The Search

Story day has come round again. This time I’ve got a modern day fiction story for you. No blurb again this week. Didn’t feel that it needed one. It’s another shorter story (at around 5800 words). Hope you enjoy it!

Derrick Williams is a middle aged caucasian man who is at this moment speeding down a major highway because he’s late. The former middle manager is fidgeting nervously in the black leather covered driver’s seat of his white saloon. It’s a German manufactured vehicle with decent range and an efficient engine. It’s one of the many reasons he picked the car when he bought it second hand two years ago. He elected not to purchase it on finance or take the company car route that he had been offered. Now that he is no longer employed at this moment he is pleased he made such decisions. Many had questioned him for making such decisions.

Still, none of that changes the fact that he is late for this meeting. He’s already had an interview for a new job first thing this morning. It lasted longer than he would have liked and he doubts he’ll get the job. One of the downsides of having been employed by the same company for a little over twenty years is that potential employers tend to hold it against you. They believe you’ll be stuck in your ways and refuse to change or learn what is necessary to work how they do.

Derrick doesn’t know if that is true of him as he had only ever worked at Heralds Banking Incorporated PLC or as it is more commonly referred to now, HBI.

Derrick had been a casualty of cost cutting and restructuring that HBI had decided to undertake in an effort for them to become more agile and competitive within the lending and financing markets which they operate. Whatever that truly means when you’re a multinational banking conglomerate with thousands upon thousands of employs occupying hundreds of officers.

Derrick had received a decent severance pay but it was never going to last forever, which is why he is trying to secure a new role as desperately as he is. Especially, as his wife, Alison, is a stay at home mother who has no income of her own and looks after their daughter, Natasha, who is nine years old.

At the mere thought of his daughter, Derrick goes into a daze as he sees her young round face, shoulder length brown hair, joyous smile and happy big brown eyes stare back at him. If he didn’t know better he’d swear that she is right in front of him now. But she isn’t. She is at school, where she belongs on a Wednesday mid-morning. He wonders what she’ll be learning today and regrets not having spent as much time with her as he should have during her earlier years, when he’d still been employed at HBI.

Derrick had worked all hours to ensure that figures were met and standards maintained just like the upper managers and executives demanded. For what though? He asks himself. He knows now that he did it for nothing as all his hard work and determination did nought to stop him from losing his job. None of those above him had suffered similar fates.

In fact, the rumours were that the cost cutting was actually carried out so the executives could take bigger bonuses than ever. Derrick doesn’t know if that is true, not that it matters if it is as it is beyond his control. What matters is that he makes this meeting. He glances at the clock on the centre consoles display and quickly runs the numbers in his head. It’ll be tight, he concludes without much of a pause. But he might just about make it to the meeting, do what he must and then make the return trip so he can collect his daughter from school a few hours from now. His wife would usually collect Natasha but she has an appointment to keep with their family doctor. He can’t remember what for. She did tell him. Maybe he should listen and retain the information more often, he thinks as he fidgets in his seat again. The leather creaking quietly in response to his movements as he raises his arm so that he can run his left hand through the thinning short brown hair atop his head.

He refuses to allow it to grow out as when it does, and it has happened in the past, it has drawn attention to just how thin his hair has become. A few more years and he’ll have a rather large bald patch. He’s already decided that when that happens he’s just going to shave his head and embrace the bald. There’s little else he can do, but that doesn’t mean that he’s happy about it. His father had suffered the same fate. Though he had hoped it would skip a generation, especially as he doesn’t have a son of his own to pass the trait on to. But alas the reality is not as he had hoped.

Derrick hears his heart thundering in his chest as he tightens his left hand back around the rim of the black steering wheel in front of him, so both hands are now on the wheel. It’s a chunky circle, he notes to himself without paying any attention to the speed limit or the fact that he is a good fifteen miles per hour over it. That is according to the speedometer displaying the figure digitally in large numbers that reside right in the centre of the dials ahead of him. It should be impossible to miss, but Derrick is distracted and no car manufacturer will ever be able to compensate for that no matter what they do.

Instead, Derrick notices that there aren’t many cars around him on this major route heading south. He’s thankful for that as if there were his progress would be greatly hampered. And that is something that he very much does not need right now.

