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This is a hard boiled detective novel in the style of Mickey Spillane. Maddox is a 21st century avenger out there for social justice.
Maddox is an undercover operative with the Serious Organised Crime Agency in London. recently detained in a secure unit pending an ongoing murder investigation the charges are dropped and he is taken back into the Agency. He is immediately immersed in an assassination plot and is tasked with infiltrating an extreme right wing organisation in order to identify the target. The plot twists and turns as Maddox becomes a target himself caught up in political intrigue of cross and double cross. He's on the road again...
THE TENTH ORDER
The Tenth Order
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the author’s imagination or they are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.
“Bolt actions speak louder than words”
THE CROSS HAIRS MOVED STEADILY across the podium, sighting along the line of distinguished guests. Centring on the exposed forehead of his target, the scope moved slightly up and down with his slow rhythmic breathing.
Flicking the safety off with his right thumb he stared into the eyes of the condemned. It was always the eyes, the window where the soul reaches the surface and where the shooter knew he could extinguish this life in a moment. For a split second he thought, I don't have to do this... to take this life.
Maddox stared through the telescopic sight of his Accuracy International L96 AW standard sniper rifle. His eyes focussed on the podium, he couldn’t believe the quality of choice. Any of the assembled would make global news. His heart thumped as his index finger gently squeezed against the trigger. One gentle squeeze in a follow through motion.
He lined up his target, his heart almost palpitating. The drugs are fuckin’ useless. Get a grip for Christ’s sake... Jesus I better get this right, his head hurting, grinding his teeth as he fought to remain mentally focussed, rain cascading over his prone body as he lay submerged in deep camouflage within the bordering tree line. Is this the right thing to do? Fletch’ is it right to take this life? Jesus Holy Mary Mother of God guide me through the eternal darkness that shrouds my soul... please God, in near desperation almost wanting to cry out, the beads of his mothers' rosary bound tightly around his left hand.
He bit down hard his teeth firmly clamped together, rain beating down incessantly, pitter patter pitter patter... tick tock tick fuckin' tock... In his ear the radio squawking, ‘Rees don’t do it... don’t do it,’ his alter ego. But he had him. He had him cold. It was a now or never moment, stay still you fucker don’t you move.
He could feel his hot breath against his right hand, feel the blood on his palm as it slipped around the carbon fibre stock, sticky and wet. His temple was pounding, the headaches, Jesus the headaches were unbearable. But it was the eyes, it was always in the eyes.
He was out of time, now or never. Take the shot... take the fucking shot. He paused, sorry pal, your times’ up.
‘Don’t do it Rees...’
He breathed out and held his breath, the gun sight steadied. He squeezed the trigger.
NINE MONTHS EARLIER
‘OUR WOMEN CAN’T WALK down the street without lurid disgusting remarks from swarthy unemployed eastern Europeans hanging around street corners doin’ fuck all, all day long,’ his strong London accent spitting the venomous words.
‘Foreigners getting priority social housing and benefits, free college courses and health care. Fuckin’ Tony Blair and his fuckin’ Labour government run by poofs and Jews that’s who I blame. They’ve changed this country beyond recognition...,’ he paused to take a sip of water from a disposable plastic cup. ‘Niggers, Pakis, Somalis, Chinese... fuckin’ Poles and Croatians, Romanian ‘gypos, there’s millions of ‘em pouring into our country every day,’ his voice rising, his body becoming more animated. ‘Christ when’s the last time you saw a white taxi driver and for what. FOR WHAT?’ His face red, a film of shining sweat across his forehead,
‘So that we can share in THEIR culture. WHAT FUCKIN’ CULTURE. A culture of wife beating and child abuse, of giving us the gift of tuberculosis and hepatitis. Thanks Tony, thanks Gordon. Fuckin’ great. Now we... our children have to pay for it. And what’s left for them. A life of unemployment or taxation.’ He dabbed his lips dry of spittle,
‘This is what it’s about,’ his right arm distended behind him pointing toward a large Union Jack hanging vertically from the ceiling. His voice rising once again, more aggressive as he sought to raise the tempo. ‘This. The Union Flag... our flag. The British flag. This is our heritage. It’s what our fathers and forefathers fought and died for. You need a graveyard behind you to call yourself British, not a free passport to any fucker who wants to get in and vote Labour... and this lot... These Tory bastards... What have they done.... Fuckin’ nothin’ that’s what. They’ve let it continue. You might as well wipe those weak willed chinless wonders off the face of the map,’ pausing to take a breath and gauge the reaction,
‘Spineless... ineffectual... weak willed leadership dominated by left wing right-on liberal fuckin’ gays who’ve never done an honest days’ work in their fuckin’ privileged lives.’
