Authors: Martyn Waites
Tommy swallowed. âDuh-don't worry, Mr Fairbairn. I'll get the money.'
Fairbairn smiled. Everyone's favourite uncle. âI know you will, Tommy.' His eyes hardened. âOur friend had a partner, didn't he?'
âHave you spoken to him yet?'
A sharp crack of anger ran through Tommy as he thought of the previous Saturday, the way Woodhouse had dodged him at Rio. âHe mu-moves in different circles now. More high-profile ones. Difficult to reach. But I'll get him.'
Fairbairn looked interested. âUseful circles?'
Tommy nodded. âI think so, Mr Fairbairn.'
Fairbairn nodded, his eyes harder than granite. At that moment Tommy knew why he was so feared. âGet to him. But don't let him or anyone else take the piss out of you. Make sure they give you respect. Make sure they know who's boss.'
Tommy nodded. Fairbairn smiled again.
âBut be subtle, eh?'
Tommy felt himself reddening.
âWell, Tommy, thanks for coming.' They shook hands. âOh, by the way, call into the clubhouse on the way back. Something for you. Take the rest of the day off.'
Fairbairn turned away, Tommy was dismissed. As if on cue the councillor emerged from the trees looking disgruntled and humiliated. Fairbairn walked towards him, greeting him like a long-lost friend. Tommy walked away, at first wondering why the councillor put up with that treatment then, with a smile, speculating on what kind of dirt Fairbairn had on him.
Louise's body moved rhythmically, hips forward then back. Her arms stretched out, hands clutching either side of the headboard, head tipped back, eyes closed in pain and ecstasy. Tony Woodhouse above her, matched her hip movement with his own; grinding, pushing. He took in everything about her: the way her underarm muscles clenched, the way her breasts moved backwards and forwards with her body's rhythm, the way her lips pulled back, baring her teeth. He saw all this, and loved her for it.
He could hold back no longer. Louise, sensing this, wrapped her arms around him, fingernails digging into his back, pulling his body further into hers. He came, exploding inside her, almost shouting with release. She rode it with him then, still holding his body to hers with one hand, slid the other hand down between them, finding the spot, working her own orgasm up to join his.
She came violently, screaming, each spasming wave the thrust of a beautiful knife. She ground against him, nails clawing, gasping like she was finding air after drowning under water.
They kissed and their bodies, spent on each other, relaxed. Tony, his arm round Louise, gently stroked her shoulder. She looked at him, smiled. He smiled back.
âIs that better than scoring against Arsenal?' asked Louise.
âYeah. But it was Everton yesterday. And we lost three-two. Beardo and Wharton got them. I didn't score.'
Her fingers trailed down his body. âWell, you've just made up for it.'
They lapsed into a comfortable silence.
Tony looked around the room. It had all the trappings of a teenage girl's first flat away from home. The music centre and small stacks of LPs and tapes, the bookcase with a smattering of bestsellers, the dressing table and the posters on the wall: Bryan Ferry, the Police. Magnolia walls. White window frames. Just looking around her room drew Tony closer to her.
Louise leaned over to the bedside table, lit up a Silk Cut. âSo,' she said, âwhat shall we do today?'
Tony's hand moved over her nipple, squeezed. âMore of the same?'
She took a drag. âAfter that.'
âShit!' Louise sat suddenly upright. âWhat time is it?'
âUh â¦ twenty to eleven. Why?'
She jumped out of bed and made for the wardrobe. âI need to ask you a really big favour,' she said, pulling underwear from a drawer, a jumper from a shelf.
âI need you to disappear.'
Tony looked at her.
âJust for an hour or so.' She turned to face him, pulling her pants on at the same time. She looked apprehensive. âPlease. Just for an hour. Then you've got me for the rest of the day. Please?'
Tony's eyes took in her full breasts, trailed down to her flattened waist, wandered down over her slightly rounded tummy, imagined her soft, dark pubic hair now covered by the stretch cotton of her briefs. The rest of the day, he thought. âYeah. Why?'
âI'll tell you later. I wouldn't ask, but this, is important. You'll have to go.'
Tony got reluctantly out of bed and began to dress.