In hopes of easing his thundering heartbeat, Derrick takes several deep inhales, each of which is followed by a loud expulsion of an exhale. Still Derrick feels hot. He checks the temperature gauge for his section of the interior and finds that, as normal, it is reading twenty degrees. He decides that for him, at this very moment, the temperature is too high and knocks it down to sixteen instead. He then takes a brief glance at the control for the front passenger zone and drops that down to sixteen as well. He hopes that will do the trick and ease the sweat he can feel staining the white shirt he is wearing under the black suit jacket that he has over it. The jacket is open, as is the collar of his shirt. His red tie having been discarded to the back seat when he’d climbed back into his car to begin this journey. He’d felt much hotter then, but such thoughts do little to ease his trembling hand. He doesn’t remember the last time he felt like this as he pulls out into the outside lane of this dual carriageway and accelerates a little harder. He doesn’t need to but he isn’t aware of his speed even though he zooms past the car on the inside before pulling back into that lane again now that the road ahead of him is clear once more.

Derrick then eases his foot off the accelerator, more out of habit than anything else. But still he is bouncing around the sixty miles an hour mark. That puts him a good ten miles an hour above the speed limit. Thankfully there are no cameras down here to catch him. Derrick doesn’t know that as he never uses this road. In fact, the last time he drove on it was a few years ago when he and his wife had been taking Natasha to the beach. He smiles thinking about the fun they’d had that day before remembering that he’d cut it short.

He’d had a call from work and been told that he had to go in to sort whatever it was that he can’t remember the details of now. Alison had not been happy about it, but her irritation was nothing compared to Natasha, who had balled her eyes out when she’d been told. He’d bought her something to patch things up with his daughter. He doesn’t remember what, and now sitting here in his car speeding toward his destination which is still more than an hour away, concludes that he regrets the times when he’d done things like that. They were actions which did not occur as seldomly as he would like to claim they were, but which should have been. The only excuses he had for why they weren’t were poor at best. Must do better, he tells himself as he pulls out into the outside lane again to overtake a string of four lorries that are driving close behind one another.

Derrick glances at the clock again and silently curses to learn just how much time has passed now that he has spied the number of miles left for him to travel to his destination. According to the sat nav that is running on the centre console display that is.

In fact, Derrick is so distracted that he doesn’t even notice as he speeds past a police car with all its vibrant markings in blue and yellow. Or the pulsing blue lights that are swirling behind him until the siren blares and brings him back to the present and his immediate surroundings.

Derrick flicks his eyes to his rear-view and then his speedometer which reads fifty eight and just as he passes one of the fifty miles per hour signs along the edge of the road. He curses as he indicates and then quickly pulls into the lay-by which is a few hundred feet ahead of him.

As he brings his saloon car to a stop nearly half way along the length of the four hundred foot lay-by he feels sweat beginning to pour out of every pour he has. His hands are shaking vigorously again and he quickly flips the sun visor down so that he can look in the small mirror attached to it. The sight he is faced with is that of a cagey and panicked looking man, who he barely recognises as himself. He curses again as he slaps the sun visor back to the head lining of the vehicle and then begins to take several deep inhales and exhales. It isn’t helping, a voice in his head declares in the moments before there is a tap on his driver’s side window. Derrick’s eyes bolt open in response to the noise seconds before he presses the button to drop his automatic window beyond which is stood a young looking police officer. The officer has to be a good ten years younger than me, Derrick decides as he smiles weekly.

“Good morning sir. Could you turn the engine off please?” The officer says calmly.

Derrick hadn’t even noticed that he hadn’t turned the key to kill the engine which is still rumbling softly.

“Of course officer.” Derrick replies as he turns the key so the engine rumble dies.

“Can you step out of the car please?” The officer then asks while gesturing for Derrick to remove himself from the vehicles interior as he steps back to allow Derrick the space to do as he has been asked.

Derrick says nothing and simply obeys. He removes his seat belt which he just leaves to retract on its own before he slowly pushes open his car door and then slides out of the driver’s seat. His shirt clings to his back unpleasantly as he licks at the centre of his bottom lip absentmindedly. It’s a nervous habit that Derrick isn’t even aware that he has.

