THE CHAV PRINCE
Justin stared narrowly at the shore as the boat curved into the harbour, slowed and stopped at a set of steps to the quay. The crewmen’s faces were blank, without their usual smiles, according to their orders. Justin climbed out on to the steps with every appearance of nervous reluctance. Andy came close behind him, guiding him with a hand on his arm. On the quay a Land Rover was waiting, with one of the Santa Barbara Peacher guys at the wheel, looking as mean as he was paid to do.
‘Can I struggle and scream a bit?’ Justin muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
‘No. Behave. Struggling comes later.’
The car ran them slowly through the crowded city. ‘We’ve picked ‘em up, Mr Peacher,’ said the driver, looking in his wing mirror. Justin peeked in the driver’s mirror, and by angling himself, caught an anonymous older-model Ford bumping after them through the badly paved streets. There were at least two men in it.
The Land Rover climbed up into the hills behind the city, following a road hemmed in by trees. Although the Ford fell well back, the turns occasionally revealed it, some way behind.
Eventually they reached the place Terry had selected, an old gang-master’s house just inside the Peacher estate. It was near the road, but obviously on private property. The Land Rover dropped them off and continued up to the mansion by a rugged side track. Andy and Justin stood waiting until they heard the Ford approach. As it came in sight, Andy grabbed Justin roughly and hauled him resisting into the hurricane shelter under the house.
Once inside they took a breather – or rather Justin had a nervous cigarette.
‘Okay?’ Andy asked.
Justin flipped his mobile and punched Declan-Barry’s number. There was a prompt answer. ‘Hello?’
‘Hey! Where are you? The bastard’s got me closed in a cellar under this house. He’s gone off upstairs to get ready, he said. I doan’ like this place. There’s chains and frames and some horrible machines.’
‘S’okay kid, we’re not far away. How d’ya get in?’
‘He took me through a storm door from the outside. It’s locked and solid. I’m trapped.’
‘Can we get in upstairs?’
‘I think so. Look. He’s made me take these pills and I feel fuckin’ weird, like I’m floatin’. I ain’t got long. You said you’d stop him doin’ things to me. Christ, he’s comin’ back …’ Justin rang off.
Andy raised his eyebrows. Justin looked disgusted. ‘The bastards. They’re quite happy to sell me not-quite-fifteen-year-old arse down the river. They’re gonna let you have your wicked way with me, you pervert, just so as to catch you with your trousers round your ankles.’
Andy frowned. ‘Terry was right. Looks like serious blackmail is their aim. I expect they’ll wait to burst in here, cameras flashing, until they think I’m deeply into you. This way then, Justy. Let’s get ready for them.’
Silence fell in the dark cellar. Justin started whistling to himself. After about fifteen minutes they heard a slight snapping, as of a forced door or window upstairs, then the slide of stealthy footsteps. To two men in the urgency of copulation, the sounds would not have been audible. Andy started loudly faking the moans of passion, while Justin let out regular, high-pitched squeals.
Finally they exchanged glances: time to retreat. They exited through the outside door to the cellar, locking it solidly behind them. The empty white Ford was visible a short walk down the road. There was a muffled shout inside and the crash of breaking wood, followed by an ominous clang upstairs in the house.
‘Well. I think that went okay,’ growled Andy. ‘We seem to have caught us some blackmailers.’
Terry strolled out the front door, accompanied by two hefty-looking men. ‘Hope you locked the storm door behind you, Andy.’
Andy listened to the dull banging coming now from the cellar. ‘Yes. I seem to have done. Everything on camera?’
‘Yup, boss. From their breaking and entering on your dad’s property to the vandalism on the stair door. Oh … and they were stupid enough to come armed.’ There was a muffled pop from inside the cellar, followed instantly by a gong-like sound from a metal door. ‘Deary, dear. Shooting the lock off ain’t gonna work when the lock’s on the outside. You’d think they’d have known better. Still, that’ll be caught on camera too. Get’s better all the time.’
‘How long till they cool down?’
‘Dunno. Don’t care. I’ll leave them without food and water for a day or two. Zeke and Alex here will keep an eye on them. They’re not going anywhere. When they’ve had a chance to think about things, it’ll be time to talk with them. I need information as to who they work for. They’ll cut a deal.’
Justin looked with admiration at this cool man, impossible to faze. I wanna be him, his mind was saying. ‘Are you on the government apprentice scheme, Terry?’
‘Criminal babe, I ain’t looking for trainees. Ask me again in four or five years.’ Terry keyed his radio.
As they were waiting for the Land Rover to reappear, Andy grinned salaciously, which made him look something like a naughty little boy. ‘Tell me, Justy. Those noises you were making. Are they what Nathan hears when he screws you?’
For once, Justin blushed.
‘Wow!’ was Nathan’s closing comment after Justin told him the full story. ‘That Terry is something else. So he hid behind a metal door he had got fitted at the top of the cellar stairs. When they broke down the stair door and rushed in looking to find Andy doing very weird things to you, my Justy, he slammed it shut and locked it on them. Are they still there?’
