. After a moment’s consideration, Leo Dalton decided he would perform the postmortem on the other young man. He didn’t feel he could ask Harry or Nigel to do something that would remind them too closely of their own ordeals.
Leo wasn’t one hundred percent sure of what Nigel had been through, but he could guess. In any case, Nigel’s father had killed a house full of paedophiles, and he wouldn’t have done that without any kind of provocation. Of course, it was always possible that it was Nigel’s father, not Nigel who had been the victim of sexual abuse, but either way, Nigel would be sensitive about anything connected with sexual abuse.
Nikki hung around, wanting to know the cause of death. She’d already learned that all signs seemed to indicate that this young man too had been the victim of sexual abuse. He also had marks on his neck, which might be consistent with strangling.
She noted that Nigel and Harry hovered in the background, seemingly just as eager to find out about the case.
When Leo emerged from the autopsy room, he sat down behind his desk, looked up and sensing Nikki’s interest, he gave her the information she was waiting for.
“Not hanging this time. Strangulation. Not, I think, as part of the assault. It came later. I found defence wounds on his hands. I’d say the assault took place at least six to eight hours before death occurred.”
“Possibly. I found some skin tissues on the neck, but nothing else. We shouldn’t get our hopes up. They most likely belong to the victim.”
“Well, hair that seems to match the victim, but again, I’ll send it off for analysis, just in case.”
“What about the defence wounds?”
“Possibly some textile fibers. No skin or blood. He must have hit the attacker’s body.”
Nigel approached Leo’s desk. This was his forte, after all. Or rather, his former colleague Bug’s.
“Did you check for anything else on the body? Insects, grass, leaves, seeds?”
“Of course. I doubt if he was outdoors during his last twenty-four to forty-eight hours in life.”
“There has to be something. He must have been somewhere. Where was the body found?”
“Dumped in a landfill. Not the crime scene. By the time he got there, he must have been dead for a few hours.”
Harry too, dared to walk over.
“Let’s hope the police can dig up something.”
Murmurs of assent greeted this statement.
Leo began to type in his report, and the others returned to their seats.
The following day, the receptionist called Leo to report a young female asking about the young men. Leo nodded to Nikki to follow him outside.
A young woman in her mid-twenties was sitting gingerly on the edge of a bench. When she caught sight of the new arrivals, she shot up.
“I’m Professor Leo Dalton and this is a colleague of mine. Nikki Alexander.”
“I was told you have the bodies of two young men.”
“If you could describe them in a little more detail -”
“I have this.”
She pulled out a photograph of three young men, standing together, smiling at the camera, then pointed at two of them.
Leo nodded gravely.
“If you’d come this way -”
“Are those the two young men you’ve -”
“I’m afraid it looks that way, yes.”
The young woman, not very colourful to begin with, paled and began to sway on her feet. While Leo had been talking to her, Nikki had been studying her. Something about her seemed to hint that she was homeless. It was hard to say exactly what suggested that to Nikki, but she didn’t think she was wrong.
When the girl showed signs of losing consciousness, Leo put a hand on her arm. She reacted instantly and recoiled from his touch.
Leo glanced at Nikki who stepped forward, intent on trying again.
“Miss – why don’t you sit down? I could get you a glass of water. Or if you’d like to lie down -”
Before Leo or Nikki could make a move to stop her, she turned and fled. She was gone, before the security guard had time to intercept her.
When it became clear that they weren’t going to find out anything more, the two pathologists returned inside.
“I’m going to call the police.”
Nikki nodded. She’d felt touched by the young woman’s situation. The thought of living on the streets filled Nikki with dread, even though she was far from squeamish. She’d participated in an expedition to North Africa to look for man’s early ancestors, while she was still at college and another time she’d been involved in the excavation of a viking grave. Conditions on both those occasions had been primitive, but the thought of having no real home, no roof over her head at night frightened her.
Leo reported his information to DI Pereira and in turn received an update on the case. Nikki was beginning to wonder what Pereira was telling him. When Leo hung up, Nikki was eager to hear all about it.
“According to our friend Pereira, there have been other cases like this in the past year or so. Mainly in the London area, but a few victims turned up in the south.”
“Any similarities to our two?”
“Young, male – early twenties. Sexually assaulted.”
“Cause of death?”
“Suicide, one way or another. A few strangled just like our second victim.”
“A serial killer?”
“It looks that way. I don’t envy Pereira and his colleagues this one. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. I hate to say this, but I think the chances of solving this case are slim.”
Nikki agreed, but a part of her protested violently at the unfairness of it all. Those young men deserved justice, just like all other murder victims. And even the ones who had killed themselves had been more or less driven to it, by the sexual assault. Whoever had attacked them might as well have killed them with his own hands.
Professor Dalton didn’t expect to hear from DI Pereira for some time, but was surprised to find that the description he and Nikki had given, had been sufficient to trace the young woman. If Professor Dalton or someone on his team would like to talk to her, they were welcome to participate in the interview.
Since Leo was literally up to his elbows in work, he considered sending Nikki, but since she was just as busy, he would have to send either Harry Cunningham or Nigel Townsend. That, for a number of reasons, struck him as inappropriate.
“Thanks. You don’t think you could bring her round to the morgue instead?”
“I’m afraid not. You see, she wasn’t alone. She was with a young man rather similar to your victims, only this one was alive. My partner has taken them to the hospital.”
“With the same injuries?”
“More or less. For obvious reasons there are no signs of strangulation, but -”
Something in Pereira’s tone struck Leo as ominous.
“Just about everything else. Badly beaten. Signs of sexual torture. One of the nastiest cases I’ve seen in my ten years on the force.”
“Oh. What about the young woman?”
“No injuries that I could see. Of course, she’s been living rough for quite some time, but other than that, I don’t know yet. They’ll be able to tell you more at the hospital.”
Since there didn’t seem to be anything else he could do, Leo decided to send Nikki to the hospital, hoping she’d be able to connect with the young woman and hopefully the young man too. Nigel Townsend would have to do her autopsies.