“Keys please sir.” The officer then orders with his hand outstretched. Though the tone of the officers’ voice makes his words sound less like an order and more like a request. As though Derrick somehow has a choice in the matter and if he were thinking properly he would thank the officer for the treatment he has received thus far. However, Derrick isn’t aware of either. He is too busy feeling worried instead as his eyes dart this way and that.

“S-sure.” Derrick replies with a stutter.

Again he hadn’t even realised that he had the keys in his hand and had looked down at his half opened palm to find them there before handing them slowly over to the officer.

“Thank you sir. Now if you can just follow me. My colleague will explain why we’ve stopped you and get some details.” Derrick hears the officer say as he leads him toward the clearly marked police car.

Derrick has no idea how he didn’t notice it or the speed he was doing. He just hopes this doesn’t take long. He was already late before this happened and this is not the sort of meeting one should be late for, or even worse, miss.

Just don’t search the car; he thinks for a second before banishing the thought as though some how the officers would be able to read his mind. Of course they can’t, but that doesn’t stop Derrick as the officer opens the rear passenger door of the police car so that Derrick can climb in. The former middle manager at HBI does just that, though it is clear to the young officer that the man is on edge. You would have to be blind not to be able to see it as sweat pours off his lightly wrinkled brow.

“Good morning sir.” The officer in the front of the marked car says from behind the steering wheel of the vehicle.

“M-morning.” Derrick replies hesitantly and without returning the broad smile on the older officers’ face as the door next to him is pushed closed.

Derrick’s head whips left to see the younger officer wander back toward the white saloon. His heart rate doubles as he becomes convinced the officer is about to search his car. He wants to say something, but knows he can’t. If he does he’ll draw even more unwanted attention to himself than he already has.

“Do you know why we’ve stopped you today?” The officer in the front seat asks politely.

“N-no, I don’t officer.” Derrick replies without thinking. He does know why he’s been stopped but at that moment he is more interested in keeping an eye on the younger officer who is standing near his car.

“Don’t worry about your car sir; my colleague is just doing a check on the registration.” The older officer says as his blue eyes study the well dressed middle aged man in the back seat of his police car. The same middle aged man who is currently dripping with perspiration due to reasons unknown to anyone except Derrick himself.

“Sorry. Never been stopped before.” Derrick offers now turning his attention to the officer in the car with him. He doesn’t know if he has done it because the officer has placated his fears or whether it is something else. Not that it matters either way he quickly concludes.

“Not a problem sir.” The officer responds with a smile before adding, “We’ve stopped you for speeding. You were doing fifty eight in a fifty when he clocked you.”

“I’m sorry officer. I-I…” Derrick doesn’t know what else to say. He is sure the officer has heard every excuse in the book before and the truth is not something Derrick can afford to give. Though, something tells him that it would be new to the officer. Right then Derrick’s eyes dart back toward the young officer who is closer to his car now than ever. His eyes go wide as he becomes sure that the officer is about to search it.

The officer in the front seat of the police car sees the terrified look on the middle aged man’s face as his brown eyes stare intently at his younger colleague outside. Sweat is pouring off the speeding man’s brow and his hands are trembling. The officer is sure the man isn’t on anything, but there is something definitely off about him. First though, the officer will continue with the job at hand. However, it does dawn on the officer that it could be that this man has no insurance or tax. He’d seen reactions like this before, but it still didn’t excuse the breaking of the law, which is in place for everyone’s best interests.

Only time will tell, the officer knows as he asks, “Anything you wish to declare sir?”

“N-no.” Derrick exclaims having returned his focus to the officer in the car with him due to the asking of the question.

“Ok sir. Well I need to take some details. Can you give me your name first please?” The officer asks.

“D-derrick Williams.” Derrick replies with a stammer. He is trying hard now not to look at the young officer near his car, who is clearly talking to someone over the radio while holding a tablet in one of his free hands.

“And your address please?” The officer then adds without a pause. It’s an instinctive reaction for him to ask the question after receiving a response. It’s the result of the officer having spent years doing the job. Plus it doesn’t strike the officer as being a lie or a false identity being given to try and throw him off track. He is pleased about that as there is nothing the officer, Patrick Rhodes, dislikes more than someone trying, blatantly, to stop him from completing what should be a simple exchange between two adults.

