Authors: Paul Cornell
‘I don’t know anything about that.’ Costain tried to make his expression convey to the other man that he hadn’t wanted it to go this way, that they were now being
overheard, and that he had no choice. At any second, the Nagra tape would run out with a loud click, the stuff of UC nightmares, perhaps be the cause of his death now, if Toshack was startled by
it. The wall clock said he had three minutes.
‘You say you want to help me?’
‘I want to. I so bloody want to. You’ve given me a home here, Rob – first proper home I ever had. I haven’t told them nothing, so far. I was planted here, and then I saw
what sort of house you kept. So they was waiting for tonight. But if I can save you with what we talk about here, if I can use the resources these coppers have got, and get you into
‘Grass, you mean?’
Costain got to his feet. ‘You’re the only boss left who cares about that honour shit! You see how London’s going, how the world’s going! The rest of them use grasses as
just another weapon against each other. What’s the point of being noble, when nobody else is?’
‘“Noble!” The trouble is, you shite, that your mates would never believe me!’
‘They would if it came from me.’
‘What, they trust you, do they? Do they know about some of the stuff you’ve done while you were on my books?’
No, and you don’t know all of it either.
But there was something in Rob’s look that said he was desperate enough to listen, that if Costain could find a way through in the
next two minutes . . . ‘Listen—!’
Just then, from downstairs, there came the slam of a door bursting open under the impact of a battering ram.
Rob stood there stock-still, horrified. The sounds of shouting and scuffling rose from downstairs. But no gunshots, which meant that the soldiers, who had never had to fight, were folding.
‘Give me something!’ shouted Costain. ‘Something that shows them you were willing to talk before you got nicked. For Martha’s sake!’
But now there were boots running up the stairs. All hope dropped instantly from Rob’s face. Costain leaped for him. Rob’s shot went wild. Costain hit the big man, and they both went
down. As they fell he could hear ‘Gun, gun!’ from the Armed Response coppers thundering upwards through the house. When they got there, could he trust them? And who at Gipsy Hill was he
going to be able to trust with that tape? It said that the nick had been breached; that there was someone who could give out info on UCs.
Rob fought to keep the gun. He slammed Costain to one side and then the other, but Costain managed to keep a grip on the hand holding the weapon. As they burst in through the doorway, Costain
realized that Rob wasn’t trying to twist it round to aim at him, but was keeping his arm straight as if hoping to get a shot off at—
Costain rolled him aside and that shot went through the window. ‘Don’t you fucking shoot him!’ he bellowed.
Many hands grabbed for the pair’s wrists and suddenly the gun was gone, and they were being hauled to their feet, and Costain struggled, spat and swore at them as they heaved first him and
then Rob towards the door. There were sounds, cries from the next floor, as more officers pounded up into the house. He could hear Martha starting to scream insults.
On the landing, they smashed his face against the wall. His wrists were hauled behind him before the cuffs bit into them. He was pushed back towards the stairs, Rob passing him, but not looking
at him. Below, he could see Sefton, cuffed also, being shoved out of the door, in a line with all the soldiers.
Suddenly, at the foot of the stairs, Rob made his move. With a great cry, he surged forwards, out of the grasp of so many hands, his own still pinned behind his back, and propelled a uniformed
copper into the wall, his forehead connecting brutally with the man’s throat and bringing him down. He bounced off the man, bellowing incoherently at all the others, his red face like that of
an animal roaring at its fate, defiant to the last. ‘For you!’ he shouted. ‘For you, if you want, you sow!’ Costain didn’t know if he was talking about luck or about
Martha or what, but it was magnificent to witness. He let out a bellow of coke-fuelled laughter, thrashing out again against the uniforms around him.
A kind of ecstatic yell of triumph rose from the rest of the uniforms gathered downstairs. They piled into Rob, some bursting in through the front door, or rushing back down the stairs, pushing
past Costain. Rob was lost in the sea of them, crying out loudly under the blows.
Resisting arrest. All the abuse coppers took, people spitting in your face . . .
Resisting arrest. Set off that powder keg.
Though, while in cuffs, it shouldn’t. Not these days.
