It was a Wednesday evening in January, bitterly cold and quiet out, as you would expect on such a frosty cold night. All in all, Alf Ventress thought, everything was quite satisfactory. He was alone on an overtime shift in Ashfordly Police Station, and as all was so quiet, he was comfortable with a book and his tuck box. He hoped everything stayed just so, he was due to clock off at twelve.
It had to happen he supposed. At quarter to twelve precisely the police station door, shut against the inclement weather, banged open so violently it bounced off the wall and probably would have closed again except it was prevented from doing so by two constables fighting their way in, with a struggling, shouting and evidently unhappy customer between them. The man was a big chap, powerfully built, intoxicated to boot and was giving the two constables some considerable trouble despite the fact they had applied handcuffs.
Alf sighed and went over to the desk.
"Had to bring him in Alf," one constable gasped. His name was Johnson, he was two years into the job and a solid dependable type. He was with Hardy, who was still on his probation and was somewhat wet behind the ears but a good lad all the same. "Making a right nuisance of himself in The Bull. Landlord wouldn't serve him and he weren't happy shall we say."
"Ah just wanted a drink." The man now stood quietly seemingly having lost some fight.
"Well, landlord had the right to refuse you." Johnson paused. "Going to behave yourself now are you?"
The man nodded sullenly and Johnson looked at Hardy. "Take the cuffs off."
Alf picked up a pen and pulled a form toward him as young Hardy slipped the cuffs off the prisoner. "Name?" he demanded of the man.
"I can't stay here," the man said urgently. "I mean, it were just a daft misunderstanding weren't it? We've all got a bit excited. I'm sorry about it, for upsetting t'landlord and that. Can I go now?"
"Not that simple, sir, " Johnson said stolidly. "You've been formally arrested for being drunk and disorderly and causing criminal damage. You'll stay here tonight and be interviewed and possibly charged in the morning."
The man responded by violently elbowing young Hardy in the stomach. The young constable gasped and doubled up releasing his grip on the prisoner who attempted to smash his free arm into the unlucky Johnson's face. But Alf was quick enough to grab the man's arm and this allowed Johnson to force the man's head down onto the desk and twist his arm up behind his back
"Now stop it!" Johnson told his prisoner. "You're in enough trouble and now you've just added assault on a police constable to the list." He glanced at Alf. "We'll have to leave the niceties for a bit Alf. Deal with it in t'morning when he's sobered."
Alf nodded and glanced at Hardy. "You all right lad? Then search him – its all right we've got him – and then we'll give him a bed for the night."
Hardy cautiously approached their prisoner and began the process of searching him. Despite the efforts of Johnson and Ventress the man was as unco-operative as possible and Hardy was nervous. However he completed the job (retrieving from the man's pockets some loose change, and a wallet which told them his name was Thomas Broderick) and then Hardy helped the other two constables drag the aforesaid Thomas Broderick down to the cells where he was securely locked up.
"Christ!" Johnson leaned heavily against the wall as Alf locked the door. "Any chance of a cup of tea Alf."
Alf nodded looking quickly at Hardy. "You all right lad?"
Hardy nodded. "Aye. Just, well, bit of a lively one weren't he?"
Johnson grinned and ruffled Hardy's hair. "You'll get used to it sonny." He made for the stairs. "Come on Alf, have you got some biccies to go with that tea?"
Moving on whilst eight o'clock the following morning. Nick Rowan arrived at Ashfordly Station to find Oscar Blaketon reading the duty log. Phil Bellamy was also in and was sitting at his desk making sure he looked busy under his Sergeant's eye.
"Morning Phil. Morning Sarge." Nick nodded at the duty log. "Quiet night Sarge?"
"We've one prisoner downstairs. A D & D, criminal damage and assault on police constable."
"Assault?" Nick looked up sharply.
"Young Hardy, but nowt serious so don't worry. Still it'll go on the charge sheet. Bellamy's following it up now to see if our customer has got previous." Blaketon gave Nick the duty sheet. "Here you are, get yourself up to speed and then we can have a chat with Mr Broderick."
Phil was on the phone, now he put it down and said to Sergeant Blaketon, "Thomas Broderick does have form, sarge. Common assault on his wife six months ago. Bound over to keep the peace."
Blaketon raised an eyebrow. "Looks like he's in a fair bit of bother this time then doesn't it? How was he when you went down at seven?"
"Quiet sarge. I took him some breakfast but he's not eaten. Probably hung over." Phil shrugged.
They looked up as the door opened, it was Ashfordly's other probationer, young PC Masters, even more wet behind the ears than Hardy. Masters was the butt of the jokes at the moment because of his habit of bouncing into the nick for his shift, eager as a puppy. Today was no exception as he bounded in.
"Right," Blaketon said, "Rowan, I think its time you and I had a chat with our Mr Broderick. Take Masters with you and put Broderick in the interview room. Find out if he wants a solicitor or not. You might want to tell him, I'd strongly recommend it."
Nick raised an eyebrow at Phil as Blaketon walked away, then turned to do as he was told to find Masters was already halfway there….
