Manna from Hell

Manna from Hell is hopefully my next book. It is currently 70.000 words long and will comprise of Book One and Two. What is to follow gives the story its title!

I will include the first page. Again, remember the copyright!


By Paul Hurley

The room was quiet as the early morning sun struggled to penetrate the thick dust that covered the old sash windows. The officers of the Northwich Branch of the No1 Regional Crime Squad sat at their desks in a motley assortment of plain clothes, their scruffy jackets adorning the backs of the chairs adding to the shabby worn out look. It was a look that they cultivated and were quite happy with in this unique form of police work. The office was situated in the old Oakmere police station. A building that had seen service firstly as a stop off point between the far reaches of the county at Altrincham and the Assize Court
at Chester.

In those days’ prisoners had to be walked from one town to another. Then it became a police station in its own right, even at one stage becoming the divisional headquarters, the stables specially built for the superintendent's horse and trap now housed the parking bays for the two senior officers. After a spell as a Magistrates Court it had been handed over to the Regional Crime Squad as a branch office, a job that it was well suited for being situated out in the country on the edge of Delamere Forest. It was a good choice as the office was in central Cheshire, unobtrusive and with easy access to the motorways and cities of the North West Region. Outside the traffic thundered past on the A56, the drivers taking little notice of the large old building set back from the road.

“What’ve you got on today Jim?” asked the DCI as he leaned back in his chair. His hands resting loosely behind his head as he swivelled it in the direction of that particular group of scruffily dressed officers.

“Not a lot Boss,” replied Jim Walker looking up from the paper that he was doodling on,  "just going to do a bit of digging in Liverpool, I want to try and find out where all of the guns are coming from. It’s getting out of hand over there and now the problem’s drifting this way.”

“You mean that you’re going swanning around again!” interjected the small weasel like detective inspector from his seat beside the boss.

The DCI turned cynically towards him, peering at him as he would a piece of dog dirt on his shoe before turning back to Jim Walker. “An operation order I want Jim, I agree with you! This gun business is getting out of hand, lets pull the stops out, oh and I’ll inspect the diaries tonight.” The threat of a duty diary inspection apparently dropped in as an afterthought was left hanging in the air as DCI Mike Parker turned to the next team of victims. The gathering of detective sergeants and constables knew that a sloppy answer or a word out of place would result in them receiving the rough end of his acerbic tongue. Despite his cynicism and abruptness, he was well like by the staff and they knew that if they cocked up with good intent, he would support them, unlike his second in command Detective Inspector David Lawrence. Some in the force suggested, with evidence, that far from being an elite squad, the RCS was used as a dumping ground for unwanted and incompetent CID officers. Unfortunately, officers like D/I Lawrence gave some credence to the suggestion!

Detective Sergeant Jim Walker, like the rest of the office, was an experienced detective. Forty years of age, he was tall and slim with thinning blonde hair. Jim had been in the Cheshire force for 20 years, 11 of them on the CID and 5 on secondment to the 'Regional'. They had a lot of freedom on the regional, or as they were called with sarcasm by the rest of the force, ‘The Squad.’ After the briefing, Jim got his own small team together, two detective constables and a woman detective constable. Jim normally worked with her whilst the two lads, Mark Rowan and Pete McArdle, worked together as an independent partnership under Jim. They were younger than the rest of the office being in their mid twenties and they were keen to make their mark.

“I want you to go visit your snouts, someone must know what’s going on there’s a shooting every week now, there’ll be no shits left soon!”  The lads had registered informants in Liverpool and they may know if anything unusual was happening. Intelligence told them that hard drugs were getting cheaper and the violence was getting worse. Dealers in Chester seemed to have a better supply as well and two guns had recently been found during a raid at the Sealand council estate.

Mark and Pete collected their covert radios slammed on a new battery from the charger in the corner and dropped the radio into the custom-made leather shoulder holster. Around the room chests were bared as the radios in their holsters were slipped on under shirts, the microphone clipped to the front out of sight and the small earpieces slipped into the pocket for use if required. There was no need to wear the radios when not on a surveillance but it was a precaution, at any time they may be called upon to go out and stay in contact with the car. Picking up their bags containing an assortment of pies, surveillance logs and general police paraphernalia they made their way down the back stairs to their Mazda 626 squad car, it was unmarked and painted metallic silver.

In the yard, the DI was waiting for them clipboard in hand. “I want to inspect your car before you go out,” he said scowling. They knew that their DS and DI Lawrence didn’t get on and they appreciated that it was because Jim Walker did not suffer fools easily! Mark opened the driver’s door with the remote and leaned in, collected the cars logbook and handed it to the DI who looked at it briefly before throwing the book back into the car. He indicated brusquely for the boot to be opened and Mark pulled the handle from inside the car. The DI walked to the boot and took out a filled holdall, looked into it and threw it onto the weed-strewn tarmac of the car park. He checked the spare wheel and tools, and then satisfied he slammed down the boot.

“What about the bag Boss?” Pete indicated the holdall still sitting on the tarmac. “What’s it doing in there?” asked the DI not turning to look at them.

“It’s a change of clothes for when were on surveillance, it’s always handy to change your appearance…”

“Don’t tell me my fucking job, I don’t want cars cluttered up with that shit, now get rid of it.” With that he stalked off to another car, the driver of which was trying to leave before he could get to it.

“What a wanker – ‘don’t tell me my job’ - he’s cocked up more surveillances than anyone in the office the little prick, shove the bag back Mark and let’s get off,” Pete climbed into the driving seat as Mark checked to make sure the D/I was looking the other way before slipping the holdall back into the boot. Pete then guided the car out of the narrow gateway and on to the busy A56. The officers on the RCS were dressed casually and given a lot of freedom to act on their own initiative. This casual dress and plain car would not however fool the professional criminals, especially in Liverpool and they had to be careful where they went.

“Let’s go and see what Joey can tell us,” said Mark. Joey was a taxi driver in Liverpool and lived on the outskirts on a council estate. When not informing on the criminal element to Mark and Pete, he spent his time working as a legitimate cab driver, a getaway driver and a deliverer of drugs and stolen property. This side of his work made him a very useful ‘snout,’ and he had received a steady flow of money in return for the information that he had passed.

“Why does Parker put up with that knob head? You can see that he doesn’t rate him, he’s fucking dangerous” Pete was still seething over the latest bit of nonsense from the DI. “My fucking vicars suit was in that bag, how many times has that come in useful?” Mark laughed as he lit up a cigarette and Pete waved his hand in front of his face to indicate his dislike of the smoke wafting towards him. He didn’t say anything, there was no need to, Mark was an inveterate smoker and nothing would stop him. Pete steered the car through the busy traffic onto the Runcorn Bridge, Route Six and thence into Liverpool.