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Authors: Nick Oldham

Tags: #thriller, #crime, #police procedural, #bristish detective

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BOOK: The Last Big Job
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He helped himself to a strong black coffee from the machine
and sat next to Terry at the table in the small canteen. Terry was
scribbling notes down in his pocket book.

Henry’s phone rang. He answered it, listened, ended the call,
looked at Terry. ‘We’re on.’

 

 

Danny was showered, made up and ready to roll by 8.15 p.m.
This would be her last evening in Tenerife and she was going to fly
home next day if she could get a flight. She intended to make the
most of her time and planned to have another harbour-view meal at
the same restaurant she had visited last night, then carouse around
the bars until well after midnight, get tipsy, smoke too much and
stagger back to the hotel.

She walked out on to the balcony, and smiled at the view
across the bay. She could see right across to the lights of San
Sebastian on La Gomera. It was a wonderful clear evening. Her
thoughts, however, turned to Gillrow.

She hated coincidences. She tried to talk herself out of
thinking that just because he lived on Tenerife he was involved,
somewhere along the line, in the murder of a man who used to be one
of his informants, who had ended up dead with two other people who
were importing drugs from Tenerife. She gazed up at the star-filled
night sky, willing herself not to make any assumptions or jump to
any conclusions which could backfire. . . Yet why had he been so
uncooperative? There was no obvious reason for it.

She tried to put herself into his boots. Eight years retired,
living a life of moderate luxury in the sun, being asked dumb
questions about someone he might not have seen for a dozen years.
The more she thought about it, the more she thought that, had it
been her, she would have welcomed the opportunity to chat about the
good old days. Retired bobbies, in her experience, relished
it.

Gillrow’s whole attitude had a certain whiff about
it.

Which is why she banged both hands on the balcony rail and
said to the night, ‘Mr Gillrow, you’re going to get another visit
tomorrow, mate, because I’m not happy with you at all.’

 

 


I need to see Billy Crane.’


You can’t, he’s away. I’m in charge. I’ll deal with any
problem you might have.’

Gillrow looked unsurely at Loz, not really liking what he saw,
but feeling he had no other choice.

Loz, in turn, regarded Gillrow coldly. He knew he was an
ex-cop and that he and Crane had some sort of relationship, based
on what, he did not know. Probably bribes, he guessed. Or maybe the
passing of police intelligence. Or perhaps Billy Crane could have
been a snout for Gillrow once upon a time, although Loz doubted
that idea.

Loz knew that Crane would definitely appreciate him giving
Gillrow help if he required it. Loz could see Gillrow was
nervous.


All right,’ Gillrow said, swallowing. He looked around the
bar. They were in one of Crane’s dives in Los Cristianos, a small
English bar serving lots of fried food, crappy English beer and
showing live Premiership matches on a big screen. It was quiet at
the moment. By ten-thirty it would be heaving. ‘I’ve got a problem.
It concerns Malcolm Fitch, who is now dead with bullets in his
brain.’


Go on,’ Loz urged, not having the slightest clue as to who
Malcolm Fitch was.


I’ve just been questioned by a detective from Lancashire
today, come all the bloody way from Blackpool, would you believe?
Investigating Fitch’s murder. Rooted out my file on Fitch and came
to bloody see me. Can’t believe it. I didn’t say anything, but I’m
not happy. Something needs to be done or me and Billy could be in
big trouble. She wasn’t satisfied with what I told her and I’m
afraid if she starts digging, there could be ructions.’


Hold on - did you say “she”?’ Loz asked
incredulously.

Gillrow nodded.


You’re intimidated by a woman?’


It doesn’t matter that she’s a woman - she’s a
detective.’

Loz sneered contemptuously at this. ‘A bloody
woman!’


Look, sex doesn’t fucking matter, does it? What does matter
is that she’s going to start digging and when she does that, we
could be in the shit.’


Why, haven’t you covered your tracks?’


Twelve years ago - yes. Now they have the systems and stuff
to dig deeper than we did in my time. I’m worried.’