Costain thought – as they heaved him down the stairs soon after, as he still heard the sound of blows and Rob’s cries of protest – of the four years he’d been involved in
this. Of the six times during that period he’d been stopped and searched. A patrol officer in Kilburn, just a kid, had called him ‘nigger’ and slapped him on the cheek. The one
time, too, that he’d had his warrant card on him, and they hadn’t bloody found it. He still had the young man’s shoulder number scribbled on a piece of paper in his wallet, and he
thought of it at times like this.
Quill was fighting his way into the throng now, physically pulling coppers off Rob’s back. ‘Robert . . . Stephen . . . Toshack,’ he had begun yelling, ‘. . . you do not
have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if . . .’
From the television nearby, Costain heard the New Year’s Day celebrations beginning. A moment later there sounded, from the small of his back, a single loud click.
He was dragged out through the door, without any eye contact from Quill, and across the huge dark coldness of the morning, and thrown into the back of one of a string of police vans, like all
the other soldiers in their beery suits.
And he let out a breath and closed his eyes, and felt a rush of fear at what was still only in his head and on that tape.
The police helicopter hovered above Bermondsey, every stroke of its blades swallowing the last available money out of its last operation, the coppers inside it watching not
just the raid on the Toshack home but simultaneous assaults on the garages and front-room distribution centres and suburban brothels. They were fully intent on their last duties before they’d
be on their way into oblivion.
Like the rest of London
, they felt – from on high tonight – bitterly. They were too intent, in fact, to notice that, through what seemed to be
coincidence, every prisoner taken out of every building was being removed in a south-westerly direction.
The wheel that was London had started, ever so slowly, to turn once again.
In the early hours, Quill watched as the uniforms opened the back doors of each van in turn and led each prisoner into Gipsy Hill police station. Not everyone who’d been
discovered at the house was here, because he’d had the prisoners divided up between the secure custody suites at Gipsy Hill, Streatham, Brixton and Kennington, partly to speed up the entire
process, partly so that every major player was kept in a cell corridor on his own, and couldn’t get his story straight by shouting to his mates. Harry would be ready to do a bit of sleight of
hand so that Costain could slip him the Nagra when he surrendered his personal items to the custody sergeant. Getting that part sorted might have been hellish had Quill not played snooker with said
sergeant on a regular basis. Thank God they’d now moved on from Nagras, as a rule. Unless the current cuts meant they were now stuck with them again on a regular basis.
Quill hoped they had something more to work with here than possession of firearms and a few class-A drugs found at Rob’s house. The gun should be enough to put Toshack away, but Quill
wouldn’t bet on it, given the prisoner’s way with juries. There was nothing found so far that said that the house itself was an OCN drug-distribution centre. Neither was there anything
that might let them get their hands on Toshack’s freelancers. The situation in the house had confirmed his suspicion of a certain desperation on Toshack’s part but, so far, nothing had
fallen out as a result of that desperation. Quill had only the sketchiest picture of what had been going on from the uniforms that had arrested Costain upstairs. He wouldn’t know more until
they extracted the pair of UCs and listened to that tape.
There went Costain and Sefton now, both in handcuffs but apart: one yelling too theatrically and the other acting stoic. The corrupt egotist and the professional: the latter having seemingly
called in the cavalry to save the former. Having watched those two go past, he made sure to watch all the others equally. Toshack came out last. As Quill made eye contact with him, the gang leader
dropped his gaze to the ground. Quill perked up at that: maybe something was going to fall out of this after all.
Quill waited until they were all brought inside, and then followed, heading towards the Ops Room. Uniforms coming off the night shift stopped to offer him congratulations as he
passed. ‘Fucking Toshack! Kick arse!’
Quill acknowledged the praise, then pushed his way through the double doors that led into the Ops Room. The Operation Goodfellow coppers who hadn’t been out in the field that morning
applauded him too. He waved this attention aside, getting irritated with it now. Instead he looked at the room beyond them. For the last four years he’d been living with that familiar smell
of soup and aftershave. The room was the usual mess: ancient desktop computers, their drives wheezing; family photos; cut-out headlines and dark copper jokes. A sink that was never cleaned because
the first thing Quill had done when he’d got here was to lock out the cleaners, whether vetted or not. The wall was used as a screen for the PowerPoint projector, and had biro marks on it to
indicate the picture size for best focus. The Operations Board, covered in Toshack photos and organizational diagrams, with ‘Goodfellow’ written across the top, now had a big black X
taped over Rob Toshack’s face. Quill went and gazed at it, and felt distantly annoyed that they hadn’t left that privilege to him. But would he even have bothered to do it? The X still
felt like more of a vague possibility than a fact. In the past, Toshack had got out of worse.
Quill located Mark Salter, the DS who ran the room, who looked, deliberately, only appropriately happy. ‘Congratulations, Jimmy.’
‘Yeah, yeah. Tell Ben I want a blood test done on Toshack, and in case he’s flying over Moscow right now, I want half-hourly tests until he’s at a point where the Force medical
examiner will agree he’s sober again. We’ll strike while the iron is hot, and won’t wait for the analyst’s report on the tape. Though, knowing her, she’ll get it done
in time. I want the brief in
, so call their night desk, get them to wake someone up. And make sure said brief gets a cup of tea and a biscuit. I want every single detail of this,’
he raised his voice so the room shut up and paid attention, ‘done by the book, so at the very least we once again get that king of shit hauled
a courtroom for
‘Yes, Jimmy,’ responded the room in a mix of tired voices.
He gave a nod back to them, then went to fetch his own cuppa: tea bag left in to stew, six sweeteners, milk if it wasn’t already on the turn.
He fell asleep at his desk with the cup beside him, just for ten minutes, but it was a sleep so deep that he woke wondering where he was, feeling that he’d been wrestling with something in
his dream. He drank his lukewarm tea and wondered what he’d ever find to do instead of this operation – especially if it came to nothing.
Nothingness, that was his enemy. Meaning: lack of.
He had hours of paperwork still in front of him, and maybe no emotional pay-off at the end of it. Not after four bloody years of it. But he started on it now anyway.
Harry came in looking angry, but kept his voice down to a whisper. ‘Jimmy,’ he murmured, ‘first UC didn’t give it up.’
‘I gave him a clear and secure opportunity.’
Quill rubbed his brow. ‘He might have decided it wasn’t secure enough.’ But the look they shared said that they both knew there was something more to this. Something dodgy.
‘He’s doubtless got a back-up plan, but if he doesn’t go for it, I’m marching uniforms in there and ending his career.’
Costain listened to Mick, the inhabitant of the cell next door, snoring. Until relative silence had settled over the corridor, he’d been waiting for there to be a shout
that he was filth. But none came, and finally he relaxed over that. They’d put Toshack straight into the back of a car, and obviously he hadn’t had a chance to tell his soldiers
anything. Food, under a metal cover, had been brought in an hour after they’d been booked in. He’d eaten it all. The back-up plan concerning the Nagra was, as always, for Costain to
wait until 2 a.m., then put it under the same cover and slide it back through the hatch, into the corridor. Someone with the right level of operational knowledge would be there to collect it. Now
it was 1.57 a.m., and he didn’t know what he was going to do.
He’d already baulked at giving the Nagra up at the planned handover. There was a traitor inside SCD 10, maybe inside Gipsy Hill itself, but the traitors wouldn’t know he knew about
that until he had handed over that tape. Then, if the wrong person got to hear it, his life wouldn’t be worth shit. He should get rid of it. Unspool it. Wrap it in enough toilet paper and
flush it. But then he wouldn’t get the chance to deliberately give it to the
people, and save his career. Not to Quill, certainly! He wouldn’t let him keep the credit.
Costain ran a hand over his face, trying to calm down, aware of his heart racing. At least they hadn’t taken a sample or a blood test. On that basis alone he’d be fucked. If he’d
known the raid would be going down that same night, he’d have stayed off the sniff.
He decided he would wait until he saw who . . . but who might show up that he trusted? The light in the corridor increased slightly, meaning a door had been opened. This was it. A tall figure
came and opened the observation slit to look into his cell. Costain felt a jolt of surprise, even of fear. It was Lofthouse, the detective superintendent in charge of Goodfellow. She had the same
questioning look on her face as she had displayed when he’d first met her. He had thought it weird at the time. Even being looked closely at by a super was weird for a UC in his position. But
this now! This was so far from standard operating procedures.