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Authors: Martina Cole

Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense

Maura's Game (48 page)

BOOK: Maura's Game
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He turned towards the kettle and started to make the coffee as he said in a firm voice, “Just don’t try and give me pep talks. Face it, Mother, we are not the close couple you thought we were and as far as I’m concerned it’s too late for us to start now. So let’s have a coffee and then I’m off out, OK?”

She didn’t answer him; she really didn’t know what to say.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Listening to Maura talk to Vic, Kenny felt as if his guts had turned to ice water. She started to laugh and he marvelled at her ability to sound in control even when her heart must have been making its way into her mouth like a rocket. She was good, there was no doubt about that.

“No, you listen to me, Vic. You moved the goalposts. You should have rung when you said you would. Do you think we ain’t got nothing better to do than wait on your calls?”

She listened and laughed.

“I am soooo scared, Vic. Can’t you hear the way my voice is shaking? Oh, sorry, that’s yours.

“Let’s cut the crap, shall we? You want a meet. So do we. But we’re playing by our rules and doing it our way. Your mate Jack won’t be needing his place any time soon so why don’t we say the barn, noon tomorrow, smart casual, guns will be worn. That good for you, Vic?”

She rang off without waiting for his reply and looked at Kenny.

“I wonder where he got my mobile number from?”

Kenny shook his head.

“Is it safe?”

“About as safe as you can get. I only received it yesterday.”

He frowned as he took in the implications.

“Who’d you get it off?”

“Cranky Bob, the BT bloke. He’s supplied them to me for the last couple of years.”

“Well, he’s sound enough. I use him myself. Wonder if he’s working for Vic as well?”

Maura looked grim.

“Must be. I think a visit to Bob is well in order, don’t you? Kenny, will you get us there? I need to brief Garry on the arrangements for tomorrow and then I’m calling in a shed load of favours.”

Sheila always enjoyed some time alone even though she missed her children when they were not around. She was luxuriating in a steaming bath full of lavender oil when she heard the sound of heavy footfalls on the stairs.

She closed her eyes in irritation and waited for Lee to come into the bathroom. The door was eventually thrust open when she called his name. She opened her eyes to see Vic Joliff staring at her.

He smiled appreciatively.

“Mrs. Ryan, please excuse me for intruding on your ablutions. But me and you need to talk.”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Sheila was trying to cover her body as best she could.

Vic threw her a towel.

“Get yourself out and downstairs, please. Quick as you can.”

She remembered him from Sarah’s the day he had brought the flowers and for some reason she wasn’t frightened of him. Why that was she didn’t know. She knew she should be scared, very scared, but she wasn’t.

She dried herself off as fast as she could and put on a bright blue candlewick dressing gown. She saw that the phone was ripped from the wall but had expected as much. As she walked downstairs to the kitchen she was amazed at just how calm she actually felt.

Vic had made them both some tea and smiled at her in a friendly manner as she entered.

“I must apologise for all this shit, Sheila, but I have no choice in the matter. Your husband’s family insists on aggravating the life out of me.”

“What do you want?”

She sat herself down on one of the high-backed stools at the breakfast bar.

“Nice drum, love, very homely.”

She smiled.

“Thank you very much.”

He smiled again and she found that despite everything she quite liked him.

“Why are you here?”

“I want to catch a big fish, and you, my love, are the bait. Now drink your tea and get dressed. We have a little journey to make.”

Cranky Bob was in his forties and had acquired his nickname after having a tear up in a pub in Bristol. He had been there for the weekend and had got into an altercation with two local wide boys, one of whom had glassed him. Forty stitches and a lot of pain later he had been left with no muscles in his face so that even when he smiled he looked miserable. Hence the name Cranky Bob.

As he stood in the betting shop placing his bets he was more than surprised to see Maura Ryan standing in the doorway, motioning for him to follow her outside. Bob being Bob, he finished placing his bets before strolling out of the door and walking over to where she was standing beside a big saloon car.

“You took your fucking time.”

Her voice was hard and he was nonplussed for a second.

“Get in,” the bully boy with her ordered.

