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Change to Live Part 2

Chapter 1

After the Maddie episode I did get a job on the local rag and eventually my career started to take off. Sarah and I talked about marriage but we never got further than talk. As my time on the paper increased I got better jobs, then a column, eventually getting syndicated across a couple of counties. This is where the real story starts.

I had made a bit of a name for myself in rooting out rogues and petty villains who preyed on my readership. Until this point we really were talking about the bad plumbers and con men, your common or garden bad boys. As you might guess I hadn't been making a lot of friends at that end of society although I had gotten to know a couple of old rogues quite well.

I tried to keep away from drug's stories but sometimes you couldn't avoid it. This was one such instance and if I could turn the clock back I surely would as it resulted in my current predicament and nearly caused Sarah's death. It all started one spring morning...

"Mark you've got to do a story on this."

"What's that Sarah? I wasn't listening"

"This street crime, you know another pensioner was robbed in the high street today?"

"Yeah I heard. But what do you want me to do? We know its mostly kids, that's hardly an exposÚ, we can't identify them as they're too young, all we can do is promote awareness of the problem"

"But there must be a mister big or two involved, a fence or someone. They're not just taking cash but jewellery and cards as well. You're not telling me those young thugs can get rid of all that themselves, there has to be a mastermind."

"I'm sure you're right but I'm not sure I should get into this, the kids are mostly after drug money and that starts getting into places I don't want to go."

"That sounds like an excuse rather than a reason to me."

"You saying I'm scared to get involved, well your right I don't mind admitting that. I do care about the muggings and stuff. If I go on the warpath over one, I get dragged into the other whether I like it or not."

"Look Mark, I didn't mean to make it sound so much like an ultimatum."

"I know, but the problem is I know that I should be doing something, I'm not sure just what."

I decided I had to do something and set about devising a plan. I didn't tell Sarah or my bosses at the paper what I was about so I guess I must take the blame for the shambles that followed.

It took me several weeks before I made any real progress and then things took off big style. One of my contacts gave me a name and my disastrous episode was set to start. You don't really need to know all the little details so I'll give you the edited high (low) lights.

My contact was willing to name names, places, details and so on provided when the shit hit he wasn't in the line of fire. Well I guess the result dictates the means so I went with it. We had a couple of meets in various unsavoury locations before he was willing to pass on the info.

Well I guess my luck was holding, further investigation based on the new information was turning stuff up and I managed to form a convincing cover and insinuated myself into the lower echelons of the operation. (I guess the local rag was not approved reading or I might have been sussed). Over the next couple of months I acted as gofer / driver for the cartel and gradually gained some trust within the organisation, which I now knew to be much larger than I had originally thought.

I had become a 'face' whilst still keeping even Sarah unaware of what I was up to, being a feature writer had it's advantages. I was secretly keeping careful notes to cover myself and I set up an account, which all proceeds from this dirty work were deposited in. I figured that I could keep a clear conscience that way, however every new mugging or drugs related offence had me asking myself what I was really up to.

Well I guess this double life went on for about six months before things progressed further. A shooting incident left some 'vacancies' higher in the organisation and I was 'promoted' to the position of co-ordinator for part of the 'territory'. This was the first time I met Mr Big, a guy I knew by name but as an upstanding businessman in legitimate circles.

As things went luck was again on my side. The papers stopped printing pictures of the hacks some time during this period so although I knew that the bosses did read the locals, there was nothing to tie me to the newspaper hack who continued to fight the fight against the rogues in society.

Chapter 2

At this new level of involvement it was soon apparent that I was in quite deep and I was now going to extra ordinary lengths to cover my own back. I had so far managed to keep my two lives separate but it was starting to prove difficult keeping the two apart.

I had been doing this 'job' for a few weeks when, in hindsight, I made my first error. One of my exposÚs was of a gang member who's legitimate business was as a plumber. Probably because my two lives were becoming closer, I revealed more about my victims business than I should have legitimately have known. It was a great article that produced results but unbeknown to me it sowed the first seeds of infiltration with Mr Big himself.