“A hundred and fifteen Washboard Road, Palisades, eF-Vee-fifteen six-eL-Be.” Derrick concludes before spotting that the officer is inputting the data into a tablet of his own. Except this one is mounted to the dashboard of the police car.

Derrick doesn’t see if what the officer has entered is correct before it disappears from the screen. He assumes the information is being sent to the young officer next to his car who returns and jumps into the front passenger seat of the police car after what seems like to Derrick to be only seconds later.

The young officer nods and then shows his older colleague the readout he’s got back. The older officer scans it and then nods himself.

“Ok sir. Everything checks out. But I do have to advise that you will be receiving six points on your licence and a hundred and twenty pound fine for speeding. The fine will need to be paid within two weeks. If done so it’ll be reduced to a ninety pound fine. Do you understand this?” The older officer explains calmly and in a manner that makes it clear that he has recited this hundreds if not thousands of times before today.

“Yes officer. Not a problem officer. I’m very sorry.” Derrick mutters nervously as he nods furiously to show his understanding. Sweat continuing to drip off his brow and onto his black trousers, which are hiding the stains being unleashed upon their soft fabric.

Derrick just wants this to be over so he can be on his way. He doesn’t know how long he’s been here but he knows however long it is it means that he is now very late. He’ll have to make the time up, but only once he is sure he won’t be caught speeding again. Seeing as the last thing Derrick would want is to be stopped and booked a second time, which would see him receive a driving ban and result in his car being seized. The latter of which is his greater concern, though the former would present many issues that would limit his prospects for getting a new job.

“Here’s your ticket. Have a good day sir.” The officer then says concluding the exchange as he hands Derrick the ticket. The man hesitates, clearly not really paying attention, before ultimately taking the ticket and forcing a smile. The problem is that he is still far more on edge than he should be now that this conversation is over. That makes the officer think that there is more going on they, he and his colleague that is, are currently aware of. And the only place that something can relate to is inside the vehicle itself.

But the door of the police car is already open for Derrick to climb out. Officer Evans, Officer Rhodes’ colleague, having given permission for Derrick to exit the police car so that he can return to his car, he handed his keys and then be allowed to continue on with his day.

Derrick having thanked the young officer begins to walk back toward his white saloon car when he hears the older officer say, “Sorry sir, just a minute.”

Derrick turns; he can imagine the look on his face. He wishes he could hide the terror he feels, but he just wants to be allowed to go on his way. Something tells him that is not going to happen, but he prays that he’s wrong.

However, the look of sheer terror on his face is far worse than Derrick could have imagined and sees the younger officer ask, “Why are you still on edge sir? Is there something in the car?”

“N-no officer, there is nothing in the car.” Derrick replies without pause and sounding a lot guiltier than he intended to.

“Sorry sir, but we’re going to have to ask you to back away from the vehicle again. We need to search it. You are clearly hiding something.” The older officer advises as he edges toward the slightly shorter Derrick, who is five foot eight inches in height, compared to Officer Patrick Rhodes five foot eleven inches.

“Please officer. I just want to be on my way. I don’t want trouble. I’m sorry for speeding. I just have somewhere to be.” Derrick tries to plead with the officer to let him go.

However, Officer Rhodes continues to shuffle slowly toward Derrick one half step at a time. It’s an action that the younger officer mirrors as he too moves forward to close the gap encase they need to tackle and restrain Derrick. He can’t allow the officers to do that, get to close encase they might do that, or search his car. Don’t make me do it, he says to himself as he pleads silently that they leave him be. That a car goes blasting past them on the main road drawing their attention away from him. But no such lucky break comes Derrick’s way. Instead, it is abundantly clear to them that this man is hiding something in his vehicle. Which means as a result they have a duty to find out what it is and then carry out the appropriate actions in response to whatever it is they might find.

“Step back sir.” The younger officer declares with an authoritarian tone to his voice as his hand comes to rest on the spray that is affixed to his waistline. The older officer meanwhile has his hand on the telescopic baton. He’s ready to pull and extend it, but Derrick doesn’t give them the chance to as he reaches behind his back, faster than either officer would have anticipated, and pulls a handgun from his waistline. It had been covered by the jacket of his suit perfectly.

