CHAPTER 12 – THE ULTIMATUM
Telling a sleeping Simon she wouldn’t be long Sarah pulled the car into a service station and left him dozing in the passenger seat. She needed cigarettes. She didn’t regularly smoke. Just the odd joint of cannabis for leisure. She enjoyed the boxing and fitness too much but agreed with most of her peers that there could be times when alcohol and drugs ‘just fitted’ a situation. This was one of those situations.
Sarah bought tea and cigarettes. The smoke would help calm her and the tea would help her concentrate. Sarah’s need, right now, to get her head back on straight was larger than the need to be a healthy person. Absentmindedly whilst strolling back to the car she lit the Benson and Hedges, but noticing a mother pull her child closer, tutted loudly and stomped it out. Resisting the urge to shout,
“I’ve a kidnapped boy in my car if you want to be judgy about something?…”
Annoyed, she drove the car up to the back of the car park. When the gravel pieces gave way to grass she felt no one could see her parked and got out. Leaving Simon sleeping in the passenger seat she braced herself against the wind with her hands and lit another cigarette, inhaling deeply.
Through the windscreen Sarah stared at Simon Hargreaves, wondering just how innocent he was. It was time to send her final messages. She called up Kevin’s phone, waited for him to answer, breathed heavily, grunted and hung up. She sent him a message,
“Need 4 gurls 2 sleepover. swap yr boi 4 gurls 9.30 tonite”
Setting up a hot spot on her phone she connected to her virtual private network and searched for Crimestoppers. Once on the page she used the drop-down menu to report an ongoing urgent crime. She smiled as she typed out the words, her heart beating hard against her chest. She kept it simple. Her message read –
‘At least one child is being sexually abused. 13, York Road in Rickmansworth. #safeguardthechildren. He’s planning to sell a child as a sex slave tonight.’
The letters she’d posted would have arrived at the police station over a month ago. Written, as fabrications of her imagination, they were both compelling statements from two anonymous girls someone called Kevin been sexually inappropriate with. One of the sexual assaults had taken place when the girl had been just four years old. They were devastating reads and one letter included information that the victim had been taken to Kevin’s house on a Friday evening to be abused in a garden shed, describing the road but not naming it.
It was coming up to 8.30pm when Sarah opened the GT86 door about to ask Simon how he was doing. Closing the door sharply as her phone rang, she watched him wake up, stretching awkwardly in the confined space of the car. Sarah put the phone to her ear. Kevin, on the other end, sounded angry and flabbergasted.
He shouted at her,
“Is this some sort of sick joke? Tell me who you are?”
Sarah responded back into the mic using her deepest vocal cords,
“Party boi, ha ha!”
Before cutting the conversation and sending her final message,
“yr boi is gud, just like u said”
As Simon was getting out of the car and walking around to her, Sarah was dismantling the phone in her pocket. He rubbed his tummy.
“Is that a Burger King?” He said smiling, shaking his legs and rubbing his arm.
“I’m fairly sure it is. Don’t tell me you need more food?” She said laughing. Dropping bits of the phone onto the carpark ground as she walked back towards the service station with him. Sarah could hear the satisfying sound of cars crunching the brittle pieces of plastic as they drove over them. She felt an air of confident as they entered the services.
The motorway services station was well lit. There was a grand display of unicorns in the middle of the aisle and as they saw them, they exchanged a glance and laughed.
“Too easy, where’s the competition in buying one! Mine is better.” Simon declared.
“I love a whopper. We only have a MacDonald’s near home. It would be rude not to.”
Simon continued to stare up at the huge, colourful menu display as Sarah ordered. Each holding Whoppers with milk shakes they seated themselves on one of the tiny tables in the busy eating hall. Sarah excused herself to use the bathroom and left Simon eating.
Sitting in the cubicle she set up another VPN and posted a premade meme to Facebook. The image was of Kevin’s house. The house had a large ‘Children for Sale’ sign and the tagline said, ‘Hargreaves’ Horror Home – Owner of hotel chain sells children.’
The post went on to claim (falsely) that Kevin Hargreaves had been found guilty of child porn offences in Bradford. Suggesting that as a registered sex offender he had yet to visit the police to inform them of his relocation. The post also pointed out that with his wife’s absence his access to their young children, was often without supervision.
Each of Sarah’s fake gaming profiles had over thousand friends, none of whom Sarah knew in person. There were six hundred children linked to the profiles because of the game Ground Rush. In the past, she had often shared anti child sexual exploitation posts. She shared the meme and tagged as many random people as she could before logging off.
