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Authors: Malcolm Mackay

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

The Night the Rich Men Burned (4 page)

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
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‘In.’ A loud shout, making itself heard over the music.

Glass opens the door, steps inside. It’s a small office. A grotty little place, in fact. It was painted once, but only once. There are scuff marks on the wall, little blobs of Blu-tac that once held up posters. At a glance, Peterkinney can see little holes where something was once screwed into the wall. Probably a shelf that was removed for daring to take up so much space in this dingy little office.

A small desk under a small window, facing the door. Adam Jones is sitting behind the desk, staring back at them. Manager of the club, twin brother of Marty. He lacks Marty’s charisma, Marty’s ability to spot a good opportunity. Adam ain’t dumb, he just ain’t Marty. Marty, prone though he is to occasional misguided outbursts of ambition and emotion, is sharp. Not well educated. Not book smart. Just the kind of sharp you have to be to make it in this business. This revenge attack on Holmes would fall into the emotional category.

Marty’s sitting on the only other chair in the room, to the right of his brother’s desk. There’s a relaxed smile on his face that his brother hasn’t thought to replicate. Sharp, you see. Pretending that all is well and nothing can ever go wrong. It spreads confidence to these kids. The smile is false. Three girls didn’t turn up for the party, which has left him short-staffed. This Holmes thing has the potential to be trouble if Billy Patterson can show off that he’s gotten the better of Marty. There’s a lot to hide behind that cocky grin.

‘Fellows,’ Marty’s saying, looking to disguise the fact that he can’t remember their names. So many young men come and go. You use them; you throw them away when you’re done. Bad idea to keep them on too long. Not unless they’re specialists. You keep muscle because you need men that have a reputation to do your collecting. Kids like these, doing menial stuff? Nah. Use them once or twice, then chuck them before they get complacent. Bring in the next bunch of enthusiastic young whelps that’ll do whatever you demand of them. Gratitude gives you an opportunity to exploit. It can be the difference between profit and loss.

‘So how did it go?’ The smile on Marty’s face suggests he already knows. Both of them have walked back in here without a scratch and the short one’s smiling proudly. They could walk in without a scratch if they hadn’t bothered doing the job, but there would be no smiles. Not unless they were good actors, and Marty’s seen too many of them over the years to be fooled.

‘Went well, Marty,’ Glass is saying, and wondering if he should call him Mr Jones. But there’s two Mr Joneses in the room. Better to differentiate. ‘He was at the house, like you said. We had to smash the door to get in, but we got in. Then we delivered the message.’ Saying it with an enthusiastic nod. Trying to sound casually tough.

Marty seems pleased, but there’s more he needs to know. You hang around with big players like Peter Jamieson and you learn that detail is king. Marty doesn’t know that Glass has skimped on the detail because he’d be embarrassed to tell about Holmes being in his boxers. Doesn’t seem like a fair fight, when you tell the story that way. Almost makes Holmes sound harmless. Like he was the victim here. Marty doesn’t care. Wouldn’t care if Holmes was chained upside down to a wall when they got there, naked as the day he was born. He wants to know that the message was properly delivered.

‘Tell me what happened. Details, boys, details.’ Marty’s sitting back in his chair, looking up at them with that plastic grin. His brother looks depressed, but that seems to be a default setting. The look of the spare wheel.

‘We had to smash the door in, like I said,’ Glass is saying with a nod. ‘Searched downstairs but he wasn’t there. Then he came to the top of the stairs. Oliver went up the stairs. Holmes threw himself at Oliver, Oliver dodged. Holmes fell over. Oliver kicked him down the stairs. Bounced right down. We gave him a couple of kicks at the bottom. Told him it was from you. Made sure he knew that we were delivering your message, Marty. He knows. He won’t forget.’

Marty’s nodding. Sounds like it went well. According to the general plan, anyway. They’re probably putting some gloss on it, but they’re entitled. ‘Anyone see you?’

Glass is shrugging. ‘Holmes, maybe his wife.’

‘Girlfriend,’ Marty’s interrupting.

‘Girlfriend, yeah. Don’t think anyone else did. No one else in the house, no one out on the street when we left. We ditched the tops we were wearing as well, so . . .’ he’s saying, trailing off.

Marty’s nodding. All sounds good. Sounds like they took the right precautions. He’s assuming they wore balaclavas, because common sense says they did. He’s assuming they drove away from the scene, common sense tripping him up and laughing behind his back again. If nobody outside of the Holmes house saw them, they’ll be fine. Nobody inside the house is going to get the police involved.