Kenny’s voice made Bob aware that he could be in danger; all previous friendliness between them was gone now and he got into the car quietly and with the minimum of fuss. Maura sat in the back with him and this made him feel even more nervous for some reason.

“Have you been passing on our numbers to other people, Bob?”

Her voice was low and he knew he was skating on thin ice here.

“What makes you think that, Maura?”

She grinned.

“Don’t fuck me about, Bob, I am that far from beating your brains out.” She put her thumb and forefinger together.

“Did you give our numbers to Vic Joliff?”

Even Kenny could see the confusion on the other man’s face.

“Why would I give your numbers to him? I don’t even know him.”

It was obvious he was telling the truth.

“Well, you have given them to someone.”

“Only your family, love, no one else.”

“Who, for example?”

“Your niece Carla I gave her a few numbers because she had lost her phone. Oh, and her son, the poofter. I gave him the numbers because he said Benny wanted them.”

“When was this?”

“Well, Carla was weeks ago, but the boy, Joey, he’s always on the blower. You know what a dork he is. I said to him yesterday he should get a fucking phone book tattooed on his fucking arse. Gets on my wick he does, always on the phone fucking moaning in that poncey whining voice of his…”

“Joey?”

He nodded.

“Yes, wanted your new number again. He also wanted a safe mobile for himself and I dropped it off to him not an hour ago.”

“Where did you drop it off?”

“He was in a wine bar at the top end of Portobello Road. Then I dropped him back at your mother’s house.”

“What was his new mobile number?”

Bob opened his black leather Filofax and gave her the number.

“Thanks, Bob.”

He sneered. It was the closest to a smile he would get this side of plastic surgery.

“You are welcome. Can I go now?”

She nodded.

When they were alone in the car Kenny said, “I had a feeling there was someone close to home but I never dreamt it was him. Vic must have got to him through Tommy or Abul, mustn’t he?”

“So it would seem.”

She was nearly in tears at this fresh betrayal.

“I gave that boy everything, you know that. I put him and his mother up when it all fell out of bed with Malcolm, and this is how I am repaid. I bet they laughed up their sleeves at me. I bet they thought it was fucking hilarious. Silly Maura, the prat who paid the bills.”

“Don’t be so harsh on yourself.”

“Harsh?” She laughed.

“I tell you what, Kenny, even Benny as mad as he is has more loyalty in his little finger than those two have in their whole bodies. Funny that, ain’t it?”

Kenny didn’t know what to say to her.

“What is it with me, eh, Kenny? First Tommy and Carla. Now Joey. And fucking Abul thrown in. I mean, the fact he skanked fucking Tommy from under our noses speaks volumes. No one’s heard from him since. He must have gone over to Vic. Why don’t I see the people I care about for what they are?”

She lit a cigarette.

“I’m supposed to be a shrew die right? People respect me for my strength and so-called business head. Yet my niece and her son fucked me up like a fucking kipper and I never saw it coming. Not Tommy, and definitely not Abul. I mean, him and Tommy only ever spoke about two words to one another.”

“You wasn’t to know…”

“But that’s just it! I should have felt this coming. I should have out-thought the fucking lot of them, but I didn’t so that tells me something important. I am past all this, mate. I can’t trust me own judgement any more and without that I can’t lead this family; it makes me a liability.”

“What crap! You have more nous than anyone I know, male or female.”

She shook her head at him.

“No. Listen to me. Tommy Rifkind was a piece of shit and I never saw it, Kenny. I didn’t want to see it. Now, through me, the family has been dragged into danger and all because I took a fancy to a smooth-talking Scally.”

She was nearly crying and he said gently, “You couldn’t have known, Maura.”

She shrugged his hand from her arm.

“I should have known. If anyone should have sussed that cunt out it should have been me. Yet I was blinded to his faults, the same as I was blinded to Terry’s.”

“You loved Terry, whatever he was.”

She sighed heavily.

“I saw him through someone else’s eyes, Kenny, never through me own. I mixed up sex and love. I had great sex with Terry and I had great sex with Tommy. That is what caused my downfall.”

“How do you make that out?”

