Chapter 3 of The Road To Revolution. Enjoy!
|Saturday, May 30th 2020
Thousands of angry protesters had gathered in Hyde Park and Regents Park in the centre of London the next day. Banners were everywhere, suggesting that the ‘Coalition Leave Now’ and others just bore the word ‘murderers’. The principal organisers of this peaceful protest were ardent PRP members. They had gone to great lengths to get these people here. Not one piece of green grass could be seen through the mass of protesters. The volume of chanting and shouting could be heard from miles away. It was the largest protest Britain had ever witnessed and the media were there to film it all. It would go down in history as such.
There were peaceful protests all over the country, but the protests in London dwarfed them all. Riot police on horses and on foot and regular police had been called in from other counties overnight to try and stem the rioting in London. Every police officer in the country was working; holidays had been cancelled until further notice. It was the closest they had seen to the government declaring a state of emergency. Every officer knew the government wasn’t far off declaring Martial Law and internment.
The second largest protest had been staged at Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester off the A5103. Thousands of protesters had gathered, chanting and shouting. The Manchester police and fire brigade had had a restless night, with buildings and cars set alight. Rioters had pelted the police with bricks, stones and firebombs. Two civilians had been killed when a firebomb had flared up inside their car; their windows had been open when the glass bottle had been thrown. One police officer had died from head injuries when he had tried to apprehend a youth with a bat. He had been hit twelve times with the bat in the head. The offender was arrested shortly after.
Sarah Hobbs had the news on in her flat. All morning the images had switched from the protests in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Swansea and Glasgow. The Brighton riots had been mentioned briefly but had all but dissipated. She was astonished at how many people seemed to care.
She so badly wanted to hug him. Every time she thought of him it felt like she had been kicked in the stomach. Why hadn’t she been nicer to him?
Her stomach growled loudly. She got up from the sofa and went and made breakfast consisting of a slice of toast and margarine and a cup of weak tea. She walked back to the sofa and sat down when the doorbell rang. She muttered under her breath.
Claire Brook rang the bell once more.
Sarah opened the door and stopped herself bursting into tears. She let Claire in and followed her to the lounge.
‘Is this a good time?’ asked Claire, noticing the toast on the coffee table.
‘I was just about to eat breakfast,’ she replied. ‘I’m really not hungry, though.’
Sarah let Claire sit on the sofa while she moved over to an armchair.
‘Just look at it,’ said Claire, watching the television. ‘How’s this all going to end?’
‘I know, Ethan wouldn’t have…’ She couldn’t continue.
‘Wanted this, I know,’ anticipated Claire.
‘He’d be grinning now, but he would make everyone stand down, go to work.’
Claire’s usually happy face was now contorted, tired and angry. She had aged almost overnight. Sarah wished she could do something for her. ‘Can I get you some tea or coffee, toast?’
‘No, I’m not staying long,’ replied Claire. ‘I just came round to say that we’re having a gathering at ours tomorrow night, if you’d like to come? You were always Ethan’s girl. He loved you so much, always talked about you.’
‘That’s kind of you to say, Claire, but…’
‘You’re welcome round ours any time you want,’ insisted Ethan’s mum. ‘In fact I’ll be insulted if you don’t come round every now and again. You were always my favourite, if the truth be known.’
‘How can I turn down that offer? What time do you want me round?’
‘About three, if that’s ok? It’s just a buffet, nothing too exciting.’
‘I’ll be there,’ she replied as Claire stood to leave.
Sarah moved quickly and caught Claire in a tight hug. She felt overwhelmed, but fought hard to keep from crying. ‘What are we going to do without him, Claire?’ Her eyes glazed over as a tear rolled down her cheek.
‘I don’t know, Sarah, I really don’t. It’s like a large part of me’s missing, a gaping hole,’ replied Claire, stroking Sarah’s hair while hugging. ‘It’ll take time, love.’
The way Claire said ‘love’ was so warm, so sincere and meant, she didn’t want to break off the embrace. Ethan’s mum was one of the kindest, most decent women she had ever met. She’d teased Ethan about being a momma’s boy for so long, but she could see why he was so devoted to her, and his family.
The volume rose on the television sharply as the chanting turned to shouting and booing. The Hyde Park protest turned to hatred as Campbell, Cresswell and Smith arrived with a fleet of police escorts, cars and motorcycles flanking them. It was the highest level of security the leaders had ever needed. The car was armoured and armed police met them as they left their vehicle. All three Coalition leaders were wearing bullet proof flack jackets.
Claire and Sarah sat down on the sofa and watched.