Is she still on the island?’


I think so.’ Gillrow held up Danny’s card, showing him the
back of it where she had scribbled the name of the hotel and her
room number.

Loz snatched it. ‘Leave her to me, I’ll sort it. Don’t you
worry your pathetic little head.’ He patted Gillrow on the cheek
using his bandaged hand, which smelled dreadful.

 

 

Henry drove the XJS behind the box van being driven by Terry.
Henry was pretty comfortable about the situation into which they
were headed. It confirmed that Thompson, Elphick and the Russian,
presumably, had accepted him as one on their cronies after their
initial suspicion and that Billy Crane hadn’t clocked Henry as a
cop. At the party the other night Gunk had even begun to stutter
some admissions to Henry about Jacky Lee’s murder. A few more
deliveries like this one and Henry believed they would be falling
over themselves to confide in him and also to reveal the extent of
the Russian involvement which was fascinating Henry. At the same
time, it was giving Henry a paradox to deal with.

If he could persuade the hierarchy to run an operation against
the Russians, then the arrest of Thompson and Elphick for Lee’s
murder might have to go on the back burner for a while,
particularly if Henry took on a greater role in their activities.
Henry was prepared to argue that, for the greater good, the arrest
of the brothers could wait a while. But he knew that because of
Superintendent Davison’s precarious predicament as an SIO, he would
have one hell of a job convincing him. Davison needed a result on
the murder PDQ.

For the present, Henry was content to coast along and let
Thompson and Co. believe they were buying stolen whisky. He
whistled as he drove and smiled. What had started off as something
he had not wanted to get involved in was opening out and becoming
more and more interesting. The Russian Mafia, for God’s sake.
Fucking up their expansion plans would be great fun.

But unbeknownst to Henry Christie, three people who had never
met each other, but who had all met him, were thinking very dark
thoughts about him.

Chapter Fourteen


If you are ever thinking of pulling a job and you need some
manpower or equipment, anything at all, you give me a bell. I won’t
let you down, pal. I’ve got good contacts - discreet and very, very
trustworthy.’

These were the words uttered by Jacky Lee to Billy Crane on
the day Lee had been released from prison, following his sentence
on the conspiracy and handling indictments which - way back down
the line - had been instigated by Henry Christie. Crane and Lee had
become cellmates by accident on transfer. Crane had been brought
across from Wakefield and Lee from Wymott, both into Strangeways
and slammed in the same pokey. Their relationship had blossomed and
both had confided their plans for the future to each other. Lee had
decided to shift his operating base from Newcastle to Manchester
and Crane was planning to move out to the Canaries.

Crane remembered Lee’s words well and he knew they were
genuinely meant.

He had given Crane a few contact numbers and then stepped out
of Strangeways to build his life in the Manchester underworld,
leaving Crane brooding and envious in his cell.

He thought that would be the last he saw of Lee, but had been
proved wrong on his own release from clink, later the same year,
1996.

Unexpectedly, Lee met Crane at the gates in a gleaming white
Roller with smoked-glass windows and a stunning Jewess in the back
of it with the longest, shapeliest legs Crane had ever seen for
many years, anyway. Lee took Crane to a pub in Crumpsall, north
Manchester, where he threw Crane a ‘getting out’ party. This
included an hour-long session with the Jewess in a first floor
bedroom where Crane was fortunate enough to end up with those legs
wrapped around various parts of his anatomy at different
times.

At the end of the night Lee reiterated the words he’d said
earlier to Crane and both men embraced each other.

It had seemed obvious to Billy Crane that when he needed
muscle or equipment, a man like Jacky Lee was the one to approach,
particularly as Crane had lost some contact with the part of the
criminal world which could acquire shooters, cars, clothing and
other blagging equipment easily.

Following the information-gathering sessions with Colin Hodge
on La Gomera, Crane and Smith had flown back to England separately,
both by roundabout routes. Smith went straight back to Blackpool to
get things rolling from his end, and Crane went into Manchester to
track down Jacky Lee.

