Read The Night the Rich Men Burned Online

Authors: Malcolm Mackay

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

The Night the Rich Men Burned (3 page)

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
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They’ve reached the bottom of the street, round the corner. A little relief. They’re out of view of the scene of the crime. Walking faster, almost jogging. Anyone looks out a window and they see two guilty-looking young men running past. The kind of guilty young men you remember. Maybe mention to the police if they knock on your door looking for information.

‘We did it though,’ Glass is saying. ‘We fucking did it.’

‘Yeah,’ Peterkinney’s nodding, and he’s smiling despite himself. ‘We fucking did.’


He’s tired. They say you shouldn’t drive when you’re tired. He’s driving, and driving carefully. Got the call twenty minutes ago. Doesn’t know why the hell he’s bothering. Petty games, and they’ve lost this round. So what, just win the next one and move on. But Patterson insisted. Get round there, talk to the man. Try to keep him onside. So Alan Bavidge is nearly there. Nearly ready for his conversation with Jim Holmes. Nearly caring about it. But not quite.

He’s pulling into the street and already there’s a problem. There are people around Holmes’s front door. Must be four or five of them, standing on the patch of grass that serves as a front garden. Neighbours, probably. Some of them are still in pyjamas. Nosey bastards. Get a little dignity, for God’s sake. Semi-detached houses in batches of two, tightly packed along either side of the street. A mix of former and current council housing, he’s guessing. Bavidge is stopping the car at the side of the road. Switching the lights off. None of the neighbours have clocked him yet. He’s waiting. Hoping they’ll bugger off back home before he goes in. An unknown guy in his late twenties at the scene of the crime will instantly become a suspect.

One of the neighbours has turned round and is staring at the car. A middle-aged man, glaring right at him. Turning and saying something to the group, proud to be breaking news. Now they’re all looking at him and murmuring. A broad woman in her mid-thirties pushing her way past them. Norah Faulkner. Holmes’s girlfriend. Not the sort of woman you marry. Not if you can help it. A tough one, her. At least as tough as her man. Kind of woman you might have thought would do a better job keeping Holmes out of trouble. Bavidge knows who she is; she doesn’t know who he is. With another sigh, he’s getting out of the car.

Across the patch of grass and walking towards her. Making a noticeable effort at ignoring the gawkers. Nodding, and hoping she’s bright enough to let him speak before she gets abusive.

‘Norah? I’m Alan, you were told to expect me.’ Speaking as quietly as possible. Trying to keep this between the two of them.

She’s nodding now. Still scowling, but nodding. ‘Come in.’ She’s turning and walking back to the door. Stopping suddenly enough that Bavidge almost crashes into the back of her. Turning to her neighbours. ‘All right, you had your wee nose about, now piss off.’ Some of them are shaking their heads, giving her looks, but not one of them will disobey. She’s coarse, and they’re all just a little bit scared of her. Sure, they all want her arguing their case when the housing association routinely lets them down on repairs. But even when she’s on your side, you’re scared of her. They’re all turning and walking back to their houses.

Norah’s inside, holding the door for Bavidge. Once he’s inside, she’s trying to push it shut. Isn’t working. Won’t hold shut, just leans open of its own accord. The top hinge is damaged, Bavidge can see.

‘Buggers managed to smash this in the process,’ she’s saying redundantly.

Bavidge doesn’t care about the door. If his boss is serious about Holmes, then Bavidge will send someone round in the morning to put a new door in. He’s concerned about what he’s not seeing. He’s not seeing Holmes. She told his boss, Billy Patterson, that Holmes was unconscious at the bottom of the stairs. There’s nothing at the bottom of the stairs. Just a wet patch where Norah’s been trying to wipe blood off her plain fitted carpet.

‘Through here,’ she’s saying. She has a more feminine voice than he expected. Especially now that she’s calmed down. A broad face on broad shoulders, a hard look about her. No soft edges that Bavidge will ever see. But they’re there. She cares about Holmes, and she looks after him. This is a better life than most people in Holmes’s profession get to live. She’s leading Bavidge into the living room.

Holmes is sitting on the floor, back against the black leather couch. He’s tilting his head back, holding something to his nose that used to be white and is now red. He’s still in his boxer shorts. He’s looking at Bavidge. A glare. They’ve never met. Bavidge can only hope his reputation goes before him. When it does, it buys him all the respect he needs.

