Prologue: July 2016
WAYNE DWYER sat in the back seat of the ARV, Ellis Mann beside him as usual, and Shaun Temple at the wheel. Wayne’s loaded carbine lay across his knees, a pistol strapped to his thigh. The early morning was wet and quiet as the convoy of seven police cars, two police vans, and an ambulance crawled its way across South London, the drizzle misting the windscreen.
Wayne was calm, his thoughts focused on the briefing that had taken place an hour previous. They were on their way to arrest a suspect the police had reason to believe was in possession of a weapon. Intelligence came from the officers who’d spent the last few hours reconnoitering the address.
“If anything goes wrong,” Shaun commented in his quiet voice, “this could be a long night.”
Beside Wayne, Ellis twitched, clenching and unclenching his hand on his thigh.
Wayne chuckled, more to ease the tension in Ellis than for any other reason. “And he could already be tucked up fast asleep in his bed by the time we get there.” The surveillance team had reported their suspect was home. As they neared the target’s building, an ARV and another police car, this time with local officers on board, veered off to cover the back of the building.
“Then let’s hope he doesn’t wake up and decide to seize a hostage,” Shaun muttered. He pulled the car over to the curb, and the other vehicles did the same. “Okay, rendezvous point.”
Wayne knew they were out of sight and sound of the flats. He’d studied the Google Earth images and the large-scale maps of the property and neighboring area.
“I’m with you,” Ellis murmured. “I hope he’s off in the Land of Nod. Makes things a damn sight easier.” They already knew what had occurred earlier that evening; the suspect and another man, both with records of violence, had threatened someone, demanding money they claimed was owed to them. The report said both men were armed.
The three men got out of the car and were joined by four more officers, all of them armed and fully kitted out with helmets, goggles, and body armor. Lewis was in command.
“Okay, check mobiles are off and radios turned down,” he instructed in a low voice. “Cassidy and Phelps have a carbine and pistol trained on the fourth floor in case our man gets desperate and decides to try and escape through the window.”
In a close-linked single file, they moved stealthily to the ten-story block of flats, part of the depressing seventies concrete jungle of gray with its raised footbridges and stone stairwells. Lewis was the first at the downstairs glass door, which he opened with a key as quietly as possible. Shaun slipped inside first, a bulletproof shield held up to protect himself, his Glock in his hand. Behind him the six officers made their way up the flights of concrete stairs, and Wayne’s nose twitched at the faint yet unmistakable aroma of stale urine. Peters carried the battering ram.
The building was silent when they lined up outside the flat’s door. Lewis signaled for Peters and Derwent, and the quiet was shattered as they rushed forward, breaking down the red front door. All of them rushed in, weapons ready, and Lewis called out, “Armed police! Armed police! Come on out. And let’s see those hands!”
Wayne trained his carbine at the bedroom door as it opened and a young man emerged from it, unsteady on his feet, dressed in a pair of boxers. He blinked at them, mouth falling open.
“Okay, okay,” he said, waving his hands in the air. “Not armed, all right?” His chest heaved.
“Find something to cover him with before you take him outside,” Lewis directed. Shaun cuffed him, all the while reading him his rights. Wayne ducked into his bedroom and grabbed the black bedspread from the bed. He returned to the scene, threw it over the suspect’s shoulders, and watched as Shaun led him from the flat.
Ellis jerked toward the second bedroom door and froze when a small girl appeared, rubbing eyes that went wide when she saw the officers. She began to wail, and another child and a woman spilled out of the room.
“What the fuck are you doing in my home?” the woman screeched, automatically indicating for the girls to stand behind her before pulling her robe around her.
Lewis ignored her indignant shrieks. “Peters, escort these people downstairs to the third floor.” Peters did as instructed, and Ellis guided them through the door. Once they were safely out of the way, Lewis got on his radio. “Okay, bring in Troy.”
