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Authors: Matt Hilton

Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Thrillers, #General, #Suspense

Rules of Honour (9 page)

BOOK: Rules of Honour
13.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

He was lying on the bunk, feet up, his hands crossed across his large belly. There was a Lucky Strike smouldering in the corner of his mouth, and a can of Bud balanced between his wrists. He was savouring the smoke and the brew, making them last because there was none left. Michaela best get her scrawny ass back soon and bring him more of each as he’d warned her to do. A TV played at the end of the trailer, the black and white picture flickering and rolling – a
Sergeant Bilko
rerun was airing, but he could hardly make it out. He fancied himself as a fixer-upper, but had put off the jobs waiting outside; he thought that maybe he should see to the TV first. Too much like hard work, he decided, and drew on the Lucky all the way down to the stub. The TV continued to flicker, the blue light flashing on his spectacle lenses. Phil Silvers was giving the little fat guy hell and Peterson laughed to himself, a bitter sound: the programme was nothing like his days in the army, far too naive for that.

He heard the soft thrum of an engine.

It wasn’t his beloved family returning to him, which was for damn sure. This engine sounded healthy, unlike their old Dodge that drank oil by the bucketful. Peterson was concerned. Sometimes some of the kids from the nearby town came out and took pot shots at the old machines standing on his lawn like sentries. Usually they used catapults or air rifles, but once one of them had used his daddy’s pump action and blew a hole through the back end of the trailer. Pity that seven-months-pregnant Michaela was sleeping at the other end at the time, it would have saved him the trouble he was having now. Still, he couldn’t allow the little punks to blast holes in his trailer, not when enough wind whistled through the cracks in the windows as it was. He flicked the stub of the cigarette into the neck of the empty Budweiser can, reached languidly for the length of pipe he kept down the edge of the bunk for just such an eventuality. He swung his legs out, sitting up, grunting. Then, cursing, he went to the door to see who was calling round this late of an evening.

As he opened the door and stepped down on to hard dirt, the vehicle swept up the short drive towards his plot. It came to a stop, its lights almost blinding him. Peterson placed a hand across his forehead, shielding the light off his glasses. ‘You kids think you’re coming in here shooting up the place again . . . I’ll whup your goddamn asses!’ For effect he wagged the length of pipe.

Beyond the first one, another vehicle pulled into his drive. From its size and blocky shape he could tell it was a van. The van pulled up alongside the car, that Peterson now recognised as an Oldsmobile: one of those station wagons with the wooden trim running the length of it. It was difficult to see beyond the glare of headlights but he thought that both vehicles carried a number of passengers. Suddenly Peterson didn’t feel so sure of himself any more. Had Michaela gone and told her family what he’d done and rounded up her brothers and cousins to teach him a lesson? Nah, that wasn’t it; the car and van were too nice to belong to trailer park scum.

‘Hey! This is private property and yous guys are trespassing. You best get away off my land, OK.’ Peterson didn’t like the high pitch of his voice, but there was nothing for it. He was frightened. This wasn’t right.

Doors came open in the station wagon and he saw four figures move behind the headlights. He was still trying to make them out when the doors of the van swung out and another two figures joined them. Another man was still in the driving seat of the van, and as Peterson lifted his club a second time the van began to roll back. As he watched, the driver completed a three-point turn, so that the back of the van faced him. The two that had climbed out went and opened the doors.

Peterson was confused. But he was no fool. He knew the shit had hit the fan and he was up to the neck in it. These weren’t kids out for a little drunken fun, these were grown men. He had caught glimpses of their faces, but they meant nothing to him. What the hell did they want from him?

‘Charles Henry Peterson.’

He heard his name called out and flinched from it. The words had sounded like condemnation.

‘What do you want with him?’ Again his voice was higher than he’d have liked. ‘You cops or something? If that’s the case, you’ve come to the wrong man. I haven’t done a goddamn thing.’

‘Are you Charles Henry Peterson?’

