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Authors: Malcolm Mackay

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

The Night the Rich Men Burned (37 page)

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
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Glass is shaking his head. ‘No. She never would have. Never did. Home was separate. Home was home.’

Ella never took men back to the flat. Not once. It was the place of safety that she clung to. Meant so much to her. She put so much into that flat. Little poky place, didn’t deserve someone like her to take so much care of it. Mattered to her though. Proof that she could have normality. Safety. Something nice and neat that she was responsible for. Something grown up.

There’s another period of silence. Arnie has to change this. Ella is dead. The girl is gone. They both know who’s responsible. Who’s almost certainly responsible. They need to get out of here. The hospital is just a reminder of death. Even this private room, that tries to be so nice. That tries to be so reassuring. It isn’t. It’s just death in nicer packaging.

‘Come on. Let’s go back to my flat. It’s late, you need to get some sleep,’ Arnie is saying. ‘There’s nothing we can do here.’ Get him home. Get him sleeping. Emotions will be less bloody and raw in the morning. There will be a better chance to sort this out.

Arnie’s given his address to the girl at the accident and emergency reception desk. If the police want to get in touch, they’ll know where to find them. Arnie’s driving them home. Going in silence. Glass doesn’t want to talk. Arnie doesn’t know what to say. Leading Glass up to the flat. Patting him on the shoulder and saying goodnight. That’s all they’ve said. Goodnight. Glass disappearing into Peterkinney’s old bedroom to try and sleep.

Arnie still has the car keys in his hand. Bouncing them up and down in his palm. Thinking about giving them back to his neighbour. He’s spent ten minutes standing in the corridor. Listening at Glass’s bedroom door. No sound from in there. He might be sleeping. Hopefully. A glance at his watch. Half an hour. That’s all it would take. Get there, ask a few questions, get back before Glass realizes he’s gone. Take the chance. He has to know. That’s why he’s sneaking out of his own flat. Pulling the front door shut behind him as softly as possible and jogging to the car.

6

Marty still hasn’t left the office. Third office he’s been in today, mind you, so technically he’s left two already. But he’s still there. Still working. Trying to figure out how the hell the Allen brothers, who are still just cousins incidentally, managed to pull off some major deal that has them selling all over the city now. Marty knows a little about the brothers. Used to know Charlie Allen a little bit. Charlie came to a few parties.

They were small. They were smart and tough, but they stuck to their own patch and they knew how to avoid pissing off big people. Marty heard stories about them looking for new suppliers back in the past. That was a legit story. They had a falling out with Alex MacArthur over one of his muscle owing them money, something like that. So it makes sense to Marty that they would have changed supplier.

What doesn’t make sense is them suddenly having enough gear and enough backing to expand rapidly. Angus Lafferty is pissed off about it. You can bet the hair on your head, if you have any to gamble, that in a jail cell somewhere Peter Jamieson is pissed off about it too. Someone thinks they can force their way in, and they’re using Ian and Charlie Allen to do it. That’s got Angus worked up. Got him looking for answers. Got everyone in the group that runs the organization trying to find out the truth behind it. And they will. Marty’s sure of it, because this group is good. By spreading their talent like this, they’re getting results. And he loves being a part of it. Loves it. Loves what he’s going to do next.

Out of the office, at last. Standing on the street for a few seconds, breathing in some sort of fresh air. Into his car and driving. Doesn’t have a driver of his own. Not permanently. Uses one now and again, when he needs it. Doesn’t need it tonight. Doesn’t want it. This is going to be a private meeting, and he doesn’t want anyone knowing about it. Not even a driver.

Nice street, nice area. Better than Marty’s living in right now. He could afford to move up in the world. Not a question of cash. Question of time. Hasn’t had the opportunity to look around at new houses, pick a bigger place. He should. All part of the image. Lets people see that he’s more successful, moving up in the world. Also lets the other guys running the organization see that he’s moving up. That’s important too. Always that need to prove that he’s one of them. To prove that he’s a senior man. And when he does move up, it’ll be to somewhere like this. The sort of street that Potty Cruickshank lives on.

He’s parked outside, getting casually out. Looking up at Potty’s house. Potty will be back from his meeting with MacArthur. Will have had a few hours to think about it. Potty’s a thinker. He’ll have worked out every angle of his position. He must know that he needs protection. He must know that he needs to make a deal with someone. He must know that he’s fast running out of options. His own men will be getting nervy about how exposed he is amongst the turmoil.