Daniel Campbell had never seen so many people in London. And they were baying for his blood. There were protesters as far as he could see. There were banners everywhere. He couldn’t fathom how one man could have created such a popular party. Sure, the PRP had lowered the cost of living for its members, but how could one man be so admired and loved by all these people?
The Coalition, which he succeeded from David Cameron and Nick Clegg, couldn’t have got everything so wrong, could they? They’d done the best they could by the electorate, hadn’t they? They’d almost paid off the deficit caused by Labour. The country was almost out of the recession. Things were looking better, weren’t they?
He’d had five years as Coalition leader. He had served one term and it looked as though it would be his last. He would stand down if the PRP took power and Cresswell and Smith would be forced to as well. He’d go down in history books as the first leader to be beaten by an alternative party. Who’d have thought that one man could change an entire nation in such a short amount of time? It was unthinkable.
Armed police escorted him onto a podium while Cresswell and Smith followed. His heart was pounding as chants of ‘murderers’ pounded his eardrums. The noise was enough to blow him off the podium. The pure hatred in their eyes clawed at him. He had never made a speech to so many people in one place. Cresswell and Smith stood either side of him, clearly shaken as much as he was.
‘What the hell are we doing here?’ he muttered to Cresswell.
The protesters nearest were shouting abuse at him at the tops of their voices and goading the armed officers. Fortunately for him the police were steadfast, safe in the knowledge that their weapons would stop the crowd in their tracks. There were hundreds of police. There were thousands of protesters. If it got out of hand, there was no telling what might happen. He had never been so scared in his life.
He didn’t know what he could say to placate them. He cleared his throat and spoke as the microphone squeaked with feedback. The audience laughed at him; he'd never heard such noise in his life. ‘Please listen to us,’ he started nervously, ‘we understand how angry you are with us. Ethan Brook’s assassination shocked us to our core, believe me.’
Chants of ‘murderers’ grew even louder.
‘We need to allow the police time to investigate Ethan’s death. The biggest ever manhunt is currently under way for these men and they will be apprehended! We have a task force of expert investigators on this case. If anyone can find these men they can. We just need time, that’s all we ask.’
‘I know you believe we’re responsible, but I can emphatically deny any involvement,’ he said sincerely. ‘We want these people brought to justice every bit as much as you do. This will not go unpunished, I promise you!’
The crowd were not listening. They were working themselves into a frenzy.
‘We need to ask you all to disperse calmly and go back to your homes,’ he said as the chanting turned to ‘No, No, No’. ‘Please, listen to me, this is a dangerous and illegal gathering. We don’t want to ask the police to intervene, so please leave peacefully. We will have justice for Ethan Brook!’ His voice was hoarse.
Without warning the crowd started cheering. Campbell turned around to find Mike Martin walking up the podium stairs and waving. He couldn’t believe that such an ordinary looking man could inspire such adoration from the crowd.
‘Where the hell have you been?’ Campbell had meant to sound relieved.
‘Have you seen it out there? I got caught up in traffic,’ replied Mike as he took to the podium. His heart was thudding in his chest as he looked at what must have been a ten-thousand strong crowd. Fortunately for him they loved him.
‘Good luck, you’re going to need it,’ said Campbell as he took a step back.
‘Yeah, thanks,’ muttered Mike as he splayed his arms up and out to the cheering crowd below. He thought he was going to faint. ‘I want to thank each and every one of you for coming here and showing your support. Ethan would be proud of you all. This is a difficult time for the PRP as you are well aware. Ethan was an astonishing leader and visionary and will be sorely missed. Eight years ago he started this party, with his vision of a New Order, a New Great Britain, where the cost of living is lower, where the economy is strong, the employment level is low and British people are happy to call this country their home. The PRP have demonstrated how we can do this and we will implement your policies as soon as you all vote PRP and we all have the power to vote on how this country moves forwards.’
Tremendous applause rocked the podium. Mike had to hold onto the sides.
‘I’ve never witnessed such a display of solidarity as I see right now,’ he continued, ‘take a look around you! Go on, look! It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, hispanic, Chinese, Japanese or African, you know why? Because it doesn’t matter! We’re all PRP! We all believe in the future of this amazing country. The PRP even has millions of supporters in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This party has somehow managed to bring everyone together, as one. This is the way Great Britain should be, not segregated or isolated. What party can ever claim that? None, because they want the power to make choices for us!’ he said with a lump forming in his throat. ‘So really, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, all, so much. This means such a lot to me, and I know it would mean more to Ethan.’
