A Plague of Dissent — Re-write Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Dandelion relaxed in his plush leather seat of his G5 contemplating the questions he would be asked by the inquiry panel and the answers he would give, but events upon the ground in London were taking a turn that even he could never have anticipated. Over the past year there had been four large demonstrations and numerous smaller ones across the UK, many of which had turned into riots.

The reasons for the peaceful strikes and demonstrations were multi-faceted. Much of the dissent had been in response to the present government’s policies of fiscal control, with concerns being about loss of jobs, pay cuts, and a decrease in services and policing. The education sector had been slashed and a great many social services had been amputated.

Despite being woefully overworked police numbers were to be reduced. The government announced that this would not affect their ability to prevent crime. As the police hadn’t been able to quell the earlier riots before they became serious, this government statement was ridiculed by all and sundry. The same was said about similar reductions in the military. They laid their lives on the line on a daily basis only to receive a simple letter upon returning from deployment, stating their regiment was to be cut.

There was hardly a segment of the population that hadn’t been adversely affected and wasn’t extremely unhappy with what the Government was doing and yet more segments of society that would take full advantage of the fire that was beginning to rage amongst the populace. For each peaceful demonstrator another had joined in, some of these were simply looking for either the short term gain they could achieve by looting shops or for the enjoyment they seemed to derive from it. Others were far more organised.

The demonstrations and particularly the riots created great headline for Dandelion’s media companies, but it was also creating problems, one of which was about to get right into his face. About half an hour out from Heathrow his musings were again interrupted by the stewardess,

“Excuse me sir but we are half an hour out of Heathrow and the pilot asked me to tell you that there is a demonstration happening in the centre of London, around Oxford Street. He says it shouldn’t affect your drive in but he wanted you to know”

“The shooting no doubt”

“Yes sir, more of what happened yesterday”

Unperturbed by this news, he decided it was time to get ready for the hearing, due to take place at the Palace of Westminster in two hours or so. He was exiting the bathroom just as the stewardess announced they were landing. Within ten minutes of touching down, he was exiting the G5 past the smiling stewardess.

Thank you God for getting me through another flight with him without him touching me, and I hope he runs straight into the riots

Within minutes of exiting the G5, Dandelion was in his limo passing through security gates at the airport and toward the M5. Near the M5 approach road the driver said through the intercom

“Sir, the demonstration has escalated into a riot, and has spread through the centre of London toward Piccadilly and Green Park. I have the radio on Sir, do you want to listen?”

“No, I don’t, just don’t get stuck in traffic”

…….

The day before, after the shooting of the young man, several small, seemingly insignificant incidents happened around the UK, all of which petered out quite quickly. But that morning, following the start of the demonstration at Broad Water Farm, they took hold again, all in the form of looting. Not in the immediate areas of the day before where the police still had a large presence but a few miles down the road.

This feat of instant and secure communications had taken a lot to achieve but had worked spectacularly, both in its reaction to the first event of the killing and then anticipating the events that would follow. Those that had achieved this act now had control of large bunches of mostly men but quite a few women as well, from no particular affiliation, which could be organised into a mindless horde, intent on larceny and destruction and with only a few hours notice.

One such element had been sent to Oxford Street, the shopping heart of London’s West End believing it would make a good target. They worked on the knowledge that there would be large numbers of police required at Broad Water Farm, thus depleting the West End of London. Their game plan was to split the several large groups along the route that they intended to loot.

Groups of up to a dozen strong gang members all wearing dark clothing with their faces covered in ski masks and armed with pepper spray stormed into shops and department stores. What appeared random on the surface was far from that; each store had been identified in advance, and each group had been supplied with a sketch of the positions of the tills and counters displaying goods they were targeting.

As the gangs entered each store, the first reaction of the shoppers was that of incredulity that quickly changed to panic, as the first that were encountered were sprayed with pepper spray.

“Two minutes. One minute, thirty.  One minute, thirty seconds. Go”

Working with military like precession, two of the gang members remained by the main doors through which they entered, one of whom held a stop watch shouting out to the others what remained of the time each store had been allotted. The other sprayed any shopper or store employee that came near with pepper spray, forcing shoppers toward the back of the shop rather than block the entrance and the gang’s means of escape. 

Within thirty seconds they were gone and on to the next set of targets. Within another thirty, the panicked shoppers who had for the most part kept relatively quiet during the robbery huddled in the back now ran for the exit. As they did so, display stands of goods were knocked over, glass cabinets broken and the shops’ remaining merchandise spread all over the floor.

As the rest followed the initial exodus, some slipped on the glass or fell as their feet became entangled by clothes on the floor and were then being trampled by others still trying to escape the chaos.

Within five minutes of the start of each robbery each store was almost deserted. Of those that remained inside most were injured in the flight, some remained to help the injured but most now milled about in the streets in shock. Only buses and taxis were allowed to drive along this stretch of Oxford Street and those were soon brought to a standstill, blocking the roads and any immediate possible police response. 

