Mark A. Cooper
Copyright © 2012 by Mark A. Cooper
Cover and internal design © 2012 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Peny Pkwy
Cover digitial illustration © 2012 by Tony Sahara
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the publisher.
Source of Production: Bang Printing, Brainerd, Minnesota, USA
Date of Production: February 2012
Run Number: 16843
Scott Turner’s Guide to English Cockney Rhyming Slang
About the Author
I dedicate this book to my wonderful wife, Sandra.
Thank you for being my partner and my best friend
and for the way you make me laugh.
The Yamaha RD 250 motorcycle circled at the end of Tower Hill Terrace. It was just going to be bad luck for the rider that one of the people in the line was eleven-year-old Jason Steed.
Princess Catherine stood in line with Jason; she wore a knitted red hat and glasses with plain lenses so the hundreds of tourists that surrounded them at the Tower of London would not recognize her.
Slowly the long line moved forward. Some of the excited tourists took photographs of the historic buildings. A Yeoman Warder walked passed. Many in the line quickly took a picture of him dressed in a smart purple and red uniform. He carried a large spear-shaped mace with a polished, solid silver point.
“This line’s hardly moving. It will take at least another twenty minutes to get in at this rate,” Catherine complained, leaning heavily on Jason.
“Well, this is what normal people do, but if you wanna take off your glasses and hat and let everyone see who you are and walk to the front, go ahead,” Jason said, grinning.
The motorcyclist slowly made his way up Tower Hill Terrace. In a low gear with high revs, the rider removed his left hand from the handlebars, pulled close to the long line of waiting tourists, and grabbed the straps of two purses. He accelerated and pulled the purses free from the startled owners; the motorcycle’s front wheel momentarily left the ground as he gained speed. Screams and shouts caught the attention of others as he roared up the narrow street, almost knocking into some of the tourists, and the line snaked out of his way.
Jason had seen it and was already moving in the direction of the Yeoman Warder, who was backing away to allow a gap for the speeding motorcycle. In a single move, Jason grabbed the mace with one hand, pushed the Yeoman back out of the way with the other, and jumped into the path of the motorcycle. The rider didn’t slow or try to alter course; he was sure this foolish boy would move out of his way. At the last second, Jason jumped clear, but as he did, he thrust the spear into the front wheel. A loud crack echoed across the street like gunfire as the silver tip of the mace jammed between the front wheel spokes and the frame.
The front wheel instantly locked up, and the motorcycle catapulted the rider over the handlebars and sent him sprawling across the cobblestone street. The crowd screamed and gasped as the motorcycle whooshed into flames. The dazed rider got to his feet and started to run. Jason took off and tackled him, bringing him down to the ground for a second time.
The rider struck out at Jason and caught the side of his face. He kicked Jason and managed to get to his feet again. Jason paused—the punch on the side of his face had really hurt. The rider shouted obscenities and spat at Jason. That was enough to tip Jason over the edge; he leapt onto one leg and threw a mae geri kick. The powerful kick ripped off the rider’s helmet, causing the chin strap to cut deep into his neck before the buckle broke. Jason followed with a roundhouse kick directly to the man’s face.
The injured rider collapsed on the cobblestones, oozing blood from his nose and neck wound. Two police officers on nearby traffic duty ran to the scene. The rider was escorted away in handcuffs, swearing at Jason all the while.
Jason picked up the ladies’ purses and returned them; his crimson face glowed with embarrassment as the crowd applauded him. The Yeoman took Jason and Catherine to the front of the line and allowed them into the tower without having to pay.
“Wow, Jase, that was amazing,” she remarked as she proudly held his hand. “You moved so fast.”
“I did it to stop your complaining. See, we don’t have to wait in line now.”
Catherine loved going out alone with Jason. She could forget about being a princess and all the pressure associated with it. Today, she was just a young, pretty girl out with her boyfriend on a visit to the Tower of London. They later settled down on a bench and shared a bag of chips, looking out over the River Thames.
Any onlooker watching this little, blond-haired boy sitting and laughing on a bench with a young girl would never have guessed that in a few weeks, he would be the most wanted person in Europe.
September 7, 1974
The young offenders unit housed some of London’s toughest teenage criminals; among them was Andrew Cho, the son of the notorious Triad leader, Lin Cho. He would be Jason’s cell mate.
“Battersea Borstal for Boys,” the sign read. A young offenders unit for boys aged eleven to sixteen—this was to be Jason’s home for the next four weeks.