‘Yup. It’s dark here now. There’s nothin’ in the cellar but dust and bare stone walls, not so much as a window, and they’re sealed in by two thick iron doors designed to resist hurricane-force winds. Basically they’re screwed … I wonder if there’re scorpions on this island?’
‘Where are you now, Justy?’
‘I’m on the yacht. We’re havin’ a party and we’re all dressed up in our dinner togs. The city mayor and the police chief were invited, as well as the prime minister. Iss real plush … wish you were here, Nate, I really do.’
‘Never mind, lover, when you’re back, we can party on a paddle boat at Southend.’
‘I’d love that. I think I’m gonna be returnin’ home soon. Terry’s gonna interrogate those guys tomorrow, and depending on what he finds out, he’ll come back to Britain and bring me. Matt’ll be with us too.’
‘You’ve had a good time?’
‘Awesome, Nate. But I miss you real bad. Tim and Pete are cool, but they’re a couple and a bit too … I dunno … smart for me. Though Ed and Harry are fun, they’re still kids, and I gotta mind me mouth in front of ’em. Terry clipped me on the ear for saying “fuckin’ ’ell” once too often. I forgets. Everybody’s so nice. But I juss wanna be back in the garden wiv me beautiful boyfriend, and gettin’ ploughed by his beautiful dick too. I ’aven’t ’ad so much as a wank in days.’
‘Christ, the way your balls manufacture the stuff, there’ll be an explosion in your trousers soon!’
Justin laughed, kissed down the phone and rang off. Pocketing his mobile, he looked round at the social groups while sipping a glass of punch. On the stern deck, which was strung with lights, stewards were circulating trays of exotic and expensive food. He was on his own at the rail, but not too bothered about it. He was ready for bed in any case. He put down the glass and slowly made his way to the stairs.
‘Night, Terry,’ he said as he passed his hero.
‘Night, criminal babe. Hey, you wanna come with me tomorrow for the interrogation?’
‘Can I? Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Terry. Sweet dreams.’
Zeke and Alex had drawn their impressive guns, as had Terry, who placed it on the table in front of him. Justin stood well back. Terry had set up an intercom in the cellar before the entrapment, and he switched on the set from upstairs. It had been two days since the would-be blackmailers had been locked behind the iron doors. Zeke said they had been a bit noisy to begin with, but by then had been quiet for thirty hours.
‘Morning’ fellers!’ Terry said cheerfully into the intercom. ‘Now, I know you’re receiving me, so just say hi back.’
There was a crackle followed by a hoarse rasping voice. ‘Go to fuckin’ hell!’
‘I’ll take that as a “hi” then. Bet you’re so, so thirsty now, Barry, ain’t you?’
‘Let us the fuck out!’
‘Whaddya mean, why?’
‘Gotta have a reason to, boys. You tell me what I want to know, and then maybe we can part amicably. Don’t, and for all I care you can stay there till you rot. After all, it was your choice to break in, wasn’t it? No one forced you.’
There was a long pause. ‘Give us something to drink, then we might talk.’
‘Sorry boys, that’s not even on the table. Talk or not talk, that’s the choice. Talk, and we’ll let you out – minus firearms, of course. Don’t talk and … I’ve got a lot of other jobs to get on with, believe me.’
‘Who the fuck is this?’
‘Why should you care? Just say that Peacher Security has been watching your piddling operation for a while. You think you can keep your curiosity a secret in a small place like this, a small place where Mr Peacher is so very big?’
‘Was that little bastard working for you?’
‘The little bastard – as you call him – is older than he looks. He works for me, yeah. One of my best agents.’ Terry grinned at Justin, who gave him a comical look back.
‘Tell me about it, he suckered us good and proper.’
‘So now you’re in a talkative mood. Let’s get down to some basic issues. Your name is …?’
‘Well, we’ll go along with Barry for a while, but research has not yet established that you really exist, Barry. Which is a bit awkward as I don’t like talking to myself. But if you are “Barry” I need to know who you work for.’
The answer came back too quickly. ‘No one. I’m a freelancer. The sting was all my idea.’
Terry drew in a deep breath, ‘Barry, Barry. A thing you need to know about me is that I can hear lies in people’s voices. You’re lying to me, which destroys my confidence in you. Even had I not known that, my reason would tell me you’re lying. No one hangs round St Kitts on the off chance of enriching himself if a perverted billionaire should happen to fly in and attempt to sodomise an underage teen. You had a mission, Barry boy, and you had money too. So cough up.’
A long silence ensued. In the end, Terry turned off the intercom. ‘Any hope of a coffee, boys?’
‘Yes sir, Mr O’Brien,’ replied Alex brightly, and disappeared. Terry cradled the mug when it arrived, looking meditatively out the window.
‘What’s the chances they’ll talk, Terry?’ asked Justin.
‘Oh … they’ll talk alright. Never underestimate the power of thirst. By now they’d drink their own piss if they had a container to pee into. Odds are that one of them’s already had to take a dump in the corner. Must be getting really squalid down there, as well as hot and sweaty.’
Terry flipped the intercom again. ‘Had time to think, Barry boy?’
