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Authors: Martina Cole

Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense

Maura's Game (51 page)

BOOK: Maura's Game
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“You cheeky bastard! Me and mine tell the police what we want them to do for us. We don’t need to go sneaking round doing them favours.”

Vic threw back his head and laughed, the picture of merriment despite the hard faces and drawn weapons all around him.

“I said, in a manner of speaking. Not the Ryans personally but you had a certain Abul “Big Ears” Haseem in on all your meetings, didn’t you?”

“That fucking two-faced ponce!” Garry exploded.

“We already knew he was in with Rifkind but…”

Vic shook his head sadly.

“You haven’t got a clue, have you? It’s a miracle really how you’ve lasted so long.”

Maura shot her brother a warning look. He’d never normally have let this go, but there was nothing normal about today and they had to swallow Vic’s insult to get to the bottom of this.

“The link up with Tommy came later. Abul was in on it way before it was even a glimmer in Rifkind’s greedy eye. In it up to his neck. And you know who recruited him, dreamed up the entire dirty tricks campaign against you? Rebekka Kowolski. Or Rebekka Goldbaum as was. Now she had a legitimate grievance against you, didn’t she, Maura?”

She kept her voice as hard as her face.

“I should have worked it out for me self It takes a woman to come up with a really subtle piece of revenge like that ruin our reps then step in and take what’s ours. But did she really think she could run our businesses?”

“She and Joe were going to confine themselves to drugs wholesaling. Abul was going to take the other businesses, and distribute for them in the south east. He’d been building up his own firm among the soots for years. They’re always looking for an in. Only you was too thick to see that.”

Garry hurled himself at Vic, fists flying.

“Let me have him. We’ve heard enough. I want to ‘ “Leave it!” Maura ordered.

“Won’t be long now, Gal, but we need to hear this. I mean, I still can’t believe a couple of no-hopers like Rebekka and Joe actually thought they could take over our drugs operation.”

“Yeah, well, that’s where the rest of us come in. They pretty soon realised they’d need a banker Jack, building up his pension fund -distributors outside the south east our Liverpool friends and a hard man to deal with the suppliers no prizes for guessing who. We all agreed to come in on it if they could topple you. Then we just sat back and watched you take the heat. It was so fucking sweet! They were taking on the Ryans and winning with nothing more than some well-chosen tip-offs and a whispering campaign. Beautiful! Tommy said it was like all his Christmases coming at once.”

Maura refused to react to this, and continued listening calmly to Vic’s gloating voice.

“Then I got my fucking collar felt for a piece of aggro I’d almost forgot it was so bloody long ago and ended up in Belmarsh. Which wasn’t so bad really I palled up with the Paddies, was getting the screws on side I could have carried on my end of things from there, just needed a bit of time to set them up. Only bloody Abul couldn’t wait, could he? He decided things was moving too slowly, and persuaded Tommy Rifkind that they could pull it off without me. He was gonna set you and me at each other’s throats, Maura, or make it look as if we were.

“He had the bomb put in your car couldn’t believe it when he got the ex-filth instead. From what I can make out he done Sandra and Roy’s wife, and told Tommy B to go after Lana Smith and your mum. Kenny’s a well-liked man and Abul thought it would stir up even more hatred for the Ryans. Since his dad was in with Abul,

Tommy Boy did as he was told only he drew the line at killing the old woman and just gave her a kicking instead.

“Then they got to me in jail. I was more use to them dead just another statistic in the Ryans’ gang wars. Rebekka got the hard word an’ all. She was a clever woman but mouthy with it, and so up her own arse about you, Maura, she really got on Abul’s nerves. And by killing her the way he did… well, he might as well have left the Ryans’ calling card.”

She felt the bile rise in her throat. She was having difficulty taking it all in, the treachery and deceit by friend and lover dating back all those years. Well, one of them at least was in their hands and they’d settle that score very soon. But another was beyond their justice.

“Where’s Tommy?” she asked.

“What’s the matter, Maura love? Missing him?”

This time it was Kenny who hit him, a hard punch in the mouth that rocked Vic back on his heels. He almost lost his balance for a moment then shrugged nonchalantly.

