Read CHERUB: The Sleepwalker Online

Authors: Robert Muchamore

CHERUB: The Sleepwalker (26 page)

BOOK: CHERUB: The Sleepwalker
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As grit on the floor crunched underfoot, the sound of a toilet flushing came from the opposite side of the echoing space. Using the rushing water to camouflage their noise, Lauren and Rat hurried between two racks of metal shelving towards a washroom door with a 2004 topless calendar pinned next to it.

The pair crouched on opposite sides of the door as the toilet cistern refilled and Asif Bin Hassam’s hands splashed under a running tap. Lauren took deep breaths as she held the stun gun in her hand, her trigger finger ready to fire the electrified barbs at Asif before he could grab his pistol.

Asif had nothing to dry his hands on and he shook them vigorously as he came through the doorway. He was startled to see Rat looking up at him, but before he could react, Lauren shot him in the chest. The four electrified barbs sprung upwards and there were a dozen clicks, each one sending a fifty-thousand-volt pulse through the razor-sharp hooks.

Asif blacked out and hit the floor hard. Rat knelt across his chest and ripped the gun out of the holster under his blazer.

‘Who are you?’ Asif moaned.

‘Friends of Fahim,’ Lauren said, as she held the stun gun up so that Asif could see it. ‘If you don’t tell me where we can find him, I’m gonna zap you again.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Asif said.

Both kids backed off as Lauren gave a quick squeeze on the trigger. Asif screamed and twitched as the air filled with the smell of burned skin.

‘Tell me, now,’ Lauren demanded.

Rat pulled the cap off the pepper spray. ‘I’m gonna count to ten, then I’m gonna hold your eyeball open and spray it right in. Tell me where Fahim is, dirtbag!’

Lauren accidentally nudged the trigger, giving Asif another fifty thousand volts and almost frying Rat in the process.

‘Jesus,’ Rat screamed. ‘Careful with that thing.’

The third shock made Asif bite his tongue and blood began trickling out of his mouth.

Lauren and Rat had to sound confident, but cherubs weren’t supposed to threaten captives unless someone was in immediate danger of death, and while Fahim
in danger they had no grounds to believe that Hassam was going to kill him.

‘I’d better ring Mac and get permission,’ Rat said nervously, as he pulled out his phone. ‘We could get in deep shit if we overdo this.’

Jake took the call. ‘What’s going on?’

‘I need Mac,’ Rat shouted. ‘We’ve got Asif, but he won’t talk.’

‘Mac’s on my phone talking to the Met police. He’s trying to see if their number-plate cams have picked up any of the Bin Hassams’ cars.’

‘We need permission to extract information from Asif,’ Rat explained. ‘We’ve given him a few stun-gun blasts, but I can’t go any further unless Mac clears us.’

Jake tutted. ‘I can’t believe there were no incoming calls logged on his phone.’

Jake’s words hit Rat like a slap in the face. He looked up at Lauren. ‘His mobile,’ Rat gasped. ‘If there’s calls from whatever phone Hassam is using we can take the number and track his mobile signal.’

‘Oh crap,’ Lauren said.

Checking Asif’s mobile phone was the most obvious thing to do, but in their panic neither Rat nor Lauren had thought of it.

Jake overheard Lauren’s cursing on the other end of the phone and laughed. ‘Good job I mentioned it before you started pulling out his fingernails.’

Rat stared anxiously as Lauren pulled out Asif’s mobile. ‘Looks like a cheap pay-as-you-go,’ she said, as she flipped to the incoming calls. ‘We’re lucky the stun gun didn’t fry the circuits.’

Asif moaned and clutched his bleeding mouth as Lauren opened up the incoming-calls menu. She saw that all of Asif’s calls that morning had been to a single number and hit the green button to dial it. It rang three times before Hassam’s voice came on the line.

‘Asif, where are you? Is everything OK?’

Lauren hung up without saying a word. ‘It’s him,’ she said, looking at Rat. ‘I’ll call the number through to campus. They’ll be able to triangulate Hassam’s position in less than a minute.’

‘Thanks for the tip, Jake,’ Rat said, before ending the call.

‘Outwitted by the little squirt,’ Lauren sighed, as she dialled the campus control room. ‘I’ll never hear the end of this.’

32. BELT

The Volvo stopped in front of a mock-Tudor detached, with a
For Sale
sign planted on the front lawn and a rear garden backing on to a golf course. Hassam and Asif part-owned an estate agency, which gave them access to a number of vacant properties.

