All ignored her; the fat man opposite nodded when he accidently kicked her foot while clambering across the seats, but then buried himself in the “Guardian”. She felt like a “fly on the wall”, wondering what sort of lives her fellow passengers were leading. But none of them would be engaged in human trafficking.
At Paddington, the train coasted slowly into platform 1 and Jackie gripped her bag and joined the tail of the exodus; commuter lemmings on their daily march. They walked past Costa coffee house; she walked in to a déjà vu moment.
Debi Franks had retained her close cropped hairstyle with blond highlights, elegant features and smooth skin: she didn’t look a day older than the last time they’d worked together, two years ago. She was wearing a smart business suit with a white handkerchief peeking out of the top pocket and a bright MacLean’s smile; she waved.
Jackie took a deep breath, bit the bullet, and walked over to her table with the bottle of half-finished Perrier water on it to exchange pleasantries. Another time she would have welcomed meeting up and reminiscing; this time it was a different matter. Debi stood up; a brief hug and an exchange of glances that conveyed a thousand meanings. While Jackie had always got on with her, there had been no shared intimacies, just operational matters. But Debi was a professional, good at her job and destined for the top; she certainly knew how to press buttons. ‘Jackie ... it’s been too long. You look great.’ She motioned towards the counter, raised an eyebrow.
Jackie shook her head and drew out a chair. ‘Later.’ She sat down, straight into business mode. ‘What happens now?’
Debi continued to smile. ‘I’ve booked you in to Hotel George for a debrief session, it’s walking distance from here...’
...The rules were simple. There weren’t any. Rank counted for nothing if a life depended on it. Jackie remembered what Brains had mentioned. It was dangerous: bloody dangerous; a high-risk operation. Infiltrate in, obtain evidence, finger the bad guys, and get out.
The films were the worst. They showed her the extent of the depravity that some hooded monsters were capable of doing to young innocents. Cigarettes stubbed out on tender buttocks before it got serious. The gagged screams would live with her for a lifetime; these animals needed to be interred for life.
A break was taken, while they composed themselves. Jackie felt a burning rage inside; a molten desire to bring these bastards to justice. More than enough to fully commit to operation Duty Free.
‘One more clip,’ said Debi, nodding to the officer handling the projector. This film was different, a little grainy and the action wobbled. No sound. ‘One of our off-duty officers took this on his mobile. He was travelling back from Amsterdam with his family on a bank holiday weekend.’
The scene was a drunken brawl at Harwich docks. The camera caught glimpses of the perpetrators who were later detained by the police and given a caution. Debi explained. ‘We think it was a planned disruption.’ The film was replayed and she used a laser beam to point at one of the men. ‘He is on our database, a suspected trafficker. One of the aliases he uses is Davros.’ The beam focused on the lorry at the front of the queue and at the lady tying up her shoelace. ‘She could be an accomplice. According to Harold Jones, the customs officer, her papers identified her as Sonja Borski.’
Jackie gave a start; that name sounded familiar.
Debi was still talking. ‘Jones remembered the name, but not the west country address although Bristol or Bridleton seemed to ring a bell.’ Debi almost pleaded; wrung her arms in frustration. ‘Jackie ... that’s your patch ... it’s pretty thin, but it’s the only lead we’ve got.’
Sonja Borski? – Sonja. It clicked. The no-go area in Bridleton. Home for prostitutes, drug pushers and gangs.
She lives in Harmony Estate.