His finger now stabbing the air, stabbing everyone and anyone, the crowd responding, cheering, edging him on,
'Well I say... I SAY,’ his hand banging hard onto the table beneath him. ‘Enough... is... ENOUGH.’ Thunderous applause from the fifty or so men in the crowded small room. His right hand balled tightly into a fist,
‘It’s time for us to take England back for the English, to make Britain British again...’
Ahmed Khan drove slowly up Bristol Road on the A38 in central Birmingham. He was tired from his all day shift and the twelve hours was finally drawing to a close. Business was increasingly down over the last two years as the financial recession was biting across the country. He still had the loan to pay on the car and he had to meet the payments to the radio cab company for handing him the calls regardless of the level of business. It had already been a tough year and there seemed to be more and more cabs on the road, the hard up local council selling Hackney Carriage taxi licenses to anyone who wanted one. So Ahmed had to put the extra hours in to make up the shortfall. The family had to survive.
It was mid-August and the nights were thankfully light until around ten. This could be a lonely job but luckily he had a few friends and they would sit and talk together waiting for the radio calls discussing life and families back home in Pakistan wondering if they had made the right decision. Ahmed knew he had.
When he first arrived in England it was difficult at first living with cousins in Birmingham. But after a year he had enough money to rent a flat off his cousins friend and send for his wife to join him. After another year Ibrahim was born and although initially devastated with his condition they learned to live and cope with it. Their first child had been born with cerebral palsy and he needed the support only the state could provide. Thankful to God for their blessing. With the help of people from the local mosque they had learned to cope. Maybe it wasn’t so bad.
Ahmed had a pick up at the Lahore curry restaurant for mid-night. It was a good call, three for a taxi to Longbridge nearly six miles away, a decent fare to end the night with. As he drove slowly along, he noticed with concealed contempt the steady flow of drunken men and women staggering along Bristol Road. It was like this nearly every night and all weekend. The women wearing next to nothing, their bodies on display, shouting and laughing, vomiting into the gutter like pigs. They were nothing more than common whores. What was the matter with these people living like this.
He watched as young men shouted and screamed, waving bottles of beer around, kicking waste bins off lamp posts. The detritus of their over indulgence spilling across the pavement. They were violent and intimidating.
Driving slowly past a large police van with riot shield attached and blue light flashing, he watched half a dozen heavily armoured police officers wrestling with a young man who was flailing his arms and legs around, shirt pulled up over his tattooed body as they battled to restrain him. His friends standing around drinking bottled beer edging him on.
Shaking his head in disgust. I hope I don’t get a vomiter. He could handle the verbal abuse, Paki, Gunga Din, punka walla, all the usual shite the whites come out with when they were pissed, but he didn’t like the vomiters. When they threw up in the back of the cab it took ages to clean and it stank the car out for days.
There it was, the Lahore. The diesel engine Toyota Avensis, king of the cha-cha wagons pulled up next to the kerb, five to mid-night. He hit the horn twice. Glancing to the left of the restaurant entrance, a young women dressed in next to nothing was crouched down leaning against the window, clearly in distress, her nose bloody. Ahmed noticed a pile of dog faeces lying close by.
A few minutes later a shaven white head appeared around the restaurant door and then vanished back inside. It was a close evening and so Ahmed left the engine idling to power up the A/C.
Without warning, the restaurant door pulled back and three white men in their twenties to thirties piled out onto the street, jostling each other and shouting, paying no attention to the distressed young woman. An Asian waiter was shouting at them and Ahmed didn’t catch it,
‘Fuck you... fuck you... Paki twat. I’m not paying for that shit... fucking serving me up fucking dog meat,’
By the time Ahmed had read the situation one of the three men was already sat next to him,
‘Alright mate,’ loud and aggressive.
Ahmed could smell his lager breath and stench of the curry house on his clothes and noticed the red cross tattooed on the man’s fore-arm. Not a normal English red cross, but a red cross similar to a swastika. He was worried. The other two climbed into the back, the doors slamming shut,
‘Fucking cunt.’ Ahmed’s pulse started to race.
