Read The Night the Rich Men Burned Online

Authors: Malcolm Mackay

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General

The Night the Rich Men Burned (10 page)

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
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‘Sounds like you handled Holmes well. And I heard about your wee confrontation with Neil Fraser last night. That wasn’t too clever. Fraser’s good muscle. John Young uses him. Not their favourite, but he’s got a reputation. If you get the chance, you should thank Angus Lafferty for stepping in and saving you. Fraser’s a nutter; he’d have stuck you, right there in front of everyone. But you had the balls to stand up to him. I like that.’ Talking with the casual certainty of a man who knows. He knows who these people are, knows what they’re capable of, knows how to handle them. The sharpness that makes Marty rich shining through.

‘Okay.’ A one-word response with no emotion. Can’t think of anything else to say. Hearing a lot of names he only vaguely recognizes. Being told to do things he knows he won’t do.

‘I looked up your number, called you personally. That’s because I want you to come and do a few jobs for me. What do you say to that?’

Peterkinney’s shrugging. ‘Depends on the work. Depends on the reward.’

Marty’s smiling. ‘Listen, kid. I called you up. I know where you live. I know you live with your grandfather, for fuck’s sake. I know those flats. Small spaces, ain’t they? You don’t want to be there forever, do you? I know you probably had to take the fucking bus to get here. Riding along with the plebs. You enjoy that? There’s good money in what I do. For a guy your age, life-changing money. I think you’re the sort of person who can help me with it. I think you can handle it. I’m giving you the chance to move up in the world here, kiddo. Don’t throw that back in my face. You might not get another chance.’

Said it like he was offering him the world. Sitting in the shittiest little office Peterkinney’s ever seen in his life, and Marty thinks he can sound impressive. But it’s not about the surroundings, they both know that. It’s about the rewards.

‘If the money’s right, and if there’s work for Alex too.’

‘Your wee mate? I can find some work for him. Won’t be much. You’ll be getting the better stuff. I think you’re cut out for the good stuff. Kind of things I have to be careful about. Takes brain, as well as brawn. And there will be real money. Money, parties, women. All of it. Think about that, huh. Last night? That was bullshit. I throw better parties than that every fucking week. You could be in that life.’

‘Fine,’ Peterkinney’s saying with a reluctant nod. ‘I’ll do a few jobs for you, see how it goes. Can’t promise anything, but we’ll play it by ear. You know how to get in touch with me, obviously.’

‘Excellent,’ Marty’s saying. Getting up and shaking him by the hand. As Peterkinney’s walking out of the office, Marty’s wondering how the hell that just happened. It was like he had to twist the kid’s arm. In the end, it was like the kid was doing him a favour. Wrong way round, that was. Bloody hell. Got to keep an eye on this kid.

Peterkinney’s out the front door and looking at his watch. Plenty of time to get across to the address his grandfather gave him. Could have two jobs by the end of the day. Two jobs, real money. This could be the start of a little something. A flat of his own. Lounging in the living room, watching the TV he wants to watch. Taking his time in the bathroom, because there’s nobody grumbling outside the door waiting to get in. Privacy. Peace. A leap towards the life he craves. Now he’s smiling.



Peterkinney knows the routine by now. He’s done this four times in the last two and a half months. First time he did a job for Roy Bowles it was nerve-racking. Creeping around, terrified of being caught with a gun on you. Convinced that everyone knew what you were carrying as you returned the gun from the supplier. Not any more. You relax, when you know what’s going to happen. You understand the routine. You understand how little the rest of the world cares about what you’re carrying.

Bowles called him this morning, told him to get round to the house. That’s much easier done now. He’s got himself a little car. Doesn’t have a licence, but he has a car. Cost him four hundred quid. Little blue Peugeot. Peterkinney should get along with it, because they’re not far off being the same age. Mostly held together by bloody-mindedness, but it’s faster than walking, just about. And he’ll get that licence when he has time. No, really, he will. Next thing is a flat of his own. Gathering savings to pay for the essentials he’ll need for that. Then a driving licence. It’s all planned, and the plans are getting bigger.

