Authors: Martina Cole
Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense
No one had ever walked over him and lived to tell the tale. That was how you survived in his world. Your reputation, your ability to scare people with your utter ruthlessness, was what set apart the men from the boys. It was a cause for celebration that no one talked about you in a derogatory way, no one treated you like an ice cream, and you never paid for a drink in any pub of note. He was damned if he was going to give all that up because of the poxy Ryans.
He excused himself and went out to the kitchen where he rapidly snorted two lines, one after the other. He had a problem with cocaine and on one level was aware of it. But once the powder went up his nose he forgot his fears and felt invincible. He felt that he could take on fifty Ryan families and still have the strength to take on the Mafia and the CIA in his dinner hour.
He was Victor Joliff and he was man enough to make the whole world disregard the fact he was the offspring of an ex-prostitute and a drunken thief. He was proving to his peers that he was a man to be admired, a man to respect. And more importantly a man who could take over the south east and ultimately the whole of the UK drugs market. He would be the Escobar of England, and God help anyone who tried to stand in his way.
He heard his mother’s nasal twang coming from the lounge and quickly checked his face in the small mirror he had used to cut the coke. Mum hated him on the gear and was very vocal about it.
He poured a large Morgan’s rum and after adding some peppermint cordial took it through to the lounge where Nellie Joliff was taking off her duffel coat.
“Only got one bloody number on the Lottery, Vic.”
He smiled in commiseration.
“Never mind. This is a friend of mine. Her name’s Sheila, Mum.”
“Pleased to meet you, I’m sure.”
Sheila smiled at the little old lady who had obviously seen better days. She had the worn and haggard look of a woman who had worked hard all her life with fuck all to show for it.
Sheila wondered why she wasn’t feeling worried about her children. She should be out of her mind with the fear of never seeing them again. But she wasn’t. In fact, she was enjoying being without them and teaching Lee a valuable lesson into the bargain. This might be just the incentive he needed to make him see things her way.
Vic was a decent enough man inside, she was sure of it. Or at least she hoped so anyway. She watched him listen to his mother ramble on as if it was the most fascinating conversation in the world. Funnily enough, she found she really liked this kindly considerate man who had kidnapped her and was holding her to ransom.
Vic nodded to his mother and smiled at their guest and let the whole bloody irritation of it wash over him. He kept his mouth shut and his attention focused on tomorrow. The arrangements with his boys and the Irish were all in place. No matter what that cunt Kenny advised about peaceful negotiation, Vic Joliff was going in with all guns blazing.
Maura was on her phone or paying visits until late that night. She rang or talked personally to every face the Ryans were ever on friendly terms with and some of their enemies. She was matey, she was cajoling and she was threatening. She was whatever she had to be to get people on the Ryans’ side, and to destroy whatever shreds of credibility Vic Joliff had left. Showing people they were better off sticking to the devil they knew was the best way to avoid all-out war, she knew.
She wanted no bloodshed but the bare minimum. There was no way Vic would ever topple the Ryans now and he had probably guessed as much for himself in his increasingly rare intervals of lucidity, but that wouldn’t stop him turning up. He’d had six years of running and hiding and tomorrow he’d have his showdown with them, come hell or high water. She was banking on it.
At eleven o’clock that night, hoarse from her efforts and craving nothing so much as a large brandy and her own bed, Maura asked Kenny to do her a favour. He accompanied Bing and Carlton Dooley and a few handpicked men to Joe the Jew’s Silvertown yard.
They found Joe in his office over the scrap heaps. A couple of bodyguards with an Alsatian straining at the leash put up a protest when they rammed open the gates, but melted away when they realised who they were disrespecting.
“Stay out here on the steps,” Kenny told the others.
“I can handle this on my own.”
Joe had obviously seen their arrival. When Kenny strode into the office without knocking he found the old man already in his overcoat, sitting behind his desk with two letters in his hand.
“Oh, it’s you, Kenny,” he said, looking surprised.
“I always thought it would be Maura who came for me. She’s generally a woman of her word.”