“Sorry, son, you have to put these on.” He smiled as he placed handcuffs tightly on Jason’s wrists. “I did you a favor—you should have had them on while traveling, but you being so small, well, I didn’t think you could do me any harm.” Little did he know who this boy was or what he was capable of.
Jason’s leg painfully came back to life as he straightened it. He had been kneeling so he could see out the wind
As Jason looked at his surroundings, the wind chased through his blond hair and the spray of rain danced in his eyes. He followed the driver through the large dark door that led to a courtyard with cloisters on two sides and two bell towers rising up from the others. They went through another arch door. Inside, it smelled of disinfectant. A tall, balding prison guard removed Jason’s handcuffs and gestured for Jason to follow him down a corridor. Sounds of boys shouting, laughing, and cursing could be heard.
“Get undressed and take a shower, and don’t be all day, lad.”
He was given a plastic bag for his clothes, and he was pleasantly surprised to find the shower’s water warm. The guard lit a cigarette and watched him.
“What are those marks on your stomach and leg? Have you been burned?” he asked, looking at Jason.
“Yes, sir, but it’s nearly healed now,” he replied quietly.
The truth was that he had just come out of plastic surgery to have two bullet wounds surgically covered, but he knew he was going to be forced to tell a lot more lies before the next four weeks were over.
“Okay, that’s enough. I ain’t got all blooming night.” He grunted as he threw a towel. “Follow me.” Jason wrapped the towel around his waist. He felt nervous. The shouts were getting louder and the smells stronger, and it seemed colder.
What a difference a day makes. He smiled to himself.
Only yesterday, he had passed his pilot’s license. At eleven, he was the youngest person in Britain ever to achieve this. Unlike a driver’s license, a pilot’s license had no age minimum. The flying lessons were a gift from his father. It had been easy for Jason after he had spent so many hours in flight simulators. The practical lessons themselves had been a walk in the park. The technical side he had found hard, but he hadn’t expected it to be easy.
But that was yesterday. Today he was working undercover for Scotland Yard Undercover Intelligence. His father, Lieutenant Raymond Steed, was away on the navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and knew nothing of this. His last word was that Jason should have nothing to do with it, as he was too young and had already done enough for his country. However, the head of SYUI, George Young, could be very persuasive, and Jason’s eagerness to work for SYUI got the better of him.
SYUI had heard that a criminal organization known as the Triads were raising millions of pounds across Britain. The tip-off had led them to believe that Lin Cho had masterminded the whole dirty operation. He was the Triad leader in London. The Triads in Britain owned bars, managed illegal gambling halls, sold drugs, and ran a protection racket. They supposedly offered shop owners protection from robberies. In practice, they charged a fortune, and if you refused to pay, your shop would get robbed and the store owner beaten or worse. Cho’s son, Andrew, was serving time in juvie. It was Jason’s job to get close to Andrew to find out how they were raising so much money and what it was for. SYUI knew most of it was being transferred back to China, but they didn’t know what the Triads were planning.
Jason was given three pairs of socks, underwear, and three gray T-shirts that were originally white but had turned gray after they had been washed over and over with the gray socks and overalls. He was also given a gray, shapeless overall. He got dressed, rolling up the pant legs that were much too long for him. Fortunately, his pair of black tennis shoes fit.
“Right, lad, off to see the governor. Come on, it’s late, and he’ll be wanting to go home.”
“Maybe I can go home too, sir,” Jason said, forcing a smile.
“You are too small to be cocky, lad. If you want to survive in here, you will do yourself a favor and keep your trap shut.”
“Yes, sir,” he quietly replied with his head bowed.
He followed the guard and rolled his sleeves up so his hands were free. They stopped outside a large oak door with a brass plate that read “Governor Brown.” The guard knocked and waited until he heard a “Come.”
“This is another new one. Let me introduce Mr. Jason Steed, sir,” the guard said, walking in and reading from a brown file. “Repeat shoplifter, sir. Four weeks.”
Jason actually felt guilty, even though he was innocent. If George was right, then the governor was the only man inside juvie who knew Jason was working undercover.
“Okay, Johnson, leave us for a while. I want to tell him how I want him to behave and explain the rules,” Brown replied. “Sit down, Steed. Take a cookie.” He gestured for Jason to sit down and took the lid off a metal tin that was full of chocolate chip cookies.
Then Governor Brown started to laugh. His pale, strangely featureless face turned red as he laughed. He pushed his fingers through his curly gray hair. Jason, not sure what the problem was, took a cookie.
“Sorry, there must be a mistake. I was told that a Jason Steed was coming here and working undercover for SYUI.”
“That’s right, sir,” Jason said with a mouthful of the cookie.
