Chapter 2 of The Road To Revolution
|Friday, May 29th 2020
The following morning the media machine was in full effect, offering theories on who was responsible for Ethan Brook’s death. All of this was said with caution, as speculation. One reporter had gone around Leicester Square and asked passers by for their opinions. A lot of people angrily said they thought the government was behind it. They were going to vote PRP. Even previous Coalition voters said that they were really on the fence, but that the assassination had made their minds up. They were now voting PRP.
Rioting in all major cities, including London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow had intensified and escalated. All appeals for calm had fallen on deaf ears. The police, according to the Home Office, were near breaking point and the Home Secretary, Leanne Evers, had gone on TV appealing for these people to stop what they were doing and return to their homes. According to the police, thirty-three people had been arrested in Manchester, fifty-four in London and in Glasgow eighty-eight. These statistics did not seem to scare the rioters. Not even riot police with their shields and batons seemed to scare them.
Mike watched as a man in his early twenties threw a petrol bomb at police and toward the news camera somewhere in London. The cameraman had to move as the petrol ignited mere inches away from him. His appeal had done nothing to stop this nonsense; the majority of these people probably weren’t even members of the PRP. He was worried that this would look bad on the party, although the majority of public opinion seemed to support the PRP and these people were extremely angry with the Coalition. He only wished he knew who was behind the assassination.
It was ten minutes until Campbell, Cresswell and Smith were due to arrive for a chat. He had contemplated wearing his best suit for the meeting, but had decided against it, somehow feeling he was demonstrating defiance in his own little way. He was wearing a cheap grey George suit he had bought from Asda in Brighton and he had five days worth of stubble.
According to the news a record number of callers had phoned the police, saying they had seen a white transit van with five occupants. The sightings came from all over the country. There were so many crackpots out there.
After the meeting with the Coalition leaders, he was due to chair his first leadership meeting. Ethan had always been good at chairing meetings, but now, as deputy leader, it was his turn until a new leader was chosen by the members. He had already advertised the contest on the website and put his own name down as a possible choice. He had chosen the club as his meeting place with the opposition, as he didn’t have time to get to London and back by three, when the emergency meeting was due.
The club wasn’t due to open until twelve at Mike’s request, leaving an hour for the meeting. He had received a call from Campbell’s aide shortly after the Brooks had left. He had a feeling he knew what the meeting was about. It would be a ‘sorry for your loss’ to start with, then it would turn to ‘what are you going to do now?’ and then ‘why don’t we join forces’ with Campbell as leader. That was the way it would go; he could feel it. He would see them in hell before he sold out to the Coalition.
The stretch limousine pulled up outside the club. Mike watched as Campbell, Cresswell and Smith got out and walked in. He was sitting on a stool at the bar nursing an early beer; he knew it would look bad to the Coalition leaders. Ordinarily he didn’t drink until five.
The three leaders walked down the three steps onto the bar floor and joined Mike at the bar.
‘Mike, we felt we had to come here in person and offer our condolences.’ Campbell shook Mike’s hand with a firm shake.
‘He was a great man,’ said Cresswell as he too shook Mike’s hands. ‘He’ll be sorely missed.’
‘Yes he will,’ agreed Mike.
‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ said Smith as they shook hands.
Mike really couldn’t stand Smith, with his old battered face and fake smile.
This was not the first time he had met all three leaders together in private. Only six months ago he had been leaving his flat when a limousine, exactly the same type as the one outside, had pulled up and he had been practically strong-armed into getting inside. The driver had driven him to a luxurious hotel in London. What transpired was exactly what would happen at this meeting: Join us. Mike didn’t like to hate people, but he certainly didn’t like any of these leaders. Campbell and Cresswell were tolerable, but he was closer to hating Smith.
‘Can I get you a drink?’ Mike addressed all three.
‘Coffee, please, a little milk, no sugar,’ replied Campbell.
‘A bit early for that, isn’t it?’ Smith was looking at Mike’s pint of lager.
Mike took a sip in defiance. ‘Never too early,’ he replied. ‘You want one?’ He saw the look of disgust on Smith’s face.
‘Three coffees will be fine,’ said Campbell for all three, attempting to stem the hostility. It was always George who caused hostility. He and Neil Cresswell actually got on quite well all things considered.