‘Come on... let’s get the fuck out of ‘ere.’ Ahmed wasn’t over familiar with English accents but he knew the man next to him was not a local man.
‘Where do you want to go Sir?’
‘Ver do you vant to go Sir,’ the man replied in an accentuated Indian accent wobbling his head from side to side. The two sat in the back laughed, ‘Ver do you vant to go.’ They laughed some more. ‘I vant to go home to Longbridge Gunga Din... and be bloody quick about it,’ they laughed again, the funniest joke in the world. ‘Vee British must stick together,’ they laughed raucously as Ahmed pulled away from the kerb passing another police van streaking to his location, blues and twos alight.
I should stop now, he thought, throw them out with the police here. But he didn’t.
They drove for fifteen minutes through the city traffic, away from Highgate and the endless traffic lights and slow moving night life, kids driving around in their uninsured pimped up trash they couldn’t afford. Ahmed mentally switched off to the incidental conversation taking place inside the car. Sometimes he just hated these people. Passing Edgbaston Golf Club and the University he remained impassive to the banter within. Soon they drove under Linden Bridge and as he glanced at Bourneville College he knew this shift would soon be over and he could relax, at least for a few more hours. As they approached the demolished site of the once huge Rover car factory,
‘Take the next left Mohamed,’ his passenger pointed,
‘Here... you want me to turn here?’ The road was quiet and the passenger was indicating a left turn into a near derelict industrial road,
‘Yes... fuckin’ here...,’ turning to the two in the back. ‘The cunts’ deaf as well as stupid,’ how they laughed.
Ahmed took the next left and drove slowly down the deserted road looking for an obvious stop, a reason to be there. Most of the street lights were out, there were discarded newspapers and boxes sagging from dampness like a Salvador Dali heaped at the side of the road and the kerbs were overgrown with weeds.
‘Stop here... here will do.’ Ahmed was nervous, very nervous. This was no normal stop point. Pulling up opposite the derelict station of the now disused Longbridge railway line, the three passengers got out of the car and as Ahmed wound his window down. Go... go now... drive off... Forget the fare, but he didn’t,
‘Twelve pounds fifty please,’
‘Twelve pounds fifty please...’ the loud one mimicking him again,
‘Fuck off Sinbad,’ lurching suddenly forward the loud one grasped Ahmed’s hair wrenching his head sideways through the open window and cracked it hard against the doorframe. Ahmed screamed in sudden pain as his head was repeatedly slammed,
‘Fuckin’ Paki... fuckin’ Paki... IN MY FUCKIN’ COUNTRY,’ he was vaguely aware of the other two laughing as his head bounced sideways off the door frame.
Moments later he was dragged from the car onto the road as the beating began. He felt the solid blows of feet stamping on his unprotected body as he tried to curl into a ball. Strangely the blows were not as painful as he expected, but his hair being wrenched was excruciating, every follicle screaming. Then a starburst of light as the first stamp to his head connected. He whimpered from the pounding that rained down upon him and prayed silently for it to stop.
Ahmed Khan’s body was discovered on waste ground next to the disused railway station on the former industrial estate in Longbridge the next morning. The engine of the Toyota Avensis still running, the driver's door open. His body was slumped against a chain link fence overgrown with weeds and litter. His shirt had ridden up around his chest and his belly was bloated and exposed. Face down into the road, one arm distended. Heavy bruising around his exposed torso with shoe tread stamped into his skin and a large cross carved into his back, the wound drying a dark red brown. Rivers of congealed blood ran from his nostrils and ears and pooled around his distorted face. Ahmed Khan had been kicked to death.
The Jewish community of Golders Green in North London is an old one. One of the oldest Jewish communities in England, maybe Europe. Over the years, the Jewish Cemetery in Willesden near Golders Green had frequently been targeted by various right wing groups and individuals. Head stones had been smashed and daubed with Nazi slogans and swastikas. The local community although offended and sometimes intimidated were not surprised. Their culture and religion had borne far worse atrocities than mere vandalism. And after all, the victims were already dead.
So it was again that Joshua Rosenberg began his early morning inspection of the cemetery, his usual routine. Opening the gates, emptying the waste bins of spent flowers and walking the substantial grounds to check everything was in order.
