Chapter 34. Getting worse.
Back in Canterbury, Marianne and Orla had done a good job on Ada’s script. Ada was putting on her make-up, getting ready, and setting up her background for the new TikTok post. Marianne and Orla were sorting themselves out preparing to watch as Ada filmed herself, acting as her live quality control, both to speed up the whole process, and with a keen eye out for potential bear traps that Ada might fall into and the bizarre internet trolls would pounce on.
Adam had been flitting around in the background, making tea, and trying to be supportive. Inside he was worried. This was a family that he cared deeply about, they had saved his life, and they had taken him in when the isolation was really getting him down. He didn’t want something bad to happen to them. Adam knew what Marianne and Orla were planning and couldn’t see a way that he could help. But he was keen to do his bit. With no one to consult, he decided that the best thing he could do was to go to Fordwich and try to explain the real situation to people directly, and in person. Surely they would understand then. Not wanting to disturb anyone, Adam left a note by the kettle, and slipped out the door.
Maeve had sent some short messages to Steve, so that he was aware that the fans hadn’t accepted the truth of the situation, and that they thought there was some sort of conspiracy going on. She also updated him that Ada was doing her best to set the record straight. He didn’t reply.
Taking advantage of her first class ticket, Maeve got herself another cup of tea, closed her eyes for a moment and practiced letting go. She tried getting into a positive frame of mind before arriving in Edinburgh so she looked up Cromarty, on the Black Isle. She found the most important thing as far as she was concerned, an excellent coffee house, it didn’t have the most promising name, The Slaughterhouse, but pretty much a five star rating from all the customers. Things were looking up. Maybe it was a good time to be away.
Maeve changed trains in Edinburgh at about the same time that Steve got back to Canterbury. She was out of range even if he had tried to contact her, when he jumped on his motorbike and legged in round to the car park opposite the pub in Fordwich.
While he was on the train back to Canterbury, Steve had been in almost constant touch with his team. It was difficult because he was finding it hard to imagine what exactly was happening on the ground. He had placed a sergeant at each end of the run, so one in Fordwich and one at the most used public exit by the Youth Club in Canterbury, with anyone he could lay his hands on, constables, officers and support staff, joining them.
Steve couldn’t imagine how this was going to turn out, it could be like a sunny Sunday in the park where some polite but firm nudges would get people to move along and go home. The messages from Maeve suggested otherwise. If it turned into a protest mob, well then they would be in trouble, so he had got as many boots on the ground as he could, hoping he had enough to cover either scenario.
When Steve arrived at the scene, he didn’t know what to expect but what he saw certainly wasn’t it.
Maeve was well on her way to Inverness and having checked up that the girls were okay, the new Tik Tok post had gone out, and things were calming down from Ada’s perspective. She sat back and embraced the patchy signal. As a last minute thought Maeve had tucked a book in her bag, now with a feeling of the complete luxury of time to herself and absolutely nothing else she could usefully do, she opened her novel, as the day began to close in.
In contrast, as soon as Steve had parked his bike, the sergeant from his team shouted over,
“Good to see you Governor. It’s a right mess.”
Steve replied, “Christ. It’s like Piccadilly Circus!”
The car park was full, and cars had been abandoned on footpaths; in people’s driveways blocking the residents into their houses. In fact everywhere that they could find a square inch to dump their cars, they had. The recent rain had made the ground soft, all in all, this was gridlock in a muddy quagmire. Not ideal.
One group of people were milling around in the car park arguing with the officers who were trying to hold them back, and stop them heading off across the fields on their way to the woods.
“Step back, please.” The officer was firm but polite.
“This is a public footpath. I have my rights. You can’t stop me.”
“Yes sir, but during the pandemic we can not allow crowds to gather.” The officer was doing his best, but the level of tension was high. This had been going on for some time.
“You are wilfully stopping a community search for vital information.”
“Ma’am, with due respect, if there is a search to be carried out then the police are the best people to carry it out.” He was doing a good job.
Steve nodded to the sergeant. “He’s doing fine. Been like this all day?”
“Yes Gov, but they haven’t always been so polite, we’ve had quite a bit of argy bargy with pushing and shoving. Earlier, before we had the numbers on our side we had to let a bunch of them go through.” He was glad that the boss was here in person.
“Since then we’ve been doing quite a bit of cat ‘n’ mouse chasing too.”
“What do you mean?” Steve was struggling to follow, so he sounded sharper than he intended, he needed to be on top of his game but he wasn’t. At the moment he was trying to keep a lid on his rising sense of panic, without anyone else picking up on it.
“Well, you can see, they’ve all got their mobile phones on. They’re getting messages from somewhere, and then suddenly they change what they are doing.” He shook his head regretfully. “So they’ve worked out there are other ways to get into the woods.” He stopped talking, turned and used his eyes to indicate the direction of the old barracks, without actually giving away any specific information to the people hanging around.
“We try to get there before they do. Then they change back. It’s a ruddy nightmare.”
With that his radio, burst into life,
“Sarg, we’ve got a problem. A big one.”
The sergeant moved away so that no one could overhear what was said next.
Steve had come straight to the site so didn't have the necessary kit, as the sergeant moved off he reached his hand back with a radio in it for Steve. No explanation needed. Steve moved away from the onlookers milling around before tuning in and hearing,
“....We have a shooter, believed armed, in the woods, plus we are estimating two hundred civilians to get out of range immediately.”