Gavin, the club manager, poured the coffees and the four of them withdrew to the back of the hall, away from all the staff who were preparing to open. It was five past eleven. Mike hoped this wouldn’t take long.
The three leaders took their seats opposite Mike, as though they were interviewing him for employment in their company.
Mike thought it was an obvious attempt at intimidation.
‘I just want to say thank you for seeing us at such short notice,’ started Campbell. ‘I understand you must be extremely busy right now.’
‘You could say that,’ replied Mike, nodding.
‘I want you to know that I’m getting constant updates from the chief constable of West Sussex police. They’re doing absolutely everything they can to find these murderers. No rock will remain unturned and I’m confident we’ll apprehend them quickly. She assures me they have leads already and the public are helping them with their enquiries. They will be apprehended.’
‘Thank you for that,’ replied Mike genuinely, ‘and I trust you’ll keep me posted.’
‘Of course,’ said Campbell.
‘Our main concern now is your safety,’ said Cresswell. ‘We’re here to urge you to take security precautions. Increase your security now, we implore you. We know how strenuously Ethan objected to having security guards, but after…’
‘I’ve taken precautions, Neil,’ lied Mike. ‘I have to ask, though, do you know something I should know? Have there been threats made against me?’
‘No, no, nothing like that,’ reassured Cresswell. ‘But we can’t rule anything out. Whoever killed Ethan went to great lengths to make sure they killed him. Two hundred rounds were recovered from his car.’
‘Your policies aren’t favourable to a lot of people,’ said Smith, perpetually the antagonist.
‘Excuse me?’ Mike’s temper rose sharply. ‘Our policies are decided by our members. Thirty two million of them at last count. Don’t presume to lecture me on our policies and who benefits!’
‘All I’m saying is that the wealthiest are going to lose out,’ replied Smith.
‘They’ll pay their two percent just like everyone else, and we’ve already made the cost of living less for millions of people.’
‘Ah yes, the PRP membership card scheme. Don’t you think we could’ve done that?’
‘So why haven’t you then, hmm?’
The PRP membership card scheme was a mass club card. Every participating company offered a percentage off goods and services to PRP members. Members could go to supermarkets, shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and various other outlets and claim twenty percent off when they use their card. The acquisitions minister had spent two years promoting the scheme to companies up and down the country. The PRP now had hundreds of companies joining the scheme. It had been said that a lot of members only joined to receive a card, but it didn’t matter because to get a card they still needed to contribute two percent of their salary after taxes, so the money was still distributed back into the country.
‘Let me guess, you suggested doing the same thing, but Dan and Neil said you couldn’t because it would make you look desperate,’ said Mike with a sarcastic grin.
George Smith sat back in his chair sulkily.
‘Okay, we’re not here to debate policies,’ interrupted Campbell.
‘We’re here to make sure you’re safe,’ added Cresswell.
‘Well, I appreciate your concern, but like I said I’ve taken precautions. I have increased security.’
Cresswell glanced behind him. ‘It looks like it.’
‘I don’t need twenty-four hour round the clock security. I’m quite safe here, thanks.’
‘There is another reason we came today,’ said Campbell, getting down to business. ‘We need your help, Mike. The rioting, the looting, it’s getting out of hand. We need you to plea for calm, to let the police get on with finding Ethan’s murderers.’
‘I did yesterday,’ replied Mike incredulously.
‘I know, I saw the broadcast,’ said Campbell. ‘These are your people out there getting arrested. I’ll have no choice but to order the police to charge in. People are going to get hurt, or worse.’
‘I don’t know what else I can do,’ replied Mike.
‘You can start by leading your party,’ said Smith.
Cresswell and Campbell glared over at Smith.
‘Urge these people to stand down, Mike,’ said Campbell pleadingly. ‘You’re the one people are looking to now. I don’t doubt you’ll be successful in your leadership contest. You’re a known entity to your members, almost as much as Ethan was.’
‘But I’ve tried once and they’re not listening.’
‘So try again, please. If there was ever a time this country needed you it’s now,’ said Campbell. ‘Come to London tomorrow and we’ll all go and ask them to stand down.’
‘Ok, I’ll think about it.’