After hanging up, he told Nikki of his decision. She didn’t seem to mind. He then rang Nigel and asked him to come in. Both Nigel and Harry Cunningham were working full time again, after their ordeals last year, but since they’d both returned from a conference in the United States only the night before, Leo had let them take the day off, despite the workload. A pathologist suffering jetlag was likely to make unnecessary mistakes, and could end up missing important data. He was hoping that a gallon or so of coffee would help Nigel avoid that.
Nikki had never met DI Pereira and his partner before, but she’d heard her colleagues speak of them. In any case, she’d come to talk to the young woman and the injured young man.
A dark-skinned man met her at the reception desk, held out his hand and greeted her politely. He seemed pleasant enough, but his eyes had a grave expression. She was hoping the patient wouldn’t be too badly injured.
After the introductions were over, Pereira took Nikki upstairs. Another police officer was standing outside the door to the ward. He too, introduced himself, then stood aside to let his colleague and their visitor inside.
By the bed, the young woman from the other day was sitting. Warily, she glanced over her shoulder and when she saw Nikki, she got up. Not, as Nikki first assumed, to escape again, but to watch her anxiously.
“Hello, I’m Nikki Alexander. We met the other day, at the morgue.”
A look of sadness flew over the girl’s face. She nodded sombrely.
“I was trying to find out what had happened to two friends of mine.”
Pereira had retreated into the background, to let Nikki have a chance to question the woman.
“Are you alright yourself?”
The girl shrugged, then seemed to reconsider.
“Oh, you mean physically. Yes, of course. Nothing’s wrong with me.”
There was a dull, flat note in her voice, that made Nikki wince. Somehow, this young woman who couldn’t be more than twenty-five, probably younger, had given up on life.
“Can you tell me about your friends? And this other friend?”
“What do you want to know? We’re friends, that’s all.”
“Yes, but I meant, do you know what happened to them?”
“I thought you could tell me that. Aren’t you one of those pathologists? Who do postmortems?”
“Yes. What I meant was, have you any idea who could have done – this to them.”
Something moved in the girl’s eyes and she pressed her lips closer together, giving Nikki the distinct impression she was going to lie. She didn’t say anything for a while, then shrugged again.
“Just because we’re friends doesn’t mean we’re together all the time.”
That wasn’t really a reply, but Nikki sensed that was as much as she would get out of her, at least for now. Perhaps the two police officers would be able to find out more.
But to Nikki’s surprise, it seemed the girl had more to say, after all. She appeared to be hesitating, then with all signs of reluctance, began to speak again.
“My brother’s missing. I’m afraid -”
She couldn’t bring herself to go on and Nikki could see that her hands were so tightly clenched they turned white. The girl’s face was rigid and pallid and it dawned on Nikki that she was only keeping herself going with by the exertion of great willpower.
“Go on. Sit down. Are you sure you don’t need medical attention?”
“I’m alright. If you could just – help me find Sean.”
Nikki glanced at DI Pereira and his partner. As if on cue, Pereira stepped forward and, a gentle look on his face, assured the girl that they would do their best.
Nikki decided to deal with a more immediate need.
“What’s your name?”
“Allie, would you like something to eat?”
Nikki could see Allie struggling with her pride, then give up and nod agreement.
Again she glanced over at the police officers, who nodded.
The white fellow, who had been following the discussion through the door, began to rifle through his pockets.
“I’ll get you something, love. A sandwich? Crisps?”
“Anything will do, thanks.”
“A sandwich and a cup of tea?”
It was Nikki who objected to the crisps. They might be a good snack for a man who could have three solid meals a day, but for someone who had done without real food for as long as this girl seemed to, would need more nutrition.
Again she agreed, looking as if she was past caring.
Nikki followed Pereira and the other officer outside, closing the door behind her, after a few words of encouragement. The young man in the hospital bed wouldn’t regain consciousness for at least another twelve hours. No use waiting to take his statement, even assuming he would be lucid or if he would even make it.
Craig went to get the sandwich and the cup of tea and handed them over to Nikki.
“We’d better get going. See if we can dig something up. That girl, Allie, must know more than she’s saying, but I don’t think it’s any use leaning too hard on her at the moment.”
“Perhaps she’s scared?”
Pereira nodded thoughtfully. They said their goodbyes and Nikki returned inside to give Allie what must be her first meal in at least a day.
Nikki wanted to stay longer, but her conscience struck her. She knew how much work was waiting for her at the morgue, but she couldn’t help dwelling on the poor girl and her friends, not to mention her brother and his unknown fate, throughout the rest of the day.
The case with the abused young men had touched Nikki deeply and she found herself checking in with Pereira or Craig over the following the days.
They had no luck finding the young man, and though it now seemed as if Allie’s friend, at the hospital, would pull through, he had had little or nothing to say to the police about his abductors. It was clear that he was hiding something, but no one felt up to pressuring him too hard and even if they had, the medical staff wouldn’t allow it. He was far too fragile emotionally.
Nikki hoped to have better luck with Allie, but the girl still didn’t have much to say. It felt exasperating. Nikki felt as if she only had an idea of where to look, she might be able to do something. In the end, she very nearly lost her temper with Allie.
“Oh, come on. If you’re really concerned about your brother, surely you’d want to do your best to help the police. Or you can tell me. What is it you know?”
Allie glared at Nikki, got up and ran for the door.
“I don’t know anything.”
Nikki sighed, then looked up. Something about the way the girl had placed emphasis on the word ‘know’ filled her with sudden hope.
“You don’t know anything for sure, is that what you mean? But you suspect something?”
Allie already had her hand on the door handle and looked as if she was about to take flight again, but she waited, as if hesitating.
“Come on. Anything might be of help. If you don’t want to tell the police, tell me. Even if you don’t think it’s important or -”
“I’m afraid Sean will end up like the rest of them.”
“Do you know who’s responsible for what happened to your friends?”
“No. I told you, I don’t know anything. It’s just that – there’s talk about some people who – are always on the lookout for – young men. Good-looking young men.”
“And you think these people might be willing to pay for their companionship?”
There was a look of such horror on Allie’s face, Nikki was wondering what else she’d heard.
“I don’t think they’re paying them anything. These blokes – they just disappear.”
“They’re being abducted?”
“And you have no idea who is doing it?”