‘Sounds like you did well,’ Marty’s saying. ‘Why don’t you both go out there and enjoy the party. It’s a good one.’ A pause, thinking of a little test. Play games with the dumb kids. ‘What do you think of the club?’ His brother’s giving him a dirty look. Adam knows what Marty thinks of the club, and it’s not an opinion he would put on a poster.

‘It’s great Marty, yeah,’ Glass is saying quickly. ‘Great club, great party, can’t wait.’

Marty’s nodding, still smiling the patented Marty smile. ‘What about you, Silent Bob?’ he’s asking Peterkinney. ‘What do you think of this place?’

Peterkinney, standing slightly behind Glass, is shrugging. ‘Club’s a bit of a dive,’ he’s saying. Quietly but casually, knowing he’s right and not seeing why anyone would have a problem with his opinion. He’s not important enough to care about, not wrong enough to argue with. Not here to suck up to this pair. ‘Party should be good though. Location doesn’t matter if the party’s good.’

Adam Jones is frowning from behind his desk, shaking his head slightly. Who wants to hear that casual insult, even if you’ve heard it many times before? That’s nothing compared to Glass. He’s turned right round on the spot and is glaring at Peterkinney. If he gets them thrown out, by God, he won’t be responsible. He won’t. Peterkinney’s this close to blowing it.

The only person not frowning is Marty. He’s laughing. ‘Brilliant. This place is a shithole. Everyone knows that much. But you’re right; the party is the main thing. People don’t give a shit about location if the girls are good, the music’s loud and the coke is free. Overwhelm the senses, obliterate reality,’ he’s saying, sounding like he’s said that before and is proud of it. There’s a pause as Marty looks at the two of them. Judging them both. He fancies himself a good judge of people. One of his many skills. The shorter one at the front, so eager to please. He’s the desperate one, trying to get into the business. A head full of dreams and nothing else. The one at the back is different. Yeah, the taller one is the sort of person you might just keep around. He doesn’t care if he’s a part of it or not. Having a little fun, seeing what happens. Honest, tough, willing to offend. Knocked Holmes down the stairs, then came here and insulted the club. ‘What’s your name, kid?’ Marty’s asking.

‘Oliver Peterkinney.’

Marty’s giving him a look. A what-the-hell-sort-of-name-is-that-for-a-Glaswegian look. He’s not saying it though. ‘Okay. Good. You two go enjoy the party. When I have another job for either of you, I’ll be in touch.’

As soon as they’re out in the corridor and the door’s shut behind them, Glass is turning on Peterkinney. He’s started to talk, but stopped, realizing how loud his voice was. They’re moving up the corridor, away from the office. Towards the door that leads out to the main entrance. One left turn from the dance floor. The music’s getting louder. They can feel the little thumps in the soles of their feet as they walk towards the door. That’s relaxing Glass, but not enough.

‘What the hell was that? You want to get us chucked out of here?’

‘For what? For telling him what he already knows? They want you to be honest. Surely you know that. How many arse-lickers does a guy like Marty Jones see every day? And I ain’t just talking about the hookers he employs.’ Saying it with a smile, cutting the anger from the conversation.

Glass is rolling his shoulders. It’s a thing he does when he knows he’s lost an argument but wants to pretend it’s ended inconclusively. It would look like a dismissive shrug, if it wasn’t so self-aware.

Out into the corridor at the front door. The doors to the dance floor are shut, just in case someone presses their nose to the glass of the front door and looks in. Big heavy things, Glass leaning against one to push it open. Both of them stepping through and stopping. Must be fifty people in the club. About half of them are men in suits, the other half are all young women. Everyone looks like they’re enjoying themselves, but only the women are making an effort. The men are playing, the women are working. Some of the people are on the dance floor. The rest are sitting round large tables on the right-hand side of the room. The VIP area. Glass and Peterkinney look at each other with a smile, and head for the tables.

4

There are a few different kinds of people who end up in the money business. Moneylending, debt collection, that sort of thing. There are people like Marty Jones. Marty does it because he can. It’s a way of making money, but it’s not the only way he has. He’s the consummate opportunist. He found his way into the criminal industry with women. A pimp, not to put too fine a point on it. Since then, he’s always been on the lookout for a good opportunity. Raising more money, raising his profile. And he got into money because it was a chance at fast cash. Wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t have the protection of Peter Jamieson. The boss of one of the biggest criminal organizations in the city. With his protection, Marty’s taking his chance to elbow into the collection business.