Mike’s attention caught Erica Shaw standing at the front doors as though waiting to be invited in. He waved her in and she slowly walked to the bar. Gavin came round the front of the bar and hugged her tightly. Erica started to sob.
‘I’m going to have to cut this short, I’m afraid gentlemen,’ said Mike. ‘I appreciate your coming over here.’
All three leaders looked behind them. They recognised her immediately as one of Ethan’s on – off girlfriends. She had appeared on television a lot with Ethan and Mike. She was as famous as Mike and worked voluntarily for the party in her spare time. Her daytime job was with BUPA in Brighton.
‘Ok, we’ll leave you in peace,’ said Campbell as they all stood, shook hands and walked to the bar.
Mike walked behind them. Campbell stopped, shook hands with Erica and offered his sincerest condolences. Cresswell and Smith followed suit before leaving and driving off in the limousine paid for by the tax-paying electorate.
Before he had a chance to say anything, Erica embraced him tightly and sobbed into his shirt. Mike held her tightly. She smelt so lovely he didn’t want to let her go. Mike had known Erica for as long as he’d known Ethan. They went back further than the Positive Revolution Group.
Erica used to work at the Railway pub where he and Ethan had spent hours teasing each other and eyeing the local unsuspecting women. She had long shiny black hair, high cheekbones and a very healthy physique. Her mother was Spanish and her father English, giving her flawless olive coloured, Latino skin. She had a small scar on her chin, which was the only blemish visible. Erica drew in the local men with her banter and often got given the numbers of the young locals, sometimes even the older locals. She was very self assured and confident and amazingly enough didn't consider herself beautiful, even though it was often commented that she reminded people of Eva Mendes. It had been apparent from the outset that Erica and Ethan liked each other, but it took an age for them to finally get together.
Finally Erica broke off the embrace. ‘I can’t believe he’s gone, Mike. What am I going to do now? I miss him so much.’
‘I know, me too,’ he replied, a lump forming in his throat. ‘I keep expecting him to come through those doors and start taking the piss.’
Erica managed a laugh, remembering the banter the two had. Mike would joke about Ethan being ginger and Ethan always had something to come back with. It was why he was so good at debates in parliament. Campbell and Cresswell knew only too well how hard it was to get one over on Ethan; his sarcasm and humour outshone any quip they managed to think of. He’d often made the Coalition leaders look stupid on television. She loved him so much, but now all she had was memories.
‘I need to ask you a favour, Mike,’ she said as they walked to the back of the hall and sat down. ‘I need to be close to him.’
‘You name it,’ replied Mike, slightly perplexed.
‘I want to work for the party full time,’ she said to his amazement.
‘You said you’d never work here other than volunteering,’ he said, knowing how complex Ethan and her dynamics were. She also loved being independent.
‘I know, but I really need to be close to him. Here is as close to Ethan as anywhere.’
‘What about BUPA? You love that job,’ said Mike, not trying to disuade her.
‘I quit yesterday,’ she sniffed. ‘ I’ve done a lot of thinking recently. I want to work here. I’ll do anything that needs doing, you name it.’
‘Of course you can go permanent,’ he replied, ‘that’s a given. I just need to know this is the best thing for you. If not, Ethan will come back and kick my arse.’
‘It’s the best thing, I know it is,’ she said as she wiped her face with a scented baby wipe. ‘Look at the state of me.’
‘You look fine to me,’ he smiled, ‘you always did, do.’
Erica stood and ruffled Mike’s hair. ‘You’re sweet.’
‘Hey, Erica, come by tomorrow and we’ll talk about what you’d like to do.’
Mike watched as she walked up the three steps and out of the club.
Erica returned to her flat in Mill Road and made herself a cup of coffee. Her throat was sore after crying for so long. It had drained all her energy. She couldn’t help but think about an incident involving Ethan. Why hadn’t she pleaded more with him about security?
Six months ago, in December 2019, Erica had finally had enough. It was a cold evening so she’d covered up and trudged through the early snow to the social club, where she knew Ethan would be. Seven o'clock meant the club would be packed to the rafters, especially at the time of year. Christmas meant lots more revellers out for a good time.
