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Catch as Catch Can

Malcolm Hollingdrake

This edition produced in Great Britain in 2021

by Hobeck Books Limited, Unit 14, Sugnall Business Centre, Sugnall, Stafford, Staffordshire, ST21 6NF


Copyright © Malcolm Hollingdrake 2021

This book is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in this novel are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or localities is entirely coincidental.

Malcolm Hollingdrake has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the copyright holder.

A CIP catalogue for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978-1-913-793-27-2 (pbk)

ISBN 978-1-913-793-26-5 (ebook)

Cover design by Jem Butcher


Printed and bound in Great Britain

Created with Vellum

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Dedicated to my wife, Debbie

You make dreams possible

Believe nothing … trust no one!

My childhood ended around the time of my ninth birthday, shamed into sex, obedience and fear.

Billy Childish, My Fault


The transparent Perspex disc spun in the air, a flat earth launched skyward by finger and thumb, to become a virtual rotating globe, a levitating optical illusion. The gilt dollar sign, easily read when static, was now a golden blur. To one of the men watching, time stood still as the spinning disc slowed, the sound going from inaudible to a deep, slow bass – almost sibilant – a stretched-out drone comprising one instruction of three words.

‘Heads or tails?’ The man tossing the disc moved his hand out in readiness to catch its fall. Eyes watched until it reached its apogee. ‘After all, this belongs to you.’

For one man this was not only a game of chance. It was, he knew, a matter of life or death. The disc landed on the outstretched, gloved palm and fingers immediately clasped it, hiding it for what seemed an age.

‘Heads or tails, my incompetent, traitorous bastard?’

The guilty are often psychologically beaten before they begin, as more often than not, they have realised, possibly for some time, the true and frightening consequences of their unacceptable actions. There will be little resistance on their behalf, in the hope that mercy will be shown and their professional skills and their usefulness will be realised, and hopefully valued, within the culture of criminal brotherhood, where tolerance and forgiveness might thrive. Benevolence, however, only applies to certain misdemeanours – treachery, in any language, is both insufferable and punishable. The difficulty for anyone controlling this court is knowing how much force to use to gain the truth, as truth is often hidden by the very process of extraction. Pain will bring about an acceptance of guilt, history has taught us that.

Imagine for a moment if you can a razor blade hovering close to your forced open eye.

‘Did you take it?’ The inquisitor reassuringly asks this simple question.

If you did, do you admit it or deny it? After all, you have another eye. In that position, what would you do? You are naked and tied to a stainless-steel table, just as our man is here. Like you, his shoulders are positioned just over the edge leaving his neck exposed and his head feeling too heavy. Strange hands are now supporting your head, keeping it still, immoveable; in some ways, that is a relief, but in others it is not. They are in full control. Now imagine, like him, that there is a light facing directly into your eyes, bright, yet familiar and if I were to be cynical, almost blinding. All you can see for the moment are silhouettes against the bright contrasting blue. Initially, they are stationary and then the figures move. There is the sound of rap music, loud and thumping. You can feel it vibrate through the cold of the metal table. You are terrified as you know you are guilty. You have no control over your bladder and the wet warmth of your urine seeps beneath you. There is laughter. You know, and more importantly, they know that you are a traitor.

Never in your worst nightmares does this scenario exist. It cannot as it is beyond the dreams of a law-abiding citizen. The nearest we have to this sheer terror is the panic we would experience if facing being attacked and eaten by a wild animal; the thought that there might be a shark beneath you in that dark water whilst you are open water swimming or suddenly seeing a pack of rabid dogs on an unknown, dark and empty street. You feel real fear, fear you would struggle to psych yourself to deal with, if those scenarios were real. That intense fright is a form of torture on its own.

Sadly, for you now, those around you do not feel that way. There is a strange and unusual atmosphere. It is a frisson, an amalgam of your utter fear mixed with their pure enjoyment, a nerve tingling excitement that is always there when human life is harmed, when pain is caused, felt, seen and heard.

The simple question Did you take it? might be the penultimate words you hear … and the answer to that question will be your last. To one person in the room, the silly game we

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