Asif’s wife Muna opened the front door as they stepped towards the house. Her seven-year-old daughter Jala was happy to see her older cousin and came running out to give him a hug.

‘Everyone inside,’ Hassam said firmly, giving his niece a pat on the back of her long dress. ‘Best to keep out of sight.’

While Fahim’s mum had adopted western dress and lifestyle after leaving the Middle East, Muna was in every way a traditional Arab wife. Fahim found his aunt a mysterious figure, because his Arabic was far from perfect and Muna’s English was even worse.

The smell of unpainted plaster clung to the air inside the newly refurbished property.

‘How’s my Asif?’ Muna asked anxiously.

‘OK, I think,’ Hassam said, as they moved up the hallway. ‘He’s fetching our documents and should be here soon.’

‘Have you spoken to him?’

‘I had a dead call,’ Hassam said. ‘But he’s not used to that phone, so he probably just nudged the redial or something.’

Fahim hoped his father had forgotten the threatened beating and was happy to let his little cousin drag him through to the kitchen where she had a card game set out on the table. But Hassam called him back.

‘Upstairs,’ Hassam growled.

Fahim was slow turning around. Irritated, his father grabbed a handful of his tracksuit top and shoved him towards the staircase.

‘Why are you going?’ Jala asked.

‘He’s been a naughty boy,’ Hassam explained, before making Fahim walk up the stairs and into an unfurnished room.

‘Bare your back and lean forward,’ Hassam ordered, smiling nastily as he ripped his belt from his trousers. The only object to lean on was the fireplace, and Hassam placed his son’s chubby hands on the slate shelf.

Fahim looked over his shoulder and saw that his father was preparing to use the buckle end of the belt. The pain would be bad, but it was his father’s coldness rather than outright fear that brought him out in goosebumps.

‘Look at the wall,’ Hassam shouted, before taking a run-up and lashing Fahim’s bare back. ‘You’ll suffer like this until the day you learn some respect.’

The metal tore a huge gash in Fahim’s flabby back. His legs buckled and his knees hit the bare boards with a thud.

‘Stand,’ Hassam ordered, as he loomed over his son. ‘On top of everything else you’re a weakling. If I’d made that much fuss when your grandfather whipped me, he’d have started again from scratch.’

‘Please,’ Fahim sobbed, holding his hands over his eyes as Hassam crouched down and punched his son between the shoulder blades, before spitting in his face.

‘You’ll have to be in a fit state to travel,’ Hassam grunted, as he reluctantly threaded the belt back through his trousers. ‘But you wait and see what’s in store when we get to the Emirates.’


‘Mac,’ Lauren gasped into her phone as she squatted on the dusty warehouse floor. Rat stood with the stun gun poised while Asif bit down on a handkerchief to stop his tongue bleeding. ‘We’ve got a trace on Fahim’s location. It’s less than eight kilometres away, on a golf course off junction three of the M1.’

Mac was at the wheel of his Peugeot. He’d finally made it out of the traffic around the supermarket and was belting along a dual carriageway. He glanced at the sat-nav screen, as Jake tapped in a postcode Lauren had texted him seconds earlier. The device took about twenty seconds to calculate a route.

‘If there are no jams on the motorway I can reach the safe-house in under ten minutes from here,’ Mac said. ‘But we don’t know what we’re up against and I came straight from the supermarket so I’ve got nothing except my phone and a penknife. We’ve still got no idea what Asif and Hassam are up to, but we can arrest them for what happened to the cleaning woman, so I’ll get the local cops to come in as backup.’

‘Do you want us to head over?’ Lauren asked.

‘What’s the situation with Asif?’

‘He’s in a daze, but he overheard more than we’d have liked and I’ve got a nasty feeling the cops are on the lookout for our wheels. It’s a dirty great Bentley. I had a bit of a prang and a couple of near misses, so someone must have called the cops.’

‘Right,’ Mac said, before pausing as he negotiated a busy roundabout. ‘Call the control room on campus and get them to try swatting off the cops.’

‘Already did,’ Lauren said.

‘The most important thing is that Asif doesn’t get a chance to blab about you guys. Have you got any knockout drops in your equipment pack?’

Lauren nodded. ‘I should have a couple of phials of Ketamine. That should take him out for a few hours.’

‘That’s the stuff,’ Mac said cheerily. ‘Give him the jab to knock him out. We’ll send a medic across from MI5 headquarters, they can give him a psychotropic to scramble his short-term memory.’

‘Gotcha,’ Lauren said. ‘And while we’re waiting for MI5 I’m gonna have a rummage through Asif’s bags and see what I can find.’