For Marty it’s just another string to the bow. Something he’ll do while he can make easy money from it. When the going gets tough, Marty will shrug and walk away. Money’s only good for him if it’s easy. For someone like Billy Patterson, it’s an ambition. He’ll tough it out, no matter the threats. Surround himself with people like Alan Bavidge. Go out there and specifically target the debt business. Billy wants to build something that’ll last. This isn’t just a short-term moneymaker; he’s in it for the long haul. Focused only on the money business, all day every day.

Then there’s the third kind. Not a short-term money-grabber, not an aggressive grower of his business. The kind who’ve always been around. The lifers. People like Ronald ‘Potty’ Cruickshank. He’s actually only forty-eight, but he looks older. A big unit, fat and broad. Bald on top, and recognizable. Everyone knows Potty. Everyone knew his uncle Rolly. Had the same proper name as Potty, and Potty followed him everywhere. Rolly is still remembered to this day as one of the biggest bastards to walk the streets of Glasgow. A memory he earned.

Rolly set up the debt collection business back in the late sixties. He was lawless. Had no concept of the rule of law. Seemed to genuinely assume that it didn’t apply to him. Treated people like seven colours of shit. Except for Potty. He loved his little nephew. The boy was always hanging around the offices. Worshipped his uncle. Learned everything he knows from him, which is the problem.

Potty was working for the family business from the age of fourteen. When big fat Rolly dropped dead of the world’s most predictable heart attack, young fat Potty just kept on running the business. Did everything exactly the same way his uncle had. Kept things rolling along. But times have changed. The market isn’t the same as it was in the sixties and seventies. More competition, for a start. More awkward police. But there’s always a market. There will always be a market for money.

So Potty goes through life looking to hold on to what he’s got. Always strictly following the rules his uncle laid down. No lending. You don’t give money away; you just go and collect it. Always know your employees. You don’t have to like them, don’t have to treat them well, but you do have to pay them properly. If they’re getting a decent share of the money they see, you won’t have a problem with them. And protect your reputation. It’s the single most important thing you have. Nothing matters more when persuading a person to hand over money. You lose your reputation, you lose your business.

Protecting reputation isn’t just about keeping up the standard of the work you do. It’s also about making sure that nobody else grows to challenge you. People will accept your standards are the best if they have little to compare them to. Potty has the biggest debt collection service in the city. Nobody’s ever been allowed to get close. Forty-five years of Cruickshank dominance. As soon as he spots a threat, Potty stamps on it with all his considerable weight.

That’s why Potty’s been thinking about Billy Patterson so much recently. He’s aware of Marty. Doesn’t care about him at all. Marty won’t last. Fly-by-night. He has good protection in Jamieson, but that’s not the point. Marty isn’t committed to it. Doesn’t understand how much hard work it takes to maintain credibility in this brutal part of the business. He’ll go back to chasing easier money somewhere else. That’s inevitable. Not Patterson. Patterson’s a threat.

Potty’s on the phone right now. Sitting in the large drawing room of the large house that other people’s violence has bought him. Potty, like his uncle, never lifted a finger. You hire dumb muscle for that. You do the organizing. You set up deals with moneylenders who aren’t getting their money back. Buy the debt from them, and then collect it in your own way.

‘I get that, Gary. I do, I get it,’ Potty’s saying. He doesn’t hide his impatience well. He’s always either been indulged or in charge. When he has to deal with defiance, deal with people with a mind of their own . . . Well, it’s not easy. It’s why his two marriages ended violently. It’s why he sees so little of his two teenage kids, both from the first marriage.

‘Gary, listen to me.’ Said with more force than he realizes. Trying to be persuasive, but wandering off into vicious. ‘You sell debts to Billy Patterson at that percentage, and a few months down the road he’ll be biting you for it. He’ll have to make all that money back somehow. The money you save now, you lose later. You know the business, Gary. You know how it works. Really, Gary, I’m surprised at you. He can’t buy those debts at ninety and turn a profit. When he needs that money back, he’ll take it from you. Mark my words, Gary. Six months from now, you’ll be lucky to break 50 per cent from him.’

BOOK: The Night the Rich Men Burned
6.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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