Out Of The Shadows Ch. 07byingarlm©
Thanks for reading, particularly those who left me comments or sent mails.
The story got longer than I thought, and there is another chapter after this one. The good news is, I'll be submitting it only a few hours after this one, so worst case scenario, it will be up on Lit tomorrow (it may even be up the same day). I also promise the final chapter is rather happier!
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I was on autopilot driving down the motorway to the next place I could stop, following the instructions I had been given blindly even though they were taking me away from Rob. He would be gone by now, there was no point turning back. All I could do to help him was to get the message through to his boss and just maybe it would be enough and in time.
Once I reached the services I parked up close to the main building. It was still pretty quiet there, hardly peak hours but there were quite a few other cars. I fumbled for the glovebox to see what he had left me, finding first that he had left the mobile phone, which solved the problem of me having no money for a call. There were two envelopes, one with a number on scribbled next to the words Chief Inspector Smith.
I tore the envelope open as soon as I had dialled the number, begging him to pick up quickly and thankful when his voice came on the line.
"Hello, who is this?"
My voice was shaky as I replied, and I knew it wouldn't be much longer before I broke down altogether.
"This is Alex. They've got Rob."
"Shit! Where? When? Are you okay?"
"About half an hour ago at a service station off the M6. They took me from the house, told him he had to hand himself over or they'd kill me. I tried to stop him, but he said it was the only way and I had to get out of there and call you."
There was a long silence on the other end of the line after I babbled out the story. He knew there was a lot more to it than that, and so did I, but right now I couldn't think straight. He was probably angry that Rob had disobeyed all the rules.
"Where are you now? I'm co-ordinating the search up here now they've moved north, I'll send some uniform and then come meet you and get the whole story."
I told him, distracted as I dropped the page of Rob's scrawly handwriting with lists and details for his boss. As the paper fell to the floor I saw the other envelope, one marked with my name, and I started to shake, no longer aware of anything but that. I grabbed it, holding it tight between my hands and staring at the one word, both desperate and terrified to open it.
"Alex! You still there?"
"Err, yeah, sorry," I stammered out, realising I still had the phone to my ear. "I'm okay, just lost it there for a moment."
"I'm sorry too. We will do everything we can Alex, I promise you."
"It will be too late, I know that, Rob knew it when he said goodbye."
Somehow when I said it, my words were matter-of-fact, as though I had accepted it and wasn't still terrified of what was happening to him, or holding what was effectively his suicide note to me in my hands.
More silence on the other end of the phone just confirmed he was thinking exactly the same as me. There was no chance, or it was so little that there was no point me hoping. His comment about doing everything was purely what the police said in such situations.
"I'll be there soon. Stay where you are, think of any little detail so you can tell me. Anything might help us."
I must have sat staring at the letter for at least five minutes, not sure if I could read what was inside. Whether I had cried myself out already I didn't know, but I wasn't in tears right now. I was scared and angry but mostly I felt numb, like I was in some kind of bad dream, but part of me knew that reality was much worse than the dream and how I was feeling right now.
The letter, well that would be reality. Whatever he wanted to tell me, whether I'd heard it earlier or not, it was black and white, something I couldn't pretend didn't exist. I wouldn't want to either. I had nothing of Rob at all, this was it, one letter that he had left to say goodbye to me. I had no pictures, nothing but memories of a time that was all too brief.
Taking a deep breath, determined to try and stay strong, I opened it and tried to take in the words, knowing in my heart this was just the first of a thousand times I was going to read it.
My dearest Alex,
I don't know what I will manage to say when I see you, I only hope that I will get to kiss you before I go and that I can get you safe. Please don't be angry at me for doing this, you know that it couldn't have happened any other way.
Every moment we spent together has been precious, and my only regret is that I could never offer you the future you deserve - the future I wanted with you. I never expected to fall in love, but I had no choice, you have become everything to me.