“Look, I told the police everything I know. Where I last saw Sean and when. That’s all I know. I’m just scared that – they have him. Steve and Tim and Robbie – you know what they did to them. I just couldn’t bear it if that happened to Sean. We’ve been together all our lives. I’ve always looked after him, ever since mum left and dad -”
“Listen to me, Allie. I’ll do everything I can to find out where he is. If I can, I’ll bring him back to you.”
Nikki’s vehemence didn’t seem to impress Allie much. It was clear that she’d lost all faith in life and other people.
She nodded, seemingly unconvinced.
When she left, Nikki had seen a small, dog-eared photo of Allie’s brother and the other three young men. At least Nikki felt she had some idea of who to look for. Sean’s eyes as well as his sister’s kept haunting Nikki as she returned to the university. She didn’t expect Leo to give her his blessing for what she intended to do, but if he didn’t agree to letting her go, she’d take a few days off.
To her surprise, her boss readily agreed, and not only that, he declared his intention of coming along.
“No buts. I agree, you might be able to get people to talk, but you’re not going on your own. You’ll need someone to keep an eye on you.”
“Well, I suppose there’s nothing else to say, then. Come on, partner.”
“We’ll go within the hour. I’ll just brief Harry and Nigel. They’ll have to fill in for us, while we’re gone.”
Just over an hour later, they set out, to the area where Allie had told Nikki that she and her brother and their friends usually stayed, unless the weather got too cold or they had to go off in search of temporary work, or some other source of income. She’d been deliberately vague about that, so Nikki suspected they hadn’t always stayed on the right side of the law.
In the meantime, Pereira and Craig had widened their net a bit. Their researches had revealed that there had been similar cases all over the south of England. Mainly in or around London, but there had been some cases on the coast as well.
After many dead ends and disappointments, Craig finally found a survivor, a young man who was willing to speak to the police.
He was in a halfway house, seemingly on the way to recovery. Craig had seen his type before. Slight, wearing eye makeup, his hair dyed and the clothes rather tight and revealing. When Craig had been an ordinary bobby walking his beat, he’d booked many such young men.
The social worker introduced them.
“Chris – this is DI Craig.”
Craig had long since learned to turn a deaf ear to such provocations or come-ons.
After the social worker had left them, Chris dropped his flirtatious act.
“A bit late to take my statement now, innit? Where were you lot eight months ago, when they dumped me by the side of the road?”
“The case only came to my attention a couple of days ago.”
Chris got up, and to Craig’s considerable embarrassment, he pulled off his tight, sleeveless top.
“Look. There, on the back. Twenty stitches it took. There. There. And there. And look here.”
He pointed to his chest, where a number of scars looked as if they had been caused by burning.
“And I didn’t get paid either. They hardly fed me in three days. Three days, that’s how long they kept me.”
“A bunch of toffs. Old blokes. Some as old as sixty. There was one who was your age. He was the worst of them.”
“Right. Where did they take you?”
“I don’t know, do I? They picked me up in a van. Two of them. Not those other blokes, not as posh as the others. I thought they were just regular punters. Then they put a rag over me face and I blacked out. When I woke up I was in some big old house. Don’t know where.”
“Can you describe the two who abducted you and the others?”
“I told the bobby who came to the hospital to take my statement. Don’t you read their reports?”
“Yes. I’ve read them. Would you be willing to work with a sketch artist?”
“I might. What’s in it for me?”
“We might be able to catch the men who did this to you, for starters.”
“Did you hear any names or see anything that might be of help?”
Chris looked as if he was giving the questions a great deal of thought, then nodded.
“The worst one. He wanted to – you know – strangle me or something. Then one of the older ones told him to stop. He called him Ned.”
“Ned as in Edward?”
“Yeah. They kept me locked in a room in a cellar or something. No windows. When they were done with me, the two who brought me in came back and held me down while one of them, I didn’t see who, gave me a shot of something. And I woke up in a ditch.”
When Craig had determined Chris had nothing more to tell him, he got up to leave, then decided he might as well find out where they stood.
“If we find these men, will you testify against them?”
“I heard others got taken too, but you won’t catch them talking about it. Those straight boys don’t want anyone to know what they do for money, if you know what I mean.”
“But you’ll testify?”
“I might as well. No one’s going to believe I’m straight, will they, love?”
Craig did his best not to display any signs of the embarrassment he felt each time Chris addressed him like that.
“We would appreciate it. Did you know that two young men have been found dead?”
From Chris’ reaction it was clear that he hadn’t known. Some of his forced cynicism fell away to reveal the naked fear underneath. Even eight months after his ordeal, he was still shaken by what had happened to him and Craig didn’t imagine it was the first time he’d been abused, so whatever he’d been through must have been beyond his worst expectations.
“Dead? How did they die? Are you sure they came from the same place?”
“We’re not sure about anything, but – well, we have indications they were attacked by the same men. The cause of death was strangulation in one case. One suicide.”
Craig saw Chris’ hands move up to his neck, then, conscious of the police officer’s looks, dropped them to his side again.
“Poor bastards. Of course I’ll testify. Those bloody nobs think they can do anything to people like us. Me cousin was run over by one of those snotty public school boys. Out joyriding he was. Nicked his old man’s Jaguar and ran her over. She was eleven.”
“I’m sorry. We’ll do our best to get the men responsible, you can be sure of that.”
Chris swallowed and tried to regain some of his earlier bravado.
“Well, this is a first. First time a copper ever said he’d help me. You lot usually just want to lock me up.”
Craig didn’t know what to say, so he merely repeated his assurances that he and his colleagues would try their best to make sure the men responsible would pay for their actions.
If Nikki had hoped the homeless would talk to her or Leo, she was disappointed. Only a few old drunks and an old woman clearly confused and possibly senile, had anything to say to them and nothing of any use, as far as the case went.
A few drug dealers and possibly – Nikki wouldn’t put it past them – pimps – flashed her insolent grins and made comments about her body, but other than that, the people of the street mainly ignored them or greeted them with a silence charged with suspicion.
But there were others, more willing to talk. Social workers and priests mostly. A few uniformed police officers, and a group of women from a charity proved willing enough to answer their questions. The trouble was, most of them didn’t seem to know anything relevant.