‘Look …’ The voice was at last showing the edge of desperation. ‘… if I did talk, if I did have anything to say, how do I know I’d be safe? You’re not the police. You don’t have the resources to protect me from the people who might take exception to my blabbing.’
‘Maybe I’m a better judge of that than you. Names.’
‘OK. It’s Barry Antrobus. That’s my real name. In here with me are Tom Rendquist and Alfie Pearson.’
‘And you work for …?’
There was a subdued hubbub behind Barry. There was disagreement amongst the captives. Finally Antrobus said, ‘If you want that information, the boys and me want some guarantees.’
‘So ask away.’
‘A flight to wherever we want off this island, and money to disappear for a while.’
‘You gotta cheek, mate.’
‘Fine. Look at it this way. We’re dead if we stay down here for another twenty-four hours, and just as dead if what we tell you gets back to our employer. So why not die with the satisfaction at least of pissing you off, you bastard?’
‘Tsk. I’ll make a phone call.’
‘What about that water … for Chrissake!’
‘Be in touch.’
Terry rang a number and had a muttered conversation. He turned to Justin and asked ‘So Justy, what would you do with them?’
‘Me? I dunno. Wouldn’t trust ’em, that’s for sure. I’d check their information before I let ’em loose.’
Terry called up the cellar again. ‘Hello, boys. I can get you some of what you want. A flight off the island, wherever you want to go. But don’t expect a fortune when you get there. Ten thousand dollars each is the best we can do for you. Take it or dehydrate, it’s up to you.’
There was a grumbling and finally Antrobus answered sullenly, ‘Deal.’
‘Okay. Question one. Who put up the money for your surveillance?’
‘Guy called Lawrence Mattheson. He works out of London, an ex-marine I think, but I don’t know much else about him other than that he’s very much in there with the security community.’
‘Okay. Question two. Was Andy Peacher your target?’
‘Him and his queer friends, yeah.’
‘And the reason for this?’
‘Money, Mattheson said, but he was lying. There was more to it. The look on his face when he talked about the Peachers was an education. He hates your bosses, especially some guy called O’Brien.’
‘Would that be Terence O’Brien?’
‘Dunno. He just cursed the name when he was pissed once. He wants to pay off a score.’
‘That’s very helpful, Barry. Now we’ll proceed to a little trade. In a moment, one of my boys will be opening the upstairs door. He’s armed. Hell, we all are. Throw out all your weapons and we’ll throw back in a big jerry can of nice, cool, refreshing water.’
‘What about releasing us?’
‘That’ll happen, but not till tomorrow, if you continue being co-operative.’ Snapping off the switch, he nodded at Zeke, who disappeared with Alex. There was the clang of a door, silence and the door clanged back again. A grinning Zeke reappeared with several guns in his hands.
‘Thass it for today, Justy. We need to get back to the yacht and make some calls and stuff. We’ll be there in time for lunch. I need to chat with Sylvia Peacher too. She’s still maintains a lot of contacts with the security world, so iss time she got involved. She used to be my boss, y’know. I’ll see if the chopper’s available.’
They strolled together comfortably up to the main house and sat out on the veranda, waiting for the helicopter from the Speculator to arrive. ‘You did real good, Justy. If I didn’t say so, I’m saying it now. What a little actor you are, and what a cool head you got. Andy was dead impressed, and so was I.’
Justin blushed at the admiration. ‘Iss me criminal background, Uncle Terry.’
‘Uncle Terry! Thass what Pete and Tim call me.’ He cuddled Justin and kissed his hair.
‘Problem wiv that?’ Justin asked.
‘No. Not at all. I like you quite as much as I like those boys. I’ll be sorry when you go in a couple of days’ time. You brighten things up, criminal babe.’
‘I’ll miss you too, Uncle Terry.’
Justin was already missing Terry when the door of the jet Matt had chartered was sealed behind him. It wasn’t as big and powerful as the Peacher transatlantic jet, but it would have them back in the UK in eight hours. The engines began whining and the world outside the windows moved. Handing him a portable player and headphones, Matt told him to amuse himself. Andy would be staying on for a few days more, and Terry could not return without him, especially as he himself had put Peacher Security on high alert. Matt had meetings in London he could not miss.
‘So what are we going to do with you Justy, after your adventure in Wonderland?’
‘It was fun, wasn’t it, Matt?’
‘London may seem boring now.’
‘Nah. ‘Sides, Nathan’s in London. I need him so bad.’
Matt smiled at him. ‘You’re so cute when you say things like that, Justy. It’s just like me and Andy. Have you two boys any plans for the future?’
‘Apart from screwing each other on every possible occasion? Well, yeah. I really do like working for Andersons, even without Nathan. We wuz talkin’ about when Nate finishes his course, that we would go down to his uncle’s in the country and run his garden centre. I think thass what we’ll aim for. His parents doan’ like it, but iss what we want, livin’ in a rural cottage like, me wiv me hay fever, and Nate wiv his potted plants and greenhouse. It’ll be luverly.’ Justin twinkled at Matt, who could not but laugh.