He felt such love, such elation. It was a feeling he had never felt before.
‘Now, on a serious note,’ he started, ‘we need you to disperse calmly and return to your homes or work, the pub, wherever. The police are waiting for you down there and if they get the order, they will use force if necessary. I don’t want one of you to get arrested or hurt; it’s not the PRP way. Be sure to vote PRP on June eleventh!’
Mike ended the speech and walked down the stairs of the podium into the crowd below. He shook hands and kissed cheeks until he was dizzy.
Campbell, Cresswell and Smith returned to their car. Campbell had a massive headache and swallowed two Paracetamol with water.
‘I don’t believe it,’ said Smith, ‘he used this as a chance to promote his party.’
‘Like you wouldn’t have done the same if the situation were reversed,’ said Cresswell. He too had a headache.
‘Well, it’s not over yet,’ said Campbell, massaging his temples.
‘It might as well be,’ replied Cresswell.
‘Dan’s right,’ said Smith, ‘we’ve still got a few tricks up our sleeves.’
Patrick Huston, senior PRP administrator for Greater Manchester, was waiting for his wife Milly to finish cooking his early evening meal.
Milly was cooking casserole for the kids and Patrick; she was eating out with friends later so would not be joining them.
Patrick, the senior administrator for his region and close friend of Ethan and Mike’s was forty three and used to work as a plumber before he decided to join the PRP. The plumbing company he’d worked for had gone bust, along with a lot of other smaller companies. Then two years ago he’d received the calling to administer for the PRP. He believed in the party and truly believed he was doing the right thing. The only down side was the pay, forty-thousand a year, but they managed. Having the membership card to buy groceries and clothing and other accessories made it a lot easier to make ends meet.
He was tall at six foot two, had dark spiky hair and regularly worked out at his local gym, which happened to be PRP card friendly. They offered twenty percent off membership, but since then membership had risen dramatically. It was hard to find equipment free it was so busy. He’d had many emails from company owners who went on to tell him how much trade had picked up since they had joined the card membership scheme. One company had had a forty-percent increase in trade in a year. He’d received thousands of emails praising the scheme. One company owner had told him they’d needed to create ten more jobs due to demand. So not only did the card scheme lower the cost of living, it also created jobs and extra revenue for the party; he thought it was genius. Ethan had predicted it correctly.
Calling out to the kids, Milly served up three helpings of casserole with peas and mashed potato. Milly took fitness very seriously and ran four miles every morning. She’d put on a lot of weight after giving birth to their youngest, Callum, who was eight years old. Her eldest son, Sean, was ten next week. In a year she had lost three stone and weighed a healthy nine stone ten. She’d noticed how much more attention Patrick paid to her body after she’d lost the weight. They had a steady but not too exciting sex life. It didn’t matter; she loved Patrick dearly.
They had met twelve years ago through mutual friends at a dinner party. Without knowing it they had met before, but neither had known until their mutual friends had pointed it out to them. Conversation had not been sparse. Two dates later they had made love and became known as Milly and Pat.
The kids came running down the stairs and into the dining room where Patrick was waiting to start. He told them to slow down and they did as they were told, sat down and started munching. They were good looking boys, both with thick blond hair. They argued regularly, as all brothers did.
Patrick was very content with life. He liked his job, loved his family and got plenty of time to play golf and squash with his few friends. Life was good.
When he’d heard about Ethan, Milly had cried. Ethan had been round for dinner several times either with Sarah or a new girl. Patrick had been to the emergency meeting yesterday in Burgess Hill. He thought Mike had looked awful. Senior administrators had to attend meetings regularly in Burgess Hill. The driving was a pain, but Mike always put him up for the night.
Patrick had a meeting to go at five, which was why Milly was cooking to get it ready for four. It was a routine meeting ten minutes away by car, so he could leave at quarter to five and not worry about being late.
At his own pace Patrick got changed into a suit, kissed Milly and the kids goodbye and walked through the hallway and porch. His Alpha Romeo, his most precious toy, was parked directly out the front door. He unlocked it and sat inside, immediately finding the seatbelt and locking it.
From inside he heard Milly calling after him. He waited for her to appear.
‘Don’t forget I’m meeting the girls tonight,’ she said.
‘It’s ok, I haven’t. I’ll be back by seven to put the boys to bed,’ he replied, reaching for the ignition. She always seemed to think he would forget.
Milly blew him a kiss jovially and he did the same, his right hand still on the key.
‘Right, I’m off,’ he said as he turned the key.