One of the police officers they had spoken to earlier, caught sight of them across the street and returned.
“You were asking about some young men who were missing. Attractive young men.”
Nikki and Leo exchanged glances.
“That’s right. Did you remember something that might help us find them?”
“No. I’m not sure it’s anything, but I just recalled there was talk about a clergyman, a former clergyman. People were saying he was – partial to young men. It might be nothing, and as far as I know, there was nothing illegal going on, so – but still – since you were asking about someone abducting young men, I thought I’d better mention it.”
He told them where to find the man he’d referred to, then hurried after his partner, who was waiting impatiently by a fast food restaurant on the corner of the street.
Outside the run down old building, Nikki stopped and regarded her boss, doubtfully.
“It just occurred to me, how do we go about this? Do we just ask him if he knows anything about missing young men or -”
“Look, I’ve been thinking, we’d better just report this to the police. We don’t have any jurisdiction.”
“Right. Now what?”
“It’s getting late. Let’s go and ask those social workers we heard about, that’s all I can think of. The missing young men were generally staying in their area. If they don’t know anything – I don’t know what else we can do.”
Nikki nodded sadly. It felt as if she’d let Allie down. Perhaps she was foolish to play detective, when real detectives were investigating the case, and probably doing a much better job than she did. What did she know about criminal investigation, other than forensics and pathology?
“You’re right. We’ll see if these people have something to say. That’s all we can do.”
“Until the next victim shows up.”
Leo didn’t sound much more optimistic than she felt. Nikki was dreading finding Allie’s younger brother on the slab the next time. No. Not if she could help it. She’d think of something.
Something about the woman who greeted them, Mrs Campbell, made Nikki instantly dislike her. She wasn’t sure what it was. Certainly not the way she talked to them.
“I’m not sure what we can do to help, but we’re always happy to show off our work. You’re welcome to look around the place. Talk to a few of the people we have helped. Would you like a cup of tea?”
Nikki’s eyes travelled across the woman’s clearly expensive clothes, elaborate hairstyle and the jewellery clinking on her wrists and around her neck. It just seemed so odd that a woman of her type would be working in the slums.
As if she had sensed Nikki’s disbelief, the woman began to expand on her work, adding a few words about her own background.
“I – after my divorce, I began to realize how wrapped up in my own life I’d been. People are suffering right here in our city, and I felt it was only fair that I give a little back to society. Don’t you agree, Professor Dalton? People of our class have a duty to -”
“Mm – exactly.”
He went to tell her about the young men found dead, and asked her if she’d heard anything.
“How dreadful. I don’t think any of our – the people who come here have mentioned anything about missing persons, but -”
Nikki still couldn’t believe this woman was sincere. She might sound sincere and make all the right noises, but somehow, Nikki didn’t think she cared about anyone other than herself. An elegant woman in her mid-forties – there had to be some other reason she was out here. Nikki had seen people with a genuine feeling for the homeless or the poor, but none of them had been quite as – chic.
They stayed for another half an hour, declining the offer of a tour of the facilities. Leo felt that Nigel and Harry had been left on their own for too long. It was time they checked in and if they were lucky, got some more work done themselves.
Nigel and Harry were sitting in front of their computers, typing in the last of their postmortem reports, when Leo and Nikki walked in.
“Did you find anything?”
Nikki shook her head. She looked exhausted and Harry got up to get her a cup of coffee. Smiling gratefully, she took the cup, then absentmindedly put it down again and promptly forgot about it.
Nigel nodded thoughtfully. The case bothered him, and he knew it was getting to Harry too, even if his friend didn’t talk about it.
“Perhaps our friend Pereira has made some progress.”
Nikki didn’t know Pereira, but she had to say he looked reliable and sympathetic, so Nigel might be right. She just didn’t think the legal system would care much about a bunch of homeless young men. It was discouraging, but as Leo had pointed out, they had done what they could. Someone else would have to do the rest.
Nigel pushed back his chair, got up and said goodbye to his colleagues. With any luck, Sandra would be at home waiting for him. If an emergency had turned up, she would have contacted him. Just in case, he fished his mobile phone out of his pocket and checked his messages. There was one from Sydney, funny as always, but nothing else of any importance.
When he unlocked the door, one of the cats came to the door to greet him. Nigel bent over to pick her up, and was rewarded with a contented purring. He rubbed his nose against her soft fur. When he looked up, Sandra was standing in the hallway facing him, a wide grin on her face.
“Oh, look. Daddy’s home. I wonder if he’s made any plans for dinner.”
“How about this? Falafels and pita bread?
“Mm. Sounds delicious. Too bad I made us veggie burgers and salad.”
“Too bad? I’d say that’s just as yummy. Did you manage to get home early?”
“Oh, I can fix something in next to no time. I got back about an hour ago. Slow day at the surgery.”
They sat down to eat, and though Nigel enjoyed the food, there was something about the way he looked, that suggested to Sandra that his mind was elsewhere.
“Tough day at work?”
“Sorry, love. I was miles away. Remember those dead blokes I told you about?”
“Which one? Try to narrow the field a little. Imagine if I told you about ‘that patient of mine’ – how could you guess which one I was talking about?”
“Oh. The ones who had been sexually assaulted.”
“Those. I see. Did you manage to learn anything more about them?”
“Well, Nikki went to talk to the young woman who came to ask about the bodies. Then Nikki and Leo went out to their neighbourhood and asked around. They didn’t find anything. Now all we can do is hope that our copper friends will be able to deliver.”
Sandra frowned. She didn’t like to see Nigel this sad. After his ordeal last year, she had been happy to see a considerable improvement in his mood, but now he was once again looking as gloomy as he had when his uncle had returned from Asia.
“What neighbourhood is that?”
He told her.
“Oh. My friends and I sometimes set traps there. I know the area quite well. You know what? I could take a few days off and snoop around a bit.”
“You? On your own? No, love, please don’t. I’d worry myself sick over you. Take me with you.”
“Don’t worry. You know I’ll be fine.”
Sandra made a few moves indicating a karate kick, then a chop with her right hand. He knew she could take care of herself, but this – going under cover on the street – it would just be too risky. If anything happened to her –
“Sandra. Please. Leave that sort of work to the professionals.”