MacArthur probably wouldn’t have taken the deal anyway. He’s not in a position to do anything that might lead to trouble externally. He has way too much going on trying to keep possession of his throne from his own young pretenders. But there was a risk he would have seen this as flexing whatever muscles he has left. That’s why it was reassuring to see Buller turn up and spill the beans. Reassuring that all the work he did setting up the meeting with Buller paid off. More reassuring still that Marty’s judgement on MacArthur’s situation turned out to be correct.

Up the front path and ringing the doorbell. He knows what the initial reaction is going to be. He knows that Potty won’t be happy to see him. Might be nervous, scared about it. But Marty’s very deliberately on his own. Unarmed. Coming to Potty’s house, so it’s a location Potty can feel comfortable with.

Takes a little while before the hall light comes on and the door opens. Potty looking back at him, frowning. Glaring at him for a few seconds before he recognizes Marty. The look moves from frustration to worry. His eyebrows are raised. He’s opened his mouth, but nothing’s come out. Too busy looking past Marty, trying to see if there’s anyone with him.

‘Hello, Ronald,’ Marty’s saying to him. ‘Can I come in? I think you and I need to have a grown-up, man-to-man chat about the way things are going.’

You can almost see the wheels turning. Potty standing there, thinking it through. Nodding his head slowly. Doesn’t matter where this goes, but he can’t leave Marty standing outside. Has to invite him in.

They’re in the living room now. Potty in his usual seat, Marty sitting opposite him. Potty offered a cup of tea or something stronger. Marty made a point of refusing any alcohol, pointing out that he has to drive himself home. Letting Potty know that there’s nobody outside. Just the two of them. Marty’s making a point of not looking around at the living room. A feminine room. Must have been his ex-wife who picked out everything in here. Just seems ludicrous with Potty living here alone now.

‘I want to talk about you and me getting together. Working out a little deal that I think can make life easier for both of us.’

‘Well, of course I’m interested in anything that may benefit us, Marty,’ Potty’s saying, ‘but you’ll have to furnish me with more detail than that.’ Sounding like he’s humouring Marty. Going for a superior tone he wouldn’t have dared use to Alex MacArthur.

‘Well, of course,’ Marty is saying. Not saying it in a sarcastic tone, but it might just be sarcastic. ‘You and I have common enemies,’ Marty’s saying. ‘We have common solutions. You’re a smart man. You know how things are changing right now. You and I together could be strong. That’s what you need. It’s what I need. It’s what my organization wants. We want strong people on board with us.’

‘On board?’ Potty’s saying. Letting his enthusiasm for that suggestion get the better of his silence.

‘On board,’ Marty’s saying. Knowing now that he has the fat fish halfway into the boat. Only has to clobber him over the head to seal the deal. ‘See, my role has changed. I need to bring as much money to the table as possible. I have other ways of doing that. Collection is tough work, better suited to a specialist. I’m spread too thin. I can bring more money into the organization if I get you on board. You take over my books. I step out, and the organization takes a third of your profits. I’ll be working on other things that you don’t need to concern yourself with. There won’t be overlap. You can expand your business, make more money than you are now and have the protection of the organization.’

It’s a good offer. It’s as good an offer as Potty could possibly hope for. A third of his profits is a little more than he’d like, but, Jesus, he’d have given a strong MacArthur 40 per cent. It’s not unreasonable for Marty to demand it. The upper end of reasonable, given that profits will surely increase. With Marty’s books merged into his, that covers much of the 30 per cent. Marty’s books are smaller than Potty’s but they’re not thin. And with the backing of the Jamieson organization. Now, there’s the risk. It’s not the Jamieson organization as long as Jamieson’s rotting in a cell. He’ll be sitting in that cell for another year and a half, minimum. The leadership is ragtag. Only takes one falling-out and all the protection his 30 per cent is supposed to buy him falls apart. So there is a gamble. But the gamble of no deal is bigger.

‘I would be open to the suggestion,’ Potty is saying. ‘I’ll want to see the small print, obviously, but I’m certainly willing to discuss this further. One question, Marty: these common enemies. I presume you have a solution in mind?’