The force of the explosion knocked Milly into the hallway and shook the house and shattered the front windows, shards spraying the front lawn. The car rose into the air six feet and crashed to the ground in a fiery torrent three seconds later. Patrick died instantly.
Milly was knocked unconscious and suffered second degree burns to her face and arms. It took ten minutes for the fire service, ambulances and police to arrive.
After four hours mixing with protesters and another two hours travelling back to Burgess Hill, Mike entered the club, meandered through the crowd and walked up to the bar. Gavin served him a pint of lager. Gavin mentioned he’d watched the news and thought he’d done magnificently in dispersing the crowd. It had taken three hours for the trains to take some of the protesters home. It had still been extremely busy in London when he’d stepped into his car, but everyone looked to be leaving. There had been barely any violence throughout. It was a miracle with the amount of people there.
‘Sarah’s waiting for you at your table, mate,’ said Gavin, motioning with his head.
‘Oh shit,’ replied Mike, almost spilling his pint as he took a sip, ‘I completely forgot. How long’s she been here?’
‘I’d say five drinks,’ replied Gavin. ‘It’s alright, she’s fine.’
Mike walked over to Sarah at the back of the hall, making sure he didn’t bump into any of the members along the way. The club was always packed, but he was used to it. The atmosphere was sombre, not like it used to be.
‘Shit, I’m so sorry I’m late Sarah,’ he apologised as he bent down to kiss her on the cheek. He noticed how sullen she looked.
‘That’s ok, Mike,’ she replied staring up at him. ‘I know you’ve been busy.’
After sitting down Sarah went on to tell him how she and Claire Brook had watched his speech on the TV and how impressed they’d been with his persuasiveness. The people really looked up to him. And about how they both thought he would make the best leader of the party. Mike wanted Ethan there right then; it was his party.
‘So, do you want to talk about your role here?’ He thought she looked awful, not the radiant Sarah he knew and loved.
‘Not right now,’ she replied, ‘I’m too drunk. We can do that some other time.’
He could tell she wasn’t in the mood to talk.
‘Do you remember that party conference a couple of years ago?’
Then again, maybe she was. ‘Which one? There are too many to recollect.’
‘When he got so drunk he passed out on stage and you had to fill in,’ she replied with a kind of melancholy smile.
‘Don’t! He was so embarrassed after that,’ smiled Mike. ‘Trying to keep up with those Scots, the dopey bastard.’
‘What about that Prime Minister’s Questions where he screamed out “I’m drowning!” Classic Ethan.’ Her memory made her laugh slightly.
‘He loved it. Turning round to me and saying ‘I’ve got no answer’ and then scratching his head and saying ‘I’m out of my depth here’ while scratching his head.’ The PRP members had belly laughed out loud when Campbell had asked Ethan about a specific economic question, even though it was Campbell’s questions.
‘And then turning round with a copy of his economic solutions and throwing a copy of it to Campbell,’ laughed Sarah.
‘I swear I’ve never seen Campbell so angry,’ added Mike with a laugh. ‘He was a character, though. He made politics watchable, I swear.’
‘Of course he did, the drunk idiot,’ replied Sarah affectionately.
‘Everyone loves a drunk,’ said Mike, the smile fading.
Reminiscing turned to silence. All they could hear was the mix of faint music and dull din of voices merging into one. Mike knew it would take a long time to come to terms with Ethan’s death, a long time.
After a long silence, Sarah asked, ‘do you really think this party’s going to survive?’
‘It has to,’ replied Mike. ‘We owe it to him to make it work.’
‘You were awesome up there on that stage, Mike,’ said Sarah looking up from her drink. ‘Claire and I both said you’re a born leader. You and Ethan are so different, but you can still lead this party. We’ve both voted for you.’
‘Thank you for that,’ he smiled. He didn’t really want the responsibility; he’d left that up to Ethan for eight years. ‘There’re only three candidates.’
‘You’ll get it,’ she smiled genuinely while peeling the label off her bottle of Bud.
‘You ok?’ He knew it was a stupid question.
‘As can be expected,’ she replied, still staring at the bottle. ‘You?’
‘Bearing up, I guess,’ he answered, unconvincingly. ‘I miss him to bits, Sarah.’
‘Me too,’ she said, finally looking up at him. ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. I see him everywhere. His billboards are still up, he’s still on TV.’
‘I know.’ On the way back from London he’d seen Ethan’s face at least twenty times. It didn’t make grieving easy seeing him on the sides of buses and on billboards. ‘I feel the same, but we need to keep strong for his sake.’
