Authors: Heather Atkinson
Dividing Line Series #5
By Heather Atkinson
Copyright Heather Atkinson February 2014
Rachel’s body was slowly coming back to life after the severe trauma she’d endured at the hands of someone she’d once loved. The pain was just starting to niggle but this return of sensation was most welcome. During and just after the attack she’d been numb, her body too weak with blood loss to feel. The pain meant she was alive, which was a miracle in itself. When Alex had dragged that blade across her throat she’d been convinced she was dead, that she’d never get to see Ryan or her children again. Now her husband was holding her hand, her friends gathered around her bedside and if she’d had the strength she would have cried with joy, even though she felt hideous. Her face was so swollen it was hard for her to see, her lips thick and mushy. She hated the fact that Ryan was seeing her like this but the emotion in his eyes when he looked at her hadn’t changed.
“We do this together,” he told her.
“Like everything else,” she whispered back, thinking of the revenge that would soon be hers upon the man who had done this to her.
He smiled and planted a gentle kiss on her forehead, the relief that she was still alive making him breathless. She was his world and without Rachel he couldn’t live.
“DCI Taylor’s coming,” said Mikey, looking out of the window of her room.
“Pretend to be asleep Babe,” Ryan told her. “I’m not letting him question you yet. Just so you know, we told him you were kidnapped and Alex got shot trying to save you.” When her black eyes burned with wrath he added, “we have our reasons. I’ll explain later.”
She nodded, eyes sliding shut seconds before Taylor walked in. He regarded the assembled group with suspicion in his sharp eyes. “Riley Cutter, I thought you were in Afghanistan.”
“I’m on leave.”
Taylor turned to Mikey and Jez. “What are you two doing here?”
“I thought that would be bloody obvious,” said Mikey, gesturing to Rachel.
“How is she?”
“The surgeon’s optimistic,” replied Ryan.
“I need to talk to her.”
“You’ll have to wait. She’s just come out of surgery and she hasn’t woken up from the anaesthetic yet.”
“Were you three anywhere near that warehouse in Moss Side earlier today?” Taylor asked the others.
“No,” they replied as one.
“Where were you then?”
“At my house,” said Jez. “All of us.”
“We were waiting to hear from Ryan.”
“Did you know about Rachel’s kidnapping?”
“Yes. We were waiting to hear what he wanted us to do,” replied Jez, glancing at Ryan, who nodded. There was no way Taylor would believe they knew nothing about it.
“And did it not occur to any of you to call us?” said Taylor, eyeing them all, especially Riley, the only one he thought might possibly be law-abiding.
“They said they’d kill Rachel if we did,” said Ryan. “We weren’t willing to take a chance on her life.”
“We’ve got forensics going over that warehouse with a fine toothcomb. If you three were there we will find out.” None of them appeared to be in the least bit concerned, which irritated him. “How much was the ransom for?” he asked Ryan.
“I don’t know. I wanted proof that Rachel was alive before handing anything over. I was to meet them at the warehouse and they were going to tell me then.”
“That’s not how kidnappers holding someone to ransom usually operate.”
“I know but that’s what happened. I can’t tell you what was going through their minds.”
He was unconvinced. “We’ve got a lot of bodies in there. Who was the ringleader of the abduction?”
Ryan had been considering this inevitable question very carefully. The police would go after whichever name he gave them and he needed to use this opportunity to weaken Alex. He had been tempted to tell them Nick Jordan was the mastermind behind it all, a dead man couldn’t defend himself but it wouldn’t really give him the advantage he desperately needed. “It was the Lucifer’s Shadow MC,” he eventually replied. Ryan prayed he hadn’t just unleashed hell.
Everyone was puzzled when Taylor looked at Riley, whose cool demeanour briefly slipped and fire blazed in his eyes.
“Now I understand why you’re here,” Taylor told Riley.
Mikey and Jez looked to Ryan for confirmation but he just shrugged, although he had a good idea what they were talking about.
“I need to speak to Mr Law in private.”
The others looked to Ryan, who nodded, so they filed out of the room.
“We need to sort out that warehouse,” said Mikey as they headed in the direction of the canteen.
“You can leave that to me,” replied Riley and Jez in unison, causing them to glare at each other.
“No fucking way,” retorted Jez. “I am not leaving such an important job to you.”
Riley sighed. “Don’t you trust me yet?”
“For Christ’s sake Jez, I think it’s bloody obvious by now that he’s on our side,” said an exasperated Mikey.
“If we can trust him then he’ll tell us what Taylor was talking about. What have you got to do with Lucifer’s Shadow Riley?”
Riley rounded on Jez and thrust his face into his. “Their president had my girlfriend gang raped and murdered. She was nine months pregnant at the time. Fucking happy now?”
“Oh shit,” said Jez. “Sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Well you do now. Yes I have my own reasons for being involved in this but I want to help Ryan and Rachel too. Leave the warehouse to me,” he practically snarled.
“Need any help?” said Mikey.
“No thanks, I’ve got it,” he replied, not taking his eyes off Jez. With one last glare he walked away, body stiff with tension.
“Nice one you prat,” Mikey told Jez.
“How was I to know?”
“Give him a chance, he’s alright.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Don’t you know anything about your brother? If he’s got Ryan’s approval he’s got mine.”
“I don’t find it so easy.”
Mikey shook his head. “Get yourself a coffee, you look dead on your feet. I’ll get Beth and the kids ready to move.”