I know I can't ask this of you now, but you deserve to be happy and I know there is someone out there who will see in you everything I can see, how beautiful and wonderful you are. Don't let that pass you by because of me.
My life has been so confused I started to forget who I really am. You helped me remember I am capable of loving and caring and I am so grateful for that. I'm a better person because of you.
Don't be afraid, don't be angry, just remember how good it was and how much I love you. I'm going to fall asleep remembering holding you in my arms, the best feeling I have ever known.
I sank down in my seat, shaking and sobbing, so cold all of a sudden that I was sure I would never be warm again. He was gone.
* * * * * *
It was strange how the worst moment of my life was getting out of my car, not because of what I knew would happen to me afterwards, but because of what I was leaving behind. He was so scared for me and I was more concerned about him. I wanted him to believe that he could go on alone, but I knew it would be a while before he could think that way.
He probably wouldn't blame me either, even though all of this had come about because of my feelings for him. He knew I should never have gone to him in the first place, or taken him away, or let myself fall for him, but it was too late for me to worry about any of that now. I'd wrecked his life and the brief happiness we had shared was going to haunt him for a long time. In a strange way, I had the easy part of this.
I thought for a moment he wasn't going to leave, and as Tony's heavies moved towards me I screamed at him to go, and I saw the car lurch off, knowing he was still crying and feeling a strange mix of despair that I would never see him again and elation that he was safe and free. Even the first punch I received, more because I wasn't paying any attention to the men who thought I should be rather more respectful, didn't hurt when I saw the car turn out of sight. He was gone.
I didn't want to make it entirely easy for them to tie me up, as seemed to be the plan, just to make sure that Alex got a good headstart in case Tony changed his mind about letting him go. I knew getting me was his priority but I couldn't trust him not to go after Alex too. With so few men though it probably wasn't worth his time and effort, I was the prize.
Bound like I was sure Alex had been, they lifted me into the boot, making sure I was as uncomfortable as possible. I wriggled a little but there was no slack in the ropes, they wanted to make very sure I couldn't get away, and I didn't doubt they'd do a good job of keeping me. I turned my head up when I heard movement, and saw Tony Merrett looking down on me, grinning.
"It's a pleasure to see you again Rob, if that is your real name. I think I'll stick with it anyway. You realise that I'm going to make you suffer for what my brothers are going through, and I'm going to enjoy every moment."
"I didn't expect any different," I replied, as calm as I could. "You know it won't make any difference to what happens to your brothers, or the hunt for you. They've already got all the evidence they need to put you all away for a very long time."
"It will make me feel better. I'm not a very forgiving person, and you got close to my family and screwed us over. No-one likes a grass, or a cop."
"I figured you'd think like that. You always struck me as the craziest one, despite the competition from your brothers being so strong."
Okay, so trying to wind him up wasn't the greatest idea, but I didn't see any reason to play nice. The only thing I had wanted out of this situation was Alex safe, and each passing moment he was getting further away and closer to help. Due to the darkness I doubted that Tony could have seen quite how we said goodbye, and even if he had there was little he could do about it now.
I got a punch to the head for my trouble, and I felt a trickle of blood coming down my face, probably to mix with the tears I'd shed earlier. Another thing I was thankful the dark was hiding, we could barely see each other even so close and he'd never know how much leaving Alex had upset me.
"Gag him," he ordered and I was raised to have some dirty rag shoved in my mouth and tied. It was already damp and I could only hope it was because they'd already used it on Alex and it wasn't anything worse than that. I only just lay down fast enough to avoid the boot lid shutting on my head, not that they would have cared and it was probably their intention.
Then we were moving. I tried to remember the turns, check that we were going away from where I had sent Alex, tense until I was sure we were heading north again. He was okay, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Now I only had myself to worry about, and there was nothing more I could do. Perhaps this was some stupid and grand sacrifice on my part, but if I had seen any other way I would have taken it.
