Jogging along the back alley, he had tripped over something thrown against a dustbin. Desperate to avoid calling out, trying not to blow the whole job by alerting the quarry, he had hardly even looked back as he fell. Eyes were on the suspect's window, looking in case a light flicked on, or the rear door opened before he could get into place. It was only as he rolled on the ground, nursing a sore knee did he see the obstruction in the cold white light. Instantly he recognised the pusher, even though the left side of his face was covered in blood. Edging closer, he stared at the man's mouth, but there was no light mist, or sign of the slightest movement. A large red stain on his chest indicated there was unlikely to be life at all.

Blake felt his stomach churn violently and fighting to find his feet, he had to lean heavily on the wall. As he moved even closer there was other evidence to the poor creature's demise. Apart from having half his face smashed in with a piece of wood, which lay by his side, caked in blood, there were stains in his thighs and groin. It didn't take a genius to work out that someone was after a little information. Someone without police ethics.
‘Blake, aren't you in position yet?'
The words went by, unable to promote response.
The young officer shook his head and then stagged to the other side of the lane, to disgorge the contents of his stomach.
‘Blake, damn you!'
Somehow he found words. ‘Don't bother.' A second flood of bile prevent clarification.
‘What the hell are you up to back there?'
‘He didn't make it home. I think you had better come round to see for yourself.'
The inexperience of youth, he didn't make the connection, one that with hindsight could have saved a lot of pain. But then that is the trouble with hindsight, you can't use it before the event.
‘We've one sick mind behind this. Why? Just in case he let a little information out?'
But though that may have been behind the murder, it was not the motive for torture. The stakes had been raised, crime, as is often inevitable gets more violent. To make matters worse they still had no idea who was the ringleader. Then, the following day, Blake had a call from one of his snitches and thought things were on the up.
If only.
When he got to the informer's flat the door was open, sounds of anguish drifting out into the street. The poor sod had his tongue nailed to a table. In his blood was written a mobile phone number.
Blake had to call, not knowing what to expect.
‘I don't like thieves.' hissed a bland voice, ‘any thieves.'
‘You shouldn't take the law into your own hands, the insurance surely covered your loss. Why risk imprisonment?'
‘Insurance, you don't get it, do you?'
‘Who are you?'
But the line was dead.
Blake reported the incident, but it was like piece twenty seven, on a thousand piece jigsaw. Not a lot of use until there were more around it.
That evening, Blake was with Michelle, comfortable in her arms after making love. Just for a while, all was good with the world. Tired, relaxed, they drifted into the comfortable arms of the night. Whether Blake actually dropped off, he couldn't decide immediately, but he soon knew what had woken him. It was the cold steel pressing against his temple, not sharp, that was the problem. Staring cross eyed he could make out two shapes in the gloom. The closest, barely in focus, was the butt of a semi automatic pistol, behind it a leather clad figure.
‘Like I said, I don't tolerate thieves.'
‘What?' Blake had yet to make the connection.
‘Damaged goods.' The figure looked to Blake's side, forcing the young policeman to turn. An action he would regret for the rest of his life. Michelle was breathing heavily, her eyes wide, but strangely lifeless. There was a red line stretching from between her firm breasts, to where all men long to travel. It was a three dimensional mark, broad open and revealing. The incision cut into the abdominal cavity and where the sheet muscle had pulled apart, it revealed a dark swirling mass of viscera. The pain had hopefully pulled Michelle into a world where she could no longer feel, no longer know how heinous were her injuries. That was the reason behind her glazed expression.
‘Doesn't give a shit. I didn't want her back, not after you soiled her and anyway, pussy is never hard to replace, another couple of years and she wouldn't even have been a good earner.'
‘You bastard, you didn't have to kill her.'
‘You have to keep up appearances. She knew what would happen if she tried to get out of the game.'
‘You're her bloody pimp?'
‘I don't pimp, I own. So, let's get down to business.'
‘What business?'
‘I could do with a bright copper like you on the payroll. If you have scruples I can pay you in kind, something nobody can trace. Maybe a nice sixteen year old virgin.'
‘Christ, how sick are you?'
‘You aren't worth killing, no profit in that. I'll give you a couple of days to make up you're mind.'
The barrel pulled back, but a swift movement brought darkness to Blake's eyes. When he came around it was hard to breathe, a weight heavy on his chest. A dead weight. Michelle was no longer breathing. Blake couldn't move, even if he had wanted to, he could only cry, in fact tears were still flowing freely half an hour later, when his colleagues broke in. The blood drenched knife, with only Blake's fingerprints was on the floor beside the bed, where it had apparently fallen from his hand.
But the figure in the night had made a mistake, had not allowed for the fact that Blake loved Michelle more than life itself. Grief had frozen his muscles, preventing him from tossing the limp body to one side. If he had managed that, then after the three month's suspension he would most likely have faced trial. Luckily it was decided that without doubt he could not have moved Michelle. Apart from there being no reason to be found pinned down by her lifeless body, there was no blood on the bed beneath him. Despite meticulous efforts to obliterate the signs of a third party, it was obvious that Blake could not have slashed his beloved, whatever the motivation, without stirring from the bed.
The time apart from the force had done nothing to ease the pain, it was another three months before he had been fit enough to return to work.
One thing had made that possible. A casual conversation one evening, at a pub with his friends.
‘We finally put a name to that mobile number you found. Connaught. Not that is any use, we could trace the phone when it was in use, but there's no proof to put the bastard anywhere near any crime.'
Once the devil had a name, Blake finally had reason to live. Reason to be back on duty.