‘No harm trying,’ Mac said. ‘I’m just pulling on to the motorway, so I’d better break off and call in the cops.’


The house was bare and Fahim had no change of clothes. He sat on the lid of a newly installed toilet, bare-chested. His face was twisted with pain and tears streaked down his face. He’d soaked his T-shirt in water and held it tight against his back to stem the bleeding. Downstairs, Hassam anxiously paced the living-room waiting to hear from Asif, while Jala and Muna continued their cheerful game of snap in the kitchen.

Fahim groaned as he stood up and peered out of the window above the toilet cistern. The back garden had a high fence, but there was a barred gate which opened directly on the golf course. Despite less than brilliant weather, pastel-clad golfers could be seen striding the fairways behind an impressive copse of willow trees.

He considered making a run for it, but Fahim was overweight and got out of breath quickly even when his back wasn’t in agony. His aunt Muna wouldn’t catch him in her long dress and high heels, but he reckoned he’d have to incapacitate Hassam to stand any chance of getting away. A furnished house provides an array of potential weapons from kitchen knives to china vases, but this one had white walls and bare floorboards. There wasn’t even a bar of soap to wash his hands.

Fahim checked out the three upstairs bedrooms. He opened the fitted wardrobes and gave the tie racks and clothes rails a tug, but they were all screwed in tight. The boiler cupboard also drew a blank and he ended up going downstairs and walking into the kitchen. The bleeding had mostly stopped, but the red stuff always makes a mess and seven-year-old Jala shielded her eyes in horror.

His aunt rose silently and inspected the wound. ‘A boy must learn to respect his father,’ Muna said, in her cautiously phrased English. ‘I have a first-aid kit in my car.’

Hassam leaned suspiciously into the hallway as Muna walked towards the front door. ‘Where are you going?’

Muna turned and bowed to her brother-in-law. ‘For bandages and antiseptic.’

Fahim didn’t know whether to be sad or disgusted by the way his aunt fawned, just because Hassam was a man.

‘Be quick,’ Hassam ordered, as he glanced at his Rolex. ‘I’m giving Asif another five minutes. If he’s not here by then we’ve got to assume the worst and move on without him.’

Muna looked shocked, but her tone didn’t change. ‘Isn’t he collecting the passports and money? Surely we need those.’

‘There’s more than one way to skin a cat,’ Hassam said, although Muna didn’t understand the phrase. ‘He’ll catch up with us when he can, but we can’t risk getting caught.’

33. GOLF

The sat-nav announced that they’d arrived as Mac’s Peugeot turned into the street of detached houses. The signal from Hassam’s phone could only be triangulated to within a hundred metres, meaning he could be inside any of a dozen residences.

‘Any idea what we’re looking out for?’ Jake asked.

‘Not sure,’ Mac said, driving as slowly as he could without it looking suspicious. ‘Car number plates might do it. Dial up the campus control room and tell them to stand by for some vehicle checks.’

Mac’s eyebrows shot up as Jake dialled. ‘See something?’ the boy asked.

Mac slowed to a crawl as they passed a house with a pristine driveway and rectangular
For Sale
board fastened to the front wall.

‘Hart McFadden estate agents,’ Mac said excitably, as he speeded up again. ‘I’ve seen that name in the accounts we ripped off Hassam’s computer. Get control to check the Volvo, GK57 NNP.’

By the time the campus control room ran the plate, Mac had pulled up three houses down, with two wheels up on the kerb of the narrow road.

‘Looks like you got it in one, boss,’ Jake grinned, as he moved his mobile away from his mouth. ‘It’s a company car belonging to Bin Hassam Dubai Mercantile Limited, London N7.’

‘Excellent,’ Mac said, pulling the tailgate release lever as he placed his foot in the road. ‘Make sure the control room lets the cops know that it’s house number sixteen.’

Jake passed on the message before snapping his phone shut and following Mac around to the back of the Peugeot.

‘We’d better take a look up there,’ Mac said.

‘Shouldn’t we wait for the cops?’ Jake asked. ‘What if they’ve got guns in there? All our equipment’s back at the apartment.’

Mac shook his head. ‘I’ve asked for an armed response team, but they’re not gonna be here for a while and Hassam must be getting suspicious about his brother by now. He could move at any minute.’

As Mac said this, he lifted up the tailgate, pushed half a dozen Sainsbury’s carrier bags aside and removed the piece of carpet covering the spare wheel. A tyre-changing kit including a jack, a pressure gauge and a pair of large spanners shared the space with the new wheel.

BOOK: CHERUB: The Sleepwalker
4.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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