When they reached Broderick's cell, Nick dropped the hatch and took a quick look. What he saw was Broderick lying on the floor seemingly unconscious. "Christ!" He fumbled with the lock, and flung open the door, then hastened to Broderick's side. He knelt, feeling for the pulse in the man's neck as Masters, his eager puppyness all but gone, stood in the doorway unsure whether to help Nick or go upstairs to the duty room to seek further assistance. Nick made the decision for him.
"Get upstairs and tell Sergeant Blaketon!" he very nearly snapped at the hapless Masters.
Nick turned back as Broderick's eyes opened. "Wh-what happened?" the man asked.
"I don't know sir. We've just found you lying on the floor. Do you know where you are sir?"
"Yeah, yeah. I'm all right I tell you! Must have just keeled over." The man began to pull himself up.
"I'm not sure that's a good idea sir. Stay there and we'll get a doctor to you."
"I'm all right!" The man pushed Nick's hand away as Nick sought to keep the man down on the floor. Reluctantly Nick stepped back as Broderick pulled himself upright and sat down on the bed.
"Still feel a bit dizzy." The man put his head in his hands.
Concerned Nick moved closer to him and leaned over him. Nick did not see it coming, he was completely unprepared as Broderick suddenly and violently lashed out, catching the constable in a neat upper cut. Nick was flung backwards and banged his head on the hard floor. He was rendered out cold and defenceless.
Broderick worked fast. He removed Nick's belt containing the police constable's truncheon and handcuffs. Deftly he handcuffed Nick's wrists behind his back. Then Broderick fumbled down his sock and withdrew from it a lethal looking knife, a knife that had been concealed in the lining of his coat and which Hardy's cursory search had failed to find. Broderick then advanced on the helpless young constable lying on the cell floor.
By the time Masters had garbled out his tale in the duty room and Blaketon had come pounding down the stairs with Phil in close attendance it was all too late. They got in the cell to find Broderick sitting on the bunk with a still unconscious and handcuffed Nick between his legs. The main concern to the two officers was the lethal knife that he was holding to Nick's throat.
"You stop right there!" snarled Broderick as the two officers arrived at the cell door.
"What the hell's going on Broderick?" Blaketon's eyes were fastened on Nick noting the officer was breathing and his eyelids were flickering indicating that he was attempting to come back to consciousness. "Do you realise how serious this is?"
"Oh yes. Yes I do. You see, I stand to lose everything I ever cared about Sergeant. And it doesn't get any more serious than that, does it?" Broderick's voice was low, measured and the hand holding the knife to Nick's throat was thankfully still and controlled. His other hand gripped Nick's jaw forcing his head back.
"I don't understand. You were in here for drunk and disorderly. Now you've upped the stakes. Made it all worse for yourself. Why?"
At that point Nick groaned and opened his eyes. "Nick!" Blaketon spoke urgently but kept his voice low. "You need to keep still, lad. Do you understand me? Nice and still."
Nick looked confusedly at his sergeant then his eyes flicked upwards toward Broderick and he seemed to realise the perilousness of his situation. He fixed his gaze on Blaketon and Phil again. Phil was standing next to Blaketon stunned by the suddenness of events.
"I don't want to talk." Broderick flicked his gaze away from Blaketon then back to the Sergeant. "I just want to see my boy. Tell my wife. She lives at 6 Edmonton Terrace. Tell her. I want to see my boy. Those are my terms. No more talking. Leave me alone do you hear!"
"All right," BLaketon said soothingly. He looked at Nick hating to leave his constable in this situation. "Nick we'll be back. Its going to be all right."
Nick watched as Sergeant Blaketon and a white faced Phil Bellamy left the cell. Nick longed to move. His head hurt and the hard bench was digging in his back. He ran his tongue over his lips.
"Need to move a bit," he said. "My back hurts."
"No tricks or I'll cut you ear to ear." Broderick eased the pressure a bit and Nick moved himself upright a little sighing with relief as he eased his back. Immediately though the blade was pressed back against his neck.
"What's it about?" Nick asked his captor. "There has to be something, some reason for this."
"I need to see my boy." Broderick spoke, low and soft. "She hasn't let me see him for six months. Six months!"
Nick wished his head would stop pounding. "Six months – since –"
"Yeah, since you lot did me for assault. And I hit her, provoking little bitch. She'd been carrying on with some bloke. Taunted me with it she did and I hit her. You lot wouldn't see that would you? How she provoked me and flaunted her bit on the side in my face." The knife began to press against Nick's throat, leaving a faint red line. Then the pressure suddenly eased as Broderick said softly almost sadly, "She hasn't let me see my boy since. I've been watching the house. She's still there with her fancy man and my boy. Well that's what the knife's for, see? I was going to go there this morning, make her see sense. Only I had a few too many last night didn't I and you lot wouldn't leave it, oh no, said I had to be charged and that."
"And now you're just making it worse aren't you?" Nick spoke gently keeping his tone flat and measured.
"Just shut up! I need to think don't I?" The knife began to press against Nick's throat again and the young constable immediately concentrated on keeping still and quiet.