I hoped he would find my note easily and that he would take some comfort from it eventually. I needed him to have some record of how I felt about him, even if it was the last thing I could ever say. It had been hard to write, and it would be hard to read as well, but he needed to know and I had to say it.
Perhaps I should try and form an escape plan, but there was no obvious way out, and there was unlikely to be. Tony wouldn't take any chances on not having his revenge, or his fun, whatever that might be.
* * * * * *
How long was it until we stopped? Maybe half an hour, I couldn't judge it exactly. I heard gates and then a garage type door and then the car turned off and everything was quiet. I waited for the boot to open and the start of Tony's revenge, but after a bit of noise outside the car there was nothing, they just left me there.
I was cold and uncomfortable, tense still not knowing what exactly was going to happen to me. That was probably the idea, leave me to stew for a while. Alone with my thoughts, they immediately turned to Alex. I wondered if he had found the Chief and how he was coping. Seeing him cry so hard, even while I was kissing him, that had hurt. Knowing that he loved me too meant the world, even if it could never come to more than it had.
All those moments I had spent with him, days of never leaving his side, barely leaving the bed, they had been amazing. He was so gorgeous when I first saw him in his suit, but knowing now what he looked like naked and in the heat of passion, there was nothing I could have done but fall in love with him. Even given the position I was in the memories surfacing started to make me hard.
I wriggled, trying to get that reaction to stop, and the pain in my arms helped with that. I wanted to be able to think of him, sure it would help me get through this, but getting erect wasn't part of that plan. I just needed the love I felt for him and the wonderful times we had spent together to keep me calm and sane until this was over. I meant what I told him in my letter, I was going to fall asleep remembering holding him in my arms.
* * * * * *
Nothing made sense, I wasn't in the car any more, I was in a soft bed, and it was warm and light around me. Casting my mind back there were vague memories of people and being talked to kindly, but very little of it remained. I was tired and confused, but as my senses returned only one thought screamed at me.
"Rob!" I cried out, sitting up sharply.
He was gone, he'd said goodbye and left me that letter. Oh god, where was the letter, and where the hell was I?
"Alex, it's okay. You're safe."
I turned towards the voice, seeing the Chief sat by my bed. It was a good thing I was still a little out of it else I might have punched him for his words. Nothing was okay, and it wasn't going to be.
"What happened? Where am I?"
"By the time we found you, you had gone into shock. I don't know if you even remember us talking last night, but you were out of it and I had to get you to a hotel and get a medic to sedate you to let you sleep."
"I don't remember. Maybe little bits like as if I was really drunk, but not much. Did I manage to tell you anything?"
He shook his head, and I felt like crying again. I hadn't even helped Rob with what little I knew. I'd let him down and just fallen apart.
"It doesn't matter, we have every possible man on the search. No-one is going to give up until we catch them. They took one of ours and we take that very seriously, I've been up most of the night following anything that might be a lead."
"You haven't found him though." I stated, afraid to hope.
"No. That doesn't mean we won't."
"I want him back safe more than anyone, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. He didn't believe there was a way out, he as much as said that in the car and in his note. Please tell me you have the note, it's all I have left," I begged.
He handed me the envelope with my name on, and I hugged it to me, so happy to have that one thing that meant I would always be able to see that Rob had loved me. I couldn't bear to read it again right now though, especially not in front of the senior cop. I was sure he knew what it would do to me but that didn't mean I wanted him to see me dissolve into tears again.
"I have to go back to work. If there is anything you can tell me now about where you were held or who it was it could be useful."
"I was in a car boot most of the time, they only let me out once when they called Rob about the handover, to prove I was alive. They had me blindfolded, but I'm sure it was some kind of warehouse, it was cold and echoed plus I heard the doors when we drove out and then some kind of gate as well, so perhaps on an industrial estate. There were three guys at the house, one I recognised from before, when I got beaten up at home. I heard the beginning of the call to Rob and I guess that was made by the leader, the brother you haven't found yet."