‘That depends what you want him for?’ He tried to make light of the situation. ‘If he owes you money, then, hell no.’

‘It’s him, all right.’

The four men from the car came forward. Peterson watched them. One of them was a big man like himself, the other three smaller. He glanced at the pipe in his hand, figuring his chances if he whacked the big one first. Then he saw the guns in their hands.

Drop the pipe,’ the big man said.

‘What the hell’s going on here? Tell me who you are and what you want.’

‘I want you to drop the pipe.’ The big man had an odd accent, a soft burr to it that Peterson didn’t recognise. ‘Otherwise I’ll shoot you in the gut and then take it away myself.’

‘Hey, take it easy, will you?’ Peterson was loath to give up his only weapon, but he didn’t think the man was bluffing. He let it fall and it thudded heavily on the hard-packed dirt.

‘Kick it away.’

Peterson toed the pipe away, taking things easy because his feet were bare.

‘Good,’ the big man went on. ‘Now walk to the back of the van.’

‘What’re you going to do?’

‘Do what I said: walk to the van.’ The big man lifted the gun so it was aiming directly at Peterson’s face.

‘OK. OK. I’m going, you don’t have to wave that hawgleg in my face.’

The others had been silent until now, but Peterson heard whispers pass between the group. He daren’t look at the one force-marching him to the van, but he glanced back and forth, searching the others for any sign of pity. He didn’t find any.

He was still approaching the rear of the van when two of them moved close. They grabbed him by an arm apiece, forcing his wrists behind his back. A third one joined in, wrapping a heavy hemp rope around his wrists, pulling it so tightly that the rough fibres scored the flesh from him. Peterson yelled, finally building the courage to fight back, even though it was hopeless.

‘What the hell are you doing to me? Get off!’

‘We’re just going to take a little drive,’ a voice said by his ear – one of the men holding him. ‘Taking you somewhere that you haven’t been in a long, long time.’

‘What are you talking about?’

The big man grabbed him by his chin and twisted his head round. From this angle Peterson could now see into the rear of the station wagon. He could make out two more figures in the back, sitting on their knees in the luggage space. The two women stared back at him, and their gazes condemned him to hell. One of them he didn’t know, but the other .
. .

A sack was forced down over his head.


‘You went along with the men, you and Rose?’

‘We had to. We were the only ones prepared to do so. The other wives did not wish to see what happened, happy only in that the rapist finally paid for what he had done.’

I scrubbed my hands through my hair, glanced once at the closed door and wondered what the hell Rink was doing. Partly I was glad he wasn’t hearing this, but another part wished he were there so I wouldn’t have to go over it again.

Rose Kurihara met Jed Newmark at the same dance hall where Yukiko met Andrew. Jed – another soldier on furlough from Korea – had fallen deeply for the pretty Japanese girl and had pursued her until she had accepted his hand in marriage. They had spent many happy years together, but of late the subject of babies had come up. They had tried to conceive but to no avail. They had watched Andrew and Yukiko have their first child – a girl – who sadly died shortly after birth, then a boy who had thrived, and now Yukiko was pregnant with their third. At first they believed that they were placing too much pressure on themselves to conceive, but then the subject of medical health had arisen. Tests showed that Rose was unable to bear children, the reason being scar tissue build-up from internal damage suffered years earlier. It had been a terrific blow to Jed, not only that he’d never be a father, but also that his beautiful wife had been violated as a child. Rose had been forced to tell the awful truth of what had been done to her by Charles Peterson all those years earlier.

That would have been the end of it, had not Jed spoken to Andrew. Fearful that Yukiko had suffered similarly Andrew had confronted her and learned the entire shocking story. Being a man who believed that family was everything, he could not let the brutality go unpunished. Yukiko and Rose had contacted the other girls who had been harmed by Peterson – the plan being to bring the man to justice – but some of them feared the repercussions and the scandal the story would bring should they speak in an open court. Respecting their wishes, Andrew and Jed had concocted another plan. They had contacted the husbands and brothers of the women instead. They formed their own lynch party.