As a young boy he had settled in London after his family had tried to flee Germany during the Second World War. Passing through a series of sympathetic hands across Europe he made his way as a child to France and eventually to the safe haven of the London Jewish community where he was taken in by an elderly childless couple.
He never discovered what had become of his older sister nor his mother and father and most of the time the pain was too much to want to know. Time did not heal, not for Joshua.
At seventy seven Joshua was still very active, although he walked with a slight limp following a painful hip replacement some years before. He had no intention of a repeat operation, this hip would have to see him out. He still had a little hair, a nine inch parting his son used to call it and a bushy moustache. Joshua looked and sounded the stereotypical Jewish old man.
Well liked and known by the community, Joshua believed by tending to the cemetery he was paying the community back for looking after him as a refugee, for giving him life and something to live for. This place of the dead had become his life and he would nurture and pamper it until it was his turn, it was the least he could do. He already had his plot reserved, he would be interred with his wife who had passed away twenty years before and sometimes he longed for the moment.
Joshua really liked the early summer mornings, the fresh cleansing dew on the grass that he wished he could bottle and drink and sometimes he would run his hand across the surface of the grass, his palm saturated with the cool moisture and then press his palm to his face and breathe in the natural gift. It was God’s gift and it was free.
The cemetery grass always seemed to need cutting. He had only cut it two weeks before and he tutted at the additional task he now had to do. The cemetery was quiet and lonely and he immersed himself within the solace, enjoying it, it was his time.
Joshua didn’t know all the graves, there were far too many but he was familiar with a great number. Some of the monuments were magnificent structures to the rich and famous and each one bearing the Star of David and many with Hebrew inscriptions.
This was his time to be alone and be with his thoughts, the time when he tried to remember vague images of his long gone but never forgotten family. He didn’t even have a single photograph of his mother and father or sister, not one. But his memory had built an image of what he thought they looked like and that was good enough. Wondering what his sister would look like now, and what would have become of them all had the Nazi era not taken place, he paused to think about it, his heart feeling a brief stab of pain for their loss.
As always he passed his wife’s grave. It was a habit he was accustomed to and he liked to have a few words with her every morning if he could. Sometimes Joshua would sit and eat his lunch at her graveside and spend an hour or two there. Babbling away like a crazy old man, smiling to himself, he didn’t care. She was almost right there, by his side once again.
Yesterday he sat and listened to BBC Radio 4 on his tiny transistor radio whilst he ate his chicken sandwich, listening in disbelief at the news report of the poor Asian taxi driver found kicked to death in an apparently motiveless killing. The police had said it was possibly a race hate crime. He shook his head in disbelief, will this hatred never cease?
As always he entered the cemetery passing the Lodge and the Prayer Hall heading toward the United Synagogue Cemetery. As he approached his wife’s headstone he could see something was not quite right. His eyesight wasn’t great but it looked as though the stone had been disturbed. As he got closer he could see red slashes across the stone, his heart beat faster.
There was something on top of the small monument. Standing before it, he stood aghast at the violation to his precious wife’s memory. There on top of the stone was a recently severed pig’s head, the monument sprayed with crimson, the blood still running slowly down the engraved face in a crude shape of a red swastika. The headless carcass lay to the side. The animal had been sacrificed on his wife’s grave.
Joshua stood in shock and disbelief, staring at the sight before his eyes unsure of how to react. He was not unsure for long.
The vision of his wife’s desecrated grave was the last thing Joshua would ever see.
Joshua Rosenberg’s body was discovered later that morning by the cemetery wardens opening the gates he had failed to open. Even then, they thought it unusual, an extremely rare occurrence for the old man to miss his routine.
Shocked and horrified at their gruesome discovery, Joshua was discovered lying face up on top of his wife’s grave, savagely beaten to death, his clothing dishevelled, the pigs head on top of his face.
‘And so my brothers it has began. Our march against the Jews, the Zionists controlling world finance across the globe. The Muslims, the niggers and the liberal do-gooders that seek to oppress our white blood and castrate our natural birth right, our inheritance,’ he paused to sip water from a plastic cup.
‘We will reach out across the world and bring our thunder across these lands,’ his right hand balled into a fist. ‘Our soldiers are in place and we will let our so called leaders know we are ready to fight and die for what is ours. We will push the foreign invaders from our fatherland.
For this... THIS my brothers,’ his voice booming. ‘Is the beginning of the Tenth Crusade. The tenth and final crusade. We brothers of The Tenth Order will unite as never before.’