“But you’re…you’re what? Eleven? Twelve? What can a little, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy like you possibly do? How can you look after yourself? No, it’s out of the question. I can’t put you in a cell with Andrew Cho. You will be dead by morning. We have an arrangement. He keeps out of trouble and doesn’t hurt the other inmates, and in return, he has a cell to himself. He will kick you from here to kingdom come.” He laughed again, which annoyed Jason.
“I’m a black belt in judo, black belt in jujitsu and shotokan, and hold a third dan black belt in tae kwon do. SYUI went to a lot of trouble to get me to go along with this. My dad will go crazy when he finds out. I’d much rather be in my own home. This is not a vacation for me.”
Brown examined Jason, clearly impressed.
“If you’re sure you can take care of yourself. Well, huh…no one will suspect you, that’s for sure.” He laughed. “But…no special treatments. Once you leave my office, you are on your own. I will treat you like everyone else. If you get hurt, don’t come crying to me.” Brown spat out his words and sprayed saliva over the cookies. Jason made a mental note not to eat any more.
“I know. I’ve a job to do, sir.” Jason looked at him through the blond bangs that hung over his eyes.
He was taken to the cell blocks. The other inmates were playing cards and table tennis and arm wrestling. He followed the guard up a metal stairway as he carried his bedding.
“Here we are. Home sweet home. Although I have no idea why the gov has put you in with Andrew Cho. He is not going to like it one bit. Good luck,” the guard said, ushering Jason into the cell.
Jason looked around the cell. The top bunk was made up; the bottom bunk had just a thin, stained mattress, with underwear and socks placed out neatly. It had a toilet in the corner and a small stainless steel sink. A single toothbrush was lying on top of the sink. He removed the clothing and placed it on the top bunk and made up his bed. He had been in here only a short while and he already hated it.
“What the—” a spot-faced, red-haired boy in the doorway started. It was an older boy named Russell Watson. This was Watson’s second time in juvie; he had been sentenced to three months, the same as Andrew, for stealing cars. Andrew had been sentenced for assaulting a police officer after he had been caught kicking the owner of a store half to death.
“Hello,” Jason said, not making eye contact.
“You can’t touch Cho’s stuff. What on Earth are you doing in there?”
“Home sweet home.” Jason grinned.
“Are you trying to be funny, shrimp?”
“You’re dead, shrimp. Cho will kick your ’ed in. He has a cell to himself.”
Watson walked off, talking to himself. Jason lay back on his bunk. He was tired; he hadn’t slept much the night before, worrying about being held in juvie. He closed his eyes for
“See, I told you. You got a little shrimp in your cell, and he’s moved yer clothes,” Watson said loudly, pointing down at Jason. Jason opened his eyes and sat up.
“You need to thank God you are so small. Get your things and get out of my cell. I will be back in five minutes, and you had better just be a bad memory!” Andrew shouted.
Andrew was Chinese but spoke with an English accent. Jason thought he was tall for a fifteen-year-old. He had short dark hair and chocolate-brown eyes with acne on his face. Andrew and Watson walked off. Jason said nothing.
I guess I had better get to work and show them I can’t be messed with. He followed them back down the metal stairway to the large open hall, trying to think of way to start a fight.
Many of the boys in the hall were chatting and laughing in groups. They all wore the same black tennis shoes and gray overalls. Some sat around tables and played cards. A couple played table tennis while others watched. Jason noticed Andrew and Watson with a group of similarly aged boys. They all wore their collars popped and sleeves rolled up. Watson was bullying a smaller boy. He twisted the boys nipples through his clothing, and the boy cried out in obvious pain, pleading for mercy. He was forced to call Watson all sorts of grand names before Watson finally let him go after a final twist. The boy fell to the ground amid laughter and wiped the tears from his cheeks.
Jason stared at Watson. He hated bullies—this was enough to give him the excuse he needed. After a few minutes, Watson noticed and looked at Jason and then looked away. Jason kept the stare, and after a moment, Watson noticed he was still being glared at.
“What’s ’e looking at? Hey, shrimp! What you looking at?” Watson shouted to Jason. Jason shook his head from side to side and gave a dirty, disgusted look.
“He’s asking for it,” Watson said and started to stride toward Jason. Andrew and the other boys in the group watched.
“So what you looking at shrimp?” he sternly asked again.
“Sorry, was I staring? But I guess you must get that a lot, being that you’re so ugly. I bet when you were born, the doctor took one look at you and then slapped your mama.” Jason smiled broadly and slowly raised himself onto his toes.
Revenge by Mark A. Cooper / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes