Authors: Gordon Brown
I made the rendezvous outside a chippie on
thirty minutes before I needed to. It was a habit back then - turning up early
- it let me suss out if there was going to be nonsense. The meet was short and
I was given another envelope.
The gig was a new one on me. Kidnapping. The letter
gave me a name and an address. The objective of the exercise was a warning to a
businessman who was not paying up on the protection front. Normally this was a
knee cap job but
wanted to make a different mark this time and I was
told to lift the business man’s six
year old, and not to hand the kid back until the protection money started
For the record I added in ten grand to the demands -
strictly for my back pocket.
I lifted the kid from school and took him to a flat
that I had rented for the month.
To say I was an amateur at this was as big an
understatement as could be made about me back then. For a start I had no food
or drink in the flat. Naively I had assumed that the businessman would come up
with the goods in hours and I would be out of there post haste. What I hadn’t
banked on was that he was currently in
, banging his heart out with his private
I contacted his wife and she was hysterical but hardly
in a place to stump up the readies. She wasn’t aware that her husband was in
the protection paying business,
or his secretary.
It took two days to get the message to
him to return. Meanwhile I had a six year old with the appetite of King Kong
and the attention span of a newt. On half a dozen occasions I considered
throwing the wee shit in the
and being done with it.
When I eventually handed him over to his dad at
didn’t matter that he saw us, he knew who we were and we knew who he was - I
was so glad to get rid of the wee gobshite that I failed to count the cash. It
was a grand light but by then I didn’t give a rat’s arse and I was well rid of
the horror child.
The next year took on a turbo charged feel. The
‘errands’ grew in length, complexity and risk but I was up for the challenge. I
shifted office after less than six months, as my needs outgrew the space, and
took up residence in an old townhouse on
I hit a new problem that I hadn’t had to deal with to
date: what to do with the mounting pile of cash I was building. Now that might
sound like a good problem but it wasn’t. Opening a bank account back then was a
lot less rigorous than it is now but it was still folly to advertise a sudden
rise in income. The Inland Revenue would take more than a passing interest in
the discrepancy between what I declared and what I was bringing in. A
discrepancy of enormous proportions, may I add.
The solution came in the form of Terry Usher; a
disgraced banker who knew the ins and outs of the complexities of offshore
banking, portfolio investment and tax avoidance. He managed a number of
‘clients’ and as far as I knew he hadn’t rolled over on anyone yet. Still it
nagged at the back of my head that he was in control of my assets and as a
precaution I took to hiding some of my cash in the most obscure places.
Even now I can guarantee that there are still a few
wedges lying around in my old haunts. For all I know there could be thousands.
Eleven twenty eight
and ten seconds.
Got to keep my foot down.
Success bred success and I was on a serious roll. Job
after job was thrown at me and I met each one head on and delivered. My staff
grew and before the year was out we had twenty-seven on the payroll. By year
two we were up to sixty and I was no longer involved in the small jobs.
During all this time the chain of command from
change. We still received the ‘errands’ and we had little direct contact with
Our next big move was
I had been told to stay clear of the Scottish capital
for a number of reasons – not least that the place was as alien to me as the
Amazon rain forest.
had never given me a job in
I was grateful as it meant staying clear of one Malcolm Morrison, known as the
Major to his friends.
The Major was a well-heeled ex-financial genius who
. He was highly territorial and renowned for his
retribution should someone step out of line. He had the bizarre trait of
wearing military gear and, as the years had progressed, so had his rank.
As far as anyone knew he had no background in the
forces but there was a rumour that he had been rejected from the TA early in
his life and this sat as a scar. He was never seen in public short of a uniform
or insignia. It was testament to his status that he got away with it for so
The message came up from
the Major was now surplus to requirements and
was to join the
empire. There was no subtlety involved in the plan of action. Exterminate with
extreme prejudice. From the Major down take out the command structure and move
We hit in late November of 1981. The world had gone
New Romantic and Martin had taken to wearing frilly cuffs on all his shirts.
Twenty of us rolled into
on the fifteenth.
We split up and played trash and burn with the Major’s
property before taking out everyone from the Major, down to his lieutenants.
Twelve dead – all made to look like accidents. The police went ape but back
then we had brave pills by the dozen and alibis as solid as the
so I spent the best part of four months being escorted from my house to the
head office almost daily.
The police knew I was involved. I knew they knew and
they knew that I knew that they knew but it made not a hill of beans without
evidence and evidence was thin on the ground.
Even while I was sitting in the interview room I had
arranged for two of my more trusted compadres to scope out
start moving in.
