The Driver

 

‘Jesus,’ said Detective Sergeant Jones as he clicked off the interview. He glanced at his partner, Detective Constable Mates, who raised his eyebrows.

‘What do you reckon I’ll get?’ asked P.C. Baker.

‘I really don’t know. Listen, I shouldn’t be saying this but I really think you should get a lawyer.’

‘Nah, I know the score, perhaps later.’

He took the officer back to the cell.

‘Well?’ said the custody sergeant when Jones approached his desk.

‘A full and frank admission.’

The custody sergeant shook his head.

‘It all seems wrong, a piece of shit like that, no one’s any the worse off. It’s all bloody wrong.’

D.S. Jones made his way back to the C.I.D. office where he could listen to the     interview without being disturbed. His partner, D.C. Mates, had gone ahead of him and was getting ready to go home. There was no point in Mates staying any longer, they’d been on duty for seventeen hours and not much more could be done until the morning.

‘What time do you want me back?’ asked Mates as he locked his drawer.

‘Get in for about eight, we might have to ask a few more questions before we get the charges sorted.’

‘Sad old business,’ said Mates, ‘the press’ll have a field day.’

‘Yeah, that goes without saying.’

When Mates had gone, D.S. Jones made himself a coffee and shut himself in the Detective Inspector’s office. He sat at the D.I.’s desk, logged onto the computer, put on some headphones and pulled up his interview with P.C. Baker. He skipped over the introduction, the reminder of legal rights and the caution, and then settled back in the D.I.’s chair.

‘So, officer, can you give me an account of the circumstances leading up to your  arrest today?’

There was a brief silence. Then the sound of a huff of breath. He remembered the officer smiling and shrugging. Without the visual aspect, the sound of resignation in Baker’s voice was even more apparent.

‘I’ve done enough of these interviews myself, so I won’t waste your time, I’ll try and be as detailed as I can. Three days ago we were told we were going to be picking Mahoney up from the airport. I couldn’t believe it.’

‘For the benefit of the recording, the Mahoney you refer to is Mickey Mahoney. Is that correct?’

‘Yes.’

‘And he’s been arrested in Spain and brought back here in relation to the murder of the nightclub doorman Josef Vaclav, some three years ago. Is that correct?’

‘Yes.’

‘And if we can just clarify, you’re a member of a specialist firearms team, is that   correct?’

‘Yes.’

‘And how long have you been trained in the use of firearms?’

‘About four years.’

‘And is it correct that you have to go through rigorous selection procedures before you’re accepted, which include a range of psychological tests?’

‘Yes, that’s right.’

‘Sorry, officer, do go on.’

‘I’m sorry, I’m forgetting the detail, it’s odd being this side of the desk. So, where was I? Yeah, we were briefed by D.I.Thorpe and we …’

D.C. Mates interrupted.

‘Sorry, who is D.I. Thorpe?’

‘Oh, sorry,’ said P.C. Baker, ‘he’s from the Serious Crime Squad, he was running the operation.’

‘Okay,’ said D.S. Jones, ‘go on.’

‘Well, the plan was to do a dummy run to Heathrow before we picked him up, they really thought there could be an attempt to try and free him.’

‘So what happened?’

‘Well, we did the dummy run the next day and everything was fine, then we went up to Heathrow about 4am this morning, the plane was due in at seven o’clock.’

‘So why did you get there so early?’

‘We needed to liaise with the airport firearms team, they were making sure      everything was secure and the area was sterile. The helicopter was on standby and it was going to track us once we were clear of the airport, but as luck would have it, it was foggy and the helicopter crew thought it was a bit risky going up in that weather. We weren’t   particularly bothered, we didn’t expect any trouble and we had plenty of firepower.’

‘How many of you were there?’

‘There were three cars; three unmarked Land Rovers. Nine of us; three in each car. We were the prisoner car, with Mahoney on board. We were positioned between the other two cars, one in front, one behind’

‘Go on.’

‘Well, we picked him up, then got an escort to the perimeter of the airport and then we started making our way to the nick. It was strange having Mahoney sitting right behind me but I really did think everything was going to be alright. Mahoney was going to get his comeuppance. I had no thought then that I would be anything other than professional.’

At this point P.C. Baker had paused. ‘He looked a lot older than I thought, I think I must have thought he’d look like all those pictures after that warehouse job. Of course, that was years ago.’

‘So,’ asked D.S. Jones, ‘were your subsequent actions planned?’

‘No, not at all, it was really just a spur of the moment thing.’ Baker had smiled, somewhat ruefully.