“Yeah, well, she’s got a big day tomorrow, thanks to you and your mates. The Ryans and their allies will be head to head with Vic and his. Maura wants you there, Joe. Meanwhile, she’s asked me to put you up for the night in a safe house. I take it you don’t mean to fight?”
Joe glanced out over the deserted yard.
“Looks like it. There’s no such thing as loyalty these days.”
Kenny’s expression hardened.
“Tell that to Maura you and her were good friends once, I hear. What in God’s name got into you, going up against her and her family like that?”
Joe’s lined face suddenly looked older than time.
“You just answered your own question there, Kenny, if only you knew it. But I’ll explain myself to Maura and no one else. Meanwhile, a favour, please?” He handed the two letters to Kenny.
“Will you see these get to the right people? It’s my final request.”
One was to go to Camilla, Joe’s girlfriend. Her payoff, no doubt. The other… when Kenny saw that name he suddenly had an inkling what lay behind Joe’s involvement in this whole sorry mess.
“I’ll see they’re passed on,” he said.
“OK, let’s be having you.”
As he was walking down the steps outside between Bing and Carlton Dooley, Joe suddenly stopped and looked back at his office.
“Oh, I nearly forgot. You’re the Dooley brothers, I believe?” he addressed his captors.
Bing nodded without speaking.
“How opportune. You’ll be very interested to meet my house guest then. Go and look in the attic there’s a door in the corner of my office.”
Kenny nodded at Bing who went back inside with two of the men. They all heard the shouts of surprise.
“Abul it’s Abul! Bring those cutters up here.”
Kenny and Joe waited in the yard while the others worked to free Abul. He finally appeared at the top of the stairs, barely able to stand, his wounded leg on fire and his face and head smarting where the tape had been ripped away. The other men seemed delighted to see him.
“What happened, man? We thought you’d took off with Tommy Rifkind,” Bing was saying to him.
“Did he do this to you? Miss Ryan’s put the word out on you. She thought you’d fucked us up,” Carlton warned.
Abul opened his mouth to reply. Joe beat him to it.
“Why don’t you ask him who killed your brother?”
In a hoarse voice Abul started to protest.
“No! Not me … it was Vic…”
Kenny took a step forward.
“Now it makes sense. I never believed Vic got that close to Tony without him knowing. He was too good at his job to let that happen. And anyway if he had, why stop there? Why not kill Maura too while he was at it? No, someone else did that for his own reasons and it had to be someone Tony knew… Why did you do it, Abul? On to you, was he?”
There was an electric silence for a moment and then the Dooleys moved as one. They pushed Abul down the iron stairs and laid into him with a ferocity that made even Kenny shudder. He called them off after a couple of minutes.
He knew Maura would want Abul alive for the meeting tomorrow. But his chances of living past that were less than zero.
Garry, Roy and Tony Dooley Senior were at Jack Stern’s barn at daylight the next morning. Garry had his men combing the surrounding area to check it was secure and that Vic did not already have the place staked out, lying in wait to give them a nasty surprise. So far he’d proved remarkably elusive.
Roy put into words what they had all been thinking.
“It’s like he can fucking appear and disappear by magic, ain’t it?”
“The lads have routed everyone and not a fucking dicky bird.”
“Well, he can’t be far off now. He will show up, won’t he?”
Tony shook his head.
“Couldn’t say, man. I really couldn’t say.”
“And as for fucking Benny… when he finally shows his boa trace Roy, I am going to fucking Muller him. Who the fuck does he think he is? Roy fucking Rogers?” Garry fumed.
Roy took a couple of deep breaths before he said, “Go for it, Gal. Personally I think it’s my fault, though. When he called me I shouldn’t have mugged him off. Now, when we need him, he ain’t about. I was hard on the boy. Told him none of us wanted anything more to do with him.”
They all heard the desolation and fear in his voice.
“I can’t believe he ain’t been in touch again…”
Garry and Tony didn’t comment. Like Roy they privately wondered if Benny was still alive, but no one wanted to say it aloud.
“What about fucking Abul though, eh? I’m still having trouble with it.”
Roy had collected himself again. His voice was hard. The news that Abul had been the one to kill Tony Dooley Junior as well as being in league with the enemy had shocked and depressed them all.
