Authors: Dreda Say Mitchell
Mac looked behind him to where two burly officers stood. Phil had stationed them there for the interview to which he’d summoned his subordinate when he’d returned from South London. ‘Yeah. I was trying to get into your office to find out what you had on my son and his mother, but I didn’t make it – so arrest me.’
Phil seemed satisfied. ‘I can’t be bothered to look up which particular rules you’ve broken but you’ll understand I have to suspend you with immediate effect.’
‘Fair enough, I’ll clear my desk . . .’
Delaney gestured to the guards who took a shoulder each and pushed their prisoner back into his chair. ‘We’re not finished yet . . .’
Phil Delaney read him his rights:
‘You do not have to say anything. However, it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’
Mac was astounded. ‘You’ve got to be kidding—’
Phil smartly cut him off. ‘I’ve now got two clear images showing you abducting your son from Mission Hill Hospital yesterday afternoon. Have you got any comment on that?’
‘I was up there. I’ve never denied that. But I didn’t abduct anyone.’ Mac meant it. As far as he was concerned the notion you could abduct your own flesh and blood when he was in danger was absurd.
‘I’m trying to help you here—’
‘Oh piss off with all that “cop interviewing a suspect” crap Phil. I’m in the game, remember?’
Delaney sighed. ‘Very well. You’re under arrest for . . .’
When he’d completed the legal formalities, it seemed that Phil had finished for the afternoon. But he hadn’t. ‘There’s something else I want to talk to you about. I had a phone call from one of our colleagues in South London this afternoon. He tells me that they’ve had information that suggests you illegally purchased a firearm this morning. Have you any comment on that?’
Mac wondered which of the two individuals had informed on him. Jimmy or the ‘council worker’ who’d delivered the gun? He decided it was probably the council worker as Jimmy had seemed genuinely sympathetic. Not that it mattered. By way of explanation he sneered, ‘rubbish.’
‘Where’s your car? Is the gun hidden in it?’
When Mac didn’t reply Phil shook his head. ‘I’ll tell you what I will do, my old friend. If you tell me where the baby is and we pick him up, I might relent and not oppose bail. But I want the gun too of course – you understand?’
‘I don’t know where my son is.’ Mac sounded both forlorn and sincere. He looked at the white-faced clock on the wall: 4.00 p.m. in London and 8.00 a.m. in Los Angeles.
‘OK. Go and sit in the cells. When you’re ready to talk, send me word.’
The two officers took an arm each but Mac pushed them back. He turned to Phil. ‘Aren’t you forgetting something? My phone call? I’m entitled to a phone call.’
Delaney sighed and pushed his phone over to Mac who picked up the receiver. Mac stared balefully over the desk and reminded him, ‘A private phone call . . .’
After some hesitation, Phil took the two guards out of the office. But the three cops didn’t go far. They stood on the other side of the glass partition, arms folded while keeping careful watch on the man inside.
Mac dialled directory enquiries and asked them to find the number and put him through to the FBI office in Los Angeles. It took several minutes to be put through. Precious minutes, as he wanted the call to take as long as possible to give his guy the chance to get to his desk. When he got through to the switchboard he asked to be put through to Agent Tom Bracken. While the phone rang he closed his eyes, desperately hoping that Tom hadn’t been out drinking the night before and was at his desk bright and early. His phone was finally picked up a woman who told him Bracken wasn’t in yet.
‘Can’t you put a callout for him? It’s urgent. Tell him it’s London.’
The woman promised to try. Another few minutes passed. There was a rattle of knuckles on the glass partition. When he looked round, he saw Phil standing outside with his hands in a ‘what gives’ gesture. Mac raised two fingers to indicate he was nearly finished and then turned back to his call. ‘Come on you bastard . . .’
As if summoned by magic, the phone was picked up at the other end and a voice, interrupted by chewing and slurping, wanted to know, ‘Bracken here. Who is this?’
‘This is Phil Delaney’s deputy in London. Strictly off the record Tom and this call never happened. We’ve got information that Elena Romanov is in London looking to recover her kid. We’ve put the boy back at Garcia’s house under guard to keep him safe. But if you hear anything about Romanov’s movements, be sure to let us know . . .’
He put the phone down before Bracken could answer as his prisoner escort came through the door to take him down to the cells. He hoped he’d done enough. As he was taken away, he heard Phil’s voice behind him call out, ‘Where’s the kid Mac? Just give us the kid . . .’
It had been his boss who had once told him that the world was divided into two sorts of people. Those who were locked behind closed doors and those who weren’t. Throughout his career, Mac had been locking the doors and now they were locked on him. But he wasn’t as bothered as he might have been. He’d lived locked behind the closed doors of personal grief for years. He sat on his bunk staring at the walls and then he formed a plan. In any other circumstances, he would have sat it out. Might even have welcomed the opportunity to do some jail time. You don’t have to worry behind bars; everything is taken care of for you.
Except for one thing. Prisons don’t take care of your children. You have to do that for yourself. Mac got up and went over to the cell door. He’d seen every conceivable attempt to escape from a cell, from the brutal to the fiendishly clever. His problem was that so had the people on the other side.
But he had seen one attempt by an escape artist work in his early days. It was a question of moving location first. And it meant that the artist had to be strong enough mentally and physically to pull it off without doing himself irreparable damage.
Mac wasn’t sure he was. But he decided he had to try.
When a cop came to check on his prisoner a few hours later, he entered the cell to find him curled up in the foetal position in the corner of the cell. He stood over him for a few moments before saying, ‘Not trying to con us Mac into thinking you’ve had a breakdown are you? You should know we’re not stupid.’
When he got no response, the officer grunted and clanged the cell door shut behind him.