“Terry, believe it or not, was a controlling bastard in a lot of respects, I realise that now, and Tommy was the same. It didn’t matter what I might have been doing with my life. Even if I had been director of fucking ICI they would still have wanted me to be the little lady at home. It was always about doing what someone else wanted, not about me and what I wanted.”

Kenny felt that he could have told her as much but decided to keep that piece of wisdom to himself.

“With Terry it was because he was a filth, I think, and wanted to tame me, wanted to be the man Maura Ryan settled down for. There was also guilt for what he had done to me all those years ago when he dumped me. I think he felt that if he could make me into the Housewife of the Year he had finally achieved something. For me he was the love of my life, the father of the only child I would ever carry, and he was finally willing to be with me so I’d got what I wanted. But at what fucking price, eh? As my mum used to say, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”

She leaned back in her seat.

“With Tommy it was sex again. But he only wanted me because through me he could get a bigger slice of the pie. He was Maura Ryan’s bloke and that gave him kudos with everyone except my brothers and family. Garry hated him and I think Tommy knew that all along. He used me and he used Carla, though I suppose she’s worked that much out for herself finally.”

She looked so forlorn that Kenny felt like taking her in his arms and comforting her. He didn’t, of course, he wasn’t that brave. She nicked her cigarette butt from the window and, climbing out of the back, got into the driving seat of the car.

“I’ve wasted enough of me time on bastard men. Let’s get this poxy show on the road, shall we?”

Lee and his mother were watching Countdown when he took a call on his mobile that was to blow him out of the water. It was his eldest, Gabriel, telling him that they had not been picked up from school and, worse, that their mother was nowhere to be found.

“Mum, in the motor. We have to go and pick up the kids,” Lee ordered.

Sarah was surprised at his tone.

“Where the hell is Sheila then? Why didn’t she pick them up?”

Lee was agitated and therefore shorter with his mother than he meant to be.

“If I knew that, Mum, I wouldn’t be going to pick the kids up me self would I?”

She put her coat on and he was maddened by the length of time it took her to do that simple task.

“Please, Mum, get a move on, will you?”

In his mind he wondered if someone was going to go after the kids as well. Surely even Vic Joliff wouldn’t go that far? But until Lee had them safe in the car he wasn’t going to bank on anything.

Vic and Sheila were sipping cocktails and eating canapes bought from a local delicatessen in Gants Hill. She was very impressed with the house they were in; it had a swimming pool and the largest TV set she had ever seen. They were watching a video of Frank Sinatra and Vic was obviously enjoying it immensely.

“Do you mind if my mother joins us in a little while?” he asked politely.

“I don’t have much choice really, do I?”

Vic looked offended.

“With respect, Sheila, if you do not wish for my mother’s company, I would not force it on you. I also wanted to reassure you of your safety. I would hardly be introducing you to my mother if I had any ulterior motives, would I?”

He almost wished he did have another agenda. There was something about this woman he liked, probably the fact she mothered six children and mothered them well. He had always admired the way Lee Ryan was a family man. Vic prided himself on giving credit where credit was due.

Sheila might not have it in the looks department any longer but in fairness six kids would even take their toll on Kate Moss. But her decency commanded respect and the fact she was not even a functioning part of the Ryan family should frighten them into doing exactly what he wanted.

They had his brother and he had one of their wives. It would be a good face-saving trade-off. Even the Ryans would think twice before they pushed it with Sheila on his premises. It was out of order, he knew, she was not part of the family business, but he was past caring about etiquette. He wanted his brother, he wanted his coke and he wanted aggravation and he wanted it all as quickly as possible. He would take what he could now; it was all he could do. They had made a Grade-A cunt out of him. He couldn’t let that go without looking a complete wanker, and Vic Joliff was a lot of things but a wanker wasn’t one of them.

He decided he had to make a point to this lot. What had started out as a complete takeover bid was looking suspiciously like a wank job now and that was what he could not stand. The thought of people, even strangers, thinking he was a mug was killing him. A man had his pride and there was no man prouder than Vic Joliff. In fact, he prided himself on his pride.

BOOK: Maura's Game
12.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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