Charles Peterson had no idea how long he was in the back of the van. Hooded, his arms bound, his body aching from where he’d been bodily lifted and slung on to the hard bed of the van, he could do nothing but feel sorry for himself. Never once did he feel regret for despoiling the girls, his only regret being that his past had finally caught up to him. He had tried to plead, but his begging had fallen on deaf ears, merely earning him a kick in the gut from one of those guarding him. Another time he’d been pulled over on to his back, held prone, and one of the enraged men had punched him in the balls. He kept quiet after that, his only sounds the soft sobs he couldn’t hold in.

At one point during the night, he wondered if Michaela had returned to the trailer with the boy yet. Would she realise something had happened to him and call the police? Little chance of that! She would be glad he was out of the way, probably hoping that he never came back. Bitterly he wondered if she had anything to do with this. Wouldn’t surprise him, though he’d no idea how she’d have any knowledge of his former life. Whatever, he couldn’t hope for her to send anyone to his rescue. He was alone and couldn’t think of a way out.

Finally the van stopped.

Peterson wasn’t relieved; he’d rather the van kept on going for ever.

The sack muffled his captors’ voices, but he could hear the urgency in them, and his sobbing rose to a high-pitched wail.

Someone leaned close. ‘Don’t expect pity, you bastard. Did the little girls cry like that when you were tearing their insides apart?’

The doors were opened and cold air bit into his sweat-sodden clothing. Hands grabbed him and he was hauled out. They didn’t take away the sack, only marched him bare-footed across soil littered with jagged stones. Recalling the words from moments before he bit his tongue to hold back the yelps, but he couldn’t and was crying again by the time he felt smooth stone beneath his soles. Someone pushed him forward and he stumbled, finding nothing but air beneath his feet now. He fell face first down a flight of stone stairs, his body whacking painfully on every step.

Feet clattered down behind him and hands seized him and dragged him up. Peterson was moaning, not so much from pain, but from realisation that the end was getting near. He wasn’t religious in any sense, but if there was a hell he knew where he was heading. Hell on earth in the next few minutes, at least.

His captors were still speaking among themselves, partly in argument, but he could not hope that any of them were having second thoughts. They forced him across a floor that rang hollowly to their footsteps. Then he was twisted around.

‘Do you know where you are?’

Peterson recognised the voice of the big man. He was too fearful to answer.

‘Let me show you.’

The sack was yanked from his head and Peterson blinked at the invasion of light. His spectacles had been knocked askew, and there was nothing he could do to right them. Someone had brought a flashlight and was flicking its beam around a small room with bare concrete walls daubed with faded graffiti. The ceiling was low overhead with wooden beams upholding a floor of warped planks. Peterson had no idea where he was.

‘Don’t you recognise it? You can’t have forgotten about your time at Rohwer?’

The big man was standing in front of him, pointing up at the ceiling. ‘The buildings are gone now. They’ve been gone for years, demolished and carted away and hidden: struck from history for the shameful things they were. But this cellar survived. We found it easily enough. A girl who was raped in an adjacent building showed us where she used to hide from you, Charles.’

‘No, no, it wasn’t me. You’ve got the wrong man. Whoever put you up to this is mistaken.’

A different man came forward. ‘Are you calling my wife a liar?’ Flat-handed, the man struck him across the cheek. The blow was more a shock than it was painful: there was something decidedly insulting about a slap – men traded punches, girls slapped.

‘I’m not saying that . . . just that she’s made a mistake.’

Yet another stepped forward. ‘I guess mine is mistaken too.’

This man struck him, and the slap tore the glasses off Peterson’s face and sent them spinning on the floor.

Hurting, Peterson stared back at the line of men standing before him. There were seven in total. Only seven. He was glad that all that he had hurt had not come back to haunt him.

BOOK: Rules of Honour
13.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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