“Don’t worry about me. You’re so cute when you’re frowning like that, but you have absolutely no reason to be concerned. I’ll be fine. It will just be for a few days. If you want to keep an eye on me, you or Harry could drive by a couple of times and – I don’t know – look as if you’re just out cruising or something.”
Nigel didn’t like this at all, but he knew when he was beaten. Besides, no matter how worried he’d be, he knew deep down that she’d be at least as safe as he would. In a way, safer, because her black face would look less out of place there. On the other hand, he’d grown up in a neighbourhood only slightly less rough. When he was an adolescent, he’d much rather have faced the street than his uncle’s house, any day.
He should have known Sandra wouldn’t wait around. By the time he woke up the next morning, she’d called her partner and asked her to mind the surgery, then dug up some horrible old rags to wear. She’d even managed to make her hair look greasy and her lovely, glossy skin unhealthy somehow. The mysteries of women’s makeup.
Despite the smell coming from the rags, Nigel pulled her close and held her.
Sandra smiled indulgently, but no less determined.
“I told you not to worry. Don’t show up more than once in these two or three days, alright? Let Harry and Jess cover the other days.”
“Fine. But are you really going to sleep out there?”
“Of course. Homeless people can’t go home and spend the night. Someone would be bound to notice. If I can find a shelter, I’ll go there, otherwise, I’ll manage. It’s not that cold. Go on. There has to be a body or two for you to cut up or some tests you can run on tissue samples or something.”
“You have no idea. We’re up to our necks in work. Alright. But if you run into trouble, come home. Please. Do I have to beg?”
“Mm. I wish I had time to stick around and watch you, but we’ll leave that for later. Bye. I love you.”
“I love you too. You have no idea how much.”
Sandra pulled him close again and kissed him lightly, before shoving him away.
As he watched her disappear, Nigel couldn’t suppress a shiver. What if this was the last time he saw her? He should have tried harder to stop her. But now that the decision was made, he’d better get in to work or Leo would have something to say about his late arrivals.
The neighbourhood was more or less as Sandra remembered it from the last time her animal protection group had put out traps there. Still seedy and rundown, still overflowing with new scruffy, raggedy people. She tried to keep a low profile, and acted as if she didn’t want to make any new friends. No one seemed to be paying attention to her, anyway.
The whole first day passed uneventfully. She saw Nigel drive by, but didn’t make eye contact. Towards evening, she found a place where she thought she’d be left in peace, but a couple of hours later, some half insane guy showed up and told her to get out.
She spent half the night walking around, until she found another spot, where she settled down and was able to get a few hours of sleep. It wasn’t particularly cold, at least she hadn’t thought it would be, but it still felt chilly and damp down on the ground. That certainly helped her unkempt look.
There was a place where you could get cheap coffee and she went there to warm her hands. She had brought emergency rations – a mix of dried fruit, nuts and almonds. That would keep her alive until she could return home.
Still, a little later, a few women from a charity showed up, bringing soup and sandwiches. Sandra risked drawing attention to herself by asking about what was in the bread. She told the kind elderly lady she was allergic. Whether or not she was belived, the old lady humoured her and let her see the bags the loaves of bread came in. To her relief, it was vegan. The old lady gave her a generous piece of the bread, without butter or cheese. Instead, she let Sandra have some peanut butter they apparently gave to children.
Towards evening, a man and a woman from a nearby shelter asked her if she was homeless. She scowled at them, but didn’t deny it.
“We’re from the St John foundation. You can see our place over there. Homeless people like yourself are welcome to spend the night there, have a hot meal or use the showers and washing machines. If you need to use the telephone, you can and some days a lady from the job centre comes over.”
“What are you? A church or something?”
“No, we’re unaffiliated with any church or political organization. We just want to help people.”
Sandra considered this in silence. She had already eaten, so she didn’t need to risk ingesting anything that might or might not be drugged. The place looked safe enough, with plenty of windows and it seemed most of it was just one floor.
“And you won’t try to preach to me or something?”
“No preaching. You decide what kind of help you want, if any. Some people just treat it as a cafe or club. It’s a way to get in out of the cold for a while. If that’s all you want, that’s fine. Or if you want more help, we can provide it. Either way, it’s up to you.”
“Thanks. I’ll think about it. Will you have a bed for me, if I come in tonight?”
“We usually close at around eleven in the evening. Do you think you’ll be later than that?”
“Eleven? No. If I show up, it will before that.”
“You’ll be welcome.”
Sandra considered the two people. They were young, well dressed and seemed normal enough. That was good, but on the other hand, if they were all above board, she might not learn anything useful about the two dead young men. But there would be homeless people she could talk to or at least listen to. It might do some good. In any case, she couldn’t think of much else to do.
Towards ten thirty, she began to walk over there. No one was hanging about right outside. In other places there would be drug dealers or prostitutes, but not around the shelter. It looked alright, and if it wasn’t, she’d find out and contact DI Pereira or Craig. Or Nigel and Harry.
Harry had driven by earlier. If she found what she needed to know, Jess wouldn’t have to come around at all.
Inside the shelter, she was introduced to the woman in charge. Sandra took an instant dislike to her. She decided that she didn’t need to fake a sympathy she didn’t feel. A homeless woman wouldn’t be likely to be overly friendly to one of those upperclass women out slumming.
A younger woman showed her around. In the dorm rooms upstairs, there was room for about twenty women and men. There were about a dozen people there now. In the winters, the place would fill up more quickly. This time of year, the homeless had other places to go.
The women in the women’s dorm were all old. Sixties or older. Bag ladies. Most of them seemed to be quietly dotty.
Sandra had looked into the men’s dorm on the way, and she’d seen an old African man, two middle-aged drunks and about half a dozen younger men, mostly black like herself. Most of them couldn’t be described as particularly attractive. They were fat and wore horrible loose-fitting pants that revealed most of their broad behinds. Sandra considered herself lucky to have such a tall, slim guy.
She was glad to use the facilities. In there, she was left alone to wash and brush her teeth. She could even change her top and underwear. To fit in with the image she was trying to project, she poured a few drops of cheap bootleg alcohol onto her jacket. Being a drunk was one thing, but she was going to try to make it seem as if she was really a drug addict. Or at least a drug user. She had some incense that smelled almost like marijuana.