Rapturous applause from the small group of men gathered before the speaker. The speaker stood before the Union Jack hanging vertically from the ceiling. Among the small gathering was one man clapping energetically. His well groomed persona of normality disguising a hidden agenda.
‘SO THERE IT IS GENTLEMEN. That’s the situation,’ Amanda Gibson crossed her legs, the modest split in her skirt designed to reveal her shapely thigh in stylish seduction. Bill Archer and Frank Stamp shuffled in their soft chairs, their eyes fixed upon her lightly tanned legs that shined from smoothness. Their state of repose accentuated by the low level of the black leatherette chairs in Franks office, Bill found them uncomfortable as he chose to lean forward rather than back in order to concentrate.
‘So what you’re saying,’ Stamp returning to the point, his bluff Yorkshire accent demanding attention. ‘Is that your man has penetrated this underground right wing extremist movement, eh...,’ shuffling through loose papers in his hand,
‘The Tenth Order,’
‘Aye... thanks Bill, The Tenth Order and he seems to have gone off grid... Is that right?’
Amanda Gibson cringed at Stamp’s misuse of MI5 jargon, as she considered every crisply pronounced response,
‘His handler has lost contact with him that’s true. We’re not sure why and we’re trying to re-establish communication.’
‘Right. So you think he’s gone native?’
‘Not sure... it’s still too early to tell,’
‘Right,’ turning to face Archer. ‘Bill, what d’you think?’
‘It doesn’t sound good does it,’ Archer fiddling with a propelling pencil through his fingers. ‘I mean you’ve lost control of your CHIS within a serious right wing outfit. D’you think he’s dead?’
‘It’s possible... anything is possible,’
‘And you want us to go in after him?’
‘We can’t put another of ours in. It’ll be too obvious to our man... that is if he has gone over... A new CHIS will show out very quickly. I don’t even think we have someone who would fit in without being known to him.’
Frank Stamp took a sip of tepid coffee from his porcelain cup, a dribble running down the outside, he cleared it surreptitiously with his thumb as he glanced out over the Thames across Vauxhall Bridge toward the north bank and Whitehall.
‘And you think this group are responsible for these spate of racist attacks across the country?’
‘There’s no doubt... The fact is we think our man took part in the Birmingham murder,’
‘Ummm. Must be serious for you lot to come to us. Bill, you’re the boss of the Covert Human Intelligence Source team. Who have you got?’
‘Well I’ve got a few but when you’re talking about the level of risk like this... life and death I’ve only got one and quite frankly I haven’t got him,’
Amanda Gibson frowned in confusion. Bill admired her silk like sophistication. He always believed the officers of MI5 were a little bit special, well educated, sophisticated and Amanda Gibson fitted the profile. He thought she was early forties but could be older, looked after herself and kept herself slim and stylish. Shoulder length black hair and red bee sting lips with green eyes, clearly well educated, no wedding ring. Bill thought her very attractive and hoped she was not in a relationship.
‘Well there it is Amanda, sorry we can’t ‘elp you. We ‘aven’t got anyone,’ Stamp attempting to end the commitment quickly.
‘Hold on Frank. I didn’t say we haven’t got anyone, he has to be right and he has to be available. He’s currently not available.’
Now Stamp looked confused. Bill noticed Amanda Gibson smile ever so gently in his direction and he knew he was hooked.
‘Well who is it? Who’ve you got?’ Stamp shifting around in his chair to stare at Bill. Bill Archer drew in a deep breath and paused before answering,
‘Oh no... oh no you don’t,’ Stamp’s red face starting to glow like a bar on an electric fire. ‘Don’t even go there.’
‘Frank,’ Bill waving both his hands in front of his body in an attempt to pacify Stamp,
‘No way. No fuckin’ way am I ‘aving that fuckin’ liability back on this team. Besides which, he’s still locked up isn’t he? Fuckin’ should keep ‘im there.’ Realising his gossamer thin veneer of English middle class persona had completely slipped,
‘Eh sorry Amanda, I didn’t mean to swear like that,’ his voice rising. ‘But the man he is proposing is a fuckin’ nightmare... sorry.’
‘But I haven’t said anything yet,’
‘No bloody need. I know what you’re gonna say Bill... NO.’