Derrick points the weapon at the officers, his hands are shaking, though he apologises saying, “I’m sorry, but you’ve left me no choice. If only you’d have let me go.”

“Sir, put down the gun.” The older officer says trying to reason with the armed suit wearing man before them. His hand is no longer on the telescopic baton as it has instead joined the other in showing Derrick that he means him no harm. Even if the truth is that it is Derrick who is the only one that can cause any lasting harm here as he is the one armed with a gun.

“Stop! Back a-way! I will use this if I have to!” Derrick promises as he pulls back the hammer on the handgun. It’s a semi-automatic weapon that doesn’t need the hammer cocked but Derrick knows little about guns and can scarcely believe he is holding one in his own two hands. He doesn’t dare to hold it with only one, but he hopes he isn’t forced to use it. Though, he isn’t sure he can use it. He understands that all he has to do is pull the trigger, but that isn’t what he means.

“Ok sir. Just don’t make any rash decisions. We can work this out. No one has to get hurt.” The older officer says as he motions with his eyes for the younger officer to do as Derrick is demanding.

The younger officer obeys and begins, with his hands in front of his chest and palms out, to edge backward away from Derrick. The action comes much to Derrick’s relief. However his relief is short-lived as the older officer does not follow suit.

“You too. I mean it. I will shoot.” Derrick promises as the gun shakes fearfully in his hands, which are growing stiff and slick with sweat. He feels the urge to wipe the sweat from his brow. He knows he can’t afford to, but still he has a wish to as the urge is beginning to become overwhelming. That’s why he instead licks suddenly at his dry lips.

“You don’t want to do that sir.” The older officer advises as he dares to take a half step forward. Even the younger officer blinks in surprise as his colleague risks receiving a bullet in response to the daring act he is committing. He wonders whether he should urge his colleague, Officer Rhodes, to rethink and back away also. Officer Evans decides better of it and instead simply keeps his hands in sight and away from any of the implements fastened about his person.

“Don’t take another step! I will shoot!” Derrick roars. His is begging the officer not to make him do this, but the officer is about to give him little choice.

“No you won’t sir.” The older officer offers with a light shake of his head.

“How can you be so sure?” Derrick queries knowing that the officer is right.

“Because even if you did decide to shoot me, and I don’t think you want to do that, it wouldn’t change the fact that you can’t get away. We have your keys. So just put the gun down and we’ll talk this through.”

As soon as Derrick hears mention of his keys he realises the officer is right. He hadn’t gotten the keys to his car off them before this little standoff began. He curses his luck though refuses to drop the gun which he keeps pointed at the older officer. He is the focus for no other reason than he is closer to Derrick than his younger colleague. That means, at least in Derrick’s head, no poses more of a risk.

“Kill them.” A voice says in Derrick’s ear. It’s the first time he’s heard the voice since he picked up the boot full of carefully wrapped bricks of white cocaine powder that are neatly stacked ready for delivery.

This was supposed to be so simple, Derrick says to himself as he lets out a loud exhale. He knows if he does nothing that breath will be his last, but he is paralysed with fear. This isn’t his world. He’s an office worker, not a gang member. He’s never even been in trouble with the law before today.

“If you don’t kill them, your wife won’t see tomorrow. We have her. Now get the job done.” The voice masked by electronics says coldly.

Derrick at the mention of his wife, that they have her and that she will die if he doesn’t do this decides he has one last chance to reason with the officers before he will have to pull the trigger. Her life means more to him than those of these officers. Whether he’ll be able to live with himself afterwards he doesn’t know. But that will be a problem for then, not one he should consider right now.

“You don’t understand. You have to let me go. People will die if you don’t. Please.” Derrick says begging. The barrel of the nine millimetre handgun drops slightly as he speaks. Though, no response is ever given as there are two cracks. The cracks are masked by the vehicles still roaring up and down the dual carriageway oblivious to what has been going on in the lay-by due to the row of tress between which are tall and covered in thick green leaves.

The cracks were shots, fired from half a mile away, where two men whose faces are covered with balaclavas are lying on their stomachs in the middle of a bridge. The barrel of the rifle jutting out a few inches between a pair of railings in the metal fence that mark the edges beyond which there is an eighteen foot drop to the asphalt of the dual carriageway below. The same dual carriageway Derrick had been driving on before he was pulled over by the police.