‘I’m Alan Bavidge,’ he’s saying. ‘Billy sent me round.’

‘Uh-huh,’ Holmes is saying. Turning and staring back up at the ceiling, more interested in what’s pouring from his nose.

‘Who was it?’ Bavidge is asking. Not here for polite conversation. Not here to make a new chum. Get this over and get out.

Holmes went to Patterson. Ran to him when Marty Jones found out he was skimming money off his collections. Wanted protection from Billy. Offered himself as an employee in exchange. It was a hell of a job application. I want to work for you because you can protect me from my old boss. By the way, my old boss hates me because I ripped him off. Yeah, that’ll get you through the door. But Holmes did get through the door. Not because he offered to work for Patterson. He got through because everyone knows he worked for Marty. He was one of Marty’s boys for a few years. Throwing his weight around, trying to make a name for himself. Suddenly he starts working for Patterson, and people think Patterson is taking employees away from Marty. A cheap way of making a rival look vulnerable. So Patterson took him on. Just wasn’t able to offer him protection in time.

‘Them,’ Holmes is mumbling. ‘There was two of them.’

‘Who?’ There’s impatience in Bavidge’s voice now. Doesn’t care if Holmes hears it. Holmes is a thug. The sort of guy who goes round picking fights with drug addicts and hopeless cases. That’s the difference between a tough guy like Holmes and a tough guy like Bavidge. The reason Bavidge has a reputation and Holmes doesn’t. The standard of person they have to intimidate.

‘Kids. I don’t know who they were. Kids, working for Marty. Some shitty little bastards he picked up from somewhere. I can handle them.’

‘Uh-huh,’ Bavidge is saying now.

Holmes doesn’t want to talk about it. Probably wouldn’t have told Patterson at all if it wasn’t for Norah. Doesn’t want to admit that he got battered by a couple of kids. The big bad bastard, bloodied and beaten. It wounds his pride. A lot of thugs live off their pride because they have nothing else. Proud and stupid. He’s a hell of a new employee to have on board. There’s a few seconds of silence, before Norah decides to stamp on it.

‘Smashed their way in through the front door. The
door. Jim challenged them. One of them came up the stairs, got into a fight with him. Threw Jim down the stairs. Top to bottom. Then they started laying into him. Vicious, like animals.’

Holmes is glaring across at her, saying nothing. He doesn’t want her causing trouble. He knows the position he’s in. Screwed over one boss, already bothering another. Patterson doesn’t need to stand by Holmes. Could just as easy leave him out in the rain. Holmes needs to be useful, and this isn’t a good start.

Bavidge is looking round at Norah. Surprised by her disgust at the violence of the kids. She knows what her man does for a living. She’s not daft. She must know that Holmes behaves like those very same animals on a near daily basis. The only talent he’s known to have. Yet she seems repulsed by them.

‘Billy Patterson said he would protect us,’ Norah is saying. ‘Said we’d be looked after. Well, a fine fucking job he did of that, uh? Where were you?’

‘Norah,’ Holmes is saying loudly, then groaning and tipping his head back again.

‘Well, where were you? Where were you when Jim was bouncing down the stairs? When I was confronted by those kids in my dressing gown? They could have killed us. We could be dead now. What sort of protection is that?’

Bavidge is waiting a second. Let her vent. Let her have her moment, she’s not at fault here. Then tell her the truth. ‘You will get protection. What you won’t get is a fucking babysitter. You’re not important enough. You’re not in enough danger. You got to earn that sort of protection. All your man has done for us so far is wake me up. When he’s done something more useful, you’ll get more in return from us. Until then, the best we can do is make sure there’s punishment. Did either of you see them?’

Holmes knows enough about the business to know that Bavidge is close to Patterson. Not just some muscle, but a senior man. Right-hand man, maybe. You piss off Bavidge and you piss off Patterson. That’s the way it works. Tell him what he wants to know.

‘I saw them. Couple of kids,’ Holmes is saying quietly. ‘They didn’t even cover their faces. No weapon. Didn’t even have a car, Norah reckons.’

Norah’s nodding. ‘They walked to the bottom of the street. If they had a car, it was round the corner.’ She’s talking quietly now too. Catching Holmes’s mood. Bavidge’s authority has subdued them both.