‘Then what happened?’

‘Well, I was driving …’

‘You were driving?’

‘Yes, the other two were sitting either side of Mahoney in the back, he was       handcuffed to the rear and had a seat belt across him.’

‘Were their guns out?’

‘No, no. There was no need to have them drawn, the officers in the cars in front and behind had M.P.5s and were ready to deal with any immediate threat and Mahoney was cuffed and restrained, so he wasn’t able to do anything.’

‘Then what happened?’

‘Well, it was quiet at first but it’s a long drive and Mahoney asked if he could have a cigarette but Mick laughed and said, ‘‘No way,’’ and Mahoney protested so John said, ‘‘It won’t be long, we’ll see what we can do when we get to the nick.’’ But Mahoney got belligerent.’

D.C. Mates had raised his hand.

‘If I can just stop you there. By Mick and John, do you mean P.C. Mick Brigshaw and P.C. John Carter?’

‘That’s right.’

‘Thank you, go on.’

‘So anyway, Mick and John stay quiet as they know they’re going to get no joy out of him and he’d just get wound up, but Mahoney starts going on and trying to wind them up.’

‘What did he say?’

‘Well, he said he’d be out after the trial and he’d make sure he followed up who they were. He said he had contacts and he’d get them sorted. Mick reacted. ‘‘I don’t think so,’’ he said, ‘‘You’ll be going away for a long time, you’ll be too old to piss by yourself when you come out.’’ This set Mahoney right off. He didn’t get violent but his voice was cold and threatening. He turned to Mick and said, ‘‘It doesn’t matter whether I’m inside or out, I’ll have you sorted for that, and your fucking kids and your fucking missus, but I’ll make sure she’s fucked first.’’ This really wound Mick up. Then John said, ‘‘Leave him Mick, he’s not worth it.’’ And Mahoney said, ‘‘I’m worth millions you sad little prick.’’ And then he said, ‘‘Do you know how easy it is to find out who you are and where you live? I’ve got bent little pricks in your organisation who will do anything for a few quid.’’ We all tried to stay quiet, but you could feel the atmosphere had got ugly. And John couldn’t keep his mouth shut and just let things quieten down, he had to go and say something else to wind him up.’

‘What did he say?’

‘Oh, it was only minor but it was enough. He said something about Mahoney not  being able to have a cigarette, something like, ‘‘that’s your fag out the window, dick head.’’ Then there was a brief silence then I heard Mahoney say, ‘‘I’ve killed cops before you know.’’ And John said, ‘‘Yeah, I know, is that supposed to frighten me?’’ Each time he opened his mouth I wished he’d just shut the fuck up. Mahoney was feeding off it. But he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He started calling Mahoney a big man. ‘‘Yeah, I heard what a big man you are, you and your mate wasn’t it? Stabbed him with a pitchfork and a knife didn’t you? Yeah, big man.’’ And I heard Mahoney chuckle and he said, ‘‘Yeah, it was good fun. The dogs got him and then we got to him. I stuck a pitchfork right in his leg, then we dragged him on the ground and the dogs were biting him and Joey was kicking him and I stuck the pitchfork in his arse and balls and chest and arms, you should have heard him squeal like a filthy pig, we had great fun.’’

‘Mick and John didn’t react this time, they were quiet. I knew they’d be seething, he was getting to them, but of course he was getting to me as well. I didn’t think he would but he did. And he wouldn’t stop, he kept on goading. He said something like; ‘‘Yeah, I think the one that killed him was when I stuck the pitchfork in his throat he made a sort of     gurgling sound, mind you it might have been the blood coming up from his lungs I think I must have punctured them about twenty times.’’ And then he was laughing and he said, ‘‘Filthy, squealing pig. His mates couldn’t save him, they must have heard it all on his     radio. When they got me to the nick, the copper said to the desk sergeant, ‘He’s been arrested for the murder of a police officer’ and I said, ‘Oh, is that all?’’’ Then he started chuckling again and said, ‘‘Me and my mates have often laughed at that one. And then of course I got off, didn’t I? Self defence. That brief was worth his weight in the gold we had to pay him, but never mind it was all nicked anyway.’’ That was pretty much what he said and all the time he was sort of chuckling, laughing, just to needle us.’

Jones remembered that at this stage Baker’s face had become intense and angry looking.

‘What happened next?’ asked D.C. Mates.