Mike leaned forward and held Sarah’s hand. Her head was down again, watching the brown bottle with no label. His mobile vibrated on the table. ‘Shit, sorry Sarah but I’ve got to take this.’ She nodded and he held the phone to his ear. ‘Yeah? Mike Martin,’ he said still watching her. The number was withheld.
‘You watching the news?’ The voice had a hard edge; he couldn’t place it.
‘No, why? Who is this?’
‘Put Sky News on,’ replied the mystery voice. ‘Do it, now!’
Without hesitating Mike got up and walked over to the TV. He manually switched over, to grumbles from members who were watching the England cricket highlights. Mike stood back and ignored the complaints.
He watched as a very attractive blond and slender anchor lady described the scene. The camera was trained on a smouldering wreck of a car outside a detached house in Manchester. The text in a yellow line at the bottom of the screen read: ‘Breaking News : Senior PRP Administrator killed in car bomb.’ It didn’t quite register until the anchor lady informed them that the house belonged to Patrick Huston, senior administrator for Manchester. Mike took a couple of steps back and watched, hypnotised.
‘You see that?’ The voice was harder now. ‘Pat Huston was a friend of yours, right?’
Mike was too shocked to respond. His heart was thudding wildly. It still wasn’t registering that Patrick was dead; he’d only seen him yesterday.
‘You’re next!’ The line went dead.
There were shocked members watching, mesmerised by the scene outside Patrick’s home. Many of them knew Patrick; he was a regular visitor to Burgess Hill. There were sobs from female members, but silence surrounded the club.
‘Who the fuck is this?’ The anger in his voice made everyone take note. Mike glanced at his phone, pushed the red button angrily and threw it onto his table.
Mike continued to watch as the anchor lady explained to any viewer who’d not heard of Ethan’s assassination that this was the second assassination of senior administrators in the PRP. She also went on to say that the recent violence had been caused by Ethan Brook’s killing and could not say whether this would further incite more civil unrest.
Daniel Campbell was watching the BBC News in his office at ten Downing Street. He couldn’t believe it, another assassination. He’d never heard of anything like it before. This was an unprecedented and systemic attack on the infrastructure of the PRP. If the public didn’t blame the Coalition he wouldn’t have been as worried as he was. He dreaded to think what the public would think now. With the amount of members and love the PRP had, he didn’t know what to expect.
The police had received so many calls from the public, but none had yielded results. The Coalition needed to find out who was behind the murders. The longer they eluded the police the less likely it was that they’d be apprehended. He’d received hourly updates from the chief constable of West Sussex since Ethan’s murder. He had just called the chief constable of Lancashire and told him to do the same.
The news had reported on nothing but the rioting and demonstrations since the first riot broke out in London. Now the media would go into a frenzy over Patrick Huston’s assassination and how the police had no leads to go on over Ethan’s violent death. He’d never felt so stressed. He reached into his right desk drawer, took out a couple of Ibuprofen and swallowed them with a gulp of water.
His next port of call was to make another phone call.
He picked up his landline handset and dialled.
Mike picked up his mobile, looked at who was calling and pressed the receive button.
‘Yeah, Mike Martin!’
‘Mike, it’s Dan,’ came Campbell’s voice.
‘You’ve seen then?’
‘Just seen it on the BBC,’ replied Campbell. ‘I don’t know what to say; I know he was a friend of yours. I’ve just been on the phone to the chief constable of Lancashire and told him to keep me informed on a regular basis.’
‘How’s Milly doing?’
‘She’s in a stable condition. They’re doing surgery tomorrow morning.’
‘And the boys?’
‘Being looked after by Patrick’s parents,’ replied Campbell.
‘That’s something at least. And how’s the investigation going with Ethan?’
‘The police have been inundated with calls from the public,’ answered Campbell, ‘but nothing as yet. They’re doing everything they can, Mike, I promise you that.’
‘Christ! Two of our top administrators murdered. I can’t believe this is happening.’
‘I know, I can’t either,’ replied Campbell genuinely. ‘Look, this will only bring more violence. We’re going to need your help, Mike.’
‘You know you’ve got my support,’ said Mike, ‘they’re PRP members.’
‘I’m not doing it for you! I just don’t want to see any more violence. I want to get this election over so we can start to return to some semblance of normality.’
‘I understand that. But thank you anyway, especially for this morning.’
‘Ok, keep me informed.’
‘You said yesterday that you’ve increased security around you, right?’
‘Yeah, that’s right.’
‘I’m sending two armed officers to guard you at all times until this is over. They’ve been hand picked and they’re on their way now. They’ll drive you wherever you want to go and they report directly to me.’
