Leon Anderson sat in the back of the stolen Jaguar, as it sped down the M3 to the South West of England in the fading light. The sound of the classic rap group 'Niggers with Attitude' boomed out of the speakers, cutting out any possibility of conversation with his compatriots in the front seat. The heat and cigarette smoke was becoming overbearing, so he wound down the window and took a deep breath as the warm night air hit his light brown skin. He lent back in his seat and studied his long-time friend Denzel, who sat in the passenger seat bopping his head to the music. Tommy Burns sat behind the wheel. He was ten years their senior, with thickset features and short cropped blond hair.
Leon glanced at the speedometer and noticed they were travelling at 110mph. He shifted his body weight, and for a second his Smith & Wesson handgun and holster felt heavy against his ribs. "Why don't ya slow this fucking car down? If we ain't careful we'll have the pigs on our backs."
With his eyes still on the road, Tommy turned his head slightly towards Leon.
"What did ya say?"
Leon sighed before leaning forward in an effort to be heard above the music. "If we don't slow down, we could have the pigs on our backs."
Tommy grinned and turned towards Denzel. "I thought ya said ya friend had balls."
"Ya don't need to worry about him," Denzel nodded reassuringly. "When the time comes, he'll do the business. Just like he did on the first run we did together."
Tommy slowed the car to 80 mph, before turning down the stereo. "That suit ya better?" He asked with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
"Yeah, there ain't any sense in taking unnecessary risks." Leon stated, before turning his attention to the passing traffic.
Leon remembered that since he and Denzel had arrived in London three years earlier both aged sixteen; they had somehow managed to avoid arrest. It was partly due to Leon's caution and planning, but he also realised luck had played a part their continued freedom. They had started off by carrying out a couple of commercial burglaries, the second of which was a medium sized Do-It-Yourself store, where the owner conveniently left five hundred pounds in the till over-night. By using the money as a stake to buy a kilo of cannabis resin, within six months they were selling three kilos a week distributed between six or seven local small time drug dealers in West London.
Early on in their career they were set upon by a group of five youths who tried to rob them on their way to a drug deal. Two of the youths were hospitalised and the others managed to escape with just bruises. Word soon spread and they had no further trouble from local gangs. By the time they were eighteen, they were dealing twenty kilos a week. Leon and Denzel showed a healthy respect to the larger dealers by making no attempt to encroach on their patch. Also, Leon especially, had no desire to branch out selling harder drugs. Because of this they were left alone by the competition.
Recently Denzel had begun to get restless. There was a big market for amphetamines. Denzel and Leon had argued on a number of occasions over Leon's lack of ambition. Denzel had met Tommy Burns through a mutual acquaintance some three weeks earlier. He persuaded Denzel to put some money into an amphetamine deal he was planning. Denzel told Leon about the deal. Against his better judgement, Leon agreed to go along with it. The drug deal went off without incident. Despite Leon's distrust of Tommy, the potential for money seemed too good to turn down, so he decided to tolerate his new business partner.
"Have ya dealt with these guys before Tommy?" Leon asked.
"No, but they'll be OK. They ain't nothing but country yokels making their first deal. Anyway, if there's any trouble, all you and Denzel have gotta do is flash that steel you're carrying, and they'll shit themselves."
"I've gotta funny feeling about this one."
"I've got a funny feeling about this too," Tommy replied with an edge of impatience to his voice. "We got ourselves two kilos of pure speed for a thousand quid a kilo. We cut it with 50% glucose and are now selling four kilos of speed for four thousand quid. I make that two thousand quid profit for a couple of hours drive down the motorway, and this is likely to turn into a regular run. I wouldn't mind a funny feeling like that every day." He looked towards Denzel. "What do ya think big boy?"
"Sounds good to me, man," Denzel replied, as he looked through the cassettes in the glove compartment.
Tommy looked in the rear view mirror at Leon. "Lighten up, man. You're making me nervous."
Leon did not answer. He sat back in silence and again turned his head towards the car window as they filtered off the motorway onto the A303. Denzel and Tommy chatted constantly in the front seats, as they drove on for a further hour in the increasing darkness. Fifteen miles north of Yeovil in Somerset, Tommy slowed down the car and turned off onto a country road.
"We'll be there in a few minutes," Tommy said. Both Leon and Denzel noticed the tension in his voice as they neared their destination.
They soon reached the entrance to the car park of the Green Man Hotel. It was originally an eightieth century Mansion House that was converted into a hotel in the 1960s. A half-acre car park separated the hotel from the road.
Tommy drove the car to the far end of the car park, which was in almost total darkness, and out of earshot of the locals who frequented the bar and restaurant. Leon noticed that with the exception of one car that was parked about five metres to the right of them most of the cars were parked outside the hotel.
Leon looked at his watch. It was 9.50pm. "We only just made it. They should be here by ten."
Tommy reached for the cellophane package that contained the white powdered amphetamines from under his seat and handed it to Denzel before lighting a cigarette.
Within two minutes they heard the sound of a vehicle. All three turned their heads in time to see its headlights moving slowly towards them before a white transit van pulled up twenty metres to their left.