Before she returned to the dorm, she burned some of the incense, then stood before the mirror for a few minutes, practicing her best drug addict look. Unfortunately, she knew it well. Where she grew up, there were more addicts that ordinary people.
She dozed off easily, but woke up some time in the middle of the night. Something had woken her up. It took her a moment to realize it wasn’t anything inside the dorm. After listening intently for a while, she noticed that there were people passing by in the corridor outside.
Giving them a few minutes to disappear, she got up, tiptoed over to the door and listened again. Nothing. She dared to peek outside, then when all appeared quiet, she went into the bathroom and sat down on the floor. If someone came to look for her, she’d be passed out on the floor, as you’d expect a drug addict to be.
She’d left the door open a crack, and after another two or three minutes she was rewarded. The people returned and this time, they stopped and talked within earshot.
“I know. Believe me, Noel, I know, but I can’t help it if most of the young men are as ugly as sin. Is it my fault? Tell Audley -”
“Sh. No names. You can always discourage some of the fat ones and get your employees to charm a few of the good ones. Never mind. We have a few at the moment. They’ll do over the weekend, but for next week, you’d better find something better.”
“I’ll do my best. Listen, are you still in touch with Paul?
“Paul Winter? Yes, why? Do you have something for him? I don’t work for him, but I suppose I could give him a ring for old times’ sake.”
“Tonight a new girl showed up. Black, tall, in relatively good shape for a drug addict. I think Paul will like her, but well, it’s hardly my scene, so what do I know?”
“Don’t look at me. You how I feel about women, but if you think she’ll do, I’ll tell Paul about her. I wish we could talk him into making some gay flicks too.”
The woman laughed in a way that suggested to Sandra that she would probably like that too. Not surprising, in Sandra’s opinion. As long as the participants were all volunteers or professionals. What she’d just heard hinted at something else.
No one said anything for so long, Sandra decided it would be alright for her to return to her bed. Just in case, she made sure her walk was erratic and unsteady. But no one seemed to be about and she was able to get some more sleep before morning.
There was breakfast downstairs and she had some fruit juice and a banana before setting out again. The woman who had greeted her last night smiled at her.
“Well, how do you like our little family?”
“It’s alright. Thanks.”
“There’s still room for you here, if you’d like to stay for a while.”
“Yeah, it’s good. I’ll be back tonight. Now I’ll just -”
She indicated the door. The woman beamed at her, clearly hoping to inspire confidence. Sandra decided that she’d be mellow from last night’s drugs so she returned the smile.
For a few hours she sat in her old place, where she could watch the street, but after a while, she decided to move away and closer to an Underground station. After she’d heard herself described as a commodity, she didn’t want to risk staying any longer. They would have to shoot their porn movie without her.
She was hoping her information would be enough to identify the killers, but if not, she’d be useless to them. Perhaps Nigel could take her place. Somehow, she couldn’t see either Jess or Harry doing any under cover work on the street.
Once she was closer to home, she decided to give Nigel a ring. No one had searched her pack and even if they had, no one would find it odd that even a homeless person possessed a phone card.
Nigel sounded so relieved, she knew he’d been worrying about her. He agreed to come and pick her up right away. They didn’t own a car, but Harry’s mother had one and so did Leo and Nikki. The one Nigel showed up in was actually Nikki’s and to her surprise, Nikki was driving it.
Sandra didn’t know her husband’s colleague particularly well, but she’d heard how much the case had got to Nikki, so perhaps she shouldn’t have been so surprised.
“Hello. I think you’d better take me to see our friend Pereira.”
Nigel looked her over, an anxious look on his face.
“I’m fine, silly. It’s just that I happened to stumble across some information I think the police should know.”
“About our victims?”
“Yes. I think so. And – in any case that woman, the one who runs the shelter, is dodgy.”
Nikki glanced over her shoulder.
“I knew it. Mrs Campbell?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. Blonde – well, dyed blonde anyway, with expensive jewellery and designer clothes.”
“That mrs Campbell, alright.”
“I’ll tell Pereira all about it.”
And so she did, about twenty minutes later. He listened and nodded, made a note of the names and told her he’d be in touch if they found anything useful.
“But – I don’t suppose I need to mention this to you – miss St Martin – what you did was risky. That sort of thing is best handled by professionals.”
“I will bear that in mind.”
DI Pereira knew he wouldn’t be able to sway this woman, but he’d felt he had to at least try. So he merely nodded and shook her hand.
Outside in the car, Sandra waited as she silently counted down from ten. She only got to seven, before Nigel’s outburst came.
“They wanted to sell you to a guy making porn movies?”
“Apparently. They’ll be very disappointed tonight.”
“That’s not the point. What if they’d decided not to wait? If that bloke had tried to take you away the same night?”
“Calm down. He would have regretted it and so would that Mrs Campbell.”
Nikki watched their exchange with interest. She could tell Nigel’s fiancee was a tough woman, but did she really know she would have been able to defend herself against the man in question? Noel something?
Nigel looked so devastated that Sandra ignored his colleague’s blatant curiosity, and held him for a while. Nikki hastily looked away.
After a while, Sandra sensed his tension was gone. She’d make it up to him later.
“Nikki? Would you please drive us home?”
“Of course, no problem. It was very brave of you to spend a few nights in that area. I’m not sure I would have dared.”
“No, it’s not a safe place. If it hadn’t been for the karate, I don’t think I would have dared either. But I grew up in a place at least as tough as this neighbourhood, so -”
Nikki drove the rest of the way in silence. Sandra couldn’t tell if she’d been embarrassed about asking too many questions or if she was simply deep in thought about the case.
As it happened, the names Sandra had mentioned were enough to trace the men in question. The pornographer was easy enough to find. He had a record for shooting the kinds of movies that ordinary video shops didn’t have. His background turned up only one friend by the name of Noel. The name Audley – unfortunately set off a few alarm bells.
If they had the right Audley, he wasn’t a man you’d accuse of a crime without knowing you had all possible legal grounds. In fact, in a way, he was the legal system. He was a judge, as well as a peer.