As predicted, it was absolutely packed with youngsters singing songs and talking loudly. It was an amazing party atmosphere, but it always was, regardless of the time of year. The club had pulled in a lot of members from Brighton, Haywards Heath, Crawley and Gatwick and surrounding towns and villages. It was the busiest PRP social club, mostly because a lot of celebrities made appearances to show their support. Actors, singers and A-list celebrities were among party members.
Erica pushed her way through the crowd and found Ethan behind the bar chatting to a couple of girls in their early twenties. They were both cute and blond, just his type. He was forty-three and old enough to be both their fathers. Sometimes Ethan decided to help behind the bar as a laugh. He often had races with the staff to see who could get the most sales, and of course, he mostly won. Ordinarily Erica loved going to the club, but not then; she was on a mission to talk to Ethan about his behaviour. The constant bad publicity was harming the party’s reputation.
She’d bumped into one of the girls and apologised; she didn’t really mean it.
Max the Husky ran up to her and jumped up, putting his paws around her waist. She scratched his ears affectionately. She loved that stupid dog.
‘Hey gorgeous, you ok? What can I get you? Your usual?’
‘I need a word with you,’ she replied with authority.
Max got down and wandered back into the hall.
‘Oh, sounds serious,’ he replied with a grin. ‘What am I supposed to have done now?
Erica watched as he walked around the bar while humming The Death March. The two girls laughed and gave her evil glances. She ignored them and walked into the hall, where it was only slightly less busy. Ethan joined her and bent slightly to hear her; he was deaf in his left ear. His close friends enjoyed saying ‘huh?’ whenever he mentioned it to people he didn’t know.
‘What’s up?’ He tried to put his arms around her waist.
Erica backed away slightly. ‘Have you seen the papers today? As per usual you’re all over the front pages.’ She reached into her handbag and pulled a copy of The Sun out and handed it to him. ‘Go on, read it!’
She’d watched as Ethan grinned at the pictures and read the article. Her temper was getting hotter every second she’d watched him. She had wanted to scream at him. A photographer had taken a picture of him undressing a young girl in her early twenties. He’d not noticed his curtains open. The commentary had been less than complimentary.
‘Come on, you know what these journos are like; they’ll write any bullshit to sell their papers,’ replied Ethan, handing her back the paper. ‘You remember what happened before, Erica.’
‘Don’t throw that back in my face! That was a well-staged smear campaign against you; anyone would’ve believed it. And why do you have to have them here all the time, watching you get pissed and making a fool of yourself?’ She loved this man, but he infuriated her endlessly. Their relationship had ended over a smear campaign, which had fortunately backfired. They had never tried to get back together after that.
‘I don’t ask them here; they just park up outside,’ he replied defensively. ‘I don’t like being in the papers all the time, but I can’t do anything about it. I’m just here enjoying myself.’
‘And that’s another problem, your ,er, ‘relaxation’,’ she scowled. ‘You’ve got a reputation as being a bed hopping, binge drinking, junk food eating narcissist. It doesn’t help our cause, Ethan. You’re damaging the party!’
‘The party I founded, don’t forget!’
‘Yes, I know, you’re the big man with the big ideas, and we applaud everything you’ve done. You’re the man, woo hoo,’ she replied rolling her eyes sarcastically.
Erica couldn’t help but adore the way he looked hurt at her bitchy comments.
‘You know, sarcasm really doesn’t suit you,’ he replied.
She loved being the only person, other than his mum and sister, who could make him tongue-tied. It was another endearing quality. ‘Coming from the king of sarcasm, I’ll take that as a compliment.’
‘Ooh, snappy comeback,’ he replied, again, stumped. ‘Bed hopping, come on, you make it sound so seedy.’
‘You’ve left a trail of broken hearts up and down the country. All these girls you’re with all want to be the one you settle down with, you know that? Take those two girls over there.’
Erica pointed them out.
‘What? I was talking to them. Am I not allowed to talk to our members now?’
‘Of course you are, but you were flirting with them!’ She wanted to scream.
‘You’re jealous!’ replied Ethan with a grin.
‘I’m not jealous! I’ve been there, done that remember. And you’re not the king don in bed you think you are,’ she said holding up her little finger.
‘Well, I don’t remember you complaining about my size when we were together.’
‘Yeah, well, I loved you back then and didn’t want to hurt your feelings,’ she’d replied, secretly wishing she hadn’t.