‘I’ll have to walk you to security Amanda,’
‘Of course. It’s the same everywhere these days Bill, no one unescorted.’ Bill smiled as he held the door open for her to pass through on their way to the entrance lobby of the SOCA headquarters in Spring Garden in Vauxhall south London. Admiring her feminine form as it moved easily beneath her closely fitted clothes, her voice soft and sophisticated,
‘Listen Bill,’ turning toward him. ‘This really is very serious and your boss seems pretty obstinate about the whole thing,’ Archer nodded in sympathy.
‘Is there anything I can do... at all? I could get my boss to call him... would that help?’ Archer shook his head, taking in her light fragrant aroma, he didn’t want to let her go,
‘I doubt it Amanda. Frank can be very stubborn,’
‘Yes well, you can tell a Yorkshireman... you just can’t tell ‘em much,’ they both smiled.
As Bill checked her out of security she turned once again,
‘Fancy a drink... I know a little place over the bridge.’
Frank Stamp was raging,
‘Don’t fuckin’ bullshit me Bill I wasn’t born fuckin’ yesterday,’ waving an A4 missive above his head. ‘This is a direct order from the Chief,’ slapping it onto the desk. His face glowing red with anger accentuated by his wiry red hair. ‘You’ve gone behind my back to the Chief... after all these years...,’
‘Frank I didn’t... I haven’t... It’s nothing to do with me.’
Stamp scowled at him from under his brow breathing hard to get himself under control,
‘You better be right Bill...’ Stamp pacing over to the window, hands on his hips staring out of the river, his compact frame rotund but powerful.
‘And wipe that smirk off your face,’ Stamp could see Archer in the reflection of the glass. Still staring out,
BILL ARCHER STARED THROUGH the view port in the steel door of the secure room,
‘What d’you think Doc? Is he back with us?’
The Doctor thrust his hands deeper into the pockets of his white coat, his heavy black glasses framing his round face, accentuating his balding pale scalp. Archer noticed the expanding liver spots peppering his scalp through his leper like hair line,
‘Well he’s still on medication but I’ve been slowly weaning him off it. He has good days and bad days. Today is a bad day.’ A slight trace of an accent Archer thought, maybe eastern European.
‘Does he know I’m coming?’
‘Of course. You want him back in the normal world don’t you. No point in deceiving him. Takes us nowhere.’ Archer nodded. ‘For me, I would like a little more time with him... I think he’s got more to give,’
Archer spied the Doctor suspiciously,
‘What d’you mean?’
‘Well it’s patient confidentiality but that man’s had a hard life... harder than most. Still, he’s borderline acceptable in the normal world and you want him back...’
‘Borderline acceptable... Well as long as he’s not a gibbering halfwit... Open the cell... Let me in,’
‘It’s not a cell Mr. Archer. He’s not in prison. It’s a secure room to protect him,’ said with disdain,
‘Okay. Open the secure room then.’ The Doctor nodded to his assistant who moved to unlock the door.
‘You want someone in with you?’
‘It won’t be necessary... Borderline acceptable... right?’
The door opened and Archer stepped into the small white space briefly holding his fist to his mouth as he gave a smoker’s cough. The secure room was lit by a high fluorescent light contained within a thick Perspex casing. On the far wall a horizontal slit window offered light and fresh air from ceiling level and little else. If this was a room with a view you had to be eight foot tall to see it. The smell of disinfectant ever present.
Archer took in the large bold wooden cross hanging from the far wall accentuated by the starkness of the white paint and the lack of anything else. A tortured effigy of Christ pinned to it. Always pain and suffering with Maddox, a life of misery and no joy.
A worn bible lay on top of the bedside cabinet, its pages heavily laced with post it notes. A black tarnished rosary was wrapped around the steel bedpost. Archer knew it had personal significance to Maddox, it had been his mothers’ or something. The white gloss paint of the bed frame chipped and marked from careless movement too many times. Archer didn’t like this place, it was cold hard and sterile, loveless.
Maddox was crouched down next to his bed, his back toward the door, bare feet. His hair was cropped short revealing a fading scar across his scalp and his hands were scratching the back of his head. The vertebra of his spine exposed across his back as his skin stretched taught under his white pyjama tee-shirt. Archer watched as Maddox picked at the scabs through his hair, the exposed flesh weeping and shining red. His face was shielded by his arms. He looked thin and pale, undernourished even, he had lost a lot of weight.
‘Maddox,’ nothing. ‘Maddox,’ louder this time.