The post was full of false information and would be reported and removed quickly as fake news. But, not before it had been seen and created a stir. The image and post were clean and could not be traced back to her…none of it could. Even her registered phone was not registered to her and she had never made any identifying purchases on it.
Sarah finished up, washed her hands and stared at herself in the services mirror. She looked herself deep in the eyes. What would Kevin be would be doing now? She dried her hands off, smoothed down her skirt and made her way back to the table. She felt like she was drifting on air, having dropped a bomb.
They did not look unusual in any way, Sarah and Simon. Friends, family or doctor and patient, not kidnapper and victim – they sat, ate their burgers and fries and talked. They talked about the game, Ground Rush, the makers Mexters had a giveaway next week. Sarah suggested they message each other towards the end of the week as a reminder.
Sarah was enjoying herself so much. The young man in front of her seemed so simple, just a boy. Simon became animated talking of his fantasy worlds, the books that he had read and wanted to read. He really got into the games he played and had a group of mates he’d played online with for years just like her. He liked ancient history with the religious battles the games often enacted. Annoyingly his blonde hair fell into his eyes when he went to take a bite of his food and he was continuously brushing it away from his face.
“Why don’t you get it cut?” Sarah asked him, raising an eyebrow and smiling broadly.
Simon stood up and shrugged. He pushed his chair back noisily on the vinyl flooring.
“That is just not my look Doc.” He said, looking down at the table,
“I can’t believe my phone isn’t working. Georgie is going to be doing his nut, but I do have a spare at home.” He glanced at an invisible watch, pursing his lips, before looking at the walls for a clock to tell the time.
“It’s just coming up to 8.45pm.” Sarah said to him. “Let’s get you back, eh? Shouldn’t take too much longer. Do you have a front door key? I mean, is someone going to be there for you now?”
“Fuck knows Doc… What did he say? Your guess is as good as mine. Jane will be there and Tori, probably…it’s Friday night. Dad would usually be going out somewhere. It’s not the first time he’s let me down or the last with school stuff. He will justify it all somehow.”
Like beleaguered travelers they left the tables to the cheerless staff. They were quiet as they made their way back out of the service station and across the car park. Sarah opened the car by the key fob as they approached and tiredly, they got in.
“I may have eaten too much this evening. Your Dad owes me my diet.”
Sarah slid the GT86 into the motorway traffic and soon they were chewing the miles away. Traffic was light and Sarah regretted giving Simon permission to use the sound system. Her head was pounding with Metal rock sound and distorted bass. She figured he deserved the blow out and she wanted him to be super chilled when he arrived home.
It was 9.30pm when Sarah and Simon approached Batchworth Lane. In the crisp night, the blue flashing lights shot through the distant air and Sarah’s heart went into her throat so sharply she almost choked. Sarah turned down the radio and coughing hard, croaked at Simon,
“Oh my, what is going on?”
Simon could see there were police cars with lights flashing at the end of York Road’s junction with Batchworth Lane and groups of people huddled together. Traffic was building back to the Prince Regent public house. Sarah took the opportunity to come off the road before she got stuck further down in blocked traffic.
Simon, appearing to understand, turned to her saying,
“I’d say for you to drop me here, and I’ll walk the rest of the way home but how would you get the car back to Dad for Jane?”
Sarah laughed so hard she started coughing again and pulled the car up in pub carpark.
“Simon, this is my friend’s car. Your Dad’s got a Toyota? – I thought he had a Merc. I bet he has a collection of motors, sly dog! This car isn’t even mine, I borrowed it.”
Sarah looked at the boy, who although looking puzzled, was zipping up his coat and gathering his bag from the footwell. He opened the passenger car door and moved out into the cold, the darkness surrounding him.
“I can see Georgie, so I’ll get off.” He slammed the door closed. Then reopening the car door, he leaned into the car and said, sincerely,
“Thank you for taking me to my appointment today Doc and teaching me how to shoot.”
Winking at her, he closed the door and walked away. Sarah watched him sling his bag over this shoulder and jog towards the end of York Road. She started the engine, in her mirror, driving away, she saw him approached by a group of similar aged youths who patted him on his back and hugged him. She smiled, glad he had good friends; he was going to need them.
Traffic was busier as Sarah heading back towards London. Checking the time, she sat back in the leather seats, put on Kiss radio channel and sang along. She’d have the car back in time to catch the last train back home. It had been such a long day.
copyright sam j harris 2022
All characters and interactions are fictional.
This is chapter twelve of Revenge is Best Served Cold. The first book of The Snap Trilogy. Like and follow for the final chapter next Monday.