‘Meaning you don’t now?’
‘Of course I don’t, not like that. As a friend, sure,’
She had seen the hurt in his eyes. She’d wanted to apologise but was still really angry. ‘Anyway, this isn’t the reason I came here tonight.’
‘Other than to tell me you don’t love me and I’ve got a weener, why did you come? I’ve got to say I was having a good night until you came in.’
‘To tell you to get your act together and clean up,’ she almost shouted. ‘What you’ve done so far is incredible, but your behaviour will be your undoing, Ethan, don’t you see that? You can’t be seen shagging anyone within reach. Also your drinking, your diet and lack of exercise. You’re a heart attack waiting to happen.’
‘Careful honey, I might start thinking you care,’ he said with a grin.
‘I do care,’ she’d replied. ‘And I do love you, ok? I don’t want to hear that you’ve died of a massive heart attack. If you don’t do it for me, do it for your members who adore you and your passion, your fun and sense of humour; the way you make those politicians look stupid. Please, Ethan.’
‘Ok, ok, I’ll tone it down a little!’
Erica had found her hand on his cheek and quickly took it away. Just as she had power over him, he too had a knack of appeasing her. When they’d been together it had irritated her beyond belief; she’d want to fight and he would just smile or do something silly and she’d end up laughing so much it hurt. ‘Thank you,’ she’d said smiling for the first time since she’d arrived.
Out of the corner of her eye, she had caught sight of what looked like a tramp. The strange looking man had a thick black beard and a mop of hair. He was wearing a thick grey overcoat, tatty blue jeans and wellingtons. His size had made her take note: he was six foot three and stocky. She’d smiled at him as he reached them.
‘Ethan, look out!’ She screamed as the tramp had pulled out a six-inch kitchen knife, raised his arm and brought it down as Ethan turned to him.
The knife easily sliced through Ethan’s shirt and split open his right arm.
Screaming muffled the din of singing and laughing.
Erica had watched in horror as the tramp lunged at Ethan, easily throwing him to the floor. Then, just as in the movies, the tramp was on top of him and trying to bring the knife down in a fatal blow.
Max barked three times, while snarling fiercely.
‘Someone get this big bastard off me!’ Ethan’s face contorted as he’d tried to keep the knife from going through his heart while on his back.
Max had lunged forwards and bit into the tramp’s arm.
Erica had jumped on top of the tramp until Gavin, the bar manager, pulled her off. Gavin may have been a chronic alcoholic and heavy smoker, but he could still move, his army training instincts instantly returning as he’d pulled the tramp off Ethan.
Erica had watched as Ethan stood, holding his bloody arm. Blood had gushed over his hand and down his sleeve. It was a deep cut. She’d tried to take a look but he brushed her off, while glaring down at the tramp. Gaving was sat on his chest.
Everyone had gathered round, including the reporters.
Max had nudged Ethan with his nose; it was his way of making sure his owner was ok. He’d growled at the tramp again.
‘Get them outta here and someone call the cozzers!’ Ethan had pointed at the cameras. Three huge doormen escorted the moaning journalists away.
‘What the fuck were you trying to do?’ demanded Ethan looking down at his arm and wincing. He’d looked faint and his face was pale and sweaty.
‘You’re gonna take my money away,’ said the tramp.
‘What the fuck are you talking about? What money?
‘My giro,’ replied the tramp from under Gavin. The tramp’s voice was slow; it made him sound retarded. ‘You’re gonna take it away from me.’
‘The compulsory work scheme?’ said Ethan, surprised. ‘If you work two days a week we’ll give you your income support. We can’t afford to keep paying people to sit around watching daytime TV and living off the rest of us.’
Erica had tried to take a look at his arm again, but he was too interested in talking to the tramp. He’d pulled away again.
‘I can’t work,’ confessed the tramp.
‘Then register yourself incapacitated.’
‘Them bastards say I’m fit to work, so the giro’s my only money,’ said the tramp. ‘And now you’re gonna take it away from me.’
Erica couldn’t hear the tramp wheezing, even with Gavin sat on top of him.
‘You look fine to me, strong as an ox,’ said Ethan, wincing again. ‘You can’t just get money for free, I’m sorry.’
