WPC Cox parked her car outside the Rural Office in Great Shelford that Tuesday morning and went inside. It was 10 a.m. That was one thing she liked about the Rural Unit, she got to have a bit more of a lie in in the mornings. She never really liked the 6 a.m. starts when she was working on section. She booked in and checked her tray for any messages. There was a note about a parish council meeting. She checked the log and took the latest Intelligence Bulletin from the file. Nothing much. A stolen car had been found abandoned off the Haverhill Road. A generator had been stolen from farm land in the same general area. Some information about road works.
PS Hopper, the Rural Sergeant, greeted her as he came in. “Hello Alison,” he said. “Nothing much going on overnight. Just a couple of things off the Haverhill Road.”
“I’ll take a look down there during the shift, Sarge,” she replied. “It is a bit off the beaten track down there.”
Alison fastened her personal radio around her waist in its webbing holder and collected the car keys for the marked Escort Popular. It was a warm summer’s day and the Superintendent had ordered ties off. She was wearing her white uniform blouse open at the neck and her uniform skirt. Her long hair was drawn up in a bun on the back of her head. She put on her soft black and white cap with a chequered band and walked over to where the police car was parked. She got in and put her handbag on the passenger seat. It contained her note book in its leather wallet, her handcuffs and the small half size wooden truncheon the male officers found so hilarious, together with some tissues and Polo mints and a few personal items.
Alison delivered a routine message to an address in Great Shelford and set off down the Haverhill Road and its surrounding farm land. She was looking forward to seeing her parents in a couple of days’ time. She parked the Escort on a track off the road where she could watch any passing traffic. Nothing worth stopping and checking. Just a tractor towing a trailer and a minibus and a few other vehicles. She waited for about 20 minutes till she got a bit bored with it and drove further along the road and on to a track leading from it on to some land nearby.
Her attention was drawn to two large semi derelict buildings. These were semi circular corrugated iron Nissen type huts that had been used as barns or for storage or something or other in the past. They were both open at each end and were empty apart from some rubbish strewn around inside. Some vehicles had been dumped there in the past.
WPC Cox saw the rear of a small white van next to the right hand building. Better check it out in case it was nicked, she thought. She drew slowly alongside the building and switched off the engine. She got out and approached the vehicle, intending to do a check on the registration number. It was an unmarked Morris Marina van. She couldn’t make out the rear number plate. It was smeared with mud and illegible. People sometimes did that when they were doing a drive out from petrol stations without paying. The rear doors were unlocked, There was a toolbox inside with a grey blanket and some lengths of thin hemp rope. Alison went through the procedure her tutor PC Don Marsh had taught her. Check the front number plate. Get the number off the tax disc if the plates were missing or false. See if the ignition had been wired. Check the engine was cold.
Alison walked to the front of the vehicle and saw the front plate was also smeared with mud. She leant over to examine the tax disc on the windscreen. As she did so, a dark shape entered her field of vision to her right from behind the derelict building. “Don’t move,” ordered a male voice. “Don’t touch that radio. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
WPC Cox was confronted by a large stocky figure in a dark track suit and a black balaclava with holes for the eyes and mouth, which gave the man a terrifying appearance. He was holding a large automatic pistol pointed directly at her. Alison froze. “Don’t touch that radio. Put your hands above your head,” he repeated. The man called out to someone else behind the hut. “Get over here,” he said. “Get her radio.”
A second male figure emerged, dressed in a similar balaclava mask, jeans and a short brown jacket. Alison slowly raised her hands high above her head. This is really bad, she thought. This isn’t going to end well. “Okay,” she said weakly, as she raised her hands . “Okay. Take it easy. I’m not going to do anything stupid.” The second man stepped forward and took her radio from its holder. Oh my God, she thought. Nobody knows where I am. We’re miles from anywhere here. They could kill me and it’d take them ages to find me.
Thoughts crowded into her head. She was on her own, a helpless woopsie in a skirt against two violent armed men. What could she do? They looked like terrorists. She was aware the first man had a slight Irish accent. But what would terrorists be doing out here in the middle of nowhere? It didn’t make sense. Was it drugs? Maybe if she kept calm she could talk her way out of it. Maybe they’d just make off and leave her.
“Turn around,” ordered the first man. “Put your hands on the back of your head. Interlock your fingers.”
WPC Cox instantly complied, turning to face the front of the van, her hands on the back of her head. “Okay,” she said again. “I’m not going to do anything stupid. Who are you? What are you going to do with me?”
“Just shut it and keep still,” said the first man. “Do as you’re told and you won’t get hurt.” He motioned to the second man. “There’s some rope in the van. Get it.” He roughly manhandled her, forcing her face down over the bonnet, her hands still clasped on the back of her head. She could feel the barrel of the pistol pressing into her neck.
“Get your hands off me!” Alison protested. “What do you want? Why are you doing this?”
“Shut it and keep still,” the man repeated. “Don’t move.” He pressed her down firmly. He had the build of a bodybuilder. The second man returned from the rear of the van. The first man stepped back, covering her with the pistol.
Alison struggled up off the bonnet and turned to face them, her hands still clasped behind her head. “Please don’t hurt me. I’m not going to do anything stupid.” Perhaps if she was compliant and did as they said she’d get out of this in one piece.
The second man was holding a length of thin rope. “I’m going to tie you up,” he said. “Turn round and put your hands behind your back. Cross your wrists.”
WPC Cox reluctantly obeyed. She turned and crossed her wrists behind her. Better do as they say, she thought. She didn’t really have a choice anyway. “You can’t do this to me,” she protested. “I’m a policewoman. You won’t get away with this. This is kidnapping. You can go to prison for years.”
“I couldn’t give a shit,” said the second man. She noticed that he seemed to talk with a Scottish or Geordie accent. She couldn’t quite make it out. They obviously weren’t locals. He looped the rope around her crossed wrists twice vertically and knotted it tightly, then repeated this horizontally. The thin rope bit into her wrists.
“That’s too tight, you’re hurting me,” she complained. The man wound the remaining rope around her wrists several times and knotted it tightly, leaving her hands securely bound behind her back. She struggled and tested her bonds, but there was no give in the rope at all. There was no way she was going to get out of that.
The second man produced a roll of black duct tape and tore off a broad strip. “No, please, you don’t need to do that,” Alison pleaded. “I’ll be quiet. I promise.” He pressed the tape firmly over her mouth , sealing it shut. It seemed a bit pointless to her. There was no one to hear her out here anyway.
WPC Cox had never felt so helpless in her life. It was different to when the lads on the section had handcuffed her to the flagpole on her birthday. This was terrifying. They could kill her or do anything they wanted to her and she could do absolutely nothing about it. The first man took hold of her arm to control her and pulled back her head by the bun on the back of her head, dislodging her chequered cap. he picked it up off the floor and tossed it on to the bonnet of the van. “Stand still,” he ordered. As if I had a choice, she thought.
Alison noticed they didn’t use any names. They seemed older, maybe late twenties or early thirties, she thought. They seemed to know what they were doing. They had her efficiently and securely bound and gagged in no time. Maybe they were terrorists, she thought, becoming increasingly apprehensive about what they were going to do next. Now she was gagged she couldn’t even try to talk her way out of this.
“Bring her car round the back out of sight,” the first man ordered. “Turn off the car radio. Check there’s no one else around.” He seemed to be the one in charge. “Then we’ll decide what to do with her,” he added.
WPC Cox’s heart sank. That sounded ominous.
To be continued.