"That's probably right. We are looking for four of them, so you must have met the lot, unless they've got other contacts up here. I'll pass that information on though, thank you."
"What can I do?"
He gave me an odd look, one that I couldn't pin down to a particular emotion. It was hardly surprising if he was confused though, I could see from his eyes that he had barely slept, if at all.
"Nothing. I've made arrangements for you to be taken back home later today. You should be safe back there now, but we'll put a guard on the place anyway."
"You must be kidding. This is my fault, you have to let me help."
Now his look was full of concern, and his voice was soft and gentle, reminding me a little of my hazy memories from the night before.
"Alex, this was not your fault. Tony Merrett is a hardened criminal and used you to get what he wanted. He will have been looking for a way to get to Rob ever since the brothers found out about him being a cop. If Rob hadn't been with me when they came to the house they would have the both of you now. To be honest, it's a miracle Rob got you out of there in one piece."
"I begged him not to come. It would have been better if he hadn't," I told him, my voice cracking. I was close to crying yet again.
"He couldn't have left you there, and you know it. Much as he should have followed the rules and not handed himself over, playing for time to put an operation in place would almost certainly have got you killed. He did what he thought was right, and I understand why."
I looked at him then, realising he knew exactly why this had happened.
"You read the note he left me."
Not a question, more of an accusation. That was private, for my eyes alone and I resented that he had looked at it even if there was a good reason.
"Yes. I'm sorry, but I had to know if there was any important information in there. No-one else saw it. You have to know, he told me how he felt about you when I saw him, I didn't learn that from the note."
"Then you should understand, I have to help him if I can. If it's all too late, I need to know."
"I will tell you what we find, but I can't let you be involved in this. You're not police and as much as it may hurt, you can't do any more than you have. You need to go home and try and deal with all of this. That's not going to be easy, but I can get you some help."
"I don't need 'help', I need him, and that isn't going to happen. He's gone."
He let out a deep sigh, and I realised that this was affecting him too, not in the same way or as much as me, but he did care about Rob in his own way. His words were an admission, but so quiet I knew he could hardly bear to say it out loud.
* * * * * *
I managed to sleep, at least a little, despite the discomfort. My dreams were filled with visions of Alex, and in the first moment after I woke, the one where you don't quite know where you are and dreams can still seem real, I thought I was still with him. Reality bit quickly, and I wanted to go back, fall asleep with him again. It wouldn't be long, but until then I was going to suffer.
The other men looked refreshed when they dragged me out of the car, and Tony in particular had a huge smile on his face. I tried not to react, not wanting him to see any fear. I could handle whatever he had in mind, it could only last so long before he gave up and killed me, or my body gave out. Either way I knew he didn't have that much time, he couldn't risk staying in one place too long.
It was a strange kind of relief when they moved and retied me. Having my arms stretched above my head, wrists tied to a rope slung over a metal support, was far more comfortable than being trussed up in the cramped space I had been all night. Not so comfortable was the improvised spreader bar they put on me, a scaffold pole with rope looped through it so that the rope went around my ankles each side and pulled the pole tight between my legs, immediately cutting a little into my skin.
I waited in that position for what must have been another hour, or perhaps it just seemed such a long time because of what I was waiting for. I thought of shouting to him that I was bored, to get this over with, but there was a lot going on and I was intrigued. I'd never get to tell anyone, but the cop in me wanted to know what they were up to.
Eventually all the movement of men and bags ceased, and Tony opened the main door for the other three to leave in the car. I tried to peek outside, see if I could get a clue about where we were, but all I could see was a little stretch of tarmac and part of another warehouse. I couldn't even see the sky, but I was sure it was blue, there was light streaming through the few windows in the building.
Tony walked across to me then, finally paying attention to his plaything. For most of the time I had been hanging there he had been swigging from a bottle of something, and when he came close I could tell it was whisky. Even if we were now alone and he was drunk, I didn't think I could escape from this, but I resolved to find out what I could from him beforehand.