This tsunami of destruction rolled along Oxford Street, down Regent Street before turning right along Piccadilly, allowing fresh rioters to enter the fray from the Mayfair direction, where they had initially gathered. As fresh rioters joined in, others left with their spoils moving toward the Strand and the Embankment and to the minibuses that had been laid on to aid their escape.

…….

The entire process had taken this particular crew only ninety minutes from the start of the looting spree in Oxford Street where they hit a high end jeweller, the first of many stores robbed that day, to sitting on a minibus. The minibus driven by the leader, had picked them up on the Mall, they were now nearly over the river and into South London. Home was no more than an hour away.

“Joe come here; have a look what Simon has”

“Yeah, that jewellery store we hit first was the best of the lot, thanks Mr Wayne or whatever it was. You two must have got something good, let’s have a look”

“No! You keep your hands to yourself.”

“Fucking shut up you lot, there’s flashing blue lights on the bridge. I ain’t going that way. I’m going straight on, Lambeth Bridge it is then boys.”

The driver of the minibus accelerated through the junction and looked left over his shoulder toward the police car stationary on the bridge and crashed straight into the back of Dandelion’s limo as it slowed to go through St Stevens Gate and into the Houses Of Parliament on his way to sit before the inquiry. 

The impact spun the limo. As the back end came around it clipped a man, Charlie Parker, who was just passing St Stevens Gate to access the pedestrian gate a few metres further along. Flinging him through the air to collide with one of the concrete barriers, the car completed a 360 coming to rest a few feet from Charlie. The minibus, now stationary at an acute angle over the two carriageways of St Margaret’s, its bonnet knocked open during the impact and now clouds of steam erupted from under it, hissing as it escaped.

The young men, who a few minutes before were jubilant, already taking stock of their stolen goods and estimating what they would fetch once they got home, now exited the bus like a pack of rabid dogs, on the hunt for whomever they could take vengeance on.

The first six spotting the driver’s door of the limo open, charged toward it, screaming. They grabbed the driver, dragged him out of the car and knocked him to the ground, raining in kicks and punches. The driver never had a chance. Within two minutes he was unconscious, and from this he would never regain.

As the six men put in the last of their kicks to the driver’s limp body, the remainder were exiting the bus. Some bleeding from head wounds gained in the crash; they looked about for others to punish. Spying Dandelion in the rear of the limo, they moved toward the right hand side rear door.

Fortunately for Dandelion, the spin the limo took during the collision had pushed both the front and rear against the concrete bollards blocking off the left hand side passenger door. That forced the men to try to drag Dandelion out of the car to the right and over the vacant rear passenger seat.

Hauling the door open, one of the men dived into the back seat, punching Dandelion in the face as he grabbed his collar to pull him out of the car. Just as a shocked and now panicking Dandelion felt himself being dragged out of the car, the man stopped and jumped back out, hearing his friend’s shouts

“Police! Run”

As the man stood up he saw several officers from the Palace of Westminster division of the Met that were trapped by the car at the gates, begin to climb over the back of the limo. Conscious that it is now time to leave, he began to run toward Abingdon St Gardens after his accomplices.

As he came level with the front of the car, he saw Charlie who was trying to make it up onto his knees. Sidestepping left, the man attempted to kick Charlie, aiming at his head with all his might. At the last second Charlie looked up, saw the man coming at him and dived to the right with the man’s lower leg and foot hitting his chest and shoulder.

Instead of Charlie’s head snapping back with the kick and allowing him to keep on running the impact found him tumbling over Charlie, to collide head first into one of the concrete barriers. That was enough to stun him, but he was soon rising to his feet, alternating between looking at Charlie and at his avenue of escape.

Before he had time to make up his mind whether to kill the old fool or run, he was tackled by three officers and once more knocked to the ground. This time with two large policemen sitting on his back and the third fitting him to handcuffs.

Within minutes more police arrived, then the ambulances. As the paramedics attended the driver and Charlie, police officers helped Dandelion from the car. Because of the confines of the back of it, even a limo, it is not easy to get a powerful punch in. As a result, although Dandelion’s face was going to swell, there was no real physical damage but he was certainly in shock.

The unconscious driver was rushed to hospital but would never regain consciousness. Apart from several broken bones, he had massive internal injuries and was pronounced dead upon reaching hospital.

Another team of paramedics worked on Charlie. In reality he had been lucky with the car, it had spun from the collision to the rear and had only clipped Charlie’s right calf, removing large chunks of skin but not breaking anything. The impact with the concrete barrier had broken several ribs and severely concussed him but his worst injury had come from the kick, which had shattered his collar bone. If that had connected with his head as intended, his neck would surely have been broken.

The inevitable media crews arrived very quickly, having already been present in the vicinity, as they normally were during the days when something was going down at the palace.