He made his way back to the pub where his release party had
been held. Very little had changed in the intervening years, except
for when he asked the barman to put him in touch with Lee. It was
only then that Crane learned of his death.

Crane had been a quick-thinking criminal since the age of ten.
Although Lee’s death left him breathless for a moment or two, he
quickly recovered and said, ‘Then, in that case I’d like to speak
to whoever is looking after his business for him.’ Crane did not
have time for sentimentality at that moment. That could come later,
maybe. He needed quick action and if Lee’s successor could
accommodate, then it was OK by him.

The barman made a discreet, hushed phone call.


Someone’ll come along and see you,’ he said on replacing the
receiver. ‘Drink?’

Crane settled down to a mineral water at the bar, positioned
so he could see all the doors. . . just in case.

He had a short wait. Twenty minutes later, two seedy-looking
characters strutted confidently into the pub. The barman nodded in
Crane’s direction.

One of the men spoke to Crane without preamble or ceremony:
‘The message for you is that Gary Thompson now controls all of
Jacky Lee’s businesses. He knows your name, knows your connection
to Lee and says that if you are willing to talk, he is too. If not,
fuck off’


Business is business,’ Crane said philosophically. ‘I want to
talk.’

The man jerked his head. ‘Come on then, we’ll take
you.’

Out in the car park they searched Crane, found him to be
clean. He was then driven by them, in silence, in the back of a
battered Granada out to Heywood near Rochdale, where Thompson was
throwing the birthday party for his girlfriend’s
thirtieth.

It was as Crane was led into Thompson’s presence that he came
face to face, fleetingly, with Frank Jagger. Crane definitely felt
he knew Jagger’s face, but could not place him. Things moved so
positively and quickly with Thompson that Crane did not have time
to dwell on the encounter with Jagger, or ask any questions about
him.

Crane revealed his plan to Thompson in a cautious way, saying
that he wanted to hit a security van that was carrying a quarter of
a million - tops. Big money by any standards. To have told Thompson
that fifty million was up for grabs would have been asking for
trouble. That kind of money makes people go glassy-eyed and start
to scheme. £250,000 ensured that greed stayed more
controlled.

Crane had holed up in a south Manchester hotel, near to the
airport.

On the evening that Frank Jagger was due to sell a van full of
stolen whisky to Thompson, Crane and Smith were dining in the hotel
restaurant, bringing each other up to date on the progress of their
arrangements.

Things were going smoothly.

Thompson, Elphick and Drozdov were eager to get involved in
the blagging themselves. They would form the bulk of the personnel
who would carry out the job. Smith was well on with his side of
things: guns were being obtained from dealers all over the North so
that no one person would get nosy after supplying a lot of hardware
all at once; vehicles were being prepared by a car ringer in
Blackpool. And Colin Hodge was still sweet and eager.

Both men were well satisfied.

At the end of the meal, Crane got up and visited the toilet.
While he leaned over the urinal, concentrating on the task in hand,
the image hit him like a mallet. He stood upright with a shocked
expression on his face, uttering a violent swearword under his
breath. He hurried back to the table, sat down heavily opposite his
partner.


You look like you’ve seen a ghost,’ Smith observed,
puzzled.


I have, Don.’ Crane stared thoughtfully past Smith’s
shoulder, then pinged him squarely in the eye. ‘We might have a
problem.’

 

 

Rupert Davison had always been a high flyer. He had decided at
a very early stage in his career about the path it should take and
then he had made it happen. He had been twenty-four years old when
he joined the police with a business-related degree behind him and
two years in industrial management. Two years after joining the
Force he had passed his promotion examination to Sergeant, gaining
the highest marks in the whole of the country that year. This
automatically made him eligible to apply for the accelerated
promotion scheme (APS) and after a series of gruelling interviews -
at which he excelled - Davison found himself officially classed as
a high flyer and was promoted to Sergeant, to the despair of his
colleagues. It seemed to them only to confirm that the system was
flawed. Two years after that he was an Inspector with high
expectations of progressing further.

BOOK: The Last Big Job
11.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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