I have to admit that both my personal and business relationships started to suffer about this time. The stress of my involvement and keeping two personas going was starting to show and I should have eased back. But no, I had to keep going.

Bridges were constantly being burnt and I guess it was after one such incident that Sarah moved out. As a boss it now behove me to order reprimands by way of beatings and in this particular case it turned out to be a young girl on the receiving end. She had been trading a bit but tried to pocket more than her share of the proceeds.

As a business this couldn't be allowed to continue, so my mobster persona ordered a warning to be given. Naively I was thinking in terms of a bit of a slapping but 'my' enforcers had their own ideas. When I first found out about the punishment I didn't believe 'we' were responsible. The girl was found beaten, knee capped with her face carved with 'SLUT', she would recover but she would wear that knife work for the rest of her life. When Sarah started on at me one evening after photos were put in the rag I guess I just lost it a bit. I as much as said that she deserved the treatment. Not exactly PC or Mark the caring and righteous writer, but instead Mark the mobster.

Well Sarah just went ape shit! What was I turning into! I was obviously just a shit pretending to be caring. She'd seen through me and she'd had enough of my blasÚ attitude to the drug related violence around us. Now I really, really love Sarah, I would do anything to avoid hurting her and I came, well I came very close to spilling my cover that night.

I tried to calm things down as best I could without giving myself away but it only delayed for a few days the unwanted split.

Chapter 3

When the love of my life left I was disconsolate, it was as if a bit of me had been amputated. My writing started to suffer and my other employer noticed a change too.

I threw myself into my mob persona; I started to get a reputation as Mr Hard. Although I made sure that there was no repeat of the severity of the girls treatment, even minor infractions were likely to result in broken bones. This got to a point after several weeks where my 'boss' actually ordered me to ease up as the police were starting to take more than their usual interest in the beatings.

I realised then that if things didn't follow my plan it would likely take me down too, something that wasn't in the game plan.

My relationship with Sarah was just still alive; she was at least still willing to talk to me. I had been undercover for best part of a year; I had enough evidence to effectively destroy the local mob. It was time to put it all together so I could play my coup de grace, the exposÚ which would move my journalistic career upward and, I dearly hoped, get Sarah back.

I toned down my activities and started writing my masterpiece. I had decided to go to the police, I still retained contacts there, then immediately file my story so that by the time it was in print the villains were in clink. That's when it really went and left me up shit creek without a paddle.

My timing with the police was lousy, they were short staffed and although I secured personal immunity they couldn't act immediately. My plans were starting to go skewy.

Mr Big had his doubts about me and the tail he had on me saw me go into the police station. When next day the sting started I was suspect number one. This nearly caused me to lose Sarah forever.

Any business likes to know about its employee's and the local gangsters reasonably like to know that bit more. So it turned out that not only did they know about Sarah and me but when she left they kept tabs on her still.

The police had convinced me to hold filing the story for a couple of days, which was quite long enough for Mr Big to act. I had been fingered as the pigeon so even though I was now too public to hit directly, Sarah was easy meat. The same day that the story hit the news-stands Sarah was abducted.

The mob was angry and I received Sarah's ring finger complete with engagement ring next morning, I and Sarah were I deep doo doo. I was now between a rock and a hard place, how could I save my girl and my neck. Well I couldn't come up with anything and contacting the police was out. I couldn't give Mr Big what he wanted, things were beyond that.

Usually the drug cartel was less than subtle but this time they decided that a softly softly approach was needed. They would get me but not before they made me suffer. The finger was just the first instalment.

The police picked up Mr Big but inevitably some members missed detention and despite searching many sites, Sarah remained missing. I was safe for the moment with the chief protagonists behind bars, but even I knew that couldn't last.