So they were in plenty of time to witness both Charlie and the driver being put into ambulances, the arrested man into the back of a police car and Dandelion helped through the adjacent gate, St Stevens still being blocked by the limo. They took their cameras into the wrecked minibus, revealing most of the stolen goods strewn over the floor. It didn’t take them long to piece together the visible facts and begin broadcasting the story live from outside the Houses of Parliament.

No one was certain but there seemed to be about a dozen men in the minibus at the time of the accident. All had made their escape before the police officers could get to them with the exception of the man arrested after kicking Charlie. He would eventually provide limited information to the police, in that his crew had received messages over the Blackberry Messenger service early that morning, directing them to Mayfair and Hyde Park where they would assemble before the riot and looting spree.

They had specific targets to hit and had been supplied with the minibus to make good their escape. Although he didn’t know whom these instructions and arrangements had come from, he did supply the names of four of his companions who would eventually be arrested.

Over the next few days several more would be arrested some charged with the murder of the driver and others with a variety of offences. Their identities would come to light after the police appealed for videos taken by the public witnessing the events that day, many of which were appearing on social networking sites, only minutes after each incident.

Officers of the Palace Division had helped Dandelion out of the battered limo, who despite his ordeal and bruised face, was keen to get away from the spectacle. Media may have been the backbone of his business empire, but he didn’t like being under the spotlight of it, particularly now, as he was being dragged in front of a committee investigating his misdoings. With two officers guiding him, Dandelion was soon through the pedestrian gate into the courtyard in front of the palace. They left him with a paramedic, saying they would soon return for his statement.

The paramedic examined him and after a minute or two, then said,

“You may have a mild concussion; I’d suggest you go to a hospital so they can have a better look at you and do something for that bruising.”

Dandelion forever the strategist, decided that he could get mileage from the incident. Firstly he wanted to get the testimony over with and realising, that should he say something now which was later contradicted, he could blame the concussion for his mistake.

“I think I will be okay. I really don’t want to be late. I will be fine for now and perhaps go later.”

Dandelion turned, before hurrying off, he added

“I know the way; I will be fine, could you tell the officers I’ve gone to the Chambers, if they return that is.”

He was gone before the officers could return and delay him further.

…….

The ambulance carrying Charlie arrived at St Thomas hospital some ten minutes after the one carrying the driver, and Charlie was quickly ushered through for treatment.

It was not many minutes later that TV crews began to arrive, although they hadn’t actually witnessed the crash, only the following mayhem. They had pieced together a story of how a long term employee at the palace and former paratrooper Charlie, had foiled a murderous attack on Dandelion, receiving severe wounds in the process.

The story, being broadcast live from outside the hospital, went on to describe the hero, Charlie. He was employed as chief engineer at the palace and was on his way into work as the incident unfolded around him. And, how he intervened as men intent on killing Dandelion were dragging him from the car.

They hadn’t really got the facts right, not mentioning that he was first knocked down by Dandelion’s limo but that didn’t seem to matter. They had a great story here and would milk every ounce from it. It wouldn’t be until next day the whole story would become clear.

…….

Charlie in fact had been the chief engineer at the palace for over 20 years, until two years ago and was about to retire at the end of next year. He had loved his job keeping everything running there. He knew more about the building than any other alive and because of that he had been kept on to assist and familiarise the new contractors with the vast building.

Up until that point, all maintenance work had been carried out in house. Then some bright spark within the government had an idea. That, as the palace was an asset to the country, bringing in hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, why not expand on that concept and open up areas within the palace as hireable function rooms to offset the running costs?

As this was a departure from how the palace had been used and run for hundreds of years, the PM had decided that this service should be independently run. The reason given for this was that the company, who would take on this contract, would pay for the refurbishment themselves which was estimated at running into millions.

On the surface this seemed like a sensible suggestion. In reality it was just another political stunt. The company awarded with the contract to make this happen expected to make a great deal of money out of it; and they just happened to be owned by a businessman who had contributed a large sum of money to the Conservative Party. It was nothing more than the privatisation of another economic asset just as profitable sections of the NHS were being privatised.

Charlie was now little more than a guide to these new contractors but he did know far more about the building than any other alive today. Still Charlie had a job and was thankful for that, which was more than could be said for the majority that had looked after the building up until that point. Most of them had lost their jobs in the government’s cost-cutting measures and the awarding of these new contracts.

Although Charlie was relegated to a guide and wasn’t particularly friendly with the contractors who tended to keep to themselves, he couldn’t complain about the work that was getting done. It was all of the highest quality many of the antiquated systems had been upgraded or totally replaced with each discipline having their own workshops in the cavernous underground bowels of the building.

…….

As these events were being televised around the world, two men sitting in Charles De Gaulle Airport on the outskirts of Paris, were paying particular attention. They were immediately responsible for many of the organised elements of the riots and were very happy with most of the results.

That some of the attention surrounded the Palace of Westminster had them a little concerned. Nevertheless, the majority of the news centred upon the riots, particularly those happening in the West End of London, and with that they couldn’t be more pleased.

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