Authors: Martina Cole
Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense
Maura’s Game by Martina Cole
MAURA’S GAME is an explosive novel of East End violence and corruption from one of the most original voices in fiction today. Martina Cole’s unique blend of emotional drama and shocking realism combine in this electrifying new bestseller.
Praise for Martina Cole’s previous bestsellers:
“Right from the start [Cole] has enjoyed unqualified approval for her distinctive and powerfully written fiction’ The Times
“The slags and scum of Cole’s fictional underworld are becoming the stuff of legend… It’s vicious, nasty and utterly compelling’ Mirror
“Intensely readable’ Guardian
“Martina Cole again explores the shady criminal underworld, a setting she is fast making her own’ Sunday Express
Also by Martina Cole Dangerous Lady The Ladykiller Goodnight Lady The Jump The Runaway Two Women Broken Faceless
Martina Cole headline Copyright 2002 Martina Cole
The right of Martina Cole to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published in 2002 by HEADLINE BOOK PUBLISHING
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library ISBN 0 7472 6966 1 (trade paperback)
Typeset in Galliard by Letterpart Limited, Reigate, Surrey
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Mackays of Chatham plc, Chatham, Kent
HEADLINE BOOK PUBLISHING
A division of Hodder Headline ___________338 Euston Rnari___________
To James McNamara. Missing you, a much-loved uncle.
For Mr. and Mrs. Steven and Christine Snares, two of my best friends, from your matron-of-honour.
For Pam and Ricky Dayal.
Thanking you for all your help whilst writing this book.
“You are me dorste.”
“Behind every great fortune is a crime’ Honore Ac Balzac, 1799-1850 Prologue
“So you’re going into the club then?”
Terry’s voice was heavy with annoyance and Maura closed her eyes in distress. She hated it when they argued and she knew that they were about to have an argument of Olympic class. This one had been brewing for days. She sighed, and mentally counted to ten before answering him.
“I have to, Terry. Roy can’t cope with this on his own.”
Terry walked from the room and Maura watched him go. Her mind was racing but with thoughts of the club in Dean Street, Soho. It hurt too much to think about Terry, the man who was everything to her. She’d noticed the expression on his face as he left. He had coldly looked her over like she was nothing to him, nobody. All the disgust and disappointment he felt were clear for her to see.
She felt broken by it, frightened, even as it angered her. But he had known, always he had known, that if push came to shove and there was trouble, she would have to sort out the clubs and other family businesses. And that was exactly what they had now: serious trouble.
Her brother Roy did what he could, but he needed Maura’s acumen, needed her backing. All the boys did. Roy could cope with day-to-day things but he had never been able to take the real aggravation. He either went over the top or crumbled without assistance.
She pressed her hand to her mouth at the thought of what she was to do later that day. She had thought the violent days were over, that everything was settled and straight, that lines had been drawn. How wrong she had been. Now on top of everything else she had Terry to contend with and his old woman attitude really stuck in her craw.
She glanced out of the large picture window and watched the workmen outside as they cleared away. Her mind registered the fact that they had tidied up after them, having needed to get on to her drive to raise her drains. Automatically she checked to make sure everything was as it should be. It was.
One of the men looked through the window at her and smiled. Maura ignored him. She stood up and walked from the room, through the wide entrance hall and into the kitchen. Terry was standing by the double doors that looked on to the garden. It was their special place, somewhere they worked together, had planted out together and liked to share in quiet moments. It was a garden made for children, for a family, something Maura would never know about now unless it was as a substitute mother, as she was to Roy’s daughter Carla and her son Joey. Maura was everything to them, as they were to her.
Even her surviving brothers three left now of the eight there had once been looked to her for guidance and help. Roy especially needed her more than any of them. He was supposed to be in charge of all the Ryan family businesses these days: the above board ones like their property development and construction interests, the loan company, street vending and hostess clubs, and the less public side of things. The Ryans lent money to punters to fund their mortgages, true, but they also financed career criminals for a hefty share of the proceeds and provided goods and services not generally offered by your average high street bank: high-performance escape vehicles, weapons of all kinds, safe houses, new IDs. Though Terry thought Maura was out of it all these days, in fact she was becoming more closely involved than she had been in her 1980s heyday when she and her eldest brother Michael had been the King and Queen of London crime.
Maura Ryan could still put the fear of God into even the bravest of men, the most hardened criminals. Especially since she had walked away scot-free from the biggest bullion robbery in history by cleverly brokering the Ryans’ carefully compiled dossier of information on corrupt top-level policemen, bent politicians, and even a royal scandal to ensure the continued safety of herself, Terry, and the Ryan family. But now Roy faced serious trouble and it was frightening even to her.
She had a bad feeling on her about it all. This wasn’t just another takeover bid by a few scruffs out for the big time, this was serious aggravation, and the last thing she needed was Terry on her back as well. Because as much as she loved him, and Christ Himself knew she did more than anything or anyone else, she could not let this go. Could not leave it in Roy’s less than capable hands. It could spell the end for them all.
Maura tried a different tack.
Walking up behind Terry, she slid her arms around his waist and hugged him.