âThanks, Tony. Go for a walk round Saltwell Park or something. I'll make it up. I promise.'
Tommy entered the clubhouse, scoped the room. He saw moneyed, middle-aged straights, abandoned wives martinied up, no one he knew. In the far corner a group of men and women, about the same age as himself, sat drinking, smoking and talking. Their conversation was animated, their circle closed. A girl in the group detached her attention from the others, made eye contact with him. She was brown-haired, very attractive. Tommy returned the look just as someone spoke to her, pulling her attention back into the group.
âI Just Called to Say I Love You'. Still number one. Still playing.
He looked away, walked to the bar, pointed to the whisky optic, paid, sat and began to drink. Suddenly he wasn't alone. As if on cue, a blonde girl took the stool next to him. Stylishly dressed, well made up, she looked as out of place as Tommy did.
âTommy?' she asked, her voice elocuted Geordie.
âMr Fairbairn says you're doing a good job.' She smiled. âI've got a reward for you.'
Tommy smiled. He downed his drink in one, got up and left with the blonde, knowing that the girl from the group in the corner was watching him go.
Outside, both the BMW and the sun were still shining as they drove away. As the blonde's hand began to snake around his thigh, Tommy smiled. He was going to enjoy his day off.
The same sharp, autumn sunlight stretched from Ponteland golf course to Saltwell Park in Gateshead. Tony walked slowly through the park. Children enjoyed the playground next to disconsolate bunches of sneering adolescents. Families and couples alongside Sunday fathers with their kids. Sparrows and squirrels in front of the caged birds in the aviary. Everywhere was contrasts, choices. He thought of his own.
He had left school with two things: a passion for football and a determination to get out of Coldwell as quickly, and by whatever means, as possible. There were two traditional industries in Coldwell: the mine and the docks. Not wanting to spend his life in darkness, discomfort and disease, Tony had taken a job on one of the piers. The number of working piers, few to start with, had become fewer and fewer, the car-goes smaller and smaller. He had begun to realize there was no such thing as a job for life any more and that something had to happen.
A talent scout for Newcastle United spotted him playing in a local Sunday-league side and asked if he would be interested in a trial. He took it, impressed them and, through hard work and perseverance, jumped from the under-seventeen team, to the reserves, to the first team bench. The goal against Arsenal had been his first at the top level. He didn't intend it to be his last.
However, yesterday's defeat away to Everton was a different matter. Newcastle were twoânil down by the time Tony was sent on. He had been completely ineffectual, even personally contributing to Everton's third goal.
Big Jack's bollocking came soon afterwards: his concentration and focus were lacking; his skill nowhere to be seen; if he wanted a career as a top-flight footballer, he would have to do much better than that. Tony had listened, shrugged, said he'd sort it out during the week.
But Tony had been living in terror all week. The business with Neil and Tommy Jobson had scared the shit out of him, got him looking over his shoulder, staying out of the shadows, keeping in company. He had to think, find a way to square things and walk away without getting hurt. Let his past die.
Then there was Louise. She scared him too, but in a different way, a good way. He had thought about her all week, talked to her on the phone, was impatient to be with her again. She was starting to mean something to him. He didn't want to screw things up with her. If he could sort the thing out with Tommy, then concentrate on his football and. Louise, things would be fine.
Coach back to Newcastle, couple of lines to calm and sharpen him, off to meet Louise in the Barley Mow on the quayside. Not the sort of place Tony normally went to, but not one that Tommy Jobson would be looking for him in either.
Louise had been standing with her friends, knocking back drinks and unwanted advances. He felt a sudden rush of warmth knowing she was waiting for him. She saw him, her eyes lit up and virtually all his fear evaporated.
They began to talk and it seemed that the rest of the bar was gradually disappearing. At closing time, Louise's friends moved on Madisons.
âSo where d'you want to go?' Tony had asked her.
Louise had smiled. âHow about Gateshead?'
Tony swallowed. âAre you sure? You don't think you're rushing things?'
Tony glanced at his watch. His hour was up, so he turned round and made his way back to Louise's.