At least knowing who they were dealing with would be a starting point in identifying all the people involved. According to Chris’ statement, there were at least half a dozen men, possibly more, involved in the scheme, and they had access to a manor house or something along those lines.
That suggested an organized group, with the specific purpose of abducting young men. In itself that was bad enough, but since at least one young man had been killed, the whole thing hinted at even more sinister practices.
Since his friends, the pathologists, had gone out of their way to be helpful, Pereira decided it wouldn’t do any harm if he gave them an update on the case. He called Professor Dalton and gave him the information.
When his partner returned from the safe room, where he’d placed Chris, Pereira grabbed his jacket.
“Don’t sit down. Let’s go and talk to the young people at the hospital. I think this bloke Robbie knows more than he’s told us so far. Perhaps Allie does too. We’d better lean a little harder on them this time.”
Craig nodded. He’d tried to get Chris to come up with a few more names, but Ned was the only one he’d heard. That and the descriptions of the men he’d seen would have to do.
In the end, they were able to get another name – Humphrey – which seemed to be a last name, at least the way it was used. The only other names Robbie had heard were clearly nicknames and unless these men had a previous criminal record, it wasn’t likely that their nicknames would appear anywhere. None of them were distinctive enough to be common knowledge.
Unfortunately, Robbie hadn’t heard or seen anything remotely useful from outside, which might have helped identify the location he’d been taken to. His story about the appearance of the house matched Chris’, so there was little doubt they had been taken to the same place.
When Harry came in to work the following morning, Leo informed him of what the police had learned so far. One of the names seemed to strike a chord and while Harry was scrubbing up, he pondered where he might have heard it.
After the postmortem, he was still thinking about it and as he was sipping a cup of coffee it came to him. Nigel was sitting before the computer, comparing results from an earlier series of tests he’d run. He noted his friend’s expression.
“I think I’ve heard of one of those chaps. The ones who are involved in the abductions. Noel Harville. I know a friend of a friend. Hm.”
“Well, I suppose you will have moved in the same circles.”
“I know, but – for all I know, some of my school friends might be involved. What if I could fish around a bit? I do run into the old boys from time to time. You know how it is.”
Nigel was smiling and Harry didn’t feel offended at Nigel’s good-natured ragging.
“Anyway, I’ll try to drop a few hints and see what comes up.”
“Are you sure? These people will have to be very cautious. If what they do became common knowledge, they stand to lose a lot.”
“I know. Actually -”
Harry’s amiable face expressed embarrassment. Nigel could see his cheeks turn pink and wondered what he had in mind.
“I was thinking I might try to – fake an interest in that sort of thing. Didn’t one of the victims say there was a man about my age?”
“Are you sure you’ll be able to pull it off? Wouldn’t it be rather -”
Nigel tactfully avoided finishing the sentence. After what Harry had been through only last year, was it wise of him to get involved in something like this?
“I’ll be fine. I won’t actually go with them. If they get the impression I’m one of them, they might tell me where to look.”
Nigel looked doubtful, but after Sandra’s stint under cover, who was he to tell Harry his help wouldn’t be appreciated?
“You’d better let Pereira and Craig know. They might be able to fit you up with a wire.”
“What if they suss it out?”
“Better they find out sooner, than later, if they are planning on including you in one of their orgies.”
Just like Nigel had suspected, DI Pereira had had a whole lot to say about Harry’s plan, but in the end, he’d acknowledged that they weren’t getting any further. Since Allie’s younger brother was still missing, they didn’t have much of a choice.
He eyed Harry Cunningham doubtfully, but in the end, he reluctantly agreed to let him try.
“But you’ll be wearing a wire, is that clear? We’ll be following you every step of the way.”
“Good. Believe me, I don’t want to be a hero. If they tell me something, that’s fine, but if not, I’ll just leave it.”
Pereira nodded thoughtfully. He didn’t like this. If he’d had more time, he was sure he could have found some nobs up at Scotland Yard who would be just as likely as this pathologist to know someone who knew someone, but as they were pressed for time, he’d just have to do.
Harry couldn’t very well pick up the phone and call any of the men he had in mind, so in the end, he did something he very rarely did. He dropped by his father’s old club. Even if he was a member, he hardly ever visited, though he knew some of his old friends from school, who didn’t live in London, would spend the night there, if business took them to London on very short notice.
The police officers approved of the location, since it would be reasonably easy to watch the place.
As it happened, Harry was in luck. The man he’d first thought of turned out to be in the club. He thought that might be connected to the meetings of the group, but of course, it might be something totally unrelated. In any case, it was worth a try.
When he caught sight of Charles, he didn’t have to feign surprise.
“Harry. How long has it been?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Probably fifteen years or so. So – what are you doing here?”
“Business. You know how it is. Did you follow in your old man’s footsteps?”
“Yes. There was never much doubt about that. What about you? Did you take over your father’s business?”
“I own some shares, yes, but I have my own interests. Commodities. Currency. Wherever the money is.”
“You always had a nose for making money.”
“It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. So, Harry, would you like to lunch with me?”
“Well, I don’t have any other plans so if you -”
“Then that’s settled. Griffin will serve us. Can you believe the old zombie’s still here? He was ancient the first time I set foot here. Do you come here a lot?”
“From time to time. My mother is away and -”
“You still live with your mother?”
“No, but I try to look in on the old dear, on most nights and -”
“Oh, I see. My mother spends most of the year in Cannes. She says the climate is better for her health. I should think it is. Mother always had a nose for money herself. Or rather those who have it. Loads of it.”
They kept up the small talk throughout lunch, then retired to the library. A few old members were half asleep behind their papers, rather like in an old Dorothy Sayers novel, but other than that, they had the room to themselves. Like this in the middle of the week, not that many members seemed to frequent the club. Not like in the old days, at least that was what Harry had heard.
Their discussion touched on marriage and relationships. Harry was hoping this would be his cue, no matter how embarrassing it would be.
“Are you married?”
He tried to look slightly disconcerted as if it was a rather awkward topic.
“My mother would have loved that but – I don’t think it’s for me. What about you?”
“Divorced. Three years ago. It didn’t last long, but I’ll be paying alimony until the kid’s eighteen.”