‘I can, I fought for my country in Afghanistan. That’s gotta count for something!’
‘You? You were in Afghanistan?’
‘Helmand Province, two years. Saw my fair share of action, friends killed.’
Erica couldn’t believe that this horrible looking man was a soldier. She’d seen Ethan’s legs buckling from under him. It was a matter of seconds before he fainted. ‘Where’s that damned ambulance?’ she screamed to no one in particular.
‘It’s outside now,’ came a voice from the other end of the club.
‘Give this piece of shit to the police!’ said Ethan to Gavin. ‘Let them deal with him.’
‘Come on Ethan, sit down,’ said Sarah, directing him to a seat. ‘You can barely stand, baby.’ She’d noticed how pale he was; he’d lost a lot of blood.
The ambulance crew and police had arrived at the same time and in under seven minutes, which was good timing in the icy and snowy conditions. They’d marched through. The paramedics saw to Ethan while the police had cuffed the tramp and marched him away. He’d kept shouting ‘watch your back’ to Ethan.
Erica had jumped in the ambulance with Ethan. It was a quiet journey. Ethan was unconscious but stable, according to the paramedics. He’d lost a lot of blood, but they’d got there in time. He would be fine in a few days, they’d said.
That was the second time someone had tried to kill Ethan. Danny Mortimer, a paranoid schizophrenic obsessed with him had been the first. He’d tried to strangle Ethan from behind the driver's seat. Danny had hidden in the car and jumped up and pounced when Ethan had been driving along the M25. Sarah could remember the stabbing like it was yesterday, though. She’d pleaded with him in the hospital to hire security guards, but he had flatly refused to live in a bubble.
Now he was dead.
Erica closed her eyes and wept into her pillow.
Julie Tarriani walked into the East London Mosque at five to five, dressed in a light blue hijab, a purple top and black baggy trousers and black shoes. Fajr prayer time was one minute past five. She saw her dead fiance’s mother, father and two brothers huddled together at the front of the hall. They waved her over.
Amin Khan, her dead fiance, had been killed six months ago to the day inside prison. The official cause of death was trauma to the brain. In reality, Amin had been beaten to death by two convicts inside the prison canteen. It had been over an apparent misunderstanding. The prison warden had not given any details other than that. Amin had been in prison for eight months, still awaiting trial. It had made the papers, most notably because Amin had been accused of a terror plot to sabotage the London water supply. His family didn’t believe the charges; they thought it was yet another case of mistaken identity. They were in the process of fighting the case.
There was no way Julie could believe Amin capable of being talked into carrying out such an act. She’d been engaged to him for eighteen months and they’d been together for two and a half. He was a devout Muslim but not a fanatic. He had been fanatical about her, though. She sorely missed him. His family had accepted her as Amin’s future wife, and had more so when she’d found Allah and converted to Islam.
Male heads turned as she walked through the crowded hall. She was used to it. Ever since she was old enough to understand she had found male eyes following her every move. The blond hair, high cheekbones and slender body was all they saw. There was a lot more to her, though. Julie thought good looks a curse at times; she never looked at other men the way her non-Muslim girlfriends did. Amin was all she wanted.
Abeer Khan, Amin’s mother, greeted her with a hug. She was a large woman with a comforting hug and friendly smile. She wasn’t smiling now. Abeer was dressed in a black jilbab and black shoes; she was still mourning the death of her eldest son.
Then Hami Khan, Amin’s father greeted her with a hug. He thanked her for coming. Earlier the previous day Hami had phoned her to ask her to attend. He’d also invited her round to their house after prayer for dinner. She’d accepted.
Iqbal Khan greeted her first, then Hashim, the youngest son did the same.
The family was Turkish and both sons were good looking with mustaches and jet-black hair under their prayer caps. Hami and his two sons were wearing white all in one robes and white prayer caps.
After a quick catch up the congregation took their places and knelt down on their prayer mats. At one minute past five the Fajr prayer began. Julie was praying to be with Amin soon. And she knew she would be, a lot sooner than anyone else knew.
At seven thirty that evening, Mike walked through the foyer of The Grand Hotel in Brighton. He had been selected to attend by the leadership committee that afternoon. He had not wanted to go, but was here now. He was greeted by the chairman of the charity he had been invited by. The charity helped children with cerebral palsy. Actually Ethan had been invited, but he had to fill in.