He’s been a busy boy, these last couple of months. Used to have no job at all. Now he has two. And people say the economy’s circling the drain. Marty keeps him busy. That’s dirty work. Doing shitty collection jobs. Doing them well, but not enjoying it. Gets reasonable money, but smarty Marty’s always trying to screw you. Always trying to persuade you to take anything other than money. Take some girls. Take some drugs. Take anything other than the money you earned. Marty understands the value of cash, understands that nothing matters more. That’s why he hangs on to every damn penny. Peterkinney understands the value of paper money too. Always insists on cash. That’s why he and Marty don’t always get along.

Bowles is different. He has a different sort of business, a different way of handling it. Give your people the money they earn, keep your head down and your mouth shut. His is a business of silence. In many ways, he’s the anti-Marty. Doesn’t make him a good person, mind you. Don’t make that mistake. Does make him dependable. Right now, dependable is attractive. Every job is well paid. Usually about a hundred and fifty quid for a couple of hours of easy work. The money reflects the risk, and buys silence.

Pulling up along the street from the house. Taking precautions, because that’s what common sense tells him to do. Look around, play it careful. Not a lot of people know what Bowles does. He’s smart and careful. But some people know. That makes working for him a risk. The police could find out. They follow you on a job, pick you up after you’ve collected the gun. Automatic jail term. Years inside. You don’t want your name connected with him.

Through the side gate and round to the back garden. Glancing across at the little wooden shed, wondering if there’s a gun in there. That’s where they’re returned, when people are finished with them and don’t want to keep them. See, most people, most professionals, only want a gun for a short time. Then, after using it the one time they want it, they’re stuck with something incriminating. Why chuck it in the river and lose all your investment? It still has value, just not to the person who’s used it. Take it back to Bowles, dropped inside the loose panel on the side of the shed. A few days later, you’ll get some of your money back. Not all of it. Bowles still has to make a living. No charity in this industry, you’ll find. But it becomes a rental fee, rather than a purchase. If you don’t return the gun, Bowles keeps all the money.

Knocking on the back door and waiting. You do not go into his house without permission. You do not go into his shed at all. You do not ever deal with the people he sells to. You do not recommend him to anyone. You do not mention that you’ve ever even heard of the man. Keeping your gob shut is the key to being a good employee. He finds his own clients, develops relationships with them over time. Any verbal element to a job belongs solely to Bowles.

Door’s opening. Bowles looking back at him, nodding for him to come in. This is all familiar. First time Bowles called Peterkinney to come and do a job for him, Peterkinney thought it was going to happen there and then. That’s how it works with Marty. Marty calls you up. Tells you what he wants done. You go and do it straight away. Not Bowles. Bowles always gives him at least a day’s warning, sometimes more. Different business, different set of rules. No set of rules is right or wrong. Frankly, Peterkinney thinks they could each learn something from the other.

They’re into the living room, sitting in familiar seats. Bowles always does it the same way. Every single time, no matter the job. Continuity.

‘There’s a pick-up tomorrow,’ Bowles is saying. Always speaks slowly. Always feels like he thinks you’re an idiot, the way he talks to you. Just his way. Keeps everything slow and simple, making sure there’s never a misunderstanding. Those are very dangerous. More dangerous than talking down to a tough guy. Besides, if he thought Peterkinney was stupid he wouldn’t have him working for him. ‘New fellow, a little twitchy. I’m not convinced by him, but he has good connections. I’m sure he can deliver the piece, but I worry. I want you to be cautious.’

‘Anything specific?’

‘No,’ Bowles is saying, shaking his head. ‘Just a feeling I got from him. I spoke to him on the telephone. He was unconvincing. Granted, as I said, he has the connections. He can get his hands on the piece. I have no doubt of that. He just didn’t sound reliable. I don’t like people who aren’t reliable.’

Peterkinney’s nodding. ‘Where’s the meet?’

‘Tomorrow at two. I have an address. It’s not residential. This is another problem I have with it. It’s an old garage, terribly rough area. Industrial, no housing. I suspect he wants to meet you outside.’

‘In the open?’

‘That’s what he suggested. Said he’d be waiting outside. I doubt this fellow has a key to get in. He’s down on his luck, as they say. As though luck is the reason he’s down. Desperate for the money, so I don’t doubt he’ll be there.’

Bowles researches people. Checks up on anyone he’s going to buy from. Makes sure that they meet his definition of reliable. Not like him to even consider someone he doesn’t fully trust. Having a piece to sell isn’t enough to persuade a man like Bowles. All those years avoiding detection, he won’t take a risk now. Yet this guy doesn’t sound reliable at all. Must have very good contacts. Probably ex-military. A lot of them are. Or maybe someone with connections across the water in Northern Ireland. He’s obviously convinced Bowles that he can deliver something worthwhile.