Maddox stopped scratching and rotated his head without turning his body, like a praying mantis eying the kill. He looked at Archer without recognition, blinked a few times,
‘Bill... Bill,’ Archer smiled,
‘Get up laddie,’ and offered his hand in support. ‘You look like shit.’
Maddox sighed heavily and stood directly upright, staring into Archer’s eyes. Archer thought they looked vacant.
‘The Doctor says there’s nothing more they can do for you here. He thinks you’re ready to return to the normal world.’
Archer stared into Maddox vacant face looking for signs of recognition, of life. Maddox cheeks were hollow with dark pools of blood below his eyes from sleep deprivation and he clearly hadn’t shaved for a few days. Archer thought he could smell the odour of weight loss from his body, a whiff of his bad breath causing him to flinch, he looked like a Belsen survivor. His complexion was gaunt and cadaver like and Archer wondered if he was doing the right thing. Maybe he should leave him here. Maybe he was too late, that Maddox would never come back, that it was over.
‘Maddox, you look paler than a dead Scotsman,’
He glanced at the image of Christ’s tortured face staring up at him from a framed postcard next to the bed, more pain and suffering. Jesus Maddox... give it up.
Maddox last undercover job with the Serious Organised Crime Agency involved the kidnapping of a young girl. Maddox had saved the girl but the ensuing court case had released the defendant on a legal technicality. A serial child murderer and kidnapper had walked. Taking the law into his own hands Maddox had careered through the plate glass window of the court room taking the accused with him. A mad suicide bid to the streets below in an attempt to inflict social justice to the guilty bastard.
Landing upon spiked railings the accused had been killed outright but Maddox had somehow survived. Now a murderer himself he was unfit to stand trial as the balance of his mind had been affected. He was now recovering in a secure mental unit receiving assessment and treatment and the treatment was now over.
‘The charges have all been officially dropped son,’ Archer still looking for signs of recognition, for that spark of life that marked Maddox as a human and not an instinctive creature. ‘It’s over.’
Silence between them as they stared at one another,
‘Come back to us,’
Maddox eyes flickered again, almost as if his mind was re-booting, re-adjusting to the real world.
‘Marcie’s in the car... She’s waiting for you,’ he looked away.
‘Marcie,’ he muttered. Maddox close friend and Cover Officer. Christ he’s a fucking basket case, Archer thought.
Maddox and Marcie had an occasional thing going on that was more off than on. They had a sporadic intimate relationship that few could understand. She was a black beauty from Streatham in south London, not pretty but sex on legs. They both knew it would never work but they didn’t care. It was an inter-dependency they were both dependent upon, so fuck off and mind your own business.
‘It’s over?’ Maddox looking into Archer’s face, he nodded,
‘It’s over. We need you back with us Maddox. It’s time to leave this place.’
Maddox stretched upright bending backward, his vertebra popping as he over extended. He took in a deep breath and glanced over Archer’s shoulder at the Doctor framed in the doorway. Turning back to Archer he winked,
‘Let’s get the fuck outta here.’
Twenty minutes later and the release papers were signed. The Doctor didn’t look happy but he didn’t object. He handed Maddox several bottles of pills with explicit instructions. Archer watched but couldn’t hear the exchange as the Doctor shook Maddox hand and laid his left hand on Maddox shoulder muttering quietly to him. Maddox held his head low and nodded,
‘Thank you Father...,’ Archer frowned in confusion.
The Doctor continued to observe Maddox as he watched Bill Archer shuffle the compliant Maddox quickly through the entrance vestibule, past security and out into a cold November morning.
Maddox carried a box containing his personal items, his clothes, his bible, his rosary and the image of a tortured Christ from his bedside. He didn’t even wait to change out of his white hospital pyjamas.
They walked steadily toward Bill’s VW. A silver Passat with Marcie as black as ever sat patiently behind the wheel, no expression, her eyes following their progress. Maddox didn’t look back, not once. He didn’t want to see the Doctor staring after him through the plate glass entrance doors, so he didn’t see the Doctor reach for his cell phone.
The biting cold of the hard frost cut through his thin cotton clothes making his skin tingle as blood rushed to the surface. He liked it, it stimulated him, made him feel alive and not sedated. It was pain he had learned to enjoy like an irritating gum.