They continued to watch as a man in his mid-twenties, with unkempt hair, jeans and bomber jacket jumped out of the passenger seat and moved warily towards them.
Tommy wound down the window as the man approached.
The man leaned forward and peered in the car, first at Tommy before glancing suspiciously at the other two. "You're Tommy Burns, the bloke I met in London."
"Ten out of ten for good observation. How's it going Ricky?"
The man appeared in no mood for small talk. "Have you got the speed?"
"Have ya got the money?"
"Yeah, but we want to check it over to make sure it's alright first."
"I ain't standing around in a car park while you guys mal over the merchandise for hours on end," Tommy replied assertively. "You and ya friend can have a taste from any part of the bags. Then quickly weigh the stuff before giving us the money, then we all leave happy. OK?"
The man paused for a moment. "OK, I've got some scales in the back of the van. But only two of you come over. I don't want any funny business."
"Alright, but you try and fuck us over and you'll regret the day ya ever met us." Tommy glanced over at Leon. "You wait here and keep an eye out. We'll be back before ya know it."
Leon remembered feeling increasingly uneasy. It was obvious from Ricky's unnaturally thin appearance, diluted eyes and nervous disposition, that he had a chronic amphetamine habit. He did not think Ricky had the intelligence to build up a big enough net-work to unload such a large amount of amphetamines, and was more likely to consume his profits.
As Tommy and Denzel, who was carrying the package, got out of the car, Leon discreetly removed his gun from under his jacket and held it tightly in his right hand against his leg, where it was hidden in the darkness.
He watched from the window as Tommy and Denzel followed Ricky to the Transit van. He then saw Ricky's friend jump out of the passenger side, before walking round to the three figures that had now reached the back of the van. He could just make out Ricky in the gloom as he opened the rear van doors.
What happened in the next few minutes changed Leon's life forever. Never again would he let anyone persuade him to go against his instincts.
Leon sat and watched in horror as the back doors of the van flew open. Two men jumped out into the night waving what he guessed were baseball bats. Not taking his eyes off the scene, Leon, with gun in hand immediately pushed open the rear car door and rushed towards the van. Adrenalin rushed through him; as he saw Denzel, still with the package in his right hand, reach for the gun hidden under his jacket. He then heard Denzel cry out in agony as the man that had been sitting in the passenger seat lunged towards him and thrust a knife in his abdomen. Denzel dropped his gun and went down on all fours, before rolling over on his back clutching his abdomen.
At the same moment, Leon noticed one of the figures running toward Tommy swinging a baseball bat. Tommy's shoe caught him between the legs and the man doubled up in pain, dropping his bat in the process. Suddenly, Ricky pounce upon Tommy from behind, with his arm gripped tightly around his neck, he wrestled him to the ground. It was obvious to Leon that Ricky did not have the strength to contain him for too long. Ricky's injured friend was struggling to his feet and reaching for his bat in order to assist him.
They had not noticed Leon, who was now almost upon them. The man with the blood-stained knife was busy picking up the packet containing the amphetamines.
Anger welled up inside Leon as the second man with a baseball bat rushed over to Denzel, "I'll teach you not to pull a gun on us you fucking black bastard!" The man yelled, as he lifted his bat above his head, intending to bring it down on Denzel's head.
Instinctively, Leon stopped dead in his tracks. With his arms outstretched and the gun gripped tightly with both hands, he pointed it at Denzel's attacker. "Drop that bat ya mother fucker, or I'll blow ya fucking head off!"
The man hesitated. "And who the fuck do you think you are, you nigger shit. I'll take you both out!" He again lifted the bat above his head.
Leon was not willing to take a chance with Denzel's life. He squeezed the trigger, the resonance of the gun filled the night, followed by the sound of screaming as the man fell to the ground clutching his shoulder. The clatter of the baseball bat echoed as it fell on the concrete.
The others stared at Leon, who stood rooted to the spot, and aimed his gun at the spectacle before him. "Drop the speed mother fucker!" Leon yelled at the man with the package in his hand.
Without delay, the man obeyed.
Tommy dragged himself to his feet, pulled out his gun, and smashed the butt across Ricky's head. "You'd try and rip me off would ya," he bawled as he released the safety catch on his handgun.
"Please don't shoot. I'm sorry, I'm really sorry," Ricky trembled with blood seeping from his head wound, as Tommy aimed the gun at his chest.
"Put the gun down Tommy!" Leon demanded.
"Ya wanna let that shit get away with trying to rip us off. No fucking way."
"Drop the steel now!" Leon shouted with the gun now pointing at Tommy.
Tommy stared at him, the anger evident in his face. "You'd shoot me to save this lump of shit." A look of disgust came over his face, but he never the less lowered his gun.
For the first time since leaving the car, Leon turned his head towards the hotel. He noticed a couple, standing transfixed with terror, by the car that was parked near the Jaguar. He looked beyond them at the hotel bar window that was lit up in the night. He could make out a number of figures peering out.
"Let's get the fuck outta here; the pigs will be here any minute!" Tommy stormed, as he picked up the package containing the amphetamines before moving towards the car.
