Authors: Peter Cocks
Table of Contents
This one is for the tattooed lady PC
“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.”
Brockley was the last place Donnie had expected to wind up.
He’d known the suburb by name most of his life, it being only ten minutes by car from where he’d spent his childhood – a childhood punctuated by thick ears, bloody noses and petty theft. Brockley had always sounded rural to his ears, and compared to the Docklands, it was. It was a steep climb up the hill from New Cross, past a park with a view across London and through a few leafy streets. But Brockley was a place no one of his acquaintance ever
you just drove through it, cutting up through Lewisham or New Cross with a view to ducking down to Peckham or Forest Hill to do a deal. A late-night route through anonymous backstreets of terraced houses, where you could be almost sure you wouldn’t get a tug when you were driving with a skinful. There were no pubs in Brockley. Actually, that was an exaggeration. There were one or two; the kind of places populated by builders covered in plaster dust discussing the price of copper pipe with plumbers who tutted and sucked their teeth between gulps of lager. And there was a new one he’d seen, they called it a microbrewery, full of tits eating “pulled pork” off a plank of wood. But there were no destination boozers where you would bump into a face or two.
Really, that had been the trouble since he’d got back from Spain. With his payoff from the Spanish job, he’d found a riverside flat in Woolwich, not far from Dave Slaughter. Everywhere he went he’d bump into old muckers who had known him long enough to recognize him beneath the tan and the moustache. He couldn’t go into the Plume of Feathers on the side of Greenwich Park without someone slapping him on the shoulder, buying him a vodka and asking, “Awight, Don?” or “Back from the old Espanol, then?”
From their admiring looks, it was clear to him that the rumour that he had done the big hit on the Costa had spread.
When he’d tried to stay in Eltham for a while, it was worse. The wannabe hoodlums had tugged their forelocks in respect to the man who was reputed to have assassinated Patsy Kelly in Spain.
On the orders of Patsy’s own brother, Tommy.
A major betrayal of one Kelly brother to prove his loyalty to the other.
Donnie never acknowledged the rumour. To be known as a Kelly hitman, as he had been for years, gave him kudos enough.
Pulling off a big hit on someone within the family elevated him to legendary level – but it was not something for which Donnie wanted to be famous.
So Dave had found him this new place in Brockley, a modern development two minutes from the station. And as soon as his tan had begun to fade, Donnie grew back some short grey hair and a stubbly beard, ditched the earring and wore a Baker Boy cap whenever he left the flat.
The place had changed since he’d last been here: a couple of delis and coffee shops signalled a new kind of inhabitant, drawn by cheapish housing and the overground line to the trendy bits of Dalston and Shoreditch.
Trendy? Donnie didn’t get it. Both places were shitholes, to his knowledge. Neither did he get the wispy blokes – dressed like bent lumberjacks with bushy beards, armfuls of tats, big specs, skinny trousers and handbags – who walked past his apartment to get the train every day. What did they do? They all seemed to have money. Computers, Donnie guessed. Internet stuff.
No job for a man.
Since he’d been back, Donnie hadn’t done much work as such. He’d banked a bit of money from the Spanish job, though not as much as he’d have liked. The big payoff always seemed to elude him.
There was the little hit he had done the other day, of course. Nothing challenging: a simple gun to the back of the head on the doorstep. A Russian geezer, tailed to a posh house in St John’s Wood, silenced Beretta slipped out of his holdall, tap on the shoulder…
Job done, then home in time for lunch.
5 k in the bank. Not enough to retire on, but kushti.
A good freelancer, ex-SAS or whatever, could probably demand 10 k, but Donnie now felt he had a little more job security: the flat, the firm behind him again.
5 k was fine for a killing, with fringe benefits.
Today was shaping up like most days. He smoked a fag and drained several mugs of strong tea while reading
and flicking between daytime TV programmes. The news passed him by unless it was to do with armed robbery, and there wasn’t much of that any more. Most crime was on an industrial scale now, or done on the money markets with a computer. Donnie had never had any need for a computer; he used his phone for the little contact he made with others. He’d had almost no concern at all for the outside world since he’d come back from Spain.
He had mixed emotions about his time over there. It had started off all right; he’d met a decent bird and that. But then, as these things had a habit of doing, it all went tits-up. Donnie acknowledged to himself that he’d lost the plot a bit. He’d been overcooking it on the nose candy, which always made you a bit mental. Sure, he was under pressure from the firm to choose sides and, first up, he’d gone the wrong way.
It was not a mistake he would make again.
Now it was not so much a case of staying on the straight and narrow, it was more about keeping his nose clean and doing what he was told, following orders, leading more of a regular life. Apart from anything else, Donnie was tired of racing around.
At 12 p.m. he stretched a black leather jacket over his bulky shoulders, pulled the cap down over his forehead and walked down to the station. Five minutes and one stop later, he was out in the familiar smog of New Cross, feeling more at home among the traffic and chaos, enjoying the stale beer smell as he swung open the door to the pub.
He was sipping the top of his second lager and watching the racing results when his phone rang.
“R. Swipe,” Donnie said.
“Don?” the voice replied.
The ritual was a familiar one, played out whatever self-invented alias Donnie came up with, most of them well tried and tested.
Half a minute later Donnie finished the call. He sighed inwardly at Dave’s command and within five minutes he’d necked the rest of his lager, flagged down a cab and was on his way up to Greenwich Park.
He found Dave Slaughter in the car park, sitting in a shiny navy Mercedes looking out across the panorama: the O2, the river, the tangle of cranes and new developments. Donnie got into the passenger seat and inhaled the leathery smell of the spotless interior.
“It’s all changed, innit?” Dave observed, looking at the oddly shaped towers and spires that had replaced former London badlands.
“All changed,” Donnie concurred. “So, wassup, Dave?” he asked, though he didn’t really want to know the answer.
Dave turned and looked at him. “You know Paul Dolan’s case’s gone to the High Court?”
Donnie’s mind clunked into gear: Dolan, another Kelly family hitman, had been nabbed when Tommy Kelly had been arrested.
“What’s ’is chances?”
“None. Irish prick,” Dave said.
“Good,” Donnie said. Neither of them liked Dolan. “So?”
“Guvnor wants to see you,” Dave replied.
“Thought I was on light duties.” Donnie sighed. A prison visit to Tommy Kelly didn’t bode well.
“No such thing on this firm, Don.”
Donnie had kidded himself that after the big one on Patsy Kelly he would be put out to pasture for a while. He looked out of the steamy car window, his clear view of the panorama now blurred.
“Two words, Don,” Dave said. “Eddie Savage.”
Bollocks, Donnie thought.
The smack in the mouth came from nowhere.
I saw stars and tasted blood.
The sensation was a familiar one. I steadied myself and, blinking through the tears that had sprung to my eyes from my flattened nose, launched myself off the back foot, throwing a right at the coked-up Essex boy who thought he’d have a go. My fist connected with cheekbone and my opponent staggered back. I used my advantage to leap forward and throw another punch, hard on the jaw, twisting his head round and dropping him to the wet pavement. I jumped on top of him and grabbed a handful of Superdry, pulling his head up, fist poised for another punch to his face.