As he rounded the corner of Coatsworth Road he saw Louise standing on the doorstep outside her flat. By her was a small, sandy-haired young man and parked at the kerb an aged but well-maintained pale green Ford Escort Mark One. Tony felt a sharp stab of jealousy, but Louise's posture â folded arms, erect back â helped dispel that. The other man, shoulders slumped, spine â or at least spirit â bent, stuck his hands out as if imploring her. Louise shook her head. The man climbed into the Escort, slammed the door, over-revved the engine and drove away.
Tony approached Louise and, although he had a fair idea of what had been going on, asked her about it.
âRemember when we met I told you I was seeing someone?' Louise was staring down the street after the departing car.
âWell, I'm not any more. Keith's gone.' She turned to face him. âSorry about earlier.' She sighed. âBut you've got me all to yourself now.'
Tony placed his arms around her. âGood.'
Louise smiled. âLet's go inside.'
Tony smiled back. That was one less thing they had to discuss.
Tommy came, lying flat on his back on the bed in his spartan flat in Wallsend with the blonde girl, who had given her name as Cathy, naked and straddling him.
When she had milked the last spasm from his body, she smiled and dismounted. She hadn't come. Tommy hadn't offered. They both knew the rules.
Cathy made her way to the bathroom. Tommy heard the sound of the shower and sighed. It had been difficult getting aroused at first, despite Cathy's efforts. It wasn't until he imagined her as Kim Novak and him as smooth, suave Dino putting one over on that blind, black Jew Sammy that he let the mood take him.
All those years in care homes, foster homes, lashing out at anyone and everything with undirected anger, no control. Then, by chance, he heard the voice. Sinatra. âIn the Wee Small Hours of the Morning'. And something spoke to him, directly. It summed up the pain, the loss, the melancholy he had kept locked up inside since he was little. He bought the record and anything else he could find. That led him to Dino. Even better, the total epitome of couldn't-give-a-fuck cool. And then there were the suits. Ratpack-sharp, but with such style, such attitude. From that moment on, he knew what he wanted to be. He sighed. Dino and Frank. They had always been there for him. Better parents than his real ones had been. Wherever they were.
Then there was Clive Fairbairn. Everyone knew Clive Fairbairn. On the surface an Empire-loving, old-school, likeable rogue, only hurting his own sort, kind to his old mum, do anything for kids' charities. Just a dodgily honest businessman dealing in casinos and gaming machines. Underneath, a different story. Fairbairn was hard. Hardware, hardcore porn. He dealt with it all. Apart from the prostitution and protection rackets, he imported decommissioned military hardware from the Soviet Union and pornography of all kinds, even snuff and kiddie porn. He had the north-east sewn up.
Although much more intelligent than his children's home contemporaries, Tommy had enjoyed the same games, especially twoccing. He had been working for a chop shop in Gateshead, picking up and delivering cars to order. Although the money was good and he had done over two hundred, he was starting to find the work boring. He had gone as far as he could. He needed to move up. He needed Clive Fairbairn.
Fairbairn had a sociopathic ability to generate money for himself and his associates, unhindered by morality or ethics. A perfect, feral capitalist. But there was one area Fairbairn knew nothing about but still wanted a cut of: hard drugs. It was becoming a booming market but he just couldn't get to grips with it. He had supply routes sorted but severe distribution problems. That fact Chinese-whispered its way. to Tommy. He needed a plan, something to get Fairbairn's attention.
So Tommy stole his Jag. From the car park of a casino owned by Fairbairn. Fairbairn went ballistic â a huge cash reward for whoever found it, a slow, torturous death for whoever had taken it. No one owned up.
Three days later it turned up outside Fairbairn's house in Ponteland, cleaned, valeted, with a full tank of petrol and a note in the glove box reading âYou can use a man like me' followed by a phone number.
Fairbairn had phoned the number. Give me one good reason why I don't break your fucking back, he had said.
Tommy, letting the spirit of Dino control his stutter, had told him: âYou need someone like me on your side.'
They arranged to meet, and Fairbairn had found himself being impressed by the sharp-suited seventeen-year-old. Tommy talked about the streets, about drugs. He talked himself up as the perfect man to run distribution. Fairbairn had checked him out, taken him on. But I'm not going to forget what you did to my car, Mr Fairbairn said. Don't make me remind you.