Bowles has gotten up to go and get the money, which means he has no intention of going into any further detail. If Peterkinney wants to work out why this guy’s unreliable, then it’s up to him to do so. Bowles wouldn’t tell him just because of a feeling, though. That’s not him. Feelings intrude very rarely. He must know something that leaves him so worried. Keeping it to himself, for now.

Back in with the cash. A thick wad of used notes in a small white envelope. Passing it carefully, almost respectfully, to Peterkinney. Watching Peterkinney slip it into the inside pocket of his coat. Always have a pocket with a zip when you come visit Bowles for a job. He’s going to give you money, and he’s going to demand that the money be put in a pocket with a zip. Demanded it on the first visit, made it clear that he expected Peterkinney to remember that demand.

‘His name’s Howard Lawson. Apparently everyone calls him Howie. He’s forty, skinny fellow, rather scraggly. Well, he should be the only one there, so you shouldn’t have trouble picking him out.’ A pause, thinking. ‘Any sign of trouble, get out of there, Oliver. If he’s not alone, leave, immediately. I specifically told him to be alone. He swore he would be. If you hear or see anything untoward, leave immediately. And of course, my name never comes up.’

That’s always the cue to leave. The reminder that his name never makes it into a conversation, even with the person you’re getting the gun from. It’s always the last words he wants in your ears when he sends you out the door.

But the words that came before are what Peterkinney remembers. Warning. But also, trusting. Trusting Peterkinney to make his own judgement on the deal. If he sees anything untoward, he must walk away. Up to him to decide what constitutes untoward. Not just Bowles playing careful, although he always does that. It’s also a sign of trust. He considers Peterkinney smart enough to handle this job, to make this judgement.

Peterkinney’s in his car. He’ll go back to the flat first, stash the money. Would be nice to find out a little more about this Howie Lawson before he does the job tomorrow. No chance. Peterkinney doesn’t know enough people in the business that he could ask. Not yet. Only been involved for a couple of months, mind you. He’s learning fast and learning well. He has a few contacts of his own already, and he’s picking up more as he goes along. He has the intelligence, and he has the attitude.

Would be nice to hang out with Glass for a while, but what’s the point? He’ll be with little Ella Fowler. Always with Ella these days. Living the life, is what Alex calls it. She practically lives with him now. Going out to parties all the time. She works a lot of parties. Glass goes along and has fun, apparently. Peterkinney still hasn’t gotten his head round that. She’s a very sweet girl, in a girly sort of a way. But she does get on his fucking nerves. All sweetness and light, giggles and mumbles. Glass has fallen for her big time. Fair enough, she’s pretty, and she’s obviously into him. Or some idea of him. A hooker and a jobless thug, trying to play happy families. Trying to pretend that they’ve got something unique going on. That’s what gets on Peterkinney’s nerves. They can’t see how hard you have to work to get anything good in this business. He sees it. He’s doing it.

Fine. Let her take Glass to her parties. Let them get hammered every night. Let them wallow in their childish idea of a loving relationship. Whatever keeps them happy. Not like he doesn’t have other things to be getting along with now. Marty’s given Glass a few jobs, but it’s real garbage stuff, and it’s only now and again. He always has something for Peterkinney, as long as Peterkinney’s willing. Today, he is.


Last night was a good night. Lots of drink. Some coke that was given out free. Got home about two. Ella got back around six. Glass doesn’t know where she went. Hasn’t asked. Won’t ask. She makes more money than he does. She seems to like it. She seems happy with her life. He isn’t going to do anything to rock that boat. Why would he? This is what he wanted. What he always thought was the perfect life. Parties most nights. Drinking every night. Out with his girl. A pretty girl. A girl who loves him back. That’s what it’s all about.

Been like this for a couple of months. Honestly, he’s pretty exhausted. And it ain’t cheap. All the drink, all the drugs. That costs money. Sure, some parties have freebies. The big parties. Most don’t. It’s an expensive life. Money he doesn’t have, going up his nose or down the toilet. Wouldn’t be a problem if he could get more work from Marty. Marty isn’t helping him out as much as he should.

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
10.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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