Leon did not reply, he was looking down at Denzel, whose shirt and jacket were soaked in blood. Trying to suppress the panic that was beginning to grip him, he quickly ripped off his own jacket and gently pressed it against the knife wound in an effort to stem the loss of blood.
"I'm feeling sleepy," Denzel whispered.
Leon continued to hold his already blood soaked jacket against the wound. He knew Denzel's condition was serious and it was vital to keep him awake. "Ya can't sleep now man, we've got some things to talk over."
They were interrupted by the sound of Tommy screaming at them from the car.
"Come on, we ain't got time to hang around." He turned the ignition and revved the motor.
"We can't just leave him."
"Fuck ya then," Tommy sneered before slamming his foot right down on the accelerator and screeching out of the car park.
As the Jaguar sped away, sirens could be heard wailing in the distance.
Ricky and his two friends ran towards their van, leaving their wounded partner unconscious on the ground, with blood trickling from his shoulder wound.
Leon ignored them. He was too preoccupied with Denzel. "Hold on man, an ambulance will be here any minute."
"I feel weak Leon, I need some sleep."
"Ya can't, we got some things to talk about."
"That shit Tommy has just run off with all our stash."
"Oh man, I'm sorry."
"It's OK. From now on it's just you and me, alright?"
"Whatever's best man, whatever's best," Denzel whispered. His voice was growing weaker and his eyes were beginning to close.
Leon tried desperately to keep the alarm out of his voice, but knew he was fighting a losing battle. "Don't go to sleep Denzel, do ya hear me!"
"I hear ya," Denzel's head fell to one side with his eyes closed as his breathing became shallow.
"Denzel, Denzel!" Leon screamed, tears were running down his face. He then heard the screeching of brakes and hastily turned his head towards the car park entrance. Two police cars had blocked it, cutting off the escaping Transit van.
Leon turned his head towards the scene as the occupants of the van stumbled out, before being immediately brought to the ground by half a dozen policemen.
The terrified couple, who had witnessed the whole event, turned and ran towards the safety of the hotel.
"Hold on Denzel, helps on its way," Leon whispered.
"Armed police! Place your gun on the ground and your hands on your head!" A voice demanded from behind him.
Leon responded without delay. He twisted his head slightly and caught sight of six dark figures wearing bulletproof vests pointing rifles towards him.
"Lay flat on your stomach with your arms outstretched!"
"Get a fucking doctor, there's a man dying here!" Leon shouted as he laid himself flat on the ground.
Immediately, two of the figures were upon him. While one held a rifle to his head, the other forced his hands behind his back before handcuffing him. Leon watched the activity with his face pressed hard against the gravel. Two of the other figures went down on their knees, with rifle butts tucked tightly to their shoulders, covering the area, while their colleague checked the pulses of the two unconscious men.
"This one is still alive, what about yours?" One of the figures asked referring to Denzel.
"He's still got a pulse but it's very weak," the figure replied then hastily got out his two-way radio and called for the two ambulances that were waiting at the entrance. They responded at once and came speeding over.
"What's your name?" The figure with the gun pointing at Leon demanded.
"And who are these two?"
Leon paused for a moment as he watched the paramedics come rushing over to the two unconscious men. He could hear more sirens approaching in the distance. The area was now swarming with police.
"I asked you a question Anderson!" The figure with the gun bawled.
"I ain't ever seen the white guy before in my life, but the black guy's called Denzel Livingston."
The figure that had handcuffed Leon carefully picked up the warm gun with a gloved hand and placed it in a cellophane bag. "Is this your work sonny?"
Leon knew they had enough evidence to convict him of the shooting. It was in his best interest to own up to it as soon as possible. "I shot the white guy. One of the guys in the Transit knifed Denzel."
The figure stood up. "I am arresting you on suspicion of Attempted Murder and Possessing a Firearm with Intent to Endanger Live. You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence------."
The words of the police officer reading his rights washed over Leon. He felt a sickness in the pit of his stomach as soon as he heard the words attempted murder.
"Do you understand?"
Leon tilted his head up towards the tall figure dressed in black with a rifle held loosely in his right hand. "Yeah, I understand."
Denzel was in intensive care for a week, but finally managed to fight his way back to life. The man who Leon had shot also made a full recovery but lost the use of his right arm.
It was a year before the case came to trial at Bristol Crown Court. Leon knew that he could be facing a life sentence. He had cause to be thankful to the terrified couple who had witnessed the whole incident. They were able to verify that Leon had only fired at the man with the baseball bat in defence of his friend. They also stated that he had stopped his accomplice (Tommy), from shooting one of his assailants. Because of this, he was only sentenced to fifteen years in prison for Attempted Murder and Possession of a Firearm with Intent to Endanger Life. He resigned himself to the fact he would be unlikely to get parole and would have to serve ten years.
Denzel received four years for Affray. Tommy had got clean away. Although the police suspected Tommy of being involved, they were unable to charge him with anything.
Three of the four men who tried to rob them of their drugs also received four years for Affray. The man who stabbed Denzel had a long record for violence. He was sentenced to life for attempted murder.