Archer opened the rear door. Maddox threw the box in and climbed in sitting behind Archer. Marcie studied Maddox in her rear view mirror, still without expression,
‘Marcie,’ the corners of her mouth turning slightly upward in a tell tale smile, he was shivering and wrapped his arms around himself feeling his own goose pimples. Deprived of feminine company for over a year he drank in her light fragrance and could smell her sex. Her eyes softened,
‘You look like shit,’
‘You look great... as always,’ a bigger smile. ‘Get me out of this lunatic asylum.’
The engine kicked in and Marcie quickly swung the vehicle around leaving the green and peaceful grounds of the sanatorium.
Ferreting through his box of personal possessions, Maddox produced a sweat shirt. He quickly pulled it on. Stripping off his pyjama pants he struggled into his jeans. Marcie glanced at his naked body in her mirror, Maddox noticed,
‘Going commando Maddox,’
‘It’s how you like it,’ she smirked,
‘Christ. We’re only 50 metres up the road and you two are already shagging.’
Maddox pulled on some battered brown leather boat shoes. Opening his window, he hurled his pyjamas onto the road,
‘That’s better. Get rid of the stench of that place. I’m fucking starving and need a fat boys breakfast,’ Marcie smiled again,
‘Maddox... We’ve missed you,’
‘Cut the bullshit you need me...,’ silence. ‘Right?’
‘I noticed a transport cafe on the A11, about five miles from here... We’ll discuss your immediate future there,’ Archer keeping it real as always, keeping his boy on the rails.
Ten minutes later they were five miles down the road and Marcie parked up next to a large Czechoslovakian beer lorry in the commercial vehicle car park of a transport cafe, the VW dwarfed by the size of the surrounding commercial lorries. They made their way past rows of trucks toward the functional grey building complete with a union flag hanging limply from a stubby flag pole. Maddox noticed another car with a couple trying to decide whether they wanted to venture into the menacing inside. It didn’t look like a place for civilians. His senses hyperactive at the sudden overload of exterior stimulus, he noticed the woman was slim and attractive, her red bangle on her left wrist moving as she waved her arm around. I would, he thought.
A few drivers glanced at them as the incongruous three entered the spartanly furnished cafe. Archer dressed in a dark suit and overcoat, mid fifties, grey and increasingly balding. Marcie, early thirties, tall, black and stylish, her long black wavy hair tied behind her ears, long legs contained within a tight skirt, big bust in a tight blouse, walking sex. And Maddox, mid- thirties, short cropped black hair with scars visible across his scalp, six foot give or take an inch, dark eyes and fit. Maddox looked handy in an instinctive way men recognise and he wasn’t even trying, a natural predator.
Archer and Marcie ordered coffee and toast, Maddox had a full fried breakfast with coffee. Archer paid as they took a vacant table, condensation streaming down the inside of the windows obscuring any external view. Maddox drew a smiley face on the condensation and heaped a few spoons of sugar into the large mug of instant coffee stirring it enthusiastically as he watched the couple in the car drive away. Marcie looked on,
‘I know... so you keep saying... salt and sugar... right?’
‘Right. I’m a rubber duck...,’
‘And you can’t break me. Marine bullshit Maddox. I’ve heard it all before... several times,’ he grinned across the table at her.
Archer joined them sitting next to Marcie, the steel legs of the chair scuffing across the hard tiled floor. He produced a notebook and pen and turned the pen through his fingers as he flicked through some pages. Maddox studied him as he blew on his coffee, wincing as the scalding brew seared his lips,
‘Stopped smoking Bill?’
‘Trying... it’s not bloody easy though,’ he gave another light cough as he popped a nicotine pill into his mouth. Marcie held her mug in both hands,
‘He’s got a new missus,’
‘Oh. Anyone I know?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous laddie. D’you think I would go out with anyone you know?’ Maddox arched his eyebrows in mock offence.
The waitress set their plates down and Maddox attacked his breakfast like a man possessed, layering his toast with a heavy smear of salted butter before manoeuvring his fried eggs over the top. The appealing aroma of fried bacon permeating their space. A heavy sprinkling of salt and pepper completed the preparation and too much HP sauce. He set about the task, Archer and Marcie still looking on.
‘God, a feeding frenzy,’ from Archer.
‘Don’t get between a dog and his food,’ from Marcie. Maddox looked up,
‘So whassup?’ Egg yolk slipping from his lips, Archer shook his head in disapproval.