Taylor’s demeanour changed entirely once the others had left the room. His eyes became wide and earnest, the stern detective act falling away. “You can drop the story,” he began. “I know Alex kidnapped Rachel and all those bodies at the warehouse were working for him.”
Ryan’s face gave nothing away as he listened.
“What I can’t understand is why you’ve made the bastard out to be a hero, I mean look what he’s done,” he said, gesturing at Rachel.
Ryan chose not to reply.
“The only reason I can think of is that you don’t want the police involved. If Alex Maguire was arrested it would make life very difficult for a lot of people. Never grass, that’s the code, isn’t it? Alex Maguire’s downfall would bring down so many others too, putting you and Rachel in even more danger.” Taylor leaned forwards, gaze intense. “It wouldn’t be in my best interests to see Alex Maguire arrested either. I know you’ve already worked out why.”
Ryan nodded once, slowly.
“I’ll make sure your story is believed and the blame is pinned on those bodies in the warehouse as long as you promise to get rid of Alex once and for all. He is one dangerous bastard and he needs to be neutralised before he has the chance to hurt anyone else.”
Again Ryan was unwilling to reply. He couldn’t be sure Taylor wasn’t wearing a wire, so he just gave another nod.
“I’ve arranged for forensics to go back to the warehouse at first light to finish processing the scene. There’s only a couple of PC’s guarding it. The bodies have already been moved. I’m sure you know what to do.”
Ryan didn’t comment and put the warehouse to the back of his mind. No doubt Jez and Mikey already had it in hand.
“You need to watch your back. Two of those bodies were members of the Lucifer’s Shadow MC and they won’t take their murders lying down. This isn’t the end, far from it in fact. Things are only getting warmed up.” Taylor got to his feet. “I think we understand each other Mr Law. I’ll be back tomorrow to speak to your wife, just for form’s sake of course. There’s a couple of uniforms on guard duty in the corridor outside, they’ll be there for a couple of days. There’s nothing I can do about that without arousing suspicion. By the way, it’s heaving with reporters outside the hospital. Word got round quickly. We’ll put it out that Rachel was kidnapped for a ransom so you don’t have to worry about your new squeaky clean reputations being tarnished. Thank you for your cooperation Sir.”
He hesitated as he reached the door and Ryan fought the urge to tell him to get out.
“One more thing. Tell your friend McVay to keep out of sight. One of the bodies in that warehouse was missing a hand, so we know he’s in town. Missing body parts are his trademark. Glasgow want to talk to him about a body they found castrated a few nights ago. I know he probably wants to make sure his drug running deal with Alex isn’t affected by this war but if he’s seen he will be nicked.”
Ryan didn’t even look at him as he left but it was a relief to know that he had a DCI on his side, which could come in very useful indeed.
He gazed down at Rachel, who appeared to have genuinely fallen asleep. He kissed her bruised forehead then got to his feet and went over to the window to look into Alex’s room. He could see him lying on the bed and he appeared to still be unconscious. There was a figure sat by his side and Ryan had to crane his neck to see who it was. The figure got to their feet and he saw it was Col Sugar. Col smirked at him before pulling the blinds shut, leaving Ryan to silently seethe.
Jez returned to the room and was surprised to see Taylor had already left. “He didn’t hang about, did he?”
“He had something very intriguing to tell me. Apparently he wants Alex gone as much as we do, he’s frightened his colleagues will find out about all the backhanders he’s taken from him. Forensics have left the warehouse until tomorrow.”
“Riley’s sorting that.”
“Good. So it seems Taylor’s on our side.”
“Indeed. He’ll make sure my story is believed as long as I dispose of Alex. Permanently.”
“Christ, he must be desperate.”
“Most definitely. I’m arranging for us to take over the suite at one of our hotels. It covers the entire top floor and has its own lift so it’s secure and it’s close to the hospital too. We can all stay there until Alex is dead.”
“Me, you, Mikey and Riley all living together?” said Jez uncertainly.
“You won’t have to share a bed with any of us, there’s plenty of space. It’s too dangerous for us to be alone. Take Beth and the kids there until we can arrange for them to leave the country.”
“I’ll call Mikey. He’s gone back to his house to get them ready to move and to find out what happened in that warehouse. Hopefully Beth’s ready to talk. Then we can send them to the same place we sent Cathy and Amber. I think she could use her friends right now.”
“Sort it,” said Ryan. “If you can’t work with Riley you need to tell me now.”
“If you trust him then so do I.” Although this wasn’t strictly true he wanted to be there for Ryan and he was willing to tolerate Riley to do it.
“Good because you’re both my brothers and that’s the end of it.”
“Okay, I get it. We’re going to need more rooms though. Battler called. He and Bruiser are on a plane back as we speak. Rick’s with them. They should be landing in a couple of hours.”
“Oh Jesus, why’s Rick coming?”
“Because he knows his daughter’s in intensive care after being kidnapped. Think how you’d feel if it was Leah.”
“Alright but we need to try and get him away again as soon as possible.”
“We’ll do our best but he’s just as stubborn as Rachel.”
“How are my kids?” It felt like a million years since he last saw them.
“Battler said they’re doing okay, don’t worry.”
Ryan looked down at Rachel and thought maybe Rick turning up wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Somehow he knew his father-in-law wouldn’t be encouraging him to sort this out the legal way.