‘I radioed to the other two cars and told them I had to pull over for a few seconds but there was no problem, nothing to be concerned about. Then I pulled over to the side of the road. Mick said, ‘‘What are you doing?’’ I’d already taken my gun out and I took off my seatbelt and turned round and pointed it at them and said, ‘‘Right, listen carefully, get out of the car.’’ John said, ‘‘What the fuck are you doing?’’ I said, ‘‘I’m not fucking joking, both of you get out of the car.’’ I let a round off in the car roof, just above their heads and screamed at them. ‘‘Get the fuck out of the car!’’ They both looked stunned and confused but they got out. I turned back round and floored the car. One of the front team was out of the lead car and he looked shocked. I could see the others in the rear view mirror running back to the back up car. I knew they’d be confused as hell, no training scenarios had  covered this type of event.’ P.C. Baker had smiled at this point. ‘They needed to tell the skipper what had happened. It would only take a few seconds but that was all I needed. ‘I’m a fucking good driver, top on all my courses, that’s one of the reasons they picked me for Mahoney.’ Baker had sighed before carrying on. ‘I only needed a few seconds and they were never going to get me in time. I didn’t need long. I shouted to   Mahoney, ‘‘Keep still, we’ll be away from them soon.’’ He was laughing. ‘‘I don’t fucking  believe this, who put you up to it, Tony?’’ I told him he’d soon find out. Then Mahoney got really excited. ‘‘It was fucking Tony! He said he’d do it, the cheeky bastard! The fucking front!’’ I said, ‘‘Calm down a bit, we’re not out of the woods yet.’’

‘I’d come off the motorway and was on a ‘B’ road. I could hear the radio, then it went dead. After all the confusion settled down someone must have twigged that I’d be listening to it all and control had changed radio channels. I knew they’d be tracking me anyway, but all I needed was enough space between us to provide a bit of time. I shouted to Mahoney in the back again, ‘‘Listen to me, these cars have trackers, so I won’t be able to shake them off. We need another car. When I tell you, get ready. I’ll open the door and shove you in another car. I won’t have time to take your restraints off so just help me and we’ll get away, got it?’’ He said, ‘‘No problem officer, you’re in charge,’’ and he started laughing again.

‘When we hit the next junction there was a stationary BMW at the lights. I pulled up beside it, got out, opened the driver’s door and dragged the driver out screaming that I was armed police and would kill him if he didn’t lay on the ground. Then I pulled Mahoney out, and he managed to stand upright and I pushed him into the back seat and we fucked off. The rest of the team must have almost been on top of me but by the time they’d talked to the BMW driver I’d have put plenty of space between us and with no tracker I could ease the speed a bit. Mahoney was well impressed. ‘‘Fuck me,’’ he said, ‘‘you can fucking drive, I’ll give you that.’’ Then he said, ‘‘How much did Tony give you? It must have been a fair old whack, I mean, let’s face it, you’ve well and truly fucked your career’’ and then he was laughing again. ‘‘I just don’t fucking believe it,’’ he kept saying.’

Baker had paused here, lost in thought.

‘Go on,’ prompted D.S. Jones.

‘Sorry. Well, the roads got quieter now and I turned from one country lane to        another until I found a suitable spot. I turned into an open field and drove the car across it until I came to a clump of trees where I pulled up and got out of the car. Then I opened up the rear door and Mahoney leant on his side and lifted his legs on to the seat. ‘‘Here,’’ he said, ‘‘get this crap off my legs first.’’ I grabbed hold of his feet and dragged him out of the car. His head hit the edge of the door rim before hitting the ground. It hurt him and he shouted. ‘‘Careful, you twat, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?’’ ’

Baker had smiled.

‘He was furious. I dragged him clear of the car, now he was wriggling and shouting. When I was clear of the car I dropped his legs and gave him an almighty kick in the side of his chest. It really hurt him, he couldn’t breathe for a while and he was grunting and  coughing. I stood and looked down at him. When he recovered enough he looked up at me, he was confused. ‘‘What the fuck was that for?’’ And I said, ‘‘Cos you called me a twat and I felt like it.’’ And Mahoney said, ‘‘Yeah, well, fun’s over, just get these cuffs off me.’’ He was desperately trying to control his anger, he still needed me. The pillock still had it all wrong. He still thought I’d made off with him to help him escape. ‘‘Who’s coming to meet us?’’ he said. ‘‘No one, no one’s coming to meet us, you’re going to meet someone.’’ He looked confused again. ‘‘Who?’’ ‘‘Your maker,’’ I said.’

Baker had smiled again at this point.

‘I know, it was a bit corny but I wanted to sound cool and in control as though I was unconcerned but I must admit I was surprised at the degree of hatred I felt.’