Wayne remained still while they waited for Troy, the police dog, and his handler. He gave Ellis a glance as his buddy came back into the flat. This was the nerve-racking part of such an operation—the meticulous search of the property to ensure there wasn’t a second hidden armed man. With the suspect and his family taken care of, the seven officers and dog searched all corners of the flat for the next twenty minutes. Once they were assured it was empty, it was time to go. The local officers would be in next to search for weapons.
They filed out of the flat and downstairs to the vehicles. “Debrief back at operations,” Lewis announced. Wayne knew it would be quick; everything had gone smoothly. Only two hours left until his shift ended at 7:00 a.m.
“Well, that was textbook,” Ellis commented as he climbed into the back of the ARV.
“Yeah, it’s nice when that happens.” After six years as a Specialist Firearms police officer, Wayne was accustomed to the pattern, the sudden changes in pace. One minute they could be out on a quiet patrol, the next thrown into action. From one extreme to the other.
Shaun’s radio burst into life. “Nine-nine-nine call made from an address that’s on your route,” the tinny voice stated. “A neighbor has heard a woman in the upstairs flat screaming. She has reason to believe there’s a weapon involved. We haven’t got enough to corroborate this, but given the address, you might want to check it out. Local officers have been called to this address before. Can you assist? You’re three minutes from the scene, and your commander has been advised.”
Ellis’s face fell, and Wayne knew what was going through his mind. Strictly speaking, it should have been passed on to uniform or possibly the armed officers unit. They were still on duty, however, and he knew Ellis wouldn’t suggest leaving the call to the locals, not if they were closer. Wayne leaned forward. “Take it, Shaun. If we’re closer than uniform, it makes sense. Besides, Lewis has okayed it.”
Shaun nodded and spoke into his radio mic. “Affirmative.” After receiving the details, he spoke again. “We are en route. Please ensure there will be backup.”
“Affirmative. Over and out.”
Shaun pulled away from the curb. He drove quickly through the empty streets. It seemed like no time before they were arriving at the address, a two-story house. Wayne and Ellis got out and hurried to the front door. A middle-aged woman in a blue dressing gown met them. Her eyes widened when she saw them.
“Oh my God, what have they sent me, the Flying Squad?”
“Not quite. Nearest available officers, ma’am,” Wayne said politely.
With a trembling finger, she pointed to the staircase. “They’re upstairs. You be careful now. He’s a bad’un. Everyone around here knows about—”
“It’s okay, ma’am,” Ellis interjected in a whisper. When a low cry reached them, he signaled for her to go back into her ground-floor flat before he led them toward the stairs. They inched their way up the narrow steps, Ellis’s gun drawn. When they reached the first floor, the door to the flat stood ajar. Ellis put his finger to his lips and crept inside, Wayne right behind him.
The first room was empty, but Wayne caught sight of the first signs of a struggle. A chair lay overturned, a man’s shoe beside it. Wayne quickly assessed the situation. There wasn’t enough evidence to indicate what was going on, but a loud noise from along the hallway had both of them stiffening.
“Help!” A woman’s voice, clearly frightened, pierced the quiet house. “Anybody, please!”
Before Wayne could react, Ellis shouted out, “Armed police! We’re coming in!” He darted out of the room and along the dimly lit hallway, his gun held high.
What the fuck? Wayne hurried after him, adrenaline pumping through him. What is he playing at?
When he reached the room at the end, Ellis flung open the door and Wayne followed him inside. In the middle of the room was a double bed, where a man lay on top of a woman. She was struggling beneath him, but he was clearly stronger. With one hand he pinned her wrists to the pillow above her head while the other wasn’t in sight. Her satin slip was torn at the shoulder. A large knife lay on the bed beside them, and before Wayne could react, the man clambered off her and picked it up. He brandished it at Ellis.
“Back off.” His eyes were huge, darting his gaze from Ellis to Wayne.
Ellis pointed his gun at the man. “Put the knife down,” he ordered. “Now!”
