“Officer Phillips I am quite capable of looking after myself you know.”
John looked at the old lady. Mrs McGuire was about 87 and despite her youthful spirit the limits of her looking after herself extended to being able to get to the shops and back without using the elevator to get down from the 9th floor of Eden Court.
Ben shifted in the armchair, his cup and sauce balanced carefully on one hand. His baton was jabbing in his ribs and he moved to relieve the pressure. He coughed and said as politely as he could manage, “We arrested a member of the gang you testified against today Judith” he began but she cut him off with a frown.
“That’s Mrs McGuire if you please. Let’s not forget our manners!”
Ben blushed and John would have smiled if the situation hadn’t been so serious. Ben tried again, “Mrs McGuire, the young man we arrested stated in interview that there is a plan for the gang to take revenge on you for your statement. Your witness testimony put two of them in prison for at least the next 5 years.”
Mrs McGuire tutted. “Officer Dunn, those boys know perfectly well what they did was wrong and I was just doing what every like minded individual would have done. My duty to society. A short, sharp shock will teach them both a lesson. I’ve lived on this estate all my life, I’ve known those young men since they were babies. They know me too. You are being a little silly don’t you think?”
John tried again, leaning forward in his chair, his flat cap on his knees. “Mrs McGuire the world has changed. 30 years ago you would be completely right but nowadays these lads have no respect for anyone or anything outside their own worlds. They intend to hurt you. Now we can help you but you need to come with us. My Inspector has arranged for protective accommodation for a few days until we can establish the level of threat against you.”
Mrs McGuire waved her hand dismissively and tutted, pushing her reading glasses up on the bridge of her nose. She pointed to a photograph in a frame on the mantelpiece. “You see that?” she asked. Both police officers nodded. “That’s my Eric. Worked every day of his life till he retired and never raised his voice to anyone. A gentler man you couldn’t hope to have met, God rest his soul. The local boys respected him because he respected them. Maybe you could all do with a bit of what Eric had. I saw you arrest that poor boy this morning. Is that the one you’re trying to scare me with stories about? One of your fellow constables kicked the lad’s legs out from underneath him after he was handcuffed. Don’t think I didn’t see that. What was that for? I shall be reporting that you know!”
John sighed and glanced over at Ben who shrugged. John had been on the arrest and he’d seen Mickey Abdoa try to slash the restraining officer Tim with a razor blade hidden in his mouth, that he had gripped between his teeth. Tim had half expected it, having arrested the little bastard before and had swept Mickey’s legs out with an impressive kick and then stamped on his face. Predictably Mickey had then started screaming about police brutality as the razor left a 4 inch Chelsea smile in the right side of his face. Once he’d been stitched up he’d immediately begun bleating about a “deal” and wanting to tell the duty Guv’nor about the plan to hurt this daft old dear who seemed to think the world hadn’t moved on since the 1950s.
John stood up, Ben following suit. Both put their cups and saucers down and John stepped closer to Mrs McGuire.
“Please listen to us. These young men are dangerous. If they hurt you it will send an example to everyone else on this estate to keep their eyes, ears and mouths shut. We can protect you but you need to come with us.”
Mrs McGuire frowned again and said icily. “Officer, I have known these boys all my life. They would not hurt me as they respect me. I will speak to them if I see them, I would now like you both to leave. I hope you enjoyed your tea. Have a good day.”
She gestured to the front door and John sighed again, putting his cap on and moved to the front door. Taking a business card from the breast pocket of his stab proof vest he placed it on the hall table, next to a photo of Mrs McGuire’s grown up grandchildren. “There’s my mobile number. Call me if you change your mind. I really hope you do.”
“I shan’t. I bid you good day.”
John and Ben stepped outside and the door slammed behind them. They looked down into a courtyard drizzled with rain and strewn with at least four shopping trolleys, dog shit and rubbish. Somewhere a woman was shouting at her children. In another flat a baby was crying continuously. Faces peered at them with curiosity from the doorways and stairwells.
“The Barber Boys are nasty, they won’t just leave her be, you know that,” Ben said looking worried.
John turned to him, grabbing the two way radio on his chest and said, “Her choice. Daft old cow hasn't got a clue.”
He pushed the button on the radio and said, “Four Twelve to Control, request private chat with Zero.”
After a pause the operator answered, “Go ahead. Switch to channel 7.”
John turned the dial and a voice went, “Any luck?”
“No Sir. She’s not interested and she practically threw us out. Refuses to believe that the Barber Boys would do anything to her and would benefit from a cup of tea and a kind word.”
The Inspector audibly sighed. “Oh well, least you tried. Did you leave her your phone number?”
“Yes Sir. I doubt she'll call. I wanted to tell her of some of the things these toe rags have done to people, but I doubt she’d have believed me.”
The Inspector laughed. “Not a good idea, I'm afraid. Acid in the faces of pregnant women is beyond Mrs McGuire’s ability to comprehend. Anyway, get yourselves back here. I’ll send a unit within an hour to do a drive by. Super’s been wanting to know about this for the last hour.”
“Yes Sir, see you later.”
It was four days before they found Mrs McGuire. The police knew by day three what had probably happened but no senior officer was willing to sign off the forms to force entry as not enough time had passed for it to be serious enough to run the risk of giving the old girl a heart attack by booting her front door off the hinges, if she was still alive and just not going out.
The smell was terrible. A mixture of blood, shit and acid. Her body was in the bedroom. Tied up, raped, tortured, and very, very dead. The expression on her face was utter terror. John saw her as he ventured into the darkened room. He thought maybe the terror was less what those thugs had done to her, and more the horrible realisation that the world really was a scary, terrible place for her to be.
Officer Pembry had to vomit and was practically thrown outside by two of her fellow officers, so as not to contaminate the crime scene. She wept and cried as she puked her breakfast up onto the square below the balcony, the same curious faces peering from doorways, windows and stairwells.
No one saw anything. No one heard anything.
A week later one of the Barber Boys was thrown off the balcony outside Mrs McGuire’s flat and died in agony over the next hour, broken and bleeding in the square below. He wailed and screamed that the fucking pigs had done it as he lay there.
No one saw anything. No one heard anything.