Not hard to understand why Potty’s concerned. It’s easy for people to promise solutions to your problems when they’re trying to get you to do a deal. You do the deal, and suddenly the promises are forgotten. Happened to other people before. Marty promises that the big organization he’s a part of will take care of these problems. Once Potty’s on board, they’re Potty’s problems. Marty’s off dealing with other things.

‘Oh, I do. Billy Patterson is the first one I’m going to deal with. I think that would benefit us both. I’m actually going to deal with him tomorrow night. You know what, might be a good idea for you to be there. The first step of bringing you in. You interested?’

‘Absolutely,’ Potty’s saying, because he can’t say no. Wishes he could, but he can’t. Marty wants him to be there for good reasons. If they’re going to do something serious with Patterson, Marty wants Potty to see it. Wants the commitment that being there shows. Make Potty as culpable as Marty. It’s a reasonable thing to demand. Besides, much as Potty is repulsed by the idea of watching Marty do dirty work, it might be nice to bear witness to Patterson’s ending.

‘Good,’ Marty’s saying. ‘I’ve got Patterson to agree to come meet me in an old pub Kevin Currie just bought. I’ll send you some details in the morning. Agreements, that sort of thing. The pub’s on the south side, I’ll send you the address. Come alone, of course.’

‘Of course.’

A few minutes of small talk. Now Marty’s leaving the house. A shake of hands on the doorstep. Potty seemed happy, seemed enthusiastic about the agreement. Marty’s into the car, got another visit to make. A long-arranged meeting with Kevin Currie. Chance to kill a few birds with one stone here. Needs to get a set of keys for that old pub Currie bought. Going to tart it up and run money through it. But Marty has a little plan for it first. Going to need a few people to come help him make that plan work, as well. Lots of calls to make.

They’ll be fun calls to make, though. Nobody ignores his calls any more. Nobody ever sounds reluctant when he puts an idea to them. It’s a funny thing. He’s pretty sure that most of his ideas are no better now than they were six months ago. How could they be? He’s learned a lot in the last six months, but not so much that he’s suddenly a strategic genius. No, people just respect him now.

He’s pulling up outside one of Kevin Currie’s offices. Currie’s a senior man. Always brought a lot of money into the organization through booze and fags. Rips off the taxman no end, and the organization makes a good profit on it. Not just booze and fags though. That’s the thing. People think that’s all he does because in the old days that’s how he started. That was all he needed back then. It made him rich. But now he has a good grip of every aspect of the counterfeit industry.

Into the office; Currie and a couple of others already in there. Marty the last to arrive, but not late. Nodding hellos, and stepping to the side of the room to talk to Currie with a little privacy. The other two guys work for Currie, and if he wants to share these details with them then he can go right ahead. But you don’t risk blurting out details in front of people who may not be very important.

Currie is quite happy for Marty to use the pub. Telling him where he can get the keys whenever he wants them. One of Currie’s men has a duplicate set he can use. Asking hardly any questions about it. That’s another big change. Used to be a man like Currie would have swamped Marty with his suspicions. Not now. Now there’s trust.

‘I’ll be using it for a job, Kevin. What we discussed at the last meeting. Cleaning up the collection business.’

‘Ah,’ is the response. A slight pause, but only slight. ‘You have the men you need to get it done?’ And that’s all he’s asking. Not demanding more detail. Not suggesting that Marty isn’t senior enough to pull this job without one of them there to oversee. Just offering his own men to help.

‘I’m fine. It’s all set up, ready for tomorrow night. Should be clean. Should be simple.’

The two of them rejoining the group, and going through the business of the week that needs to be discussed. This is just a small meeting. Currie and Marty the only two senior men. There’s a business opportunity Currie wants to pursue that he thinks Marty can help him with. That’s why it’s just the two of them, and Currie’s men. Talk of money. Talk of putting pressure on people. The talk of senior men.

7

Arnie knows the address, but doesn’t know the area. He’s driving round for the best part of twenty minutes before he finds the right street. A nice little area. Sort of place Arnie’s never lived a day of his life. And it hurts a little. His own grandson. He should be proud of this, not ashamed. Driving into this area that was always above him. Going to see his own grandson, his own flesh and blood. That’s a thing that decent people get to be proud of. Maybe Arnie isn’t a decent person. Maybe this is his punishment for never being quite good enough.

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
8.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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