The man paled and dropped it onto the floor, where it clattered against the varnished floorboards. Wayne gave an inward sigh of relief and Ellis’s tension diminished visibly.
When the woman made a lunge for the bedside cabinet, Ellis froze. Wayne watched in disbelief as a second later she pulled out a revolver and pointed it at her assailant. Aw fuck. What dismayed him more was Ellis’s reaction.
His partner hesitated, his weapon at his side.
Wayne took control, his heart pounding. “Put that gun down now!” he shouted. He aimed his Glock, making sure she saw it.
Her face crumpled and she collapsed onto the bed, sobbing, and dropped the revolver onto the duvet.
Wayne shuddered with relief. “Cuff him,” he barked at Ellis before approaching the bed. He holstered his pistol and helped the woman to her feet. He spoke into his radio. “Shaun, has backup arrived yet? I need transport for two people as fast as you can.”
Wayne guided her out of the room, leaving the revolver where it had fallen. He’d deal with that once she and the assailant were safely in police custody. Wayne followed Ellis and the man down the stairs and out of the house. By the time they reached the car, two more came around the corner and pulled up in front of it. Two local officers got out of each and separated the couple, helping each into the back seat of their cars, both of them cuffed. After a brief conversation with Wayne, the officers got into the cars and left.
“Just got to pick up the knife and revolver,” he told Shaun. He signaled to Ellis to follow him back into the house and up the stairs. Once inside the flat, Wayne couldn’t hold in his emotions any longer.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he growled.
Ellis frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you apparently leaving your brains in the car.” Wayne took a deep breath. “First off, since when do you shout out before you’ve even seen what’s going on? You had no fucking idea what was going on in that bedroom. All you did by yelling too soon was announce our presence to that guy. You put us in danger.”
“What?” Ellis gaped at him.
“You gave him time to prepare for us entering the room. We could have walked in there to find a loaded gun pointed at our chests.” He clenched his gloved fists. “But what worries me more is your lack of reaction. Why didn’t you aim at her?”
Ellis froze, his face ashen. “Instinct. I judged her to be the victim. I mean, she was the one screaming, right? And I… I didn’t think she’d shoot.”
“Why—because she’s a woman? Damn it, Ellis, you know better. You’ve come up against armed women before, same as I have, but this time you held back.”
“She… she collapsed.”
“But you couldn’t have known she’d give up so easily.”
“She wasn’t a threat,” Ellis insisted.
“Not to you—but that guy was in immediate danger. You should have issued her a warning and then fired to protect him, damn it!” Wayne pushed down hard on his anger and bewilderment. “Okay, so there were a couple of options open to you, and yeah, there’s never a right or wrong answer to the question ‘should I shoot?’ But in my opinion? I’d have gone for it.” He stared at Ellis, unblinking. “What concerns me is that you didn’t.”
Ellis swallowed. “You think I fucked up.” His chest heaved, his eyes full of dismay.
His obvious distress put a damper on Wayne’s emotions. “Let’s bag the weapons and get out of here, all right? We still have a debrief to take care of back at operations.”
“Are… are you going to mention what happened here?” Ellis locked gazes with him.
Wayne assessed his buddy and came to a rapid decision. “No,” he said at last. “Though I should.” In his heart he knew it was the latest in a series of incidents that worried the hell out of him. Jesus, what the fuck is going on here, Ellis?
This was getting out of hand.
“Let’s move before Shaun gets it into his head that we’re taking too bloody long.” He reached out and patted Ellis’s shoulder. “We can talk about this another time.”
Ellis nodded, albeit with obvious reluctance.
Wayne bagged the knife and the revolver and followed Ellis from the flat. He stared at his retreating colleague’s back as they descended the stairs.
And we are going to talk about this.
It was time to act before Ellis did something stupid and jeopardized not only his own life, but those of his fellow officers. And Wayne knew exactly what was needed.
Time to take you in hand, boy.