‘Do I get a choice in this?’
‘No, you don’t. And I’ll need a list of your senior administrators, too. We can’t take any unnecessary risks at this time. We don’t know how far these people will go. They might be targeting all your senior admin team for all we know. Can you get me the list as soon as you can? Time’s important, Mike.’
‘You’ll have it in an hour,’ replied Mike. ‘I’ll fax it over to you.’
Mike ended the call and sat down at his table. Sarah got up and ran through the crowd. ‘Sarah, wait!’ He let her go, assuming she was going to the toilet; she’d suddenly turned very pale. The news was on in the background, but everyone was watching him, obviously expecting him to say something. Instead he picked up his pint and downed it in one.
Gavin walked over to him and sat down opposite, where Sarah had been sitting.
‘I assume that was Campbell on the phone,’ asked Gavin.
‘Yeah, no news on Ethan’s killers and he’s got the Lancashire police investigating Pat’s death,’ he replied. He wondered how and when this would end.
‘So what don’t you have a choice about?’
‘Campbell’s sent two armed officers to guard me twenty-four seven,’ he replied. ‘I feel like I’m being babysat.’
‘It’s a good idea, mate’ added Gavin. ‘You’ll definitely be a target.’
‘Yeah, thanks for that,’ he said, irritated.
‘Hey, I’m just saying. Best to be careful. If you get popped there’s no hope for this party. And that’s obviously what they want.’
Mike nodded. ‘I just wish I knew who they are.’
‘You and I both,’ said Gavin as he got up. ‘String these pricks up, I would.’
‘I hear you, Gav,’ said Mike as Gavin walked back to the bar.
Sarah heaved heavily into the toilet bowl. She sat down on the toilet seat with her elbows on her knees and her hands on her head.
The last time she and Ethan had stayed with Milly and Pat had to be nine months ago, she thought. September or October. Ethan had driven while she’d navigated, not that she’d needed to. They’d arrived at midday and unpacked their hold alls in the spare room before lunch. Pat’s parents had offered to have the kids for the weekend. The drive there had been fun, singing along to songs on the radio and chatting away. Ethan had been so relaxed he may have well driven with the seat horizontal. That had always amazed her about him. How could he be so relaxed? Even on TV being questioned and grilled he was relaxed.
After lunch the four of them had gone shopping at the Trafford Centre, where she had gone off with Milly and the boys had found a bar until they’d finished shopping. In one store Milly had asked her why she and Ethan had not got back together. According to Milly it was obvious Ethan loved her, just by the way he treated her. She hadn’t seen it; it was just the way they were together. It had made her think, though.
When they had met the boys the four of them had gone to dinner at La Tasca, a restaurant in the centre. They’d enjoyed the food and wine, chatted and laughed until nine o’clock when they took a stroll and ended up in a bar for the remainder of the night. A lot more wine and beer was drunk and everyone said hello to Ethan and Pat and shook their hands; they were national celebrities.
When they’d arrived at Milly and Pat’s at just gone midnight, they’d had a game of Rummy and finally retired to bed at two in the morning. As they knew each other so well, she and Ethan had shared a double bed, changing into their bed clothes with no inhibitions; they’d both seen it all before. In bed they’d snuggled up together on their sides, Ethan’s warm arms around her waist, their legs entwined.
After a while, when Ethan’s breathing was heavy, she asked, ‘Ethan?’
‘Hmm?’ he replied sleepily.
‘Why did we never get it together?’
‘I don’t know,’ he said sleepily, not really listening. He was drunk and tired.
‘Have you never thought about it?’
His heavy breathing turned to a light snore.
Sarah had closed her eyes and drifted off, Ethan’s warm body next to hers.
The following morning they’d eaten breakfast and decided to go bowling, then out for lunch and onto the cinema to watch the latest Guy Ritchie film about a relationship between a Jewish girl and a Nazi officer in the Third Reich. It wasn’t Ritchie’s usual style, but it’d had her and Milly bawling their eyes out at the end when the officer had been killed. The boys hadn’t flinched.
As it had been their last meal together, Milly had decided to cook at home. It was only spaghetti bolognese, but she’d decorated the table with candles and had gone to a lot of trouble, even bringing out the good silverware. It’d been a great weekend relaxing with good friends. Milly and Pat were a lovely couple; they joked about each other openly and were genuinely in love.
At dinner Milly had said, ‘so, you two, when are you going to finally get it together?’
Ethan had practically choked on his spaghetti, while Sarah had turned bright red.
