The incessant beeping echoed through the sparsely decorated apartment, the eerie green light from the street lamp outside illuminating the figure on the bed. A pale hand reached out towards the dresser, aimlessly slapping against several objects until it found the offending article to cut off the sound. Silence returned but the peace was only brief. Once more the mobile rang out, summoning her to answer, lights flashing more furiously than before. A hoarse groan and the ruffling of sweat slicked sheets joined the tuneless cacophony. Chris Mason held her mobile up and tried to make out the caller ID through sleep impaired eyes. As she recognised the number she considered not answering it but her conscience got the better of her.
‘This had better be good,’ she growled.
‘I’m sorry to wake you Ma’am but I thought it best to call you. I know it’s early.’
‘Spit it out Varsh,’ hissed Mason, leaning back against the pillows and rubbing her eyes.
‘Sorry Ma’am, it’s just… well… we’ve got him.’
Mason sat up, tiredness forgotten as she ran a hand over her closely cropped hair. She shook her head, convinced she would soon wake up and laugh at herself as her heart rushed as fast as her thoughts. She swallowed back her shock in an attempt to form a coherent sentence.
‘Him as in, Him?’ she managed to utter, her authoritative tone slipping.
‘I’ll be right there. Book him in but don’t do anything else until I get there,” she replied, pressing the phone between her cheek and her shoulder as she rifled through her drawer for clothes. ‘And Varsh, do not, under any circumstances, let Johnson anywhere near him.’
Mason pulled her leather jacket tighter around her, the chilly wind all the more pronounced in the early hours. Her steel toe-capped boots thumped purposefully as she marched along the city streets. Around her gangs of teenagers hung threateningly on corners, no adults to contain them at night as they fled in fear of their own offspring. She could hear parts of their whispered conversations as she passed, all focused on the same subject.
For months there had been rumours of a boy who went by the name of Gabriel who was rallying up the kids, making them believe he was some sort of Messiah and promising them that soon they would reign supreme over the adults. Their ridiculous doctrine said that God was ashamed of the adults’ ways in the world and wanted the kids to take over. Such notions previously thought foolish but the escalating violence had given them more weight, the adults growing afraid.
She heard them talking of her station, of the latest teenagers to have been questioned there, of the two who didn’t come out. Mason swallowed back any response she wanted to give them. They’d never believe a word from the police regardless of the intent behind them.
‘He was only fifteen when they took him in…’
Mason knew the boy they were talking of. Tico he’d called himself, bit of a trouble maker but soft beneath the surface. Mason hadn’t even met him, she had just told Varsh to give him a caution. She’d heard the ambulance sirens fifteen minutes later.
‘Bashed his skull in they did, said he fell down the stairs. Pigs!’
Mason didn’t react, just kept her eyes ahead of her, picking up her pace. She knew one particular group would tail her and she cursed her own growing fear. They would do nothing to her, not this close to the station but she kept an ear out for any changes in their pace.
The streets of Brixton had once meant nothing to her and she wanted the kids to continue believe that. She wouldn’t allow herself to be frightened of a childlike Messiah when she didn’t even believe in God. She snorted at herself and ran a hand over her hair.
‘Get a grip,’ she muttered.
Talk had turned within the gangs to the second teenager who’d not left Mason’s station. She’d been away when it had happened but a tearful Varsh had called her home. The girl had been brought in for fighting at her school. The news reports had said that she’d died after taken an overdose of cocaine prior to her arrest. The girl had never touched drugs in her life. Mason knew the truth, the Press bought the lies.
‘Not gonna stop and chat Detective Inspector?’
One of the older teen’s pulled Mason out of her reverie and she again cursed herself for her fear. Give her drugs traffickers any day.
‘Don’t you have homes to go to?’ she threw back as she turned onto the street her station rested on.
The hundred strong crowd outside the doors gave her pause for a moment but she pressed on. The gathering at least was a peaceful one, long haired teens holding signs and candles whilst others chanted. Still, three officers hovered around the perimeter, their stances taut and ready should anything turn awry. Even without the call from Varsh she would have known who was held within the walls, even the most prolific arrests doing nothing to inspire such a crowd.
‘No one’s going home till you let our boy out,’ said the lead teen of the group that followed her.
‘And who would that be then?’ said Mason as she began to pick her way through the cross legged vigil. ‘You’re Messiah?’
‘Gabe’s gonna lead the revolution,’ said a younger voice to her right. ‘Says us kids are gonna put you in your place.’
Mason ignored her as she saw a group of boys spraying graffiti on the station walls, the same slogans that were all over the city telling of the Kids’ God, the Children’s Revolution.
‘Oi, do you lot want a night inside?’ she barked, releasing all her tension in one strong command.