Three weeks later and an unconnected search for Sarah was drawing blanks, trial dates were set and I was regretting starting this particular course of events. I was certain that Sarah was already supporting a bridge or similar. I had heard nothing more until another package was delivered. I hardly dare open it, when I did I wished I hadn't, it was an ear, I recognised the earring as Sarah's and it was fresh, she was alive when it was removed very recently.

A couple of hours later a second package gave me instructions for a meet. I followed them to the letter.

The factory unit was not large but big enough to drive into, the clear floor reminding me of so many Hollywood scenes of just this nature. I waited as instructed in the gloom for best part of an hour before with a squeal of tyres a Jag hurtled through the doorway swung round me and stopped. The rear door was flung open and a body thrown out, the Jag was moving before it hit the deck.

I raced across to the crumpled heap, the body was not moving and I feared the worst. The identity was confirmed when I turned the bundle over, the bloodied head of Sarah stared up at me unseeing, but she was still alive. The next few hours went buy in a blur. I got Sarah to the local A&E where they soon diagnosed a drug overdose. The good news was that my foresight with her ear meant that they thought they could reattach that, but whether they could save her life they wouldn't know for some time.

By now the plods were about, alerted by the hospital, and I was 'helping with enquiries'. Between concern for Sarah and the questioning I was fast falling apart. Eventually, leaving just a guard outside the door, the constabulary left, leaving me at Sarah's bedside in intensive care.

Whilst the ear was doing well, the rest of her wasn't. Their tests suggested that the dose of heroine she had received should have killed her, if she came through she could have serious brain damage. I barely left that room for a week but eventually she started to improve, she came off the ventilator and although they assured me she was not in a coma she remained unconscious.

Outside in the real world, for you lose all sense of importance in a hospital, the first trials were due to start. As a protected witness I didn't need to attend in person but they would use a disguised video link if need be.

Chapter 4

The weeks went by and to cut out the monotonous bits, I can tell you that Sarah did come round and miraculously suffered no major damage from the drugs. She gave me a reserved chance at redemption after I gave her the whole story. She was understandably pissed over her finger and ear, but she forgave me most of the rest, I purposely and perhaps inadvisably played down my role in the beatings, especially that of the girl which sparked our separation.

The court proceedings were going well, my evidence proved essential in locking up quite a few of the local mobsters. A few missed jail on technicalities but Mr Big landed twenty years. His parting words as he left were to haunt me, 'we know what you look like, you're time will come'.

Sarah returned to our house but we never really settled there again. Our minds were made up for us when the house was firebombed, we escaped but with little more than our lives which is when the police decided to step in to protect us under the witness protection scheme.

We were moved to the Borders with new identities and some plastic surgery at the taxpayers cost. I got a job with a lumber company doing their PR as Pete and Sarah, now re-christened Angharad as part of our cover had a job with the local council. We settled in and Sarah/Angharad became pregnant. It was our undoing however.

Sarah had never liked the prosthetic finger she had been given; she never forgave the loss of the original. I think, as much to remind me she never wore her plastic digit and that was what gave us away. Women missing a finger are not exactly your everyday occurrence and whilst our cover story covered the missing finger, lost in a car crash, if you are looking for something you will not be put off. The mob were looking.

Luckily for us the local police took their protection of us seriously and they knew of the mob's interest almost as quick as the gangsters themselves. We were 'snatched' and spirited away to Norfolk, we heard a couple of days later that our home had been destroyed by a gas explosion just a couple of hours after our departure.

At least this time we had time to pack.

The authorities were not happy now, word had somehow leaked of my personal involvement and whilst they insisted that they would continue to offer us protection they really would like shot of us. They had a plan; we wouldn't like it but if we stuck it out for a couple of years they were sure we could return to some semblance of normality.

Our soon to arrive offspring as a result would but rarely get to see dad and our personal relationship would be strained to breaking. I, as Patrick would move to Brussels whilst Sarah this time known as Anja would live in a small Dutch town near Antwerp. This time she was convinced that the prosthetic would be a good idea so she was fitted with a state of the art device, which was almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

Maddy Bell 22.08.02 © 2002

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