He rushed back out into the report room with the woman’s screamed insults still ringing in his ears and found a new source of fear. The main doors had blown open and the rain was blowing in horizontally. The place was a maelstrom of loose sheets of paper and water. A constable rushed to close the doors and bolt them shut and just before he did so Simms saw that it was absolutely dark outside. The wind roared with a force that shook the building and for a moment Simms gazed through the narrow windows of the door at the night, totally sure that there was something out there. Something that was waiting for them to open the doors again.
Simms rushed back to the woman’s cell and when she saw his face she laughed. “So you believe me now.”
“Tell me what you were doing when you killed the child?” He asked without preamble. She laughed again but said nothing. He repeated the question, adding:
“What have you done?”
An idea was forming in his mind that this woman had started something that might well be out of control. Simms had never been a religious or superstitious person and the fear that he now felt was something completely new to him. Something was happening and it could not be held at bay with his authority, nor could he draw his service revolver and threaten it. Simms was not aware of it but what he was feeling was the same superstitious dread that had sent men and women to their deaths at the stake hundreds of years before. If he could have run away then and there he would have done, but the thought of what might be waiting for him outside the station building was far worse.
He reached out and grasped the woman by the shoulders and hauled her to her feet. Outside the cell the WPC saw this and looked away, she had seen Simms mistreat suspects before and did not want to be part of it. Simms however had no intention of mistreating the woman. She terrified him.
“You were performing some sort of ceremony when you were arrested, what were you doing?” He asked, shaking her. She laughed into his face and he was torn between the desire to strike her and run for his life.
“You heard him, didn’t you?” She asked. “When you tried to use the phone, you heard the sound of his laughter.”
Simms felt icy tendrils of fear run down his, spine. There was no way this woman could have known that, he was barely willing to admit it to himself, and yet she knew of it.
“How did you know that?” He asked.
She laughed at him again and he felt anger mixing with the fear. He swayed dizzily for a second and then came to a decision. Still looking at the woman he bellowed for the sergeant who came running.
“Organise a car and escort.” He told the man. “We’re taking the prisoner to Prince’s Hospital. She’s their problem now.”
He turned and walked back towards the report room to try the phones again and as he went he heard her scream after him:
“You’ll never leave here alive.”
Standing at the desk he closed his eyes for a moment, the fear very real gripping his bowels. He tried the phone again but it was still dead. He looked towards the radio set but there was no point in asking the operator, he could hear him trying the various call signals. He wasn’t getting through either. Then the sergeant was at his side and with him were three other officers. Two men and one woman in keeping with normal procedures while transporting female prisoners.
“All right,” He said. “Let’s get her out of here.”
They turned in the direction of the holding cells and at that moment there was a scream. A blast of heat that they felt even in the center of the report room rolled out from the holding cells and the screaming rose to a crescendo. Simms could tell that there was more than one voice screaming, whatever was happening in that room, the Woman Police Constable was in there, and he had to get her out.
The men ran to the doorway of the room that connected to the holding cells and tried to look in. The place was an inferno. Flames were shooting out through the bars of the cell and within them two figures could be seen writhing. One of the constables snatched up a fire extinguisher and aiming the nozzle at the center of the flames released a spray of foam. It was as if the man had poured petrol over the flames instead and they flared up blindingly, forcing the man back and the others back out into the corridor. A quick-thinking constable appeared with a clear unbreakable plastic riot shield and holding it out in front of him, approached the cell with another extinguisher.
From the corridor, Simms saw that the bars of the holding cell were glowing red with the heat of the fire. Alarms started ringing all over the building and the cacophony added to the panic. Finally, mercifully, the screams died away, and with them, the flames started to recede until finally, the men were able to reenter the room with another fire extinguisher again. Now they appeared to be having some effect but as if the flames were being fed by some internal source, they roared up and died down, again several times. One of the officers rushed in with a fire blanket and shaking it out, dropped it neatly over the burning figures. Another rushed to help him and pushed past Simms who finally overcame his shock. He realised that he had been standing there uselessly and yelled at someone to turn off the fire alarm. A man rushed to do so. When the alarms stopped ringing the silence was complete for a few seconds. It was as if the cessation of noise had shocked everyone into remaining still.
Then the only noise in the room was the two officers beating at the blanket to douse the flames. And finally, even they stopped and sat back panting with exertion.
Simms stepped forward, driven by some undesirable need to see, to convince himself that what he had just seen had really happened. But he knew, long before he pulled away the fire blanket that there would only be one body beneath it, that of the Woman Police Constable. He looked up at the officers that had crowded around him, each of them staring at the horror on the floor of the cell and all at once the lights flickered and grew brighter.
Once again, Simms had to stifle a scream and for a moment he was sure that they were going to cut out again but then he realized that the sound of the emergency generator had stopped and they were back on the mains. Outside in the report room, a phone rang angrily and the constable nearest the door jumped almost a foot in the air. It was soon joined by another and yet another, phones were ringing all over the building. Someone answered one and Simms heard the man explain that they had been cut off for the last hour.
“Call for an ambulance.” He ordered numbly, not knowing what else to do, and walked out past his men. He was wondering how he was going to explain all this to his superiors when he had no idea of what had happened himself. And then he remembered what the mad woman had told him.
“My master is coming for me.” She had said. It looked as if he had.
(c) Copyright John Stewart Sloan 2020 – Not for Distribution