‘Welcome Mr. Martin, it’s an honour to meet you finally,’ said Mr. Quinn. Mr. Quinn The Third was a stuffy fellow who spoke with an incredibly posh accent. There was not a crease in sight on his suit, obviously very expensive with tails. He wasn’t wearing a top hat.
‘Thank you, it’s an honour to be here,’ replied Mike.
‘Might I say how dreadful it was to hear of what happened to Ethan,’ he said sincerely. ‘Please accept my sincerest condolences. I understand you were close to him. I do so hope they catch those brutes, and soon. They should give them a public flogging, just for starters, I say.’
‘Yes, I completely agree,’ replied Mike trying hard not to sound like he was mimicking the man. ‘And it was terrible. I really don’t know how this is going to affect our members and the party.’
‘He had a truly brilliant mind, but I’m sure his deputy can keep the home fires burning,’ said Mr. Quinn. ‘We all have faith in you. I saw you’ve put yourself up for candidacy. I know where my vote is going.’
‘Again, thank you,’ he smiled. ‘It would be an honour to serve.’
‘Where are my manners! Let me take your jacket and get you a drink. We have Champagne and strawberries flying around somewhere.’
Mike took a glass of Champagne and meandered through the guests, who all wanted to say how sorry they were to hear about Ethan’s passing. They said passing as though he had died peacefully in his sleep. He wanted to shout out ‘don’t you mean assassinated, murdered!’
After an hour of mixing with the wealthy donors Mr. Quinn announced that dinner was served. Mike found his place and sat down; he was sat with a mixture of wealthy couples and one lovely looking woman in her early thirties. She was fortunately sat next to him. The chat was sparse to begin with, then the younger lady said how sorry she was to hear about Ethan and how she’d seen him on television a lot.
Her name was Emily Rosemont, the heir to an enormous vineyard in France. Her father and grandfather were running it still but it was hers once they retired. Her grandfather was eighty-three and still kept his share. The vineyard was in the South of France; she lived in Brighton, but would have to move there some day. Mike thought she smelt divine. She was extremely elegant and well spoken.
Mike asked about her past, where she went to school and what she was doing now. He wanted to know everything about her and all but ignored the rest of the dinner guests. Starters arrived and everyone used the correct cutlery, starting from the outside and working in. Everyone had smoked salmon millefeuille. Mike was more of a burger and pizza man, but ate without moaning while talking to her.
Apparently Emily had married a solicitor who owned his own company, Holland Byers & Associates. The hours he worked were unsociable and incompatible with marriage, often as many as ninety a week, which gave them little time together. They were divorced and had been for seven years. She had yet to find Mr. Right. Mike thought she was mid thirties, but thought maybe a bit older.
Emily’s parents were huge supporters of the charity; her younger sister had been born with cerebral palsy and she had received a lot of help before she’d died at the age of twelve. Her father had asked her to attend in his place. His own health was poor, which meant he couldn’t fly.
Immediately after the starters Mr. Quinn The Third took to the podium and thanked everyone for coming and continuing to support the charity. Their donations were invaluable and tonight was a chance for him to say thank you.
There was a dull bang in the distance, followed by another, this time slightly louder. Mr. Quinn stopped talking when the sound of shattering glass and screams spread through the large hall. There was confusion when the manager entered and closed the doors behind him. Murmuring took the place of confusion.
A guest asked what was wrong. The manager replied that for everyone’s safety, to please remain calm. Shouting and chanting filled the room.
Mike stood, told Emily to stay put and approached the manager. He asked what was going on quietly and the manager told him that youths were out on the seafront with petrol bombs and the police were trying to apprehend them. He asked to be let out.
In the foyer staff were trying to put out fires with extinguishers, but to no effect. Curtains were on fire and the flames touched the ceiling. He immediately went back in and ordered everyone out the back.
Outside the chanting grew louder. Emily was holding onto his hand and seemed shaken up. Mike squeezed her hand.
‘What do we do?’ She was clearly scared.
‘This way,’ he replied. He turned to the rest of the guests and told them to stay put.
Leading the way he held on tight to Emily’s hand and tried to find a clear street.