“Oh, you have a child?”
“A daughter. Exactly like her mother.”
Charles made a face.
Harry glanced around furtively. This was his chance. He directed an apologetic thought to Jess. Oh, well, it was all in a good cause.
“You know, I have to say I miss the old days. School. You know what I mean.”
“Absolutely. The old school spirit.”
At this, Charles pointed to Harry’s tie, which he’d worn especially so he’d look the part. He nodded, smiling as if relieved.
“There’s something about a school like ours that is – well, how do I put this?”
“Certainly something more and more rare these days.”
“Yes, but – out here – you should see my colleagues. One of them is a woman and the rest – after seeing their ugly mugs all day, I almost want to go to some -”
Charles studied Harry’s face thoughtfully, then appeared to come to a decision.
“I know what you mean. Cynthia wasn’t particularly thrilled about my – fond memories of Toby. Remember Toby?”
“How could I forget? He was amazing in that play – which one was it again – one of those boring old classics, but he looked sensational.”
“I know. We were – close. Do you know what I mean?”
“I think so. Remember Peter? My – friend.”
“Of course. You sly old bastard. As I recall, you never wanted to let on the two of you were – close.”
“You know how it was. Some boys were – alright about – all that – and some where not.”
“So you’re not seeing anyone, eh?”
Somehow, Harry had the impression there was more to Charles’ question than was apparent.
“No. It’s hard to – I mean, I wouldn’t know where to – especially if I wanted to see someone – younger than myself.”
“I see what you mean. There are places, of course, but they’re hardly suitable for the likes of us. And besides – well, as it happens, I might be able to help you out. Remember Silas Audley?”
“Yes, but I thought he was killed in Iraq.”
“So he was, but his uncle, Wilfred, is – very understanding. In fact, he’s quite partial himself. He’s been very accomodating. As long as some friends of mine provide the – pleasant companionship.”
“Trust me, you won’t be sorry. Late teens, early twenties. Will that do?”
Harry didn’t even have to fake the smile. It came naturally. If this was what he thought it was, he’d already stumbled into the secret. But he had to slow down. If Charles had become suspicious, this might be part of an elaborate trap. Still, if he wanted to save Allie’s brother, he’d have to take a chance.
“I’d say. And you can deliver?”
“Let’s just say we have a couple of absolutely lovely specimens. Think Michelangelo’s David or for that matter any decent sculpture of the kind.”
“So, it’s you and me and old Audley -”
“And a few more friends of mine. Don’t worry, you’ll get your turn with them. One or as many as you like.”
“That would be -”
“Save the ovations for later, when you’ve seen them. I wish I had a photo of them, but – the less incriminating material floating around, the better.”
“Well, it was very nice seeing you again, Harry. If you give me your number, I’ll give you a ring tonight, when I’m heading out to Audley’s place.”
Charles left to take care of whatever business he was in London for and Harry left a little later, to return to the university, where Pereira was waiting. He’d overheard everything, but he still had a number of questions for Harry.
“Thanks. We’ll take it from here.”
Harry nodded, still feeling upset about the deception. Peter might forgive him, but if anyone else had heard him mention his friend from the old days, Harry knew he’d be the laughingstock of the entire school.
“You will do your best to get those young men out of there alive, won’t you?”
“Of course. I hardly think people of this kind will be prepared to shoot it out with the police. Even if they’re probably well-stocked with weapons for their hunts.”
“I know, but – if they’ll be in anything like the same condition those other fellows were, they shouldn’t be left alone.”
“We’ll take them to the hospital right away.”
Harry made an effort to snap out of the unpleasantness and get back to work. Over the past week or so, they’d been away from work quite enough.
Towards evening, they still hadn’t heard from the police and Harry was beginning to consider calling it a day. Pereira knew where to reach him at home. So did Nigel.
Leo and Nikki, who didn’t have anyone waiting at home, decided to wait a little longer. After walking around aimlessly for another half hour, Nikki changed her mind and decided to go to the safe house where Allie and Robbie had been taken. Allie would be worried sick and she was sure Robbie would like to know as well.
To her surprise, Leo told her he’d go with her.
Once there, they met DI Craig, who was one of the officers keeping an eye on their charges. Chris eyed Leo hopefully, but soon gave up. Instead, he sat down with the rest of them, waiting. He didn’t know the other victims, but he was eager to see his abductors brought to justice.
It wasn’t until nearly two hours later, that Pereira got in touch. The raid had been a success, and they’d rescued Sean and two other young men.
Ironically, one of them wasn’t homeless at all. His father was a man in much the same circumstances as the men who had abused him. Someone had found him passed out in an alley and had been unable to resist his rather exquisite looks. That was the worst of the group’s mistakes.
Sean, Allie’s brother, and the two others were in poor shape and had had to be taken straight to the hospital. Nikki and Leo agreed to take Allie there.
DI Craig stayed with Robbie and Chris. Until the suspects had been tried and sentenced, their witnesses would remain in custody.
“Another one for your blog?”
Nigel was sitting in front of the computer, typing in the last few characters, before leaning back in his seat, watching the screen with approval.
“You mean the one with the abducted homeless blokes? No. I mean, I posted that two weeks ago. When we knew that the last three victims would be alright. This one, my friend, really is one for the history books. Let me tell you about it -”
“I’d love to stay and listen, but as you know Jess is waiting at home. Isn’t Sandra at your place?”
Nigel glanced backwards, then started and got up.
“You’re right. I told her I’d be home before nine tonight. If I don’t leave now, I won’t make it.”
Harry was displaying signs of impatience.
“Come on then. Let’s go. If not, Leo might find us and rope us in. I’d much rather spend the rest of the evening with my lovely fiancee than here.”
“Too late. I found you.”
Leo had been standing in the doorway for almost a minute, listening to his employees.
Harry and NIgel exchanged glances, then took a deep breath and prepared themselves for another night of overtime.
“Relax. I don’t have anything for you. Go on. Off you go. I’ll be leaving myself in a little while. Nikki left almost forty minutes ago.”
Nigel let out the breath he realized he’d been holding in almost since the second he spotted Leo behind him. Two minutes later he and Harry were outside. It wouldn’t take them long to get to their respective homes.