“Let’s just say I’ll take that secret to me grave, shall we? He’s dealt with, Maura. He was scum. He trumped your niece, got your nephew on my bandwagon… worst of all he fucked me up.

“Tommy Rifkind didn’t know the meaning of the word loyalty. He could have saved his own boy’s arse by speaking up. Me or you would have done that without a second thought, Maura, ‘cos to us family matters. That’s what Joss had the problem with an’ all.”

He shook his head sorrowfully and decided to get his last request in while they were still reeling at the skulduggery of the late Tommy Rifkind.

“Now, cards on the table, I know I haven’t got a snowflake’s chance in hell of walking away from this lot. All I ask is that you leave me mother and Justin out of it. I mean, fair’s fair. I’ve cooperated, ain’t I?”

Maura nodded with grudging respect. Vic was a violent psychopath, off his head on drugs and he still had a stronger sense of values than Tommy Rifkind. It was a sobering realisation.

He looked relieved.

“Thanks, Maura. You’re well off out of it, you know that? Far better off with good old Kenny here. With him, what you see is what you get.”

Kenny reddened and walked out of the barn.

“Any chance of a last line so I can meet me Maker with a smile on me boat?” Vic was saying behind him. They all heard the sound of cars starting up and Vic said nonchalantly, “The Exodus begins.”

Sheila gathered her children into her arms and hugged them. They thought she had just gone to visit a friend and were back watching TV in an instant. She was going to let them all stay up late tonight and keep them off school the next day. It was time for Lee to make a decision and he had better make it soon. Now that she had been dragged into this twisted world of his he must see it would be better for all of them if he got out. Before he was killed or banged up or she left him forever.

She hugged Sarah to her and her mother-in-law hugged her back.

“Are you all right, love?” . Sheila nodded.

“Vic was all right to me, you know? I didn’t feel threatened and that’s the truth.”

Sarah nodded.

“Sure, he was always a decent enough lad. He was great friends with my Michael once. In fact, if my Michael was still alive none of this would have happened…”

Sheila closed her eyes and let Sarah ramble on. It was the kindest thing to do even if the elderly woman was speaking a load of old cod’s.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Abul, Joe and Vic were all being held at gunpoint in the barn. They watched the clean-up operation going on around them, wondering when it would be their turn to be dealt with.

The telling of his tale had left Vic quiet and subdued. He didn’t even bother to bait his accomplices any more. He was tired and accepting of his fate. He was also coming down faster than the Lockerbie airliner. What he badly needed was a pick-me-up snort, but didn’t see any chance of getting one.

Benny sat in one of the Ryans’ cars outside and watched as Vic’s Range Roger was cleaned and scrubbed so that it was practically sterile. He contemplated the mammoth operation they had undertaken and shook his head in amazement. Maura had real nous, there was no doubt about it.

Garry walked past him and ignored him and Benny felt the sting of tears as he realised everyone was blanking him, even his father. When Roy appeared a little later Benny called out to him softly, “Please, Dad.”

Roy stood and stared at his son. He had loved him once with all his being. Now he couldn’t bear to look him in the face. He was Michael, all right, but this was a Michael for the new millennium. He was a selfish and dangerous individual; even his poor little girlfriend had not been able to tame him. He had taken his violence out on an innocent boy and it had caused the demise of his own child.

The Ryan family had used violence to gain what they now had, Roy knew that, but it had been controlled violence perpetrated for a clear reason. His family had always treated violence with respect,

used it in a respectful way. Yet this boy, his own son, was capable of violence for its own sake, just for a laugh, and Roy found that repugnant even as he pitied his son for the plight he was in.

He saw the pleading expression on Benny’s face and was nearly taken in. Then he remembered the boy’s head in the wardrobe and reminded himself who he was dealing with.

“Dad, please talk to me. I said I was sorry, didn’t I?”

Roy leaned wearily against the car. Looking at him closely, Benny saw the extra years that seemed to have been piled on him overnight. He was greyer than he had been and looked haggard.

“Sorry ain’t good enough this time, Benny, you went too far.”