Out on the streets was pandemonium. People were running, trying to avoid the mob who were dominating the streets. Police sirens were wailing in the distance. Loud bangs could be heard. Smoke was everywhere.
‘Why are they doing this?’ Emily sounded confused and naïve.
‘Because Ethan was assassinated and they think the government are responsible,’ he replied. ‘Actually most of them are just using it as a chance to blow off steam. They can get away with acting like thugs. The police are overloaded.’
They finally got to the seafront. With all the smoke and burning cars they could barely see. Their eyes were stinging. In the distance they could hear loud speakers telling everyone to go home. Then through the smoke they could see police with shields, armour and batons wading into groups of youths, occasionally catching passers by. Mike was livid when he saw a middle aged couple get beaten by two police officers on the ground. They were clearly not rioters.
‘Come on, I don’t live far from here!’
Emily took him by the hand and pulled him back. He would be taking it up with the Sussex police in the morning. This was getting out of control. The army would be called in to sort it out soon, and there would be more casualties, more bloodshed.
Iqbal Khan pulled up outside his dead brother’s three-bedroom house. It was dark at eleven thirty. Dinner had been quiet. They’d only mentioned Amin once throughout the meal. Abeer had been the quietest, having been deep in thought.
Julie leaned over and gave Iqbal a kiss on his cheek. She had not felt like eating, however she had forced herself, not wanting to appear rude. Thoughts of Amin had invaded her mind. Everyday she thought of him, every second of every day it felt like.
They’d been organising their wedding the night the Metropolitan Police had broken down the door and aimed several guns at Amin’s head. She’d protested; the police had ignored her cries. They’d proceeded to force him on his front lying down, cuffing him and forcing him into a police car.
The last six months had been the hardest for her. When she’d found out that Amin had been killed she’d collapsed mentally and physically. She’d been bed ridden for three weeks. Her mum and Abeer had persuaded her finally to get out of bed and face the world. It had not been easy: the papers had reported his death and mentioned her name in association with a terrorist plot to infect London’s water supply. Death threats had followed via email and telephone. It didn’t make grieving her loss any easier. Friends and family of the Khan’s disowned them and there were in total twenty people at Amin’s funeral. The press had been there to film it for the world to see.
Time had not healed the wounds. She was still as miserable as when he’d been arrested and wanted it to be over; she’d tried killing herself three times, but had only managed to scratch her wrists. She simply wasn’t brave enough to carry it through, she told herself.
It would be over soon, though.
‘Thanks for the ride, Iqbal, I appreciate it,’ she said as she kissed him on the cheek. She liked the Khans. They were so warm and loving.
‘It’s ok, anything to get out of the house,’ he replied. ‘Sorry it was so sombre in there tonight. Mum was getting better until today.’
‘Six month anniversary. The first anniversary is the worst, so they say,’ she said with a weak smile.
‘So they say,’ he agreed and started the engine. ‘Take care of yourself.’
‘You too,’ she said as she stepped out of the car.
She waved off Iqbal in his red electric Wheeler, turned and walked up the driveway to her front door. She stepped inside, closed the door and walked through to the lounge, switching the lights on. In the kitchen she pressed the messages on her landline and listened as her sister left a message asking for a call back. The second message was from a friend of hers, Sara Hooper, who wanted to meet for lunch one day next week. The third and final message stopped her in her tracks.
‘Julie, it’s me, give me a call on the mobile I gave you, please,’ said the low voice.
Julie immediately rummaged through her handbag and found the cheap and simple Samsung mobile. ‘Hassan, it’s Julie,’ she said as he answered on ring one.
‘Julie, the time has come,’ replied Hassan, serious as ever. ‘The arrangements have been made. June fourth. We’ll meet at my flat on Monday.’
‘I’ll be there,’ replied Julie, relieved to finally know the date. ‘Have you got everything you need? What we talked about?’
‘Everything is ready,’ he replied. ‘Monday at seven; I’ll talk you through it.’
Hassan cut the connection.
Julie put the phone back in her handbag. She smiled genuinely for the first time since Amin’s arrest. She now knew what was going to happen. She knew the chaos and mayhem the country would face, the fear and panic. She would soon be with Amin; Allah had told her so.