It wasn’t easy. Chopping off the head was simple but
the hydra had many more heads waiting to take charge. It took six months to
whip the city into shape and even then we only had partial control, but it was
enough to keep
happy and, when the police eventually backed off, I
could get on with the business of making
and then the sticks. Four years it took us and an
industrial amount of pain and effort.
the first of January 1986
I sent a message to
. It read:
now ours – what next?’
We hadn’t really conquered
fool could see that but we had our fingers in most pies and the major jobs
didn’t happen without our say.
Incredible as it might seem I was still none the wiser
as to who in
was pulling the strings. I knew a lot more than I had
at the outset and had been on frequent trips to meet my opposite numbers
elsewhere in the country but, as to the boss, I was clueless. When I tried to
discuss it with Martin, he didn’t seem interested and spent increasing amounts
of time on holiday or just AWOL
By then I had more money than I could reasonably spend
in the rest of my life. I had banked three houses in
was an early bird in the Spanish property market.
My car had progressed from a Ford Escort 1100 Mk1 to
an Aston Martin DB4 – the one James Bond uses in Goldfinger. Women littered my
path but no one had tied me down yet and the job was getting easier not harder.
I distanced myself from the day to day and if things
went tits up I was six or seven people away from the pain. The police would
still call but apart from enjoying a cup of tea and a Bourbon biscuit there was
little else they could do. It didn’t stop them from trying but the better
things got for business, the further from the action I flew.
When the phone call came it was hardly a surprise.
tomorrow, you’ve a room booked tonight in the Hilton
. You’ll be away for a while – make arrangements.’
And so I went. Martin was nowhere to be seen and I
I’m not a fan of
. Never have been. Too many people, too little space
and it takes hours to get out of the bloody place to somewhere less crowded.
Then again I’ve mates who swear by the place. Love it. Plenty to do. Plenty to
see. Plenty to eat. A real buzz.
I just don’t like it.
The Hilton was stuffed to the gunnels with Yuppies – the
real deal. Early adopter mobile phone freaks. Filofax. Power suit. Braces – the
thing in one lobby. I almost felt like I had to miss
lunch to fit in.
I sat at the bar after unpacking and hated it. Sterile
decoration and the yuppies got on my tits. I slipped out, glad to be free of
the smell of leather and sweat. I found a small pub in the backstreets and
drank myself into a good mood and then drank myself into a shit one.
I woke up the next morning with a hangover and no
sense that I had earned it.
suit appeared around twelve and insisted I join him
on a little trip north. The Ford Sierra we travelled in was clapped out and
smelled of beer and curry. I was pushed into the back seat and any notion that
I harboured of being treated with some decorum, given my track record, was
beginning to diminish.
We crawled through the
traffic and slogged our
way onto the North Circular before cutting into the back end of Highgate and
into a run down council estate. The car stopped and an outstretched finger
pointed to a door that looked like it had been firebombed. The house it served
didn’t look much better.
I tell you now I was nervous. I was beginning to think
that this was looking like my exit interview as opposed to promotion. I walked
up a path strewn with empty cans of Tennent’s Super and began to rack my brains
for the deals I had done over the last few months. For all the money I had
salted away on the side, I could think of nothing that warranted a kicking – or
Before I got to the door it opened. Another suit
grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in. The door slammed behind me, and it was
hard not to think of a condemned man being led from his cell.
The hall was stripped of wallpaper and carpet and the
sole light bulb in the ceiling was either off or didn’t work. A door at the far
end of the corridor opened and warm light flooded the space. I was pushed from
behind and entered an altogether different world.
The occupant was obviously used to the double take
that visitors went through and gave me space to let my jaw hit the ground.
Far from the expected hovel, the space around me would
have graced a stately home and not put it to shame. The walls stretched double
height around me and the floor space ran to the size of a basketball court. It
reminded me of David Read’s gaff but far nastier on the outside and far grander
on the inside.
Furniture was strategically placed amongst a full
gambit of statues, display cabinets and paintings mounted on easels. The carpet
was so thick that it threatened to suck the shoes from my feet and the room
gave out an odour that would have been at home in a Chinese opium house a
hundred years ago.
Near the far wall, behind a desk with a stone top that
looked like it had been hewn from
, sat a man. His head was bent
down reading a sheaf of papers in front of him. He grunted and the two suits
behind me left.
Thirty seconds silence followed.
‘Take a seat.’
The man pointed to a chair in front of his desk. He
didn’t raise his head and continued to give the paper he was reading his full
attention and me none. He lifted a pen, scribbled a little and shuffled the
paper into a tray. He leaned back and eyes as grey as a wet
wandered over me.