‘Milly, come on!’ Pat had been embarrassed for them both.
‘What? Someone has to broach the subject,’ replied Milly not apologising.
Sarah had intentionally waited for Ethan to reply. She’d wanted to know his thoughts. Only Ethan could explain it.
‘Well, er, we’ve never really talked about it,’ replied Ethan.
‘Look, it’s obvious you two were made for each other. You’ve known each other, for what, ten years? You’re still attracted to each other; everyone can see that. I think it’s time for one of you to relent.’
‘Milly, for Christ’s sake, leave it alone!’
‘No, it’s alright, Pat,’ replied Ethan.
Sarah had still wanted to know the reason, so she remained quiet.
‘We tried once and it didn’t work out,’ said Ethan to her. ‘We just seem to work better as friends, that’s all. We still love each other.’
Sarah had smiled and nodded. She’d wanted to say something. She’d just agreed and nodded her approval.
The atmosphere had gone very quiet. When Milly had gone to get dessert, she’d heard Milly and Pat trying to argue quietly, but not succeeding. Pat had said well done for ruining the evening and Milly had said to stop being so melodramatic, that they were fine and someone needed to say something. She and Ethan had sat there in silence smiling in embarrassment.
Sarah felt her stomach churn. She stood, then crouched and heaved.
Both Ethan and Pat were dead. She would never see them again. And Milly was now awaiting surgery for burns to her face. Her poor boys were fatherless. How would they ever come to terms with their father’s death?
How would she come to terms with Ethan and Pat’s deaths? It felt like she was in a black tunnel with no light to walk towards. The man she’d loved for ten years was dead. No other man could ever come close to comparing to Ethan. Not only had he secured her heart, he’d gone on to form the most popular, fair and just political party the country had ever seen. His death had galvanised the country and caused chaos and violence across not only England, but Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This country was in turmoil and it was all because of Ethan, her only love.
Mike saw Sarah stumbling towards him through the crowd. She joined him at his table and slumped on her chair.
‘They’re gone!’ She said it in disbelief. ‘They’re both gone! I’ll never see them again.’ She burst into uncontrollable tears.
Mike rushed over to her and held her tight, while on his knees. Her body trembled and bucked in his arms. He hated seeing her upset; it was the worst feeling in the world not being able to do anything but wait for her tears to stop. He hated these bastards with a passion he couldn’t describe in words. They would suffer some time in the future; he would see to that. Extreme torture wouldn’t be enough for these bastards. He vowed they would suffer for putting Sarah through this. There was a dark place in his heart reserved for these people; it would engulf and devour them forever in the worst pain imaginable.
‘Mike, the cozzers are here, mate,’ said Gavin quietly, trying not to disturb them.
‘Ok, show them through, Gav,’ replied Mike in a whisper.
In less than a minute two armed officers, complete with kevlar jackets, matt black semi automatic rifles and clad all in black joined Sarah and he at their table. Mike glanced over his shoulder and nodded for them to stand back and give him time to console Sarah.
He couldn’t help but think of August two years ago.
Sarah had just ended a serious two-year relationship with a Brighton based record producer. Phil Thackery, her then boyfriend, had confessed to being in another relationship and had been for just under a year. She’d moved out of their flat and back to her parents’ home in Burgess Hill. The first person she’d confided in was Ethan, who’d offered to take a baseball bat to Phil’s knees.
That night in August, he’d been stood at the bar waiting to be served when he’d seen Ethan looking at him from across the way, while a regular had been talking into his ear. Ethan’s face was angry. He knew what it was about and dreaded the inevitable confrontation. He watched casually as Ethan made his way through the crowd.
He’d known it was coming.
‘Can I have a word, Mike?’ Ethan said it more as an order than a request. ‘Let’s go outside, mate, yeah!’
Mike had followed him out to the rear garden and around the side where there was no one in earshot. Somehow he’d let Ethan back him against the wall. ‘What’s up?’
‘You know what’s up!’ Ethan’s voice had taken on an edge. ‘You and Sarah. Let’s talk about that!’
‘Look, Ethan, I didn’t mean for it to happen,’ he’d replied.
Ethan had grabbed his collar and pushed him against the wall, hard. His arms were out in surrender; he’d not wanted to fight Ethan.
‘So let’s hear it, then,’ growled Ethan. ‘Let’s hear the juicy details.’
‘It just happened. She’d just broken up with Phil, I’d just broken up with Chloe..’
Ethan had pushed him against the wall again. His heart was pounding, the adrenaline surging through him. ‘And, we were talking about relationships and stuff.’