“Let’s not argue over this, Terry, eh? You know I can’t let this go.”
He shrugged her off, scowling. He always looked like a little boy when he scowled, a spoiled little boy which in some ways he was. As a policeman he’d wielded power and influence and that changes a man. Going back to civilian status had been a real wrench for Terry and he never let her forget that. Even his voice was like a whining lad’s as he answered her.
“I expected you to say that, Maura. It’s always been the same, hasn’t it? Marvellous Maura Ryan, the villains’ friend. One little thing goes wrong and off you run to your real home, the place you truly belong: Soho. With all the waifs and strays, the whores, the gamblers, the pieces of shit you call your friends and family.”
Maura stared at the back of his head. If he had thrown a bucket of iced water over her, she could not have felt more shocked than she did hearing those words. They were uncalled for, nasty, petty. Her family was important to her, he had always known that.
“How dare you?” she hissed.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?”
He turned around and she almost flinched, so great was the contempt on his handsome face. He poked his thumb into his own chest as he said loudly: “I’ll tell you who I am, shall I, Maura? I am ex-Detective Inspector Terry Petherick. The man who gave up everything for you.”
Maura stepped back from him and, smiling gently, shook her head.
“You are off your chump if you think you can use that kind of crap against me, boy.” She saw the hurt in his eyes and laughed again, louder this time.
“Just what exactly did you give up, eh, tell me that? You found out that the real criminals, the major arse holes of the world, were actually in your own profession and even then you were quite happy for them to lock me up for the duration, remember? It wasn’t until you found out they intended to shaft you too that you shifted sides and threw your lot in with me.”
Terry looked into her face, saw his own hurt reflected there, and sighed.
“You gave up nothing, darling’,” she continued.
“You were on your way out of the police force from the moment you went to your bosses with the files my brother Geoff had kept. They didn’t want people like you in their club. You were too honest for them, my love. They’d rather deal with people like me. At least then they know where they are.”
Terry knew that what she said was true; deep inside he had always known it.
“All this crap about your career, giving up everything… well, I seem to remember your marvelous career coming first on another occasion. You chose work over me then, only I was pregnant that time, and it was me who ended up losing everything, wasn’t it?”
He turned from her once more, unable to look her in the face.
She laughed sarcastically.
“My brother is in shit so deep you wouldn’t even want to know about it, darling’. You could not even comprehend what he is having to sort out. Now I don’t know about you and people like you but I will be there for my brother, as I always have been, and he will always be there for me. If you can’t hack that, Terry, then you and me have been wasting our time all these years.”
The phone began to ring then, a shrill insistent noise shattering the dangerous tension between them.
“Better get that, hadn’t you? Big Brother needs you,” Terry mocked.
She knew it was Roy, a panicking Roy, wondering why she had not got back to him sooner rather than later. She stared Terry out until the ringing stopped.
Looking at her watch, she said quietly, “I’d better get a move on.”
But she didn’t want to leave him like this.
“So you are going then?”
“I don’t really have much choice, Terry, do I?”
“Everyone has a choice, Maura, whatever you might like to think.”
She looked into his handsome face. It still had the power to enthrall her, make her want him all over again.
“Then I have made my choice, haven’t I?”
She walked away, saying over her shoulder, “And you’d know all about making choices, wouldn’t you, Terry? You’ve made a few yourself over the years.”
“I’ve never made a single choice I regretted, Maura.”
She smiled at him now, a genuine smile.
“That’s because you can’t get pregnant, Terry. That single biological fact makes men immune from real choices, real decisions. Any decision you ever made was wholly for you, never for anyone else.”
She walked out into the hall and heard his footsteps behind her.
“What about Joey?”
She thought hard for a few seconds before remembering she was supposed to pick up Carla’s son from school for her today.
“Forgot him, didn’t you? Back in godmother mode with a vengeance, I see.”
She licked her lips before answering him.
“You’re jealous, aren’t you, Terry? You’re scared out of your wits I might find something to interest me more than you do. I’ve watched you over the last couple of years avoiding my brothers, pretending they don’t exist and I’ve swallowed. Almost understand it. But I’ve never pretended to be anything other than what I am. What I chose to be. You know what Roy said once? He said I was more man than any real male he had ever met. I think he was right. And now I’m too much of a man for you, Terry. But then, I’ve always been too much of a woman, haven’t I?”
She walked up the stairs, leaving him standing there unable to answer her.
Ten minutes later she was changed from jeans and sweatshirt into a beautiful suede suit and looked like a different person. Terry felt the pull of her as she walked into the lounge and smiled at him.
“I’m sorry, Maura sorry it had to be like this.”
“It had to happen sooner or later, Terry. Deep inside, we both knew that. I love you with all my heart, but I have other commitments. Unlike you, I can’t drop them on a whim.”
“You don’t want to, you mean…”
“I mean can’t, Terry. You never listen to what you’re being told, do you? I have to sort this out. If I don’t, people could be hurt. Seriously hurt.”
“Hardly unusual in your line of business, is it?”
The phone began to ring again.
“You’d better answer it,” he sighed.
“I think we both know who it is.”