Silence rapidly descended, disturbed here and there by the clatter of spray cans being discarded. The chill of the wind increased and she tugged her coat a little tighter around her, rubbing a hand over the back of her neck to rid herself of the sensation of a hundred eyes turned on her. Four AM in Brixton, murdered by teenagers outside her own nick was not how she wanted to go. She pushed through the last of the crowd until she reached the door.
‘Go on, get lost or I’ll nick the lot of you,’ she shouted, keying in her access code.
‘Not till you let our boy go,’ came an unidentified shout. ‘Not gonna let you kill him like you did Chloe.’
Mason pushed the door open and stepped inside, closing out the shouts. Michael Varsh’s eager young face was the first thing to greet her, the youthful excitement of an officer promoted up the ranks too soon growing muted by a growing unease that surrounded them all. Still, she had a soft spot for him even if she knew he wouldn’t cut in for long in such a place. He’d soon find himself transferred to one of the more affluent boroughs. He cocked a neat eyebrow in question and she nodded, confirming that she was unscathed by the crowd. Despite the ease of her entrance, the fluorescent light that bounced off the peeling walls and tiled floors had never seemed so welcoming to her.
‘You sure it’s him?’ She checked the custody log book, the single name sticking out immediately amongst the hastily penned names, surnames and charges that covered the page.
Varsh shifted from foot to foot, running his fingers through his spiky blonde hair.
‘We think so. He calls himself Gabriel and says he’s the one whose been rounding up the gangs. He’s got creepy eyes.’
‘So has Johnson but you haven’t nicked him,’ said the custody sergeant, a burly man now too old for the beat. When his comment was met by silence he turned back to his work, muttering about senior staff under his breath.
Mason pulled her young Detective Constable to one side. ‘Speaking of Johnson?’
‘Nowhere near the kid. He’s running his prints. Press Officer’s on holiday so I don’t think the Super wanted another situation.’
‘Neither do I. I want you in the interview with me Mickey. If this kid’s who he says he is I don’t want Johnson getting his hands on him,’ whispered Mason, ‘This vendetta of his is getting dangerous and he’s got no reason to be pursuing it. He’s got too many connections to boot out of the team but I don’t trust him. Let’s keep him well clear of our little Messiah.’
Varsh’s eyes widened. ‘You don’t believe this Messiah stuff do you? I mean it’s just rubbish, isn’t it?’
Mason laughed but it didn’t reach her eyes, ‘Of course it’s rubbish. Why exactly would this shit hole be chosen for the Second Coming? I don’t think God, if he existed, would choose my nick as a site for a miracle. Go and prep interview room two. I’ll have uniform bring our boy through.’
Varsh left without a word but his eyes were troubled. Mason forced a smile but it fell as soon as he was out of sight. Despite the ease of her arrival she had a feeling she was in for a long night.
Two beautiful, icy eyes were all the Chris Mason could focus on as she went through the motions in the interview room. Two beautiful eyes and two words repeated over and over again.
‘No comment,’ said Gabriel, twirling a ratted knot of black hair around his finger.
‘You’re not making this any easier on yourself Gabriel,’ said Mason. ‘We caught you in possession of a Class A drug. Is that how you get your messages from God? Drug yourself up and start counting angels?’
‘We’re not getting anywhere Ma’am,’ said Varsh.
Mason loosened her fingers from the edge of the desk, shaking them to get the blood flowing again. ‘Perhaps a few more hours in a cell will make you want to talk to me,’ she said. ‘Interview terminated five fifteen AM. Take him back to his cell Varsh.’
Gabriel was led from the room, the same serene expression he’d been wearing since Mason had met him forty-five minutes beforehand still plastered to his face. He had no previous convictions on record but she was sure he was the kids’ ring leader. She could see why whoever had encountered him before had said there was something about him, he was different to the other kids she’d interviewed. Mason slipped the interview tape into her pocket, not that it would be much use to the press if they got hold of it but she liked to keep things like that close to her skin. She left the room only to be met by the broad chest of her Detective Sergeant, Charles Johnson.
‘Get anything out of the little shit?’ he said, his voice filled with disgust as he walked far too close to his superior officer. Mason kept walking ahead; glad Gabriel had been placed in his cell with an officer stationed outside at all times.
‘We’re getting there,’ she lied, almost retching as the smell of two day old shirt permeated her nostrils. Johnson disgusted her in so many ways but he had an uncle in higher office so she had no choice but keep her opinions to herself.
‘Not talking is he?’ said Johnson. ‘You’re too soft. Those kids can see through that ridiculous hard arse act you put on. You need a lot more than a smoke screen to intimidate them these days. Want me to get some answers out of him?’