“Still, we got him now,” said Garry, touching Tony Senior on the arm.
“And Maura will see he gets everything that’s coming to him.”
Tony forced a smile and they both clapped him on the back.
Cars were pulling up outside as they reached the barn entrance. Every man jack who worked for them was due here for a briefing. Garry was determined that by hook or by crook he was going to have his day with that slippery bastard and take him out.
This was personal now; Vic was taking the piss.
He smiled as he saw Gerry Jackson walk in. Even at his age and wearing one of his repertoire of wigs he still looked menacing, and the scars from the fire at the club all those years ago made him look even more frightening than he actually was. He was a legend among the younger fellows because he had been Michael Ryan’s best friend. That in itself made him a one-off in their eyes. He’d also taken a bomb blast and come out fighting.
His rep was such that even Garry gave him his due. He shook Gerry’s hand, grabbing his forearm as he did so in a display of friendship and respect.
“I knew you would come, Ger.”
“I wouldn’t have missed this lot for the world, Gal. Have a guess who’s outside?” He smiled once more as he answered his own question.
“Me four eldest boys.”
Gerry’s boys had become the drugs barons and local scallywags of their home turf in Kent. In fact, it was rumoured that nothing came in or out of the docks there without their express permission. The Channel Tunnel was also their property and Garry had dealt with them many times over the last few years. He had found them both trustworthy and civil-tongued. They would be assets to this job and he was pleased at the show of solidarity. Not many people would take on Vic Joliff, he was more than aware of that fact and glad to be able to make a show of force much larger and more diverse than anyone would have guessed at.
The Ryans had a show of support from Asians from East London and Deptford, West Indians from South London, and British Bulldogs from all over the smoke and just let any of them start getting the arse with each other before this little lot was over. Vic wouldn’t know what the fuck had hit him this time. Whatever Maura said, this was all-out war and they were going to win it.
It was years since Garry had felt this alive and he was determined to enjoy every second of the next few hours.
At ten o’clock on the morning of the meet Benny finally contacted Maura at home. He’d decided talking to his aunt was the best bet. She was calm and sensible, as he’d expected, but refused to discuss anything with him, explained the meet was on at noon and where so he should get his arse in gear, and put down the phone.
Now he was driving to the barn, with anger seething inside him and the four new mates he had called on rattling round in the back of a white transit van. They were Indian, four brothers from a Bangladeshi family in Forest Gate, young men who were sworn enemies of Abul’s because of tear ups that had occurred between them in the past few years. Benny had realised belatedly that his former friend had literally been getting away with murder because of his association with the powerful Ryan family, and his friendship with Benny in particular.
Everyone knew they were very close, and as far as Benny had been concerned they were. But Abul had had a different agenda all along. Well, when Benny got hold of him he was going to teach the fucker a lesson he’d never forget and then kill him.
Ricky D, the eldest brother, had always got on with Benny. They had dealt in drugs together over the years through a mutual association with Radon Chatmore not that Ricky was shedding any tears for the Rastaman. His death left the way clear for Ricky’s kin, and that had cemented their new alliance with Benny.
Now he was going to see his family and he was going with a new firm of his own and the deaths of his former friends as proof of his complete loyalty. He was nervous inside, though, hoping he would not be made to look a fool in front of Ricky and his brothers.
He had been on the missing list in the midst of the biggest war his family had had to deal with, and he had also become public enemy number one over the head incident. The head still annoyed him every time he thought about it. He should have dumped it, he saw that now. He was a fool to have kept hold of it but had enjoyed knowing it was there. Yet Carol, who had caused the entire furore, had not only lost their child for them, she had caused all this hag into the bargain. If she had not been such a silly bitch none of this would have happened.
It had taught him a lesson for the future, he knew that much. He would take whatever the family gave him on the chin and prove to them he was a fully functioning member of the Ryans. And then he would allow them to buy him out of this latest spot of bother but only after he had denied he needed their help for a suitable amount of time. Let them sweat a little. They didn’t want him turning Queen’s Evidence any more than he did.