The pair of men made sure to block the path to the bridge from either side, having posed as workmen claiming that the bridge is closed due to structural issues which they are beginning work on.

Only a few locals had tried to cross the bridge and each one of them had bought the story that had allowed the pair of men to setup and keep an eye on Derrick, who was told to use this very road to head to his destination point.

The plan however, had been for him to simply pass them by and carry on his way to the delivery point, where he would drop off the mountain of drugs to a buyer. That was supposed to be where Derrick died. The group were going to bust in, retake their drugs and claim the money they were owed for the deal. The ensuing firefight would have seen Derrick killed by a seemingly stray bullet, which wouldn’t have been stray at all. Instead, there will have to be a change of plans as Derrick, like the two officers that had confronted him, is lying dead on the ground.

“Targets down.” The spotter of the pair confirms with a low gravelly voice.

“Charlie, package retrieval needed.” The man with the rifle then informs over the radio, the microphone of which is strapped to his throat.

“Confirmed Alpha, ETA for Delta and I is three.” Charlie, a happy sounding man, says before cutting his connection to avoid any possible eavesdroppers that could be listening but more than likely aren’t.

“Copy.” Alpha replies as he continues to watch the area around the three lifeless bodies and the two cars through the scope of his rifle.

“What about the family?” The man next to Alpha asks from behind his black balaclava and hazel coloured eyes.

“Cut ‘em loose Bravo. They know nothing. Derrick’s death will just be a sad end to a final already decaying chapter.” Alpha answers with a gruff note.

“Charlie and Delta pulling up now.” Charlie confirms before long and only seconds after his radio hissed back to life.

Bravo raises the binoculars in his hands back up to his face so that he to can check on Charlie and Delta who he sees gets out of their car. It’s been marked up to appear identical to those driven by police officers, except it isn’t a police car and will when this job is over but a burnt out metal shell.

Delta checks the officers’ bodies before pulling the keys to the white saloon that had been Derrick’s from one of the dead younger officers’ pocket.

“Got ‘em. We still clear?” Delta asks as he heads for the saloon, which he now will be driving to the rest of the way.

“Clear Delta.” Bravo confirms as Alpha continues to watch the road and Charlie, who is keeping a watchful eye out from near the entrance of the pull off to the lay-by. Cars and lorries still thundering past completely oblivious to the scene of the triple murder and soon to be car theft.

“What we going to do about a patsy?” Charlie asks as Delta ignites the engine of the white saloon.

“Already got it covered Charlie. Now cut the chatter and get out. I’ll send you new point for amended plan en route.” Alpha confirms before killing his own connection to the others and just in time to see the white salon peel off. Charlie follows a short time later in the fake police car which the police themselves wouldn’t be able to tell is a fake, unless they climbed inside of it. If they did they’d find that it is lacking their usual suite of equipment, which is the only give away that it isn’t a real police car.

“Time we get moving to.” Bravo assumes as he clambers back to his feet and stretches, while Alpha makes one last pass over the scene that now consists of a single police car and the three dead bodies. Delta having returned the dead officers to the exact positions they had been in before he’d gone digging for Derrick’s car keys.

Alpha regrets that this plan didn’t go as it was meant to, but there is nothing to link them to this. The receiver in Derrick’s ear was reclaimed by Delta after he’d dug around for the keys to the saloon and the weapon in Alpha’s hands will wash up at the scene of the drug deal gone wrong in the hands of the new patsy. Delta will plant some fibres once they meet up that will link the crimes. This isn’t their first time doing this and it won’t be their last.

But Alpha feels nothing for the loss of Derrick’s life, or the two officers. Collateral damage, he calls it as he withdraws from the bridge and clambers into the silver van moments before it tears off toward the new meeting point so they can enact plan B.

Plan B being that Derrick was roped into this by their new patsy, a former drug pusher who has recently been released from prison, because of his desperation for money. Seeing as Derrick has been unemployed for eight months and has a wife with a hefty spending habit that has seen all his severance pay evaporate into thin air, few will question it. If they do then the group can always throw a few bribes around. People rarely talk once money is shoved into their hands, which is why this work is so easy for this group of highly skilled and trained men.

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