Mason thumped a hand straight against his chest, glaring up at him. ‘Touch him and you’ll see that I’m more than just an act Johnson. The reason the kids don’t hide like they used to is because they know the bureaucrats will get them off but that doesn’t mean you have the right to deal out your own justice here. Now I’ve kept your secrets, not through my own choice but I knew we needed to crack this Revolution shit with the support of the public but you touch one hair on that boy’s head and I swear…’
‘Are you threatening me Christine?’ hissed Johnson, drawing himself up to tower over her but she refused to back down.
‘Completely,’ she said. ‘Now go home. I don’t want you in the building while I have Gabriel here, I don’t trust you.’
‘Now that’s not very nice.’
‘Go home Johnson,’ said Mason, pushing him away and nodding towards the door. She waited for him to argue but instead he snorted before heading into the locker room. She watched the main doors until she had seen him leave, hoping that he wouldn’t choose to pick a fight with the protestors outside.
An sense of unease crept up her spine and she shivered, rubbing a hand over her hair and shaking her head. She looked around the station, the custody officer logging a collection of belongings whilst two of the younger PCs that had just come off the beat heading down the corridor in search of tea. Everything was as normal as it ever was. Still, the feeling lingered and she turned towards the cell block.
The dusty noticeboard bearing a single name directed her to the cell she needed as she headed down the thin corridor. The officer sitting languidly in the chair opposite jumped and hurried to his feet, blushing at having been caught daydreaming. He unlocked the door and held it open for her, closing it behind as she walked inside.
Gabriel’s hands were folded in prayer as he knelt beside the simple pallet bed, his knees against the cold floor and the food he had been given still uneaten on the tray.
‘You can give it a rest in front of me.’ Mason leaned back against the door, crossing one ankle over the other and folding her arms.
Gabriel’s eyes opened and he turned to her, grabbing her gaze with as much strength as a head lock. ‘God’s Will be done,’ he murmured with a small smile, ‘You don’t believe but you will.’
‘I don’t have time for riddles,’ hissed Mason, ‘Look, I’ll let you off with a caution if you tell all those kids out there that you aren’t some great Messiah. I don’t know who you are Gabriel but this ridiculous religion you’re peddling is dangerous and you can’t tell me that your God wants blood in the streets because that’s what it’ll come to.’
‘God’s Will be done.’
Mason rubbed a hand over her hair. ‘You just earned yourself another few hours in here,’ she said, banging a foot against the door to alert the officer to open it for her. ‘Think about what I said, okay.’
The boy said nothing, returning to his mutterings over his hands and paying no further mind to her as she left the cell.
‘Keep an eye on him,” said Mason to the officer as he closed and locked the door once more. “I’m going to get a doctor in. There’s something not right about that kid.”
“Duty doctor called in sick. Not going to get a replacement here until the early shift.”
Mason swore to herself as she headed out of the cell block, coffee the first thing on her agenda before she attempted to begin a report on Gabrial’s arrest. Masking a yawn with the back of her hand she doubled her pace, certain the coffee would be double strength at least.
Mason woke with a start, batting away the hand that was shaking her. She dragged herself to wakefulness, her ears picking up a sound that set her nerves on end. The sound of screaming not an unfamiliar sound in her station but, given their current inmate, the sound filled her with dread, killing the last of her sleepy state.
She shot out of her seat, nearly knocking Varsh over, before running full tilt down the corridor from her office to the cells. She entered Gabriel’s open cell to see the duty sergeant treating the screaming boy, blood pooling around his legs as he pressed a towel to his chest. Varsh laid a hand on his superior’s shoulder as she backed away from the horror of the scene, stumbling over the discarded knife, awash with the boy’s blood.
‘The ambulance is on its way,’ he said. ‘No one saw what happened. The door was locked when they heard the screaming. He must have done it himself. I saw you send Johnson home.’
Mason could hear the sirens in the distance and the roar of the gang outside. They knew what had happened. She heard Gabriel choking on the words he was trying to speak. It sounded like rubbish but then days in Sunday school, days she’d dismissed years before filled her head.
‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani,’ came from Gabriel’s blood soaked lips, his blue eyes focused on Mason’s before they fell closed.
The woman backed away from the scene before her, her feet leading her unthinking to the station’s front door. The sky was clouded and blood red as dawn began to break, blurring in her tear filled eyes. A hundred faces stared back at her in hatred but she could not tear her eyes from the azure blue now breaking the red of the sky.
She heard her own voice before she had even thought of the words.
‘My God. My God, why did you abandon me?’
Elizabeth Montague is a writer from Hertfordshire where she lives with husband and daughter. She is a new writer and currently working on her first full length novel. For her short stories she likes to draw inspiration from current events and projections of a future world where there has been a fundamental change in human behaviour. Outside of her literary life, Elizabeth enjoys working at her local theatre and has plans to work on several future projects with the in house local history museum.