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CHAPTER TEN – I AM JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS
Pulling up outside Sully’s place, Liam stayed in his van, sounded his van’s horn a couple of times and awaited Sully’s arrival.
Moments later Sully appeared at the passenger side door of the van, opened it and got in. “What about ye Sully?” Liam greeted him, and the the two of them – as they drove off together – then chatted about the new curry house they had planned to try that evening. I say ‘had planned’ as despite intending to do so they never actually made it there.
Liam had hardly gotten a hundred meters away from Sully’s road when flashing blue lights appeared in Liam’s mirrors, these being followed by a short burst of a police car siren. Liam and Sully glanced at each other and wondered what was happening. Liam pulled the van over to let the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) car to pass, but instead of it passing and simply carrying on it came to an abrupt stop right in front of their van.
Liam and Sully again looked at each other before Liam lowered his window in readiness for the PSNI officer’s arrival. The rushed conversation between them being one of confusion and no small amount of suspicion. That suspicion being generated from Sully having noticed that not only was there the PSNI car that had pulled them over and which had come to a stop in front of them, but there was also another one now behind them.
“License and identification please.” The PSNI officer asked as soon as he arrived at the van’s driver side window.
“Is something wrong?” Liam asked. It was a question that was met only with the same repeated statement. “License and identification, please.” The officer repeated.
Complying with the office’s request Liam handed them to the officer who then inspected them. “Your identification too, please sir.” The officer told Sully, momentarily glancing up. Sully and Liam looked at each other as Sully reached to his pocket for his wallet.
Now, being pulled over or being approached by the police was not – due to the area they lived in, their culture and indeed their pasts – something that was new to either of them. And indeed the police were always pulling vehicles over, but this felt different somehow. Perhaps it was the presence of the two police cars instead of one. Perhaps it was the fact that the officer had asked not just for Liam – the driver’s – details but also for Sully’s. Or perhaps it was the fact that there were now five fairly large officers standing around the van. Not to mention the one still sat in the driver’s seat of the police car behind them.
“Can you get out of the vehicle, please gentleman.” The officer instructed, once he had confirmed the two lad’s identity. Again Liam and Sully looked at it other. “What the heck was going on?”, they both thought. In days gone past they might have reacted very differently, and certainly their lack of trust in the PSNI (and especially for the RUC before them) was still very real. Neither Sully nor Liam were virgins in respect of having to deal with the police, although admittedly most of their dealings had been in their – let’s just say – younger, wilder days.
Doing as they were asked both Liam and Sully got out of the van and Sully was led to the pavement and to Liam’s side.
“What’s going on?” a now slightly agitated Liam asked, noticing a couple of passer’s by looking and pointing.
“We need for you both to come with us please.” The officer told him.
“Why? Are we suspected of doing something wrong?” Liam asked.
“Are we under arrest?” Sully asked.
“Do we need to arrest you lads?” A sergeant, who up until now had remained silent, stepped forward and asked. His manner was friendly and casual and in no way threatening. Over than there being five other officers with him, of course.
“We just need you to come with us please.” the first police officer – the one who had originally approached them – added.
Sully and Liam looked at each other, both of them individually weighing up their choices. In recent times there had been reports of gangs posing as fake PSNI officers in order to kidnap their victims. And certainly that thought had gone through at least one of Sully and Liam’s minds. But both Liam and Sully recognised at least two of the officer’s – one of them being the sergeant – so at least they knew these officers were legit. And besides those reports usually involved female victims.
“What about my van?” Liam asked.
“Don’t worry, it will be secured and the keys returned to you.” The officer explained and with that he held out his hand for the keys.
Liam handed him the keys and in turn the officer turned and handed them to the sergeant.
“I think, for now, the best thing we can do is to do as they say.” Liam very quickly and quietly told a now more than slightly agitated Sully.
The two lads watched as the sergeant went to Liam’s van, opened the driver side door, checked that the handbrake was on, closed the driver side window, firmly closed the door, put the key in the lock and locked the van before going around it and checking that all the doors were secure.
“This way please lads.” The sergeant said on his return and having handed Liam back his van keys. And with that the two lads were led to the police car that was in front of them.
“You still haven’t told us what the problem is, or what we are meant to have done wrong?” Liam commented, trying his best not to make it at all sound confrontational.
“Ah lads, there is no problem and no one has said you have done anything wrong.” The sergeant responded without even turning to look at them.
“But you still pulled us over and are still taking us down the station.” Sully commented. “Some kind of explanation would be helpful.”
Having reached the police car the sergeant opened the nearside rear door and turned to Liam and Sully.
“Lads I promise you, there is absolutely nothing to worry about and you aren’t in any kind of trouble.” Holding the door open with his left hand he gestured for them to get in with his right. “But as for explanations, I really don’t know enough to be able to tell you anything. So any explanation will have to come from someone with a pay scale far higher than mine. I am just following orders.”
In truth, it was an honest enough statement and one made in a friendly casual manner. And that – for Liam and Sully alike – was what was weird about the whole situation.
As I mentioned before, neither Liam nor Sully were virgins when it came to having to deal with the police, as indeed both had been in the back of police cars and police vans for that matter. But here they both were, voluntarily getting in the back of a police car with having to be forcibly put in the back of one. Additionally, they had not been searched. Likewise, their mobile phones had not been taken off of them and even more curious than any of it, they had not been handcuffed.
Sully has been the first to get into the back of the police car and had slid across to make room for Liam who got in after him. And once they were both in the sergeant had reminded them to put their seat belts on before he closed the car door, opened the front passenger’s door and climbed in.
“All buckled up?” He asked the two lads as he himself put his seat belt on and another officer opened the drivers door and got into the driver’s seat. And once they had confirmed that they were, the car pulled off.
Quietly reaching into his pocket Liam very discretely; pulled out his phone, turned it to silent, unlocked it, navigated to the notes app and typed in the words, “I have no idea what it going on. But it all seems friendly enough.” He then discretely slid it further up his leg towards his knee and tilted it so that Sully could see it.
Checking that the cops weren’t looking, Sully in turn took out his own phone and after putting it on silent, also got his notes app up and typed, “Neither do I, and yeah friendly enough, but I still don’t trust the feckers.”
“I know.” Liam responded by typing on his own phone. “And what’s all this about ‘Someone with a pay scale much higher than his?”
“Detectives?” Sully typed in response.
“Could be I guess.” Liam typed. “But it sounded more serious, somehow. Have you got any ideas what it’s all about?”
“Not a clue.” Sully typed in response. “But I do know we ain’t going to the local station. We are going in the wrong direction.”