Mac remained tightly wound up in his ball. His limbs were already in agony from the stress position he’d adopted and his muscles begged for release. But there was none. He knew to drop his position even for a few moments would be to run the risk of being caught by a prying eye through the peephole and his scheme would be ruined. He kept himself tight. How long he would be able to survive doing this he didn’t know but he figured he would need to last until the morning.
He imagined taking his smiling son for a walk in the park in an effort to stave off the pain that seemed to be creeping over his body like an incoming tide. The mental fatigue would come later. That was what really worried him. Faking a breakdown was the surest way he knew how to produce one. Only the prospect of saving his son would have induced him to do it.
Two hours later the cell door opened and a different officer came in after a change of shift.
‘Are you alright there?’
When he got no answer, the cop went and got a colleague. The two men stood over their curled up prisoner discussing what to do next. One prodded Mac with his foot while the other knelt down and gently shook his shoulders. Then they conferred again in whispers.
‘Shall we call the doc?’
‘Bit late in the evening for that. There’s no duty doctor available so we’ll have to get one from outside. He’s probably just had a bad reaction to being put a cell.’
‘What if he kills himself?’
‘With what? Anyway, he’s not going to kill himself down there, is he?’
There was the sound of footsteps as one of the cops went over to the cell door. ‘Blimey, he’s in the police. It’s John MacDonagh – one of Delaney’s cowboys.’
‘He should know better than to act up like this. We’ll check on him later. He’ll be alright.’
The cell lights went off. A few minutes later they were turned back on again. Then off. Then on, as his guards looked in to see what was happening with their charge. About half an hour later, when it seemed that the officers had got fed up with checking whether he’d killed himself, Mac tried to move his limbs slightly. They were no longer hurting. Only with the greatest of effort could he get any response and he was in so much pain he had to stop. It seemed his body was seizing up. But Mac wasn’t worried about his body. He was worried about his mind. A body could be set right but the mind sometimes couldn’t.
As time drifted by, it seemed to Mac that he was floating in space with clear images of the past and future joining him for the ride. He was ecstatic when he saw Stevie smiling and waving at him. The joy turned to horror when he realised that the boy was in fact John Mac, lying dead, strewn with flowers. A shadowy black figure with deep brown hair fluttered around above him. He couldn’t see her face but he knew who she was. There was silence, followed by extreme noise, joy and pain until he heard another voice, a man’s voice asking, ‘How long has this man been lying here like this?’
There was a pause before another voice offered by way of apology, ‘I dunno. About an hour maybe?’
A stethoscope dangled over his face and then his body turned to fire as his limbs and torso were massaged and then stretched. When he tried to cry out, he found an oxygen mask had been attached to his face and there was only silence belting from his mouth. The following moments were hazy but it seemed suddenly there were a lot of people in his cell. He was gently lifted by three figures in green onto a stretcher and carried out. Two embarrassed men in blue uniforms watched him go.
This was all real.
But the shadowy black figure with brown hair was still fluttering above him. Was she real or not?
When Mac awoke the next morning, he opened his eyes to find a doctor standing over him and a police officer sitting by the bed.
The doctor asked, ‘How you feeling?’
It was a lie. His arms and legs felt as if they’d been mechanically crushed. He was confused and disorientated. But he knew one thing. The witch with floating hair and wings was gone. And he was still sane.
‘Yes. Well, you’ll be fine physically but we’re going to need to ask you a few questions about yourself and how you feel at some stage.’
Mac nodded with approval and then he looked round. The cop next to him was fiddling with a pair of speed cuffs. Probably eager to cuff Mac to the bed so he couldn’t escape. But behind him was a window. A window with no bars on it. So he hadn’t been taken to a secure hospital.
‘I’m prescribing you some sedatives and some pills to help you sleep.’ The doctor didn’t exactly order him to take the tablets but his voice was firm. He went on, ‘Tell me, have you recently been the victim of any kind of emotional or physical trauma?’
Mac explained the circumstances in which he found himself. He had a history of PTSD. He was careful to emphasise the heartache involved in losing one son and the second blow he suffered when his second son was taken away by his mother. But that was only for the child to reappear in London recently, where Mac had been refused custody and only allowed to see his son under supervision. Then his son had been kidnapped again and the police were blaming him.
‘I guess I must have flipped . . .’
So moving was his explanation that he felt his own eyes moistening while the doctor nodded, as if the origins of his patient’s breakdown were now clear. The cop meanwhile was so embarrassed by Mac’s story that he put his handcuffs in his pocket.
The doctor gently chided him. ‘Flipped isn’t a word we like to use Mr MacDonagh. It’s a perfectly natural reaction to the situation in which you find yourself. I’m confident you’ll make a full recovery.’
Mac whimpered. ‘I don’t think so. It’s over for me.’
‘Of course you will. In the meantime, you’ll understand that your superior, Mr Delaney, has insisted that your room has to be locked and you have to be accompanied by a police guard at all times – although I’m not entirely sure where they think you’re going in your condition . . .’ He looked at the cop by the bed with contempt. He in turn looked away with a guilty expression.
The doctor continued, ‘In the meantime, get plenty of rest. A nurse will come and supervise you when your medication is due so you won’t have to remember to do it. I can also promise you that I’ll be writing a letter to your Mr Delaney warning him that putting suspects in a prison cell when they’re in your mental condition is a sure fire way to organise breakdowns and suicides.’
Mac was meek. ‘I appreciate that.’
The doctor administered a number of his pills to Mac before leaving. He greedily swallowed and swilled water to wash them down.
Mac gave a pitiful glance over at the cop who retaliated by protesting, ‘Don’t blame me mate . . .’
Mac closed his eyes and rested.