Baker had shrugged.

‘Mahoney said, ‘‘What the fuck are you talking about?’’ I went back to the car, got my gun and then came back and said to him, ‘‘What did you say that copper did? Squealed like a pig?’’ I shot him in the kneecap and when his screaming died down I said, ‘‘Not quite a squeal but we’ll get there.’’ Then I shot him in the other kneecap. He was rolling and writhing around screaming and I waited for him to calm down enough so that he could hear me. Then I said, ‘‘From what I’ve been told that copper you killed was a very professional, hard working and fair minded officer. I don’t think he ever treated any of the scum he arrested in anything other than a fair way. Never mind, you had a good laugh about killing him with your mates and I’m going to have a good laugh with my mates about killing you.’’

D.S. Jones clicked off the interview. He didn’t want to go over all the details of how Baker had killed Mahoney, it was gruesome enough the first time. Eventually, having been   alerted to the sound of gunfire by a member of the public, Baker’s colleagues had arrived to find the officer standing by Mahoney’s mutilated and bullet riddled body.

When Jones got home, he poured himself a drink and settled down in front of the television. But he couldn’t concentrate. Baker was on his mind. He went to the computer and googled: ‘Clarkson, Mahoney, warehouse gold robbery’. Numerous results came up and he began clicking on the various references. He was hoping someone may have posted something on YouTube, perhaps an old video of the funeral or press conference. But there was nothing. It didn’t really matter. It must have been about fifteen years ago but the events were still clear in Jones’s mind.

There’d been an armed robbery at a warehouse on the outskirts of London. The gang had unexpectedly come across a large quantity of gold instead of the cash haul they’d expected. Although Mahoney hadn’t taken part in the robbery he was involved in handling the stolen gold, trying to get rid of it. The police identified him as a suspect and mounted a surveillance operation on him. D.C. Clarkson was part of the surveillance team and was secreted in the grounds of Mahoney’s large country house. Unfortunately, Mahoney’s dogs, two Dobermans, discovered and attacked Clarkson whilst he was  watching Mahoney and an associate as they were burying the gold. Clarkson was dressed in army type camouflage and was wearing a balaclava. Alerted by the dogs, Mahoney and his associate attacked Clarkson with a knife and a pitchfork. Clarkson was dead by the time his colleagues got to him.

By all accounts Mahoney had been very cocky when he was arrested but Jones thought that had just been bravado; Mahoney had cocked up and all he could do was front it out. As it was he hired a top brief and he got off with Clarkson’s killing on grounds of self defence. There was a public outcry at the time but Jones thought Mahoney genuinely hadn’t known Clarkson was a cop, he probably thought that Clarkson was going to try to steal the gold. Anyway, he still went down for handling and conspiracy charges.

Years later, after his release, Mahoney killed a Polish night club bouncer. The bouncer was a small time drugs dealer who owed Mahoney money. Mahoney fled abroad but was eventually arrested in Spain and brought back to England where he was picked up by Baker’s firearm operations team.

Funny how things turn out. At the time of the warehouse job, Jones had been a young police officer. He could clearly remember the press interview Clarkson’s wife had given after Mahoney had been found not guilty of her husband’s murder. Jones had been there. He was part of a security detail assigned to ensure order was kept and Clarkson’s widow was looked after. He remembered the dignified way Mrs Clarkson had handled  herself.  She’d read out a prepared statement. There was one particular part of the   statement that Jones remembered because of its poignancy; ‘My son has lost his best friend,’ she’d said, ‘and my daughter her greatest admirer.’ Then her voice had cracked and she couldn’t go on. Clarkson’s kids had been there too. Jones could still see their faces. Mrs Clarkson got remarried about three years later and the children adopted the new father’s name. Baker.

Yes, the children. They were about thirteen or fourteen at the time. The boy was the older of the two. He had held his sister’s hand, protectively, throughout the press conference. At the time there had been a number of pictures of D.C. Clarkson in the papers. The boy had the father’s hair, the shape of his head, a similar build. He handled himself with dignity and courage. The daughter was more like her mother in looks; pretty, petite, with gentle features; but the determined, proud eyes were those of the father. They were the same steely blue eyes that had looked at Jones across the interview table.

Jones remembered P.C. Baker’s last words before he terminated the interview.

‘You should have seen the look on his face when I told him who I was,’ she’d sneered. And then her voice was soft and gentle, ‘It was like my dad’s life.’ And she delivered the last words with a mixture of bitterness and love, her eyes staring years into the past: ‘It was priceless.’