Benny was fed up. As far as he was concerned it had happened so fucking deal with it. But he was shrewd enough to know he should not voice that kind of opinion to his father.

Anyone would think he had killed the fucking Queen or someone the way they were all carrying on. It was a laugh, that was all. He would do it again if he could, and next time he would make sure the fucker disappeared for good.

He had learned his lesson over this last lot. He knew he would have to keep his head down and his arse up for the foreseeable future, so why couldn’t they just get over it and let him get on with things?

Roy walked away and Benny saw how his shoulders sagged and how he had lost his spark. He remembered how his dad had been years before, the big man who would come in and pick him up on his shoulders. Who would talk to him and help him with his growing pains. Who had given him the earth on a plate. His dad loved him, Benny knew that. He had caused untold aggravation and was sorry but it would get sorted, it always did. His dad would come round eventually and then the others would follow suit. Benny was family, after all.

Garry was laughing at Maura’s plan and even Kenny had to admit it was a blinder. The place was more or less empty now and they were just waiting for the right time to complete the operation. There was one last thing needed to put it all into practice and once that arrived they would be home and dry.

“Do you know something, Maura, you are one shrewd bird.”

It was what Michael had always said about her and it made her feel good, reminded her of what she now saw as the good old days, the time when the final responsibility did not rest with her. She could not relax until this was all over.

Kenny stood by her and watched the cleaning operation with a wary eye.

“No one will ever know what happened here, will they?”

“No one who matters, no.”

“Garry is right, you know. You are shrewder than most of the men I know and that is not a compliment, it is a fact.”

She smiled.

“I just want it over.”

“Don’t we all? What do you think Vic did with Tommy? Everyone else has been located but no one seems to want to talk about him, do they?”

She shrugged and took a sip of Scotch.

“He’s dead. I feel it inside.”

“Are you sorry?”

It was a loaded question.

Maura thought for a while before she said slowly, “Not really.”

She saw the relief on Kenny’s face and smiled at him.

“You are a very nice man, do you know that?”

He grinned and she saw his merry eyes and friendly smile, not the hardened scar-faced villain everyone else seemed to see.

“Don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret.”

They laughed together until Maura’s face clouded over again.

“We are going to do something terrible tonight.”

Kenny didn’t answer her for a few moments.

“It’s terrible, I grant you, but it’s necessary as well,” he said finally.

“This will be an end to it all, Maura, once and for all. This whole episode will finally be over.”

She nodded and stared into the glass of Scotch in her hand.

“I hope so, Kenny. I really do hope so.”

Sarah was in bed and couldn’t get comfortable no matter what she did. The pain was worse now and it wasn’t just a dragging pain any more, it had travelled up her arm and into her chest.

She wondered how little Carol was. The loss of her great grandchild had been hard to bear. Almost as hard as the loss of

Maura’s poor little baby. That weighed heavily on her these days. For years she had convinced herself that the child was better off never having lived, but now she wasn’t so sure. Maura, God love her, was a natural nurturer, a woman who should have had children by the dozen.

Sarah shook the troubling thoughts away.

Whenever she thought about that day she always felt guilty. Guilty and sick. She had taken her daughter there and basically held her down while a dirty back street abortionist had ripped the only good thing that had ever happened to her out of her belly. And all because she, Sarah, had not wanted to face the neighbours, had not wanted that kind of disgrace on her child and family.

An illegitimate baby. It was commonplace now and yet then it had been a disgrace that would follow you all your life. Yes, she had been frightened of the disgrace, and of course of Michael’s reaction though he would have come round in the end, he would have had to.

It was ironic really. Considering all the other shite she had had to contend with where her family was concerned, poor Maura’s baby was nothing by comparison. It would be a grown man or woman now and she would have loved it and Maura would have had someone of her own. Would have had someone to love.

Sarah saw the baby then in her mind’s eye, lying in the Day-Glo orange washing-up bowl surrounded by blood, and closed her eyes tightly to block out the shocking image.

But it wouldn’t go away.

The pain was back again now and so she moved on to her side to try and ease it. She would make it all up to Maura, she was determined on that. She closed her eyes and started the familiar prayer.

BOOK: Maura's Game
3.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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