‘Come on, mate, you can do better than that!’
‘Look, I’d agreed to hold the fort here for Gavin, ok? Sarah was here at time and we started talking. I locked up and we had a few drinks, one thing led to another…You know how it goes!’
Ethan had shaken his head in disbelief, then pulled him forward and back into the wall again. The back of his head had hit the wall.
‘Where?’ shouted Ethan. ‘Where’d you shag her?’
‘What?’ He’d not wanted to continue.
‘Tell me where you shagged Sarah!’
‘Come on, mate, you don’t want to hear that!’
‘I wanna hear it all, mate,’ hissed Ethan.
A crowd had gathered, watching the drama unfold. No one had intervened.
‘It happened here, ok!’ His voice was defiant. ‘Is that what you wanna hear?’
‘Where?’ Ethan wasn’t budging.
‘Upstairs, the snooker room,’ he’d replied, feeling Ethan’s grip tighten.
‘You shagged her upstairs?’
‘Ethan! Let him go! It’s not Mike’s fault,’ said Sarah, stepping towards them.
Ethan’s grip had lessened. He’d watched as his best friend turned his attention to his ex girlfriend. Ethan had been drinking so much back then, he’d not known what he was capable of. He’d not thought Ethan would hit her, but couldn’t be certain.
‘Whose fault was it, Sarah?’
Ethan had let go of him and faced Sarah.
‘It was mine,’ she’d said, facing Ethan. ‘I initiated it. I was upset. Mike was there.’
‘Oh, he was there, so you just thought you’d shag him! Is that it?’
Mike had stepped forwards, expecting Ethan to do something out of character.
‘It just happened!’ Sarah had been steadfast. ‘It’s not like we were together or anything like that. We’ve done nothing wrong!’
Ethan had turned back to him.
‘No, we weren’t together,’ said Ethan, ‘but there’s an unwritten code.’
Mike had known of the code, and how much Ethan loved Sarah. Ethan had confided in him on numerous occasions how he’d felt that there was unfinished business between he and Sarah. He’d suddenly felt so guilty. ‘Mate, there’s nothing I can say. It just happened. It meant nothing to either of us, just a shoulder to cry on.’
‘It meant nothing!’ said Ethan, exasperated. ‘You’ve just put me through this over nothing! For fuck’s sake, Mike, it’d be better if you loved her; at least then I could understand and respect that. Now I know you think nothing of me or Sarah!’
He’d watched as Ethan had stalked off. The crowd who’d gathered tried to get Ethan back, but he’d shrugged them off and gone back inside. He’d felt awful. The guilt, in addition to what he’d felt already, had enveloped him. In a strange way he’d been glad that Ethan knew; it was a weight off his conscience.
Trying to make amends would be far harder.
The next day the national papers had photos of the two of them outside the club, Mike’s back to the wall and Ethan’s grip on his shirt collar. The story had attempted to make out that there were cracks forming within the senior administration of the PRP. Nothing was mentioned about his and Sarah’s liaison.
It seemed the only criticism the media could come up with was their lifestyles. There’d been countless articles written about Ethan’s drinking, smoking, eating junk food and nightlife. There’d been very few pieces written about the party’s policies or management. They’d known how the PRP’s popularity was growing every day and to criticise policy was to criticise the public’s decision making, which wasn’t good for business. At that time the PRP had twenty million members, which was a huge percentage of the overall seventy five million population of Britain.
The greatest criticism the media and Coalition had made was that many of the members only joined the PRP to obtain a membership card, so that they could get a huge percentage off purchases in participating stores and service providers. However, the PRP always hit back that yes, it was a huge incentive, but that the members still contributed to society by paying their two percent to the party, helped create jobs because demand had increased for goods and services and helped millions of people in their county. Ethan had always loved the debates in parliament; he’d loved giving facts and figures on how much his party had contributed to society and who’d benefited. He’d dish out facts and figures on every project the PRP had been involved in and hand out emails of thanks from the charities and organisations who’d received help.
Why he’d thought of that horrible time he didn’t know. Sarah’s crying was subsiding, with only the occasional sob escaping. He was rubbing her back, while the officers behind them stood watching the crowd.
The members inside the club were quiet; only a faint murmur of voices could be heard as they watched the news. According to the attractive journalist they’d received confirmation of continued rioting in Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and London. The camera shot changed to scenes of chaos in Manchester, Patrick’s home. Young and angry protesters were throwing rocks and firebombs at weary riot police in the city centre. Britain was in turmoil unlike ever before.