‘Couple of first-timers, I reckon,’ Holmes is saying. ‘One of them was tall, over six feet. Skinny-looking, sort of light-brown, blond hair. Looked about twelve in the face, but he’d be a teenager, early twenties. That’s the one that threw me down the stairs. Other one was shorter, darker hair. Never seen either of them before. They weren’t working for Marty a week ago, I know that. Probably not in the business. New blood.’

Bavidge is nodding. It’s as much of a description as Holmes can give. Seems like he spent most of their visit rolling down the stairs. Should be grateful he can manage this much. Just need to find a couple of kids that have recently started working for Marty. Not impossible, but he does hire and fire a lot. All the kids go to him first. He has the recruitment tool of throwing parties with whores and drugs. It works.

‘You going to be okay?’ he’s asking Holmes.

Holmes is nodding very slowly. ‘Don’t think anything’s broken. Nose is burst. Sore guts. That’s where they kicked me. I’ll live.’

Bavidge is nodding. He hates these situations. People looking to him for leadership, just because he’s close to the boss. He’s not a leader. Doesn’t want to be, anyway. ‘We’ll find out who it was. We’ll do something about it. Billy will be in touch soon about work. We’ll try and sort this out so that Marty isn’t a problem any more.’

A grunt from Holmes, nothing from his woman. Bavidge is leaving the house, happy to get out. One of those disgruntled neighbours might have phoned the police the minute they got back in the house. Doubtful. Wouldn’t risk the wrath of Norah Faulkner. Just glad to be out of that atmosphere of stupidity and entitlement. Back into the car and driving away.

There’s a feeling he gets. Like a weight, pushing him down. Like it’s all basically pointless, and it’s all going to end badly anyway.


Out the front it’s all locked up. You wouldn’t think a soul was alive in the place. Glass is starting to have his doubts. The Heavenly nightclub. A large front entrance, shabby trying to look grand. Its dim name in lights. Glass and Peterkinney are walking past. They were told to go in a side door by Marty. They were told that side door would be open. Glass is leading the way round the corner and onto a narrow street where the side door is waiting. Hopefully unlocked.

‘Hey,’ Peterkinney’s saying. ‘Take off that jumper; we’ll put them in the bin there. Come on.’

Glass is staring at him, watching Peterkinney pull his sweater over his head. ‘Chuck them? The hell would I chuck this for? Cost me forty quid, this. It’s a good top.’

‘People saw us. We were wearing these tops. The police will be looking for them. It’s what people will remember about us. We need to get rid of them. If we go in there wearing the same clothes we used at the scene of a crime, what’s Marty going to say? Us leading the police right to him?’

Glass is nodding. He suspects, wrongly, that Marty wouldn’t say a word. Wouldn’t much care. He suspects that if it didn’t occur to him, it wouldn’t occur to Marty. But it’s a good point, so he’s looking around to make sure no one can see him, and he’s taking the top off. Something else to mention to Marty. How they sacrificed decent clothing to do a decent job. That might impress. Might even get them a little more money. Now that is naive.

Peterkinney was wearing a dark-green shirt underneath his top. Glass was wearing a black T-shirt, which is hardly appropriate attire for the company they hope to keep tonight. If Marty has a problem with it he’ll just have to find a spare shirt. He was the one who sent them on the job. Promised them an invite to the private party in the club as a reward for a job well done. The job was done and done well. Now the reward.

Once the tops are stuffed into the black wheelie bin on the street, Peterkinney’s dropping back. Let Glass lead the way. He’s the one that this matters to. He knows Marty, or thinks he does. He’s the one with dreams of working for the man. Glass is pushing open the side door, stopping and turning as it opens. Looking at Peterkinney with a smile. They can both hear the music. Not too loud, but a thumping background beat. The welcoming sound of a waiting party.

‘You hear that,’ Glass is saying. ‘That’s our reward, man, that’s what it was all for.’ Giddy excitement in his voice. The reward he’s always imagined but never seen.

Glass is walking in. Standing in the corridor as Peterkinney pulls the door shut behind them. Glass is itching to get to the party, but business first. Doesn’t matter how good the reward is, business first. Glass is leading the way along the corridor, clapping his hands together. All kinds of adrenalin at work. Peterkinney behind him, sauntering along with hands in pockets. No need to feel giddy when it’s not your ambition being realized.

Glass stopping outside the door of the manager’s office. Knocking twice. Thinking there’s no guarantee that Marty will be in there. He might be on the dance floor like any sensible person. Peterkinney is guessing different. This won’t be a party to Marty. This will be work, and work will keep him in the office.

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
8.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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